Volendam Cruise Review by Deck Dame: Looking back to the Inside Passage
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Looking back to the Inside Passage
Having seen someone else's pictures taken from the deck of an Alaskan cruise ship I decided I had to go there for myself and so the booking for the Volendam Inside Passage route was made.
Departing from Vancouver was straightforward, I made my own way to the departure point at Canada Place and entered the check in queue. A nice Holland America staff member pointed out where the cases could be dropped off. I had preprinted the check-in docs and tags as per the instructions received via email.
The queue for US immigration was long, especially for the majority of passengers who did not hold US passports. Once this was over we then went through the Holland America check-in, had our pictures taken and that was it we were ready to board the ship.
We had a lovely sunny afternoon sipping cocktails on the deck while our fellow passengers boarded. When we checked our room it was setup as a double not a twin, this was easily rectified by our room attendant once he had More finished delivering the luggage to each room.
The Lido deck was very busy with entertainment and food laid on and the atmosphere was very pleasant as we set sail.
Each evening we ate in the Rotterdam Dining room, based on open seating, and shared a table with other guests who were happy to use dinner as an opportunity to meet people. The food was good with sensible portion sizes allowing you to enjoy a 4 course meal if that was what you wanted. Wine by the glass was reasonable in comparison with restaurant prices in the UK, although bottles did tend to look expensive. We never felt under pressure to buy wine and water was provided free of charge from an iced jug without prompting.
We generally had breakfast and lunch from the Lido buffet which was pretty reasonable for lunch and okay for breakfast. The breakfast omelettes were good, other cooked items were not quite so good. Lots of fruit juice was available for breakfast and glasses of water and iced tea were available at other meals alongside the tea and coffee.
The Crow's Nest bar does nice coffees (liqueur) and has a great view since it is on deck 9 and above the bow. We didn't find the bar staff here as jovial as those in the Lido, Seaview and Casino bars where they were always ready to have a bit of banter with guests.
The salon and sports facilities are nice and the staff were helpful and friendly.
There is clear schedule of events for each day provided each evening and these range from talks on shopping (why go to such a beautiful part of the world and shop?), the places the cruise visits and tours (a sales pitch for their tours), cooking, towel art, digital photography skills, wine and beer tasting (charges apply), exercise, films, etc.
Our tour included stops in Juneau, Skagway and Ketchikan. I liked Skagway and Ketchikan but really disliked Juneau which was our first stop.
The highlight of our Inside Passage cruise was the day spent in Glacier Bay there we saw the magnificent glaciers, orcas, humpback whales, sealions, sea otters, dolphins, porpoises and the most sensational scenery. We were fortunate and had good visibility for most of the day so the camera was busy. Layers were needed if you were on deck but it was worth it to see the views without the impedence of glass. The ship completed 360 degree turns to ensure everyone had a chance to see the glaciers which really are amazing close up.
Our Outside Stateroom was comfortable with excellent service from the attendants who provided a different towel sculpture for our amusement each night. The bathroom was clean and towels were never in short supply.
DVDs could be ordered to watch in your stateroom and there is no charge as long as you return them. There are around 1,000 titles so something for everyone. Less
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Cabin review: E1869 Large Ocean-View Stateroom
The room was an adequate size for 2 friends sharing for a week. You might want a larger room on a cruise with more time at sea where you might spend more time in your state room than on a trip like ours where every day was different. It felt as if the room had more space when it was setup as a twin than as a double. It is a bit away from the elevators/lifts but that means you don't have a lot of footfall outside. We were not aware of noise from the cabins next to us or above us during our cruise. There is an interconnecting door to the next room which we did not use. If you get a rough night this is a good location since it is in the centre of the ship and on the lowest passenger deck. We had a couple of nights with a bit of movement and hardly noticed it at all.
Port and Shore Excursions
If you are stopping in Juneau make plans to take a tour so that you are not disappointed by what you see. The Tracy Arm tour was very successful on our cruise and I wished in hindsight that I had booked it.
I was worried about the other ports on this trip after seeing Juneau, fortunately they were better in my opinion.
There were a lot of excursions available and we booked on on the pier which sounded good but did not have the professionalism of the equivalent (and more expensive) onboard tours.
Saxman village was interesting with the display of totem poles, doesn't take long to walk around and Herring Cove provided the chance to see a bear since the salmon were coming upstream.
The most striking memory for me of Ketchikan is shared use of the water with large cruise ships, kayaks and sea planes alongside each other.
We took a tour to the Musher's Camp in Skagway (booked via HAL) and really enjoyed the dog sled ride and the chance to hear about their lives as well as getting to meet the dogs and puppies. I'd recommend this trip to anyone who likes dogs, just make sure you wear layers as you will be largely outdoors and it can get nippy, especially if you also get wet.
We also took the brothel tour ($5 per head) at the Red Onion Saloon, Skagway which we paid in the saloon itself. The walking tour promoted on board could also be booked directly here on the day we were in town so look out for that if you are interested. The "madam" escorting us was good fun and we enjoyed our 15 minute visit upstairs.
We walked back to the cruise ship but there are buses that can be used if you find the distance too much.