Editor's Note: Volendam is no longer based in Australia. Please see our article about Noordam vs Maasdam.
These two mid-sized Holland America Line ships are big enough to offer plenty of entertainment and food options, but small enough for you to navigate around with ease -- especially with their mid-ship elevators. With the much younger Noordam making her Australian debut last summer, we thought it was time to check out how she compares to the Australia-based veteran, Volendam.
Interestingly, there have been four Noordams: the first one sent an iceberg warning to a nearby ship in 1912. Sadly, that ship -- Titanic -- famously didn't heed the warning. The current Noordam, the fourth incarnation, is HAL's newest Vista-class vessel, while Volendam is the older Rotterdam-class.
Noordam is enjoying its new home turf in the Pacific region, operating itineraries of between 12 and 29 days to Australian, New Zealand and Pacific Island ports. Volendam, on the other hand, circumnavigates Australia but reaches further up into Asia, as far as Tokyo, offering various sectors of this journey, from seven to 50 days. Itineraries can be joined together to cruise cross-continentally. Both ships voyage to Canada and Alaska in time for the warmer northern weather and Inside Passage/Alaska summer cruise season, before returning across the Pacific Ocean to do it all down here again. However, for the southern summer of 2016/17, Volendam will not make it down to Australia, concentrating on Asian ports instead.
Noordam is a third heavier and a fifth larger than the Volendam and can carry almost 2,000 passengers (as opposed to Volendam's 1,432). Noordam boasts two Pinnacle suites and Volendam has one Penthouse, but the differences really start to stack up when you talk about verandas. Of Noordam's 986 staterooms, 497 include a veranda (over and above the 162 suites). Volendam has 716 staterooms, but more than half are standard outside-facing cabins; verandas are only found on the 197 suites.
The most popular cabins on each ship -- a standard outside cabin on Volendam and a veranda cabin on Noordam -- go head to head on average size, but keep in mind that a veranda cabin then adds on an average of 4.5 square metres worth of open-air balcony space, which gives it a substantially more sizable feel.
Every Holland America ship sports its so-called 'Signature of Excellence enhancements', many of which have connections with sponsors. The New York Times 'powers' the Explorations Cafe, while Windows looks after the Digital Workshop.
Food & Wine magazine presents the state-of-the-art Culinary Arts Centre, which is an onboard show kitchen featuring chefs and demonstrations, and both Volendam and Noordam convert their lounges into the ever-popular Culinary Arts Centre.
Noordam is one of a handful of HAL vessels that also accommodate the excellent B.B. King Blues Club. After its dry dock in April 2015, the ship's main entertainment lounge was also fitted out with enormous, dynamic LED screens that make show backdrops astoundingly clear, changeable and futuristic.
Dining options are quite similar, with the 'As You Wish' system: you can choose to dine in your room, in the Italian restaurant, in the main restaurant, or the casual buffet, for example. Note that Noordam's bar areas have also recently been refurbished, and we love the new burger 'take-out' bar near the mid-ship pool area that reputedly serves 700 burgers every day.
Casino areas are a similar size on both ships, but the spa areas are now markedly more advanced on the newer Noordam (although several areas attract an added fee to use them). Highlights include fabulous heated ceramic lounges to loosen up the muscles before your massage or a swim, a dry-float suite with a massage option, and thermal suites that include a hydrotherapy pool.
Volendam is very clearly themed; its floral and garden motifs can be found in the abundant fresh flowers throughout its public spaces, floral tapestries and fabrics in furnishings. Noordam is less themed, although both ships share Holland America's love for art and antiquities -- Noordam alone has a reported AU$2 million worth of art on board.
Like many of the Holland America fleet, Volendam has a solid base of repeat customers who love the comfiness of cruising on a ship they know and love. Passengers report being greeted like old friends, as they're recognised by the crew. On the other hand, with the unabashed shininess of Noordam in our region, there seems to be a wider range of people wanting to try this newer ship. If you're looking for a little more gloss and glamour in your cruise experience, it might be worth choosing Noordam.