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95 Holland America Hong Kong Cruise Reviews

We always wanted to see Japan, have been all thru' China & Thailand before , the rest of the cruise was a very pleasant Bonus, especially Vietnam, loved the food and the people there. I tell you that having Dr. Kam's lectures ... Read More
We always wanted to see Japan, have been all thru' China & Thailand before , the rest of the cruise was a very pleasant Bonus, especially Vietnam, loved the food and the people there. I tell you that having Dr. Kam's lectures was so amazing, what a wonderful man he is, a real bonus for HA. I also would like to comment on Markus who gave the Gem-stone talks this boy knows his work, so fun. I journal for every cruise so I take notes on every lecture and presentation. I always want to learn. Josh and Phil were great too, took their notes as well. The entertainment was awesome, loved the Volendam dancers and singers, good variety. Movies pretty good. The cruise director never could spell her name, was awesome so fun at the trivia contests. The Captain too was great, he hd a lot to deal with, especially in Shanghai. All of the crew were superb going the extra mile for all of us. I heard some of the beef was tough but on the night we had surf and turf it was excellent. In general the food was good, could be a little hotter but it is hard to do for so many people, soup always hot and delicious, and the bread pudding, to die for. I just want to say some of the comments I have read were not pleasant, not all people are pleasant, you can please some of the people etc. It was a busy tour, but we made it and what a great place to end it but in Singapore---Wow what a beautiful place!!!!!!!!! Evelyn and Russell Green Read Less
Sail Date November 2017
This cruise had a wonderful itinerary leaving from Hong Kong,and visiting large ports like Shanghai, Tianjin (Beijing), Incheon (Seoul) and Yokohama (Tokyo) as well as smaller ports like Nagasaki, Kagoshima ,Osaka, Naha, Jeju Island , ... Read More
This cruise had a wonderful itinerary leaving from Hong Kong,and visiting large ports like Shanghai, Tianjin (Beijing), Incheon (Seoul) and Yokohama (Tokyo) as well as smaller ports like Nagasaki, Kagoshima ,Osaka, Naha, Jeju Island , Ishigaki Island and Hososhima. The Volendam, although older, is a comfortable well-sized ship. We had a verandah stateroom which we feel is worth the extra price. The food, in general, was very good. There were interesting lectures (kudos to Master Kam) and many activities to keep people busy. The passengers were mostly in the senior age-group but most were very well-travelled and active. The service by our room stewards was wonderful, as usual on HAL. The Lido seemed understaffed with less service than on previous cruises. The staff were always friendly. Embarkation and disembarkation went very smoothly for us. However, at some ports, particularly in Japan, there were long waits and line-ups to get off the ship. We really enjoyed the cruise and our first visit to Asia. Read Less
Sail Date March 2017
We choose this cruise because it was to be our first time to visit Asia. The stops were super interesting with lots of variety. We hit the cherry blossoms almost perfectly. The ship was in fine condition with the exception of the ... Read More
We choose this cruise because it was to be our first time to visit Asia. The stops were super interesting with lots of variety. We hit the cherry blossoms almost perfectly. The ship was in fine condition with the exception of the seating. It seems that the springs in the chairs in the high traffic areas (LIDO, MDR, and Franz Hals lounge) have lost their springs. They're pretty uncomfortable. We ate virtually all of our meals in the LIDO so that we could control the portion sizes and eat fairly quickly. This paid off in spades as both of us did not gain any weight during the cruise. There seems to be fewer staff in the LIDO and MDR The biggest challenge I found was with the way that HAL did immigration process for the ports in which we had shore excursions. For all of the times that HAL does immigration procedures, one would think that they would have it down. I realize they don't control the local authorities and my observations are not about them. It's about HAL. Sometimes they issue priority cards (and that process is varied and flawed), one time they did it by what stateroom deck you were on (the worst), On the positive side, the embarkation in HK was the best we've ever had, and the disembarkation in Vancouver went exactly as presented. The highlight of the entertainment were two performances: Elliot Finkle and Savannah Jack. Mr. Finkle is an amazing pianist and entertainer. He's the kind of fellow you'd like to have in your home and just chat with. Savannah Jack was a 5 person band from Nashville that performed for the first time on HAL and ALL 4 shows (2 each on 2 separate days) were different. On the final night, they played to packed audiences for both 8 and 10pm shows. Normally HAL puts a low key venue in those last time slots, but they were so high energy. The service continued at HAL's typical high standards (with the immigration process exception). We traveled with a 15 year old granddaughter and it would have been nicer for her to have others of the same age. We liked the cruise so much we booked it to start in Singapore in February, 2018 and sail to Yokohama. Read Less
Sail Date March 2017
We just returned from the Volendam China, Japan cruise. We chose it because of the ports of call and we had been on this ship previously. We enjoyed the trip very much but have to say the time wasted getting off the ship at the different ... Read More
We just returned from the Volendam China, Japan cruise. We chose it because of the ports of call and we had been on this ship previously. We enjoyed the trip very much but have to say the time wasted getting off the ship at the different ports if you are touring independently, is a big disappointment and time wasted at the port. We did not use the dining room more than 3 times in our 2 weeks onboard because the service is so slow and the food isn't very hot when it does arrive. We ate a Lido buffet mostly. The breakfast and lunch is great there. The dinner food has the same "not hot enough" problem. One evening I was asked by a manager how our food was. I did ask him for some hot fried rice and got some. We observed that they put the food out on the buffet line at 5 pm and it doesn't open till 5;30, so that could be the problem. They do have many choices. The MIX martini bar and Ryan the bartender are super great. We were regulars there1 Most of the ports of call were fabulous with the exception of Nagasaki, which we thought wasn't very good and not enough time to really enjoy it. Shanghai and Tokyo were our favorites. Read Less
Sail Date March 2017
We chose this cruise because of the ports of call. Hong Kong-Shanghai-Beijing-Seoul-Nagasaki-Kagoshima-Kagoshima. Firstly, this was a "shoulder" cruise making it a bit chilly and down right cold in some ports. The balcony was ... Read More
We chose this cruise because of the ports of call. Hong Kong-Shanghai-Beijing-Seoul-Nagasaki-Kagoshima-Kagoshima. Firstly, this was a "shoulder" cruise making it a bit chilly and down right cold in some ports. The balcony was almost useless. Wish I had selected a cheaper cabin and used the extra money on excursions, wifi, beverages and the many other ways they find to increase your bill once on board. Entertainment was poor with the exception of the Shanghai Acrobats. Other shows were not worth going to and many people walked out. Not sure who they thought would be interested in harmonica players as an evening show. Even most movies shown on board had English subtitles and we left because we could not read, watch and enjoy. The public rooms were not usually crowded and were comfortable. Many people on the ship were doing back to back sailings and would be on board for 28 or more days. I was very ready to head home after 14 days. Food became repetitive and in spite of the effort HAL put into trying to prevent the spread of illness, my husband was sick for the last five days. In the main dining room, there was always a huge wait between appetizers and main course. We were at open seating so I am not sure if it was the same if you were in the assigned tables. For the most part, the food was good. In the Lido, the buffet option, I found it annoying to have to search for a table and often to have to bus it and find our own silverware and napkins. The staff working was very busy and trying hard but clearly it was understaffed. When you have numerous small plates to carry, you either need a tray(not available) or staff to help you get it to the table(also not available for the most part). After two weeks, I found the buffet to be repetitive but we tended to eat most of our meals there(breakfasts, lunches and half the dinners) But the food there was prepared to order and hot. The lines were confusing (People coming from both sides) but the wait was not too long. We did use room service and found it to be good. The menu was limited but you could also request anything on the current dining room menu which they did not advertise. . We found the excursions expensive. But if you did not book with them, you were delayed significantly in disembarking so it really cut into the time you had to do any tours. Several of our stops were a long distance from the city of interest (Beijing, Seoul,Tokyo) so it almost forced you to do their tours so you knew you would be back in time. We used the fitness center most mornings. There was a water fountain but a water dispenser with cups would have been much better. Plus, I did not appreciate that many of the classes, (spin, yoga) were not free. I attended a fitness lecture and walked out as it was one of the worst on board experiences I have ever had. When I left the lecture, there were only two people left. Everyone else had already left and apparently had similar opinions of it. Bottom line, we had a good time. I am glad I got the cruise at a discount price as it would not have be worth it for full brochure price. Would I sail HAL again? Yes if the price was right and I would know what to expect. Read Less
Sail Date February 2017
We chose this cruise because of the itinerary and we weren’t disappointed at all stopping off in China, South Korea and Japan. As first time cruisers and just turned 50 we were some of the youngest couples on board with the average age ... Read More
We chose this cruise because of the itinerary and we weren’t disappointed at all stopping off in China, South Korea and Japan. As first time cruisers and just turned 50 we were some of the youngest couples on board with the average age of the guests around the 70+ age group mark. In fairness the cruise was targeted towards this group and a mainly American audience followed by the Aussies and Canadians. Only 124 Brits on board !!!!! The ship and cabins were very good in our opinion but we cannot compare to any rival. Rooms cleaned very efficiently and to a high standard by out 2 stewards.The food was spot on mostly with a great choice however the Lido self service restaurant is very much hit and miss with over dry and cold food served very often in the evening. The main Dining room “The Rotterdam” was excellent for breakfast, lunch and dinner service. Entertainment was generally of a poor standard from the on board production and I have seen better at my kids school play!! The guest entertainers were however very good and of high quality which included a magician, comedian, juggler and rock violinist. Most nights there were two showings and always a seat available. The Excursions were badly organised and a royal rip off for what they were. We found that the meals served were of a quality that was too be desired and best left to a night out having drunk 10 pints of beer !!!! It seems that that they inflate the prices and squeeze everything to make as much money as possible. Shame as the itinerary for the excursions were not at all bad. We had 2 days in Beijing ( note the ship docks in Tianjin which is 2.5 hours from Beijing) and completed 2 excursions with very early starts. We could have done the same excursions and fitted more with an overnight stay in a 4* star hotel for less than half of the price Holland and America are charging. My advice is go independent as we have learnt a very harsh lesson on this. Activities on board were generally poor and very scarce on sea days which meant we were bored and Holland and America need to get their act together if they want to entice a new and younger client but then we got the impression that they look after their high value return guests and do not bother or incentivise new guests. There seems to be a speech and education programme targeted to the older demographic on board. The whole cruise is very much a hard sell culture and you pay and I mean pay for everything at inflated rates plus a service charge even if I go and get things myself. The crew in general very warm and welcoming with the exception of a few in the spa area who were miserable and non engaging and the Captain of the ship who walked around the ship acting as if he were GOD and ignoring all guests other than the big spending regular Americans. All in all it was a pleasant first cruise with good food let down by a lack of sea day activities and overinflated prices. Finally although I have not been on any other cruise ship I would not consider Holland and America to be a premium brand imho from the experience. Read Less
Sail Date February 2017
Was a great cruise, missed one port because of bad weather. We stayed in Keelung, Taiwan an additional night to make up for it. Cruise Director Bruce was very good, Jeremy, the ports of call guide, was excellent, service was fantastic, ... Read More
Was a great cruise, missed one port because of bad weather. We stayed in Keelung, Taiwan an additional night to make up for it. Cruise Director Bruce was very good, Jeremy, the ports of call guide, was excellent, service was fantastic, menu selection in Lido Buffet could have been better, food was excellent though, entertainment was pretty good. They even had some local entertainment come on board at some ports, which added some local color and flavor. Embarkation and disembarkation was simple and quick. The only hassle of the cruise was all the passport meetings and documentation that was needed what with going into and leaving five different countries in a matter of four weeks. As far as the itinerary, we could have stayed in Yokohama, the port city for Tokyo, overnight. One day was just not enough time to explore a large city like that. The shuttle buses provided by HAL in most of the ports was a very nice feature. Read Less
Sail Date February 2017
My Volendam experience overall was positive . The Indonesia and Far East discovery cruise was perfect length of time to experience the flavour of SE Asia. As a single traveler I found the itinerary and the price reasonable. This was my ... Read More
My Volendam experience overall was positive . The Indonesia and Far East discovery cruise was perfect length of time to experience the flavour of SE Asia. As a single traveler I found the itinerary and the price reasonable. This was my second HAL experience and it was a great way to embrace cruising in a safe and interesting way. I cannot comment about the ship other than to say it was clean and other than minor floods in the theatre ( no kidding) the crew fixed the problem. One of the things I observed was the Captains commitment to safety of the passengers. I loved having a cabin to myself. The stateroom stewards were great. I had a problem with a noisy fan in the bathroom and it was fixed promptly. I did not go on the cruise for the dinners but I thought the dining room staff were polite and accommodating. Some more helpful than others but all in all great. the food was not rock and roll wonderful but the special dinners were very nice. I had dinner in the cannetello and was underwhelmed - waste of money. maybe I went of a bad night. My favourite entertainment was the Adagio group they were a treasure. I went once or twice to the theatre shows - it was a hit or miss. some people loved the shows I was sorry I missed the mime. I heard he was wonderful. Barry from Boston grew a following in the evenings. he is goofy bold and has a huge repertoire of music he was talented at engaging everyone in sing alongs. He also was kookie in the kiss the fish event. the activities on the boat were fun, lots of people enjoyed then, The singles event coordinator was wonderful she also hosted some cooking shows lots of interesting ideas lots of fun. I liked the lectures in the Indonesian leg of the trip there were not too many ( it would have added a lot to that leg of the trip) the second leg was terrific, we had Tai chi and chi gong classes, history of china, fantastic Phil gave special sessions in the Hudson lounge. We were informed about Buddha, food and cultural characteristics of people. The special martini events were fun too. the gym was clean and the staff in the gym were very helpful. Service was good. the staff at the front desk were great. The Ports - thank goodness for cruise critic . the trips I participated in through cruise critic were wonderful the excursions the I took through HAL were because of the 2 hour drive back and forth from the location to the Ship. Boroduru was wonderful, the HAL bus trip was terrible the use tried to squeeze too many people into too little space . So the stop mid way at the Eva cafe was good the World heritage site was amazing I loved it . the dinner provided was delicious.coming back we stopped at a silver factory it was okay. we had a police escort to get to and from Boroduru. Other people that took private tours got back in time they just took other roads. the trip to AYATHUYA was interesting It was TOO expensive and I would not recommend it. the ship takes two to two and a half hours to get into Bangkok. I was hoping to get some shopping in but the Ayatthuya trip did not allow for that. the elephant ride was okay, I had had enough of Kenny our guide by 2 hours into the trip. waste of money waste of my time. Day two was more interesting the trip on the river, the grand palace was lovely still no time to shop. when you have only a few hours to sleep who need such an expensive hotel? Bottom line just take the shuttle in to Bangkok and do it on your own. Halong Bay was through HAL and I would recommend this trip. lovely and wonderful. Tommy tours in Da Nang is wonderful. I have written a review in trip advisor . loved that day. In Bali we had a driver Mertee from drivers with distinction that showed us around the island. He was fun accommodating and a terrific person to give us an overview of Bali. I would also recommend him. Our private tour in lombock was great. we saw all kinds of temples I joined another cruise critics tour and I cannot find the operators name, but it was very good. Gokomodo tours was good. also arranged trough cruise critic. this was the only place that I made a mistake. there were lots of kids and one darling boy came up begging, he said he had no mother or father I gave him some fruit. right away I had 1 million kids surrounding me. our tour operator said this was a typical strategy kids use. and that he most likely had parents. Viet nam wonderful but crowded. Jakarta dirty and smoggy Singapore - I would go in a heartbeat. that orchid garden in amazing would I go again ? Maybe to revisit some sites and other new ones. I would definitely have more confidence to go on my own. The other travellers you meet are great. all have a variety of background experience. they are also a treasure. all in all those are some of my thoughts on my adventure. all best Read Less
Sail Date January 2017
The ship was looking great & wonderful service which Holland America is noted for. Loved the itinerary we sailed. Wish they allowed more time in Cambodia to make it worth the Visa fees while in Cambodia. Considering it was just a ... Read More
The ship was looking great & wonderful service which Holland America is noted for. Loved the itinerary we sailed. Wish they allowed more time in Cambodia to make it worth the Visa fees while in Cambodia. Considering it was just a "stop" to pick up guests who went to Angkor Wat days before. Everyone on the ship had to pay for the Cambodian Visa regardless if staying on the ship or getting off. Would have given a 5 rating if the food had been better. In the dining room the food looked like it stayed under the heat lamps way too long. Very tired looking & not fresh. Buffet food a bit better, but not by much. Best French fries on the pool deck!! Entertainment has never been a strong suite with HAL. Sadly it still isn't . . . Still our favorite cruise line for more of the positives we enjoyed. Read Less
Sail Date December 2016
Cruise companies must recognise that the world has changed and even grey cruisers are used to unrestricted free internet access. The issues concerning internet access spoils what ought to be a relaxing experience. First cruise, so ... Read More
Cruise companies must recognise that the world has changed and even grey cruisers are used to unrestricted free internet access. The issues concerning internet access spoils what ought to be a relaxing experience. First cruise, so impossible to compare to other ships or companies. Ship was about two-thirds full, so no queues and easy access to all facilities. Very relaxed. Most people go to bed at 10.30pm, so little night life. The extremely high cost of drinks might be a contributory factor. They made an error in what time to meet me at the airport, thought l should have arrived earlier, took quite an effort to persuade them to fulfill their responsibility and take me to the ship. However, the agent was extremely pleasant. All staff on the ship were polite and helpful. Food was excellent, as was the service in the Lido buffet and Rotterdam dining room. Not a lot laid on during days at sea to facilitate contact between the customers. I traveled alone and felt that the company did not recognise the needs of single passengers. The open dining facility in the semi-formal Rotterdam dining room meant that l was able to meet a wide and interesting range of people. Mixing with the elderly clientele that Holland America appeal to, was perfect for me, so the company would be high on my list for any future cruise. Read Less
Sail Date October 2016
We were drawn to the Holland America Volendam cruise because of the itinerary. We did not take the entire 35 days, but opted for the 16 days from Hong Kong to Tokyo. The ship itself is smaller than many these days but just right for us. It ... Read More
We were drawn to the Holland America Volendam cruise because of the itinerary. We did not take the entire 35 days, but opted for the 16 days from Hong Kong to Tokyo. The ship itself is smaller than many these days but just right for us. It holds approximately 1240 passengers plus crew of course. We enjoyed a pre-cruise stay in Hong Kong for several nights at the InterContinental Hotel over looking Victoria Harbor. Absolutely a lovely hotel. We signed up for a private tour for half a day to see the highlights. A wonderful guide by the name of Dino. Embarkation was smooth as could be. Our veranda cabin was lovely and the beds extremely comfortable. Our cabin steward Handa and work mate, Roy were hard working pleasant professionals and took great care of our needs and our cabin. We enjoyed the Lido for breakfast and lunch almost every day and a few dinners. All the food was very good--wide selection and the staff was very helpful if you had questions or needed help. The Rotterdam dining room was elegant in appearance. We had the early seating and our servers were Anto and Rim. They were top notch. Kadek the maître de was truly a gentleman and ran the dining room with precision. Our only negative comment is that the food could have been server at a hotter temperature rather than simply being warm. Also, if you did not want gravy, you had to specify no gravy. Other than these two things, we were very pleased with the menu offerings and the service. This crew was hard working and aiming to please the passengers! We dined in the Pinnacle Grill and were delighted with the quality and preparation of the food! We also dined in the Cannaletto and enjoyed a delicious antipasto and entrees of pasta which were prepared to order and delicious! We attended lectures on board and also participated in Tai Chi every sea day. Simply wonderful and conducted by Ping Wing Kam, a retired dentist and scholar of Chinese history. The entertainment was varied and excellent! I think we only missed one show on the night we were in Beijing. The Explorations Café, Library and Computer Center were the hub of popularity on sea days. We loved the espressos and cappuccinos, the huge variety of books and of course liked having computer access to touch base with home. As for excursions, we booked all with HAL except for the pre and post cruise. HAL's excursions and group leaders were all excellent. The highlight for us was walking The Great Wall! Our pre-cruise excursions in Hong Kong was excellent but we were not pleased at all with the post cruise excursion in Tokyo. The "English" speaking guide was difficult to hear and to understand. She left us behind at the Imperial Palace. We were left there not knowing one word of Japanese; did not have a phone and could not find an English speaking person. We had to chase down a tour bus with our tour name on the side. The driver kindly phoned the tour office, asked them to phone our guide, had her phone this bus driver to tell where we were located and our bus came back to pick us up. Not a happy experience. Then, we find out that the tour only had provided pick up service and not drop off service so we had to hail a Taxi cab and pay almost $50 US to get back to our hotel. All in all it was a wonderful itinerary. We definitely would sail with Holland American again. Read Less
Sail Date March 2016
HAL is one of my favorite lines. . I like long cruises of 30 day and have already booked next year's HAL Cruise to S. AMERICA why? 1.dining room service w/ yudi was as good as the pinnacle and i tipped xtra. my roomie was gluten ... Read More
HAL is one of my favorite lines. . I like long cruises of 30 day and have already booked next year's HAL Cruise to S. AMERICA why? 1.dining room service w/ yudi was as good as the pinnacle and i tipped xtra. my roomie was gluten free and i am vegetarian.and diebetic yudi was told once and after that always asked what i wanted for my evening snack when a table became available he moved us to a window table. hal now offers a full vegetarian menu - very nice! of course, there was surf and turf on a night; lobster on another and gigantic steaks any time.the saladsandchilled fruit soups were to die for and the desserts were decedant w/ a non-sugar choice the female the female wine stewart. instead of asking again and again when we said :no" to wine .like the male stewart. instead she came every nite and enquired about our day..low key -- no pressure -- polite and friendly i only had dinner in the dining room because lunch interfered w/ my trivia game. the lido buffet was boring the chef thinks vegetarians eat pasta. luckily i like mac and cheese. but daily. once i had asian noodles and korean/japanese pickles -- yes! i am from vancouver and prefer asian food. the sushi was ho hum. a gala asian buffet held on the deck andmost enjoyed it hal decorated w/ chinese lanterns and served food in street stalls. unfortunately, no vegetarian fare. strange. many chinese. korean and japanese folk r buddhist hence vegetarian. they tried. but thy r dutch. the specialty dutch tea was british interpreted by americans. (myfather's a brit) -- the indonesian hi tea was also british altho the actual indonesian tea was terrific the server let me take some back to my cabin.great service the only disappointment is the 24 hr. room service. if u order continental all is well. tricks of trade. if u r having ci=offee for tow write "large" beside coffee. if you risk a poachd egg -- write 'soft' beside egg. the coffee was not starbucks. but drinkable the vegetarian thai wrap is delicious. but only available til 10 pm. after that vegetarians starve. cabin cleaning on par w/ other cruises -- minimal. lectures: mr. terry greenburg lectured on the history of china. japan and alaska. terrific. factural w. human elements. cultural info regarding japan wee fascinating. dr. helen ayers lectured on geology incl. ice burgs the talk on oil mining was an eye opener and really clarified the conflict regarding fraking. wonderful. pARK Rngers came on board when we entered glacier bay. i've been to alaska twice so i skipped it. down side -- cruised for 6 days over date line and changed time 1 hr fwd each day so i was in constant jet lag (time lag) then changed 2 hrs fwd just b4 vancouver. activities - mixed -- steve was a phenomenal bridge teacher for two wks, then katherine took over and she sucked windows 10 couraes helpful. dynamic and patient teacher. trivial always fun. library/wifi area the best of any line. jazzy shore manager a dud, but available to hand out maps and provide tips for those going ashore on their own did not take hal shore ex. cruised w/ craig travel and took their tours and cruise critic hal tours too expensive. cabin inside as good as an inside can be. better than ncl. carnival and princess. boarding and disembarkation smooth Read Less
Sail Date March 2016
We boarded the Volendam in Hong Kong. Embarkation was a breeze and we were happy to hear that our cabins were ready even before noon. Our cabin had lots of storage space. The newly installed lanai cabins had great new showers ... Read More
We boarded the Volendam in Hong Kong. Embarkation was a breeze and we were happy to hear that our cabins were ready even before noon. Our cabin had lots of storage space. The newly installed lanai cabins had great new showers and we enjoyed the amenities like lotions and soaps. It was nice to have the shelves on the bathroom wall and the shelf under the sink. We did find that the thermostat made no difference to the temperature in the room. Since dry dock in December and the installation of the lanai cabins, the ship had obviously not sailed in cold temperatures. As soon as we left Japan and the weather cooled off, our cabin was freezing. A lot of cold air was coming in under the lanai door. Our stewards put wet towels on the door sill and that helped. We informed the front desk and they sent someone fairly promptly who checked our air conditioning. After several days of cold temps, weather stripping was installed around the lanai doors and this helped a lot. Meanwhile the front office phoned everyday to ask us about the temperature and they checked the room twice/day to monitor it. We were satisfied with how this was handled. There were also common areas on the ship that were very cold - particularly the Lido cafeteria. Servers there were wearing coats. The lanai door was very heavy and difficult to open and close. There was not sufficient space for your hand on the handle. Both of us jammed our hands between the handle and the door frame which caused our wedding rings to be crushed to ovals. We had to take them to a jeweler when we got home to have them straightened. We found the staff very friendly. There seemed to be good morale on board. Our cabin stewards, Dedi (big Daddy) and Joko were the best. They learned our names on the first day and called us by name whenever they saw us. They kept the room clean, responded promptly to requests and did a great job of chatting to the guests to smooth over problems. We very much enjoyed the evening shows. The performances by the HAL cast had beautiful costumes. We also enjoyed the violinist, Kateryna Sychova; pianist, Maiko Mori; and the Unexpected Boys. The Dancing with the Stars Competition seemed to reward those with the most popularity rather than their dancing ability. We often found that several things were scheduled at the same time and it was difficult to choose which one to attend. I was very disappointed that the Royal Dutch tea was scheduled on a port day when we were off the ship for an excursion. We very much enjoyed the Neptunes in the Ocean Bar every night. They played music that was both easy to dance and listen to. The Dansant tea in the showroom with music, dancing and tea on the last afternoon was a new, welcome activity. The results of the model ship-building competition were lots of fun to watch. Everyday we looked forward to attending the lectures. We really enjoyed Dr. George Sranko's talks. He was down to earth, humorous, and informative. Another great addition was the "On Location" guide, David Happe. He gave very informative, well-balanced presentations about the various ports and their history. He also provided good information about transportation, etc. for independent travelers. Mr. Ishibaru gave great insight into Japanese culture and we particularly enjoyed the demonstration of how to dress in a kimono. We enjoyed the food although the soups were very salty. It was really nice to have lobster on the menu on formal nights. For the most part service in the dining room was satisfactory. We appreciated being able to walk in at whatever time and secure a table. Occasionally we requested a table for 2 and were dismayed to be seated at a table that was only inches from another table for 2. It was awkward to know whether to converse with the other guests or if they wanted privacy. We liked the daily updates from the captain about our location, weather and sea conditions. Cruise Director Carlos made announcements only twice/day so it was nice to not be bombarded by announcements. I felt that this cruise had less emphasis on buying merchandise and photos than previous cruises. We took 4 HAL excursions. They were expensive but they were of very good quality with good guides and worthwhile sights. There were issues with the tenders when we were in Kodiak. Some people waited for many hours before getting off the ship. We were lucky to have a HAL excursion that day and were only delayed by 1/2 hour. We really appreciated having a self-serve laundry available on such a long voyage. It was always busy but the machines were all in working condition. Because of its smaller size, the Volendam was able to dock in excellent locations near the centre of cities, particularly in Shanghai and Tokyo. Disembarkation was efficient and timely. We took the expedited option and had no problem getting our luggage into the terminal. Read Less
Sail Date April 2015
This was our 3rd cruise with HAL. The first 2 were on Amsterdam,which immediatly set a high standard, which Volendam couldn't quite attain. More on that later. We had booked this itinerary a couple of years ago, but unfortunately ... Read More
This was our 3rd cruise with HAL. The first 2 were on Amsterdam,which immediatly set a high standard, which Volendam couldn't quite attain. More on that later. We had booked this itinerary a couple of years ago, but unfortunately it was chartered away from under us.We ended up doing a 37 day Grand Voyage sector on Amsterdam from Fort Lauderdale to Sydney, which was absolutely magnificent. We flew from Melbourne to Hong Kong and spent 3 days at the beautiful Royal Pacific Hotel & Towers before boarding Volendam. Even though we enjoyed a wonderful tour of Lantau Island and the shopping, we were counting the hours.We got a taxi from the hotel to Ocean Terminal and felt sure he drove the longest possible way. Didn't matter, we were on a high. Checking in and doing the obligatory paper work went smoothly, and it wasn't long before we crossed that wonderful gangway and found ourselves "home". I had arranged for a small bar fridge to be in our room and half a dozen Budweisers which were on ice. I ordered a bottle of house chardonnay. So we were having a sip while unpacking. All good. Unfortunately our first visit to the Lido Buffet ended with my wife returning one our favorites, shepherds pie, because it was nothing but gristle. Definately not good enough after what we had been used to. Even though she is physically identical to Amsterdam, that's where the similarity ends. The sail aways were low key without the band at the back of the boat and the nibbles which were the norm on Amsterdam. There appeared to be more effort put in on the pier by the locals than on board. We left Tianjin hours after we were supposed to , without any explanation given. We also missed the little surprise gifts when we returned to our cabin. On a positive, the cabin stewards and the rest of the staff were hand picked and wonderful. One thing HAL has to look at is the tendering procedure. We had booked a tour independently in Kodiak and missed out after having booked it 6 months before. It seems HAL have 2 lots of catergories to board a tender. Those who booked a ships excursion, and those that didn't, which included us. We sat in the Franz Hals lounge for 2 hours with people who had no bookings of any kind. Our tour waited for one and a half hours with people already in her bus so had to leave. There has to be some consideration given to those who have not booked through HAL. Read Less
Sail Date April 2015
I write this review to be helpful - if you really want to go to the places this cruise goes to, my comment's won't really matter, but as a fairly experienced cruise passenger I hope that my comments will at least forewarn! My ... Read More
I write this review to be helpful - if you really want to go to the places this cruise goes to, my comment's won't really matter, but as a fairly experienced cruise passenger I hope that my comments will at least forewarn! My overall impression was one of being a walking ATM for HAL to tap into with every opportunity. Even after you've paid for the cruise, you're still expected to pay for every query via a premium phone line (About 13p per minute in UK) "Come and join us for a sail away Sangria party" booms the PA Great, you think, what a lovely idea - however the charge is $5 for a lemonade flavoured with red wine - it's a bit like the neighbour inviting you round and then charging you for attending! Unlike most other cruise lines, you'll be lucky to get any free drinks One half of deck 5 is given over to shopping - jewellery, watches etc. all with large slogans 70% off etc. however you never really know 70% of what price!!! The drinks packages are expensive, but if you drink even socially, say 3 or 4 drinks a day, this is the cheapest option to take. $7 is the minimum drink price then add 15%! Then add a further 'service' charge of $11.50 a day per person, per cabin!! Tough if one of you is teetotal however, the drinks package HAS to be taken by ALL cabin occupants!! Although not advertised, Coffee, tea and cold tea and iced water is available FREE most of the day We were on board leading to Superbowl week-end - join them for a ringside (Large TV) seat - only $49.50!!! You could, of course have watched it in your cabin, FREE The excursions are vastly overpriced and not good value (We managed to get out to a lovely beach, have 2 drinks each at a cost of $15 each - for the same excursion - to a far more crowded beach, after all there's a coachload with you, HAS will want $95 each, yes, I know, you could miss the boat, be mugged, have an accident etc. etc. But you Could have fun at sixth of the price!) On the plus side HAL rates no worse or less for amenities and quality of service - all staff are cheerful and helpful. Dress code on this particular cruise was non existent - I think formal night resulted in the Americans putting a belt on their slacks, the Australians changing their training slacks and the Brits finding a jacket - all so disrespectful to the ladies who all (with a few exceptions) made an effort. Just don't think of he dress code for 'casual' night! So as long as you aware that this is the cruise that keeps on costing and you don't need to take any smart clothes you'll do fine   Read Less
Sail Date January 2015
Took a 28 day cruise on the Volendam from Hong Kong to Singapore. Countries visited included Vietnam, Cambodia, Thailand, Myanmar, Malaysia and Singapore. The overall cruise was good. The food was good, not great. Variety was limited. My ... Read More
Took a 28 day cruise on the Volendam from Hong Kong to Singapore. Countries visited included Vietnam, Cambodia, Thailand, Myanmar, Malaysia and Singapore. The overall cruise was good. The food was good, not great. Variety was limited. My favorite meals were off the ship in the ports of call. The entertainment on board was mixed. The house band, the HAL Cats, tried to make up for lack of talent by excessive volume. A piano and violin duo, Adagio, was excellent. The solo guitarist, Michael, was very good but stuck in a bad venue between the casino and the shops. I was disappointed with the lack of lectures on the trip. Other than one lecture on Hong Kong, there were no lectures about the history and culture of the places we visited. Read Less
Sail Date January 2015
I have been on 60 + cruises to include many Holland America. I also did the first half Hong Kong to Singapore on the Volendam last year and this year decided to do the entire 30 days to include 14 days Indonesia. Without going into great ... Read More
I have been on 60 + cruises to include many Holland America. I also did the first half Hong Kong to Singapore on the Volendam last year and this year decided to do the entire 30 days to include 14 days Indonesia. Without going into great detail suffice it to say the Volendam is a nice size ship and is overall in good repair and well maintained. The Indonesian/Fillipino staff is generally always smiling and provides an exceptional level of gracious service. The food is overall good with plenty of options that should satisfy all but the most picky eaters. The entertainment is mediocre at best although there are a few good shows mixed in with some fairly awful ones. Rather then dwell on the same things as most other reviews I'd like to highlight a few suggestions as to how Holland could improve the overall cruise experience with little or no expense. 1. Bring back the enrichment programs. In times past cruises nearly always had some author or college professor onboard who would do several interesting lectures on the history of the ports visited. This cruise from Hong Kong had four stops in Vietnam a country and war that had a major impact on most of the older passengers aboard. Yet not a single lecture about the history, the war etc. Naturally there are the usual shore excursion presentations but these are designed to push tours rather than give any interesting insights into the countries visited. We also visited Thailand, Cambodia, Singapore and several Indonesian ports but not a single enrichment lecture was offered. Come on Holland it would cost peanuts to invite some experts onboard to give an educational/enteraining lecture. The microsoft windows 8 and cooking classes get old very quickly. It seems Holland (and most other lines) have forgotten that a cruise is about more than stuffing one's face...it should and could be about also stuffing one's brain with interesting information. 2. Bring local entertainers onboard for shows. Hard to believe but not one single local entertainer or troop came onboard. Holland could EASILY have its port agent contact a local school and invite a troop of kids on to sing/dance/play instruments to highlight their local culture. The shows could be held at 4 pm or so before sailing and I have no doubt they would be a major hit with the passengers. Either a small contribution to the school or even a tour of the ship and let the kids go through the buffet line would likely be greatly appreciated by a lot of very poor kids. Set up a small contribution box at the back of the showroom for any guests who'd like to throw in a few dollars in donations. Why in the world would Holland NOT do this and give back a bit to the poor kids as well as bring some smiles to the faces of the passengers? 3. The daily newsletter is truly AWFUL. I have no idea who writes it but it is BORING and very poorly done. Once upon a time there would be a bio of the entertainers giving you a few paragraphs about who they are, where they are from, etc etc. Now it seems maybe one or two sentences at most. Not one word about any of the officers or the crew. Imagine if every day there was a small box in the newsletter featuring one of the crew with their picture and a bit about their life, their family, hobbies, etc. It would be a way for passengers to get to know the crew a little better and I suspect it would be a proud day for the crew member featured on a particular day. Certainly a win win for morale and to recognize some of the workers who can make or break a cruise line. It would also be nice to read a bit of bio on the captain or some of the officers. Once newsletters had daily facts like how many eggs, lbs of shrimp, etc the ship uses daily etc. If the cost of paper is the concern I suspect most passengers would be quite happy to have another page in the newsletter rather than one or two sheets printed on one side pushing yet another art auction or jewelry sale EVERY day. 4. Shore excursions and port information: It is simply inexcusable how little information is provided re port calls. Would it absolutely kill Holland to at least list the exchange rate and a line or two about how far it is to the nearest town and approximately what one could expect to pay in the daily newsletter for each port? Would it be the end of the world to mention where one might find an ATM or free wifi? In one Indonesian port there were several piers but the taxi drivers weren't sure which pier held the Volendam....and wouldn't you know that the daily newsletter NEVER even tells you where the ship is docked much less MAYBE show the ship location in the local language so one could just show the taxi driver? While I realize Holland wants to push it's ridiculously priced shore excursions over and over I see passengers who do not want to spend the day riding around on a bus struggle to figure out how to spend a few hours ashore on their own. As for the tours is it really necessary to try to SCARE your passengers into buying tours by harping over and over about how going on your own you might miss the ship or get ripped off blah blah blah. I'd say your odds of getting ripped off are MUCH higher on an overpriced shore excursion purchased from Holland than a local taxi driver. On this cruise Holland charged 999 usd for a one day car with english speaking driver in Thailand (not including any admissions)....wow....my guess is the car/driver maybe got paid about $100-150 max and Holland pocketed about a 750-800 usd PROFIT. How many businessess get that kind of mark up? Even a simple ten minute shuttle bus in places like Nah Trang are priced at $12 per person roundtrip. Sounds not bad until you realize you can walk five minutes to the front gate and get a metered taxi to take you for $4 per car. A few other examples: Holland sells a BUS transfer from the port in Singapore to the airport for $39 per person....OR...you can take a nice a/c metered taxi for $20 usd per CAR and be there quicker and with less hassles. In Halong bay you can buy a boat ride around the bay from Holland for $100+ OR you can walk ten feet from the tender port and take a taxi to the boat landing about five minutes away where you can buy the same boat trip for a whopping $4 usd.....but if you think Holland is going to tell you this you are truly dreaming.....unfortunately a lot of passengers seem to think it's the local tour company in a port that is charging the big bucks...but I would bet that the vast bulk of the money goes to Holland and the local driver gets very little. The lesson is DO YOUR RESEARCH before you go regarding the ports and what your options may be...otherwise you will be at the mercy of Holland's shore excursion pricing. Naturally Holland realizes that many passengers see a cruise as a once in a lifetime adventure and so they charge accordingly as the "two week millionaires" usually just grin and bear it and then have a small heart attack when they get the bill at the end of the cruise. 5. Port selection and timing: Once again it seems for some unknown reason that the times in various ports are set arbitrarily with little or no regard to common sense. Last year for example we were in Sihanoukville Cambodia on new year's eve. The locals were out in force and were planning serious fireworks on the beach that eventing but of course we sailed away into the darkness at 6 pm and missed the entire show. Never mind that our next port was close by and we literally went out and sailed around in the darkness very slowly to kill time. Is it impossible to just sit offshore and view the fireworks? In Indonesia the port times were often downright stupid. We spent all day in little ports with NOTHING to do then only a few hours in a few of the larger ports/cities. Why? As for port selections both Laem Chabang/bangkok and Saigon are both very industrial ports. Bangkok is 1 1/2 hours away and Saigon is almost 3 hours. Both ports are firmly ruled by taxi mafias charging outrageous prices only surpassed by the even more outrageous prices charged by Holland for tours. Holland and other cruise lines could of course threaten to not visit these ports if the local tourism authorities do not clean up the mafia but naturally Holland has no financial reason to care. Indonesian ports were perhaps the worst set of ports I have ever experienced in over 60 cruises. While MAYBE the idea was to allow the crew to see their families other than that I really don't think 8 ports in Indonesia was anyone's idea of a great itinerary. 6. A few simple suggestions: How about a camera showing at least the view from the front of the ship that is shown on the in room TV like most cruises? Better yet would be a front and rear camera. The cost to beam these videos into the rooms would likely be close to zero and it's nice for the passengers to be able to get an idea of whats going on outside from their room. How about more than ONE outdoor BBQ by the LIDO pool? We had one on each half of the cruise and naturally it is well attended and a nice break from the usual Lido and dining room. How about a ship's clock on the walking deck like most other ships have? What ever happened to the fresh fruits? We spent a month in southeast asia which is absolultely overflowing with inexpensive tropical fruits like pappaya, mangoes, pineapples, and the like but from what I saw Holland bought NONE of it and instead served the same old watermelon, prunes, etc day after day after day. So there are a few observations and suggestions from an experienced cruiser. While I suspect that someone at Holland may read some of the reviews I truly wonder if they care. I do understand that they are out to make a profit but many of the items above really involve little or no money outlay but could make a Holland cruise stand out as something exceptional as it once did prior to the Carnival take over. I am sure that there are lots of geeky MBA bean counters sitting in the CCL corporate headquarters figuring how to cut a buck or two here or increase revenues a buck or two there.....but....do they even consider how many passengers may not return for another cruise or tell a less than pleasant tale of their experience to EVERYBODY they know in their home town? While the above sounds more negative than I would prefer I must say that overall I still prefer Holland to most of the other mass market cruise lines.....BUT....just because you may be better than most does that mean that you don't try and be even better by tweaking a few things?   Read Less
Sail Date December 2013
Itinerary: Hong Kong - Vietnam - Cambodia - Thailand - Singapore The Volendam ship carries about 1,400 passengers and was built in 1999 so it is considered a medium-sized, older ship. We boarded the ship in Hong Kong, but since it stays ... Read More
Itinerary: Hong Kong - Vietnam - Cambodia - Thailand - Singapore The Volendam ship carries about 1,400 passengers and was built in 1999 so it is considered a medium-sized, older ship. We boarded the ship in Hong Kong, but since it stays overnight in Hong Kong, we were able to come and go which was very convenient. While the ship was docked in Hong overnight, we got to visit some of Hong Kong's family attractions like the Peak Tram, Ngong Ping Village and the Big Buddha, riding the Star Ferry to Hong Kong Island and doing some shopping in Mongkok, Kowloon and Causeway Bay. Having the ship docked as your hotel is very convenient and since the ship is parked right next to the Star Ferry terminal in Tsim Sha Tsui, we got to know that area better as well. At night, we could catch the Symphony of Lights show right from the deck (without the music) of the cruise ship for some amazing views of the Hong Kong skyline at night. A lot of complaints about cruise ships can come down to personal interactions and experience that is either not worth complaining about (oh the cruise parks so far away from where I want to get to - so do all the other cruise ships...) or whining about how they should have gotten more compensation by being put out because such and such inconvenienced them etc... These are one-off situations, however repeated comments about things like slow dining room service or unstructured teen activities may give the cruise line incentive to improve their operations. It is no use complaining about internet being slow, it is on almost all ships we have been on as they use limited bandwidth satellite connections when at sea. Just don't use the internet during the popular at-sea times of day since everyone onboard is fighting for the same, limited bandwidth. This was a holiday cruise and the ship was festively decorated, the largely Filipino and Indonesian crew put on a great Christmas show on Christmas Eve in the showroom. Restaurant service in the main dining room was slow almost every night, the food was good. They may have been short staffed over the holidays, but everyone on board was very friendly. We also chose the open seating to give us more flexibility and end up at different tables with different waiters every night, but there is also a fixed seating available on the upper level of the Rotterdam dining room where you would have the same wait staff every night so they may get to know you better in that case. Although there was a teen activity planner that came to the room every night, in reality hardly anything was organized and the kids were left to create their own fun. At least they have a teen club and Oasis deck to keep them occupied at sea, albeit somewhat unstructured vs. for example Sapphire Princess. Posting review here since when we got home after sorting out the laundry and getting back into daily routine, the comment card the ship sends you by email already expired. You would think they would leave those open for longer than 2 weeks.The email sent to them requesting another comment card went unanswered. I guess they don't want our opinions after all, but there's always Youtube :). We have posted some videos of our journey at http://www.youtube.com/travelraters. All in all, this cruise was great because of the itinerary and the people we met during the voyage. The cabins were comfortable and a nice size. The crew were all very friendly. Not so hot was the slow dining room service, the unstructured teen activities in an older style ship. There is something to be said for the relatively smaller more personal size of a 1,400 passenger vessel like the Volendam vs. the 3,000+ megaships. There was always plenty of room and plenty of good food at the Lido buffet restaurant where we especially liked the breakfasts. Be prepared for a very long line getting off in Singapore and another very long line to catch a cab. For our next cruise, we will pre-arrange pickup from the cruise terminal so we won't have to stand in line for over an hour to get a cab and let you know how that goes. The ship has a helpful location guide and a shore excursions office, but it is best to plan your shore visits ahead of time and decide which ones are best to do through the cruise line and which ones you should arrange to do on your own or for private tours instead. Just remember, if you are on a private tour the ship may not wait for you if you are late! The ship gives you everything you need to make your own fun and enjoy your vacation. Having such a great itinerary that compliments the ship makes for a wonderful vacation, and all the great people we got to meet (mainly from Australia on this voyage) made for a fantastic trip.   Read Less
Sail Date December 2013
We enjoyed the trip tremendously and we would be perfectly happy to do it again. My review will sound more negative than I mean it to be. The cruise was mostly terrific with relatively minor issues that did not affect our experience ... Read More
We enjoyed the trip tremendously and we would be perfectly happy to do it again. My review will sound more negative than I mean it to be. The cruise was mostly terrific with relatively minor issues that did not affect our experience very much. Holland America moved the embarkation pier from a cruise terminal close to downtown to a container port 8 miles north. They set up a marquee in the middle of the commercial pier with giant cranes and mountains of containers all around. It was a bit disconcerting. The process seemed a little show compared to my last embarkation with Royal Caribbean but, to be fair, the passport and visa check was more complex. We found that our luggage had made it to our cabin before us so we were able to unpack before departure which is always nice. Our cabin was a grand sounding Vista Suite which is H/A's term for a balcony cabin. It should not to be confused with a real suite which they call a Neptune Suite. The cabin was a good size with a queen sized bed, a couch, an adjustable height table, a chair and a built-in dresser/wall-unit. The balcony that was a little longer than I've had before as there was room for a lounge chair as well as a regular chair and a small table. Not bad at all. While the cabin was well laid out with plenty of storage, the decor is starting to look a bit tired. The couch had a tear on the seat which had been poorly repaired, the veneer on the dresser was broken, the adjustable height table did not adjust any more and the commode and bathtub had water stains. This brings up the silliest feature of the cabin. They put a whirlpool tub in the bathroom but it's so small that it's completely useless as a whirlpool or a tub. It is very short and narrow and can't really take enough water to cover the jets. Fortunately it wasn't a complete waste of space as it made a great laundry tub. They seem to maintain the public rooms better than the cabins. There were no major signs of wear and tear and we could see the cleaning staff scrubbing away keeping it all shiny, even at ungodly hours. The food in the Rotterdam main dining room went from mediocre to pretty good. It started poorly with the first dish of the first night when I had a seafood cocktail that was tasteless and rubbery. I thought, oops here we go. But while there were things I didn't like over the next two weeks, most dishes were perfectly acceptable and some were pretty good. On the bad side, they often offered cold soups as a gourmet vegetarian entree. Their description on the menu was much more interesting than what they actually served. I gave up after the third night. On the good side, their lamb, beef, surf and turf and fish dishes were simple but good. Their desserts were also pretty good. We only ate dinner in the Lido cafeteria once. Boring. Lunches were available in the dining room, inside at the Lido and poolside. Poolside had a grill and a hot table with things like pizza and salads. They also set up an Asian buffet with different countries being represented every day. The quality was uneven. There were several tasty selections like the Indian curries but some of the others were less than great. I would suggest avoiding the Chinese dumplings. The dessert extravaganza buffet near the end of the trip was lots of fun and very popular. I had no idea how many desserts could fit on one single plate. We did not try the Pinnacle Grill, their extra-charge dining room. The one time I tried to get a reservation, they had a computer malfunction and asked me to call back. I never got around to it. I kind of feel that they should have been the ones to call me back and not the other way around. The entertainment was the weakest part of the cruise. Since there are only 1,400 passengers, it's not surprising that we didn't get Broadway at sea or an ice review show but what we did get was pretty poor. Comedians that weren't funny. Mediocre musical acts and a chorus line of 2 girls that no one had actually bothered to choreograph. There were some good points. The ship's band was sharp and they did a great job backing everything from the ship singers doing show tunes to a soloist doing opera. They were very good. The Ocean's Lounge jazz trio were also very good. They were tight and worked well together. I particularly liked the bassist. One of the ship's show singers, Ebony, was also very good with great stage presence and a good pop singer voice. But on the whole, the evening shows were mostly disappointing. The ports we visited were amazing. It was an incredible itinerary. We were in downtown Shanghai with Pudong right across from us and the Bund in walking distance. From Taijing, we made it to Beijing and the Great Wall. Dalian gave us a taste of Manchuria. Busan was absolutely fascinating. Nagasaki was walking distance to Glover Gardens and a short tram ride to the Bomb museum. With the exception of Beijing where we were around 100 miles from the city, it was easy to get around on our own and we did not try any of the ship excursions. The disembarkation process was the easiest we ever experienced. We took expedited departure and were off the ship by 7:45 and through to Kyoto by train before 9:30 am. Altogether a great success but there were a few things that really bugged us: Our number one peeve was the quality of the coffee. The standard coffee served in the dining room and the cafeteria was sour and weak and it had a chemical taste to it. The only drinkable coffee on the ship was in the Explorations Cafe and they charged extra for it. Curse you H/A. The first time we ordered a glass of Merlot at the bar we were charged around $10.00. The next day the charge was $6.00. When we asked, we were told that the $6.00 wine was the house Merlot. We could not find it in the drinks menu anywhere but from then on, we were house Merlot drinkers. There's something a little dishonest about hiding a less expensive selection to force the client to blow the extra dollars. In the Rotterdam dining room, a cavalcade of staff - waiters, team leaders, asst. head-waiters and head waiters would come by to ask how we were enjoying our meal but keeping my water glass filled seemed to be beyond them all. In Busan, the international cruise terminal is quite far from the downtown area. There was no shuttle bus, the city buses were jammed by 1,400 H/A passengers trying to travel to the same place at the same time and there was no taxi stand. There were stories that some taxis finally appeared but they were asking for $40 US for a $6.00 metered fare. Holland America really could have organized something a little better. None of these points were serious enough to spoil our trip. This was a great trip and I would be happy to cruise with H/A again. Read Less
Sail Date March 2013
This cruise was part of a lot her cruise. We got on in Hong Kong, sailing to Kobe. The ship was docked at a freight port. We had a expensive taxi ride and the taxi was not sure where to drop us off. Very nerve wreaking. We later ... Read More
This cruise was part of a lot her cruise. We got on in Hong Kong, sailing to Kobe. The ship was docked at a freight port. We had a expensive taxi ride and the taxi was not sure where to drop us off. Very nerve wreaking. We later heard there was a shuttle bus. The room was ready and the luggage appeared Rey quickly. The closet space was outstanding. We had a nice sail out of Hong Kong. Apparently the front deck was opened but no announcement. We did anytime dining. Never much of a wait. I found the food to be fine but not outstanding. Every night they have a different "crisp", those were great. We did the three bottle of wine deal, seemed like a good approach for the two of us. I would suggest adding a tossed salad and a pasta to the "everyday" menu. The first formal night,the sea was very rough. They even had sickness bags outside the elevators. I must admitt, it got to me. I am not a delicate traveler, it was bad. Perhaps formal night could have been delayed. The on-board activities were fine but a bit repetitive. We happen to like trivia and name. That tune, so we were fine. I found the entertainment to be lacking. We did a number of excursions. All were done professionally. There were free buses into town often, but they stopped running quite early compared to the all abroad time. I am usually a Princess cruise person, I found the entertainment to be quite limited on HAL and the food not as good. The public rooms are about equal. My last cruise, princess had a port advisor that talked about things to do if you did not take the excursion. I found that very interesting. He gave more cultural information about the ports, like bargain, don't bargain, bow or shake hands, Etc. My nephew had not been to Asia and he had an amazing time. I enjoyed the cruise overall. Read Less
Sail Date February 2013
This was a great introduction to Asia if you've never been that part of the world before. After spending 3 days in Hong Kong staying at the Salisbury Hotel (excellent, inexpensive and within walking distance to the port)embarkation ... Read More
This was a great introduction to Asia if you've never been that part of the world before. After spending 3 days in Hong Kong staying at the Salisbury Hotel (excellent, inexpensive and within walking distance to the port)embarkation for us was easy since we arrived early. Fortunately for us, we didn't encounter the chaos that others had. When embarking, make sure you choose group visa if you are not overnighting in any of the ports. There was a woman going around asking if you needed any help deciphering the visa paperwork...You will save money choosing the group visa option! SHIP: Nice vessel -- smaller than some others I have sailed on and food was good -- not great. It was better on some days than others but I got the feeling that was b/c there were some new employees on the ship getting accustomed to their work flow. Our inside cabin was the largest inside cabin we've ever stayed in and we were happy with it and our friendly stewards who were always available when we needed them. Entertainment was a little weak -- and has been better on other ships -- but with all of the touring we did - we were tired by the time shows were on! Gym was good with a decent amount of equipment -- if you are up to getting in a workout! I found the front desk to always be helpful when I needed them and they offered my husband free motion sickness pills as well when he didn't feel well! Their tour mgr Ian was also readily available to answer any questions you may have had on what to do in port on a particular day. Employees in general were very kind and helpful. Plenty to do on the ship during sea days -- depends on your interests. I do think their daily newsletter -- THE EXPLORER -- could be better written or laid out better since some people complained that they had nothing to do on the sea days but I think they just didn't see their options in the newsletter! Plus some people just like to complain! Port Maps -- they were ok and could have been more explicit with better info -- but it didn't really affect me since I booked several independent excursions and I didn't have to rely on the map as I have in the past. Ship was sold out for this sailing and not very many children on board (10 or 11 total). I'd say average age on the ship was 55-65 years old. PORTS: Halong Bay -- nice port -- easy to book a junk on your own. I did a Hanoi tour with SMILE Tours and enjoyed it. Its 3 hrs to Hanoi but they do break the trip down by stopping at different attractions before getting to and returning from Hanoi. After we returned from Hanoi -- we had some time to browse around the market at the port before getting back on the ship. If you choose to do the Hanoi tour -- be prepared for a long but enjoyable day! Da Nang -- we did this port on our own and its very easy to do. You can either book a tour at the port or take the $12 shuttle to town and book a tour there. Make sure to negotiate a good fare! I personally recommend visiting Hoian -- you can spend a day there and if you have time check out the Marble Mtns -- I didn't care much for Da Nang itself. Nha Trang -- went on Dung Pham's tour - great tour -- you see everything the countryside has to offer from conical hat making to the beach! Ho Chi Minh (SAIGON) -- booked SMILE Tours and it was a delight -- we saw everything the ship's tour saw at half the price! We got back to the ship with time to spare! Other passengers on the ship did their (SMILE'S) combination Cuchi and Saigon tour and really enjoyed it as well! It took 2 hrs to get there. Sihanoukville -- we did the Don Bosco tour and we were treated like VIPS! It was great to see how these students are being trained for the hospitality business. We enjoyed this port while others who toured on their own did not enjoy the port as much since Sihanoukville is still working on their tourism and it may not be up to the standards of some... Laem Chabang -- I booked a rt transfer thru Oriental Escape and was able to tour Bangkok on my own at my own pace. I recommend that highly! Since we overnighted at this port I was able to spend the entire day in Bangkok - it took us 2 hrs to get there and 1.5 to return! So we arrived at 11am and returned around midnight to the ship. There is a lot to see in Bangkok and you cannot see everything in one day so pick and choose what you really want to see. We spent the 2nd day in Pattaya (oriental transfer van for the day)and visited Nong Nooch which was a treat, The Sanctuary of Truth (spectacular if you are into architecture/engineering)and Pattaya town -- kind of seedy and not everyone's cup of tea! Koh Samui -- beautiful port that we toured. You can't go wrong with whatever you choose to do here! Singapore -- disembarkation -- a little long but not bad and easy to get around from the cruise terminal. An easy place to tour on your own! If you are willing and able -- this cruise is worthwhile but you may need a vacation from your vacation when you return from all of the travel required to get from the port to your place of interest. You can save some money if you pair up with other cruisers thru the cruise critic message board like we did!! All in all -- highly recommended!! Read Less
Sail Date January 2013
I have been on over sixty cruises to include many Holland America Cruises. I will attempt to review this cruise and provide what I hope will be some information to assist other cruisers and perhaps even get Holland to rethink some of ... Read More
I have been on over sixty cruises to include many Holland America Cruises. I will attempt to review this cruise and provide what I hope will be some information to assist other cruisers and perhaps even get Holland to rethink some of their planning for future cruises. The ship: Volendam is a very nice ship that carries 1400 passengers. Our cruise was not full and I would estimate maybe 1200 or so. The ship was recently refurbished with all new softgoods..carpets/upholstery/drapes, beds etc. It is in very good condition and is plenty big without being some 4000 passenger monster. The self service laundry is nice for long trips....wash $2....dry $1 ...us quarters avail at front desk and free soap in machines...good machines. Avoid lines by doing laundry late night or on port days. Typical Holland library with a good selection of books. Internet is available at usual cruise super inflated prices of 75 cents a minute though they do have "plans" that come out cheaper if you buy a block of time. The wifi signal seems to cover the entire ship so if you absolutely MUST surf the web and don't mind the prices you can do it from your stateroom. As usual the Holland Indonesian/Filipino staff is always smiling and provides some of the best most gracious service of any cruise line. And the Dutch officers are their usual efficient selves. The Passengers; One of the YOUNGEST Holland cruises I have experienced. About 80 teens on board with many families with children but were all amazingly well behaved . Much more international than most Holland cruises with perhaps only half of the passengers Americans. Many aussies, kiwis, brits. Euros and even a group of about 40 Russians along with a good size group of Asians from Hong Kong, Singapore, etc. The Food: Typical Holland cruise with good food at the Lido , the two level dining room, the pinnacle (25$) the Italian restaurant which is part of lido (10$). Room service simple quick and good as well. This cruise had only one or two outdoor pool side buffets which seemed strange as the weather was perfect and most Holland cruises have more. You can choose fixed dining times in the top level of the dining room or dine as you wish in the bottom. I never had to wait more than a minute or two for a table as long as you are willing to share. The menu selections were fine but frankly seemed not as varied as other Holland cruises Service was very good all except one night when it was slow.. Nice burgers/tacos/etc available out by the pool. The entertainment: Some of the worst I have seen on a Holland cruise. Most consisted of a single guitar player or sax player or singer which was more suited/expected as a lounge act and certainly not a HEADLINER. Not sure if Holland is trying to skimp but it really was pitiful. The entertainers were reasonably talented but again they seemed more suited to the lounges. Only at Laem Chabang Thailand did they bring on local entertainers who were all adults and seemed to be a hit with the passengers. UNFORTUNATELY in my estimation Holland SHOULD bring on local school kids in Vietnam, Cambodia and Thailand who would be thrilled to come aboard and sing/dance etc...the kids are dirt poor and it would have been VERY easy for Holland to arrange that via their local port operator and NO DOUBT the passengers would have LOVED it and likely would have been happy to throw a few dollars into a collection to help out some very poor kids. PLEASE Holland consider doing this in the future. The kids might not be as "professional" but that is what makes them so special to see their eyes light up and their pride in performing their local cultures songs/dances...give them a ship tour and let them eat in the buffet line and it would make a big impression on them and the guests. No lectures/professors at all which again seems to be a new skimping by Holland. With all the history of the ports we visited it would have been nice to have a few lectures by a knowledgeable expert .....cost is minimal to Holland and again would have been welcome by the passengers. Best "lecture" was done by the hotel manager who did a one hour presentation with pictures showing how the volendam was refurbished in 14 days which is truly a herculean task...excellent presentation. Other: Seems to me the Holland newsletter has gone downhill...a new format is in place but gives very very little info on the entertainers/staff etc. Typical is the person's name and he is a "guitarist" etc. Surely this can be done better. Port info: As is usual the port info handouts are simply AWFUL. Not so much as the approximate exchange rate is given much less any info as to where to find wifi etc which MANY guests want to know. Very little or NO information as to local transport options. Again it seems to be all about pushing people to buy the Holland tours and be led around like children on some overpriced long bus tour. If you prefer to explore on your own you are truly on your own and should do your own research in advance. Sorry if this review highlights too many negatives as it truly is a wonderful cruise and as an experienced cruiser I am able to navigate around the problems with little or no hassles...but many of the passengers are novice cruisers and the items I mention cause problems and complaints. It certainly does SEEM to me that Holland since being taken over by carnival is more about squeezing every penny more than ever before although in fairness Holland is WAY WAY better at not nickel and diming you to death than royal Caribbean/princess/carnival etc. The Itinerary/Ports: Hong Kong: Flew into Hong Kong two days early. Very easy bus transfer for $5 usd or so that took me right to the Park hotel in Kowloon. Excellent hotel with very very good location. Paid about $165 a night. Only disappointment was they wanted another 20 usd for wifi usage. In fact all over Hong Kong wifi is amazingly NOT EASY to find for free as it is the vast majority of modern cities. Even though McDonalds etc claims free wifi you must have some local Hong Kong system to use it. Did finally find a simple little coffee shop near the hotel that had it. (take back exit turn right and about 50 meters up on left is a coffee shop). Hong Kong has a great subway system and easy to get around. For a treat go to the soho area on Hong Kong island which is built on the side of a cliff and is all bars and restaurants and the main area for expats. Star ferry of course also close by and easy to get to hong kong island. Taxi to the ship was easy and inexpensive. LONG lines to board the ship at 1 pm. For some unknown reason Holland had decided to hand out a one page info sheet regarding the visas you would need for china/Vietnam/Cambodia and Thailand. In all my cruises I have never seen such a poorly written single piece of paper that managed to totally confuse most every single passenger. You had to check if you wanted an "individual or group" visa with no explanation. The group visas were about $20 each cheaper than the individual. In addition they first said you needed a visa for sanya though that was clearly incorrect for most nationalities. Bottom line was I checked group visas and saved about $60 or more usd while those who checked the more OBVIOUS individual visa paid extra and in the end it MADE NO DIFFERENCE AT ALL as I was certainly not a "group" but had no problem. NEVER any explanation or refund to those who checked and paid more for group. Why Holland could not provide the visa info in the online tour docs is a mystery but they sure managed to confuse the hell out of most all passengers and slow down the embarkation as people naturally were confused. All total I ended up paying about $125 for the necessary visas while others paid close to $200. Sailing away from Hong Kong is very beautiful with lots and lots of nice lights. Sanya China: Holland provided a free shuttle into town but did not provide any info as to where the shuttle would go or what might be within walking distance so unfortunately most passengers did not have a clue which way to walk etc. A beautiful beach was only about 7 min walk from the drop point but it seems only a few people actually figured it out which was sad as it was a nice area ...most only found a boring shopping center. The Sanya port has a brand new set of high rise buildings and at night they all light up with a very nice light show. Halong Bay: A major disappointment in scheduling as the ENTIRE reason to go there is to cruise through the limestone formations and enjoy the scenery. For some very strange reason we set anchor at 5 am in pitch dark and then left at 7 pm again in pitch dark so the only part of halong bay visible was near the port. Holland was anxious to sell everyone a shore excursion with a boat ride through the bay which was fine but it would have been NICE if we could have actually also sailed in/out of the bay in DAYLIGHT. Da Nang: The port is about 15 mins from the main part of town. Holland provided a shuttle bus for $12 usd roundtrip that drops near the big markets. Again no real info as to what might be near the drop point but most were able to figure it out. Da nang is a pleasant enough city and the markets are interesting. Tons of motorbikes everywhere and traffic appears to be totally chaos . Lots of little tea/coffee shops to sit and watch the chaos . Free wifi available in lobby of most hotels. Nah Trang: Again Holland offered a shuttle for $12 roundtrip and even though they said it was a 30 minute ride I timed it at 11 minutes. Again no info on what was near shuttle drop but most were able to figure out the beach front promenade and the neighborhoods a block or two back from the beach. A very fast growing beach resort Nah Trang is a pleasant port. Saigon(Ho Chi Min City) The port for Saigon is absolutely nothing but industrial with zero within sight or walking distance. Holland was in full gear pushing overpriced tours to Saigon which is almost 3 HOURS one way. The port is run by a Vietnamese taxi mafia who quoted obscene prices for Saigon and even for the one semi nearby town of Vung Tao (11 kms $100 usd one way). All in all a HORRIBLE port and if you did not buy a Holland tour good luck. I heard more complaints on this port than any other. Shianokville Cambodia: A very interesting port call. Free shuttle by Holland to a chaotic market about 20 mins drive away. From there it was easy to hire a four person tuk tuk for about $5 usd to take you to the beautiful beach areas. Serendipity beach is a long white sand beach lined with chairs/umbrellas and nice clean looking water. It was New Years Eve and the locals were out in force with picnics etc getting ready for a major night time party. Lots and lots of open air bars/restaurants along the beach with bargain prices on drinks and food etc. For some very strange reason we sailed at 7 pm JUST as fireworks were starting up so naturally we missed the entire new year's celebration...Our next port of laem chabang was only 100 miles away (less than five hours sailing time) but rather than stay in port or even cruise off the coast to allow us to watch fireworks at shianokville the ship went out into the darkness where we sailed around in CIRCLES for the next 36 HOURS killing time . Why? Who knows as no explanation. SURELY it would have been cheaper, better to sit at anchor or at dock than to just ride around in circles?? Laem Chabang: The port for Bangkok and pattaya sits 1 ½ hours from Bangkok and about 30 minutes from the beach resort of pattaya. Once again it is an industrial port only and it is over a two mile walk out to the gates / highway...so yet again you are held captive by Holland pushing ridiculously overpriced shore excursions and an even worse taxi mafia than Saigon. Even though all Bangkok and pattaya taxis have meters and USE them naturally at this port they refuse to use the meters and had posted fares of $50 usd one way to pattaya (normally about $12 usd with taxi meter) and over $130 usd one way to Bangkok which is normally about $30. Holland's shuttle to bkk is $60 per person roundtrip....by way of comparison a very nice bus leaves Bangkok/Pattaya every 30 minutes and goes right by laem chabang all the way to pattaya/bkk for $4 usd. How sad that many people simply stayed on the ship in laem chabang rather than hassle with the transport problems. Both Bangkok and pattaya are great places to visit but between the laem chabang taxi mafia and the Holland gouge prices it is just one big hassle. Frankly Holland should either provide reasonably priced shuttle buses or skip both saigon and laem chabang for other ports that are not hours from cities and/or out in middle of nowhere and ruled by local taxi mafias. Ko Samui: Tender to the port of Na Thong (pronounced NATHAN by the Holland travel "expert" who seemed to think we had landed at Nathan road in Hong Kong or perhaps England and who knew less than nothing about Thailand. Easy tender in and tons of metered taxis and even cheaper songtaeows (pick up trucks with seats in the back that serve as local buses) ready to take you anywhere no problems. The port town itself is full of shops and restaurants etc with free wifi etc and is a very pleasant place to roam. Singapore: As expected very neat and tidy city with draconian laws against most anything like litter, chewing gum, jaywalking etc. Fantastic subway system makes getting around very easy. Bit of a hassle as every time you walk on or off ship you MUST go through passport control for some reason. Singapore is an EXPENSIVE city. Paid $12.50 usd for ONE BEER in a nothing special bar/restaurant. Six pack of Beer in a 7/11 is $30 usd. There is a duty free shop as you exit the ship where you can buy beer/wine/booze at much much lower prices. Singapore is not a good place to go pub crawling. We disembarked in Singapore at the same time as a royal Caribbean ship so there were long lines to clear immigration and then a MASSIVE long line to get a taxi to the airport with a wait of an hour or more. Best advice is either get off very early or just WAIT until about 11 am to get off when the line has gone down or just sit in one of the coffee shops and relax rather than stand in line. Taxi fare to airport is only about $15 usd and takes 30 minutes. Holland sells a one way bus ride to the airport at $39 usd. Singapore airport one of the best in the world. Free wifi throughout and plenty of shops/restaurants/comfortable sitting areas etc everywhere. Read Less
Sail Date December 2012
I am in my 60's and my wife 50's and travelled with our son 12. We are seasoned cruisers and have been on Carnival, Celebrity and this was the 3rd time on HAL. We lived in Hong Kong and it is only 5 minutes walk from my home ... Read More
I am in my 60's and my wife 50's and travelled with our son 12. We are seasoned cruisers and have been on Carnival, Celebrity and this was the 3rd time on HAL. We lived in Hong Kong and it is only 5 minutes walk from my home to the pier. We booked this cruise through an local agent.On the day of embarkation we met the guide at the pier. Before we checked in we had to carry our luggages to the rear of the pier for collection which is quite a walk. Then we went upstair for checkin. The was a long que and the process took about 30 minutes. The room was ready when we were on board. We booked an outside but were upgraded to a veranda. The cabin was spacious ,similar to the Westerdam we were on 2 years ago. The bathroom was big with a full bathtub. After we unpacked we went to Lido for some food.It was difficult to find a table. The ship was chartered by the Japanese and 90% of the passengers were Japanese. Even the announcements were in English and Japanese. It was a direct cruise from Hong Kong to Kobe without visiting any port. Food in Lido was good. Lots of variations, international and Japanese. However food in MDR was mediocre, cannot compare with Celebrity. But our waiter from Indonisia was excellent. One setback about HAL is their entertainment. We did go the shows every night but found that they are very amateur. I almost fell asleep. The second day we were hit by a big storm with 60mph wind and 8meter wave. About half of the passengers were sick. It lasted for over 10 hours. Surprisingly there was no announcement from the captain. It was pretty bad as we couldn't even walk without holding the wall. I used the gym every day. It is quite spacious with adequate equipments and not crowded. There were 2 ping pong tables and my son spent a lot of time playing with other kids. Zaandam is an old ship but it was kept very well and very clean.We could hardly notice any wear and tear. I was told it will be refitted this Octobein in Vancouver. Disembarkation was a breeze but getting through Japanese immigration was a nightmare.They have only one line for foreigners and it was extremely long. We stayed in Kobe and Osaka for 2 more nights, did sightseeing and flew back to Hong Kong. All in all we enjoyed Zaandam. We loved the library, the pool and the basketball court. All the staffs were so friendly and always with a smile. We definitely will go back if the itinerary is attractive. Read Less
Sail Date April 2012
The main reason for this cruise was the fact Chinese New year was celebrated while we were docked in Hong Kong and to celebrate our anniversary with the renewal of vows package. Embarkation was a dream - arrived 11am - checked in ... Read More
The main reason for this cruise was the fact Chinese New year was celebrated while we were docked in Hong Kong and to celebrate our anniversary with the renewal of vows package. Embarkation was a dream - arrived 11am - checked in immediately - on board - early lunch - room ready around 1pm. We were sent the wrong way around the deck as the entry to the ship was the same as our cabin, and when a steward let us through a doorway back to where we started, the security staff almost screamed at us that we shouldnt do that and "how did we get there !!" When I pointed to the steward, the guard lowered the volume of his voice to the steward and promptly ignored us - charming chap Information for our ROV was not in the cabin as specified and the knock on the cabin door was a steward standing there with the flowers for the ROV. With no info on when it was supposed to be and the fact the flowers for the ceremony had arrived, I hot-footed it to the front desk to enquire when the ROV will be taking place. I was told by the front desk that the flowers were for the room but when I pointed out there was a card with the flowers saying ROV gift he changed his mind and said they were sent in error and an invitation to the ROV will be sent to the cabin when they knew when it was scheduled to take place. Later that evening a letter arrived with the date set for later in the week and to expect an invitation on the day. DW on the day went to the obligatory hairdresser and we both started to preen ourselves for the event and realised there was still no invitation. Hot - footing it down to the front desk with letter, I asked if it was still going ahead and he confirmed that it was and the dept that dealt with the invitation had forgotten to send it out. We arrived in The Crows Nest and were joined by quite a few others with invitations in hand, captain present and chapagne flowing. After about half an hour we realised there was not alot happening regarding the ROV and spoke to another guest if she was waiting to have her vows renewed and replied that she was with a party of 26 there for the captains Dutch cocktail party. I collared a hotel manager, showed him the letter and he started to apologise and said the ROV had been moved to the following week. Uh..Oh, DW rather angry and disappointed at this point, promptly stormed down to front desk and told them how she felt. We had arranged the Pinnacle that evening anyway and thanks to Andrew the manager, he forwarded our distress to people and he certainly gave us a meal to remember. Two days later the front desk manager called and admitted it was all a mistake on their part and would like to make ammends and rebook. The moment had been spoilt but we were offered the ROV, dinners, wine, hairdresser free of charges and in the circumstances couldnt really do anymore so we accepted and she would rebook the Pinnacle for us. A couple of days later we returned there for another meal and thanked Andrew for what he had done but then said "its not over yet" - the restaurant was fully booked and he couldnt fit us in but managed to book Canaletto for us and would send some wine up to compensate. The day finally arrived, hairdresser - preen etc., invitation arrived - off we went. greeted with chapagne and wait..... another hiccup !! The printer for the photographs was broken !! We had a very nice photo album with the ROV certificates and words in there and a CD ROM. The ceremony no doubt was a very nice one and brought DW to tears so no complaints and when finished we went to Canaletto for our meal but guess what? No wine - that had been forgotten too. When we finished the was over half a bottle left so we had it sent to the MDR for the next day, and they even forgot that too. It finally arrived half way through the main course. As mentioned the main reason for our cruise was the CNY celebrations. We left the day free on the day itself as we were not sure of the crowds etc for the night parade that evening so kept things flexible. An announcement over the tannoy at 9.20 that morning saying that the muster drill was at 5pm and that HK immigration needed face to face passport checks meaning we could not leave the ship after the drill. We were disappointed that we would miss the night parade as this was one of the reasons we came. To our disgust it seemed that the excursions arranged by HAL were allowed to come back late and all those who left before the announcement came back after the parade finished too. Thanks HAL. We thought there was something peculiar happening as on embarkation they didnt take our passport as they usually do. The whole pre-cruise experience with HAL was mismanaged especially when in came to Visas - Sanya for instance. The night before Saigon after dinner about 10pm, there were 8, yes eight immigration forms to fill in with the message they had to be handed in by 5pm the following day. We were going to Saigon for the day at 7am therefore they had to be filled in that night or at the crack of dawn, yet the example of how to fill them in had a date of 3 days before. Last minute again. The MM grade cabin quite acceptable with the exception of banging in the night sometimes, sound like something was rolling around. Was informed it was the stabalisers flexing... hmmm. Motor noises quite loud about an hour before we docked and for about an hour after we sailed but we were the last but one cabin at the front on deck 2 and didnt disturb our sleep so was bearable THe food was mediocre and at times not cooked or kept correctly. The exaggerated descriptions tended to excite when reading and dissappoint on arrival , having said that Canaletto and the superb Pinnacle grill to a point compensated The wait staff and stewards we thought were very good indeed, its just a shame that on the questionaire at the end of the cruise, it seems to be geared to critisising them for the trivial of things yet the front desk and management who seem to be at the heart of any problems, dont get a mention. We cancelled our onboard tips in favour of giving to our steward/waiters directly once it was announced that only 70% of what we give, goes to the people it said, and that 30% goes to behind the scenes people. I know tipping is an immotive subject but I will only tip those that have served me in a deserving manner and the "behind the scenes people" who I cannot judge for myself should be paid appropriately by the cruise line. Even at 70% with the cabins our steward has to do, he would make over a $1000 a week. I dont believe HAL or anyone else paying a Phillipino that sort of money, so I pay him myself. Other than any involvement by the front office, the cruise was a nice one. We may go on HAL again but it would only be to the Alaska/Carribean/Americas as they obviously cant cope outside their bubble Read Less
Sail Date January 2012
Our port of embarkation was Hong Kong and the boarding process was good apart from numerous Visa forms we were handed, and which had to be completed (balanced on your knee) prior to boarding. The formal process of checking passports, ... Read More
Our port of embarkation was Hong Kong and the boarding process was good apart from numerous Visa forms we were handed, and which had to be completed (balanced on your knee) prior to boarding. The formal process of checking passports, tickets, credit card details etc etc is always a bit fraught, so when a handful of forms are added to the mix, it's not conducive to you remembering to read all the small print. It wasn't until much later in the cruise that we found out that by signing those documents without question, we were accepting an automatic on board charge for two Vietnamese visa's and a further visa for Cambodia -- regardless of whether we were getting off the ship or not. My annoyance is not in whether the laws of each land visited forced Zaandam to make these charges, it was that the first we knew of it was at embarkation. HAL seriously need to get their act together and provide customers with these details at time of booking. Our cabin was ready as soon as we got on board, and our luggage arrived very soon after. The overall impression of our cabin was one of refined elegance but you couldn't help noticing that the fabrics were in need of upgrading. The balcony was roomier than most I have had in the past with two chairs and a recliner along with a small table. The bed was the comfiest I have experienced on a cruise, and in the bathroom, the shower pressure was just right. I liked the large soap, shampoo and conditioning dispensers on the wall in the bathroom -- saves all that fumbling with small plastic bottles that invariably fall at your feet once opened. One niggle: I have never seen a cabin with so much drawer space -- at least 16 in ours! But not one of them was easy to open -- nail breaking stuff. And once you'd stored items away, it took an age to remember which drawer you'd put them in! That might be age related, but hopefully a re-fit will make the space more user friendly. The only other problem we had was shared by nearly all cabins on the starboard side of Deck 6 and also affected the toilets in public areas. On at least 3 occasions during our cruise, the toilets stopped flushing. Some cabins were even flooded. The problem was addressed and corrected quite quickly each time, but the accompanying smell wasn't nice whilst it lasted. Our first night on board was berthed in Hong Kong harbour. We were lucky enough to be there for Chinese New Year and particularly to enjoy the New Year Parade. On checking our cruise personaliser a couple of months prior to sailing, Zaandam were not offering any tours to the parade, so we (along with quite a large number of fellow Cruise Critic Roll Call members) decided to pre-book with a local HK agent for a tour which included Dinner & reserved seats for the parade which were in close proximity to Ocean Terminal where the ship was berthed and due to sale at 11.00 p.m. the same night. All was fine until we received in our cabin "Special Embarkation Arrangements" informing all passengers that HAL and the Hong Kong authorities required everyone to be on board by 5.00 p.m. on the night of the Parade, so that passports could be checked personally -- deck by deck -- and that once this had been done, nobody would be allowed off the ship. Did I say everyone? Well I should have said everyone EXCEPT all those passengers who had paid for a HAL arranged tour (including a Parade tour which had been organised at the last minute!!). They were allowed to return any time up to 10.00 p.m. !! You can imagine how busy the Front Desk became with irate guests who had similarly made their own plans for their last night in Hong Kong. It was well after midnight and during my fourth trip to the Front Desk that I received a glimmer of hope that our prior made independent arrangements would be honoured and dealt with in the same manner as the HAL trips. All it required was a list of names of the persons on our independent trip and a note of their cabin numbers -- job done. So common sense prevailed at the end of the day, but how many fellow passengers did HAL upset? I definitely got the impression that we were an annoyance to them -- how dare we -- as mere passengers -- interfere with their arrangements. In my opinion, the Zaandam is either being very badly advised, or else HAL as a cruise line feel they no longer need to put their passenger's enjoyment first. Zaandam's staff were great. We couldn't fault their willingness to help and friendliness when called for, but there was just something lacking, compared to staff on other ships we have enjoyed. Maybe HAL have cut back on numbers which means their willing staff have less time to pay attention to small detail and interact with passengers. We were "Anytime" dining in the Main Dining Room, but it soon became apparent that the ship isn't built to easily accommodate this system. As on other cruise lines, the system operated when a table is not available when you arrive is to be handed a "buzzer" which shrieks at you when a table of your required size does become free. Unless you are happy to stand around at the entrance to the Dining Room, the closest place to sit and enjoy a pre-dinner drink while you wait is one floor down -- and then it is only a Lounge which requires a further walk towards the Atrium of the ship to obtain drinks. Invariably, by the time we had walked to the Lounge, and then waited for our partners to obtain drinks and return to the Lounge, the "buzzer" would sound! This noise then accompanied you (to the amusement of fellow passengers), whilst you collected your drinks, walked back through the Lounge, up two flights of stairs (or one stop in the lift), and arrived back at the entrance to the Dining Room. Larger and newer ships offering the "anytime" option invariably have bars on the same level and closer to the entrance to the Dining Room -- much better. Our normal practice on any cruise is to pre-purchase & pre-pay for a Wine Package. This we did with HAL -- but beware anyone thinking of doing the same thing. We have no complaints about the choice of wines, nor even the price, but there is a total lack of organisation in being able to obtain a bottle of your pre-paid for wine, and have it delivered to your table anytime sooner than half way through your main meal. Indeed, we were three days into our cruise before we even managed to get a bottle delivered to our table AT ALL ! Yes, we did complain -- in as polite a way as possible so as to not cause embarrassment to fellow diners. We eventually involved the Head Sommelier who personally took our order, and returned just a few minutes later to say that they had run out of our particular choice!!! His replacement recommendation was very good however, so not a real issue. Things were looking up, but because the wine was so late in arriving at our table, we were unable to finish the whole bottle. No problem, we were informed. They just write your cabin number on the bottle and keep it for the next night. Now this system works on every other ship we have been on, but yes you guessed it, it doesn't work to well on Zaandam. It may work on other HAL ships, but this one seems to lack any kind of organisational skills. The staff on the ground are only as good as the organisation behind them, and the food and beverage wait staff are being badly let down. After complaining again to a senior wine waiter on the eighth night of our cruise (and only 3 1/2 bottles into our package!!), we were told that our best course of action in future was to look for him personally each evening and ask him to find our wine. Otherwise, he informed us, you will keep encountering the same problem!! It was nice of him to try and personally avoid any further problems for us, but he shouldn't have to. Instead, we decided to avoid any further angst in the MDR and enjoyed a few evenings in the Buffet Restaurant where we encountered a wonderful wine steward who had no problem finding our wine and delivering it to our table in good time for us to fully enjoy it with our meal -- result! To be fair, the wine steward in the Buffet wasn't exactly overworked, so I put it to you HAL, give your employees sufficient time to do the job correctly and they will. In fact, we found the food served at Dinner in the Buffet Restaurant to be of excellent quality and beautifully presented. Our only complaint in this area was that half of it closed around 7.30 p.m. each evening, and the shutters came down on the remaining half at 8.00 p.m. prompt. I should also mention that we could find no fault with the food served in the MDR. Everything was well cooked and well presented. Having previously cruised on much larger ships than the Zaandam, I was concerned that I would find it too small. This was not the case. I loved the overall feel of the ship which gave an air of refined elegance, with lots of extremely comfortable areas to sit and enjoy a book or just relax looking out to sea. The entertainment wasn't as glitzy as RCI, but it was sufficient for this port intensive cruise. I'm not sure it would be sufficiently stimulating on a longer cruise. We enjoyed the Cinema on a couple of occasions, but beware of the "Popcorn Rush". We were new to HAL, so were not aware of this daily ritual where a tray of popcorn is delivered as the lights go down. Anyone standing in the way would be flattened!!! Our British reserve resulted in no popcorn for us, but we were ready for them on our second visit -- another result !! In summary, we actually enjoyed Zaandam. There are lots of things that could be improved, but we didn't let them spoil our holiday. I'm not sure I would take a lengthy voyage on this ship, and I think HAL is struggling in getting ASIA right. I am more inclined to look at HAL for an Alaska cruise which by all accounts is where they shine best.   Read Less
Sail Date January 2012
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