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29 Holland America World Cruise Reviews

This was our second World Cruise on HAL Amsterdam, but not our last. Our favorite cruise line is Crystal, but HAL is a better deal. 80% of the quality for 60% of the price. So when we can save up enough shekels we go on Crystal, when we ... Read More
This was our second World Cruise on HAL Amsterdam, but not our last. Our favorite cruise line is Crystal, but HAL is a better deal. 80% of the quality for 60% of the price. So when we can save up enough shekels we go on Crystal, when we get to antsy to wait, HAL here we come. Back to this cruise. Wonderful ship, great food, friendly people, fantastic itinerary. Our main activities on board include eating, playing bridge, reading, evening shows, and just generally relaxing. The food in both the main dining room and the Lido buffet is very good. Not always perfect, but the friendly and helpful serving staff will do everything humanly possible to satisfy us. Great variety. The staff is excellent, with a particular shout-out to Presty. Cooked to order breakfast items are the best on any ship we've been on. Bridge lessons and afternoon play were first rate with Karen and Dave. And almost all of the players are friendly, and tolerant of differing skill levels. There were no cut-throat players on this cruise. One of the best libraries at sea. We only brought one book for the flight down and another for the return, got the other 4 dozen books we read from the library. There's live music scattered all over the ship, and the evening shows are generally very good to excellent. We were unable to attend most of the lectures, as they conflicted with bridge classes in the morning. Shore excursions on HAL are a disappointment. The quality and selection is on par with other ships, but the prices seem to be outrageous. With the exception of Indonesia, where local traffic mandates a police escort if you want to get back to the ship on time, we hired a taxi, booked a local excursion in port, rented a car, or rode off on our own bicycles. And at most it cost us 1/2 of what the ShoreEx cost, for the same quality. Yes, we took our bikes with us. Great fun! Previously we've kept them in the cabin, but this time the wonderful Hotel Manager Henk volunteered a place to store them. With the exception of Sydney they're not much use in the big cities, but on the islands they can't be beat. One other person that deserves special mention is Cristal, the Guest Services Manager. No matter what the issue, she would step up and solve it, with a smile. Henk and Cristal are the best in their respective jobs of any cruise we've ever been on. One of the most memorable ports was in the Azores. I don't know if it's like this year around or just the day we were there, but it was the most verdant land we've ever seen. Car rental for $30/day right in the port made it even better. Read Less
Sail Date January 2015
This cruise offered unusual ports. I was on the last segment from Capetown South Africa to Southampton England. Our ports were: Capetown, Luderitz and Walvis Bay in Namibia, Luanda, Angola, two islands in Cape Verde, three islands in the ... Read More
This cruise offered unusual ports. I was on the last segment from Capetown South Africa to Southampton England. Our ports were: Capetown, Luderitz and Walvis Bay in Namibia, Luanda, Angola, two islands in Cape Verde, three islands in the Canaries, Agadir, Casablanca, and Tangier Morocco, Cadiz and Vigo, Spain and Lisbon, Portugal. As usual the service on Holland America was excellent. There were only 900 passengers on this last leg of voyage which basically circumnavigated Africa for 88 days. With so few passengers, the crew was even more attentive than usual. Many cancelled this leg of the voyage due to the Ebola virus. But, safety first, Holland America cancelled port calls in countries anywhere near the outbreak. The weather was perfect throughout the cruise. During sea days we were kept busy with excellent lectures on topics concerning ocean travel, its luxuries and travails and on wild life. The usual crafts, dancing and bridge activities were popular. You could even attend computer classes. The only portion of the voyage that did not measure up to Holland American standards were the shows put on by the HAL singers and dancers. Otherwise the entertainment was very good. We're told Holland America will not be offering the circumnavigation of Africa cruise in 2015, but Princess has a comparable cruise on its website. Bill Reynolds   Read Less
Sail Date November 2014
A message was sent by email the day before we were to embark on our cruise. We were already in Vancouver and did not receive this email until after the cruise. Even if we had received this message, it would have been expensive and ... Read More
A message was sent by email the day before we were to embark on our cruise. We were already in Vancouver and did not receive this email until after the cruise. Even if we had received this message, it would have been expensive and stressful to change our flights. Holland America did not offer any refunds or assistance in making alternate plans. IMPORTANT NOTIFICATION: Please be advised that we have been experiencing a heightened level of Acute Gastroenteritis (AGE) on the ms Volendam. Therefore, the ship will follow a special cleaning and sanitizing protocol developed in conjunction with the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) prior to our departure from Vancouver, Canada, on September 17, 2014. Consequently, embarkation will begin at approximately 1:00pm for a 4:00pm departure. Our guests are encouraged to delay their arrival at the pier until 1:00pm, as there is limited seating at the Vancouver facility. We regret any inconvenience this may cause. Holland America's Volendam cruise ship is obsolete, dirty and diseased. Check on the age of the ship before you book a cruise. Take a cab to and from the airport. The cab would have been cheaper and faster than the big bus with passengers coughing and sneezing during the long slow ride from the ship to the airport. I rarely get sick but I came home with a painful deep cough and sore throat. We were handed a piece of paper while boarding informing us of an intestinal virus onboard. Too late to cancel. They had been having this problem for weeks. We would return from shore excursions to see people with rubber suits and what looked like gas masks working to sanitize a stateroom as we walked down the passageway. Not exactly reassuring. We were led to believe that this was a temporary problem but it persisted for the whole cruise. The ship desperately needed repairs and upgrades including: newer TVs (ours had a blurry picture), gym equipment (parts were missing). Age appropriate music in the gym would have been nice (this was not the hip hop or rap demographic). The fitness staff was uneducated staff. There were rude employees everywhere. They were broken toilets in the common areas. Older passengers who move slower were having trouble finding a working restroom. We were not allowed to borrow DVDs and books or serve ourselves at the buffet because of the virus. The servers at the buffet did not understand English very well so it was impossible to get your food the way you wanted it. They dumped buckets of dressing on the salads. Everything was over cooked. Most of the time the food was not hot enough, vegetables were limp and fish was dry.   Read Less
Sail Date September 2014
For many years, my husband & I discussed visiting the Far East and South Pacific. With our 50th wedding anniversary soon approaching, we started researching cruises to these destinations. Since Holland America's 2014 Grand Pacific ... Read More
For many years, my husband & I discussed visiting the Far East and South Pacific. With our 50th wedding anniversary soon approaching, we started researching cruises to these destinations. Since Holland America's 2014 Grand Pacific & Far East Voyage was a perfect match for us, we decided not to wait for our 50th Anniversary. A major selling point for us was that there were no long flights to and from foreign airports involved. There would be little jet lag also. Two days prior to the cruise, we flew from Orlando, FL to Seattle, Washington for some independent sightseeing. On September 21, we boarded the ms Amsterdam in Seattle for our incredible 78-day journey. For us it was the trip of a lifetime. For many others on the cruise, this was their forth or fifth + Grand Voyage. Our Ports of Call were Seattle, Washington, Kodiak, Alaska, Dutch Harbor, Alaska, Kushiro, Japan, Tokyo, Japan (2 overnights,) Nagasaki, Japan, Jeju, S. Korea, Incheon (Seoul,) S. Korea (2 overnights,) Xingang, China (2 overnights,) Qingdao, China, Shanghai, China (3 overnights,) Hong Kong (2 overnights,) Phu My, Vietnam, Singapore (2 overnights,) Tanjung Priok (Jakarta,) Indonesia, Bali, Indonesia, Slawi Bay (Komodo Island), Indonesia, Darwin, Australia, Port Douglas (Cains,) Australia, Sydney, Australia (2 overnights,) Nomea, New Caladonia, Kuto (Ile des Pins,) New Caledonia, Lautoka, Fiji, Suva, Fiji, Apia, Samoa, Hilo, Hawaii, Honolulu, Hawaii (2 overnights,) Lahaina, Hawaii and San Diego, California. If you have never taken a Grand Journey or World Cruise, perhaps you think these cruises are just like other cruises only longer. These cruises are so much more than that; they are very extraordinary experiences. Passengers on our voyage bonded together immediately because we knew that we would be together for 78 days. We soon became like a family. The "precious" (HAL's word) staff, which for the most part is hand picked by Holland America for these cruises is even more attentive and friendly for the same reason. Service is far superior, more personal, although always wonderful on all HAL cruises. The passengers were mainly seniors, American for the most part but with some Australians and Canadian; there was only one child on board for the complete cruise. Other children did join the cruise for a segment and more children were on board for our Indonesian stops (crew families.) There were so many extras for every passenger. Among the most notable were, a Travel Journal (I used mine daily,) a strong zippered lined shoulder bag including a smaller matching toiletries bag with a leather stateroom/ ID holder and lanyard, a HAL-Steiff Teddy Bear Sailor, Grand Voyage Tiffany mug, ceramic Royal Goedewaagen Grand Voyage Plate plus a sturdy roll along piece of luggage to carry all the gifts home. Everything was of the highest quality. Passengers also earn unique Grand Dollars throughout the cruise by participating in various activities. I turned my dollars in for a flash drive, two compact umbrellas, HAL cosmetic case and ear phones. MP3 Players were a quite popular choice. Many evenings there were special Gala Celebrations and formal Theme Nights such as the elaborate Black & Silver and Black & Gold Grand Balls. Other events were equally unique only more casual such as the Halloween Monster Mash Party, Alaska Salmon Bake, Kimono Night, Tropical Paradise Dinner and Hawaiian Cookout. Three of my other favorites were the exciting Masked Ball (I loved my gorgeous complimentary hot pink mask,) Oktoberfest and the Red Lantern Formal Dinner. HAL went to great expense elaborately decorating the venues for all the planned themed events. All the servers wore themed costumes. Of course we had the usual Captain's Welcome Reception and Mariner's Appreciation Night that are always lovely and well-attended. Two other themed events were the Chef's Farewell Dinner and the Grand Show Buffet. Other exciting optional events were extra cost. Everyone who attend these thought that they were worthwhile. There were a total of nine formal nights on the 78-day cruise. As we departed each port there was a Farewell Party with complimentary hors d'oeuvres, sometimes even complimentary cocktails and live band. Although we always regretted that we didn't have longer port stays (are they ever long enough?) we all looked forward to the farewell parties. The ship had the usual daily Afternoon Tea at 3 PM; I only attended the most elaborate themed ones, Royal Dutch, Japanese, Chinese, Indonesian, Filipino and English High Teas. I photographed each lavish display of pastries. A more unusual high tea was the Cupcake High Tea. Speaking of food, on our Grand Journey there were better choices at all three meals. For example Jumbo Shrimp Cocktail was always on the MDR dinner menu. For breakfast crepes were an unusual offering. At lunchtime we could always choose from a whole section of sushi, sashimi, mussels and clams in addition to other selections. Even the room service menu had more choices. Since the food is always good on HAL, I never was tempted to try the specialty restaurants or extra cost dinners although I had plenty of onboard credits to spend. I was told that HAL allots more dollars per passenger for food costs on Grand or World cruises which would explain the greater variety and quality. MDR service was uniformly well-paced. We always finished dinner in about an hour or so (really, I know it's hard to believe.) We were encouraged to linger and savor our wine. Our servers, Adi & Fosil, always smiling, did an exemplary job catering to our needs and spoiling us. Assistant Dining room Manager, Pandi not only kept an eye out making sure everything went well, he also stopped by twice nightly making conversation and helping the servers in various ways. Noel our wine steward was always punctual, reliable and helpful. Grand Voyages passengers have a unique package option of a glass of wine each night and it is very reasonably priced; we took advantage of it. We also received excellent bar service in the lounges and poolside from Enrico, Ann Marie and Mary Jane. Without asking, they often anticipated our requests for ice water. Service in our stateroom was just as attentive. Our room was often made up sometimes even before we returned from breakfast. All of our special requests were attended to daily without fail. Arif (Lukman, earlier in the cruise) & Made always greeted us with smiles and engaged us in short conversations. They were very professional and efficient. Our comfortable oceanview stateroom #2695 was cheery and well stocked; it even had two hair dryers. We requested and promptly received extra wooden hangers. HAL also provided us with a power strip that we used daily. A suggestion to HAL is that they install bathroom nightlights. After being disturbed early in the morning on several occasion from crew working on the deck above, the noises stopped after passengers mentioned the problem during a Q & A session with the officers. Other minor problems were also fixed after this session. HAL did listen. The Queen's Lounge (theater) entertainment was diverse and professional although lacking stage sets. There was always a main nightly show except when there were port night excursions or when a movie on a big screen was shown in the theater. We usually had matinee shows if there was no evening show scheduled. Entertainers often appeared twice with a different show each time. I enjoyed the talented singers and dancers even when they repeated their three shows on another segment. They were always energetic. Just about everyone on board attended the fabulous Indonesian & Filipino crew shows. The theater was packed for both 3 PM shows and the crew was so proud of their performances - so were we. The shows really helped to bond the crew and passengers. HAL should schedule these shows at 3 PM on their other cruises as well. I know that my husband, I and others do not want to stay up until 11 PM to attend the late shows. I also enjoyed the nightly live entertainment in the various lounges. Adagio in the Navigation Lounge performed beautiful classical music on the piano and violin. We were regulars at their pre-dinner performances. Debbie Bacon performed in the Piano Bar; we attended her nightly show at 7 PM. It was always fun & games with her. One night she invited her husband, Ron to join her on guitar; it was the highlight for all of us. When we were in ports overnight, Debbie performed outdoors on deck under the stars. How romantic was that! We enjoyed the Adagio guys and Debbie so much that we purchased several of their CDs, which they autographed. When these performers were off, we enjoyed the Neptunes in the Ocean Bar and Larry in the Crown's Next. They were very entertaining as well. Although we had a couple of long stretches of sea days, I was never bored. There were so many daily scheduled activities that I couldn't attend them all. My favorites were the wonderful Port Talks by Travel Guide Barbara who was so knowledgeable and well travelled and the Kitchen Galley Tour. I attended most of the quality computer classes by Craig who made learning fun and easy. There were plenty of history, military history and talks on the culture of the foreign countries that we visited. I attended all the culinary demonstrations (with printed recipes and samples, of course) and a couple of movies. A big thanks goes to HAL for providing various religious services throughout the cruise. Few cruise lines do this anymore. By far one of the most unusual activities on board was the special Neptune Ceremony when we crossed the equator. What fun the crew, passengers and officers all had poolside. Complimentary specialty drinks, costumes and decorations added to the festive atmosphere. The exotic Ports of Call were the main reason we booked this cruise and each was exciting and memorable. My favorite, and it is difficult to pick just one, was perhaps Shanghai. We docked right in the center of the action facing a beautifully lit skyline complete with a laser show. The city has a lot to offer visitors. My husband's favorite was Ile des Pins with its stunning beaches. We both thought that the most unusual port was Komodo Island to see the Komodo Dragons. How many other cruises stop here? We enjoyed all of the HAL Shore Excursion and found them to be very worthwhile. One disappointment, though, was that the scheduled Tokyo stop was cancelled due to the eminent arrival of a typhoon. The captain anticipated the problem, substituted two other exciting ports, Kanazawa and Fukuoka (Hakata) on the opposite side of Japan. We did not encounter rough seas or rain perhaps just a bit of wind. Those who had previously visited Tokyo said that these were even better ports. Special for the Grand Voyages, HAL arranged complementary shuttles in the ports whenever it was feasible. This was a huge help especially for those touring independently. In only one port did I have a problem with the shuttles. That was in Dutch Harbor where there were only two buses in service and no HAL shore excursion offered. Many passengers resorted to roaming taxis. There were a few other port challenges mostly out of HAL's hands but with a trip this long no one expected perfection. HAL did their best to ensure a safe and enjoyable experience for us all. HAL provided us all with a plethora of pre-cruise documentation and throughout the cruise. We received plenty of port information sheets, maps, ship logs and multi-page Explorer Guides to the ports with things to See and Do, shopping info, dining, sightseeing suggestions etc. At each foreign port we receive an extremely handy card listing essential foreign words, phrases, and a currency conversion charts that I used in every port. It also listed emergency phone numbers of the ship in port. I made a few minor suggestions to HAL at the end of our cruise. For the Lido Buffet, I suggested adding lemonade as a beverage. I enjoyed it in the mornings poolside. Ice tea is provided but the caffeine makes me feel wired. Tall glasses are needed as it was hard to fill water bottles using juice sized glasses. I missed having no fat milk available at breakfast. I suggested more variety of music poolside. Embarkation was very slow (45 minutes,) which surprised me but we were offered cold water or lemonade. It was just hard to drink the beverage while moving along the line with jackets and hand luggage while trying to complete the health sheet. A more serious problem was the fact that the very comfortable couches in the Queen's Theater are lower than the chairs. If you sit on a couch, it is difficult to see over the heads of people on chairs in front of you. The main problem for us, though, was the absence of flex time dining. In ports, it was a rush to make it to the MDR for our 5:30 Early Dining Time. I have to say that Pondi was always accommodating to our late arrivals. Only once did we have dinner in the Lido Buffet. Many of the excursion buses in Beijing were delayed two hours returning to the ship due to evening traffic jams. We were all treated royally in the Lido restaurant which stayed open late to serve us. It was nice not to have to change clothes for dinner. What I enjoyed most about the ship was the dome over the pool area. We could sit poolside even in Alaska where the temperature was cool. Although we experience very few rainy days, whenever it got a bit windy or cool, the dome was closed. Also HAL adjusted time zone changes eastbound at 2PM instead of the usual 2 AM so we didn't lose any sleep - great idea! The well-maintained ship was comfortable although there were several plumbing problems on the long journey. The ship was just the right size to get into the smaller ports and it was easy to find my way around the ship. Hopefully another HAL Grand Voyage is in my future - what a spectacular way to cruise and be pampered. One unique and valuable bonus offered by HAL is that for every $300 you spend on board, even pre-booked shore excursions and drink packages, you earn credit for a sailing day. We reached three star level a week early due to this bonus and are now only 8 days shy of level 4 stars when you receive complementary laundry service. We booked the Back to Back HAL cruise to the Panama Canal, keeping our same stateroom. So, our vacation lasted an additional 14 days. Due to the high cost of our return flight from San Diego, it was only a little more money to cruise back to FL on the ship and simply drive home. But, that is another review.   Read Less
Sail Date September 2014
One of the plans you tend to make upon finishing your working years is what will you do to celebrate retiring. I had long ago decided to do a long and adventurous cruise to new places. I had my eye on the Grand Pacific cruise on Holland ... Read More
One of the plans you tend to make upon finishing your working years is what will you do to celebrate retiring. I had long ago decided to do a long and adventurous cruise to new places. I had my eye on the Grand Pacific cruise on Holland America's Amsterdam which left in Sept and was 70+ days around the Pacific. However, when I realized that HAL was doing a circumnavigation of Africa for the first time in 5 years with port calls at some places that were high on the bucket list, I decided to go with the Rotterdam instead. It was not listed as a "Grand Voyage" although the price was about the same as the Pacific cruise, but it was indeed grand! Flying from Florida to London was not a pleasure, as opposed to leaving from Ft Lauderdale or even Seattle, but after having to change to a flight to Washington DC, then Amtrak to Philly, and then flight to London followed by "tube" to London Victoria Station, then coach to Southampton, I made it. The Rotterdam had left Rotterdam the day before with less than half the guests before embarking the rest of us. I boarded around noon and the bags were in the room before I was, a first for me. Lunch in the dining room a few minutes later and then back to 1852 (outside mid ship) to unpack in my new quarters where I quickly felt at home. Five separate closets with plenty of storage as the Rotterdam was built for long cruises. The Rotterdam was redone about 5 years ago with new bathrooms, comfortable beds, all the usual HAL goodies. Room stewards couldn't do enough for me such as fresh fruit bowl and even some flowers. Cleaned every morning and turned down every night, and always asked me by my name if I was happy. I prefer the dining room to the Lido when time permitted. The greeter, who also always used my name, made sure I had a table and server of choice. Most of the dining room staff were excellent. I was treated like royalty and often was served my usual choices without even asking! If I asked the server which entree was better tonight, he would tell me and ofcourse return to make sure. If you treat these folks nicely, you will be amazed how great service is. I do mostly seafood or vegetarian and with rare exceptions it was delicious and well presented. Breakfast in a quiet dining room with a sea view table and a good server, Rosenthal china, and great cooked to order food....life doesn't get much better for me. The Rotterdam had about 1300 guests for the first 48 days, about 100 under "full capacity", with a lot of singles and no children. Well, one little girl who belonged to an officer. Never crowded, few ques, easy to find a seat for most everything, except some of the high quality lecturers. The lecturers were an important and quality part of this grand voyage. Entertainment also good to excellent. The cast shows were great; thought they should have performed more often. You could tell most of the staff were picked for this special voyage. Cruise director Michael and port lecturer KK were excellent. Many of the guests on this ship were frequent cruisers, some too frequent. By that, I mean, they were never satisfied with anything. To the staffs credit, they overlooked the TMC (Too Many Cruises) folks and still gave us great information and service. Keep smiling guys! The Rotterdam goes into drydock spring of 2015 and it does need some attention. It did have some plumbing issues, but I was lucky to have no problems in my room the entire trip. The dining room often had themed nights relating to the areas we were visiting. There were also special regional foods served around the pool area. Entertainers from the various areas were also brought on to add to the grand style voyage. We were the only ship in port with just a few exceptions. We only tendered in one port (Luderitz) and overnighted in 5 ports. The Rotterdam was a great ship for this itinarary as it is one of the fastest cruise ships on the seas, better to out run pirates and storms. We did run without most exterior lighting in the pirate areas and often maintained 20 knots. An officer told me with all 5 engines going and a freshly painted hull, the Rotterdam can do 26 knots. That burns too much fuel. Also, this ship rides deeper in the water which gives it more stable ride. We did have to avoid a cyclone in the Indian Ocean. A lot of extra sea miles and $75,000 extra in fuel costs, but the Rotterdam did very well indeed. I left on day 79 from Lisbon to fly home (flights were full from London so close to Christmas) only missing one port Vigo, Spain. After mostly great weather, it was getting cold and rainy as we returned to Europe and thus I didn't miss much. I would urge those seeking a long voyage exploring unusual ports on a great mid size (60,000 tons/1400 guests) ship, to consider the Rotterdam on this itinarary. As Holland America builds new (bigger) ships, their older ships will be sold. Don't expect a 100,000 ton/2500 guests ship to do these great places and that will leave only the more expensive smaller cruise lines to do them. The smaller ships can't handle the rougher seas either.   Read Less
Sail Date September 2014
This is my 3 rd sailing to Alaska but first time with HAL on this route. Having done several other cruises also to Europe with HAL and other lines I find myself comparing. My husband and I felt that the overall experience was pleasant. The ... Read More
This is my 3 rd sailing to Alaska but first time with HAL on this route. Having done several other cruises also to Europe with HAL and other lines I find myself comparing. My husband and I felt that the overall experience was pleasant. The crew were always smiling and obliging, even when dealing with some demanding passengers! This was our first time visiting Sitka and we felt it was the highlight of the ports of call with very lovely scenery. In each port we did our own thing which was good since flying excursions were canceled due to low cloud cover. State room was balcony on floor 7. No complaints except for my husband who is 6'4" and had to stoop while showering! Our adult, disabled son was traveling with us and had the fold out couch which needed extra foam and was brought by the cabin steward on our request. We had room service in the mornings twice and it was prompt. We chose to eat in the MDR for most meals because the Lido was a zoo making finding a table challenging and there are no trays which means going backwards and forwards for beverages etc. The Pinnacle was good as was the Cannelto. Entertainment re the shows was well done. We especially enjoyed the Captain and his talk and the backstage tour with the performers. The group Recycle Percussion were exceptional. The cruise director was energized and entertaining and ran the Dancing with the Stars competition for the passengers very well which resulted in the grand finale dance off with the qualifying passengers being paired with one of the professional dancers to perform on stage for their fellow passengers. I availed myself of the enrichment classes that involved computer/camera lessons which I have enjoyed in the past and enjoyed adding to my skills again! MDR was not as good as I remember from past experiences with HAL. The portions seemed smaller...my husband had ordered the appetizer with the descriptive "Tower of crab meat and avocado" which more accurately looked like a smudge on the plate. Both boarding and disembarking were smooth and we were certainly accommodated with our son who has autism so we did not have to stand in the long lines to board. We greatly appreciated this. The general ambience of the ship is one of understated elegance with dark woods and brass accents which was very pleasing. The crows nest was a favorite spot giving great views along with comfortable seating as one sailed along. We used the gym daily and felt that it was adequately equipped. Unlike other cruise lines we did not feel as though there was any undue pressure to buy.....be it in the bars or anywhere on the ship. The afternoon teas have changed from the elegant service with the staff in their national costume to a self serve buffet which was disappointing. Also gone was the traditional appearance at Formal night with the march in of the Baked Alaska replete with sparklers that used to be carried aloft by the head chef with staff marching behind. Also gone was the midnight chocolate/dessert extravaganza....ah me. The Lido also closed down at times and it was difficult to find something to eat! Yikes! A lovely final touch however, was at disembarking as one crossed the gang plank to return to the normal life....the heads of each department stood on shore in a line waving all the passengers goodbye.   Read Less
Sail Date August 2014
Positives: Beautiful ship. Very good service by staff and crew. Smooth operation of complicated itinerary. Interesting guest lecturers. Good orientation lectures about each port of call. Flexible dining and always the desired table, even ... Read More
Positives: Beautiful ship. Very good service by staff and crew. Smooth operation of complicated itinerary. Interesting guest lecturers. Good orientation lectures about each port of call. Flexible dining and always the desired table, even for 2, even with the ship full. You can bring your own wine and champagne on board! ($18 corcage fee if served in a restaurant). Beautiful flower arrangements. Wonderful live classical music daily. Reasonable coffee prices. Good selection of movies in Wajang Theatre, often relevant to the destinations visited. Negatives: Way too many announcements over the PA system, in english and dutch, obtrusive. Insufficient variety in food. Taste of food varying. Melons and watermelons often near to rotten, quality of cut fruits low. Only alibi-sushi (must try the sweet potato fries though!). Few production shows (but fairly good). Many guest entertainers of varying quality, practically all british or irish. And as always on cruise ships: Way too expensive shore excursions, no information about cost of individual transportation, internet rates and speed unacceptable ($0.75/min). It's a small cabin, however with ample drawer space. But I knew this ship, so knew what to expect.  Just want to point out that in the cabin 3387 we experienced noises every night because the galley is just above. Apparently heavy objects are being moved around and bumped on the ground. This must be a permanent situation.In addition, at some point a different type of noise occurred, which turned out to be a malfunction of the steam system (whatever that is). So eventually we had to be given another, inside cabin to sleep for 3 nights, before we were moved to another outside cabin.Our neighbors at cabin 3387 told me they heard these noises as well. Read Less
Sail Date January 2014
On March 3, 2013, our day of departure, we arrived early at Barangaroo Wharf 5 in order to beat the crowds. Once there, we had an orderly check-in and then were asked to assemble with a group of about forty people. Apparently the ... Read More
On March 3, 2013, our day of departure, we arrived early at Barangaroo Wharf 5 in order to beat the crowds. Once there, we had an orderly check-in and then were asked to assemble with a group of about forty people. Apparently the passengers from the previous cruise were still disembarking, so HAL decided to treat us to a two-hour bus tour of Sydney while we were waiting. We had a nice tour around town and a stop-over at Bondi Beach. Once back at the Oosterdam, we were shown to our cabins without further ado. We were so pleasantly surprised by our stateroom; it was on the Navigation deck (8079), starboard center, with a gigantic verandah. The room itself was spacious and had ample luggage and storage room. Our two cabin stewards, Indra and Sutarno, were outstanding in every way. We got to know them quite well while on our twenty-seven day journey on the ocean waves. I would describe the Oosterdam as an elegant ship, neither dazzling nor garish. She was more cozy and comfy, with some nice artsy touches. Everything seemed to be spotless, which is, as they say, next to godliness. I noticed the profusion of hand-cleansing dispensers scattered around the ship. This gave me a clear impression that the management was dead serious about stopping the spread of bacteria and viruses through unwashed hands. Good for them! The food in the Lido Lounge was, um, average-to-slightly above-average most days. The best meals in the Lido, I think, were the breakfast omelets, Panini sandwiches, pasta bar, and dessert bar. The entrees could be hit or miss, depending on the day. There was also a little hamburger station at the Lido pool which served great burgers and hot dogs. A "Mexican" station was also set up by the Lido pool, and I hear the best item was the shrimp/guacamole/mandarin salad. We only dined in the Vista Lounge twice, and both times our steaks were as tough as a cadaver. With almost a month on board one gets a good feel for the ship's milieu. The Oosterdam was no exception, as we became settled into a routine on sea days. I know my husband complained a little about there not being much activity on board, and a slight insouciance by the athletic staff to organize sports activities during the day, especially table tennis. It would also be safe to say that there was very little activity for young children or teenagers onboard, as the Oosterdam is geared mostly for mature adults, although, ironically, the adults we spoke to all said that there should be more sports activities around the Lido pool area for adults. One of the more enjoyable aspects of the Oosterdam was the Crow's Nest, a lovely atrium-like area with great views and a nice little library and computer area. Each day the Cruise Director would host a Team Trivia game, and this proved to be a big hit. There was also Happy Hour at the Crow's Next bar and the Queen's Lounge, where passengers could buy their second drink for $1. I won't go into detail about ports visited, except to say that the process was very smooth indeed, even when we had to use the ship's tenders. One memorable occasion was when our tender was halfway between the ship and the Akaroa dock when the engine stopped. We floated for a good fifteen minutes and then, voila, the engines started up again. I'm glad they did, because Akaroa was a beautiful little town in a most picturesque and sheltered bay. There were many highlights of our cruise on the Oosterdam, not the least of which was our good fortune to meet some lovely people from Australia. These folks made our trip so memorable, along with the excellent Oosterdam Captain Arjen Van der Loo and his outstanding crew. All in all, it was a terrific experience and one I won't soon forget. Read Less
Sail Date March 2013
We arrived at the terminal around 1:30 and was greeted with a check in line that snaked all over. For a ship with only 1150 people, taking 2 1/2 hours to check in is pretty bad. The line was just as long when we did get checked in as it ... Read More
We arrived at the terminal around 1:30 and was greeted with a check in line that snaked all over. For a ship with only 1150 people, taking 2 1/2 hours to check in is pretty bad. The line was just as long when we did get checked in as it was when we started. Felt the ship was fairly dirty when we got there and it took about a week for it to really look better. By the time we left 49 days later, it was looking really good. Experienced some of the same problems the lady from the previous cruise wrote about. Our commode over flowed several times, but they responded quickly each time. The ship was the coldest we have ever sailed on and there were MANY people sick with colds, etc. I swear you could almost see your breath in some of the spaces. Cabins in our area lost partial power several times but maintenance was right there. The food and service in both the dining room and the Lido deck were very good. The only complaint was that there were times when it seemed the dirty dishes would never be picked up, especially in the outdoor areas. Due to the length of the cruise, we may have had special entertainers, but all were very good. I couldn't have afforded to pay to see them on the outside. All of the staff were very friendly and the customer service people, ie. Future cruise, computer help,excursions, etc, kept longer hours than usual. We had several tender ports and in general, they went pretty smooth. Over all a pretty good cruise. Read Less
Sail Date February 2013
PORTS: London-Lisbon-Malaga-Tunis-Malta-Naphlion-Athens-Suez Canal-Safafa-Dubai (2 days)-Abu Dahbi-Goa-Mangalore-Cochin-Port Blair-Langkawi-Kuala Lumpur-Singapore-(Indoneisa) Jakarta-Semerang-Bali (2 ... Read More
PORTS: London-Lisbon-Malaga-Tunis-Malta-Naphlion-Athens-Suez Canal-Safafa-Dubai (2 days)-Abu Dahbi-Goa-Mangalore-Cochin-Port Blair-Langkawi-Kuala Lumpur-Singapore-(Indoneisa) Jakarta-Semerang-Bali (2 days)-Lombok-Komodo-Makassar-Probolingo-Surabaya (Indonesia)-Singapore ITINERARY: 50 wonderful days from Jan-March 2013 sailing from Southhampton, England to Singapore via the Suez Canal with two incredible weeks working our way across just some of the islands of Indonesia - only 6 of the fabled 17,000 islands of this important SE Asian country. This was also home to many of the ship's crew members, whose families joyously were waiting to greet them at the dock. Holland America and the Rotterdam were up to their well-regarded standards from top to bottom and played gracious host to the crew's family members who were invited on board for tours and refreshments. FELLOW PASSENGERS: Cruise Director Glenn was one of the best and along with the rest of the staff easily handled the bi-lingual demands since this cruise carried a very large Dutch-speaking contingent, which the entire staff handled with style, charm and easy humor. We first moved through history of all the major Western civilizations from Portugal, Spain, Carthage, Roman Empire, Greece and Egypt. And then on to the newer global powers of the UAE, India, Malaysia, Singapore and finally got to see both the new and old worlds of fabulous Indonesia. DINING: The ship was in beautiful shape, the food wonderful and dining settings varied for any tastes. The specialty restaurant The Pinnacle provided a very elegant setting also serving specialty night menus from Michelin rated Liberije (sp?) in Holland and Le Cirque in New York. The standard Pinnacle menus for both lunch and dinner were superb. Try them at both times for sure. Sea days breakfast, lunch and tea in the lovely, tall glass windowed main dining room was always a welcomed treat because you can see the waves passing by while you dine, allowing one to really have the sense of being on a ship. The main dining room sparkled elegantly at night with white linens and silver dinner service, but darkness kept those wonderful full window views more obscured during those evening hours in this part of the world. The specialty afternoon teas should not be missed, esp. the Indonesian and Royal Dutch ones. The Lido, Grill and Slice additionally offered a wide variety of foods for all tastes if a more casual setting was desired - with the option of indoor, poolside or outdoor dining, Along with many specialty buffets like crab feasts, Indonesian, Asian, and German sausage tests -- all very good. Wonderful array of cheeses, along with their signature desserts, good ice cream, chocolate chip cookies and the splendid little meringues. ENRICHMENT-SHORE EXCURSIONS: Enrichment lecture speakers were good to excellent and all topical for the areas we were visiting. The only major hassle was Indian immigration which was counter-productive and inefficient. Their constantly changing demands with each Indian port kept the staff up all night meeting trying to get us onshore on time. Staff was brilliant trying to respond to this. Indian regulations and their over-kill make-work officials at each were petty and annoying serving little purpose. India needs to pay attention to this tourist turn-off in the future if they want people to jump through more and more hoops just to enter their country - and enjoy it and spend our money there locally. Shore excursions offered by the ship were all excellent and well worth the prices since we were often in ports that were not used frequently by cruise ships, local traffic was intense, tourism services few to non-existent, and lots of space to cover to get the best feel for the new areas we were visiting. PIRATE PRECAUTIONS: Yes, we did go through pirate precautions that are now standard for all cruises in this Upper Indian/Ocean Red Sea area. In fact, they were less stringent than we experienced on two other cruise lines for this same area. Since this comes with the territory, there should of been no surprises to anyone choosing to travel in this continually unstable area. Can't imagine why any passenger would want to put the ship at risk ignoring these appropriate precautions. No complaints from us. Know before you go. This is not an optional exercise. The Suez Canal passage was just one of the many highlights of this trip. Be sure and bring binoculars and stay outside as much as you can to hear the plaintive Muslim calls to prayers during the day. SMOKING: I for one hope HAL bans smoking all together as it ruins perfectly good public areas for the rest of us with lingering tobacco smells which made the lovely Crows Nest forward viewing lounge almost unusable due to the lingering heavy smoke saturation. That room needs a thorough and deep cleaning and then ban smoking up there entirely, so the rest of the passengers can also enjoy this grand public space. INTERNET: No one expected or got full ship to shore communications traversing this part of the world either. Internet was slow and balky so best to do your emailing when ashore or in the cruise terminal where all the crew members set up their own laptops too. CABIN LOCATION: We tried a lower deck ocean view cabin (Main Deck 2) this time due to the length and price of the trip and found it spacious and accommodating, but missed our balcony. Saving money on the cabin allowed us to enjoy more shore excursions. We were close to open wrap-around walking deck on Deck 3 and found plenty of outdoor and indoor public spaces to enjoy, particularly the wonderfully stocked Rotterdam library and reading room - the Explorations Cafe. OVERALL: Holland America has a winner with this itinerary and the Rotterdam is just the lady to do this special Holland/Indonesia exploration. I hope many can take it for its full 50-90 day length in order to take this fabulous travel through both time and space as one moves from the Old World into the Newer New World - and the global future where over 3 billion people are rapidly moving in to the middle class. Yet while still preserving much of their ancient past and traditions as well. Long being a global traveller with well over 100 countries visited, I realized I had not really fully seen the world until I visited Indonesia - it is a new jewel in the crown of my own family of nations. And we found we loved 50 day cruises too! Read Less
Sail Date January 2013
We greatly enjoyed the 2013 HAL Grand World Voyage (115 days) on the ms Amsterdam. It's a little sad getting back to the real world after the adventure, the glamour, and the pampering over the past four months. However, we do have ... Read More
We greatly enjoyed the 2013 HAL Grand World Voyage (115 days) on the ms Amsterdam. It's a little sad getting back to the real world after the adventure, the glamour, and the pampering over the past four months. However, we do have some fabulous memories. In case it might be useful for anyone else, the following is a wrap-up of what this incredible journey was like for us. When we started the World Voyage, our hunch was that 115 days might drag on forever, but it didn't -- the time actually flew by. We felt very comfortable with the daily schedule and began to think of the ship as our home that was being magically transported to places around the world about which we had always dreamed. Many other destinations that we thought we would never visit in our lifetimes turned out to be equally intriguing and exciting as well. This was truly a once-in-a-lifetime experience. General Impressions The ms Amsterdam is an excellent sized ship for a world cruise. It's big enough to contain everything a person could possibly need in a home-away-from-home: several excellent dining venues, lounges, theatres, classes, deck chairs, etc. Although it's classed as a medium-sized ship, the Amsterdam had many of the advantages of a small ship: we recognized most of the passengers and staff (and knew many of them by name), and it wasn't a long walk from one end of the ship to the other. Our stateroom (Verandah Suite) never felt confining; there was enough room for everything we brought with us. The ship's staff and crew always reacted positively to passengers' comments or requests. We frequently observed them going out-of-their way to ask if guests needed assistance. Especially striking was the positive, helpful attitude of the "Front Desk" (Guest Relations) staff on this Grand World Voyage. Without exception, they were always friendly, always cheerful, and always willing to help. We have never encountered anything like this on other cruises. Bravo! The Cruise Director, Bruce, seemed to be especially attuned to the special needs of guests on a long journey such as this one. We understand that Bruce has been with Holland America since 1992 and has served on 18 Grand World Voyages -- nine of them as Cruise Director. We can't say enough about Bruce; he is undoubtedly one of a kind and a real asset to Holland America Line. We packed almost exactly the right things to bring on the cruise, due to our reading of numerous message boards on the Internet, including CruiseCritic.com. Pre-cruise assistance from Holland America was almost non-existent. Perhaps they believe that pre-planning should be simply personal preference, even for people who do not cruise often. For this itinerary, both us brought too many cold-weather clothes (e.g., sweaters and jackets were not needed). The weather was beautiful almost the entire four months -- remarkably good luck! - We never had seriously rough seas -- a few days of gale force winds, but nothing serious. That's really amazing for spending this much time on the open ocean. - Temperatures were moderate to warm the entire time, with the exception of early in the cruise along the west coast of Peru until we left the cold Humboldt Current. There were also cool rainy days in Cape Town and Richards Bay, South Africa. However, it needs to be said that these "cool" periods meant temperatures were in the low 60s. - During the early part of the cruise we missed two tender ports -- Easter Island and Rarotonga -- due to windy conditions and moderate swells. However, as we went along, local people in many ports told us that we must have brought good weather with us, because "the day before you arrived it was terrible weather." - In Asia and Africa, we had a few days with brief rain spells that didn't spoil our enjoyment in visiting these locales, including Nha Trang, Sydney (Day 2), Albany, and Cape Town (Day 2). The rain for our mini-safari from Richards Bay was uncomfortable and limited wild-animal viewing, but we liked the experience nonetheless. - Captain Mercer always kept us updated on meteorological conditions and any future weather or sea problems that we should anticipate. Things We Liked No decisions, no work, no worries for four solid months Free time for us to do as little or as much as we wanted to do We went places we never thought we would ever see (e.g., Tasmania, Sri Lanka, Namibia, Devil's Island) The two weeks we spent visiting New Zealand & Australia (actually 3 weeks, if sea days are included) were absolutely great. These two countries made a very favorable impression on us -- wonderful ports and wonderful people; we left reluctantly, wishing we could stay longer. Touring some of the most renowned cities of the world (e.g., Sydney, Hong Kong, Singapore, and Cape Town) with free time built into the schedule was exciting and enjoyable. The desert experience in Namibia of riding in 4x4 vehicles on the very tall sand dunes was a thrilling adventure beyond our expectations. Professional entertainment in the Queen's Lounge almost every night aboard ship for four solid months was enjoyable. There were at least 60 different acts; some were hits and some were misses -- that's understandable. We did hear complaints from veteran world-cruise travelers that there were no "big-name" entertainers this year as they had seen in the past. Nonetheless, we went to the shows almost every night. That's something most people can't do at home. The 6-person Amsterdam Orchestra was superb. The orchestra remained intact (no changes in membership) for the entire four-month journey. Their challenge was to accompany each of the visiting professional singers and solo artists nearly every night, with a different style and tempo. They were always the perfect complement to the guest performers. As we understand it, the orchestra members receive their music the day of the performance and then do one rehearsal. We don't know how they managed this so well. Outstanding meal programs -- a wide variety of selections, superb preparation, wonderfully presented and served. Preparing 5,000 excellent meals per day for passengers, crew members and officers for four solid months in locations all over the world must be a huge challenge. Holland America delivered supremely well. The main dining room and Lido buffet offered consistently excellent food served by correspondingly excellent staff. We were very lucky to be assigned to a table at dinner in the main dining room with two other couples with whom we were compatible and whose company we enjoyed for the entire voyage. Other passengers were not so lucky. Pinnacle Grill is an excellent specialty restaurant on the Amsterdam. The atmosphere, staff, and food quality were always superb. Much of this can be attributed to the managers -- Kim & Tina -- who are first-class professionals. The ship has a particularly good library, including two librarians on-duty for the full cruise, as well as a book club, and a book exchange. There were many special benefits (perks) for cruising on a Holland America Line Grand World Voyage that we greatly appreciated. These included the following: - Pickup and delivery of luggage from our homes by FedEx one week before departure was a brilliant and prized benefit for Grand World Voyage guests. At the end of the voyage, our luggage arrived at our home by FedEx one day after cruise disembarkation. - Complimentary shuttle busses available at every port where it was needed - "Good Morning Amsterdam" TV show taped before a live audience every sea day - Special gifts for all World Voyage passengers on many formal nights - Ship-board activities, including photo contests, HAL Chorale, book discussion groups, exploration speakers, sit & knit group, and many qualified instructors on varied topics such as dancing, tai chi, watercolor, arts & crafts, bridge, etc. We heard someone say, "If you're bored on a HAL world cruise, then you're a boring person." - Special events in the Pinnacle Grill -- Captain's Dinner, Murder Mystery Shows, Le Cirque - Special educational emphasis on regions where we were traveling was especially well done. We clearly felt a cultural immersion at many ports, and we thought it greatly enhanced our experiences. These included Travel Guide Barbara's presentations, selected local menus in the dining rooms, country-oriented pool deck parties, as well as folkloric shows or local performing groups brought onboard the ship for entertainment. - Several-day visit by Holland America's CEO indicated to us the importance the cruise line places on the Grand World Voyage and on its guests. - Very big, labor-intensive (for the crew) special party in Bali, arranged to coincide with the HAL CEO's visit, was just amazing. - Two highly talented dedicated florists were onboard for the entire cruise, and they created beautiful, artistic fresh flower arrangements all over the ship which were refreshed frequently -- wow, they were great! - On this long voyage, crew members seemed to enjoy getting to know the passengers, including their drink and food preferences. - Medical and dental department on board for the entire cruise. One of us had an abscessed tooth and might have had to leave the ship if the dentist and his equipment had not been available. We were aware of other passengers that were treated by the medical staff for broken limbs and other ailments. Travel Guide Barbara has been a staff member on 15 world cruises and has worked for Holland America for more than 20 years. She presented a 45-minute lecture in the Queen's Lounge several days before every one of the port calls on this cruise. The insights she passed along were always pertinent, useful, and based on her experience. She never pushed shopping at particular stores, rental car companies, etc. The Digital Workshop (sponsored by Microsoft) was very well done. "Techspert Tom" was an unusually good asset for the cruise. He is one of the best personal computer teachers we have ever encountered -- relaxed, patient, knowledgeable, and always current on new technology. His classes were informative, and he even tailored some of the material for the world-cruise experience. We congratulate Holland America and Microsoft for developing this relationship. Areas for Improvement For passengers, use of the Internet was expensive, and reliability was spotty during long stretches. We were very happy that some access was provided, especially for this lengthy cruise when it was essential for many of us to stay in touch with family or to communicate in the event of an emergency. We were frustrated with the limited bandwidth onboard ship. We understand why reliability is so bad when we are in the middle of the ocean or in less-developed parts of the world. However, that doesn't mean that we were happy with the situation. Holland America was very late in sending detailed information to passengers in sufficient time before the cruise. Even though most of us made reservations more than a year in advance, they waited until the last minute to give us the details we needed for advance planning. As an example, we would have preferred knowing the themes for the 19 formal nights at least 3-4 months in advance, for shopping purposes, but that didn't happen. We talked to passengers who never received advance information, and many others who received theirs only days before their departure from home. We didn't understand the need for 19 formal nights on this voyage. That's too many, for myriad reasons. Perhaps we could understand having one formal event per week. The Grand World Voyage was 16 weeks long, so 16 formal nights should have been the absolute maximum number. We paid a lot of extra money for a stateroom with a verandah we couldn't use, because guests in the adjoining stateroom used their verandah for cigarette and cigar smoking many times during each day. Spending a day on Easter Island was one of our reasons for booking this particular Grand World Voyage. Getting so close, but not being able to go ashore due to choppy seas, was a big disappointment. That much being said, we believe Captain Mercer made the right decision to curtail tendering passengers to the island; we don't fault him in any way. We were just frustrated that the opportunity eluded us. We found this hard to believe, but apparently fellow passengers could not be trusted. Early in the voyage we put refrigerator magnets, from the ports we visited, on the outside door frame of our stateroom. Our Bora Bora magnet disappeared after a few days (obviously stolen), so we removed the magnets off our door. Down the hall, another room was doing the same thing, and despite their magnets also being stolen, they continued displaying them. After about 2½ months, five of their magnets had been stolen. They put a sign on their door asking that the magnets be returned; but, of course, they weren't. By the end of the voyage, eight magnets had been stolen from their door frame. Unbelievable! Summary Holland America's 2013 Grand World Voyage was everything we had hoped for, and more. We had wonderful experiences that will remain with us forever. Read Less
Sail Date January 2013
We were on the December 5, 2012 Panama Canal cruise.I booked the a category FF for this cruise through HAL last summer. When the price dropped, I asked for and received a price adjustment. Two days after I made the final payment, the price ... Read More
We were on the December 5, 2012 Panama Canal cruise.I booked the a category FF for this cruise through HAL last summer. When the price dropped, I asked for and received a price adjustment. Two days after I made the final payment, the price dropped on higher-category cabins to $300 pp below what I had paid. When I called and requested an adjustment or shipboard credit, I was offered a Veranda for an additional $599 pp as the only option. After much discussion, they offered me an full ocean view guaranteed cabin for an upgrade - I took it. Just before we sailed, we were assigned a C category cabin, which is on the Promenade deck, with views of the lower part of the lifeboats, ship's railings, deck chairs and other passengers - not exactly a full ocean view. After much arguing and two calls, we were given a D category with a true full ocean view. We were notified before going to the dock that boarding would be delayed due to the Norovirus and special cleaning of the ship. When we arrived at the dock, we were given a letter offering us the chance to cancel the cruise if we so desired. We were committed to sail and looking forward to the cruise, so we declined the offer. Our cabin was very nice, but wasn't fully stocked with items until day 7. Our bon voyage gifts did not all arrive until day 2. We had to ask our cabin attendant for our bathrobes, replacement soap, replacement bath gel, washcloths, and ice. The only way to contact him was by dialing 90, which was rarely answered. We got his card with his name on it on day 10. The self-service laundries were closed until day 15. When we inquired about the ship's laundry, we were told to use the bag in our cabin, which was not there, so they gave us one and told us it would be $20/bag. After much arguing, we got it down to $5/bag, but found out later that if we had argued longer than that, it would have been free (per some fellow cruisers). Smoking rules were not enforced; not were the rules about no non-toilet trained children in the swimming pools. We were in a "Code Red" and babies who could not even walk yet were taken into the Seaview pool by their parents for several days without even swim diapers on (which were also banned from being in the pools). There were also two children on board who were totally out of control and their behavior ignored by their parents. They ran through the formal dining room shrieking many nights; climbed in the windows of the dining room; ran around the tables eating with their hands, and pretty much disturbed anyone unfortunate enough to be seated near them. That was us one night, and I had to ask to be moved in the middle of our meal due to the noise from those kids. They also appeared at almost every 10pm show in the theater, again running throughout the theater and shrieking. I never saw one crew member or maitre d' say anything to that family. When we were at the Atlantis hotel in Reno, there were some children acting similarly in the buffet - in no time, the manager was there telling the parents to control their kids or leave the restaurant. HAL has published rules about what will not be tolerated on their ships - smoking outside of designated areas, babies in pools, and disruptive guests, to name a few - they need to either enforce them or revise them to lower the expectations of their passengers. I have never been on a ship that ran out of food. The Amsterdam did. In the buffet with 1 1/2 hours left to serve, they ran out of potato chips, tomatoes and olives, and were unable/unwilling to replenish the supply. Oh the last formal night, they ran out of the featured Surf and Turf, and it took us 2 1/2 hours to have dinner. At least that got us out at 10:30pm, too late to attend the 10pm show and have to listen to the screaming kids. With Room Service, we rarely got all the items we ordered, and once got 2 carafes of coffee, but only one cup. They had the same five groups of musicians for the 17 night cruise, playing the same music every night. On other cruise lines, we usually get a variety of musicians cycled in. The "Sail-Away" parties on the aft deck were a joke. The single guitar player played riffs and improvised pieces at every Sail-Away - the music in no way reflected either the cruise or the port we had just left. It was not conducive to a party atmosphere. Very few drinks were offered or ordered. Actually, that was true most days on the aft pool deck - not many waiters available for drinks or people asking for them. People were going into the buffet and bringing out their own water or iced tea, unfortunately in real glass, so there was a bit of breakage out by the pool with all those bare feet around. The entertainment in the theater was marginal. One performer, a pianist, brought out a blow-up doll to dance with while he jiggled her buttocks and bounced her breasts-pretty cheesy. Another performer balanced a flower on his chin. And they each performed more than one night! Anyway, you get the picture, not really first-rate entertainment. The Art auction emcee gave an informative talk early in the cruise to explain the different styles of art available, to give us a brief history of his life, to introduce us to his assistant, and also to let us know that he was sleeping with her - too much information! Overall, the food in the dining room was good, nothing special. The first week the food in the buffet was not very warm and the pork and chicken was dry and tough. Some of the beef in the dining room was very tough, but seemed to improve later in the cruise (maybe they took on a new supply?). I think the Code Red for so many days really put an extra stress on the crew and prevented them from performing as they would have liked. If extra crew were not brought on board, perhaps they should have been. A cabin steward on our deck told me that he was responsible for 30 cabins, which seemed a little high to me, but I don't know what the average is industry-wide. Also, if you sail into Port Everglades, Fort Lauderdale, be prepared for incredibly long waits at the taxi stand. We waited 1 3/4 hours for a cab, and we started out #4 in line!! By the time we left, there were maybe 150+ people in line. Everglades needs to fix their transportation issues when 7-8 ships come in at once. Our cabbie said that this is a common occurrence. They did call for larger shuttles to take people to the airport - that took the pressure off the taxis, but we still had a long wait to get to our hotel. Anyway, we love NCL and Princess, and only booked HAL because of the ports they visited on this cruise (and the ports were lovely!) and because some of my cruising friends raved over HAL. I guess either different strokes OR we just hit an unbelievably poor coming together of many problems on the Amsterdam. Good Luck if you decide to sail with her. I hope your experience proves to be better than ours. Read Less
Sail Date December 2012
We took only the first segment, Seattle-Hong Kong, of the HAL Amsterdam Grand Cruise which departed Seattle September 21 2012, and debarked in Hong Kong Oct. 20. We flew Southwest airlines, Oakland>Seattle, and upon landing discovered ... Read More
We took only the first segment, Seattle-Hong Kong, of the HAL Amsterdam Grand Cruise which departed Seattle September 21 2012, and debarked in Hong Kong Oct. 20. We flew Southwest airlines, Oakland>Seattle, and upon landing discovered that one bag had been erroneously sent by Southwest to Los Angeles, where it was discovered on the L>A> bag carousel. Southwest apologized profusely, said the bag could not be returned prior to ship departure, and would be given to the HAL airport people when it arrived, which happened. Southwest gave me a check to buy the missing items that I could recall, and also had the taxi drop us off at the ship. Boarding was easy since everyone else was on the ship. Our cabin was as reserved, dining room table was as requested and our table mates from Canada were good company throughout the cruise. The ship was excellently maintained, clean and everything worked well: elevators, air conditioning, sound system, etc. We were told that the entire ship's staff on this Grand Cruise had been specifically selected and they were the finest HAL crew my wife and I had ever experienced: the waiters, stewards, supervisors, front desk staff, cruise director ( outstanding) , officers, hotel manager, etc. We had very few unusual requests, but all were met with a smile and done well. Food: The dining room menu was the best we ever experienced, with frequent offerings of prime rib, lobster, huge amounts of shrimp dishes, superb soups,salads, outstanding desserts. We were pleasantly surprised that the Lido Buffet was equally good, breakfast, lunch & dinner ( if we chose not to go to the dining room, especially on busy Port days). The food was always varied, appeared attractive, and the friendly servers explained unfamiliar dishes for us. Many dishes in the Lido were cooked right there, as the food in the pans was taken by diners. There were several excellent outdoor deck buffets, limited only by the number of deck electrical outlets for cooking. The dessert bar in the Lido always had a great variety, breakfast pastries were superb and varied, and the breads were also quite good. There was an Asian station in the buffet with different Asian dishes at lunch and dinner. There was a sushi station daily at lunch. There was also a Pizza and pasta station daily, which my wife ( pizza fan) says was excellent. The pool deck area had a hamburger and sausage and another pizza counter, all of which were freshly done throughout the day, but hard to compete with the great inside buffet. Food service: The dining room waiters were efficient, wee eager to substitute another entree if the chosen one was not what you thought it would be. The kitchen chefs provided items not on the menu if requested in advance ( escargot, some other items). The Lido staff rapidly cleared tables, provided ice water and coffee to the tables as needed, helped people carry plates to tables if needed. Entertainment: The showroom shows were varied. We saw the same HAL musical reviews we had seen on other voyages, since HAL keeps a costly show on stage for about 3 years. The singing and dancing was good, since the shows were familiar to the performers.On other nights,the guest singers, musicians, magicians, were good, generally better than on some other cruises. The movies shown in the Wajang theater were generally poor, films that might be shown on TV. but not in movie theaters. When we were in Japanese ports, HAL showed older Hollywood Japan-themed films from the l960's that although dated were appropriate for the location. There were several musicians who appeared in the top deck bar (Crow's Nest?)who were quite entertaining. Lectures and enlightenment: In addition to Barbara the port lecturer, the ship also had Mr. Salinger, a well travelled author, who provided much background information about Japan, China, Russia, and the the maritime industry. There was another lectuer wo is a Ph.D. naturalist who provided much information about marine life, Fish in particular, as well as other talks on nature. On board shopping: Miserable. Limited stock, inflated prices, little variety. Clerks were courteus & helpful, but limited to what management chose to put in the stores. Tailoring: A Chinese tailor boarded in Japan, measured men & women for shirts, suits,etc., which would be made while we were at sea and delivered in Singapore. We did not get anything. Ports: This cruise had a full time extremely experienced port lecturer, Barbara, who provided complete information about each Port before we reached it, so that we could use local transportation, walk to nearby scenic areas, and know what to look for on the tours and excursions. Library and computer area: The librarians were knowledgeable, helpful in finding a book, even if in the off-limits storage area. The computers were slow as they often are, but the computer technician was as helpful as possible considering the incredibly slow computers. Front desk: More knowledgeable, helpful, courteous than any staff we ever before experienced. Officers, cruise director: Outstandingly helpful, courteous, honest. Captain kept passengers informed as needed. Cruise Itinerary: The North Pacific was extremely rough, with huge swells, and much ship motion. A storm prevented us from reaching our first port, Kushiro in Northern Japan, and we sailed very close to the uninhabited Russian Kurile Islands, and into the Sea of Okhotsk before reaching first port of Hakodate.The Captain modified the actual course to avoid as much of the storms as possible. Excursions: We arranged, months earlier , to take private excursions in every port and cannot report on the Amsterdam Shore excursions. Piers: In every port, the ship docked as close as possible to the center of town: In Shanghai we were on the edge of the Bund, In Nagasaki downtown and one block from the tram station, in Yokohama ( for Tokyo) we were within a few blocks of a shopping center, and a local (that weekend) German Beer and Harvest Festival. Kobe was similar. In Hong Kong, we were at the Ocean Terminal, two blocks to the Star Ferry or Peninsula Hotel. Debarkation: efficient, easy. Our luggage was on the pier and we took a taxi to our hotel nearby, since our return flight was the next day. We took an airport bus ( about $10 USD each) from our hotel to the new Hong Kong airport, about 45 mins. drive. That bus picked up passengers at three hotels, put luggage down below , and unloaded us at out airline entry area. There are numerous luggage trolleys outside the entryway to carry bags to the ticket counters. This was the finest cruise we ever experienced, on any cruise line, and one which future cruises will be compared with. We think the underlying reason is that this was a 'Grand Cruise' which is more costly than regular HAL cruises, and well worth it. The Chef and kitchen staff produced great meals consistently, which proves that "it can be done." Read Less
Sail Date September 2012
We did the 30 day Hawaii South Pacific Cruise. While the Rotterdam is an older ship there is still a lot of charm. Enjoyed the library area and the lounge areas on that level were very comfortable. While we had an inside cabin, it was ... Read More
We did the 30 day Hawaii South Pacific Cruise. While the Rotterdam is an older ship there is still a lot of charm. Enjoyed the library area and the lounge areas on that level were very comfortable. While we had an inside cabin, it was roomy and comfortable. The ship is due to go into dry dock in Germany this December. Besides doing refurbishing, they need to do a major disinfecting of the whole interior. People have been getting sick aboard the Rotterdam for the last several cruises. You couldn't escape the racking chest coughs that so many passengers had. Thank goodness I travel with an antibiotic, as the only thing the ship offered was Cipro which is for gastrointestinal problems. Three of my table-mates were diagnosed with pneumonia upon seeing their personal physicians when returning home. Probably my major complaint was watching them change the beds for the next cruise and realizing that they did not remove the mattress pad or the blankets for washing. I'm sorry I didn't realize that at the beginning of the cruise. The crew was a wonderful group of friendly and helpful people always ready to help. The food was very good and choices were plentiful. The entertainment left a lot to be desired. There were a few talented entertainers that offered us an opportunity for a pleasant evening. Seeing the South Pacific Islands was wonderful. The views from the boats on snorkeling trips were amazing! Moorea was by far my favorite with Bora Bora following right behind. If your a lover of poolside sunning and swimming, you better love the sun as there aren't any shaded areas to place a lounge chair - forward or aft on the ship. One pool is also not enough to accommodate the many guest, but that's OK because they only have about 50 lounge chairs around the pool. All in all, it was a wonderful adventure and good value. The 30 days at sea seemed to fly by. Read Less
Sail Date March 2012
We travelled on the ms Amsterdam for 32 days from Buenos Aires to Sydney... Highlights were certainly Falkland Islands, Antarctica, The big waves near South America, Easter Island, Tahiti, and a bonus visit by Ball's Pyramid. The ... Read More
We travelled on the ms Amsterdam for 32 days from Buenos Aires to Sydney... Highlights were certainly Falkland Islands, Antarctica, The big waves near South America, Easter Island, Tahiti, and a bonus visit by Ball's Pyramid. The food for the most part was very good. Service at our table was a bit slow, resulting in cool food. We switched tables to a quieter one, and the service and food temperature improved markedly. Cabin stewards were great, as were the rest of the staff. Met lots of interesting people, and lots to do every day. Biggest downer was once we got to the hot climates, the air conditioning was on full freeze mode in the Restaurant and show lounge and Ocean Bar... and my two travelling companions came down with severe colds... which they are still fighting several days after leaving the ship. Overall... a great trip and we would recommend to anyone. Details: Background Information Since we were travelling to the Cruise in Winter from Western Canada, we left 6 days before the cruise to get to Buenos Aires on Air Canada on a 20 hour series of 3 flights. This also allowed us to get over jet lag, and see some of Buenos Aires. Hotel Info There are many Apartments available on a Bed and Breakfast basis in B-A We chose one not right downtown, which worked out well, after we sorted out the lack of breakfast service, and bought our own to eat in the fully equipped apartment. We travelled in B-A on local busses, trains, and underground, and twice on a TAXI. The local transport is very good, and very inexpensive. Need to pick up a SUBE card at post office or other suppliers, for which you need your passport, and then travel is easy, as buses only take coins otherwise which are in short supply. The scheduling program on the internet is awesome... just click in your destinations, and it shows the whole route for five busses. Ship Info The Amsterdam was on a 112 day world cruise... still is, as I write this. In booking a segment, you cannot specify your room beforehand, and our request for two rooms near each other was not heeded. We would up with the one we wanted, but out friend had an "upgrade" from an inside what we thought would be across the hall, to a porthole cabin right at the front, down a deck, and half way across the ship from us. HAL did offer a closer room, but only for an additional charge, which was not accepted. We were not impressed. The world cruise attracts those who can get away for 112 days, thus an older crowd. We saw only one guest child on board! The ship was not quite full, and thus there was only minor waiting anywhere... elevators were quick, only a couple of people ahead of you at most in any lineup for food at the Lido, and choice of places to sit anywhere. The staff were generally very happy and helpful. Activities There were lots of activites on board, and the problem was to choose. Some entertainers were a bit amateurish, and the clientèle were very vocal in the hallways about this. Others were first class, and there was a good variety. The Mardi Gras evening was an all out effort, with special entertainers from New Orleans, awesome decorations, food, and drinks. Service Service was generally great in the Lido, but was slow in the La Fontaine Restaurant. We eventually moved tables to another area, due to the very high noise level at the back of the restaurant due to the low ceiling, and some very boisterous tables near us... and the service improved also. Port & Shore Excursions We chose to organize our own port excursions, and they all worked out. Most frustrating thing was that the independent travellers get the back of the line on the tender ports, waiting nearly 2 hours till the HAL tour guests, and the 4 and 5 star mariners (who comprise a considerable portion of the travellers on the world cruise, many who have made several world cruises on HAL) have got off. We feel that HAL should allow a small percentage... like 20 percent... of each tender to have independent travellers on a first come first serve basis, rather than holding them all. Both Falkland Islands and Easter Island were the highlight ports of call on this trip... and of course the awesome scenery in Antarctica. Stateroom We had an outside cabin on the Lower Promenade deck, just a short walk to be on the deck without the cost of a balcony. Facilities were good. We had a problem with the plumbing due to the rough weather, and it was repaired quickly. Note you need to bring a multi plug adapter if you have more than one thing to plug in. Dining We enjoyed having breakfast brought every morning to the cabin. For some reason, which we never found out, we only had 5 formal evenings rather than the 9 originally planned. I would have been annoyed if I had rented a Tux... There were probably 2/3 of the men with Tuxes, and the rest in business suits...we met some who didn't bring any formal wear and just ate in the Lido on formal nights. Food was quick and hot in the Lido. Lots of choice. Food was good in the La Fontaine, but we could see the repeats on the menu as the trip continued. There were many complaints we heard about the temperature of the food, and it seemed there was some effort to improve this. The general quality and appearance and choice was awesome, considering we were in the middle of the Pacific ocean many days away from "land". Disembarkation Since there were less than 300 leaving in Sydney, and the disembarkation was spread over two days, we just walked right off the ship, picked up the bags and walked through Customs... no hassles at all. Read Less
Sail Date January 2012
Mom in 50s, traveling with 18 year old daughter. OK, so we don't really fit the Amsterdam's demographic, but we have traveled on the ms Amsterdam before (to Alaska, and to South America/Antarctica), so we thought we knew what to ... Read More
Mom in 50s, traveling with 18 year old daughter. OK, so we don't really fit the Amsterdam's demographic, but we have traveled on the ms Amsterdam before (to Alaska, and to South America/Antarctica), so we thought we knew what to expect. Our Grand Voyage was a 70 night cruise, visiting many ports in the Far East, Australia, and a bit of the South Pacific. We sailed from our home port of Seattle, which was convenient but enabled us to take far too much luggage. The embarkation procedure was efficient. The ship was just as we remembered it; immaculately clean, an extensive art collection, beautiful floral displays. Our room, on this cruise, was an inside cabin on the Verandah Deck. We had plenty of space for storage and to move about. No noise issues. In the first hours, our Cabin Stewards made sure that they introduced themselves, and that we had everything we needed. In spite of the fact that they are now responsible for many more rooms than in the past, our Cabin Stewards did an amazing job of keeping our room clean. They still took the time to make a towel animal each night, too. We prefer to eat in the Lido, rather than in the LaFontaine Dining Room. We find that the food is just as good, but we have the advantage of being able to mix & match entrees & sides, rather than having the set plate combos that are served in the dining room. The dining room stewards on the Lido are absolutely outstanding! It took only a few days before they called us by name, knew where we preferred to be seated, served our beverages as we liked, etc. Another benefit of eating on the Lido, is that the staff are much more willing to socialize with the guests. We loved the opportunity to learn about Indonesia. On this cruise, we ate a few suppers in the Pinnacle, which we found to be excellent. Although we attended a Le Cirque night, both of us much prefer the Pinnacle's regular menu. Our ports on this cruise were many & varied. We only participated in a couple of excursions, sponsored by HAL, as most were quite overpriced. Before the cruise, I was actively involved in our Roll Call, so I was able to both organize & participate in several Cruise Critic excursions. These were all excellent - and a great value. we had a travel guide, who was supposed to share information about each port. Unfortunately, it became clear that she would sometimes use her role to get people to purchase HAL's shore excursions, rather than supporting people who wanted to visit the ports independently. The evening entertainment was not what it used to be, although there were a few, very good performers. The best shows, were those put on by the crew. We had both an Indonesian & a Filipino Crew Show on this cruise. Day time activities, on sea days, varied minimally from day to day, but there were a wide range of activities available; sports, educational lectures, water color classes, etc. We had 4 guest chefs who were on board at different times during the cruise; all provided excellent demos in the Culinary Arts Center. When we disembarked in Long Beach, CA, the process of leaving the ship was well thought out & organized. Unfortunately, the process fell apart once we were reunited with our baggage. The lack of sufficient porters resulted in mayhem. Our Grand Voyage was exactly that - Grand. We spent 70 indulgent days aboard a beautiful ship, with an entire crew that provided truly loving care. We traveled with a fascinating group of passengers. We were never bored, nor homesick. The only significant disappointment, was having to leave the ship at the end of our cruise. Read Less
Sail Date September 2011
This was a very good cruise for us, I'll rate it a 4.5 out of 5.0, as I intend to be 'Fair&Balanced', but Hey!! we had a Tsunami and a helicopter medical evacuation as extra entertainment..so maybe a 4.75 would be more ... Read More
This was a very good cruise for us, I'll rate it a 4.5 out of 5.0, as I intend to be 'Fair&Balanced', but Hey!! we had a Tsunami and a helicopter medical evacuation as extra entertainment..so maybe a 4.75 would be more appropriate. It would probably take a Seabourn or Oceania to rate a 5+ by me, so consider my critique with that in mind. Some people grumble..we don't. We are 'active'. We hiked, snorkeled, and rented 4WD Land-rovers,Jeeps etc. I say that right off because we did NOT go on 'organized' HAL tours; as we were NOT in need of mobility aides etc. However...we seemed to bump into fellow cruisers in all sorts of places!! So, fear not, we saw most of what everyone else saw..and perhaps more than most. Also, age-wise we're on the 'younger' end of the passenger list intentionally so, as we enjoy the company of experienced cruisers; we just walk a lot faster and maybe sleep less.My REVIEW will be chronological later, I will add those details later in the ports-of-call section. Embarkation at SanDiego went very smooth; especially so because we stay the night prior at the HolidayInn across the St. from the pier. I highly recommend doing similar for anyone worried about Air connections etc. Door-to-Stateroom Luggage Service was too $expensive$ for us ($975 bucks) but it's the way to go methinks if one is a bit 'gimped up' or money isn't a concern.The ROTTERDAM seemed to be ship-shape. It's not new. We like that. It's classy..not glitzy. Just the right size vessel for us means less than 2000 pax and more than 500. Is it comparable to OCEANIA's newest Uber-classe cruiser? Probably not...but it was a good $$value$$ for the fare spent.Clientele/Fellow Passengers: We didn't meet anyone who had NOT cruised before. We are entering our early retirement years and we were nearly the youngest except for 2 honeymooners. No teens at all. Most passengers have their money working for them by now; not the other way around. Did anyone grumble? Yep. No different than any other cruise. The same people I avoid back home I avoid on a cruise. Generally a sedate, yet interesting mix of people aboard from US, Canada, Germany, UK, Sweden, OZ and Japan. Few from elsewhere. Stateroom: We were on Deck #3 near the front, with large window looking onto the teak Promenade, our favorite area. Our Neighbors had a 'Lanai' Rm. which allows for walking directly onto the deck. A decided advantage if handicapped. PLUS, Lanai's get their own deck lounger-chairs!! A source of irritation to certain passengers who felt slighted. Hmmm. (Deck #9 Skydeck loungers were usually nearly empty all day). You make the call on THAT one..I'm too diplomatic.Public Rooms: Very good. Clean, clean, clean. Any lapses noted by others as regards upkeep or tidiness was unfounded in our experience; and trust me, we CARE about such stuff. Housekeeping? Excellent. The ambiance of the foyer, library, etc was sedate, and appointed in quite good taste, with a nod to wonderful Oriental antiquities in display cases and a superb array of Nautical framed pictures and plaques etc all thru the ship. Nice. Again, classy..not glitzy...yet not dowdy by any means. Library and Internet Cafe were BUSY!!Casino: Busy with the regulars. A solid crowd for the popular Poker Table most all the time. A smoker's hangout. We don't do casinos. Pools and Lounging Areas: It was Hot and Sunny nearly every day, lounge chairs were at a premium poolside around the main pool (which has a retractable roof). The Rear/Aft splash pool was where the cigarette smokers hung out. Way up top Deck #9 was wide open for Sun-worshippers...no Pool. Deck #3Promenade was nearly filled with readers and nappers every day. Lots of book readers on this cruise. Few swimmers. Non-swimming pool-side chair-hogs? Yep, like always. Dining: We went with OPEN-SEATING on Level 4...with a twist. We clicked with some great fellow cruisers. So how did we do it? We all asked to be seated together at the same time and same table each night. Presto!! Instant fun table every night. We 'thanked' the Dining Rm. Steward beforehand. The food was great. We took Lunch at the Lido every day, and accepted a gracious invitation to join another couple one evening at the Pinnacle Grille on one occasion. Wow!! Nuff said.Bars and Drinking: The Ocean Bar served up nice cocktails before Din-din and adjoined the dance floor; with the Neptunes trio providing Smooth Jazz music. The MIX Lounge had PianoMan and a 'NameThatTune' ambiance. The Crow's Nest DJ (the loneliest man on the ship)...Located Wa-aay up top, was sparsely (none)attended due to the demographics of the clientele EXCEPT on one of the last nites...The Black&White Ball!!! When certain of the crew got to 'let their hair down' a bit til the wee hours. It was a light drinking crowd overall. No bubbas jumping in the Pools. No CountryWestern, no Heavy Metal...and surprisingly, no Lawrence Welk. Floor Shows/Entertainment: Good. Great musicians, I 'got' the risque jokes of the comedians, and the singers were all A-OK. My wife loved every minute of every show. And as a neat surprise, the smooth Soul sounds ala Jackie Wilson and Sam Cooke were performed by my fave, Jackie Wilson's son.Lectures/Education: I took in Frank's Microsoft/Computer classes. Very good fella and I learned a LOT!! We didn't do Cooking or Health things. Dunno.Cruise Director and Officers: STEVE the Cruise Director was more than up to the task; and LISA the Shore Guide/Guru was just peachie-keen and knowledgable about everything. The Officers handled EVERYTHING in such a professional way. Hospitable and just fine in all ways.Tendering and 'Days at Sea': Because this cruise involved a LOT of sea days AND many tenderings to small islands I must say WE had no problems whatsoever. Some pax got a little 'stir-crazy' and some were barely physically able to manage getting in and out of the Lifeboat Tenders very well. My advice? Call it a Life when such things get to be too much. When one's cruising days are over...they're over. My day will come as well. Nuff said.Now, on to the Islands. Read Less
Sail Date March 2011
Background: This was our sixth cruise, third thirty day South Pacific cruise, and first time on HAL. We chose this cruise for the itenerary and for the fact that it returned to San Diego rather than terminating in Australia, thus ... Read More
Background: This was our sixth cruise, third thirty day South Pacific cruise, and first time on HAL. We chose this cruise for the itenerary and for the fact that it returned to San Diego rather than terminating in Australia, thus avoiding the killer 18 hour return flight. I am 63 and my wife only claims old enough to know better. The ship: Rotterdam is an older ship, but well maintained. The crew worked hard to maintain the cleanliness of the public areas. The public bathrooms rate special mention - they were immaculate. The library / internet cafe was comfortable and inviting - although there was always a rush for the window seats. The Ocean Bar was excellent and the 4PM Happy Hour was very reasonable. The Crow's Nest was a nice area, but the temperature control and sound system were poor. The wading pool / lounge area in the Retreat didn't seem to be popular. I never saw more than two or three people using it. Watching movies at night on the big screen was not very satisfying. The Retreat bar was still open during the movies and the noise and light made viewing and hearing the movie difficult. The gym was small, but OK. The sauna was superb and never crowded. The hot tubs could have been warmer, but in general were better than hot tubs on Princess Lines. The passageways to the cabin areas were clean and well light with one exception. There was one spot on Deck four that had a definite diesel smell. There was always a fan blowing in that area. Our cabin: We had an inside cabin on Deck 4 and found it comfortable, although the shower must have been designed for midgets ( just like all other cruise lines). The flat screen TV and DVD player was a definite plus. Having movies available every night made up for the rather mediocre entertainment. The lack of a refrigerator in the room was a minus, but our cabin attendant always kept the ice bucket full. The bed was much more comfortable that those on Princess and the bathrobes were a nice touch. The couch was comfortable and well placed for either reading or watching TV. Dining: We ate once in the Pinnacle Grill and twice in the Canaletto. The meal in the Pinnacle was as good as most steakhouses and the Canaletto was on the par of an Olive Garden. The wait staff was attentive and friendly. The atmosphere in Pinnacle was very nice and the Canaletto was OK (it would have been better if it was completely separated from the buffet dining area). We only ate in the main dining room twice, as we don't like the long wait for service between courses. The food was good. We dined in La Fontaine on the last formal night and the dining room was only half full. I think people were tired of dressing up after seven formal nights. Breakfast in the Lido buffet - some items (scrambled eggs) could have been cooked better,but the the waffle, omlette, and eggs to order stations were very good. The bacon was much better than the carbonized paper thin strips usually found on buffets. Fruit juice was pretty watery towards the end of the cruise. Pastry was OK. Coffee was drinkable (there is no such thing as bad coffee at 5AM). Lunch in Lido - the paninni and sandwich station was the best part of lunch. The entrees were good and the variety was very good. Dessert was better at lunch than at dinner. The bread pudding, cobbler, cookies and ice cream were excellent. Dinner at Lido - the carving station was much better than on some other cruises. Instead of the tired ham, turkey, and roast beef cycle, leg of lamb, prime rib, beef wellington, and others were added to keep the menu fresh. Steak, cordon bleu, Wienerschnitzel, shrimp, fried chicken, and various pastas added to the variety. Desserts were somewhat limited at night and were a mixed bag. Attempts at fancy French pastry didn't come off too well, but other items such as the apple dumplings were superb. The hamburgers at the Terrace Grill were very good and the pizza in the Retreat was also good. The BBQ, luau, and Octoberfest meals served by the pool were good and the dessert extravaganza was excellent. Meals aboard any ship are pretty much what you make of them. If you expect the Ritz at every meal, you will be disappointed on any ship. If you go with the flow, you will always find something appetizing. Entertainment Entertainment probably gets the lowest mark on this cruise. After the first show or two in the nightclub, it just didn't seem worth the effort to attend. The entertainers were definitely second rate. It was more satisfying to check out a movie at the front desk and watch it in the cabin than to fight the rush for good seats and sit amongst the constant coughing in the nightclub. The one highpoint of the entertainment was something new to me - the Black and White Ball where all of the ships officers attended in dress uniforms and danced with the passengers. The little old ladies nearly trampled each other in the rush to dance with the officers. The cruise director didn't seem to connect with the passengers on this cruise. Events such as bingo which are normally very crowed were thinly attended. Trivia was well attended, but the temperature and sound conditions made it somewhat uncomfortable. Shore excursions The shore excursions were extremely over priced. They excursions were double the price of similar excursions on Princess lines from the year before. The staff The staff on this ship were more friendly and seemed to try harder to please passengers than on any other cruise I have been on. The front desk staff was friendly even in the face of unhappy, griping passengers (I personally would have punched out a couple of the passengers for thier poor attitude). My wife was ill part of the cruise and had to use room service a lot. Room service was prompt, friendly, and excellent. Cudos to them. Our cabin attendants were super as well. Agus and Bambang always had our room made up promptly and kept the bathroom well supplied. They were friendly and helpful at all times. The waiter in the Ocean Bar remembered what we drank - quite an accomplishment for a bar serving hundreds of passengers. Embakcation / Disembakcation Embarkation was pretty standard - about a twenty or thirty minute wait in line to get processed and aboard. Luggage was delivered by 3:30 PM. Disembarkation was a TOTAL DISASTER!!!!! While passengers were divided into groups with estimated departure times, whoever was in charge must not have been near the gangway.There were so many people jammed into the small area waiting to get off that you felt like a sardine. You couldn't even get out of the elevators and people were lined up the stairwells two or three decks high. If a fire had broken out or someone had fallen, there would have been no way to get assistance. Miscellaneous thoughts - I liked the fact that the ship wasn't constantly pimping art auctions,dance lessons, and the drink of the day. - even though this was the one of the smallest ships I have sailed on, I never felt crowded (except at disembarkation). - even though I am no spring chicken myself, I felt like I was going to be carded every time I ordered a drink. The average age on this cruise must have been close to 80 and as a result, the passengers seemed to be especially cranky. Would I recommend this cruise to a friend? If the friend was looking for a laid back restful cruise, YES. If he was looking for Las Vegas at sea, NO. Read Less
Sail Date September 2010
At sea for sixty-nine days found the majority of us sad to arrive back in San Diego. Every aspect of this journey was beyond belief. Despite unfavorable weather conditions, our Captain guided this ship around a hurricane in ... Read More
At sea for sixty-nine days found the majority of us sad to arrive back in San Diego. Every aspect of this journey was beyond belief. Despite unfavorable weather conditions, our Captain guided this ship around a hurricane in Hong Kong, a volcano in Indonesia, flooding in Vietnam and Cambodia, and we, as passengers, never gave a thought to our safety or to the bad weather we could have encountered. Dinner, dancing, shows were provided nightly. There were many formal nights - reminders of what 'crossings' were to the wealthy of foregone years. Champagne flowed, music drifted from different areas, stellar service in a professional manner was a constant. Yet, there was this feeling of family, of caring. Nothing was too much to ask for - and there was never a tone of any type used, no attitudes possessed this crew. They were there to help and please us in whatever why they possibly could and that is what they did. Oh, and did I mention the smiles -- so many wonderful broad sincere smiles to greet us every place on this ship. The crew were from Indonesia - what a honor they are to their country! Asia and Australia were educational for those of us not visiting these countries before. The Ports of Call worthwhile. So grateful to be able to see these great wonders, such as the Great Barrier Reef and Great Wall of China. Overland in China was fantastic with lovely top-drawer hotel and dining accommodations. At the end of the day, I always go back to thoughts and longings for the ship and its crew who truly provided us with the main ingredients for a beyond belief experience in travel. Read Less
Sail Date September 2010
Our 'gap year' had to wait until we were three score years and ten. Sydney to Vancouver on the Holland America line ship Volendam in April & May 2010 was a part of our 'gap year' world cruise, Southampton UK to ... Read More
Our 'gap year' had to wait until we were three score years and ten. Sydney to Vancouver on the Holland America line ship Volendam in April & May 2010 was a part of our 'gap year' world cruise, Southampton UK to Southampton UK, but it was a world tour including cruising that we researched, saved for at least three years plus, booked and enjoyed more than words can express - but I'll try. We were away from home for nearly six months and missed the worst British winter since 1947. It involved P&O, Holland America, Canadian Railways and Cunard and just one short airflight - the least we could get away with. But this section, reviewed here, was through the Pacific Ocean visiting many islands and it was the the cruising highlight of the whole trip. Why? In a word - the people. The crew and passengers. The welcome at Sydney, on arrival on board, was exceptional. My wife uses a wheeled 'walker' to assist her (she has spine problems) and on spotting this a member of staff was assigned to take us to our cabin, an unprepossessing 'ocean view' with no balcony but certainly 25% larger in length and width than similar cruise ships. We might have expected this level of service if we had been travelling in a suite but we were travelling with the hoi polloi and this extra welcoming support was greatly appreciated. The cabins on HA ships are apparently all larger than you might expect from other shipping lines and we were made to feel not just welcome but valued guests. This was our first HA ship so we knew we did not have a confidential record in the purser's office that some regular travellers have - and even unworthily boast about over dinner. Despite that, flowers decorated the cabin, chocolates snuggled up to the ice bucket to prevent them melting and a bottle or two of sparklers wrapped in Irish linen napkins begged us to open them. Our cabin attendants, one male, one female paid us a visit without any implication that we should offer them a tip. In fact they already knew that we had opted for the per diem rate and thanked us in advance for our kindness. The ship's departure was scheduled for two days hence so we had the luxurious delight of having a waterfront cabin overlooking the iconic Sydney harbour bridge and two days of refined service without any sea-movement beneath our feet. We made the most of it taking harbour trips and a visit to Sydney zoo where a baby elephant had just been born to worldwide media acclaim. Earlier we had sailed from the Panama Canal down through many pacific islands but had to miss some that had been planned due to the Captain running ahead of a tropical storm. The journey northwards to Vancouver however was less threatening and more relaxing. We have come to expect gently falling standards of service and food on long cruises as particular food items run out, some with unexpected irony. For example we ran out of oranges in Floridian waters, bananas in the Caribbean and fish in the largest ocean in the world but that's cruising for you. On the Volendam however excellence persisted throughout. We visited Noumea after 3 days at sea, a very French culture with "15 colours and creeds", we were told. We went ashore under own steam to save funds and found the protestant cathedral at the top of a hill that was well worth a visit. Next came Ils Des Pins' french Polynesian culture. We only had two hours ashore but beautiful beaches and warm seas cried out for a longer stay. Port Vila Vanuatu was interesting but the town was 5 Kms from the port and the humidity drove us back to the ship early in a taxi without air conditioning. Two days at sea and Lautaka followed. There the policemen wore national Fijian uniforms of white skirts with pointed hems - and that was only the men - oddly the women officers wore trousers. Such a friendly and colourful place with seemingly everyone smiling. We sent parcels and cards from the tiny post office and they ALL arrived safely. Dravinu Island came and went as the weather prevented safe tendering ashore and we sailed onto Suva where the greeting on everyone's lips was 'BULA' or even BULA BULA to add emphasis. Certainly a place to return to ... one day! After crossing the international date line we arrived at Apea in Samoa. We visited author Robert Louis Stevenson's house organised by HA. It cost $US59 each and was very good value. We left the ship at 8.20am in gaily decorated buses with wooden slatted seats that played havoc with less upholstered bums. Fresh coconut drinks were served and the tour guides gave thoughtful and well researched information in the house and about his many books. We returned in time for one of Volendam's finest afternoon teas. Five days at sea found us in Ohau in the Hawaiian Islands docked at the fine port of Honolulu. We have previously visited the island and the Pearl Harbor experience so we indulged in some retail therapy. The oldest inhabited island in the archipelago is Kauai and its capital Nawiliwili which produced many a snigger from those who had that turn of mind. It's a beautiful island with no high rise building and a real sense of what Hawaii must have been like when the settlers first arrived. Maui came next and the town of Lahaina, so beautiful but suffering economically as the demand for sugar cane is decreasing. A remarkably large banyan tree, the world's largest, covers the whole of the town square and free buses, with guides, transfer you to beaches and resorts. Hilo is the place to share a taxi with friends for a tour that is half the price charged by HA if you don't want to do the live volcano. It's the insurance costs that pump the price up apparently. We saw the botanical gardens, a coffee roasting plant and the Rainbow Falls - who needs to see a volcano? Another five days at sea and we landed at Vancouver. The sea days some people dread in case there's nothing to do, but on the Volendam we were spoilt for choice. Uniquely in my experience we had creative writing and daily play readings with a group of cruising thespians led by arguably the most professional and enthusiastic cruise director and entertainments manager, Anthony Choice. Inevitably he has been promoted to bigger ships in the line now. The musicians on board were excellent, particularly the dance trio whose bass player hailed from a village just a couple of miles from where we live in the British midlands. It's a small world. As with all artists the stage shows were like the proverbial curate's egg, good in parts. An English singer and impressionist er 'doing' Neil Diamond should never have left British shores and an appalling American comedian with arguably the bluest and most lavatorial repertoire deserved to be put ashore earlier than he was. But the group of touring players and dancers were wonderful. The highlight of the entertainment was, in our view, the presentations by the staff from the Philippines and Indonesia. They got and deserved their standing ovations. The Volendam is a very pretty ship and will be even prettier after its scheduled refit later this year. The crew were impressive and a particular tribute must be paid to the First Officer who hosted a question and answer session about the ship in a determined effort to improve an already excellent level of cruising service. The email systems were just as bad as the Queen Mary's but we all have an unrealistic expectation of what can be delivered mid-ocean but technology will improve but probably not fast enough for our Internet appetites. Shopping aboard was an improvement upon the British run franchises if only because there was less 'tat' on offer but perhaps this was a reflection of a well-heeled clientele. Entry into US territory has become a punishment rather than a pleasure when dealing with their immigration service. We felt sorry both for the officers themselves with their unsmiling rituals to perform and the passengers. Disembarkation is always a poignant experience but we found ourselves assisted to the gangways and the shores of Vancouver with a generosity of spirit that made us really want to return to be served by our splendid Volendam dining room stewards who seemed to work 24 hours a day every day. They even made our departing breakfast a meal to remember. Oh happy Volendam days. Read Less
Sail Date April 2010
My wife and I have done around 25 cruises. This cruise departed Sydney, circumnavigated New Zealand, returned to Sydney and then circumnavigated Australia. It lasted 48 days and was on the Holland America Volendam. We found the best ... Read More
My wife and I have done around 25 cruises. This cruise departed Sydney, circumnavigated New Zealand, returned to Sydney and then circumnavigated Australia. It lasted 48 days and was on the Holland America Volendam. We found the best airfare to Sydney was V Australia out of LAX. We didn't use any hotels in Sydney. We found internet access off the ship to be easy and a lot cheaper than on the ship. In NZ it is free at all public libraries. Otherwise there are a lot of cafes and at most it is 5$ for an hour. The ship and the room were generally good. The only complaint was that a number of the elevators did not work. Dining was good and despite the length of the cruise the menu was good. The entertainment aboard was a little disappointing but the enrichment speakers and the travel guide were excellent. Embarkation was late due to a tsunami warning and disembarkation was very easy. We did visit a large number of ports and did most on our own with private tours. We did a couple of ship tours. While onboard we were told that everyone onboard would have to get an Indonesian visa for Komodo Island. The ship tendered and you had to have one even if you did not get off the ship. It cost around 25$ pp. A couple of people had arranged with the Komodo park service directly, everyone else had to use the ships tour or you could not get off of the ship. The ship tour was fine and it was worth it to see the dragons. The other ship tour was snorkeling the barrier reef. At Cairns and Hamilton island they offer snorkeling. We tried to book private trips but none of the private operators could get us back in time. The ship tour from Cairns was more expensive but you had more time on the reef. Both trips were very similar and if you are interested in snorkeling it is a must do trip. In Tauranga we recommend Mount Classics at mctours.co.nz and driver Ian Holroyd. In Wellington we took a coast tour with Crown Chauffeur with Colin Miller. It is a lot of tour for the money. The best tour we had was Milestone tours in Auckland. It was a little expensive but we went places and saw things that no one else got to see. Finally since our departing flight from Sydney left at 8:30pm we had a whole day in Sydney. We had our luggage but wanted to see something. PJ tours was the only company that I could find who would pick us up near the ship and drop us off at the airport at the end. We went to Blue Mountain and spent a wonderful day there. Peter is a great guide and happy to work with us. We visited many ports, from big cities to cites of 800 people. Eden was a very small city but very interesting while Exmouth is also small but there is not a lot there. Overall it was a great trip. Read Less
Sail Date March 2010
The original intention of this cruise was to get us to or near Japan where we would visit with old friends. This was actually a segment of a segment of the world cruise that was meant to begin in Mumbai. When we saw a shore excursion ... Read More
The original intention of this cruise was to get us to or near Japan where we would visit with old friends. This was actually a segment of a segment of the world cruise that was meant to begin in Mumbai. When we saw a shore excursion opportunity to Angkor Wat we priced it and decided to begin the segment in Singapore instead, and spend what we would have spent on shore excursions for a three day holiday in Bangkok, three days in Siem Reap (for Angkor Wat) and three days in Singapore where we would meet the ship. The cost of those nine days in 5 star hotels and air from Bangkok to Siem Reap and Siem Reap to Singapore equalled what we would have paid for a two and a half day shore excursion offered by HAL for each of us! Such are the costs of shore excursions. The Ship The vessel is what you would expect from one of HALs flagships. It seemed to be in terrific condition. From cabins to public rooms, the ship is beautiful. I didn't see evidence of aging. Our cabin had a leak in the bathroom and there was an occasional odor of diesel fuel just outside our door, but neither interfered with our enjoyment of the ship. People are always interested in food. HAL seems to be putting the money out in the food and beverage department. The usual comfort food was available poolside, as was an assortment of pastries for a good part of the day in the Lido. Breakfasts were unremarkable which is not a bad thing. They were breakfasts and hard to fault in the Lido or DR. Lunch was a different matter. The stir fries were awful, and truly an embarrassment. The vegetable chicken stir fry had a single piece of chicken and when I asked where the vegetables were, the server found one with his tongs and added it to my dish. I would not mention it except that I saw a video of the executive chef talking about his wonderful "fresh fresh fresh" stirfries so I thought it was worth a notation. I think dinner was what you would expect for a vessel catering to North American taste. The steaks in the dining room were of generous portion. I don't think they did vegetables well and on the whole I thought dinners sort of missed. Or - it may just be that we don't eat those sorts of dinners anymore. I heard no one speak of the food in either positive or negative terms. Oddly enough, complimentary champagne flowed on two nights. As to the atmosphere of the ship, well, that was a big surprise. We were used to going on vacation cruises with other people going on vacation cruises - with all the positive energy that that implies. Cruisers are usually excited, and that rubs off on the crew. Well the majority of people on this ship had been aboard for a very long time, with a long time to go. They were "residing" on the ship as opposed to cruising on it. It seemed to be less a vehicle for a cruise than a giant apartment building with a rolling view. The atmosphere was flat. You saw it in the passengers and you saw it in the staff. I have never seen staff so ambivalent. Not nasty or lazy - they just didn't take the pains to give a darn. This was an observation confirmed to us by other cruisers who came on for a while in Singapore. "Boring" was the word that kept coming up to describe their experience. The ports themselves were interesting. Cambodia and Viet Nam were both worth the visit. though the port was quite a distance from Ho Chi Minh city. I would say I do not agree with HALs new policy of requiring no signature for beverages purchased under $20. I myself have disagreed with charges on my cruise bill on previous cruises and by producing the original signed bill, the issue was resolved. Business should be done in a business-like manner, and charges should be signed for. Bills, however small, must be signed for in the shops. When I enquired as to why, they said their experience was such that bill signing was deemed to be imperative. I agree. Also, HAL has a policy of not allowing your internet time to lapse if you are still connected with your computer. The rationale is that it is a courtesy to allow you to finish your business. But if you forget to log-out and leave your computer or ipod or device connected for an hour or so, you will be billed. I asked the administrator how that could be as it would be clear that a machine was not used over that time. He said Windows machines send message packets out periodically and that constitutes use. So Moral Hazard hit HAL. Wall Street sails the high seas. Guest Relations was surprised to hear of the new policies which are fleet wide. They sent a message to HAL about both issues. HAL sent a subsequent communication stipulating the $20 rule must be followed. I heard nothing about the internet rule. We disembarked in Singapore in what was a smooth process, and we were on our way. Would we sail HAL again - probably, but not based on their performance on this cruise. Read Less
Sail Date March 2010
Holland America's ms Volendam Circumnavigation of Australia 14 March-17 April 2010, roundtrip out of Sydney, 34 days with 18 ports of call. We sailed with about 1250 passengers, primarily from the U.S., Canada, Britain, and Australia. ... Read More
Holland America's ms Volendam Circumnavigation of Australia 14 March-17 April 2010, roundtrip out of Sydney, 34 days with 18 ports of call. We sailed with about 1250 passengers, primarily from the U.S., Canada, Britain, and Australia. Pre-cruise Travel I elected to fly United Airlines to Sydney because I have elite status with them and can enjoy Premium Economy seating and free baggage. I selected to fly via San Francisco because the airport is more compact and better organized than Los Angeles. The flights went well with only minor turbulence and we arrived just few minutes late in Sydney. I had pre-booked online with KST Airport Shuttle for transportation to my hotel. They charge 12.60 AUD (pre-pay) or 14.00 AUD (pay at time of service). There was a little bit of confusion finding my driver in the airport and he had other passengers to drop first, but I find their service reliable and easy to use. I flew into Sydney two days early in order to have time to unwind, do a little sightseeing, and more importantly to have a cushion of time in case of flights going awry. There were several people who missed the ship in Sydney and had to catch up in another port, and several others who did not have their bags arrive on time for our sailing. The ship was scheduled to sail from Darling Harbour Pier 8 which is over the hill from the more famous Circular Quay area. I wanted to find affordable lodging within walking distance of our pier and I succeeded well with Napoleon on Kent at 219 Kent St., a two-block downhill walk to the passenger terminal. The cost was 150.00 AUD per night (a quite affordable rate for Sydney) for which I got a studio apartment with full kitchenette. Shops, cafes and public transportation were all within a few blocks, although mostly uphill from my location. For pre-cruise sightseeing I had planned to take the train out to the Blue Mountains but discovered at the last minute that there would be no service that weekend due to repair works on the track. A quick email to Sydney's tourist bureau lead me to Grayline Tours which offered an all day Blue Mountains On Your Own tour for 129 AUD. The tour included return bus transport from a pick-up point a few blocks from my hotel to the terminal and on to Katoomba where I was given an all-day ticket for the Blue Mountain Explorer hop-on/hop-off bus which has 29 stops. The pamphlet they give you is very helpful identifying what is located at each stop and recommending walks between stops, of which I took full advantage. The main tourist spot in this area is Scenic World which offers both cable car and "train" access to the valley. The train is a near vertical ride based on the old line used by miners long ago—a sort of mini-thrill ride—whereas the cable car is smooth and pleasant. On the valley bottom there are several boardwalk trails with some historical displays from the mining era as well as interesting flora and wildlife. For the more athletic there is a trail on the rim leading out to the Three Sisters rock formation. Embarkation On embarkation day I walked down to the pier arriving about 10:15 am as check-out time at my hotel was 10 am. There were already quite a number of people waiting in the terminal, some of whom had disembarked and were still waiting for transport. After I dropped off my checked luggage, I was directed to wait outside the terminal where there was some seating; we were told check-in would begin about 11 am. At some point someone came around and passed out group numbers for check-in and handed out immigration forms for us to fill in, but it was closer to 11:30 before we were allowed into the terminal by which time a large group of travel agents had already appeared for a tour and luncheon on the ship. By then things were getting confused. It eventually turned out that those of us who were already Mariners and had done our documents online were suppose to check-in first (Priority Check-in) before Group #1 which meant of lot of line shuffling at the door. More confusion happened mid-day for those of us who wanted to go back into town and reboard later—which way did we go? I got sent back through the whole check-in process again in error. The problem turned out to be locals hired to help at the terminal who were not properly trained. I think there should have been more HAL supervision here. Once on board it took a while to find someone who could tell me where we could store our hand luggage; staff kept directing everyone straight to the Lido buffet. I finally found the location in a corner of the pool area but there was no one there to staff it; that took contacting several more crew members before someone appeared. Then it was off to a pleasant lunch and walk around the ship while we waiting for the "your cabins are now ready" call. While waiting, though, we heard an announcement telling us lifeboat drill would be at 4 pm even though we were not scheduled to sail until 6 pm. That had several people upset, myself included, as many of us had planned on walking around the city that afternoon. In the end the ship scheduled a second drill the next day for those who missed the first day's event. What was nice was that we did not have to bring our lifejackets nor was roll taken. Stateroom I only booked this cruise in late October 2009 and I was booking as a single hoping for the lowest single supplement so my choices were a bit limited. The only lower mid-ship cabins left were next to elevators so I went with a deck 2 inside aft cabin (#2672) which looked to be a quiet location and at a great single rate of about $176 a day. The cabin looked fine upon arrival but the smell—smoke! I immediately went down to the Front Desk to report the problem and to remind them that I had notified the Special Needs department well in advance of my allergy to smoke, but they said they had no record of that. Anyway to make a long story (already reported in detail on CC's Holland America message board) short, it took three days of deep cleaning my cabin, multiple visits to the Front Office, two phone calls to HAL's main office, and the intervention of the my travel agent for them to admit the problem could not be solved (there was a heavy smoker across the hall and the smoke was in the air system). The eventual solution worked out well as they moved me to a nicer cabin, but it should not have taken three days to get there nor should I have been denied an appointment with the Hotel Director which I requested twice. Caveat: if you are allergic to smoke you cannot be guaranteed of a smoke-free cabin on any Holland America ship, so if this is an issue for you look elsewhere. My second cabin, #1902 deck 1 outside mid-ship, was very nice and huge! There was so much storage I didn't know what to do with it all. For those needing extra storage there were two drawers hidden under the foot of the bed and a padded stool that was hollow with a removable seat. The bathroom had one of those mini-tubs of which I'm not a fan, but they provided a rubber bath mat so it was not slippery to get in and out of. The extra tub space gave me more clothes drying room so that I never needed to get in line at the self-service laundry down the hall. There were only two electrical outlets, one U.S. and one European, on the desk so it pays to bring a multiplex extension cord. I use a CPAP machine by the bed and my cord just barely reached. The bed was very comfortable and I had a small loveseat and arm chair as well. They provided this small padded stool for the desk, but I used the armchair there instead—much more comfortable especially as I had brought my laptop for use in the cabin. Even though I was only about 4 doors down from the elevators there was never any noise problem; there were no crew work areas across the hall. However, since I was on deck 1 there was some engine vibration/humming noise with an occasional tapping/chain noise from below (perhaps a repair shop?), but this never bothered me. This cabin was smoke free although by the end of our voyage there was a lingering smoke smell occasionally in the hallway. Ship Information The Volendam is a mid-sized ship with about 1,400 passengers, most of the amenities folks want and nicely decorated. With only nine decks and not a vast length, the Volendam was easy to get around. Many passengers really appreciated the full wrap-around promenade deck for walking. I heard that the ship is due to go into dry-dock spring 2011, but honestly it should have gone this year. Towards the end of our cruise there were often only one-half the passenger elevators operating. There was a small section of cabins portside on deck 1 that was flooded out twice during our cruise, and during a heavy rainfall a "waterfall" suddenly appeared in the ceiling of the Fran Hals Lounge. The crew worked diligently to keep things working as best as possible, but that damp carpet smell never quite left our hallway. Dining I happen to be a great fan of buffet dining as it's quick and you can have small amounts of several things, mixing and matching as you please. Our Lido buffet manager was the best; he was always keeping an eye on things and any problems were quickly resolved. I especially loved the beef and the staff was always willing to additionally cook my portion if there wasn't any "well-done" already available. Overall there were a lot of choices and my only complaint is that sometimes the side dishes were not as hot as one would have liked. Continental breakfast was served beginning at 6 am and hot breakfast started later. The one miss here for me was the lack of fresh whole berries for my granola or waffles in the morning. Both lunch and dinner had a wide assortment of hot and cold entrees, sometimes with theme specialty bars (e.g. Indonesian, Indian, etc.). The evening dessert buffet choices were limited, but the lunch had a wide range of pastries, puddings, cookies, etc. The ice cream bar was open from 11:30 am through dinner and that was often my choice for sweets. I do wish we had lemonade available in the afternoons in addition to ice tea; it makes a nice treat on a hot day. And milk was only readily available in the mornings; otherwise you needed to request it from the back. I only ate in the Main Dining Room a few times. I had Opening Seating which I liked as we could go into dinner right at 5:15 pm whereas First Fixed Seating was not until 5:45 pm. Service was fine and the food good. At 3 pm each day the Dining Room offered Tea, which on a few afternoons had special themes. The most popular was the Aussie Tea with local favorites such as Anzac cookies and scones. The Dining Room was also the location of the Mariner luncheons which were scheduled throughout our voyage based on star level. There was no Mariner luncheon on embarkation day because the ship hosted a large group of local travel agents that day (something they repeated in several of our ports). I ate at the specialty restaurant Pinnacle Grill ($20 charge) just once when the Cruise Critic group got together near the end of our cruise. I was not very impressed. Yes, you got very personal service and the cut of steak was just a bit better than the regular dining venues but the chocolate soufflE was tasteless, and I did not think it was worth the extra charge. We had two other small dining outlets on the ship. The Terrace Grill offered hamburgers and hot dogs as well as a small salad bar, a taco bar, and pizza. It was not a very attractive set up and there were no drinks, not even water, available so that you had to bring something from the Lido buffet or order from the bar on the opposite side of the pool. The Explorations Cafe next to the library offered specialty coffees and teas for sale and provided free pastries and appetizers. On other cruise lines I've been able to get hot milk for free at the coffee bar (I bring my own special hot chocolate mix) and I was unpleasantly surprised when the man staffing the bar turned me down, quite rudely I might add. My only option for hot milk was in the mornings in the buffet. There are, of course, several bar areas as well as a Wine Tasting Bar on board but since I don't drink I cannot say much about them. However, I did want to thank the Beverage Manager, Nigel Thomas, who helped organize several meetings for our Cruise Critic group. Activities Athletic facilities on the ship included the two pools, a fitness center, a basketball court, a small tennis court, and a short jogging track. The fitness center was well equipped and there was a small wood-floored class area that could be used for stretching and yoga. The aft Lido pool was right next to a smoking area so I never got to use that pool. The other pool had a sliding covered roof which gave it some protection during inclement weather. The most popular physical activity on board, however, seemed to be walking around the promenade deck—all ages, all physicalities were out there every day in all weather chugging their way around. The daily program listed several culinary and craft activities each day but since I never participated I cannot comment on them. Although I do want to note that one of our own Cruise Critic group members, Peter, won the cook-up contest with his special chili. The ship also offered some group games and the team trivia seemed to be the most popular. The lectures that were offered on board were quite good and on sea days we usually had three offered. From Sydney to Freemantle we had on board two biologists from the University of Tasmania who lectured on flora and fauna and environmental issues; whereas from Freemantle to Sydney we had two retired military officers who focused on military history, in particular World War II. From Darwin to Brisbane we added a special local reef pilot to guide us through the Great Barrier Reef and he provided additional lectures as well. The ship's Tour/Port Director, Chris Fisher, offered port lectures as well as a few history and wildlife lectures of his own. His background happened to be in birding so he helped organize an ad hoc birding group; we met on deck several times to look for sea birds. I did participate in the computer classes that were offered in a special classroom sponsored by Microsoft. Classes covered the new Windows 7 operating system plus the programs that come with it including web pages, movie making and photo editing. The instructor Kristan was excellent. The classroom was also open for "lab time" for passengers to work on their own photo projects. The Photography Department teamed with the instructor to offer a photo contest in several categories which was quite popular. The Volendam's library was fantastic with a large selection of both fiction and non-fiction books available for checkout. There were also a large number of travel books for help in planning for this cruise and future cruises. The very comfortable chairs and couches were often full on sea days. There was a large table for picture puzzles, another with a globe and atlases, and board games available. Combined with the library was the internet center which had about 14 computers; wireless was available throughout most of the ship. Internet packages were available from about 25-65 cents a minute. I purchased a 500 minute package thinking that would be more than enough, but discovered that their service was very slow and not always reliable. I ended up having to buy another package later. In addition to the regular daily activities, the ship occasionally organized a special event. One at-sea Sunday we had a "Market Day" by the pool. The crew decorated small carts and served special drinks and food. The on-board stores had specials flea market style including half-priced t-shirts. When we anchored for an evening in the Great Barrier Reef, they provided a whole tropical paradise setting with a giant floating fountain in the pool, palm trees, and music. That evening was capped off by the arrival of dozens of migrating birds who mistook the ship for an island; they perched all over the top of the Sun Deck. Services The Tour Director (called Port Director on most ships) provided us with lectures on every port that included a bit of history with practical information such as docking location, transportation, sights, etc. I really appreciated the fact we did not get the awful "shopping talks" you get on many ships that do nothing but point you to the nearest jewelry store. In addition to the lectures, he would have desk hours each at-sea evening and he was dockside on port days where he would answer questions (or try to). The one frustration here was that on occasion I would be told that this was a new port for them and so they were unable to answer my question. This same thing would happen with the Front Desk; one would refer you to the other, or to Shore Excursions, and back again. There were a few ports where I had more information than they did. I do not believe that a port being new to the ship should ever been an excuse for the staff not having done their homework. The Volendam had the usual spa and beauty salon offerings but I did not make use of any of them. Personally I love massages but I do not enjoy the high-pressure sales pitch for over-priced spa items that always seems to accompany any service provided so I stopped using and on-board spa years ago. The Photography Department was quite active on this cruise. They provided the usual port disembark "mug shots," but they were not pushy about it as they are on some cruise lines. The prices for individual pictures, though, were too high I thought so I never bought any. They also offered passengers a chance to create their own book combining pictures of themselves with stock cruise photos. What really appreciated was that in every port they sent photographers and videographers on shore, and from their material they created a two-disk DVD of our cruise. Since my husband had not been able to come with me on this cruise, this DVD has given him a chance to vicariously experience many of the sights I saw. There was the usual selection of shops, with emphasis on jewelry, and the art auctions. The Front Desk offered currency exchange at a reasonable rate and also sold local stamps which were convenient. There were just a few children on board and the Volendam does have a Club Hal/Oasis for them to take advantage of. Entertainment The Frans Hal Lounge offered the usual evening entertainment series, but I never attended. This was a long cruise so a variety of entertainers were rotated through from various ports plus the ship had its own traveling troupe of entertainers. I did, however, attended the two special shows we had with locals. At Hobart the Royal Tasmanian Police Band came on board for a very rousing performance accompanied by some young local Celtic dancers. And in Cairns we had a local aboriginal provide a demonstration of the didgeridoo. I did attend the movies quite often and delighted by seeing a number of quite recent films. Popcorn was provided but they always ran out. The theatre seating was all on one level so many folks came early to fight for the few seats with unobstructed views. Each cabin also had a DVD player attached to the television and DVDs were available for checkout at the Front Desk. Shore Excursions Our first day on board found our Shore Excursion manager, Kevin, running ragged as the ship had just found out we would not be able to visit our second scheduled port of Bateman's Bay due to a problem sand bar. Within 48 hours Kevin managed to completely organize all new shore excursions for the new and very small port of Eden—quite a feat. However, all was not perfect with the Shore Excursion department. Another of our planned ports was Exmouth, a very small town in western Australia, for which pre-booked shore excursions filled very rapidly online. I, happily, got the one I wanted (Glass-bottom Boat Reef Cruise) —or so I thought. Apparently there was some computer glitch along the way and some bookings, mine included, were lost. Even though I had written confirmation of my booking in hand they refused to honor it; instead I was put on a waiting list. And to top that off the staff person (not Kevin) was very rude about the situation. I eventually got another, less attractive time slot for the same tour, but that was due to the fact that they pressured the provider into adding several more trips that same day. The upshot of these additions, however, was that the trip was shortened and we did not get to venture very far from shore. Folks who just went ashore on their own found an independent tour operator who gave them a fantastic trip which was longer and for less money. Note: Individual Port and Tour information given at end of review Disembarkation Since I was flying straight home after the cruise, I had arranged in advance to use the ship's transfer to the airport as this meant I did not have to find my bags in the huge pile in the cruise terminal and then haul them to a taxi or whatever. That part worked well as I walked straight off the ship at my designated time and straight onto the bus. However, when we got to the airport our driver had no idea where our bags were located as they had been shipped earlier by truck. There really should have been a HAL representative at the drop off location at the airport to provide directions. Eventually someone found another passenger with HAL tags on his suitcase and he pointed us to the far end of the terminal. Once there we waited in line to retrieve our bags only to discover there were no bag carts available there; they were back on the outside sidewalk where we were dropped off. Again having a representative there to let us know to take a cart with us would have helped greatly. Then came the wait. Even though my flight was not until 2:30 am I had been given a disembarkation time of 8:00 am. At Sydney the check-in counters do not open until 3 or 4 hours before flight time; in my case it was due to open at 10:50 am. Fortunately I had printed out a terminal map in advance and was able to find the small food court (with Starbucks!) that was hidden away behind the check-in area. Sydney is a very large and busy airport and the lines were long. Thank goodness for my elite status as United's Premier line was much shorter than even the First/Business class line. Once through security I was able to enjoy the Air New Zealand Star Alliance Lounge which offered recliners and hot food as well as an open bar. From there it was smooth flying home via San Francisco. Just a note for future cruisers: 200 of our lucky passengers who remaining on board to continue on to Vancouver were dismayed to discover that they had to report to immigration on the afternoon of disembarkation day along with the newly arriving passengers to be cleared for the continuing voyage. Some had planned overnight trips out of Sydney and had to cancel at the last minute as this requirement was not announced until our disembarkation talk the day before arriving in Sydney. Summary Holland America is a wonderful cruise line with large comfortable cabins, good food, interesting enrichment programs, and, for the most part, a nice older, educated clientele. And this particular itinerary was fantastic! It was the best introduction to a vast country as you can imagine. To have done this itinerary by land would have entailed several plane flights and long rental car drives. That said, however, I simply can no longer tolerate HAL's outdated smoking policy which allows smoking in all the cabins and on verandahs. This policy presents both health and fire hazards for everyone on board. Because of my experience on this cruise, my husband and I cancelled our other Holland America booking for later this year. Instead we've booked a similar cruise with Oceania although, unfortunately it is costing us quite a bit more as we lost any early booking discount as well as our on board credit. If HAL ever decides to change their policy, we will be back because we really do love the cruise line. ____________________________________________________________________________ Ports of Call Newcastle, NSW: Newcastle, formerly just a coal and industrial town, is re-inventing itself as a tourist attraction. We docked at the commercial port and were tendered across the Hunter River to the town dock from where you could easily walk or take one of the shuttle buses provided by the town and staffed by wonderful local volunteers who pointed out the sights along the way to three different drop-of points. Avis provided last minute car rentals right at the dock. With a heritage walking map downloaded from the tourism website, I enjoyed the morning walking out the spit to the lighthouse and then around the fort and into the town center where I took advantage of a nice bakery cafe. Many passengers, however, headed directly for the Hunter Valley wine region either with the ship's excursion or on their own. As an extra treat as we sailed out of the harbor at sunset the old fort saluted us with three cannon shots. Eden, NSW: "The little town and could—and did!" This port was a last minute substitute for Bateman's Bay with its navigational issues. With just 48 hours notice, they provided us with several shore excursions and organized a little open market/fair on the green for us. I took the tour to Ben Boyd National Park where we had a couple of nice walks, one out to the point. We did not see as much wildlife as I hoped in the park, but first time Australia visitors got a kick out of seeing a mob of kangaroos on the golf course as we headed out of town. On the way back the driver took by past a beautiful beach with dolphins playing in the water; I elected to get off here and then just walk over the hill into town. In town the center of attraction is the Killer Whale Museum which many passengers visited before walking down a winding path back to our tender dock. Port Arthur, Tasmania: This was a half-day stop offering tender service into the historical park; passengers had to pay the park fee if going ashore or be on a shore excursion. Since I had visited the park before I elected to stay on board but I do highly recommend taking a tour as it's the best glimpse of Australia's beginnings as a penal colony available today. Hobart, Tasmania: We were docked right in town from late-afternoon one day until midnight the next. I had visited Hobart the year before so I knew right where to head first—Salamanca Square which is lined with cafes and small shops. Unfortunately we were not there on a Saturday so we missed the famous open market. Several excursions were offered and I selected the one scheduled to visit New Norfolk, Russell Falls, a winery, and Bonorong Wildlife Park—all sights I had not seen the previous year. The tour turned out to be long drives with rushed stops and an awful lunch. We never stopped in New Norfolk but went to Richmond instead; it's a beautiful historic town with wonderful shops but I had been there before. At Russell Falls we were told it was a ten-minute walk and we only had 25 minutes there. It was a beautiful location that deserved far more time and many of our passengers simply could not walk that fast. For lunch we visited a winery where there was a tasting session (but I don't drink alcohol) and that was followed by a lunch of oysters, sausage, assorted raw vegetables, and dry, tasteless brownies. Another guest next to me and I just had bread and butter—that was it. From there we went to a small wildlife park which was very nice; you could hand feed the kangaroos and get up close to Tasmanian Devils and wombats. Melbourne, Victoria: Australia's "second city" but my (and many Aussies') favorite. We docked out at Port Melbourne where you can usually catch a tram into town. However, due to a traffic accident in town the tram was down for the morning. A few last minute shuttle buses were found to take us to a drop off point at the Southbank Arts Centre in town, and by mid-afternoon the trams were working again. Melbourne offers wonderful museums, parks, shopping and food so it was easy to do this city on your own. The city provides a free City Circle Tram hitting most of the sights including the famed (and huge) Victoria Market. If you wanted to venture outside of town you needed a rental car or to take one of the shore excursions as it was Sunday and train/transit options were not that frequent. I spent the day in town visiting my favorite chocolate shops, the Sunday arts market, and a Thai Festival being held in Federation Square. Adelaide, SA: Adelaide strikes that unusual combination of a bit of Old West with multi-cultural enclave into a small city surrounded by parks, museums, and universities. You can have huge grilled stakes in a heritage saloon than walk a block for authentic Chinese food. This city also provides a free circular bus for getting around, but the port is located a good distance outside of town and on our visit the usual train out there was undergoing track work. The ship offered a paid shuttle bus for those passengers not on shore excursions. Having spent time exploring the city the year before, I selected the Hahndorf tour. Hahndorf was one of several German settlements founded in the 19th century in the hills above Adelaide. Unfortunately our visit was a bit rushed as our guide insisted we drive around the city quite a bit before heading up into the hills. I wish the port area had rental car facilities as this would have been a much better option. Esperance, WA: What a paradise, even if the weather did not quite cooperate. It's a little difficult to fully enjoy pure white sugar sand and gorgeous turquoise water with lightning bolts all around. This was another of our wonderful small town ports, but our only docking option was the commercial port where we were required to take a shuttle bus from shipside a short distance to the town beach park—no walking in the port was allowed. I had pre-reserved a rental car with Avis but had to fight the crowd of "claim jumpers "in the tiny office to get my car. Once on the road we headed out to Cape Le Grand National Park where we encountered said lightning bolts and incredible scenery. On the road in we saw wild emus and kangaroos. Since we cut the park visit short we took in the Ocean Road drive suggested by the tourism website taking us past Pink Lake and the beautiful wild coast land on the other side of town. Many passengers took advantage of the ship's cruises out to Woody Island in the RecherchE Archipelago for wildlife viewing. Albany, WA: This was a tender port and a slightly larger town than Esperance with a few small historical buildings and museums; it's an old well-known whaling port. I elected to take the Billabong Track excursion which was described as a 5 km walk along the famed track that eventually goes all the way to the west coast. I was a bit disappointed as the walk turned out to be a 2.5 roundtrip and we had those pesky non-stop talkers which meant bird watching and listening to the crashing waves was difficult. Had I known I would have rented a car and done it on my own, but I thought I'd get a longer walk if we were dropped off in one location and picked up in another. Fremantle, WA: Back to the "big city" feel. Fremantle is the port gateway to Perth, Australia's only large western city; it appears in the glimmering distance almost like the city of OZ. We were docked on the edge of town where one could easily hop on the FreeCat shuttle bus into and around Fremantle. Downtown Fremantle is filled with cafes, bars, and shops; we arrived on a Sunday evening and it was hopping. For those who wanted to head into Perth the train station was a short walk from the cruise terminal and commuter trains left at regular intervals. Also within walking distance was the ferry to Rottnest Island (or Rat Nest as named by the Dutch for the unusually large rodents living there). Being an animal nut, of course I had to go. The quokkas are, in fact, not rodents but related to the other marsupials; they are cute and exist nowhere else in the world. The Rottnest ferry docks right in the village where you can catch the paid Bayseeker bus which circles the island delivering snorkelers, surfers, and hikers to various bays and inlets. As an alternative you can take a wildlife cruise or hire a bike for exploring the island. I elected to take advantage of one of the free historical walking tours offered by volunteers from the old Salt Store. Geraldton, WA: Now we are beginning to get the "outback" feel, although Geraldton itself is a good-sized town and was an important military base during World War II. This was a tender port and the various rental car agencies in town provided shuttles, although there were far too many people to fit and it was chaotic. A bright spot at the dock was a visit by a wonderful local woman and her golden retriever for whom all pet-starved passengers made a beeline. She said she always brings him down to the dock when a cruise ship appears and he loves all the attention. Once I had my rental car and all my passengers we headed north to Oakabella Homestead only to discover the ship had a "lock" on the place for the whole morning and the owner wanted to charge us $50 a head for morning tea and a tour! Since the ship's excursion bus had not arrived yet, we asked permission to walk around for a few minutes to take pictures and then we left. From there we continued north to the small town of Northampton where we had our much cheaper "tea" at a local cafe and walked around the historic church and other buildings. Coming out of the post office I encountered a local man who asked if we were from the ship (it had been the lead story on the radio news that morning); he then told me about his life growing up in the area and actually knowing Monsignor Hawes who designed and help build the church here as well as the cathedral back in Geraldton. Had I the time I think he would have talked all day. That's what I really love about Australia—the people who are just so open and caring. After Northampton we headed south past Geraldton to the historic settlement of Greenough with its wonderfully preserved buildings. We would have gone to the Hotel for refreshment but we saw the ship's bus just headed there and didn't want to discover we were shut out again. With the heat close to 100 degrees we headed back to town and the ship. Exmouth, WA: Our smallest and most remote Australian port proved both a disappointment and a small joy. We tendered into a small marina outside of the town center; a few shuttle buses were available. This was the port where the "computer glitch" screwed up the shore excursion pre-bookings. Originally there were only a couple of glass-bottom boat cruise times for the Ningaloo Reef available and they filled quickly. However, due to passenger demand the ship pressured the company to offer several more sailings. As a result our cruise time was shortened (but not the price) so we barely moved away from our beach embarkation point and that, combined with the fact it was coral "spawning" season, meant we saw very little and photography was impossible. Some other passengers got the opportunity to snorkel with whale sharks and others went four-wheeling through the national park area. Learning about the town of Exmouth which had been created to service a massive military radar installation and an air base was quite interesting. As with Eden a few town folk brought out arts and craft tables to supplement what the few stores had to offer. But for me the highlight was a local wildlife rescue group who brought along two joeys (baby kangaroos) which we allowed to hold while they took our picture. Komodo Island, Indonesia: What an Easter morning to awaken in a small bay surrounded by palm-filled islands and pink and gold clouds sliced by a vertical rainbow! The entire island is a controlled national park and passengers were only allowed ashore if they were on a shore excursion or had made special arrangements in advance with the rangers and had written proof of that arrangement. As our tenders were being readied you could watch nearby islanders arriving in their small boats to set up shop for all the potential customers; lots of carved dragons, post cards, and jewelry would be available after our tours. We were met at the tender dock by our guides and handlers (two for each group with long sticks to "manage" any dragons that came too close). We walked a fairly level and not very long trail while our guide talked about the flora and fauna of the island. Half way along two rangers had rounded up a large dragon for us to observe and later back in the small camp area two smaller dragons made their appearance. One got a little excited about all the potential "fresh meat" around and started to charge us but was corralled by our keepers—one reason why all were counseled to never wander off. On backing up from our charging dragon we ended sheltered under a tree until one of the villagers cautioned us as there were two small snakes wound in the branches. A later shore ex group got to watch a feeding session while the independent tour members went on much longer walks to and saw much more wildlife. Darwin, NT: We arrived amid a cracking thunder storm and drenching rain; it was definitely still "The Wet" up north. We were held on the ship until it was decided if and when various shore excursions would be able to go. I was booked on the longest one, Litchfield National Park, so I was worried, but the Captain eventually agreed to stay in port longer and we left an hour late. We saw no rain the rest of the day. This shore excursion turned out to be another of those "too-long rides/too-short stop" trips and I regretted going. Although the waterfalls were beautiful, we were not allowed to swim in the pools due to seasonal issues in some and not enough time at the one open pool which was a disappointment. I wish I had either rented a car or just stayed in town which was reachable on a longish walk or by shuttle from the pier. Cairns, Queensland: The ship docked right in town. The terminal parking area was under renovation so you had to walk out to the street to get a taxi as pick-ups dockside were not allowed. I had signed up for the Kuranda Experience tour as the guidebooks said that was the best one-day trip. However, heavy rains a few weeks earlier had wiped out part of the rail tracks and the trip was cancelled. Eventually the ship put together a substitute trip using a bus but many of us elected to just go on our own. Several of us got together and took taxis up to the cable car station which cost $23 per taxi; later we learned that there was an express city bus from town that was a much cheaper option. I'm glad we went very early as by the time the cable car opened the line was huge. The cable car offers the option of two mid-way rainforest station stops on the way up to Kuranda. Each stop has displays and a short boardwalk trail. From the Kuranda station you can walk directly into town or follow both the river walk and/or jungle walks. A more challenging hike to the falls is an additional choice. I did both walks in a little over an hour and finished with a short uphill walk into town for lunch and leisurely shopping. Kuranda is designed for tourists with souvenirs, art galleries, and cafes everywhere. From Kuranda I was able to catch one of the $4 buses back to town. I was very glad to have done this trip on my own; many of the passengers who took the substitute shore ex complained they only had 45 minutes at Kuranda. Back in town it was HOT but I did a few errands and then headed back to the nice air conditioned ship. Many other passengers did reef snorkeling/diving trips at this port and they enjoyed the experience tremendously. Townsville, Queensland: Townsville has two cruise ship docking locations, one near town and the Sun Ferries pier and the other in the commercial port; we ended up in the commercial port. The ship offered a paid shuttle to town and there were taxis available dockside. I had originally planned to take the ferry to Magnetic Island for the day but got talked into going with some other CCr's to the Billabong Sanctuary. We were going to rent a car but discovered they were only available at the airport on a Sunday and there was no shuttle, so we booked private transport through a local tour company (Abacus) recommended by the Sanctuary. They were late picking us up (they also run airport shuttles) and there was no shade at the pier so we were really hot. But the park was quite nice and we had the opportunity (for money) to have our picture taken with a koala, a wombat, or a crocodile and snake—I opted for fur and the wombat photo is my favorite of the whole cruise. Even though we were late arriving we had more than enough time here and we were glad of the covered porch and snack bar to kill time until our return pick-up. Hamilton Island, Queensland: We anchored among the Whitsunday Islands and tenders were provided to Hamilton, a resort island with a small tourist town. I had pre-booked the Knuckle Reef tour and was looking forward to my first-ever snorkeling experience as I had read that this particular company handled beginners well. Unfortunately this was another tour where the ship pressured the company into taking more than the usual number and we ended up on a long, crowded boat ride without even enough seats for everyone; it was 2 ½ hours each way to the reef. One treat on the boat, however, was an onboard masseuse. For $40 I got a 20-minute wonderful back & neck massage, but it's not for the shy as this was done right in the middle on the lounge with just a towel as front cover! When all our passengers descended on the pontoon we were given the options of a free semi-submersible and/or glass-bottom boat ride in addition to snorkeling or diving. Because of the size of the crowd the boat rides were shortened (again!). Consensus among passengers seemed to be that the glass-bottom boat was the better choice. Beginning snorkelers were offered a paid class but I opted to try it on my own with mixed results. The company provided all the supplies: stinger suits, masks, fins, and float vests—I think I looked like a short colorful whale after being fully suited up. There were two roped-off areas for snorkeling and steps down to platforms for easy entry (easy that is unless you've never worn fins before). As suggested I used the rope as guideline as I was off—what a wonderful experience. There was a small rescue boat in each area in case you got into trouble as well as look-outs on the pontoon. The paid class group got to go off in a separate area and had much better sightings so I would recommend this option. Lunch was served buffet style upon arrival. The staff at the pontoon was absolutely great; I would highly recommend this tour. We only ending up having about 2 ½ hours out on the pontoon although our tour description said at least 3 hours; I imagine this was due to the greater numbers and longer load time at the ship. Brisbane, Queensland: We were docked downriver from town but within walking distance of the Brett Wharf CityCat ferry which many of us utilized for transport. Again the ship provided a paid shuttle bus service. Originally I had planned to go to the Lone Pine Koala Sanctuary with another CCr but she could not go so I took the ferry downtown and elected to take the Hop-On/Hop-Off bus which gave me an inexpensive narrated city tour as well as the chance to stop at the Botanic Gardens for a walk before returning to town where I found a wonderful farmers market in progress. I had planned to visit some aboriginal galleries but the addresses the guide book had provided all turned out not to be extant any more. No worries. By this time of the cruise we were all pretty tired and many of us returned mid-afternoon by ferry to the ship. Sydney, NSW: "Home" again after traveling a total amazing 8,136 nautical miles! Our itinerary gave us a full day and overnight here before disembarkation. Sydney really is a city to see on your own; there is no need for a shore excursion, especially since we docked this time right in Circular Quay at The Rocks historical district. Within a very short walking distance you have access to Sydney's ferries and the train. Sydney Explorer buses provide two different tour circuits and your all-day pass is good on either or both; there are very few sights that are not located at one of their many stops. Directly across from our dock was the famed Sydney Opera House where you can purchase a one-hour tour for $34 or check to see if tickets are available for any of the performance spaces (drama, ballet, opera, or symphony). In addition to the Opera House tour, I spent the morning doing last minute shopping, walking around the city, and visiting the Art Gallery, which was bit disappointing; I thought the museums in Melbourne and Adelaide much better. After packing that evening, I went to sleep with the lights of the harbor and Opera House framed in my cabin window. What a nice ending. Read Less
Sail Date March 2010
This cruise was 30 days from San Diego to Lima and back to San Diego, 14 ports/7 countries were visited. Take this voyage for the wonderful ports not often visited by the masses; Guatemala, (visit Antigua); Nicaragua (visit Leon);Puerto ... Read More
This cruise was 30 days from San Diego to Lima and back to San Diego, 14 ports/7 countries were visited. Take this voyage for the wonderful ports not often visited by the masses; Guatemala, (visit Antigua); Nicaragua (visit Leon);Puerto Chiapas,(Tapachula). Make sure you do your homework and hire a private guide and visit the out-of-the-way small towns,thats how to get the real feel of a country.Visit archaeology sites and museums.Knowing a little Spanish goes a long way.Take a walk in the jungle of Costa Rica and Panama.Go to a local market and regular grocery store.Try the exotic fruits (peel them), try Pisco sour,cheech-cha (Chicha morada)and Inca cola (made by Coca Cola company).Keep a journal and take lots of photos.Have an open mind, it's their country and culture,that's what makes travel an experience. The Ship: Nice and clean until the GIS that arrived onboard while we were in Lima or before, then everything was wiped down with yucky stuff to stop the spread. We were lucky the Captain was in quick response to stop the spread. Good food, fantastic crew, the best,happiest crew, I miss them already. Music: 30 days of very,very old, slow music was the worst thing.Those are songs from the 20's ("bicycle built for two") to the Tom Jones/Frank Sinatra stuff.(they play what for 30 days??). Ship needs to have a variety and have some 1950's rock&roll (and up) music for us people who in our 50 and 60's and would like to dance. Beethoven is nice, but I fall asleep and can't dance to that. Need happy music. Enjoyed the Equator ceremony! This long cruise had older people than we were, I guess due to the length of the cruise. Needed more entertainment besides string and tenor music (snore,yawn). Liked the comedy and dance acts.Good crew acts. Forget the movies,get a DVD for your room. Summary: Would I do it again? Yes,Yes,Yes, didn't want this experience to end, wish I could do it all over again,I wouldn't change a thing except I wouldn't pack so many clothes. I had to buy luggage for our bought goodies! Read Less
Sail Date February 2010
Our embarkation in San Diego was uneventful and we settled into our cabin quickly. We had early fixed dining (anytime dining has proved to be more trouble than it is worth for us) and were delighted with our table mates and waiters. ... Read More
Our embarkation in San Diego was uneventful and we settled into our cabin quickly. We had early fixed dining (anytime dining has proved to be more trouble than it is worth for us) and were delighted with our table mates and waiters. The food was excellent and seemed better than previous HAL cruises we have taken. Chef Karl did a great job of overseeing a good kitchen staff. In fact,the staff was excellent overall. Much more friendly than most HAL crews. This may be reflective of the more outgoing/less reserved attitude we have notice of late on HAL. Our cabin was very nice and HAL did a very nice job on the recent refit. The only part we didn't care for was the redone theater. Holland has refitted this into a cabaret setting and it just doesn't work well. Hard to see from the tables or the balcony where many of the seats face the wrong way. It is one of those "great in theory but doesn't translate in practice ideas. They have also greatly reduced the size of the stage so those who enjoy the Production numbers of old will be disappointed. It is now set up for much smaller acts which, no doubt, save them money. Overall, the entertainment was below our expectations. The production numbers were just not up to the standards of any of the cruises we have taken in the past. The productions themselves were not very good and, with the exception of the two (that's right two)dancers who were excellent, the talent was not very talented. About half of the other acts were quite good. As I said, we were disappointed (as were most of the other guests we spoke to). The highlight of the entertainment on this cruise was Steve the Piano Man. Steve mans the piano bar from 9PM until closing and was great. His area was packed every night. There are many ports of call on this cruise with the best being on the second half when you pass through southern Chile and round the horn up to Buenos Aries and Rio. The scenery is outstanding. In Buenos Aries we had the good fortune to obtain the services of an outstanding guide, Alan of Buenos Tours (www.buenostours.com). Allan had come highly recommended, but far exceeded our expectations. His tour of Buenos Aries was one of the highlights of the trip. His company offers many tour options but he will also tailor tours to your specific needs, as he did for us. A banker from England, Alan decided to spend a summer in BA to work on his Spanish and ended up staying and founding his own company. He can be reached at: www.buenostours.com We can't recommend him enough. Rio was somewhat of a disappointment given the fact that have to get both an expensive Brazilian visa and yellow fever shot (about $400 a person) to even get off the ship there. Yes, you need them even if you are just going to the airport to return home. The setting is beautiful, but there is a high crime rate and it is quite expensive if you stay in the Copacabana area which is the only decent part of town. Aside from the beach, the only major sights are Sugarloaf and Christ the Redeemer. The other tours we took were disappointing. Our opinion of Brazil was not enhanced by the Health and Immigration departments keeping us on the ship for over 7 hours while the shook down Holland America for bribes before letting any passengers disembark. If you take this cruise, do yourself a favor and get off in Buenos Aries. Rio is clearly not ready for either the World Cup or the Olympics. All in all, we enjoyed this cruise very much. Holland did a very nice job and most of the port were interesting. The debacle in Rio was not their fault and they handled it very well. We would recommend this cruise to other but get off in Buenos Aries. Read Less
Sail Date October 2009
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