217 Holland America Volendam Cruise Reviews

Our 'gap year' had to wait until we were three score years and ten. Sydney to Vancouver on the Holland America line ship Volendam in April & May 2010 was a part of our 'gap year' world cruise, Southampton UK to ... Read More
Our 'gap year' had to wait until we were three score years and ten. Sydney to Vancouver on the Holland America line ship Volendam in April & May 2010 was a part of our 'gap year' world cruise, Southampton UK to Southampton UK, but it was a world tour including cruising that we researched, saved for at least three years plus, booked and enjoyed more than words can express - but I'll try. We were away from home for nearly six months and missed the worst British winter since 1947. It involved P&O, Holland America, Canadian Railways and Cunard and just one short airflight - the least we could get away with. But this section, reviewed here, was through the Pacific Ocean visiting many islands and it was the the cruising highlight of the whole trip. Why? In a word - the people. The crew and passengers. The welcome at Sydney, on arrival on board, was exceptional. My wife uses a wheeled 'walker' to assist her (she has spine problems) and on spotting this a member of staff was assigned to take us to our cabin, an unprepossessing 'ocean view' with no balcony but certainly 25% larger in length and width than similar cruise ships. We might have expected this level of service if we had been travelling in a suite but we were travelling with the hoi polloi and this extra welcoming support was greatly appreciated. The cabins on HA ships are apparently all larger than you might expect from other shipping lines and we were made to feel not just welcome but valued guests. This was our first HA ship so we knew we did not have a confidential record in the purser's office that some regular travellers have - and even unworthily boast about over dinner. Despite that, flowers decorated the cabin, chocolates snuggled up to the ice bucket to prevent them melting and a bottle or two of sparklers wrapped in Irish linen napkins begged us to open them. Our cabin attendants, one male, one female paid us a visit without any implication that we should offer them a tip. In fact they already knew that we had opted for the per diem rate and thanked us in advance for our kindness. The ship's departure was scheduled for two days hence so we had the luxurious delight of having a waterfront cabin overlooking the iconic Sydney harbour bridge and two days of refined service without any sea-movement beneath our feet. We made the most of it taking harbour trips and a visit to Sydney zoo where a baby elephant had just been born to worldwide media acclaim. Earlier we had sailed from the Panama Canal down through many pacific islands but had to miss some that had been planned due to the Captain running ahead of a tropical storm. The journey northwards to Vancouver however was less threatening and more relaxing. We have come to expect gently falling standards of service and food on long cruises as particular food items run out, some with unexpected irony. For example we ran out of oranges in Floridian waters, bananas in the Caribbean and fish in the largest ocean in the world but that's cruising for you. On the Volendam however excellence persisted throughout. We visited Noumea after 3 days at sea, a very French culture with "15 colours and creeds", we were told. We went ashore under own steam to save funds and found the protestant cathedral at the top of a hill that was well worth a visit. Next came Ils Des Pins' french Polynesian culture. We only had two hours ashore but beautiful beaches and warm seas cried out for a longer stay. Port Vila Vanuatu was interesting but the town was 5 Kms from the port and the humidity drove us back to the ship early in a taxi without air conditioning. Two days at sea and Lautaka followed. There the policemen wore national Fijian uniforms of white skirts with pointed hems - and that was only the men - oddly the women officers wore trousers. Such a friendly and colourful place with seemingly everyone smiling. We sent parcels and cards from the tiny post office and they ALL arrived safely. Dravinu Island came and went as the weather prevented safe tendering ashore and we sailed onto Suva where the greeting on everyone's lips was 'BULA' or even BULA BULA to add emphasis. Certainly a place to return to ... one day! After crossing the international date line we arrived at Apea in Samoa. We visited author Robert Louis Stevenson's house organised by HA. It cost $US59 each and was very good value. We left the ship at 8.20am in gaily decorated buses with wooden slatted seats that played havoc with less upholstered bums. Fresh coconut drinks were served and the tour guides gave thoughtful and well researched information in the house and about his many books. We returned in time for one of Volendam's finest afternoon teas. Five days at sea found us in Ohau in the Hawaiian Islands docked at the fine port of Honolulu. We have previously visited the island and the Pearl Harbor experience so we indulged in some retail therapy. The oldest inhabited island in the archipelago is Kauai and its capital Nawiliwili which produced many a snigger from those who had that turn of mind. It's a beautiful island with no high rise building and a real sense of what Hawaii must have been like when the settlers first arrived. Maui came next and the town of Lahaina, so beautiful but suffering economically as the demand for sugar cane is decreasing. A remarkably large banyan tree, the world's largest, covers the whole of the town square and free buses, with guides, transfer you to beaches and resorts. Hilo is the place to share a taxi with friends for a tour that is half the price charged by HA if you don't want to do the live volcano. It's the insurance costs that pump the price up apparently. We saw the botanical gardens, a coffee roasting plant and the Rainbow Falls - who needs to see a volcano? Another five days at sea and we landed at Vancouver. The sea days some people dread in case there's nothing to do, but on the Volendam we were spoilt for choice. Uniquely in my experience we had creative writing and daily play readings with a group of cruising thespians led by arguably the most professional and enthusiastic cruise director and entertainments manager, Anthony Choice. Inevitably he has been promoted to bigger ships in the line now. The musicians on board were excellent, particularly the dance trio whose bass player hailed from a village just a couple of miles from where we live in the British midlands. It's a small world. As with all artists the stage shows were like the proverbial curate's egg, good in parts. An English singer and impressionist er 'doing' Neil Diamond should never have left British shores and an appalling American comedian with arguably the bluest and most lavatorial repertoire deserved to be put ashore earlier than he was. But the group of touring players and dancers were wonderful. The highlight of the entertainment was, in our view, the presentations by the staff from the Philippines and Indonesia. They got and deserved their standing ovations. The Volendam is a very pretty ship and will be even prettier after its scheduled refit later this year. The crew were impressive and a particular tribute must be paid to the First Officer who hosted a question and answer session about the ship in a determined effort to improve an already excellent level of cruising service. The email systems were just as bad as the Queen Mary's but we all have an unrealistic expectation of what can be delivered mid-ocean but technology will improve but probably not fast enough for our Internet appetites. Shopping aboard was an improvement upon the British run franchises if only because there was less 'tat' on offer but perhaps this was a reflection of a well-heeled clientele. Entry into US territory has become a punishment rather than a pleasure when dealing with their immigration service. We felt sorry both for the officers themselves with their unsmiling rituals to perform and the passengers. Disembarkation is always a poignant experience but we found ourselves assisted to the gangways and the shores of Vancouver with a generosity of spirit that made us really want to return to be served by our splendid Volendam dining room stewards who seemed to work 24 hours a day every day. They even made our departing breakfast a meal to remember. Oh happy Volendam days. Read Less
Sail Date April 2010
We arrived in Sydney 5 nights prior to getting on the Volendam. I booked 5 nights at the Four Points Darling Harbor by Sheraton. The room was available for us when we arrived at 10AM. It as a nice room facing the harbor. The rate included ... Read More
We arrived in Sydney 5 nights prior to getting on the Volendam. I booked 5 nights at the Four Points Darling Harbor by Sheraton. The room was available for us when we arrived at 10AM. It as a nice room facing the harbor. The rate included a breakfast buffet which was excellent. That night there was a lot of noise, slamming room doors and kids talking. I reported it to the front desk and said they'd change our room later that day, if we put our belongings together. They did so, and put us on an upper executive floor including champagne and chocolates. We no longer had any difficulty with noise. We loved Sydney, bought the Red Bus On and Off ticket and began to explore. We took the Opera House tour which was exceptional. We went toBondi Beach for lunch, went to the Sunday Market at the Rocks and Paddy's Market to buy Uggs for the grandchildren. The only negative part on Sydney was the cost of dinners which could be at least $90.USD without wine. We saw La Traviata at the opera house and Wicked the musical, which we had missed in the states, both were exceptional. We embarked at the ship about noon and stood on line for a while since it was quite busy. It was hot and humid in Sydney that day so that made the line seem longer. We got on board and went for a great lunch at the Lido Buffet. It was excellent and continued to be so for the 14 days. Another thing I liked is that there was a grill out at the pool and you could get burgers, pizza or tacos and Free ice cream all day. My husband and I have been on at least a dozen cruises and this was the first where the bar waiters didn't ask you a hundred times if you wanted a drink. They were also not pushy in the photo studio, except I think the prices were a bit high there. We had Free Style dining and always sat at a different table with 6-8 other people. It was great getting to know so many others. I am on a low salt diet and the dining room gave me the next days menu each night to choose what I wanted so they could prepare it specially. It was all delicious. We ate breakfast and lunch at the Lido and although it was crowed we always seemed to find a spot and share a table. We only took 2 shore excursions with HAL. The first was in Melbourne, Kangaroos and Koalas in the Wild. It was 4 hours, and we did see them. the second was when we disembarked in Auckland. We went on a City excursion and then had free time in the city for lunch and shopping. They had a Large room at a hospitality center where ther was plenty of coffee and tea. Again, everything was very well organized. When we arrived at the airport a truck arrived with all our luggage. In Dunedin I arranged a tour with Mark of Awesome Tours which was a great day. He was very friendly and knowledgeable. $165.pp.NZD In Christchurch I had booked The Inside Story with Terry Thompson. It was supposed to be a half day tour, but he spent 5-6 hours with us to be sure we saw all of his city. In Tauranga, we booked Carlton Tours #145.ppNZD and went to Te Puia, it too was an excellent day where we learned a tremendous amount about NZ and it's culture. I would recommend all of these operators. They were at the dock waiting for us in the morning and got us back to the ship in plenty of time to sail. For those afraid to take a private excursion, the reviews I heard at dinner about the HAL tours were excellent. All the other ports we took the ship's shuttle into town and did our own thing. The entertainment on board was good, My husband even sat with me and didn't ditch me and go to the casino. The casino and gift shop employees were very friendly and accommodating, without being pushy. All in all it was a wonderful cruise and we will definitely book another in the near future. From the beautiful fresh flowers everywhere,the 2 for 1 happy hour each night, large comfortable clean cabin and bathroom, exceptional dining and staff, our cruise was wonderful. The ship was immaculate and all the staff warm and friendly. The only problem was we packed too many clothes and the weather was a bit too hot and humid for me! Read Less
Sail Date February 2010
My wife and I just returned from 19 days in Australia and New Zealand, 14 of which were visiting various ports via the Volendam. Sydney is truly a beautiful city largely due to its spectacular harbor. It exudes some of the natural scenic ... Read More
My wife and I just returned from 19 days in Australia and New Zealand, 14 of which were visiting various ports via the Volendam. Sydney is truly a beautiful city largely due to its spectacular harbor. It exudes some of the natural scenic attributes of San Francisco, without the 7 hills and the weather and beaches of Los Angeles (with higher humidity). We didn't visit any of the beach communities as we live one mile from the Pacific Ocean in Los Angeles county, but we did take the very worthwhile Captain Cook's 2 hour coffee cruise (10 am-12 noon). This and attending the opera Tosca at the architecturally stunning opera house were the highlights of our 2 1/2 days in Sydney. The congeniality of the Australians was the other highlight. We stayed at the Ibis King's Wharf- a very modern, clean, nonsmoking hotel with an excellent staff. The rooms are small (typical of most European hotel chains), but very comfortable for our stay with great much needed air conditioning. On the day of our embarkation, the hotel manager hailed a cab, negotiated a fair price, and put are suitcases into the trunk. Our room on the Volendam was on the main deck, standard outside room, slightly forward of mid ship. It was very clean, spacious and quiet with all the amenities of a Marriott hotel (where we usually stay)and exceptional cabin stewards, Mojo and Sabar. Of the four cruises we have taken, with 3 different cruise line over a period of 30 years they were the best cabin stewart we have had thus far. The service and the food in the Lido, where we had almost all breakfasts and lunches and at least a third of our dinners, was excellent. The lack of trays was actually a good idea resulting in less wasted food and better sanitary. There were also plenty of staff waiting to assist and the food servers and cooks were great. The main dining room had the same food though presented differently, with of course somewhat slower service, but still excellent. All staff work very hard to provide this level of service. I sometimes feel guilty watching them and also extended a sincere thank to all for their efforts. The $11/day gratuity is minimal for the amount and quality of work of the cruise staff. The front desk staff and guest manager were great, some of them even knowing us by name. One time we needed our door lock repaired and another time our room safe opened and they took care of it almost straight away. We would most gladly book another cruise with HAL with an itinerary which appeals to our interests. Read Less
Sail Date February 2010
This was our second cruise after a 7 nighter a year ago with Royal Caribbean. Our children are 4 and 7 and were very excited about another cruise. I'll focus on the experience of cruising with kids in this review. We got to Circular ... Read More
This was our second cruise after a 7 nighter a year ago with Royal Caribbean. Our children are 4 and 7 and were very excited about another cruise. I'll focus on the experience of cruising with kids in this review. We got to Circular Quay about 2ish. Getting on the ship was totally painless, went through the formalities etc and got our passports checked (for the one and only time the whole cruise!). We were on the ship within half an hour easily and headed up to the Lido for the first of many fabulous meals. We had an outside cabin on Deck 2. It was bigger than the one on Rhapsody of the Seas although it is still a bit of a squeeze for four people. The sofa was made into a single bed (the steward made it every day but did not turn it back into a sofa) and the other bed was above our bed and was pulled down each night. The curtain between the lounge and the bed area is only about 1m wide on each side so not quite sure what that was for, you couldn't pull it all the way across. The window was nice and big and I liked the position of the cabin (2696) because it was only 3 cabins from the aft of the ship, where there is a little deck so you could easily get out there to check the weather in the mornings. It was however very noisy, there is some sort of infrastructure below it and it was very noisy the mornings we were coming in to port. It didn't bother us too much, at first the children were awake anyway then in the second week (when they had been staying up later) they were used to it I think so they slept through it and I was the only one who woke. Something to consider with cabins in this area if you like to sleep in. The first night they had a BBQ around the aft pool as we sailed out of Sydney Harbour - was delicious and a wonderful way to start the cruise. We booked this sailing because I knew that even though HAL usually has an older crowd I thought there would be a lot of kids on board because it was Australian school holidays (January). I was right about this - there were over 200 (mostly Australian) children on board. They flew in extra counsellors for Club HAL and it all seemed to work, although it was pretty crowded in there some days as the rooms are not that big. As the captain said the children were 99% well behaved, there were a few issues (kids jumping into the pool mostly I think - it is hard for a kid to resist jumping into a pool but most managed) but hopefully not enough to ruin anyone's holiday. I bet Alex the ice cream man was glad to see the fortnight come to an end though, he was very popular! He was always so patient while my four year old deliberated about which flavour she would have every time she ordered. We found all the staff excellent with the children, especially getting on and off tenders where they were very safety conscious and careful with the kids. There was an information session for people with kids on the second sea day letting people know about safety issues on the ship and in ports and setting out the rules which I thought was an excellent idea. I thought the set up with the pools was great as the main pool was very busy and full of kids - the water was getting pretty murky by the end of the cruise - but the aft pool was there as a quieter option (I assume it was quiet out there, it was the one time I went out there when my children were in kids club). The main pool had the roof that closed over in bad weather - fantastic the two afternoons it rained. We spent a lot of time here, enjoying the pool, the live music, the delicious ice cream, smooth seas and good weather. I was a bit worried about the kids club at first as the age groups are a lot wider than on Royal Caribbean so my 7 year old son was one of the oldest in his group which included 3 year olds. The program is not as scheduled as RCCL either with activities only listed every 30 mins instead of every 15 minutes. That being said however both mu kids loved it, my son wasn't sure at first but on about the 3rd day I asked what was happening at Club Hal that night and he said "it doesn't matter mum they make everything fun". So after that I stopped worrying and they went to kids club (at least for a little while) probably 11 out of the 14 nights and occasionally during the sea days. In terms of HAL being family friendly we felt that they really made an effort with this cruise to make the families feel welcome and ran special events such as the family disco night, family carnival afternoon by the pool etc and we really liked these activities that we could all do together and appreciated they went to this effort. However it was clear that it was an unusual situation and I wouldn't expect this if I booked any other sailing - the one before had about 25 kids, the one after 11. This date and itinerary were definitely family friendly and it was great for us. The other way in which this cruise must have been a bit different for HAL is that this demographic must drink more than the usual HAL crowd. The second time we went to the Pinnacle Grill we couldn't have the Resiling we ordered - our waiter told us that most of the "lower end" wines were sold out around the ship and they only had more expensive ones left, although he found us another wine and we were charged a cheaper price than the one we originally wanted so that was fine. We then found out a couple of the bars only had light beer left, and some brands of spirits were sold out. This was really surprising as I thought people weren't drinking much, there weren't many mums having a cocktail around the pool in the afternoon, and I certainly didn't see any drunk people (except one Karaoke singer) although I guess I was usually in our cabin relatively early. However we did notice that whenever we had dinner with Americans they would only have iced water while we had a glass of wine, so I guess it is just a cultural difference. It was certainly not a wild party cruise, but bar takings must have been above average; no wonder Australia is getting more ships: higher fares plus higher bar takings must equal happy cruiseline. We had open seating for dinner which we loved. We never made reservations but never had to wait, we got there any time between 6:30 and 7:45 and we weren't fussy about what size table we had, except one night we sat with another family and requested a table of 8 which we were seated at straight away. Some nights we ordered room service for the kids and we ate after kids club started, other nights we ate as a family, some night we just stayed at the pool and had an early dinner up there (fantastic burgers). We loved not having to be at dinner at a certain time or feeling committed about where we were going to eat most nights and felt like we had enough choices that we didn't get bored in two weeks. We had dinner at the Pinnacle Grill twice, it was very nice but I didn't think it was that much better than the main dining room. If you have children make your reservations for after 7:15 as Club Hal doesn't open until 7. Both nights we were booked there for 6:30 and couldn't change it so the first night we took them and they had ice cream while we had our starter, the next week one of the staff from the front desk came to our room and sat with them for half an hour then took them up to kids club. The food generally was extremely good and was one of the outstanding parts of the cruise for us. The entertainment wasn't as family friendly as RCCL, I probably would have enjoyed some of the shows such as the Chinese instrument player and Katzenjammer more if I hadn't been trying to watch them with children but if they weren't sitting quietly we would leave as we didn't want to bother anyone so saw only the start of quite a few of the shows. On RCCL the kids enjoyed most of the shows. On this cruise we loved the juggler though (James Bustar) and a couple of the production numbers, considering they are catering to such a diverse audience I thought the entertainment was a good mix. We loved the Captain, he really seemed to care whether people were having a good "vacation" or not, and our whole family has better hand washing practices after two weeks of regular reminders! Overall the whole family had a great time, and all agree we would definitely sail HAL again. This doesn't look likely though as changes to booking rules so that we can't use US agents mean we'd pay a lot more than we did for this one, and I don't think we'll want to do that. We'll have to see what happens as we'd love to do it again. Read Less
Sail Date January 2010
This was our first trip to New Zealand and our first cruise, and it was a wonderful vacation. Our experience was A+ on every level. The crew of the Volendam made our vacation very special, the service was outstanding. I consider myself a ... Read More
This was our first trip to New Zealand and our first cruise, and it was a wonderful vacation. Our experience was A+ on every level. The crew of the Volendam made our vacation very special, the service was outstanding. I consider myself a very tough consumer, and I was very pleased on this cruise. Please keep in mind that this was our first cruise, so this review might seem rather elementary to seasoned cruisers. We had a verandah room, and we were greeted every day with a beautiful view. If you are able to spring for a balcony room, you will not be disappointed. *We were very fortunate to have booked via a HAL email with discounted pricing, otherwise we could never had afforded it. We were traveling with our 2 youngest (teenaged) sons, and we were able to pay only $399 for the second boy. The kids had an interior cabin on the dolphin deck. I am certain that he ate more than $399 in food alone from the buffet. :) We did find that the dolphin deck smelled strongly of mildew, at least in the port side hall. Our cabin and dining stewards treated us like royalty on a daily basis. We could not have asked for more. We just cannot say enough about the staff, every interaction was genuinely pleasant. We never waited in line for anything, seating was readily available everywhere we went, and disembarkations were cleanly organized and easy. The only issue we encountered was getting the HAL airport shuttle to and from the airport. (This is an additional fee). This was highly disorganized, a few of these senior cruisers are really pushy. Once on the shuttle, all was well, but getting on the shuttle was difficult. No big deal, in the grand scheme of things. Most people were pleasant. We found the Rotterdam Dining Room to be elegant and tasty. We also dined once in the Pinnacle Grill, which is an additional fee. I recommend trying it at least once, and you can make your reservation prior to sailing. It was just a notch above the Rotterdam. I am gluten free, and HAL did a fantastic job for me. The Rotterdam gave me a daily menu in advance, so that they could be prepared for me at dinner. HAL also allows you to pre order gluten free breads and pasta free of charge prior to sailing, so they can order them for the cruise. I was fed gluten by mistake at the Pinnacle Grill, even though I asked twice about an ingredient. But mistakes do happen, and the dining service was impeccable for the remainder of the cruise, they were very diligent. This was really refreshing. On the ship, only iced tea, coffee and water are included in your meal. If you want soda or wine, consider buying a discounted soda or wine card in advance from HAL, it will give you a discount. The wine card is only good for the house wines. You can also bring your own wine onto the ship for your use. Many people have noted in reviews that the ship is starting to look "dated" or a little drab, but truthfully, it was fine. On par with any other hotel handling 1440 people a day. We enjoyed the library/ internet cafe, where we found the staff to be really helpful, patient and kind. They rent DVD's and books for the cruise as well. We also visited the casino, which is small but more than adequate for the ship. We enjoyed the dealers very much. We did visit the spa several times, and found it to be pleasant. It can be a little pricey, like many other spas, but there will be specials throughout the cruise. Also, the gift shop usually has a sale at the end of the cruise, so try to hold off on purchases. Ask the retail folks if there is an upcoming sale, they will usually tell you. You can also purchase internet access/ wifi from the ships plan, and they also run specials. It is a little pricey, but better than nothing. Do not plan on using this service for downloading pictures or big files, it is slower that your home connections, naturally. But it is fine for basic email and sending some pictures home. Again, the staff here was wonderfully patient. You can also read daily NY Times excerpts for free online in the internet cafe. The ship does have laundry facilities with ironing boards and irons, but some days it got crowded and pushy, and after my first go round I caved in and just had the ship's laundry do the wash. It is $20 per bag of laundry, or $96 for laundry service for the full cruise. The washers are $2,dryers $1, although I found a washer that was only $1. HAL provides soap free of charge. There is also a clothesline in every stateroom shower/ tub for delicates and swimwear, etc. The ship's laundry service did a great job for us, we had no worries. We only did 2 of the lesser priced shore excursions thru HAL, as they are VERY expensive. We found the HAL excursions to be very well organized on every level. We were fortunate to have arranged many activities online independently prior to sailing. We found this to be much more reasonably priced, and we were able to pay in NZD, which is a better deal. We hired a private driver guide in both Christchurch and Rotorua (Tauranga) This was a VERY economical alternative to the ship excursions, as you pay per CAR, not per person, and it is a fraction of the HAL pricing. Our guides were both long term Kiwis who had extensive knowledge of all things NZ, and took us to some great places that we would never have had time to visit with a big bus ship excursion. Plus, we controlled the timeline. We also found that many attractions have a family discount, especially during their summer holiday. Many websites will also offer you an online discount. Doing a little homework will save you some serious $. For example, HAL wanted over $800usd for 4 of us to ride the beautiful Taieri Gorge Railway. We booked directly with Taieri online and paid $172nzd. Here is the difference: HAL trip picks you up at ship. We took the free shuttle to and from the ship, which dropped us off just several blocks ( an easy walk) from the train station. And the HAL train car served wine and a small snack. I can buy a lot of wine with my extra $600. And our tour actually went further, and we were able to eat lunch in the tiny town of Middlemarch mid-ride. So for our family, it was an easy decision. We liked all the ports, but we were really sad that we did not have the opportunity for a day trip in Milford Sound, as it is breathtaking. There is a tender stop here, but only for a specific overnight shore excursion. The ship provided commentary on nature and notable sights while cruising, and we found it very interesting. They would also review upcoming ports in the Frans Hals Lounge, we found these to be helpful and informative. We did not attend any shows, but heard many good comments from others who did. The showroom was very nice and had good visibility. We played bingo in there, and actually won on several occassions. It was actually rather fun, I must admit. The gym is well equipped and included in the pricing. Specialty classes are extra. There is a lovely teak promenade deck for walking or lounging, which was very enjoyable on the nice days. We also did some serious stair climbing to help us stay in shape, but there are 3 elevator bays conveniently located throughout the ship. Very accessible. The ship has two small plain vanilla pools, one is uncovered on the back of the ship, the other is in a semi covered portion of the Lido, with a glass roof that opens. Both pools are in close proximity to food and bars. There are several lovely lounges, many with some sort of musical entertainment. In our opinion, there seemed to be plenty of things to do on the ship if you really wanted to, at least for our 2 week cruise. Our kids got a little bored at the end, as to be expected. There were not many kids on board, maybe 15 max, and we hardly ever saw them. I did get the feeling that some of the senior cruisers were not overly thrilled at having ANY children of board, and you could sense it. All the kids we did see were well behaved. The only bad behavior we saw was from pushy adults. The cruise prior to us had over 250 children on board. Beds...these were hands down the best beds we have ever slept in while on vacation. We slept very well on them, which is highly unusual for us.We were stocked with plenty of pillows too. We also found the rooms to be quiet, with the exception of a next door neighbor who seemed to always be slamming his doors. The only serious issue we had on the cruise is that the kid's interior cabin, #1944 reeked horribly of cigarette smoke, as clearly the last passenger was chain smoking in the room, which is technically not allowed. HAL should really have caught this sooner, as it was overwhelming. They did work to try and eradicate the stench at our request, but there is only so much you can do. They did endeavor twice to fumigate, and at our urging they changed the curtains on the faux window. The cruise was sold out, so there was no other room avail, and we did not have an extra bed in ours or we would have moved them. All their clothes and suitcases stunk. Some of the hallways on the ship also smelled heavily of smoke, which we deduced was coming from workrooms for some of the crew. It was really overwhelming, but we are non-smokers who are probably more aware. It sounds like HAL is considering doing away with all smoking except for some outdoor deck areas, which would thrill us immensely. Right now, they allow smoking in the casino and some of the interior lounges, which really surprised us. I will say that HAL was very kind about following up on the room after several days, which I thought was a nice touch. All in all, we really enjoyed our trip and this cruise. If we were to choose to cruise again, I would rebook on the Volendam without hesitation. We heartily recommend this ship and the outstanding service we received. And we doubt that we will ever see any other place in the world that we will enjoy more than the scenery and the people of New Zealand. Port 2 is Christchurch, a truly a garden city. We toured with Craig Rome, our private guide. Crag showed us the many beautiful sights of Christchurch, Canterbury, the Avon river, the many botanical gardens and churches, and the beautiful and lively town square. He also toured us around the peninsula. Craig made the most of our one day in town, and we could have never have seen all of the sights without him at the helm. He also indulged some of our individual requests for things like vintage bookstores and antique stores. He gave us a fantastic overview of the history of the area. Hiring an independent guide can be a really economical way to tour the area, as they charge per car, not per person. Rotorua (Tauranga) is by far our most favorite place in New Zealand, and we are already planning to return again. We toured with Grumpy's Limo, and we thoroughly enjoyed it. Again, much cheaper than a HAL shore excursion,and it was tailored to us. Our guide had great recommendations, and was able to take us to many more places than ever would have been possible with a group tour. We loved the Buried Village, Wai O Tomo, and the Agrodome/ Agroventures. He toured us through the volcano covered region of 14 lakes. Grumpy would have toured us until midnight if we let him, but WE were too tired, ha ha. It was amazingly beautiful. Napier was another favorite of ours. This beach front art deco town was charming in every way. We took the "Duck boat" tour, which was fun and enjoyable, with great hosts. It gave us a great overview of the town. Read Less
Sail Date January 2010
First, I would like to mention that the Aussies & Kiwis are the nicest, friendliest and most outgoing people in the world! This review is for the MS Volendam which left December 20, 2009 from Auckland, NZ and disembarked in Sydney, ... Read More
First, I would like to mention that the Aussies & Kiwis are the nicest, friendliest and most outgoing people in the world! This review is for the MS Volendam which left December 20, 2009 from Auckland, NZ and disembarked in Sydney, AUS on January 6, 2010 (17 Nights). We visited 11 ports (including Auckland) plus scenic cruising of the While Island Volcano and Milford Sound. We had an early arrival at Auckland airport, around 5 AM and you can't board the ship until around 11:30 AM. We wanted to see Auckland, but were having some trouble locating anyone to take us around for 2 hours. Then I found http://www.tourauckland.co.nz/ on the Internet. It's Roger & Lorraine of Auckland and we made arrangements with them to meet us at the port. They were a lovely couple who took us around in their car and we felt like they were our family. We highly recommend them!!! The Volendam: This is an older ship in great condition. This is the first cruise (been on 15 +) that really felt like a vacation. The Lido Buffet for breakfast had little or no lines and no problem finding a table. That was really a relaxing way to start the day. In the lounges, or by the pool, or in the showroom, they didn't keep bothering you about drinks. Service in the Dining Room & Lido Buffet was excellent. The Volendam had lots of NO SUGAR ADDED desserts and they were REALLY TASTY! Each Night at Dinner there was ONE NO SUGAR ADDED dessert selection as well as TWO flavors of NO SUGAR ADDED Ice Cream. We took the Ship's excursions which were all good and there were no problems except for a rough tender back from Half Moon Bay. New Zealand & Australia are simply AWESOME & BREATHTAKING. Plus they are full of lovely, helpful people who seem to love to have guests. The Scenic cruising of the White Island Volcano and Milford Sound were extraordinary!! We, of course, attended the Cruise Critic Meet & Greet and met lots of lovely people. We did have VERY ROUGH seas after leaving Milford Sound on the Tasman Sea. It lasted about 10 hours. Glasses were flying off the table and chairs moving around in the Lounge. My Wife and I both became seasick. I got her meds at the Front Desk, the next morning, and she was fine by lunch time, just very sleepy. Christmas & New Years Eve were celebrated on board. Holland America went ALL OUT for New Years Eve. Party Hats & Tiaras were given to each guest. There was free champagne, Noise makers, horns & streamers. In the show lounge they had thousands of balloons tied up with netting and released them at New Years. That was a really great party. Some Extras: There were several coin operated washing machines & dryers on 4 or the decks. The pool had a sliding glass cover. There were 2 Chocolate buffets. The bathrooms had bathtubs. The Public Bathrooms were spotless and had lovely tile work. Plus there were rolled up washcloths to dry your hands with. (A very nice touch). Holland America also had FREE computer classes and some FREE cooking demonstrations. The embarkation procedure moved along quickly. The disembarkation procedure was really relaxing. No calling out colors or numbers. You just show up at the appointed time and no line whatsoever. The Australian authorities had been on board while we were at sea and took care of all paper work. Again, Holland America's scheduling resulted in this being a relaxing, no long lines procedure. Sydney Airport: We had a little time until our flight and found this sit down take out restaurant. (Trattoria Prego) Italian Food in Australia cooked by Asian Cooks?? We are from New York City so we know good Italian food. This food was simply great!!! If you're flying Qantas or Air New Zealand you're in for a wonderful (but a little long) experience. Read Less
Sail Date December 2009
We decided to have a really relaxing Christmas and escape cooking the turkey etc., cruising in 'our own backyard' seemed to fit the bill nicely. Home to the port was a breeze as we live only 30 minutes north of Auckland, ... Read More
We decided to have a really relaxing Christmas and escape cooking the turkey etc., cruising in 'our own backyard' seemed to fit the bill nicely. Home to the port was a breeze as we live only 30 minutes north of Auckland, embarkation was quick and easy and we were onboard in time for the Mariners Lunch in the Main Dining Room. Our first impression of the Volendam was the dim lighting in both public areas and cabins but we soon got used to it, secondly the ship is looking a little tired in places but in no way did we let the fact spoil our enjoyment. Our cabin was oceanview, midships on Deck 1 (Dolphin Deck), my husband is prone to seasickness so the lower down the ship the better for him. The cabin was very quiet but in a handy position with only a short walk to the lifts. It was spotlessly clean, very roomy with plenty of storage space, wonderful comfy beds and we were very happy with it. By choice we had fixed early dining which was at 5.45pm, this was a mistake as we found it to be too early especially on port days when it was a huge rush to get spruced up. We could have changed to Open Seating dining or the Lido but we had such great table companions we didn't want to desert them. We ate breakfast everyday in the main dining room also lunch on sea days, found both menus to be good except for the Kippered Herrings at breakfast, never again!! Only ate lunch at the Lido a couple of times, plenty of variety and we did not encounter long lines. Overall our opinion of the food in the MDR was mostly very good, tasty and well cooked with plenty of choices. We did eat one night in the Pinnacle Grill, it was very enjoyable but frankly we're not sure what all the fuss is about. The evening entertainment in the Frans Hal lounge was okay, but somewhat repetative with most, if not all, acts coming from Australia - not a New Zealand act in sight!! The Christmas Day celebrations were excellent with Santa arriving and all the children getting a present also New Years Eve was a fun night kicking off in the Crows Nest at 9pm then moving down to the Frans Hall lounge at 11.30pm where the champagne was flowing and the party really began to see in the New Year. Our fellow cruisers were a mixed bunch with many Americans onboard and we met some great people and had lots of laughs. The crew and staff were excellent especially our waiters in the MDR, always had a smile and nothing was too much trouble. We did have a bit of bother with the Front Desk with amounts charged to our onboard account that were nothing to do with us, this took several trips to the Front Desk and some heated discussion before the amounts were removed - so beware and check your account very carefully. Even though we were cruising in New Zealand we enjoyed all the ports and cruising in Milford Sound, the weather was pretty cold in the south of New Zealand and once we left Stewart Island we had heavy swells before the Sounds and crossing the Tasman was definitely rocky with a number of people being ill, thankfully we were okay. The highlight had to be sailing into Sydney at 5.30AM, rounding the Heads and seeing the Harbour Bridge and the Opera House in the distance with the sun coming up - magic. All in all we had a great trip, and are already planning our next cruise on the Volendam. Read Less
Sail Date December 2009
Background DH and I have cruised on several other lines including Holland America Lines. This was our second cruise with HAL. We decided to try a midsize ship again after two previous cruises on smaller ships. We've cruised the ... Read More
Background DH and I have cruised on several other lines including Holland America Lines. This was our second cruise with HAL. We decided to try a midsize ship again after two previous cruises on smaller ships. We've cruised the Aegean, the Mediterranean, transited the Panama Canal, one transatlantic crossing and the Caribbean. This would be our first cruise in the southern hemisphere. We used our local travel agent. Travel To Port of Embarkation We flew on V Australia from LAX via Melbourne to Auckland, New Zealand. The flight was good, except our Melbourne connection was delayed due to the crew not advising all passengers the correct location to pick up their boarding passes. LAX couldn't issue our connecting passes even though it was Pacific Blue, another part of Virgin. That was the only glitch. Hotel Info (if any) We arrived 3 days prior to boarding the ship and stayed at the Hyatt Regency Auckland, with very nice accommodations and an excellent brunch in the mornings. The location was close enough to walk on foot to the Auckland Skytower and other downtown sights. Embarkation & Stateroom We arrived at the pier in a taxi and the staff tagged our luggage so we didn't have to use the thin paper tags we'd been given by HAL. This worked out beautifully. There was no actual line to board and the staff were swift and courteous in processing us. Our outside stateroom offered plenty of closet and storage space, better than I've found on any of our other cruises. The window over the bed required a bit of maneuvering on your knees to see everything outside. The bed was comfortable as was the high quality bedding. Our two cabin stewards kept things quite clean, were mostly invisible, but always friendly when we did see them. I found dried chewing gum on the sides of my expensive leather shoes upon returning from port and our steward Novie was able to clean them perfect as good as new in a matter of hours. Ship Info We found the TV offered cruise/shore excursion updates but we've experienced better on other ships. Standard info on the stateroom desk was adequate. We did the usual "new" passenger wandering to get our bearings. We appreciaed the elevator mats changed to state the day of the week as a gentle reminder. Dining Since we had "open" dining all our evening meals were on the lower floor of the Rotterdam dining room. Service 80% of the time was very good, 5% average, and 15% outstanding. We especially enjoyed the "theme" nights: once with the chefs and staff singing and marching into the dining room and, the other night was an Indonesian theme with costumes and beautiful Indonesian dEcor. Both Christmas and New Year's Eve had special presentation meals. The vegetables were often overcooked for our taste, otherwise, food preparation was very good to excellent. The variety was good. In comparison to our first HAL cruise years ago in the Caribbean we'd rate a big improvement in food quality. Activities I won a free hydro-wrap at the Spa, which was delightful. Service The staff were polite, friendly and sincere in their efforts to attend to our needs. We only ran into one server who seemed to rush us at the end of our dinner. Many times we were engaged in conversatio with staff who always had a cheerful attitude. Entertainment The International (crew and staff) Christmas Choir sang on Dec 24, a true delight. The New Year's Eve bash was quite fun with a huge balloon drop at midnight, champagne and fun hats and noisemakers. The ballroom was packed with plenty of good singing. During the rest of the evenings the ship singers and dancers were a mixed bag, but mostly very good with plenty of high energy and enthusiasm, which made up for one female singer who struggled with some material. One stand-out performer Aussie Annie Francis was fabulous. They all did a stand-up job when the ship ran into very rough seas. Port & Shore Excursions We booked three through the ship and all were better than we expected. In Tauranga we toured the Rotorua area, in Christchurch the High Country Explorer, and in Burnie, Tasmania the Wings Animal Park. We did walkabouts in the other ports, though both Gisborne and Oban at Stewart Island has little to see. Disembarkation Our tags were in our stateroom as expected on the last night aboard. The "silent" disembarkation was a nice change from past experiences on other lines. There weren't constant PA announcements of the time. Passengers left the ship at their designated times and we didn't experience any crowds. Free carts were available for our luggage, however the taxi line was quite a wait to our hotel. Summary This was our first Christmas/New Year's cruise and 1st time down under. The only difficulty was very rough seas while crossing the Tasman Sea and leaving Oban, Stewart Island, something unavoidable when you're on the high seas. We had a wonderful cruise. In regard to the ship and its crew and staff we'd give them an A+ overall, including our dear captain who kept reminding all of us to "wash your hands!" Read Less
Sail Date December 2009
My husband and I can not enough good about our recent Holland America Cruise on the MS Volendam. Yes the ship shows signs of age in spots, but the crew and the scenery of Alaska more than make up for it. This was our first cruise, and we ... Read More
My husband and I can not enough good about our recent Holland America Cruise on the MS Volendam. Yes the ship shows signs of age in spots, but the crew and the scenery of Alaska more than make up for it. This was our first cruise, and we will be back. The transport from VanCouver airport to the Port was flawless, the embarkation was easy. The buffet lunch that was waiting for us was wonderful. We did not get our luggage until after 7pm that night, but we had packed our carry ons with that in mind. We booked a balcony stateroom and were upgraded to midship. Unfortunately that was right over the Ocean's Bar, and we are light sleepers, but the band ended at a decent hour so we did not mind too much. The room had plenty of storage and our Steward did a great job once he learned our habits and likes. The food and entertainment the entire cruise were magnificent and far better than we expected. The ship's photographic staff is very talented and we ended up buying many more photos than we thought we would. Roland in the Explorer's cafe makes the best Spanish coffee we have ever tasted. We booked all of our port excursions through Holland America and we experienced the same level of service in each port. The Captain and the bridge crew are also to be commended, my husband is ex- Coast Guard and he was impressed with how easily the crew handled the ship. The down sides are very few, yes the stateroom looked worn, and we had many plumbing issues during the cruise, but each was resolved quickly. Disembarkation was very confusing because we had one of the early times. The staff sent us back and forth from the third deckto the second and back to the third deck several times, which never should have happened. Holland America booked our flights and the time between flights in Denver was way too short, luckily we made it, but with only seconds to spare. Also while the shopping seminars were good and informative and the maps very helpful, be careful of the "freebies" most stores had none left when we walked in and most the clerks were overbearing and gave the hard hard sell. I think Holland America could do a better job of keeping track of what is available and what is not. We were sad to leave, and wished the cruise would have been longer, which is the mark of a great voyage. The MS Volendam is a fine ship and the crew is one in a million. Thank you all for exceeding our expectations. Read Less
Sail Date September 2009
We left from Vancouver where we stayed overnight at the Fairmont Waterfront which is directly across from the pier at Canada Place. The Pan American Hotel is in the same location. The Fairmont is beautiful with wonderful service. There ... Read More
We left from Vancouver where we stayed overnight at the Fairmont Waterfront which is directly across from the pier at Canada Place. The Pan American Hotel is in the same location. The Fairmont is beautiful with wonderful service. There is also a food court right next door with a little shopping or if you need a snack from Subway, McDonald's, Tim Horton, etc. before you board. Holland picked up our bags from the hotel at 9 a.m., and we were allowed to stay in the room till the noon checkout time. There are things to do very close like shopping and dining. It is a safe, clean area with many walkers, joggers, business people and tourists. You can also watch the sea planes, the tugs, ships and fishermen. Our checkin took about 30 minutes as there were 2 ships checking in at the same time. The rooms weren't quite ready by 1:00, but there was plenty to eat on deck along with entertainment, and the rooms were ready by 1:30. If you need a hair dryer, bring one along with an extension cord for the bathroom. The ship's hair dryer has one temperature and one speed. There is only one plug in and it is not in the bathroom. The room was great, kept stocked with ice, towels, and service. The food was very good and varied with many kinds of vegetables, fruits, salads, pasta, Asian, American, sandwiches, desserts, etc. for all the meals in the Lido buffet. Breakfast is also varied from yogurt to omelets and oatmeal. In the dining room the food and service are greatit just takes a little longer to eat because it is served to you. There is something available to you 24 hours a day. In the Lido buffet, I saw a chef several times tasting up and down the line, and I saw the hotel manager overseeing things and checking for littered tables and dirt on wood railings. The crew was polite, jovial and always cleaning somewhere. The entertainment was better on this ship then the Holland cruise we took in 2008. The musical revue is a little dated, but the magician and comedian were very funny and worked clean which I appreciate. Be prepared for temperate rainforest climate. It rained and was foggy and about 55 degrees all week. Several locals told us that is the norm, and the warm weather they had experienced for a couple of weeks was not usual. We definitely needed layers when we saw the glaciers. Of course, you can watch from inside. Rangers came onboard and talked to us about what we were seeing at the glaciers. Captain Bos took time each day to talk to us about what we were passing and to slow way down and let us see the wildlife. Juneau is an interesting town, but for any of these ports be advised that if you have health or mobility problems, there is walking involved to get to the heart of the town. Ketchikan's shopping is right at the dock. At Juneau we went to Mendenhall Glacier and the Alaskan Salmon Bake. The glacier is a mile away from the viewing area, but it doesn't seem that far. The Salmon Bake was tasty and in a beautiful rainforest area. Skagway didn't have much going on, but it was nice to see how other people in remote areas live. We took the White Pass train up the mountain and the bus back and had a great ride gorgeous scenery. There were two very good restaurants two blocks from the dock that had tasty, fresh fish and seafood. It is a half mile walk to downtown. Shuttles are available for $2. Ketchikan is a lively little town where we saw the Lumberjack show. Those guys were great entertainment. There is much more shopping there. The only negative about the trip for me was that the diamonds and tanzanite and jewelry were pushed so much. I don't know who gets the money, but if you go to a shopping presentation onboard, that's the only thing they talk about. Lots of activities on board such as bingo, trivia, digital picture classes, bridge, talks about Alaska, music, dances, karaoke, areas to walk and play basketball, ping pong, swimming, library, computers available for pay, art, etc. Holland has buses available right at the gangway for excursions. No guesswork involved about where to go. The advantage to the ship-arranged excursions is that they are on time. Once a group who booked themselves at the port was a little late. Very late and you get left. Go to Alaska and enjoy Holland's service and knowledge of their ports. Read Less
Sail Date August 2009
Our parent's 50th anniversary was coming up and we (siblings) were actually arguing on weather we send them to Australia, have a surprise party or a cruise. We opted for the cruise and all 5 of us chipped in and booked a 7 day cruise ... Read More
Our parent's 50th anniversary was coming up and we (siblings) were actually arguing on weather we send them to Australia, have a surprise party or a cruise. We opted for the cruise and all 5 of us chipped in and booked a 7 day cruise from Vancouver to Alaska. Since I live overseas, I thought, since I' traveling all the way to Vancouver that I would go with them and have some alone time with them. What can I say? It was the absolutely best trip of our lives! We started out in our home town of Vancouver which was just so convenient. The check in system was flawless! We really didn't know what to expect so it was an adventure for all three of us. The ship was clean, the staff were friendly and always smiling which made it so much more special. My parents could not thank everyone enough for their kindness. The food variety was excellent and I was amazed at the selections available and different menus every day. We really didn't feel the need to make a reservation at the restaurant because we really looked forward to dining in the restaurant and being served by our friendly waiters and chit chat with our beautiful hostess. We enjoyed tea, scones & mini sandwiches on one of the days, which made for a beautiful change while sailing. Although it was raining in two ports of call (Juneau & Ketchikan) that didn't deter us from going out and seeing as much as we can in all 3 ports. Tracy Arm and Glacier Bay were amazing cruising spots. Unbelievable natural beauty that must be seen by everyone. I was a cruise skeptic until my experience, I just didn't know what really happens on cruises. I thought it would b boring on a ship and to plan a cruise never crossed my mind. I realize how wrong I was about cruising. Alaska was just an amazing experience and my advice to everyone is DO NOT WAIT UNTIL YOU RETIRE! I am planning to go again with my parents and friends from work next year. My advice to everyone is to take a good camera with you (I took over 1000 photos) and read HAL's website on how to pack and what to bring. I was fighting with my parent's about packing rain coats, sweaters & layering but they understood why when we started cruising in 9 degree weather in Tracy Arm and rain in Juneau & Ketchikan. I noticed that some people didn't and were rushing to stores to buy raincoats, which is just a hassle, so be prepared and bring everything HAL advises on their website. The informative seminars on board were really useful I suggest everyone attend these. I also really enjoyed the art auction, where I won a few prizes and purchased a collectors item gift for my brother. Always attend the little competitions and raffles they have because everyone is a winner on HAL! Read Less
Sail Date August 2009
My sister & I flew to Vancouver a few days ahead as we dont like to cut it close & it's 1 of ur favorite cities to visit.We always stay at the Hyatt,its nice and a small 5$ cab fare 5 minutes from the ship and less costly then ... Read More
My sister & I flew to Vancouver a few days ahead as we dont like to cut it close & it's 1 of ur favorite cities to visit.We always stay at the Hyatt,its nice and a small 5$ cab fare 5 minutes from the ship and less costly then the ones right next to the terminal.Everyone takes US dollars there by the way.Check in was easy after alittle confusion at the entrance as there was no sign advising if it was 1 line for all cruise ships or not.They were starting to check in around 10:45,and I believe after it all being a really easy boarding process, sitting in a nice little wait area bout 20 minutes or so we began to board around 11:30 or so and had lunch on lido deck in the buffet restaurant that was quite good.Cabins were ready around 2.Unfortunatly when we got to our cabin the bed configuration was all wrong and the air conditioning seemd to be messed up (the entire week) with warm air blowing all the time(& in other parts of the ship including the dining room as well,a major air conditioning issue through out the ship we were told).The one really bad thing we experienced on our trip was our cabin attendant,unfortunatley. We asked what was up with the bed thing,he said,"Oh I just now saw the request for the twin beds" ,and we think it shoudve been done before we got there. That first night he failed to clean the room and never stopped to do an evening turn down so we returned that night to a lavatory of wet towels and no clean ones. We waited about 1/2 hr around 1 am for them to arrive.During the week we repeatedly had to ask for towels,the air conditioning to be fixed, linens to be changed and extra towels,all requests were ignored until the 4th day out when we really had to speak up about it all.Funny last day we had to ask to have some comment cards left in the room as they were supposed to be left,guess he didnt want us writing anything up.The cabin was not as elegant or as large as we'd expected either.The atrium was small and not too elegant compared to others really but we liked the small size of the ship making it easy to get around, which is why chose this one. We really didnt care for the line up with 1 plate thing in the lido buffet restaurant. You had to get a plate, no trays, and go up to get what you wanted every time, and then be served. Sometimes the server gave small portions and the walkway behind was narrow and often got crowded with people walking into each other as they were passing by.Otherwise,the service and food was the best we've ever had on any cruise line to date.Bartenders and servers everywhere were the best.The captain was great. We liked the clean ship & restrooms and signs asking to wash hands everywhere,use towels on existing restrooms to grab door knob and to wash thorougly. There werent too many families with small childlen either. Whenever there were mammals to see hed announce where to look.We didnt go thru Tracy Arm because of some problems, I think lo visibility and ice so that was disappointing but nothing to be done understandably. Contrary to the first review and perhaps because we are in our 40-50's age range we found the shows lacking in quality and the bar/lounge areas other than Ocean Bar, more to the liking of people probably in their 70's up.We dont care for a bar with violins all night or a piano player that lacks some. They need 1 area with more contemporay music playing.The band in the disco wasnt the greatest and there never were many people up there.Otherwise the ports and scenery were outstanding altho some ports seem to have alot of rip off jewlery stores,and touristy stores mostly owned by cruise lines we were told. We thought Ketchikan had alot of pretentious and over exaggerated shows just for tourists and we prefer to see the nature and natural beauty of places.We went off ship and arranged our own individual tours for what we wanted at 1/2 the price of the ships. The getting on off the ship was really organized in all the ports and when the trip was over. We give this trip an 8 out of 10 because the carinn, great service,ship cleanliness and great food bypassed the bad service in our cabin. We had a good time and would probably use this line again and go a diferent route to see more of Alaska. Read Less
Sail Date July 2009
First, whoever does their "People Skills" training deserves a raise.  These are memorable, literally everyone strives to make your Cruise memorable and meaningful.  From housekeeping to the ships Captain Peter Boos on the ... Read More
First, whoever does their "People Skills" training deserves a raise.  These are memorable, literally everyone strives to make your Cruise memorable and meaningful.  From housekeeping to the ships Captain Peter Boos on the bridge - all sought to make everything 'just right'.  The cruise director works to make your trip a great time, and she is good at it.  From 50's-60's rock & roll night in the Crow's Nest  to a small string quartet in a quiet Ocean View Bar.  From Jugglers to magicians, from Broadway and stage productions by their cast to a little late night comedy (not too edgey, just risque) its all there.   The ship is 10 years old, well cared for and comfortable. The entertainment was good and well attended.  The small workshops, learning experiences, and displays were well done.  Dining was a production. Each course was perfectly executed.  The last night's "production" called the "Master Chef's Dinner" and extremely fun and entertaining.We thoroughly enjoyed the experience. Alaska itself is a pristine wilderness, however cruising in this ship allows you to see and experience coastal mountains, glaciers, and rugged beauty in comfort.Shoreline experience was exactly what you make of it - if you want shopping, it is there, if you want whale watching, it is there, if you want a motorcycle adventure it is there. Alaska and this cruise line were way more than we expected.        Read Less
Sail Date July 2009
Background Information. A cruise has been a dream for many years, and for many, dreams don't come true; so I'm fortunate that mine did! I'm single, 60, and was diagnosed with rheumatoid arthritis when I was 10 years old. ... Read More
Background Information. A cruise has been a dream for many years, and for many, dreams don't come true; so I'm fortunate that mine did! I'm single, 60, and was diagnosed with rheumatoid arthritis when I was 10 years old. Life has been a challenge and very unpredictable, due to long hospitalizations for joint replacement surgeries, pain control, and infections, so it's not easy to plan ahead. I'm 95% independent in my own home and have a positive attitude, but the real world presents some difficulties especially when traveling. Prior to sailing, my concerns were steep ship gangways, bathroom facilities, unlocking and opening a heavy  cabin door, and struggling to cut up my food in front of others. I use a small power wheelchair and can walk short distances. I'd booked a HC cabin and I knew if I ran into difficulties my friends Carole and Stan were only a phone call away on the next deck up. Travel To Port of Embarkation. I picked Carole & Stan up in Red Deer and headed for the airport in Calgary. We parked at Park2Go ($11.95 a day) then took the shuttle bus (free) for the 9 minute drive to the West Jet departure drop off. A speedy check in as always with West Jet. At 3pm I headed through security to pre-board the flight to Vancouver, leaving Carole & Stan to check into the Delta Hotel as they weren't flying out until the next morning. It was an excellent smooth flight with great views of the snow capped Rocky Mountains. Our arrival was on time and the temp was 25c in Vancouver. West Jet  had my wheelchair ready at the door of the plane, helped with my luggage, and escorted me to a wheelchair accessible taxi; even helping the taxi guy secure my  wheelchair down. WEST JET YOU ARE THE BEST! Hotel Information. Fare to the Delta Suites on West Hastings Street was $30. I used air miles so only had the taxes to pay for. It's a lovely hotel, very clean with friendly and efficient staff. Check in was swift (no warm cookie though) and my luggage was taken to my room on the 5th floor. Nice room. Spacious, clean, comfy bed, and I loved the lemon soap in the bathroom. I ordered a plate of cheese, fruit and crackers plus a glass of wine. The bill was $27 which included the room service charge of $4 but it was very nice and presentation was lovely. After a good nights sleep I checked out, with reception calling for a wheelchair accessible taxi. Within minutes it arrived to take me to the pier (a $5 fare.) Embarkation at Canada Place. Suitcase was whisked away by a porter. There were scooters available for rent at $55 a day inside the terminal. At 10:55am I'm through immigration and directed over to the "HAL Welcome to the Volendam sign."  I'm escorted by HAL personnel to a long bank teller type arrangement where I show my passport, ticket, fill in a short form, have a photo taken with a web cam, and then given my ship card. It wasn't too long before an announcement was made saying that boarding would be delayed until 1pm (an hour later than scheduled.) This was because the Volendam had arrived into Vancouver with the norovirus and was being disinfected. I did ask if we would be in code red and was told no, which was true. During the delay we were given tea, coffee, orange juice, cookies and coupon books. All HAL personnel looking smart in navy & red, & were friendly and courteous during this waiting period. Actual embarking was smooth, with crew welcoming us aboard and directing us to the Lido for lunch. Stateroom. At approx. 2:30pm an announcement was made that the cabins were ready. I headed down to the Dolphin Deck and found aft FF1955 which was wheelchair accessible. It was the last cabin at the end of a very long corridor (thank goodness for my wheels!) Used the ship card to unlock the door (not heavy) which had a handle (much easier than a knob.)  Wide doorway with no lip for easy entry. Cabin was roomy and clean. Lots of closet, shelf and drawer space. Note 1:  Drawers had no handles, they were the type you have to place your fingers under the front edge to open, which I found a little difficult, as would the majority of seniors with arthritis. Suggestion 1: Add handles. Note 2: Closet doors had the recessed handles, again a little difficult for crippled fingers. Suggestion 2: Add handles. A safe was located in 1 of the closets and 2 lockable drawers were located between the beds. Beds were a good height for my type of disability, and very comfortable. Note 3: Only 1 electrical outlet but in a good location on the wall above the dresser. Suggestion 3: Add an additional outlet in HC rooms.  My wheelchair had to be recharged every night but I had brought an extension cord with extra outlets. An alarm switch & light switches (which controlled all lights) were conveniently located at the head of each bed. Also a phone beside the bed was neatly labeled with extension numbers and 911. Nice wide door into the bathroom which was spacious and very clean. High toilet (yippee) and a good sized roll in shower. Hand held shower and controls were well located for wheelchair users. Good grab rails and a seat which folded down. Now that I know my main concerns are not a concern, I can relax. Ship Info. I loved the size of the Volendam with approx. 1450 passengers and 650 crew. This meant after meeting them, I'd see them out and about to say hi too. There were beautiful arrangements of fresh flowers everywhere, and rose bowls on desks and dining room tables. In the Lido there were flowering orchids on each table and  some great art work on the walls all around the ship. Personally I loved the dEcor of reds and purples! It looked clean and well cared for (despite it's age of 10 years) and you could always see crew (unobtrusibly) vacuuming and polishing. Windows were washed in each port, and in Ketchikan I even saw them painting the outside of the ship!! It was easy to navigate around the Volendam in a wheelchair. I quickly learned when going over those aluminum strips on the floors that if I approached them on the sides, rather than the middle, it wasn't as much of a bump!!! I spent a lot of time on the aft Lido deck  where the outer glass doors opened automatically, but the inner ones didn't. It was never a problem though, as there were always crew or passengers to do the honors. Another favorite place was the promenade deck which goes right around the ship. These doors where heavier and opened manually.  Also the door lip was thicker and not as easy to navigate over, and there was a little bit of a slope on the outside of the door.  Be warned!!! Reduce speed, especially if your wheelchair has small back wheels like mine does....you could easily be catapulted out!!! I encountered the same set up when getting on or off the ship's gangway. It's a little scary until you've done it a few times, but crew are readily available to help out, so it was never a problem. The lower level of The Frans Hals Lounge is wheelchair accessible but the upper level has 3 steps. Dining. Breakfast and lunch  were eaten in the Lido Restaurant and there were NO trays! I later learnt from David, the Cruise Consultant, this was only the 3rd week without trays on the Volendam, and that food wastage had decreased dramatically. I never found this to be a problem despite all the hoopla on CC. I was helped by staff that went with me, so all I had to do was say what I wanted; they put it on the plate, and  took it to my table. Excellent variety of food and hot. I loved breakfast, and my fried eggs were flipped while those boys smiled, sang and waved. The Lido was busy and it was the only place I encountered crowds. I liked the fact that you didn't have to line up but could go directly to the station you wanted i.e. bread, salad, meat, fruit, Italian etc. Cutlery was wrapped in the napkin and already on the table. We chose early fixed dining in the Upper Rotterdam Dining Room (the only way to go in my opinion) at a table for 8. It was lovely getting to know our other dining companions, as well as David (the Future Cruise Consultant)  who joined us for two evenings. Pipit the Assistant Dining Room Manager was delightful, as were our waiters Wiwit and Suparta. I had decided to ask to speak to the Maitre'd in regards to having my meat cut up, rather than struggle in front of strangers!!!! When I asked Wiwit about speaking to him, he asked if he could help, so I told him my situation. His response was "I will cut it up for you. I am your waiter you are my queen." I never had to ask again! The menus (I have copies) had a good variety for all courses. The food was delicious; cooked to perfection,  and beautifully presented. Service could not be faulted in any way. I just wish I could have sampled everything, (one night I did have 2 desserts!!!) Pipit thank you for all your  kindness. ....I miss you!  It was always a pleasure to see you in the dining room, and along with Wiwit and Suparta you made our evening meals memorable and fun. We also enjoyed a lovely dinner in the Pinnacle one evening. I had the filet mignon which was cooked to perfection, and the chocolate volcano cake was to die for! Service was impeccable. A wonderful dining experience and well worth the cover charge of $20. However, we did miss Pipit and "our boys" from the dining room, and my filet mignon there was just as good! The Master Chef's  Dinner was very enjoyable, although the menu was more limited. Service was quicker than I anticipated despite the dancing between act 1 & 2. I thought the cut out menu and chef's hat were a nice touch. The Dutch High Tea and Dessert Extravaganza were awesome. There were also late night buffets and the Salmon Bake on the Lido Deck which I didn't even sample!! The only food I found that wasn't to my taste was the pizza from the Terrance Grill. It was the 4 cheese one. The taste was there but it was very dry, as though there wasn't any sauce on it. On the evening before leaving the ship I decided to try out in room dining. The burger was one of the best I've ever had! Service was prompt and the burger was hot. I had also planned on having breakfast in my cabin the next morning, but it was the only night the card menu wasn't in my room. I called in room dining and they said to call the office. I did, but after waiting for a full 5 minutes there was no reply so I  abandoned the idea. Activities. Although there were lots going on I never participated in anything. I would have liked to do the trivia, attend some of the culinary classes and the Microsoft workshop. The weather was just so warm that I spent most of the time on the aft deck enjoying the scenery and watching for wildlife. Entertainment. The shows were great, and the Volendam singers and dancers are actually people that work on the ship too!!! The John Denver Tribute with Jim and Anne Curry was excellent, as were the jugglers Wilde & James. The comedian and magician were OK. Patti the cruise director was great in getting passengers involved in various game shows which were fun to watch. I didn't enjoy Frankie in the Piano Bar or Janel & the Hal Cats in the Crow's Nest. The Neptunes in the Ocean Bar  played great music to listen or dance too. Not to be missed is the Indonesian Crew Show. Truly talented singers and dancers who entertained us for an hour and played 3 music pieces with an instrument called an angklung which is made out of bamboo. I could have listened to them all night. Very well done in my opinion. Port & Shore Excursions. We cruised  around Tracy Arm Fjord but because of so much ice in the water we only got 12 miles in.  It was sunny and warm and I enjoyed the scenery while relaxing. Glacier Bay was another beautiful day and the glaciers were awesome with the various colors of blues and greens. Pea soup and hot chocolate were served outside on the deck. I Saw some small glacier calving and you could hear them. I can only imagine the sound of larger calving as we were a little early in the season for that. We did see some whales at the entrance of the Bay but they were too far away and too quick to take a photo. Captain Bos was good at letting us know when wildlife was spotted. It was hot in Juneau and a lovely clear day for going on the tram up Mount Roberts ($27 and you can go up and down as many times as you want.) Got some great photos of the Volendam from up there, as well as the Island Princess who was in port with us.  The 20 minute show (free) about the Tlingit  community was very interesting. Juneau and the tram were completely wheelchair accessible. It was also a clear day in Skagway so we browsed the stores then boarded the White Pass Railway for the 3 hour train ride. It's located directly across from where the ship docks. The scenery with the snow capped mountains was magnificent as we went through tunnels and over bridges. It was well worth the $127  for the ride and to hear the history. Complimentary bottled water was certainly appreciated on this hot day. Skagway is wheelchair accessible as is one of the coaches of the train. It was cloudy coming into Ketchikan but it turned into another warm day. It was also very crowded as the Carnival Spirit, Norwegian Star and Island Princess were in port too.They are bigger ships than the Volendam. Again Ketchikan is wheelchair accessible but those boardwalks make for a bumpy ride! After a quick look around town and a fish (Alaskan halibut) and chip lunch at the Ketchikan Fish House, (I'm sorry but we get better fish (Alaskan halibut) and chips at Original Joes in Red Deer,) we were happy to get back on our "little" ship. Misc. Observations. The Muster Drill went well and in an orderly fashion. I did have to ask for help in putting my life jacket on though, and friends were shocked that nobody had come to my cabin to get me. I was also told to stand in the back row and I would have thought that children and the disabled would have been placed in the front row. However, this was only a practice! When I arrived in my cabin the first day there was a letter saying if  I needed help with my wheelchair to contact the front office. This was followed up with a phone call the next day. Thanks HAL for this kind gesture which was greatly appreciated but thankfully not needed. Overall I found the ship to be very warm and the air conditioning wasn't working for a couple of hours after leaving Vancouver. In my cabin I had the control turned to the lowest setting but it never seemed to cool down. This was rectified by asking for a fan, which helped especially at night time. Staff in the ship stores were not that friendly and very slow. I bought a "gold by the inch" necklace and was told to pick it up the next morning at 9am. I went the next afternoon and it wasn't ready, so I had to wait in line for them to put the clasp on. I appreciated the fact that photographers were not 'always in your face,' and  when photos were taken they were displayed in the gallery for purchasing, so there was no pressure to buy. Captain Bos kept us informed of points of interest, weather and wildlife. He  reminded us about how important it was to wash our hands and use the hand sanitizer, and explained they don't shake hands for sanitary reasons. Instead they put knuckles to knuckles or elbow to elbow. This worked very well for me with my crippled hands!! Although I never felt a thing, he made the announcement that it had been confirmed there had been a small earthquake under the sea one day. Our C.C. Meet and Greet was held on our first sea day in the Crow's Nest. Although we were a small group of 9 everyone showed up plus 2 who hadn't registered. It was lovely to meet in person those we had come to know over the computer, especially as we were all "newbies" to cruising! Sincere thanks to Jacqueline for being my partner in crime in putting it together, and for the collages and bookmarks that we now have to remember our time together. Special thanks to Captain Peter Bos, Francis - Guest Relations Manager, Matt - Beverage Manager, Willem - Hotel Manager and Arun - Culinary Operations Manager for attending our C.C. Meet and Greet, and for the complimentary champagne, mimosas, bloody marys, tea, coffee and cookies. Thanks to Arun, Thomas and Chef Ron for the private tour of the well run (and spotlessly clean) galley. We all appreciated you taking time out of your busy schedules, and for explaining the procedures that go on in your domain. I must remember to take a leaf out of your book and only open my fridge once a day! Also thanks to Anna Babcock & Jocelyn at the HAL office in Seattle for the prompt and efficient response to my phone call, and continuing contact in arranging our C.C. Meet & Greet. Service. I couldn't have asked for better! This was consistent throughout the ship.  Hasan my cabin steward remembered my name, kept my room clean & orderly, filled the ice bucket, made me wonderful towel animals, left a chocolate and turned the bed down every night. Office staff delivered invitations, answered queries, and contacted individual CC'ers about the galley tour. Dining room staff were superb. Pipit welcomed us with a warm smile every evening, and was always available to help me in the Lido for breakfast and lunch. Happy smiling faces around the ship show they love what they are doing, despite being away from family and loved ones for long periods of time. It is unfortunate that our many countries don't get along as well as the personnel on a cruise ship despite their different nationalities and cultures. If they did our world would be a much happier and peaceful one. Unfortunately all good things must come to an end. Disembarkation. The disembarkation package was in the cabin the day before leaving the ship. Luggage tags where color coded and numbered and tagged luggage was to be put outside the cabin door before midnight. After breakfast in the Lido and a last goodbye to Pipit and the boys, I waited sadly for my color & number to be called at 9am. At 9:15am they were announced along with the deck where I had to disembark. There were no line ups as my ship card was scanned one last time. I went through immigration and out to a taxi and was at the airport by 10am.  LLL  Summary. HAL! I'm hooked!! It truly was a wonderful cruise, and I shall never forget the kindness and friendship extended to me by the crew and passengers onboard  the Volendam June 3 - 10, 2009. I wouldn't hesitate to cruise alone in the future, and it by far exceeded my expectations (and research) in every way. I came home feeling as though I'd left my family behind!!!! I've already paid a deposit on a future cruise and can't wait until I'm back on the Volendam again. Read Less
Sail Date June 2009
We arrived in Vancouver the day before embarkation and thank heavens because our flight was delayed six hours in Dallas.  I completely recommend arriving ahead of your cruise departure to avoid any heartache and stress.Precruise ... Read More
We arrived in Vancouver the day before embarkation and thank heavens because our flight was delayed six hours in Dallas.  I completely recommend arriving ahead of your cruise departure to avoid any heartache and stress.Precruise Vancouver:We took a cab from the airport to the hotel which cost approximately $36 (Canadian dollars) w/tip included. We stayed at the Blue Horizon Hotel on Robson St not far from Canada Pier.  The hotel is nice and located in an area loaded w/shops (pharmacy too)and restaurants. Our room was very large w/two queen beds, fridge, coffee maker, desk and chair, balcony, and comfy linens.  This is not a new hotel so the fixtures are older, but it was very clean and the staff very helpful.  I will also say that if you are a town mouse you may want to request a room away from the street because it can get loud due to the popularity of this street.   I felt very free and secure to walk up and down the street (also the hotel will hold your luggage after check out so you can do whatever 'til your cruise-super handy). Overall- I would stay here again.  Though our hotel is not far from Canada Pier, w/a large suitcase and and my husband and I each w/ carry on luggage, we weren't about to hoof it.  Curbside to curbside the taxi cost was only around $7 w/tip included. If you want to stay at a hotel right at the Pier the Pan Pacific is your closest.  Emabarkation:Embarkation was very easy.  We pulled up curbside in our taxi, and our cab driver handed our suitcases to the HAL luggage attendant who then proceeded to take it to our ship!  We walked through all the cattle ropes to get to the security point and check in.  There were HAL attendants guiding everyone through the whole thing.  The whole process from curbside drop off to boarding the ship maybe took an hour and a half - I felt this was a very easy and timely logistical process.  Once we got on board they were still serving lunch for everyone, so my husband and I headed up to the Lido deck for our first of many buffet meals.  When we got to our room - our bags were already waiting for us.Cabin:Most people swear by a balcony cabin, but I'm a little paranoid about open windows so we booked an oceanview.  We ended up w/cabin 3428 at the back of the ship.  I was very pleased.  The room was a great size w/a queen bed, a couch and chair, plenty of storage (including a place for your suitcases), large bathroom, and large window.  We were on the deck that everyone could walk around, so at anytime we could just pop out of our room for fresh air and a walk.  My tip for you though is to keep the window curtains closed unless you're looking out of course.  The windows are reflective but at night w/a light on in the cabin-all the world will see you!  This was a quiet room and a very nice room.  Our room attendant was awesome.Food and Attire:The Lido buffet restaurant and the poolside snack area seemed to always be open.  You can always get something to eat.  The food was good (hit and miss on some items but overall decent for a buffett) something for everyone.  The attire was very casual-jeans/pants, t shirt etc.  You can always eat at the Rotterdam Dining Room for a order/service type fare or order room service.  The food seemed to be better at the Rotterdam but not by much.  The attire is supposed to be more business Friday, but I saw many in jeans.  The only time anyone was truly formal was during the two formal nights of your cruise-men in jacket, tie and nice slacks, women in nice dresses.  Wait staff was excellent.Spa and Fitness:Fitness room was nice and offered many classess.  My husband and I truly enjoyed the thermalsuite package we purchased w/unlimited access to steam rooms, jacuzzi, semi private balcony, and heated ceramic chaises.  Staff was very good.Kids:We did not bring our kids on this cruise (we have three).  I think the smaller ones (6 and 2) would've gotten bored during scenic cruising.  They don't appreciate Alaskan scenary like we do.  My oldest one (13) may have enjoyed it.  HAL does provide some kid and teen activities, but I don't have any info on it.  There were quite a few families w/children on this ship I was pleasantly surprised by this observation.  Not everyone was over 60 :  ).Casino:We throughly enjoyed the casino and there excellent staff members.  Ports:Do take excursions-they are well worth the money and will be very port informative.  But be aware that Alaska weather is unpredictable flights can be cancelled, so just bring a good attitude and things will work out.  Take a rain poncho or rain jacket!  The temp was hovering around 59 when we cruised.  White rail pass is a must do in Skagway-Awesome.  George Inlet Lodge Crab feast excursion in Ketchikan was also fabulous. You should see tons of wildlife.Inside Passage Cruising was beautiful!  Glaciers were awesome.  Take your binoculars and cameras!  I would love to go to Alaska again. Disembarkation:Disembarkation was just as smooth as our embarkation.  HALs staff will pick up your luggage the evening before disembarkation and will deliver it to the shore unless you've purchase a shuttle transfer to the airport- then they will take your luggage to the airport directly. You will be given a disembarkation time the night before.  We purchased a transfer this time since our flight was leaving at 12pm in Vancouver.  We disembarked at 8am and was in the airport by 10am.  They had our luggage in a special area and viola we checked in for a flight.    Read Less
Sail Date June 2009
Arrived early 11am for noon embarkation. Everything well organized and smooth thru US customs & HALs part.Noon embarkation was delayed for super sanitation due to previous Noro outbreak. First told 1 PM, then 1:30 PM but ended up ... Read More
Arrived early 11am for noon embarkation. Everything well organized and smooth thru US customs & HALs part.Noon embarkation was delayed for super sanitation due to previous Noro outbreak. First told 1 PM, then 1:30 PM but ended up boarding at 12:30 so no big deal.  Amazing how they can get everybody fed at the LIDO right after boarding - no significant lineups or waiting to find a table.  Plenty of staff telling people not to line up - just go to the station that you want ie. don't line up behind people waitingfor salads if you want to go to the sandwich station.Got to cabin & was pleasantly surpised - larger than we expected based on pictures we'd seen on the net.  Beds together formed not just a queen, but a king size  - 72" wide, 78 " long.Enjoyed the food & service in the dining room & Lido.  Filet & Lobster on second formal night was great - lobster tail was big and both are steaks were super tender & cooked exactly as ordered  (1 med-rare & 1 medium)Never any problems with lineups or finding a table in the Lido.Did anytime dining - ate fairly early in the dining room - always able to just walk up & get a table for 2 right away. Portions in the dining room not especially big - which was good because there was so much else to try during the course of the day. And you can always get more if you want - I joked after the Filet & lobster that nobody offered me a second helping the way they often did during the other meals (figuring steak & lobster is fairly exspensive).  I was instantly offered another plate - but had to explain that I was just joking - had plenty already.  Between breakfast, lunch, afternoon tea, supper, late night buffet, room service you won't be able to even sample all the delicious food.  My wife like the fact that desserts in the Lido were in small enough portions that you could try 2 or 3 (or more for me)things if you liked.Didn't plan on taking in any of the entertainment but caught a couple shows with the dancers & singers - quite good.Biggest complaint - between eating, shows, getting up at 3:30 AM to see the sunrise after staying up to 12:30AM to see the sunset & twilight, looking for whales & seals, and all the great scenery - no time to rest.Overall a great cruise. Read Less
Sail Date June 2009
This was a fantastic cruise as we saw so many cultures in a short span of time and learned so much. We essentially cruised for 3 two week segments, back to back. Our fellow cruisers were mainly from the English speaking world-Aussies, ... Read More
This was a fantastic cruise as we saw so many cultures in a short span of time and learned so much. We essentially cruised for 3 two week segments, back to back. Our fellow cruisers were mainly from the English speaking world-Aussies, Kiwis, from the U.K. and Americans. On the second segment from Sydney to Singapore the Australians were in the majority and many of the entertainers and lecturers were also Australian which made for lots of camaraderie and fun for all the Americans too who were the next largest group. We spent our days on board eating and talking with all the interesting people we met, going to lectures and coffee talks, using the gym, playing bridge, enjoying the cooking presentations and movies, the bars, walking on the promenade deck, and the evening varied entertainment from shows to singers, musicians, magicians, and comedians. Even our religious needs were attended to as every Friday evening we were able to attend services with wine and challah provided and a Rabbi was employed onboard to lead the Passover services.Every staff member was top notch.Our shore excursions varied from those we arranged privately for a small group through cruise critic, to those arranged by the ship. We also took advantage of the free shuttle buses provided by most of the cities and towns from the dock to the center of town or major place of interest. Our only complaint was that the captain frequently shortened the time the ship was in port-making many of the shore excursions rushed. There was so much to see and so little time in port to see it all. Our favorite port was Bali where we employed a private guide with his air-conditioned car for the day. He had worked as a waiter on Holland America so his English was very good. He only charged $60 for the car. As there were 4 of us it came to $15 a person, plus lunch at a beautiful restaurant overlooking a verdant valley. We treated him also. We saw the bat temple, the purification temple (with naked bathers) the volcano and overlook, the wood carvers and Ubud and Mas etc. What a day. If you would like his email and name please email me. I am ellen@nycap.rr.com. We also used private tours in New Zealand and Australia with fabulous days in these First world countries. Everywhere there was wonderful food, wonderful wine, gorgeous harbors, gardens blooming with flowers, and hillsides dotted with sheep. People are friendly and helpful English speakers. Trams and buses are plentiful for getting around. Unfortunately they drive on the wrong side of the road for American drivers, a learning problem if one wants to rent a car.With the unrest in much of Southeast Asia we felt that ship tours were necessary there for safety. As a whole the ship tours employed comfortable buses and knowledgeable English speaking guides who taught us much about the culture we were seeing. In many of these hot countries, the airconditioning on the buses was a welcome relief. Also the lunches and food to taste on these tours were superb. In Bangkok we lunched at the Mandarin Oriental-probably the best hotel in the city. Also don't miss Nooch Nooch Cultural Village. The elephant show is unbelievable. They have elephants playing soccer, basketball, baseball etc. and walking over people lying on the ground. Wow!!!! Puerto Princesca has Hunda Bay with the most beautiful empty islands with huge starfish and gorgeous big fish that come to be fed if you give them bread. We did the ship's Island Hopping tour. It was a trip to Paradise on little wooden boats skimming over the azure seas. The water was so warm it felt like a bathtub. We did keep our shirts and hats on in the water so as not to get sunburned.Did I mention the Antarctic Center in Christchurch NZ-with simulated frigid conditions? How about the inclined train ride down the side of the Blue Mountains outside of Sydney or the skyride across the rainforest in Cairns to the Aboriginal park with the Creation presentation. We had so many adventures-The Trip of a Lifetime. Yours, Ellen Eisenberg ellen@nycap.rr.com Read Less
Sail Date March 2009
Travel To Port of Embarkation - We left our hotel (Park Regis Sydney) at about 11:30am and arrived at Darling Habour's Pier 8 at about 12:00pm by subway and a little walk downhill to the port from the subway station (Taxi's are ... Read More
Travel To Port of Embarkation - We left our hotel (Park Regis Sydney) at about 11:30am and arrived at Darling Habour's Pier 8 at about 12:00pm by subway and a little walk downhill to the port from the subway station (Taxi's are pretty expensive in Sydney) We arrived at the departure hall to drop our check-in luggage, after completing the health inspection we waited in line for about 15 minutes to pass security and another 10 minutes to check-in. Immigrations had some issues with my passport but everything worked out and we were on the ship by 12:45pm. I have to say that Darling Habour's Pier 8 is mainly used for conventions and meetings rather than for cruise ship and so some of the facilities are pretty primitive including the makeshift check-in desks and security equipment, but I have to say that the staff were pretty innovative in their use of the equipment and it made the long lines pass quickly. Stateroom - While having our sailaway lunch up at the Lido Buffet, an announcement was made that our staterooms were ready at about 1:30pm. We made our way to find our stateroom which was originally an inside stateroom but we were pleased to find out that we had a last-minute upgrade to an oceanview stateroom and enjoyed the view thoroughly during the scenic cruisings in New Zealand. The stateroom was immaculate with crisp linens and everything was set-up for our cruise ahead. The ship's porters were also really efficient in changing our cabin numbers on our luggage tags and all our bags arrived within an hour. Although there were some signs of wear and tear, it was still very pleasant. Ship Info - The Volendam was built in 1999 and it was reaching in 10th year in service, but despite her age it seems like the ship was only 3 or 4 years old thanks to the staff who cleans the ship daily making the restaurants to the toilets clean and immaculate. The ship was considered a mid-sized ship and even though it was filled to capacity during this cruise, there were many open spaces in the bars and open decks and no where on the ship felt crowded and we really enjoyed that. Dining - I have to say that food was the highlight of this cruise, we had dinner at the dining room almost every night and because we requested for reserved fixed sitting we had the same dining room stewards every night and their great and efficient service made dinner every night an unforgettable event in itself. The food was really good from the appetizers to the entrEes but I must say that some nights the deserts were a little weak. We ate at the Pinnacle Grill one night and the steaks were so juicy and tender and it was one of the most delicious steaks I've ever had. The lido buffet restaurant was where we had lunch and breakfast and the food selection was just overwhelming (in a positive way) from pastas to deserts everything tasted good except for the toasted breads in the morning which was always burnt. But the buffet was never filled to capacity and we always found a seat quickly. The terrace grill, taco station and ice cream bar was always a great hunger buster after exploring the ports and we really enjoyed that as well. The room service menu was rather small but it was great when we missed the dinner buffet when we arrived the ship at about 9:00pm in Tauranga and it was a convenient alternative if you missed the buffet or dining room service. Activities - We did not participate in many activities but looking at the daily programme there were quite a number of activities but mainly for the adults and this was evident as the kids and teens on the ship were really restless due to the lack of activities for them. But we really enjoyed the culinary arts center which was really interesting as chefs from the pinnacle grill and guest chef Mary Dumont shared some tips on cooking methods to how to make some of the chef's signature dishes. Service - The Service onboard this cruise was top-notch as there were only about 300 or so service staff to cater to 1500 passengers which made it a 5:1 ratio for the staff. But all of them worked hard to please every passenger and even though they could not be found on some occasions, they did try their best to please and serve you without any complain or show a lack of interest in their job (except for a couple of service staff). The staff were non-intrusive but were friendly and we really enjoyed the level of service on this cruise. Entertainment - Although the entertainment was not as elaborate as the bigger ships, the singers and dancers of the Volendam made do with what they had and they danced and sang on 3 occasions on this cruise which I must say was very polished and professional which was something I enjoyed during this cruise. But there were other entertainers from broadway singers to magicians to a multi-instrumentalist (which could play 15 instruments!)was really fun and interesting to watch. The design and layout of the Frans Hals Lounge (Show Lounge)made it easy for people to get in and out of it but there was a lack in lights especially when the show begun resulting in some people falling during the show (Ouch!). The Champagne Strings violin group was also another highlight as they played beautiful tunes in their 5 man group and we usually listened to them after dinner just before returning to our stateroom almost every night. Port & Shore Excursions: We did not take any shore excursions as it was pretty easy getting around from the port to the town/city and shore excursions were also really expensive which resulted in us going independent. Here are the ports - Melbourne: Melbourne is a beautiful city with many victorian buildings and open spaces including the botanical gardens by the Yarra River. It was also really easy getting from the port to the city by Tram (AUD 6.00 pp return) and it took only about 15 minutes to get us to the city. Burnie, Tasmania: The people of the charming and small city of Burnie including the Mayor and his Wife were at the port to welcome us and to give everyone souvenir pins which was a really nice feeling especially after a bumpy crossing the night before. There was a free shuttle bus taking us to the information center and the car rental companies in which we hired a car to go to Cradle Mountain National Park which was really stunning and I would recommend anyone going to Tasmania to visit this place. Dunedin: We went on the public bus (NZD 2.00 pp one-way) to the city center and to get to the train station to catch the Taieri Gorge Railway which went through deep valleys cut naturally by rivers and streams millions of years ago which was beautiful to see from the comfort of our vintage train carriage. Christchurch: Took a free shuttle bus to the city to hire a car from Hertz to drive to Arthur's Pass National Park. Although the park was not that impressive besides the entrance to the park borders, the journey to the park from Christchurch was amazing from mountains to gorges and valleys. Christchurch is a typical big city with many old colonial style buildings and the only highlight was Cathedral Square with many buskers and performances makes it a lively place to wait for the free shuttle. Picton: The port is really close to the city center and so we walked to the yacht harbor to go on the Dolphin Watch Eco-Tour "Best of the Sounds Cruise" which brought us to see some dolphins, Captain Cook's Cove, a Bird Sanctuary Island and a Salmon Farm to see some seals. All-in-all it was a great experience with great value (NZD 90.00 pp) to see what a cruise ship can't see during the scenic cruising through Marlborough Sounds Wellington: The Capital of New Zealand was bustling from office workers to lawyers. The Parliament tour which is free was very insightful into New Zealand's political system and how the government works. Te Papa Museum which is also free was a great museum as it housed everything from a giant squid to an earthquake simulation to Moari Cultures, it was a one-stop museum for any question one has on New Zealand's geology to its culture - it's highly recommended. We did not have time to go up the Cable Car due to the long queues and the short amount of time we had. Napier: The Art Deco town of Napier was not as interesting as the other ports and the lack of infrastructure and logistics made it difficult for the shuttle service providers to get 1500 in and out of the city and long queues and the hot sun made many passengers upset and angry instead of enjoying themselves. Tauranga: Tauranga was really busy when we arrived as the Celebrity Millennium was at the port as well and since we did not reserve any car from the car rental companies we went around town in a taxi looking for any car in which many cars were taken by the almost 4000 passengers in Tauranga that day. We eventually rented from Rent-A-Dent an old Camry in which we drove to the Waitomo & Ruakuri Caves which were spectacular and Rotorua to view Lake Rotorua and the Steaming Geysers and Mudpools at the city park. Disembarkation - Since we were in the last group to disembark, we had a nice breakfast before disembarking. Disembarkation was a breeze even though there was a pretty long line but security and immigrations were very efficient and we left the port in about 10 minutes where we took a taxi to our hotel, the Hyatt Regency Auckland where we stayed for 3 nights before returning home Summary - All-in-all it was a great trip where we met new people and had a great time enjoying not only the ship but also the spectacular scenery and sights of Australia and New Zealand which summed up the whole experience. We look forward to travel on Holland America Line again for their great food, service and itineraries which visits ports other cruise lines don't visit such as Picton and Burnie. 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Sail Date January 2009
After a couple of nights at the Crowne Plaza Darling Harbour and a day at the cricket, we caught a taxi down to Darling Harbour#8. Just as we were dropped off, four buses of North Americans arrived at the terminal direct from their long ... Read More
After a couple of nights at the Crowne Plaza Darling Harbour and a day at the cricket, we caught a taxi down to Darling Harbour#8. Just as we were dropped off, four buses of North Americans arrived at the terminal direct from their long flights. The organization was lacking terribly.The representatives failed to give the same directions and older passengers struggled due to the lack of seats, refreshments and a line stretching out the door. Dick, a gentleman from Washington DC certainly voiced his displeasure. After 45 minutes or more, we were on the escalators going up to the Volendam.Smiling faces greeted us and directed us to the Lido Deck for lunch while we waited for our cabin to be ready. Within an hour, our stateroom (inside cabin) was ready.Our cabin was reasonable in size and cleaned to an excellent standard. For the next fourteen days, everything went almost perfectly. The skies were sunny except for Melbourne, the scenery amazing, the seas were smooth to moderate, the meals were varied and delicious and the entertainment was excellent considering the size of the ship. To top it off, we met a group of people who enjoyed every minute of their cruise by ignoring those minor issues which occur on any vacation. Unlike previous cruises, there didn't seem to be level of hard sell which did affect my level of enjoyment on those cruises. The only constant complaint I heard from other passengers was that they felt ripped off when they did excursions through the ship's shore excursions. I did the Taieri Gorge Railway using the city bus, online booking and lunch and beers onboard for $70US while the ship's excursion price was $237 US. Due to the cruise being in the summer vacation for Australia, lots of kids were onboard. Although most were well behaved and supervised by their parents, some did too often run near the pool, in passageways and in areas where they should not have been. The Captain did mention the responsibilities of parents onboard in his initial address to all passengers but unfortunately some parents did take in the message. This was my second Holland America Cruise. Like the previous one, the crew certainly are first class. Service of the highest standard was provided with a smile by every crew member. My family had a great time with outstanding value. It was great to visit new ports like Burnie and Picton. Milford Sound at daybreak is unforgettable!! Read Less
Sail Date January 2009
This trip was planned as my elderly mother's last "big one" before retiring from travel completely. We actually hadn't heard of Holland America before but decided to take this cruise as it ended up in Auckland our home ... Read More
This trip was planned as my elderly mother's last "big one" before retiring from travel completely. We actually hadn't heard of Holland America before but decided to take this cruise as it ended up in Auckland our home port. Before finalizing I read many reviews most of which were to our liking. We found the ship wonderful with like minded passengers and plenty of activities to suit everyone. Being a long cruise, there was plenty of time to try everything on offer without having to rush around a ship as you do on shorter cruises. However, nothing is perfect. Being Kiwis our dollar was getting thrashed and therefore we were careful in what we spent. We took several bottles of wine onboard and were very grateful to HAL for allowing us to do so. However, we did purchase bottled wine for dinner at the Rotterdam - big mistake - a few days into the cruise a fellow passenger gave us the heads up on THE WINE CARD - a great saving over buying by the glass or the bottle. However, it is not advertised as such by the ship. I purchased a gym package which entitled me to do all the classes such as yoga, pilates and spinning for $200. The gym facilities and fitness instructors were outstanding. However at the spa, my elderly mother was "encouraged" to get skin products when she went to get her hair done. No price was mentioned at the time but when she went to sign for the bill she was most upset to see it was over $600. I was however able to return most of them. I was also told by a fellow "novice" cruiser he was also "encouraged" to get his teeth whitened and was charged $500 afterwards and was too embarrassed to question it. So anyone using the spa I would advise to question the price of all products they are offering. The cabin was on Dolphin Deck midships and one of the smoothest rides I have ever encountered. It was quiet, spacious, big window and comfortable beds. If it had a fridge I would have rated it with a top mark. (We had done a short cruise on the Sun Princess earlier and were upgraded to a balcony. However the cabin was a lot smaller than Volendam and the bathroom was tiny). The cabin and ship were kept spotlessly clean. We had open seating which I preferred over fixed dining as it gave us flexibility to dine especially in port. We preferred to eat at the Rotterdam and all meals were tasty, well presented and quite healthy. Breakfasts however were disappointing as the toast was always either burnt, soggy or both. The bacon also was fatty and very overdone and impossible to eat with a fork as it just crumbled. They constantly ran out of cereals or fruit but made up for it with the fresh omelettes made before your eyes which I particularly enjoyed. We dined with an officer once and I was disappointed that the officers were not around more. (I always remembered cruising in the seventies and eighties as being a lot of fun when the officers partied too!) There was one evening called a Black and White Ball where you could dance with them and it was probably the most fun I had all cruise. The live shows each evening were wonderful with lots of variety and they also incorporated live local cultural shows from various ports. We also attended the Park West art shows and these were really interesting and informative as well as being entertaining. The Art Director was particularly knowledgeable and nothing was too much trouble for him. The ports were good with ample time in each one although I would have preferred Tahiti to Suva. We tendered 3 times and it was well organized with minimal waiting time. Overall we thoroughly enjoyed the cruise and found the Volendam full of wonderful surprises. The front office staff were most obliging and helpful, as were 99% of the crew. The captain kept us informed most days on the ship's nautical happenings as did the cruise director with activities and I would have no hesitation to sail with HAL again. Read Less
Sail Date September 2008
We embarked in Seattle at a terminal just across from the City of Seattle with easy access. Our cabin had a window and was of adequate size. On a cruise with a lot of sea days it did not pay to have a Veranda cabin. This was a ... Read More
We embarked in Seattle at a terminal just across from the City of Seattle with easy access. Our cabin had a window and was of adequate size. On a cruise with a lot of sea days it did not pay to have a Veranda cabin. This was a repositioning cruise to Auckland, New Zealand and was a first cruise to the South Pacific. We are veterans of 39 cruises and enjoy Holland American due to its exotic itineraries. This cruise went to Los Angeles (Really Long Beach), Honolulu, Oahu, Maui, Fiji, Vanuatu, American Samoa, Samoa, Ile De Pins & Noumea in New Caledonia and finally 4 ports in Northern New Zealand. We had calm seas and we got the expected results from Holland American with some surprise. The food was the very best we have ever had on Holland American, although by the end of the cruise they were running out of everything. The crew and staff were excellent and one of the best I have ever encountered. Very Professional. They needed the experience since the ship really needed to be drydocked after coming out of the Alaskan cruise market with no chance for repairs. We always seemed to have 2 of the 5 ships engines not working and even a non working side thruster. Also coffee machines in the lido and multiple pieces of equipment in the Gym needed repair. To the ships crew I have to say you never noticed any inconvenience. One problem that I had was the Mariner society. The rewards are clearly lacking and after 184 days at sea they dropped the ball. We were put in a lower category room then what we paid for and the one recognition event was a brunch at 11 am one sea day. This was ridiculous and surely timed to eliminate feeding us either breakfast or lunch so we skipped it. Also the tiles they give us I passed on again since it was just more weight to carry back home. This was a good cruise and I would recommend this itinerary to anyone who has the time to handle this length of cruise and who can handle the return jet lag. It took us 5 sleepless nights to adjust to being home! Read Less
Sail Date September 2008
Background: This cruise was a 14 day Alaskan cruise roundtrip from Vancouver. We are not typical Holland America customers - we are a younger couple (both under 45.) We've been on about 12 cruises all on various lines including ... Read More
Background: This cruise was a 14 day Alaskan cruise roundtrip from Vancouver. We are not typical Holland America customers - we are a younger couple (both under 45.) We've been on about 12 cruises all on various lines including Princess, Carnival, Oceania, Uniworld, etc. and this is our 2nd Holland America cruise. The Ship: We really liked the Volendam. It is a smaller ship that is easy to navigate, so you get that cozy feeling but there are still plenty of spaces for you to explore. The deck space was perfect for Alaska because even in Glacier Bay there was plenty of room to see everything. The ship is older so if you're really looking for it you can find evidence of wear and tear, but for the large part the ship is in excellent shape and is very clean. Like on other Holland ships, the Volendam has lots of art displayed around the ship and some fun touches in the public rooms. Our favorite places onboard the ship were the Ocean Bar, the Rotterdam Dining Room (gorgeous, love the twinkling lights), the Crow's Nest (best place for whale watching), and the Frans Hals Lounge. Service: Excellent service on almost all accounts, this is a category where Holland America really shines. Our cabin steward Joe was just wonderful, we'd leave our room at varying times during the day and like magic he would clean our room while we were gone. Our waiters in the Rotterdam were terrific - thanks Robert and Johdi for a job well done. The only place onboard that didn't give exemplary service was the front desk and the reservation line for as you wish dining. We had a few issues with a key card that didn't work and also a lost sweatshirt (found it!) and the front desk staff didn't seem to care. We also got incorrect information from them a few times, but these problems were minor in our overall experience. With the as you wish dining reservation line, it seems that the staff is still trying to get a handle on the system. We made reservations almost every night and they lost our reservations twice. It seems that the system is still a little rocky or it could also be a communication issue as the reservation agent didn't seem to understand everything I was saying. A word of advice: if you make a reservation, make sure you get a green reservation card delivered to your room - if you don't have one, they probably didn't make your reservation - also bring the card with you to dinner. Entertainment: For this cruise it seems that Holland really takes into account that scenery viewing will take up a large part of your time. I say this because there were very few activities on this cruise compared with other cruises we've taken. It's not much of a problem for the daytime as we did spend most of our time on deck or in the Crow's Next watching glaciers and wildlife. For the evening however, we were a little disappointed with the lack of activities. This could have been solved by adding an additional movie time for the Wajang Theater or holding a week-long karaoke competition (like Holland America Idol.) As for the entertainment we did take part in, it was very good. We attended several of the culinary arts presentations and the guest chef Carol Dearth was an excellent teacher. The cruise staff held bingo every few days and that was fun to play and win. We went to 2 of the Alaska themed seminars and while the travel guide was very nice, she didn't know all that much about the subject matter. We really enjoyed the piano player Randall Powell, he is a hoot. The production shows were okay - we didn't care for one of the lead male singers, so we only went to 2 shows. The spotlight acts were really good. The comedian Lee Bayless is laugh-out-loud funny and we liked his shows the best, but the other entertainer Chris Micheals was definitely worth seeing as well. We listened to the HAL Cats one evening and thought the lead singer was quite good. The Food: Now for the real reason why you're reading this review! We found the food good to excellent with our best meals taking place in the dining room and the Pinnacle Grill. We ate in the Lido for breakfast and lunch every day. The Lido food is plenty varied and you can always find something you like. One thing that could be improved is the salad bar. The bar has typical salad items, but I think Holland could do better by offering a pre-mixed salad (with lettuce, not pasta salad) like a Caesar or Asian salad, every day. They could also buff up the salad bar with a few more dressing choices and some other salad mix-ins like chicken breast, sliced strawberries, a variety of cheeses, etc. Also, the pancakes and waffles at breakfast never seemed to be warm - not sure why, but it's an area for improvement. The burgers in the Lido Grill were delicious and the taco bar was also yummy. Our dinners in the Rotterdam Dining Room were mostly hits with a few misses here and there. Pastas, seafood, salads, desserts and appetizers were especially good. Our waiters were ready with cappuccino for us every night after dinner. Pinnacle Grill was superb as always and well worth the extra $20 for such a terrific meal. We went to afternoon tea for the Dutch High Tea and the Indonesian Tea. The Indonesian Tea had a good selection of teas and was our favorite tea-time of the cruise. The Dessert Extravaganza was also a lot of fun but you need to get up there early because the buffet line gets long and tables can be scarce. The Ports: What can you say about Alaska? It is truly an amazing place that you just can't appreciate by looking at photos or watching a video. Glacier Bay is spectacular and we were fortunate enough to visit John Hopkins Glacier on the second leg of the trip. That is the bonus of cruising in Alaska late in the season because ships cannot go near John Hopkins Glacier before September 1st. College Fjord is also amazing and you seem to get closer to the glacier there so get out on deck for that one. We visited Ketchikan (twice), Skagway (twice), Juneau (twice), Seward and Haines. We took 4 excursions - Misty Fjords flightseeing in Ketchikan, Chilkoot Hike & Float in Skagway, Gold Panning & Salmon Bake in Juneau and then the White Pass Railway in Skagway. We did Seward on our own and visited the Sealife Center, the Mendenhall Glacier on our own in Juneau and then the Salmon Hatchery and Creek Street in Ketchikan on our own. We would highly recommend Misty Fjords flightseeing, Chilkoot Hike & Float, the Sealife Center, the Mendenhall Glacier and the Salmon Bake part of the Gold Panning & Salmon Bake excursion. Most of the ports were very interesting. The only port that didn't meet our expectations was Haines. This is a place where you need to book an excursion or just take an easy day walking around the town (which will only take about an hour or two.) Wrap Up: All in all it was a wonderful cruise. We will cruise again with Holland America and would certainly take another cruise on the Volendam. If you are cruising to Alaska, Holland America ships are a great choice because the deck space is never crowded and your sight-lines are clear and unobstructed. Read Less
Sail Date August 2008
First impressions: This was our first cruise with HAL and we are in our mid 40's traveling with our 10 & 20 yr old kids. We did a lot of research and use to live in Alaska so knew the country would be beautiful. I will try and ... Read More
First impressions: This was our first cruise with HAL and we are in our mid 40's traveling with our 10 & 20 yr old kids. We did a lot of research and use to live in Alaska so knew the country would be beautiful. I will try and not repeat the traditional praise and comment on our different views on things that might help. We flew into Vancouver and everything went smooth and was on the ship around 12:00pm. The ship was as we expected, plenty of activities and spots to seclude yourself and enjoy a lengthy cruise of 14 days. The rooms were larger than average and the kids loved the DVD player and flat screen that were provided. We brought a few DVD's and they had several rentals available in the Library also. The ship was clean and had its wear spot but over-all in good condition for its age. We did our traditional walk around and explored everything that was available and found a good layout for a ship this size. Food: For the most part we enjoyed the food and my extra 12 lbs will attest. The deserts were very tasty and the chocolate extravaganza is a must to attend. Burgers, Pizza and a Taco Bar next to the pool was very convenient and used plenty. The Lido is the Buffet alternative that we were use to and tended to utilize on our previous cruises. We noticed HAL does this different than most other lines. You have to wait in 1 line and they will serve you. So if you just want a piece of toast you will have to wait as you pass all the other stations. Of course you can pass people and move forward to that area but at times you're shoulder to shoulder and you just have to wait with the rest. This slows down the process and you get what they grab with the tongs. You can try and request that certain piece or just a little of that item, But with the assembly line style and the language barrier you just got what they gave you at times. A big concern was crispy bacon and other under cook items. I understand they want to pamper you but that's what the dining room is for. I seen a lot of wasted food that might not of been taken in serving yourself. The Salad bar was a HUGE disappointment. Actually you really can't call it a salad bar cause there was never any lettuce. They had Spinach leaves instead; they were no carrots, broccoli, cauliflower or cheese. They had 5 bowls of salad items to choose from, baby corn cobs, water chestnuts, beans, olives, tomatoes and cucumbers. I finally got lettuce from the taco bar and got certain items from each area. But then I didn't have any Italian dressing as an option. Staff: This was an area I still have mixed emotions with. The service was great and they seemed to be there doing their job but that's it. Our room Stewart that is supposedly to be your main guy never even told us his name. We got a clean room and everything we asked for but not much other interaction. That was what we got from most of the crew. Some seemed very tired and not excited to be there. For example: They would have activities for dam dollars and if the line was long I seen them asking the crowd if they just wanting 1 dollar so they could leave. The cruise director was never out mingling and talking with the passengers. Entertainment: We enjoyed the entertainment and found it a great way to start off our evening. They had several options and did a great job of giving you several options. Being that our 14 days were actually (2) 7 days cruises we knew the shows would be the same. This gave us the option to catch a movie in the theatre or win some $$ from the casino. (Yes I said win...) We did view Barnaby twice and even if it was the same Comedy/Juggling show we enjoyed it each time. The only comment I have for the HAL cats (Band) is get a new lead singer. Enough said... Ports: What can I say about Alaska and all its beauty. It's truly God's country and sitting on the deck and watching beauty pass you bye 24/7 was great. The white pass train ride in Skagway is a must. Take the train/bus tour and enjoy both parts. Conclusion: I would definitely take HAL again and I sealed the deal with a couple hundred on future cruise credit. They gave me everything I expected and look forward to cruise with them again in the future. Read Less
Sail Date July 2008
We sailed on the ms Volendam from June 1 - 15, 2008. I generally prefer to write (and read) a detailed-filled travelogue, day-by-day style review, but for this particular trip I'm going to break it into sections for various aspects of ... Read More
We sailed on the ms Volendam from June 1 - 15, 2008. I generally prefer to write (and read) a detailed-filled travelogue, day-by-day style review, but for this particular trip I'm going to break it into sections for various aspects of our trip, so that I can easily re-post separate parts on the relevant message boards here at CC, which were so helpful to me as I planned our Alaskan adventure. If you are reading this complete version of my review and considering an Alaskan cruise, I advise you to read not only the "member reviews," but also to check out the message boards for the particular cruise line(s) you are considering, the Ports of Call boards for Alaska and Canada, and the West Coast Departures board. They all offer an unbelievable amount of helpful information from those who have "been there, done that." Background information: We are a couple in our 40's. This was our first trip to Alaska, and the first cruise on Holland America for each of us. We are experienced cruisers, and between the two of us, generally my SO leaves the planning to me after voicing a few preferences for activities and budget - and I'm the avid planner and researcher for our trips. I'm also the Cruise Critic addict. In January of this year I was researching a land-based visit to Alaska for the summer of '09 when I spotted the 14-day itineraries offered by HAL this summer. Much to my delight, my SO agreed with me that HAL was offering an excellent deal, so we booked and sailed on the Volendam from June 1 - 15, departing from Vancouver, turning around at Seward, and returning to Vancouver. Overall conclusion: Alaska is an unforgettable place, and unlike any other place we have visited. So many aspects of the state come to mind as I write - the glaciers, the wildlife, the wide variety of scenery, the friendly people, the long (LONG) days, the many colors of the water, the sounds - all I can say is that we look forward to returning again! We were quite pleased with our excursion choices. The Alaska Ports of Call board here at CC was indispensable in helping us make the most of our shore visits. We also enjoyed our experience onboard the Volendam very much, and will absolutely sail HAL again if the itinerary and price meet our needs. This cruise didn't change our overall opinion that, for our purposes, the mainstream cruise lines are more alike than different. That said, we did see and appreciate very real differences in service, onboard activities, overall "feel," and several other areas between HAL and other lines we've sailed, separately or together (Carnival, Royal Caribbean, NCL, NCLA, and a couple of lines no longer in business). Pre-Cruise Travel and Hotel Arrangements: We flew AirTran from Atlanta to Seattle for this cruise, even though the ship departs from and returns to Vancouver, B.C. We live in Atlanta, AirTran's headquarters, and flying round trip ATL/SEA on their seasonal flights (offered only during cruise season) saved us just under $350 per person over flying ATL/YVR round trip. $700 is a lot of cash to free up for other things, and we gladly did so, stretching our vacation by two days on the front side, and one day at the end. AirTran is now offering upgrades to business class for pretty reasonable rates at check-in time, so we took advantage of this. We were able to upgrade to business class for $99 per person - for such a long flight, we thought this was well worth it, plus it got our vacation off to a really "pampered" beginning! We arrived on time at SeaTac, and found the free shuttle bus to our hotel for the night, the Radisson Gateway (booked via Priceline for $50 per night). We had a nice room, with a Select Comfort bed, and a really good coffee shop/restaurant in the hotel. The next morning we got up early and met our previously arranged ride with Already There Limousine service for the trip to the Amtrak Station in downtown Seattle. This was so nice, and for only $10 or so more than a cab gave us a very "luxe" feeling. We arrived at the King Street Amtrak Station in Seattle around 6:00 AM, which was plenty of time to pick up our tickets to Vancouver ($28 per person, booked online, with AAA discount), check our luggage, and later to obtain our seat assignments (left side, or "wet side," as the agent said). We LOVED this train ride as the beginning of our vacation! The seats were large and comfortable, and the views of Puget Sound and the landscape as we headed north were just wonderful. I also took the best eagle-in-flight photos we got on the entire trip right from the train as we passed through White Rock, B.C., where there were nesting eagles. The train was on time into Vancouver, and we picked up our reserved Hertz rental car for our stay there. We drove to our hotel, the Pacific Palisades (another Priceline booking, at $125) and found we'd been upgraded to one of their one-bedroom units, which was so nice it made us feel bad we'd only be there overnight! They let us leave the rental car in the front entry for the few minutes it took us to literally drop off our bags in the room, and then we headed out for a day of exploring a little of Vancouver. We drove through Stanley Park, stopping for photos and enjoying a very lovely day weather-wise. We ate an early dinner at Prospect Point, and then finished driving completely around Stanley Park before taking the Causeway and the Lion's Gate Bridge over to North Vancouver. We stopped at Capilano Suspension Bridge, and used the 2-for-1 Entertainment Book coupon there (the only one we used - which more than paid for the book, so that was good, plus let us leave the book itself as a tip for our hotel housekeepers, which I hope they appreciated). I put this stop in the itinerary because I knew my SO would love it - and he did. I figured I'd be okay with it, but for some reason this bridge really threw off my inner ear. It wasn't the height that bothered me; it was something about the motion - it almost made me feel seasick, and it was like suddenly having "land legs" after a long cruise. It took several hours to wear off, so I mention it just as a note for those considering doing this. We continued up the road to Grouse Mountain, where we thoroughly enjoyed the tram ride (we had a pretty day, weather-wise, or we wouldn't have gone), and had fun in the snow. We spent a good while watching Coola and Grinder (the brown/grizzly bears), who were freshly out of hibernation, and we also watched the video about them. We then headed down the mountain, stopped at a shop to pick up some soft drinks and such for the cruise, and returned to the hotel. The next morning we returned the Hertz car to their downtown location, and then took a cab to the pier to board the Volendam. The ship -- embarkation: Embarkation was very smooth, even given long initial lines. We were grouped with passengers on the Norwegian Sun through much of the process, but the lines moved steadily. We arrived at the pier at 11:35 and walked onboard the Volendam at 12:05. Cabins were announced as ready at 1:25 PM. The ship -- herself: The Volendam was just two weeks out of dry dock, although the carpets, furniture, cabins, in many areas appeared to be showing normal wear and tear, so perhaps this was more of a systems/behind-the-scenes drydock visit. I liked the size of this ship very much - while she doesn't have every "bell and whistle" offered by newer, larger ships, she does have most of the central features I enjoy on a cruise ship, such as a good-sized show room and restaurant, a well-equipped gym, a couple of pools, several bars, etc. We LOVED the accessible bow for this Alaska itinerary - simply awesome views from there, and we also were big fans of the aft Lido deck. The Crow's Nest also offers wonderful views, and we really liked the Explorations Cafe space on Deck Five. She's a great ship for Alaska viewing. We enjoyed many of the onboard activities, as well. We saw movies in the Wajang Theater (complete with popcorn), and I attended a few activities in the Culinary Arts Center, as well as taking a cooking class with Scott, the chef in the Pinnacle Grill, which was very fun and worth the price. The trivia games were a lot of fun, as well - we won a few trinkets there during the cruise. We aren't shopaholics, so we skipped the shopping "ambassador's" spiels and "guarantees." The onboard cultural expert's talks were interesting, and we attended one as well as watching others replayed on the cabin TV. The ship - our cabin: We had cabin 7086, known here at CC as one of the "secret" cabins on the R class HAL ships. This is priced as an inside cabin (because it lacks a bathtub), but it's also sort of an ocean view (because it has a window), and sort of an aft balcony cabin, if you don't mind having to get dressed to enjoy "your" balcony (because out your cabin door you can turn left and immediately go through a fire door and exit door onto a wide public balcony running the width of the ship). The price makes this cabin a great bargain, and we really liked this cabin a lot - for the 2 of us it was just fine. Half the couch is in an alcove and so basically unusable, which wasn't a biggie, as we piled luggage down at that end. The TV (someone asked me this here, so I'm posting it) is still on the countertop instead of mounted from the wall, which cuts the available counter space rather significantly, but we were able to manage without much trouble. Best of all was being so close to an outside deck - either the port-to-starboard Navigation deck outside our cabin, or we could go up one flight of steps to the aft Lido deck. When Captain Bos made of one of his frequent announcements - "a pod of dolphins on the port side," or "a grizzly bear and cubs at about 3 o'clock to starboard," - we were able to be outside and looking in seconds. The bed was extremely comfortable, the linens were wonderful, and we loved the DVD player in our cabin (we'd brought our own DVDs we wanted to catch up on - so we cruised Alaska while watching "Dexter" and "Scrubs" in our cabin!). Air conditioning problems have been reported before on the Volendam, and we felt that ours didn't work very well. The cabin was too warm even with the AC on the lowest setting, but our steward Yudi brought us a fan the first day and that kept enough air moving that it was comfortable in chilly Alaska. I'm not sure how it would work out for the Caribbean, though. The ship -- entertainment: We attended the Franz Hals Lounge show on the first night of the 14 day cruise, called "Let us Entertain You." Probably the best way to sum up our reaction is to say that the only other show we attended there, which was not until week 2, was comedian Lee Bayless' show, as we'd heard some good things about his jokes about the cruise ship experience - he was okay. I want to stress that neither of the shows we saw were awful. They just weren't that entertaining to us. We also heard Elizabeth and the HAL Cats here and there - they are all talented people, but the lido deck is an unfortunate placement for them when the roof is closed - the sound is reflected and it just sounds like the singer is shouting over too-loud instruments. They were more enjoyable in the Crow's Nest in the evenings, by far. Fortunately for us, entertainer Randall Powell, who has a number of fans here at CC, is on the Volendam this summer and through her trip to the South Pacific/NZ/Australia this fall. We sort of stumbled onto Randall briefly on night one of the cruise, but the next night, after our CC gathering, one of his long-time friends who happened to be part of our roll call intercepted us and introduced us to him in the Piano Bar. We played Name that Tune that night with those newfound CC friends, and I think for the rest of the 14-day cruise we only missed maybe 2 nights in the piano bar. Sitting in a "regular" piano bar listening to someone cover standards wouldn't be on our agenda, but Randall's showmanship, and his games and activities, just made it compelling and not to be missed for us. Just over 1/3 of our shipboard transactions were purchases at the piano bar, and the room was packed every night, including 25-40 folding chairs. I have to say that we'd have had a great vacation in Alaska even without finding Randall, but because of him we really enjoyed our evenings on board ship, which helped make this vacation even better. I hope HAL appreciates what an asset Randall is (I think they do, based on comments heard at our CC gathering from management). The ship - spa and salon: After reading reports at CC about the thermal suites on HAL ships, we decided to purchase this for the first week of our cruise ($160 per couple). We really enjoyed this area, especially as I have a bad back and all that moist heat helped me recover from travel stress and from our port days during week one. We chose not to re-book this for the second week to save a bit of money, and because we didn't really care for the configuration of this space. The thermal couches on the Volendam look out the side of the ship, and face a publicly accessible deck area immediately outside the suite's windows, so people enjoying the exterior deck frequently blocked the "scenic view" from the couches. The thermal pool (really a large hot tub) is nice, though, and has a beautiful view forward - it was fun to sail through Glacier Bay while relaxing in the thermal pool! I won a "mini-facial" at the day one drawing for our cruise, and found it very relaxing and non-high-pressure sales tactics. The aesthetician was competent, didn't try to sell me things, and I appreciated that. The spa area itself is very nice with beautiful views. If I were a spa/salon/massage type person at home, I'd have been very happy in that space on the Volendam. It's very beautiful and the people are quite nice. The ship - laundry: The Volendam has self-serve laundry rooms on decks 1, 2, and 6. Because of the length of our trip, we'd planned to do laundry about halfway through. The cost is $2.00 for the washer (which includes the marine safe detergent you have to use) for a tiny washing machine load - it will hold maybe 4 pairs of jeans, or 3 pairs of jeans and a couple of shirts. The dryer is $1.00, and is larger - it will hold two loads of wash. You have to use quarters or 25-cent casino tokens in the machines. That sounds like it's pretty straightforward, but the number of out of order and missing machines made doing laundry a real ordeal - most of the rooms only had three or so functional machines. Because so many people were either going on to land vacations, had boarded from land vacations, or were cruising back to back, the laundries were very popular and crowded. I walked into one to hear one woman literally yelling at another one "I was here first and you can just leave." I tried over a couple of days to find a room that wasn't jam-packed and finally found one at 9:00 PM one night, where I waited for one couple's wash to finish so that I could do one load of socks and undies in a machine. Then I stuffed the rest of the dirty things in a HAL laundry bag and put it out to be done by the ship for $12. Next time they can wash it all - I won't ever again count on reasonably available self-service laundry on HAL. It's a nice idea, but if they don't maintain the machines it's really more of a stress-generator than a useful amenity. The ship - food, wine and beer: I have posted here at CC before, and will repeat, we are not "foodies." We aren't gourmets, we rarely drink wine at home, and we are generally pleased by the fare on most cruise lines whether in the buffet or the dining room. We thought the food on the Volendam was very good to excellent, and we enjoyed our 20 glasses of wine card (so much we didn't have any punches left to put in our cabin Bible)! Food is so subjective that I will only make a few random statements about it, rather than reviewing each meal, with the caveat that this is OUR reaction only, and yours might be 180 degrees different. 1) We enjoyed our meal in the Pinnacle Grill. I had the ribeye and SO had the filet, and both were exceptional. Our favorite side dish was the mushrooms, and for dessert the chocolate melting cake was also wonderful. The wine steward here made us feel pretty dumb by his reaction to our wine card (the only example of less-than-stellar service we encountered in two weeks, by the way), but that's life - we didn't realize that (based on his reaction) apparently offering the wine card in the Pinnacle was ridiculous - good thing he set us straight so we know for next time! (tongue in cheek); 2) We thought the dining room food overall was very good to excellent. Items we really enjoyed included the lobster on surf and turf night, the always-available New York strip, the chilled fruit soups, the bisques and tomato-based soups, the king crab legs, shrimp cocktail, and the pork and lamb dishes. We liked the Asian station in the Lido at lunch - they offered very good food there. Overall the desserts were pretty flavorless to us - the only one that stands out to me was the mountain berry crisp I had one evening - that was good. Most of the pastry type items tasted as if they'd been frozen and heated, but that's not such a bad thing - it kept us from gaining weight on the cruise! 3) We like locally brewed beers when we travel, and Northbound we really enjoyed those from the Alaskan label. Southbound, on day 2, the ship ran completely out of any type of local Alaskan-brewed beer. Note, this wasn't the fault of Harry, the Beverage Manager, who only joined the ship during week 1 of our cruise - but it was still quite annoying, especially as Alaskan has offered an event with HAL this summer involving purchasing Alaskan brews and obtaining stamps onboard; 4) I liked the Lido option in the evening if one didn't feel like getting dressed for the dining room - we used it two times and were quite pleased; 5) HAL needs either to enforce the dress code or get rid of it. We adhered to the dress code, and I'd estimate that the majority of the passengers (55-65%) did too, but the effort was basically pointless, based on the attire admitted to the dining room. 6) Room service on HAL rocks! They offer great breakfasts, including hot meals, and the ability to order dining room food during dinner hours was super. The club sandwich on the 24 hour menu is delicious. 7) HAL does something in the dining rooms I really didn't like. The waiters remove flatware and stemware from the table when unnecessary for that diner (which is typical), but then I watched them put those items directly back into the containers for re-setting the dining tables. I really don't understand having Purell everywhere onboard, and crew members requiring pax to use it prior to reboarding, going down the buffet line, and so forth on the one hand, but then reusing dinnerware without any idea of whether it's been in someone's hands (or mouth) on the other hand. BIG thumb's down for this practice. 8) As You Wish dining worked well for us. We typically had no trouble or significant delay being seated, and we walked in at various times between 5:30 to 8:30 during the 14 days. The first night of the cruise we were given a beeper, but were still seated within 20 minutes, and after that we were seated within 5 minutes at most, and usually less. Several times we were seated upstairs, in the "fixed dining" room, where we saw many empty tables. Perhaps it's just the Alaska itinerary, but it definitely seemed on our cruise that AYW was more popular than traditional, by a fair margin. 9) The Master Chef's Dinner was a bust for us. We skipped it in week one, in favor of the Pinnacle Grill, and decided to attend during week two. Requiring everyone to show up at 7:45 and not opening the dining room doors until 8:00 was just an invitation to disaster - I'll be posting some photos of the cheek to jowl mass of humanity solidly clogging the elevator lobby and all the stairways on Deck Four. It was downright dangerous (and it didn't improve my mood that the woman in front of me had bathed in perfume and simply reeked). Service quality slipped during the dinner (we received no wine steward attention until our entrees were being delivered to the table), and I didn't like having the range of choices for two courses restricted because of the "show." I personally didn't think the show was enjoyable (it was more like "painful to watch"). Also, maybe I'm overly sanitation aware as an elementary school teacher, but during the baked Alaska parade having people wave their used napkins over their heads, thus flinging the crumbs and such they've wiped from their mouths all over the dining room, was just plain gross to me. Needless to say, we won't be doing the Master Chef's Dinner again! The ship - service: In addition to room service, mentioned above, service is the second area where I really felt HAL is a notch above other lines we've sailed. From our marvelous cabin steward, Yudi, to the front desk who helped me with a few issues as painlessly as possible, to Jose ("Freddy") and Augustin from the beverage staff, we just felt HAL goes out of their way to try to make everyone feel special. We were on the Navigation Deck, with the Neptune Lounge and the suite pax, and the stewards at that end of the corridor still always had time to say hello and smile as we walked down the hall. Simply put, wonderful people work for HAL. We left our auto-added tips in place, and tipped additional in cash frequently during our stay... and every penny was well earned and well spent. Though not in the same category as tipped service staff, we also appreciated the fact that on the southbound leg our CC meet and greet was joined by Rebecca, the cruise director, and Harry, the beverage manager. We had a good time visiting with them, and really appreciated their taking the time from their busy days to join a small gathering of CC folks. I thank everyone from our roll call that attended the M&Gs in both directions - it was so nice to meet friendly people, and have familiar faces to see during the cruise. I also really appreciated the master on the Volendam, Captain Peter Bos. He obviously loves Alaska, and really enjoys sharing wildlife sightings and such he makes from the bridge. His manner was also very reassuring when the fire alarm sounded on the last night of the cruise due to smoke in the Crow's Nest (it turned out to be easily resolved and the lounge reopened). Ports of Call - Ketchikan: Northbound we did the Bering Sea Crab Fishing excursion, booked through HAL, and we simply loved it - it was one of our two favorite excursions for the whole trip. It features hosts who actually have fished in the Bering Sea relating their experiences, coupled with live demonstrations of their gear and routines. With the stadium seating they've added to the Aleutian Ballad there's not a bad seat to be had, either - the lines of sight were carefully thought out. We got to see/touch a rockfish, a prawn (with the most amazing copper eyes), a king crab, a Tanner crab, and an octopus. It was a raw, cold, wet, nasty day - but the Aleutian Ballad crew offered ponchos, hot drinks, nice overhead heaters, and space indoors if you became too chilled. We were very much "in" to this excursion, as we are fans of The Deadliest Catch, but even those on our excursion who hadn't ever seen the show were as happy as we were with the experience. It's not touristy, canned, or shlocky at all, though I guess after a lot of repetition it could become that way. But for now it's just a great time and very genuine. We also went to the Great Alaskan Lumberjack Show, and found it corny and hokey (which we expected), but still a lot of fun. We got some good photos there, as the weather had turned sunny by afternoon. Southbound we booked Lois Munch of Classic Tours and we had a very nice visit with her while touring Ketchikan and Saxman Village. The classic Chevy is a hoot (it doesn't even have seatbelts!) and Lois is very knowledgeable about Ketchikan and Saxman Village. After the tour she dropped us at Creek Street and we had fun touring Dolly's house and checking out the shops as the clouds gave way to a gorgeous, sunny afternoon. We went to Steamer's for appetizers (chicken wings and crab margarita) and Alaskan summer ale, then shopped a bit more as we meandered back to our ship. Ports of Call - Juneau: On the Northbound leg we had a major disappointment, as the Volendam was late arriving in Juneau due to what we were told was the need to perform some type of engine repair during the night. This meant we were unable to make our Adventure Bound sailing to Tracy Arm, which was very disappointing - that was the first excursion I'd booked for this trip and I'd really been looking forward to it. I contacted Winona at Adventure Bound when we returned home and she cheerfully refunded our money, waiving their 7-day cancellation policy since the ship was late - excellent service there, and she's so nice. I hope we get back to Juneau someday so we can take the Adventure Bound. Interestingly, when I called to arrange the credit Winona said that the Volendam was also late into Juneau on June 18, the ship's next northbound trip after ours. If this is a permanent schedule change, and wasn't a temporary problem on our sailing, HAL needs to change their published time at the dock from 7 AM to 8 AM so folks don't think they have time to make an 8 AM excursion in Juneau. We booked the "Glaciers and Gardens" excursion through the ship at the last minute instead, and enjoyed it well enough. We liked the film at the Mendenhall Visitor's Center, and thought the golf cart trip through the rainforest was really very interesting and beautiful. After the tour we went to meet a group at the Twisted Fish for lunch and had a great meal - that was a really good time! Southbound in Juneau we'd booked Orca Enterprises and went out with Captain Larry, Captain Shaun, and a naturalist named Dirk (I think those last 2 names are correct; if not I apologize). We had a wonderful time with them! The information shared was very educational, and we were fortunate to have whales come very close to our boat. A bit further away we also saw a whale breaching. Afterwards we did some shopping in Juneau and wandered around Franklin Street before returning to the ship. Ports of Call - Skagway: We booked the Yukon Bus/Rail excursion through Chilkoot Charters at Skagway and really enjoyed it. The day got off to a rocky start, though - the email confirmation said for us to meet our driver outside the security area at the end of our pier at 7:30. We (and another couple who had booked Chilkoot) were there on time on a chilly, wet morning, and no van showed up. After several efforts I reached the offices by phone around 7:50 and was berated by the woman who answered because we were "at the wrong pier," and her driver was looking "everywhere" for us. I explained that we were at the pier where our ship docked - Ore Dock, per the security officer standing nearby whom I asked. The woman on the phone noisily flipped some pages, and said that according to her schedule we were "supposed" to be at Broadway Dock, and with a heavy sigh, said she'd send the van to our dock. This really irked me, to be honest. Did this woman think I had any control over where our cruise ship docked? Plus, couldn't her driver look around the port and SEE that the Volendam was berthed at a different dock than their schedule said? The Skagway port area isn't that big - one can easily see every ship in port. In any event, the driver did finally arrive and he was very nice. We enjoyed the train trip, especially the "moonscape" above the tree line at the end. By the time we reached Fraser it had turned into a beautiful day. We really enjoyed the trip to Emerald Lake, the activities at Carcross, all the photo stops we were able to make, and our driver, BJ, was really nice and informative - his friendly attitude went a long way toward improving my overall impression after the phone conversation that morning. We saw a brown bear eating dandelions right beside the road and he ignored us as we got great photos right from the mini-bus. I liked doing this excursion in the small group very much, especially for the ability to make a lot of photo stops. The large buses just can't do that, because it takes so long to get everyone off and back on. We returned to a beautiful, sunny afternoon in Skagway. We went on the ship-sponsored excursion to Liarsville for a salmon bake, show, and gold panning. We were the only 2 from the Volendam who went to that evening's show, and in fact there were only about 20 people in all who attended, so it was a nice, intimate experience. I enjoyed this excursion - again, it was a bit hokey, but then again we were tourists! The young performers were especially engaging and fun, and the food at the salmon bake was very good. Ports of Call - Haines: We really liked Haines (which was our Southbound port of call rather than Skagway). The thing I liked immediately was getting off the ship and NOT seeing rows of the same jewelry stores you see in the Caribbean, and in Ketchikan, Juneau, and Skagway. We rented a car in the morning, using Avis at the Hotel Halsingland, and drove out the Haines Highway into the Yukon as far as Million Dollar Falls. It was a really pleasant drive, and we saw eagles, trumpeter swans, arctic ground squirrels, and a large brown bear, as well as beautiful mountain and alpine views. On the return trip we stopped for lunch at the 33 Mile Roadhouse, which had wonderful hamburgers and onion rings. We got back to Haines and met our ship-sponsored excursion called the Alaska Wildlife Expedition, which visited the refuge owned by filmmaker and animal handler Steve Kroschel. This was thoroughly enjoyable! Steve is so knowledgeable and very enthusiastic, and so is Mario, another naturalist/documentary-maker who helped show us the animals and explain more about them, as did both Steve's son and Mario's son. We saw (and in a few cases got to pet and/or feed) a wolf, an owl, a hawk, a pine marten, a mink, porcupines, wolverines, lemmings, ermines, foxes, moose, caribou, and I'm probably forgetting some. Steve had recently had a brown bear cub placed with him and it was too soon for her to make an appearance, but we saw her from a distance. A couple of points about this excursion: first, the description says walking is required, but doesn't make it clear this walking is up and down some very steep gravel and dirt paths - several people in our group had mobility issues and struggled; and second, use the bug spray they give you liberally, as this place is on "Mosquito Lake Road" and they aren't fooling - there were zillions of very large mosquitoes. On the way back to Haines we stopped at the Bald Eagle Foundation and were treated to a very informative talk by Dave Olerud, who was one of the creators of the Foundation. Ports of Call - Seward: We were thrilled by our excursion choice at Seward - the Kenai Fjords Northwestern glacier trip so frequently recommended on the Alaska board here at Cruise Critic. Those recommendations are spot on, based on our experience. We were able to use the Northern Lights 2-for-1 coupon for this excursion. We saw lots of wildlife: orcas (including breaching), humpbacks (also including breaching), puffins and other birds, sea lions, seals, otters, Dall porpoises, and mountain goats. At one point while we were stopped and watching whale activity several hundred feet away a different humpback surfaced nearby, then literally dove under our vessel, the Chugach - his tail wasn't more than ten feet off the bow rail! We also saw great calving activity at the glacier. I do advise bringing sunscreen for this trip, as our day was so clear and bright, and I spent so much time on the bow, I'd have burned without it. I did take Bonine prior to the trip, but my SO didn't, and neither of us felt at all queasy - though I could see how that could happen, as the boat did bounce and wallow from time to time even on this very calm day. Our captain/naturalist, Mark Lindstrom (I think the last name's right) was very informative, his crew was excellent and attentive, and overall this was one of our top two excursions of the trip (along with the Aleutian Ballad one in Ketchikan). I was so impressed that instead of selling the rest of the Northern Lights book on Ebay (the Kenai Fjords was the only coupon we used from it, as it turned out), I gave it to the captain as a "tip" so that he and the others at the Kenai Fjords company could benefit from the various coupons in the book, or share them with friends and family. Scenic Sailing and Glacier Viewing: One of the best parts of the itinerary we chose was that it gave us six "sea days" - two each for the Inside Passage, Glacier Bay, and College Fjord. We were able to maximize our time outdoors just watching the amazing scenery unfold. We also had two chances to see Glacier Bay, and Marjorie Glacier was much more active on our second visit than our first, so we were very grateful. During the second visit a piece calved which was so large the waves from it could be felt onboard the ship. HAL does these glacier days well, with blankets and hot pea soup on deck, plus hot chocolate available, and stronger fortifications for sale if desired. The National Park Service rangers during the Glacier Bay days were very informative, as was the representative of the Huna speaking about their way of life. I also really liked College Fjord, and being able to see a panoramic view of so many glaciers at once. Clothing and gear: The best packing decision I made was to remove two of the four short-sleeved shirts I'd laid out and replace them with long-sleeved ones. I didn't wear either of the short-sleeved shirts until we were on the way home. I didn't need the waterproof hiking shoes I brought along, but only because we didn't have any days with steady rainfall, so my regular walking shoes were okay. I found my fleece pants to be warmer than jeans and wore the fleece most often. Most days I wore a long sleeved shirt, a sleeveless fleece vest over it, and then had my waterproof jacket with removable fleece lining if needed. I used gloves, ear muffs, and scarf at various times. My SO is colder natured than I am, so he took lightweight thermal underwear and was very glad he did. I brought insulated mugs for hot chocolate from home, which we really enjoyed on scenic viewing/glacier viewing days on the ship. You could get hot chocolate on the ship, but it didn't stay hot long in regular cups. I was very happy I'd spent a bit more than I'd planned on binoculars for this trip, choosing the Nikon Trailblazer 8x42 model. They were so comfortable and easy to use, and lightweight to wear around my neck, so I always had them when the captain spotted things for us to try to see on shore - I was able to watch a brown bear sow and 2 cubs for about ten minutes one afternoon. My SO brought our binoculars with a built in camera and was very glad he did - he was able to use it to get photos of a breaching orca and a breaching humpback, among other things. Post-Cruise and Returning Home: We booked transportation through HAL back to SeaTac, which was reasonably smooth, especially as at the US border the official just checked passports/ID and waved us on. Our driver was kind enough to drop us off at our hotel with our luggage, saving us a transition at the airport from the bus to the hotel's shuttle. We again stayed at the Radisson Gateway for $50, booked via Priceline. We had thought about seeing some of Seattle this day, but we were tired after some late nights at the Piano Bar and decided just to stay in and rest up. The next day we took the hotel shuttle to the airport and were again able to upgrade to business class for $99 per person - a real boon on cross-country flights. Our flight was late departing Seatac, but arrived on time in Atlanta, and all too soon we were back home and back to real life! Read Less
Sail Date June 2008
This will be a very lengthy review it is close to 4400 words but we wanted to capture the grandeur that is Alaska and hopefully you can see it through our eyes if that is at all possible...We hope you enjoy this review Our thoughts on ... Read More
This will be a very lengthy review it is close to 4400 words but we wanted to capture the grandeur that is Alaska and hopefully you can see it through our eyes if that is at all possible...We hope you enjoy this review Our thoughts on HAL's Cruise / Tour #14 Tuesday May 20, 2008 Let me start out by saying there was my Wife, (early 50's) Step Son (18) Myself (Early 50's) the wife's lifelong friend (early 50's) and her husband (Early 50's)....This is just so you know the makeup of our group..For us this was part of our son's Graduation from High School present We like to leave a day early so we can acclimate to time changes and make sure that we get there in case of a problem with our air travel Our alarm goes off at 4:00am with no problems there is anticipation in the air setting out on a new adventure So Airport Transportation (Local Taxi) picked us up at 4:30am and they are on time. We head off to Newark NJ airport, now we live a stone's throw from JFK in New York (20 minutes) but the only way we could stay with the same airline, Alaska Air, was to leave from Newark. As Alaska Air have no flights out of JFK... We were in the airport in less than 1 hour. The only problem was that our big bag was over 50lbs. (64lbs to be exact) and I told the Wife that there was no way it could be over 50lbs because I could not lift over 50lbs with my left hand..Guess we will be buying a luggage scale HA HA.. All of our flights were on time. We went from Newark to Seattle and then Seattle to Fairbanks. We arrived at the Westmark Hotel at 4:15 Alaska time which there is a 4 hour time difference between there and New York so we were traveling for over 15 ½ hours, a long day!!!! We had dinner in the hotel prices are high but I guess that is Alaska Wednesday May 21, 2008 We woke up Wednesday morning had breakfast, this was the best value for the money at $13.95 all you could eat buffet. The food at this was passable I know I know food is very subjective some might love it I just thought it was OK. We then decided to take a free shuttle to the Museum of the North, this is located at the University of Alaska..Now this trip cost us $10.00 per person, the cost of entry to the museum. HAL charges $25.00 per person, YOU DO THE MATH When we arrived back at the Westmark we went to our room and I found it wide open WITH NO ONE IN THE ROOM..I waited there for a few minutes until housekeeping came back and I disclosed my displeasure!!!! The woman told me she had only been gone a minute but I told her it was longer then that...I was very concerned because some of my camera equipment was still in the room what if that had been stolen yes HAL and the Westmark would make good but what about the pictures that I would have missed you can't put a price on that...I called the head of housekeeping to talk to her she kept saying that she was sorry and gave me 5 vouchers for breakfast, but as you will see later I am still going to write to both HAL and The Westmark Then at 3:00 we went to meet our Tour Director Annette French...Later that day we went to the Great Alaskan Salmon Bake and Show in the Palace Theater, booked through HAL, but once again you do not have to you can book it at the Hotel and save some money..The food was very good all you could eat and the show was a rip, very very funny Thursday May 22, 2008 Today we went on the Fairbanks City, Gold Dredge #8, and Riverboat tour...These were very interesting and we really enjoyed them...As a side note the best food that I had on the land portion of our Cruise / Tour was at Gold Dredge #8 the beef stew was the best I have had in a long time, at least since my grandmother passed away and then hers was the BEST...We also got to stop at the Alaskan Pipeline for about 25 minutes, this was interesting to see..We did find out some interesting facts about Alaska it has NO STATE INCOME TAX..Local cities may impose a tax but most don't...Also because of the pipeline every person (Man woman and child) who have been a resident of Alaska for more than 1 year get a dividend check every October, last year that check was $1700.00...Also they have a program where you can buy College Credits at the current rate..So you can take your child's check and buy credits for their collage education at the University of Alaska..These tours took up all day and this was our last day in Fairbanks.... When we arrived back we went to our room prior to dinner to clean up and found that our room was ONLY ½ MADE UP...One bed was left unmade with all the dirty linens from both beds and the bathroom on it...Once again a call to the Head of Housekeeping...They sent up a housekeeper but NOT THE HEAD..So we insisted on seeing the Head of Housekeeping and she finally came up...Once again she said that she was sorry...All she offered us this time was 5 espressos from the hotel shop as we had to board buses very early in the morning...So you now see why I will be writing to both HAL (Which I think owns the Westmark) and the Westmark... Our overall impressions of the Westmark, the dinning have very limited menus and they are expensive (A New York Steak was $26.00 which is a little steep)..There has to be improvements in housekeeping...Lastly the hotel is located in a bad part of town Friday May 23, 2008 We were up early as our bags had to be out by 7:00am...Once we are loaded in our bus it is a short trip to the train station of the Alaskan Rail Road where we board HAL's McKinley Explorer for our 4 hour ride to Denali..The scenery along this rail way is incredible..While aboard we had the option of buying breakfast..The food was very good and for me it should have been as this is owned (I mean the rail road cars) by HAL..There is no way to describe the site when you first see the Alaskan Mountain Range...I have seen pictures as we all have, I have taken pictures, and they just can't do the mountain range justice.... Just before noon we arrive at the Denali Rail Road Station and get off the train and get onto buses for a very short trip to the McKinley Resort and Chalet...The Chalet is located in the Nenana River Valley...Once again everywhere you turn the scenery is breath taking...We have this whole afternoon and evening to ourselves...We had a late lunch in the Courtyard Cafe, the food is starting to improve, we often do this (late lunch) and not have dinner... HAL does offer tours and we had prebooked the Husky Homestead Tour..We had problems with this tour...We were told to meet in the lobby and someone would make an announcement and we did hear other tours being announced..My wife saw the van for the Husky Homestead Tour and we waited and waited and then they just left without paging in the lobby that they were there!!! We went to the front desk to say something and to see if they could get the driver to come back but they said that they would get us alternate transportation...As a side note the day before in Fairbanks we spent a good part of our morning on the bus running back and forth picking up stragglers...SO WHY COULD THEY NOT DO THAT HERE????? Anyway they give us a very nice young man with VERY POOR directions and we spent the next 45 minutes going up and down every side road looking for our tour, little to say we never found it and we headed back to the hotel when we were going back we found out the HAL had an office on the hotel grounds just outside the lobby...We went in there to see what we could do..The driver gave us the slip of paper that he had the directions on so we showed to the HAL Rep she looked at it and said that the directions were wrong and then refunded our money and then said she said she would try to do more for us like ship board credit but we would have to see her the next day...Our problem was our 18 year old son had picked this tour and it was the only land thing that he wanted to do and it was the way we got him to come with us so he was very disappointed to say the least Saturday May 24, 2008 Today we did the Tundra Wilderness Tour in Denali Park...Once again this was a very good tour which was part of our package (HAL's Cruise / Tour #14)...This is another tour that we really enjoyed and once again it is something that really can't be described and pictures cannot do it justice....Also as soon as I can I will post my pictures I took well over 2500 which will be culled down a lot...My final thought on Denali National Park we did not get to see Mount McKinley....They say that only about 30% of the people that go to the park every year get to see the summit from ground level because of the cloud cover Final thoughts on the land portion of our trip...Looking back on my notes I had given the food a 3 (Based on a 0 to 10 with 10 being the very best) but in reality the food has to be worth a 7....The only real problem was the Westmark's Restaurants with their high prices and their limited selections....The tours I'd also rate as a 7 because of the Husky tour and after we found out what HAL charges for the Museum of the North and what we paid it just does not add up...The Hotels here we go I really have problems here over all I'd say a 5+....If I split them up the Westmark gets a 3 and with that I think I am being kind and their Restaurant... McKinley Resort and Chalet gets a 7 because of the way they handled our tour....The land portion of the tour over all gets an 8+ the thing that pulled it out for me was the marvelous, wondrous, and beautiful sites I was truly humbled....Our tour guide Annette French she gets a 8 and the only reason that I did not give her a 9 is because I fell that when any one in her group is taking a HAL sponsored tour I.e.: our Husky tour she needs to be in the lobby of the hotel to resolve any problems like the one we had, but otherwise she was great.. Sunday May 25, 2008 Another early day we are boarding the bus at 7:15am for the long ride to Seward and the Volendam...We make a few stops on the way down our bus driver / guide is good...One of the places we get to stop is the Denali game preserve...They have some animals which we get out of the buss and are able to take pictures of...A very interesting place where they care for injured animals and are trying to repopulate some animals who are having a problem in the wild....We get our first look at the Volendam at 4:50pm...As Deluxe Suite passengers we get preferred check in, this perk is no big deal our friends who were in another cabin checked in and were just behind us on the line to board...We board and there is NO ONE to direct us to our cabin or the Lido or where we are to go so we found the elevator and found our room...The first person to impress us was our room steward his name is Lucky he called us by Mr. & Mrs. Our last name....For the rest of the week Lucky was good not impressive.....We went up to the Lido for dinner which was very crowded... There was nothing in the main dinning room so we were told Monday May 26, 2008 Today is a sea day and we get to see College Fjord we were here from 5:30am until 9:00am....My wife and I generally got up early, between 7:00 & 7:30am, no matter what time I leave the casino and most nights that is around 1:00am... We went to the Lido for breakfast and the first thing we noticed was the lack of ships officers, we did not know the entertainment personal aboard so we excluded them...On the Oosterdam 2 years ago the officers and entertainment staff would have breakfast with the passengers and we were told that that was an order from the captain, that the crew would eat in the Lido and no more than 2 to a table and mingle with the passengers...It was not to be here and I missed it...On the O-Dam we had breakfast with the Captain one morning although he only had coffee but other mornings there were others and I think that is a good thing....HAL should make it mandatory throughout the fleet...This way the officers and others know what the passengers are thinking and maybe can help resolve problems sooner before they snow ball into larger problems...The other thing we noticed in the Lido during breakfast, was the coffee man or should I say the lack of one...Our last 2 HAL cruises O-Dam and Zandam coffee men just kept going up and down the aisles on both sides of the Lido offering refills....For the 6 mornings that we were in the Lido we saw them 2x and the second time he had passed us and another waiter offered to get us coffee....The other thing we noticed was the speed or lack there of at which tables got cleaned there were mornings where we walked around for quite a long time looking for a place to eat and we saw where tables that could be cleared.. Well I am rambling about the Lido if I think of more I will catch it another day..... I do not know if this is because this is our first cruise where we did not have to worry about a high school or grammar school schedule, which would put a lot of kids onboard and younger families, so let me throw this out there...BINGO this is where in the past I have had a lot of FUN!!! This time the Assistant Cruise Director and his helper were way too serious there was no way I could heckle them as I had done on the O-Dam and the Zandam on both of those cruises by the end I had the crowd with me and helping me and when I missed a BINGO session on those 2 ships I would get stopped and asked where I had been and if everything was alright...We got the impression this Entertainment staff were not approachable....To me they seemed to be just walking around just barely doing their jobs as if they did not want to be there... The other thing that we missed was the things that were done just prior to the main shows....Like on the Zandam there was a lip sync show where I played Rob Lowe from Foot Loose...Or on the O-Dam where I got my wife to play the Newly Wed Game and we had a lot of fun both times...It is things like these things that we missed Tonight is our first formal night...I was not felling very well, maybe the land tour wore me down, but I still dressed for dinner....For dinner we had early seating upper at 5:45 at table #18 which was a table for 6 but being there was only 5 of us it gave us some room...First thing that I noticed was the number of people who dressed down this number was about 40%...By dressing down I mean no tie or jacket for men, ladies in sweatshirts, people in jeans and sneakers....As far as men in tuxes goes maybe 10% had tuxes but the rest of the 50% had suits and ties... As a side note one of the other nights my step-son arrived in the dining room and had forgotten to leave his hat in our cabin and was told he had to remove it, they were right and he did....So why can't they question others not properly dressed???? But they can stop an 18 year old kid....... Getting back to our first formal night dinner well it was like this everyone at our table ordered the "JUMBO SHRIMP" what we got was shrimp from "Cosco" or "Sams Club" and I mean the really small shrimp...You had to look way down into the cocktail dish to find them...In fact we joked that it was Krill...What we found out was that they can only take on stores in Vancouver and cannot get them in Seward so by the south bound voyage there can be and there were "SHORTAGES" ...As my review moves through the week I will talk about other things we did not have..... Menus they were good except where they forgot that they were out of something and still had it on the menu....The thing that was MISSING was the comfort food...There was no Meat Loaf or Turkey or any other comfort food...There are those of us who look forward to HAL's meat loaf and those other comfort foods they are nice for a change... I must admit one thing here because I have been one on those carrying the banner about formal nights and remaining dressed....As I said earlier I was not feeling well so after dinner I went back to my cabin and changed out of my Tux into a neat pair of slacks with a golf shirt and was still dressed better then a lot of others that night Tuesday May 27, 2008 9:00am we enter Glacier Bay National Park & Preserve ---- I was on the bow of the ship from about 8:40am right after breakfast and I can tell you it was cold then because we were making some speed...We moved up Tarr Inlet and the way you know that you are getting close to a glacier you will see the ice flow...Saw first Marjorie Glacier and Pacific Glacier...There was some Calving of Marjorie but it was tough to catch with my camera you have to be very lucky to be looking at the right spot at the right time.....Marjorie Glacier stretches back some 17 miles From there we approached Jaw Point (called so because as you round it your Jaw drops at the first site of Johns Hopkins Glacier...We were 5 miles away and it was huge Wednesday May 28, 2008 Docked at Haines---We were going to the White Pass Rail Road as we were disembarking there was an announcement that the White Pass Rail Road had broken down and that HAL would post a refund...We continued to the pier and found the HAL Rep on the pier and asked her what she thought about a replacement tour and she recommended the Wild Life Jet Boat Tour...She quoted us a price of $94.00 so we booked it for the 5 of us....The tour was OK but we only saw 2 eagles one nesting and one flying around...Well you can't make the animals come out on cue in the wild...The tour took place on the Chilcat river and the scenery was beautiful..... One side note the HAL Rep on the pier quoted us the wrong price, when we looked at our statement we found that they charged us $105.00 we went to our concierge in the Neptune Lounge and she handled it for us it for us..... Before I go on to Wednesday let me talk just a little about the weather... After all the reading I had done on the Cruise Critic Boards I was expecting the worst....We needed our heavy coats only once in Glacier Bay while we were entering it and I was hanging out on the bow.. But once we slowed down or just slowly turned in place my jacket was open....Every place we went it seemed as we approached it was cloudy and crappy looking but as we got there the sun burned off the clouds and we had glorious sunny warm days.... Thursday May 29, 2008 Docked in Juno---Here we booked the Whale Watching & Mendenhall Glacier tour through HAL....We went to Mendenhall Glacier first today...When you see the Visitor Center it is hard to believe that 250 years ago this portion was covered with ice and glacier....That is the one constant about Alaska and her glaciers the view is different from year to year.... This was the second part of this great tour....I was the first to spot a whale and for the time we were out there we saw 6+ different whales ---- A group of Sea Lions ----- and a couple of eagles....You could get this cheaper but I like not having the hassle of getting back and forth to the ship..Over all this was worth the money we spent.... Friday May 2008 Today it was Ketchikan for us and our last port of call prior to our disembarkation....As we pulled into port it was the second time that we got to see the Westerdam, the first being Glacier Bay, but as we arrived the Westerdam was pulling out...Here we had the Lumber Jack & Totem Bight tour scheduled...When we docked I did have about an hour...Which gave me a chance to walk around and through Creek Street ....My wife and Step Son one was toured out (Step Son) and my wife was not feeling good so I took my tour with my friends who had nothing book for here...As for the Lumber Jack show it was a little corny but enjoyable...The second part of the tour which was the Totem Bight Park was very interesting , we had a retired professor from the University of Alaska and he really knew his stuff about the totem poles and the stories behind them....As a side note for this tour I can tell you, you DO NEED BUG SPRAY....We get all the way through the tour and back to the ship and I find out from my friends wife that he had bug spray in his knapsack I wanted to KILL HIM HA Ha!!! Saturday May 31, 2008 Our final sea day nothing to do but sit back enjoy the ship and pack...I really don't like this day because it means that our cruise is over and I have to leave the ship and I do so enjoy being aboard so much...But the day was uneventful...We did get to see what it is meant to truly cruise the inside passage....For our last day the scenery was as we started breath taking...On a cruise like this you run out of adjectives to describe what you are seeing.... Sunday June 1, 2008 Docked at our final destination Vancouver BC Canada....We have to meet in the Showtime Lounge at 7:15am...But first it was up to the Neptune Lounge, one last time, for a quick bite to eat of the continental breakfast they serve..We have Signature Express Disembarkation.. Which means we paid and extra $16.00 per person put our bags out the night before and did not see them until we got to JFK Airport in New York and to me it was well worth it....By 8:30am they are scanning our room keys for one last disembarkation, which for me is a very sad moment it means that my vacation is over....We leave the ship one last time and board buses to take us to the airport... Final Thoughts and Comments Over all we give HAL a B+ for this cruise...It was not their best as far as we are concerned...We only have 2 other HAL cruises to compare this to and for my money they were far better....But HAL's B+ is still far better than other cruise lines A+ service....I can only hope that someone from HAL will read this and try to correct the problems...We do have plans on sending a letter to HAL about the problems that we had and I will include a hard copy of this review...Would we sail HAL again well while on board we booked our next cruise 18 days through the Panama Cannel, so I would say yes we'd sail them again....Would we recommend HAL to our friends there is a big yes to that... Let me end this by talking about the entertainment, the HAL singers and dancers their 2 shows seemed to be tired and lack luster and not very enjoyable...Janine Gardner she tried to be a comedian, notice I said TRIED TO BE and I am sorry we saw her twice.....Professor Watson he played many different instruments and was very entertaining he should have been in the last show instead of Janine Gardner...Now I saved the best, of the Showtime Lounge acts, for last Mr. Craig Diamond he is a comic / magician and was very good if you get a chance to see him you are very lucky...As far as entertainment around the ship we never got to the Crows Nest so I can't say anything about up there but around the other parts of the ship, the only bad thing I can say is regarding The Manila Quartet in the Ocean Bar they were the worst band I have ever heard they melted my Brain it hurt to listen to them.... Read Less
Sail Date May 2008
Volendam Ratings
Category Editor Member
Cabins 3.5 4.0
Dining 4.0 4.0
Entertainment 3.5 3.5
Public Rooms 4.0 4.2
Fitness Recreation 4.5 3.8
Family 3.5 3.8
Shore Excursion 4.0 3.5
Enrichment 5.0 3.5
Service 5.0 4.2
Value For Money 4.0 3.8
Rates 4.0 3.9

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