592 Holland America Volendam Cruise Reviews

It costs around $1000 a night for a deluxe verandah suite on most Holland America ships and, sometimes, an extra .50c for ear plugs to get a decent rest. Due to an original design fault, up to 144 of the most expensive suites on eight ... Read More
It costs around $1000 a night for a deluxe verandah suite on most Holland America ships and, sometimes, an extra .50c for ear plugs to get a decent rest. Due to an original design fault, up to 144 of the most expensive suites on eight HAL ships -- Volendam, Maasdam, Ryandan, Statendam, Veendam, Rotterdam, Zaandam and Amsterdam -- are located directly under the often-noisy pool deck. The sound of deck chairs and tables scraping, running, footsteps and even table tennis can be heard in many staterooms directly below. Guests who complain loudly enough and cannot be switched to quieter suites nearer the bow and aft are offered substantial monetary compensation and other sweeteners. Holland America (HAL) while painfully aware of the problem despite years of investigation and attempts at insulation, adopts a policy of denial in its day-to-day operations. Certainly that was the case on the ms Volendam on which my wife and I recently cruised from Hong Kong to Singapore for 16 nights in suite 7011. From day one we could hear heavy footsteps and scraping noises from overhead which woke us up during afternoon naps and in the early hours of the morning. Initially, complaints were met with feigned wide-eyed surprise. But the cat was out of the bag when a crew member in the Neptune Lounge (for suite guests only) opened a desk drawer and came up with a handful of ear plugs. As the cruise progressed and our stress levels increased, senior officers somewhat reluctantly began to take notice. An angry guest relations person twice burst into our cabin claiming that no one else had complained, and was appalled that I had dared to poll other suite passengers, several of whom, I discovered, were having similar problems, but were reluctant to complain. This guest relations person eventually was persuaded to walk up and down on the pool deck while another crew member stood in our suite below, listening. After switching places, they both agreed, grudgingly, that our complaint was justified. Most damning was a conversation I had with Volendam's Future Cruise Consultant, a no-nonsense veteran of more than 100 cruises. Yes, he said he knew all about the suite deck possible noise problems on the eight "S" and "R" class ships in the 15 vessels of the Holland America fleet. They had all been built with expensive suites right under the pool deck. Later ships were designed with a buffer of cheaper cabins above the suites. No, he said, he didn't specifically warn potential customers, but if they asked which were the best cabins, then he steered them to quieter ones. "But you have to remember", he said, "strange noises are the physical reality of ships". Official written responses included one from Christine Ferris, Special Advisor in the Office of the President (HAL in Seattle, not the White House): "Your concerns are not particularly common on our vessels; however we empathise and understand the resulting discomfort". Julie G. Pineda, Guest Relations Manager on board Volendam suggested that HAL didn't make the noise deliberately just to annoy passengers. She wrote: "It is certainly not our intention for our guests to experience unforseen technical difficulties". By the end of the cruise we had received an offer to move to a lower deck (rejected) a free bottle of wine, $700 in compensation (accepted) -- and tacit confirmation that, yes, HAL does indeed have an elephant in the room. Read Less
Sail Date December 2012
Embarkation was slow and unorganised. Once we got to the lines it was hot and noisy. Some people just walked up and got on straight away and others were ushered to the lines. When we asked some people how they got on so quickly, they ... Read More
Embarkation was slow and unorganised. Once we got to the lines it was hot and noisy. Some people just walked up and got on straight away and others were ushered to the lines. When we asked some people how they got on so quickly, they didn't know. Ship was immaculately clean. Cabin the same. Please see cabin description for 7076 if you want to sleep Activities were well planned. didn't miss out but booked before the cruise. Dining was excellent. Could not fault the food experience except for room service. One day I just wanted a packet of chips/crisps. the only way was to order room service with a package. Crisps came in a bowl but it took an hour just to get them. Other times Room service took forever to answer the phone so gave up and went upstairs ourselves. Service was excellent in Dining rooms, shows were well presented. Disembarkation was excellent quick efficient but could not find the taxi's at Hong Kong. Read Less
Sail Date December 2012
I have been on over sixty cruises to include many Holland America Cruises. I will attempt to review this cruise and provide what I hope will be some information to assist other cruisers and perhaps even get Holland to rethink some of ... Read More
I have been on over sixty cruises to include many Holland America Cruises. I will attempt to review this cruise and provide what I hope will be some information to assist other cruisers and perhaps even get Holland to rethink some of their planning for future cruises. The ship: Volendam is a very nice ship that carries 1400 passengers. Our cruise was not full and I would estimate maybe 1200 or so. The ship was recently refurbished with all new softgoods..carpets/upholstery/drapes, beds etc. It is in very good condition and is plenty big without being some 4000 passenger monster. The self service laundry is nice for long trips....wash $2....dry $1 ...us quarters avail at front desk and free soap in machines...good machines. Avoid lines by doing laundry late night or on port days. Typical Holland library with a good selection of books. Internet is available at usual cruise super inflated prices of 75 cents a minute though they do have "plans" that come out cheaper if you buy a block of time. The wifi signal seems to cover the entire ship so if you absolutely MUST surf the web and don't mind the prices you can do it from your stateroom. As usual the Holland Indonesian/Filipino staff is always smiling and provides some of the best most gracious service of any cruise line. And the Dutch officers are their usual efficient selves. The Passengers; One of the YOUNGEST Holland cruises I have experienced. About 80 teens on board with many families with children but were all amazingly well behaved . Much more international than most Holland cruises with perhaps only half of the passengers Americans. Many aussies, kiwis, brits. Euros and even a group of about 40 Russians along with a good size group of Asians from Hong Kong, Singapore, etc. The Food: Typical Holland cruise with good food at the Lido , the two level dining room, the pinnacle (25$) the Italian restaurant which is part of lido (10$). Room service simple quick and good as well. This cruise had only one or two outdoor pool side buffets which seemed strange as the weather was perfect and most Holland cruises have more. You can choose fixed dining times in the top level of the dining room or dine as you wish in the bottom. I never had to wait more than a minute or two for a table as long as you are willing to share. The menu selections were fine but frankly seemed not as varied as other Holland cruises Service was very good all except one night when it was slow.. Nice burgers/tacos/etc available out by the pool. The entertainment: Some of the worst I have seen on a Holland cruise. Most consisted of a single guitar player or sax player or singer which was more suited/expected as a lounge act and certainly not a HEADLINER. Not sure if Holland is trying to skimp but it really was pitiful. The entertainers were reasonably talented but again they seemed more suited to the lounges. Only at Laem Chabang Thailand did they bring on local entertainers who were all adults and seemed to be a hit with the passengers. UNFORTUNATELY in my estimation Holland SHOULD bring on local school kids in Vietnam, Cambodia and Thailand who would be thrilled to come aboard and sing/dance etc...the kids are dirt poor and it would have been VERY easy for Holland to arrange that via their local port operator and NO DOUBT the passengers would have LOVED it and likely would have been happy to throw a few dollars into a collection to help out some very poor kids. PLEASE Holland consider doing this in the future. The kids might not be as "professional" but that is what makes them so special to see their eyes light up and their pride in performing their local cultures songs/dances...give them a ship tour and let them eat in the buffet line and it would make a big impression on them and the guests. No lectures/professors at all which again seems to be a new skimping by Holland. With all the history of the ports we visited it would have been nice to have a few lectures by a knowledgeable expert .....cost is minimal to Holland and again would have been welcome by the passengers. Best "lecture" was done by the hotel manager who did a one hour presentation with pictures showing how the volendam was refurbished in 14 days which is truly a herculean task...excellent presentation. Other: Seems to me the Holland newsletter has gone downhill...a new format is in place but gives very very little info on the entertainers/staff etc. Typical is the person's name and he is a "guitarist" etc. Surely this can be done better. Port info: As is usual the port info handouts are simply AWFUL. Not so much as the approximate exchange rate is given much less any info as to where to find wifi etc which MANY guests want to know. Very little or NO information as to local transport options. Again it seems to be all about pushing people to buy the Holland tours and be led around like children on some overpriced long bus tour. If you prefer to explore on your own you are truly on your own and should do your own research in advance. Sorry if this review highlights too many negatives as it truly is a wonderful cruise and as an experienced cruiser I am able to navigate around the problems with little or no hassles...but many of the passengers are novice cruisers and the items I mention cause problems and complaints. It certainly does SEEM to me that Holland since being taken over by carnival is more about squeezing every penny more than ever before although in fairness Holland is WAY WAY better at not nickel and diming you to death than royal Caribbean/princess/carnival etc. The Itinerary/Ports: Hong Kong: Flew into Hong Kong two days early. Very easy bus transfer for $5 usd or so that took me right to the Park hotel in Kowloon. Excellent hotel with very very good location. Paid about $165 a night. Only disappointment was they wanted another 20 usd for wifi usage. In fact all over Hong Kong wifi is amazingly NOT EASY to find for free as it is the vast majority of modern cities. Even though McDonalds etc claims free wifi you must have some local Hong Kong system to use it. Did finally find a simple little coffee shop near the hotel that had it. (take back exit turn right and about 50 meters up on left is a coffee shop). Hong Kong has a great subway system and easy to get around. For a treat go to the soho area on Hong Kong island which is built on the side of a cliff and is all bars and restaurants and the main area for expats. Star ferry of course also close by and easy to get to hong kong island. Taxi to the ship was easy and inexpensive. LONG lines to board the ship at 1 pm. For some unknown reason Holland had decided to hand out a one page info sheet regarding the visas you would need for china/Vietnam/Cambodia and Thailand. In all my cruises I have never seen such a poorly written single piece of paper that managed to totally confuse most every single passenger. You had to check if you wanted an "individual or group" visa with no explanation. The group visas were about $20 each cheaper than the individual. In addition they first said you needed a visa for sanya though that was clearly incorrect for most nationalities. Bottom line was I checked group visas and saved about $60 or more usd while those who checked the more OBVIOUS individual visa paid extra and in the end it MADE NO DIFFERENCE AT ALL as I was certainly not a "group" but had no problem. NEVER any explanation or refund to those who checked and paid more for group. Why Holland could not provide the visa info in the online tour docs is a mystery but they sure managed to confuse the hell out of most all passengers and slow down the embarkation as people naturally were confused. All total I ended up paying about $125 for the necessary visas while others paid close to $200. Sailing away from Hong Kong is very beautiful with lots and lots of nice lights. Sanya China: Holland provided a free shuttle into town but did not provide any info as to where the shuttle would go or what might be within walking distance so unfortunately most passengers did not have a clue which way to walk etc. A beautiful beach was only about 7 min walk from the drop point but it seems only a few people actually figured it out which was sad as it was a nice area ...most only found a boring shopping center. The Sanya port has a brand new set of high rise buildings and at night they all light up with a very nice light show. Halong Bay: A major disappointment in scheduling as the ENTIRE reason to go there is to cruise through the limestone formations and enjoy the scenery. For some very strange reason we set anchor at 5 am in pitch dark and then left at 7 pm again in pitch dark so the only part of halong bay visible was near the port. Holland was anxious to sell everyone a shore excursion with a boat ride through the bay which was fine but it would have been NICE if we could have actually also sailed in/out of the bay in DAYLIGHT. Da Nang: The port is about 15 mins from the main part of town. Holland provided a shuttle bus for $12 usd roundtrip that drops near the big markets. Again no real info as to what might be near the drop point but most were able to figure it out. Da nang is a pleasant enough city and the markets are interesting. Tons of motorbikes everywhere and traffic appears to be totally chaos . Lots of little tea/coffee shops to sit and watch the chaos . Free wifi available in lobby of most hotels. Nah Trang: Again Holland offered a shuttle for $12 roundtrip and even though they said it was a 30 minute ride I timed it at 11 minutes. Again no info on what was near shuttle drop but most were able to figure out the beach front promenade and the neighborhoods a block or two back from the beach. A very fast growing beach resort Nah Trang is a pleasant port. Saigon(Ho Chi Min City) The port for Saigon is absolutely nothing but industrial with zero within sight or walking distance. Holland was in full gear pushing overpriced tours to Saigon which is almost 3 HOURS one way. The port is run by a Vietnamese taxi mafia who quoted obscene prices for Saigon and even for the one semi nearby town of Vung Tao (11 kms $100 usd one way). All in all a HORRIBLE port and if you did not buy a Holland tour good luck. I heard more complaints on this port than any other. Shianokville Cambodia: A very interesting port call. Free shuttle by Holland to a chaotic market about 20 mins drive away. From there it was easy to hire a four person tuk tuk for about $5 usd to take you to the beautiful beach areas. Serendipity beach is a long white sand beach lined with chairs/umbrellas and nice clean looking water. It was New Years Eve and the locals were out in force with picnics etc getting ready for a major night time party. Lots and lots of open air bars/restaurants along the beach with bargain prices on drinks and food etc. For some very strange reason we sailed at 7 pm JUST as fireworks were starting up so naturally we missed the entire new year's celebration...Our next port of laem chabang was only 100 miles away (less than five hours sailing time) but rather than stay in port or even cruise off the coast to allow us to watch fireworks at shianokville the ship went out into the darkness where we sailed around in CIRCLES for the next 36 HOURS killing time . Why? Who knows as no explanation. SURELY it would have been cheaper, better to sit at anchor or at dock than to just ride around in circles?? Laem Chabang: The port for Bangkok and pattaya sits 1 ½ hours from Bangkok and about 30 minutes from the beach resort of pattaya. Once again it is an industrial port only and it is over a two mile walk out to the gates / highway...so yet again you are held captive by Holland pushing ridiculously overpriced shore excursions and an even worse taxi mafia than Saigon. Even though all Bangkok and pattaya taxis have meters and USE them naturally at this port they refuse to use the meters and had posted fares of $50 usd one way to pattaya (normally about $12 usd with taxi meter) and over $130 usd one way to Bangkok which is normally about $30. Holland's shuttle to bkk is $60 per person roundtrip....by way of comparison a very nice bus leaves Bangkok/Pattaya every 30 minutes and goes right by laem chabang all the way to pattaya/bkk for $4 usd. How sad that many people simply stayed on the ship in laem chabang rather than hassle with the transport problems. Both Bangkok and pattaya are great places to visit but between the laem chabang taxi mafia and the Holland gouge prices it is just one big hassle. Frankly Holland should either provide reasonably priced shuttle buses or skip both saigon and laem chabang for other ports that are not hours from cities and/or out in middle of nowhere and ruled by local taxi mafias. Ko Samui: Tender to the port of Na Thong (pronounced NATHAN by the Holland travel "expert" who seemed to think we had landed at Nathan road in Hong Kong or perhaps England and who knew less than nothing about Thailand. Easy tender in and tons of metered taxis and even cheaper songtaeows (pick up trucks with seats in the back that serve as local buses) ready to take you anywhere no problems. The port town itself is full of shops and restaurants etc with free wifi etc and is a very pleasant place to roam. Singapore: As expected very neat and tidy city with draconian laws against most anything like litter, chewing gum, jaywalking etc. Fantastic subway system makes getting around very easy. Bit of a hassle as every time you walk on or off ship you MUST go through passport control for some reason. Singapore is an EXPENSIVE city. Paid $12.50 usd for ONE BEER in a nothing special bar/restaurant. Six pack of Beer in a 7/11 is $30 usd. There is a duty free shop as you exit the ship where you can buy beer/wine/booze at much much lower prices. Singapore is not a good place to go pub crawling. We disembarked in Singapore at the same time as a royal Caribbean ship so there were long lines to clear immigration and then a MASSIVE long line to get a taxi to the airport with a wait of an hour or more. Best advice is either get off very early or just WAIT until about 11 am to get off when the line has gone down or just sit in one of the coffee shops and relax rather than stand in line. Taxi fare to airport is only about $15 usd and takes 30 minutes. Holland sells a one way bus ride to the airport at $39 usd. Singapore airport one of the best in the world. Free wifi throughout and plenty of shops/restaurants/comfortable sitting areas etc everywhere. Read Less
Sail Date December 2012
The review by "dockman" is spot on. It's remarkable how sometimes one might think that one is the only person feeling in a certain way when in fact many would be feeling likewise. Like "dockman" I consider it a ... Read More
The review by "dockman" is spot on. It's remarkable how sometimes one might think that one is the only person feeling in a certain way when in fact many would be feeling likewise. Like "dockman" I consider it a pity that much of this review is negative; but I make no apology for this as Holland America has been in this business for over 150 years and should know better than to try to hoodwink its passengers especially those like me who have sailed with them and others scores times. As to the taxi mafia in the ports on this itinerary, Holland America has been to these ports over and over just in the last few months alone so they would be aware of what's going on. They know what's going to happen to us hapless independent cruisers and should use their muscle to protect its customers; rather it fed us to the wolves. It was especially galling when I discovered that in Laem Chebang, Thailand, as the independent cruisers were being ripped off $US50 for a one way trip to Pattaya, (5 or 6 times the taxi meter price) the crew had a special deal and 5 of them could travel by taxi for US20. This is profiteering from secret deals derived from the rip off of the independent cruisers. This is criminal and hurtful. I propose to report this to Better Business Bureau in the USA. I realize that these shady business practices are taking place in foreign ports, but US companies have a responsibility to behave responsibly wherever they operate if they are to uphold their reputations as good corporate citizens. The itinerary This itinerary left a lot to be desired. Spending 8 hours in a bus to achieve 2 hours in Saigon was a joke I refused to be part of. Likewise Bangkok which was described as a 90 minute trip from Laem Chabang "if there is NO traffic". When is there "NO" traffic going into Bangkok. And why did we need TWO visas to get into Vietnam? This was because the ship went from Halong Bay to (Sanya)China and back to Vietnam so two separate entrries. Why couldn't the ship go Hong Kong, Sanya and then Vietnam? The ship The ship itself was fine and the food acceptable. I did point to the head chef wwhile he was running a cookery class that the beautiful aromas he was concocting were decidedly absent from the meals in the dining room, which were on the bland side. Evidently they cook for the digestive systems of eldrly Americans. This needs to change so that people who like spicy foods can get them. Some decks do not have fridges in the staterooms; but you can hire one. I have never heard of anything more ridiculous in my life. Which hotel even in darkest Africa does NOT provide a fridge? Which cruise line? Yet they provide soda cans for purchase in these cabins; do they expect us to drink them warm? I objected and got a fridge. I think that Holland America should state this on their ticket (which it does NOT) as I consider it outside the expectation of any passenger taking a cruise on a recently refurbished Volendam to find that there is no fridge in their stateroom. This is unacceptable and dishonest advertising. The quality and price of the wines are an ongoing sore point with all cruise lines. The $40+ wines are rubbish and you wouldn't drink them if you paid the $5 per bottle they are worth. After trying a few ordinary wine bottles at rip-off prices we gave up and bought good French wine ashore and drank that. From time to time we took a glass with us to the dining room and no one seemed to mind. Holland America Generally I tried to report this by phoning Holland America in Seattle. The Guest Relations person who answered shouldn't be anywhere neqar anything called "Guest Relations". He excuse was that this is an exotic itinerary and HA goes there a "couple of times a year". I couldn't get through to her that the Volendam has probably done this itinerary backwards and forwards half a dozen times this season alone. Holland America has a lot going for it. The crew and staff are usually exceptionally good with people. However I have yet to get off a cruise without thinking, why do they go through so much trouble and then shoot themselves in the foot every time"... Read Less
Sail Date December 2012
We chose Holland America because it is known to have a slightly older clientele as we are not into the 'party scene' and the proposed itinerary looked interesting. I must point out that we were not able to complete the whole ... Read More
We chose Holland America because it is known to have a slightly older clientele as we are not into the 'party scene' and the proposed itinerary looked interesting. I must point out that we were not able to complete the whole trip due to an urgent medical situation back home, but did spend 8 glorious days on board. We flew to Sydney on the day of embarkation and we were on board and in our cabin within 20 minutes of arriving at the terminal. We were very happy with our cabin, it was set up beautifully with plenty of storage space and we were unpacked and ready to explore within 30 minutes. Leaving Sydney was great! We just squeezed under the bridge and as we looked back over the city and opera house the sun was setting behind it all. Before we knew it we were out of the heads and into the night. The ocean was kind to us with very little swell and we settled in for our cruise. The crew: we had wonderful room stewards, Matt and Arbie, who did a fabulous job each day. Staff around the ship were always smiling, polite and attentive without being intrusive. A few of the Lido staff asked my name and greeted me each time I wandered by, a really nice touch. The ship: We found all parts that we visited to be in very good condition. Everything in our cabin worked, all lifts were functioning, the crew were always cleaning or polishing and the fit out was tasteful and stylish. We experienced very little vibration while underway and the only annoying noise were people dragging around their balcony furniture in the suites above us.. Dining: we had selected as you wish dining and enjoyed three evenings with interesting table guests. The remainder of our meals were taken in the Lido and again we were able to mix with a variety of passengers, all with interesting stories. Food: the day is based around food, and what food it was. Very tasty, plenty of choices, fresh and well presented. I cannot imagine there wasn't something for everyone. From breakfast, lunch, Lido grill bar, afternoon tea, dinner and supper.....made walking the promenade deck essential! Ports of call: having been to Hamilton Island before we were not expecting much but used the tenders anyway. The tender process was a little slow but once underway was well executed. Cairns would have been better if a whole day could have been spent instead of arriving at lunch and leaving 24 hours later. The main attraction of Cairns is the visit to the outer reef but a whole day is needed for this. Unfortunately there was no time to have this experience. We did the half day Green Island tour with semi-submersible and glass bottom boat tours, this was enjoyable and we saw a lot of the local reef and marine life. As we had many sea days the local cruising was relaxing, great weather though very humid the more north we travelled. We had two Reef Pilots on board who piloted the ship through the reef and who provided commentary as we went along. The only negative to this was he didn't speak properly into the microphone and the volume kept fading away. When we contacted the front office of our requirement to disembark they were helpful, provided follow up phone calls and assisted us right to the moment we stepped on shore. We will cruise again, definitely with HAL, Read Less
Sail Date November 2012
Our experience was so bad, we disembarked in wellington after 4 days of the cruise. It was a floating nursing home and everything about the ship and it's itinerary of entertainment reflected that. The real 'rub of salt in the ... Read More
Our experience was so bad, we disembarked in wellington after 4 days of the cruise. It was a floating nursing home and everything about the ship and it's itinerary of entertainment reflected that. The real 'rub of salt in the wounds' came with the reply from Holland America: Thank you for the email regarding your ms Volendam . We truly appreciate the valuable feedback you have provided us. Please be advised that when guests do wish to personally disembark it is often for an emergency. Thus our front desk staff wills not inquire the reason unless it is volunteered. In addition, if none of your concerns were brought to our attention, we are unable to remedy them. In addition, we are very sorry that you were not pleased with the scope of activities available on your recent sailing. Holland America Line strives to offer a spectrum of activities and events, keeping in mind a wide range of age, interest, and ability, and we regularly update our choices. Many of our newer activities are enrichment-based, such as cooking classes, digital workshops, wine tastings, and in-depth presentations about ports of call. Plus, we retain the more traditional choices, such as movies and games, volleyball and tennis, and disco or ballroom dancing. In this way, we try to ensure that a balance of activities is available to all of our guests. Some of our travelers may choose to participate in onboard activities, while others will prefer to simply relax, lounge by the pool, or curl up in a quiet spot with a good book. We do regret your dissatisfaction with the activities offered, and assure you that your input on any cruise aspect is always welcome. Thank you again for contacting our office and bringing your issues to our attention. We assure you that we appreciate your comments, and hope that you will give us another opportunity to create the positive experience we know our sailings can offer. This was my reply: I'm somewhat bemused at your comment that I provided you with valuable feedback, because in my previous emails I gave little indication as to why we were so dissatisfied that we left the cruise after four days. You mention 'remedy'. It would have been fruitless gesture to mention at the front desk that we didn't want to travel on a floating nursing home. The atmosphere on-board was certainly indicative of a nursing home and my suspicions were confirmed with the ambulance crew dragging their stretcher on-board at Tauranga. I have nothing against the elderly. I spend a lot of my working life in their company, but if I had the information to hand at the age group that the cruise was pitched at, then we would have looked elsewhere. However the information that would have been extremely useful was the itinerary of events. Needless to say those activities are planned in advance, as those that deliver the events or presentations have to be booked on-board. That information available to view on the website for the ship and the cruise would have been very useful and as such we would have looked elsewhere for something more appropriate for us. As for making any other comments, I doubt they would have been actioned. We had to listen to the inane babble of Jeremy the cruise director, which was inescapable where ever we we're on the ship. There was a tannoy right outside our cabin. At one point he was asking us to count the holes in the face of an offshore rock which had been partially eroded by the wind. That was day one, and already the alarm bells were ringing for us. At meal times we were given a napkin roll with cutlery. However the minute we left our seat to get another dish the staff would clean away. We would then have to get another napkin roll and find a different seat. That somewhat flies in the face of intended green credentials. I also found it somewhat strange that we were drinking long-life milk, when we were on the doorstep of one of the top dairy producers of the world. The Costa Concordia has dominated the news for all the wrong reasons, and I would mention that whilst on-board the Volendam and attending the, very brief, lifeboat drill the concept of making our way back to the cabin (with it's partial delay electronic key entry system), to retrieve our lifejackets was somewhat of a daunting prospect in the event of a real emergency. It was also noticeable that there was no escape panel fitted to the cabin doors for use in the event of a collision. Seriously, someone needs to look at that. It may make the difference between someone being to escape from their cabin when the ship's sinking or being condemned to death by drowning in a box. Anyway, Caitlin, again thanks for getting back to me. Your scripted response wasn't the best fob-off I've ever read, but nonetheless a reasonable effort. On closing please try to make information more readily available to potential customers, after all this is the age of information technology. It really isn't that difficult to get the information out. On closing, we will never book a cruise with Holland and America. There will be no return to try the experience again. It was without question the worst holiday experience ever and had little to recommend it for anyone under the age of 65.   Read Less
Sail Date November 2012
We arrived in Sydney on Oct 17 to acclimate ourselves to the time change. We stayed at the Bayswater Sydney in the Kings Cross area. What a find. Good rates and near the metro. Get a weekly pass from the Metro that is down the road from ... Read More
We arrived in Sydney on Oct 17 to acclimate ourselves to the time change. We stayed at the Bayswater Sydney in the Kings Cross area. What a find. Good rates and near the metro. Get a weekly pass from the Metro that is down the road from the hotel. It includes all trains, ferries, and buses in the city. $45 each and the best way to get around. Our cruise left from the Overseas passenger terminal at Circle Quay, right across from the Sydney Opera House. What a sight! The Rocks area is right by the ship so when you check in at the cruise ship, you can get off and walk around. If it is Saturday you can enjoy the market right up the street. We checked in about 11 a.m and there was some delay because of a computer problem. We had to stand outside for awhile and fill out our forms for the health questions, etc. Met a lot of nice people in line. Once we were let inside, it took a long time to check in. There were not many personnel to check us in. Once on board we were directed to our room. We were on the Veranda deck forward starboard. Once we found our room we were delighted at how large it was. We had a Veranda Suite. It was very well appointed and had floor to ceiling windows leading to a large veranda. It had one chair, a chase, and small table. We asked if we could have another chair and they gave it to us right away. Our room stewards were always so kind and kept our cabin super clean. The cabin had a large leather couch that was so comfortable to sit and have breakfast and watch a movie on our own DVD. Everyday at 5 pm they would bring in fresh ice for us to fix our drinks. A few things about our cabin: We had a small frig that we kept our wine and sodas in. Large queen bed with the most comfortable mattress and 6 pillows with different levels of thickness. Large flat screen TV with two news channels and a few movie channels. Lots of storage for your clothes. A safe. The bathrooms had a whirlpool tub and a great shower with great water pressure. I am totally impressed with how the space is used in the HAL bathrooms. A place for everything. Our room steward could not have been better. They called us by name and kept our room super clean. They even placed a small napkin like carpet by our bed at night so if we got up we did not have to have our feet hit the carpet. Ship review. The Volendam is a beautiful ship. Extremely clean. It did not feel like the ship had 1300 people. It is well laid out also and easy to get around. The staff was always happy to help you. The captain always kept us up to date on our location and any issues of interest to us. We were not able to get into two ports because of weather or berth problems and we were always told why and reimbursed port fees. Food: The food was mostly very good. We always had room service in the morning and mostly they gave us too much food. It was always hot and each morning we got a call seeing if everything was ok. The main dining room was outstanding. Victor, the restaurant Asst. Manager was our favorite. Always a smile and we taught him a new American phrase everyday. He enjoyed it and we got to be good friends. The Lido had a great menu everyday. Nothing was ever repeated in the 34 days we were there. However the food, except for the soups, were never hot. Always lukewarm or cold. I talked to the manager, as I had gotten ill on an earlier cruise because of food that was just sitting there, and was concerned about things not being prepared well (not on HAL). He said he would take care of it. It never got better. HAL - DO NOT SERVE FOOD SUPPOSED TO BE HOT COLD. Entertainment: What we did see was really good. By the end of a full day of sightseeing, by 8pm we usually just had a light dinner and went to our cabin to relax. One thing we liked was the talks on the ports and the shore excursions. We did take some excursions from HAL in ports that were small like Komodo and Lombok, but mostly we would find out things to do on our own or with friends we met. Internet: HAL has to come up with a better way to get a connection. To charge what they charge and have to wait like you are using dsl is ridiculous. Also when asked to adjust charges the manager did not seem too happy to help. All in all this is a great cruise and they only do it once a year. Next year it is again in October. This is a wonderful opportunity to see a wonderful continent and meet the people of Australia. Also the prices are very good for this type of cruise. We love HAL and are working on a trip to the Baltic as we speak. You should be very proud of your staff and your ship - the Volendam.Once thing to add. We were never, ever pressured to buy things from HAL. We appreciated this as some cruise lines do this. Our room stewards names were Made and Trisna. Read Less
Sail Date October 2012
My husband and I and 5 friends cruised Alaska's Inside Passage on Holland America's Volendam from 9/19 to 9/26. This was our first cruise and I will tell you that we loved the experience. We will cruise again. Maybe with HA and ... Read More
My husband and I and 5 friends cruised Alaska's Inside Passage on Holland America's Volendam from 9/19 to 9/26. This was our first cruise and I will tell you that we loved the experience. We will cruise again. Maybe with HA and maybe not. The things we liked outweighed what we didn't but here is our assessment. 1) We loved the ship. We had a veranda room on Level 6 and the verandahs next to us were occupied by some of our friends. A a first time cruiser I wasn't sure what to expect as far as room size but it was biggger than I expected, particularly the bathroom. All in all I thought the room and the overall ship were great. Very clean. 2) The Crow's Nest. What a great spot to watch the beautiful Alaskan scenery! 3) Glacier Bay. I can not tell you what a fantastic experience Glacier Bay was. It still takes my breath away to think about it. My husband got up early the morning that we were to arrive in Glacier Bay and he saw the Alaska Park Rangers pull up in a boat next to the Volendam and board. Those park rangers, four of them, were with us all day. One was broadcasting as we entered Glacier Bay and bascially narrated everything we saw. It was as if we had paid someone for an excursion to Glacier Bay. Two of the other rangers were giving talks about the glaciers in certain spots and talking about the native people. Because the Volendam is not quite as big as some of the other cruise ships we were able to get all the way to the Johns Hopkins glacier which proceeded to calve while we were there. A huge calving event. You just have to see if for yourself. 4) The food. We thought the food was good. I'm not going to tell you that every meal was gourmet but some were. I had rack of lamb in the Rotterdam Dining Room and it was fabulous. We ate in Pinnacle Grill one night and it was quite good. Is it worth the $25 surcharge? Some of us thought it was. Some of us thought it wasn't. The breakfast buffet in the Lido has just about anything you could want and it is good and the buffet line servers go out of their way to get you what you want. 5) Canaletto Italian Restaurant. It's actually just a blocked off area next to the Lido grill BUT we all thought it was fantastic! A $10 up charge and totally, totally worth it! A beautiful balsamic vinegar reduction on your table, an awesome antipasta platter brought around for you to select from, and probably the best meatballs I have ever eaten, excellent service. Everyone loved their dishes. Our group ate there 2 out of the 7 nights. Personally, I think they should take the Pinnacle space and make it Canaletto. 6) The Staff...99.9% are great! 7) The Gym....not large but adequate and one of the best views on the ship. Great spin class! There are so many good things to say about our trip that I hate to bring up the negative but here goes... First, my husband and I purchased the Suite Amenities Package for 2 and what a NIGHTMARE that was! It was like pulling teeth to get what was included in the package. Basically, the spirits that were to be in the room upon embarkation were not there. They finally delivered some of it at 11:00 p.m. that night and some of it the next day. Our friends just called room service once on board and they got what they ordered much sooner than what we paid for a month in advance. Next, the package includes laundry but they didn't give us any laundry tickets in the beginning. The package included a breakfast someplace other than the buffet or Rotterdam on disembarkation day that we never got. I still don't know how that happened. It's too long of a story to type. The package also included either high tea or canapes delivered to the room everydday. We got it one day and never again. The package included dinner for 2 at the Pinnalce Grill ($50) and we went on LeCirgue night with 3 of our friends. We were told they would just bill us the difference of $14 (b/c LeCirqu) is $39). Not only did they bill us for the entire $39 they billed the other 3 people to our room also. Anyway, I would NOT buy the suite amenities package...big, big ripoff. Next, room service. What a nightmare! I still to this day don't know who I should call for what. If you call one number they say, "Oh, call the other room service number." They keep telling you that your steward will do this and that for you. We never saw our stewards. We had 2 of them. They cleaned our rooms and finally figured out to bring us ice 2x per day but that's it. If you wanted something in your room....good luck! Our friends next door had dirty dishes sit in their room all day. They called 2x and no one ever came to get them. We asked if we could have the stuff in our mini bar changed out for things we would use instead of what we didn't want. I asked if they could change out the cokes for water and more pelligrino. Never happened. I asked them if they could bring club soda and they were totally clueless. Never happened. The rooms were cleaned well and we always had a cute towel animal on our bed at night. In my opinion they need to divert manpower from making towel animals and instead make sure that their guests have what they need or want. Bottled water...just go to the Explorers Cafe and buy yourself a few big bottles. Don't ask room service. I was in the gym on the second day of the cruise and a woman who was doing spin class with me had a big bottle of water. I asked her where she got it and she said it was in her stateroom. No water in my stateroom. One of the guys working in the gym overheard our conversation and he said the biggest complaint that the ship gets is that it is hard to get water. Anyway, I could go on but suffice it to say their room service needs serious improvement. I think a guest should be able to pick up the phone, give their request and have it fulfilled. I shouldn't have to call 3 different phone numbers and wait 2 hours for a can of bloody mary mix. Last but not least....wine/alcohol service in the Rotterdam. If you want a cocktail, bring your own wine and pay the corkage fee or go to another bar and get your drink. It's like the room service problem. Your food waiter is not your alcohol waiter. One night in the Rotterdam we were seated at the table for a half an hour and not one of us yet had a cocktail/wine in front of us. Which is STUPIDITY on the part of HA because you are paying for it! It was very odd and we finally just gave up and brought our own. All in all, we very much enjoyed our cruise but I would probably explore another cruise line for regions other than Alaska because we just were not satisfied with the service in our room or the Rotterdam. As far as the suite amenities pkg goes, we felt that we were just plain robbed but whatever. Live and learn. I loved Alaska and would go back tomorrow if I could. Read Less
Sail Date September 2012
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
This was our first cruise and we choose it because we wanted to see Alaska. After researching the different cruise lines we choose HAL because of traveller reviews and because it went to Glacier Bay. We also wanted a real looking ship and ... Read More
This was our first cruise and we choose it because we wanted to see Alaska. After researching the different cruise lines we choose HAL because of traveller reviews and because it went to Glacier Bay. We also wanted a real looking ship and not a floating hotel. We didn't know what to expect as it was our first cruise and we weren't sure that we would be 'cruise people'. However we were won over the minute we stepped aboard. The cruise company went out of its way to make people feel welcome and everybody was so friendly and helpful. Every little detail seemed to have been thought of from the supply of bottle water and fruit to the cabin to the strict hygiene procedures onboard. The service staff are mostly Indonesian and were always smiling and helpful and very efficient. The staff work extremely long hours and I would imagine that their pay is quite low but my impression is that HAL do treat them better than many cruise lines. I certainly didn't begrudge the $11.50 daily automatic gratuity that the cruise line charged each passenger. We had a outside stateroom on the Dolphin deck. We choose this particular cabin as it was midships which we were told was less likely to be affected by the ships motion or by engine noise. We certainly had no problems although we never encountered rough seas so it wasn't a big test of our choice. The cabin was fine with comfortable beds and decent size bathroom. There was plenty of storage space and the air conditioning worked well (although not sure what it would be like if the weather was really hot). The only thing missing was a kettle so we could make a cup of tea first thing in the morning. But that is because we are English! One of the nice things about this ship was the fact that it was classless and if you paid more all that you got extra was a better cabin. All passengers could go to any restaurant as long as they wore smart clothes in the main restaurant for the formal nights. We tended to go to the self-service Lido restaurant for breakfast and lunch and the main dining room for dinner. The food in both these restaurants was amazing not just in the quality but in the quantity. In the main restaurant the food and the service was definitely 5-star. There was no pressure to buy the expensive wine and in fact many people seemed to be just drinking water. The only issue we had with the main dining room was that when we booked a table each night we were only given a choice of 5.30 or 8 pm. We normally prefer to sit down around 7 as 8 is a bit late and 5.30 too early. On reflection what we could have done is not book but turn up at the time we wanted. There were lots to do on the ship and we never got bored. The formal evening entertainment was what we expected -- a bit upmarket Butlins! However generally it was of good quality and worth spending an hour before retiring to one of several bars where musical entertainment was provided. For those who like going to classes there was a good choice during the day. There was also a good sized gym with amazing views. There was a couple of heated pools but they weren't used much on this trip mainly due to the cool weather (it was the last sailing in September). The shore excursions were expensive and we only went on one which was a whale watching one. This was an excellent trip and we saw many whales and other wildlife. However I believe that many 'seasoned' travellers book trips on arrival at a port which are considerably cheaper. Apart from Skagway we weren't that impressed with the ports we stopped at.However the main reason for going on this cruise was the amazing scenery. We werent disappointed although the fog spoilt things to some extent.The icing on the cake was the cruise into Glacier Bay. The captain took us close into John Hudson glacier which was simply incredible. We have hundreds of pictures but no picture can do justice to the sights and sounds of the glacier calving. All in all a wonderful trip and we are now thinking of what other cruise to go on with Holland America! Read Less
Sail Date September 2012
NOTE: This was my second cruise to Alaska, but the first for my husband. (Ironically my first Alaska cruise was on the old Statendam after it was sold to the Paquet Line and renamed Rhapsody. She was still a lady.) Our trip started ... Read More
NOTE: This was my second cruise to Alaska, but the first for my husband. (Ironically my first Alaska cruise was on the old Statendam after it was sold to the Paquet Line and renamed Rhapsody. She was still a lady.) Our trip started shakily. We were an hour late out of Chicago heading for Dallas-Ft Worth. Needing to avoid a big storm meant we had to land in Wichita Falls, Texas to get more fuel. That was another hour out of our 3 hr dinner layover. On arrival we raced from Terminal A to D, well the Skytrain did most of the racing, and made our plane. We landed on time in Vancouver in the middle of another big storm. Then waited 2 hours for our luggage because the lightening made it too dangerous for the luggage folk to be out and about. AND we made it LOL The rest was smooth sailing, so to speak. The Metropolitan Hotel was great and just up the street from the cruise terminal, but with luggage we took a taxi. Canada Place is glorious on the outside and totally utilitarian on the inside. And it works. How well it works: on our return we exited the ship, cleared formalities, found our luggage and took a taxi to our hotel. The total elapsed time was 45 minutes. I cannot say enough good things about the Volendam. Yes it's a bit worn. No it doesn't have high-end finishes, and you can feel some of the results of the cutbacks enforced by Carnival. But it was CLEAN, the staff were warm, welcoming and helpful. The captain, Peter Bos, is a total rockstar. He got to show his mettle before we even sailed. There was a "situation" on deck 4, which turned out to be a fire in a light fixture. Once the cause was located we were told exactly what was going on. Midships was closed off and embarkation was paused for about an hour or so. He and the crew were totally professional. And the life boat drill was before we sailed and VERY serious as well as organized and there was a second drill for the stragglers. Both drills were repeated when we took on new folk at Skagway. Captain Bos also obviously loves Alaska as he would announce wildlife sightings with evident enthusiasm. Our cabin (DA2550) was perfectly located. I chose better than I knew. Close to the elevator, but not too close. Laundry down the hall on our side. But the best part? At Skagway and Ketchikan all we had to do to exit the ship was go to the stairs and turn right or left. And at Juneau it was just 2 flights of stairs down. It was also very convenient for getting places on the ship. Food started out great, and then, especially in the Lido Cafe, started to look tired and a bit messy, lthough the dining room did pull it together for the last International Night. A word of advice. The stuff they list on the DR menu as available every night has to have been frozen. It was not up to the standard of the rest. And we got tired of the food in general. Another trick is even at open dining you CAN be assigned a table, but they don't guarantee it. I think the key is to wander up to the Dining Room right after boarding. We delayed and ended up at 5:30pm. But we got a table for 2, which we wanted. It wasn't guaranteed, but we had it every night. I think the secret is to be right on time. We had fabulous waiters and were right on the wine station. Not much wine was moving so Emma spent a lot of time talking with us. BTW set dining is on Deck 5 and open seating is on Deck 4. PORTS: Sent husband on the Tracy Arm excursion, which he LOVED, despite low clouds and dreary skies. I got exhausted wandering around Juneau. Didn't get where I wanted, but ended up spending about an hour at the Juneau Arts Community Center talking to people. We had a late lunch at the Red Dog Saloon, which was both hokey and fun. In Skagway we did the RT White Rail Pass train ride, which was just perfect. It was also our best weather day, although it did turn cloudy later. I'm glad we took the advice that the morning train tour tends to have better weather. The guide on the train PA system was excellent. We ate at Skagway Brewing Co. at Broadway and 7th st, right where downtown ends and houses begin. Skagway looks like what Disneyland Main Street would if Walt had been born in Alaska. It is a bit of a hike back to the pier, BUT you could get off the train at 2nd & B'way on the train's return trip instead of going back to the pier, so that cut off some walking. What can I say? We had crappy weather for Glacier Bay. So we decided that "mysteriously brooding" was a good thing. It was pretty cold. Irish coffees were consumed. Our rangers were delightful young women, who obviously love their work. And Captain Bos was getting us pretty close for our size and pointing out the wildlife. Did I say he was a rock star? Then, of course, Ketchikan gave us "liquid sunshine." Alas the Misty Fjords floatplane excursion was canceled (with an immediate and automatic refund that paid much of the bar bill) so we just wandered around. I had taken the floatplane trip on my first Alaska cruise and recommend it highly. It's not inexpensive, but it's hard to put a price on landing on a mountain lake and hearing the silence when the engines are turned off. We ate lunch at Alaska Fish House, which was local and fun. And then we "discovered" the SE Alaska Discovery Center. $5. gets you a beautiful 20 minute movie on the Tongass, a small area of nicely done exhibits on the ecosystem and native life, and a free DVD if you ask. We did give a contribution though. The people were just plain nice. It's well done. The recent upgrades at the Center were courtesy of the Recovery Act. Personally I thought it was a better investment than the lumberjack show, but each to their own. The Culinary Arts program is obviously designed to shill for the Pinnacle Grill and heavily weighted (pun intended) towards chocolate and desserts, but the two sessions I attended were well done and we got to taste the food. It's a nice activity to have for an at-sea day. One thing I LOVED was that, rather than one big cocktail lounge there were lots of little nooks and places for drinks, coffee, reading, internet. We hung out on deck 5 a lot. I had acupuncture and a hot stone massage in the spa.The first opened up a whole new world to me. The second was a bit more vigorous than what I expected. They were pricey, especially compared to my current acupuncturist. The entertainment was ordinary and the cruise director wasn't my favorite one in my cruising history, but on the whole you can just ignore that part, which we did after the first night. I've been on more upscale cruise lines (Royal Viking Sea, NA Vistafjord and QE II as well as some more entry level ones, but the comfort of the Holland America middle-of the-road product suits our temperament and we will return, hopefully again and again:) Read Less
Sail Date August 2012
We flew to Vancouver the night before the cruise, arriving at our hotel shortly after midnight. We stayed at the Accent Inn Richmond - an airport hotel. We paid about $110 for a room with two double beds. The Accent Inn is like an old ... Read More
We flew to Vancouver the night before the cruise, arriving at our hotel shortly after midnight. We stayed at the Accent Inn Richmond - an airport hotel. We paid about $110 for a room with two double beds. The Accent Inn is like an old style two floor motor inn. In other words, there is nothing fancy. Just a decent motel with a comfortable bed. The bathroom was clean. There is an IHOP on the property for breakfast. There is a free shuttle from the airport. This same complimentary shuttle took us to the SkyTrain the following morning. For just over $7, our party of two took the SkyTrain directly to the Waterfront/Canada Place. You can't beat it. It's fast, efficient, and clean. We used the SkyTrain again on our last day to get from Canada Place to the airport. Again, $7 for two. We loved cruising out of Vancouver - a beautiful, friendly, clean, laid back city. The sun was shining on our embarkation day. Our room was ready when we boarded at eleven thirty. Our room was always clean. Our room stewards were friendly and efficient. There were towel animals every night. Our trip up the inside passage on Day Two was lovely. The weather was great. I actually got quite sunburned. Definitely pack sunscreen. Our ports were Juneau, Skagway, and Ketchikan. Without getting into too much detail, we did a whale watching excursion with Harv and Marv (Capt. Shawn). We saw plenty of whales and some sea lions. Great excursion. After the excursion, we had a drink at the Red Dog Saloon and headed back to the ship for a late dinner. In Skagway, we rented a car from Avis and drove ourselves to Emerald Lake. I would totally do this again. The car rental was just over $110 plus $19 to refill the tank upon returning the car. The highway is great and easy to follow. We had paid $5 to purchase "Murray's Guide" and followed it easily. The scenery was magnificent, and again, we had fabulous weather. There are many safe places to pull into if you want to take photographs. You can drive the highway at your own pace, stopping when you want to. You aren't beholden to any one's schedule. We stopped at a suspension bridge en route for snacks and a bathroom. I wish I could remember the name of the place and the lovely people who operate it. There is a beautiful dog named Jax, a golden retriever, who acts as primary greeter. We stayed there for a while. There is an historical exhibit about mining, etc. There is also a cool suspension bridge. If you have Murray's Guide, you get in for half price. It was very reasonable. There is a new restaurant there, but we bought only some great snacks. Great gift shop. The bathrooms, by the way, were spotless. On we went. We stopped at Carcross for lunch and bought great homemade soup and sandwiches at the Authentic Sour Dough Bakery. Delicious food and good prices. Desserts were to die for. Emerald Lake was as beautiful as the photos suggest. We had plenty of time and could have continued all the way to Whitehorse had we wanted to. Instead, we allowed for more time to browse through the shops in Skagway. I'd do the day again in a minute. Our final port was Ketchikan, where we browsed the shops. There is a great bookstore called Parnassus Books. We walked along Creek Street, watched people fish, walked to the Eagle Reserve and Salmon Hatchery and did the quick tour, then headed back to Creek Street for lunch. We took the "cable car" (can't remember the proper name) up to a hotel/restaurant for lunch. Terrific halibut and chips for lunch. On the way back to town, we saw a bear. There are lots of shops to wander through in Ketchikan too. Our day in Glacier Bay was magnificent. It's great having the Park Rangers aboard to explain what you're seeing. Not to rub it in, but again, the weather was sunny and decently warm. Our final sea day was very relaxing. The British Columbia scenery is just beautiful. What a glorious province. This was our first Alaskan cruise, but it definitely won't be our last. Final thoughts on the ship and its crew: Peter Bos, the captain, is first class. We appreciated his enthusiasm for the environment, the landscape, and the wildlife. Of all the captains we've had, he understands how to use the public address system. Many cruise directors should take a master class with him. The sense of well-being among the crew members was obvious. It was a happy place to be. The dining room was mostly okay. Fish was generally always good. Meat not so much so. Breakfasts and lunches were always very good. We ate in the Italian restaurant on our final evening and it was wonderful. In all dining venues, the service was very good. I wish I could comment on nightlife, but we tended to eat late and then retire to bed fairly early - our internal clocks were still in the east coast time zone! There were many places to hang out. The Crow's Nest has great views. The library on the Volendam is the best I have seen on eight cruises. The books are abundant and suitable for many readers. There are board games, puzzles, etc. This is also the location for the internet cafe. There was always someone there to help. We even had some excitement on our cruise as we rescued about 80 people whose tourist ship had hit some rocks and were taking on water. The Volendam's Captain and crew handled the whole situation calmly and professionally. In talking to many of the people that afternoon as we cruised Glacier Bay, they were grateful for our help. All in all, we were so happy with our cruise. I think that if you plan ahead and do your research, the whole process is easier. Thanks for all of the great advice I read on Cruise Critic. It really helped. Read Less
Sail Date August 2012
Many thanks to the great reviews on this and other sites. All that info really helped preparing for my first ever cruise. Here is a 1-minute review for those who are in a hurry to book their next cruise: Our experience with Holland ... Read More
Many thanks to the great reviews on this and other sites. All that info really helped preparing for my first ever cruise. Here is a 1-minute review for those who are in a hurry to book their next cruise: Our experience with Holland America was all about Luxury, comfort, extremely detailed planning by HAL and perfect execution of every aspect of the cruise, from before boarding through the daily schedules to disembarkation and beyond. Excellent route choice and a perfect balance of at-sea versus port-of-call days, allocation of resources on the infrastructure side (very short waiting time for any consumable, elevators, restaurants, ample and comfortable seating at the theaters and elsewhere on the ship), as well as a personal service level by the best and friendliest staff I could imagine. If you can afford the expense, you'll get your money's worth with HAL cruising Alaska. (and no, I am not affiliated with HAL, I have my own daytime job at a very ground-based company :) ). And for the detail oriented future travelers: Shopping for the Cruise: Expedia, Priceline and other mega travel sites did not offer the best choice on Cruise prices. Other less known online travel agencies had prices at 10-15% discount on the exact same cruise lines, cabins, cabin credits, and sail dates. That's very significant considering the cost of a cruise (more on total cruise costs below). Booking your Summer Cruise 6+ months before cruise date has its advantages. Better cabin selection for example + a $300 credit per cabin if booked by end of February in our case. No gimmicks. On March 1st and later, the credit offered went down to $50 credit per cabin. When you book your trip, you are asked to pay around 10% of the full price, and the balance payable about 2 months before the Cruise date. Cancellation insurance is an additional 7% ($80 on $1150 per person per cabin). Or you could decide to shop for bargains just a few weeks ahead of time. If you are flexible on dates, cruise lines, departure ports, and OK with fewer cabin choices, you can find excellent deals at real discounts of 40-50% off the full price. but, not on all cruise lines.. As a reference, in our case, the price on the specific HAL cruise we had paid for 4 months earlier was still the exact same price 4 weeks before actual departure. (yet, other dates/cruise lines could save you half off for a similar itinerary!). Preparations: Here is a list of items we took with us based on other members recommendations and our own needs + comments on usability in the aftermath. Flashlights - Never used those on or off the ship. Might be handy in case of a very unlikely total power outage. A power strip w/surge protection - very handy because the cabins only have 2 power outlets. Waterproof laynards - Never used those. On the ship we carried the HAL Cards in a wallet and off ship a purse/bag did the trick for anything we wanted to shlep around. My Cellphone served as the camera/video recorder proved and was invaluable for such a trip. (also used it as the video editor). - An extended charged battery or a second one are very useful too. Netbook - even away from wifi it was very useful as an eReader + to write emails for later or portions of this review. DVD Burner - My parents were delighted to get a nicely edited DVD on the final cruise day to take with on their flight back home. We also took an additional camera as a backup. You just can't afford to miss photographing the amazing sights of Alaska's nature. Ginger candy - Some say Ginger helps with sea sickness. Never came close to even considering these. The waters was mirror-calm. Walkie Talkies - We did not get any. Not even one passenger carried those with them. Effectiveness is doubtful through the metal structures of the ship anyway(?) Scarf, Coat w/Hood, Gloves - a must, especially on days when you want to be on the open decks for uninterrupted views of the incredible Glaciers and other sights. Water-tight shoes - never needed those. The most we had was light rain/drizzle in Ketchikan. Wrist watch w/alarm - No alarms clocks in the cabins. But you probably have your own watch or use your cellphone. A day ahead of the cruise: We flew in from California a day ahead of the cruise to enjoy Vancouver for a day (it deserves more!), also to make sure we don't miss our ship, and to allow our suitcases to catch up with us should they be delayed for whatever reason by the airlines. As far as hotel bookings go, this is one of the best sites I could find for hotels: trivago. For US travelers who just want the cruise, the better option is to take a 7-day Inside Passage from Seattle instead of Vancouver. Not only is the itinerary identical, but it can save you on flight costs, time, and more importantly eliminate all the overhead associated with Immigration: Going through Vancouver means doing Immigration from the US to Canada,then Canada to US (for the cruise), then 2 more times on disembarkation and flying back to the US. Cruising to Alaska from San Francisco is an option too,which we readily abandoned after learning from first hand experiences of colleagues at work (a lengthy 10 day cruise with many days in the open ocean affected by waves. Limited selection of cruise lines.Not the best route in Alaska). But do your own checks of course. Boarding.. The process was a breeze. Very efficient all around from the moment you reach the beautiful 'Canada Place' Cruise terminal, hand over the suitcases at the curb, and head toward Immigration (Canada to US). The next quick step is check in at the HAL desks to get your personal plastic Card to use as your stateroom key, ID, and for payments while on the ship. --> The cruise ship left dock at 4:15PM! - Note that you can board as early as Noon, and head straight to the excellent Lido buffet which is waiting for you.. Then by the time you go to your stateroom an hour later or so, the suitcases are already in there. Nice. Disembarkation.. Again, very efficient. Prepare your suitcases the evening before you get off the ship. Put them outside your room by Midnight, and they appear at the waiting area off the ship. You get special colored/numbered tags for that part of the process that also tells you when it's your time to get off the ship. And everything in between.. : The ship: We loved everything about the ship. The decorative elements. The artwork and flower arrangements everywhere. The carpeting and trims on the walls and windows and stairwells and elevators. Everything felt very luxurious. There are many different areas you can hang in and relax in semi private settings too: The beautiful Explorer's Cafe and Internet areas (1 min internet connection goes for 75c). The comfy Library area with a surprisingly up to date and varied selection of books, Magazines and Newspapers. And many other areas like a Tea bar section, or other areas on Decks 4,5,8,9 both indoors with large windows, or outdoors on Deck 8 at the pool/spa area or at rear deck pool area, or the front of the ship, both wide open to the elements and unobstructed views 24 hour/day. We would be hard pressed to believe that there were 1500 passengers and 600 crew members on board. You never felt crowded, and always had areas where you could just kick back, relax and read or nap with your eyes open while looking at the scenic views that only the inside passage can offer. The Staterooms: My parents stayed at a full Ocean View cabin,while we stayed at an inside room (my wife's choice). Both were on Deck 2 (Main Promenade). The rooms are not spacious, but very functional. Very comfortable beds and pillows with good air-conditioning, 32" flat-screen TV and a DVD player. The power outlets have both 115v and 220v, but only 2 in a cabin. (bring a power strip or just an in-the-wall splitter to charge all of your electronics at once). The Ocean View cabin has a bathtub. The inside cabin only a shower. The hot water comes out instantaneously and with good pressure. Can't complain about that! - Shampoo, Conditioner and soap dispenser unit is affixed to the wall. Very good quality of all 3. There is a wall mounted hair dryer in the bathroom and another portable electric one at the drawer in the room. Great sound insulation too. The rooms were VERY quite. We never heard a sound from other rooms and all were occupied. The ship's 57,909 HP engines were doing their job but we did not notice much vibrations or noise in that respect. The closets provide ample space, enough to stash your suitcases away too. They are also modular and can be set to different configurations for your wardrobe. The safe in the closet is pretty large, good enough to hold our two 12" Netbooks and much more room. They are easy to open/close by just sliding any credit card (no fee) in the slot. The Crew: -- I can't say enough praise for the Service crew!!! - We met the most wonderful, warm, thoughtful and caring service providers anywhere we went on the ship. They are not only service minded for a moment, but connect instantly and offer options or ask about preferences that did not even occur to us. Considering the fact that they only have you for 7 days before a new round of passengers comes aboard, you would expect them to be more distant or formal. But that's not the case. We got to know some of them by name from day one and they remember yours too. Amazing. Remember that there are 1500 passengers on board!! . The servers at the oh-so-beautiful Rotterdam restaurant (free to dine, just make a reservation), remembered our names and our preferences of drinks after just one visit there. The service teams are mostly from the Philippines or Indonesia. Many of them work the cruise lines for years. It's no easy job. During the cruising season they work 7 days a week non stop for 3+ months, before having a break and joining the ship for cruises on other parts of the world. Obviously they only see their families a couple of times a year. It was very interesting talking to them. I noticed other passengers engaging in conversations with them too. Some gave them personal tips at the last day, but you don't need to and can still feel good about that (read below). -- The managing teams: Those are mostly Dutch, British or Australian. The captain did a fabulous job, and the totally calmed waters probably helped towards that end. The captain messages were informative and interesting but kept to a minimum and only came on after 9:30AM in the speaker systems. It all felt very professional as far as getting to port of calls, timely departures, slowing down along beautiful scenery, and coming to full stop in front of Glaciers for as long as needed to allow everyone to absorb the magnificent sights. The passengers: Coming form the nicely diversified Bay area of San Francisco, the mix was a bit of a surprise to us. 85% or so were US/Canadian and others of European/British heritage. Only about 6 people of African origin and 10% of Indian-Asian descent. The age groups were predominantly retirees, about 20% 20-60 year old and ~20 kids which considering the fact school year was just starting made a lot of sense. Everyone was very polite, quite and easy to talk too. You did have a lot of personal space and we mostly talked to other passengers during special Tea hours or other small group events. The Food, oh the food: First, it's a myth that you have food 24 hours. There were no open buffets from 1AM to5 AM.. hmm, just kidding. From the moment you board to the moment you disembark, you can indulge yourself in a fantastic culinary adventure. Board as early at noon on departure day and head straight to the Lido buffet on Deck 8. Two identical lines of rich,varied and plentiful ready made or made-to-order plates are available. From appetizers to bread rolls to fruit plates to main courses to the many desserts - the Lido has it all. On the first 2 days you are served and cannot pick food or drinks by yourself to prevent the spread of illnesses. The lines were very short and there is ample seating available indoors or outside by the pool. We also tried the wonderful Rotterdam restaurant - free breakfast and dinners too - and found even more exclusive items on the menu that were irresistible. We went there several times for both Breakfast and Dinner during the 7-day cruise. Then there are the 'specials' - the food fests. Either a BBQ by the pool one evening, or the Philippine/Indonesian feasts on another and more surprises that keep you form ever getting bored. You can also take advantage of room service and have breakfast in your stateroom (no extra charge). That was a nice arrangement and they did not miss even one of the items we ordered. Everything arrived super-fresh and hot. Troubleshooting: The only 2 issues we had were with the air-conditioning in the room that was not cooling enough. We called the Front Desk and someone came and fixed it within 1 hour. We also called to have a breakfast tray picked up but no one came after an hour. Turned out that we needed to call some other number instead of the Front Desk. Once we did the tray was picked up 15 min later. Another passenger had what seemed like a water flow in the room down the corridor from us and a crew was on it before we even knew anything was going on, with blowers to dry the corridor and the passengers moved to another stateroom. Ports of Call: Juneau -- You arrive at 1PM and depart at 10PM, but the useful hours for in town activities actually end by 5-6PM when the Museum and surprisingly many stores close for the day. So, make sure to disembark at 1PM. We highly recommend the Alaska Museum and also the trip to the Mendenhall glacier. We opted for a round-trip with one of the local bus operators that have booths right where the ship docks. It's $16 round trip per person for a 20 min ride. The bus driver was very funny, helpful and knowledgeable. The last bus left at 3:30PM and the last returning bus from the glacier at 5:00PM. The trip is well worth it. There is a beautiful visitor center with fantastic views of the Glacier, as well as an elevated nature path above Salmon spawning areas and the Bears are right there too. We will always remember one mature bear with her 2 cubs hunting for Salmon and picking berries from the bushes. And they were just 100 feet away from us (but safely below the elevated wooden path). Skagway -- I could not visit the town because of a minor cold, but my parents took the Train trip up the mountains and found it interesting, although at $125/pp for the 2 hour round trip felt that it was a bit pricey. (The tickets on board the ship were only selling at a $5 premium - $130/pp). My wife chose to check out the stores for freebies and some small items to take home. If you are into Jewelry shopping, not only is there a 'motivational' 1+ hour presentation at the theater on board the ship, but you are also flooded with coupon books and free-gifts info to lure you into shops at all 3 ports. (not our thing but it is a revenue generating machine for the ships and apparently there are enough passengers that do go for that) Ketchikan -- We took a 2 hour tour with a local operator that takes you to places where Salmon come to spawn (and die) and others where Bear meet Salmon, and for a drive along the coast line for possible views of Whales and assured sights of Bald Eagles. They also stopped at the Totem pole Park which we did not find interesting. The final drop off point was Creek Street that makes for interesting photos with the houses built against the side of the very steep hillside and above the river. The trip cost $60/pp and included the fee for the Totem pole park and Dolly's house. Fees and expenses: So, you paid for a cruise. How much more will it really cost you? Aside from the cost of flights and lodging, should you decide to arrive ahead of the cruise or stay after, you are also going to be charged about $100/pp in gratuities at the end of the cruise. It goes without saying that you never really need to leave 'tips' while on the ship. It's all taken care of collectively. (assuming $100/pp for 1500 passengers,divided by 600 crew members and you can see that it averages $900 of tips per crew member per month. So feel good about the service and enjoy it all). It is all charged automatically to the Credit Card you provide at online check-in. Other expenses can be for wine bottles or wine by the glass, and for excursions you chose to take that can range from a basic ride around a town for $50/pp to Helicopter rides to remote glaciers which can run you $500/pp. Final notes: The numerous activities available daily on the ship were more than any person can do in one cruise. You are guaranteed to find whatever floats your boat, and the well laid out daily 'Newspaper' delivered every evening to your room, lists all the activities for the following day along with Weather forecast and other interesting facts. You can chose to work out everyday in the well equipped Gym or do anything at all. Whatever makes you happy. We saw Orca whales and some were breaching on our second day at sea. Bears hunting for Salmon. Large chunks of ice breaking off Glaciers and crushing with loud noise into the waters, many sea birds, and Bald Eagles, and pristine wilderness of forests and snow covered mountains. Everything was very unique - a true Alaskan experience and all from the comfort of a modern ship. There are many more details to the trip and surprises to enjoy, but better leave the discoveries for you. This was my first cruise, and now I know there will be more. Maybe even a repeat cruise of the Inside Passage in Alaska. It was that good. Happy cruising. Read Less
Sail Date August 2012
Just got off the Volendam Inside Passage Alaskan Cruise - Very impressed with the experience! If you want a NICE spacious room the deluxe verandah suite is amazing. The layout is so efficient. The dressing room area was GREAT, the bathroom ... Read More
Just got off the Volendam Inside Passage Alaskan Cruise - Very impressed with the experience! If you want a NICE spacious room the deluxe verandah suite is amazing. The layout is so efficient. The dressing room area was GREAT, the bathroom is standard really, but the overall room just makes up for the standard bath/shower. The balcony AMAZING AND HUGE! Great table and chairs, chaise lounges. We often had 3 other couples over for wine and cheese, even dinner or lunch because the views were so pretty we didn't want to miss them sitting in a dining room or lido deck with crowds. If you have the money to get the deluxe suite, DO IT. The neptune lounge is well worth the dollars because of the amazing service. You never have to go to the front desk, the neptune lounge attendants cater to your every needs! The coffee machine alone was great every morning. They offer breakfast items , snacks all day and you can order from the main dining room menu breakfast, lunch and dinner the whole cruise. Do tea service during a day at sea- really good. The only complaint about our room was the lido deck is over head and you can hear people move tables and chairs often - it was a pain, but the service and room were so good I just drank more wine and looked for whales and bears! Our friends had the penthouse and they complained about vibrations at night when crusing. But their room was superb. The captain Peter Bos is BIG into wildlife so if you want to see animals, this is YOUR cruise. He also got close to the shore often and made the cruise so much better. If you luck out and get christine in the neptune lounge, you are set. The inside passage was wonderful if you like days at sea. We saw many whales, orca, bear,eagles all from our balcony! Juneau was great to whale watch, buy that excursion! You can also get one at port that puts you in a small boat wtih only 6 people, our friends did this and had a great review. we took a taxi to mendenhall glacier and hiked to the waterfall and watched salmon, great park! don't do a tour, go on your own! Tracys Crab Shack by boat was GREAT for king crab legs outside - do it! In my opinion shop in Skagway, the broadway street is fun and some nice shops for soapstone sculptures, fun hats, knives, hoody sweatshirts - all good prices! The White Pass Rail train ride is really nice for great views, but the tour packages where you ride a bus back stopping at "gold rush" towns is cheesy! just ride up and back and save yourself the cheese show - unless you have kids. I wish they offered a more adult train tour! I'm only 40, and was not impressed with the gold dredge stop at all. If you do have kids, then it would be fun for them. Red Onion saloon was a fun stop before heading back to the boat,k and you have a great photo op coming back to the boat in skagway with th e boat in the background to take yourself! Photos on board are 40 per sheet, kinda pricey in my opinion for one pose, but I did buy a couple. Ketchikan, it rained there on us, but we did the fishing camp experience which we really enjoyed and thankfully they provided us with rubber bibs, boots, jackets so the rain was no big deal If you want a REAL fishing exhibition, this is NOT for you, you only fish for rock fish, kinda cheesy, but the camp they take you to is worth the money. It's on an island in the wilderness and just awesome to experience the location and campfire and lunch they make you. while on our skiff we had orca come toward our boat fishing for the same rock fish we were catching so that was way amazing! Also fed an eagle some smaller fish so the lack of salmon and halibut fishing really didn't matter to me. Glacier Bay was very relaxing - We really wanted to get right back on the ship and go again, I am alreayd saving to go again and do a 14 day or 7 day with land trip to denali. I would suggest Holland America find better talent for the music in the bars - the folks playing were not that great and you never really saw crowds gathering - i was told Holland were older folks, but really the people we met on board were wonderful and fun and all ages. They just needed some talent to entertaint them! The food was really really good I will say! We ate the Pinnacle and main dining room a couple times, always impressed. We usually ordered the main dining room menu to our balcony! Food delivered was always hot! The photographers did manage to piss me off as when I was looking at my photos the last night, some rude boy named Adam followed me around like I wanted to steal one! If you want to party at night, this is NOT a cruise for you, FYI. we enjoyed having our friends over to our balcony and did our own party with wine! PS! If you need some wine, go to the liquor store in Vancouver ride across from the Port , great wines and champagnes available! The wine list on board is also very good! Service overall was BEST I 've experience ever on a cruise. Bon voyage! Oh! don't do the yoga, a total rip off, the insturctor was terrible and you do the class in the main gym, no private room for classes. my main complaint really! Read Less
Sail Date August 2012
I am a 3-trip veteran of the Hurtigruten voyages along the coast of Norway & I thought there could be nothing more magnificent...but I just spent 7 days on the MS Volendam, cruising Alaska's Inside Passage and the trip was ... Read More
I am a 3-trip veteran of the Hurtigruten voyages along the coast of Norway & I thought there could be nothing more magnificent...but I just spent 7 days on the MS Volendam, cruising Alaska's Inside Passage and the trip was perfection. The charming, comfortable cabin had ample closet & drawer space for 3 adults. Our quiet verandah gave me restful alone moments with a breathtaking view. We're early risers & on the 1st morning we sampled a 6:00am light breakfast tray ordered from room service. Piping hot coffee, tea & fruited muesli, elegantly served, became our favorite way to begin each day. Food, food,food...morn, noon & night: gourmet delights in the formal dining room - gourmet & comfort food in the casual Lido buffet - afternoon teas, an Indonesian banquet, late night snacks & 24 hr. room service. (For an extra charge there are also 2 elegant, intimate restaurants requiring reservations.) The Alaskan scenery is gorgeous & continuous...no long passages with nothing to see. The cruise itinerary is well planned. 3 fascinating Alaskan ports offering shore excursions so numerous, it's hard to make a choice: ranging from whale watching to a train trip up the old prospectors trail to the Klondike. My adult children took the whale watching & Mendenhall glacier tour out of Juneau, the train trip out of Skagway and in Ketchikan, they went walking about town & up to Saxman Village to see the marvelous totem poles. Even on the day it rained, they found it all exhilarating. There is a day of cruising in the awesome environs of Glacier Bay amid humpback whales, Orcas, porpoises, & sea otters at sea and bears & wolves on shore, watched over by bald eagles perched on the small icebergs. The atmosphere aboard ship was outstanding. Staff & crew were immediately there when you needed but otherwise unobtrusive. And every one of them was friendly, very helpful and always greeted us with a gracious smile. Each day & night there were a myriad of activities for all ages & tastes: entertainment from Broadway-type shows to a string quartet. There were bars & lounges & pools and still there were quiet, unfrequented spaces where someone like me could relax & view the splendor of Alaska sail by. For all the passengers on board, the ship never felt crowded. Yes, there are days when low clouds hang in the valleys and a misty drizzle enshrouds the land, but that is why Alaska is so green and gorgeous. And when the sun comes out it shines on a world that is indescribably beautiful. I am a traveler who likes the feel of traveling. I love to feel the swelling sea. I love to hear the hum and feel the vibrations of the giant pistons and I love to watch the world cruising past. The Volendam has it all. It was a perfect trip even when the Alaskan weather was inclement. Read Less
Sail Date August 2012
Our family took a 7-day 'Inside Passage' cruise, round-trip Vancouver. We loved it! It was our first time visiting Alaska, and our second time cruising with HAL. The scenery was incredible! The Inside Passage of British ... Read More
Our family took a 7-day 'Inside Passage' cruise, round-trip Vancouver. We loved it! It was our first time visiting Alaska, and our second time cruising with HAL. The scenery was incredible! The Inside Passage of British Columbia/Alaska is absolutely stunning! We loved each port: Juneau, Skagway, Ketchikan. Very charming places, lots of time in ports to wander around and take excursions if we chose to! Glacier Bay was so beautiful and peaceful! We saw a lot of wildlife on this cruise, from bears to whales. The Volendam ship was wonderful! Very nice, and it was a good size to walk around (not too big). It never felt crowded on the ship, and there were lots of indoor spaces to relax, and outdoor viewing areas for the lovely scenery! The food was great! The staff were helpful, friendly, and kind! Another positive experience with HAL, I will definitely cruise with them again! Alaska is incredible....I hope to visit again in the near future! Read Less
Sail Date August 2012
We stayed in the Pan Pacific in Vancouver, and when we woke up on the day of departure, the Volendam was moored right below our room. Embarkation was straightforward, with the ship's staff being very helpful. My overall impression ... Read More
We stayed in the Pan Pacific in Vancouver, and when we woke up on the day of departure, the Volendam was moored right below our room. Embarkation was straightforward, with the ship's staff being very helpful. My overall impression of the ship is confusing. It's some 11 or 12 years old, had a major refit a few years but has a retro-early 60s feel. The overall theme is flowers, but it's incoherent. The Pinnacle restaurant, the Theatre and the Crow's Nest are probably the smartest parts of the ship; our cabin with its beige/faded ivory bathroom needed freshening up although it was clean and fully functional. We soon found our way around, and took advantage of the open seating in the Rotterdam Restaurant for breakfast and dinner. An early morning tea or coffee with (small) croissants in the cabin was good. The food was generally very good with the breakfasts, steaks and Indian evening being the highlights; the seafood was surprisingly disappointing. Service was prompt and good. Tip: don't take up the offer of bottled water; ask for a jug of regular iced. The cost of drinks (before the 15% surcharge) gave us a fright, though the bottle of gin for $30+ with tonic in the cabin wasn't too bad a deal. The list of on-board activities included wine tasting, but we didn't take it up as it was really expensive for a the selection of bottom of the range/generic wines on offer. We did go to the Alaskan beer tasting, but $15 (+15%) for three small glasses of beer wasn't good value, even though I did win a bottle as a prize. The highlight of the cruise was the scenery and the excursions. The trip on the catamaran into Tracey Arm was superb. Th boat's captain turned of the engine when we were as near as was safe to the Sawyer Glacier, and we could hear the explosions as huge chunks of ice fell off the glacier into the fjord. There were waterfalls, sea eagles, seals and small icebergs - truly memorable experience - and given an edge by the transfer to the catamaran taking place in deep water, not in port! This is a must-do in my opinion. At Skagway, we took the train on the White Pass & Yukon Railway. The weather was superb, and our tour guide said it was first time in years she'd been able to see the peaks and glaciers as there was no rain, clouds or mist. The views are splendid and make for great photos. We went on the early departure, which was a bit of a rush, but did mean the train was not crowded, there were no worries about which side of the train to sit on (left side on the way up) and there was space on the platforms between the carriages. We saw that the next train was really crowded. We had some fun in the Skagway Brewery and met one of the girls from the Red Onion! At Ketchikan, we took the seaplane to the Misty Fjords and returned by boat. The ride in the seaplane was exciting but short (30 mins) and return to Ketchikan took over two by boat. Of the three excursions we took, this was the most expensive by far and the one that fell short of expectation, despite the excellent guide on the boat. If you want to do this excursion, fly out and fly back. Otherwise, save your money. The Volendam's visit to Glacier Bay was exciting. The weather was warm and the glacier was breaking up faster than usual. The top of the bay had far more ice floating on the water than usual. The glacier ice is fresh water at 0�° and the salty sea was a couple of degrees colder, so the ice bergs weren't melting. The captain explained that the Volendam wasn't equipped with a hull suitable for ice-breaking so had to keep off the edge of the ice flows. He did see a mother bear with two cubs off the starboard side and turned the ship completely around to get better view. After they disappeared, he turned the ship around again to continue with the planned route! Our steward and house-keeping were excellent and kept our cabin in forst class order. Would we travel again on the Volendam? Probably not. Would we travel again up the Alaskan coastline? Probably yes!   Read Less
Sail Date July 2012
My wife and I plus two good friends and two family members took the Alaska Inside Passage cruise on the MS Volendam, which sailed from Vancouver July 25th 2012 -- August 1st 2012. Instead of writing a day by day account of the cruise ... Read More
My wife and I plus two good friends and two family members took the Alaska Inside Passage cruise on the MS Volendam, which sailed from Vancouver July 25th 2012 -- August 1st 2012. Instead of writing a day by day account of the cruise I'd rather list what I liked and what I didn't like about the cruise. This was our fifth cruise and we've previously cruised with, Carnival, Royal Caribbean, Radisson and Canard. Please keep in mind there were 1500 passengers on board and this is my opinion and account only. Things I liked about the ship: - The Volendam seemed very steady when at sea and without much sensation of motion or movement. - The three onboard shows we saw were all good. We especially enjoyed the female comedian Chris Pendleton who was really funny. - At the end of the cruise you are allowed to stay in your cabin until you are called to disembark the ship. Please note that you will leave the ship on deck two (2) which is never announced or written. - The split-pea soup which is served around the ship and on deck while at Glacier Bay (State Park) was very good and most welcomed. We were there in late July and it was as cold as a January day in Washington DC. - I really liked that are room steward's swept our cabin floors daily and also cleaned the shower (tub) daily. They both did a super job keeping the cabin clean. - I really liked having the hand sanitizer stations, which was placed around the ship at the elevators and dining rooms. - The bathrobe in the room is a nice touch. - There is plenty of storage. There is only one electrical outlet so bring an extender if you need to plug in multiple items simultaneously. There is another one in the bathroom but it is two-prong only. - The captain will communicate when wildlife is spotted. - Embarkation and de-embarkation is the best of any cruise we have taken. Easy, organized, swift. - This is the first time without a balcony but the port hole view was fine. We did not miss a balcony. It actually got us out of our room more. Questionable things about the ship: - The ship's bell (forward) denotes the ship was commissioned in 1999 so please keep in mind this is an OLD ship. My sister in law (cabin 1900) had numerous flushing and backup issues with her toilet. The crew left a total of three written notes that the water would be turned off (for four hours each time) and repairs made (it still didn't work correctly). This was my sister in laws first cruise. So after the second issue we both when up to the front deck to complain and see what can be done. The response was "it's being looked into". The Front Desk never attempted to compensate her or make things right or contact her to see if the problem was solved. So please beware if you have a problem. - Access to the bow is hard to find and a bit strange to access. It is on the 3rd level. Look for the sign that says "bow". It looks like it is closed off and staff only but it's not. - Don't bother taking a magnet for your door to ID your door. The door is not metal so the magnet will not stick. We used gaffer tape. - The gym / spa point of contact (Lestor) was condescending and a jerk to us and other members of our traveling party (he did not know we were traveling together and the incidents were totally seperate and different). - We also had a problem (cabin 1891) with smelling sewer gas in our bath room. I know enough about plumbing and made sure all the P-traps all were filled with water and I kept the sink and tub plungers closed (problem solved). But here again this is an old ship, with plumbing issues. - No flexibility on either formal night. My 17 year old nephew came to the first formal night in dress slacks, polished dress shoes, dress shirt and tie...he looked great but was stopped at the door. Their head matre de (Mario) will not let you into the dining room without a jacket. All of the men have to wear either a suit jacket, tux or sports coat. However, you are not required to wear a tie. - The ship didn't communicate well with passengers. When in port, no announcements are made as to where you exit the ship and it's in a different location in every port. Please give yourself plenty of time in order to make an early excursion to find the location. Even the Front Desk said they did not have that information and to wait for an announcement (that never came). - Our bed linens were old (but clean) with several small rips. Holland America...it's time you buy some new bed linens. - The Ledo deck cafeteria stations are confusing and are laid out in a disorganized fashion. The most popular stations are next to each other so the middle is always crowded. - You cannot view your bill through their T.V.; you have to go to the front desk and ask for a printout. Here again...it's an old ship. - In my opinion the food isn't bad but it's not that good either. I think if Holland America were buying higher quality meats that would go a long way in improving the onboard dinners. Also their anytime dinning menu selection is not available on the last night. The last night menu theme is international foods from various countries which is the worst food night of the cruise. - On the last morning of the cruise we used room service. Half way through breakfast I noticed something at the bottom of my wife's orange juice. Under closer examination she discovered it was a huge (one inch) piece of broken glass. She took the glass up to the Ledo deck and asked to speak to someone in charge. When she explained the orange juice was from room service the manager said "it's not my station". You just have to love that kind of response from someone in charge. Oh and my wife was okay but the thought she may have swallowed glass due to carelessness really upsets me. Things I liked about Alaska: - We took the Tracy Arm Fjord (high speed catamaran) excursion which is a must do (but a long day). This excursion allows you to get up close and personal to both the north and south "Sawyer" Glacier. Note: it's a several hour boat ride back to Juneau. You'll be dropped off at the ship. We had planned to also explore the Mendenhall Glacier but just ran out of time. Shari of the excursion was excellent, informative and entertaining. - We also really enjoyed the White's Pass Train Ride & Gold Panning excursion in Skagway. We all enjoyed the Liarsville camp and the gold panning. There is no gold in this part of Alaska but each pan has dirt/gravel with a trace amount of gold. This gives you the feel of panning and finding gold (the gold is yours to keep). Hey, and remember to howl like a wolf when they board your bus. They (Liarsville camp personal) have a lot of fun and want you to have fun too. When we got back from this excursion we walked into town and hiked up the mountain to Lower Dewey Lake. Have good hiking shoes, drinking water and some athletic ability (the hike is rated as moderate) and you'll enjoy the beauty, view and the workout. - There are so many interesting things to see like: water falls, snow covered mountains, the turquoise mineral filled water at the glaciers, marine mammals, plants, rocks and trees, green lush meadows, wild life and the people are friendly and will ask you "so where are you from"? This was a bucket list trip for me and my wife. Things I didn't like about Alaska: - Nothing. It was wonderful. - Dress for cool weather. Dress in layers and you will be glad to have gloves and a stocking cap in Glacier Bay. - Don't be discouraged if it is overcast, foggy or rainy in the morning. There is a good chance it will clear up for the afternoon. We stayed at the Metropolitan pre-cruise in Vancouver which we liked a lot. After the cruise we stayed at The Sutton Place which cost more. Sutton Place had a beautiful view but no wifi or other amenities (unless you want to pay). I preferred the Metropolitan for location, amenities, price, friendliness. Read Less
Sail Date July 2012
Our first night out, a pipe burst in the ceiling and water dripped down on the bed, and down the walls. A telephone call to the front desk quickly brought an officer, who arranged a temporary room while the problem was fixed. We were ... Read More
Our first night out, a pipe burst in the ceiling and water dripped down on the bed, and down the walls. A telephone call to the front desk quickly brought an officer, who arranged a temporary room while the problem was fixed. We were moved, temporarily, to an inside cabin designed for the disabled. I liked the walk-in shower better than the tub/shower in our original cabin. The replacement cabin was noisy (engine noise). We only stayed in that cabin for one night, and returned to our original cabin. I appreciated the quick action to resolve the problem. HAL sent a bottle of wine to our cabin by way of apology. Later, we received a personal letter of apology and a credit for $150 which we could apply to our current bill. Returned to our original cabin. - described as obstructed view. Really, was no view, as there was a bulkhead right in front of the window. Not really much different than an inside cabin. Obstruction was described as the promenade walking track around the deck. - the heating/air conditioning control seemed to be for decoration only. We like to cool down the room for sleeping, but nothing happened - no hot water for shower at breakfast and dinner time. Perhaps load was too great on the system Dining Room - food was exceptional. HAL has the best food of various lines we have travelled on - service sometimes slow (8:00 p.m. seating-table of six). We were late for the 10:00 p.m. show - more than once individuals were served the wrong selection, or did not receive a selection at all (breakfast) - had requested soy milk. Always seemed a challenge to get it delivered promptly - in spite of the above gripes, the serving staff were friendly and accommodating. For our last evening, we requested creme brule (requested the day before), which was not on the menu, and, voila, we had it. Entertainment - shows were entertaining, especially the pianist, and comedian/magician; "production" numbers on other nights were OK, but what can you expect on a small ship? General - Day spent cruising in Glacier Bay was exceptional. Not every ship/cruise line can get into Glacier Bay. Try to book a cruise that allows you this opportunity. - Volendam, being a small ship, was easy to get around. - We had great weather, but anyone travelling to Alaska should be prepared for rain and fog, and have warm clothing. Include gloves and a warm hat. - don't expect a lot of time sunning on the deck. It's cold outside. Read Less
Sail Date July 2012
We're in our late 40's with a 11 yr old daughter. We try to do one big vacation each year and always try to ensure it's a high-end experience. For example, last year was an exclusive Tuscan Villa for five days followed by ... Read More
We're in our late 40's with a 11 yr old daughter. We try to do one big vacation each year and always try to ensure it's a high-end experience. For example, last year was an exclusive Tuscan Villa for five days followed by ten days in 5 star hotels in Florence and Rome. With that background, hopefully my feedback will be of interest to those who share my feeling that there are no luggage racks on Hearses. My goal for this cruise was to book the best cabin on the ship I could get. We didn't go on vacation to save money. Cost be damned. Fun...isn't it? ;>) Cabin 7027: Clean and spacious. Mostly quiet when the verandah doors are closed but lots of deck noise from the Lido deck above when you're on the verandah during the day. Oh well, let's pour another cocktail and look for Bears. Plenty of storage. Bring an extension cord (Thanks Forum!). Extremely generous size cabin if you have just 2 adults. Even with our daughter using the pull out bed, which she loved, we never bumped into each other. The verandah was large as well and we spent a lot of time out there with a glass of wine, light music and our daily room-service delivered hors d'oeuvres because, luckily, the weather was drop dead gorgeous 90% of the time. This cabin is also plenty large enough for 2 adults and 2 kids who could sleep on the pullout sofa. I doubt you would want 4 adults in there but, hey, it's your cruise. The binoculars in the room, which are very powerful, enabled us to really gain an appreciation for the coastline, glaciers, whales, otters, eagles, and mountain goats. One day a Hummingbird even flew right up to my face while I was looking through them! Almost dropped them overboard! Alaska is completely under-rated in my book. Cabin Service: Extremely professional, fast and efficient. Definitely service with a smile. We took full advantage of the dry cleaning and laundry service that comes with the room and were completely satisfied. Neptune Lounge: I was pretty sure it would be a good perk and now realize I won't go on another cruise without having access to it. Dining: Definitely not The Ritz or Four Seasons but what is? Volendam food is pretty darn good. We greatly enjoyed The Pinnacle on three of the nights including Le Cirque night. I'd put that food and service level up against nicer restaurants in most large cities. We enjoyed perfectly prepared breakfasts in our room each morning, delivered right on time. Tip: if you want something that's not on the room service menu, i.e. Dijon or salmon/capers, just write it in and I bet they bring it to you. We enjoyed the MDR three nights and two lunches. We had one so-so dinner at Canaletto one night, which was the only 'miss' the entire cruise(My veal was tough and our daughter's meatballs, which she didn't plan to eat anyway, were surprisingly undercooked). Not a huge matter to us but maybe to others. We like our Red wines so after reviewing the Volendam wine list in advance I decided we'd bring our own case of wine. Their list is really good in the Pinnacle (everything up to and beyond Opus One) and not terrible in the MDR and lounges but I wanted what we're accustomed to and I really didn't want to pay $120/bottle for what I normally pay $30 for in Florida. We also ordered many drinks in the lounges and restaurants so I didn't feel bad about bringing our own to our cabin. We paid the $18 corkage a couple of times and it was preferable for us. At The Pinnacle our server quickly offered to decant the bottles without our even asking. Simply great service. Kids: Two or three times during the cruise, our lovely daughter enjoyed hanging out with the 5 to 10 kids who were her age in Club HAL. They were all well behaved and polite. There's plenty for them to do there for 2-3 hours at a time. The Club HAL Staff was Excellent. We're not the Disney Cruise type. Volendam was great for us. She read 10 large books while on board and we loved the Library and Chess games. She had a great time. Entertainment: In terms of Shows, honestly as a family, we never made it past about 10pm so the only shipboard entertainment for us was Adagio Strings and the acoustic guitarist - both were excellent. Many nights after dinner we just really enjoyed the DVD library back in our cabin. I stayed up a couple of nights until 12 or 1 at the tables in the Casino and had fun meeting other blackjack players. Lot of nice passengers on this cruise. The Casino staff were also some of the most pleasant, laid back and accommodating I've run into. Just great people. If you're a regular player I'd strongly recommend setting up a line of credit in advance. It was very convenient. Excursions: None were with HAL. We enjoyed what we did on our own including walking in town, Mendenhall Glacier in Juneau, Salmon charter fishing in Ketchikan and Liarsville Salmon Bake/Gold Panning in Skagway, which by the way got a really bad rap on the Internet so I was very wary but it was actually a great time and the food was good! (Highly recommend bestofalaskatravel.com for Liarsville and ketchikancharterboats.com for fishing (!!). The Salmon we caught arrived today via FedEx 1-Day Air and it was well worth the money for the charter and processing. Salmon were plentiful in Ketchikan. Nice weather. Three of us fished on a 31' Silverton. Price was very competitive. The Volendam Staff: Captain Peter Bos, Restaurant Mgr (Tall guy with white hair, really nice), Neptune Lounge Staff: Kristine and Olga, Room Stewards, and every other staff member we came into contact with bent over backwards to ensure we were completely satisfied, safe and informed. Each request we made was acted on quickly, efficiently and with a smile. Captain Bos also did a fine job with our Renewal of Vows ceremony, which helped me win big time points with my lovely wife of 20 yrs and it's something I highly recommend. We were the only couple who reserved it on this sailing so the Captain and Rebekah (Volendam Party Planner) spent a relaxed 45 mins with us in the Explorer Lounge. We enjoyed getting to know them and they are both top notch individuals. I'm sure all of the HAL people are. While I'm on the subject of Captain Peter Bos let me say that his focus on Safety and the passenger's enjoyment of the sights of the Inside Passage is second to none as far as we're concerned. The PA announcements were informative but not overbearing. In closing, our cabin, its location, the service level, and amenities that come with it exceeded my expectations. The Volendam was the perfect size for a 7 day cruise. Many times as we explored the ship we felt like we had a lot of space to ourselves. Our assessment is that HAL is a well managed, high quality organization. We also stayed over in Vancouver on our own for four days after disembarkation and Love that City. I would do this exact vacation again in a heartbeat. Lastly, the CruiseCritic site and Forum members provided a wealth of info for us, which helped us know in advance what to expect. We are very grateful so please feel free to ask any questions you have if you are considering the Volendam. I'm not an expert but hopefully I can return a favor. Bon Voyage and arrivederci! Chris and Lauren Read Less
Sail Date July 2012
My sister and I booked a 7 night Inside Passage Cruise on the MS Volendam. We flew into Seattle, took the AmTrak coach to Vancouver to spend the night before boarding the ship the next day. We stayed at the Ramada close to Gastown and ... Read More
My sister and I booked a 7 night Inside Passage Cruise on the MS Volendam. We flew into Seattle, took the AmTrak coach to Vancouver to spend the night before boarding the ship the next day. We stayed at the Ramada close to Gastown and enjoyed shopping there in the morning before boarding. The Ramada was close enough to Canada Place that we could have walked, so we didn't include the transfer cost, but taxis are reasonable there and we didn't want to struggle with luggage. Boarding was painless. The lines were long, but moved rapidly. There were two ships in dock and a lot of people milling around but the process was well controlled. There were ample HAL employees directing traffic and it went seamlessly. We had our photos taken, issued cabin keys, then seated in the "holding area" until the line opened for us to pass through customs. Once on board, the Lido (buffet) was open for lunch and it was recommended that we eat before going to our cabins in order that the stewards had plenty time to ready the cabins from the cruise that had disembarked that morning. As soon as we arrived in our cabins, our luggage was already there. We unpacked, gathered at our Lifeboat stations for the Emergency procedures, then went on a tour of the ship with the "Lifestylist," Claire. (Very helpful, cheerful personality.) The ship was a good size and appropriate for what we were looking for in a cruise. There were no discos, rambunctious youth, or blaring music (for the most part, although one time it did get awfully loud on the Promenade Deck). The crew maintained a very clean ship, and the captain and crew were overly cautious about curtailing the spread of viruses and sickness. (Hand sanitizer "stations" at all elevators, stairways, dining entries, etc.) The only complaint in the maintenance department is that they were continually painting. Every day areas were roped off and marked "wet paint". Also, every day, the promenade deck was washed down, which meant if you were an early walker you walked on very wet decks. Our cabin was on the Promenade Deck, which was convenient. We had a large window, while not looking directly out, looked across the open promenade deck to the outside. Being on that deck and close to an exit door from the hall to the deck made it easy for us to get out on the deck for photos, walking, etc. Even though many people walked the promenade, the windows were tinted so that our cabin was still private even when the curtains were open. We had previously read that if you have trouble with sea sickness, dizziness, etc., a cabin toward the aft (back) of the ship on a lower deck would be best, and that's just what we had. We would have walked less steps overall if our cabin had been more centrally located (especially when we left something in our cabin that we needed), but with the large meals, the walking was good for us! The cabin was a cozy size, larger than we anticipated, with ample storage space (certainly for the two of us). The beds were comfortable and the bathroom spacious enough with a full tub. A shelf under the sink as well as a cabinet built into the corner over the sink offered plenty of room to store our toiletries. The water pressure was good, but we took several cool/warm/cold showers. (We never even thought to bring this to the attention of our steward. There may have been something he could have done to correct this!) We had some minor problems with the toilet flushing, but access to public restrooms on the ship caused that not to be much of a hardship. One thing we had not prepared for was the absence of a clock. We would not leave our phones turned on (to make sure we did not receive any $16/minute international calls), and as neither of us wear watches, we were constantly wondering about the time. This was important in order to make it to planned events taking place on the ship. Every night we were given a schedule of the next day's events. (Finally we bought an inexpensive watch at one of the ship stores but it did not keep good time and really wasn't worth what we paid for it.) I believe the television might have displayed the time, but we would not turn it on for that. The classes from Microsoft on digital photography were very good for beginners. The young guy, Craig, who taught them was patient and willing to help with any problem cruisers were having with their digital cameras, computers, etc. Some really got their "money's worth" out of his help! Not being interested in the bars, casino or many of the shows, we retired to our cabins fairly early each evening. It was quiet and peaceful (maybe more so for us because we were toward the back of the ship?). Since the sunset was late (around 9:30 or 10:00) we saw a couple of beautiful sunsets. (When it wasn't raining or cloudy!) Our steward was very efficient and thorough. He attended our rooms twice a day, smiling every time we saw him and always helpful. We had first dining at 5:45 and the dining staff was efficient and for the most part friendly. Our assigned table was toward the center of the restaurant, with little access to views of the outside, so we decided we really enjoyed the buffet better -- our choice of seating, seeing and choosing the dishes that looked good to us at the time, and not being on a schedule. We wound up, for the most part eating breakfast, lunch and dinner in the Lido. We also decided that, although prepared, we did not feel like dressing for the formal dinners, so the Lido was a better fit for us. The bars and lounge areas, library and card room with window access were comfortable places to sit during the day to scan the water and banks for wildlife, to catch a snooze, to eat that extra dessert, to read or to chat with new acquaintances as the ship made its way through the Inside Passage. For the most part, it was too windy and cold to sit outside on the deck areas. One of my recommendations to the ship line in this area would be to make access to outer areas easier. From the seated areas, if you noted something you really wanted to photograph, you had the options of 1) taking it through the spotted, dirty window (most of the time covered with raindrops!) or 2) running to an outside area hoping to catch the shot before it disappeared. (I missed most of these!) There were some covered seating areas on the back pool Lido deck with easy acess, but it got awfully cold and windy there as well as on the Promenade Deck. I tried it a few times, but usually gave up and headed inside. We were glad for the captain's schedule when we made our first stop -- Juneau at about 1:00 pm. I was afraid that late arrival wouldn't give us enough time to check out the capital city, but it was ample time. There was only one other ship in dock which made it much easier to get around town, to our excursions, etc. without being jostled by crowds. Skagway was the next port of call.This was my favorite stop (or would have been, if not for the rain!). Thankfully, up in the mountain the rain stopped. Glacier Bay was astounding. Again, misting rain and cloud cover, but we were able to see several glaciers. It was another rainy, cold day and the Crow's Nest was a good place from which to view since the windows stretch all the way across the front of the ship. (However, you must arrive EARLY to get a seat in there.) Having the National Park ranger and personnel come on board and give comments and explanations gave it an added dimension. We didn't witness any large "calving" which we would have liked to seen, but there was a calming quietness that was almost "otherworldly." It's hard to imagine the natives of yesteryear existing day in and day out in that cold, sublime area. The last port of call was Ketchikan. Enjoyed it but didn't take any tours. Just wanted to walk around, get souvenirs and get a feel for the city. Walked through the Creek Street area and along the Married Man's Trail. The last day was another day of cruising the Inside Passage, making our way back to Vancouver. It was still very pleasant viewing and the captain did a fairly good job of keeping us updated on where we were and what was coming up that we might be able to see. Although I enjoyed the viewing, I was beginning to want to be off the ship and on dry ground. Six nights of being rocked to sleep was beginning to get to me! I think others must begin to feel the same way because they scheduled more "active" events that last day than usual -- table tennis tournament, basketball game, WII bowling, etc. The disembarkment was carefully planned, but no matter how well organized, 1,400 people disembarking and some not following directions caused some chaos. However, overall it went well. Once off the ship, we were somewhat confused where we supposed to go, but once through customs, there were HAL employees directing us and answering questions. Found them to be very helpful. Overall I recommend Holland American Lines and the Volendam. There wasn't pressure to buy anything on the ship, although we felt a little pressure from the professional photographers to allow us to be photographed. (They made a DVD of the week which was available for sale at the end of the cruise as well as individual photos taken during the week. That would make a nice souvenir for those interested in pictures of who was on board as well as what could have been seen during the sailing.) The other thing noted about the cruise was lack of North Americans working on board. As far as I could tell (by accents), there may have only been a couple. Although the workers spoke English to some degree, a few were hard to understand and had trouble understanding us. Read Less
Sail Date June 2012
Last year my sister and I were idly discussing going on a cruise, and by the end of the year I had done hours of research and booked a 7 night Inside Passage Cruise on the MS Volendam. Cruise Critic was instrumental in our choice of ship ... Read More
Last year my sister and I were idly discussing going on a cruise, and by the end of the year I had done hours of research and booked a 7 night Inside Passage Cruise on the MS Volendam. Cruise Critic was instrumental in our choice of ship and itinerary and I read just about everything written on CC, and found it all very helpful. In fact my husband said I no longer needed to go to Alaska as I had read everything there was to know! We were a party of four, my sister sharing her cabin with another widowed friend, all in our early 60's. My sister came from Austin, her friend from Syracuse and my husband and I from Australia. We met up in Vancouver on June 5th, the day before sailing, and I am so glad we planned to arrive the day before as our flight times were changed by the airline and as it was we didn't get into Vancouver until 9.30 at night. It would have been so stressful to be travelling on the day the ship was leaving. Stayed at Days Inn Downtown, which is rather quaint but perfectly adequate for a nights sleep. I chose that hotel because they had a shuttle bus to the cruise dock. In actual fact it was so close to Canada Place that you could have walked! The driver of the shuttle said it would take about an hour and a half to get onto the ship and he was exactly right. There were two ships in dock and a lot of people milling around but the process was well controlled. We were split up though as my husband and I had Australian passports and my sister and her friend had US passports. We were sent to a holding area where we could sit until there was room in the line to pass through US customs etc. My sister and her friend had to stand in line the whole time! We got onto the ship first and our cabins were ready so we took our hand luggage to the cabin and then headed to the Lido for lunch. The Volendam is a great ship,just the right size, and gives the first impression of being an ocean liner, rather than a "fun" ship. Which is what we wanted, we were not looking for loud music, parties or crowds. There was another ship boarding at Canada Place which was huge, and had loud disco music playing, so we were very pleased to be on the Volendam. The ship was spotlessly clean and everywhere there were members of the crew cleaning and polishing. Our inside cabins were a good size and there was loads of storage space. The bathroom was surprisingly large and very well appointed. The shower was good with good water pressure. The hairdryer did not work but there was a replacement dryer in the cabin. The provided shower gel, shampoo and conditioner were really nice. The cabin was so quiet, you could not hear a thing, apart from occasional voices in the corridor. We tended to retire fairly early and there was never any late night noise. Our stewards were very efficient and obliging. Again thanks to CC we had taken a clock and a torch, but found that if you left the bathroom light on and the door closed, there was enough light at night to see your way around without turning on the cabin lights. We had first dining at 5.45 which suited us and for which we had been wait listed. The dining room staff were excellent and the food was first class. We all ate far too much. We had breakfast and lunch in The Lido and found the choice of food to be varied and of excellent quality. The afternoon teas in the Dining room were really lovely. The bars and lounges were comfortable and the music provided was excellent. We had cocktails on two occasions before the formal dinner nights and it was nice to get dressed up and sit watching the scenery from the windows. We went to two shows, the Indonesian Crew Show which was very well done and the crew seemed to be having a good time, and their band was great. We also attended the Broadway show, which was good,some of the performers had lovely singing voices and the HalCats were excellent. I think they could have chosen better songs, but that is a personal observation. On the sea days we walked around the Promenade Deck, a mile per meal was our aim,(another hint from CC) or sat wrapped up in a blanket on a deck chair reading. Hot cider was served which was lovely. Juneau was the first stop, and it was so wet. We took the shuttle bus ($16 round trip per person)to Mendenhall Glacier and although we got soaked to the skin it was worth it. We walked to Nugget Falls, and the view of the glacier and the blue of the ice was amazing. Having read the advice on CC about the weather in Alaska we were well equipped with rain coats and rain trousers, but there were people there with only thin plastic ponchos,and they must have been so cold. It was too wet and foggy to go up the Mt Robert's Tramway.Skagway was the next port of call, and what a contrast to Juneau. The sun was shining, the sky was blue and we had a wonderful trip on the White Pass Railroad. I had pre booked this months before with Chilkoot Tours. They picked us up at the port and drove us to the Railway Station where we boarded our own rail car. There were only 16 people in the car so we had lots of room, and plenty of opportunity to stand out on the end of the car and take photos. If you can only ever do one excursion then this is the one! The train to Fraser takes you through wonderful scenery and in early June there was still a lot of snow around, and it was magical. We even saw a bear running alongside the train. At Fraser we transferred to a bus for the journey back to Skagway. The guide/driver was very informative and stopped at several places of interest on the way. The best was stopping to watch a mother bear and her three cubs feeding on the side of the road just outside Fraser. Going up on the train and back on the bus is a great way to see the countryside. Glacier Bay was the absolute highlight of the trip. It was cold and misty with a bit of rain, but that just added to the atmosphere. We stopped at the Marjorie Glacier and the silence was profound, until the glacier started to"calve" and then there was a loud crack and thunderous noise rolling across the water. This is a magical place. Ketchikan was the last port of call, and again it rained, but then it always does apparently! The rain only lasted a short time so we wandered around town and went up in the little tram and walked down the steps to town. We wanted to go out to the Totem Park, but the bus never seemed to arrive, so we did some shopping and then went back to the ship. Our friend did get the local bus out to the park but then it broke down and she had to share a taxi back into town as everyone had to be back on the ship by 5.30 and she was getting a bit worried about missing the boat. Disembarking was a bit of a muddle, even though we had chosen a late disembarkation time and were carrying our own luggage. Although everything was colour coded it appeared that some passengers were determined to get off when they wanted regardless of the time they had been given! My sister had booked a bus transfer to the airport and they were told they would go into a secure area and their luggage would be passed through Customs, but this didn't seem to work as expected and they still had to pick up their own luggage at the port and then sit on a bus for an hour. I can't recommend Holland America and the Volendam highly enough. It was everything we wanted and more. The staff all seemed genuinely happy to be of service and every member of staff greeted you when they met you. The ship was quiet, very few messages over the public address system and there was never the feeling of being pressured into buying anything on board ( a frequent complaint on CC about certain ships.) Thanks to everyone on CC for their advice and informative postings. Now on to planning the next cruise! Read Less
Sail Date June 2012
We've never cruised before. Our style is to see a place and explore it, instead of hop off a ship, take a tour, snap a photo and hit the Lido deck. We've looked at Alaska for years and logistically, a cruise is the easiest AND ... Read More
We've never cruised before. Our style is to see a place and explore it, instead of hop off a ship, take a tour, snap a photo and hit the Lido deck. We've looked at Alaska for years and logistically, a cruise is the easiest AND cheapest way to see the inside passage. Even BC ferries and the Alaska Marine highway don't offer a savings, with a big sacrifice in comfort. Lastly, we didn't want to be hassled and we wanted to go off on our own. The Volendam itinerary gives you these opportunities. KIDS STUFF: HAL is valiantly trying to get younger, but we were in the whipper-snapper age bracket as 40 somethings. There were about 50 kids in the 1500 plus passenger list, although Arman, the cruise director, said there were 200. As a cruise director, he is sworn to lie repeatedly! The teens have the best place on the ship: deck 9, with a loft on deck 10. Perhaps a dozen teens were on the cruise and some hung out together the entire trip. Our daughter was mainly with us, but also enjoyed the Loft when she attended. Low key--minimal structure--very mellow. As far as he 8 year old, there were a minimum of screaming kids on board. The hyper children had plenty of video game action, while others could do arts & crafts. Only one child was under 8, so parents with 5 year olds will probably be kicked into the tweens room. Once again-- safe, mellow and more structure than teens. They do offer a kids only cooking class where they all made pretzels in the culinary arts center. We recommend this activity. Otherwise, we looked at the agenda & let the daughters pick what they wanted. THE SHIP: The inside cabins feel like a tomb with 4 people in them. We put on the bow camera channel on the TV, but we still limited our time there. The cabin itself was fine: Pullman bunk, single bed on the couch and the mashed together twin/king. The stewards were efficient and the towel animals were a hit. The showers worked great and the lighting was OK. But--if you can, choose a balcony or at least a window. Getting around the ship is easy and there is often minimal elevator wait time. A quirk in the Volendam is the inability to do from one end of the 4th level-the Promenade deck-to the other. Since the Rotterdam Restaurant is on this level, we always had to be mindful of going up to go down. There is a laundry on decks 2,3 & 6 and there's no irons in the rooms. 6 is always the least crowded and 2 is the most. $2 wash $1 dry. The ship loves its flowers and tries for this as a signature. There is also an art area, where it appears that everyone should buy a painting by Thomas Kincaide, painter of light. The casino is small and sad. TOURS of the SHIP: We took tours of the kitchen and the show lounge area. Both were educational about the logistics of running a cruise ship. The kitchen tour was more about the process and the back stage tour was more personal, with a chance to talk to performers about ship life. DINING: HAL is obsessed with hand sanitizer. The 1st 2 days, the buffets are service, not self serve. The captain, in his best Butch accent, is warning passengers to sanitize. There's even a steward at each end of the Lido restaurant with an industrial bottle of hand san. As far as the food--the Lido food gets old fast, especially at breakfast. We quickly learned to go to the main dining room for breakfast as well. The varieties at lunch/dinner are greater, The main dining room: Rotterdam is mostly excellent. the 4 course meal is strong on a variety of soups and interesting combinations of entrees. We didn't eat at he Pinnacle Grill. I don't get paying more, but others do. Assigned seating v. Open-- here's the deal. We never waited for open seating. We were always seated immediately. We had tables all over the place, including water side windows for 3 dinners. We also ate at the Italian restaurant, which is really just a part of the Lido restaurant sectioned off. They were great for 1 night, but hey had little differentiation of their menu. Overall, the food was excellent and the portions are way to large for an 8 year old. There is no childrens menu. This was not an issue, except the stewards were always asking if everything was OK with the food. STUFF to DO: My wife won bingo twice. We won trivia once. They have daily trivia & bingo 4 times on the cruise. We attended most of the shows in the showroom and thought the vocal talent was excellent. The highlight of the trip was Glacier Bay. We hit it on 6/24 and it was literally 72 degrees and sunny. The park ranger was almost in tears because of the scenery and the wildlife. Even the glaciers were calving as a show. There are 2 places to watch this spectacle: on the top decks OR at the stern of deck 6 with no other people, relaxing on a teak lounge chair. The area is even covered by a roof. We spent 8 hours there. IS IT WORTH IT? It's the way to see the Inside passage. If I were in the Caribbean, or God forbid, Hawaii-- I would cry. The port of calls are faitly lengthy and the Volendam hits the ports when most other ships are NOT there. The Volendam crew does a nice job at playing their roles. The on the ship-off the ship process is seamless. There are few glitches. Because we had great weather, it was a cruise of a lifetime. If the standard rain was our weather, we might view the cruise in a more negative way. Read Less
Sail Date June 2012
This is my first time on a cruise. I wasn't really looking forward to it since it was just a cruise and i was going to Alaska. To me it was just to get out of school and to see my cousins. I traveled with 3 of my older cousins that ... Read More
This is my first time on a cruise. I wasn't really looking forward to it since it was just a cruise and i was going to Alaska. To me it was just to get out of school and to see my cousins. I traveled with 3 of my older cousins that are about 20-30. and my aunt and uncle that were kind enough to pay for the trip. Little did i know i ended up loving it! Day 1: The first day i met up with my cousins and family and went aboard all 8 of us. We went through security and got our cards and went right to the Lido Deck (the buffet area) the eat our lunch since the rooms weren't ready yet. There was lots to choose to from but nothing really that i wanted. The first 2 days of having them serve you in the buffet kinda bothered me but it was understandable. Soon after they annouced the rooms were ready we dropped off our stuff and than made our way around the ship. we found it rather amusing they had days of the week mats in the elevator. The first show was the entertainers of the volendam. I didn't really like the show but I sat through it. we had dinner at the Rotterdam that night at 5:45 at our reserved table. It was great and the selection was great. I loved our waiters, they were funny but responsible. Most workers were either Filipino or Indonesian, and being Filipino gave i guess a 'bond' towards some of the workers. We got a few laughs from the captain that you could barely understand over the system, while you could hear David, the cruise director loud and clear. David Griffiths, 28, Australian. who i found rather charming and funny. We happened to exchange some smiles but he never really talked to anyone which was rather upseting... "Good ey" "THIS IS DAVID, YOUR CRUISE DIRECTA." "I'LL SEE YOU, AROUND THE SHIP!" Day 2: That day was a sail all day. The boat got really rocky and bumpy i couldnt quite take it anymore. I went up to the lido deck grabbed some breakfast and by 11 am i was back in my cabin sea sick. The stateroom manager was happy enough to come in give a few tips. Don't think about, eat green apples, and make sure you always food in your stomach. Due to that there are green apples almost everywhere scattered around the ship. That night was formal night there are only 2 formal nights. I went to the rotterdam on only one formal night cause i dont find a reason to HAVE to dress up all nice. Although I did go out that night at 8 to see Amore it was okay, but not the best.Day 3: Ate breakfast at the Lido and than went to go play some bingo for $25,000.Sadly we didn't have the joy of winning till the last day which was about $144 from 100,000 pot, but i highly doubt they EVER give the pot away cause you need every number on your card before they call the 47th ball.unfortunatly by the time we won we already spent over 100 dollars just buying the cards from that week. Later that we docked at Juneau. It's one long street but I didn't find it very time occupying which made us make our way back on to the ship after about 2 hours. We than watched a movie in the theater, there is a movie on everyday but we only watched 2. Day 4: By day 4 we found out we could have breakfast in the Rotterdam, so for the remaining we ate there. That day we were docking in Skagway, I didn't really enjoy Skagway it was rainy and it was a few blocks to actually get into the town from the boat. The town reminded of those old time cowboy movies where that bad cowboy would walk down the street and everyone would slip the open side to close and hide there shops, but that's my opinion. After being for around 3 hours we returned to the boat and than had sandwiches on the lido deck. Than dinner and than I believe that night was the Indonesian Crew Show. I found it entertaining and fun to watch I didn't like that it was so late but it was understandable. Day 5: Finally! a sunny day! That day we were visiting Glacier Bay where we happen to spot a baby brown bear! It wasn't cold at all I actually happen to be standing out in a t-shirt. This was also a sail all day. Day 6: Ketchican! It was sunny, bright and entertaining. Definitely my favorite stop. again after a few hours and some lunch we went back inside the boat. Day 7: We docked this day :/ I honestly didn't want it to end. The staff was amazing and crew were amazing and I came back with a whole new perspective. I'll definitely be sailing the MS Volendam again!! Entertainment: It was great, the singers were okay, but the comedian was hilarious! I loved the game shows, they were to funny. Neil Diamond tribute was great to! Being as young as I am under 20 I don't know how he was actually but he was definitely entertaining! I had a great time singing along! Everyday me and my cousins saw the guitarist Anthony Hines! Great guy, amazing voice and great at guitar. He was perfect at changing R&B and pop songs into something everyone can enjoy. Staff: A.M.A.Z.I.N.G. I miss them all. They were helpful, funny and well respected. I love the towel animals!! too cute! They remember your favorites and your name! Read Less
Sail Date May 2012
Overall I enjoyed my cruise to Alaska with Holland America & would recommend it, as long as you can handle a couple of "glitches". My highlights: - Food: I thought the food, and selection, was very good. - Staff: the ... Read More
Overall I enjoyed my cruise to Alaska with Holland America & would recommend it, as long as you can handle a couple of "glitches". My highlights: - Food: I thought the food, and selection, was very good. - Staff: the cruise director was charming & the support staff were gracious. - Sights: the scenic cruising in BC is really lovely, and Glacier Bay was amazing. - Activities: there was always something to do, although sometimes we chose to read or relax in the lounges. I loved the library. - Entertainment: the nightly entertainment was decent quality. They have some good singers on board for sure! - Ports: I enjoyed all the ports, especially Skagway. It was nice that the ship was always docked very close to the city & you didn't need to buy an excursion package to enjoy them. Lowlights & glitches: - Vodka I ordered via phone before the cruise never arrived & the front desk staff couldn't find record of it. However, I was charged for it! I'm still trying to get this sorted:( - Our room card had to be continuously replaced & we were NOT demagnetizing it; we missed a bus in Juneau when we were once again getting a replacement card. - Front desk staff: some - especially one of the gentleman - was very unhelpful & not good at finding solutions to problems. - We never went to Tracy Arm, & no mention/explanation was given. This was clearly listed on the itinerary, including the cruise confirmation I downloaded from the Hal website. Suggestion: - If you order an item pre-cruise over the phone, get a confirmation #. If you deal with the front office, note down the name of who you talk to. Ask them to put a note on your account where appropriate. - Get on the ship as early as possible, we didn't leave Vancouver until 5pm but as 12 noon you could go on board and have lunch, followed by ship orientations etc...it's a great time to get familiar with the ship. - If you like to party past 11pm, invite other people to meet you at the Crow's Nest ("disco" on the top desk)...it was a ghost town most nights! - Bring waterproof shoes, jacket, & maybe gloves. I wish I'd had a jacket with an attached hood that protected my ears/neck when we were in Glacier Bay! Ports: We were on a budget so we only did one excursion. There was plenty to do if you are a "do it yourselfer" like us. JUNEAU: We paid $14 (return) for a bus to the Mendenhall Glacier. You can buy these tickets from the booths in front of the ship. We walked around a bit & went to the glacier visitors centre. Then we returned to town & walked around. There is free hotspot Internet access at the library. SKAGWAY: Skagway was my favourite port. We booked an excursion, the White Pass Railroad($130 each) and enjoyed it. We walked around town & bit out of town to the cemetery...I heard a rumour that a bit up from the cemetery is a lookout point. We visited the museum which was interesting. A fun place to wander. KETCHICKAN: It was so wet here, a store clerk told us they had one day of sunshine last year! We caught a free bus in front of the ship that took us to one of the totem pole places. We caught the same bus back to town & wandered around. There is 1 free hour of hotspot internet access at the library & the museum is in the same building. Read Less
Sail Date May 2012
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 4.3
Value For Money 4.0 3.8
Rates 4.0 3.9

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