We are a family of 4 and we chose the Ship and route by reading reviews and deciding that we wanted to leave and return to Vancouver. We didn't want bells and whistles of rock wall and ice rinks and Vegas style shows. We are busy and we wanted family time. The Volendam seemed to fit us perfectly. We all had a great cruise and would do it again in a heartbeat.
August 24: Vancouver
We were dropped off by a friend on their way to work so we were at Canada Place by 8:30 in the morning. Since is was a beautiful day we decided to sit outside and enjoy it. The ship was in and passengers were disembarking. I spoke to the doorman in the Pan Pacific hotel and he gave me a tip that the customs and immigration really start at 10:30 so we waited until 10:40 and took the elevators down to "CS" level and before we knew it we were just waiting to board. The lines moved constantly and we waited maybe 20 minutes until we were on board. Easy!
We went to our cabin on the Main deck (L2664) which was a large inside for 4 people. The 2 beds were made into a queen bed and the 4th Upper bunk was made but the sofa bed was still a bare mattress with the sheets still folded on top. On issue with the cabin as it was plenty large enough for the 4 of us with 2 weeks of clothes (we had one week in Seattle and Vancouver pre-cruise) including 2 seasons of clothes plus formal wear. We had 3 suitcases, 2 rolling carry-ons, 2 back packs and one large tote and all was stored away out of sight.
Since our luggage was not delivered yet (it was not quite noon!) we headed up to the Lido even though we had an invitation to the main dining room as we felt the kids would enjoy it more. It was empty except for a few crew and we had our choice and the servers cheered when the kids made their choice (spaghetti) as they were the first customers. We ate a leisurely lunch enjoying the view and the fact the staff seems to enjoy having children on board which was something I was very worried about as I had read some posts from people who indicated the last thing they wanted was children and we should leave them home. Since this was not an option for us we were travelling as a group of 4.
We then ventured out to explore the ship, register the kids into Club Hal, and find a spot to enjoy the sail away.
I will try to be less wordy and just give an overall of everything.
Cabin: great! Lots of room and we were only in there for sleeping and showering. No issues at all. It was quiet and very comfortable. Someone had given us a tip on the HAL CC board to leave the TV on the bow camera with the sound muted so that when the sun came up so would the light in the cabin. We did this and it worked great. Since we did have kids with us we also pulled the curtain that separates the main cabin from the closets and bathroom and ensured the bathroom door was open all night with the light on.
Food: Again no issues. We ate breakfast in the Lido and had lunch either in the Lido or the Lido Grill. We always had what we wanted, when we wanted it. The hamburger I had at the grill was the best hamburger I have had in years! The kids were always happy with their choices. We ate every dinner in the main dining room, early seating, table 82. The stewards loved the kids and our 7 year old son has an open invitation to Bali! They made origami figures for the two of them every meal and had fun with them. There was a separate menu that they chose from which included grilled cheese, hot dogs, hamburgers, spaghetti...etc. They didn't want for anything. My husband and I were always happy with our choices even though I don't eat cream the only dinner where that became an issue was the Master Chef Diner and I had to miss to courses but I didn't miss them and I had enough to eat. I don't eat dessert so I can't comment but my husband always does and he never lacked for choice. We marvelled at how they could remember our preferences and had a an order waiting for drinks as soon as we said we wanted it...coke for our daughter and me, wine for my husband and a smoothie for our son.
Club Hal: I didn't have much information beforehand on Club Hal as it wasn't rated on most reviews. The kids just loved it. On our sailing there were 41 children under 13: 30 in the 8-12 age group and then 10 6 and 7 year olds. The kids begged us to take them to Club Hal as soon as it opened (9:00) and not pick them up until 11:30 when it closed for lunch. The kids would then go swimming and by 1:00 were asking to go back and we would pick them up at the close for the afternoon. Again by 7:00 they were asking to go back and not to come get them until 10:00, which is past their normal bed time. They did crafts, made breakfast in the culinary arts center one morning, they went on tours of the ship and scavenger hunts, they watched movies and played computer games and karaoke and then when in Glacier Bay they had a Park Ranger come and talk to them and given them a goodie bag including a badge. They just loved Club Hal and are still talking about it.
Activities: Since we were childless for the first time in a decade we at first thought 'what do we do now' but we found the quiet of the ship to be just what we were looking for. We never went the the lounges where their was live music or singers or the shows. We went to the Explorer's lounge/library if we were not taking a Techspert course or cooking course or walking around the promenade deck. We read, worked on jigsaw puzzles, played games and just unwound from our busy lives back home. It was all just perfect for us. We did go to a movie that I missed in the theatres back home one night and they even had popcorn for us. Loved it.
SPA: I was lucky enough to win two spa treatments on embarkation day. One was a facial and the other a foot and leg treatment. This is the only point I have to say I felt stressed as the up-sell is very powerful. I ended up signing up for a body composition analysis with the head of the gym and was told it would take 30 minutes...well it took over 4 hours and since we were in Tracy Arm for the first of it I was very stressed that I was missing what we took the tour for as I was in the circular "lobby" between the gym and the spa and there were no windows and people kept walking through. I didn't like that and I wanted to be out seeing, no such in the dark talking about fat composition. I finally said enough so then I had to book a second session which was in Glacier Bay day...another 2 hour loss for me and I felt pressured as they were trying to sell me their Elemis red algae treatment for $1,500 which would take off 65 lbs..... I had to bring my husband up to say no, finally, on the day we were docking in Ketchikan. I wanted to research it myself.
When I booked the foot and leg treatment I was billed for the $79 and was told I had not won the treatment, but free use of the Thermal Spa directly after the treatment. I said that is not what the message said that was left on our cabin phone. I said I had nothing with me to use the Thermal Spa and when I booked the front desk of the spa said nothing about the Thermal Spa as I said I was booking the treatments I had won. They did revert the fee but she never did believe me. I won't sign up for free spa stuff again on embarkation day.
Shopping: We didn't take the cruise to shop, but we found everything on sale since it was near the end of the season. Our 10 year old daughter though it was Halloween as every jewelry store gave her something, if not more than 1 thing. She came home with pearl earrings, charm bracelet, charms, necklaces, etc and my son got a watch given to him. Two happy kids!
Disembarkation: Back in Vancouver on the morning of August 31 and we were up in time to see the ship dock. We had our final breakfast in the Lido and then headed down to the cabin, collected our carry-on bags and headed up to the Explorers Cafe to wait for our 8:30 time to leave the ship. We started a new puzzle and when the time came we walked off the ship in a short line and waited in immigration for about 20 minutes. The only question we were asked was for my son to look at the official so he could see his picture matched his photo. That was it. Our luggage was waiting for us and off we went to the airport.