172 Holland America Volendam Cruise Reviews

We embarked on 16th March, after spending three days at the Riverview Hotel - which we had gotten a 'superior weekend deal' on - great hotel - not one complaint!! The cruise docked in Malacca, Penang, Malaysia, Phuket Thailand, ... Read More
We embarked on 16th March, after spending three days at the Riverview Hotel - which we had gotten a 'superior weekend deal' on - great hotel - not one complaint!! The cruise docked in Malacca, Penang, Malaysia, Phuket Thailand, three days in Rangoon, Myanmar, Langkawi and Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia. I was concerned about the Volendam as I had read some bad reviews but have to say, we had no complaints. We did use HAL's shore excursions (did not realise Cruise Critic existed until after we had booked them) - next time will check Cruise Critic first. Yes, HAL are overcharging for these tours and, with the exchange rate for the Canadian dollar, added about 25% on to the total charges. We found the cabin to be adequate and the cabin crew excellent. Always a very cheerful greeting on meeting any of them. Dining was again excellent, with our waiter remembering our likes and dislikes, names ect. Embarkation was a breeze (only hold up was a slight delay while the ship was being double disinfected!!) Disembarkation was also extremely efficient. We did enjoy much of the entertainment - violinist, pianist, comedian, singer from Scotland, although did think the Entertainment director could have advertised the upcoming shows a bit more. Read Less
Sail Date March 2015
We took a 14 day Singapore to Singapore on the Volendam in March. Overall, we enjoyed ourselves. Other than the shuttle bus to town on Langkawi Island, we didn't take any ship's shore excursions. However, in Phuket, Yangon and ... Read More
We took a 14 day Singapore to Singapore on the Volendam in March. Overall, we enjoyed ourselves. Other than the shuttle bus to town on Langkawi Island, we didn't take any ship's shore excursions. However, in Phuket, Yangon and Kuala Lumpur we took excursions arranged by ourselves online before the cruise. We had an outside cabin on the Lower Promenade deck and were happy with both the cabin and our room steward. Had fixed dining in the main dining room and lunch once in the Pinnacle Grill. Food was good, service was great. One thing that surprised me was how hot and humid it was in all the ports. We visited the beautiful temples in Yangon in the middle of the day when it was about 95 degrees Fahrenheit. In Myanmar, not only do you have to take off your shoes but also your socks to even walk up to the temples. Imagine walking in the sun on stone surfaces and how hot the black marble can get. Might have been better early morning or evening. Evening entertainment was so so except for an exceptional Vietnamese lady violinist. A big negative was the total lack of enrichment lectures, even on sea days. A real positive was disembarkation in Singapore. Walked off the ship, went thru customs and immigration, and our bags were already placed on a rolling cart. Rolled it out to the taxi area and caught one to the airport for about $22. Singapore. Read Less
Sail Date March 2015
We boarded ms Volendam at Singapore for a 28-day Asia cruise that included stops in Mylaysia, Myanmar( Burma) Thailand, Cambodia, Vietnam and disembarked in Hong Kong. Volendam is a midsize ship and easily reached some of the smaller ... Read More
We boarded ms Volendam at Singapore for a 28-day Asia cruise that included stops in Mylaysia, Myanmar( Burma) Thailand, Cambodia, Vietnam and disembarked in Hong Kong. Volendam is a midsize ship and easily reached some of the smaller ports. The route up a river to Yangon ( Rangoon) was quite a site to behold. What we liked most about this cruise was getting out into the countryside to see the magnificent temples and Pagaodas and of, course, meeting the local folks. Some of the areas visited in Myanmar took several hours of bus riding on an ship excursion and stopping along the way was very enlightening. We were two nights in Yangon and three days of shore excursions. Whether it was riding an elephant in Phuket or seeing the Petronas Towers in Kuala Lumpur or exploring four ports in Vietnam, we were always in wonder at these wonderful nations and the people there. We had an overnight excursion to Bangkok that was first class in every respect. We look forward to returning to see more of Asia someday. The flights from Florida, USA are very long and exhausting, but since we had 28 days aboard Volendam we acclimated in due course. The service, entertainment and facilities aboard a ship of Holland America is usually quite good and this was true of our month aboard ms Volendam. It was never crowded aboard ship and we enjoyed being on deck often due to the nice weather. This is an older ship but fairly well maintained to HAL standards. Most of the guests were older which is standard for HAL cruises. There were few sea days because this cruise is port intensive. And that was a good thing. More to do. Read Less
Sail Date February 2015
I write this review to be helpful - if you really want to go to the places this cruise goes to, my comment's won't really matter, but as a fairly experienced cruise passenger I hope that my comments will at least forewarn! My ... Read More
I write this review to be helpful - if you really want to go to the places this cruise goes to, my comment's won't really matter, but as a fairly experienced cruise passenger I hope that my comments will at least forewarn! My overall impression was one of being a walking ATM for HAL to tap into with every opportunity. Even after you've paid for the cruise, you're still expected to pay for every query via a premium phone line (About 13p per minute in UK) "Come and join us for a sail away Sangria party" booms the PA Great, you think, what a lovely idea - however the charge is $5 for a lemonade flavoured with red wine - it's a bit like the neighbour inviting you round and then charging you for attending! Unlike most other cruise lines, you'll be lucky to get any free drinks One half of deck 5 is given over to shopping - jewellery, watches etc. all with large slogans 70% off etc. however you never really know 70% of what price!!! The drinks packages are expensive, but if you drink even socially, say 3 or 4 drinks a day, this is the cheapest option to take. $7 is the minimum drink price then add 15%! Then add a further 'service' charge of $11.50 a day per person, per cabin!! Tough if one of you is teetotal however, the drinks package HAS to be taken by ALL cabin occupants!! Although not advertised, Coffee, tea and cold tea and iced water is available FREE most of the day We were on board leading to Superbowl week-end - join them for a ringside (Large TV) seat - only $49.50!!! You could, of course have watched it in your cabin, FREE The excursions are vastly overpriced and not good value (We managed to get out to a lovely beach, have 2 drinks each at a cost of $15 each - for the same excursion - to a far more crowded beach, after all there's a coachload with you, HAS will want $95 each, yes, I know, you could miss the boat, be mugged, have an accident etc. etc. But you Could have fun at sixth of the price!) On the plus side HAL rates no worse or less for amenities and quality of service - all staff are cheerful and helpful. Dress code on this particular cruise was non existent - I think formal night resulted in the Americans putting a belt on their slacks, the Australians changing their training slacks and the Brits finding a jacket - all so disrespectful to the ladies who all (with a few exceptions) made an effort. Just don't think of he dress code for 'casual' night! So as long as you aware that this is the cruise that keeps on costing and you don't need to take any smart clothes you'll do fine   Read Less
Sail Date January 2015
Took a 28 day cruise on the Volendam from Hong Kong to Singapore. Countries visited included Vietnam, Cambodia, Thailand, Myanmar, Malaysia and Singapore. The overall cruise was good. The food was good, not great. Variety was limited. My ... Read More
Took a 28 day cruise on the Volendam from Hong Kong to Singapore. Countries visited included Vietnam, Cambodia, Thailand, Myanmar, Malaysia and Singapore. The overall cruise was good. The food was good, not great. Variety was limited. My favorite meals were off the ship in the ports of call. The entertainment on board was mixed. The house band, the HAL Cats, tried to make up for lack of talent by excessive volume. A piano and violin duo, Adagio, was excellent. The solo guitarist, Michael, was very good but stuck in a bad venue between the casino and the shops. I was disappointed with the lack of lectures on the trip. Other than one lecture on Hong Kong, there were no lectures about the history and culture of the places we visited. Read Less
Sail Date January 2015
It has been awhile since we have cruised on Holland America but wanted to do a family cruise to Alaska and the schedule fit in with a Wednesday departure from Vancouver. There were some good things about the ship and then some rather ... Read More
It has been awhile since we have cruised on Holland America but wanted to do a family cruise to Alaska and the schedule fit in with a Wednesday departure from Vancouver. There were some good things about the ship and then some rather strange things. The cabin was a little dated, but actually quite spacious. Plenty of closets and drawers, comfy bed, large enough bathroom with Elemis products. It was definitely designed 15 years ago. Shore Excursions: For the most part they were excellent. We took the trip to Tracy Arm and the Sawyer Glacier. One of the highlights of the trip. Lido Deck: The inside pool was very comfortable. It was a little noisy with a lot of kids on the cruise, but it had lots of tables, a bar, and the hot dog and hamburger grill. The tables also served as overflow from the Lido Grill. I thought the food in the Lido Grill was OK. Staff seemed a little slow to refill danish, etc. in the morning and at times was a little untidy. Coffee service was strange. I drink decaf and most of the time it was only available on one side and then in an old fashioned plug in coffee urn. The outside pool had a nice bar which we visited on sail away. Bars - Enjoyed the Piano Bar and the Crow's Nest. Good entertainment in the Piano Bar and JP was a great waiter. Crow's nest was great for just watching the sea. Especially enjoyed it in Glacier Bay and the inside passage going into Vancouver. I titled this back on Holland America because we have cruised many times with them, but not in recent years. The biggest change was in the lack of service. It seemed that the staff was always pushed to the limit. It was hard to get a smile out of them. Some of the staff were great, but the majority of them were just going through the motions. But, the most bizarre part of the cruise was the condition of the drapes at the back of the Main Dining Room. Our table was on Deck 5 at the stern where there are beautiful windows looking back at the ocean. There are drapes that used to be used to block the sun if necessary. They are in horrible condition. Each of them hanging at a different height. Several completely detached from the top. The one closest to our table was held up by two forks stuck in the side. You have to wonder about maintenance on the ship. If this was for the passengers to see what does the back of the house look like? Food in the Dining room was hit or miss. Some of it was very good. Some of it not so much. Soups were served sometimes hot, sometimes not. We had a great waiter and bar waiter. Pinnacle Grill was great. Food and service could not have been better. Only issue is that wine is way over priced. It is billed as a Northwest Food and Wine venue with no Oregon Pinot Noirs on the wine list. Would I go back on Holland America - A definite maybe. Depends on the itinerary.   Read Less
Sail Date August 2014
Having traveled on a number of cruise ships prior to the Holland America Volendam there are a number of items I wish to high lite, firstly the ship is in need of a spruce up, looking tired in some areas. The food both at the Main Dining ... Read More
Having traveled on a number of cruise ships prior to the Holland America Volendam there are a number of items I wish to high lite, firstly the ship is in need of a spruce up, looking tired in some areas. The food both at the Main Dining room and the Lido restaurant was very good, Tried the upmarket Pinnacle Restaurant while the ambience of the place was very good, at $29 each I thought a bit expensive for what was on the menue. The size of the ship (61,000 tons) limited the on board entertainment when compared to the last ship I had been on which was the Royal Caribbean Mariner of the Seas (136,000 tons), which had numerous places to go on board. Volendam entertainment was usually very good and a number of current movies shown in the main theatre. I did have one specific beef with the ship, that being after an early picture showing, there was no restaurant open for sweets or ice cream, in fact nothing open from 20.00 to 22.30 when late night snacks were availabe. There was an onboard coffee shop, coffee ok but most times no sweets or cake later at night. Room service was available in the cabin 24 hours but you had to be in the cabin to use it. I don't know of any large cruise line that does not have food available in some restaurant from 0600 to 2400. All in all, a comfortable cruise but I doubt I will go with them again. Read Less
Sail Date April 2014
We have recently returned from the Far East Discovery cruise from Singapore to Hong Kong by way of Thailand, Cambodia and Vietnam. Embarkation was swift and efficient and our luggage arrived at our stateroom very quickly? As very regular ... Read More
We have recently returned from the Far East Discovery cruise from Singapore to Hong Kong by way of Thailand, Cambodia and Vietnam. Embarkation was swift and efficient and our luggage arrived at our stateroom very quickly? As very regular Holland America passengers we found the service as good as ever and the food very plentiful and appetising. I am not sure why other reviewers found the meet and fish?tough as the quality of ingredients seemed good to all of us. We had excellent table companions at the late sitting and found our wine steward knowledgable and helpful. One evening we attended the Head Sommelier's dinner in the Pinnacle Grill which was absolutely fabulous and could have been served in any Michelin starred restaurant. The entertainment on board was disappointing compared to other HAL cruises but we were quite satisfied to go to the movies in the Wagang theatre most evenings. The musicians in the piano bar and explorations lounge were first class and attracted large audiences, proving their popularity. The cabin was very comfortable and we had sufficient wardrobe and drawer space for all our clothes or all our clothes etc. We did find the decor a little dull and out of date - it could do with a bit of modernising and a change of pictures to something more appropriate for a cruise ship It was convenient for the elevators. The only slight problem was it's being under the Lido and the chairs on the aft deck were dragged around by the crew early in the morning and by guests during the rest of the day. The verandah was in need of painting and modernising. The AC controls were impossible to regulate but the weather was not too hot or humid during this cruise. The Front Office staff were helpful at all times and nothing seemed too much trouble for them. They kept their cool when ignorant guests were shouting and swearing at them, which would have tried the patience of a saint. We did several excursions and found them good value for money as we ate lunch in hotels such as the Mandarin Oriental in Bangkok, one of the top hotels in the world. We had good tour guides and saw a lot of the main sights in each country. We were rather apprehensive about going iinto Sihanoukvikle but were glad that we did take the shuttle into town as we enjoyed the market and found the locals very smiley and helpful, although we did have to fend off the tuk tuk and taxi drivers who surrounded the shuttle when we arrived. They were just trying to make their living, which I imagine is not particularly easy. There was nothing threatening about their behaviour however. Disembarkation in Hong Kong was smooth and efficient and the ship's being docked in the very centre of Hong Kong Harbour was a delight. It must be one of the best ships' berth in the world. Read Less
Sail Date January 2014
Itinerary: Hong Kong - Vietnam - Cambodia - Thailand - Singapore The Volendam ship carries about 1,400 passengers and was built in 1999 so it is considered a medium-sized, older ship. We boarded the ship in Hong Kong, but since it stays ... Read More
Itinerary: Hong Kong - Vietnam - Cambodia - Thailand - Singapore The Volendam ship carries about 1,400 passengers and was built in 1999 so it is considered a medium-sized, older ship. We boarded the ship in Hong Kong, but since it stays overnight in Hong Kong, we were able to come and go which was very convenient. While the ship was docked in Hong overnight, we got to visit some of Hong Kong's family attractions like the Peak Tram, Ngong Ping Village and the Big Buddha, riding the Star Ferry to Hong Kong Island and doing some shopping in Mongkok, Kowloon and Causeway Bay. Having the ship docked as your hotel is very convenient and since the ship is parked right next to the Star Ferry terminal in Tsim Sha Tsui, we got to know that area better as well. At night, we could catch the Symphony of Lights show right from the deck (without the music) of the cruise ship for some amazing views of the Hong Kong skyline at night. A lot of complaints about cruise ships can come down to personal interactions and experience that is either not worth complaining about (oh the cruise parks so far away from where I want to get to - so do all the other cruise ships...) or whining about how they should have gotten more compensation by being put out because such and such inconvenienced them etc... These are one-off situations, however repeated comments about things like slow dining room service or unstructured teen activities may give the cruise line incentive to improve their operations. It is no use complaining about internet being slow, it is on almost all ships we have been on as they use limited bandwidth satellite connections when at sea. Just don't use the internet during the popular at-sea times of day since everyone onboard is fighting for the same, limited bandwidth. This was a holiday cruise and the ship was festively decorated, the largely Filipino and Indonesian crew put on a great Christmas show on Christmas Eve in the showroom. Restaurant service in the main dining room was slow almost every night, the food was good. They may have been short staffed over the holidays, but everyone on board was very friendly. We also chose the open seating to give us more flexibility and end up at different tables with different waiters every night, but there is also a fixed seating available on the upper level of the Rotterdam dining room where you would have the same wait staff every night so they may get to know you better in that case. Although there was a teen activity planner that came to the room every night, in reality hardly anything was organized and the kids were left to create their own fun. At least they have a teen club and Oasis deck to keep them occupied at sea, albeit somewhat unstructured vs. for example Sapphire Princess. Posting review here since when we got home after sorting out the laundry and getting back into daily routine, the comment card the ship sends you by email already expired. You would think they would leave those open for longer than 2 weeks.The email sent to them requesting another comment card went unanswered. I guess they don't want our opinions after all, but there's always Youtube :). We have posted some videos of our journey at http://www.youtube.com/travelraters. All in all, this cruise was great because of the itinerary and the people we met during the voyage. The cabins were comfortable and a nice size. The crew were all very friendly. Not so hot was the slow dining room service, the unstructured teen activities in an older style ship. There is something to be said for the relatively smaller more personal size of a 1,400 passenger vessel like the Volendam vs. the 3,000+ megaships. There was always plenty of room and plenty of good food at the Lido buffet restaurant where we especially liked the breakfasts. Be prepared for a very long line getting off in Singapore and another very long line to catch a cab. For our next cruise, we will pre-arrange pickup from the cruise terminal so we won't have to stand in line for over an hour to get a cab and let you know how that goes. The ship has a helpful location guide and a shore excursions office, but it is best to plan your shore visits ahead of time and decide which ones are best to do through the cruise line and which ones you should arrange to do on your own or for private tours instead. Just remember, if you are on a private tour the ship may not wait for you if you are late! The ship gives you everything you need to make your own fun and enjoy your vacation. Having such a great itinerary that compliments the ship makes for a wonderful vacation, and all the great people we got to meet (mainly from Australia on this voyage) made for a fantastic trip.   Read Less
Sail Date December 2013
I have been on 60 + cruises to include many Holland America. I also did the first half Hong Kong to Singapore on the Volendam last year and this year decided to do the entire 30 days to include 14 days Indonesia. Without going into great ... Read More
I have been on 60 + cruises to include many Holland America. I also did the first half Hong Kong to Singapore on the Volendam last year and this year decided to do the entire 30 days to include 14 days Indonesia. Without going into great detail suffice it to say the Volendam is a nice size ship and is overall in good repair and well maintained. The Indonesian/Fillipino staff is generally always smiling and provides an exceptional level of gracious service. The food is overall good with plenty of options that should satisfy all but the most picky eaters. The entertainment is mediocre at best although there are a few good shows mixed in with some fairly awful ones. Rather then dwell on the same things as most other reviews I'd like to highlight a few suggestions as to how Holland could improve the overall cruise experience with little or no expense. 1. Bring back the enrichment programs. In times past cruises nearly always had some author or college professor onboard who would do several interesting lectures on the history of the ports visited. This cruise from Hong Kong had four stops in Vietnam a country and war that had a major impact on most of the older passengers aboard. Yet not a single lecture about the history, the war etc. Naturally there are the usual shore excursion presentations but these are designed to push tours rather than give any interesting insights into the countries visited. We also visited Thailand, Cambodia, Singapore and several Indonesian ports but not a single enrichment lecture was offered. Come on Holland it would cost peanuts to invite some experts onboard to give an educational/enteraining lecture. The microsoft windows 8 and cooking classes get old very quickly. It seems Holland (and most other lines) have forgotten that a cruise is about more than stuffing one's face...it should and could be about also stuffing one's brain with interesting information. 2. Bring local entertainers onboard for shows. Hard to believe but not one single local entertainer or troop came onboard. Holland could EASILY have its port agent contact a local school and invite a troop of kids on to sing/dance/play instruments to highlight their local culture. The shows could be held at 4 pm or so before sailing and I have no doubt they would be a major hit with the passengers. Either a small contribution to the school or even a tour of the ship and let the kids go through the buffet line would likely be greatly appreciated by a lot of very poor kids. Set up a small contribution box at the back of the showroom for any guests who'd like to throw in a few dollars in donations. Why in the world would Holland NOT do this and give back a bit to the poor kids as well as bring some smiles to the faces of the passengers? 3. The daily newsletter is truly AWFUL. I have no idea who writes it but it is BORING and very poorly done. Once upon a time there would be a bio of the entertainers giving you a few paragraphs about who they are, where they are from, etc etc. Now it seems maybe one or two sentences at most. Not one word about any of the officers or the crew. Imagine if every day there was a small box in the newsletter featuring one of the crew with their picture and a bit about their life, their family, hobbies, etc. It would be a way for passengers to get to know the crew a little better and I suspect it would be a proud day for the crew member featured on a particular day. Certainly a win win for morale and to recognize some of the workers who can make or break a cruise line. It would also be nice to read a bit of bio on the captain or some of the officers. Once newsletters had daily facts like how many eggs, lbs of shrimp, etc the ship uses daily etc. If the cost of paper is the concern I suspect most passengers would be quite happy to have another page in the newsletter rather than one or two sheets printed on one side pushing yet another art auction or jewelry sale EVERY day. 4. Shore excursions and port information: It is simply inexcusable how little information is provided re port calls. Would it absolutely kill Holland to at least list the exchange rate and a line or two about how far it is to the nearest town and approximately what one could expect to pay in the daily newsletter for each port? Would it be the end of the world to mention where one might find an ATM or free wifi? In one Indonesian port there were several piers but the taxi drivers weren't sure which pier held the Volendam....and wouldn't you know that the daily newsletter NEVER even tells you where the ship is docked much less MAYBE show the ship location in the local language so one could just show the taxi driver? While I realize Holland wants to push it's ridiculously priced shore excursions over and over I see passengers who do not want to spend the day riding around on a bus struggle to figure out how to spend a few hours ashore on their own. As for the tours is it really necessary to try to SCARE your passengers into buying tours by harping over and over about how going on your own you might miss the ship or get ripped off blah blah blah. I'd say your odds of getting ripped off are MUCH higher on an overpriced shore excursion purchased from Holland than a local taxi driver. On this cruise Holland charged 999 usd for a one day car with english speaking driver in Thailand (not including any admissions)....wow....my guess is the car/driver maybe got paid about $100-150 max and Holland pocketed about a 750-800 usd PROFIT. How many businessess get that kind of mark up? Even a simple ten minute shuttle bus in places like Nah Trang are priced at $12 per person roundtrip. Sounds not bad until you realize you can walk five minutes to the front gate and get a metered taxi to take you for $4 per car. A few other examples: Holland sells a BUS transfer from the port in Singapore to the airport for $39 per person....OR...you can take a nice a/c metered taxi for $20 usd per CAR and be there quicker and with less hassles. In Halong bay you can buy a boat ride around the bay from Holland for $100+ OR you can walk ten feet from the tender port and take a taxi to the boat landing about five minutes away where you can buy the same boat trip for a whopping $4 usd.....but if you think Holland is going to tell you this you are truly dreaming.....unfortunately a lot of passengers seem to think it's the local tour company in a port that is charging the big bucks...but I would bet that the vast bulk of the money goes to Holland and the local driver gets very little. The lesson is DO YOUR RESEARCH before you go regarding the ports and what your options may be...otherwise you will be at the mercy of Holland's shore excursion pricing. Naturally Holland realizes that many passengers see a cruise as a once in a lifetime adventure and so they charge accordingly as the "two week millionaires" usually just grin and bear it and then have a small heart attack when they get the bill at the end of the cruise. 5. Port selection and timing: Once again it seems for some unknown reason that the times in various ports are set arbitrarily with little or no regard to common sense. Last year for example we were in Sihanoukville Cambodia on new year's eve. The locals were out in force and were planning serious fireworks on the beach that eventing but of course we sailed away into the darkness at 6 pm and missed the entire show. Never mind that our next port was close by and we literally went out and sailed around in the darkness very slowly to kill time. Is it impossible to just sit offshore and view the fireworks? In Indonesia the port times were often downright stupid. We spent all day in little ports with NOTHING to do then only a few hours in a few of the larger ports/cities. Why? As for port selections both Laem Chabang/bangkok and Saigon are both very industrial ports. Bangkok is 1 1/2 hours away and Saigon is almost 3 hours. Both ports are firmly ruled by taxi mafias charging outrageous prices only surpassed by the even more outrageous prices charged by Holland for tours. Holland and other cruise lines could of course threaten to not visit these ports if the local tourism authorities do not clean up the mafia but naturally Holland has no financial reason to care. Indonesian ports were perhaps the worst set of ports I have ever experienced in over 60 cruises. While MAYBE the idea was to allow the crew to see their families other than that I really don't think 8 ports in Indonesia was anyone's idea of a great itinerary. 6. A few simple suggestions: How about a camera showing at least the view from the front of the ship that is shown on the in room TV like most cruises? Better yet would be a front and rear camera. The cost to beam these videos into the rooms would likely be close to zero and it's nice for the passengers to be able to get an idea of whats going on outside from their room. How about more than ONE outdoor BBQ by the LIDO pool? We had one on each half of the cruise and naturally it is well attended and a nice break from the usual Lido and dining room. How about a ship's clock on the walking deck like most other ships have? What ever happened to the fresh fruits? We spent a month in southeast asia which is absolultely overflowing with inexpensive tropical fruits like pappaya, mangoes, pineapples, and the like but from what I saw Holland bought NONE of it and instead served the same old watermelon, prunes, etc day after day after day. So there are a few observations and suggestions from an experienced cruiser. While I suspect that someone at Holland may read some of the reviews I truly wonder if they care. I do understand that they are out to make a profit but many of the items above really involve little or no money outlay but could make a Holland cruise stand out as something exceptional as it once did prior to the Carnival take over. I am sure that there are lots of geeky MBA bean counters sitting in the CCL corporate headquarters figuring how to cut a buck or two here or increase revenues a buck or two there.....but....do they even consider how many passengers may not return for another cruise or tell a less than pleasant tale of their experience to EVERYBODY they know in their home town? While the above sounds more negative than I would prefer I must say that overall I still prefer Holland to most of the other mass market cruise lines.....BUT....just because you may be better than most does that mean that you don't try and be even better by tweaking a few things?   Read Less
Sail Date December 2013
Stateroom - spacious, clean, with half sized bath, Elemis shower gel, shampoo and conditioner, plenty of wardrobe space. Attendants pleasant and helpful. Meals - good range of food, staff cheery and helpful but not always fully attentive ... Read More
Stateroom - spacious, clean, with half sized bath, Elemis shower gel, shampoo and conditioner, plenty of wardrobe space. Attendants pleasant and helpful. Meals - good range of food, staff cheery and helpful but not always fully attentive (topping up drinks, clearing away). On formal nights there was mixed dress standards, but the restaurant provided a jacket (even if not a tailored fit!) to gents who were without one. Deck areas - always plenty of places to nab a seat/sun lounger even on sea days. Never bothered by waiters plying drinks (couldn't get one when needed!). Main pool had opening roof which proved useful and popular on windy days. Free use of towels (no signing in/out) Bars - never overcrowded. Staff pleasant and talkative. Happy hours appreciated (2nd drink only $1). Pub quiz question - do Bud Light display a 'Sell by' or 'Birth' date? If it's 'Sell by' ours was out of date by 4 months... Shows/events - plenty of variety, though not many appealed to us Cruise Critic meet and mingle - other cruise lines have offered better than tea/coffee and cakes Brits meeting - 1st time we've been invited to such a do. An extra happy hour but with nibbles. Nice touch, but more intervention to improve mingling would have helped. Practice drill - must do, but seemed as if roll call was unorganised (or was that just our perception?) Tender days - had to wait for organised trips to clear. Could be an issue if you have your own shore trip at set time. Excursions - safe bet and well attended, but everyone commented that they were overpriced generally. Free water would be appreciated. Tips - fixed rates for cabins (though can be stopped I believe by speaking to front desk). 15%(!) addition to all drinks, spa treatments etc.... Visas - well organised (forms mainly completed for us), and rates competitive Medical centre - Great staff. Very attentive. Unfortunately we were offloaded due to illness, but the arrangements were well made, and we were very well looked after. Overall - good standard but with some room for improvement.   Read Less
Sail Date December 2013
This was our third cruise with HAL, the others being Alaska and Mediterranean, which they offered to us at an attractive rate for being returning cruisers. ( Mariner's Society members ). We cruised a sector of the Australian ... Read More
This was our third cruise with HAL, the others being Alaska and Mediterranean, which they offered to us at an attractive rate for being returning cruisers. ( Mariner's Society members ). We cruised a sector of the Australian Circumnavigation cruise and found it a very pleasant way to get to Melbourne. The ship was sick with GI problems ( probably norovirus but this was not mentioned by name. ) and the crew handled this very well, making sure of hand sanitising, cleaning stair handrails, lifts, crew serving food in the buffet etc. The ship was beautifully clean all over. The food was fine. The ship was well furbished. Our stateroom was very nice - quite roomy as far as cruise accommodation goes - and kept well cleaned by our steward. We were in the lower portion of the ship and right in the middle so felt no rocking and rolling even in the Bight. Our major complaint was the cost of the shore excursions and the lack of or inaccuracy of information about the ports. The shore excursion guide was a lady with quite a strong accent and she was hard to understand at times. She seemed a bit unsure of herself, or the information she was giving. She seemed to say, " ... and things like that." a lot. What really made us furious ( and we were not the only ones ) was in Adelaide where we were docked, as is usual, at Outer Harbour which is quite a distance from the CBD. There was no shuttle. ( that's OK ) but HAL offered us a bus @ $AUS45 each for a return trip to the city. As we were there for 2 days, this added up to a cost of $AUS180 for the two of us. We decided to get a taxi and hope to share it with other passengers. Then we all noticed the train station 150m away from the dock. Hmmmm. We had asked about public transport and were told it was the bus or the taxi.Over the 2 days of our South Australian visit we shared that train with a large number of disgruntled HAL guests who shared our feelings. It cost us a total of $AUS15 for the weekend. My husband travelled at no charge on all forms of public transport as he is an Australian Senior. I bought an all-day travel pass for $AUS10 and also paid for a one way $AUS5 ticket on the first day. At Kangaroo Island it was worse. The cheapest shore excursion was a whopping $AUS200 pp and the most expensive was $AUS595 pp and this got you a seat in a Landcruiser ( and a meal ) for the day! We decided to go ashore , by tender, and have a little look and then go back to the ship for lunch. On shore, the locals had put on some markets which included a $AUS50 pp boat and bus excursion for 75 mins. It was the best thing we could have done and we had a ball. They were the best photos I took on the whole cruise. We saw seals, dolphins playing close to the boat, cormorants and learnt all about Kangaroo Island from a local. The tour operator was thrilled because they had a full day's work taking happy people out in their boat twelve ppl at a time. It was very personal. At Port Lincoln, a local tour operator cancelled a day's worth of work to accommodate HAL to be told the day before we were due that the excursions with him were cancelled as no-one had booked. No wonder HAL had hiked up the price so much. He was on the dock with a sign, trying to drum up business so he made at least some money that day. The cruise lines do tend to put the frighteners on guests about the local operators and saying things like "We guarantee the ship won't leave without you if you use our ship's approved tour" and "We have checked out these tour for safety, comfort and value for money." Fair enough. But give the guests a choice, not just an expensive option. We are not risk-takers and would not go quad biking and bungy jumping ! We have never had a problem with any independently booked tour or shared taxi, although we have been careful, and were disappointed in regard to the HAL Shore Excursions   Read Less
Sail Date November 2013
We originally booked direct with HAL for Lower Promenade Ocean View #3334 about 9 months before the cruise - at the holidays last year, the prices dropped and we were credited. Then, after final payment, the B category balcony prices ... Read More
We originally booked direct with HAL for Lower Promenade Ocean View #3334 about 9 months before the cruise - at the holidays last year, the prices dropped and we were credited. Then, after final payment, the B category balcony prices dropped so we upgraded for free. That turned out to be a splendid choice - the balcony in Alaska was worth it. We didn't feel any additional movement really from being aft, and a Bonine a day took care of any seasickness. The cabin was roomy and in good condition and the bed and pillows were very comfy. We had no toilet or AC troubles and our location right next to the stairs was so convenient. We heard no noise from anywhere or anyone and we were blessed with no smokers on the balconies next to us. All of the ship was in good condition as far as I could tell and our room stewards and MDR waiter were great. The ship has a lot of open public space so you never really felt too crowded, except at the Lido buffet and Crow's Nest comfy chairs. The Volendam had the BEST public women's restroom of all time in my opinion. To me, if you are going on the Volendam expecting superb, "white glove" service and exquisite dining, then you will be disappointed. You need to choose Oceania, Crystal or Celebrity. However, Volendam is a great value for the money paid and the fabulous itinerary and ports. It's not a bad cruise for the food and service, just not a great cruise. If you have small kids, I'm not sure Volendam is for you. I didn't see very many and I preferred that. If you have kids, I think Carnival or Disney or Princess and the larger ships are better choices. I think that the rooms on the lower decks at the cheapest prices all have issues unique to the location and I don't think the plumbing on any ship in the lower, cheapest cabins is going to be completely reliable. There is a reason they are the cheapest rooms. We really enjoyed our cruise immensely, mainly due to the beautiful Alaska scenery, fabulous weather (sunny with NO rain), our private balcony, and the great ports with plenty of time in each port. We did NOT book this cruise for the ship entertainment, nightlife, food or activities. We chose the Volendam based solely on ports of call, time in port, departure port of Vancouver, and smaller size compared to Zuiderdam or Westerdam. We chose HAL over Princess because we are 50-ish and 60-ish and we wanted a more adult clientele which HAL caters to. We were so tired after each port that we never went to a single show and never took part in any activities. Honestly, I can't fathom why anyone would care so much about cooking classes or computer classes or afternoon teas when sailing in Alaska. Why miss any of the fantastic scenery? There is ALWAYS wonderful scenery anywhere and the Volendam has lots of great walking choices on outside decks. The food was hot, good, and there was always plenty of it. Good enough for us. We weren't interested in dressing up for formal night more than once so we skipped the other formal night. My biggest complaints: you can't hear the captain's wildlife announcements in your room; half the Lido was usually closed for staff only and that half was almost always deserted while the passenger side was jam-packed; the MDR lunch hour was way too short - only open for 1.25 hours; on port days when we got back very late after our excursions, the Lido and MDR were closed and the only choice was room service which takes way too long - ridiculous; seemed like all the good indoor spots in Crow's Nest and Explorer's lounge were ALWAY taken when we wanted them. We couldn't hear any of the captain's announcements clearly in our room and besides being a nuisance that we missed wildlife announcements, that seems like an imperative safety issue to me. Also, I am all for the staff having their own dining area to get away from passengers for a while, but it should NOT be at the expense of the passengers who are paying for the staff's salaries. I don't see why the staff can't have their very own dedicated cafeteria. The MDR and Lido hours were ridiculously short. I definitely prefer Carnival in that respect - there is always pizza and burgers 24 hours. I really liked our room stewards and the service in general from nearly all the staff. The food seemed very good overall to me with only a few misses. The only HAL excursions we booked were in Skagway and they were both unique and GREAT. We loved the Summer Sled Dog Mush Camp and we absolutely, positively LOVED LOVED the Glacier Point Wilderness Safari to Davidson Glacier. The train ride in Skagway is very popular, but a train ride is just too boring for us. The Glacier Wilderness Safari is such a unique experience that really kicks butt compared to a train ride, IMHO. I also can't understand why anyone would want to spend a lot of time shopping in the towns - you can shop anywhere. Alaska has priceless scenery everywhere you look for free. There is even plenty to see very inexpensive, but Alaska is once place where you should totally splurge on excursions. Overall, we absolutely thought the Volendam was a super value for the money, and we would definitely book again. Read Less
Sail Date July 2013
We had a wonderful cruise on the Volendam. June 19, - 26, 2013. This was a 7 day return Vancouver cruise. I had read many reviews and received a lot information and help from the HAL forum on CC. Thank you to all. My husband and I are ... Read More
We had a wonderful cruise on the Volendam. June 19, - 26, 2013. This was a 7 day return Vancouver cruise. I had read many reviews and received a lot information and help from the HAL forum on CC. Thank you to all. My husband and I are Seniors (we like to think young in heart and mind!). We have cruised many, many times, 3rd with HAL. Also, NCL, Celebrity, Costa and other small cruise lines. Flew Air Canada from our home city of Toronto to Vancouver morning of the cruise. Arrived 9:30 a.m. in Vancouver and took the Skytrain from the airport to Canada Place. Very easy and seniors get a fare break. Stopped in to a B.C. liquor store just kitty-corner from the exit of the Skytrain for a couple of bottles of wine for the cabin. Pulled our suitcases to Canada Place (about 3 blocks). No problem. Dropped off luggage at appropriate area (clearly marked). Walked right up to the check in. Took only a few minutes. Then we did have to wait because it was early (before 11:00 a.m.). There are rows of chairs set up and it is all very orderly. Water is available and, I think I saw lemonade, but no coffee or tea. Waited at the most ½ hour. They only let on a row or so at a time so when you go to board, there is no backup. Walked on and allowed to go right to our cabin. We had a AA category cabin , number 7081, 3 cabins from the rear. Lovely cabin, well kept, bed very comfortable with 3 pillows, soft, medium and firm for each person. Bathroom good size with small bathtub and good shower. Balcony was much bigger than the other 2 we have had. One chair, one lounge and a small table. Enough room for a couple more chairs so if you have friends with you, a great place to sit. We thoroughly enjoyed the balcony and because the weather was really good, we used it a lot. Never smelled smoke at any time on the balcony. Pleasant and considerate neighbours both sides. A note to say that we were Starboard side and I would recommend Starboard for this cruise because we were dockside 2 out of the 3 ports. Wanted to go to the main dining room for lunch but it was only open for a travel agent group so had to go to the Lido. Not too crowded since we were probably in the first 100 or so to board. Can’t remember food – nothing special. Mandatory lifeboat drill was done fairly smoothly and as soon as it was over, I made a run for the Crow’s Nest to get a couple of the comfy lounge chairs for Sail Away. Sailed on time and it was a lovely view. Weather was good. So, on our way and following are some of our thoughts and hints on the trip. We ate almost all meals in the main D.R. I found the food good and my husband thought most were very good. Have had better and certainly have had worse on a cruise. We were on Any Time dining and usually went during the busiest time but nevertheless always got a table for 2 with no hassle. Each meal we were asked if we would share and when we said that we would prefer to eat alone, there was never a problem. We were seated promptly except for one evening, asked to wait over to the side for about 5-10 minutes and a second time, we were given a pager and told it would be about ½ hour. We went to the Ocean Bar and upon showing the bar attendant the pager, we each received a free glass of sparkling wine. Quite nice and since my DH does not drink sparkling wine, I got both! Dinners took about 1 hour or perhaps slightly more so did not drag out. We did not usually get the best tables. We were mainly seated by a serving station. Did not really bother us and became a bit of a running joke with us (which serving station will we be seated at tonight?). We did not eat in Pinnacle or Canneletto. Waiters were pleasant and mainly efficient. Not the happy, talkative type that we have had on some of our other cruises, but certainly pleasant. Always received what we ordered. Ordered room service one morning. It was delivered at the appropriate time with exactly what I ordered. However, although the coffee was excellent (SO much better than the Lido where the coffee is dreadfully weak), the scrambled eggs were cold and unappetizing, toast was barely toasted and cold, sliced bananas turning brown, strawberries fine. I did not repeat the room service breakfast experience. If I order it again, will stick with cold cereal. Service in the bars (mainly Crow’s Nest – love it!) was excellent. We enjoyed Happy Hour every late afternoon/evening. It was not offered on the first night. Never a problem having to wait. Staff came around asking shortly after we sat down and drinks were delivered promptly. However, if you declined, no problem. The Lemon Drop Martinis were as good as I remembered from other HAL cruises. The house chardonnay was quite acceptable and I sometimes carried my second drink to the MDR if I hadn’t finished it. Hot appetizers were served each evening (not sure of first night). Quite nice. This is a very good perk on HAL. We did not attend the Mariner’s Brunch. We did plan to go but it was at 11:00 a.m. and the timing was not good. Too late for breakfast and too early for lunch. Read the menu here on CC and the regular dining room menu was much better. I joined up for the 3 Mixology classes and they were great. The bartender. Jerry, who runs it is excellent and makes the experience a lot of fun. There are funny toasts and songs for each drink. Each person gets to mix, shake and serve at least one drink at some point during the 3 classes. You can attend 1, 2 or all 3 of the classes. I got a good deal by going to the Complimentary Champagne Reception at 3:00 p.m. first day. It is really a sales event but the sparkling wine (not champagne) was free and I got the 3 classes for $30.00. Not a lot of alcohol but worthwhile experience. Received a PhD Diploma in Mixology at the end because I attended all 3 classes. Otherwise, you receive a BA or a Masters Diploma. See what I mean – silly but fun! Second Day sailing the Inside Passage was beautiful. Sat for hours in the comfy lounges in the Crow’s Nest (no need to buy a drink). Third Day sailing into Juneau was spectacular! Again, sat for the whole morning in the Crow’s Nest. After docking, we bought tickets for the shuttle to Mendenhall Glacier. Wanted to buy one way ticket because there are 2 companies and you are slotted in to the one company if you buy return. This was told to me by fellow CC members. However, when purchasing the tickets, we were told that you cannot buy the return ticket on the bus so bought the return ticket at the booth also. Think we were lied to but it worked out fine. As others have said, the walk to and from Nugget Falls is about 45 minutes. Easy walk and quite nice. We spent about 2 hours all together at the site because, of course, you want to look around. It was very warm and sunny. I believe the Glacier has receded badly and so I found it not as spectacular as it probably was in years past. Still, well worth the $16.00 per person for the shuttle. As recommended by many people, we went to Tracy’s Crab Shack which was just by where our ship docked (We could look down on it from our balcony). Thoroughly enjoyed their Crab Chowder. Large Crab Chowder (we shared), one House Chardonnay and one Alaskan Amber was $25.00. Be careful, at first they charged me for a regular Chardonnay when I had asked for House Chardonnay. A little expensive as a predinner snack, but the whole day had been a good inexpensive experience for an Alaskan port. In Skagway, we had arranged a bus tour with Chillkoot Tours. Highly recommended. We much preferred the van to the big busses we saw which were from the cruise lines. Our driver, Mike, was informative and a lot of fun. Day started out cloudy and cool but quickly turned out to be sunny and warm. Drove to the Yukon and saw spectacular scenery. At the end of the tour, Mike let us off in town and we walked back to the ship (easy 20 minute walk). Really enjoyed our day. Glacier Bay day again started out cloudy with very low clouds. However, again it cleared and was lovely. The starboard propeller broke down in the morning and although the Captain stopped the ship a few times to have the engineer try to fix the problem, we did have to sail Glacier Bay with only one propeller so it was slow. We were assured that there was no safety issue and no problem steering so we continued on. Beautiful scenery but we did have less time at Margerie Glacier because we had to get out of Glacier Bay to let the Amsterdam get in. Captain stopped ship again as soon as we were clear of the ice and this time it was fixed so we were on schedule the rest of the cruise. Did not see pea soup being served. Perhaps we were inside when it was being served. The line for the salmon bake was ridiculous so we skipped that. Crows Nest was busy on Glacier Bay day but we got 1 lounge and 1 chair by the forward window. Weather in Ketchikan was hot and sunny. We used the internet at the Crew Services office - $2.00 for one half hour. Took the venicular railroad up to Cape Fox Lodge, looked at the totem poles on their property and then walked down to Creek Street, looking for salmon in the creek (none – too early in the season) looked in a few of the shops and back to ship for lunch and afternoon. Good day. Last full day in Inside Passage was again lovely scenery with good weather. During the cruise we saw many whale spouts with some fins (is that called breaching), dolphins, seals, sea otters (so cute!). Did not see any land animals in Alaska although we saw deer, moose, 1 juvenile grizzly and coyotes in Interior British Columbia while visiting family. Arrival in Vancouver - on time. We chose the last disembarkation time (9:00-9:30 a.m.) and all went smoothly. We were in the last group and again took the Skytrain to the car rental agency on South Marine Drive and continued our vacation with a week in Interior BC with my sister and family. Entertainment was really not up to other cruise lines. Comedienne, Julie Barr, was very good. One evening she did shows at the regular time and another evening did a 11:00 p.m. R-rated show. Really, really funny. Magician, Greg Gleason, put on a very good show and one afternoon did a Memory Seminar which was interesting. One of the two production shows, Rocking Roadhouse, was good but the other one (something with Mounties, etc.) was very amateurish. The last evening was the finals for Dancing With the Stars. Also, each show was only 45-50 minutes tops. Evening entertainment is not a strong point for HAL. We were fine but if that is important to you, it will be a disappointment. The ports were all better than we expected. The weather was wonderful. Ship was (mainly) great. Would return to Alaska!   Read Less
Sail Date June 2013
I booked the VOLENDAM mainly due to her Wednesday departure dates, which insured fewer other cruise ships in port. Only in Ketchikan did we encounter other passenger ships. The voyage itself was just what we wanted, 7 days, inside passage, ... Read More
I booked the VOLENDAM mainly due to her Wednesday departure dates, which insured fewer other cruise ships in port. Only in Ketchikan did we encounter other passenger ships. The voyage itself was just what we wanted, 7 days, inside passage, and visiting Glacier Bay. We lucked out by having very good weather. Only completely rainy on one day, sunny most other days. The VOLENDAM was a pleasant surprise. Food and dining room service better than I expected. This certainly was not best food I have had on a cruise ship but it was top notch. Dining room service in main dining room was very good and quick which is important with kids, who do not want to waiting between courses. We had not trouble with our open seating policy, if you reserved the size table you wanted a day ahead of time you could get what you wanted without any hassle. Since we booked a Suite (really a large room and not technically a suite) we had access to the Neptune Lounge and all of its perks. The staff in the lounge provided us with a lot of special requests, no ? asked. We also greatly enjoyed the daily breakfast service in Pinnacle Grill. So upsides to VOLENDAM were good food, fine service, nicely decorated ship, walk around promenade, no crowding , and large rooms.The worst part of the ship experience was the night time entertainment. It was so BAD it was funny. No live music with production shows and the singers and dancers could not sing or dance. One magician they had one night was OKAY. Highlight of the entertainment program was a showing of Jack London's WHITE FANG movie about Alaska. Of course we did not embark on an Alaska cruise for the shows, so this did not bother me. But you can tell costs have been cut in this area. We enjoyed all the Alaska ports, especially sailing in Glacier Bay where we had sunny weather. If you like wildlife and mountain scenery you will love Alaska. Read Less
Sail Date June 2013
We did quite a bit of research before choosing the HAL Volendam cruise which departed Vancouver on June 5th, and we picked this cruise because it included Glacier Bay which I felt was a 'must see' part of the cruise. Our ... Read More
We did quite a bit of research before choosing the HAL Volendam cruise which departed Vancouver on June 5th, and we picked this cruise because it included Glacier Bay which I felt was a 'must see' part of the cruise. Our itinerary was: Wed Jun 5 5pm depart Vancouver Thu Jun 6 cruising Inside Passage Fri Jun 7 10am-10.30am Tracy Arm service call 1pm -10.30pm Juneau Sat Jun 8 7am -9pm Skagway Sun Jun 9 7am -4pm cruising Glacier Bay Mon Jun 10 10am-6pm Ketchikan Tue Jun 11 cruising Inside Passage Wed Jun 12 7am arrive Vancouver We booked through 'Vacations To Go' and thoroughly recommend them. We selected BB6222 which was a balcony cabin near the rear of the ship on the port (left) side on the Verandah Deck, deck 6. At the end of the deck hallway towards the rear of the ship was a door which led out onto a stern viewing area with lounges, not many people seemed to discover this spot and it was a pleasant retreat with stairs up to the Lido and Bar on deck 8. The cabin was reasonably spacious (similar dimensions to our balcony cabin on the Equinox) and not generally affected by noise problems. However the main dining room was immediately below and if you happened to be in the cabin when they were making P.A. announcements they could be disturbing and quite clearly heard. THE GOOD - HAL/VOLENDAM - Embarkation and disembarkation was smooth and effortless, very well handled by all concerned and our bags arrived at the cabin in very good time. - The crew were probably the best part of the HAL experience - cabin attendants were always friendly and helpful, staff in the Lido buffet always had a smile. THE GOOD - ITINERARY/EXCURSIONS We were so lucky with the weather during the cruise, we had some cloud and drizzle on the first and last days cruising the Inside Passage but the rest was absolutely fantastic which made the awesome scenery even better. Glacier Bay is breathtakingly awesome! The scenery was simply spectacular, from the reflections in the calm waters to the majestic snow-covered mountains and the grandeur of sitting close to massive glaciers, listening to them 'speak' to you in the stillness of the pristine wilderness. THE BAD - HAL/VOLENDAM - In our opinion the cabin was quite 'old and tired' with chips and marks on the desks, very basic television and not much else. One of the full-length windows leading out onto our balcony had several huge cracks which ran from about waist height down to the floor. When I pointed it out to the cabin steward he said that they were aware of it but hadn't been able to get a replacement window yet. - We had opted for 'Open Seating' (anytime dining) but when we were given our I.D. cards they showed early fixed seating. When we tried to change this back to our booked dining option we were first challenged with a fairly aggressive "So you want to change your dining preference?" When I pointed out that our confirmation stated Open Seating and that I was not changing it but correcting their mistake I was then told rather brusquely that Open Seating had been over-subscribed and if we didn't take the fixed seating then we may experience extensive delays. We still went with our preferred Open Seating and never had a problem with getting a table for the entire cruise. - Throughout the cruise we found the food to be average at best. On the first night of the cruise we went to the Pinnacle Grill which was a waste of $25 per person, the food was not particularly good and the service was off-hand. - We only tried room service once for breakfast and it arrived so late that we almost missed our excursion. THE BAD - ITINERARY/EXCURSIONS GLACIER BAY The park ranger informative talks were held in the theatre at the same time as the ship was cruising by spectacular glaciers. You had to choose whether to listen but not see, or see but not listen. It would make much more sense to broadcast the ranger talks on outside speakers so that you could combine viewing and listening. SUMMARY Cruising Alaska was an awesome experience, one of my lifetime highlights. Would I do another Alsaka cruise? - probably not. Would I recommend HAL? Only if the itinerary/timing is one that you can't do with anyone else. My photos and review in the HAL forum can be viewed here http://boards.cruisecritic.com/showthread.php?t=1887232 Read Less
Sail Date June 2013
Boarding seemed to take a long time - over an hour standing in line. We must have missed some information for third-time cruisers on HA.Basically, it was an enjoyable cruise, but there were a few glitches. We had dinners in the dining ... Read More
Boarding seemed to take a long time - over an hour standing in line. We must have missed some information for third-time cruisers on HA.Basically, it was an enjoyable cruise, but there were a few glitches. We had dinners in the dining room, and they were generally good quality, and the servings were modest, which met our needs. We enjoyed the afternoon tea, but observed some training lapses. Once, when we were at a table for two, I was served tea before my wife was served. Several times, sweets arrived before the sandwiches. Most disconcerting was when the server tried shaking the jam on to the scones, instead of using a second spoon to dislodge the jam on to the scone. I had this image of the jam ending up in my lap. I fault management, not the servers, for these lapses. Those of us who were prepared for the two formal nights were disappointed that the dining room staff admitted those who were not appropriately dressed, unless jeans and sweaters are now acceptable formal wear.The safe was a pain. To start with, it was locked, so a call for help was necessary. The use of a card with a magnetic stripe struck us as being downright stupid. My wife and I do not always follow the same agenda, so as a consequence, only one of us would have access to the safe. The use of a code that we could both use would seem to be sensible.We are not big fans of the shows, but we did enjoy the dancing in one of the lounges. The Neptunes were very accommodating in playing the tunes we, and others, requested. We also appreciate the classical groups that HA still has on their ships.It was disappointing to this news junkie that only Fox and CNN appeared to be available - the two most unsavoury news sources in North America. Since the passenger list is so international, perhaps HA should consider using something like BBC.For people who hate those high charges for slow internet, two of the communities had quite accessible internet cafes at $5/hr, and the public library in Juneau, on the dock, has FREE internet service for 15 or 30 minutes. Can't beat that price. Read Less
Sail Date May 2013
Our April 15 to May 1 time on the Volendam as we crossed the Pacific Ocean was mixed between positive and negative. Perhaps this is the case with others on the subject cruise, as well as many on other cruises with Holland America, as well ... Read More
Our April 15 to May 1 time on the Volendam as we crossed the Pacific Ocean was mixed between positive and negative. Perhaps this is the case with others on the subject cruise, as well as many on other cruises with Holland America, as well as on other lines. First, the positive. The ship was in excellent condition. Never did I see any worn carpet, or worn upholstery on furniture. Contrary to other reports, all the the ship's water supply was properly filtered and treated. We had no problem with foul looking or tasting water as reported on other reviews and information about the Volendam. Our shower could have had more water pressure and hotter water, but it was adequate. While our initial boarding was delayed, the ship's captain made the correct decision by ordering a thorough cleaning and disinfecting of all areas of the ship. The previous voyage had experienced much illness of the GI type. A free shuttle bus was provided from and back to the boarding terminal. The bus went to and returned from a very nice and large Kobe department store. I was able to purchase four bottles of good wine for later consumption on the ship. The captain correctly continued having the ship areas disinfected and insisting that all passengers and crew wash hands and use the hand cleaning dispensers available throughout the ship. As a result, the extraordinary procedures for sanitation were relaxed about half-way through the cruise, although reinstated for a short time a few days later. The entertainment was generally good, although sometimes not well attended. The Piano Lounge pianist, Steve, was very skilled, clever, and entertaining. My wife, more of a knowledgeable musician than I, said he was an excellent pianist and accompanist. Steve also organized, was Master of Ceremonies, and accompanied singers for the guest talent show. I believe all the participants performed well, and that the two to three hundred in the audience enjoyed the show. I think, and hope, my 'Ol Man River was appreciated. As is proper, there was no determination of a winner, etc., for the talent show. These shows used to occur on most cruises, but now seem to have been replaced with Karaoke contests, with winners determined by ship staff personnel. While I enjoy Karaoke as much as anyone, I believe making it a contest is inappropriate. The adagio performers in the Explorer Lounge were a violin and pianist from the Ukraine. They were good musicians and played well, but attendance was too often sparse. They did give a fine performance at their own show one afternoon. Our favorite waitress was Marivic, who served us in the Explorer Lounge. She is from the Philippines, always pleasant, and with a great sense of humor. Our Neptune Lounge concierge ladies were also exceptionally pleasant and helpful. Now for he disappointing factors. For the first time ever, we splurged for a Superior Suite, named a Deluxe Verandah Suite, or Neptune Suite, on this ship. The pricing, changes in pricing, and our final attaining of the best price by contacting high level management are too detailed to get into here. The suite in general was what we expected, although perhaps a bit smaller than those on larger ships. Our main problem with the suite itself was the bathtub-shower. We only showered, never using a filled tub or the water jet function. We found the width of the tub base to be extremely narrow and uncomfortable for showering. Two feet would barely fit, and we are not large people. The verandah was very wide, as much as 11 or 12 feet. While this would be nice for warm weather cruising, the great width would hardly compensate for the very narrow bathroom and its narrow tub. Why the ship was designed this way in the first place escapes me. However, except for the very small bathroom and tub and waisted verandah area, the suite was nice. The complimentary laundry and dry cleaning service for suite guests was a plus. Cabin cleaning and service was fine, given that we seldom saw the cabin steward or assistant. In room breakfast service was good and on time. A minor problem occurred with the one live plant in the suite. One day my wife noticed it was drooping and lacked water. She watered the plant and it recovered. The cabin steward should have done this. Our major problem occurred during our first night on board, and continued for several nights. It happened that our cabin was immediately under the dishwashing room on the Lido deck above. Early every morning at about 6:30 am the dishwashing machines would be started. As they were drained the night before, the start-up was accompanied by a loud water hammer, or other such noise. Then, for a few more minutes, other noises occurred. We occupied 7028. I soon learned the suite guests on both sides, 7030 and 7026, were also awakened each morning by this noise. One of these guests inquired and was told nothing could be done about this noise. I then visited with our nice concierge lady in the Neptune Lounge and discussed the problem. She went to the Lido deck, asked about what correction could be made, and was told nothing could be done. I then asked to see the Hotel Manager. An intermediary then had the problem fixed by the dishwashing people using a different procedure. However, I still later met with the Hotel Manager who maintained that no one had previously complained about the early morning noise. What! Are you kidding me? I also spoke with this gentleman about the fact that shuttle buses in the Japanese ports we visited were never announced in the Explorer, the daily "poop” sheet. He responded that each city provided these buses, and it was not known if the buses would really be there. Well, then write a probable/possible entry for the Explorer to inform people that he buses could be available. While the Cruise Director spoke to our Cruise Critic "Meet and Greet” group the first cruise day and said Karaoke would be several times, it was provided only once. Our dining room experience was sometimes fine, but often lacking. Escargot was offered only once. As an example of our disappointment, I offer this. Once the menu included pheasant. The serving consisted of only the leg. The same occurred with duck. Neither menu stated leg. It is expected that if nothing is otherwise specified about the pheasant or duck part, the serving will be the breast. But I repeat, neither menu stated leg. I will not further elaborate about dining, but the experience was mixed. We did not participate in Pinnacle dining except for the complimentary lunch for Neptune Suite people, That was very good. So I could write much more, but the above may provide a flavor of our cruise experience on the Volendam across the Pacific. Bob (bobblsc) Read Less
Sail Date April 2013
We enjoyed the trip tremendously and we would be perfectly happy to do it again. My review will sound more negative than I mean it to be. The cruise was mostly terrific with relatively minor issues that did not affect our experience ... Read More
We enjoyed the trip tremendously and we would be perfectly happy to do it again. My review will sound more negative than I mean it to be. The cruise was mostly terrific with relatively minor issues that did not affect our experience very much. Holland America moved the embarkation pier from a cruise terminal close to downtown to a container port 8 miles north. They set up a marquee in the middle of the commercial pier with giant cranes and mountains of containers all around. It was a bit disconcerting. The process seemed a little show compared to my last embarkation with Royal Caribbean but, to be fair, the passport and visa check was more complex. We found that our luggage had made it to our cabin before us so we were able to unpack before departure which is always nice. Our cabin was a grand sounding Vista Suite which is H/A's term for a balcony cabin. It should not to be confused with a real suite which they call a Neptune Suite. The cabin was a good size with a queen sized bed, a couch, an adjustable height table, a chair and a built-in dresser/wall-unit. The balcony that was a little longer than I've had before as there was room for a lounge chair as well as a regular chair and a small table. Not bad at all. While the cabin was well laid out with plenty of storage, the decor is starting to look a bit tired. The couch had a tear on the seat which had been poorly repaired, the veneer on the dresser was broken, the adjustable height table did not adjust any more and the commode and bathtub had water stains. This brings up the silliest feature of the cabin. They put a whirlpool tub in the bathroom but it's so small that it's completely useless as a whirlpool or a tub. It is very short and narrow and can't really take enough water to cover the jets. Fortunately it wasn't a complete waste of space as it made a great laundry tub. They seem to maintain the public rooms better than the cabins. There were no major signs of wear and tear and we could see the cleaning staff scrubbing away keeping it all shiny, even at ungodly hours. The food in the Rotterdam main dining room went from mediocre to pretty good. It started poorly with the first dish of the first night when I had a seafood cocktail that was tasteless and rubbery. I thought, oops here we go. But while there were things I didn't like over the next two weeks, most dishes were perfectly acceptable and some were pretty good. On the bad side, they often offered cold soups as a gourmet vegetarian entree. Their description on the menu was much more interesting than what they actually served. I gave up after the third night. On the good side, their lamb, beef, surf and turf and fish dishes were simple but good. Their desserts were also pretty good. We only ate dinner in the Lido cafeteria once. Boring. Lunches were available in the dining room, inside at the Lido and poolside. Poolside had a grill and a hot table with things like pizza and salads. They also set up an Asian buffet with different countries being represented every day. The quality was uneven. There were several tasty selections like the Indian curries but some of the others were less than great. I would suggest avoiding the Chinese dumplings. The dessert extravaganza buffet near the end of the trip was lots of fun and very popular. I had no idea how many desserts could fit on one single plate. We did not try the Pinnacle Grill, their extra-charge dining room. The one time I tried to get a reservation, they had a computer malfunction and asked me to call back. I never got around to it. I kind of feel that they should have been the ones to call me back and not the other way around. The entertainment was the weakest part of the cruise. Since there are only 1,400 passengers, it's not surprising that we didn't get Broadway at sea or an ice review show but what we did get was pretty poor. Comedians that weren't funny. Mediocre musical acts and a chorus line of 2 girls that no one had actually bothered to choreograph. There were some good points. The ship's band was sharp and they did a great job backing everything from the ship singers doing show tunes to a soloist doing opera. They were very good. The Ocean's Lounge jazz trio were also very good. They were tight and worked well together. I particularly liked the bassist. One of the ship's show singers, Ebony, was also very good with great stage presence and a good pop singer voice. But on the whole, the evening shows were mostly disappointing. The ports we visited were amazing. It was an incredible itinerary. We were in downtown Shanghai with Pudong right across from us and the Bund in walking distance. From Taijing, we made it to Beijing and the Great Wall. Dalian gave us a taste of Manchuria. Busan was absolutely fascinating. Nagasaki was walking distance to Glover Gardens and a short tram ride to the Bomb museum. With the exception of Beijing where we were around 100 miles from the city, it was easy to get around on our own and we did not try any of the ship excursions. The disembarkation process was the easiest we ever experienced. We took expedited departure and were off the ship by 7:45 and through to Kyoto by train before 9:30 am. Altogether a great success but there were a few things that really bugged us: Our number one peeve was the quality of the coffee. The standard coffee served in the dining room and the cafeteria was sour and weak and it had a chemical taste to it. The only drinkable coffee on the ship was in the Explorations Cafe and they charged extra for it. Curse you H/A. The first time we ordered a glass of Merlot at the bar we were charged around $10.00. The next day the charge was $6.00. When we asked, we were told that the $6.00 wine was the house Merlot. We could not find it in the drinks menu anywhere but from then on, we were house Merlot drinkers. There's something a little dishonest about hiding a less expensive selection to force the client to blow the extra dollars. In the Rotterdam dining room, a cavalcade of staff - waiters, team leaders, asst. head-waiters and head waiters would come by to ask how we were enjoying our meal but keeping my water glass filled seemed to be beyond them all. In Busan, the international cruise terminal is quite far from the downtown area. There was no shuttle bus, the city buses were jammed by 1,400 H/A passengers trying to travel to the same place at the same time and there was no taxi stand. There were stories that some taxis finally appeared but they were asking for $40 US for a $6.00 metered fare. Holland America really could have organized something a little better. None of these points were serious enough to spoil our trip. This was a great trip and I would be happy to cruise with H/A again. Read Less
Sail Date March 2013
Ports visited, Kobe and Nagasaki Japan, Busan S Korea, Dalian China, Beijing China, Shanghai China, Hong Kong China. Our fifth "Dam" ship, first time Volendam. Cabin was an outside on Main deck. Embarkation was slower than ... Read More
Ports visited, Kobe and Nagasaki Japan, Busan S Korea, Dalian China, Beijing China, Shanghai China, Hong Kong China. Our fifth "Dam" ship, first time Volendam. Cabin was an outside on Main deck. Embarkation was slower than we would have liked, but once onboard our cabin was ready and luggage was delivered shortly afterwards. Thought Volendam was looking a little tired in places, especially outside on Lido deck where some maintenance and revarnishing would help. From day one our dirty cabin window remained dirty throughout the 14 days, and the bathroom tiling was showing its age, otherwise the cabin was kept immaculate by our steward and all was in good order. Plenty storage, the bed was supremely comfortable as usual and nice to see that the Elemis toiletries are still there. We really do enjoy the cabins on HAL. Overall the standard of cleaning was very high in all public areas and for the first 2 days everything was served to us in an effort to reduce the possibility of illness. This is good although the use of hand sanitisers could be more enforced as many passengers ignore them. We found the food quality, choice and presentation to our liking, and the additional Asian menu choices were fun to try so no complaints there apart from the usual dire tasting regular coffee. We were on Anytime Dining, ate in the diningroom almost every evening, and although did not usually have to wait long if we avoided the busiest periods, we did have lots of problems trying to get a decent table for two on the evenings we preferred to eat alone. We almost always found ourselves next to a serving station. Too many people are reserving the nicer tables for two for every evening at the same time, blocking others from using them. Defeats the purpose of "Anytime Dining", but the diningroom staff could surely occasionally put a couple on a table for four without other diners as there were often unoccupied nicer tables available throughout the time we were dining. Alcoholic drinks prices have increased to the extent that we now cut back, especially on wine with dinner. Heard quite a number of complaints about pricing, although the happy hours are welcome and at least the bars are busy instead of empty and have a nicer atmosphere. Entertainment was, as usual, a bit hit or miss but we thought the singers were an improvement on previous shows. They could not only sing well but a couple of them were outstanding. We usually avoid the solo acts, such as magicians, comedians etc. so cannot comment on them as we prefer to spend our time in Oceans with the trio. Enjoyed the screenings of first run films in both the large theatre and the smaller cinema. We did not notice any listings in the daily programmes for lecturers. There were port talks (to sell shorex) and info for independent sightseeing with the port info person, but no actual lectures relating to the history, culture, religion or anything else relating to the countries we were visiting. We have seen lecturers on other HAL ships but not this time. We thought the formal evenings were a bit of a let down. Wondered why so many passengers made the effort to dress formally. Captain made a brief (very brief) appearance at the Welcome Drinks otherwise we never really saw him. The Mariners Brunch was disappointing too. The CD introduced the Captain who spoke for approximately 2 minutes then left. As nothing else happened, it was a bit of a non-event. Weather was mostly good when we were in port, but the smog/pollution in some of the ports is bad. Bureaucracy on this trip is daunting. Even before we left, there was much confusion as to whether Chinese visas should be Single, Double or Multiple Entry. On this sailing it appeared to make no difference although the fees passengers had paid varied considerably depending on which of the options they chose. Passports in and out the office, passport receipts to keep and exchange at various times, photocopies to be carried and checked and rechecked every time we left or boarded, temperatures taken, officials from one country or another almost always onboard, it never stopped. This is not the fault of HAL and must have created an enormous amount of work for the staff. Be prepared to have this. Spent 2 nights in Osaka before boarding in Kobe, spent 3 nights in Hong Kong after disembarkation to finish sightseeing from previous trips. At every port we were giving the name of the ship, the dock number and the port address in the local language to show to local taxi drivers. We also sometimes had the names of the top sights in local language. We especially enjoyed the Japanese ports, and the local Tourist Info offices were on hand with info for independent sightseeing. In Nagasaki and Kobe this is very easy. Surprisingly, at Busan (S Korea)despite seeing signs for it at the dock there was no free shuttle into town although we had expected this from reading other thread. Tourist info had volunteers arranging taxis, cost approx US$4 each way. Dalian we had free shuttles to a city centre location. Shaghai had free shuttles for the very short trip to the Bund although it was barely 10 minutes walk. These finished very early (I think around 6-30pm) despite us overnighting. At Tianjin (for Beijing) there were free shuttles to a local shopping centre, again stopping very early despite an overnight. We greatly enjoyed our two days in Shanghai a lot, in part due to our excellent docking location close to one end of the Bund and with front row seats of the Pudong area directly opposite. Lovely during the day, but outstanding at night when the buildings and little river cruise boats are illuminated. We could have done with more time although we packed a lot into our two days. Beijing was the best and the worst. We knew when we booked the shorex that they would be a bit of an expensive endurance test with little sightseeing, but these were our only shorex as it was a little out of our comfort zone for independent or private touring, although many passengers did do their own thing here despite the logistical and bureaucratic difficulties. Again, two full days, but the port of Tianjin is 2 1/2 to 3 hours drive away depending on traffic. We were mostly 3 hours each way. Very early starts and late returns. The coaches we had were built for little Chinese people and were very uncomfortable for taller people. On one of the days there was so little leg room we had to take separate seats and sit sideways both directions as our legs would not otherwise fit. Next day, were amongst the first on our coach and managed to find seats with slightly more legroom although others were not so lucky. Both day tours were around 11 or 12 hours duration and cost around $250pp each day. Include time for lunch and driving between sights, and there was too little time left for actual sightseeing. I think on our first day we had just short of 3 hours and around 4 the second day. We thought these tours were vastly overpriced considering the majority of the time was spent on uncomfortable coaches. Perhaps HAL could look at either dropping Beijing altogether in favour of somewhere else, or tweak itineraries so that cruises either begin or end in Beijing where passengers could spend time in hotels actually in the city as sights such as the Forbidden City and the Summer Palace need more than 90 minutes or so. Overall it was a good trip but not a great trip, in part because of Beijing being so frustrating, although we did get to see the places we wanted to see. Read Less
Sail Date March 2013
This was our first cruise with Holland America Line on board the MS Volendam which sailed from Kobe, Japan on 4th March 2013. The cruise was to take us to Nagasaki, Busan, Dalian, Xingang, Shanghai and to Hong Kong on the 18th March. We ... Read More
This was our first cruise with Holland America Line on board the MS Volendam which sailed from Kobe, Japan on 4th March 2013. The cruise was to take us to Nagasaki, Busan, Dalian, Xingang, Shanghai and to Hong Kong on the 18th March. We have cruised with most of the major cruise companies in the past and so this review is based on a wide experience of ships and companies. We had never previously booked with HAL because their prices were always quite a lot more expensive than some of the other major cruise lines and I suppose for this reason we had formed the opinion that they were something outstanding and this view appeared to be shared by a number of fellow passengers that we met. Recently, HAL have advertised some very attractive fares and this was the main reason that we had booked this cruise together that we had friends in Hong Kong that we wanted to meet up with. Pre Cruise Experience The booking procedure was fairly straightforward but our first problem that emerged was obtaining a Visa for China. Obviously, we were notified that we needed a visa but everyone that we spoke to appeared to have a different view as to which visa we needed one company informed us that we needed a double entry visa, another indicated that a multiple entry visa was needed and another indicated that a single entry visa was needed so we submitted an open entry and sent a copy of the itinerary with the application and a credit card number and we had a multiple entry visa granted at a cost of £90 plus recorded delivery postage. On the first night at dinner on board we sat at a table of 6 people, none that we had met before, and the question of visas was raised and it appeared that we all had different visas and that everyone had also been given conflicting advice from different sources. One lady had been informed that a single entry visa would suffice at a cost of £30 whilst the others had either got double entry at £60 or multiple as we had. It appears that HAL had also given conflicting advice to different passengers. Obviously, the difference in cost was quite significant so during the cruise I sent a note to the Front Desk asking which was the correct visa but did not receive a reply. Shortly after this I was in a queue at the Front Desk when I heard a lady in front of me also asking the same question and so I related my experiences and we were informed that they could not answer our query but would get back to us. As I had not received a reply I raised the question again and received an apology together with some chocolates and was asked to go and discuss the matter with the person that understood these matters which I did and it appears that only a single entry visa is required and so we had wasted £120. The second problem arose in the form of a notification that the ship would not now dock at the Cruise Terminal in Hong Kong but at a Container Port some 30 minutes away from the center of Hong Kong. As my friends had advised me that this would be difficult to get transport from this container terminal I emailed HAL asking if they were going to provide transport and this was their reply "The new address for the dock at which the Volendam will be at is attached in the following documents. A map is also attached for your use. Local taxi services are located close by and they will be able to take you to and from the new terminal. If you are unable to alter your arrangements from the original Cruise Terminal to the Modern Terminal a taxi will be able to take you." As my friends had informed me that getting a taxi would be difficult here and with over a 1,000 people disembarking I could foresee many problems and so I had asked my friends to make alternative arrangements which they did. During the course of the cruise we were notified that HAL were now providing a shuttle to the Hong Kong Cruise Terminal as obtaining taxis would be almost impossible and I raised this issue with the Front Desk and was informed that this docking arrangement had been in place for 12 months. If this is correct why was the cruise sold on the basis that it docked at HK Cruise Terminal two months before it sailed? I did ask the question but have not received a reply. The third problem arose due to the fact that the Internet was not available on the ship whilst the ship was in Japanese ports or within 50 miles of the coast of Japan -- this really inconvenienced many people that needed to be in touch 24/7 and should have been notified to passengers at the time of booking. The last problem relates to the seating for dinner and as I wanted an early sitting I was informed that this was not available and that we would have to have a late sitting and try to change this on the ship. When we boarded I was informed that we had been given open seating, which suited us better but there was no mention that this was available when we booked. The Cruise The ship accommodates 1432 guests and is now some 14 years old but is still in nice condition and is quite well laid out and it was never very difficult to find a seat in the restaurant or Lido. The choice of food was reasonable but not outstanding and the officers and crew were always polite and helpful. The ship was kept very clean and our cabin steward was excellent. Entertainment was ok but not outstanding as were the enrichment sessions. The fresh flowers around the ship added to the atmosphere. The shops are very limited and do not carry a good range of products and tend to major on jewelry, watches and small gifts. The library and internet rooms are quite good and spacious and it was only on sea days that it was difficult to find a seal. Excursions We did not take any excursions because we found them very expensive -- for example the overnight Beijing Trip offered by HAL would have cost us about £280 each but by arranging a private tour we did it for £180 each and visited more sights. The Nagasaki Trip that we arranged via the local Tourist Office only cost us about £50 whereas doing it via HAL would have cost us about £120 and in this instance we had a personal guide as well. In addition to this we found the private tours more personal and were able to make some good friends. This was the first time that I had arranged private tours but it definitely wont be the last. Overall Impressions We enjoyed this cruise because it went to destinations that we wanted to visit, was good value, the weather was quite good, the ship and facilities were good and we made some nice friends. On the minus sign HAL need to improve their communications pre cruise and their customer service on board. Whist I made these comments on board some of the questions have not yet been answered. Read Less
Sail Date March 2013
This cruise was part of a lot her cruise. We got on in Hong Kong, sailing to Kobe. The ship was docked at a freight port. We had a expensive taxi ride and the taxi was not sure where to drop us off. Very nerve wreaking. We later ... Read More
This cruise was part of a lot her cruise. We got on in Hong Kong, sailing to Kobe. The ship was docked at a freight port. We had a expensive taxi ride and the taxi was not sure where to drop us off. Very nerve wreaking. We later heard there was a shuttle bus. The room was ready and the luggage appeared Rey quickly. The closet space was outstanding. We had a nice sail out of Hong Kong. Apparently the front deck was opened but no announcement. We did anytime dining. Never much of a wait. I found the food to be fine but not outstanding. Every night they have a different "crisp", those were great. We did the three bottle of wine deal, seemed like a good approach for the two of us. I would suggest adding a tossed salad and a pasta to the "everyday" menu. The first formal night,the sea was very rough. They even had sickness bags outside the elevators. I must admitt, it got to me. I am not a delicate traveler, it was bad. Perhaps formal night could have been delayed. The on-board activities were fine but a bit repetitive. We happen to like trivia and name. That tune, so we were fine. I found the entertainment to be lacking. We did a number of excursions. All were done professionally. There were free buses into town often, but they stopped running quite early compared to the all abroad time. I am usually a Princess cruise person, I found the entertainment to be quite limited on HAL and the food not as good. The public rooms are about equal. My last cruise, princess had a port advisor that talked about things to do if you did not take the excursion. I found that very interesting. He gave more cultural information about the ports, like bargain, don't bargain, bow or shake hands, Etc. My nephew had not been to Asia and he had an amazing time. I enjoyed the cruise overall. Read Less
Sail Date February 2013
This was a great introduction to Asia if you've never been that part of the world before. After spending 3 days in Hong Kong staying at the Salisbury Hotel (excellent, inexpensive and within walking distance to the port)embarkation ... Read More
This was a great introduction to Asia if you've never been that part of the world before. After spending 3 days in Hong Kong staying at the Salisbury Hotel (excellent, inexpensive and within walking distance to the port)embarkation for us was easy since we arrived early. Fortunately for us, we didn't encounter the chaos that others had. When embarking, make sure you choose group visa if you are not overnighting in any of the ports. There was a woman going around asking if you needed any help deciphering the visa paperwork...You will save money choosing the group visa option! SHIP: Nice vessel -- smaller than some others I have sailed on and food was good -- not great. It was better on some days than others but I got the feeling that was b/c there were some new employees on the ship getting accustomed to their work flow. Our inside cabin was the largest inside cabin we've ever stayed in and we were happy with it and our friendly stewards who were always available when we needed them. Entertainment was a little weak -- and has been better on other ships -- but with all of the touring we did - we were tired by the time shows were on! Gym was good with a decent amount of equipment -- if you are up to getting in a workout! I found the front desk to always be helpful when I needed them and they offered my husband free motion sickness pills as well when he didn't feel well! Their tour mgr Ian was also readily available to answer any questions you may have had on what to do in port on a particular day. Employees in general were very kind and helpful. Plenty to do on the ship during sea days -- depends on your interests. I do think their daily newsletter -- THE EXPLORER -- could be better written or laid out better since some people complained that they had nothing to do on the sea days but I think they just didn't see their options in the newsletter! Plus some people just like to complain! Port Maps -- they were ok and could have been more explicit with better info -- but it didn't really affect me since I booked several independent excursions and I didn't have to rely on the map as I have in the past. Ship was sold out for this sailing and not very many children on board (10 or 11 total). I'd say average age on the ship was 55-65 years old. PORTS: Halong Bay -- nice port -- easy to book a junk on your own. I did a Hanoi tour with SMILE Tours and enjoyed it. Its 3 hrs to Hanoi but they do break the trip down by stopping at different attractions before getting to and returning from Hanoi. After we returned from Hanoi -- we had some time to browse around the market at the port before getting back on the ship. If you choose to do the Hanoi tour -- be prepared for a long but enjoyable day! Da Nang -- we did this port on our own and its very easy to do. You can either book a tour at the port or take the $12 shuttle to town and book a tour there. Make sure to negotiate a good fare! I personally recommend visiting Hoian -- you can spend a day there and if you have time check out the Marble Mtns -- I didn't care much for Da Nang itself. Nha Trang -- went on Dung Pham's tour - great tour -- you see everything the countryside has to offer from conical hat making to the beach! Ho Chi Minh (SAIGON) -- booked SMILE Tours and it was a delight -- we saw everything the ship's tour saw at half the price! We got back to the ship with time to spare! Other passengers on the ship did their (SMILE'S) combination Cuchi and Saigon tour and really enjoyed it as well! It took 2 hrs to get there. Sihanoukville -- we did the Don Bosco tour and we were treated like VIPS! It was great to see how these students are being trained for the hospitality business. We enjoyed this port while others who toured on their own did not enjoy the port as much since Sihanoukville is still working on their tourism and it may not be up to the standards of some... Laem Chabang -- I booked a rt transfer thru Oriental Escape and was able to tour Bangkok on my own at my own pace. I recommend that highly! Since we overnighted at this port I was able to spend the entire day in Bangkok - it took us 2 hrs to get there and 1.5 to return! So we arrived at 11am and returned around midnight to the ship. There is a lot to see in Bangkok and you cannot see everything in one day so pick and choose what you really want to see. We spent the 2nd day in Pattaya (oriental transfer van for the day)and visited Nong Nooch which was a treat, The Sanctuary of Truth (spectacular if you are into architecture/engineering)and Pattaya town -- kind of seedy and not everyone's cup of tea! Koh Samui -- beautiful port that we toured. You can't go wrong with whatever you choose to do here! Singapore -- disembarkation -- a little long but not bad and easy to get around from the cruise terminal. An easy place to tour on your own! If you are willing and able -- this cruise is worthwhile but you may need a vacation from your vacation when you return from all of the travel required to get from the port to your place of interest. You can save some money if you pair up with other cruisers thru the cruise critic message board like we did!! All in all -- highly recommended!! Read Less
Sail Date January 2013
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
Volendam Ratings
Category Editor Member
Cabins 3.5 4.0
Dining 4.0 4.0
Entertainment 3.5 3.5
Public Rooms 4.0 4.2
Fitness Recreation 4.5 3.8
Family 3.5 3.8
Shore Excursion 4.0 3.5
Enrichment 5.0 3.5
Service 5.0 4.2
Value For Money 4.0 3.8
Rates 4.0 3.9

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