172 Holland America Volendam Cruise Reviews

Although we are not "seasoned cruisers" and this is my first review for CC, we have now cruised 6 times in the last 4 years. For comparison we have been on the RCL Explorer (Eastern Caribbean), Crown Princess (Canada & New ... Read More
Although we are not "seasoned cruisers" and this is my first review for CC, we have now cruised 6 times in the last 4 years. For comparison we have been on the RCL Explorer (Eastern Caribbean), Crown Princess (Canada & New England), RCL Splendour (Greece), Carnival Spirit (Mexico) and NCL Pearl (Western Caribbean).  We were newbies to Alaska and HAL, but I suspect we will be back to both in the coming years.We chose the Vancouver round trip to get the most scenic views (more time along the inside passage), more ports, as well as both Tracy Arm and Glacier National Park. I am very happy with the route and talking to others onboard I think the "full inside passage" is much better than the west of Vancouver Island route with a short Victoria stop that you often get with Seattle departures.As a quick overview, before diving into details, we had a positive experience on the Volendam, with a friendly and helpful crew, good food and entertainment, nice rooms and a little less of a pushy environment than other ships. We had a few minor complaints and you can read on to see them, but HAL and the MS Volendam will stay on our list to sail again. Alaska is mind-boggling; the scenery is huge, amazing, and constant, it was everything everyone had said it would be. My advice; don't miss it.Pre-Cruise Vancouver. (2 days)The airport was very open and well designed, but customs line was 45 minutes, so just beware. Taxi is $35CAD from airport to hotel We stayed at La Soleil, very nice hotel and convenient, the service was fantastic. HOHO trolley was fun and easy. Ate in Chinatown at Jade Garderns and was EXCELLENT. Also on corner of Hornby and Dinsmeer was Kegs, excellent Fish and Chips and Tim Horton's had great donuts for breakfast next to the Hyatt. Walked around Gastown and had dinner at Steamboat Brewhouse. On a Tuesday, the area closed pretty early (7PM), was a little surprised so beware.Embarkation. The pier was only a $5 taxi from our downtown hotel and we arrived around 12:30 PM. It was one of the smoothest boarding processes we have ever experienced. We completed Security, Customs and registration in less than 25 minutes.  Smooth as silk. Although the Lido lunch buffet was closed at 2PM, the sandwich and salad stations were open until 3PM.Cabin Accommodations:  We had the Verandah Suite (not the Deluxe) and as promised in the brochure, it was larger than other ships balcony stateroom. It was comparable to a Princess mini suite (just slightly smaller) and larger than the NCL/RCL/ Carnival balcony room, as it included a nice sized sitting area. What I especially appreciated was the larger depth of the balcony. There was a full-size chaise, another chair, a table, and there was still plenty of room still to walk around. Inside there was adequate storage, but it was scattered about, so it took a bit more planning of where to put things. A full set of 6 pillows (2 firm, 2 medium and 2 soft), and excellent bedding were really appreciated. The bathroom was more than adequate, although the tub was a bit small for most adults. We were happy with our accommodations and the cabin staff were all very helpful and friendly.  My one complaint was the engine noise inside our room. We were actually on one of the higher decks (6), but right across from the engine smokestack. Our room category was AB (the highest of the basic Veranda rooms), but the noise was noticeable enough at night that I used earplugs.  If you are sensitive to noise, be sure and either check the location of your room compared to the smokestack (avoid 6176-6190) or bring earplugs.Food:  Some previous reviews commented on the fact that you had to wait in line at the Lido buffet, no longer so. In fact all the announcements emphasized that you were supposed to go right to the station you wanted, order and then move on. Maybe HAL reads CC reviews! That said, the Lido Buffet was not our favorite. Choices were more limited than we were used to at lunch and dinner, the food varied from "just ok" to "good"; but never "excellent".  The exception was the Lido breakfast, lots of tasty hot dish choices, unfortunately it often closed by 10:00 or 10:30. We like to sleep in and have "brunch" but that didn't work on the Volendam, a disappointment for us.  Like most ships, the buffet seating was inadequate for peak times. We ate most of our dinners in the main dining room, using the "anytime option". We had no problem getting seated when we wanted as long as our group of 6 was willing to share a larger table with others. Menus had a reasonable variety and the food was good; slightly above average from our experiences. Service on our first night was a bit slow (draggy to be more honest), although our other nights were fine. Be aware that they do away with the "any time dining" on the last night and insist you are seated at a fixed time, to facilitate a wait staff show during dinner. Cute, but I prefer to eat when I want and not at a buffet, that's why I choose "anytime dining"Due to the early close of the Lido breakfast, this is the first cruise we took advantage of room service, ordering breakfast the night before. We also ordered dinner in twice. The service was good although one dinner was delivered lukewarm, not hot. Overall we were happy with room service and will use it on future cruises.Public Rooms: This was a smaller ship than we had previously experienced. It was nice to be able to get from one end to the other more quickly, but there was a slightly more closed-in feeling than ships that have open atriums and areas with high ceilings.  The ship dEcor also shows its age with duller colors and a lived in feeling, with some items being slightly worn. The MS Volendam could use a "brightening up". The showroom was on the small side, but we were always able to find a seat at the last minute. The balcony fills first, so if you are late, head for the sides of the main floor. The Crow's Nest was a beautiful place atop the ship with a forward view and we enjoyed just sitting in the different bars, with little nooks and sitting areas. I frequent the gym on all my cruises and this one was nice, but with a quirky layout.  It is located at the bow, affording nice views. Although not huge, the size was adequate and all the basic equipment was there.  When I went (afternoons), there was never an availability issue. The locker room was around a few corners and it was small with 2 showers and enough room for only 1- 2 at a time to change. The dry sauna (separate men's and women's) was across a public spa hallway and the steam room was coed and only available with a $100/week pass. I would have preferred a slightly larger locker room with a steam room inside.Entertainment: The main shows were nice and included the usual; production shows, a comedian, a guitar player and a juggler. Quality was fine, we weren't blown away, but everyone worked hard and we enjoyed the shows. If production shows are your thing, the smaller stage meant fewer performers and less fancy props; for us it was still entertaining, but less glitz and dazzle than other ships.The piano player (Frankie) was not the best singer, but a real hoot of a guy to joke around with, lots of personality and the HALCats in the Crow's Nest did a nice job.On-board activities: A fairly standard selection was offered including, trivia, bingo, passenger participation games, shopping/excursion talks and art auctions. A culinary stadium that featured chef-led cooking classes and demonstrations was unique and they also had an Alaskan native giving talks about the history and culture. One nice positive was the lower level of "selling" of every art auction, spa service or shop item. They were all there, but the pushing by the crew was much less than my experience on other lines. In addition, the photographer was around but not constantly taking your picture, which I always find annoying. Thanks HAL. On-board Internet was down this week for repair. I don't use it anyway because like all cruise ships, it's $$ and slow, which = annoying.Our shore excursions:Day 1- Inside Passage at Sea: Once we moved out into the open water, we definitely noticed a little rock and roll (not the music kind). Typical day at sea.Day 2 -Tracy Arm/ Juneau. I was really looking forward to cruising the Tracy Arm and Seward Glacier, but unfortunately Mother Nature placed an iceberg in the middle of the narrow entrance and we were unable to proceed. The Captain was very apologetic, but there was nothing he could do. Apparently this is common in May/June cruises. The good news, however, was that the weather cleared enough after our arrival in Juneau for us to proceed with our helicopter/dog-sledding adventure. We booked directly with TEMSCO and saved ~ $100 pp. It's an expensive outing, but if you want a splurge, this is it. It was everything we hoped for and more.  The ride up, the dogs, the riding through the snow and learning more about dog-sledding were all fantastic. The part of Juneau that is near the ship is just one tourist shop after another. We did find a wonderful place for lunch behind the Harley-Davison store called Paradise Cafe. More of a locals place and the sandwiches and bakery items were just amazing. Give it a try for a change from shipboard food.Day 3-Skagway. We booked a bus/rail trip directly with Chilkoot tours. Although it seems that most people book the 7.5-hour tour into the Yukon (its only a few dollars more and includes lunch), the shorter tour worked fine for us and gave us time for a walk around town before re-boarding. The train ride was beautiful, even with some cloud cover, and the drive up with a few stops and a lesson on the history of Skagway was nice, in spite of morning rain showers.  Unfortunately, after yesterday's dog-sledding, I doubt anything will compare. We had another nice lunch in town; this time fresh halibut sandwiches or fish and chips at the Sweet Tooth on Broadway.Day 4-Glacier Bay National Park. WOW. The weather cooperated and we had sunny blue skies as we cruised this beautiful place. The ongoing ranger narration was a bit "over the top" (corny), but informative and the views of the glaciers, included three up-close ones was excellent. I am glad we chose a cruise with GNP.Day 5-Ketchikan. Thanks to reviews on CC, we booked a private "Ketchikantaxicabtour" with David and Kat Freeman. Our custom itinerary included a little wildlife viewing, visiting two totem pole areas and a quick town tour. The best part was that even with four ships in port, we arrived at all the places when no one else was there- no crowds. We left enough time for lunch in town at Cape Fox Lodge, chosen for its nice view, but be sure and arrive before 2PM for lunch or you have to eat in the bar with no view, like us.Day 6-Inside Passage at Sea. A typical day at sea; games, contents, bingo, etc.Day 7 Disembark, We had arranged our own travel to the airport, with flights around 1PM. We were one of the last off the ship at ~ 9:20 AM and were at the airport by 10:30 AM. Taxicab to Vancouver airport was 25 minutes and ~ $35. Even though it was Canada Day, no problem getting a taxi. Either Vancouver Port and HAL have this down pat, or maybe it's a combination of both. One final comment on excursions: Alaskan ports can be very busy with 4-6 cruise ships in port at a time.  It was nice for us that at both Juneau and Skagway the crowds were less than normal. There was only one other ship in Juneau and we were the only ship in Skagway that day.  The upsides were that most tours were not filled and we could decide at the last minute, towns were less crowded and shopping was easier.  The downside is on quiet days, not all the tours run and as a result I wasn't able to arrange a fishing tour in Skagway and had to take a morning train tour instead of my preferred afternoon one. This is worth checking on if you are planning to book with independent tour operators. You can find out what other ships are in port the same day as yours by going to http://tinyurl.com/l5roejOverall, we had a great time enjoying both Alaska and the MS Volendam. I would definitely consider HAL again, but would ensure my cabin location was away from the engine stack and I certainly hope they exte Read Less
Sail Date June 2009
Can a couple in their mid-70s find happiness in a cruise and land tour in Alaska?Our vacation started out with a pre-cruise stay in Vancouver. Holland America ("HA") did the selection of air from Honolulu to Vancouver. While we ... Read More
Can a couple in their mid-70s find happiness in a cruise and land tour in Alaska?Our vacation started out with a pre-cruise stay in Vancouver. Holland America ("HA") did the selection of air from Honolulu to Vancouver. While we can understand HA buying bulk airline tickets, I wish that they would consider a relative straight line or non-stop flight. As it was, we flew to San Francisco, had a layover of a couple of hours and flew from there to Vancouver. Flying back was from Anchorage to Seattle and from there to Honolulu. Air Canada could have flown us directly to Vancouver and Alaska Air directly from Anchorage.Vancouver has a terrific airport - unbelievable in its architecture and its various displays. Unfortunately my wife had a mishap and fell injuring her hand. But Frances, HA's representative, came to the rescue, got the airport's paramedics (Ivano and Paul) to assist with ice packs and ace bandages and eventually we were on our way to the Fairmount Waterfront hotel, which was just across the street from the cruise ship terminal. We were impressed by Vancouver and our stay there. We had been on two previous Alaskan cruises with the usual couple of hours stop in that city but this time we had time to explore the city. Incidentally, Hawaii usually has a reputation for great buffets, but the Heron in the Fairmount easily tops Hawaii's best.The Volendam is a sistership to the Maasdam which we took last year from Fort Launderdale to Montreal. The crew on the Volendam was efficient and polite and service was good. My wife and I usually eat at the buffet (Lido deck) at lunch and in the main dinning room in the evening. Unlike the Maasdam, for whatever reason, there were no trays or even silverware available in the buffet line. I don't know whether this was somesort of attempt to prevent people from piling on food on a tray but it was bothersome and rather irritating to only take one dish(fruit), grab a table, get up to get coffee and juice and return and get up again to get your main course.The shows were entertaining but certainly not the cast of thousands found in the bigger ships. In the main shows, there were only six or eight performers that could fit on the stage.The ship sailed through the inland passage and tried to get up to the end of the Tracy Arms/Sawyer Fiord but was prevented by the large amounts of ice in the waters. It was a cold, wet day bnut it did not prevent the cruisers from crowding the decks watching our passage through the fiord. Landing in Juneau also was wet and cold but that did not prevent many of the women passengers from hitting the shops! Incidentally, you really can't see Russia from there!Skagway was our second and last stop. The bus thåt picked us up at the ship took us on a tour which included the Old Cemetary. We did go over to the U.S. Park Service where a very knowledgable Ranger took us on a walking tour of the old city, Skagway was the usual stop for the intrepid gold-rush miners before they started over the White Pass to the Klondike. It is estimated that of the 100,000 or so brave souls who tried to cross over the Pass, over 70,000 perished. And when they reached the goldfields, most of the claims were already taken!A previous Cruise Critic writing about Princess' cruise/and tour is that the best way to handle a trip to Denali is to go to Fairbanks/Anchorage FIRST and cruise last so that you can relax at the end. The HA tour we took was much more of a trek than that for Princess - as far as I know - but if we had to do it over again, we would take the land tour first and the cruise last and besides, it would be a slightly longer cruise! Taking us from Skagway all the way to our final stop at Anchorage was HA's Gabriel Prestella who was absolutely super taking care of all the needs of his wards.Alaska is called "The Great Land" for a good reason. It is 2.5 times larger than Texas. The trip from Skagway to the Canadian border was by train up the steep incline which the miners had to climb with one-ton of supplies which was mandated by the Canadians who did not have food or mining supplies on their side of the border. That was during one of the bitterest and coldest winters in history. There are many pictures of those miners struggling through the snow with their supplies climbing a 45 degree incline. At the top, we were greeted by Tom, who tucked us into his huge motor coach, and took us to our first stop at Whitehorse which a few stops for photo-ops and coffee. In total, this was 8-9 hours. From Whitehorse, we went to Dawson City, again about 8 hours travel by motor coach - some 340 miles. Dawson City is a town of perhaps 1800 people during the spring/summer and if you seen enough Westerns, you will recognize Dawson City with its wooden boardwalks, false fronts, and it is hard to believe that over 30,000 people inhabited this City during the gold rush.  Dawson City has two museums that are worthwhile visiting - one municipal and one run by the First Nation Cultural Center. Great places to eat.Two of the disappointment of this visit to the Yukon Territory was the inability to go on a river boat cruise - the city of Eagle was hard hit by ice and floods which destroyed a great part of the town and damaged the boar and the absence of the famous Northwest Mounted Police with their distinctive red uniforms.To "make up" for the river boat ride, HA decided we should travel on the highway on top of the world which was really a dusty road built on the crest of the hills and obviously a road less travelled - During the roughly 200 miles to Tok, we were passed by only 16-17 cars. One of our stops was in the town of Chicken which consisted of 4-5 outhouses and 3 stores but it did have WiFi for those who had to check their e-mail! Tok is 1300 strong and (I believe) exists only for the reason that distances in Alaska are long and that this town is at the junction of two major roadways.Our next stop was Fairbanks - about 200 miles from Tok and home of the University of Alaska at Fairbanks. It has a great museum there and the campus is absolutely beautiful. The museum is a "must".Denali - the major reason for this trip (though the history of the gold rush, Jack London, Robert Service notwithstanding).We boarded a observation type train for the park - about two hours or so from Fairbanks. We arrived in somewhat foggy and mildly wet weather and Mount McKinley was not visible. So our plans to take a flight tour was going down the tubes. However, we were assured that the weather in Denali is one of those "wait 30-minutes and it will change". We took the flight and it was perfect!!! On cue, Mount McKinley made its appearance. It is the highest mountain in North America and arguable the highest in the world if you measure it from the base to the top. (Under that criteria, local pride must point out that Mauna Kea in Hawaii is the largest, its base being the bottom of the ocean).HA gave a 7-hour wildlife tour the next day. We spotted grizzy bears and cubs, goats, moose, caribou, and a wolf who casually walked across a bridge near the bus, and then started rolling in the dirt for a while not more than 3-4 feet from the bus!The next day before we left Denali, we visited Husky Homestead and Jeff King, three-time winner of the Ididerod (he came in second last year), got a chance to hold puppies, see their training and he talked about the race and is a tour that I sort of dismissed but found it absolutely fascinating. Recommend it highly!I hate to put down Anchorage but after our trip to Denali, everything is anticlimatical!Aloha from Hawaii. Read Less
Sail Date May 2009
This was a girls's trip for my Grandma, Mom and I. We sailed on the Volendam from May 27 - June 3. I am 29 years old and I was surprised at how many young people were on the cruise ship although I would say that most of them were also ... Read More
This was a girls's trip for my Grandma, Mom and I. We sailed on the Volendam from May 27 - June 3. I am 29 years old and I was surprised at how many young people were on the cruise ship although I would say that most of them were also cruising with their families. We live in BC so were able to visit my sister at UBC the day before heading off to sea. There was a long line up through security and customs but I think it only took about 1/2 an hour to get through. Before we got on the ship we tried to bypass the photographers but they caught us and had us pose for pictures. A little annoying but the pictures turned out great. They took a group shot of the three of us and then an individual face shot of each of us. Grandma really liked her photo which is saying something. That was the only real time they forced us to have a photograph taken. (I remember on the RC we had to have a photo everytime we got off the ship at every port, but not here.) There were also photos taken at formal dinners and around the ship at Glacier Bay. It is worth having the pictures taken because there is no obligation to buy them. The 8 x 10 prints are $19.95 each or if you buy 3 photos your 4th one is free. Expensive but really good quality. When we got on board we were sent to the lido deck for lunch while we waited for our rooms to be ready. The food at the lido was excellent...lots of different dishes to choose from. And the entrees were different every night. There were some of the same things like salad bar, buns, cheese, etc. The only free drinks available during lunch and dinner are water and real brewed unsweetened iced tea (if you like sweetened iced tea, like me, bring singles to add to water) The bar waiters are always walking around so that you can order soda/pop and alcoholic beverages. A soda/pop is $2.24 (including 15% gratuity). At breakfast free milk and juice (apple, orange, cranberry, grape, pineapple, etc) are available.We ate dinner in the upper dining room at 6pm every night. The food is absolutey amazing! I had an extremely hard time getting back into the routine of making dinner for myself when I got home. (We joked that we'd have to do it in stages. First night back eat at 5 star restaurant. Second night eat at 4 star restaurant. Third night eat at 3 star restaur....you get the picture.) We sat with another girls' group from Alberta. A grandmother, two daughters and granddaughter, similarily aged. We had an awesome time at dinner and sometimes met up with them at shows or the crow's nest. It makes me wonder if HAL set our table up that way or if it was a coincidence. Either way, it made our trip more enjoyable!Wash your hands regularly and use the hand sanitizer before eating. Use extra if you are having finger food! On our last day of the cruise the captain made a special announcement telling us that lots of people developed stomach flu. I remember him making the announcement about hand washing at the beginning of the cruise. Maybe it should have been announced everyday or have attendants at the sanitizer stations (like on my RC cruise a few years ago.)The room was spacious with a large window. There was a lot of cupboard and shelf space for all 3 of us. There was room to put a large suitcase underneath the beds. There were 3 of us so I slept on the couch which turned into a bed. It was comfortable. The TV in the room has plenty of channels not that you will be using it alotbut there's CNN, espn, some movie channels and a few ship channels that show the captains log, weather, time, distance travelled, etc. There is one channel that shows the view of the front of the ship. Another channel to show some of the previous days lounge shows and events. The bathroom was very spacious. It even had a bath tub. We started getting towel animals on day two or three.Pools were open from about 11am to 7pm and the hot tubs from about 11am to 8pm. It would have been nice if the pools and hot tub were open later to relax in after a long day when there aren't as many activites happening.It was raining and very foggy on the way up the inside passage so didn't get to see much. We could really feel the waves, but none of us got sea sick. It became very sunny on Day 4 and stayed that way for the rest of the trip. Apparently that's very rare and there are only a handful of really nice days every summer. We got 4 of them!My Mom and I took part in as many activites as we could. There was bingo ($20 for 3 cards), a culinary centre for cooking classes (I watched the cruise director Patty "make" brownies), movies every night with popcorn (the culinery centre was converted into the movie theatre), ping pong on the lido deck, tennis, trivia games, jugglers Wilde and James, a comedian, Volendam dancers & singers (They were amazing! There are 4 guys and 4 gals who have to memorize steps and songs to 5 different shows!). The Crow's Nest had disco night, line dancing night, 50's night, karaoke (I got up the nerve to finally try it!), etc. So much fun!! There is also a library on board for the avid reader. They had a good collection of recent books. I didn't spend much time reading except on At Sea days and just before bed. There is an internet cafe within the library, but I would suggest using the internet at the libraries in the ports. It's free!The staff members aboard the ship were great! Very hospitable. Our room faintly smelled of smoke from a previous cruiser so our room attendant brought in some freshener soon after we asked. Our dining room waiters (Tri & Sukimar) were excellent. The cruise director, Patty, DJ Darren and the rest of the entertainment staff were excellent as well. They really work long hours!When we cruised Glacier Bay the weather was beautifulsunny and blue skies and it stayed that way for the rest of the  trip. The 2 park rangers on board were speaking over  the sound system, so you could hear them where ever you were on the boat. The crew served split pea soup on deck. Yummy!  I saw a brown bear, and some eagles. There were puffins too, but I didn't see them. Good binoculars are a must as you are too far away from shore to see wildlife.  On the at sea day back to Vancouver we saw some whales far in the distance and some porpoises (similar to dolphins) nearby the ship. Better binoculars would have been good to have.I have an issue with cigarette smoke (I get headaches from exposure), but I didn't notice it very much on board. A small portion of the crow's nest allows smoking but the ventilation must be very good because when I stayed on the other side of the room I didn't notice it. Smoking was allowed on one side of Deck 3 and in the casino, which can easily be avoided. I would definitely cruise HAL again but perhaps on another ship just because I like variety. Read Less
Sail Date May 2009
Cruise Critic's embarkation port selection did not have Kobe, so I typed in Osaka which is near Kobe.We were very impressed when we arrived Vancouver, our final destination. All passengers could wait in the stateroom until the ... Read More
Cruise Critic's embarkation port selection did not have Kobe, so I typed in Osaka which is near Kobe.We were very impressed when we arrived Vancouver, our final destination. All passengers could wait in the stateroom until the announcement was made to disembark.  It was very comfortable waiting. It took us only less than 30 minutes from stateroom to the taxi stand at the very user friendly port of Vancouver.Volendam's lunch and dinner improved a lot on May 18 and 20, 2009, on last two days.  Maybe the company wanted us to forget the past 17 days of budget oriented dinner menu with fancy names and explanations.  First time Lobster appeard on the dinner menu was May 18th, and the lobster they served there as well as in the Pinnacle Grill was a warm water lobster and not the cold water lobster like Maine Lobster.   Even  Carnival's 7 day Western Caribbean Cruise serves a lobster and filet mignon once during their 7 day cruise ! We had to wait 17 days to see our only Lobster and Filet.At the speciality Coffee station, I saw the attendant opening a milk carton made in China, obviously Volendam uses milk materials made in China.  So I start to drink my coffee black and avoided all milk products. Somebody should check each Cruise Line to see which product they buy and use aboard the ship from China. I do not want to dine on food made in China.On our  10th day, we still had the same bed lines from Kobe. There were 61 Japanese guests travelling as a group and one of them told me that I had to request personally if I want my linens changed.  So on our 11th day, we had a bed linen changed. I requested bed linens to  be changed on every fourth day and the cabin steward followed my request.In Ketchikan, I returned to my cabin,exhausted from the shore excursion and found out that my bed was neatly made with 3 day old linens.  Cabin steward told me that the fresh linens were not available on the morning of May 18th and when he came back with the fresh linens at 1:30pm, my husband was asleep and could not change the linens.   This shows that cabin steward is doing their best: making bed neatly each morning with the same sheets, and the fresh sheets were not available some mornings.  I suspect it is Holland America's policy to cut the cost, therefore, they instruct the cabin stewards to use the same old sheets as long as they can. I do not blame ship employees as it was obvious everyone was working very hard and they were always pleasant and kind.  I blame Holland America's Corporate Office to put a cheap.policy on bed linens and foods the guests consume daily.I suggest the Line to start offering the eco-friendly card indicating if a guest wants clean linen and towels, to indicate a guest's request as done in most of US Hotels.There was a great Musician/Pianist/Band Leader called Jim. But his Afro American female vocalist was not good.We had sailed Holland America in the Mediterranean and the Carribbean about 15 years ago and our most recent trip was a sad experience for us.  Is there any hope for Holland America to return to the past LEADER of the Cruise Industry ? Read Less
Sail Date April 2009
Arrived at darling harbour Sydney to check in, no one at the main door to give us directions. We were half way into the terminal only to be redirected outside, we arrived early to people watch and have coffee only to find out the kiosk in ... Read More
Arrived at darling harbour Sydney to check in, no one at the main door to give us directions. We were half way into the terminal only to be redirected outside, we arrived early to people watch and have coffee only to find out the kiosk in the terminal was on holiday, we were directed somewhere away from the terminal but declined as we had hand luggage. No one could answer questions or give us clear directions, finally HAL arrived with cold water, no juice or coffee. A line was formed and we got into the customs and check in area, had priority check in but with only one counter were advised to use any check in, the person I dealt with did not know how to swipe my credit card and after having to call the supervisor twice to make sure everything was in order we were ready to board, made comment to the HAL rep who was supervising behind the check in that it was the worst we ever experienced. We finally arrived at our verandah suite on deck 6 and it looked good. Volendam itself was in a spotless condition if you used the restrooms there was a sign to open the door with the tissues provided. Fresh flowers everywhere and a lovely ambiance created a perfect setting for our cruise. The standard of cleanliness never wavered the whole trip. The Lido was chaos the first two days bearing in mind there were over 1500 passengers on the ship. Breakfast in the dining rooms was hit and miss, after three times we either eat in our room or in the Lido. Room service was excellent for breakfast and dinner although it broke down on our last night at sea. The use of trays with so many passengers made for slow and long queues. I believe if the trays had not been used quicker service would result as we are NCL past passengers. HAL staff listened to our comments regarding the Lido and to their credit things slightly improved. Although we only dined four times for dinner in the Rotterdam restaurant including a formal night Prima was excellent. We had the same experience from the Lido and room service. Our cabin steward was excellent bearing in mind he works 7 days a week 11 months of the year and we found out not from him only after our room was not made up 11.45am they have now more cabins increasing their work load by an extra hour. We gave him three nights and one full day off. Entertainment we did not participate in but were told off by our friends that we missed some really good shows, one in particular got a standing ovation. Activities we did not participate we were happy in the library or doing our walk on the promenade deck but most of all enjoying our lovely cabin and balcony. The officers and crew were really great, helpful , friendly nothing to much trouble but some of the officers need to smarten up their dress code. White shirts were grey if you are going to wear a uniform make sure it fits that includes the use of belts, long sleeve shirts with the winter uniform without a jacket is not protocol. My old sergeant would have been in his element getting some of these officers smartened up, if restaurant and Lido managers can look smart there is excuse for some of these officers. All our ports were excellent the only change I would like to see is Hobart Tasmania included on the list of ports. We did not take any ship's tours as we had been to most of the places before and keeping in mind the excessive amount of money they charged. The Captain along with Spencer gave us awonderful commentary throughout the cruise. Captain Bos needs to keep personal comments about Captain Cook to himself,also thankall passengers and not single out a particular group . This was the only blotch on his record but he was so nice we forgive him. All officers were more than helpful answering questions regarding information coming from the bridge, even the poor first officer we ran into at Auckland airport on his way home to Holland was still happy to talk about the weather we had at sea. The food was very good and regularly varied and there was always a good range of choices. Loved the freshly squeezed orange juice for breakfast and it was hard to resist the delicious sweets. We did not have a chocolate night as such but a sail away party which we enjoyed with all the sweets and ice cream. Disembarkation was a breeze, overall we enjoyed the cruise, any small complaints from us were dealt with right away, they were few and far between. We would do this cruise again anytime, we mark it 9 out of 10. Read Less
Sail Date January 2009
This cruise I travelled solo, as I was cruising just to surprise some friends/coworkers who were on the ship. My regular job is as a Musician in the entertainment department. I flew from Adelaide to Auckland via Melbourne with Qantas and ... Read More
This cruise I travelled solo, as I was cruising just to surprise some friends/coworkers who were on the ship. My regular job is as a Musician in the entertainment department. I flew from Adelaide to Auckland via Melbourne with Qantas and Jetstar. I thought the combined Qantas booking, and Jetstar being a subsidiary of Qantas, would have let my baggage be checked through, but it wasn't, I had to re-checkin at Melbourne. No big deal, just not what I'm used to. My hotel in Auckland was the Heritage, on Hobson Street, about 5 blocks back from the Princes Wharf where embarkation was to happen. I organized a later checkout (12pm) which the hotel was fine with, in fact they were very friendly and amenable, I can't fault the hotel at all, with the exception being the towels provided in the bathroom. Small and thin. The rest of the room was super, complete with small kitchenette, big bathroom, comfortable beds, lots of storage, just the small towels which seemed unusual. Embarkation was a breeze, I rocked up about 1:30pm, dropped my bag pierside, checking in took maybe 15-20 minutes. No long lines and it was all just nicely organized. I proceeded straight to my room (didn't hear any announcements if it was ready yet, but thought I'd have a look, sure enough it was all set. Since we were doing sea days straight to Sydney I headed back off the ship to the local shops and stocked up on some junkfood and Pepsi for the cabin. The first thing I noticed about this ship was the cleanliness. Definitely one of the cleanest ships I have been on! This is my first time on an R-class ship, having spent most of my time on S-, Vista- and Jewel-class ships. Returned about 3:30, my bag was already delivered, so I unpacked what I needed and then headed outside for boatdrill at 4pm. Was a reasonably quick one, and the weather was just comfortable no sweating or shivering which helped people keep quiet and get us out of the quicker. Headed upstairs to the sail away party for a few minutes, the HalCats were playing and were sounding good, and a good crowd was enjoying the view of Auckland harbour as we left. I went downstairs to the office and introduced myself to the Cruise Director Michelle and Hotel Manager Robert (I worked with Robert last year on the Statendam) and let them know I was aboard and was asked if I could play keyboard in the band since the replacement hadn't shown up. Shamefully, I had to admit my keyboard playing isn't as good as my real instruments (Sax/Percussion), and besides I was on vacation :) That aside, the band still sounded quite good. I ate in the Dining Room 2 nights, and the Pinnacle 1 night. It was enjoyable meeting different people at dinner (was seated at tables for 10-12) and although the majority of cruisers were of an "advanced" age, there were a surprising number of sub-30s as well - but I think most were there for the 3 days as opposed to the longer offerings of this cruise. Entertainment was the expected fare of HAL - George Kowalski was in the Ocean Bar (another flashback to last year's ship) for his 38th year on ships, playing ballroom dance music. Those who were there were enjoying it, I saw some serious dance couples. The String quartet in the Explorers lounge were great, playing from memory and taking requests. Marisha & the HalCats were all over the ship, and sounded great, but their hours in the crows nest were largely to small/non-existent crowds. A shame, as this particular HalCat band is tight, has fun, and is well-led by their bandleader James. Surprisingly I only attended one show in the Frans Hals lounge - the cast production show "Gold" (yet another flashback to a previous ship). The cast was talented but was let down by the audience - a lot of B2B passengers had seen it the previous week, so hadn't come back. I just wish Holland America used LIVE musicians to play the shows, as the midi backing track can't compare. The other two showtime offerings were the welcome aboard show - which was too cheesy for me to stay for, and Martin Lass - a great violinist whose show I have played on a few occasions. In the Piano Bar there was always a large and enthusiastic crowd to have fun with Randall Powell (yet another flashback to previous ships). I did not take part in any activities, but the event staff were all great and we all hung out at various times. Nightlife on the ship was very quiet after about 11pm. The Stateroom was great, looking out over the Lower Promenade deck, but luckily I had a direct view to the sea, and didn't notice people walking past so it wasn't an issue for me. The 2nd morning there was some loud noise (similar to a circular saw) which lasted for about 10 minutes at 930am, but I was able to return to sleep without hassle. Due to a problem with one of the turbos, combined with a head swell, we were 2 hours late arriving into Sydney, but this allowed more people to experience the sail-in through the Heads, past HMAS Sydney's Mast, the Opera House, the Bridge, and into Circular Quay. Disembarkation began approximately 1030am, my group was called off just after 12. It was not that huge a dilemma since the disembarking passengers were a small number compared to the in-transit passengers, however it would mean the embarking passengers may have had to wait longer than usual. Sorry about that. I walked myself up to the Swissotel on Market street, just around the corner from Pitt Street Mall and the Centrepoint Tower, checked in about 1pm, and relaxed. All in all, it was a great way to see the ship from the "other" side of the coin. Having worked from the service end of the industry I knew what to expect, and how to make life easier for all involved. I would love to cruise for longer next time. I hope this review has been enlightening for some at least. Read Less
Sail Date January 2009
ms Volendam 10 Day Southern Caribbean & Panama Canal Sunfarer Float, 03-12 to 03-22-08 The Search for Some Global Warming Cruise Ship Stats: 61,000 GT, 26 Ft. Draft, 777.6 Ft. Length, 111 Ft. Wide, 1999 Launch, 1485 Passengers, 601 ... Read More
ms Volendam 10 Day Southern Caribbean & Panama Canal Sunfarer Float, 03-12 to 03-22-08 The Search for Some Global Warming Cruise Ship Stats: 61,000 GT, 26 Ft. Draft, 777.6 Ft. Length, 111 Ft. Wide, 1999 Launch, 1485 Passengers, 601 Crew, Distance Covered: 3371 NM, Fuel Consumption: 85 Gal / Mile, Potable Water Prod.: 370,000 Gal / Day Ship Staff: Master: Capt. Pieter Visser, Hotel Manager: Theo Haanen, Dining Rm. Manager: Raj Kantharaju, Executive Chef: Nizam Nor, Cruise Director: Rebecca Fabischek Personal Staff: DW of 35+ years, Judy PRE-PORT TRAVEL (Departed 0500 Prescott, Arrived Sky King (aka Sky Harbor) airport 0700): Spent well over an hour (with another 1000 souls) snaking along the winding chrome posts adorned with seat belt strapping as folks continued to cough, fart and whine. Also, a gaggle of cell phone gabbers kept us entertained making sure their conversations could be heard throughout the terminal. We boarded our winged cigar tube (US AIR) @0900 and proceeded out to the tarmac where we enjoyed a warm and cozy two hour delay due to a faulty relay switch. Following the delay bonus and the four hour flight we touched down in beautiful Ft. La-de-da. We schlepped our luggage out to the curb to await our Sleep Inn chariot. And, being smokers, we were in need of a coffin nail or two. Could have used a blast of bourbon also but to date no outside bars have been opened by the pickup portals (seems like a money maker to me). This was another freebie stay at the Sleep Inn in La-la land from cc points. Clean room, functioning plumbing & TV, complimentary shuttles & full breakfast works for us. Following check-in we went across the street to load up on wine at Publix for the cruise, had a libation & shower and then made our way back to the shopping center to have some Italian eats. We returned to the room to slap some tags on the luggage and box of potables and to become one with Morpheus. EMBARKATION DAY I shot down to the Walgreens on the corner following breakfast and picked up a cheapo straw hat with a chin string. One mustn't be hatless on a cruise, no? Sassy casual don't you know. Following checkout via shuttle we zoomed down to the pier for a flawless check-in. Main DR was closed for lunch so up to the Lido for buffet goodies AND A LONG AWAITED MARGARITA (to be followed by several mango daiquiris after life boat muster). The cabin was ready 1300ish or so. AS YOU MIGHT WISH DINING: We had late upper traditional seating, table for two, by the rail as per our preference. After talking with folks during DR breakfasts it seemed like a 50-50 split as to the merits & pitfalls of AYWD. I do know that after talking with our waiter that he certainly was not to enthralled with the change. I think it will probably shake out just fine as they tweak the system. CABIN (Dolphin Deck, Outside, Amidships, Port Side): Everything looked great. No dust bunnies, soiled skivvies or other hazards noted on arrival. Looked like they even rinsed out the bed linens real nice for us, the stool in the head went whoosh okay and the ice bucket was full. Life is good Jethro. After a cordial greeting with our steward Imam I told him our requirements were minimal: 2 buckets of ice refreshed A.M. & P.M. , an extra towel for DW's nightly hair drying ritual and a couple of boxes of Kleenex for the bedside stands. The appointments for the cabin looked a bit worn but then again so am I. I prefer the bed against the bulkhead and the couch by the window configuration but it was not to be (just the opposite). I'm not a big fan of the RV (aka, teacup) bathtubs since my contortionist bathing skills have dwindled appreciably over the years. But then again, so what? CASINO: I no longer gamble, however, my DW donated forty or fifty clams to the HAL coffers via the slots. Every time I passed the casino during the evening it appeared that gambling was brisk and the tables were crowded. DEMOGRAPHICS: Typical HAL crowd. Some youngsters (I prefer mine prepared well-done or deep fried if they're unruly), those going through their mid-life crisis and, of course, close relatives (age wise) of God. Some of the near centenarians seemed a bit more, well, frumpier then noted on prior floats. Just a useless observation. Perhaps the cold winter & flu season had something to do with it. DRESS CODE: I didn't take my laser crowd counter or clipboard but my overeducated guess would be that on formal evenings perhaps 35% of men were decked out in dinner jackets/ tuxes, 40% in some sort of matching dark suit, and the remainder donning a rather eclectic hodgepodge of Goodwill wear. We like to dress up in the more traditional manner but what other's do is, well, their thing. I didn't see any leather T-shirts or plaid 'gommer' shorts worn in the DR on formal or sassy casual nights. No juicy gossip to report. ENTERTAINMENT: Not really a strong suit of this cruise but there were certainly exceptions. But first let me get this off my chest. During the entire cruise the show times were @ 7 & 9 P.M. What bright light bulb in Seattle thought this one up? Needless to say, it was my only major bug-a-boo for us (well, not that major mind you) on this cruise. We generally enjoy cocktails and dancing in the Ocean Bar or Crow's Nest prior to late seating, have a leisure dinner and then, perhaps, attend the show. Well, obviously it's logistically impossible to do so, at least for us, with the 'new & improved' show schedule. So we didn't catch any of the shows and had to bury our misery (NOT!) in the bar lounges instead. Now for rating the ongoing entertainment IMO: Excellent / Above Average Category : Ocean Breeze Strings, Tom Scott Average / Mediocre : HAL Cats, DJ Bob, Piano Man Charley, The Manila Quartet. Enough said. EXPLORER'S CAFÉ: Well appointed with lots of books and magazines. I checked out a couple of mindless tomes filled with murder, mystery and raw sex. My kind of cruise reading. EXPLORER'S SERIES LECTURES: One of the highlights of our cruise. Richard Detrich gave informative, well organized power point presentations on the Canal (and building thereof), Panamanian history, culture & politics, a focused lecture on coffees and advise on those planning to find new retirement digs. His enthusiasm for Panama was infectious. FOOD, DINING ROOM: I find the new menu quite adequate. I won't really comment on specific dishes other then the fact that I'm a fishy kind of guy although I do really enjoy HAL's lamb and venison preparations. I was able to order off menu as long as I mentioned it the evening before (Halibut Steaks, etc. : I don't care for deep fried Cod, etc). One ongoing problem with HAL (& other lines) is that hot items need to be served hot and cold items need to be chilled adequately and not served at room temperature. I mentioned this and wrote a comment card following the first dinner and henceforth item temperatures were improved. Otherwise the food was very good overall. Some items a tad bland, others prepared just right. But again quite subjective so I'll let it rest. LIFE BOAT MUSTER: Slicker than boiled bear fat. Well organized, no ship shutterbugs or obvious drunks noted. LAUNDRY: Sent out pretty much everything that would require ironing (shirts, slacks, formal wear, etc.) using the $30 unlimited pressing option. I slipped Imam Five clams to be sure everything got back by early afternoon the next day (and it was) since our first formal would be the following evening. We used the pressing service pretty much every day for touching up prior evening wear. We did a 'cram the bag' on the 7th day of the cruise for $12. Everything came back just spiffy with no lint balls on the Jockey's. LIDO DINING: Since we dined in the DR every night (other than the Aruba barbecue evening) we used the Lido for breakfasts and lunches only. Always a great spread and service. My only suggestion to the manager was to have longer serving spoons for the rear compartments in the salad bar. This would alleviate the need for passengers to stick their entire arms (and shoulders for the vertically challenged) under the sneeze guard to reach some of the condiments. MAINTENANCE, SHIP: Everything looked great overall. An occasional water stain on a ceiling, a nick or two inside the elevator doors, a crack in the DR window, a worn chair here and there but it certainly beats our digs. We set our thermostat at it's lowest setting in the cabin upon embarkation and it pretty much stayed @ 72 degrees throughout the trip. There was a telltale sewage odor for an hour or so one sea day on the Promenade Deck but no biggie as far as I'm concerned. It amazes me that such a large ship with so many moving parts and a passenger and crew count north of 2000 that more problems don't occur. HAL maintains their ships quite well IMO. MARINER BRUNCH: Since the had quite a few Mariners on-board there were two brunches on various sea days. They didn't have any ceremonial award of medals like the evening functions of bygone days nor a brief speech of some sort by the captain. Speaking of Captain Visser, I was slightly disappointed that his visibility during the cruise (walking the decks every now and again, etc) was basically nil. Just another observation. We should be receiving our HAL copper gedunk medals on the next float. I would assume they would have some sort of ritual elsewhere for the medallion folks. PINNACLE GRILL: I made reservations for dinner for the Master Chef night and a reservation for lunch for a sea day. Unfortunately, they switched the dancing dinner (which was kind of fun really-hadn't attended one for awhile) and I cancelled the reservation. Likewise, we were just to full from breakfast to appreciate a Pinnacle lunch so I cancelled that one also. With that said, we've had the opportunity to dine in the Pinnacle Grill on dozen times or so on other HAL vessels and they have always been excellent. ROOM SERVICE: We tend to "Veg Out" mid-afternoon on sea days in our cabin. I generally order two cheese platters and two salmon platters to munch on while sipping wine and viewing a DVD. Port mornings we go for the door knob card breakfast. Except for one early morning request (0600-0630 delivery time frame) that didn't show up (we dashed up to the Lido @0635 so we'd be able to catch a 0700 independent tour) everything was delivered on a timely basis. SERVICE, BEVERAGE & FOOD : Overall, outstanding as usual (including the housekeeping service). This is truly the backbone and reason for so many Mariner's / repeaters on HAL. We encountered a number of staff that we had met on prior cruises aboard the Prinsendam, Ryndam and Statendam. It was indeed like returning home. SMOKING : Always a big bugaboo during these PC times. Since we smoke we spent all our pool and sunning time back by the aft pool. Likewise, we frequented the Ocean Bar & Crow's Nest in the evenings. I didn't observe a lot of 'scowling and waving' going on during this cruise so it seems a temporary truce has been reached. SPA / SALON: DW signed us up on embarkation for the couple package for $160 (personally I prefer to just pay the $20pp/day when I wish to use it) but after many years of marital bliss I rather just smile and say those three little words , "That's great honey". Judy had some sort of voodoo coloring done with her hair that included the use of a roll of tin foil, various toxic chemicals and conditioners. Some gal named Olga gave me a hair snipping session and beard trim. All is good. WEATHER: Couldn't be more perfect. More like a mill pond than a sea. I kind of missed a little 'rocking & rolling'. Mid 70's to mid80's with mucho humidity. PORTS OF CALL / EXCURSIONS HMC : We were able to tender in and enjoy the beach and surf. Didn't rent a toolshed. Just a clamshell. My darling beach bunny got fried which meant smearing her back throughout the cruise with Nivea. Food was very good and the service as usual exceptional. ARUBA: We had contracted the Jolly Pirates folks for an afternoon sail,snorkel & suds sail but unfortunately engine problemos caused a cancellation. I was able to get a last minute sail & snorkel down on the beach with the DePalma folks on a catamaran. Great times had by all. BTW, city bus fare round-trip down to the beach as $2.30 USD. Got back to the ship by 1800 to enjoy the barbecue festivities. CURACAO: I booked another sail & snorkel on the 'Bounty' with Capt. Perry. The price ($120/couple) included pick up and drop off service from the pier. Great day with another six couples. PANAMA CANAL: We chose to do a HAL ferry transit excursion (no choice really, couldn't get off the ship otherwise) after going through the Gatun Locks. After having read McCullough's The Path Between the Seas and viewing his Nova documentary (which features the Prinsendam back when it was with Royal) I was pumped to get up close with the Pacific side locks. I wasn't disappointed. Men literally moved a mountain. Anywho, it was well worth the endless bus drives and humidity. Next visit we'll check out the Embera Village tour which I heard lots of good things about. COSTA RICA :I booked a Charley Soto A1 tour via the internet prior to the cruise for $50 pp and what a great tour it was. We had a private car with a driver that provided us a great day. We visited a private plantation and played with a sloth, hit a banana plantation, did a hour long float on the Tortugero Canal via private boat and then reached Bonita Beach for lunch. After lunch we made our way down to the local supermarket to pick up some coffee and Nivea. Great day. Debarkation: Quite smooth. We used the $15 pp boarding pass /express service and was quite pleased. FINAL THOUGHTS : We enjoyed our voyage on the Volendam. However, we tend to prefer the Prinsendam & S-Class ships on HAL. Although if friends called and asked us to join them on the Volendam we wouldn't hesitate to do so. We have a tentative bookings in Nov. on the Prinsendam for a 26 day 'jungle float' and again in Nov. '09 for 24 day 'bye-bye Europa' float. TA's been bugging us to give Seabourne a whirl in 2009. We'll see. So much to see, so little time. I can only thank God that we have our health and wherewithal to do so. Thank you Volendam folks for an overall wonderful 'float' ! Bon Voyage & Good Health! Bob Read Less
Sail Date March 2008
Just completed a fascinating 10-day partial transit of Panama Canal. Health Dept. placed a 5-day "code red" restrictions due to a virus outbreak on the previous cruise. The Volendam staff was pressed to handle the extra work ... Read More
Just completed a fascinating 10-day partial transit of Panama Canal. Health Dept. placed a 5-day "code red" restrictions due to a virus outbreak on the previous cruise. The Volendam staff was pressed to handle the extra work required by the restrictions, but handled it with efficiency and aplomb. Kudos to the captain for keeping the guests well informed. Service from the wait staff was exceptional. Our outside cabin was always clean and room attendant attentive. The activities were varied and suitable for the average guest (age 60?). My husband and I took a tour of the island on Curacao and ziplined in Puerto Limon, Costa Rica. Both excursions were handled smoothly. The stops in Aruba, Half Moon Cay and Puerto Limon were exciting. Colon should be removed completely as a stop. Daily, a lecture was given on board about the building of the Panama Canal which enhanced the transit. We chose early seating dining and the food was very lovely in appearance but maybe just above average in taste. We also dined at the Pinnacle Grill and while the steaks were almost perfect, the other food items were almost tasteless. The entertainment was varied: comedian, banjoist, and the ship's song and dance team. The library was exceedingly well stocked but, sadly because of the health restrictions, it remained locked for the first five days of the cruise. The disembarkation went without a hitch and being allowed to remain in our stateroom until our color was called was a real plus. The Volendam's wait staff is excellent. They anticipated our needs and kept everything in order. But the ship is very tired: carpet stained, large dining room window cracked, some window shades inoperable, a/c in our state room never fully operational. We received value for our money and will travel with Holland America again. Read Less
Sail Date January 2008
This was our first cruise. I don't have anything to compare it to. We thought that the Volendam was a beautiful ship. It didn't have that worn out look that others have mentioned on other cruise ships. It was very clean and the ... Read More
This was our first cruise. I don't have anything to compare it to. We thought that the Volendam was a beautiful ship. It didn't have that worn out look that others have mentioned on other cruise ships. It was very clean and the service was exceptional. There were all ages on the ship. There tended to be more in the 60+ age bracket, but we found that they were the most friendly and helpful. There were very few children on the cruise, but the few that were there cried a great deal or were very misbehaved and often not supervised by parents when outside of the Club Hal. Our favorite things about the trip were the wonderful staff, beautiful settings, fabulous room service, unbelievable Pinnacle Restaurant, and terrific thermal suite. Embarkation, getting on and off the ship at ports and disembarkation were smooth and Holland America seems to have perfected it on the Volendam. It was simple to just come back to the ship for snacks or lunch each day. We were a bit disappointed in the quality of the food served in the main dining hall. The presentation was beautiful, but it was very average food. The buffets were fast but again, average quality food. After eleven p.m. you can forget getting any food except for through room service. There should be a small food bar opened until around 2 a.m. We were also concerned about the smell in the halls from the overflow of toilets. It was very musty in certain areas. The shows were better than we expected. We never went to any activities. Most of the ship activities were cooking, learning about wine, pingpong or bingo tournaments. We were never bored...the scenery was entertaining enough! I will never cruise without a balcony. It allows you to have some down time and sit privately sipping on your beverage of choice and really unwind. The excursions were very expensive. It was disappointing to find out how much cheaper they were when you just walked off the ship to the tour companies at each port. We heard from many people that the Salmon BAke near the Mendenhall glacier was horrible. I believe that too many people take advantage of the one time stop of cruisers at ports. I think that it would be worth it to rent a car and get away from the cruise ship areas. You will see the true area then. We found Vancouver to be a gorgeous city...very expensive...take plenty of money! Read Less
Sail Date September 2007
I recently came back from a one week cruise on the Volendam and a week land tour purchased through Holland American. Overall the cruise was good but there a few things Holland American needs to work on. CABIN - We were in a veranda suite ... Read More
I recently came back from a one week cruise on the Volendam and a week land tour purchased through Holland American. Overall the cruise was good but there a few things Holland American needs to work on. CABIN - We were in a veranda suite which is the perfect way to see Alaska. The room and bathroom were a good size; comfortable and well appointed. There is plenty of places to store things and the beds were very comfortable. The balcony was great. We sat out there and had cocktails and watched whales go by. SHIP DECOR - The ship is beautifully appointed. The common areas are lively and fun and the art work is really interesting. On one of the staircases I kept stopping and looking at the various paintings of the ship through time. FOOD/DINING ROOMS - My biggest complaint with the ship would be the food. It was marginal at best. I am never concerned with the quantity of food on a ship (there is always something around to eat) and I'm not a "foodie" on a cruise because I know they are cooking for the masses but even with fairly low expectations this was pretty bad. I never had one shrimp dish (and I ordered several through the week) where they didn't use canned shrimp. We got room service one night and even the shrimp cocktail appetizer was canned. I tried the Asian entrees at lunch on day and it was so full of salt that I had to throw it away. Conversely, the omelets in the morning had no flavor because they never added even a dash of salt to the eggs. The entrees at night never met the hype of the description. One entree I order was a shrimp (again) with sundried tomatoes and some other spices. It consisted on 4 mid-sized canned shrimp with jar tomato sauce on it. And speaking of using prepackaged products, I wish they had used bottled dressing on their Caesar salads. At least it would have had some flavor. This was a negative experience for the entire trip. The main dining room was lovely and the Lido deck was OK. I did not go to the Pinnacle Room because I think the charge of $30 a person is outrageous. Maybe I have been fortunate enough to be on cruise lines that don't nickle and dime you like I saw on the Volendam, but I was very glad to hear that on the evening our table mates went to the Pinnacle (they had gotten free passes because they are frequent cruisers) there was only two other couples there. Maybe if that happens enough, HAL will lower the fee to a truly nominal one. SPA/EXERCISE FACILITIES - The spa and exercise facilities were very good, with one important exception. The spa is expensive but all ships spa facilities are expensive and the treatments were excellent. Of course the staff pushes you to buy products but all ships' staffs push that. The exercise facilities were large and spacious. There needs to be more elliptical machines. There were only two of them and they were always being used. The most annoying aspect of the gym is that they are trying to sell you their various classes. I've never been on a cruise ship where they did that. Each class was $30!!!. My monthly membership at my gym is only $60 a month. In general Holland American constant push on the ship to get you to buy other things was really annoying. STAFF - With a few very minor exceptions the staff was all very pleasant and went out of their way to help. I only feel sorry for them because they are obviously required to push you to buy other things. For example, at our first night at dinner the wine steward instantly asked us if we wanted to sign up for a wine tasting class the next day for $15. The next day at breakfast I was quietly having coffee by myself on the deck and next thing I know there is a waiter next to me asking me the same question. I wanted to should "GO AWAY," but I know they are just doing what is required of them. By the way, it happened one other day at lunch when again I was by myself. The management who should know better. ACTIVITIES My final comment is on the ship-board activities. As you can guess it really annoyed me that they kept pushing you to buy things and they did that, for example, with cooking classes. Again I had never experienced this. I thought these kind of activities went with cruise Read Less
Sail Date August 2007
ALASKA 14-DAY CRUISE-TOUR ON HOLLAND AMERICA'S VOLENDAM, JULY 2007 This was my husband's (age 64) and my (age 60) first cruise. We're both "young" 60's. We did the 14-day southbound cruise-tour (Tour 20, ... Read More
ALASKA 14-DAY CRUISE-TOUR ON HOLLAND AMERICA'S VOLENDAM, JULY 2007 This was my husband's (age 64) and my (age 60) first cruise. We're both "young" 60's. We did the 14-day southbound cruise-tour (Tour 20, Double Denali, Alyeska, & Cruise), flying from Sacramento to Fairbanks (via Seattle), and returning from Vancouver to Sacramento (via Portland). Our tour began 07/07/07. Our impressions are as follows: HOLLAND AMERICA: We received our cruise-tour document package a couple of weeks ahead of time. All documents, including airline tickets, were in perfect order. HAL handled every aspect of the cruise-tour very professionally and without any difficulty from beginning to end. We bought the $15 per person baggage handling for the end of the cruise and the ship-to-airport transfer; both are very well worth it. Our embarkation was hastened by our deluxe veranda stateroom status. We stood in a separate line about a minute. Even our friends who had packed their passports in their checked luggage got checked in pretty quickly. But do keep your passports available. Even though they were not yet strictly required for entry into Canada, HAL expected you to have a passport or picture ID and a birth certificate. SHIP: Volendam, about 1450 passengers. The ship is very nice, with lots of lovely areas and bars to sit and watch the world go by. The Crow's Nest at the top deck forward is a great place to watch the scenery. I thought the decorating was beautiful in some areas and a little jarring in others. There was a bit of wear and tear visible here and there, but well maintained. The ship is well organized and has excellent diagram/maps to find everything easily. The one major disappointment about the ship was that both hot tubs are next to each other right by the kids' swimming pool and right in the midst of the forward outside eating area. So you have kids in the spas most of the time and you feel like you're on display for the outside diners. As a result, we did not use the hot tub even once. The swimming pool at the aft end is adults only. I'd give the ship 3 stars. PASSENGERS: Mostly middle-aged to older people, with a moderate sprinkling of 30's, 40's and families. People generally did not adhere to the "resort casual" look the ship tries to promote. Most people were extremely casual except for the two formal nights, during which all men wore tuxedos or jackets and most women were appropriately dressed. STATEROOM: We had a deluxe veranda suite, which was huuuuge and lovely. King size bed (extremely comfortable), curving couch, cocktail table and two chairs, dressing room separate from large bathroom. Flat screen TV and DVD player. (You can rent DVDs.) Veranda was big enough for two lounges, a good size table and four chairs, with room to spare. 5 stars. SHOPS: Shopping onboard is very limited both in terms of number of shops and the hours they are open. The jewelry shop has everything from very low cost items to super-expensive items, but isn't open much of the time. The clothing shop was small and about what you'd expect. CASINO: Nice casino with all the amenities you'd expect. DINING: The Rotterdam Main Dining Room is beautiful, service is great, and the food is very good. The Lido buffet dining is also excellent. The soups were killer good, but definitely not for a WeightWatcher -- lots of butter. Room service is 24-hours a day and very speedy. Hot items were served hot. The Pinnacle Grille ($20 per person, with reservations) is good but we didn't find it noticeably better than the main dining room. SERVICE: Service was outstanding in all areas. Our veranda suite status gave us access to the Neptune Lounge on the 7th deck (our deck). Our concierge Guilbert was always on top of everything and helped us with anything and everything. (For example, I lost my ship ID card within the very first day; he had it replaced within 15 minutes of my telling him.) The lounge offered good munchies, coffee, magazines, newspapers, big-screen TV all day and evening. Our housekeeper Didot was also delightful. Our wine steward at the main dining room was Willy, a really nice man who also showed us some nifty magic tricks. Our server I Putu was great, too. We gave them each a tip over and above the $20 per person per day that is the norm levied by HAL. they really have their act together regarding all types of service. BOOZE: We packed some wine and gin in our checked bags and my husband bought some in one of the towns we visited and brought it aboard the ship upon his return without anyone objecting. We left it out on the counter in our stateroom and every night the staff left us a full ice bucket. Maybe we're just lucky??!! SHORE EXCURSIONS: Our best shore excursion by far was the Whale Watching and Wildlife Quest out of Juneau (the kind that refunds $100 if you don't see a whale). Well, let me tell you, we saw whales -- BIG TIME! About 10 minutes into the excursion, we saw a couple of whales a few hundred yards away. Everyone was excited and said "Let's get closer!" The captain said he thought he could give us a better show a few minutes away, so we continued on. A few minutes later, we came around a curve into a bay and, lo and behold, there was a whole pod of 11 or 12 whales maybe 100 yards away. The cruise "director" said we were going to shut the engines down and put a microphone in the water so we could hear the whales. She said they were "bubble net feeding", in which one whale goes down beneath a huge school of fish and blows bubbles to scare them into a more compact ball. Then a couple of other whales "trumpet" a certain sound to scare the fish even more, then flash the white under-part of their tails to finish the scare-job. When they have the fish all rounded up, the whales all burst up out of the water with their mouths open to gather up as many fish as they can gobble. Talk about spectacular!! We saw and heard them do this 4 or 5 times before we had to leave the area. That excursion alone was worth the trip. FAIRBANKS: We met some friends for dinner who had arrived in Alaska the week before. We went to the big place on the main road that offers all-you-can eat BBQ'd salmon, fried fish, cole slaw, baked beans, salads, etc. in an outdoor setting. I thought it would probably be mediocre but they said it was great, so we went. They were right -- it was probably the best dinner we had throughout the whole vacation, including on the ship. Worth every penny. Go hungry and load up. DENALI: The train trip on the domed railcar to Denali was very nice. We spent two nights near Denali National Park in a hotel on a commercial "strip" on the highway near the park (it reminded me of the south shore of Lake Tahoe, and not in a good way). All of the hotels, restaurants, and stores are on this strip. It was disappointing, as was the quality of the hotel. It was clean and comfortable but pretty rustic and somewhat lacking in exterior maintenance. Of course, none of the other cruise-related hotels looked high-end either. The Princess Line's hotel did look a cut above ours, however. The Denali Tundra Tour was part of the included excursions. Our tour began at 5:30 a.m. -- no that's not a typo. It was about a 7-hour tour on a funky looking but comfortable bus. Fortunately, our bus driver was obviously educated, professional and well-trained, because looking back on it he had our lives in his hands. Cars are allowed only a short way into the park. The buses are allowed to go quite a few miles into the park, but it's on a narrow, one-land road that literally runs on the edge of a cliff and has no guardrails. Our bus began smoking from the dash a few miles into the park, so the driver had to turn the bus around on the one-land road in order to get back to a spot where a mechanic could come check out the bus. I'm not usually goosey about riding alongside a cliff but turning that bus around on a dime at the edge of a cliff was a bit unnerving. Someone asked the driver if there were ever accidents on the road. He said "Oh, once in the '80's there was an accident." I found out when I got home a bus did plunge off the cliff in the early 80's, with 5 people killed and 26 seriously injured. And they still don't have any guardrails. The park is pretty, but I've seen more spectacular views in Canada and the lower U.S. If you hadn't seen big mountains with wide open vistas before, you would undoubtedly be more impressed than we were. From a distance, we did see two caribou, a moose, some bald eagles, and some dall sheep that were barely visible even with good binoculars. From about 3/4 mile away, we eventually saw a female grizzly and two cubs, and a male grizzly. Given the ungodly early start to the day, the length of the trip, the relative lack of wildlife, and the ridiculous road condition, neither my husband nor I would do it again. We saw more wildlife and saw it closer up just driving along the road with our friends. (We rented a vehicle for a 4-hour tour, which afforded us some freedom and up-close moose-viewing from the road.) PORTAGE GLACIER CRUISE: Great up-close view of a glacier. Nice little boat ride. ALYESKA RESORT: Now, this is more what I expected. Beautiful, classy resort set right in the forest. The tram ride up to the Seven Glaciers Restaurant was great, as was the restaurant itself. Fantastic views. HUBBARD GLACIER: Just experiencing Hubbard Glacier would have been worth the whole cruise. The glacier absolutely dwarfs the cruise ships. But it not only looks awesome (and I virtually never use that word), it sounds awesome. This humongous glacier wraps for miles and miles back into the mountains and makes a sound like rolling thunder! When we first heard this, my husband and I looked at each other wide-eyed and both said "This alone is worth the trip." In addition to the thundering, we saw "calving" and heard the cracking you associate with that. WHITE PASS RAIL TOUR: This was the only day we had rain most of the day, so it detracted somewhat from our ability to see the views. But it was still beautiful. However, if I hadn't already bought the tickets in advance, I probably would not have gone due to the rain. ICY STRAIGHT POINT: Saw the cultural dance and story-telling of the indigenous Tlinglit people. The ladies enjoyed it, but the men weren't too impressed. JUNEAU: Nice town, with a number of several story buildings in a gorgeous setting. KETCHIKAN: Like every stop, this is a cute town in a gorgeous setting and is filled with about 100 foreign-owned jewelry stores. You feel like you strayed into a used car lot when you enter these stores. Now I understand why a few stores have a sign in the window that says "Owned and operated by an Alaskan family." We did the Great Alaskan Lumberjack Show, which was great fun and worth the price ACTIVITIES: I hate to admit we did not participate in any of the onboard activities. We spent our time either on our veranda, wandering the ship, or outside enjoying the beauty. Also, I got sick with some bizarre illness (fever and a shoulder muscle ache that moved up to my head and gave me the mother of all headaches) so I spent the last 2 days of the cruise in bed. The activities looked like they'd be pretty good, however. WEATHER: The weather was very mild (high 50's at night to mid-70's during the day). It rained parts of 2 days. I bought a sweater and a $1.50 poncho for the Portage Glacier tour because all I'd brought was a vest. SEAS: It was absolutely smooth sailing the entire cruise. Not even a hint of seasickness. HINT: Bring some good binoculars. Do not rely on the ones sometimes provided on the excursions. They are always like looking through the bottom of a Coke bottle. You will see a lot more wildlife and have unforgettable views if you bring your own good binocs. Read Less
Sail Date July 2007
Volendam 10/14/2006 This was our 30th anniversary cruise. It was a 10 day southern Caribbean itinerary and our first time on HAL. We have several cruises with Celebrity and have been on RCCL once and Carnival Once. We have never had a ... Read More
Volendam 10/14/2006 This was our 30th anniversary cruise. It was a 10 day southern Caribbean itinerary and our first time on HAL. We have several cruises with Celebrity and have been on RCCL once and Carnival Once. We have never had a bad cruise and once again enjoyed ourselves immensely. We still have to say that Celebrity is our favorite line. It is not dissatisfaction with our HAL experience as much as it is our overwhelming satisfaction with Celebrity. In this review, I will try to recap each day. We are my wife of 30 years Sandy (age 53) and myself also 53. Day 1 Embarkation day is finally here and our long wait is over. We have everything packed and the car is loaded. We only live about 85 miles north of Ft. Lauderdale in Port St. Lucie. I have made this trip many times and know the way. We hit the road at 10:00 a.m. just as planned. Beautiful day and all is well. We head south on the turnpike and I set the cruise on an easy 65 MPH I will let everyone else be in a rush now because I am on Vacation and I want this baby to last. We get into the cruise mode with reminiscing about our previous trips and thinking about what we will do on this one. Next thing I notice is the Miami Dade county line uh oh we missed the exit to cut over to I95 for Port Everglades. No big deal because we can turn around. Okay things did get a little tense as traffic going north on 95 is heavy and if we would have just taken 95 from the start we wouldn't have missed the exit. We get there at about 12:00 noon and so has everyone else. I drop my wife off, check the bags, and head to the parking garage ($12 per day) which is right across from our terminal and is covered. Get in line (sunny and hot) we slowly move into the terminal to be greeted by another huge line. We wade through that line and I can't help but think why didn't they steer us all inside and get us out of the heat and into the a/c. They then give us a number (for what turns out to be no apparent reason) and head us to the express check in line. Those that didn't do the express are sent to another line. Guess which line is shorter? (memo to self, forget express check in) the other is shorter and thus faster. We get aboard at about 2:15 (that's a 2 hour and 15 minute embarkation!!!) and are taken right to our cabin 6165. It is amidships close to the amidships elevators. Starboard side. (all the southern carib ports would have been better on the port side) The cabin is beautiful and all the gifts from our TA are there (4 bottles of wine, Pinnacle Grill, and complimentary photo. There is the beautiful arrangement of flowers for Sandy with the note "I hope the next 30 years are as great as the next 30 years" Not quite what I said but the message gets through and the arrangement is BEAUTIFUL and lasts the entire cruise. It is our first balcony and we go right out on it and notice a funky odor but assume it must be Port Everglades. We go back inside and decide it is time to check out the Lido. Up we go for the usual buffet fare. Pickings seem especially lean but we figure it's around 3:00 and it must be shutting down. The ice cream is excellent and on a waffle cone is hard to beat. The hours on that are generous and we took advantage of that feature a lot! We go down to check out our table. Our dining assignment is 5:45 upstairs. Our table number is 33. Aft window table for 6. We had wanted the 6:15 dining but decide the window seat is beautiful and we will see about our tablemates before trying to switch. We look at a lot of the rest of the ship and it is just as beautiful as we imagined and you on Cruise Critic described. The Volendam is divided into a lot of little rooms with plenty of private spaces to while away the hours. The dEcor of flowers is everywhere. The artwork is impressive and the furnishings are comfortable and classy at the same time. We are very excited about this trip. Back to our room to prepare for dinner. Casual tonight and I am glad. We head down to the dining room, no time for a cocktail and we arrive 5 minutes late at about 5:50. Our tablemates are already there and we introduce ourselves. John and Barb Toye from L.A. He is a retired Presbyterian Minister and she a retired school teacher. Dave and Chris King. Dave is director of the YMCA in Portland, Oregon and Chris a homemaker. We hit it right off. It turns out that Chris is the daughter of John and Barb. We all love wine. We have 3 grown children and so do Chris and Dave. The conversation never slowed and we were nearly the last to leave every night. There would be no changing this table and it was one of the highlights of our cruise. We are hoping they will come to the Princess Emerald cruise we have booked for next summer. I had the Mahi Mahi with sauce and my wife had the Prime Rib end cut. My fish was excellent. My wife's end cut was dry and tough but that is how it often is. Our waiter Hance offered something else but she declined and doubled up on desert I think. Hance and his assistant Winnie were a good team. Hance had a soft manner and easy smile and although I believe Winnie was stretched too thin as far as tables went the service was efficient and we were happy. The wine steward Enrique also was stretched thin. He paid us more attention than others after we ordered a bottle of Opus One. We rarely were without his attention. It still makes me uncomfortable when I know that the surrounding tables were being slighted and we were receiving the favorable treatment. I just do not understand short staffing. The heat in the dining room was unbelievable. I attributed this to our being seated upstairs. I later found it to be the case in most of the dining area including on deck 4. This is a shame and I am sure that over the course of the cruise this affects our enjoyment and certainly contributed to our missing a couple of dinners here. In general we were quite delighted with our first day. We went for a stroll on the promenade. Stopped and had a couple of drinks. Listened to some music at the lounges. We met Reggie in the Oceans bar and listened to the String Trio. We went back to the room and I went out on the balcony again. The odor was still there I was sure it couldn't have followed us from FLL. It was an annoyance at worst, and our bed had already been turned down by Eddie The bedding is the absolute best I have ever slept on the BEST Day 2 day at sea We awoke after a beautiful nights sleep on that fantastic HAL bedding and I went up on the aft deck for some pictures. I got them, of the sunrise. I love this time on the ship when it's waking up. I find the morning people fun to be around and easy to engage in conversation. I went back and got the wife and we went up to the Lido for our first breakfast. It was the usual fare. I did try the Musseli and thoroughly enjoyed had some each morning thereafter. I also had the full contingent of other offerings. FRESH SQUEZZED OJ!! MMMMMMmmmm scrambled eggs (blechhh) toast was not fresh ( I ordered a bagel from then on) Coffee was outstanding (it mysteriously changed to too thick mid cruise, but Explorations had been discovered by then and maybe that's what put me off the regular stuff J My wife then went off and I went to the main pool. Here I met a delightful woman of 85 whom I spent a couple of hours mostly listening to. She had a lot to offer and I usually like to spend my time listening to stories and sharing current views. No doubt Ruth does too because we shared quite a bit in that time. The sun was beautiful and I LOVE the freshwater pool. I wonder how the temp goes from Ocean temp of 84 degrees to the just above freezing the pool water felt? Around 11:30 they began to close the overhead cover, I guess this was due to the windy condition? In any event it soon got too stuffy in the area so I left. Lunch and then the library. Did I mention how beautiful this area is? Loads of little areas to sit with a book. Current periodicals, and music stations to sit at. There are also plenty of computers. We brought our own laptop and was able to connect in a number of spots around the ship but not in our room. Cruise Critic had a meet and greet at 4:00 in the Crows Nest. Scott in Maine was responsible for arranging this. The cruise director Scott was in attendance. Everything he does seems forced including his smile. I have only been impressed by a couple of cruise directors on other ships and at least Scott had the courtesy to show up. If I was him, I would have been sure to have some hors douvers set up though. It was great to meet the others such as Scott in Maine, Seafun, and others. The only member I didn't meet was Bglen from South Carolina. I never did catch up with them. Oh well maybe on a future cruise. There were about 30 or so in attendance and it was very nice to put a face with the name. We went to the Lido as I was not feeling up to another hot night in dining room. We had dinner here twice and to be honest I wish they would just give you your entree when you order it. Instead they give you a number and then a waiter in training comes looking for you and your number (really just the number) The problem is this leaves the waiter wandering around always and even after he has delivered your food, and he can see you eating he comes by again and again looking all over for a matching number. Bad system. This first night my wife orders fettuccine with neither sauce Plain and something else. I just order the shrimp bisque. When the waiter hooks up with us he has the fettuccine sauce with a thick alfredo and my soup is beef bouillon something. We eat what comes and get some ice cream for dessert. We love the ice cream and its availability. It is very good. A donation at the casino and time for bed again. Oh yeah we do stick our head in several shows and as my mother said if you can't say something nice don't say anything at all&enough said. Day 3 Day at Sea Another beautiful day at Sea. We enjoy to the max. Dinner at our table and I am anxious to spend some more time with our table mates. They won't be joining us but they do have the courtesy to advise (as we did the night before) and so it is just the 2 of us and we have a lovely dinner. I do not remember what either of us had. We just enjoyed ourselves and the service was excellent. Day 4 Aruba We meet up with Pat and Scott, another couple we met onboard from Galveston Texas. We do a little shopping and then get a cab to Palm Beach. We go through some pretty tough spots on the way to the beach. It is very dry in Aruba and our driver advises that they have not had appreciable rain since February! The beach is nice but I would not rave over it (maybe that's because we have very nice beaches here) In any event we have a nice day. Pat and Scott advise that they have the late seating main floor and they are not going at all any more too HOT too bad because the Lido is less than satisfactory. When we get back to the ship we get ready for the Pinnacle. Our TA gave us a certificate good for dinner. We have reservations at 6:30. The setting is beautiful and we are introduced to our waiter. He is the only one we are ever introduced to. He did a fine job but I must say he did not out service Hance in the regular dining room. Sandy had the Crab Cakes. I do not remember what I had but I can tell you I wish I had the Crab Cakes. In this regard I have to fault our waiter as he never made any suggestions. He showed and described the meats but that was it for flair. We each had the Filet and I ordered Scalloped potatoes and Asparagus. Sandy had Mushrooms and Rice. All very pedestrian. Filets were cooked to perfection and presented beautifully. Taste not exceptional. Not even in my top ten for dinners which I think it should be. After all it's called the Pinnacle! Desert? Sandy had baked Alaska and I had the chocolate molten volcano that made the hairs stand up on the back of my neck. Day 5 Curacao A delight! Colorful and sights all around the ship where we docked. You could get right off and walk to shopping which we did. Or shall I say Sandy shopped and I took in the local color. There are beer gardens sprinkled all over town. It makes waiting very pleasant. The weather has been perfect every day and this is no exception. Dinner in the Rotterdam and we get reunited with our tablemates. We recap what's been going on and find that all is well for them too. I have the duck (my first time) I enjoy dinner very much and the wine even more. Service again outstanding and the maitre'd fills in for Winnie and does so very well. I must admit this is the first time I have seen a maitre'd serve table and I applaud them for pitching in this way. Day 6 Dominica This was the highlight of the trip. We booked with Beno on line. This island is so beautiful. I have over 200 photos. I will not try to describe what I have seen but will be posting pictures soon. Thank you Cruise Critic for the Beno tip. Our guide was Desmond so you don't have to have Beno and you will still enjoy!!! Dinner in the Lido and no my first impression was not wrong. Same Chinese Fire drill. (no offense) Day 7 Day at Sea We have this down pat now it does rain this day but it didn't bother our reading or naps one bit. We really enjoy the spacious room. Again on this day our toilet works intermittently. They always come and fix it but what a job and frankly it embarrasses me!!! Day 8 St. Thomas What is there to say here -I go to Snuba which is over by Coki Beach. I am with another Cruise Critic Tom and we have a great experience with Frank from VI Snuba. I get back and we walk to town for some shopping. I must say I do not enjoy this and always feel a little bit Carnied here. Sandy loves her jewelry and this is the price I pay to have such a great spouse. Gladly pay!!! Day 9 Half Moon Cay So much hype here except it is not hype. If you love the beach this amazing. Sand like talcum powder and water crystal clear. We had a clam shell and I recommend that. We shared it with the Westerdam and I feared crowds but it really did not feel overwhelmed. The barbecue is a joke and a lot of work for the crew. Skip it or step it up with full time crew on the island. JMHO Day 10 boo hoo You all know this story so I shall skip it.Over,done kaput. Suffice to say we had a great cruise on a great ship with a great crew! This is my review of the Volendam. We are glad we sailed her and are thankful to all on the boards who helped us and led us to the best she has to offer. Oh yeah, the bar service was fantastic and we enjoyed Reggie in the Oceans bar especially. Best of luck to him in the future. I was a little disappointed in the HMC bar service. They did not seem too interested in serving here, but I can get my own drinks. They did not know what a Coco Loco was and at the main bar they only had Bacardi Limon rum??? blechhh. My preference for Celebrity has a lot to do with the little things. HAL has a fine product and certainly outdistances X in many respects. It may have something to do with your first love. In any event I spoke to many loyal X cruisers and not a convert to HAL in the bunch. I will say this, I am looking forward to a cruise on a Vista class ship, but that will be after a couple of doses of the X treatment again. I am glad for all the options and hope that everyone finds the line they LOVE. Read Less
Sail Date October 2006
Volendam Alaska Cruise August 23-30, 2006 This was our 2nd cruise aboard the Volendam, having done the same cruise to Alaska in 2005. We had such a great time in 2005 that I jumped at the chance for an encore in 2006. Because we took the ... Read More
Volendam Alaska Cruise August 23-30, 2006 This was our 2nd cruise aboard the Volendam, having done the same cruise to Alaska in 2005. We had such a great time in 2005 that I jumped at the chance for an encore in 2006. Because we took the same trip last year, I was able to compare and contrast the 2 trips, and the following is my review. As always, I will try to remain fair and objective, but I will also include my perspective and opinions in this review. Pre-Cruise: We left a day early, as is our custom, and arrived in Vancouver at 11:00AM on Tuesday. We grabbed a waiting limo at LimoJet Gold at YVR airport ($39CAD) and were whisked to the Westin Bayshore without any problems. I highly recommend flying in a day early, and it is real easy to get a limo without prior reservations needed. We had gotten the Westin through Priceline for $80 a few months earlier, and I had contacted them and paid for an upgrade to a Harbor View room in the Tower building for $40CAD extra. This was a wise choice! We were given a room with a great view on the top floor, and it was ready for check-in at noon. The room had the typical Westin Heavenly Bed and nice dual showerhead in the bathroom. The bathroom was quite small, but clean and manageable for 2 people. There was a small balcony to get fresh air and breezes, but there wasn't room to actually sit outside on the balcony. The location was absolutely ideal, down near Stanley Park entrance on the marina, away from the hustle and bustle of the city but close enough to get where you wanted to! Food prices were typically high, and we did not eat any meals in the hotel. There was a well-equipped gym, and both an indoor and outdoor heated pool. We had an excellent view of Canada Place and watched the Volendam dock in the morning. Vancouver itself is a beautiful city and I would encourage anyone to spend some time there before or after your cruise. We had purchased the Vancouver Entertainment book prior to our trip, and used many of the coupons on our trip to defray costs. Our first order of business was to walk down to Canada Place and watch the IMAX presentation of Alaska. This was amazing, and the walk along the seawall was beautiful. After the movie, we walked down Robson Street to Stanley Park, and took a nice horse drawn carriage ride. There was a nice commentary from the guide, and we saw many cool sights along the way. After our tour, we walked across the park, through the Rose Garden and around Lost Lagoon, to the Stanley Park Fish House for dinner. They seated us at the outdoor deck, and we had a wonderful halibut dinner there. Excellent service, reasonable costs, and fantastic food. After dinner, we walked along the seawall to English Bay and watched the sunset, then headed back to the Westin for bed. All in all, an excellent day! Embarkation: We slept in and headed over to Canada Place at about 11:00AM. Taxi fare was $7CAD. We gave our bags to the porters (tipped them $2/bag) and headed inside. We had done our forms online beforehand, and had all our documents ready to go. We breezed through Security, but when we arrived at the check-in area, we were met with a huge waiting room full of people! Apparently the computers had gone down, and no one was allowed to check-in. After about an hour, the computers slowly came back online and we were slowly checked in. This was an unplanned glitch, and totally unexpected, but HAL handled it well and kept making announcements to keep us in the loop. Most everyone was understanding, and no major problems other than HAL not being able to process our credit cards on embarkation. They required us to do this onboard in the first 24 hours, and it was not a problem doing that. Even after all the delays, we were on board by 12:30. Once onboard, there was the usual line of smiling greeters. Everyone seemed real happy, and we were sent to the Lido for lunch. The ship seemed clean, orderly, and in good repair. Rooms were available at 1:00PM. Stateroom 7086: On our trip last year, we spent a lot of time on the aft portion of the Navigation (7th) floor. It was secluded, sheltered from the wind, and a great place to watch the unfolding scenery. Through Cruise Critic, we had learned of rooms 7083 and 7086, which are inside cabins with windows that overlook this aft deck. We booked room 7086 almost a year ago, and got a good price for it. We were real excited to see what the room was like, and it did not disappoint us! The room is more square than rectangular. As you open the door from the hallway, the bed is against the opposite wall, and the window is to the right (as you are looking in the room). There is a couch on the opposite side of the bed, and the bathroom is located to your left as you are looking in the room. The dresser and closets are on the same wall as the door (directly across from the bed as you are laying down). There is very little room between the foot of the bed and the closets, and there is minimal horizontal surface on the dresser due to the TV and DVD player. The TV is a flat screen model. There are 2 outlets available, so bring your power strip. The bathroom has a shower only, and there is a nice selection of shampoo, conditioner, and soap. There are 2 full-length closets, and 1 half-length closet with shelves on top. We found plenty of room for hanging things, but limited drawer space. The bed was as comfortable as always, and our 3 suitcases fit under the bed. Best of all, though, was the view. We had a beautiful wake view, and only paid for an inside category. Awesome! Also, the windows are tinted so one cannot see in during the day. However, if the cabin lights are on and it is dark outside, you can see in easily. Keep this in mind, and pull your curtains shut! Now for a complaint. Part of the reason for booking this particular cabin was for the semi- private aft deck. Last year there were numerous teak loungers and 2 blanket chests on this deck, and it was perfect for whiling away the hours. This year, there were NO CHAIRS at all! I asked our room steward and the Front Desk where the chairs were, and they told me that there were NEVER any chairs out there, and never had been! This was obviously wrong information, as I had just been on the same ship just last year, and numerous cruise reviews on Cruise Critic have also mentioned the chairs. I was not getting any action or answers in this situation, so I took matters into my own hands. I went down to Lower Promenade deck and "procured" 2 teak chairs and brought them up to "our" deck. No one stopped me, but I had to keep an eye on them during the week, as the deck crew kept trying to remove them! There is a pretty cool resolution to this problem, though. On Monday, we received an invitation to attend a Question and Answer seminar with the ship's staff, which included the Hotel Manager, Shore Excursion manager, Cruise Director, and Front Desk manager. I have no idea how or why we were picked, but we attended nonetheless. There were only about 10 other people there, and we were asked what we thought of the cruise and what could be done to improve things. Of course, we brought up the deck chairs, and they seemed quite shocked that there were no chairs out there. The hotel manager, Theo, promised to look into it, and by that afternoon there were 8 teak loungers out on that deck! Pretty good customer service, if you ask me! Those of you who have this room in the future should report back on the status of the deck chairs. Public Rooms: As mentioned earlier, the Volendam was in good shape and cleaning and maintenance was constantly being performed. There was an abundance of Purell machines everywhere, and bathrooms were always well stocked with soap and towels. Explorations Cafe was a nice upgrade to the previous Erasmus Library area. There were plenty of computer terminals with reliable, albeit slow, Internet connectivity. There were also numerous MP3 listening stations (free) with comfortable chairs with ocean views. They had a good selection of DVDs for rent, and the library has a huge selection of travel books, as well as a good selection of fiction and non-fiction books. To top things off, the Espresso Bar is a nice touch. Yes, there is an extra charge for coffee drinks, but they taste good and the cost is rarely over $3.50. They also had daily Soduku and Trivia quizzes available. This was a great place to while away the sea days. The Culinary Arts Center was also a nice upgrade. Located in the Wajang Theater, this state of the art cooking center replicates the Food Channel. We attended a public cooking demonstration (free) as well as a private cooking class ($29 PP). The Pinnacle chef did the show, and both were a lot of fun. The free public show was after the Galley Tour, and he prepared Shrimp Bruschetta and Chocolate Volcano cake for us. Afterward, there were free samples and they were quite good! They held private classes for 8-12 people on both sea days. We attended the first sea day, and for $29 we each got a nice apron, a 6-month subscription to Food and Wine magazine, and prepared and ate a 3-course meal. We made crab puffs, pan-fried salmon and halibut fillets, and a Jack Daniels laced berry dessert. There was plenty of personalized instruction and we had a great time! Sign up early at the Front Desk for this class, as it is limited to 12 people. The Wajang Theater itself is still open for 3 movies per day, and still has complimentary popcorn available. On one night, they served tortilla chips instead of popcorn¬ sure why. This is a nice diversion and a fun thing to do as well. The Wine Bar is also a new addition, and is located in the old Java Cafe area next to the Pinnacle. We did not use this, but it looked real nice, and they have a nice selection of wines available from 1st growth Bordeaux to Chateau d'Yquem. Explorers Lounge was used mainly for after dinner drinks and relaxation. They had a 3-piece classical band here every night. They had a small flaming coffee bar set up as well. I never did see any of the famed hand-dipped chocolates. The Piano Bar was well attended on most nights, and was manned by a singing piano player who encouraged audience participation. This area was always quite smoky so we did not spend much time there. The Sea View Lounge was also well attended, and music was supplied by a band that played contemporary music. It was also very smoky. The casino is small, but has the usual array of table games and slots. They had a Blackjack tournament and a Slot tournament here, and it was always busy in the evenings. They did have a non- smoking night once during the cruise, which was nice! I actually won $500 on video poker. The Crows Nest was our favorite place on the ship. It offers sweeping ocean views at the front of the ship, although some of that view has been taken away with the addition of the Thermal Suites and gym expansion below. This area was never really crowded, and it was pretty easy to find good seats at night. During Glacier Bay and Tracy Arm, seats were at a premium because of foul weather, so you have to be early! We actually had the Mariner Repeaters Party here on the last sea day, and I thought it was a perfect location. Last year we had it in the Frans Hals Lounge, and it wasn't as nice. Gym and Thermal Suite: One of the best SOE improvements on the Volendam was the addition of a Thermal Suite. While not as large as those on Vista ships, the Volendam's new Thermal Suite is wonderful. We paid $198 (including 10% gratuity) for a weeklong couples pass. The Suite has 5 heated tile loungers, 2 scented steam rooms, a hot tub with sea views, and 2 wonderful misting showers. There is a private deck available for Suite-users only, and it provided unparalleled views on glacier days. They only sell 25 passes per week, so it is never crowded. It was so nice relaxing here with Enya playing in the background, while watching the beautiful Alaska scenery. Christian, the manager, was absolutely fantastic. He went above and beyond in his duties by bringing us fresh fruit, arranging bar service, hot soup, and chocolate covered cherries during our time at the Marjorie Glacier, and always ensuring that we were having a good time. I cannot recommend this amenity highly enough! Dining: Prior to leaving, I had requested a table for 2 along the rail upstairs at 3rd seating. I am happy to say that I received this without a hitch. We were assigned table 76, which is on the port side and is along the rail&an absolute perfect table in my opinion. Dining times in Alaska are at 5:30 and 7:45 upstairs, and 6:00 and 8:30 downstairs. We chose the 7:45 time because it gave us plenty of time to get ready for dinner after shore excursions, but it wasn't so late that we fell asleep during dinner either. The Rotterdam Dining Room is a beautiful area, and most of our meals were great. Our waiter was attentive, intuitive, efficient, and very friendly. We had excellent service all week. On past cruises, meals could get pretty long and drawn out, but our waiter kept the courses coming in quick succession and we were usually done in 60 minutes&perfect for us. As a general rule, entrees were very well done and presentation was great. We always had 5 choices of entrees, and 2 different salmon dishes available. There were 4 or 5 starters available as well. We had 2 hot soups and 1 cold soup to choose from, but only 1 or 2 salad choices. There were usually 3-5 dessert choices. Portions were on the small side, but we never went hungry because of the multitude of courses available. We thought that the salads and desserts were weakest, but really enjoyed the entrees. We ate most of our breakfasts and lunches in the Rotterdam as well, and thought that the choices were adequate. Like the dinners, the food tasted good and was well presented. Some favorites include Surf and Turf, King Crab legs, Lamb, and Fillet. We only had a few meals in the Lido, and felt like the quality and quantity of selections had gone downhill from our last trip. Salad bar choices were quite limited, and most items tasted bland. They still have a separate sandwich, pasta, and oriental station available, but we were not impressed with the choices most of the time. The desserts, ice cream bar, and bread pudding were still amazing though! Don't get me wrong; the food was not bad&just not as great as it was last year. Room service was stellar on our trip. Items arrived promptly, and there was only one time that they forgot something. Even that was rectified within 5 minutes of delivery. We usually asked for our food between 6-6:30, and it was always delivered before 6AM! The Pinnacle was as good as ever. We ate there on Dutch Night (Saturday). We both ordered the Halibut and King Crab legs, and they were just fabulous. Other items ordered were crab cakes, Northwest pear salad, and clam chowder. I ordered the Baked Alaska for dessert and my wife had the trio of crème brulee. Hers was fantastic, but the Baked Alaska had WAY too much meringue on it. Service was efficient and professional. The wine list is quite extensive, and reasonably priced for a restaurant. We also attended the Master Chefs Dinner on Sunday (Glacier Bay) night. I have seen conflicting reports about this dinner, but wanted to experience it for myself. Our waiter also asked us to go to this dinner, and told us that he enjoyed performing during the dinner because it broke up the monotony of regular dinners. The dinner is actually part of a show, and consists of 3 different acts. Upon arrival to our seats, napkins are placed on our laps during a song, and a single bun in the shape of a chef's hat is revealed under our paper chef's hats on the table. They encourage everyone to wear the chef's hat, but we chose not to. An Amuse Bouche is presented, and after that is done the staff puts on a little song and dance regarding making a salad. Everyone is served a nice salad, and then we are given a choice of 5 starters and 5 entrees. These are presented just like any other dinner, and they were very tasty. After the main course is finished, there is another song and dance number for dessert presentation, which is a white chocolate chefs hat filled with custard and berries&very good! We actually enjoyed the show and dinner, and would recommend it to anyone who has not experienced it. The staff seemed like they were having fun, and I know for a fact that our waiter enjoyed himself. That said, I would probably not go out of my way to see it again on a future cruise. It's nice for something different, but that's about it. Entertainment: We thought that the entertainment on board was pretty weak. The production shows were the same as last year, and just as boring. The dancers were young and energetic, but most of their singing was just not very good. We did have a magician who was pretty entertaining, and we enjoyed his show. There was also a non-descript comedian who was just not very funny, and a banjo player that was just not very good. Entertainment was definitely geared toward the more "mature" crowd. Most nights, there were only a handful of people out and about after 11:00PM. Ports of Call: We booked this trip mainly because of the itinerary, which included 2 glacier viewings. Last year we were blessed with temperatures in the 80s and 90s, but this year Mother Nature was not as kind, and most of our days were wet, windy, and cool. That said, we still made the best of things. Tracy Arm: It was wet and cold during our time here. We were able to get back pretty far, and had a good view of the twin glaciers. Most of our time was spent in the Thermal Suite, so we were nice and toasty warm while here. Regardless of the weather, this is always a picturesque place and I'm glad that HAL includes it on their itinerary. Juneau: We had really been looking forward to this port because we were signed up for the 4-hour Extended Glacier Trek with Northstar. Unfortunately, the skies opened up just as we arrived, and we had a very windy, rainy, and cold day. All flights were cancelled, and we had to scramble to find something to do. We ended up booking a City Tour and Mendenhall Glacier tour with MGT, and it cost $22 apiece from the vendors on the dock. We had an informative guide, and had a nice city tour before heading out to the glacier. Before we went to the glacier, we stopped at a beautiful Spruce church that overlooked the glacier. Wow!! What a jaw-dropping view, and it was just beautiful inside. We really enjoyed this. Once at the glacier, we took a nice wooded trail on a nature loop, and then headed inside the Visitors Center. There were a lot of informative exhibits and a short film about the glacier as well. Cost was only $3PP, and it was well worth it. Despite a wet and dreary day, we had a good visit here. Hopefully next time the weather will cooperate, and we can take that glacier trek! Skagway: It was also rainy and windy in Skagway, but not as bad as Juneau. Our first excursion was the Heli-Hike, which we booked though HAL. We arrived in Skagway right on time at 7:00AM, and our tour was due to meet at the end of the gangway at 7:10AM. We asked the Front Desk when we could get off the ship, and they said not until we had been cleared and an announcement would be made. So we waited, and waited, and waited. It was after 7:20, and I was getting nervous, and I happened to overhear the Shore Excursions staff talking on the phone to someone regarding the occupants of Room 7086 - hey that's us!! She said that the tour guide was getting ready to leave and we better get out there right now! I told her that the Front Desk said we could not depart the ship, and she said we had been clear for debarkation since 7AM! Anyway, we made it downstairs and met our tour guide, but I wasn't too impressed with the Front Desk staff! The tour itself was fantastic! There were only 4 of us, plus our guide, and we flew via helicopter to our trailhead high up in the mountains. During our flight, we got a close-up view of the Denver Glacier and saw a beautiful waterfall coming off of it. After being dropped off, we geared up and took a scenic 2-mile hike through the woods to the Laughton Glacier overlook. Our guide was very informative and personable, and kept the pace easy and comfortable. He pointed out numerous plants and gave a nice commentary on the sights. We then returned to our starting point and awaited the White Pass train. It arrived and we were loaded up in the end car, which we had all to ourselves. Our guide popped open his cooler, and we had local beers and homemade salmon pate and crackers for our return trip. It was just beautiful, and very scenic. This excursion comes highly recommended, and combines a helicopter ride, scenic hike, and picturesque train ride on the historic White Pass Railroad. Since Skagway has such a long port time, we elected to book 2 excursions. Our second excursion was the Chilkoot Trail Hike and Float. We met our guide and loaded up in a large van for the road trip over to Dyea, which is where the Chilkoot Trail begins. It was a nice short ride, and very scenic along the coast. Once there, we started our 2-mile hike up the historic Chilkoot Trail. The first half-mile is steep and sometimes difficult to navigate, but the pace is kept slow and steady and should not be a problem for people in reasonable shape. After that, the trail levels out and becomes much easier. We saw a few piles of bear scat along the trail, but no actual bears. At the end of the hike, we climbed into a large raft for a scenic float back down to our starting point. There is absolutely no white water, and it is quite relaxing at this point. We saw a few eagles in the distance, and had some wonderful glacier views. At the end, we all had hot cocoa and homemade chocolate chip cookies. This excursion was reasonable in cost and also comes highly recommended. Glacier Bay: While not technically a port of call, Glacier Bay is the highlight of this cruise. Only a few select ships are allowed access to this wonderful area, and HAL is lucky to be one of the few who go here regularly. The weather again was cool, misty, and windy, but tolerable. The trick here is to get up early and spend as much time outside as you can, which is what we did. We were out on the bow from 0700- 1200, and had a grand time. We also spent some time in the Thermal Suite, which makes for a much better viewing area, and personalizes the experience. Early in the morning, 2 Park Service rangers and a Tlingit guide come onboard and provide a running commentary about the park and its many sights. There is also a naturalist on board, and this attention to detail puts HAL head and shoulders above other cruise lines to Alaska, in my opinion. There is a nice display set up in the Crows Nest, including a park map that gives approximate glacier viewing times. In our case, we were at the Johns Hopkins viewing area at 0900, and the Marjorie Glacier from 1020-1145. Marjorie Glacier did not disappoint. The weather actually got better, and despite being cool, it was not wet or rainy. The overcast skies only accentuated the blue color of the glacier, and it was mesmerizing. We saw a few small calvings, but nothing real spectacular. We were able to get real close to the glacier and spent about an hour there. Pea soup was supposed to be served, and we saw a few people on the bow with bowls of soup, but never did see anyone walking around and announcing this. There were numerous hawkings of wine and cheese (for a fee), but never any announcements for soup. Luckily for us, we had been here before and knew about it, so we tracked down a waiter and he assisted us. I wonder if the rookie cruisers were as lucky? Seems to me that more emphasis should be put on this signature staple. The rest of the day was very relaxing, and we spent a lot of time taking in the scenery and listening to the naturalist and Park service presentations. Glacier Bay is not to be missed, and your best experience is outside! Ketchikan: Our final port was Ketchikan, and it remains our favorite. We had booked an independent excursion with Michelle of Island Wings for the Traitors Cove Bear Watch. We had wanted to go to Anan Creek, but the salmon run was over already, so Traitors Cove was our only choice. We had a nice 25-minute floatplane ride over to the island, and met our guide there. He drove us down an old logging road to the trailhead for the bear-viewing site, and we walked ¼ mile down the well-maintained trail to the salmon stream. We did get to see a medium sized black bear go salmon fishing, and had direct views from our elevated viewing location. We got some great pictures. Unfortunately, this was the only viewing for the next few hours, and we then went back to the van for our trip back to the dock. We stopped at an old road along the way and took a little hike down the road, and were met by a larger black bear! He didn't seem to afraid of us, so we got some pictures and slowly backtracked to our van, then met Michelle at the float dock for our return to Ketchikan. Michelle and her operation are top notch, and there is good value for the money with her excursion. We spent the rest of the day exploring and shopping, and had a great day. Overall Impressions: Hits: 1. Holland America has the best itineraries to Alaska, and has a naturalist on board. They also have Native craftsmen and interpreters on board, and are quite respectful of the natural history and heritage of Alaska. 2. The employees of HAL are hard working, friendly, respectful, and professional. You would be hard pressed to find a more professional crew anywhere. 3. Food as a whole was well presented, and taste was uniformly good. HAL is willing to try new things in an attempt to prevent complacency. 4. Stateroom 7086 (and 7083) are absolutely the best value for the money, on any cruise ship. 5. Alaska is beautiful, rain or shine. Misses: 1. The Volendam and HAL are definitely geared toward an older population. Relaxation and sightseeing are important on an Alaskan cruise, but there are a lot of times when it can get boring, especially when the weather is not great. Those of you who like the nightlife and require constant stimulation may be disappointed. 2. The staff, while professional and courteous, does not communicate very well amongst itself. We were frequently given misinformation, and the Front Office staff seemed to be the worst at this. I don't have a problem with someone saying that they don't know the answer, but DO NOT give me misinformation. That is a sure way to cause resentment and conflict. I think most of my negative experiences were because I took the same trip on the same ship only a year apart. This leads to unfair comparisons, and it becomes a near impossibility to replicate the feeling of wonderment and amazement on our first Alaska cruise. Despite a few shortcomings, however, this trip was a wonderful experience. I got to spend some private time with my lovely wife, saw some beautiful scenery, and got to do something that some people never get to do their entire lives. I consider myself a lucky person, and continue to feel that HAL does a wonderful job, and that the Volendam continues to occupy a tender spot in my heart. Read Less
Sail Date August 2006
We arrived from UK with a few days to spare and stayed in the Renaissance Hotel, just a few hundred yards from the cruise terminal, excellent!! Since we had to check out before noon anyway we got to the pier early and initially were ... Read More
We arrived from UK with a few days to spare and stayed in the Renaissance Hotel, just a few hundred yards from the cruise terminal, excellent!! Since we had to check out before noon anyway we got to the pier early and initially were impressed, however, we were soon informed that there would be a delay since the computers were down!! We spent more than 90 minutes waiting in the terminal, not a good start. When the formalities were eventually completed, we proceeded on board to be shown to our cabin, which was quite impressive (we booked a cabin on the main deck but received the offer of an upgrade to a Veranda suite a week before we left UK). We then went to the Lido restaurant for buffet lunch and were greeted by a young crew member who insisted we wash our hands using a non-touch cleaning unit (this exercise was enforced rigorously throughout the cruise). After having a good tour of the ship we got ready for the Sail away Party and went "up top" to see Vancouver (a beautiful city) recede into the distance as we sailed under the Lions Gate Bridge, sipping our cocktails on a lovely afternoon. Two days later we were cruising up Tracy Arm Fjord looking for wildlife and watching numerous waterfalls and glaciers. That afternoon we arrived at our first Port Juneau, but the weather got there first!! It was raining cats and dogs (with mist and low cloud) so, inevitably our tour and several others were called off (it was to be our special treat, our first helicopter ride, we eventually got on another trip) but, I don't think the ship staff or the shore excursion staff did a lot to help the situation. 1) there was no mention of cancelled tours on the ships at all &  2) the shore staff didn't seem that interested, they were wet!!  Things improved after Juneau, and we had a wonderful cruise. We got so close to a glacier in Glacier Bay you felt you were close enough to touch. The ship's crew were excellent -smiles and "good day sir" everywhere about the ship. And the food was excellent everywhere we ate (room service breakfast was a delight and on time everytime!!). However, I have to say although I am approaching 60, this ship had the oldest average age (of passenger) of any cruise i have ever been on. So, after the main show finished most of the passengers toddled off to bed. So, although we enjoyed our cruise we could not in all honesty recommend it to you fun loving 40 somethings... Read Less
Sail Date August 2006
What has happened to Holland America? Two years ago I took the same cruise on the Zaandam. It was excellent. Our group of ten was totally "wow-ed" by the personal care, eagerness to make every experience perfect and the apparent ... Read More
What has happened to Holland America? Two years ago I took the same cruise on the Zaandam. It was excellent. Our group of ten was totally "wow-ed" by the personal care, eagerness to make every experience perfect and the apparent enjoyment the staff got from jobs well done. That was then. Embarkation was smooth. Then it started. Our party of nine had been told to book our Vancouver (on our return we had 14 hours to kill) tour when we got on the ship. Our first afternoon we proceeded to the shore excursion desk and after pointing out the tour we wanted, we were told it wasn't available. "What should we do?" "When the ship docks, you can put your bags in a locker and find something to do then catch a cab." The counter person totally blew us off. When told this answer wasn't acceptable she ignored us. Later, during the cruise, I heard her loudly tell colleague what a P-I-A another member of our party was. Nice. After 7 trips to the front desk and escalating the matter we finally did book a terrific tour of Grouse Mountain and several other Vancouver parks. But what a headache. My wife and her sister had booked adjoining veranda cabins. On our last cruise we had a great time sitting on the veranda with the hatch between the verandas open and several other members of our group enjoying the great scenery. This was something we were really looking forward to repeating. Imagine our surprise then when our bulkhead had no door. To the front desk. Don't be concerned, I was told. Even if you did have a doorway, we wouldn't let you open it anyway. It's a new policy. (HAL's use of policy can usually be construed to mean your are out of luck.) Another illustration of our experience happened during an "at sea" day. About 5:30 pm my 11 year old decided he wanted to play ping-pong. Off we went to the Lido deck. The two tables were busy so we played chess across the pool till one opened. At 6:05 a table opened up and at 6:15 we finished our game and moved to the table. Only to find no paddles or balls. After asking the bartender where the equipment was, I was informed they get taken in at six for dinner. Why? So you don't disturb anyone. You mean like the two smokers, two guys at the bar or the three people looking out the windows on the other side of the ship. No one was within 20 yards of the tables. It's our policy. After speaking with the front office, where the policy was explained several times, I was offered an "exception" if the appropriate department would authorize it. 20 minutes later we had the paddles. The deck was as empty as it had been and I don't think we disturbed anyone. I should add that when I asked the staff member who brought out the equipment if I could drop it anywhere for her, I got a very cold glare and "No. I will just have to come back and get it myself!" Finally, the "sparkle" that the serving staff had brought to every interaction on our previous cruise was just not there. Last time after one visit to the bar, the waiter or waitress knew our name, preferences and were warm and engaging. This time although service was good, we never made it past "room number-Sign here." I think this was perhaps the biggest disappointment. In conclusion, I detailed all of this on our exit survey and pointed out that we will be cruising again in the next 24 months. Will it be on HAL? I don't know. I left contact information and said I could be "reconverted" but that I would need to hear from them. We will see. If I hear from them I will update you all. For now, HAL is not a line I would recommend. Read Less
Sail Date October 2005
The ship is elegant. Assuming we were told the truth - that the ship was at capacity, 1500 - we were amazed at the spaciousness. Very easy to get around. Never a crowd anywhere. Embarkation was quick and easy. Our cabin was more than ample ... Read More
The ship is elegant. Assuming we were told the truth - that the ship was at capacity, 1500 - we were amazed at the spaciousness. Very easy to get around. Never a crowd anywhere. Embarkation was quick and easy. Our cabin was more than ample with easily sufficient closet and drawer space for both of us. Bathroom was spacious with a full size bathtub. A fresh fruit bowl was refilled as we ate it. Food was quite good, better at the Lido deck cafe buffet than in the dining room - and all day long. Weather forced cancellation of chosen land tours but not ship's fault. Entertainment was mediocre and a disappointment but not a big thing with us. Biggest fault we had was with service which we blamed on HAL's policy of adding $10/day/pp for tips onto your bill. The rationale is that its for our "convenience" and so that we don't have to search out crew members to reward them at end of cruise. We got the distinct impression that the crew and especially those with whom we came in daily contact - cabin steward and dining room waiter - knew that their tip was in the bank as soon as we stepped on board so just did the minimum. Our bed was made up as a double bed when we arrived. He very grudgingly separated it into two twins only after twice asking me and my having to twice tell him that I did not request a double bed. One day after coming back from shore at 12:30P and found cabin not made up, I had to search for him, found him sitting in his work area chatting with another crew member and had to ask him to make up cabin. Another time, without being asked, made up cabin at 5P even though he knew we didn't eat dinner until 7:45P. Never saw him. Never asked if things were OK, anything we needed, etc. Dining room waiter was not any better. Took your order, came back with the food and that was it. Saving grace was Ass't Maitre D who came around and asked if everything was OK. One night when I asked for another entree because one I had ordered - pasta - was just a gooey blob, he personally and quickly brought me another entree. The waiter was nowhere to be found. Twice ran out of towels on pool deck. One day, after taking two juice glasses I had brought down from buffet back up to deck, I asked person whose apparent job was to stand by water server and hand out glasses of water to anyone who requested it, if he would please take glasses from me. He just said "NO. Put them on any table" This was at lunch time so I had to find empty table as I couldn't put my dirty glasses on someone else's table. Quirky practice on buffet deck. Tables are initially set with rolled up napkins containing silverware. But when someone leaves and dishes removed and tabled cleaned, more often than not,no silverware is replaced. So if you're not the first person to use that place you have to search around for it. We were told that 70% of tip goes to cabin steward and dining room waiter, rest is divided amongst ENTIRE crew. And that tips represent a significant portion of their pay, I resent being forced to tip everybody from dishwasher to engine room mechanics. Message I got is HAL pays them poorly and so you are being forced to contribute. Pass an officer anywhere, don't expect a greeting or smile. We're not used to such a very low level of service and won't accept it. Never again on HAL unless I hear from cruisers that my experience was unusual and peculiar to the Volendam. Read Less
Sail Date October 2005
Ages: 54 & 64, Professional, self-employed: A few thoughts about the Volendam. I hope some of these will prove helpful. This was our 8th cruise 1st HAL. Our cabin was on the starboard side, great for the return voyage and good ... Read More
Ages: 54 & 64, Professional, self-employed: A few thoughts about the Volendam. I hope some of these will prove helpful. This was our 8th cruise 1st HAL. Our cabin was on the starboard side, great for the return voyage and good overall for the price. I would suggest that you bring a multiplug or ext. cord or both, as there is only one outlet on the vanity. There is also no clock or tv clock. The tv does have video out. The movie in problems were mostly solved by tipping the cabin boy. The lock on the refrig/bar was never fixed. I find that tipping the cabin steward several times doing the voyage makes for a more pleasant experience. We do not agree with HAL's current tipping policy and tip on service only. This also worked well at the Pinnacle Rest.,where we ate 3 times. The menu is limited, but good. We did not care for the wait staff in the main dr (late seating,lower ok). The shows were fun and well done. Alaska is fabulous, the White Pass rr is fabulous,the museum in Juneau is very nice and not too large, see the park ranger bld. in Skagway, lecture and film. The ship was clean, nicely appointed,easy to manage with interesting passengers, however our impression was it was not a "happy ship". The crew went thru the motions and checked all the prescribed boxes, most of the time. We boarded at 3pm, there was no one to greet us, no photo, we found our own way to the cabin and no one said thanks for coming when we left. It was a great way to see the inside passage and Alaska.It really seemed like a serious management problem, not a staff problem,there is always exceptions, but the general overall impression was just not a "Happy Ship." We of course had a wonderful time and loved Vancouver and Alaska. Have a great cruise. Read Less
Sail Date August 2005
My mother and I went on the Volendam to the Southern Caribbean (she is 62, I am 39). Previously, we have sailed on Celebrity twice (on the Century to the Eastern and Western Caribbean). We ended up on this cruise last-minute. We were ... Read More
My mother and I went on the Volendam to the Southern Caribbean (she is 62, I am 39). Previously, we have sailed on Celebrity twice (on the Century to the Eastern and Western Caribbean). We ended up on this cruise last-minute. We were booked to go on the Celebrity Infinity to Hawaii, but the cruise was cancelled due to mechanical problems, so we scrambled to find another cruise to book ourselves on. Since I had read good things about HAL, we decided to try this cruise. We were a little disappointed with this cruise. While we would rate it "good" overall (whereas we would rate our Celebrity cruises "excellent"), there were a couple things that disappointed us. Holland caters to elderly people, and we kind of knew this going in (I had read this on the cruise boards) but we decided to give it a try. The biggest problem with the cruise was that unless you are 65 or older and love sedate, loungy music, there is nowhere on the ship at night to dance (up-tempo). Every night, my mom and me would walk around from bar to bar (I think there are 3 or 4 of them) trying to find an upbeat bar where we could dance and not one was to be found. Worst of all, each bar was playing the same exact type of music (even some of the same songs!) - from the piano bar, to the "Crows Nest" - it was the same thing over and over again - old standards, Broadway songs, jazzy slow songs. There were a couple appealing-sounding nights listed on the activity calendar, like "70's disco night", but they were scheduled at around midnight on nights when we were going into port the next morning, so it wasn't feasible for us to stay up that late. We wished they would have had ONE bar on the ship dedicated the upbeat dance music for the younger crowd or even the older people who still have the pep to dance up-tempo. As I mentioned, my mom is 62, and even she was bored with the loungy bars (a couple other older passengers we spoke with were also commenting on this). There was very little Caribbean music anywhere on the ship - maybe only a couple times we heard some at the pool. Other areas that disappointed us....the food was a bit of a disappointment after experiencing Celebrity cruises. While breakfast and lunch was about as good (and very similar), dinner was a solid knotch below what we experienced on Celebrity. The soups were consistently over-salted, most of the desserts (esp. the cakes) were bland and somewhat dry (although they always LOOKED like gourmet desserts). Similarly, the dinner entrees were gourmet-LOOKING, but average to good tasting. Nothing blew our socks off. In addition, the experience of eating the main dining room was nowhere near as impressive at what we had experienced on our previous cruises where we felt like we were royalty dining in a gourmet restaurant. On Holland, the experience was more like regular dining in a decent restaurant. The table setting was less elegant, the service was less attentive (nobody was brushing crumbs off our table or rearranging our utensils at each course, etc.) Another aspect that Celebrity has the edge on is service. On Celebrity, we always felt pampered. On the Holland cruise, while the staff was exceptionally sweet and friendly, the service was not "on top of things" like we were used to. We really noticed a big difference here. For example, on Celebrity, we knew the name of our room steward because he introduced himself immediately and always was checking to make sure we were happy....really on top of things - not a detail was ever missed and it was amazing. On Holland, we were never quite sure who our steward was. He never introduced himself and oftentimes, small details in our room were neglected. For example, things like a coffee ring (stain) on the little table sat there for 3 days before he noticed and cleaned it, a coffee spill on the bed sheets (in a prominent location) went unnoticed and unchanged for 2 days. In the hallway near our cabin, at the elevator, I noticed a dirty balled up tissue (with some blood on it) lying on the floor between the elevators. It sat there for 2 days before it was noticed and picked up. Little things like this were really noticeable. Now, on the GOOD side.... The beds were the most comfortable I have ever slept on! Very plush and cushy with WONDERFUL soft cotton sheets that just made you want to do nothing but nap (which came in handy, since the music on the ship put us to sleep) ;] The pool area was particularly attractive with a beautiful, large pool with a pretty dolphin sculpture rising out of the pool, wonderful separate bar/lounge areas with umbrellas and a retractable sun roof which was can be closed during windy or otherwise inclement weather. The shows were very good - the singing and dancing troop was extremely good, the comedians were excellent and generally we felt the shows were a strong point on this ship. Of course, with the exception of one of the comedians who was a little edgy (which we enjoyed), as with most cruises, the entertainment tends to be a little on the "hokey" side, but nonetheless, it was well-produced and very professional. The ports of call on this cruise were really great and we enjoyed all of them. In ARUBA, we took a jeep safari tour through ABC tours which took us off-road to the wild/scenic side of Aruba, making several stops along the way. It was exciting and the scenery was amazing!!! In CURACAO, we got off the ship and found a tour guide who took a small group of us around the island on a 2-hour tour and then dropped us off at Kokomo (?) beach. We were really impressed with Curacao, with the beautiful and quaint architecture, and the beach was extremely beautiful and enjoyable. In DOMINICA, we took a tour offered through the ship - "Rainforest Drive and Emerald Pool" and it was also enjoyable. Dominica is a EXTREMELY lush island and I think the best tours on this island focus on seeing the natural beauty. In TORTOLA, we took a ship-sponsored tour to Virgin Gorda and the Baths. Another very enjoyable trip. The baths are so otherworldly and amazing - it is a place I will never forget and a trip well worth taking. After we got dropped off at the end of the tour in Tortola, I did some shopping. Unfortunately, the weather was bad on our last day so we missed HALF MOON CAY. The ship did dock, and started tendering some passengers in, but after a couple hours, they decided the weather was too inclement to continue tendering and all passengers were returned to the ship. From the ship, it looked like it would be a beautiful island to visit, though, on a nice day (great place to have a beach day). So, all in all, we had a good time and would rate this cruise as a "7" on a 1-10 scale. I don't think we will sail on Holland again, but it was interesting to see how it compared to Celebrity and let's face it.....anytime you can get away on a cruise, it is a great experience. Having said that, for future cruises, we will stick with the cruise line we have had an excellent experience with. My advice to anyone thinking of booking on Holland is this. If you are 65 or older and love a very low-key, sedate experience, you will like this cruise. I'd estimate that 85% of the passengers on this ship were 65 or older. If you want more options like some upbeat dancing, or other more energetic activities, book on another line. Read Less
Sail Date March 2005
My fiancee and I had taken our first cruise together in July 2001 aboard the Westerdam, in fact, on one of it's final voyages. It was my first cruise and my fiancee's second. It was everything I'd ever heard about cruises ... Read More
My fiancee and I had taken our first cruise together in July 2001 aboard the Westerdam, in fact, on one of it's final voyages. It was my first cruise and my fiancee's second. It was everything I'd ever heard about cruises and much more. The food, both quality and abundance, the opulence of the ship itself and all the displays. The desert extravaganza was absolutely breathtaking. So this summer we decided to do Alaska again and with Holland America. We booked on the Volendam and were excited to know that this ship was only 4 years old. Compared to our cruise aboard the Westerdam, our expectations were very high. We were to have a balcony suite, which was a very good size (284 sq.ft). We were to set sail at 5pm. and our dinner seating time was 5:30pm. Needless to say, we were too busy at 5:30 setting sail, attending the bon voyage party and walking around the ship to make it to the formal dinner. After unpacking we wandered up to the Lido Restaurant for a bite to eat to discover that it was closed, the hamburger/pizza/taco bar was closed for the day, as was the ice cream bar. Other than room service there was no food to be had on the ship at that time, so we went back to our room and ordered. Actually, the food from room service was very good and didn't take long to get, we were just disappointed to eat in our room on our first night at sea. For the first nights we would put out our room service breakfast request card to have our coffee and croissants brought to our room the next morning and this would also ensure that we'd wake up nice and early to enjoy our coffee on our balcony. But we used up the two room service cards and they were never replaced again after that. My fiancee called the front desk requesting more, but we went the next three days without them, so we just woke up in the mornings and called room service. Trivial matter, but nonetheless annoying. As is the fact that our ice bucket held nothing but water, as the cabin boy never bothered to refill it. I used one of the glasses the first day. It was removed, but never replaced. And as mentioned by the Cruise Critic, a "large" bottle of lotion and shampoo was available in his suite. Sorry, but we were in a Deluxe Mini Suite and we had one small bottle(2 fl.oz. bottle) of each between my fiancee and myself for the seven days. The shampoo ran out two days before the cruise ended, so we left the bottle on the bathroom counter as a signal that we really did need more, we didn't just stuff it in our suitcase, but that didn't matter, we did without. And while I'm on the subject of our cabin steward, our room didn't get straightened at all on our last night on board...our bathroom didn't get cleaned and our bed didn't get turned down. He didn't show up at all. These may seem like trivial issues, but were very annoying considering the newly imposed gratuity fee now being automatically added to your on board account. Seems like they know the tip is coming now, so why try to hard. As far as the food...like I said earlier the room service food was exceptional. And one small touch we enjoyed that went with the suite we were staying in was that minutes after our orders had been delivered, we would get a phone call asking how everything was...even if all we ordered was coffee. The food in the Lido was "ok", but not exceptional...not compared to what we had on the Westerdam. And one major disappointment was the fact that we could get the same meals whether we dined formal in the dining room or the Lido Restaurant. The only difference was that we didn't have to dress up in the Lido, we ordered which of four plates we wanted, then took a seat and one of the waiters would bring it to our table. That took all the fun out of getting dressed up and going to the formal dining room for a meal that you could only get if you went there. There were many times in the Lido, when something specific would run out....and wouldn't be replaced. At one meal, there were only 3 Bay Shrimp cocktails left. The lady ahead of me took one, then some guy ran up and grabbed one, saying he's forgotten to get one when he went through, so I took the last one and told my fiancee he could share with me. He mentioned to the servers that they had run out, but it didn't seem to matter to them...no comments like "Sorry Sir, we'll have some out in just a moment" etc. They just said "Oh" and that was that. "Half an hour" later we saw them bring more out. So I wonder how many people who were in line after us did without their appetizer?? Like I said earlier, the desert extravaganza aboard the Westerdam was breath taking, the number of cakes and pies and pastries was mind boggling. The chocolate sculptures and displays were incredible, and we have the pictures to prove it. This desert extravaganza wasn't. There were maybe six different cakes and a couple of platters of pastries. Whoopee. The display pieces looked like they'd been taken out of the attic for this occasion, complete with pieces missing off the "bread" windmill, and other display pieces with broken icing and finger-poked areas. It just wasn't really impressive looking. Another thing the Cruise Critic mentioned was how great the Java Bar was. NOT! In the first place it wasn't self serve. We wandered down at 10 pm one evening and it was closed!! And on top of that, they were some of the worst tasting lattes we'd ever had. Very watery tasting, in fact, no taste at all. On one occasion we had wandered down to the front desk to ask for a deck of cards. One of the girls working there just walked over to the counter, looked at us, I asked for a deck of cards, she turned around, disappeared into the back room, came back out with a pack, put it on the counter and walked back to her desk. No smiles, no nothing. But then again, they are getting an automatic tip..... Considering this ship was only four years old, we were also shocked at the state it was in. Not horrible, but not what you'd expect such a new ship to look like. The white shear curtains in our room were anything but white. They looked like they had been terribly stained, but never cleaned. In many places on the ship, the carpets looked very worn and stained, as if there had been a flood, but they looked as though they'd never been cleaned as well. We were instructed to leave our trays of dishes outside our door in the hallway for pickup. Gee, one day our "breakfast" dishes were still out in the hallway by 2 pm. Glad to see those automatic tips are being appreciated. Our first port of call was Juneau. We were to dock there by 2:30 pm. We awoke to find that we were already docked there by 7:00 am due to an emergency during the night with one of the passengers who had to be taken to hospital immediately. Our cruise through Tracy Arm was bypassed and we found ourselves in Juneau for a very long stay until 11pm that night. Shopping in Juneau didn't take that long, and due to the fact that everything on the ship was shut down because we were in port, there was absolutely NOTHING to do on board ALL DAY!! We wandered into town a couple of times and found ourselves back on board to stay from early afternoon on. There were activities posted to take place during the morning hours while we were supposed to still be sailing, but because we ended up in port so early, nothing took place. And there weren't even any emergency activities happening to amuse those of us who didn't stay in town for the whole 14 hours we were in dock. Don't get me wrong...this was by no means a nightmare cruise. It just really lacked in comparison to our previous cruise with HAL. Our room with a balcony was wonderful. I would highly recommend a balcony suite. We were just very disappointed in the quality and quantity of food, as again compared to our previous experience. It's just that after our first cruise with HAL we had extremely high expectations for this cruise, considering a newer ship and all. And it was that first cruise that made us book this cruise with HAL, not even considering another cruise line. We just assumed that it would be the same. I'm not saying we would never cruise with HAL again, but we are planning another cruise within the next year and we are looking at everyone but HAL this time. The automatic gratuity?...well, all the other cruise lines expected tipping except Holland America, up until May of this year that is. On our first cruise, during our disembarkation talk, Holland America was patting itself on the back and greatly prided itself about it's "no tipping policy", stating that they had the highest paid crew among the cruise lines who didn't have to rely on tips to provide top notch service. It just seems that now that tipping is "Mandatory" the first rate service just isn't there anymore, and we really noticed a lot of the "little touches" that were missing. Read Less
Sail Date July 2004
Western Caribbean, Volendam March 25 to April 4, 2004 By: DougMacP@aol.com Before sailing on her I began to think of the Volendam as the Cinderella of the HAL fleet. For a fleeting moment in time she was the largest ship in the HAL ... Read More
Western Caribbean, Volendam March 25 to April 4, 2004 By: DougMacP@aol.com Before sailing on her I began to think of the Volendam as the Cinderella of the HAL fleet. For a fleeting moment in time she was the largest ship in the HAL fleet. From there her fortunes changed. Eclipsed by the Rotterdam class and the new "Vista" class she and her sister the Zaandam seem to become the forgotten middle children of the fleet. After returning I had not planned to submit a review on this cruise (my 15th). This was my friends last trip, as he was in the final stages of liver cancer. When he was told that the tumor had metastasized he was given 6 to 8 months. As it turned out, he had 6 weeks. He passed away peacefully two weeks after our return. Embarkation: We booked this cruise less than 2 weeks prior to sailing, during a Holland America "flash sale" with his doctors whole hearted permission. In a word cheap, especially for a Verandah cabin. Since it was a 10 day cruise and it left on a Thursday, I didn't expect I would be dealing with a "spring break crowd." Our group of 4 arrived from Orlando, via one-way car rental, and when I dropped the group off at 2:00pm, the embarkation area was deserted. When I arrived after dropping the car off about 40 minutes later it was still deserted. I had my choice of 3 available boarding Agents. It actually took me longer to walk across the huge warehouse size room, than for them to process the paperwork. Spooky. The Ship: I'm a veteran of the Statendam class ships. I love them. The Volendam and Zaandam are slightly larger and the most notable change for me was having both pools on the Lido deck, instead of the aft pool one deck down. I actually found that very convenient, especially traveling with someone that wasn't particularly mobile. The lounges (Crow's Nest, Explorer's, Ocean Bar, Piano Bar) are essentially the same as the Statendam class with the exception of the Piano Bar. Instead of being a cozy hideaway it is open on one side, has a small dance floor and is in the major traffic pattern from mid-ship to the dining room. Cutting to the chase, it was not my favorite space. The Crow's Nest was, with its circular bar and comfortable nooks and crannies. The verandah stateroom (7055) was wonderful, although I could see the need for a second full length hanging closet instead of several half closets with many shelves. The Passengers: Shortly after embarkation and settling my friend in the stateroom to rest, I walked the decks to get a feeling about the other passengers. Although all age groups were represented the majority of the passengers were 70 plus. Again, I was prepared for this since this was a longer cruise with a Thursday departure. The parade of walkers, wheelchairs, electric wheelchairs, scooters, and people with canes (my friend included) led me to think that for this cruise HAL should have changed its funnel colors to white with a large red cross. Still there was a significant crowd (age 30 to 50) each night in the Crow's Nest. The ship was sailing with only about 900 to 1,000 passengers so it had a ghost ship (River Styx?) quality. The Food: Since we had been on the Statendam out of San Diego in October I had expected the food to be of the same caliber, which was consistently excellent. It wasn't. Perhaps it was a "provisioning" East Coast, West Coast thing. Don't get me wrong it wasn't awful, in fact it was quite good (for the most part). There were hits and misses. The steak on the first night left me with the thought, "so this is what mad cow beef tastes like." The soups were generally wonderful, as were the fish courses. The salads continue to be boring and as aforementioned the beef ranged from great to nearly inedible. Service can make up for a lot of shortcomings, but alas our server in the dining room was somewhat clueless and his assistant nearly invisible. Considering the whole rear section of the main floor was empty (eerie in itself) because of the low passenger count you'd think they would have had adequate staffing. Leisurely dining is one thing, a 20 minute wait every night from the time your dinner plate is removed until you get coffee is another. The food at the Lido where we did most breakfasts and several lunches was very good. The specialty stations for omelets in the morning or stir fry at lunch did a commendable job. As I noted in my Statendam review, a thoughtful touch are the servers that help the elderly and those with mobility issues with their trays. I had first hand knowledge of how that helps on this cruise. The food station by the Lido Pool became a favorite this cruise with very tasty burgers and well stocked taco bar. Which brings me to The Pinnacle, I have no complaints about the food. It was excellent. We said so to the restaurant manager on the way out. Then like a lawyer who asks one too many questions and blows his case he asked, "and the service?" While I thought of an appropriate response another member of the group responded, "not great." In fact the service at times was offensive. They make a major production of just getting you seated at the table, and it was as if there training never got further than that. It was like a musical that has all the good numbers in the first 10 minutes then drizzles on for several more hours. Either they were obtrusively hovering (swarming the table to bring courses) or disdainfully shunning. A request to have a steak sent back so it was medium rare (as ordered) instead of blood red (as delivered) was greeted with an attitude bordering on indignation, water glasses weren't refilled without having to ask, and the bread basket sat empty. Not ordering wine brought an audible gasp. Never before had I rated the service a number one (poor) on the HAL questionnaire, but I did so this time. I hope management actually reads those things. The "we're so special and you're lucky to be eating here" doesn't work on any level. Cruise Director and Staff: Usually a great source a barbs in any review for me, but this was different. They were great. They showed genuine concern and respect for the passengers. They were involved, they were appropriate, they were engaging. Instead of fleeing on formal nights at midnight (when they go officially off duty) from the Crow's Nest, they danced, mixed and mingled. They performed their bingo, trivia and pool game functions with a great sense of fun. This is what a Cruise Director and Staff are supposed to look and be like. Other ships in the HAL fleet and cruise industry could learn a thing or two from them. Entertainment: A distinct improvement over my last HAL cruise. The production shows had less of a lip synched quality, the dancing was competent (especially considering how much the ship was rolling the second night) and the staging and costumes although decidedly not "cutting edge" were enjoyable. The individual "headliners" were for the most part entertaining. One singer a bass/baritone was described in the daily program as "he'll remind you of Howard Keel" had me out of my seat in 4 bars. Not clapping, but sprinting for the exit. Most definitely not my style, but he did sing loud enough that anyone other than the completely deaf could hear him. Ports: Private Island, Grand Cayman, Costa Maya, Cozumel, Vera Cruz. Do yourself a favor check out www.portreviews.com. It will give you information and reader reviews on all the ports, far better than I can do here. Dante's Inferno. At Costa Maya, which is a large facility built by the friendly folks at Diamonds International, we had a huge problem. Arranging for a ships wheelchair to take my friend from the finger pier where we were docked to the main pier where the shuttle ran was done through the front desk. We confirmed the pick up arrangements with the Boarding Officer when we left the ship. Simply, we would send back someone from our party several shuttles early to get the wheelchair so we could pick him up, at the junction of the main pier. The point was for him to be able to swim in the Ocean one last time, and walk as little as possible. We taxied into the fishing village and had lunch and our swim. It was perfect. On the way back he enjoyed the salt water pool at the port facility but his energy was fading. As arranged we sent the "advance party" to pick up the wheel chair 2 shuttles early then I boarded a shuttle with him. When we arrived, there was no one at the drop off point to meet us. We waited another 5 minutes, and it was hot. He decided to walk with my assistance the 1,200 feet to the gangplank which was located at the bow. Frankly, it was an ordeal, especially for someone who a month before was extremely physically active. He was humiliated but determined, and I was livid. When we were halfway to the gangplank, one for the "advance party" came sprinting from the gangplank, without a wheelchair. She explained the new Boarding Officer refused to release the wheelchair, nor would he confirm our arrangement with the front desk. He said one of them would have to go up there, as he wasn't going to call. By the time his cousin got up to the front desk, waited in line and confirmed the arrangement we had made it back to the ship. Meanwhile, the Boarding Officer had been peering out the gangplank watching us struggle the whole time. Truly sadistic. After getting my friend settled back in the room I had a "chat" with the front desk. Yes, I'm aware of HAL's policy about ship wheelchairs not being used off the ship, but since they had given us permission to use it, they should have honored it in a timely fashion. One phone call from him to the front desk would have solved the problem, but he refused to yield. Instead while his cousin waited impatiently in line we struggled back, his mortality exposed in every shaky step. The Boarding Officer, Dante because of his inflexibility, and severely rude attitude added considerable to an already difficult situation. When a major part of your clientele is aged, immobile or infirmed having someone devoid of compassion is not only distasteful, it's dangerous. Shame on you HAL. Service in general: With the above noted exceptions, both good (cruise staff), not so good (dining room service) and horrendous (Dante), the level of service was acceptable but lacking the "sparkle" I usually associate with HAL. This was just prior to HAL switching over to their new tipping policy and the uncertainty seemed to distract the staff. Pleasant but flat would be another way of describing it. Disembarkation: Because the ship was going into dry dock immediately after this cruise we were allowed to stay in our stateroom until our disembarkation number was called. It was painless. Final Thoughts: I've been trying to write this last part for many weeks, with no luck. The Volendam was not as charming as the Statendam Class ships, nor as classy as the Rotterdam /Amsterdam, and certainly not as flashy as the new Vista Class but it performed its 10 day itinerary very adequately, providing a comfortable but uninspired cruise experience. This is one cruise I can't wrap up in a nice little literary bundle. It will always be bittersweet. Read Less
Sail Date April 2004
SUMMARY This cruise, the first for my wife and me on Holland America, was an enjoyable cruise, but was not our among favorites. Our previous cruises were on Royal Caribbean (4) and Celebrity (1). We agreed that the ... Read More
SUMMARY This cruise, the first for my wife and me on Holland America, was an enjoyable cruise, but was not our among favorites. Our previous cruises were on Royal Caribbean (4) and Celebrity (1). We agreed that the "personality" of HA was just not a match for us. There were things we liked and things we didn't like, just like any cruise, but our overall evaluation is that we would cruise HA again only if the value or itinerary was exceptional. This cruise illustrated that each line does, indeed, have its own personality, and what is just wonderful for some will be viewed as not wonderful by others. Many of our fellow passengers just loved everything; we enjoyed most things. EMBARKATION/DISEMBARKATION We went to Ft. Lauderdale a day early, so took a cab to the port; the hotel shuttle was overburdened - 6 ships at the port + the Boat Show that day! Though we had to wait a while for the cab, total time from hotel departure to arrival in our stateroom was a bit over 1 hour. And the stateroom was ready when we arrived at 1:15, so we stopped by, went to the Lido for the Welcome Aboard buffet, and explored the ship. This was much smoother than we had feared, based on some other reports; no lines anywhere, though later arrivals did not have things quite as painless, with some reporting having to wait an hour on the HA bus before they were permitted to begin the registration process. We pre-registered online; I'm not sure it made any difference as the agent asked for the print-out of our forms. Disembarkation was equally smooth. We had an early flight, so were the 4th or 5th group off, being called at about 9:00. We got a cab immediately (it was a Tuesday) and were checked in, luggage checked, security checked, everything, and at the gate by 10:00! SHIP/PUBLIC AREAS The ship was quite nice, and of a "comfortable" size (full @ 1400+ passengers). We thought it was smooth (except for one day), but others complained that it was not. It was very easy to get around and never felt crowded. I like a wrap-around Promenade Deck, and Volendam has a beauty - protected in front, wide, lots of chairs. We don't particularly notice decor, but it was fine. The Frans Hals performance lounge was the most customer friendly of any we have experienced; good seats, lots of room to get in and out, with excellent viewing. The Wajang Theater is a separate movie theater which was also used for religious services; much better than using a lounge. The Atrium and Front Office area were smaller than we have been accustomed to, but were certainly adequate. The Bar/Lounges, Casino and Shopping Arcade were places where we noticed the impact of the (smaller) size of the ship. Many of those areas were small. The main walkway went through, not alongside, the Seaview Lounge. The Ocean Bar was adequate, but quite small for dancing, and it was the dance band lounge. The Crow's Nest Lounge was very nice. We are not big pool area fans, but that seemed to us to be more than adequate. The aft Outside Pool area was quite nice. The Ocean Spa Gym was large and well equipped, and not well used. The Casino was quite small, but seemed adequate. One of the nicest features of the Volendam was the excellent viewing areas forward and aft on several decks. Many ships have cabins on there, but the Volendam had public balconies that were great for viewing when arriving/leaving ports, or scenic cruising along one of the islands; they were not crowded as it was not always obvious how to get to them. You could get all the way to the Bow when the Volendam was not at sea; that was also kind of neat. The Crow's Nest Lounge was a great inside viewing area. One feature we did not like, but is, we understand, not all that uncommon, was that the Main Level of the Dining Room could not be reached from the rest of its deck without going up/down a deck and then down/up again. We found that we commonly want to go between the Dining Room and the Atrium/Front Office/Shops; you could not do that without going up and down. The Galley was what blocked the path. Our biggest complaint about the ship is the frequently reported sewage odor. I would describe it as unpleasant but not obnoxious, occasional but too frequent. It was noticeable perhaps half a dozen times during the 10 days. We never noticed it in our cabin, thankfully, but did notice it in the Atrium area (of all places) and in certain portions of the Promenade. Based on similar comments I have read, it appears to me that there is a design problem that allows this to happen. CABINS Our cabin, #D2591 on Deck 2, Main Deck, was an outside cabin w/o balcony. It was spacious, with great storage (we didn't use it all), and comfortable. The bathroom was quite adequate, and had a tub, but since it was only 3/4 size, it was essentially useless. Our cabin steward was excellent: friendly but unobtrusive, prompt, knew our names after the first day. We often get a balcony, but with the price difference on the Volendam, we chose not to. We missed being able to sit out at times, but with this itinerary, it was not a big loss. One nit-picking annoyance. Our ship pass did NOT have our picture on it, and did not work in the room safe, so we were required to carry the ship pass, photo ID, and credit card (for the safe) whenever we were not in the cabin. That was a nuisance; I like to carry only the ship pass and leave my wallet in the safe. DINING  All of our dining experiences were good, but not great. Our Early Seating table was at the very stern of the ship. Except for the one rough-sea day, it was great; nice sunsets, moon, stars, nice viewing overall. The food quality and choices were fine. Most entrees were enjoyable or better; those that weren't were promptly replaced. In general, our tables' experience with the steaks was not good; either tough or rubbed with something that was not particularly good. Several pork choices were too pink for our taste. In one case, a replacement was provided that was done properly and still very juicy and delicious. In another case, a substitute of an appetizer was requested instead; a luscious full plate of wonderful, tender shrimp was provided. So overall, we would rank the food quality as typical of our previous cruise experiences. The dining room service, however, was not on a par with those previous cruises. I don't blame it as much on our Waiter and Assistant, who gave it a good try, as much as I blame it on the staffing decision makers. Our servers started out with 25 passengers to serve; an adjustment was made and they then had 21 passengers, consisting of tables of 8, 7 & 6. On other cruises, we have typically seen our servers be responsible for 16 or so. Perhaps a VERY experienced team could have handled these 3 large tables; our service suffered. Little things. Like not always serving a given course to everyone at the table at the same time. Having the salad dressing in those little cups instead of presenting and serving the choices; and not offering ground pepper (it was on the table). Not cleaning the table of crumbs before dessert. And the service was often slow, almost certainly the result of too many to serve. It was NOT unpleasant as a whole, just less than we are accustomed to. Perhaps service has deteriorated at the other lines as well since we last cruised (RCI) two years ago. I will say that our servers did learn our drink preferences and other routine food choices after a few days. They never learned our names. The Lido Buffet was a pleasant place to eat, with good food, good choices, reasonable lines, and usually good availability of seating (for 2, anyway). It took a little learning to know where things were, but it was fine. The passengers, for the most part, followed the dress code for the day at dinner, but some would dress down after dinner for the show and lounges. The atmosphere was very pleasant, and not "stuffy". ENTERTAINMENT/ACTIVITIES The entertainment was only adequate. We did not attend any of the cast shows after the first night. The performers were not inspiring to us (we are demanding) and were lip-synching to a pre-recorded sound track. So we choose to do other things those nights. The other performers were OK. No names, and of varying ability, but adequate and entertaining. That is all we expect, and we are pleasantly surprised if they exceed that. The activities were another area we were disappointed in. There were very few organized fitness activities. This may seem trite, but we really missed the (equivalent of the) ShipShape $$$ program that RCI has. There were organized fitness activities several times each day, and the $$$ were an inducement to attend. On this cruise, I think there may have been one unhosted walk and one stretching activity each day. After observing the stretching one day, and seeing 3 people attended, perhaps the demand is not there. But we missed that. We also felt that, while the typical games and activities (and bingo!) were there, there was not the breadth and number of choices that we have been accustomed to. PORTS/SHORE EXCURSIONS The ports and shore excursions were fairly typical, and I won't go into detail on them. Bonaire was quaint; our Glass Bottom Boat tour was cancelled because the boat broke down, so we walked around the small town, which was pleasant. Isla de Margarita, however, was not a pleasant experience. It is desert-like, very poor, dirty, and the dock area is out in the middle of nowhere; the "Island Tour" excursion had very little to show off. Local craft vendors set up next to the ship. We left feeling very sorry for the inhabitants, and thankful for what we have. Other passengers reported that the snorkeling was great, and the part of the island they saw was quite attractive. St. Lucia was beautiful, but the cab drivers near the dock were obnoxious in their persistence; not threatening, but still annoying. Dominica, like St Lucia, is a quite nice "rain forest" island. St. Thomas - nothing I can say that hasn't been said a hundred time by others; we went to St. John, which was quite nice except for a rough ferry - read "small boat" - ride of 30+ minutes. Half Moon Cay, HA's private island, has typical activities, but lots of them, and is VERY well done. It was so hot, though, that we came back to the ship for lunch, and enjoyed the day onboard. We both enjoy sea days, of which we had 3. The cruise started out with 2 of those seas days, which was kind of nice to allow getting settled into the cruise. CONCLUSION If you made it all the way through this lengthy report, Thanks! And congratulations! But please re-read the first paragraph. This cruise was fine, it really was! It just wasn't us. Read Less
Sail Date November 2003
Fresh flowers and smiling faces greeted us as we embarked on our Volendam journey. After transferring from our Hotel, the Pier 66, we were ushered into the embarkation area where the check in process is done in alphabetical groups. We ... Read More
Fresh flowers and smiling faces greeted us as we embarked on our Volendam journey. After transferring from our Hotel, the Pier 66, we were ushered into the embarkation area where the check in process is done in alphabetical groups. We were given our ID card, which also serves as a room key, and a shipboard credit card. After a wait of approximately 1/2 hour, our group was called, and we boarded the Volendam. We put on our sunglasses, and paused for the usual picture taking. Heres a hint....Wear sunglasses, if any one blinks you will never know. As we entered the ship, a steward was waiting to escort us to our cabin. Our cabin was a Cat. A mini suite. There was more than enough storage, and we tend to overpack. The cabin itself seemed a little crowded, consisting of a king-size bed, a sofa, table, and chair. Also a mini bar which we emptied as we had brought along our own soda, and beer. Hint #2...If you bring along electrical things, bring a plug strip. The only plug ins in the cabin were for the TV and VCR. There is a 220 plug, and a European 110 plug, so I suppose an adapter would work also. In questioning the Hotel Manager on why there were no 110 plugs, he kept insisting that they were right there under the mirror. In exasperation, he finally came to the cabin to show me where they were. Hmmm, not under the mirror, not under the desk, not behind the curtain, or in the bathroom either. Next person to arrive was the head of housekeeping, who explained to the Hotel Manager that, yes this was a problem, and converters were ordered. He said the ship was built in Italy, and this must be an Italian thing. The verandah was nice sized with a lounge, table and chair, and still room to maneuver. Room service for breakfast was brought by our cabin steward. who we found out had been with HAL 11 years. All of the wait crew, cabin stewards, dining room waiters, bar waiters, etc., are either from the Philippines, or Indonesia. From what I was able to find out, this is a tradition with Holland America, and has to do with the Dutch heritage of the islands. Internet Cafe. In the back corner of the library, you will find the Internet Cafe. Cost for use is 75 cents per minute with a 5 minute minimum each use. There was not a great deal of activity there, but found the staff very helpful. Most people use the cafe to check e-mail, and stocks, I was told. If you are an AOL member, you can access anything you can from home on your AOL account. If not an AOL member, and you wish to send e-mail, there is a $4.95 charge per e-mail in addition to the 75 cents per minute. Age of cruisers. HAL tends to attract an older age group, however there is a Club HAL available for kids. We saw maybe a dozen kids on board, but due to length of cruise and time of year, this was not unexpected. Out of 1400 cruisers, 900 were repeaters with HAL. At the repeaters party, the prize went to a lady who had over 700 days in 67 cruises logged with HAL. Dining. The dining room is on two levels, and our table was on the balcony level. We especially liked the twinkling ceiling, and the use of lots of windows. As we had early seating, we watched several sunsets while having dinner. We found the food to be exceptional on this cruise. However, I know that this is a personal opinion, and one that brings up much debate. We opted to eat at the Marco Polo. the alternative dining room, one night, and did the Lido BBQ another night. On SuperBowl Sunday, we joined in the SuperBowl party in the Sports Lounge. To watch the Rams win, we passed up formal dinner, for the tailgate party of burgers and hotdogs. I just couldnt figure out how to make my Rams T-shirt look formal. Lido lunch on one of the seadays was grilled lobster and shrimp by the pool. The inside Lido buffet breakfast and lunch were also very good. Lunches had a wide variety of choices, and we quickly learned that both buffet lines did not necessarily contain the same things. Dessert areas were only on one side. The area seemed to be well spread out, and there were stewards there to help those that needed to have a tray carried. Another nice touch was a small menu that was placed on your tray at the beginning of the line. Always available for lunch were burgers, and hotdogs, and fries. Midnight buffets were held every night with a different country cuisine. The food was generally good, but they were not well attended, possibly due to the age group on board. Fun and Games. Edwin Rojas was the Cruise Director, and created an energetic atmosphere. There were lots of activities during the sea days to choose including horse racing, seaquest, bingo, trivia, etc. And you can even still attend the Art Auction. We found the casino to be more spacious than most. Several new fun slot machines. One that was recommended to us, and we had a lot of fun playing was called Jackpot party. There are two pool areas, one with a retractable canopy. We never had trouble finding chairs at the pool, but did notice some that had personal items that were never occupied by a real live person. 50s and 60s night, and Country-Western night were both well attended in the Crows Nest Lounge. Entertainment. I cannot comment a lot on this from personal experience. I did sneak in for parts of several shows, and listened to the comments of others. Pamela Blake, a cabaret singer, was very good. The Barry Manilow Copacabana show also was well received. And if you have ever been to Vegas, the Vegas style show was right on the mark with great costuming, and performances. The crew show gave a great insight to some of the customs and traditions of their homelands. Ports. St. Kitts, Martinique, Dominica, Trinidad, St. Thomas, and Half Moon Cay. St. Kitts. We did a private tour from the dock and went to Caribbe Batik Studio, Brimstone Hill, the downtown area, and Turtle Beach. Martinique. We spent maybe an hour in town shopping, and back to the ship. Trinidad. Part of our group did a tour and visited the monastery, where they reported that the view was magnificent. Dominica. Trafalgar Falls and the Emerald pool are highlights here, but be prepared for some walking. St. Thomas. What is there to say about St. Thomas? Our ship docked right at Havensight, and we walked there for some marathon shopping. If beaches are your thing, then St. Johns is just a ferry ride away. HalfMoon Cay. Holland Americas private island is one of my personal favorites. White beach and gorgeous water. There is a small shopping area set up with Half Moon Cay souvenirs, and a pavilion area where noon time BBQ is served. From parasailing to vegging out on the beach, there is a wide variety of activities. Lounges, beach chairs, and umbrellas are plentiful, and there is also some shaded area. We tried snorkeling here for the first time, and I think we are hooked. After swallowing half the ocean on my first two attempts, I soon learned to keep my mouth shut while trying to breathe. It is truly amazing what is just below the surface that you cannot see. The ship itself. Our cabin was midship right beside the elevators on level 6, the Verandah Deck. We found this to be a great location with easy access to casino, dining room, or the lido. There were fresh flowers everywhere, in the lobbies, on the tables, in the cabins, in lots of nooks and crannies. They add a special touch. I never quite resolved in my mind the color schemes used. At times there seemed to be too many colors in one area, such as in the Frans Hal Lounge. There is a movie theater on board, with fresh popcorn, and fairly current movies. Also our cabin had a video. The library is good sized and had a wide variety of books, and games. There is a wide variety of lounges, from the piano bar to the sports lounge to the Crows Nest. We frequented the sports lounge and the Ocean Bar, and I'm still amazed that after one time, the waiters greet you by name the next time they see you. About us. We are in our mid 50s, and traveled with my brother and his wife, late 40s, and my Aunt and Mother, mid 80s. Cruising is still the best way we have found for a varied age group to do their own thing, and yet spend time together, too. This was our second time on HAL, and enjoyed this cruise even more than the first one. Read Less
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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