Sail Date: April 2019
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
1 Helpful Vote
Sail Date: January 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
4 Helpful Votes
Sail Date: December 2018
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
1 Helpful Vote
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
1 Helpful Vote
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
1 Helpful Vote
Sail Date: November 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
7 Helpful Votes
Sail Date: October 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
7 Helpful Votes
Sail Date: April 2008
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
1 Helpful Vote
Sail Date: March 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
1 Helpful Vote
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
Volendam Ratings
Category Editor Member
Cabins 3.5 0.0
Dining 4.0 0.0
Entertainment 3.5 0.0
Public Rooms 4.0 0.0
Fitness Recreation 4.5 0.0
Family 3.5 0.0
Shore Excursion 4.0 0.0
Enrichment 5.0 0.0
Service 5.0 0.0
Value For Money 4.0 0.0
Rates 4.0 0.0

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