5 Los Angeles Holland America Volendam Cruise Reviews

We are a married couple in our early 60s, veteran cruisers, and partial to HAL. This was our longest cruise, although we have enjoyed two trans-atlantic cruises. We left Maryland a day ahead and flew to LA. We stayed at the Comfort Inn ... Read More
We are a married couple in our early 60s, veteran cruisers, and partial to HAL. This was our longest cruise, although we have enjoyed two trans-atlantic cruises. We left Maryland a day ahead and flew to LA. We stayed at the Comfort Inn Cockatoo in Hawthorne (review on Trip Advisor). After unpacking a little, we ate dinner at El Pollo Loco and walked to find a grocery store. We finally found a large strip mall and bought Cokes and a few misc. items for the cruise. The next morning, we ate breakfast at the hotel, walked to the strip mall again for some exercise, and got the shuttle ($34/2, Super Shuttle) to the ship. We boarded the “Volendam” around noon and found our room: Lower Promenade deck (3410). Our ocean view room was more a promenade view, and while no one could see inside our cabin, it was disappointing to have to look past the walkers to see the ocean. We had booked a guarantee, so this is the risk we took, but I would not want this deck again. Furthermore, the lights were always on outside our window. Our room did not have a refrigerator, but we appreciated the lighted magnifying/regular mirror on the desk, the good hair dryer in the drawer (along with the dryer in the bathroom), and the tiled bathtub!! This ship has self-serve laundry with free laundry detergent. The ship printed The New York Times digest daily (plus Canadian and Australian versions); copies were available at the buffet and in the library. However, ask at the front desk, and they will deliver it to your stateroom. For the first 48 hours, we were served our food, a policy we appreciate on HAL. The MDR was not open on embarkation day, but the buffet was an excellent option (free sushi bar). We ate there almost every day, but we would check the MDR’s lunch options before going. We were assigned AnyTime dining and were pleased with the flexibility of eating when we liked and at how large a table. If we wanted to eat with friends, we could make a reservation. On a 21-day cruise, we enjoyed meeting so many different people, as opposed to eating with the same people nightly. The food was superb in the main dining room, and while I never requested the vegetarian menu I had read was available, every night’s menu had several vegetarian options. We were not as impressed with the service; the waiters seemed continually rushed, and we rarely had our water or iced tea glasses refilled without repeated requests. We tried the Caneletto one night ($10 charge); the food was excellent and the service outstanding. Outdoor afternoon food could be had by the pool: assorted Mexican offerings, delicious guacamole, and pizza. At 10:30pm, a themed buffet opened in the Lido. You can check out the menu in the afternoon. Cookies seemed to always be available, but the ice cream is dished up, not self-serve, so it was available only at meal times. Be sure to read the daily program, for an occasional specialty lunch was served on deck. The tropical fruit buffet was spectacular, with many unusual fruits as well as fresh coconuts carved open upon request. The shrimp bbq was also amazing. But we knew some people who missed these, as they were not announced anywhere but in the program. Ship activities were standard – but definitely enjoyable - fare, although one thing I had not seen before was “Good Morning, Volendam,” a live talk show with the cruise director and the culinary director. They bantered and always had a guest on. The ship provided a bridge director, a Protestant minister (who conducted Bible studies each sea day, a very welcomed activity and, again, one we‘d never seen before), a Catholic priest, and a Jewish rabbi (who left in Hawaii). Craft lessons, cooking demos, computer classes (go early to get a computer!!), and Dancing With the Stars at sea offered more opportunities to stay busy. Trivia games were so well-attended, we had to arrive well in advance to secure seats for our group and be near enough to the cruise director to hear the questions. HAL’s libraries are well-known for their excellence. The coffee bar (coffee drinks are priced reasonably; desserts and snacks are free) is right there, so be prepared to be tempted. The gym has the standard equipment and classes. Unfortunately, there is no running track, and signs prohibit jogging on the Promenade deck. We made do with a circuit on the sports deck, although it necessitated about fifty times around to equal a mile! Movies are shown daily in the theater (free popcorn runs out early), and if you miss one, it will be shown on the TV the next day. Hundreds of DVDs are available for in-room use; call the desk to have them delivered, or pick one up yourself (much quicker). The King Neptune ceremony to initiate those who had never crossed the equator was great fun. The lecturers are always good on HAL. We sailed with Destination Expert Ian before, and he had informative lectures on the ports with excellent tips for the do-it-yourselfer (a separate excursion woman had lectures on the ship’s offerings); he is funny, and his travel trivia is not to be missed. The oceanographer and astronomer were especially good; the Iranian refugee not so much. The evening entertainment is, again, standard fare. Some shows were great, even worth going to the second showing; others, so-so. Shows included a classical pianist, a harmonica player who played with an orchestra and was amazing, a ventriloquist with a Jamaican “dummy” (hilarious; best show of the trip), plenty of singing & dancing, two crew shows, a comedian, and Polynesian dancers from shore. Around the ship, various venues offered classical music (oh, I never saw free chocolates in the Explorers Lounge), a piano bar (very popular), and dancing opportunities. We had seven port stops. The first was Hilo. We watched the ship come in, and Hawaiian dancers were on our bow to sing a welcome chant and dance the hula; we received leis as we disembarked – a very nice touch. The federal gov’t was shut down, so our plans to hike in the VNP were scuttled. We had rented a car ($40) beforehand from Budget. A shuttle came right to the pier, and it didn’t take long to get the car. We drove to Punalu'u black sand beach, walked the beach, enjoyed the sea turtles, and ate a lunch we had brought (a small food truck there does serve some food). We drove back to Hilo and continued north to see Rainbow Falls and the Boiling Pots. We found Onomea Dr. for some stunning views and continued our drive along the coast. Back in town, we cruised along Banyan Dr. and walked through the Queen Lilio. Gardens before turning in the car The next day we docked in Honolulu for a long day (11pm) ashore. We booked a car here, too (Thrifty, $40), and while we found the shuttle quickly, it wasn’t long before we knew we’d made the mistake of getting the car at the airport. We had a long drive and hit terrible traffic. Once on our way, we hiked up Diamond Head ($5/car, hot and humid in mid-October, but we were rewarded with beautiful views) and then began our Oahu Circle driving tour: Hanauma bay ($1 to park, $7.50 to swim); Halona blow hole; hiked to the overlook of the lighthouse at Makapuu Pt (hot, humid, and – really - too long a walk on asphalt for the view); Macadamia Nut Complex (fantastic stop with myriad tasting stations: coffee, plain and flavored macadamia nuts, sauces, etc; outside, we approached a huge bin of macadamia nuts in the shell and could crack as many as we wanted, using their tree stumps and rocks); Kualoa Park (Chinaman’s Hat) where we walked the beach and marveled at the Koolau Mts. on the other side; Sunset Beach; and the Dole Plantation (get the pineapple whip, and stroll through their gardens)before returning the car. The ship had an expansive Hawaiian BBQ on deck, and after that, we went into town to walk around Chinatown and downtown (Iolani Palace and Capitol). It might be easy enough to get the bus to Waikiki, but we were led astray and finally gave up and went back to the ship and watched local Polynesian dancers for the evening show. A few more sea days, and then we arrived in Pago Pago. Again, owing to the federal gov’t shut-down, our plans to hike in the national park were stymied, so we chose instead to hunt for an internet café. We discovered McDonald's no longer offers it even though your device will show a McDonald network; the public library (a good walk to the left of the ship) charges $5 for all day; but one intrepid woman from our ship found the telecommunications building, and they magically turned on public access, and we used it for free at the market place (easy, short walk right from the ship). We returned to the ship to get snorkeling equipment, walked to the local bus depot, and went to Tisa's Barefoot Bar ($2 each, one way bus; $5 each entry; review on Trip Advisor). The water was warm, and the fish were abundant. We snorkeled an hour or so, and it started to storm, nixing plans to see more of the island on the bus or just walk around. It absolutely poured on the bus ride back, and the driver must have taken pity on us and took us right to the ship instead of the depot, and we got drenched getting on board. The storm continued well into the night, with the promenade deck closed and pools emptied. Suva, Fiji, was next. We enjoyed the pretty entrance into harbor, and a local native band played as we arrived. With another couple, we got a local taxi driver to take us to Colo-I-Suva Forest Park for $20 each, with him explaining he would show us some sights on the way and wait two hours for us at the rainforest. After having a local guide explain the map to us and tell us the key turns to take on the trail, we enjoyed a beautiful hike past 8 pools and small water falls. The last pool had a rope swing, and we saw several plunging into the very cold water! We took our time with the hike, spending almost 2 hours returning the way we came, although a shorter exit route is available. Our driver stopped at Raintree Lodge for some reason (hoping we’d buy something?) and then tried to get us to stay with him until 4pm. None of us wanted to. He dropped us at the ship, whereupon he told us we owed him another $40 for the extra hour! The other couple with us, having no more money, stood their ground, but – annoyed - we finally gave the cabbie our remaining $10. We changed, ate lunch, and went back out, finding free wifi right by the ship (outside a café providing internet)! We walked then to Thurston Gardens (don’t expect gardens, per se; this is more like a city park) and back into town for some stores (it was Sunday, so most were closed). A Fiji marching band thoroughly entertained us as the ship prepared to leave. Our plan in Pt. Vila, Vanatua, was to snorkel at Hideaway Island, but getting there proved a test of our patience. With another couple, we tried to get a taxi to Hideaway Island. It is a 5km walk into town, so we were at the mercy of aggressive, loud, and ultimately lying taxi drivers. We finally found a driver to take us, for $5 US each, to the town and insisted he let us off there. We then got a $3US/pp bus (privately owned, red "B" on license plate) to Hideaway Island. It was low tide, so we walked to the small picturesque island and paid 1250 vt (credit card; $15 AU) to use the island. The island has a restaurant, bungalows for longer stays, restrooms, a 650vt hamburger BBQ, coral beach, and beautiful water. We snorkeled and marveled at the number of fish (including a huge school of fish), saw some live coral, and the underwater post office! We laid in the sun for awhile, walked around the island and enjoyed the tidal pools, and took their boat back to shore where we paid $5US to get back to the ship. On ship days, many, many tents line the walkway from the pier, so we wandered through those. Lifou, New Caledonia, was a very welcomed respite from the madhouse we encountered in Pt. Vila. This is a laid-back, relatively unspoiled S. Pacific island. After tendering in, a small singing group met us at the jetty. We probably could have hired a driver at the pier, but no one was hawking their services, and we hadn’t planned on it anyway. We walked to Jinek Bay ($15 each to snorkel) which is stunningly beautiful. We didn’t pay to snorkel, but nothing prevented us from surveying the water and reef without walking the stairs to the entry point. The grounds are pretty, and we stayed in the shade for a while, gaping at the water! From there, we walked the hill to the church. It gets steep, but the views are impressive, and the small church is open. We walked back toward the ship and further on to a larger church and cemetery, spotting grass huts along the way. We walked a good deal further, but there’s really nothing to see, so we walked to the jetty and wandered the small market there. After lunch on the ship, we went back, and I enjoyed Easo Beach (right by the jetty) while my husband snorkeled (look for sea turtles). As with every island we have seen, the water is unbelievably beautiful. Last port stop was Noumea, New Caledonia. Dancers with drums greeted us. We needed an ATM (no US or AU dollars accepted), and one was just a few blocks away. While our plan had been to walk the entire way from the ship to Baie des Citrons and catch the water taxi to Duck Island, we ended up buying (500 cpf) cruise ship hop on-hop off (11 stops) bus tickets, walked to the Morning Market for fruit, and caught the bus to the first bay along our walking path. We walked along the marina in clouds and rain showers to Anse Vata, got (for 1250 cpf, each, r/t) water taxi to Duck Island, fearing we'd not be able to get in the water. But the sun came out! Duck Island is beautiful with walkways, bath houses, covered tables, landscaping, and a restaurant. The water was so cold, but we persevered for the best coral we've ever seen and for quite varied fish. We sunned a bit and walked around the island, watching wind surfers. Water taxi back, ho-ho bus back to ship. After changing clothes, we took the iPad and phone to the internet café right off the ship. Even paying for connectivity, we got none (too many people trying), so we walked around the town a bit, enjoyed the promenade, Chinatown, and Latin Quarter and then saw a McDonald's. A $3.50 Coke later, we quickly contacted family members. We were among the last ones to get on board. Local dancers and drummers were entertaining the ship again, and as we stopped to watch, the girls grabbed three of us to dance with them!! The next day we docked in Sydney, which was the end of the cruise for us. Be sure to get up early to see the entry into Sydney Harbor. It is magical!! We were off the ship by 8:30 (we enjoyed having a last breakfast on board and staying in our room until our number/color were called), breezed through customs, and got a taxi to our hotel. We stayed in the Meriton Serviced Apartments on Kent St., very close to Darling Harbor, Hyde Park, and Chinatown. The taxi fare said $14.50, but we were told $20 – perhaps some extra fee is involved from Circular Quay? Had we not had so much luggage, it would have been easy to catch the train or a bus; the transportation hub is right there. We enjoyed this trip thoroughly, continue to be impressed with HAL, and the days flew by. We spent three days in Sydney and then flew to Melbourne for ten days. If you have any questions, I’ll be happy to answer them.   Read Less
Sail Date September 2013
Since the moment we stepped on the boat, we were treated like royalty. The stateroom attendants, waitstaff, bartenders and even managers knew us by name. Every step we took we had a welcoming smile, good day mam/sir, and may I assist you. ... Read More
Since the moment we stepped on the boat, we were treated like royalty. The stateroom attendants, waitstaff, bartenders and even managers knew us by name. Every step we took we had a welcoming smile, good day mam/sir, and may I assist you. We could not be more happy. The food was incredible. Lots of options for a variety of eaters (vegan/vegetarian/gluten free/ even low sodium). The staff kept us busy with activities daily. The shows were incredible! Comedian, magician, professional singers, dancers and musicians entertained every night. Again, we were extremely satisfied with the plethora of options on the boat. We had new movies running in the theatre daily and running on the tele in your room the next day. Our stateroom was an inside cabin 2691. We have been on several cruises before, and the size of this room was considerably larger than others. My husband and I agreed that the queen bed was more comfortable than expected too! We had a pull out coach that we never used, but it was nice to sit on and eat room service at the table. We found it difficult to live for 3 weeks without a fridge, but with talking to other passengers found that you can rent a fridge for $2 day. (not advertised) Just ask at main office. We did not have a tub either, but we wouldn't have used it if we did (too small). All port days we did our own thing. We were on a budget, so we did not book any excursions. We walked through the main port and hopped on a local bus. At Hilo, Hawaii there is the best travel company called Hoppa On, Hoppa Off. Well worth the money for what you get. Very friendly and affordable transportation that shows you the island. The rest of is;ands we took city buses for a dollar or 2 each way and had a great time. The snorkeling was the most memorable experience. TAKE YOUR OWN SCUBA MASK! We brought our own and so glad we did. The beaches would rent them for 15-20 dollars, but you can buy your own from walmart for $5-10 and be set the entire time. -Waikiki on Oahu Hawaii is beautiful- check out punchbowl cemetaary and the view. -Pago, Pago- take city bus for $2 and go to $2 dollar beach. Best place in the world! -Vanuatu- hideaway beach and underwater post office is amazing! -Fiji- take a tour to rainforest and waterfalls. Check out their local markets, huts and culture. Stay out of Suva! -New Caledonia- french speaking, so learn how to say "i'm sorry I do not speak french, do you speak english?" The locals will respond easier to that than "english?" You will get laughed at -Sydney- take the bridge walk. It's amazing!   Read Less
Sail Date September 2013
This type of report is unavoidably subjective. I have read on this and other forums reports about the same cruise by different authors and it is hard to believe that they were actually on the same ship at the same time. The following are ... Read More
This type of report is unavoidably subjective. I have read on this and other forums reports about the same cruise by different authors and it is hard to believe that they were actually on the same ship at the same time. The following are therefore my views only and I'm sure that other passengers from this voyage of the Volendam would disagree with me on just about every point I make. I took this cruise because I had been invited to a wedding in Las Vegas and at the time that the invitation arrived I saw a Holland America newspaper advertisement. Rather than face 14 hours flying home to Sydney from Los Angeles I decided to sail across the Pacific. Embarkation I drove from Manhattan Beach where I'd stayed the previous two nights (at the Seaview Inn on Highland Avenue, which I highly recommend) to Long Beach and this took about 30 minutes. I arrived at the Cruise Terminal at about 10.30am. I dropped off my bags (this took 30 seconds) and then headed off to find the Hertz office in Long Beach to return the car. I considered walking the 3km back to the cruise terminal but there was a vacant taxi right outside Hertz so I took it and was waiting with all the other passengers by 11.15am. We waited until about 12 noon for something to happen; I sat waiting in the shade; about 150 people waited in a tight group right at the door as though cabins were going to be allocated on a first come first served basis. As we entered the building we had our passports and documentation examined, went through security inspection and then got into another line to be photographed and given a room key. I was on the ship by 12.15pm and in my cabin by 12.20pm; welcoming my luggage by 12.30pm and then in the queue for lunch a few minutes after that. It was all a bit anticlimactic; I'd expected long lines and missing bags and to find my cabin already occupied by a family of gypsies, but it all went very smoothly. There were staff on each level to guide passengers to their cabins. The passengers were generally, to put it kindly, of an older (verging on ancient) demographic. This is probably because of the length of the cruise, 21 days from Los Angeles to Sydney and also because there were two period of sea days (4 days LA to Hilo, and 5 days Honolulu to American Samoa) that may not appeal to many younger travellers. I would have been at least 20 years younger than any except twenty of the other passengers and I think that they were all parents with small children. At least I would not have had any problem pushing my way into a lifeboat if we'd done a Titanic. Having said that their age did not prevent them from being generally interesting to talk to and as with any large group of people there were those i felt comfortable with and gravitated towards and those i avoided. At 4.15pm there was life boat drill, and these are taken very seriously since the Costa Concordia fiasco. It was not necessary to take lifejackets to this drill (this was made very clear both in writing and in announcements but this didn't stop a number of passengers turning up like they were about to go over the side). It took about 25 minutes to complete the drill. The Volendam was berthed at Long Beach next to the Queen Mary; the former Cunard transatlantic liner that is now a floating hotel and tourist attraction at Long Beach. I'd always thought that the Queen Mary was a very large ship but it looked smaller than the ship I was standing on. The 5pm departure was delayed for 40 minutes as fuel was still being pumped aboard. When we did start moving it was without fanfare or announcement. Only a blast of the ship's horn to warn a sailing boat of our approach gave people the idea that the voyage had commenced. Cabin I had originally booked a single occupancy ocean view cabin (1946) on deck 1 but was persuaded by the advice of my mother (who at 86 is enthusiastically cruising) to change to a veranda cabin on deck 6. I was in cabin 6194 on the port side of the ship; about two thirds of the way back from the front of the ship. Even with the additional cost, nearly double, I'm very glad I made the change because having a veranda means being able to get a breath of fresh air without having to make yourself presentable enough to leave your cabin to go on deck. The veranda also makes the cabin seem so much bigger with the extra space outside and also with the wall between the interior and the veranda being all glass (with curtains heavy enough to block out the sun if necessary). There was little noise from adjacent cabins or from the corridor outside. My cabin had other cabins above on deck 7 and I never heard a noise from that direction. Below me was the library and internet area and again I never heard a noise from there. There were a few squeaks if the ship was rolling but no vibration from the engines or other distractions. The cabin was spotlessly clean when I arrived and remained so for the whole voyage; any mess was mine alone. The bed was very comfortable with a good reading light and six pillows were provided; 2 firm, 2 medium and 2 soft. Plenty of storage space for everything and enough room under the bed for several suitcases. Take a power board if like me you have several things you want to charge or power at the same time. There is one power point at the desk. The bathroom is a good size and well lit; with a shower over a bath. The hot water was consistent in temperature and the water is soft enough for shampoos and soaps to lather. The cabin was serviced every morning while I was having breakfast; the room steward just seemed to know when I'd gone to eat. On the TV there are: - Usually three movies on three channels showing in a continuous cycle. - Holland America promotional material. - Promotional material for the on board shops. - Port excursion and other information. - Replays of presentations and cooking demonstrations from previous day - Fox News seemed to work no matter where we were. - ESPN, TNT and other channels worked most of the time, this depended on satellite location. - Ship location, speed, heading, weather information channel. There are 100s of DVDs available to borrow; you just have to phone and they will deliver! Food Lunch after embarkation was served at the buffet on the Lido deck (which is deck 8). For the first couple of days at sea the staff serves you at the buffet and shaking hands with all your new friends is discouraged to limit the spread of any nasty bugs that may have come aboard with the passengers. There are disinfectant dispensers all over the ship; especially at the entrance to eating areas. At this first meal the passengers were all eating like it had just been announced that no more food would be served until we got to Sydney in 21 days. The price of the tickets for this voyage means that the passengers should not have recently known hunger but they were attacking the buffet, as far as restrictions permitted, like a starving mob. Food is available almost continuously from 6.30am (continental breakfast) followed at 7am by full buffet breakfast until 10.30am; or an a la carte breakfast in the MDR from 8am to 9.30am. Buffet lunch from 11.30am to 2pm (a la carte from 12 to 2pm); burgers and pizzas available from 11.30 to 5pm; buffet dinner from 5.30pm to 9pm; a la carte 5 course dinner from 5.30pm to 9.30pm. Then a short break until late snacks from 10.30pm to 11.30pm; I haven't been to this yet but the menu looks like another full buffet dinner. For those left a bit peckish between all of the above there is room service available in your cabin at no charge. I noticed that the plates in the Lido are deceptively large and when you're served hot food by the staff or serve yourself salads then what I would consider to be a normal portion of food looks rather lonely in the middle of the plate. The first couple of times I ate at the Lido I felt a bit short-changed in terms of quantity but then realised that I was eating as much and most likely very much more than I normally do. Breakfast Always ate this in the Lido and either sat inside or by the pool. It would be impossible to leave breakfast without being well satisfied. From the fresh squeezed orange juice (I have no idea where they store all the oranges required to do this for 1400 passengers for 21 days, the crew probably sleep on bags of oranges) to the cooked to order eggs and omelettes, breads, waffles, pastries, muffins, sausages, bacon (perfectly crispy every day), cereals and fruits it is the perfect way to start the day. Special mention for the baker on the Volendam; fantastic fresh bread and bread rolls at every meal, plus croissants, muffins (the chocolate ones are the best I have ever had) and wonderful fruit buns for breakfast. Lunch Mostly I ate lunch at the Lido. Lunch in the MDR is very pleasant with large windows on three sides giving a view of the ocean. This is not open for lunch when the ship is in port. Excellent burgers, tacos and pizza were available from Terrace Grill which is next to the midships pool on the Lido deck. Dinner Ate in the MDR on formal nights and service and food was excellent. Room Service Only tried it once and the turkey club sandwich was excellent. Sea Days There were four sea days between Los Angeles and Hilo and five sea days between Honolulu and American Samoa. You're either going to love or hate these days; but if you've booked on this sort of voyage then you should have booked because you'll enjoy them. Being away from outside distractions (apart from TV and internet, which are easy to ignore on the ship) for this many days is a real break from the world you inhabit all the rest of your life. This is a bit what life was like before mobile phones, internet, Facebook, 24 hour news and constant time demands. There are few things more enjoyable, to me at least, after a satisfying late breakfast than lying on a deck chair with a good book and listening to the waves and have the warm tropical air blow over you. Entertainment Internet Connecting is expensive and slower than you will get at home; but it does work most of the time. There were occasional periods of no connection due to satellite / ship positions but over 21 days these periods amounted to less than a day in total. There are Wi-Fi hot spots about the ship but the most reliable place to use your own device is on deck 5 in the Library, where there are also computers to use. During the day there is an internet manager in the Library on deck 5 to help with any internet issues. Library If you forget to pack some books to read then don't worry; the library on the Volendam has several thousand books; all well-arranged and it would be hard for anyone not to be able to find at least a few books that they wanted to read. There are also magazines and each day a news digest of 8 pages (NY Times) or 4 pages for Australia, UK, Canada and Germany is placed here and at several other locations around the ship. Music The on board band, Elise and the HALCats, were fantastic. Elise can really belt out a tune. Having a late lunch by the pool listening to Elise sing was a great way to feel like I was really on holiday. The musicians were also the backing band in the theatre for visiting performers. There was a string quartet, Adagio Strings, playing each evening in the Explorer's Lounge and they played a variety of classical and other music. They are very accomplished and entertaining and very relaxing. In the Ocean Bar each evening a trio, The Neptunes, played for listening and dancing, and again they were very good. The pianist had his music on an iPad and he must have hundreds of songs on it because there wasn't a request that he wasn't able to play. I liked them enough to buy the CD they had for sale. They are on the ship for seven months, playing every night. Michael, a solo guitarist, played in the Piano Bar each evening and at some other locations such as the Lido Pool during the day. Will played the piano, appropriately in the Piano Bar, each evening from 9pm and he has a very wide repertoire and was happy to take requests. The barman at this bar also makes very, very good Margaritas. It is worth spending an evening listening to Michael and Will. On Stage The stage shows in the theatre aren't West End or Broadway in scale and no reasonable person would expect them to be, but they are very entertaining and very well done. The theatre itself has very comfortable seating with good sight lines and acoustics. Shows are at 8pm and 10pm each night; the 10pm is less crowded; for some 8pm shows the audience starts arriving at 7.30pm. Lorna Luft was on one night and the Original Drifters another (they weren't actually the original Drifters but still a fun group and left the audience very happy). The singers and dancers who appeared in various shows were very good and did a lot with a stage of limited size. The hit songs of the 1960s were the theme of a show called the Dinnerbelles (It would take too long to explain the name); three female singers (including Elise from the HALCats), two dancers and a male singer (who changed parts and costume about six times). Rehearsals for some shows are open to passengers and you get to see the whole show plus an insight into how it is put together. Well worth attending. Other Activities Each evening a four page information and activities brochure is delivered to your cabin. Take the time to read it and go through the list of activities. There were a vast number of lectures and activities. The Future Cruise Consultant David gave a few talks and they were worth attending just to hear his stories about the 90 cruises he has been on. He had a wealth of knowledge about upgrades, best cabin locations, best side of ships for different cruises and ports and how to compare different cruises and cabins for value for money. The computer and camera classes were very popular judging from the crowds waiting each day before the doors opened to the classroom at the rear of deck 5. There are cooking classes, some where you watch and some where you cook and then eat. At the first cooking demo I went to there was a woman (American) sitting down the front who constantly interrupted with questions that weren't relevant; I would have happily stabbed her eyes out with a pencil if I'd had one with me. If clocks need to be changed then this is where it is announced. The first time change after leaving Los Angeles about one third of passengers put their clocks back an hour as requested, about one third put them forward an hour and about one third did nothing; the confusion the next morning was a pleasure to witness. Laundry On deck 6 there are 4 washers and 4 dryers; similar arrangements on two other decks. The machines take US quarters; you need $2 for a wash (takes about 35 minutes) and $1 for dryer (takes 40 minutes). Change is available at the Front Office on deck 4 which is open 24 hours a day. Liquid soap for the washers is provided at no charge. Medium heat setting on the dryer is more than hot enough for anything less than drying a circus tent. There are irons and ironing boards also available here. Ports of Call Hilo Hawaii It rains in Hilo on 275 days a year and we arrived in one of those days. I had booked to go on a tour to the summit if Mauna Kea at 13,796 feet. My ticket was waiting for me in my cabin when I boarded. There were two groups of eight booked for this tour and we went in two minibuses operated by Arnott's Tours. My guide was Al and there is nothing he doesn't know about Hilo. After driving through the main business area of the town (which has surprisingly many buildings from the 1940s and 1950s considering that Hilo has had two big tsunamis since 1945) we had a stop to see a waterfall, which looked just like a waterfall, not particularly high or wide or fast flowing. There was a fellow making hats and bowls from palm fronds; I would have bought a hat but didn't, knowing that it was unlikely to get past quarantine inspection back in Sydney. We all clambered back onto the bus and headed to the interior of the island. After about 25 miles we stopped at an altitude of 5000 feet near a very large lava flow dating from an eruption in 1984 from Mauna Loa, the volcano adjacent to Mauna Kea. Al the guide said that this type of lava is known as Ah-Ah lava; as that is what you say if you step on it before it has cooled. We then drove in about 20 minutes up to 9000 feet to a visitor centre/shop where we waited an hour so that we could acclimatize to the altitude and watch some videos on astronomical telescopes (of which there are many on the summit of Mauna Kea). The remaining 8 miles to the summit is half dirt road and half asphalt. The dirt road is very heavily rutted and the worst road I can ever remember driving on. When we got on the bus in Hilo and started our drive I noticed that the bus had many rattles; after being on the dirt portion of the road I know why. The road is left as dirt because in the winter black ice will form on asphalt but not on dirt and because the road is so steep it would be even more dangerous than it is currently is if it were covered with black ice. The road is supposed to be graded on a regular basis; we saw the grader but no driver. We drove above the clouds and all vegetation disappeared; the landscape looked like the photos sent back from the latest mission to Mars. Al the guide told us that he had oxygen to assist people who were having breathing difficulties, hallucinations, heart palpitations and so on. The only cure for altitude sickness is to go to a lower altitude quickly and really serious altitude sickness can be fatal. When we got out at the top I felt a bit light headed but a quick self-diagnosis confirmed all vital signs within acceptable limits. The view from the top was breath taking, literally. We were above most of the clouds and could see all the way to the island of Maui, which is about 80km away. We went into the Keck Observatory; or more correctly one of the two building housing matching telescopes. Each telescope has many large hexagonal mirrors and the mirrors are kept in alignment by tiny electric motors that flex the mirror surfaces so that all the hexagons function as if they were one very large mirror. After spending about 30 minutes at the summit, where it is warm in the sun but the wind was freezing, we drove back down to the visitor centre and had sandwiches for lunch. We then drove back to Hilo and the ship. If we hadn't stopped for lunch then from nearly 14,000 feet above sea level to sea level could have been driven in about an hour. It was still raining in Hilo when we got back. I can very highly recommend this tour. I spoke to one of the passengers who had done the helicopter flight to see the active lava flows and she said that was very good and worth doing. Honolulu Hawaii I took myself by public bus to Pearl Harbor. The number 20 bus leaves from about 200 yards from where the ships dock. It is $2.50 flat fare and you must have exact change as none is given. It took about 45 minutes to get to the Pearl Harbor memorial (it does goes into the airport to the terminals, but don't worry it does come back out). The bus turns off the highway into the visitor centre to let passengers off. Tell the driver you want this stop and he will announce it loudly when you arrive. I saw the museum and also I went aboard the battleship Missouri and the submarine Bowfin. On the Missouri make sure you take one of the guided tours as the guides are very knowledgeable. If you go aboard the Bowfin then make sure you are reasonably agile as the doorways (hatchways) between compartments of the submarine are small and have a very high step. From the highway outside the visitor centre I caught bus number 20 back to the business district near where the Volendam was docked. After lunch aboard I then walked off to find a post office. On the way I saw the Iolani Palace, the only royal place in the United States and the nearby statue of King Kamehameha. I also saw many fine public buildings, none of which had been built in the last 50 years. The more recently constructed Federal Courts building looks like it has been designed to withstand an armed attack. I then tried to catch a bus to Waikiki (about 3 miles) but after waiting 20 minutes in the sun and watching packed buses go past I decided to get a taxi. Honolulu seems to have fewer taxis than any other major city I have visited. Or maybe the drivers were all having an afternoon nap. Eventually I got a taxi and went to the Royal Hawaiian Hotel. This is a pink coloured hotel is on the beach at Waikiki; built long before the high rise towers that now surround it. I wandered through the spacious public areas of the hotel to the beach. Without the background of Diamond Head Waikiki would be a rather pathetic beach; some of the hotels don't even have sand in front of them and at its deepest the beach is about 40m from hotel boundary to water. I had a look around the area behind the beach and it looks just like Surfers Paradise in Australia; many of the shops are exactly the same. So I wasn't much impressed by Waikiki. I caught bus number 20 back to the ship. I think it odd that the bus company doesn't provide a map and some timetable information at bus stops frequented by tourists. Doubly odd as they boast on the side of the buses that they are the best bus company in the US (perhaps that is an instructive comment on the average quality of public transport in the US). At least the driver on the bus was very entertaining and announced at one stop that it was the last stop and we'd all have to get off; as angry passengers surged towards the front of the bus he shouted out "just kidding" and put the bus in motion. Pago Pago American Samoa A spectacular harbour; it is surrounded by thick jungle almost down to the water and covering every bit of ground that isn't a road or built on. Coming into this port early in the morning is unforgettable. I didn't take an organised tour. I walked along the main road and saw that there wasn't much except a few ordinary shops and the local market. The Somerset Maugham story Rain is set in Pago Pago in the 1920s. Somerset Maugham visited Pago Pago about that time and was forced to stay on the island for two weeks because of a measles epidemic (which meant that he and others couldn't travel on to other destinations because of the risk of infection during the incubation period). The place he stayed is still standing and is now named in honour of one of the main characters in the story Sadie Thompson, a prostitute. In the story the rain is incessant but this isn't the rainy season otherwise yesterday's visit would have been much less pleasant. On the wharf there were lots of stalls set up just for the day. These were selling clothes and souvenirs but the offerings were somewhat repetitive; if you'd seen a couple of the stalls then you'd seen them all. I hired a taxi to take me over to the north side of the island. As we crossed the ridge from south to north we stopped to take photos of the stunning harbour. Then we drove through a national park to a perfect beach. There and back took about an hour and the pre-agreed cost was $20. The driver was a pleasant fellow but his English and my Samoan were about the same standard so we didn't chat much. After lunch on the ship (there seemingly being nowhere else to eat on land except McDonalds) I took another taxi from the dock and told the driver to go west for an hour and then turn around and come back by a different route. This driver was chatty. He'd taken the day off from his job at Ace Hardware to try to make a bit of extra money from tourists. He even called in to Ace Hardware to drive past the front door and honk the horn at his workmates to show them that he was actually working. Everywhere we drove was lush with a profusion of tropical plants and trees. Gardening seems to be a common pass time; the majority of the gardens were very neat and almost every house was growing bananas and vegetables. The two hour "tour" cost $40; I'm sure I could have bargained this amount down as there were other drivers at the wharf offering $15 per hour; but I wasn't inclined to quibble about $10 and the driver certainly needed the money more than me. Pago Pago was a very pleasant surprise to me. The island is ruggedly mountainous and the harbour is as beautiful a place as you'll ever see. But be warned; during the rainy season from December to March the rainfall is measured in metres. Suva Fiji I didn't do an organised tour here. Beaches, swimming and coral are at least 45 minutes drive from Suva; west to the Coral Coast. The ship was in Suva on a Sunday and there isn't much to do in the city of Suva on a Sunday. At 9am when I went for a walk there were three places of business open and one of them was McDonalds. I last visited Suva in 1973 and the only changes in appearance have been for the worse. There are still some colonial era buildings in the city but most have been replaced by generic multi floor buildings that could have been built anywhere and are not sympathetic to, or suitable for, the climate or the location. I went for another walk later in the day and there were more shops open; but unless you wanted to buy clothes or souvenirs there wasn't much to interest the passengers. Probably the most diverting sight I saw was a group of workers painting road markings on the road along the harbour front. There was no machine being used; they were doing it with paint brushes and tins of paint. This meant that it was very tedious work. Passengers stopped to watch and take photos. Once the workmen realised that they were the centre of attention they became more fastidious with their brush strokes. We had been warned to be careful if we wandered away from the main streets; there have been instances of passengers from ships being robbed. A couple of weeks in a secure environment like the Volendam does slightly dull your senses as far as watching out for unexpected dangers. Port Vila Vanuatu The ship docked about 2.5km from the town centre. As the passengers exited the port gate we were surrounded by taxi drivers and tour guides. It looked like every motorized vehicle in Vila was at the gates looking for someone to take for a ride (both literally and figuratively). The recommended fare for the journey to town, one way, is USD15; which I thought a bit steep for the distance although I could have reduced that amount by sharing. Although in the mob outside the gate I heard the trip being offered for USD5 by the more enterprising or desperate drivers. Also outside the port gate, along both sides of the road to the town for about 400m, there were scores of stalls all selling essentially the same trinkets, clothes and other stuff that the locals hope that heat affected tourists will think it essential to buy. I decided to walk to the town centre as I was a bit sick of walking in a circle on deck 3. The local government obviously doesn't have enough money to properly maintain the roads so they certainly don't have any money to splash out on footpaths; it was a walk and sometimes a scramble around to the town. The shops were a mixture of "duty free" ranging from the air conditioned to the dim and dingy as well as lots of souvenir and clothing shops that are all selling the same stock. There were a few cafes and restaurants but nothing that was particularly appealing. I went into a supermarket. To remind visitors that Vanuatu was formerly jointly administered by the French and the British (an unusual arrangement known as a condominium) there was a large display of tinned meat, advertised with the slogan "tin meat blong Vanuatu" and not too far away a tempting display of French breads and pastries. The most common form of commerce was people sitting under umbrellas or in small booths selling mobile phone credit. I must have walked past ten before I turned around to go back to the ship. This is in addition to every other shop also advertising mobile phone credits. The Vanuatu market was in a large open-sided structure in the main street. Fruit and vegetables were for sale; the most popular items being bananas, coconuts, yams, taro and sweet potato. The vendors looked like they are well-used to having their photos taken tourists who don't buy anything. Surprisingly, a significant proportion of the passengers walking around at these tropical ports are not wearing hats. Unsurprisingly, there are many sunburnt people at the end of each day in port. Easo Lifou Island New Caledonia Lifou Island is part of New Caledonia and about 150km North East of Noumea. Easo is a very small village on the North West coast of Lifou. The ship anchored at 7am about 1km offshore in the bluest water i've ever seen and the passengers went ashore in four of the life boats. I decided to go ashore as soon as possible, which was about 8.15am, because it was very windy and I thought that it might get so windy that they would stop passengers from going ashore. We landed at a jetty on a beach that was about 500m long. It is the only beach on this side of the island as far as I can see; and that's probably about 10km from the top deck of the ship. I walked up to the church on the promontory that we could see clearly from the ship. The path wasn't too steep. The statue on the roof of the church was blown into the sea during a cyclone some years ago and the locals thought it was lost forever. However, scuba divers visiting the island found the statue and using large air lift bags raised the statue to the surface and somehow got it ashore, up the hill and back on to the roof. I then walked to a small bay across the promontory from where I had come ashore (the promontory being only 500m wide at that point). This bay had only a tiny beach that was difficult to get down to but the whole bay was filled with coral sitting in water that was as clear as gin. Steps down on to the beach and into the water are being constructed but are currently roped off with a 'do not enter' sign; this was ignored by all visitors. The locals were offering for sale much the same merchandise that I'd seen for sale at the last three ports, except this all had "greetings from Lifou" on it. There was also food for sale. Being part of New Caledonia and therefore part of France, the food included baguettes and quiche. On my first visit ashore I went for a swim and the water was surprisingly "refreshing"; other passengers said it was cold. The beach was sand but once in the water it was mostly broken coral underfoot. This place is very beautiful and with crystal clear water, a white beach and coral it is what most people would imagine a South Pacific paradise to be. At 5pm the ship lifted its anchor and we started towards Noumea. Thursday Noumea New Caledonia New Caledonia is a department of France, so the residents behave, justifiably, as though they are living in France. Although the local currency is not the Euro; New Caledonia has its own currency; the CFP (central pacific franc; about 100 francs to AUD1.00). The ship docked at the cruise terminal is really just a large shelter and inside there were lots of locals eager to sell tickets for tours. There were not, unlike Pago Pago, Suva and Vila any taxi drivers or other locals touting for business. I went for a walk around the city for a couple of hours and then came back to the ship. I didn't get back on board as I was persuaded to buy a ticket for a one hour tour that was leaving immediately. There were only two other tourists and me in an eight seat mini bus. Philippe the driver had obviously done this tour more times that he can remember and would say "on your right" or "on your left" while himself looking in the opposite direction. We stopped a couple of times to take photos but otherwise just drove around. A more popular option was on the yellow 'train'; a road going set of small wagons pulled by a tractor disguised as a locomotive. This has the advantage that the sides are open and it doesn't go very fast. You can also buy "hop on hop off" tickets for a bus that stops at about 20 places on a route around Noumea. Place des Cocotiers is the park which forms the central square of the city. This is a pleasant space with lots of shade trees and places to sit comfortably out of the sun. On the day I was market stalls had been set up. This is was coincidental with the visit of the Volendam and the goods for sale were intended for locals rather than tourists; eg whole fresh fish and other food. There is a morning market (closes at 11am) about 500m from the dock; turn right out of the terminal and keep walking around the waterfront. Based on less than a day here, I quite like Noumea. Perhaps because it is a place that has other things to do apart from cater to the needs of the passengers on the ship. In the previous three ports of call it seemed like if the ship hadn't been in port then it wouldn't have been worth it for the locals to get out of bed that day. In Noumea the visit of the ship is just another thing that is happening today. Although I certainly stand out as a visitor, because I'm lighter skinned than the native population and not as smartly dressed as the European population, I haven't been subject today to the constant questioning about my requirements regarding clothes that I'd never wear, shops, transport, hair braiding (seriously, the last time I could have been legitimately asked this question was 1974), massages, wooden curios of all sizes and shapes, postcards of places I haven't been to and tours to places I don't want to visit. Disembarkation Given the choice of first, middle or last disembarkation time I choose the middle time; 8-8.30; as I didn't need to go to the airport and wanted to make sure that I enjoyed my last breakfast that someone else is cooking for me. Australian Immigration officials got on the ship in Noumea and spent most of a day processing everyone's arrival documentation. The night before arrival in Sydney a personalised disembarkation envelope was delivered to my cabin with my leaving time, 8.15am, and coloured baggage tags for that time. The ship entered Sydney Harbour at 5.30am, just before sunrise, and sailed slowly down the harbour to berth at Circular Quay, opposite the Opera House and next to the Harbour Bridge, at 6.30am. There was a delay of about 15 minutes leaving the ship due to a hold up with unloading the baggage. During the delay announcements were frequently made so that those departing knew what was going on and could wait somewhere comfortable rather than crowding the gangway. Overall Impression The cruise was a delight, although it took me about a week to slow down and adjust to life on board. Activities were exceptionally well organised by pleasant, intelligent and approachable staff, led by Tamaryn Hurly the Cruise Director. The hotel staff were all fantastic and no sensible request that I heard made was ever left unsatisfied. After reading some less than enthusiastic comments in various cruise reviews about the entertainment on board I was very pleasantly surprised at how good it was and how consistently good it was. I will cruise again and I will cruise with Holland America again. What didn't I like - Being a single passenger leads to minor annoyances. For example, like having first course of a meal in the Lido and going to get second course and coming back to my table to find that the table has been cleared; or worse still, coming back and finding table occupied by someone else. In the Main Dining Room for lunch a couple of times and asked for a table for one; although many two person tables available and not many people in the MDR at that time I was given table right next to serving station; I know someone has to get that table but surely it should be the last resort rather than saved for an annoying single person like me. - There was on a couple of occasions I had difficulty in making myself understood with staff. In hindsight I realise I should have spoken a lot more slowly and certainly their English is infinitely better than my Indonesian or Tagalog. That said, the staff are endlessly obliging and constantly cheerful despite very long hours of work each day and very long periods at sea without any home leave. - The relentless promoting by the shops on board; one TV channel is constant promotional material for opals, emeralds, tanzanite etc. (I know, turn off the TV) - The art auction; a careful reading of the promotional material given out by Park West Gallery shows that most of the material being offered are not unique works of art in the generally accepted use of those words. For example, the word Giclee is used to describe the material of many works; this is a fancy word used for photos printed by an ink jet printer. The works are then hand signed by the artist or "hand embellished" as though this makes the piece an original work of art; I suppose it is original in that no two printed and signed pieces will be exactly the same but the less knowledgeable passenger may think they are getting a one-off piece of art work that has some possibility of increasing in value. Avoid! - The service charge; I paid it simply because I felt that if I didn't then those who made my cruise good for me wouldn't be sufficiently rewarded, especially those who I didn't get to see like the kitchen staff and the guy who made sure the hot water kept working. HAL should just increase the price of tickets by the same amount and stop guilt tripping passengers into paying this charge as though they have a real choice. I separately gave cash tips to those staff who I felt added something extra to my cruise; room stewards (at start and end of cruise); bar staff and the young lady who served the ice cream in the Lido. Read Less
Sail Date September 2012
Having cruised recently on the Sea Princess, I imagined that Holland America would be a similar experience, well I was wrong! Boarding at Los Angeles (Long Beach) was a breeze, no queues, no hassle and the whole process only took 10 ... Read More
Having cruised recently on the Sea Princess, I imagined that Holland America would be a similar experience, well I was wrong! Boarding at Los Angeles (Long Beach) was a breeze, no queues, no hassle and the whole process only took 10 minutes, pre-checkin on the internet did help. This was the fastest embarkation I have ever experienced. The Volendam is a wonderful ship, very traditional with only 1400 guests it does not have that overcrowded feel of the larger ships. The layout is such that you never have to queue for anything. The two pools one of which is situated at the stern were more than adequate for the number of passengers on board. Dining was a real joy to look forward to every night. The main dining room the Rotterdam is on two levels, one being for traditional dining and the other for anytime dining. We chose the latter and always got a table without queuing- the two waiters at our first night were so good that we dined at the same table for the entire cruise. The standard of food here was very high ,the best we have experienced on a cruise ship,-Holland America have Daniel (the Head Chief) to thank for that-, so much so that we did not even try the speciality restaurant (The Pinnacle Grill). The other dining options-the Lido Cafe, Canaletto's and poolside Mexican/American grill were also of a very high standard. Entertainment was good with the resident company doing shows plus visiting artists gave us a wide variety of performers to enjoy, again the quality of the shows was very high. There is also a cinema on board which showed recently released films daily and free popcorn was provided. There were two bars where you could enjoy a pianist and a string quartet, so everyones taste was catered for.The biggest difference we noticed between Holland America and Princess were Holland America paid more attention to the "niceties", there were cloth towels in the public washrooms, staff provided free lemonade around the pool,use of glasses and china, not plastic plates around the pool, no pressure to "buy,Buy,Buy" on board and generally the service on board was much higher than Princess or Celebrity and some of this must go down to the staff. Apart from the uniformed officers every single person had a smile always acknowledged you when passing, very often knew your name, no mean feat when there are 1400 of us. They worked hard to ensure that we had a great experience and always without fail exceeded our and most other guests expectations. I believe that Holland America has got this element of cruising spot on. We had on two occasions reason to complain about the pool and attitude of a uniformed officer, both issues were dealt with immediately and we were very impressed at the way they deal with any form of poor service- well done. The ports of call were interesting, included New Caledonia, Ile des Pines, and Samoa. We were supposed to visit Eden in Australia, but due to inclement weather we had to forgo this please and instead have an overnight in Sydney, to everyone's delight!! On the whole we were very impressed with the standard on this ship, we loved it and will return again to experience the feeling of being part of the Voldendam Family. Read Less
Sail Date September 2011
This trip was planned as my elderly mother's last "big one" before retiring from travel completely. We actually hadn't heard of Holland America before but decided to take this cruise as it ended up in Auckland our home ... Read More
This trip was planned as my elderly mother's last "big one" before retiring from travel completely. We actually hadn't heard of Holland America before but decided to take this cruise as it ended up in Auckland our home port. Before finalizing I read many reviews most of which were to our liking. We found the ship wonderful with like minded passengers and plenty of activities to suit everyone. Being a long cruise, there was plenty of time to try everything on offer without having to rush around a ship as you do on shorter cruises. However, nothing is perfect. Being Kiwis our dollar was getting thrashed and therefore we were careful in what we spent. We took several bottles of wine onboard and were very grateful to HAL for allowing us to do so. However, we did purchase bottled wine for dinner at the Rotterdam - big mistake - a few days into the cruise a fellow passenger gave us the heads up on THE WINE CARD - a great saving over buying by the glass or the bottle. However, it is not advertised as such by the ship. I purchased a gym package which entitled me to do all the classes such as yoga, pilates and spinning for $200. The gym facilities and fitness instructors were outstanding. However at the spa, my elderly mother was "encouraged" to get skin products when she went to get her hair done. No price was mentioned at the time but when she went to sign for the bill she was most upset to see it was over $600. I was however able to return most of them. I was also told by a fellow "novice" cruiser he was also "encouraged" to get his teeth whitened and was charged $500 afterwards and was too embarrassed to question it. So anyone using the spa I would advise to question the price of all products they are offering. The cabin was on Dolphin Deck midships and one of the smoothest rides I have ever encountered. It was quiet, spacious, big window and comfortable beds. If it had a fridge I would have rated it with a top mark. (We had done a short cruise on the Sun Princess earlier and were upgraded to a balcony. However the cabin was a lot smaller than Volendam and the bathroom was tiny). The cabin and ship were kept spotlessly clean. We had open seating which I preferred over fixed dining as it gave us flexibility to dine especially in port. We preferred to eat at the Rotterdam and all meals were tasty, well presented and quite healthy. Breakfasts however were disappointing as the toast was always either burnt, soggy or both. The bacon also was fatty and very overdone and impossible to eat with a fork as it just crumbled. They constantly ran out of cereals or fruit but made up for it with the fresh omelettes made before your eyes which I particularly enjoyed. We dined with an officer once and I was disappointed that the officers were not around more. (I always remembered cruising in the seventies and eighties as being a lot of fun when the officers partied too!) There was one evening called a Black and White Ball where you could dance with them and it was probably the most fun I had all cruise. The live shows each evening were wonderful with lots of variety and they also incorporated live local cultural shows from various ports. We also attended the Park West art shows and these were really interesting and informative as well as being entertaining. The Art Director was particularly knowledgeable and nothing was too much trouble for him. The ports were good with ample time in each one although I would have preferred Tahiti to Suva. We tendered 3 times and it was well organized with minimal waiting time. Overall we thoroughly enjoyed the cruise and found the Volendam full of wonderful surprises. The front office staff were most obliging and helpful, as were 99% of the crew. The captain kept us informed most days on the ship's nautical happenings as did the cruise director with activities and I would have no hesitation to sail with HAL again. Read Less
Sail Date September 2008
Volendam Ratings
Category Editor Member
Cabins 3.5 4.0
Dining 4.0 4.0
Entertainment 3.5 3.5
Public Rooms 4.0 4.2
Fitness Recreation 4.5 3.8
Family 3.5 3.8
Shore Excursion 4.0 3.5
Enrichment 5.0 3.5
Service 5.0 4.2
Value For Money 4.0 3.8
Rates 4.0 3.9

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