Editor's Note: Beginning December 2015, the automatic tip for passengers staying in interior, oceanview and verandah cabins will be $12.50 (up from $11.50) per person per day. Passengers in suites will be charged $13.50 (up from $12) per person per day.
When it was launched in 1999, Volendam had the highest passenger capacity in Holland America's fleet. The ship is nearly 61,000 tons and carries 1,432 passengers, and, in a move that seems quaint now, it proved its modernity by being the first ship in the fleet to boast a dedicated Internet center (The Website) with eight satellite-connected computer stations.
Volendam has come a long way since then. During Holland America's "Signature of Excellence" upgrades in 2006, the ship received several additions that have brought it into the 21st century. The Website became the Explorations Cafe, which includes 10 desktop computers with Internet access, a well-stocked library, areas for board games and puzzles, and a cafe that offers free finger sandwiches and pastries, as well as for-fee coffee drinks. Le Cirque, an alternative restaurant that's open one night per sailing in what's otherwise the Pinnacle Grill steakhouse, offers upscale French cuisine from the well-known land-based restaurant. Even the kids and teens areas were given facelifts, and cabins are now outfitted with flat-screen TV's and DVD players. A more recent 2011 dry dock spruced up various items like paint, linens and carpeting to keep Volendam from showing its age.
Drawing on the Colonial past of its Dutch roots, Holland America Line has made it a practice over the years to employ Indonesian crew members, touting their friendliness and efficiency in almost all of its corporate literature. The service is phenomenal. Waitstaff and cabin stewards are primarily Indonesian and Filipino; most officers are European, and many of them are from Holland.
Despite its modern upgrades, Volendam still does not have as many bells and whistles as the biggest and newest mega-ships, and that's perfectly fine with the folks who cross the gangway. What you'll get onboard are older passengers with an active and adventurous attitude. They're in it for the ports, given the ship's Alaska, Asia, Australia and Hawaii itineraries. And the ship suits them just fine, offering enough onboard activities to keep them busy on sea days but not so many that they feel like they're missing out if they venture ashore. After all, the focus of most Volendam cruisers' trips is the exotic locations they visit -- not the ship that takes them there.