The entertainment on Volendam is surprisingly diverse, with two shows nightly in the two-tiered Frans Hals lounge, a dance music combo that doubles as the deck band on warm Caribbean evenings, a harpist, a classical quartet, a resident pianist and a variety of individual performers. Lavish Broadway-style productions are offered in Frans Hals, pre-dinner piano and post-dinner dancing in The Crow's Nest, Baroque and Classical after dinner music in the Explorer Lounge (complete with brandy, coffee and divine chocolates) and dance music in The Ocean Bar before and after dinner times. Recent-run movies are shown both in-cabin on a rotating basis and in the Wajang Theatre where the scent of freshly made popcorn filters into the surrounding areas.
New to Volendam in spring 2009 (May 27) is the Microsoft Digital Workshops program, comprised of complimentary classes led by Microsoft-trained "techsperts." Passengers can learn to use computers to enhance photos (Windows Live Photo Gallery), produce and publish videos onto a DVD (Windows Movie Maker) and create personal webpages or blogs (Windows Live Services and Windows Live Writer). In addition, one-on-one coaching, called "Techspert Time," is available for more than 20 hours each week.
A perennial Holland America Line favorite is the crew show, with folkloric presentations from the native countries of these hard-working individuals. On every cruise there is a series of games at various times of the day: Team Trivia, Name That Tune, Liars Club and others administered by the Cruise Director and staff, and of course there are both bingo and art auctions. The smallish casino gets quite lively at table games and at the wide assortment of slot machines; price-to-play ranges from a nickel to $5.
Volendam Public Rooms
Bright colors prevail throughout most of the ship; her theme is "flowers," which indeed can be found in abundance on her public decks. Floral fabrics and tapestries appear in unexpected places and huge vases of tropical floral arrangements and smaller vases of chrysanthemums are positioned on desks and tables in almost all of her public areas.
Oddly, though, it took nearly my entire 10-day cruise to appreciate her design elements --the stunning and intricate art-glass lamps in the Ocean Bar and around the atrium on deck five, the Art Nouveau-style swirls in the ceilings and on the glass doors to the Frans Hals lounge -- her mish-mash of styles, eras and colors was confusing at first. The crystal atrium sculpture by artist Luciano Vistasi resembles something waiting to be launched into outer space, Rococo artwork melds with what looks like early 1970s architectural detail, and bright red-orange carpeting stops abruptly at the elevator banks, replaced by hues of placid blue.
Traffic flow, however, is good, and despite the profusion of styles, the overall effect is really lovely. Volendam is an easy ship through which to maneuver; both her size and layout make her comfortable within minutes of boarding. While the cruise I was on was completely sold out, not once did I have a feeling of crowding or experience any long lines, anywhere.
One of the most enjoyable aspects of this ship is the sundry hidden "nooks and crannies" located around her public decks. Perfect for intimate conversation, or just to hide out and read, these spaces include sofas and settees, armchairs facing sweeping vistas, and corner banquettes away from the crowd. Look for the unheralded and discreetly placed massage chairs on deck five's port side; have a $1 bill ready if you want to vibrate.
The central, circular three-story atrium -- anchored by the crystal sculpture -- is surrounded by shops, offices, and guest service counters. On the Lower Promenade deck a lonely piano sits off to one side, abandoned, the ghost of whoever played it long disappeared. The Future Cruise consultant's desk is located here as well. One floor up, the Promenade deck holds the Front Desk, the Shore Excursion counter, and desk for the Guest Relations manager. The Upper Promenade deck has a wide assortment of shops surrounding the atrium, as well as cozy seating and little tables placed around the perimeter railing.
Smoking is extremely limited on Volendam, with small sections for smokers allocated in most of the bars and lounges but not in the restaurants or the Frans Hals showroom. Only in the casino, Sports Bar and at the Dolphin Bar for "Cigars Under the Stars" was there any noticeable tobacco smoke odor.
Holland America Line has drawn on its stores of incredible artwork to enhance the interior public spaces. Everything from pre-Columbian fetishes and sculptures to Renaissance-era fountains imported from Italy are included in the hallway galleries along deck five.
There is a large (and usually busy) card room and a very pleasant library (staffed only between 9 a.m. and 5 p.m. -- if you want a book outside of those times, you are out of luck); the nicely laid-out Internet center sits between these two rooms. Although the satellite service can be maddeningly slow at times, the Internet program on board Volendam is more reasonably priced than on many other ships, with packages starting at 75 cents per minute and descending to as low as 40 cents per minute if you buy a block of time. Wireless service is available for those with laptops and wireless cards (the cards can be rented from the Internet center as well), with "hot spots" located throughout the ship. Cabin service is not available, but I had great fun meeting up with other laptop-toting cruise warriors in the bars and lounges where the hot spots are located.
The Crow's Nest, located forward at the top of the ship, is by night a bar and hopping music and dance venue, but this room truly shines during the day. Floor to ceiling windows surround the large space, which has seating divided into intimate groupings and sofas along the windows. It's an ideal place to curl up with a good book and a cup of coffee or glass of wine, or to just relax and ruminate, mesmerized by the views at the front and both sides of the ship as she makes her way through the waters of the Caribbean or Alaska.
Volendam Spa & Fitness
Volendam guests on a strict exercise regimen will be hard-put to offer excuses if they allow their program to lapse while on board. Located forward on Lido deck is the large and well-equipped Ocean Spa, with a wide range of gym equipment (treadmills, stationary bikes, free-weights, stair-steppers and rowing machines) which can be used while watching one of the flat-screen televisions or while gazing through the wall of windows at the unfolding scenery from the bow. A fairly large aerobics section is included in the gym, also, featuring daily classes; Pilates and Yoga instruction is available for a fee.
The spa itself, operated by Steiner of London, offers an array of pampering treatments and salon services at prices comparable to other spas both at sea and on land. Mud wraps, facials, and deep-tissue and aromatherapy massages are among the most popular treatments, while manicures, pedicures and hair care is available in the salon. There are men's and women's sauna and steam rooms available to Volendam guests at no charge. The spa will be getting a facelift that will include a Thalassotherapy pool, an expanded pedicure section, and a softer, more tranquil look to the massage treatment rooms.
I couldn't see how having both swimming pools on the same deck would work, but this is perhaps the best element of the redesign from the S-class ships. The central pool, which is surrounded by a glass enclosure and which also has a retractable dome cover and the ship's two hot tubs at one end, serves as a focal point for the entire Lido Deck. It's a social environment, surrounded by food stations, the large Dolphin Bar at one end and a huge "dancing dolphins" sculpture at the other. PVC chaises, webbed rather than slatted, ring the pool in this element-protected location. The aft pool, on the other hand, is open and sunny, with padded loungers, framed only by the view from the stern and the sea breeze.
The Promenade deck is ideal for those who like to walk for their exercise (each circuit equals one-quarter of a mile), and joggers can use the Sports Deck track. There is a netted tennis/volleyball court on the Sports Deck, shuffleboard courts, and of course the two Lido Deck pools, which early in the morning saw power-swimmers racking up their laps.