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