46 Fort Lauderdale (Port Everglades) Holland America Volendam Cruise Reviews

Panama Canal was on the bucket list, so we pulled the trigger. The price on the Volendam from Fort Lauderdale to San Francisco was to good to pass up. This was a 17 day cruise in April so there were kids on board at all, and the average ... Read More
Panama Canal was on the bucket list, so we pulled the trigger. The price on the Volendam from Fort Lauderdale to San Francisco was to good to pass up. This was a 17 day cruise in April so there were kids on board at all, and the average age of the cruisers was probably about 75. My wife and I are in our early 50’s so we were some of the youngest on board. We are very active so this review, especially the port stops is geared to the more active types. Volendam is now 20 years old and she shows her age a little bit but it is well taken care of and still very luxurious. It was below capacity (about 1200 passengers) so there were rarely lines anywhere and it is a very spacious considering it’s a small ship compared to most of the big beasts out on the Caribbean. There were plenty of activities on board to keep us busy on the sea days. America’s Test Kitchen was very cool and the EXC port talks and historical talks were fantastic. Pools and hot tubs were never crowded. Our room was an Outside View right on the promenade deck. We were right next to a door leading out to the wrap around promenade, so it was almost like having a balcony…. We loved the accessibility of the room to the walking deck. The had plenty of storage space even with all the clothes we brought for the 17 days. We used the $20 laundry bag service 1 time in the middle of the cruise. The bathroom had been remodeled and the new glass door shower was the largest we’ve ever had on a cruise ship and the temp and water pressure were always consistent. Embarkation in Fort Lauderdale took only about 20 minutes once we got to the terminal which was only a couple miles from the airport. Debarkation took about 30 minutes in SF. Sailing under the Golden Gate Bridge in the morning was also quite spectacular. All in all, with ship, the canal, calm seas, and 9 port stops, it couldn’t have been better. Every part of the cruise exceeded our expectations. The food and service in main dining room was fantastic and even the buffet was quite good. Room service was also excellent, with a different towel animal every night! That’s 17 different animals…. Cartagena: We took a taxi to the old walled city and walked around for several hours. Beautiful architecture and very Caribbean looking. The port had a shop and a nice aviary for no charge with many parrots and other exotic birds and animals. Leave a half hour to explore this area. Panama Canal: Awesome piece of engineering and history. Very cool to see the lock systems and the many other big ships transiting the canal. Costa Rica: Did a HAL zipline excursion. The place was near the coastal town of Jaco and we rode an aerial tram to the top then zip lined our way down the mountain. There were reptile and butterfly displays at the base that were very interesting. Sadly, we didn’t see any wildlife other than iguanas. Very fun tour though. Nicaragua: Took a peddle taxi tour of the little port town. The place was very poor, but our driver was very cool and spoke good English, so we learned a lot about the country and the politics. Not much to see, but made us appreciate what we have here at home. Guatemala: Took a HAL bus for a “on your own” tour of Antigua. It was about an hour bus ride through the countryside with guides giving some history of the area. Antigua itself was very pretty with many fabulous churches. We walked all over town and it was very nice. Puerto Chiapas: Took a HAL excursion to some Mayan ruins and then to a demonstration of how cocoa beans are grown and processed into chocolate. Nice tour but we thought a little over priced at $100 per person. Huatulco: Our favorite stop. Excellent swim beach right by the pier. We took a $5 taxi to Playa La Entrega a couple mile away and it was great. Excellent snorkeling and many restaurants right on the beach. We were there on a Sunday so many locals were there with us which actually made it more fun. The vendors pester the locals too….. Manzanillo: Ship docks right downtown. Lots of shops right there. We took a grueling hike up to the cross on the mountain to the right of town. We were hot and sweaty but the view was amazing. Puerto Vallarta: Did another zipline tour through HAL. This was a great excursion but only for the very physically fit. Right of the ship we boarded a little speed boat that whisked us about 30 minutes south to a bay where we switch to Unimogs to drive to the Zipline. Basically like an Army truck. Perfect for the crazy dirt road. Then after getting geared up, we rode mules up to the top of the mountain. And then it was more than just ziplines. We also repelled down a waterfall, did 2 giant waterslides, and then a new roller coaster zipline to end the tour. Very awesome!! This was our favorite zipline ever. Cabo San Lucas: Went parasailing then walked all over town. Read Less
Sail Date April 2019
Our group chose this cruise unanimously in spite to the fact that at least 6 of the 26 of us had been through the Panama Canal on a cruise before. We had excellent cabin and dining staff. Brilliant Entertainment! The dining menus ... Read More
Our group chose this cruise unanimously in spite to the fact that at least 6 of the 26 of us had been through the Panama Canal on a cruise before. We had excellent cabin and dining staff. Brilliant Entertainment! The dining menus were up to par as we had experienced on the previous 4 cruises our group had taken on Holland America. The food quality in the Main dining room and in the Lido restaurant was very very good. Our group evening at the Pinnacle Grille was exceptional. The staff on the ship were exceptionally courteous and helpful. One of the very high points was the classical pianist, Hyperion Knight, who entertained us. His on stage work was enthralling but the real cherry was the "practice sessions" he had in The Explorers's Lounge. My wife and I happened on him one morning early in the cruise in the lounge playing the piano. There were only 3 other couples in there at the time and we sat through what turned out to be a "private" concert. He played (without sheet music) for and hour and a half almost continuously and his music had us entranced. He was very personable as he chatted with us and talked about his music. This happenstance became more widely known as the cruise progressed and what started out as a concert for 6 persons became a "practice" session to a full lounge to another day with standing room only to having to be there half an hour ahead of his impromptu unscheduled sessions. He was also a fun participant in the twice a day Trivia sessions. His trivia knowledge is formidable and it was great fun playing with and against his teams. At the end of the cruise everyone of our group were expressing how much they enjoyed this trip and were asking when we would be planning the next one. For a bunch of 75 year old high school pals it was a great time. Read Less
Sail Date January 2019
We continue to chose Holland America for the customer services, dining experience and how they prioritize you and your experience. The comedian (Andrew Kennedy) was hilarious. Holland America is really trying to appeal to a younger ... Read More
We continue to chose Holland America for the customer services, dining experience and how they prioritize you and your experience. The comedian (Andrew Kennedy) was hilarious. Holland America is really trying to appeal to a younger crowd, which I appreciate. We have traveled Holland America with our daughter, who is now 14, since she was 9. She has always enjoyed Club Hal. She prefers to be in Club Hal, then with us. This was her first year in The Loft. There were no very many teens in The Loft, but she did meet one girl she would make plans with to meet after dinner. They had a great time playing cards, ping pong, video games, etc... New also really appreciate the fact that all persons who work with the children have to have a min of a Bachelors Degree. Club Hal provided an educational experience for her when we went to Alaska on Holland America. The Loft is more about independence for the teens. They can come and go as they please and it is open till midnight. Our daughter would highly recommend both programs. The Panama Canal was an unforgettable experience. I would highly recommend this cruise. Aruba was gorgeous (just remember to bring cash, since there are several shopping locations that only take cash), Curacao was beautiful (make sure you see the moving bridge), zip line in Costa Rica, Guatemala (you can bargain at the shopping location they shuttle you to), Nicaragua (Use the bike taxi to eat at El Pigeon-great fish and beers), and in Oaxaca walk to the city over the hill. If you decided to use a credit card in Mexico make sure you are charged in Pesos. They will not give you the accurate exchange. A return was charging us 118.00 (US) and we asked for our bill in Pesos. The bill then went down to 76.28 (US). Just an FYI---there was an Excursion named Puerto Vallarta Sights and Tequila Distillery. Fist of all your are not taken to a distillery. You are taken to a tasting. The Tequila is good, however they doubled the price of the bottles, just for us. We were also taken to a jewelry store for a waste of 30. min. We did see some downtown sights for an hour and a half. The rest of the time was used to shuttle us around to a photo location, a jewelry store and a shopping area. When all was said and done, I would go on this cruise again. Read Less
Sail Date December 2018
The cruise started with the worst embarkation situatin. We need wheelchair assistance to embark because of the long walks. Holland America's Ft. Lauderdale operation to have two wheelchairs used for a significant number of people. who ... Read More
The cruise started with the worst embarkation situatin. We need wheelchair assistance to embark because of the long walks. Holland America's Ft. Lauderdale operation to have two wheelchairs used for a significant number of people. who would be taken to a table top counter, processed and assigned to a holding area to await wheelchairs to board the ship. Never, in our 50 some cruise experiences, have we had to wait 2 1/2 hours to board a ship, NOT EVEN ON A MEGA SHIP! . If anyone thought this was an anomoly, debarkation was no better -- two wheechairs. It was quite apparent, from embarkation, no handicap assistance on the ship in the buffet or other area, and debarkation, the mobility challenged were treated as 2nd Class Citizens and Holland America was doing you a favor rather than providing service. It took three days for maintenance to fix the HVAC in our cabin as it went from FREEZING when we boarded ship to a SAUNA a day later back to Freezing. We asked at one point for Holland America to send us home from the first port stop in Curacao. New Years Night found the ship in a FREEZING mode with passengers wearing parkas and shipboard staff wearing sweatshirts and hoodies. And then, at midnight, the freezing became unbearably hot. Only one more day left -- thank goodness!!! Excursion vendors were not asked to accommodate the mobility challenged or handicapped. They were not asked to provide even step stools on high access vehicles. When I asked Sydney in Excursions about this she became belligerent and offensive. I discussed this with her supervisor, Abigail, who agree that vendors should be asked to provide easier access. I suggested Sydney would make great excursion director on a container ship. We were most surprised by the lack of service and accommodaion. Holland America has historically, and still does, market to more mature audiences. They were quality conscious and most considerate of the mobility challenged. We sailed with them on a number of occasions. Not anymore! Read Less
Sail Date December 2018
Iren & Vadim Timof (72 years old. Fremont California). That was our 13-th cruise. We enjoyed with our Panama cruise from Fort Lauderdale to San Diego (December 18,2018 to January 3, 2019). Service on board was excellent, but ... Read More
Iren & Vadim Timof (72 years old. Fremont California). That was our 13-th cruise. We enjoyed with our Panama cruise from Fort Lauderdale to San Diego (December 18,2018 to January 3, 2019). Service on board was excellent, but dining menu in restaurant and buffet was poor. The same we can say about shops range. Very sorry. We liked all our excursions. It was very good arranged. Cabin service was very good. Everything was on time and with smile. We were exited with Christmas and New Year celebration, especially with lighting Christmas Tree and singing Christmas songs! Special thanks to a little girl who lighted Christmas Tree!. The most pleasure we got from Adagio music duo violinist Cristian and pianist Nadya. Cristian is an exceptional artistic talent. He excites the audience emotionally and engages each listener intellectually. He sparks a love for chamber music in the hearts of every listener. Thanks. Read Less
Sail Date December 2018
Panama Canal cruise, service was great, activities were great, our room was not good, we had banging pipes starting at 5:30 in the morning and 4 hrs every night. We were on the 3 rd deck, dining room up above, they gave us ear plugs, ... Read More
Panama Canal cruise, service was great, activities were great, our room was not good, we had banging pipes starting at 5:30 in the morning and 4 hrs every night. We were on the 3 rd deck, dining room up above, they gave us ear plugs, showed us other rooms that were not acceptable. Will never do that deck ever, when you walked outside on the deck you could hear the pipes, they need to insulate the pipes, duck tape doesn’t make it, needs a upgrade. Activities were good, entertainment, there was a variety of different entertainers that were good. Justen the cruise director was good also, the chef came out every night to talk to every table. Barry from Boston on the piano was Fantastic, went there every night to see him. Joel in the Ocean Bar was Fantastic also. Some of the servers like Alex was very good at his job, Jenny and Dewi in the Lido were also very Great. Read Less
Sail Date November 2018
We wanted to do the Panama Canal so chose this cruise. The ship cannot handle the hot weather, the AC when finally repaired (5 days no AC at all in rooms) was still not enough to cool the rooms!!!!!!!!!! Dinning room food was very good ... Read More
We wanted to do the Panama Canal so chose this cruise. The ship cannot handle the hot weather, the AC when finally repaired (5 days no AC at all in rooms) was still not enough to cool the rooms!!!!!!!!!! Dinning room food was very good as expected. As was the food in the Lido. Tours were not very well organized, the usual stickers were not used. We were told just to go to the dock and find one of the in many cases 3 busses which resulted in much confusion. Entertainment was the usual Holland American shows in the showroom. Not great but some of the entertainers brought on board were good. The Oceans bar had a quartet that were very good and I encourage Holland America to not discontinue this entertainment. The room stewarts worked very hard to keep the many rooms clean under their responsibility. Towel animals in the room at night was always fun. Read Less
Sail Date October 2018
I should preface this review by explaining that my wife and I love to travel and our preferred mode of travel is by cruiseship. We have travelled far and wide around the world and if there is one thing that we have learned from this is ... Read More
I should preface this review by explaining that my wife and I love to travel and our preferred mode of travel is by cruiseship. We have travelled far and wide around the world and if there is one thing that we have learned from this is that the more one travels the more one realizes how much more there remains to be seen in the world. I feel sorry for people who don't enjoy travel and I also feel sorry for people who wait until they are too old to enjoy their travel experiences. We live on a small Gulf Island near Vancouver Island in British Columbia. Our neighbors (for 6 months each year) spend their winters at their home near Galveston, Texas. We visited with them in Galveston prior to flying on to Ft. Lauderdale where we stayed for another few nights at the Marriott Hollywood Beach Hotel. This is a lovely new hotel right on the beach and it is only a short cab ride to the pier at Port Everglades. Embarkation was absolutely painless. A very professional (older) staff had us onboard 10 minutes after arrival! The quickest and smoothest handling ever. 'Nuff said. This was our first time on the Volendam but having travelled before on the Ryndam, Maasdam, Zaandam and Veendam we were pretty much familiar with the similar layouts of this class of HAL. We have sailed with other cruise lines but seem to prefer the standards we associate with HAL. The Volendam didn't disappoint. She is another classic mid-size vessel with well-appointed staterooms and public areas. We really enjoyed the well-stocked library and other quiet public areas. The service was exactly what we have come to expect from Holland America. Seamless service from all the staff from our stateroom steward through to all the wait staff in the restaurants. I suppose you could call us traditionalists because we prefer and received an 8:00 PM assigned dinner. I have a difficult time trying to understand the sense in having to make a new reservation everyday for dinner. Surely a guest could slot themselves into a conventional dinner time from 5:30, 6:00, 8:00 or 8:30? Anyways, I hope the cruise lines don't abandon the traditional dinner times altogether for the as you wish format. The food was very good. We enjoyed eating a leisurely breakfast in the formal dining room, then we either skipped lunch or had a light salad type lunch in the Lido and then sat down for the serious formal dinner at 8:00. I find that we have to pace ourselves or none of our clothes will fit after a week or so of this onslaught. Luckily we never lasted long enough at night to make any of the evening buffets. We usually caught the 7:00 PM show and for the most part we enjoyed all the entertainers. As usual, the casino never got a penny from us. The transit of the Panama Canal was something that I had looked forward to all my life and it did not disappoint. We entered the Gatun Locks from the Atlantic at daybreak and exited through to the Pacific at sunset that night. We had a balcony stateroom so we spent a considerable amount of time watching from there. I find it fascinating however, that some people didn't really show much interest in the whole affair. The cruise line had printed a very thorough brochure outlining all the workings of the canal; there was a very excellent and informative resident ex-pat American lecturer and also a retired female canal pilot who shared her life experiences. Both of them owned hobby coffee plantations in northern Panama and both were very approachable and interesting in conversations with the passengers. There was also a narrator on board provided by the canal authority who gave periodical detailed snippets over the ship loudspeaker and of course a library full of research data on the complete history of the canal and its workings. With all this information I found it surprising to hear people "thinking with their mouths" and really at a loss as to how the whole thing worked. The gravity principle of the lock systems is really quite simple but I heard one person suggesting that we were going to be "plucked out of the water and magically lifted from one lock to another!" This would be quite a feat I'm sure to be able to lift 60,000 plus tons of steel! We only took two shore excursions so I cannot really comment to any great extent about these offerings. Our trips consisted of a rather poor city tour of Cartagena and an interesting trip from Puntarenas, Costa Rica up into the mountains and coffee growing areas. We had a lovely lunch with some of the ripest and sweetest fruit I have ever experienced for dessert. We have been to all of the Mexican ports so for the most part we just wandered around the main city squares in such places as Puerto Vallarta, Mazatlan and Cabo San Lucas. There was a day stop at San Diego where nearly half the ship (mostly Americans) disembarked and was replaced by more Canucks. Then we had a few days at sea before stopping at Victoria, B.C. By now the temperature had plummeted and the transition from 9 degrees off the equator to 49 degrees into some very unseasonable cold weather was a reality hit that we were now nearing home. The next morning saw us tie up at Canada Place in Vancouver and after a 20 minute subway ride right off the pier we were home. The disembarkation was equally as painless as the embarkation had been 19 days earlier. The ship went for a two week refit back to the graving docks in Esquimalt near Victoria where they were reportedly going to change out carpets and such and then it will spend the summer on 7 day trips to Seward with 7 day returns to Vancouver. After a summer of this the ship will be repositioned to the South Pacific for an extended time in this area of the world. All in all, this was an extremely relaxing trip and it got us motivated to book the next tour. This time we will sail on board the Eurodam next year from Copenhagen, Scotland, Iceland, Greenland, Newfoundland, St. Pierre, Nova Scotia and disembarking in New York. (another carrot out there to keep me working one more year) Read Less
Sail Date April 2008
We took the March 12 sailing for 10 days, including partial transit of the Panama Canal. Unlike other recent sailings, the weather was great, and we made all stops as scheduled. We have been on about a dozen cruises, but this was our first ... Read More
We took the March 12 sailing for 10 days, including partial transit of the Panama Canal. Unlike other recent sailings, the weather was great, and we made all stops as scheduled. We have been on about a dozen cruises, but this was our first experience with Holland America. Embarkation: The embarkation process was smooth and orderly. We got there at 11:30, so it was probably the most crowded time to board. But they moved very efficiently and the whole process only took 15 minutes or so. The main hold-up on boarding seemed to be the photographers who were taking pictures of all passengers as they board. Without that delay, the whole line would have moved even faster. Having boarded early, our cabin wasn't ready until 1:15, but we were able to have lunch in the Lido cafe. Cabin: We had a standard outside cabin on the 2nd floor. It had more storage than we needed, and seemed bigger than the pictures on the Holland America website had led me to expect. The air conditioning worked fine, and we had no problems with the toilet (as other reviewers have reported). Our cabin steward did a great job. Ship: Overall, the ship was very nice. It has a nice gym, which was never crowded. I noticed a previous review complained that the gym was too warm, but it was quite comfortable on this trip. Maybe they got the hint. The ship does have some maintenance issues. Some of the stairways had drippy ductwork, so a bucket was always positioned to catch the water. One morning the lower level corridors smelled horrible, but our cabin smelled fine. We never did find out what caused that odor, but it was corrected fairly quickly. The area around the pool was nice, but people insisted on "saving" deck chairs all day. As early as breakfast time, there would only be a couple of people using the chairs, but every chair had a book or bag on it, holding it for whenever the owner came back. The crew didn't seem to do anything about that. Entertainment: We really enjoyed the entertainment on the ship. The show lounge had 3 shows by the ship's song and dance team. There were 2 comedians, a magician, a pianist and a singer who were all excellent. In addition, a speaker gave several talks about various aspects of Panama and the Panama Canal that were both informative and entertaining. In the other lounges there were a string quartet, a pianist and a jazz quartet that were all very nice. Shore Excursions: In Aruba we took the Spanish Lagoon Kayaking excursion, which included both kayaking and snorkeling. The water was beautiful, but the guy running the tour was a former drill instructor, and he liked to talk. Before we got in our kayaks, he insisted that we stand in the sun for an hour listening to him give us instructions. That was totally unnecessary. Then before we went snorkeling, we got to listen to another half hour of instructions. He talked so long, the tour lasted an hour and a half longer than it was supposed to, and some people missed their dinner time. We enjoyed the kayaking and snorkeling, but there was way too much wasted time for us to recommend this tour. In Curacao we took the See and Sea tour, which included a bus tour of the area, a stop at the Curacao distillery, and an underwater boat ride. The boat wasn't a submarine, but when we boarded, we were taken down some stairs so that we were sitting abut 5 feet below water. It was a great way to see the fish, although people prone to motion sickness should think twice. Overall, we really enjoyed this tour. In Panama we took the Gatun Locks and Kayak tour. A bus ride took us to the locks for an up-close view of ships passing thru. Then we were taken to a hotel so we could kayak in the lake. We had a really great guide, and thoroughly enjoyed this tour. At times the lake was quite windy, making the kayaking quite challenging. Fortunately they had a boat that followed the group, and several kayakers opted to stop and ride the boat the rest of the way. Overall, a really great tour. In Costa Rica, the area near the ship was really trashy, and locals pester you constantly the second you step out of the pier gate. Since we had not booked a tour with the ship, we bought a tour from a company on the pier. This was a big mistake. Those people will tell you anything to get you to buy their tour. They promised we would be back in 3 hours, when they really had no intention of being back by then. We almost didn't make it back before "all aboard" time, 4 1/2 hours later. Another group got back 25 minutes late, and almost missed the ship. Another family on our bus was told that the bus was going directly to the beach. Instead, they had to sit thru the whole tour, and got to a beach 2 hours later. We've done these kinds of independent tours in other ports with no problem, but people should be warned not to buy them in Costa Rica unless they are willing to risk missing their ship's departure. Dining: Overall, I thought the food was quite good. There were some items I didn't care for, but that is to be expected. The staff is obviously stretched thinner than on previous cruises. The waiters were very good, but so busy just trying to get the food out, they didn't really have time to notice if somebody didn't care for their selection. On previous cruises, they would offer to bring something different, but that didn't happen on this cruise. We took advantage of the ship's Wine Card - an option not mentioned or promoted anywhere, but available from any waiter or bartender. They sell cards good for either 10 or 20 glasses of house wine. We bought the 20-glass card for $67.50 plus tip. This was a good deal because their house wine is normally $4.50 per glass plus tip. Before buying it, we were unfamiliar with the label of their house wine, but a bartender was happy to give us a taste so we could decide if we liked it before committing to that many glasses. We found it quite acceptable. Folks with children should be aware that Holland America tends to attract an older group of passengers. They had some children and teen areas, but we saw very few children on the ship. On the other hand, there were many passengers with wheelchairs, walkers, and scooters, and the crew seemed to be very helpful to passengers needing assistance. Overall, we really enjoyed this cruise, and would sail with Holland America again. Read Less
Sail Date March 2008
We recently returned from a 10 day cruise on the MS Volendam to the Western Caribbean and Panama Canal and embarked from Fort Lauderdale. Fort Lauderdale is an excellent embarkation point, with the cruise terminal and airport only being a ... Read More
We recently returned from a 10 day cruise on the MS Volendam to the Western Caribbean and Panama Canal and embarked from Fort Lauderdale. Fort Lauderdale is an excellent embarkation point, with the cruise terminal and airport only being a a few miles apart. This was our 4th HAL cruise and the Volendam is very similar to the other HAL ships we have traveled on (Ryndam and Rotterdam). Overall, we were quite satisfied with the service. The large libraries on HAL are a great feature--very elegant and comfortable. Last summer, we took the Emerald Princess for a 12 day Mediterranean cruise and were shocked and the closet-size library they had on this brand-new ship. Most of the public lounges are for drinking/ bars. We don't drink or gamble alot, so we find the HAL library (Explorers Lounge) a great place to sit, read, play board games, etc. We use the internet alot for business when we travel and HAL has a better system. On Princess, the internet accounts for the laptop (wireless) are separately-maintained from the workstation accounts, so it was alot harder to keep track of your time on Princess. Because we booked early, we had early seating in the dining room. The food was very good (we think a notch better than Princess). The Lido buffet is also good, but many are prone to overeat there. Eating together in the formal dining room is a sort of cruise ritual for our family and the food and service here did not disappoint us. One nice feature in the entertainment was a string quartet in the Explorers Lounge that played classical music. Also, HAL always has good lectures (a definite step up from Princess). We had a former military officer who lived in the Canal Zone do a five lecture series on the history of the Canal. This promotes the educational aspect of travel, which we do enjoy (We would probably not fit in on Carnival!) HAL's basic cabins are 30 square feet bigger than the new Princess ships and they have bigger bathrooms with a tub. Our first stop was Half Moon Cay and this island definitely exceeded our expectations. The beach is magnificent (brilliant white sand, bright turquoise water) and we enjoyed our morning kayak outing. The ship's crew served a delicious BBQ right on the island, so we did not have to go back to the ship to dine. We could have stayed here another day. After a day at sea, we arrived in Aruba. We booked the Jolly Pirates Snorkel Sail for the afternoon on our own (we arrived at noon, so we missed their morning sailing). This was a great excursion and the highlight was snorkeling over a sunken freighter. Although we stayed in Aruba until 10 p.m., all the shops closed at 5 p.m. ,so there was not much to do offshore after dinner. Curacao is more interesting from an architectural and historic viewpoint than Aruba. In the morning, we took the Willemstad Trolley Train, which is just OK--I would have to rate this one the lowest-value excursion of our cruise. It seemed to me that alot of this tour could be accomplished with a map and self-guided tour. We took a an afternoon cruise excursion to the Best Western Bay Club to beach and snorkel. This was a bit crowded, but had some very nice snorkel spots. Coming from California, this was our first encounter with Caribbean beaches and we love the white sand and warm, clear water. Going through the Panama Canal was a wonderful experience. After watching so many video's on the history of it, it was great to see if firsthand. We were told by so many people how hot and miserable the weather would be and , despite their warnings, it was actually quite bearable. Also, we were worried there would be hundreds of people on deck during the transit and you'd be unable to stand at the railings for pictures. However, that was not the case. There was plenty of room to stand and watch. Many people took advantage of their balconies to watch the Canal transit. We took a cruise excursion that takes you through the rest of the Canal from Gamboa to the Pacific. I strongly recommend this excursion if you are taking a partial transit cruise--it is great to be able to go from the Atlantic to the Pacific like that in just a few hours. The boat on this excursion is crowded, but it still a very interesting trip. Panama City has an impressive Hong Kong-like skyline and we would have liked to visit that city more. Colon, on the other hand, is a gritty, squalid place that we fortunately drove right through. The cruise staff does not even recommend that passengers walk around in Colon. HAL does draw an older crowd. This can be positive at times because the ship is quiet at night and you don't have the boisterous 'party' crowds. On the other hand, this excursion was plagued by alot of elderly passengers having a hard time getting off the excursion boat and up a small ramp. Our middle son was one of the last ones off the boat and I felt like I was watching a nursing home being evacuated. Seeing this reinforces our philosophy of traveling now and not waiting until we're in our 80's to travel and spend some money. One of the negatives on HAL Shore Excursion is going with alot of older people. It slows the group down because it takes longer to get off and on and sometimes they (older cruisers) are not particularly family friendly. In Costa Rica, we booked a tour through Oscar Brown over the internet. We had seen other blogs about this tour and how people liked it. The group was a good size--one family of 3 and us (a family of 5), so 8 in all. A private tour was a nice break after our all-day Canal Excursion. Oscar took us to see a sloth, the Del Monte banana plantation (very interesting), then we went on a an 11-station rain forest zip line trek. This was alot of fund and everyone in our family enjoyed it. Our group was small and our guides were good. This is an excellent way to see the rain forest. After this, we did a 45 minute cruise on the Tortugueros Canal. Our boat ride was cut short a bit as we had to back to the ship at 4 p.m. Oscar Brown's tour was definitely a good value. We would have preferred a longer stop here (Costa Rica)--we had to rush a bit when trying to buy a few souvenirs. The people in Costa Rica are very friendly and have a positive attitude. Sailing back to Fort Lauderdale takes two days at sea. Embarkation was very easy and organized and the short drive to the airport made our travel home uncomplicated. Our children were not keen on taking HAL. Our Mediterranean cruise on Emerald Princess had almost 700 kids (3200 passengers), so they were complaining about that before we got on the ship--but there concerns were unfounded. Our oldest son (age 16) went to the teen group (something he did not do on our Mediterranean cruise) and really connected with the other kids and ended up making alot of friends (even a lady friend, who lives about 30 miles from here!). Our youngest also went to the 'Tween' group and liked it and also made friends. Unfortunately, our middle son (13) was too young for the teen group and too old for the other. I would recommend this trip as a great spring-break getaway for a family. Read Less
Sail Date March 2008
My cruise on the Volendam was for the most part a wonderful experience! On arrival it was easy checking in and one of the staff gave me a tour around the ship. It was very helpful to know where to find the places I like to go to best. ... Read More
My cruise on the Volendam was for the most part a wonderful experience! On arrival it was easy checking in and one of the staff gave me a tour around the ship. It was very helpful to know where to find the places I like to go to best. The food was fabulous and I love the new open seating in the dining room for dinner. Made it easier to plan where you would like to eat dinner each day. Very convenient set-up with the call reservations each day you would like seating. Also, the staff was very careful to make sure I did not receive any meals or desert with my food allergy items included. This was quite an undertaking on their part as one of my allergies is strawberries and it seems strawberry are the garnish of the ships fruit salads and desserts. I enjoyed Aruba and the shopping. It was a very warm day but still comfortable for walking around. I visited lots of the jewelry shops that were suggested in a lecture by Jason on the Volendam. Jason was very informative and handed out packets which included maps for easy travel around Aruba. Jason definitely goes the extra mile! My room was very nice. It was quickly cleaned and the staff was very friendly and helpful. I had one problem with a small water leak that was taken care of immediately after a phone call. The art auctions were well managed and quite interesting. As I am not an expert in art, I found them very educational and to get an idea of what I might like to bid on at some time in the future. I planned on going to some of the plays, etc. but must admit I was addicted to the piano bar from the first night of hearing the Piano Man Charley perform. Charley is the most gifted entertainer I have ever encountered on a cruise. His interaction with his audience and ability to play and sing any song that was requested was remarkable. Charley the Piano Man Rocks the Boat (or should I say ship?). I did hear some of the other musical talent while walking through the ship, but the ability of the musicians was not remarkable and therefore did not spend a lot of time in their areas. The movies were quite a treat. I love the bags of popcorn made available when you enter to watch the movie. The Volendam had a lot of nice little extra touches that I found extremely nice. I did treat myself to a facial and that too was an excellent experience. The staff was all very friendly and I would definitely treat myself again on the next cruise. The Panama Canal was an experience that every person needs to have. I spent time on many of the different decks to get views from many angles. It is so interesting going through the canal. Lots of fun and great to talk about with family. I have to say that the staff that cleans the restrooms are all so friendly. I made a point to talk to them and they seemed to enjoy talking about where they are from and about their families. It really is amazing how smooth the Volendam staff runs things and keeps everything so spotless. It is very impressive! The library was also a must spot for me each day. It is so comfortable and easy to just read your book and totally relax! The librarian and staff were very helpful with the computers and books. Another very worthy mention has to be the photographers. The photos were top notch and the photographers all seem to really like what they are doing. I purchased some photos as keepsakes! I found the cruise expenses to be fair. I do not purchase a lot of extras, but felt that I did get good value for my money on what I did buy. One negative part of my trip was people smoking. Makes it difficult for non-smoking people such as myself that have allergies. I am hoping Holland America considers to have either smoking rooms or only outside smoking on their cruises. My main objective for taking this cruise was to get a lot of relaxation time. I came back from the cruise very relaxed and with a new bounce in my step. Am really looking forward to booking another Holland America cruise. Read Less
Sail Date March 2008
This is our 13th cruise and our second on Holland America (HAL). The cruise was excellent and we plan to sail HAL more in the future. We stayed with friends in south Florida for a few days before our cruise. Our friends dropped us off at ... Read More
This is our 13th cruise and our second on Holland America (HAL). The cruise was excellent and we plan to sail HAL more in the future. We stayed with friends in south Florida for a few days before our cruise. Our friends dropped us off at the pier in Ft. Lauderdale. The check-in was very quick and painless. We were on the ship within probably 15 minutes - the quickest and easiest cruise check-in we have experienced. Ship: The Volendam is an older vessel but well maintained. Our cabin was large with a double bed and we even had a bathtub. The cabin steward was one of those you rarely saw but the room was always taken care of. He must have sensed us leaving the cabin. Food: My wife and I are not food critics therefore the food tasted excellent to us. We did like the "As You Wish Dining" program. In the past, we preferred the traditional early seating dinner; but, were wait-listed for this cruise. We decided to change to the "As You Wish Dining" and were very pleased. This allowed us to enjoy the sitdown dinner at our convenience. We will utilize this option on future HAL cruises. Entertainment: The entertainment was pretty good overall. Having been on a few cruises, we've seen a lot of the various shows. The Volendem's shows were okay. One part of the entertainment that was exceptional was the Piano Man - Charley Rady. On other cruises, we very rarely spent much time in the Piano Bar but Charley's talent and obvious love of performing kept us in the Volendam's Piano Bar every night. We thought he was the best performer on the ship. In fact, he may be the best performer we have seen on a cruise ship. We probably spent more on drinks in the Piano Bar than we spent on any other activity. In fact, we wish we could find out what ships he will be performing on in the future in order for us to schedule another cruise with him performing. Service: First rate. In the bar areas; unobtrusive, but always available. The table service was very good - great attitude. On some cruises we have been on, the servers gave the impression like serving was a chore, but this is not the case on the Volendam. Itinerary: Excellent. Over the years, we've noticed that some of the traditional Caribbean stops, such as St. Thomas, have become full of hawkers trying to steer you to their particular shops. A small dose of this can be tolerated, but it's become overwhelming. We're glad to have an option to avoid these stops. Half Moon Cay (HAL's private island) is fantastic. We really enjoy the islands of Aruba and Curacao because of its Dutch feeling. This was our first trip to the Panama Canal and it was amazing to see this engineering marvel up close. To sum up, this itinerary was perfect for us. The ten days passed quickly. Debarkation: We were spending the night in Ft. Lauderdale. Our debarkation went smoothly and we were out of the customs area probably within 20 minutes of our baggage color being called. We had to wait about ten minutes for a taxi, not too bad. We were at our hotel by 10:00 AM. Summary: Excellent vacation, wonderful food, entertainment, and itinerary. Can't beat that. Read Less
Sail Date March 2008
ms Volendam 10 Day Southern Caribbean & Panama Canal Sunfarer Float, 03-12 to 03-22-08 The Search for Some Global Warming Cruise Ship Stats: 61,000 GT, 26 Ft. Draft, 777.6 Ft. Length, 111 Ft. Wide, 1999 Launch, 1485 Passengers, 601 ... Read More
ms Volendam 10 Day Southern Caribbean & Panama Canal Sunfarer Float, 03-12 to 03-22-08 The Search for Some Global Warming Cruise Ship Stats: 61,000 GT, 26 Ft. Draft, 777.6 Ft. Length, 111 Ft. Wide, 1999 Launch, 1485 Passengers, 601 Crew, Distance Covered: 3371 NM, Fuel Consumption: 85 Gal / Mile, Potable Water Prod.: 370,000 Gal / Day Ship Staff: Master: Capt. Pieter Visser, Hotel Manager: Theo Haanen, Dining Rm. Manager: Raj Kantharaju, Executive Chef: Nizam Nor, Cruise Director: Rebecca Fabischek Personal Staff: DW of 35+ years, Judy PRE-PORT TRAVEL (Departed 0500 Prescott, Arrived Sky King (aka Sky Harbor) airport 0700): Spent well over an hour (with another 1000 souls) snaking along the winding chrome posts adorned with seat belt strapping as folks continued to cough, fart and whine. Also, a gaggle of cell phone gabbers kept us entertained making sure their conversations could be heard throughout the terminal. We boarded our winged cigar tube (US AIR) @0900 and proceeded out to the tarmac where we enjoyed a warm and cozy two hour delay due to a faulty relay switch. Following the delay bonus and the four hour flight we touched down in beautiful Ft. La-de-da. We schlepped our luggage out to the curb to await our Sleep Inn chariot. And, being smokers, we were in need of a coffin nail or two. Could have used a blast of bourbon also but to date no outside bars have been opened by the pickup portals (seems like a money maker to me). This was another freebie stay at the Sleep Inn in La-la land from cc points. Clean room, functioning plumbing & TV, complimentary shuttles & full breakfast works for us. Following check-in we went across the street to load up on wine at Publix for the cruise, had a libation & shower and then made our way back to the shopping center to have some Italian eats. We returned to the room to slap some tags on the luggage and box of potables and to become one with Morpheus. EMBARKATION DAY I shot down to the Walgreens on the corner following breakfast and picked up a cheapo straw hat with a chin string. One mustn't be hatless on a cruise, no? Sassy casual don't you know. Following checkout via shuttle we zoomed down to the pier for a flawless check-in. Main DR was closed for lunch so up to the Lido for buffet goodies AND A LONG AWAITED MARGARITA (to be followed by several mango daiquiris after life boat muster). The cabin was ready 1300ish or so. AS YOU MIGHT WISH DINING: We had late upper traditional seating, table for two, by the rail as per our preference. After talking with folks during DR breakfasts it seemed like a 50-50 split as to the merits & pitfalls of AYWD. I do know that after talking with our waiter that he certainly was not to enthralled with the change. I think it will probably shake out just fine as they tweak the system. CABIN (Dolphin Deck, Outside, Amidships, Port Side): Everything looked great. No dust bunnies, soiled skivvies or other hazards noted on arrival. Looked like they even rinsed out the bed linens real nice for us, the stool in the head went whoosh okay and the ice bucket was full. Life is good Jethro. After a cordial greeting with our steward Imam I told him our requirements were minimal: 2 buckets of ice refreshed A.M. & P.M. , an extra towel for DW's nightly hair drying ritual and a couple of boxes of Kleenex for the bedside stands. The appointments for the cabin looked a bit worn but then again so am I. I prefer the bed against the bulkhead and the couch by the window configuration but it was not to be (just the opposite). I'm not a big fan of the RV (aka, teacup) bathtubs since my contortionist bathing skills have dwindled appreciably over the years. But then again, so what? CASINO: I no longer gamble, however, my DW donated forty or fifty clams to the HAL coffers via the slots. Every time I passed the casino during the evening it appeared that gambling was brisk and the tables were crowded. DEMOGRAPHICS: Typical HAL crowd. Some youngsters (I prefer mine prepared well-done or deep fried if they're unruly), those going through their mid-life crisis and, of course, close relatives (age wise) of God. Some of the near centenarians seemed a bit more, well, frumpier then noted on prior floats. Just a useless observation. Perhaps the cold winter & flu season had something to do with it. DRESS CODE: I didn't take my laser crowd counter or clipboard but my overeducated guess would be that on formal evenings perhaps 35% of men were decked out in dinner jackets/ tuxes, 40% in some sort of matching dark suit, and the remainder donning a rather eclectic hodgepodge of Goodwill wear. We like to dress up in the more traditional manner but what other's do is, well, their thing. I didn't see any leather T-shirts or plaid 'gommer' shorts worn in the DR on formal or sassy casual nights. No juicy gossip to report. ENTERTAINMENT: Not really a strong suit of this cruise but there were certainly exceptions. But first let me get this off my chest. During the entire cruise the show times were @ 7 & 9 P.M. What bright light bulb in Seattle thought this one up? Needless to say, it was my only major bug-a-boo for us (well, not that major mind you) on this cruise. We generally enjoy cocktails and dancing in the Ocean Bar or Crow's Nest prior to late seating, have a leisure dinner and then, perhaps, attend the show. Well, obviously it's logistically impossible to do so, at least for us, with the 'new & improved' show schedule. So we didn't catch any of the shows and had to bury our misery (NOT!) in the bar lounges instead. Now for rating the ongoing entertainment IMO: Excellent / Above Average Category : Ocean Breeze Strings, Tom Scott Average / Mediocre : HAL Cats, DJ Bob, Piano Man Charley, The Manila Quartet. Enough said. EXPLORER'S CAFÉ: Well appointed with lots of books and magazines. I checked out a couple of mindless tomes filled with murder, mystery and raw sex. My kind of cruise reading. EXPLORER'S SERIES LECTURES: One of the highlights of our cruise. Richard Detrich gave informative, well organized power point presentations on the Canal (and building thereof), Panamanian history, culture & politics, a focused lecture on coffees and advise on those planning to find new retirement digs. His enthusiasm for Panama was infectious. FOOD, DINING ROOM: I find the new menu quite adequate. I won't really comment on specific dishes other then the fact that I'm a fishy kind of guy although I do really enjoy HAL's lamb and venison preparations. I was able to order off menu as long as I mentioned it the evening before (Halibut Steaks, etc. : I don't care for deep fried Cod, etc). One ongoing problem with HAL (& other lines) is that hot items need to be served hot and cold items need to be chilled adequately and not served at room temperature. I mentioned this and wrote a comment card following the first dinner and henceforth item temperatures were improved. Otherwise the food was very good overall. Some items a tad bland, others prepared just right. But again quite subjective so I'll let it rest. LIFE BOAT MUSTER: Slicker than boiled bear fat. Well organized, no ship shutterbugs or obvious drunks noted. LAUNDRY: Sent out pretty much everything that would require ironing (shirts, slacks, formal wear, etc.) using the $30 unlimited pressing option. I slipped Imam Five clams to be sure everything got back by early afternoon the next day (and it was) since our first formal would be the following evening. We used the pressing service pretty much every day for touching up prior evening wear. We did a 'cram the bag' on the 7th day of the cruise for $12. Everything came back just spiffy with no lint balls on the Jockey's. LIDO DINING: Since we dined in the DR every night (other than the Aruba barbecue evening) we used the Lido for breakfasts and lunches only. Always a great spread and service. My only suggestion to the manager was to have longer serving spoons for the rear compartments in the salad bar. This would alleviate the need for passengers to stick their entire arms (and shoulders for the vertically challenged) under the sneeze guard to reach some of the condiments. MAINTENANCE, SHIP: Everything looked great overall. An occasional water stain on a ceiling, a nick or two inside the elevator doors, a crack in the DR window, a worn chair here and there but it certainly beats our digs. We set our thermostat at it's lowest setting in the cabin upon embarkation and it pretty much stayed @ 72 degrees throughout the trip. There was a telltale sewage odor for an hour or so one sea day on the Promenade Deck but no biggie as far as I'm concerned. It amazes me that such a large ship with so many moving parts and a passenger and crew count north of 2000 that more problems don't occur. HAL maintains their ships quite well IMO. MARINER BRUNCH: Since the had quite a few Mariners on-board there were two brunches on various sea days. They didn't have any ceremonial award of medals like the evening functions of bygone days nor a brief speech of some sort by the captain. Speaking of Captain Visser, I was slightly disappointed that his visibility during the cruise (walking the decks every now and again, etc) was basically nil. Just another observation. We should be receiving our HAL copper gedunk medals on the next float. I would assume they would have some sort of ritual elsewhere for the medallion folks. PINNACLE GRILL: I made reservations for dinner for the Master Chef night and a reservation for lunch for a sea day. Unfortunately, they switched the dancing dinner (which was kind of fun really-hadn't attended one for awhile) and I cancelled the reservation. Likewise, we were just to full from breakfast to appreciate a Pinnacle lunch so I cancelled that one also. With that said, we've had the opportunity to dine in the Pinnacle Grill on dozen times or so on other HAL vessels and they have always been excellent. ROOM SERVICE: We tend to "Veg Out" mid-afternoon on sea days in our cabin. I generally order two cheese platters and two salmon platters to munch on while sipping wine and viewing a DVD. Port mornings we go for the door knob card breakfast. Except for one early morning request (0600-0630 delivery time frame) that didn't show up (we dashed up to the Lido @0635 so we'd be able to catch a 0700 independent tour) everything was delivered on a timely basis. SERVICE, BEVERAGE & FOOD : Overall, outstanding as usual (including the housekeeping service). This is truly the backbone and reason for so many Mariner's / repeaters on HAL. We encountered a number of staff that we had met on prior cruises aboard the Prinsendam, Ryndam and Statendam. It was indeed like returning home. SMOKING : Always a big bugaboo during these PC times. Since we smoke we spent all our pool and sunning time back by the aft pool. Likewise, we frequented the Ocean Bar & Crow's Nest in the evenings. I didn't observe a lot of 'scowling and waving' going on during this cruise so it seems a temporary truce has been reached. SPA / SALON: DW signed us up on embarkation for the couple package for $160 (personally I prefer to just pay the $20pp/day when I wish to use it) but after many years of marital bliss I rather just smile and say those three little words , "That's great honey". Judy had some sort of voodoo coloring done with her hair that included the use of a roll of tin foil, various toxic chemicals and conditioners. Some gal named Olga gave me a hair snipping session and beard trim. All is good. WEATHER: Couldn't be more perfect. More like a mill pond than a sea. I kind of missed a little 'rocking & rolling'. Mid 70's to mid80's with mucho humidity. PORTS OF CALL / EXCURSIONS HMC : We were able to tender in and enjoy the beach and surf. Didn't rent a toolshed. Just a clamshell. My darling beach bunny got fried which meant smearing her back throughout the cruise with Nivea. Food was very good and the service as usual exceptional. ARUBA: We had contracted the Jolly Pirates folks for an afternoon sail,snorkel & suds sail but unfortunately engine problemos caused a cancellation. I was able to get a last minute sail & snorkel down on the beach with the DePalma folks on a catamaran. Great times had by all. BTW, city bus fare round-trip down to the beach as $2.30 USD. Got back to the ship by 1800 to enjoy the barbecue festivities. CURACAO: I booked another sail & snorkel on the 'Bounty' with Capt. Perry. The price ($120/couple) included pick up and drop off service from the pier. Great day with another six couples. PANAMA CANAL: We chose to do a HAL ferry transit excursion (no choice really, couldn't get off the ship otherwise) after going through the Gatun Locks. After having read McCullough's The Path Between the Seas and viewing his Nova documentary (which features the Prinsendam back when it was with Royal) I was pumped to get up close with the Pacific side locks. I wasn't disappointed. Men literally moved a mountain. Anywho, it was well worth the endless bus drives and humidity. Next visit we'll check out the Embera Village tour which I heard lots of good things about. COSTA RICA :I booked a Charley Soto A1 tour via the internet prior to the cruise for $50 pp and what a great tour it was. We had a private car with a driver that provided us a great day. We visited a private plantation and played with a sloth, hit a banana plantation, did a hour long float on the Tortugero Canal via private boat and then reached Bonita Beach for lunch. After lunch we made our way down to the local supermarket to pick up some coffee and Nivea. Great day. Debarkation: Quite smooth. We used the $15 pp boarding pass /express service and was quite pleased. FINAL THOUGHTS : We enjoyed our voyage on the Volendam. However, we tend to prefer the Prinsendam & S-Class ships on HAL. Although if friends called and asked us to join them on the Volendam we wouldn't hesitate to do so. We have a tentative bookings in Nov. on the Prinsendam for a 26 day 'jungle float' and again in Nov. '09 for 24 day 'bye-bye Europa' float. TA's been bugging us to give Seabourne a whirl in 2009. We'll see. So much to see, so little time. I can only thank God that we have our health and wherewithal to do so. Thank you Volendam folks for an overall wonderful 'float' ! Bon Voyage & Good Health! Bob Read Less
Sail Date March 2008
On February 11, 2008, we embarked on our first Holland America cruise. This ten day vacation was excellent with only some minor problems. There is no doubt that it was expensive, but part of that included the Panama Canal fee. As a ... Read More
On February 11, 2008, we embarked on our first Holland America cruise. This ten day vacation was excellent with only some minor problems. There is no doubt that it was expensive, but part of that included the Panama Canal fee. As a contrast to some of the bad reviews provided on this board, we feel that perfection is impossible to attain. It is important to put the overall experience into proper perspective. The embarkation process was fast and smooth. A porter took our luggage, we parked in the concrete garage, passed through the screening process and boarded the ship in less than one hour. The luggage was delivered to the rooms very quickly. The Lido was crowded for lunch on the first day, but that is expected and normal. We like fixed seating at 8:00 P.M., but were assigned AYWD. After a quick trip to see the maitre d', this was resolved to our satisfaction. He gave us a great table for two, fixed at 8:00 P.M., in a very good location. After the second night, we received a letter from the officer in charge of the dining rooms telling us that our "request for a table change had been denied". Our maitre d' ignored this and we had our table available on most days for breakfast and lunch and always for dinner. He continued to provide us with superior, personalized service and we demonstrated our gratitude at the end of the cruise. There have been many comments about the air conditioning, condition of the ship and the operation of the toilets. The air conditioner in our room was fine. We found the ship to be cool and comfortable in all areas, except the gym. The instructor in the gym deliberately kept the temperature high because he believed that heavy sweating is good for you. I've been working out in gyms in Florida for over twenty years and I like a 75 degree environment. We did see the minor wear on carpets, furniture and in the elevators, but it was really not bad. At the time of our sailing, we did not see any cracked windows. There was a small leak under some stairs between Desk 2 and Deck 1. The ship was very elegant and classic. After dinner, we enjoyed strolling the deck or listening to the string quartet. The only real disappointment I had was that no dark beers were served in any of the bars. I think I can overlook that inadequacy. To be fair, much of what we found was geared for the older crowd, i.e., people aged 60 to 80. I would estimate that the average age of the passengers on this cruise was about 70. This we did not mind and noted that the number of children and teens on this ship could be counted on the fingers of one hand. As with other HAL cruises this season, the ship did not stop at Half Moon Cay because of windy conditions and high seas. We did not mind and the ship arrived at Aruba earlier. This island was not beautiful, nor were the people particularly pleasant. However, the shopping was excellent and we got some nice bargains. Curacao was wonderful and we had a great time. Rather than taking an excursion, we shared a taxi (van) with two ladies, aged about 80 or so, who were just delightful. They had more energy than we did! For not a lot of money, our driver gave us an excellent, narrated tour of the island. He explained the history, lore and culture of the people and took us to many beautiful and interesting places. The Panama Canal was remarkable. We stood on Deck 9 and used a platform that passengers shared to take pictures. My traveling companion took the excursion to Panama City, but he was disappointed. Because it was a Sunday, the driver took the passengers to both the old city and the new. [The trip normally only includes only the old city, as the traffic congestion during the week makes a visit to the new city nearly impossible.] My traveling companion said that there was only one non-commercial stop in the old city. The rest of the stops were at tourist traps. It was obvious that the tour company had an arrangement with these merchants. Instead of souvenir shops, time should have been spent visiting historical sites. He did ask the driver to stop at some churches or museums, but the driver refused. Casco Viejo (old city) has many beautiful buildings (some undergoing restoration), however there is wrenching poverty. Some poor people were dancing on the streets for money or trying to sell items to the tourists. The contrast between rich and poor in this country is striking and very sad. Costa Rica was the high point of the trip. As in Curacao, we hired a taxi. We had a guide and a driver and it was not terribly expensive. They asked us what we were interested in seeing and our approximate time frame. We photographed beautiful vistas from mountain sides, exotic and rare palms and lovely beaches. One stop was particularly interesting and fun. This was a facility run by a woman recognized by the State for protecting the fauna of Costa Rica. She nursed injured animals, raised beautiful and exotic birds from eggs and was very knowledgeable about their habits and needs. We held a large scarlet macaw and a toucan. The toucan was very tame and would fly away and come back as the spirit moved him. His feathers were soft, his body was quite warm and his long beak was light green with orange. The Indonesian crew of the Volendam is friendly, helpful, well-trained and responsive. There were some minor slip-ups and communication problems as the crew should spend a bit more time studying English. At one point, an elderly passenger was stricken on deck. The crew member present simply did not understand the seriousness of the situation and the medical response time was delayed. It took several of us to convince him to call 911 (used on the ship, as on land) immediately. The crew in the Spa/Gym were sub-standard. They seemed to be under the impression that they were superior to just about everyone. Requests were met with blank stares and a lack of willingness to serve. They directed me to other locations of the ship or to other crew members to fulfill minor requests. I did have to visit sick bay at one point and a female Canadian nurse was abrupt and even rude. There is one point that I must make about this voyage. The seas were very rough during the first 4 days. The movement of the ship was excessive for a modern vessel (1999) and a number of the passengers and even crew members got seasick. There were a few extreme cases. I later learned from a member of the crew that the stabilizers had been damaged in a storm earlier in the year and were not functional. I think this was unfair to everybody on board and did, at one point, make the sailing less than pleasant. While I realize that time is money (they only spend a matter of hours in port between cruises), I think that this problem should have been addressed. Overall though, it was a wonderful vacation. Read Less
Sail Date February 2008
I am writing to express my total dissatisfaction with the above cruise. Friday, February 8th marked a week since my husband and I returned from this cruise which we booked to celebrate our 30th anniversary. It was not only the most ... Read More
I am writing to express my total dissatisfaction with the above cruise. Friday, February 8th marked a week since my husband and I returned from this cruise which we booked to celebrate our 30th anniversary. It was not only the most expensive10-day cruise we've been on but without a doubt the worst cruise experience we've ever encountered even though we did have a few enjoyable experiences. This was our first cruise on Holland America and we were looking forward to the great service and food previous Holland America cruisers had told us about. We had previously considered a Baltic cruise on Holland America but decided to try this one before booking a European cruise with you. We flew down to Ft. Lauderdale a day early to begin our celebration with a Marriott rewards night at the Hollywood Marriott Spa Hotel. We almost paid for a cab ride to the ship even though we had an airport transfer since our travel agent was told by someone in your corporate office that Holland America did not do transfers to the ship from this hotel anymore even though your 2008 brochure indicated otherwise . On the day of the cruise, January 22nd, we were checking out and my husband was arranging a cab to the ship when he noticed a HA representative named Sylvia displaying a Volendam sign on a desk in the lobby. We explained our situation to her and we were able to secure a transfer to board the ship. She told us that since we had already paid for this transfer we should check with the office once on board to get credit. We did receive a credit; however, we should not have had to do this on our vacation since we tried to resolve it before we left. Before boarding the ship, we had to complete a health form assuring that we had no current or previous lower GI illnesses yet 2 days into the cruise, 14 people were quarantined for this illness with no other explanation except that all hot tubs, mineral spas and pools would be closed until further notice. There was no more self-service food service of any kind and everything was served to you. The Lido deck had plastic wrap all around the front of the glass displaying what food was available. The actions taken were understandable; however, the service staff did not offer salt and pepper or any other condiments. You always had to ask for them and the staff made your request seem like an inconvenience to them. There was an update on the status of the illnesses for the remaining 8 days of the cruise. When we booked this cruise, we requested early seating for dinner as we've done on 5 previous cruises. Since you now have half your dinner seating set aside for open seating, we were put on a wait list. When we received our travel documents, we asked our travel agent to verify our dinner seating status. Our travel agent was previously told that early seating was the same as main seating which we later learned was 8 pm and not 6 pm as we had requested. Our agent was told by your corporate office that they could not change our wait list status a month before the cruise and that we would need to speak with the maitre'd once we boarded the ship to request early seating which should be no problem, and it wasn't. However, we were sandwiched in at table for 6 with 5 people already seated the second night of the cruise. Our waiter was a very nice young man, however, our table was the last of his 5 tables to be served and several nights we were "chimed out" which was very insulting. This had never happened to us on any other cruise line because there was always ample staff to wait on our table. While the food in the dining room was acceptable, it was not as good as what we have experienced on other cruise lines. The variety of food offered in the Lido dining room was "lack luster" at best. The last night of the cruise, we had dinner in the Pinnacle Dining Room and that was superb. I'm not sure why your other food service was so poor. The excursions were terrible, especially in Curacao and the Panama Canal. The 2-hour bus ride on the Panama Canal excursion to catch the ferry that took us through the canal was extremely inadequate. Our tour guide, Skip Berger, did not really add to our experiencing the Panama Canal! It was pretty much the same thing on the 2-hour trip back to the ship. For the money, the Curacao excursion was extremely disappointing and both tours were overbooked and very crowded to really appreciate being there. The Costa Rica excursion was very enjoyable. Our stop at your private island, Half Moon Cay, was super. We had our own cabana and my husband surprised me with a Butler service to include a full bar and lunch but we were charged for 2 additional bottles of champagne which should have been part of the package, especially since the package was priced for up to four people and it was only the two of us. Our room steward never introduced himself to us as other stewards have done on all of our previous cruises. He was always late making up our room and when the time changed in Costa Rica, we didn't know because he never turned down our bed that evening. The next morning we got all over the in-room dining staff because we ordered breakfast for 6 am and here it was 6:45 with no breakfast only to learn that the time had moved back an hour and in reality, it was only 5:45 am. You might consider an approach that guests can use to let the room steward know they are out of the room. This will allow the room steward to attend to the room on your guest's schedule. There was no ATM on board and you could not cash a personal check. The only two bright spots during this whole cruise were the beautiful formal pictures taken and the most exceptional meal we ate in the Pinnacle Grill our last night on the cruise. We did pay extra for that meal but it was worth every penny! It's a pity that the dining room food did not have the same quality. The shopping ambassador, Jason Bridge, dining room waiter, Suko, butler at Half Moon Cay and server "Edward" at the cafe bar were the highlights of your staff and service. Holland America will not be a cruise line of choice when we consider future cruises if another line has the itinerary we desire. Read Less
Sail Date January 2008
My wife and I arrived at the port and quickly checked in for the cruise. We had requested early fixed seating for the dining room but had been assigned open seating. So, as soon as we boarded the ship, we went immediately to get that ... Read More
My wife and I arrived at the port and quickly checked in for the cruise. We had requested early fixed seating for the dining room but had been assigned open seating. So, as soon as we boarded the ship, we went immediately to get that situation rectified. The dining room staff was courteous and immediately assigned us seats at a nice table by a window in the dining room. Then we went to check out our room and found the air-conditioning not working. After we sailed, we finally got some a/c, but the a/c effectiveness varied by day. Apparently we were not the only passengers affected because, early in the cruise, the Captain announced that passengers were complaining about the air-conditioning, and, because of the design of the ship, there wasn't much that could be done. Soon after setting sail, the captain announced that, due to high winds, the stop at half Moon Cay would be bypassed, and instead the ship would spend an additional three hours in Aruba. What followed were two sea days and three nights of very choppy seas. The onboard activities available during those days were limited. The cruise line did refund to everyone the Bahamas port tax that had been collected. The weather improved and the stops in Aruba and Curacao were nice. Before the cruise, we had been concerned that stores would be closed in Curacao because the ship was stopping there on Sunday. Fortunately, the stores were open until early afternoon, and this satisfied our need to shop. We also visited and toured the oldest continuously operating synagogue in the western hemisphere and its museum. We found that very interesting. As an added bonus, everything in Curacao was within walking distance from the ship. The Panama Canal visit was fascinating, and we enjoyed watching the workings of the canal. We had booked the excursion that was to go all the way through the canal on a tour boat, but the excursion was canceled after we waited two hours for clearance from the Panamanian authorities. Later after dinner, the captain announced that the tour boat would not have had enough time to operate, and refunds were given. The Volendam was in line to go through the Panama Canal at 5:30am and docked in Gatun Lake about 9:00 am - right on time. So, I'm still not sure what really went wrong, but it sure was a disappointment. The ship tried to accommodate everyone on alternative tours, but we opted to stay on board to avoid the rebooking chaos occurring at the Front Office desk. The next stop was in Costa Rica where we went on the excursion on the aerial tram through the rain forest. The tour was quite enjoyable and included a tasty lunch of local specialties. We would recommend this tour to future visitors if looking to learn about foliage. Visitors looking to see animals, however, would be better advised to take other excursions. The final two days of the cruise were wonderfully relaxing amidst calm seas and beautiful weather. About the time of arrival in Aruba, it was announced that some cases of Norovirus had occurred on the cruise. Measures to contain the highly contagious virus were then put into effect. In the Lido restaurant, for example, self-serve was eliminated. This required extra personnel to serve everyone cafeteria style, and the entire crew pitched in. Even the Cruise Director was working behind the serving line. Kudos to the crew for their efforts to successfully contain the virus. Another measure was to put Purell sanitizing solution stations all over the ship for passengers to use on their hands. These were everywhere, and at one point we were sanitized about eight times in a five minute period. The joke became that we should buy stock in the company that makes Purell. The Captain was rightfully concerned about limiting the potential spread of the virus, although some of his announcements sounded a bit panicky. Some other observations: Cabin service was pleasant but unpredictable. One evening our cabin was not cleaned at all, and several times we returned from breakfast mid-morning to find the beds unmade. Dining room staff was also pleasant but seemed to have too many tables to service, as they were frequently absent. In short, it's not that the service was poor, but based on service received on other cruises, the level of service on this cruise was not comparable. Regarding entertainment, we saw one very mediocre comedian and decided to skip the rest of the shows. The Front Office desk staff was outstanding and helpful. One attendant even closed the desk (during a slow period) and came with us to our room to address a problem with the in-room safe. Cabin size was spacious and storage was plentiful. Finally, the ship could use some refurbishing and/or repair. Chair arms are worn both in the Lido and dining room, and some elevators fail to function. There was a big crack in a window adjacent to the dining room on level five, and a glass entry door to the dining room shattered during the cruise. Read Less
Sail Date January 2008
Just completed a fascinating 10-day partial transit of Panama Canal. Health Dept. placed a 5-day "code red" restrictions due to a virus outbreak on the previous cruise. The Volendam staff was pressed to handle the extra work ... Read More
Just completed a fascinating 10-day partial transit of Panama Canal. Health Dept. placed a 5-day "code red" restrictions due to a virus outbreak on the previous cruise. The Volendam staff was pressed to handle the extra work required by the restrictions, but handled it with efficiency and aplomb. Kudos to the captain for keeping the guests well informed. Service from the wait staff was exceptional. Our outside cabin was always clean and room attendant attentive. The activities were varied and suitable for the average guest (age 60?). My husband and I took a tour of the island on Curacao and ziplined in Puerto Limon, Costa Rica. Both excursions were handled smoothly. The stops in Aruba, Half Moon Cay and Puerto Limon were exciting. Colon should be removed completely as a stop. Daily, a lecture was given on board about the building of the Panama Canal which enhanced the transit. We chose early seating dining and the food was very lovely in appearance but maybe just above average in taste. We also dined at the Pinnacle Grill and while the steaks were almost perfect, the other food items were almost tasteless. The entertainment was varied: comedian, banjoist, and the ship's song and dance team. The library was exceedingly well stocked but, sadly because of the health restrictions, it remained locked for the first five days of the cruise. The disembarkation went without a hitch and being allowed to remain in our stateroom until our color was called was a real plus. The Volendam's wait staff is excellent. They anticipated our needs and kept everything in order. But the ship is very tired: carpet stained, large dining room window cracked, some window shades inoperable, a/c in our state room never fully operational. We received value for our money and will travel with Holland America again. Read Less
Sail Date January 2008
This was my fifth cruise with Holland America, the second with Holland America for my son and his friend (both 24) and the first for my traveling companion (56), so throughout this review I may compare to other Holland America ships, not ... Read More
This was my fifth cruise with Holland America, the second with Holland America for my son and his friend (both 24) and the first for my traveling companion (56), so throughout this review I may compare to other Holland America ships, not other cruise lines. We arrived a day early and stayed at the Comfort Suites - Federal Hwy in Ft. Lauderdale. This was perfect as Comfort Suites will pick you up at the airport and deliver you to the cruise port. They offer a free continental breakfast and you may make your own waffles. Cost was reasonable and they accept corporate and military id's for discounts. Also offered is a small pool. Smoking inside is prohibited. We made reservations directly with the hotel. We arrived at the port at approximately noon...waited in line for a brief five minutes and were onboard eating our lunch in less than 15 minutes. The Spa offered a "thermal suite" couples pass for $160. The thermal suites contained six heated tiled lounge chairs, a Jacuzzi that fit four comfortably and two Turkish steam rooms. The larger steam room (seats 10 average sized folks) was broken for the first five days of the cruise. The smaller Turkish steam bath (seats 4 average sized folks) was in working order the whole cruise. The saunas were located in the changing rooms so were separate for men and women. Both were in good working order the whole cruise. I was disappointed that the mineral pool bath was unavailable on this ship, as it was on the Zuiderdam and Noordam (guess I was more excited about researching the Panama Canal than the vessel I'd be traveling in!!) Soda cards were not available for purchase the first day of the cruise. The second day they were available for $18 plus tip and were good for 20 sodas of your choice. This was a great deal because individual sodas were $2.42 inclusive of the mandatory tip. Also offered were wine cards and cocktail cards. (I'm not a drinker so cannot provide the cost or savings offered, but they would be worth looking into if you enjoy alcoholic beverages.) Mother Nature prevented us from visiting Half Moon Cay, the winds were very strong and the waves 15-20 feet high, tendering into the Cay would have been dangerous. I concurred with this decision and was delighted that the passengers would have extra time in Aruba. Aruba didn't disappoint us!! The water was gorgeous!!! Unfortunately, the wind continued to annoy and the sand was blowing and the clouds were plentiful. I will definitely travel again to this destination and hopefully Mother Nature will be more helpful. The casinos are abundant and fun, and felt like they were paying out more than the ship's casino. Curacao was such a festive sight!! The ship pulls into a river and docks in Otrobanda, on the other side of the water (less than a football fields length) is Punda, which passengers can access via free ferry or choose to walk a block to the floating bridge and then across the bridge to the dock market. The Villages displayed well cared for buildings painted in bright blues, greens, yellows and oranges. One wanted to giggle in delight just looking out from the ship. Mother Nature again played with us with a number of small rain showers. We didn't even bother to get to a sandy beach, instead walked about on both sides of the bridge. My son and his friend ventured away from the ship in Punda a mile or so and took a taxi over the vehicle bridge that spans the water. The view was perfect!! I was sorry to have missed that opportunity. Casinos were plentiful here as well, and offered table play as well as slots. Lots of laughs. We will be pleased to find another cruise with this port on the itinerary. The seas and wind calmed as we departed Curacao, and we all sighed in relief. Then the Captain informed us that a GI bug had infected a number of passengers. He asked that those infected, please stay in their cabins. Reasonable request right? Keep all of the other passengers and crew healthy to enjoy the cruise. We entered the beginning of the Panama Canal at about 6am. Holland America provided an on board narrator for the cruise through the two locks to Lake Gaston and on the return. I was very impressed and the narrator was well informed and helpful in sighting crocodiles, etc. It is a wonder that canal! I've never seen so many freight ships while on a cruise! The water flows into and out of the locks from below the water level, so I was a little disappointed that I couldn't witness the millions of gallons of water entering and leaving the locks. Traffic goes north before noon and south afternoon, so we anchored in Lake Gaston for a few hours with the many freighters that were also waiting to pass through the canal. Excursions were offered, however the 7 hour canal tour was cancelled and will NOT be offered on future cruises of this itinerary. My understanding is that the previous cruise's passengers went on the excursion at 7am and didn't return to the ship until 10pm and threw the whole schedule of the cruise off. So, if the Canal is your priority for a cruise and you were hoping to see many of the locks on excursion, this may not be the cruise for you. The second port in Panama to pick up those on excursions didn't offer the shopping bargains we had expected. Unfortunately, we didn't dock until 4:45 and the Free Zone stores and shops were closed by the time we got there (only about 3 blocks from the dock). It was fun to walk around and see what stores I could have gotten some bargains in though. There must have been a thousand employees of the stores leaving work and walking to the buses....it felt like a place I'd have shopped until I dropped! Security did stop my son and friend and asked for i.d. before allowing them into the fenced in area....we presumed they looked like locals, thus the checking of ids. Now, for the infected passengers who refused to stay in their cabins and came out among the rest of us to witness passage through the two locks shame on you!!! One woman even passed out on the bow of the boat because she was unwilling to stay in her cabin knowing she was sick and could infect the other 500 folks on the bow of the ship! The Captain then informed all of us, that if you were sick and in quarantine the ship's crew would be checking randomly to insure that you were in your cabin if you were sick. If you were not in your cabin, then your name would be announced over the loud speaker so everyone would know you were infected and acting like a jackass (the last phrase is mine). Throughout the day the Captain kept the ship passengers informed of protocols being put in place and informed us that a crew of disinfection cleaners would be meeting us in Costa Rica. I was well pleased with the actions put in place, the lido deck buffet and drinks were now to be served by staff. Everyone was to wash their hands frequently and use the Purell in abundance to contain the disease. Books and games in the library were not available. If you played in the casino gloves were available. Lounge chairs were sprayed every 5-6 hours, as were the lido deck tables and chairs. Costa Rica was splendid!! We had booked on line with Oscar Brown tours. We arranged for the zip line (AWESOME ADVENTURE), the banana plantation tour and the Canal tour for the cost of $105 (less than the ship offered excursion for just the zip line). The zipping above the trees and over the river bed was fantastic...I can only compare it to the thrill of white water rafting! This was only a 30 minute ride from the port with an additional 10-15 minutes between the banana plantation and the Canal tour. Should I go again to Costa Rica I would negotiate with a taxi driver instead of using Oscar Brown tours and believe I could have done the same activities for probably $75. My son and his friend decided to stay at the zip line facility (I can't remember the name, but it has "Ranch" in the name) and take advantage of the horseback riding offered there. Our driver came back to pick them up but wanted his full payment for the reservations we had made. They loved the horseback riding tour and were able to explore and see the little red poisonous frog, the green poisonous frog and the bullet ant. They felt that the zipline and horseback riding activities were exhilarating and should not be missed by anyone with only one day in this port. The food on the ship was excellent---great variety and taste. I loved the ice cream availability all afternoon. One evening the dining room offered a "special entertaining dinner." I don't' want to spoil it for you, but don't miss it!!! I only saw two shows which were entertaining but nothing to rave about. Show times were weird -6:45 pm for late diners and 8:30 for early diners. There was a delightful string quartet that played each evening in the Explorers lounge and at dinner some nights that were excellent and enjoyable. The casino offered about eight table games: craps, blackjack, three card poker, roulette and many one cent and two cent slot machines, about 20 nickel slot machines, about ten 25cent machines, three$5 and twelve dollar slots. The casino closed nightly at about 12:30am, after day five it reopened the slots a few hours later, as customary for Holland America. Both formal nights are NO SMOKING in the casino. The Crows Nest was empty all day and early evenings. About midnight until 2AM it had the largest crowd of about 20-30 of the young folks. Nightly, I counted two other passengers over the age of 40 in there. Its beautiful space and worth the midnight elevator ride to see the young folks dancing. There were only three entries into the ship-building contest this cruise. I was disappointed there weren't more competitors! LOL. Over all, this was an excellent cruise with a great itinerary. My only disappointment was the Pinnacle Grill on this ship. It is windowless to the ocean. The service was neglectful (and that's being kind) and hap hazard. We had to ask for bread and the wine steward, the wheat berry rice contained no wheat berries and when noted to the waiter he shrugged with no explanation, the bEarnaise sauce had separated in the three different containers served on our table. When the cream in the coffee curdled and a fresh cup was requested the waiter wanted to argue that it was how the coffee was brewed! Hmmmmm. Not the type of service we've received in the main dining room or in the Pinnacle Grill on the Maasdam, Noordam or Zuiderdam! Must have been a bad zodiac night for dining! I love cruising with Holland America. I believe the Captain instituted the correct actions in dealing with Mother Natures' curve balls during this cruise. I would definitely cruise this itinerary again and Holland America. Feel free to e-mail if I can provide more information for you. Read Less
Sail Date January 2008
This was our 10th cruise, our first with HAL. We were looking for a trip with some new destinations for us so the Panama Canal and Costa Rica were what sold us. We were traveling with another couple who also had a great time. Also not ... Read More
This was our 10th cruise, our first with HAL. We were looking for a trip with some new destinations for us so the Panama Canal and Costa Rica were what sold us. We were traveling with another couple who also had a great time. Also not their first cruise. Hotel: We stayed at the Comfort Inn in Hollywood. Good choice. The people were friendly and helpful, the grilled chicken sandwich poolside hit the spot, and the $7/night parking and free shuttle transfer was great. While we did not get as good a rate as I've seen published here (we got $107), they did not charge us for the 1st night parking or the last day. Be sure to make your shuttle reservation as soon as you check in -- they fill up quickly. We didn't want to be forced into a very early shuttle and have to sit in the cruise terminal all morning. The shuttle took 1/2 hour to get to the ship, and when we disembarked they were there within 1/2 hour to pick us up. Embarkation: This was the fastest, easiest I've ever been through. We had completed the on-line form, so it was get our picture taken, grab our cards and on to the waiting area. Since we had arrived somewhere near 11:30, we didn't have a very long wait to board the ship. We went right to the Lido deck for lunch, and into our cabin by 1:30. Cabin: The cabin was very spacious. Larger than any I had been in. We only turned on the TV a few times, watched an interesting show on jewelry making, and CNN a couple times. We never made use of the DVD player, but that was a nice touch. Food: Can't say enough about how good the food was in the Lido. We ate breakfast and lunch there every day (except one lunch in the DR -- too slow!). The food was fresh, delicious, a great selection of anything you could want. This was the best casual dining room we've had. We sat at a table of 6 in the DR for dinner. Table 62 -- upstairs, early sitting. Formal nights are not my thing, so we skipped two nights in favor of the Lido, but all other nights the food was excellent. (The Lido serves just about the same menu -- minus the pricey surf/turf, on formal night.) Shore Excursions: Half Moon Cay -- I had the foot and ankle massage in the beach hut. Very nice. Beach was very, very clean. Soft sand, although the water was a little chilly. We opted for the $14 clamshell to keep the sun off of us on the very first day. The BBQ was a distance from the beach area, but it was good. Aruba: We visited friends at the Westin for the day because we have been to the island before, but the other couple we were with took the island tour and loved it. The Butterfly Pavilion was their favorite stop. Curacao: We have been here before -- this time I found it very dirty. Lots of construction going on, lots of trash. Even the path from the ship leads through a construction site. We took a small footbridge near the floating market and ended up in a very bad part of town -- abandoned buildings, piles of trash, etc. When we stumbled across the Maritime Museum we decided to go in. $6pp seemed like a lot for the little museum, but it was interesting. Panama Canal: I don't suggest getting up at the crack of dawn to get up on deck for this. I waited until a reasonable hour, daylight, and saw everything. I've been through locks before, but the process is fascinating. We had a Princess ship next to us, and it's amazing how close together they are going through there. We did not take a tour, but chose to sit in the Crow's Nest for the morning. This is the greatest place -- the view is fantastic, and unless there's a dance class or trivia contest going on in there, it's quiet. The little shopping area Colon 2000 is nothing to write home about -- mostly the stop is just to pick up the tour groups after exiting the locks. Costa Rica: We took the train/eco boat trip. The train is old, and I'm glad we did it first (some of the tours did the boat then the train) because it would have been a let down. The seats were wet, you can't see much from your seat (they stop so you can get up if they spot something), and the sloths and monkeys are way up in the trees. Bring your binoculars and zoom lenses. We saw the boat on the canal as we passed over on a bridge and I thought "uh-oh" -- the water is a coffee brown color. But it was the highlight. We saw so many different types of birds, lizards, sloths (one with a baby very close to the boat). The little shopping area at the HAL ship dock is fun -- much more reasonably priced that at the canal boat dock. On board activities: I was very surprised about the charges for activities on-board. Spinning classes were $11, Pilates $11, wine tasting $15, a "how-to" mixology class was $10. Seems like they already own the exercise equipment -- why the charges? We did enjoy the tour of the kitchen (although it was short, and they dumped us in the Pinnacle Grill without even saying "thanks for coming" -- most of us weren't sure the tour was even over), and the backstage tour. You got to cross the stage, go backstage and meet the singers and dancers. It was fun -- and very popular. Spa: I also had a Swedish massage -- great. I expected the product sales pitch after the massage, so I wasn't surprised. Art Auction: I always love the art auctions. Negatives about the ship: The prices of everything were high. Sodas $2, water getting off the ship $1, drinks $7, photos $15 for small $40 for formal shots. When you first get onboard they are trying to sell you the 3 or 5 bottle package of wine. They'll pour it at dinner, you can take it to your room, etc. Thank goodness someone had mentioned the wine card on this website (and the soda card). $36 plus 15% grat. for 10 glasses of wine. I overheard one woman on the 2nd day complaining to the front desk that the $10 charge for her glass of wine could not be right! I immediately stopped her and told her about the wine card. The staff never mentions this option -- you have to ask for it. While it's house wine (they offered me chardonnay, pinot grigio and merlot and cabernet), it's available at all the bars and at dinner. The soda card is $18 plus 15% grat for 20 glasses of soda (fountain soda, not cans). Still -- these prices beat anything they are pushing. (And, we did bring liquor aboard with us in a carry on without a problem.) Service: It is evident that staff is being stretched. Waiters are covering more tables, cabin stewards are responsible for more cabins. Service was not what it has been in the past, but this is not the individuals fault, it's industry-wide. State of the ship: I'm glad to read that the ship will be dry docked before returning to Alaska. It does need some refurbishment -- but overall I thought it was great. I hope they get some new chairs -- most were very uncomfortable if you were sitting in them for any length of time. The Crow's Nest had some recliners -- nice touch. The library has some nice ones with headphones -- I could never get the sound down low enough, but that's just me. Read Less
Sail Date December 2007
We started our journey at 2:30AM on Nov 2 when we got up to catch our super shuttle to the Phoenix airport. We had a 6am flight to Ft. Lauderdale. The flight was uneventful and we arrived about 4pm. We called the hotel Sleep Inn Dania, FL. ... Read More
We started our journey at 2:30AM on Nov 2 when we got up to catch our super shuttle to the Phoenix airport. We had a 6am flight to Ft. Lauderdale. The flight was uneventful and we arrived about 4pm. We called the hotel Sleep Inn Dania, FL. They met us about 30 minutes later and took us to the hotel. Back ground information. I am 62 and wife is 58. We celebrated our 34th wedding anniversary on the cruise. We were in a group of 4 other couples. We knew two of the other couples and met two new couples. It was great meeting the new couples. One couple the husband is 73 and the wife is 57. They have been married for 26 yrs. Very nice people as was everyone else. The Hotel was great. Room was great. Was very impressed with everything. Free breakfast in the morning and free shuttle to the airport but you need to make your shuttle time as soon as you check in. They fill up fast. Got to the ship about 10:30am and had to wait till 11:15 to be able to board the ship. We were one of the first to board. We were not able to take our carry on to the room. I suspect that if I just went to the room it would of been okay but decided to take the carry on with us up to the Lido deck for lunch. We were able to take our carry on to the room about 1pm so it worked out. Our luggage arrived about 2pm and we unpacked. the room was very spacious with lots of room to hang things. We had a shower/tub which was great. Much to my surprise we ate most breakfast and lunch on the lido deck. Had dinner each night in the dinning room. My thought was to eat everything in the dinning room but it was fun to end up doing what I did. Shows were okay. I liked the comedy guy who told all clean jokes which proves you don't need vulgarity to tell jokes. There was also a guy who did unicycle and even had a member of the audience on his shoulders. Very impressive. Our cabin steward was Mohamad Ali who told us that he had a famous brother. He was great and very attentive to our requests. We did our own thing on excursions so much cheaper and we got to do things our way. Did some duty free shopping in Colon, They have a good variety of liquor but did not have what I wanted. Get your liquor in Colon as the prices are lower there then on the ship. They ship will tell you different but its not true. I was not all that impressed with the food. Some nights were good and some nights it was not. Please remember that my comments are subjective and not meant to influence you in anyway. I expected more flowers and ambiance but did not fine it. Our dinner staff people were great Ida and Harry table #162. We tipped extra to our cabin steward, dinning room staff and the Wine steward. A friend got a wine card and some how the wine steward forgot allot to punch it. Don't know how that happened!!! Over all we had a nice time. My D/W enjoyed the cruise more then I did. I would sail HAL again but would not be my first choice. On the other hand my wife had opposite opinion. Robb Read Less
Sail Date November 2007
My wife and I just returned from a fantastic 10 day Panama Canal cruise on the Volendam. We were with 2 other couples (my wife's sister her husband and our best friends from Austin, Texas) and we all had the same fantastic time on ... Read More
My wife and I just returned from a fantastic 10 day Panama Canal cruise on the Volendam. We were with 2 other couples (my wife's sister her husband and our best friends from Austin, Texas) and we all had the same fantastic time on this cruise. The following is my review of the cruise but it will also contain some comments by the other couples with us. Overall I would have rate this cruise as a "10" on a 1 to 10 scale. Departure and Embarking: We flew to FL on Thanksgiving day and spent the night at the Ramada Inn Cruise Terminal. The Ramada was fair, but the price was right $80 and included hot breakfast and free airport pickup and cruise terminal transportation using DSR transportation. We opted to prepay DSR for transportation to the airport after the cruise for $7 per person and as you will see later this was a great choice vs. using HAL's service. We arrived at the cruise terminal at 11:30 am and this was the easiest and fastest embarking ever on any of our cruises. We had our online pre-boarding passes and spent 10 minutes at the check-in counter to get our pictures taken and receive our ship pass cards. We were on the Lido deck at noon eating our lunch, which was delicious and in our cabins at 1:30pm. Cabin: We had a C cat cabin on the Lower Promenade deck #3345, the other 2 couples had #3343 and 3349 and we all had the same room steward, Jo which we met within 5 minutes of our first access to the cabin. He asked if we had any special requests and we told him we would like to all have clean wine glasses in our cabins to drink the case of wine we brought on board. Let me tell you I never saw a dirty wine glass in our cabin the entire cruise. Jo also made sure that the white wine was kept cold in the wine ice bucket he provided. Jo was the best room steward with the best service my wife and I have had on any cruise, much better than the service we had on our last RCI cruise where we had a high end Suite. The cabin was really GREAT and the reported Volendam A/C problems were not in our cabins, we kept the cabin at 68 at night and 72 in the daytime. The Ship: The Volendam is truly a beautiful ship but in need of dry docking and an overhaul. The amount of traffic is taking its toll on all of the common areas. The carpets are showing wear and many of the chairs and sofas throughout the ship are getting well worn. I talked to one of the assistant hotel managers and he informed me that the Volendam will be dry docking in the spring before starting the Alaskan cruise season next year. Included in this overhaul will be new carpet in the common areas, replacement of most of the chairs and sofas and all of the dining room chairs will be replaced and upgraded. The A/C system may also be getting an upgrade too. We did hear that there were continued A/C problems on deck 1 in one section of cabins, and again on the Pent House Cabins on deck 7. The aft elevators were always hot, while the mid ship and forward ones were always cool. The reported cracked window on other reviews on this board in the Starboard lower main dining room will also replaced at that time as well. Dining: Lido deck for Breakfast and Lunch: We ate most of our breakfasts and lunches at the Lido deck dining room and I have no complaints. We all found the food in selection, quality, presentation and taste to be far superior to our other cruise experiences. Breakfast selection had almost anything you can want for breakfast and included things like Egg Beaters and turkey sausage and bacon for those of us wanting to eat a little more sensibly. Even the Eggs Benedict was cooked perfect. Lunch selections included traditional deli style sandwiches, Asian, Italian and American hot dishes. None of our party had any complaints and found again the Lido food to be far superior to other experienced cruises. The Terrace grill also had great grilled hamburgers and Hot dogs. AYWD and the Main dining room for Dinner: We all opted for AYWD and contrary to the fears about this we never really heard any complaints the amounted to much. The first night we arrived at the lower dining room at 7 pm and got sat immediate at a table for 6 next to the aft windows. The next night we had to wait about 10 minutes for a table at 7pm, which was Ok by us. Again we had a table at the aft windows and both nights we were very hot up next to those windows. We were not overly impressed with the service we had from the dining stewards the first 2 night either. The Maitre D told us that the middle of the dining room was cooler than being next to the windows so on the 3rd night we requested a table in the middle of the dining room and had to wait about 15 minutes for table 307 in the middle of the dining room, this was the best decision we made the whole cruise as we had the most fantastic service staff, Apep, Kiki and our wine bar steward Eduardo. We opted for the rest of the cruise to make a reservation at 7:45 for table 307. With out the AYWD option we could have been stuck for the entire cruise at a hot table with not as great service as we had at table 307. It only took us 3 night to find this table and serving staff that we loved. The service from day 3 to day 10 was just like traditional dining. Apep, Kiki and our wine bar steward, Eduardo knew exactly what we wanted every night down to after dinner drinks and espressos and cappuccinos. Unlike traditional seating we did not have to wait for the tables around us to finish their courses before our next courses were served. The food was always served promptly and as ordered. Meats like the steaks and prime rib were served as ordered every time. Apep also made recommendations every night on what starters and entrEe to order, and he was almost always right on with his recommendations. We all found the selection of food and the taste, quality and presentation to be superior to past cruise experiences. I do not want to get into what we had every night but some of the things that stood out are as follows: Prime Rib- 3 nights was fork tender cooked to order even when ordered rare and was delicious Beef Wellington-perfectly cooked and presented my DW loved it. Lamb Shanks-best I ever had. Oso Buco-one of my favorite Italian dishes and again one of the best I have had Rack of Lamb-again done perfectly and melt in your mouth tender The last formal night for the Farewell dinner I had the rack of Veal with my Lobster tail instead of the filet, the veal was not only about an inch think but was so tender and flavorful and so much better than the filet the rest at out table choose. The rest of our group were so jealous of my choice. Two of the filets were sent back because they were over cooked but both were replaced with perfectly cooked filets that made our friends very happy. The only poor dining night was the Dutch Food night with things like Macaroni with ham and cheese a Dutch brisket and a Polynesian dish that didn't sound too good. That was the only night that all 6 of us choose the everyday New York steak for our entrEe. I agree with many posters on this board that the Dutch Night needs to be done away with. I noticed that maybe 75% of the diners that night had the everyday menu steak and salmon instead of the Dutch dishes. Ports: Not going to say much here as this review is getting so long. We did 2 shore tours, one with HAL in Costa Rica and one on our own in Curacao. Curacao we did our own tour with Casper Tours which is located in downtown next to the floating bridge. For this cruise the our ship was at the old downtown pier instead of the further out oil terminal pier. Casper took us on a 2 hour island air conditioned bus tour that included the Curacao Liqueur plant and tasting. For those wanting to go to the beach Casper will drop you off and pick you up in 2 hours to go back to the ship. The cost was only $15 per person for this tour compared to the HAL sponsored similar tour for $49. Disembarkation: How smooth and easy was this, we left the ship at 8:30 when our orange group 2 was called and we were at the airport at 9:05. No long lines at immigration or customs and we were on the outside waiting are at 8:40am. Our pre paid DSR shuttle was waiting for us and 6 other people and as soon as they loaded our luggage we left for the airport and got in the terminal at 9:05. That gave us the opportunity to move our flight from a 12:30 departure to 10:05 and we got home to Birmingham 3 hours earlier than anticipated. The irony of our departure was that on of our couples had a 10:15 flight and they took the express expedited 7:30 Disembarkation that included transport by HAL to the airport. Which, according to them was so crowded and slow. We arrived at the airport 10 minutes before they did!!! Read Less
Sail Date November 2007
Background Information: We live in FL and have been on 9 cruises in the past two years. This is the third one on HAL. Embarkation: We drove to the port and left the car in the Park & Fly lot. Very handy with fast shuttle to the ship. ... Read More
Background Information: We live in FL and have been on 9 cruises in the past two years. This is the third one on HAL. Embarkation: We drove to the port and left the car in the Park & Fly lot. Very handy with fast shuttle to the ship. Arrived at the pier at about 2:00 PM and was on board in about 20 minutes. Very efficient staff. Ship: The Volendam was totally booked, but there was no crowding in most venues. The ship is getting old and is need of repairs to carpets, walls, etc. Some elevator buttons did not work. There was a toilet problem the first morning. It was fixed within a few hours and didn't reappear. The A/C was very unbalanced. Some rooms were too hot and some too cold. It seemed to get worse as the cruise went on. They tested the emergency generator one day and we got brownish water in the shower. This was reported in a September 2007 review, and I guess it is still a problem. Our (outside view) cabin was very large and comfortable. There was lots of storage. This class of cabin did not have a refrigerator, something other cruise lines have as standard. Dining Experience: We had late (main) seating at 8:30 PM. The dining room was relatively quiet and our service was excellent - totally up to the high HAL standard. Food variety and overall quality was good, but relatively bland - not up to previous HAL experiences. We found the Lido buffet food to be OK, but nothing to rave about. The staff did not keep the tables and floors cleaned as well as other ships. This was somewhat of a shock, given HAL's reputation. The Lido pool food area was messy and out of some items much of the time. Not acceptable. Ship Activities: The stage shows and talent were very good. However, the other ship activities were a big letdown. There were no craft or cultural activities. The sporting events were few and very poorly scheduled. The cruise director and his staff seemed like they were uninterested and there was very little excitement. Shows were sometimes scheduled before main dining and sometimes afterwards. This created conflicts with other activities. Overall, this was the worst experience we have had with shipboard activities. Shore Excursions: We didn't take any, so I cannot comment. Disembarkation: Very well organized and no crowding. We were allowed to stay in our cabins until our number was called. Overall: Up until this cruise, HAL was our favorite line. I had no problem recommending HAL to anyone. However, this cruise changed my opinion. HAL has, without a doubt, the best crews and service we have seen. They are professional and friendly and a joy to meet. I feel that this ship's management has let down them and their customers. The cruise director has done a very poor job with his staff and the event planning. The captain also should get his share of blame for the physical condition of the ship. Also, we were shocked that we did not see one of the ship's officers attending our Mariner luncheon. This was meant to thank HAL's repeat customers, who are the bedrock of the lines profitability. The fact that the captain did not assign one of his staff to do this showed his lack of interest in the passengers. Read Less
Sail Date October 2007
I am a solo male traveller (57 yrs.) who was looking for a quiet restful hassle free type of vacation.With my October 2007 7-night cruise on Holland America's Volendam (Eastern Caribbean), this was exactly what I got. To begin with, ... Read More
I am a solo male traveller (57 yrs.) who was looking for a quiet restful hassle free type of vacation.With my October 2007 7-night cruise on Holland America's Volendam (Eastern Caribbean), this was exactly what I got. To begin with, I got a very good deal when I booked on-line. I presumed this was because it is still hurricane season in October in the Caribbean and there is a chance one's itinerary could be changed as well as storms and rough seas. Our weather could not have been more perfect. We had not a drop of rain and skies were clear and seas calm the entire week. If you come from a dry climate you might find the humidity of this region a bit challenging but the ship was beautifully air-conditioned throughout. GETTING THERE I flew into Ft. Lauderdale from Montreal the day before. Planes can be delayed and this eliminated the stress of worrying about missing the boat. I would highly recommend this option. I stayed at the Comfort Inn on Sterling Ave. What a great choice! The internet rate was $89. There was a free shuttle from the air-port. I just called the hotel and they picked me up within twenty minutes. The room was very nice,large, clean and cool. There was a lovely outdoor pool area with palm trees and a poolside bar for those who enjoy a drink. The free breakfast was one of the best I have encountered anywhere. Boxed cold cereals,packaged instant oatmeal, fresh fruit, toast, bagels, waffles, yogurt, muffins and plenty of good coffee or tea. The hotel then provided a free shuttle to the ship. I arrived about 11 a.m. and started a quick embarkation process. I had pre-registered and obtained my boarding pass on-line. This greatly quickens the procedure. From start to finish it was no more that 30 minutes before I was walking up the gang plank and posing for a welcome aboard picture. (Note: The cruise photographer takes pictures throughout the voyage but there is absolutely no pressure to purchase any of them. They are displayed in the Photo Gallery daily and those you do not wish to purchase are shredded at you request) Once on board we were invited to lunch in the Lido deck as our cabins would not be ready until about 2 p.m. The food in the Lido restaurant is varied with many selections and well prepared. This is a cafeteria style restaurant so you will line up at busy hours. The ice-cream bar and desert table ( my weakness) was a sweet tooth's dream come true. MY CABIN I had a outside cabin on the Dolphin deck which was very roomy(especially being solo). I found the beds extremely comfortable. The bathroom was huge by cruise ship standards with a nice marble vanity and a tub/shower combo. There was plenty of a closet and drawer space as well.It was clean and well maintained throughout the voyage. The TV was of great quality with something for everyone. It included CNN, TSN, 2 movie channels plus a classic TV channel. Ship info and ship entertainment are also broadcast. There are also 4 music channels pumped into the cabin with various genres of music.If this is not enough there is also a DVD player. DVD's are available for rent. I brought a few of my favorites from home. DRESS Let me say a bit about packing here. Dress during the day is casual, shorts & T-shirts. Evenings are smart casual. Slacks and a collared shirts are fine for the men. Formal nights a dark suit or tux are requested. There are several options for laundry and pressing. There is self-serve laundry on the ship. A load will cost $2. to wash, $1 to dry.(Quarters are available at the front desk) As well there are irons and ironing boards that are free of charge. Ironing in staterooms is not allowed as a fire-safety measure. There is also a laundry service. I believe it is $12 for what you can get into one of the laundry bags provided. I used the pressing service. This was more expensive but convenient. 5 shirts and a suit cost me $23. There is a more expensive express service.With the ordinary service getting your clothes back will take over 24 hrs. so plan ahead for your dress-up clothes. A free shoe shine service is also available. ACTIVITIES The main activity I wanted to engage in while on board was relaxing in a deck chair and watching the sea roll by. Each evening there is newsletter outlining activities for the next day delivered to your stateroom. There is no pressure to join any of them but if one wishes to be active there seems to be lots to do. Also delivered each day is a mini NY Times news sheet. In addition to this I received a special Canadian supplement with news from Canada. I imagine other nationals received something similar. A very nice touch I thought. DINING The food was wonderful all around. My only complaint is that there was too much of it. Be prepared to put on a few pounds. I preferred to have breakfast in my cabin. In general I found the room service menu to be adequate and varied as long as one did not intend to use it for every meal. The breakfast menu had plenty of the things I like to eat in the morning. Just fill out the breakfast request card. Check off the items & time you wish and hang it on your door handle before 2.a.m.They will do the rest. Very satisfactory. LUNCH I enjoyed a light lunch in the Lido restaurant. To avoid the line-ups try to be there at opening 11:30 or wait until near the end of lunch service, I think around 2:30 DINNER IN THE MAIN DINING ROOM This was something I looked forward to each evening. The menu is posted at the entrance after lunch so one can check it out and ponder what delicious dishes to order. I am no gourmet but I thought the menu was varied, delicious and beautifully presented with impeccable service. Considering these guys do three seatings an evening it was really remarkable. I was assigned a table with five other solo travellers. We at least had that in common. Sometimes it can feel like you are the only non-coupled person on the planet, so I thought this was a nice touch. PUBLIC AREAS I thought the public areas were lovely. The theme of the Volendam was flowers and there were elaborate as well as smaller bouquets placed throughout the public rooms. In addition to this there were many paintings an other objet d'art to enjoy. The library was well stocked with books DVD's, board games,jig-saw and crossword puzzles.There were perhaps 20 computers available but be warned using them will cost you plenty! I do not gamble so I cannot comment on the Casino although it seemed to be quite busy with the usual games and slots. Nor am I a big drinker but I did enjoy a spiked coffee after dinner in the Explorations Lounge where there was a stringed quartet playing classical pieces. There was also a decent size shopping area. One nice service was that evenings before shore excursions, a list of "guaranteed shops" on shore was provided. This meant that they had been checked out and were selling genuine articles and not knock offs. I did not attend all of the evening shows but the ones I did I enjoyed and were of a good quality. I was entertained and I think that is the point. Also check out the movie theater. There is a different feature shown several times a day. Apart from the Lido restaurant at lunch time, I found this ship to have a feeling of being uncrowded. That was nice. FELLOW PASSENGERS Definitely an slower, older crowd, although there were some younger folks as well. That suited me fine as I was not looking for a party ship. How often at 57 and a bit overweight does one get to feel young and thin? I spoke to one man who had teenage grandchildren who've cruised Holland America and one of the bigger party ships as well. They told him they preferred Holland America because there were so few teens enrolled in the teen program, that they were treated like kings. On the party ships they had to wait in line for everything. SHORE EXCURSIONS I did three of these which I booked on line. There were several options available to chose from at each port. I knew it would be hot so I chose ones that were not too long and did not involve a great deal of activity. I found they were well organized and the guides pleasant and informative. I did a mini-bus tour of San Juan including stops at one of the forts, a beach and old San Juan. I did similar at St.Thomas. It is quite mountainous and we were taken to the highest point where the views were spectacular. Nassau included a visit to a garden/zoo place where the pink flamingos put on a most amusing show. Another very nice touch (one of so many) on the part of Holland America was this; when we arrived back at the ship from out day out in the heat, a steward was waiting at the bottom of the gangplank handing us damp, cool towels to freshen up with. Very nice. I cannot say enough about the service on the Volendam. It was A+ at all times and delivered with a smile.It was the many small thoughtful touches, like the cool towels that helped made this trip so enjoyable. You may well forget what day of the week it is with this level of indulgence, but not to worry. Each time you step into one of the elevators you will be reminded. The carpets are changed daily and the day of the week is printed on them. DISEMBARKATION If you follow the instructions which are given days in advance regarding luggage, custom forms etc.and listen for category to be called then there will be no delays or problems. Also recommended is to attend the disembarkation talk given on the next to last day of the cruise. Not only will you pick up useful information but as a finale the crew from all the services gather to supply a very touching musical farewell. In short if you are looking for a relaxing, slow-paced holiday with impeccable service and amenities then I have no reservations about recommending Holland America's MS Volendam. Read Less
Sail Date October 2007
We live in Florida, so we drove to Ft. Lauderdale. We spent the night at the Hampton Inn on Commercial Blvd. We like this motel because it is very clean, reasonable in price, has a nice serving area with coffee and tea 24/7 and has a good, ... Read More
We live in Florida, so we drove to Ft. Lauderdale. We spent the night at the Hampton Inn on Commercial Blvd. We like this motel because it is very clean, reasonable in price, has a nice serving area with coffee and tea 24/7 and has a good, complimentary breakfast in the mornings. Newspapers are furnished, an in house computer for checking e-mail is always set up , a Steak and Ale is close as are other restaurants, it is also close to the area of Coral Springs which has many, many dining places, and I feel safe there. As this is a motel that caters to the business crowd, the clientele is pleasant, quiet and there is very little traffic or little traffic compared to the Tourist spots. Embarkation was not too bad. I have RA, so I was able to sit while my husband stood in line...perhaps for 45 minutes to an hour, and then joined him at the document checking desk. As we had pre-registered on line, we gave them our Boarding pass and it did go faster. Once we were on board, we ate lunch on the Lido Deck and had to wait a while for the cabins to be opened. The cabin was plenty roomy. We had an Ocean view on the Main Deck and found it comfortable for two adults. We had plenty of storage space and closet space. Our suitcases fit under the beds. Our cabin had four big, sturdy hooks on the wall. I found them handy for hanging dresses and our garment bags. The bath had a bathtub and spa shampoo and such was on the washbasin. The potty was slow to flush sometimes but it did always eventually flush. Once it was like five minutes or so and that was disconcerting. Once, when the emergency generators were being tested, brown water came out of the shower, but it only happened once. And our cabin was hot. We had the temperature gauge down as low as possible and it was just plain hot. We called the desk twice. They Sort of brushed us off. Then it went out completely. We live in Florida and tolerate heat better than most. But that took me to the office. The person at the desk said they would go to the cabin and inspect it. As my husband was napping on the bed, shirt off, and sweating a lot, I hope she got a true reading. He said she did come. Avoid Cabin 2520 unless you have the temperature checked and the morning we got off it was still very warm. Food: The food on the Volendam is delicious. It is Tasty, it is Well Prepared and it is Well served. They do things such as the Dutch High Tea, the Indonesian Tea and other theme teas. The Dinners were innovative and well cooked. Sometimes I ordered the alternative steak and it was always cooked just right. The starters were good, I liked being able to have the pasta as an entree if one wished, I only tried the chicken noodle soup and it was excellent, the deserts were very good. Creme Brule, Baked Alaska, a chocolate confection in a parfait glass that was delicious. They also had delicious cookies on the buffet line on the Lido. They also had a separate line for salads. The salad fixings were good...but no ice berg lettuce. I still like iceberg. And the dressings were strong. The Blue Cheese was excellent, I thought. Breads tasted fresh baked and could have made a meal alone. They were that good. I have to say the Omelet served in the Lido deck was perfect. It was always cooked just right, and extra back or ham or sausage was available. It made a perfect breakfast. And they do have grits on the Lido. But you have to ask, because .in the Dining room, I don't think they know what grits are. We found out on the last day and acted like fools I know in our delight at finding we could get bowls of grits for breakfast. We are southern and I admit, love our grits. The late night snack was better than a huge buffet, I thought. They had burgers off the grill, pizza, hot dogs, cold cuts, breads, small cakes and cookies, ice cream...all very good. They served Pineapple pizza that was actually good, which I consider quite a feat. FLASH!!!!!The delectable goodies in the case in The Explorations Cafe on Deck Five are complimentary. The coffee is NOT. But those delicious breakfast rolls, then those afternoon cookies and the evening appetizers and fruit is at no additional charge. And in the Casino Bar, they serve the fancy mixed nuts. It is not just peanuts. I have to say I noticed classy little things like that often on the Volendam. We also received a Tile at the Mariner's Brunch. Which I liked much, much better than the Past Passenger Reception which this replaces. The wine was complimentary, which my husband enjoyed, the food was smart and innovative, with salmon, another fish dish, steak and a quiche being the entrees offered. My husband ordered the quiche and enjoyed it. I had finished one of the large omelets on the Lido a few hours before so I only had the shrimp cocktail, it was good and I had the Mango Banana Strudel, which I thought was not their best. The tables were lovely with flowers,real orchids, and yes, I know how difficult it is to grow orchids. We sat by the window and shared a conversation with missionaries who had just been in Hawaii. They were charming and dedicated.On the Volendam, Everything they did with food was just very good except the Chef's Choice Diner. I did not care for that dinner, but one out of many meals was not good, so who could beat that record for excellence? The Ship: The ship is lovely. Fresh flowers are everywhere, the public rooms are pleasant and I never saw any crowds. I found lot of places to read and just sit and think while enjoying beautiful surroundings. I have to say the view from the Crow's Nest is always breathtaking. The Library was large and used a lot. One cloddish passenger did sit down and start talking, loudly, on her cell phone to someone. I had a few words with her, her husband was very rude to me and I left. I was embarrassed that I had said anything but it is so rude to start in on personal matters on a cell phone in a library on a cruise ship. Is nothing sacred? Why do they allow cell phones on cruise chips? And on most days, CNN International was the only news available. Ugh. That is my personal opinion. UGH. UGH. I missed Wolf Blitzer. I missed Headline News. I missed FoxNews and MSNBC. I would rather have those than some of the channels they carried. Entertainment: I did not see any of the shows. And I am sorry I missed them. Our tablemates at dinner went to all of them and enjoyed them all. We played Trivia every day and did scattergories one day. I thought there was a lack of activities. The Volendam had one game of general trivia each day and we had two days of Name That Tune and two days of scatter gories. There was no TriBon, no Pictionary and not even a Sports Quiz. They did the values clarification sheets like things you take in a ship wreck and such. I had expected more activities, like on Celebrity, but it was not so. And that passenger group was well educated and very competitive and I think would have enjoyed more such brain teasers. One Trivia Quiz session must have had fifty people there, and that was the biggest crowd, outside of Bingo and the Shows that I saw anywhere. I did go to the Casino and played the nickel slots. I did not win much, but I played a lot and did not lose much, so I was happy. I am not much of a gambler, I just enjoy seeing the reels spin and playing the bonus rounds. The Casino is small, but also never crowded and the staff is excellent. Shore Trips: We toured the El Yunkee Rain Forest in Puerto Rico. The trip was a Holland American Tour. We boarded our bus and I was surprised at two things on our trip to the Forest. The Bus Driver made remarks which I considered rude and anti-American. If they wish to be independent, I say more power to them. And if, as he said, they can come in as a state if they wish, well, not many people think much of the folks in D.C., of both parties, right now anyway and who knows what they are up too. But it was offensive and out of place. We had vets on that bus. And I was stunned at the burglar bars on the homes. They were everywhere and even extended to the porches. It was like the homes sat in metal boxes. I had no idea crime was that bad in Puerto Rico and I wondered what they did in case of fire. What if they lost the key? It was good that one did not see starving children or children begging for money like one does in other places in Central America and on other islands. The people were very well dressed, looked prosperous and of course, they are already USA citizens. The Rain Forest was lovely. Our driver knew the names of the many lovely plants, such as wild ginger and such, and I enjoyed that part. I did not like it when he stopped at a tourist trap and said we should use the rest room because they would be closed in the forest. They were open in the Forest and clean too. It is a USA National Park too. In the Virgin Islands, we took the tour, also a Holland American tour, to St. Peter's Place and rode the Paradise Tram. St. Peter's was lovely with a nice gift shop. We could have a tropical punch drink there too. The roads were steep and often cars would pass so close I felt I could pat them on the head. That was a bit much. The people in the USA Virgin Islands seemed friendlier, more fellow USA citizens than in Puerto Rico. I did not see nearly as many burglar bars and none of the entire home enclosed in wire boxes like on Puerto Rico. The view from the Paradise Tram was awesome and the workers on the Tram friendly and patient with scared, elderly tourists who didn't know it was like a ski lift ride. I found the USA Virgin Islands to be a pleasant tour. Our driver was from Haiti and it was hard to understand him and I did not like that. I liked him, and we tipped him as we tipped in Puerto Rico. Both made a good effort to show us their respective islands. I did not go ashore in the Bahamas. I don't swim was the reason for Half Moon Cay, and I had an arthritic flare in my right foot when we were docked in Nassau. I would consider both tours worth the money but next time, for the same money, I would take the excursion to St. John's Island. Don't Miss..............Kenn, the Piano Man. He does a fine show. Even though the cabin was hot, and that was a major irritation for me, the cruse went quickly. I hope Holland America fixes their AC system, even if it means putting in new units. That cruise on the Volendam came near to being perfect, but for that. Disembarkation was very quick for us. Because of my foot, I had to request assistance and I left in a wheelchair. Even while we were being whisked through, I noticed people very quickly leaving the ship. I would say they did an excellent job on that. The cruise was great. The cabin got too warm sometimes. And on the day the AC went out, it was downright hot. I would make sure I inquired about the condition of the AC in my cabin when booking. Other than that, you should be prepared to enjoy a wonderful week. Read Less
Sail Date September 2007
Volendam 2 Jan - 12 Jan 2007 Panama Canal Disclaimer  these are our opinions and experiences others may have had a different experience. We flew into FLL a day early and stayed at the Ramada Inn. This hotel has a cruise special that ... Read More
Volendam 2 Jan - 12 Jan 2007 Panama Canal Disclaimer  these are our opinions and experiences others may have had a different experience. We flew into FLL a day early and stayed at the Ramada Inn. This hotel has a cruise special that not only picks you up at the airport but also takes you to the pier the next day. This was very well organized as there were approximately 200 people going out on both the Volendam and Amsterdam staying in this hotel and they ran multiple buses to the ships. Embarkation  We arrived at 11:45 AM and proceeded to the express check-in line. HAL only had 4 agents checking in people so we had to wait inline for close to 40 minutes. An elderly gentleman collapsed and paramedics were called, it is our understanding that he just was not used to standing for long periods of time. We were finally able to get checked in and headed straight to the boarding area, only to be stopped by the photographers and not allowed to pass until they took our picture, (this was the first time a photographer actually would not let us pass until our picture was taken). We were greeted on entering the ship by multiple people and directed to the Lido deck for Lunch and to await our cabin being ready. Cabin  The announcement that the Cabins were ready came at about 1:30 we proceeded to our cabin 6188 an AA Verandah and were met by our cabin steward Matt. Matt asked us if there was anything we needed and then informed us of the hours he would be available and how to contact him. He was an excellent steward and kept our cabin spotless. The cabin its self was good size with a queen bed and a queen size sofa. There was stationary in the cabin with our name and cabin number on it. Also, our pre-ordered shore excursions were in the cabin. The Verandah was nice size with a lounger and chair with a small table. Life Boat Drill  This was the first time in 11 cruises that everyone was real attentive during the drill. The usual cross talking did not occur, this made the drill go quickly and it was done in 20 minutes. Dining  As food is subjective I will only say that we felt the dishes on the Maasdam and Oosterdam had more flavor to them. We were at table 104 port side next to the window 6:15 Seating. This is a table for 6, the first night one other couple were at the table, this was the only night they were there as they preferred a table for two. The next night 2 other couples (Joe and Nancy) and (Kelly and Les) Kelly and Les were at the table only one night as someone from the late seating was at their table and they were moved to ours for the one night. Joe and Nancy became our regular table mates and we enjoyed them very much. However, we had one other couple join us one evening, (Wes and Sherry) they normally dined in the Lido but the Lido was not serving the dish they wanted so they came to our table for the one night. I must say it was interesting to meet so many different people at the dining table. This could have been a sample of what freestyle dining is like. Our waiter and asst. waiter (Asep and Iskander) were very good and dealt with the multiple people coming to the table with a very good attitude, as at times we had already ordered and then someone else would show up at the table. Once it was discovered that I am allergic to onions the Head waiter (Donny) provided me with the next night's menu so I could order and they would ensure that there were no onions in any of the dishes I received. Lido  We at the Lido for breakfast and lunch. There was a nice selection at breakfast as you could have eggs to order, express with scrambled eggs, omelet station and then fruit and cereal and pastries. Lunch also had different stations however we were being good and only had salads for lunch. Shows  The production shows were the same ones we saw on the Oosterdam during Thanksgiving just with different performers and sets. The best show was Paul Pappas the piano player he did two shows one that covered a wide range of music and one that was more classical piano. Ports  HMC what can you say but it was beautiful, the water was a little cold so you could not stay in very long, also we shared HMC with the Maasdam. Aruba we did the DE PALM Island Snorkeling and had a great time. The Island has something for everyone you can just sunbath/swim, snorkel, scuba, snuba, or sea trek (hard hat underwater tour). Curacao, this is a very clean and beautiful island, we did the Curacao tour and folkloric tour and had a great time. Panama Canal, we had never been here and just to see the canal and the locks work was worth the trip, we did not take any excursions here. Limon, Costa Rica, here we took the Old Banana Train Tour we had a good time on this tour as we rode a bus out to the Banana Plantation toured the banana processing area and learned a lot about bananas, then we caught the old train back to Limon, we saw Monkeys, Sloth's, and Alligator's along with varies birds (vultures) and plant life. Our guide Roy made this a very good tour. The Ship  The overall appearance of the ship was good, it was clean and the crew did everything possible to make sure it stayed that way. Yes, there is some worn carpet and chairs but with the amount of traffic on this ship that is to be expected. On sea days we did not have to deal with chair hogs, there always seemed to be a chair available when we wanted one. Both pools were used and everyone seemed to be enjoying themselves. The Spa  We won a free scalp massage, my wife took this and came back just glowing, it is more than a scalp massage but also a neck and shoulders massage. Since she raved about it I also had one and it was great and plan to have one on our next cruise the first day out it just relaxed me so much. Disembarkation  With being able to stay in you cabin this went smooth, our number was called we went down and claimed out bags. Our bags were all together in one spot, first time ever. Went through customs and out to the bus to the Airport, waited about 20 minutes before the bus left and we were still at the airport within 45 minutes of leaving the ship. Well organized and planned. Read Less
Sail Date January 2007
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 4.3
Value For Money 4.0 3.8
Rates 4.0 3.9

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