Having cruised recently on the Sea Princess, I imagined that Holland America would be a similar experience, well I was wrong! Boarding at Los Angeles (Long Beach) was a breeze, no queues, no hassle and the whole process only took 10 minutes, pre-checkin on the internet did help. This was the fastest embarkation I have ever experienced.
The Volendam is a wonderful ship, very traditional with only 1400 guests it does not have that overcrowded feel of the larger ships. The layout is such that you never have to queue for anything. The two pools one of which is situated at the stern were more than adequate for the number of passengers on board.
Dining was a real joy to look forward to every night. The main dining room the Rotterdam is on two levels, one being for traditional dining and the other for anytime dining. We chose the latter and always got a table without queuing- the two waiters at our first night were so good that we dined at the same table for the entire cruise. The standard of food here was very high ,the best we have experienced on a cruise ship,-Holland America have Daniel (the Head Chief) to thank for that-, so much so that we did not even try the speciality restaurant (The Pinnacle Grill). The other dining options-the Lido Cafe, Canaletto's and poolside Mexican/American grill were also of a very high standard.
Entertainment was good with the resident company doing shows plus visiting artists gave us a wide variety of performers to enjoy, again the quality of the shows was very high. There is also a cinema on board which showed recently released films daily and free popcorn was provided. There were two bars where you could enjoy a pianist and a string quartet, so everyones taste was catered for.
The biggest difference we noticed between Holland America and Princess were Holland America paid more attention to the "niceties", there were cloth towels in the public washrooms, staff provided free lemonade around the pool,use of glasses and china, not plastic plates around the pool, no pressure to "buy,Buy,Buy" on board and generally the service on board was much higher than Princess or Celebrity and some of this must go down to the staff. Apart from the uniformed officers every single person had a smile always acknowledged you when passing, very often knew your name, no mean feat when there are 1400 of us. They worked hard to ensure that we had a great experience and always without fail exceeded our and most other guests expectations. I believe that Holland America has got this element of cruising spot on.
We had on two occasions reason to complain about the pool and attitude of a uniformed officer, both issues were dealt with immediately and we were very impressed at the way they deal with any form of poor service- well done.
The ports of call were interesting, included New Caledonia, Ile des Pines, and Samoa. We were supposed to visit Eden in Australia, but due to inclement weather we had to forgo this please and instead have an overnight in Sydney, to everyone's delight!!
On the whole we were very impressed with the standard on this ship, we loved it and will return again to experience the feeling of being part of the Voldendam Family.