12 Auckland to Australia & New Zealand Holland America Volendam Cruise Reviews

Our experience was so bad, we disembarked in wellington after 4 days of the cruise. It was a floating nursing home and everything about the ship and it's itinerary of entertainment reflected that. The real 'rub of salt in the ... Read More
Our experience was so bad, we disembarked in wellington after 4 days of the cruise. It was a floating nursing home and everything about the ship and it's itinerary of entertainment reflected that. The real 'rub of salt in the wounds' came with the reply from Holland America: Thank you for the email regarding your ms Volendam . We truly appreciate the valuable feedback you have provided us. Please be advised that when guests do wish to personally disembark it is often for an emergency. Thus our front desk staff wills not inquire the reason unless it is volunteered. In addition, if none of your concerns were brought to our attention, we are unable to remedy them. In addition, we are very sorry that you were not pleased with the scope of activities available on your recent sailing. Holland America Line strives to offer a spectrum of activities and events, keeping in mind a wide range of age, interest, and ability, and we regularly update our choices. Many of our newer activities are enrichment-based, such as cooking classes, digital workshops, wine tastings, and in-depth presentations about ports of call. Plus, we retain the more traditional choices, such as movies and games, volleyball and tennis, and disco or ballroom dancing. In this way, we try to ensure that a balance of activities is available to all of our guests. Some of our travelers may choose to participate in onboard activities, while others will prefer to simply relax, lounge by the pool, or curl up in a quiet spot with a good book. We do regret your dissatisfaction with the activities offered, and assure you that your input on any cruise aspect is always welcome. Thank you again for contacting our office and bringing your issues to our attention. We assure you that we appreciate your comments, and hope that you will give us another opportunity to create the positive experience we know our sailings can offer. This was my reply: I'm somewhat bemused at your comment that I provided you with valuable feedback, because in my previous emails I gave little indication as to why we were so dissatisfied that we left the cruise after four days. You mention 'remedy'. It would have been fruitless gesture to mention at the front desk that we didn't want to travel on a floating nursing home. The atmosphere on-board was certainly indicative of a nursing home and my suspicions were confirmed with the ambulance crew dragging their stretcher on-board at Tauranga. I have nothing against the elderly. I spend a lot of my working life in their company, but if I had the information to hand at the age group that the cruise was pitched at, then we would have looked elsewhere. However the information that would have been extremely useful was the itinerary of events. Needless to say those activities are planned in advance, as those that deliver the events or presentations have to be booked on-board. That information available to view on the website for the ship and the cruise would have been very useful and as such we would have looked elsewhere for something more appropriate for us. As for making any other comments, I doubt they would have been actioned. We had to listen to the inane babble of Jeremy the cruise director, which was inescapable where ever we we're on the ship. There was a tannoy right outside our cabin. At one point he was asking us to count the holes in the face of an offshore rock which had been partially eroded by the wind. That was day one, and already the alarm bells were ringing for us. At meal times we were given a napkin roll with cutlery. However the minute we left our seat to get another dish the staff would clean away. We would then have to get another napkin roll and find a different seat. That somewhat flies in the face of intended green credentials. I also found it somewhat strange that we were drinking long-life milk, when we were on the doorstep of one of the top dairy producers of the world. The Costa Concordia has dominated the news for all the wrong reasons, and I would mention that whilst on-board the Volendam and attending the, very brief, lifeboat drill the concept of making our way back to the cabin (with it's partial delay electronic key entry system), to retrieve our lifejackets was somewhat of a daunting prospect in the event of a real emergency. It was also noticeable that there was no escape panel fitted to the cabin doors for use in the event of a collision. Seriously, someone needs to look at that. It may make the difference between someone being to escape from their cabin when the ship's sinking or being condemned to death by drowning in a box. Anyway, Caitlin, again thanks for getting back to me. Your scripted response wasn't the best fob-off I've ever read, but nonetheless a reasonable effort. On closing please try to make information more readily available to potential customers, after all this is the age of information technology. It really isn't that difficult to get the information out. On closing, we will never book a cruise with Holland and America. There will be no return to try the experience again. It was without question the worst holiday experience ever and had little to recommend it for anyone under the age of 65.   Read Less
Sail Date November 2012
For our first cruise we decided to travel in familiar territory (Australia and New Zealand) so that we could focus on the cruise rather than the destinations. We had looked at a large number of possible cruise lines but thought that HAL ... Read More
For our first cruise we decided to travel in familiar territory (Australia and New Zealand) so that we could focus on the cruise rather than the destinations. We had looked at a large number of possible cruise lines but thought that HAL would be the right demographic for us (active couple, 59,62, retired) and we were proved right. Boarding the Volendam at Auckland went very smoothly and we spent the afternoon familiarising ourselves with the layout of the ship - it seemed very spacious and well laid out, easy to get around. We had been upgraded to Deck 2 and the category L cabin was large enough for us with plenty of storage space. (We did not spend very much time in the cabin at all - only slept there for about 6 hours a day!) The cabin steward was always very cheerful and helpful with very unobtrusive service. (We enjoyed the towel animals very much and were slightly disappointed to discover that it wasn't just for us, but a standard feature!) One slight glitch with the dining seating was soon rectified after boarding and we opted for open dining which suited us very well. We had dinner most nights in the Rotterdam with two nights in the Canaletto and one in the Pinnacle Grill. We took all breakfasts and lunches in the Lido. The standard of the food preparation, taste and service was excellent throughout, and on returning home we are finding it difficult to return to catering for ourselves! It required a great deal of self-control to limit our eating so as to not put on too much weight. We walked around the lower promenade deck 7 or 8 times every morning and went to the stretch sessions at 7am everyday in the Gym (this is a really good idea to get you going in the morning after a busy evening), as well as dancing every evening which helped keep the activity up. The provided entertainment in the Franz Hals Lounge was generally of a high standard and we greatly enjoyed the jazz trio (the Neptunes) and the HALcats, to whom we danced every night. The solo pianist Matt in the Piano bar was also very good and provided many hours of listening pleasure. We did not take part in many of the organised activities this trip but there were such a large number of them, catering for all sorts of interests, that you could easily spend the whole day taking part. There were a large number of areas in the ship where you could settle down with a book, sudoku, etc. or just watch other people, always a fascinating activity. The Explorations Lounge and the Cafe were very good resting places and the Library provided plenty of books even though we had our own e-readers. The Internet access fees were exorbitant and slow, even by Australian standards, and we did not bother. Nowadays it should be possible to do much better, particularly by using a caching server on board. We suggested that e-books could be easily provided (particularly the free ones from Gutenberg, etc.) but the Librarian thought that it would take a long time for HAL to do such a thing. Come on HAL, such things are cheap and easy to set up and your guests would love you for it (we saw a large number of people with computers and e-readers so the audience is ready for such services), just get a competent IT consultant (I am available at very reasonable rates :-) ) to organise such things for your whole fleet - you could be up and running next year! Despite the poor weather for most of the trip, apart from Milford Sound which put on a spectacular display, we had a ball and have signed up for some more cruises with HAL. Read Less
Sail Date December 2010
Background Information My husband and I have cruised about 10 times, different ships, different parts of the world. Took this cruise to celebrate our 40th Bdays. This cruise we had Stateroom D. Oceanview Stateroom, center ship. Too ... Read More
Background Information My husband and I have cruised about 10 times, different ships, different parts of the world. Took this cruise to celebrate our 40th Bdays. This cruise we had Stateroom D. Oceanview Stateroom, center ship. Too cold for balcony use. And center ship below teak deck you can run up one flight of stairs and be outside in a minute if you wanted to get a quick pix. Never heard walkers on teak deck. And no smells in room or in halls like I read about. But the smells were reported near end of ship. Guess lots of fresh air comes off elevators midship. We had great weather entire cruise. Hotel Info Airport shuttle to Hilton Auckland is $26 for 2 people. Heard it has lots of stops, so we took a cab $65. Use reputable Corporate, Rengency or Co-op cab companies. 30-50 mins depending on traffic. Hilton Auckland is the bomb if taking a cruise. It's not pricey, it's an awesome place with killer service and you walk right out the door onto ship. If you pay for a balcony ocean view room, be aware there will be ships parked right outside your balcony at some point! In Sydney, we took 30 min cab ride to Sir Stamford at Circular Quay. Read it's a fave on Trip Advisor. If you book through hotel you will get room early in day. If you book through a discount site, like we did, you will not be allowed to check in before the advertised check in time of 3pm. So we toured the Opera House and the giant gardens across street from hotel. With this and lunch our time was full. Hotel is luxe. Get pix with costumed bellman. Staff are really nice there. Restaurant is killer pricey. We had the unique chocolate dessert. It was the MOST unique dessert, but not the tastiest. You crack open a chocolate egg and hot chocolate goo comes out onto coffee icecream I think it was. The best thing we ate here was the cheese plate, which had quince paste. We'd never had it and have since found it at Whole Foods and eat it regularly. It's a type of fruit that is used like solid honey. On apples with cheese and some wine, good goodness! For food, go in the bar. It's a good menu and everything we ate there late night after the Opera show was delicious. And they will deliver it to your room. $45 taxi to airport from hotel. On way back to U.S. we stayed at The Langham hotel in Auckland. It seems realy nice when you walk in, but our room was super cramped, dated, tiny bathroom. Liked the water carafe/glass on nightstand. Nice touch. No chocolate croissants that stay as raved about by Trip Advisor writers. Ship Info Decide when booking if you want land view inbetween sounds. Port side faces ocean. Starboard has more land views. Ship is pretty and clean. Rooms comfy, just dated. Loved walking the covered teak deck and top open air deck. Food was great. Service great. Activities/Excursions Auckland: SkyTower is 15 minute walk from hotel. Once inside, take escalators down. Whole Sky Walk takes about 75 minutes. You are suited up leaving cameras, hair bands, sunglasses, hats, jewelry.... in a locker. It's windy up there, so expect your eyes to tear a lot if it's cold. We all felt tour/walk was too long. Worth the money, just too long. My group was bored and tired of the views at the end. If walk was shorter in duration, people would leave on a way higher vibe or whatever. There's 6 people in a group and we all bought a pix at the end. They also throw in a funny certificate. There's a video to buy, but we all looked ridiculous up there and nobody bought it. If you have the $, the Rebo Cafe & Bar on bldg's ground floor was delicious. Minus 5 ice restaurant: $25 a person. Worth it in day time as it's empty. Get the peachacolada. Yum. You can choose your own music and have pix guy get some fun/crazy shots. We bought several pix. They don't let you take Anything in. Purses, cameras... all held at desk for you. You can trust them. You are suited up and it's funny trying to hold your ice glass when drinking with those big mitts. You get to smash your glass when done. Loud and fun! On ship, walk teak deck at night. It's Empty. Never did find the vibrating chairs someone wrote about. Tauranga/Rotorua Waitmo Caves w/Crosshills Gardens Lunch and kiwi house. Ship tour is FANTASTIC. Noboday had a better day than us considering all the tours choices and dinner talk later. The caves and glow worms, you see just enough to leave on such a high. The gardens lunch was beyond charming and delicious, the property and people there, I can't tell you how at home they make you feel and you just revel in all the beauty of nature. The Kiwi House was super cool/cute big birds. Napier If you can ride a bike for a few hours, you Can't Beat this excursion we took. It's not offered by the ship, but we researched a LOT for this cruise, and this was the best offered. Bike D'Vine Winery & Sightseeing Tour. Do easy Rout 1. $40 a person. The owners pick you up at visitor center and it's a 15 min ride to first stop where they get you set up on your bike with a map,safety gear, bike locks. We started at a cool wooden place called The Filter Room. $12 got us a beer/cider sampler. You can pick from lots of choices/tastes. Along the bike route are various winers, a chocolate factory, a lavender farm. We did lav farm for souvenirs (put the oil on our pillows each night of cruise, wonderful!), and went by lots of amazing scenery of wine fields and sheep fields, and a pretty tile decorated bldg, downtown shops and on to just one winery, Mission Estate. The classiest. We sat out back and had 5* service of their cheese/fruits/nuts/breads/dipping oils/wines..... It was Heaven! For a fee we just had the van driver pick us up there as I was too tipsy to bike ride back! Wellington Ship's Lord of the Rings Tour: it was a FANTASTIC day. And I went grudgingly w/my husband as I'm not a movie buff. The tour fixes that Real quick. You watch an infomational movie at the Weta Cave museum that left everyone in awe and speechless. Next you stop at the coolest cafe you'll ever snack at. It's ON the water, super contemporary. Everything's home made. Then it's off to see killer scenery and learn about movie. The guide was IN movies so has lots of inside info and great stories. He was cool to take pix for everyone whenever. Lunch will be at the most scenic garden you can imagine. Breathtaking. Food was great and served family style. Bread was cutely served in clay flower pots. Then it's off to more scenery. I am positive that the ship's tour beats any and all LOTR tours you're going to research. Picton We stayed on ship for a spa day. Place was empty so we had place all to ourselves. HIGHLY recommend this. Heated tile chairs, hot tub surrounded by windows to a great view outside, steam and sauna rooms with lovely smells... Also got a mani/pedi. Girl is great. I just don't like that they make guests face the wall while workers get ocean view. That seems messed up!!! Husband and I got the double massage. He loved his, mine was weak. You gotta speak up a Lot throughout to get what you want! Whole spa area is great with fresh juices and fruit and super clean locker rooms. Christchurch Took a taxi to the Botanic Gardens. After two hours we hadn't seen a quarter of the place, huge! Wear correct shoes for this!!! Sneakers required. All kinds of terrain on paths. Beauty beauty and more gorgeous nature everywhere we went. LOVED it! Then we met our driver downtown to take us to Adrenaline Forest. This again is NOT a ship excursion. But my husband said this place was the highlight of the Entire Cruise! For $35pp plus $10pp each way van shuttle you are taken 15 minutes north of Christchurch to an obstacle course in the trees. Various levels take you higher and higher. It is the coolest guy thing we'd ever seen, although women were doing it too. Not me though due to neck injury. You are responsible for your own safety, in that you hook yourself onto line cables as you go along. Sooo many different obstables and you'll spend hours there. We went for the last two hours and it was perfect/not crowded. A crowd would really hold you up. Do bring your own food and water. Nothing right there, but you can walk across street to bathrooms/food place. It's not close though. Do 2nd, 3rd, 5th and 6th course in that order. My husband is fit and couldn't do 6th. He was soo sore next day, but would go every week if he could. Dunedin/Port Chalmers Took free shuttle to Otago Museum, also free. VERY cool museum and had the best sandwich in my life at cafe. It's the smoked chix, brie, salad in pita w/raspberry sauce. Served warm. And the caramel bar is super delicious also. Super cool gift store there too if you have kids. Dine w/the Chef night: Sign up! Great fun/great food with just a few other guests. Lots of drinking involved with this event! Cruising sounds for 3 days Be outside on ship's front deck for Milford Sound. You're enveloped in stunning beauty. Crossing Caspian Sea Outside of ship will be closed. It's rough seas. Got some awesome big wave pix! We booked a year in advance to get center ship. We barely felt motion here. Hobart We did the ship's Tahune Airwalk tour. This was ok. It's a long drive to get there. The Airwalk is relativley short. Then there's a cafe for lunch you have to pay for everything. It rained and 3/4 of the tour group sat in the cafe the whole time miserable. SO, bring warm jacket in case it's windy. Bring a sturdy umbrella. Bring a rain poncho. If you're prepared, as only my husband and I were!!! you will enjoy this place. Even in the rain. We thought it romantic. The tour guide ended up being our personal photographer! Eden Cool whaling info story about famous whale that helped whalers. Capt. told story over intercom system. We didn't get off ship. Thought it a sad stop. We tried Pinnacle Grill that night. It was fine. But main dining room food was great every night, so it wasn't necessary. If you go, the lobster mac and cheese was my fave. Sydney Reserve ahead for first tour tix at Opera House, or go straight there and get in line to get them. As performers show up for practice, the rooms are closed off to the public, or you can peek in, but no pix. The first tour all the rooms were empty and we got to take pix of Eveything. We had breakfast right there in front of theatre, sidewalk cafe. Great bridge view. After tour we went to the gardens up the street. They are Huge and pretty and lots of screaming flying squirrels which we thought were vampire bats. We had lunch at Cafe Sydney, at top of bldg facing bridge/ship. It's a mod place with great sceenery and great food. But it is costly. Expect every seat taken during lunch rush. Book ahead! Don't forget to get off elevator on floor with architect business listed on pannel. There's a lucite model of the opera house we found on accident. Cool! And lobby of bldg restauant has a glass floor with a model of Sydney in the floor!!!!! Have your video camera ready as you walk around feeling like you're flying over the city. We saw Pirates of Panzance. Great show! Brisbane Not part of cruise. We stayed at Hilton Brisbane, it's SUPER. Dinner at Rhubarb Rhubarb. It's a small bar with fancy food. Need reservations. Good time. Lone Pine Koala Sanctuary $30pp, $16 for photos, $1 for roo food. Wear stuff you don't mind getting dirty if you want to really enjoy animal interaction, and there's plenty of it. Go opening to close, there's that much fun to be had! It was the highlight of trip/cruise for me! Service It was great all over ship. Only complaint was laundry service. Several times clothing items were lost, but most were found/returned at end of cruise. This was distressing as we packed one suitcase to last three weeks. We were Very limited in what we had and needing EACH and every item packed. Also, several items were ruined. Things came back stained or marked or with holes in them that weren't there when we sent them off. At end of cruise we filed to get money for 5 shirts and pants, but didn't get our money's worth. I was devasted they ruined one of my formal wear outfits. Brand new, never even worn, but I sent it for pressing along with everything else once we boarded. It came back with an iron imprint. I cried. As there was a limit to how much money you could file for for damages, this item didn't even make the cut. It alone was over $300. I've Never had such awful laundry service on a ship. And RCL has the Chinese Laundry. We've actually taken stuff with stains our local cleaner couldn't get out, and they get it looking good as new! Summary Spent over $15k on trip. All the old people kept saying they were on their retirement dream vacation, but due to age they were having a hard time fitting it all in. They kept telling us we did it right, did it when young. Travel To Port of Embarkation We flew Qantas. Superb coach experience going over. Opted to pay extra for exit door seat on way home. Bathroom light and door slamming and people traffic kept us up all the way home. Not worth money/won't ever sit there again. Dining We did the Any Time Dining/ Open Seating and LOVED LOVED it. We requested a table of 6-8 and met amazing people each night at dinner. Just be sure to book your dinner reservation like the second you wake up to get the time you want. Otherwise you will WAIT to be seated. Reservations a Must for timely seating. There's 4 formal, 10 Smart/Casual. Few tuxes on formal. Lots of dark suits though. Children's Clubs The guests on the cruise were older. Being 40, we were told there were only 2 other couples close to our age. They had a couple kids and so they took over places like the teen club and lounge and .... Seemed silly to have soo much for 4 kids. Oh well. Heard they were having a great time. Entertainment First time we never went to a ship dance show!!! We booked lots of early excursions, so just weren't up to the Broadway shows. We also shut the main dining room down several times with ongoing chatting with dinner mates. The comedian was good. The ventrilaquist awful. The cellist ok. Disembarkation As easy as getting on. If there's a problem, do NOT hesitate to ask for help. Like, if you have a flight and the lines are holding up for too long, they have a separate line elsewhere on ship which can get you off quick. I'd read about that line, and we used it! My husband was a nervous wreck about how long the self service line was, seemed like the entire ship wanted to be the first off. The elevator to exit to customs was taking forever as soo many people had wheelchairs and walkers and huge luggage that took up soo much elevator space. I surprised my husband by lingering at breakfast and then getting us to the "speed lane". Read Less
Sail Date October 2010
The Volendam was chartered on this cruise by Atlantis Events, a US based gay and lesbian travel operator, and timed to arrive in Sydney on the day of the Mardi Gras parade. Accordingly, I haven't included any comments about ... Read More
The Volendam was chartered on this cruise by Atlantis Events, a US based gay and lesbian travel operator, and timed to arrive in Sydney on the day of the Mardi Gras parade. Accordingly, I haven't included any comments about entertainment as this was specific to this cruise. Summary: an acceptable 4 star experience (even though my comments below look more critical than that) but overpriced for what it delivered. Cabin: we had a verandah cabin. It was spacious. It was well kept, though clearly showing signs of age. It must be said that the ship needs a refurbishment. This is not to say that the cabin was unpleasant, however for the price (USD$3,350 per person plus the USD$11 per day per person service charge) it did not present good value or an exceptional experience. Pools and other common areas: the pools were small but ok. Again, the areas needed refurbishment. The Explorer's Cafe area and the Crows Nest were very nice spaces. Dining: the main restaurant (the Rotterdam) was efficiently run. The food was of average to good quality and perfectly acceptable for a facility that serves many people per sitting. It was open dining and there was never a wait for a table. The Lido buffet was unexceptional but well run with good food choices. The Pinnacle Restaurant: we thought that this experience was not much superior to the main dining room. The best feature was that it was small and quiet with good (but, it must be said, over attentive) service. The food varied from virtually inedible (yes, really) in the form of the small taster of ravioli which was first offered, to bland (tasteless prawn/shrimp cocktail) to very good (filet mignon, although cooked extremely rare rather than the medium rare ordered) and a dessert souffle. I wasn't expecting anything out of the box and in that respect the restaurant was no great surprise. Although only a small charge (USD$20 per person), in my view not worth a visit. Service standards in the shop generally : friendly but no effort to deliver any more than a basic pleasant service. Ports: Wellington, Christchurch, Dunedin and Melbourne. Had a great time in each because we made our own arrangements (ship organised excursions were ridiculously overpriced). In Christchurch and Dunedin we hired a car and headed out of town to some wonderful scenery. Read Less
Sail Date February 2010
As the family were all doing their own thing we decided to take a Christmas cruise for a change around our own country. We only had a short flight from Christchurch to Auckland and on return only 3 hrs from Sydney to Christchurch. My first ... Read More
As the family were all doing their own thing we decided to take a Christmas cruise for a change around our own country. We only had a short flight from Christchurch to Auckland and on return only 3 hrs from Sydney to Christchurch. My first impression of the Volendam was gloomy and dark and felt only half the lights were on. The same in our stateroom which was a balcony cabin on navigation deck and had everything we needed. The beds were very comfortable and I slept like a baby. The Indonesian stewards were very good but had limited English, and we did enjoy our towel animals every night. A bit too much of the Indonesian thing with 2 or 3 shows and even when I went for afternoon tea one day it was only Indonesian teas and food. The food was excellent and we enjoyed Christmas night at the Pinnacle Grill. They brought round a trolley and described every cut of meat and where it was from. My DH had a T-bone steak which took up the whole plate. The chocolate volcano cake was delicious. Great service and food. We had anytime dining and had different tablemates and never had to queue. We felt as there were a big percentage of Americans on the ship who had come all this way for the NZ experience that they should have had NZ entertainers as well as the Australian singers who sang a lot of Australian songs, etc. Also none of our beautiful NZ wines. The weather wasn't very warm and the temperatures in the ship were cold as well. Definitely long sleeves day and night. We went to the late shows and there were only a handful of people there. The ports were good and the free buses, I think put on by each local council to the centre of town, were great. The seas were very rough around Stewart Island and the Tasman with 6 metre swells. Milford Sound was one of the highlights. The tendering process left a lot to be desired in the rough seas and I saw 2 potential accidents. Not enough crew supervising the tenders. All in all I felt this cruise was rather staid and sedate. 17 days was a bit long and 4 formal nights - well the novelty wore off. If you like to read in a corner then this was the cruise for you. For me, I'm back to Princess. Read Less
Sail Date December 2009
First, I would like to mention that the Aussies & Kiwis are the nicest, friendliest and most outgoing people in the world! This review is for the MS Volendam which left December 20, 2009 from Auckland, NZ and disembarked in Sydney, ... Read More
First, I would like to mention that the Aussies & Kiwis are the nicest, friendliest and most outgoing people in the world! This review is for the MS Volendam which left December 20, 2009 from Auckland, NZ and disembarked in Sydney, AUS on January 6, 2010 (17 Nights). We visited 11 ports (including Auckland) plus scenic cruising of the While Island Volcano and Milford Sound. We had an early arrival at Auckland airport, around 5 AM and you can't board the ship until around 11:30 AM. We wanted to see Auckland, but were having some trouble locating anyone to take us around for 2 hours. Then I found http://www.tourauckland.co.nz/ on the Internet. It's Roger & Lorraine of Auckland and we made arrangements with them to meet us at the port. They were a lovely couple who took us around in their car and we felt like they were our family. We highly recommend them!!! The Volendam: This is an older ship in great condition. This is the first cruise (been on 15 +) that really felt like a vacation. The Lido Buffet for breakfast had little or no lines and no problem finding a table. That was really a relaxing way to start the day. In the lounges, or by the pool, or in the showroom, they didn't keep bothering you about drinks. Service in the Dining Room & Lido Buffet was excellent. The Volendam had lots of NO SUGAR ADDED desserts and they were REALLY TASTY! Each Night at Dinner there was ONE NO SUGAR ADDED dessert selection as well as TWO flavors of NO SUGAR ADDED Ice Cream. We took the Ship's excursions which were all good and there were no problems except for a rough tender back from Half Moon Bay. New Zealand & Australia are simply AWESOME & BREATHTAKING. Plus they are full of lovely, helpful people who seem to love to have guests. The Scenic cruising of the White Island Volcano and Milford Sound were extraordinary!! We, of course, attended the Cruise Critic Meet & Greet and met lots of lovely people. We did have VERY ROUGH seas after leaving Milford Sound on the Tasman Sea. It lasted about 10 hours. Glasses were flying off the table and chairs moving around in the Lounge. My Wife and I both became seasick. I got her meds at the Front Desk, the next morning, and she was fine by lunch time, just very sleepy. Christmas & New Years Eve were celebrated on board. Holland America went ALL OUT for New Years Eve. Party Hats & Tiaras were given to each guest. There was free champagne, Noise makers, horns & streamers. In the show lounge they had thousands of balloons tied up with netting and released them at New Years. That was a really great party. Some Extras: There were several coin operated washing machines & dryers on 4 or the decks. The pool had a sliding glass cover. There were 2 Chocolate buffets. The bathrooms had bathtubs. The Public Bathrooms were spotless and had lovely tile work. Plus there were rolled up washcloths to dry your hands with. (A very nice touch). Holland America also had FREE computer classes and some FREE cooking demonstrations. The embarkation procedure moved along quickly. The disembarkation procedure was really relaxing. No calling out colors or numbers. You just show up at the appointed time and no line whatsoever. The Australian authorities had been on board while we were at sea and took care of all paper work. Again, Holland America's scheduling resulted in this being a relaxing, no long lines procedure. Sydney Airport: We had a little time until our flight and found this sit down take out restaurant. (Trattoria Prego) Italian Food in Australia cooked by Asian Cooks?? We are from New York City so we know good Italian food. This food was simply great!!! If you're flying Qantas or Air New Zealand you're in for a wonderful (but a little long) experience. Read Less
Sail Date December 2009
We decided to have a really relaxing Christmas and escape cooking the turkey etc., cruising in 'our own backyard' seemed to fit the bill nicely. Home to the port was a breeze as we live only 30 minutes north of Auckland, ... Read More
We decided to have a really relaxing Christmas and escape cooking the turkey etc., cruising in 'our own backyard' seemed to fit the bill nicely. Home to the port was a breeze as we live only 30 minutes north of Auckland, embarkation was quick and easy and we were onboard in time for the Mariners Lunch in the Main Dining Room. Our first impression of the Volendam was the dim lighting in both public areas and cabins but we soon got used to it, secondly the ship is looking a little tired in places but in no way did we let the fact spoil our enjoyment. Our cabin was oceanview, midships on Deck 1 (Dolphin Deck), my husband is prone to seasickness so the lower down the ship the better for him. The cabin was very quiet but in a handy position with only a short walk to the lifts. It was spotlessly clean, very roomy with plenty of storage space, wonderful comfy beds and we were very happy with it. By choice we had fixed early dining which was at 5.45pm, this was a mistake as we found it to be too early especially on port days when it was a huge rush to get spruced up. We could have changed to Open Seating dining or the Lido but we had such great table companions we didn't want to desert them. We ate breakfast everyday in the main dining room also lunch on sea days, found both menus to be good except for the Kippered Herrings at breakfast, never again!! Only ate lunch at the Lido a couple of times, plenty of variety and we did not encounter long lines. Overall our opinion of the food in the MDR was mostly very good, tasty and well cooked with plenty of choices. We did eat one night in the Pinnacle Grill, it was very enjoyable but frankly we're not sure what all the fuss is about. The evening entertainment in the Frans Hal lounge was okay, but somewhat repetative with most, if not all, acts coming from Australia - not a New Zealand act in sight!! The Christmas Day celebrations were excellent with Santa arriving and all the children getting a present also New Years Eve was a fun night kicking off in the Crows Nest at 9pm then moving down to the Frans Hall lounge at 11.30pm where the champagne was flowing and the party really began to see in the New Year. Our fellow cruisers were a mixed bunch with many Americans onboard and we met some great people and had lots of laughs. The crew and staff were excellent especially our waiters in the MDR, always had a smile and nothing was too much trouble. We did have a bit of bother with the Front Desk with amounts charged to our onboard account that were nothing to do with us, this took several trips to the Front Desk and some heated discussion before the amounts were removed - so beware and check your account very carefully. Even though we were cruising in New Zealand we enjoyed all the ports and cruising in Milford Sound, the weather was pretty cold in the south of New Zealand and once we left Stewart Island we had heavy swells before the Sounds and crossing the Tasman was definitely rocky with a number of people being ill, thankfully we were okay. The highlight had to be sailing into Sydney at 5.30AM, rounding the Heads and seeing the Harbour Bridge and the Opera House in the distance with the sun coming up - magic. All in all we had a great trip, and are already planning our next cruise on the Volendam. Read Less
Sail Date December 2009
Background DH and I have cruised on several other lines including Holland America Lines. This was our second cruise with HAL. We decided to try a midsize ship again after two previous cruises on smaller ships. We've cruised the ... Read More
Background DH and I have cruised on several other lines including Holland America Lines. This was our second cruise with HAL. We decided to try a midsize ship again after two previous cruises on smaller ships. We've cruised the Aegean, the Mediterranean, transited the Panama Canal, one transatlantic crossing and the Caribbean. This would be our first cruise in the southern hemisphere. We used our local travel agent. Travel To Port of Embarkation We flew on V Australia from LAX via Melbourne to Auckland, New Zealand. The flight was good, except our Melbourne connection was delayed due to the crew not advising all passengers the correct location to pick up their boarding passes. LAX couldn't issue our connecting passes even though it was Pacific Blue, another part of Virgin. That was the only glitch. Hotel Info (if any) We arrived 3 days prior to boarding the ship and stayed at the Hyatt Regency Auckland, with very nice accommodations and an excellent brunch in the mornings. The location was close enough to walk on foot to the Auckland Skytower and other downtown sights. Embarkation & Stateroom We arrived at the pier in a taxi and the staff tagged our luggage so we didn't have to use the thin paper tags we'd been given by HAL. This worked out beautifully. There was no actual line to board and the staff were swift and courteous in processing us. Our outside stateroom offered plenty of closet and storage space, better than I've found on any of our other cruises. The window over the bed required a bit of maneuvering on your knees to see everything outside. The bed was comfortable as was the high quality bedding. Our two cabin stewards kept things quite clean, were mostly invisible, but always friendly when we did see them. I found dried chewing gum on the sides of my expensive leather shoes upon returning from port and our steward Novie was able to clean them perfect as good as new in a matter of hours. Ship Info We found the TV offered cruise/shore excursion updates but we've experienced better on other ships. Standard info on the stateroom desk was adequate. We did the usual "new" passenger wandering to get our bearings. We appreciaed the elevator mats changed to state the day of the week as a gentle reminder. Dining Since we had "open" dining all our evening meals were on the lower floor of the Rotterdam dining room. Service 80% of the time was very good, 5% average, and 15% outstanding. We especially enjoyed the "theme" nights: once with the chefs and staff singing and marching into the dining room and, the other night was an Indonesian theme with costumes and beautiful Indonesian dEcor. Both Christmas and New Year's Eve had special presentation meals. The vegetables were often overcooked for our taste, otherwise, food preparation was very good to excellent. The variety was good. In comparison to our first HAL cruise years ago in the Caribbean we'd rate a big improvement in food quality. Activities I won a free hydro-wrap at the Spa, which was delightful. Service The staff were polite, friendly and sincere in their efforts to attend to our needs. We only ran into one server who seemed to rush us at the end of our dinner. Many times we were engaged in conversatio with staff who always had a cheerful attitude. Entertainment The International (crew and staff) Christmas Choir sang on Dec 24, a true delight. The New Year's Eve bash was quite fun with a huge balloon drop at midnight, champagne and fun hats and noisemakers. The ballroom was packed with plenty of good singing. During the rest of the evenings the ship singers and dancers were a mixed bag, but mostly very good with plenty of high energy and enthusiasm, which made up for one female singer who struggled with some material. One stand-out performer Aussie Annie Francis was fabulous. They all did a stand-up job when the ship ran into very rough seas. Port & Shore Excursions We booked three through the ship and all were better than we expected. In Tauranga we toured the Rotorua area, in Christchurch the High Country Explorer, and in Burnie, Tasmania the Wings Animal Park. We did walkabouts in the other ports, though both Gisborne and Oban at Stewart Island has little to see. Disembarkation Our tags were in our stateroom as expected on the last night aboard. The "silent" disembarkation was a nice change from past experiences on other lines. There weren't constant PA announcements of the time. Passengers left the ship at their designated times and we didn't experience any crowds. Free carts were available for our luggage, however the taxi line was quite a wait to our hotel. Summary This was our first Christmas/New Year's cruise and 1st time down under. The only difficulty was very rough seas while crossing the Tasman Sea and leaving Oban, Stewart Island, something unavoidable when you're on the high seas. We had a wonderful cruise. In regard to the ship and its crew and staff we'd give them an A+ overall, including our dear captain who kept reminding all of us to "wash your hands!" Read Less
Sail Date December 2009
I will not go into too much detail, just list the likes and dislikes and overall opinion of the ship. Embarkation & disembarkation is one thing that HAL do very well. Always quick and well organised. Only negative, they need more signs ... Read More
I will not go into too much detail, just list the likes and dislikes and overall opinion of the ship. Embarkation & disembarkation is one thing that HAL do very well. Always quick and well organised. Only negative, they need more signs in Auckland so you know exactly where to go. The Volendam has everything you need but is starting to look a bit tired in places. A huge amount of restaurants to choose from, pools, theatre (movies) and then the show lounge. 75% of people on the ship where 70yrs and over (or the was a few families) which was a surprise to us. Not too many couples in the 40's etc. Food was good but not great. A bit bland sometimes. Probably aiming at the older age group. We requested the late siting on table of 8 but one the first night had the early sitting for just us (we travelled with another couple). HAL did what the could to accommodate us at the late siting afterwards but we only had the table so us. HAL offer great laundry packages on this cruise. US99 for unlimited laundry & US35 for unlimited pressing. Great having to not worry about it. Alcohol is around normal cruise prices. You can purchase beer & wine at port as long as you consume in your cabin. Corkage for a bottle of wine in restaurants was US20 per bottle which was still okay as we picked up some fantastic 2006 bottles in Napier. Day tours - I highly recommend people to do some research of their own and book private tours or tours independantly. For 1/2 to 2/3's of the price of what HAL was offering on their tours, we did a fantastic tours, especially Napier for just the two of us in a private sedan with driver/guide. We highly recommend Hawkes Bay Scenic Tours Ltd with John & Margaret Halon. They will come and pick you up from the ship and the tour can be flexible if you are on your own. Also car hire in NZ or Tasmania is greatly recommended if you are independant travellers as the roads are easy to follow. One word of advice though - book ahead and don't just rock up hoping to get car hire. Most are always booked out in advance. Staff - amazing. The always went out of their way to make sure your trip was enjoyable as always ie: Our cabin was a outside porthole, lower deck up front. We had a anchor banging against the ship for most of the trip & in really rough seas, furniture was moving underneath us. The staff gave us an extra cabin to use for sleeping for a few nights through the rough seas from NZ to Tasmania. I do not recommend this cabin to anyone and will ensure in future we are never of the lower deck again. As I said staff were great and what shocked us was how so many rude people try to go out of their way to belittle them. They somehow deal with it. I know I couldn't and I take my hat off to them. Overall experience was good but not great but if you are in the older age group, I am sure you will have the time of your life. Read Less
Sail Date December 2009
I'd like to give my comments on our recent Holland Anerica cruise round New Zealand & Australia. I started the cruise with no preconceptions about Holland America, or how they may compare to other lines.  We have been on ... Read More
I'd like to give my comments on our recent Holland Anerica cruise round New Zealand & Australia. I started the cruise with no preconceptions about Holland America, or how they may compare to other lines.  We have been on several cruises before, all on different lines, to different continents. The cruise was 17 days and over the Christmas & New Year period Overview : Let me start off with my thoughts on the ship, the 'Volendam.'.   In all honesty it is starting to look it's age. It might be only 10 years old, but seems more.  I would like to say that it has "understated elegance",  but that wouldn't really be true.  It doesn't really fit into any category. Neither lavish, nor modern.  That's not to say it's a bad ship.  Perhaps 'bland' would be the best way to describe it. Whilst it is aimed at the family sector, it shouldn't be.  We are in our 40s with children, and at times felt quite out of place. Most of the older passengers are clearly uncomfortable with children on the ship, and were not shy in coming forward to say that. If you are a family with children then Holland America is probably not for you.   Now on to facilities : Volendam is a midsized ship, so has most of the necessities, but not in any great numbers or variety. Our cruise included 6 sea days in total, and 3 in a row.  We felt that more facilities would have been better, and certainly more activities laid on than they did Before I go on to my in depth review, my short appraisal would be 5/10.  It's not my best cruise experience, not by a long shot.  There was nothing terribly wrong with it.... we just left feeling the ship, staff, and facilities could have been much better. Now in detail : Cabins :  here I have no complaints at all.  They are quite spacious, with good storage, and perfectly adequate bathrooms.  The Tv system has the usual mix of CNN, Espn, in house movies and ship channels showing tour guides, events etc. There is also a Dvd player, and movies you can rent. Restaurants.  The main restaurant is the Rotterdam, straddling 2 floors on the 4th and 5th.  The Volendam had both fixed seating, and dine as you wish.  We had the latter, which worked perfectly well.  We started off the cruise by making prior bookings for each evening, but found out that really wasn't necessary.  We were a table of 6  and never had s difficulty being seated as we rolled up.  The food  in general was excellent, nicely prepared and presented.  There was good choice, though the menu did repeat itself on a few occasions. In particular, great effort wad made for both the Christmas & New Year meals. The 'Pinnacle.'. -  the alternative, chargeable restaurant. ($20 pp for dinner and $10 for lunch.). This was a disappointment.  We found the food to be below the standard of the main dining room,  which should not be the case.  There is a small selection on offer and is limited to 3 courses.  (as opposed to the dining room which has a far more varied selection.) The qualility of cuisine was just not up to standard. We ordered a selection of steak, seafood and vegetarian. None were exceptional.  If you request anything in addition or different to the 3 courses, there is a further charge.  We were scheduled to dine there 4 times,  but cancelled after 1. Lido Buffet restaurant.  Pretty much does what is says on the can.  Breakfasts generally are good, with plenty of selection.  Lunch was more changeable, some days better than others.  On the odd occasion we ate there in the evening we found it to he lacking in imagination, and the least good of the meals.  By the lido deck pool there is an all day grill section that offers up burgers, pizza, tacos etc.  Useful if you get hungry in between .   Bars: There are a selection around the ship, which have music at varying times. Pool deck : known as the Lido.  There are 2 pools.  One is mid-ship with a retractable roof, and other other is open air at the stern.  Most of the time there was sufficient seating, with a mix of chairs & recliners.  However, there is little entertainment, and this was a recurring theme.  Whilst there was a band-stand, there was little to no live music being played on it, nor background music over the speakers.  So you'd better like a quiet pool-side exeperience. Evening Shows :  on 5 nights there was the ships singers/dancers.  Mostly good and polished.  Other nights there was a selection of singers/comedians/jugglers.  They were mostly poor and pretty second rate.  Think amateur cabaret night. Kids club.  This is not the ships best facet.  Hours are limited, and you really have the over riding feeling that Holland America is providing it through clenched teeth.  The staff are cheery and do their best,  but there is only so much they can do.  Added to which, note my earlier comment that most passengers are hostile to children on board.  We had 2 particularly nasty incidents where our children were lashed out at. Ports of call Here we have mixed feelings.  Whilst we booked this cruise, and thus must be ultimately to blame,  we felt the itinerary thoroughly lacked imagination. Some stops were fantastic, while others left you thinking  "why on earth did we stop there for." Whilst this was a 17 night cruise, it could easily have been compacted down to 12 or 13 by cutting out the tedious places.  Many of the passengers were complaining and/or suspicious of some of the port selections ( more on that below.) Is Holland America being offered incentives to stop at some clearly tedious places? Ports of Call: The Cruise started in Auckland, New Zealand.  We got here 30 hours before departure.  This is probably more than enough.  Once you seen the Sky Tower, the harbour and downtown area, you have got the essencece of it all.  Do make sure to visit Parnell Villagebom the outskirts.  It is a quaint and picturesque suburb. Tauranga - a good stop, the most intetesting part being the thermal springs and geysers at Rotarua.  Our tour only permitted 1 1/2 hours there.  We could have done with much more. Napier -  a pretty art deco town.  We strolled round the town and enjoyed the photography. Gisborne -  what on earth did we go there for?  In advance the captain proudly advised us we were the first ship of this size to come.  I can understand why.  Nothing of merit there.  Wellington.  Lived up to it's nickname, and was windy.  Unfortunately we came on a Sunday, and the city was all closed up.  The government buildings and botanical gardens are pretty.  The over-hyped Te Mata museum didn't live up to expectations. Christchurch - very pretty.  We did the trams/punting/gondola.  A great stop Dunedin - a bleak day, weatherwise.  Made it feel even more Scottish. We visited Speights brewery and there after found the town a little drab. Sorry about that. Oban - on Stewart Island.  This was the most controversial stop of all.  The township has a population of 300 and our cruise had 1400.  What would Oban do if we all descended upon it.  In the end it was a mute point as it was a rough day and many opted not to tender in.  For the record, it was just ok.  A bit quaint, you did see a remote lifestyle, 2 shops, a pub and a post office.  Next day scenic cruising in the New Zealand Fjords.  One of the real highlights of the cruise.  Stunningly beautiful, especially in Milford Sound. We then had 2 days crossing the Tasman Sea.  At times it got very rough, at the peak it was force 12.  The First Officer later commented it was the worst seas they had encountered for some time.  For 2 days the public areas were very empty. Burnie, Tasmania.  Big topic of annoyance amongst passengers.  Most felt we should be going to Hobart, or at least somewhere more interesting in Tasmania.  The town is small and has very little to offer. Melbourne -  a pleasure to visit.  You catch the tram into town right from the dock.  The City is vibrant, picturesque, and friendly.  Why weren't we here for 2 days?  We could easily have cut out Oban or Gisborne or Burnie and spent more tome here.  To add insult to injury we didn't even have a long day here and had to he on board by 5.30. The cruise ended in Sydney.  Always iconic to sail under the harbour bridge and dock right oppposite the Opera House.  It was our last full day and perfectly central. In conclusion :  the cruise could have been so much better....  Why : The ports of call were oddly chosen.  Gisborne, Oban, and Burnie quite simply should not have been on the schedule. And where we could have spent more time, we were short changed - think Christchurch & Melbourne. Was Holland America deliberately trying to spin this out to 17 days?   The entertainment on board was lacking, and where provided was unimaginative.  There were many days when there was virtually nothing on. Crew interaction -  there was almost none.  The staff don't seem to want to mingle or meet you. If you want to air any issue with them, or even to say hello you pretty much can't.  Especially so the cruise director, who made no attempt to meet with you.  Apart from coffee tea and water, no other drinks are available without cost. Small note about Captain Bos -  odd guy.  Never saw him,  gives his daily briefings over the tannoy.  Seems kindly.  Has a fettish about cleaning your hands. The pool was closed for 3 straight days, with poor excuses given. Did we enjoy the cruise?  Yes,  but not so as we would do it again. 5/10 e-mail - tropical.co@gmail.com Read Less
Sail Date December 2009
This cruise I travelled solo, as I was cruising just to surprise some friends/coworkers who were on the ship. My regular job is as a Musician in the entertainment department. I flew from Adelaide to Auckland via Melbourne with Qantas and ... Read More
This cruise I travelled solo, as I was cruising just to surprise some friends/coworkers who were on the ship. My regular job is as a Musician in the entertainment department. I flew from Adelaide to Auckland via Melbourne with Qantas and Jetstar. I thought the combined Qantas booking, and Jetstar being a subsidiary of Qantas, would have let my baggage be checked through, but it wasn't, I had to re-checkin at Melbourne. No big deal, just not what I'm used to. My hotel in Auckland was the Heritage, on Hobson Street, about 5 blocks back from the Princes Wharf where embarkation was to happen. I organized a later checkout (12pm) which the hotel was fine with, in fact they were very friendly and amenable, I can't fault the hotel at all, with the exception being the towels provided in the bathroom. Small and thin. The rest of the room was super, complete with small kitchenette, big bathroom, comfortable beds, lots of storage, just the small towels which seemed unusual. Embarkation was a breeze, I rocked up about 1:30pm, dropped my bag pierside, checking in took maybe 15-20 minutes. No long lines and it was all just nicely organized. I proceeded straight to my room (didn't hear any announcements if it was ready yet, but thought I'd have a look, sure enough it was all set. Since we were doing sea days straight to Sydney I headed back off the ship to the local shops and stocked up on some junkfood and Pepsi for the cabin. The first thing I noticed about this ship was the cleanliness. Definitely one of the cleanest ships I have been on! This is my first time on an R-class ship, having spent most of my time on S-, Vista- and Jewel-class ships. Returned about 3:30, my bag was already delivered, so I unpacked what I needed and then headed outside for boatdrill at 4pm. Was a reasonably quick one, and the weather was just comfortable no sweating or shivering which helped people keep quiet and get us out of the quicker. Headed upstairs to the sail away party for a few minutes, the HalCats were playing and were sounding good, and a good crowd was enjoying the view of Auckland harbour as we left. I went downstairs to the office and introduced myself to the Cruise Director Michelle and Hotel Manager Robert (I worked with Robert last year on the Statendam) and let them know I was aboard and was asked if I could play keyboard in the band since the replacement hadn't shown up. Shamefully, I had to admit my keyboard playing isn't as good as my real instruments (Sax/Percussion), and besides I was on vacation :) That aside, the band still sounded quite good. I ate in the Dining Room 2 nights, and the Pinnacle 1 night. It was enjoyable meeting different people at dinner (was seated at tables for 10-12) and although the majority of cruisers were of an "advanced" age, there were a surprising number of sub-30s as well - but I think most were there for the 3 days as opposed to the longer offerings of this cruise. Entertainment was the expected fare of HAL - George Kowalski was in the Ocean Bar (another flashback to last year's ship) for his 38th year on ships, playing ballroom dance music. Those who were there were enjoying it, I saw some serious dance couples. The String quartet in the Explorers lounge were great, playing from memory and taking requests. Marisha & the HalCats were all over the ship, and sounded great, but their hours in the crows nest were largely to small/non-existent crowds. A shame, as this particular HalCat band is tight, has fun, and is well-led by their bandleader James. Surprisingly I only attended one show in the Frans Hals lounge - the cast production show "Gold" (yet another flashback to a previous ship). The cast was talented but was let down by the audience - a lot of B2B passengers had seen it the previous week, so hadn't come back. I just wish Holland America used LIVE musicians to play the shows, as the midi backing track can't compare. The other two showtime offerings were the welcome aboard show - which was too cheesy for me to stay for, and Martin Lass - a great violinist whose show I have played on a few occasions. In the Piano Bar there was always a large and enthusiastic crowd to have fun with Randall Powell (yet another flashback to previous ships). I did not take part in any activities, but the event staff were all great and we all hung out at various times. Nightlife on the ship was very quiet after about 11pm. The Stateroom was great, looking out over the Lower Promenade deck, but luckily I had a direct view to the sea, and didn't notice people walking past so it wasn't an issue for me. The 2nd morning there was some loud noise (similar to a circular saw) which lasted for about 10 minutes at 930am, but I was able to return to sleep without hassle. Due to a problem with one of the turbos, combined with a head swell, we were 2 hours late arriving into Sydney, but this allowed more people to experience the sail-in through the Heads, past HMAS Sydney's Mast, the Opera House, the Bridge, and into Circular Quay. Disembarkation began approximately 1030am, my group was called off just after 12. It was not that huge a dilemma since the disembarking passengers were a small number compared to the in-transit passengers, however it would mean the embarking passengers may have had to wait longer than usual. Sorry about that. I walked myself up to the Swissotel on Market street, just around the corner from Pitt Street Mall and the Centrepoint Tower, checked in about 1pm, and relaxed. All in all, it was a great way to see the ship from the "other" side of the coin. Having worked from the service end of the industry I knew what to expect, and how to make life easier for all involved. I would love to cruise for longer next time. I hope this review has been enlightening for some at least. Read Less
Sail Date January 2009
SERVICE LEVELS VERY LOW, INCONSISTENT and WAY BELOW PRINCESS IN THIS MARKET ( The Christmas cruise on Sun Princess at the same time last year offered far superior service and all round product.) Some examples that may seem trivial but ... Read More
SERVICE LEVELS VERY LOW, INCONSISTENT and WAY BELOW PRINCESS IN THIS MARKET ( The Christmas cruise on Sun Princess at the same time last year offered far superior service and all round product.) Some examples that may seem trivial but the constant battle to get things right is not how it should be: Linen wasn't changed for 10 days and then only after several requests. It was also of very poor quality (thin, holes, stained) - no crisp white ironed sheets here! From check in it took 3 days and 10 keys!! to get ones that opened our cabin We had so many different charges on our bill that didn't belong to us it became a joke. Everyday we had to check and get them removed and then on disembarkation morning when the final bill arrived the whole lot had been put back on again! Room Service requests frequently never happened There was no information available in the cabin about what services were available - no info on things like the soda pass or wine card. Only people who had cruised with HAL before knew about them Turn down service existed of turning the corner of the bed down and putting chocolates on bed. No refresh of bathroom or room. Toiletries were also never replaced throughout the cruise except soap. Generally staff seemed undertrained, overworked and unhappy General cleanliness of cabin and ship average The only activities available for children under 18 was provided by the kids club and these were inadequate and boring. Apparently only 1/3 of the children onboard went to it regularly which left many (including mine) roaming the ship bored and taking over the lido pool. Despite politely worded requests in the newsletter that they restrict themselves to the aft pool it wasn't policed and their overwhelming presence and noise disturbed the older cruisers. Despite many complaints from the older brigade about this you rarely saw any members of the cruise "entertainment" staff on deck unless they were hosting a cocktail making function (paid) or towel animal demonstration (flogging book!). On other cruise lines they have very visible youth security patrolling day and night plus activity and entertainment staff always around The port arrangements left you believing this was the only time they had visited these ports. Despite knowing how few had taken up shoreex and would be requiring wharf to town transport they were always surprised by the numbers and inadequate services were provided which left people queuing for ages with no alternative as you couldn't walk off the port due to security reasons. The Hotel Manager's response to this was next time we'll charge for the shuttle service and arrange more buses! ENTERTAINMENT Unless it was a paid event or promoting a paid event e.g. SPA, BINGO, ART AUCTION, CULINARY EVENT, OPAL SHOWING etc there were very few activities during the day, no sailaway parties, rarely music on deck and no games you could participate in as a family. There was a daily quiz that was very dry, occasional games (adults only) and a daily cooking demonstration. Cruise Director was the worst of any I have ever encountered and refused to enhance or adapt the program to entertain those demanding more. There seemed to be an inflexible policy and "by the book" mentality that dictated the usual routine be followed come what may!. Many people we spoke with were bored, so much so that we formed our own entertainment group of different families which grew and grew and ran things that are usually run by the entertainment staff on other ships - shuffleboard and table tennis tournaments, scavenger hunts, sailaway parties etc. I contacted the Hotel Manager as I wanted to let him know how disappointed we were and that so many people were unhappy and give him the opportunity to fix it while we were onboard but he really wasn;t that interested. As I said to him we know things are different elsewhere on other cruiselines as we've always enjoyed our cruises as a family on a variety of cruiselines (Princess, Oceania, Carnival) and maybe this time we just chose the wrong ship. However for first time cruisers many would think this was what cruising was all about and will never cruise again. The ship was also so American and didn't seem to make any concession at all to the fact that the majority of the passengers weren't and that she was based in Australian waters for at least 3 months.There were many requests made by pax for some Australian and NZ news and to pick up an Australian feed on the satellite to cover the Sydney Hobart race and the Boxing Day test. They managed to organize it for 2 days while we were in NZ but after that nothing. They changed the timing of the evening shows so if you were late seating you had to go to the 7.00 show and early seating the 9.00 show. This left us with little or no choice after dinner. Usually when cruising the evening consists of dinner then the show, nightclub or piano bar - bed. The piano bar had a nightly "name that tune" but the piano man was very flamboyant and we enjoyed his performance but it certainly wasn't for everyone! With no show to go to after dinner, piano bar not suitable for all, string quartet in the Ocean Bar very placid, the nightclub run by a DJ who played questionable music, then got overrun by teenagers, nights became very boring for many. I would really hesitate to recommend Volendam to anyone that isn't sedentary and looking for entertainment.Despite big promotions for their kids club this one did not do the trick for many onboard. This was meant to be a celebratory Christmas and New Year cruise and is naturally going to attract families. Christmas was so poorly done (again compared to the event they made it on Princess last year) and didn't have any magic at all. New Year's Eve was quite a celebration on the aft deck, but with Sydney Harbour and the fireworks as a backdrop hard to get it wrong! ( Apparently it was originally promoted that the ship would be moored at Circular Quay or in the harbour to see the bridge and this later changed to put us at Darling Harbour with a much lesser view and the U.S. passengers weren't told - rumors of a class action pending!!) I have cruised on Volendam before many years ago in the Caribbean and expected so much more. I always believed HAL was just a cut above Princess but couldn;t have been more wrong. Service and standards were mediocre and indifferent. There was no excellence. On a positive note food was probably better than Princess, but presentation was below par. The cabins too were of a good size as per all HAL ships and the general layout of the ship gave it a very spacious feel with good public areas. Whinge over - but feel the cruise was a waste of a family holiday and not good value or an enjoyable experience at all. Thank goodness I know there are cruising alternatives and can only imagine they "dumbed down" the product for this market. Read Less
Sail Date December 2008
Volendam Ratings
Category Editor Member
Cabins 3.5 4.0
Dining 4.0 4.0
Entertainment 3.5 3.5
Public Rooms 4.0 4.2
Fitness Recreation 4.5 3.8
Family 3.5 3.8
Shore Excursion 4.0 3.5
Enrichment 5.0 3.5
Service 5.0 4.2
Value For Money 4.0 3.8
Rates 4.0 3.9

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