585 Holland America Volendam Cruise Reviews

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
CARIBBEAN "WAYFARER" CRUISE Bright sunny skies and warm temperatures greeted us in Fort Lauderdale as our US Airways flight arrived right on time for our 10 day cruise aboard Holland America's MS Volendam. Barbara, my ... Read More
CARIBBEAN "WAYFARER" CRUISE Bright sunny skies and warm temperatures greeted us in Fort Lauderdale as our US Airways flight arrived right on time for our 10 day cruise aboard Holland America's MS Volendam. Barbara, my special traveling partner, and I selected this cruise because we wanted to take a longer cruise on a new ship that sailed round-trip from S. Florida and visited some islands in the Caribbean we had not been to. We also wanted to sail on a different line than our most recent cruises on Royal Caribbean, Princess and Celebrity. This "Wayfarer" cruise fit the bill in all respects. The Volendam's sister ship Zaandam was also an option, but we preferred the ports on the Volendam itinerary. THE OVERALL CRUISE EXPERIENCE This was a most enjoyable cruise. It had a nice combination of days at sea and in port, and the ports of call were for the most part, interesting. We have sailed on Holland American before (Maasdam and Ryndam) and were interested in seeing if HAL had joined the trend to add-on pricing and nickel-and-diming that has befallen most of the other "mainstream" cruise lines. I'm happy to report that they have not. The ice cream bar served its delights daily and a coffee bar dispensed expresso drinks and gourmet coffee, all at no extra charges. Not only were assorted nuts available in all lounges before dinner, but the friendly lounge staff served hot hor's d'oeuvres as well (as if we needed them!). A nice canvas tote bag awaited us as we arrived in our room, and an attractive commemorative tile coaster made a great farewell gift. The alternative dining room had no surcharge, and the casino assessed no "service fee" for chips charged to your onboard account. Kudos to HAL for bucking current trends. To be perfectly honest, Holland America cruises tend to be a little more expensive than their midline competitors (there is no free lunch, even on cruise lines), but I much prefer their approach of folding the extras into the fare rather than nickel-and-diming throughout the cruise. THE PASSENGERS Holland America has a reputation for attracting an older clientele, and this cruise did nothing to alter that reputation. As one of the comedians put it, "this ship looks more like the prune barge than the love boat!" I would guess the average age on this cruise was 65, which, for us younger (a relative term) cruisers, was a good-news-bad-news situation. The bad news was that the Lido Buffet line was pretty slow, but the good news was there was no waiting at the treadmills! Seriously, though, there are distinct advantages to cruising with an older group: no wild parties in the cabin next door, no problem getting second sitting for dinner, and for the most part, these seniors are an interesting group with many varied life experiences. THE SHIP MS Volendam is one of HAL's newest ships, having entered service in early 2000. It is an elegant ship with subdued colors, beautiful fresh flower arrangements throughout and expensive art abounding. It is less striking, perhaps, than the Vision Class ships of Royal Caribbean, with their dazzling chrome and glass, light, and soaring open air atria, but Volendam projects a quiet beauty and refined elegance that fits well with its older clientele. Rather than give a room-by-room description of the ship, I will concentrate on the features that I liked and disliked, particularly compared to the ships of our recent cruises. First, the positives. I really liked the lower promenade deck that completely circled the ship and provided a great location to walk or recline in a real wooden deckchair, softened by thick cushions that were laboriously removed every evening and reinstalled the following morning. For those of us who are solar-challenged, this is a perfect deck to read, rest and watch the waves, protected from the elements, . The staterooms were another plus. Our outside room was very commodious with more than ample storage and closet space. The bathroom was good sized, with a bathtub (standard on outside cabins, but with only a shower on the inside), and was well stocked with toiletries in real bottles rather than paper containers. The ship is well designed with an easy flow from deck to deck and fore to aft, with three sets of stairs and elevators. The public rooms were attractive and comfortable. The Crows Nest, located high and forward, was a particular favorite as it offered a wonderful panorama of the sea ahead. Add to this several recliner-type chairs with foot ests and you have a most pleasant and relaxing environment for reading, watching or dozing. As with every ship, however, there were things I didn't care for. For starters, it is hard to find a good location for an outside room without a balcony. These rooms are offered only on the three lowest passenger decks and each of these has its limitations. The A or Dolphin Deck, where we were, is close to the ship's engines, thrusters and machinery, causing unpleasant noise particularly at the fore and aft extremes. Even though our cabin was amidships, we experienced some noise from the stabilizers. The deck above, B Deck, is underneath the wraparound deck, meaning walkers and the occasional rogue jogger (such as myself) are constantly making noise on your ceiling. And finally, rooms on the lower promenade deck are not really desirable because they either overlook the walking deck or are obstructed by ship structures. Those passengers in these rooms expecting to open their curtains and sea the beautiful blue sea are more likely to see not so beautiful blue hair and fanny packs as walkers huff and puff their way around the deck. The obvious solution is to book a cabin with a verandah (very nice), but if fiscal constraints won't allow it, I'd recommend B Deck amidships as the best compromise. Another complaint I had related to the crowds at the pre-dinner lounges (where the free nuts and hors-d'oeuvres were served!) There were only 3 locations on the ship where you could order drinks and listen to live music, and these tended to fill up early. The ship was full, and I don't imagine this was problem for first sitting, but still it was bothersome. Most of the negatives on the stateroom came from the female perspective. Barbara expressed chagrin at the lack of light at the makeup table and the absence of an outlet for her curling iron in the bathroom. Also, the safe required a credit card to open and close, which was cumbersome and inconvenient. My only complaint with the ship's decor was the main dining room. Maybe we have become jaded over recent years, having dined is truly spectacular dining rooms aboard the newer ships of RCI and Princess, but this dining room seemed just a little on the plain side. Also, there were two large chandeliers which appeared to be made of wrought iron, and, to my non-artistic eye, were really ugly. FOOD & SERVICE The dining room food was outstanding, a noticeable jump from RCI, Princess and Celebrity, and better than I remembered from previous HAL cruises. The fish, in particular, was well prepared, tasty and far fresher than most offerings on cruise lines. Service, as always, was outstanding. At the end of the cruise, everyone at the table received a complimentary set of dinner menus, another nice HAL touch. The casual dining, self-service Lido restaurant was also good, with options for served meals on certain evenings. Breakfast, our most common meal in the Lido, was notable for its custom egg offerings and choice of freshly toasted bagels, muffins or toast. We ate once at the Marco Polo, a reservations-only Italian theme alternative restaurant (you're allowed one reservation per cruise, at least in "steerage"). There was no surcharge for this restaurant (we did leave a tip), but interestingly, both Barbara and I found the food in this restaurant not as good as in the main dining area. Maybe it was our selection. Anyway, it was a nice change of pace and enjoyable nevertheless. ENTERTAINMENT This was probably the poorest entertainment, overall, of any of the 12 cruises I have been on. The first night there was no entertainment, other than an introduction of the cruise staff, and the ensuing days assortment of comedians, ventriloquists, singers and ship's company dancers was only average. Entertainment was definitely the weakest aspect of this cruise. PORTS AND SHORE ACTIVITIES Here's a quick summary of the ports we visited, our activities and our opinions: Half Moon Cay: This is a beautiful private island with a large and gorgeous beach. Two ships were using the island, however, which produced crowds at the luncheon barbecue. Nevertheless, this is one of the better private islands, and it was an enjoyable day. St. Thomas: We organized our own tour here. We took a cab from the ship to Red Hook landing where we caught the ferry to St. John's Cruz Bay. Once there, we hiked the Lind Point Trail to Honeymoon Beach and Caneel Bay. Returning, we stumbled across Solamon Beach, which is in a beautiful and isolated location accessible only by foot or boat - and also a totally nude beach. My reaction? Put on a swimsuit, please! We returned to Cruz Bay and took the ferry to downtown St. Thomas where we had planned on doing some shopping. This was a Sunday, however, and all the shops had closed at noon. Either bad luck or good planning, depending on your perspective. We have been to St. Thomas many times, but between St. Thomas and St. John there is much to do in this port, and we've always enjoyed it. Martinique: This was an island we had never been to before, so we decided to rent a car and explore the island. Unfortunately, the office for the Avis rental I had booked in the US was nowhere near the piers, so we were forced to rent from a nearby Budget outlet. Budget proved to be a rather serious misnomer as we could get only get a walk-up rate quoted in Martinique Francs, and we didn't know the exchange rate, which seemed to have a huge variance. It is on the credit card, though, so I'm waiting to assess the exact damage, but it isn't going to be pretty. Once in our high-priced, manual transmission, non-air-conditioned Peugot 106, we attacked the twisty roads of north Martinique and visited a pretty botanical garden, drove through a rain forest, hiked to a deserted waterfall and returned along the coastline. Traffic was bad along the coastal highway and the views not particularly pretty, but some parts of the day's drive were scenic. In retrospect, I wouldn't recommend renting a car here, particularly after filling up the gas tank at about $6.00 a gallon. Even so, I don't think we spent more than we would have on a ship's tour. Overall reaction: a reasonably pretty island with a French flavor, but we wouldn't return there for a dedicated visit. Trinidad: We took our only ship's tour here. From Port O' Spain, we took an air-conditioned bus to the Asa Wright Nature preserve, which was a scenic and interesting botanical and bird watching sanctuary in the mountains of Trinidad. Overall, it was a good look at Trinidad, even though the drive was rather long. One of my pet peeves on tours is the guides who apparently believe that their tips are dependent on how much they talk. After three hours of non-stop jabber, I would have given our guide a tip right then and there just to SHUT UP. Our reaction to this island? See Martinique above. La Guaira, Venezuela: Been there, done that. We did the city tour/glass factory excursion on our Princess cruise, so with no other desirable tour options, we stayed aboard the ship. Did laundry in the morning (the self service laundries are GREAT on these longer cruises) and just relaxed. I wanted to talk to someone who had taken the Angel Falls tour (at $450 per person) to see what it was like, but couldn't find anyone who did. Overall opinion of LaGuaira: a great place to stay aboard and do your laundry. Curacao: This was the best port of the cruise. There were 3 other ships in port, and according to some priority system that no one seemed to understand, we got the dock farthest away from the city. It wasn't a problem for those of us who like to walk, but for some of the less mobile folks it was a real inconvenience. We rented a car again (at a reasonable rate) and drove to the northern part of the island on good roads in light traffic. We toured the Christofel National Park and watched the waves crashing along the beautiful and rugged northern coast. We returned via the southern coastline, where the lovely beach and dive areas are, and returned to the ship for a late room-service lunch. We then set out for Fort Nassau, which overlooks the harbor, and has been converted into an interesting looking restaurant with a great view. That evening, the ship sailed out of the harbor shortly behind HAL's Amsterdam to the accompaniment of fireworks courtesy of the city of Willamsted. Most enjoyable. RANDOM THOUGHTS In this age of age of "free style" cruising, fewer formal nights, more casual dress and increasing on-board charges, it was refreshing to be on a cruise "the way it used to be." I have always enjoyed many of the cruise traditions that are now being challenged. I like to put on a tux occasionally and attend formal dinners with the women all turned out. I enjoy sitting at the same table with new friends and regular waiters every evening. Over the years, we have met many enjoyable, interesting people at our assigned tables, including this cruise, and these friendships have enhanced the cruise experience considerably. I have nothing against meeting new people, but if you sat with different people every night, would you really get beyond the "where are you from - what do you do - how many cruises have you been on" stage? Also, I'm just a little skeptical that service would be as good if you had a different waiter every night and tips were somehow pooled or included in the fare. Witness the service you typically get at an open-seating lunch compared to your evening dinner at your regular table. Speaking of tipping, this is not getting any easier. Holland American has a "no tipping required" policy which, as best as I can tell, really means "tipping expected, but we're just a little more subtle about it." Some people believe the "no tipping policy" and others don't. I usually tip on HAL the same as I do on other cruise lines, but things are getting more confusing. Do you leave separate tips at the alternative restaurants which are a one time occasion (I did)? If so, do you deduct this much from the daily total you give your regular waiters (I didn't). How about room service waiters and wine stewards? It is clear that as new ships are built and more dining alternatives are available, the way tips have been handled in the past needs to be revisited. The ideal situation would be to have all tips unambiguously included in the fare, such as a few of the premium cruise lines do, but I fear if this practice became standard industry wide, service would suffer. CONCLUSION This was a most enjoyable cruise on a quality, traditional cruise line. Holland America has a slogan "oceans apart" (from other mainstream cruise lines, I assume) which may be a stretch, but I say "large lakes" apart is fairly accurate. Richard Shipman can be contacted at ship@vnet.net. May 2001 Read Less
We recently returned from a 10-day Southern Carib cruise on HAL's Volendam. This was our 8th cruise (the second one with HAL), and the experience re-confirmed that no other cruise line comes close when the word "service" is ... Read More
We recently returned from a 10-day Southern Carib cruise on HAL's Volendam. This was our 8th cruise (the second one with HAL), and the experience re-confirmed that no other cruise line comes close when the word "service" is used. From the moment we arrived at the terminal in Fort Lauderdale, we were treated as honored guests by a most professional, competent and delightful crew. Embarkation was well organized and went smoothly. Throughout the voyage, our room steward, dining room & lounge servers were very generous with their smiles and anxious to please; the officers & admin. staff courteous, friendly and always pleasant. Each of our ports of call (St. Lucia, Bonaire, St. Thomas, Isle de Margarita in Venezuela & Dominica) offered a different flavor and culture, with no language difficulties. We found the people to be delightful at each port and appreciated their helpful suggestions. HAL's private island, Half Moon Cay, was absolutely gorgeous and the B-B-Q with a steel band was enjoyed by all. Immaculate, well maintained, showers conveniently located by the beach walkways. Fortunately, ours was the only ship visiting the island on that day, so we did not experience long lines at the tables set up with a vast selection of food. Mother Nature cooperated with perfect weather and the sea was like a sheet of glass in both directions. We found the food on board to be most satisfactory, with a selection wide & varied enough to meet anyone's expectations, in both the Rotterdam dining room and the Lido. However, we had been very much looking forward to experiencing the Italian cuisine in the Marco Polo, only to learn that it had recently been changed to the Pinnacle Grill with a "northwest" menu (steak, salmon, etc.), which was a major disappointment, and so we passed on this. Also, since there is now a charge of $20 p/p for the alternative dining restaurant, we thought it foolish to pay extra for food we cook at home. The entertainment on board was excellent and the time and hard work put into it showed; the review put on by members of the Filipino crew was delightful and a real hoot! The tour of the kitchen is a "must". Our only gripe is with the outrageous prices being charged for drinks which the majority of passengers feel is totally unjustified. A reduction of even 20% would go a long way to encourage more patronage in the lounges. And charging $1.75 for a can of soda? Ridiculous and way out of line! Although HAL has a "no tipping required" policy, we appreciated having the option (unlike other cruise lines that automatically tack it on to the tab at the end) and elected to monetarily express our thanks to our room steward, our two dining room servers, and the wait staff in the Ocean Bar for the outstanding and gracious attention extended to us. Overall, we highly recommend Holland America and compliment the company for continuing its well-earned reputation for excellence in service, spotless accommodations throughout and high standards of professionalism in their crew and staff -- and we are presently planning our next HAL experience. Southbound39@aol.com August 2003 Read Less
HAD A GREAT TIME...Didn't want it to end My sister and I just got back from the April 18th thru 28th - 10 Day on Holland America's Volendam (Wayfarer itinerary). What a great time and what a beautiful ship. I didn't meet ... Read More
HAD A GREAT TIME...Didn't want it to end My sister and I just got back from the April 18th thru 28th - 10 Day on Holland America's Volendam (Wayfarer itinerary). What a great time and what a beautiful ship. I didn't meet any staff member that wasn't friendly and ready, willing and able to help in any way. I still can't understand how the entire staff could remember our names so quickly. Sara, one of the officers and a new addition to the Volendam staff always had this big smile on her face and you could really tell she enjoyed what she was doing. Also met Captain van der Zee. What a great sense of humor as well as very professional. Enjoyed speaking with him and absorbing all of his knowledge. Met a lot of very interesting people on the ship and had a great time with them. Hopefully we will stay in touch and meet again on the next cruise or one down the road. Thanks for a great time Jim and Ruth (the slipper people), Maryann and John, Richard and Charlene, and Beryl and Mike. Marco, the video photographer, was always showing up to catch you on his video camera. He did catch me doing the "pole dance", which later in this article will be discussed. I think he was having as much fun as everyone else on the ship. On each of the formal nights we had an officer who sat with us. His name was Andy and he was the Environmental Officer. It was very interesting listening about his duties on board. What a very nice man and a wonderful dancer. There were many different age groups on the ship. A lot were families with children, but that was probably due to it being Spring break and Easter weekend. The majority of the people are of mature age and for my sister and I, in our 50's, it was an enjoyment. There are a lot of activities on board for those who want to join in. For those who don't, they can do whatever. The 3rd deck is really nice, as it is lined with lounge chairs to sit quietly and read or just enjoy the ocean view, but is also where people go to walk or just take a stroll after dinner. They have an internet room set up with computers so you can retrieve your emails or send them out to family and friends, or if you have to do a little work from the ship. The cost was about $50.00 for 100 minutes or $75.00 for 250 minutes. It's a lot cheaper than calling from the ship, or using a cell phone. Most of the time my cell phone wouldn't work anyway. Embarkation and Disembarkation was nothing less than a pleasure and run like a well oiled machine. When we arrived on the ship at 1:30, they took us to our room. We had a Deluxe Verandah Suite. It was HUGE! Very spacious and loaded with amenities. The verandah was so large it had a round table with 4 chairs and 2 lounge chairs and still there was plenty of room. My sister and I spent a lot of time on the verandah. What a great place to relax. This will definitely be a must on each and every cruise. Well worth the extra money. As usual, we brought way too many articles of clothing. So we got busy unpacking. We met our cabin steward, Sri. He was a wonderful person and took great care of us. Always checking and making sure we didn't need anything and just basically attending to our every need. After the lifeboat drill we returned our life vests to the cabin and made our way up to the Crows Nest. This is the best place to be when leaving port. What a view. The staff in the Crows Nest was wonderful. Eva served our drinks and went out of her way to make sure everything was just right. There was also Jay, who too served drinks, but he could make the most fabulous flowers and animals out of paper. I believe its called origami. What a talent he has. The food was good and seemed to be consistent. They have an alternative dining room called the Pinnacle Grill which charges $20.00 per person. It used to be called the Marco Polo and there wasn't a charge, but that has since changed. The food is excellent. We ate there 1 night. What a treat. We usually ordered room service each morning, and the food was brought on time and still hot. What a great way to start off the day. We usually ate out on the verandah. We also had dinner brought to our rooms a couple nights when we just couldn't bear to get dressed again. Usually this was when we hit a port and had a very long day. The dinners were also brought on time and hot. This was the same menu as the dining room. The Lido pool was very refreshing. To my surprise, it is a freshwater pool. They have 2 pools on the ship and both are fresh water. Very nice. Edrick served us drinks at the Lido bar. Always a smile on his face and can't do enough for you. He even made my sister and I these little Dutch hats the day before we left. I will treasure them always. The Lido restaurant is very nice with a lovely view. Our itinerary took us to Curacao, Isle de Margarita, Trinidad, Martinique, St. Thomas, Half Moon Cay, and then back home to Ft. Lauderdale. After 2 days at sea our first port was Curacao and we arrived on "their" Easter Monday. The city is so colorful, but not much was opened that day because of the Holiday. We did however walk through the streets and wandered through whatever shops were open. Next was Isle de Margarita, Venezuela. My sister opted to go on the horseback ride and I opted to go on the Rhumba tour. My sister said the horseback riding tour was breath taking. She could, at one time on the trail, look down from the mountain and see the Volendam. She said it looked a million miles away. The Rhumba tour Maryann and I went on was nothing less than fantastic. Our guide, Marbella was absolutely the best. This girl could really dance and get everyone on the bus involved. She didn't stop the whole 5 hours. The drivers name was Julio and boy could he dance while driving or standing. He never stopped. The bus that picks you up at the ship is painted all kinds of wild, bright colors. It reminded me of the "Partridge Family Bus". The music is playing and everyone in the bus is doing the "Rhumba". On the trip to the beach for the famous "rum punches", Marbella gave us a history lesson and points of interest about Isle de Margarita. Anyone planning on taking this trip better listen to the history lesson, or they might end up like me and a guy named Ed. We both got the answers wrong and had to dance in front of everyone on the bus. Ed did the Rhumba and I did a "pole dance". The dance takes place while the bus is moving up and down the hills while standing in the front of the bus on the way back from the beach and all the rum punches. What a hoot. I even got a dollar tip. I wasn't sure if that was because they enjoyed the pole dance or wanted me to sit down. Then on to Trinidad. I'm not quite sure why we stop there. I definitely wasn't impressed. The next day on to Martinique. What a gorgeous country side. My sister and I opted to go into town and walked around the streets. We passed this wonderful old church and peeked in. The stained glass windows were magnificent. They seem to also be into shoes because there was a shoe store at every corner. They had a craft fair going on in the park and we walked down to it. Some of the hand made items were exquisite. Then on to everyone's favorite, St Thomas. A woman's shopping paradise. There were about 5 ships in port the day we arrived. The streets and shops were very crowded. Did a lot of walking and way too much shopping. We were going to take the island tour, but the diamonds, liquor, gold and perfume were calling our name. Maybe next time we will take an excursion in St. Thomas, but I somehow doubt it. Thanks John for the great idea on what to get my husband. He loved the camera. He can't wait to use it. And maybe if I'm good he'll let me take it on my next cruise. After a day in St. Thomas we were out at sea all day and a well deserved rest. We weren't able to anchor at Half Moon Cay because of the sea conditions, so we cruised slowly, and slowly being the key word here, towards home. It was kind of disappointing not to be able to see Half Moon Cay, but there will definitely be a next time. My sister and another couple we met were going to go parasailing if we were able to anchor in Half Moon Cay. Next time. We arrived back at Ft. Lauderdale at 8:00 am. Our fantasy had come to an end and it was back to reality. All we can do now is wait until our next cruise. Definitely on Holland America, maybe again on the Volendam (Seafarer itinerary) next April. Criscomia@aol.com September 2003 Read Less
HISTORY This was my third cruise on Holland America, (Rotterdam, Statendam, now Volendam.) and I've never been disappointed. Every cruise has it's rough spots and this one was no exception, and I'll cover the ... Read More
HISTORY This was my third cruise on Holland America, (Rotterdam, Statendam, now Volendam.) and I've never been disappointed. Every cruise has it's rough spots and this one was no exception, and I'll cover the problems as they came up. But this line, in my opinion, has been and remains a quality product in the cruise industry. But tastes differ, and you may find that this is not the line for you. That's what reviews are for. I've always appreciated the many thoughtful and comprehensive reviews I have read when searching out a cruise. I'll try to be as objective as possible, but it still remains one person's perspective. So as you read along it may help to keep a few things about me in mind. I've traveled a lot, both land and sea, from no class to first class and always found ways to have fun. I am more port oriented than ship oriented and have a pretty liberal palate, I'm just not picky about food. This may not help you if your tastes are gourmet, on the other hand, if I say the food is bad, it probably is. So with all this in mind..let's go! PRE-CRUISE I booked both airline and motel on-line. Traveling from California, my friend and I had no choice but to stay overnight in Fort Lauderdale. I searched for a reasonably priced motel, close to airport and dock, just a place to lay our head. Days Inn, Hollywood seemed to fill the bill (10 minutes from each) and it also had a Denny's on the grounds for a late breakfast the next morning. Perfect. We left Sacramento at noon, changed planes in Atlanta (what a feat!) and arrived Fort Lauderdale about 9:30PM. Days Inn sent a shuttle and we were in our room just after 10. Clean, spacious room, big TV, all cable channels, helpful desk clerk. He reserved a 1PM shuttle to the port the next day. ($5) and gave us a complimentary late check-out. DAY 1 The shuttle deposited us at the Volendam's terminal a little after one. We were scheduled to sail at 5, but check-in had already begun. It was congested but organized. The actual check-in did not take long, but we were given a number and asked to wait until it was called to board the ship. They had just called #4 and our group was #23 so we settled in for a long wait. About an hour or so later, we finally boarded and were escorted to our balcony cabin #7061. HAL's balcony cabins are spacious with a comfortable design. This one was peach and rose tones, not ornate but well appointed. Lots of storage, 13 drawers and several closet shelves some of which can be pulled up for more hanging space. The bedroom area can be closed off from the sitting area by a draw curtain in case one of you is an owl and the other a lark. The sitting area has a sleeper sofa, large vanity, TV/VCR and bar refrigerator stocked with soda, beer, water and wine. The shelf above the TV is stocked with small bottles of hard liquor. Of course, all these goodies are accompanied by a card with a price list. You check off what you use, they restock, you get charged. The balcony runs the width of the room and is about 5ft deep. Plenty of room for the 2 chairs and small table. It also has an outside light, bright enough to read at night. Read Less
We are in our 50's and are experienced cruisers having travelled several different lines in different price categories. I was astounded to read [Cruise Critic's] positive review of the Volendam of the Holland America ... Read More
We are in our 50's and are experienced cruisers having travelled several different lines in different price categories. I was astounded to read [Cruise Critic's] positive review of the Volendam of the Holland America line. Last year we took our 20 year old daughter and her friend on a tour of Alaska. We had never been on the Holland America line and were looking forward to our experience on this new vessel. We can honestly say that this was the worst cruise we have ever taken. Even though the ship was only 1 or 2 years old the decor with it's green and orange color scheme seemed like something out of the "60's." Our stateroom was more than adequate in size but seemed claustrophobic because of the dark walls and "energy saving" bulbs. Luckily, we had a veranda and it got dark very late, because even though the dressing table was right next to the floor-to-ceiling windows I needed the outside light to put on my makeup at night. The food in all dining rooms and in the Lido deck was just passable and the service in the main dining room and alternative restaurant was slow and inexpert. In the middle of the cruise was found the service so lacking that we actually complained to the customer service representative. This helped slightly however the service was still far inferior to ANY line we had previously travelled. We also found the staff at the front desk to be borderline rude. The parents of our friend's daughter had sent us a gift to be delivered onboard at embarkation. My husband and I did not even hear about this gesture until the 2nd day of the cruise when we received a card in out stateroom advising us that there was a gift but that Holland America couldn't deliver it. When my daughter's friend asked about this situation, instead of an apology, she was treated as if it were HER problem! The entertainment was another disappointment. We found it to be on a scale inferior to what we had seen in our daughter's high school performances! The Philippine staff was efficient although almost impossible to understand. The excursion desk and trips however, were the one department we found to be excellent. All trips were run in a very efficient and professional manner. I would not hesitate to tell future travellers NOT to take this ship anywhere! JyllMyll99@aol.comJuly 2002 Read Less
Holland America has become our favorite Cruise Line: their quiet, refined atmosphere and tradition of exceptional service, combined with a welcome lack of crowds and long lines, appeals to us. Hence, when it came time to select our ... Read More
Holland America has become our favorite Cruise Line: their quiet, refined atmosphere and tradition of exceptional service, combined with a welcome lack of crowds and long lines, appeals to us. Hence, when it came time to select our January 2002 Caribbean cruise, the choice of line was not in question; the choice of itinerary was another matter. After much discussion, my traveling companion and I decided upon the 10-Day Southern Caribbean Wayfarer Cruise aboard the M/S Volendam. From our past experience we had every reason to expect a marvelous adventure, and we were not disappointed. This was, by far, the best cruise we have yet taken. Arrival and Sailaway We arrived at Ft. Lauderdale after a full but quiet flight from Dallas. Since we had arranged our own air transportation, and had not purchased a transfer to the port from HAL, we had to wait forever for our luggage at the Baggage claim, followed by another long delay at the Yellow Cab Taxi stand. The money we saved by arranging our own air transport was probably still worth this frustration, but for many minutes I gave a lot of thought to purchasing the HAL-arranged air and ground transfers in the future. We finally managed to secure a taxi and were swiftly taken to Port Everglades, where we got into a fast-paced line to check-in; the whole process at the pier went like clockwork, and while additional security was noted it didn't present any problems or slow down the process at all. After checking-in and receiving our shipboard ID cards, we were invited to wait with our fellow passengers in the terminal lounge. We were with group 25 to board, and while it must have taken about 45 minutes for the process to work its way up to our number this wasn't a problem - we were relaxing in the Terminal lounge, enjoying conversation with new friends and anticipating the ten days of luxury that were to come. When our number was called we went up the escalator to the second floor of the terminal and joined the line to board. We presented our ID card and our Passports to the security officer on duty, paused to have our photograph taken, and then we made our way down the enclosed gangway and into the ship to a chorus of "Welcome back onboard!" We were introduced to a white-gloved porter who took one of our carry-on bags and swiftly escorted us to our mini-suite on the Verandah Deck (#6145). Our room was in excellent condition - clean and well maintained, just as we have always come to expect. There was no sign of the traditional bowl of fruit - clearly, a victim of the budget cuts of which we had heard many rumors - but it was not missed. A goodie basket (with candy, chocolate bars, and other sweets) was present, our mini-bar was well stocked, and the small refrigerator had an ample supply of beverages. Most of our luggage showed up before we had the time to stand on the Verandah for more than 15 minutes and "enjoy" our view of the busy HAL terminal, but not all of our bags were present. We called and were informed that our additional bag should show up soon. And, sure enough, it did. After unpacking we proceeded up to the Lido Restaurant for a wonderful, late afternoon (it was about 3:30 pm) bite to eat and a brief exploration of the ship before returning to our cabin to don our life vests and attend the mandatory lifeboat drill. As such drills go, this one wasn't too bad; most of the passengers showed up quickly, although on the starboard side of the ship - the side facing the pier - it was difficult to hear the crew calling out cabin numbers due to the noise from the port. One bonus was that, while they were calling out cabin numbers we got to watch as the QE2 pulled away from a nearby pier ... what a lovely sight! After returning our life vests to our cabin and freshening up, we went to the aft Lido-deck pool for the sail-away party. We picked up a couple of the sail-away margaritas, served in a tall HAL glass with the ships of the fleet printed on its side (to add to our collection), and wandered around for a bit as we listened to the band and I shot some video. It was rather loud and crowded, so after the Veendam departed (they were parked behind us at the pier) we left the Lido and proceeded up to our favorite haunt for departures and arrivals ... the Crows Nest Lounge. There we sat where we could have a good view out the port side of the ship, drank a few cocktails, and enjoyed the sights as we backed out from the dock, turned around, and then sprinted out past the beach-side condos and on into the Atlantic. Ah, it was a joy to be aboard ship and at sea again! Eating One's Way Across The Volendam Much is said about the food on Holland America being a bit bland, and this is generally true: they appear to have geared the cuisine to please a slightly less-spicy pallet. However, apart from this the food is excellent, well prepared, well presented, and very plentiful. One can, in effect, eat one's way across the Caribbean. Of course, by the time you get to the other side you'll be larger than the Volendam, but that's your problem. There are several places to chow-down aboard the Volendam: 1. The Rotterdam Dining Room: This is the formal dining venue where the three main meals of the day are served. For breakfast (8:00 am - 9:30 am) and lunch (12:30 pm - 1:30 pm) seating is open, but for dinner all passengers have both an assigned seating time (early: 6:00 pm, and late: 8:15 pm) as well as an assigned dining table. Holland America has not succumbed to the current fad of "free-style dining," with no formal seatings for dinner. If one wishes to experience the traditional style of cruise dining from yesteryear, eat your meals in the Rotterdam Dining Room. While at sea we take all our dinners there, and a few breakfasts and lunches too. We had second seating for dinner, which we much prefer over first seating because it allows more time between port departures and having to get dressed for dinner. 2. The Lido Restaurant: This is the primary alternative dining venue onboard. Here one may find food and drink at nearly any hour of the day or night, presented in a casual atmosphere. If you're looking for a light Continental Breakfast (6:30 am - 10:30 am), or if you would rather begin your day with a hearty buffet filled with eggs, bacon, hash browns, etc., (7:00 am - 10:30 am), here's where you want to come. Lunch begins before the smell of bacon is gone (11:30 am - 2:00 pm), and if your speed is a nice oriental stirfry or a great big Ruben sandwich, you can find that here, too, at the portside Stirfry Bar and the starboard side Deli Bar. What HAL terms a "Casual" Dinner (6:00 pm - 7:30 pm) is also served here in semi-restaurant style, with waiter-service but without assigned tables. The Lido is also where the "Late Night Snack" can be found (11:30 pm - 12:30 am), usually presented in geographical Themes (an Alaskan night, a Mexican night, an Italian night, etc.). Ice Cream can be found in the Lido, too (11:30 am - 5:00pm and 11:30 pm - 12:30 am), and for no extra charge! This is also where the famed Desert Extravaganza takes place one night each cruise ... don't miss it, the chocolate and cheese cakes are to die for. 3. The Marco Polo Restaurant: This is the formal alternative dining room where, if you can get reservations, you can eat dinner in class and style (6:00 pm - 9:15 pm). The meals are Italian, and by all reports outstanding. We didn't get to sample their fare because we were slow about going to make our reservations and, as a result, they were booked solid for the remainder of the cruise when we finally did check. We'll try again next time. 4. The Lido Poolside Grill: Here one can chow down on Pizza, Hamburgers, Hotdogs, Tacos, Salad, and a host of other fattening and delicious foods. If one gets back from a shore excursion late, this really is the place to head (11:30 am - 5:30 pm) for a quick bite to tide one over until dinner. Staffing Cuts Hit the Rotterdam Dining Room Prior to taking this cruise on the Volendam I had been reading about the severe impact the 9/11 terrorism attacks have had on the Cruise Lines. One of the things that I had read was that there had been some major cuts in the service staff aboard the Holland America Line, and that these cuts were especially noticeable in the Rotterdam Dining Rooms across the fleet. As a result of these reports, I went with an eye especially attuned to identifying any drop in the level or quality of service. On the whole, while a few cuts were in evidence, they were not especially troubling, nor were they long-lasting. For example, dinner our first night out from Ft. Lauderdale was excellent - it tasted wonderful and the selections were sufficiently broad enough to tempt even a finicky eater - but the service left something to be desired. There must have been about 2/3 the normal number of staff present in the Dining Room, and the service was slow and disorganized as a result. Additionally, the wine steward had to be asked for 4 times before he appeared. We could tell they were doing their very best, but with too few staff members on duty that simply wasn't good enough. A couple of us had a few pleasant words with one of the supervisors and were told to expect things to improve. And, thankfully, things did improve. What to Wear, What to Wear?? During the days nearly any kind of casual wear is acceptable: shorts, t-shirts, jeans, slacks, sports shirts, polo shirts, Hawaiian shirts ... the list could go on and on. Days onboard a Holland America Ship are casual, laid back, and relaxed. Evenings, however, are another matter entirely. Some people complain about the dresscode on HAL being too regimented, too strict, too reminiscent of "the old days." There may well be some truth to these complaints, but it's part of Holland America's style and atmosphere: there is a dress code for each evening, and all guests are asked to follow it as best they can. It's not as if it's difficult ... they have made it easy to follow the code by having only 3 kinds of evenings: Formal, Informal, and Casual. They even tell you, the day before, which kind of night it will be and make suggestions as to what one might want to wear. In general, the following guidelines constitute the "dress code." Formal: Tuxedoes or business suits are suggested for men, with jacket and tie being required; cocktail or evening gowns are suggested for women. Informal: Jackets are required for men, while dresses or blouses and slacks are suggested for women. Casual: Comfortable attire is encouraged, but shorts, T-shirts, and jeans are expressly discouraged. The dress code is intended to promote a festive evening environment - "come on guys ... it's a Tux, not a straight jacket, they want us to wear!" - and all passengers are encouraged to follow the code throughout the evening. On this cruise of the Volendam it appeared as though just about everybody was taking the spirit of the code to heart with little, if any, grumbling. And that was a blessing; on some previous cruises a few passengers could be heard complaining, rather loudly, about having to get "dressed up" for dinner ... as if it were a major imposition. In my opinion, it's part of the fun of making a cruise. On a 10-Day cruise the normal number of Formal Nights is 3, of Informal 2, and of Casual 5. A Day At Sea On our first full day at sea we slept late, missing breakfast, but woke in time to attend the pre-auction art lecture and walk the deck for 25 or 30 minutes, enjoying the beautiful blue sky and strong sea breeze. We ate lunch in the Rotterdam Dinning Room and were pleased not only with the quality of the food but also with the level of service. The waiter who took our order was efficient, and the busboy that assisted was quick. Our meal was ordered and delivered quickly, efficiently, and with the care and grace that we've grown to love on Holland America ships. And the food was excellent, too: the lettuce in my Chicken Caesar Salad was cold, crisp, and refreshing, while the chicken was warm and tender and the dressing had a kick but wasn't too strong or too thick. Such balance is a rare combination, even in land-based restaurants. That afternoon I was naughty: I won about $190 at the Blackjack table, then gave back nearly all of my winnings to a poker machine. I would end the cruise losing more money than I won, so that first time at the tables must have been a fluke. In truth, I should avoid the casino; it's a bad habit. I spent a few hours exploring the ship, discovering the minor differences in layout and character between this vessel and the other ships of the HAL fleet we had been on. The Volendam is a work of art in motion. She is among the largest of the Holland America Ships, yet is still small enough for one to get to know in a few days time. She is 781 feet long, 105.8 feet wide, and weighs in at 63,000 GRT. She can make 23 knots, though she rarely goes that fast, and can carry 1440 passengers at double occupancy (2 per stateroom). A mega-ship she is not. On my self-guided tour of the ship I took my digital camera with me and snapped a host of photos of all the lounges and public rooms. It was a nice exploration, and I discovered some critical differences between the Volendam class and her slightly smaller Statendam class sisters; for example, access to the prow observation deck is through two large, unmarked, watertight doors at the center-front of the promenade, where one crosses from side to side. The Captain's reception is always on the first formal night of the cruise, and is usually a pleasant time of getting to know some more passengers while also getting to eye-ball what they're wearing. On the Volendam this was great fun, with the free champagne flowing and excellent hors d'oeuvres being served throughout the Frans Hals Lounge. The Volendam Orchestra played an assortment of Big Band music - Glenn Miller, Tommy Dorsey, Harry James - while several couples "cut a rug" on the dance floor for so long that Jay Bernard, the Cruise Director, had to ask them to "please be seated so that the Captain can make his address." One of the biggest criticisms of HAL is that so many of its passengers are "older than average," and this means that the "night life" on a HAL ship is supposed to be "dead." Well, for my taste it's a joy to be around so many people with so much experience and wisdom. And ... my! ... how these "old geezers" can boogie ... even late into the night! They were great fun to watch! Dinner was EXCELLENT. The food was superb and the Service was, without question, precisely what HAL can and, in the past, has provided. It was clear that all of the Dining Room staff were pitching-in to help at all the tables in their area, and not just at their own assigned tables. They really hustled that night, and made dinner perfect. We were also surprised to discover Baked Alaskan on the first formal night; we've been used to this on the last formal night of a cruise, but this change was a great, festive way of beginning the cruise. After dinner we attended the "Las Vegas" production in the Frans Hals show lounge, and enjoyed it immensely. Another common criticism of HAL is that its entertainment is not the best, but this cruise of the Volendam proved to have some of the best shows I've ever seen on Holland America. After the show we went to the Explorer's Lounge for drinks and some pleasant conversation with our fellow passengers and some of the ship's officers while listening to the lovely music of the Champagne Strings. All-in-all, it was a lovely evening and the close of a wonderful day, as most days at sea are. Surfing the World Wide Web While At Sea The Volendam is equipped for internet access via satellite, with accommodations for passengers to surf the web while at sea in the Internet Cafe. This little lounge is located on the Upper Promenade deck between the Library and the Hudson Room and, at least on this cruise of the Volendam, was well used throughout the 10 days. It is unfortunate that Holland America doesn't provide data ports in the staterooms, though future ships are supposed to be so equipped. It would also be nice to be able to write one's letters on one's own computer and then transfer them to the HAL-provided terminals for upload to the Internet, but this is also not possible. Instead, to use the terminals at all - even for drafting an email while one is not signed onto the internet - one's shipboard account is charged .50 a minute. The alternative for those who know they'll be using the internet and the ship's computers extensively, is to pay a one-time fee of $169.95 and gain unlimited access for the duration of the cruise. This was an excellent deal, and I took it. It enabled me to communicate with friends and church members all over the world, make reports of my cruise to my favorite boards, and keep track of what was going on with my family at home without having to fork over $15.00 a minute for ship-to-shore telephone calls. The terminals provided access to the internet through several different service providers, including AOL and Earthlink, and I was told that if you had your account information you could sign on through whatever internet provider you use. The Lounges of the Volendam There are many places onboard the Volendam to kick back and relax, read, chat, listen to music, drink tea, coffee, a cocktail, a soft drink, and just enjoy the days at sea or in port. Among these are the wonderful lounges of the Volendam. Everyone has their favorites, but mine are the Crows Nest and the Explorers Lounge, with the Piano Bar/Sea View Lounge a close third. The Crows Nest is a wonderful place - a bar, really - perched high up above the bridge. From here one has unsurpassed views of the open seas which stretch ahead, or of any ports which the ship may be approaching or departing. It is one of my favorite places to go with a book and my sunglasses; I like to sit back in a recliner, my feet up, a soft drink at my elbow, and spend a few hours reading and/or gazing at the ocean. During calm seas, as they were during most of this trip on the Volendam, the view is incredible, with only tiny ripples visible breaking the surface of the water. Oh high-sea days the calm beauty of a lazy Caribbean day is replaced by an altogether different kind of beauty. As the prow of the ship slams the water, and as the waves surge up over the forward deck, one can come to know the true power and awesome majesty of the sea. In such times, and from such a perspective, one can gain a new, deeply felt respect and love for these wonderful ships and the men and women who sail them. But, such days were not to be found on a lazy January afternoon in the middle of the Caribbean. All of our days this cruise were pleasant, with moderate seas and refreshing breezes. And no place gave one a more lofty view of this beauty than the Crows Nest. During the evenings, and on into the wee hours of the morning, one can find live dance music and, then, a DJ and recorded music. This is the place where, if one is so inclined, a loud and active nightlife can be found onboard the Volendam. The Explorer's Lounge is my second favorite haunt onboard. It is an excellent place for afternoon high tea, conversation, reading, and after-dinner drinks. The classical string quartet which plays here during the after dinner hours - on the Volendam, the "Champagne Strings" - is very good, with a broad repertoire of classical pieces. During the day one can find art lectures, discussions on formal dining, the daily high teas, and a great place for quiet conversations, reading, or writing. The Piano Bar and the Sea View Lounge are third on my list of favorite haunts onboard. This is an excellent place to come and listen to jazz and popular favorites, engage in a game of "name that tune," sip the "drink of the day," and enjoy excellent hors d'oeuvres before going on to dinner. During the day it's a nice, secluded spot to read, engage in an informative conversation with a member of the cruise staff, or a fellow passenger, or even practice the piano! There is a dance floor in the middle of it, though except for an upbeat rendition "Dancing Cheek to Cheek" and "The Way You Look Tonight" played on the piano, I didn't see very many people dancing here. This is also where the Captain likes to hold some of the special VIP receptions, including the one held for the Suite Passengers, because the Piano Bar can be curtained off from the Sea View Lounge and hallway. There are other Bars and Lounges onboard the Volendam, like the Ocean View Bar and the Sports Lounge, and we visited them all at least once while on this cruise, but the above were my favorites. Ports of Call On the 10-Day Southern Caribbean Wayfarer Cruise we visited Curacao, La Guaira/Caracas Venezuela, Trinidad, Martinique, St. Thomas, and Half Moon Cay. Each port was excellent, and while there were many different things to do in each, I can only speak to the specific excursions which we took. Curacao We arrived in Willemstad, Curacao, about an hour earlier than projected, but we didn't miss arrival since I had planned to get up early anyway. It was a lovely approach, even though the sky was overcast. After breakfast in the Lido, and a few minutes of photography from the Sports Deck and the Crows Nest, we went down, made land fall, and joined up with our excursion group: "The Island Drive." This tour was a pleasant drive out and around Willemstad, with visits to several of the more famous sties and Land Houses. The most impressive part of the excursion, however, was the tour leader. She was a wealth of information about the Island, its culture, history, and government. Between our stops she carried on an animated monologue about her home island. Also, between stops we drove through the various housing districts, so we got to see what she defined as "upper middle class" as well as the "housing projects" which were run by the government. It was, while not the BEST tour we've ever been on, certainly informative and worth the time. After returning to the ship at noon, we ate lunch in the Lido Restaurant and then headed out again, this time on our own, to cross the Queen Wilhelmina pontoon bridge and enter the older section of Willemstad. We visited the Mikve Israel Emmanuel Synagogue, which was bar far the highlight of the visit, as well as Fort Amsterdam. The buildings are lovely, and the people are kind and not at all pushy ... even when it looked like we had no intention of buying anything. The shopkeepers of Jamaica could learn a thing or two from these wonderful people here in Willemstad. I really enjoyed the stay. We returned to the ship from our self-conducted tour at about 4 pm, which provided plenty of time for a shower and a short nap -- both of which was very important because we were HOT and tired. The air temp was high, the humidity VERY high, and the sunlight VERY VERY bright. Hence, we were tired and in need of a rest.? On board the evening schedule was a little different than normal. They had "the Great Volendam Deck Party" on the Lido central pool deck, with excellent BBQ and other tasty items. Also, music. We ate a snack there at 6:15 pm, but then also attacked the Rotterdam Dining Room at 8:15 pm for an EXCELLENT dinner. After dinner, although so stuffed we felt like beached whales, we went up to the Sports deck and watched as the ship pulled out of Willemstad at 10 pm, followed almost immediately by a fireworks show. It was a nice program, but nothing super-spectacular, and we were told that this show is put on every time a HAL ship leaves port at night. After the fireworks everyone rushed downstairs to the Frans Hals Show Lounge for the evening's entertainment. La Guaira/Caracas, Venezuela We arrived in La Guaira, Venezuela, at about 6:45 am. From our veranda we had a view of 3 military patrol boats, a World War Two era Destroyer which now belongs to the Venezuelan Navy, and several large freighters. The port of La Guaira really looked awful ... it is a noisy, dirty industrial port, with nothing easily accessible from the pier without one having to take ground transportation. We were warned about crime, and counseled that we should either take one of the many planned excursions or avoid disembarking. The view of the town beyond the port also wasn't too encouraging; the streets where congested with traffic and the mountainside behind the port was covered with tiny, shack-like houses which, we would later learn, are called "rranchitos." It was not a pleasant sight.r We took the Grand Tour of Caracas, a 9 hour excursion and, by far, one of the best offerings to be had here. By bus we traveled for 35 minutes along a fairly modern highway up into and through the mountains and on into the valley where the city of Caracas is located. The drive provided for some lovely views of the Venezuelan countryside, as well as more views - in the distance - of the "rranchitos." We learned that squatters lived in these self-made shacks, receiving city services and electrical power for free. Once in Caracas we first visited Quinta Anauco, which is a well maintained 17th century Spanish manor which now houses the Museum of Colonial Art. It was an excellent tour, and our guide - who was with us for the entire excursion - did an excellent job of presenting all of the details about the house and about all subsequent stops. He was very easy to talk with, and had an excellent sense of humor. The second stop included a trip on a hanging cable-car up to the top of Mt. Avila (7000 feet above sea level) from where we had - through periodic breaks in the clouds - a breathtaking view of both the Caribbean on one side and Caracas on the other. This is a new stop on the Full Day Excursion in Caracas, and they're still working on the hotel at the top of the mountain. After a stop for lunch at a hotel we visited the Boulevard of the Heroes, where our guide gave us a detailed account of the history of Venezuela, making reference to the monuments found there in the process. This was one of the most informative parts of the tour - which is really saying something because all the stops were very informative ... one way or another. Our last stop before returning to the Volendam was at the Murano Venetian Glass Factory, where we got to spend an hour watching as glass art was hand made, talk with those who did the work, and then shop for some of their glassware. It was one of the few places on this tour of Venezuela where we could actually do some shopping. All-in-all, the visit to Caracas was a real treat. Trinidad We arrived in Trinidad at 12 noon, and our tour was one of the first to leave the ship. We took the Monastery Excursion, and I'm glad we did because we heard that some of those who went on the Culture trip either got "sunstroke" or were otherwise exhausted by their day. In comparison, we had a pleasant afternoon; the Monastery trip took us up into the mountains and gave us a cool, shaded, relaxing afternoon. We toured the Mount St. Benedict Monastery, visited their chapel, learned about the history of their presence on the island, had afternoon tea in their Guest House, and shopped in their gift store. It was a very nice afternoon, the views of the central plain of the island from the mountaintop were lovely, and the both the monastery guide and our transport guide were excellent. During the trip to and from the Monastery we learned a great deal about Trinidad, its history, people, and industries and customs from our transport guide. Unfortunately, we only had a half-day there, otherwise I would have liked to shop a bit in the city of Port of Spain before departure. Martinique We docked at Martinique at about 7:45 am and were cleared by customs at 8:00 am. Our tour - the Tropical Island Drive - left at 8:15 am and, by 9 am, we were driving into St. Pierre, where we got a look at the Mt. Pelee Volcanological Museum. It was interesting, but really not worth the stop. The next stop, however, was worth getting off the bus: the Agricol Rum distilleries. Here we learned how they make Rum on Martinique, had an opportunity to taste and buy some...which, of course, we did. We also had some excellent views of the volcano from there, though clouds kept covering it's top. Still ... it was very pretty. We then made our way along a very zig-zaggy Road (that was actually it's name) for about an hour, through the rain-forest, to the Botanical Garden of Balata. This lovely Garden was an excellent stop, and we spent an hour there - longer than we should have - walking among the lovely, lush, tropical plants and trees. I got some fantastic photographs. I also got to practice my French, which has become horrible. I'm much better in German. Anyway, because we took so long at the Gardens we were not able to visit the one site I really wanted to visit in Martinique: the Balata Church. But, we got to glance at it as we whisked by on our way back to the ship. St. Thomas, U.S.V.I. St. Thomas was, after Curacao, the loveliest stop on this cruise; it is hard to beat the beauty of the bay and Charlotte Amalie. We didn't have any tours planed - been here, done that - we just went ashore and did a little shopping. There were three vessels in port that day - a Celebrity ship, a monster RCL, and the Volendam - so the streets and Taxies were busy. We spent a few hours downtown, walking through the many shops and sampling some of the food as we went. We bought our maximum allowed bottles of booze and the obligatory T-shirts and other trinkets for friends back home, but didn't blow the bank. We'll do that on a future cruise. As shopping goes, St. Thomas really is the Mecca of the Caribbean. Havensight Mall, which is next to the pier where we docked, is a nice place to go if one doesn't want to travel far from the ship or use taxies. One can find the basic souvenirs, liqueur, and jewelry there. One can also access telephones and ATMs there, the last of which was of critical interest to us because our cash reserves were starting to run low and we knew we'd be wanting to tip at the end of the cruise. What one finds at Havensight Mall one will find, in manifold multiplied and gaudy splendor, downtown. I prefer the downtown shopping ... not because it's really any cheaper but because there is just so much more to choose from and so many more interesting things to see. The view of the Volendam from across the bay is also lovely, although she looks like a bathtub toy parked behind the RCL's monstrous Adventure of the Seas. We departed from St. Thomas with a beautiful evening ahead of us, and I suppose we all knew it would be lovely. It was casual night, and so we retreated to the crows next for pre-dinner drinks and conversations with our fellow passengers. It was Dutch night, and so we got our little Dutch hats and most of the food was Dutch in character - enough like German to be familiar, not enough like German to allow me to easily pronounce some of the dishes. I ended up eating the Roast Duck, which was outstanding. Yet again, the service was excellent ... though we played a naughty trick on the Wine Steward by swapping our usual drink orders around the table. After dinner we retreated to the Explorers Lounge and did some damage to a couple glasses of port before going to - drum roll - the movies! They were playing "The Score" in the theater, and we were burned out on singers in the show lounge, so the choice was obvious. We shouldn't have eaten the free popcorn, though, because that made us thirsty. So, after the film we went up to the Lido where the Desert extravaganza was underway, and we stuffed ourselves ... again. By about 1:00 am we found ourselves back in the Piano Bar, where we and about 10 other passengers played an impromptu game of "name that tune." All in all it was a very pleasant evening and day. Half Moon Cay, Bahamas Half Moon Cay is Holland America's private Island and, in many people's estimation, one of the principle highlights of any Caribbean cruise. I tend to agree. It has a lovely bay and a stunning beach, excellent hamburgers, hotdogs, fruit and desert; it also provides for some of the most tranquil, relaxing, soul-inspiriting views of the cruise. The ship cannot dock here, since there is no pier capable of handling a cruise liner, so they drop anchor out in the bay and provide tender service to ferry the passengers and staff in and out of the sheltered port. Because weather is not always agreeable it is not always possible to actually land on the island; the average of successful stops at HMC seems to be is about 70%, though I have been blessed with getting to go ashore each time we've stopped there. The trip ashore is half the fun. The tender service is interesting to watch and even more interesting to experience; it is quick, efficient, and provides excellent views of both the beach and the ship. Once ashore one can shop for souvenirs in the small kiosk, pig-out at the grill, have a massage, play volley ball, or visit the little chapel. However, the big attraction is, of course, the beach. Even if more than one ship is there, the beach is not crowded; it his wide, long, and shallow, with incredibly soft, white sand and water so clear your can see the bottom even as far out as the ship. On this trip the Volendam was the only ship there, and so everyone was actually quiet and unhurried. We splashed in water up to our waist, but didn't feel like going out any further because the water was rather cold. The best part of the day - after my two Cheese Burgers, Ribs, and Pineapple (burp) - was just relaxing on the beach chair and watching people play. Oh, and the view of the Volendam, out in the bay, was a photographers dream. Photography Onboard A word must be written about the photographs that were taken by the cruise staff aboard the Volendam. I hate to say this, but often their pictures are uniformly dreadful. And not just of me - which would be understandable - but of nearly all the passengers. For example, the photographs of the passengers with the Captain (during the first formal night) were all horrible. Whoever took the pictures used such a weird angle that everyone ended up looking like "vertically challenged" people. Except for the ears, I looked like a Hobbit! Not all of the professional photographs were bad, and one of the formal sessions produced some excellent pictures of me. However, by-and-large, the best photos on the cruise were the ones taken then by the passengers themselves ... or by the cruise staff. The two photos that I had taken of our table group by our Head Waiter turned out far better than those taken by the so-called "professionals." I suppose the nice thing about the photographs taken on the Volendam by the cruise staff is that we were not hounded, continuously, to buy the prints. The photographs were displayed, and if we wanted to buy them we were welcome to do so. However, there was very little pressure to do so. Likewise, throughout the ship, while special sales were offered nearly every day at sea, and every evening after departure from port, the pressure to "buy buy buy" simply wasn't there. Nor is one "nickle-and-dimed" to death aboard the Volendam. If one wants to puchase something, there is plenty to buy. If not, one can go the whole cruise and rack up nothing more than drink charges and excursion fees one one's shipboard account. Tipping Not Required While some people have difficulty with the concept, Holland America's tipping policy actually means precisely what it says - tipping is not required. Nor is the HAL staff supposed to solicit tips. This does not mean, however, that tipping is not allowed, nor does it mean that tipping is not appropriate. Tips are not included in the cost of the cruise, nor are they added onto the Bar tabs, nor are they assessed in any other way. If the passengers wish to tip for the service they have received, that is entirely up to them. It is also up to them as to how much to tip. Many people tip the industry standard, with more being given for better service. Some tip less than the industry standard based upon the reported fact that the HAL staff is paid more than the industry standard. While this may be true, I have never been able to understand why it should matter to the passengers what the staff makes ... suffice it to say, with few exceptions it is guaranteed that they earn less in a year than the average passenger does. In my opinion, if I have received good service I will want to tip appropriately. What is appropriate for one person may not be appropriate for another. The industry standard - which can be found listed many places - is a good benchmark, however, if one wishes to use it. Disembarkation As on many cruise lines, luggage had to be out in the hall by 1:00 am on the morning of arrival back in Ft. Lauderdale, so packing was best done before dinner the night before. This last night being a casual night made things simple: we wore what we would be wearing for the trip home. It is amazing how one's possessions seem to expand during the trip, making it twice as hard to pack up as it was at home. Thankfully, we were able to purchase some small Holland America luggage onboard to supplement our bags. And we weren't the only ones! Each cabin received a disembarkation questionnaire, a US Customs form, and a disembarkation number. The questionnaire had to be filled out and returned to the front desk. The US Customs form would need to be turned in upon arrival at the pier. Upon arrival at Ft. Lauderdale the ship had to clear both US Immigration and US Customs. This usually takes a little time because there are always a few passengers who believe that these rules do not apply to them. The current rule is that, if you visit a US port after having visited a non-US port, the entire ship - both passengers and crew - must clear immigration. On the Volendam at St. Thomas they called everyone by stateroom blocks (6100-6199, etc.) to go down to the Frans Hals Lounge and join a line which ran along the parameter of the lounge - down the starboard side, across in front of the stage, then back up the port side. Down in front of the stage stood one or two US Immigration officials and, when you reached them, you showed them your passport. They glanced at it, looked at your face, said "Good morning, Gregory" (or whatever your name was) and that was it. At the end of the line, up at the port side entrance to the lounge, were cruise line staff with a computer printout register of the ship, by stateroom number, and there you had them check you off. Done ... simple ... quick. This was also how they did it in Fort Lauderdale. At St. Thomas they only had to call a couple of staterooms ... and then only once ... before we cleared. I suppose the eternally late ones wanted to get off and go shopping too. At Ft. Lauderdale, however, a few staterooms from every deck had to be called. Most of them were called only once. A few were called multiple times. One was called by stateroom number, then by name three times, with the last time the Cruise Director saying "would so-in-so please do us all the courtesy of interrupting your breakfast and proceeding to the Frans Hals lounge so that some of us can get off the ship." The round of applause in the Explorer's Lounge, where we were waiting for disembarkation, was heartening. Once disembarkation actually began, it went quickly. We were 26 to depart, but were off the ship and on our way to the airport by 9:45 am. And so ended our 10-Day Southern Caribbean Wayfarer Cruise on the lovely and beautiful M/S Volendam. A Few Final Remarks The Volendam is a wonderful ship, with a gracious crew which knows how to provide premium service to their passengers. Like all Holland America ships, however, it is not a party boat. It is a cruise ship with many of the characteristics and traditions of the ocean liners of yesteryear. There are no rock walls to climb, no all-night discos to dance in, and the passengers do tend to be a little older than average. This, however, should not be a problem if what one is looking for is a wonderful, quite, relaxing, luxurious trip. We are in our late 30s and early 40s, and yet we so enjoy Holland America that we simply don't consider other Cruise lines to be options for us. This is because we appreciate the refined style and gracious atmosphere which have become the hallmark of the HAL fleet. The Volendam met and, indeed, surpassed, our expectations in this department. The only negatives which we identified on this cruise, and with the Volendam, have to do with the staffing cuts. The crew worked very hard to make up the shortfall, and their efforts were both most successful and greatly appreciated.RevNeal@aol.comMarch 2002 Read Less
This is a review of Holland America Line's 10 day Southern Caribbean Seafarer on the MS Volendam. Sail date was Nov 2, 2000. The itinerary and detailed physical descriptions of the ship are available at Holland America's web ... Read More
This is a review of Holland America Line's 10 day Southern Caribbean Seafarer on the MS Volendam. Sail date was Nov 2, 2000. The itinerary and detailed physical descriptions of the ship are available at Holland America's web site. The following is a summary of our experience(s). We are two sixty plus senior citizens who are not yet ready for The Home. As is HAL's custom, boarding did not begin until about 1:30PM. Those who complain about late embarkation may comfort themselves with the thought that HAL actually cares about between cruise cleanups. Once begun, boarding moved at a snail's pace. For example, our wait for number eighteen exceeded an hour. Crew and staff attitudes and rapport with the passengers was unconditionally excellent, especially the front desk people. The infirmary is well staffed and considerate. Our cabin steward was typically capable and willing. Regrettably, the dining room was sorely understaffed for the evening meal. Our waiter was strained by the lack of an assistant (bus boy). He worked his tail off, but courses were slow coming and drinks seldom replenished. Early seating, 6:00 PM, seldom got out before 7:30. None of this was our waiter's fault. We were a table for six, none of whom imbibed. Consequently, the wine steward only approached us on the first night, a pleasant change from prior experiences. The Maitre d' never visited our table. I guess he had heard enough complaints about the staffing. The food was typical HAL. Preparation and presentation were acceptable, but undistinguished. I prefer Celebrity's menus and preparation. Breakfast and lunch service in the main dining room was very prompt, and the servers pleasant. We dined in the alternative Marco Polo twice. Reservations were easy to come by. Technically, Marco Polo reservations are only available between 9 and 11AM. However, I stopped by the first evening and the headwaiter accepted my application. I made our reservation for a second night at a later date, with no difficulty. The menu is on HAL's web site. It is Italian and well prepared, but the Marco Polo is also understaffed. On a busy night, our waiter was too rushed, once delivering the wrong entree. However, he made a quick recovery and brought the correct order, accompanied by a profound apology. There were three formal and two informal nights. Formal dress was typically HAL, mostly tuxes and dark business suits for the men and elegant formal for the ladies. For those unaware of HAL customs, formal wear is retained throughout the evening. The Shore Excursion office folks are eager and pleasant, but their lack of experience with this itinerary caused a number of tour problems at many islands. Itinerary changes were common. Change notices were placed under the cabin door the evening before departure, far too late to make alternative choices. At Nassau, key excursions were actually canceled at pier side. The blame was placed on the tour operator not having us scheduled, but a more experienced ship's staff would have the tours confirmed in advance. Although this was a Caribbean cruise, HAL maturity still prevails. If you're looking for a more representative Caribbean experience with a gay, festive, party atmosphere, this ain't your boat. Despite some disruptions and disappointments, we had a pleasant experience. I think I can best summarize my feelings about the trip with the following: Reflections on a 10-day Southern Caribbean Cruise: 1) A ten-day Caribbean cruise is 3 to 5 days too long. 2) Two consecutive sea days is two days too many. I don't limit this to S. Caribbean trips. However, I must concede that a sea day is often logistically necessary, and is preferable to a day of air travel. Unfortunately, the travel mode required just to get to the ship often negates the air travel day analogy. 3) Six S. Caribbean Islands are five too many. Although each island has its own unique qualities and characteristics, they are all too similar when visited for only one day. 4) The Caribbean experience is antithetical to the regimented and confining environment of a cruise ship. Conclusions: Instead of a cruise, spend four or five days at a select all-inclusive resort. Sandals, St. Lucia, would be a great choice. There'd be enough time to truly enjoy the island, become familiar with the surroundings, and experience a pampered, relaxed, laid back, Caribbean setting. This may be slightly more expensive than the cruise, but it sure takes care of 3 and 4 above. Or, if one must visit the S. Caribbean by ship, take a seven-day cruise out of San Juan, if the airfare isn't a deal breaker. This option takes care of 1 and 2 above, but still leaves 3 and 4 as dominant factors! Admittedly, I couldn't have realized these revelations if I hadn't taken the cruise. Experience is the best teacher, but it sure is a costly tutor! Note: if you deem the cruise ship a sought-after destination, then none of the immediately preceding comments apply. I use cruise ships as an alternative to hotels. A ship is sometimes more convenient, but it is certainly more confining, disciplined and cramped than any 3 or 4 star hotel. Finally, I will not attempt to deflect criticism by closing with an IMHO disclaimer. It's entirely evident that most of what we say is simply opinion. If you disagree with any of my observations, feel free to fire away. stevesan@earthlink.net 11/27/00 Read Less
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
This was my fourth cruise with HAL although only my second in recent years. The first two were in 1952 when I was 7 years old. Perhaps at least in part because I am Dutch by birth, I find I feel right "at home" in the HAL ... Read More
This was my fourth cruise with HAL although only my second in recent years. The first two were in 1952 when I was 7 years old. Perhaps at least in part because I am Dutch by birth, I find I feel right "at home" in the HAL ships. Most of the people I met were delightful. There was a small contingent that I would tag as "chronic complainers" and a few I would put in the category of "The Ugly American". It was generally fairly easy to avoid the latter group when they weren't too loud. The staff were very patient with these folks. Unfortunately there was an outbreak of a "Norwalk-like" virus aboard the ship. I felt that the captain kept us sufficiently informed without causing panic. The unofficial numbers I've seen indicate that there were approximately 50+ passengers and 10-11 crew members who became ill. Embarkation: I flew to Fort Lauderdale the day before the cruise and stayed at a hotel using HAL's Fly/Cruise plan. This worked out well and both embarkation and debarkation went very smoothly despite the crowds and the fact that our sail day was the busiest in the port's history. Dining: The Rotterdam dining room was very pleasant and the menu had a good selection each day. The staff serving our tables were professional, courteous and efficient -- and had a sense of humor. The first night one of the passengers at our table requested a cappucino with dessert and it was forgotten. Every night after that the cappucino seemed to magically appear along with the dessert menu. The Lido casual dining was very pleasant for breakfast and lunch. It became a little awkward when special procedures were implemented after the virus made it's appearance among passengers and crew since no self-service was allowed - even for salt and pepper shakers, coffee, etc. The food itself ranged from good to excellent, in my opinion. Public Rooms: There were a variety of public areas. I found that it wasn't hard to find places to interact with other people or to be alone to read quietly if I so wished. There were passengers of all ages and interests so I could generally tell by walking around where there were groups I would like to join. I especially liked the Crow's Nest in the front of the ship for a terrific view during the day and a comfortable chair for reading or chatting. Entertainment: Each day we received a newsletter with the schedule for the next day showing all activities. Each evening there was a show and a movie in addition to movies on the cabin TV. Although I tend to go to bed early, I did stay up for some shows and enjoyed them very much. Jeff McBride, the sleight-of-hand magician from Las Vegas was excellent and did a great job too with the children as well as entertaining the adults. Cabin: My outside E category cabin was pleasant. On my Alaska cruise I had a mini suite with Veranda and that is truly a lovely experience but I hadn't wanted to spend that much this time. I decided that with a regular cabin I just wouldn't be spending as much time in it. There was plenty of closet space. The tub was a little snug but workable. The hair dryer was a little underpowered and the handle got way too hot long before my hair was dry. The cabin steward was young but very pleasant and attentive. My bed was made and cabin cleaned by the time I finished breakfast. I've heard from frequent cruisers that these cabins are better than what they've had on other cruise ships. Fitness & Recreation: I had a massage and facial at the Ocean Spa. It was very pleasant but was not as good as I've had in some places. Shore Excursions: These are a nice chance to do something off the ship. The tour of Key West was interesting and enjoyable. In Cozumel I took the "Taste of Cozumel and Folkloric"; the show was very enjoyable. The tour showed us the lovely beaches of Cozumel and as I gather is fairly typical in the Caribbean, the vendors were legion. Our next stop was at Roatan, Honduras. We had been told that this was the first time a HAL ship had stopped here and that therefore they didn't know as much about it as they did about the other places we stopped. It turned out that Roatan is a very poor island as far as we saw and doesn't really seem to have much of an infrastructure to handle tourists. This didn't bother me in the sense that I think it's sometimes important to see how other cultures live even when it's disturbing. One of my dining table mates noted that in his previous travels he saw that some of the other Caribbean Islands like Cozumel had been like this some years ago. A number of passengers were angry about the shore excursion and demanded their money back. I felt they were being unreasonable. After the next 2 days at sea, we stopped at Half Moon Cay, HAL's own place. I had planned to go ashore -- it is a lovely sight -- but I was tired and decided to stay on board. Those who did go ashore said it was great. Value for Price: I feel it was a great value for the price, particularly because I booked about 5 weeks before the cruise at a good discount. If I add the costs of the flight, hotel in Fort Lauderdale and hotel at the airport near home because of a very early am flight, I don't know if I would consider the value for the price good *without* the discount. Overall Cruise: I loved it! I really need to "get away from it all" and totally succeeded. I would do it again in a heartbeat. Read Less
Sail Date December 2003
Traveled with six other people. It was our sixth cruise in as many years. Had previously been with Celebrity, Royal Caribbean, and Princess cruise lines. The Volendam was a complete disappointment. The food was poor to average. Not a ... Read More
Traveled with six other people. It was our sixth cruise in as many years. Had previously been with Celebrity, Royal Caribbean, and Princess cruise lines. The Volendam was a complete disappointment. The food was poor to average. Not a single meal could be called memorable in a positive manner. The entertainment was unimaginative. One night's entertainment consisted of a ventriloquist, another night was a pianist. The "special" Indonesian crew staff night was indescribable. Even the bingo board was broken for a day or two. For two days the ship smelled of raw sewage. The captain announced that they were having problems with the ship's waste management system. Toilet flushing was on again - off again. The seventh day out, all toilets on the sixth floor were out of use. Twice, I was grossly overcharged for purchases from on-board shops. Bought one watch - was charged for two. Bought three photographs - was charged for fourteen. However, the crew and staff were excellent. We all agreed that this would be our final cruise with Holland America. Had mixed feelings about the shore excursions. Swimming with the stingrays in Nassau was the highlight of the trip. However, swimming in the ocean on Dominica (where the sewage runs right into the ocean) was disgusting. Read Less
Sail Date January 2004
My wife and I had a marvelous time on a 10 day cruise on the Volendam. The stateroom was great. Larger than we expected. The service was top ranked. The long table food was varied and tasty. We have taken two previous cruises on two ... Read More
My wife and I had a marvelous time on a 10 day cruise on the Volendam. The stateroom was great. Larger than we expected. The service was top ranked. The long table food was varied and tasty. We have taken two previous cruises on two different lines. My wife says this was the best of the three. You expect quality when you travel. We were not disappointed. We never thought we would need medical help...but when we needed it...we got it. When we docked at Veracruz my wife, who has trouble breathing has a severe attack. She doubled over shortly after we left the ship. Within minutes paramedics arrived at the scene. Followed by members of the ship's crew and the ship's doctor and head nurse. My wife received oxygen and a wheel chair was brought up. She was fine after the oxygen. Thank God for the Mexican Authorities who didn't charge for their help. And Thank God for the HAL crew who reacted quickly and with concern. Read Less
Sail Date January 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
Volendam - Alaska Inside Passage Cruise May 19 - May 26, 2004 This was my 12th cruise to date - I've previously sailed on Celebrity, Holland America, Norwegian, Princess, and Royal Caribbean. This was my 3rd HAL sailing - ... Read More
Volendam - Alaska Inside Passage Cruise May 19 - May 26, 2004 This was my 12th cruise to date - I've previously sailed on Celebrity, Holland America, Norwegian, Princess, and Royal Caribbean. This was my 3rd HAL sailing - I've previously sailed a Vancouver to San Diego to Hawaii to San Diego 18 day journey on the Statendam in 2002, and a previous Alaska trip on the Volendam in July 2003. This was my 4th trip to Alaska in total, having sailed to Alaska previously on the Regal Princess, Celebrity Infinity, and the Volendam. Embarkation: I live in Vancouver (West End) about a 5 - 10 minute drive from Canada Place, and was dropped off there shortly after 12:00 noon. Although not required for the baggage handlers working at Canada Place, I believe it is good karma to ensure bags get onboard and to one's cabin promptly and safely by thanking them with a couple bucks per bag. There were already many people inside awaiting check-in in a long queue at this early time, even though the tickets state embarkation time is 2:00 p.m. The exception to the long line-up was for those of us who had filled out our "Immigration Questionnaire" forms online beforehand, and had a printed copy of said completed form ready. We were escorted to the front of another area and served immediately. I knew of this special priority from last year as well. I am surprised that so many folks had NOT done this in preparation, as it does tell them that as well in the Holland America "Know Before You Go" pamphlet. It might be a nice gesture for travel agents to do to help some of their clients who may not be "Cruise Critics" or computer literate. A quick glance at the form and my passport, and the pleasant check-in worker was off to get the room card. A passport check with U.S. Customs, and onto the ramp where the embarkation photos are being taken and the gangplank to the ship is right up ahead. Talk about a quick and easy procedure -- it's taken all of about 5 to 10 minutes from the time of luggage drop off to being onboard the ship. The staterooms are not yet ready this early, however one can drop off their carry on luggage and coats to store on the Lido deck 8, poolside for storage. Lots of ships facilities are already open to enjoy, such as the Ocean Spa for bookings, Pinnacle Grill at the Marco Polo Restaurant for reservations, Lido Pool Bar, Crow's Nest Bar, Ocean Bar, Java Cafe, Internet Cafe, Front Office, Shore Excursions Desk, not to mention the Lido Buffet and Lido Pool Grill for those of us who have already worked up an appetite. Having been to the Pinnacle on two other sailings and loved it, I make that my first stop to make reservations. I enquired and chose the night which was going to be "Dutch" night in the Rotterdam Dining Room, which turned out to be on the Saturday in Skagway. At around 1:30 p.m. the rooms were ready and it was announced that passengers could proceed to their cabins. There were the traditional white-gloved staff available to offer escort to those that wanted assistance. CABIN 7055 - Navigation Deck I easily found my own way to my cabin, being that it was very close to the one I'd had last year on the same ship (7045). I stayed on Navigation deck - Cabin A055 - a beautiful verandah suite, with plenty of room. Being that I was traveling single this trip, it seemed relatively huge in comparison to most cabins on ships. With the queen bed and the sofa bed, I'm sure 3 or maybe even 4 people could comfortably travel together. There is a lot of storage in the room - 9 drawers in desk, 2 drawers in each bedside table, several closets and loads of hangers. Some very nice touches and improvements in the room that I noticed since my last year's sailing were: Fabulous new and extremely comfortable mattresses, brand new linens, luxurious Made in Germany "Grohe" pulsating shower heads with various settings (along with good water pressure and temperature), new bathrobes, new ice buckets, a make-up mirror at the desk on a swivel arm for the ladies. The fresh flowers and fruit in the room are nice to have. I was very fortunate in that I had a young room steward named Yogi from the Philippines who was just superb the whole cruise. I just love having my morning coffee before I get around to shaving and showering and am ready to face the world. My room service breakfast deliveries were always delivered at the time requested and were always the exact items ordered. I forgot to bring the cable for my digital cameral to view on the Sony TV, which does have the video input cable plug-ins. There is also a VHS machine and one can borrow tapes from the front office if you so desire, a list of which is in the cabin. The muster drill was held at 4:15 to be completed before our sail-away at 5:00 p.m. We did set sail right at 5:00 p.m. as planned, and shortly after were sailing under the Lions Gate Bridge (First Narrows) on our way up the Inside Passage to Alaska. I had confirmed Main Upper dining (8:00 p.m.-Upper Dining Room), and had requested a large table. I was placed at Table #64, a table for 8, with a couple from Canada, a couple from England, and a 3 generation family of daughter, mother and grandmother from the U.S. They were all very nice people and all got along just great. There were many nights when some of us were absent due to excursions missing dinner altogether, being at Lido or Pinnacle Grill or the daughter who was pregnant and the grandmother were not feeling well enough to dine with the rest. It gave me a good chance to converse with all of them on separate occasions. Dress Codes for the various evenings as well as Entertainment in the Frans Hals Lounge were as follows: Wed 19th Depart Vancouver - Casual Dream Vacation & Barnaby - Intro to Crew & comedy juggler Thurs 20th Sea Day - Cruising - Formal Las Vegas Nights - Cast of Volendam singers and dancers Fri 21st Cruising Tracy Arm & Juneau - Casual Patrick Murray & Matilda "Chillin' Out Jamaica to Juneau Sat 22nd Skagway - Casual Steve Hites - Entertainer Sun 23rd Glacier Bay Cruising - Formal Showstoppers - Cast of the Volendam Mon 24th Ketchikan - Informal Paul Pappas - Pianist Extraordinaire Tues 25th Sea Day Inside Passage - Casual Copacabana - Cast of the Volendam Wed 26th - Disembark Vancouver Music & Dancing - Blue Fondue playing dance music in the Ocean Bar - Ron in the Piano Bar - Champagne Strings plays classics in Explorer's Lounge - Time After Time playing Contemporary Hits in Crow's Nest Movies in the Wajang - Intolerable Cruelty - Against the Ropes - Calendar Girl - Win a Date with Tad Hamilton - The Big Bounce - Along Came Polly - The Last Samurai The Cruise Director onboard currently is Douglas Dunnell, who I find to be very personable and an asset to the line. He was also the CD on the Statendam when we sailed her for 18 days in 2002 and he remembered me from then as well. All the cruise staff was very pleasant on this cruise. Not many announcements were made at all about activities and things .... i.e. ..... BINGO coming up........speaking of BINGO, I did play and was fortunate enough to win a game and take home $140 in winnings (or should I more honestly say go from the Frans Hals where I won it and walk up a floor to the Casino to make a deposit of said winnings LOL) The new scenic cruising of Tracy Arms and viewing the glaciers up there on the morning one goes to Juneau is just fantastic. It's very picturesque and you definitely want to be out on your verandah or on deck between the hours of 6:30 a.m. and about 11:00 a.m. to capture all the beauty around you. I'm so glad they added that to their itinerary this year, it does make this fabulous trip even that much more special. Juneau - We had a most spectacular day in Juneau arriving at around 2:00 p.m. The weather was gorgeous, not a cloud in the sky and temperature hovering around 72 degrees Fahrenheit (20 degrees Celsius). I booked all my shore excursions beforehand from home on the computer and the tickets for all were awaiting in my cabin when I boarded back in Vancouver. I find that easier than lining up at the excursion desk to order, and perhaps missing out on something you really want as it has filled prior to your arrival. I went on the Four Glacier Adventure by Helicopter which I'd done previously and enjoyed just as much the second time around. With visibility so good and temperatures so nice it was a fantastic day all around. Also docked with us in Juneau were the Dawn Princess and the Celebrity Mercury. Skagway -- It was yet another beautiful day with blue skies and temps around 70 F. (19C) and I took my favourite Alaskan excursion, the Glacier Point Wilderness Safari. This is an awesome 5 ½ hour adventure where one leaves Skagway on the "Chilcat Express" Catamaran, a high-speed boat that can travel at speeds of up to around 40 knots which can literally feel like you're flying on the surface of the water. The tour is about 45 min by boat to a point of land on the beach where the Catamaran lets you off, then a bus ride up to camp, hike to a river and then canoe up to Davidson Glacier. The air is ever so fresh as you're canoeing up the river and while at the foot of the glacier. You pass all the "calved" ice in the lake and the "corking" where the ice has broken off from underneath the water. It's hard to imagine that that ice you see above the water only represents about 10% - 20% of the actual amount of ice.....the rest is underwater. Being so close to nature in the canoe is really something exhilarating to experience. On the way over to Glacier Point from Skagway we came upon a huge pod of transient Orca Whales (Killer Whales) who were swimming around almost playfully. The Captain of the catamaran turned the boat right off and we were all able to go outside and capture fabulous pictures of these beautiful creatures in their habitat. The show seemed to go on and on......they were in no hurry to get away from the boat and even came up quite close. Also on our excursion we came across a seal chasing and catching some fish, a humpback whale, some eagles, and a whole gang of stellar sea lions "beached" up on the rocks. Also docked at Skagway was Celebrity Mercury. Pinnacle Grill - After that superb excursion of the Glacier Point Wilderness Safari, I had yet another fantastic experience to encounter that same day. I knew from previous experience that both the food and the service in the Pinnacle Grill were excellent. This current occasion certainly not only met but even surpassed my expectations. The menu is spectacular, as any who have dined there can attest to. To make me salivate all over again, I'll record the decadent meal I consumed with such pleasure that night --- - Dungeness Crab Cakes - Gerard & Dominique's Smoked Pleasures (Black Cod, Salmon, & Scallops with Wasabi Cream) - Bone-In Rib Eye Steak w/Classic BEarnaise Sauce - Grilled Asparagus w/BEarnaise Sauce - SautEed Button Mushrooms - Warm Grand Marnier Chocolate Volcano Cake C'Est Magnifique !!! Glacier Bay - Unbelievable, yet another day of spectacular weather. Here we are in May with many folks prepared for cold weather and we're enjoying gorgeous sunny skies. I believe it was 68 F. the day we were there. Not too many hot toddies being sold on deck this cruise that's for sure, some people are in shorts and others in the swimming pool! A beautiful day spent in Glacier Bay. First we sailed up John Hopkins Inlet to John Hopkins Glacier. A brown bear was spotted along the way. Then sailed up the Tarr Inlet to the end of the bay where the Grand Pacific and the Margerie Glacier meet. The Margerie Glacier is the spectacular one which has all the calving activity. We spent quite some time admiring its beauty and taking photos and listening to the calving. On this particular sailing the Captain tended to keep the ship with the Port side viewing the Glacier for whatever reason. It was only as we were leaving that those of us with starboard side cabins would be able to view from balcony. That said, it's nicer to view from onboard the various decks at any rate. The nice thing on the Volendam (and other HAL ships) is that you can actually go right out on deck in the very front of the ship to view. There are not many permits over the season and HAL is one of very few to have ships allowed in the area. Many other lines itineraries cannot come in here at all. Most of the others from my dining table were going to Pinnacle Grill this night (I'd been the night before) so I thought rather than going formal to an almost empty table of 8, I'd have dinner in the Lido instead. I'd never tried dinner in the Lido and was really pleasantly surprised. The food in the Lido was actually very good the whole cruise for lunches and the service excellent as well. Ketchikan: Now the weather has turned more like Alaska and we are into some slight showers today. The thing to remember however is that this is a rain forest and that's what keeps the area so beautiful. The excursion I took here was the Magnificent Misty Fjords by Floatplane. This was a great excursion as well and the day a perfect one to see the actual mist and some snow on the very upper peaks as it is still May. We landed in a lake (I can't remember the name, each pilot does a different landing, and goes to a slightly different area) and spent 10 or so minutes by a waterfall in a very serene area. We all (10 pax per plane) got to go out and stand on the pontoon and feel the water. Some of the less adventurous stayed in the floatplane to admire the beauty from the inside. Tonight is informal night, my don't these collars on my shirts seem to shrink a lot when I cruise -- it seems they get tighter and tighter each trip .... Do you think I can ask the dry cleaners to move those collar buttons again??? The Island Princess and the Norwegian Spirit were also docked with us in Ketchikan. After Ketchikan a final sea day cruising the Inside Passage on the way back to Vancouver. In my package for packing for final day I receive luggage tag blue and #38 as my disembarkation call #. Being that I'm independent guest without HAL transfers, who resides in Vancouver, there is no hurry to disembark. They have to ensure all the passengers heading to YVR and to SEA are offloaded first. On the final morning the ship sailed under the Lions Gate bridge at 6:30 a.m., docking at Canada Place at around 7:00 a.m. and was cleared by Customs and the disembarkation started shortly after 8:00 a.m. On other lines one has to be out of their stateroom by a certain time and congregate in specified areas to awaiting their call. HAL has a great policy which allows people to stay in their own stateroom until their disembarkation number is called. This worked out wonderfully for me, as I was amongst the very last ones called to disembark at 10:00 a.m. The crew, food, entertainment, excursions, passengers, ship and destination all combined to make this a superb cruise all around - one of, if not THE best I've sailed - definitely a "thumbs up", 10 out of 10! DM 28/5/04 Read Less
Sail Date May 2004
Best for people who want: A laidback, relaxed environment with not to many children around, midsized ship, excellent service, impeccable dEcor and a small splash of fun! Age group: 40+ First impressions: When I first arrived in Canada ... Read More
Best for people who want: A laidback, relaxed environment with not to many children around, midsized ship, excellent service, impeccable dEcor and a small splash of fun! Age group: 40+ First impressions: When I first arrived in Canada place, Vancouver I was taken by surprise. The minute you unload your luggage you are finished any work for the remainder of the seven days of luxury and fine dining. They load your luggage on a trolley and you do not see it again until you enter your cabin (which might I add were superb). Embarkation was smooth and swift; there was a short line to go through the metal detectors(seemed long but was not at all) you then enter a short yet time consuming line to receive your ship identification card. At this line, you must present your immigration questionnaire (I strongly suggest you fill this out on the HAL sight otherwise, you will be moved to a very, very long line). You then go through us customs (you must have photo I.D. even if you are under the age of 16, I was almost denied boarding). With a quick snap of a camera and a scan of your card, you walk along the metal gangway that leads to an awaiting seven days of perfect relaxation. Dining: Dining was excellent! Every night there was a new selection of delicacies to choose from in the Rotterdam dining room (1 of 3 dining areas). People said the food was a little normal but I strongly disagree. The Marco Polo restaurant was another restaurant you go to. I, personally did not go to this particular restaurant, mainly because of the 20$ USD surcharge but my aunt and uncle went to it and the said it was excellent! The lido restaurant was a buffet, but that did not mean there was no quality, the food was superb here and the buffet was at least 40ft long! Any meal could be enjoyed here. Also a poolside bar had salads, tacos, hamburgers, chicken burgers, hotdogs and pizza. Cabins: The cabins are the largest around and the nicest I have ever seen (from photos that is). I was in a inside K category room (room #2563, Main deck). The two lower twin size beds could be pushed together (though the room seemed bigger if they were not pushed together), there was a bed that came out of the ceiling that the steward pulled down (my cabin steward was Joko, All cabin stewards are Indonesian) there was also a couch that the cushion flipped over to make a bed. The bathrooms had a shower, sink, blow dryer and very noisy toilet (it scared my mom every time she flushed it!). Read Less
Sail Date July 2004
When I first arrived in Canada place, Vancouver I was taken by surprise. The minute you unload your luggage you are finished any work for the remainder of the seven days of luxury and fine dining. They load your luggage on a trolley and ... Read More
When I first arrived in Canada place, Vancouver I was taken by surprise. The minute you unload your luggage you are finished any work for the remainder of the seven days of luxury and fine dining. They load your luggage on a trolley and you do not see it again until you enter your cabin (which might I add were superb). Embarkation was smooth and swift; there was a short line to go through the metal detectors(seemed long but was not at all) you then enter a short yet time consuming line to receive your ship identification card. At this line, you must present your immigration questionnaire (I strongly suggest you fill this out on the HAL sight otherwise, you will be moved to a very, very long line). You then go through us customs (you must have photo I.D. even if you are under the age of 16, I was almost denied boarding). With a quick snap of a camera and a scan of your card, you walk along the metal gangway that leads to an awaiting seven days of perfect relaxation. Dining: Dining was excellent! Every night there was a new selection of delicacies to choose from in the Rotterdam dining room (1 of 3 dining areas). People said the food was a little normal but I strongly disagree. The Marco Polo restaurant was another restaurant you go to. I, personally did not go to this particular restaurant, mainly because of the 20$ USD surcharge but my aunt and uncle went to it and the said it was excellent! The Lido restaurant was a buffet, but that did not mean there was no quality, the food was superb here and the buffet was at least 40ft long! Any meal could be enjoyed here. Also a poolside bar had salads, tacos, hamburgers, chicken burgers, hot dogs and pizza. Cabins: The cabins are the largest around and the nicest I have ever seen (from photos that is). I was in a inside K category room (room #2563, Main deck). The two lower twin size beds could be pushed together (though the room seemed bigger if they were not pushed together), there was a bed that came out of the ceiling that the steward pulled down, there was also a couch that the cushion flipped over to make a bed. The bathrooms had a shower, sink, blow dryer and very noisy toilet (it scared my mom every time she flushed it!). Read Less
Sail Date July 2004
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
This was my third cruise with HAL. My first cruise was on the Rotterdam, my second cruise was on the Westerdam. Both these cruises were their last or second to last cruise prior to them being sold. Both of my first 2 cruises left fantastic ... Read More
This was my third cruise with HAL. My first cruise was on the Rotterdam, my second cruise was on the Westerdam. Both these cruises were their last or second to last cruise prior to them being sold. Both of my first 2 cruises left fantastic memories of things beyond my expectations. The service, the food, the generousity on these ships was unparalleled. I have never eaten more or been pampered more in all my life. Everything was spotless (for 2 very old ships) and more than abundantly stocked, both in food and supplies. The staff aboard these ships could not do enough for you and the cabin boys seemed invisible but all the cleaning was done (as if by magic). Then came the Volendam! This ship is only 4 years old, yet the carpet in many parts of the ship showed signs of major staining and wear. On embarcation, the lower elevator was all smashed up, in the main dining room (the Rotterdam dining room)the windows were so filmed over obscuring your view. The white drapes in our DELUXE VERANDA SUITE had a yellow (as if pee'd) on stain along with black marks. The jacuzzi tub in out room didn't work for 2 days and had to be fixed. The toilet leaked throughout our cruise. The Lido restaurant regulary ran out of certain food items that were not replaced in the middle of meal times. The desert Extravagansa was a farce, the food sculptures were not freshly made (as was on my other cruises), in fact they were displayed broken or visably damaged. The amount of deserts available was what you'd expect from a small bakery (not a cruise ship) and no where near compairing to my previous experiences. On more than one occasion the cabin boy walked into our room unannounced in the mornings. When we did order room service (for breakfast), we were asked to place our dirty dishes in the hallway for pickup, this on more than one occasion took 4-6 hours for them to be collected. The "BIG" bottle of shampoo (2oz) and lotion (2oz) supplied by HAL were to last the two of us seven days, and would NOT be replaced if you used them up early. The automatically included 10% tipping was added to your onboard account and if you chose to adjust this amount down for any reason (like BAD service) made the staff quite annoyed and short with you. I also found that 15% mandatory tip on all beverages consumed unnessesary (whether served to your or self serve) except coffee, tea or iced tea. On our cruise, we had a person get ill on our way to view Tracy Arm so the captain decided to omit this part of our cruise and headed prematurely to Juneau 7 hours early leaving us in the town of Juneau from 7am til 11pm with all stores and the casino/games shut down onboard (nothing was given or done for the passengers to make up for this). I found the front desk less than approachable. If your an espresso(latte, mocha) person, tough. With only 1 attended machine onboard (not 24 hour)you always had lineups, not to mention weak espressos'. The questionnaires submitted to Holland America with contact phone numbers did no good and drew no responses. Is it my immagination or has the Volendam been taken over secretly by some ECONO-Cruiseline using the HAL name??!! Maybe this ship should be renamed the McVolendam... Read Less
Sail Date July 2004
We arrived early for embarkation and there were a great many people already waiting to get on line for registration. As is the case on most cruises some passengers refuse to complete forms until they are on line to register. We completed ... Read More
We arrived early for embarkation and there were a great many people already waiting to get on line for registration. As is the case on most cruises some passengers refuse to complete forms until they are on line to register. We completed the online immigration form which we thought would speed the registration process. This was not the case. The HAL people did not seem to know what to do with the information on their computers. Three couples were processed with the paper forms on our right while my HAL agent was still playing with the record. Once processed and heading for boarding we are handed another form with no pens. This required use to go back into the registration room to complete the form. No one at HAL could explain why the form was not included in our ticket package. When we arrived on board the cabins were not ready and we headed for the Lido for lunch. On the Lido deck we were able to check our carry on bag. After lunch the cabins were ready and we were taken to our cabin. The cabin was clean and was what we expected from HAL. I should add the bed was great. The best I have had on any ship. The cabin steward was very good. The two problems with the room were the toilet did not flush all the time. It seemed to have a will of its own. Other passengers had the same problem as did many of the public bathrooms. The shower hot water was rare. The front desk could not get the problem fixed. The ship has had and continues to have a plumbing problem which needs to be addressed. Meals on the Lido were good. The staff at the Lido are of real help and seem to care. I wish I could say the same about the dinning rooms. Dinner was OK and service was very good. However breakfast and lunch service were the worst I have experienced. Often plates were cold rather than hot and we were not served what was ordered with items missing from our plates. Food overall is fair to good for a cruise ship. The menu needs work as does the staff. The shows were fair -- not up to what I experienced on other HAL cruises. Tours were OK but expensive. I would suggest making your own arrangements once on shore if you know how to deal with people and reach a equitable deal for all. The casino people were the best I have experienced on any cruise line. They seem to really care and want to help. The gratuity policy could not be explained by anyone on the ship. Who gets what is impossible to determine. This seems to be the direction of most cruise lines. Unless passengers object we will have to suffer a poor policy which seems to provide funds for the owners and reduced income for the crew. The new policy of disembarkation is excellent. You can now stay in your cabin until your number is called rather than waiting in the common area. Overall the cruise service, food and shows were not up to my experience on other HAL cruises and I would not book the Volendam at any price. Read Less
Sail Date October 2004
This was our first HA cruise. Have tried Carnival and Royal Caribbean in the past. We expected the "white glove" service advertised by HAL. Embarkation went smoothly for us, but we didn't arrive at the port until about 2pm. ... Read More
This was our first HA cruise. Have tried Carnival and Royal Caribbean in the past. We expected the "white glove" service advertised by HAL. Embarkation went smoothly for us, but we didn't arrive at the port until about 2pm. Check in was much slower than usual, we were told, due to a new computer system. Passengers arriving earlier stood in very long lines; perhaps it's better to come on board after 1 and have a smooth check in rather than try to rush the process to get onto the ship and find long lines! Anyhow, we were greeted by a wonderfully polite gentleman with white gloves who escorted us to our cabin. We then went to the Lido for a quick bite and then, naturally, the muster was held. We left the port with light rain but a smooth embarkation. That evening, however, the seas were quite rough and unpacking was a challenge. We were bounced around in our cabin quite dramatically. Skipped dinner due to upset tummies and went to the Lido around 7:15 for a bite - found out the Lido closes PROMPTLY at 7:30 - no ifs, ands or buts. The line closes and the curtains are pulled. Dinner was fine. The next morning we docked at Nassau and had a few hours (too few to do much) in the sun. Then we left for the rest of the trip. Our stop in Tortola ended up being a wonderful experience for us - but the ship tours were canceled due to rain. We were lucky to have booked the tour independently and had a lovely catamaran/snorkel afternoon. Got back on the ship in a rain storm that had everyone in a sour mood. During our ten days we had horrible weather - it was sunny only a day or so. We had a LONG day in St. Thomas (perhaps to shop, shop, and shop?) but the day in Dominica was about 6 hours (and threatening skies). All excursions were canceled in Barbados due to weather and we were unable to go to HMC due to gale force winds and high seas. During this weather we wondered if there were stabilizers on the ship. We have never been bounced around as much as on the Volendam. There were "barf bags" placed at all elevators. You couldn't go out onto the veranda or you'd get a salt shower. The upper decks were so windy that you felt you would be blown off. The aft pool was splashing all around on the deck. The sun would come out for a bit, and then the rain clouds threatened again. You can't change the weather, but this made life on the ship more evident. There was very little to do. There was no music played on outer decks. Nothing near the pools. During the breaks of sun, the decks were cramped with people trying to capture a ray or two - no music. Just people laying around. Movies were played in the Wajang Theatre, but there were two a day. Not bad choices, but who really wants to spend four hours a day inside in a theater? At least there was popcorn - a VERY SMALL BAG - but fresh. The casinos were full - and full of smoke. With allergies, we had to avoid the area completely. However, one of our members won over $4000 during her cruise! We heard of a number of winners playing the slots, so if that's your bag, go for it! There was a daily happy hour with 2 for 1 drinks at the Dolphin Pool and our CC group, which started out at 14 and GREW, met there daily. It was between 4 and 5 daily. Thought they should extend happy hour to accommodate people, but that never happened. Your choices of entertainment were very slim and not too appealing. Team trivia for 45 minutes a day, but not daily Bingo. Spa offerings - where they tried to sell you products. The kitchen tour was extremely popular and crowded. Shopping was not as plentiful as RC; small shops and extremely understaffed. I stood in line at the counter for nearly 15 minutes to buy a tube of lipstick. Our cabin steward was a disappointment. Being in a mini-suite, we expected good service. In fact, we gave our steward a $50 additional tip on the second day for service expected and only asked that he keep our ice bucket full. Not only didn't he do that on a regular basis, but he NEVER changed the sheets in 10 days! There was a blood stain on the side of the bed for the entire time. The wallpaper in our cabin looked as though something was thrown against it - lord only knows what. The bathroom had mold in the shower. There was a black film in the toilet bowl, which he said was the "water" but looked like filth. We washed down a lot of the cabin ourselves. The counter and small table were NEVER wiped down. The crew washed down the balconies while we were in Tortola and there was an awful cleaning solution left on the rug at the door. It actually burned my bare foot. We moved the rug under the chaise lounge and every day the steward moved it back - but didn't take care of the cabin. We felt as though he took the money and ran. We left the auto tips in place. The people in the Lido were extremely stingy with some of their food. I never had a problem, but I don't eat ice cream. They serve the ice cream with what looks like a cookie scoop - and don't ask for more than two or you'll get a dirty look. One very small older lady wanted a scoop of tuna and a scoop of chicken salad for lunch one day and I saw the fellow use a TEASPOON. When she asked for more, like Oliver in the movie, he was obviously unhappy. If fish was offered in the line, you were given a very small "taste" rather than a full portion. If you wanted bacon in the morning, you were given two small strips. For some people, that wasn't enough. Ice tea was available, but when it ran out, it was gone. Too bad. I never once saw the lemonade being served on deck as they advertise. We're in our 40's and our group ranged from 40 to 65 - and the majority of us were BORED. There wasn't enough offered. The evening entertainment was short and the majority of the nights it was the "Volendam cast". These kids sang and danced their hearts out, but it was definitely an amateur hour. The comedian was the spouse of the cruise director, Dottie. An excellent Australian singer performed one night-the highlight - and then we had a juggler and a pianist. Televisions in the room played four movies daily, intermittently. TNT was offered but the satellite was out too much to watch anything. CNN was the international version - we never had any US news except Powell's resignation the second to last day - and we were heading back home. "Motown" was offered in the Crows nest one night - and consisted of 30 minutes of music! The highlight was the Rosario Strings trio who played nightly in the Explorer's lounge to a packed house. Thought they should have played in the theater to the entire ship - but then HA wouldn't have any drink revenue coming in. All of the lounges had decent entertainment early in the evening - but NOTHING during the day! And with three days in port canceled, people were ON THE SHIP. When HMC was canceled, Dottie added a movie - some old flick from the 60's or 70's I think - and a talk with her for 30 minutes; perhaps another trivia game. WOW! We all stayed in our cabins, being thrown around due to the list of the ship - and packed. The restaurant service was the best we've ever had on land or sea. We were seated at table 74, a table for two near the railing on the upper level. We had a waiter, Andi, assistant waiter Max and our head waiter Jusuf. These three gentlemen made us feel as though we were the only people on the ship. The food presentation was fantastic and the offerings were delicious. We couldn't have been happier with the restaurant. Ate at the Pinnacle one evening and it's everything that people say - fantastic food and service. Well worth the $20/pp fee and CASH tip. Remember that - you need to tip in cash. No one tells you that and some people were caught off guard and had to go back to their cabins for money as it's a cashless environment - but we had heard this before on the boards and were prepared. It was a wonderful evening. All in all, the trip could have been a true disappointment with the weather and lack of activities, dirty room, etc., were it not for the fantastic Cruise Critic group we had on board. We stared out with 14 people and it grew from there. We even had a group picture taken the last formal night and it will serve as a wonderful momento of friendships made. My dear husband and I feel grateful for the friendships developed on this ship. We met at 2pm on the second day at the Dolphin Bar and we all clicked - what a wonderful experience! We still enjoy cruising, but after this trip we're not too eager to book with HA again. Read Less
Sail Date November 2004
What a Christmas!!!! What a Cruise!!!! We sailed away on December 16 from chilly Florida and prepared for a Caribbean Christmas....warm temperatures (80-85) and poinsettias growing wild. Embarkation was super.......15 minutes from ... Read More
What a Christmas!!!! What a Cruise!!!! We sailed away on December 16 from chilly Florida and prepared for a Caribbean Christmas....warm temperatures (80-85) and poinsettias growing wild. Embarkation was super.......15 minutes from check-in to the Lido Deck for a delicious lunch topped off with my favorite HAL treat...carrot cake. We were greeted by the crew all wearing red Christmas hats and the HAL smile. The carry-on luggage check point was a nice thought. We could eat and not have to drag the carry-on with us. Our cabin (a mini-suite) was ready when we were finished eating and so our luggage was there as well. Our cabin steward, Ridwan, greeted us and introduced himself welcoming us to "his" domain. The cabin was spacious and typical of HAL, there was PLENTY of storage (drawers and removable hangers). There were nine drawers in the vanity alone and we didn't even use the hangers we had brought from home. The ship's layout is another plus...Our cabin was near the rear elevators and just a flight of stairs to our dining room (balcony) and very convenient to the Lido deck as well. There were Christmas trees everywhere you looked....including a multi-story one in the atrium. Someone had counted 16 but I think she missed a few. There were wreaths on every cabin door which looked great with the big, red bow I hung on ours. The extra-plush bed with 250 ct sheets and padded mattress was really special. That is an extra with HAL's suites and it is a real plus. Fresh fruit and flowers also makes you feel pampered. There was a special Christmas concert performed by the crew which was excellent and showed the hard work they had put into it...in addition to the Filipino Crew show which is always delightful. There were Christmas carols played live in the dining room as well as the recorded Christmas music played elsewhere. Our special Christmas dinner included something I had never had before.......Plum pudding...it was delicious. In fact, all the food was tasty and well presented. The beef was fork tender and had great flavor. HAL needs to remove the paella from their menus ....it really was bad...mine is sooo much better ....the rice was way too sticky.. (On the Rotterdam, they served it with white rice.......paella has saffron rice.) But that was only one entree out of many wonderful ones...including the Acorn Squash and Apple soup which was really good. Our waiter and assistant, Soruto and Afandi, were both sweethearts giving excellent, prompt service. We were also joined one evening by one of the officers, John, chief electrician, from Boston (England)....The eight of us really enjoyed meeting him and each other.....we lucked out with terrific table mates. The only other negative is the smokey casino....it is not large enough to offer non-smoking areas and while the vast majority of people there were non-smokers, it only takes a few to pollute. Most of the smokers were as considerate as they could be. The ports were interesting and diverse. The tours that we took were informative and picturesque. The walks from the ship to transportation/tours seem to get longer with each port......and only St. Maarten offered a golf cart ride for a dollar from the shopping plaza to the ship's gangway. Hopefully, someone will get the idea and offer a shuttle at all the ports for those of us who find long walks a challenge. We had heard a lot of negatives about the Volendam but our cruise was really delightful.....but if you already have one planned, relax and be prepared for a great cruise..you will be pampered and well fed from beginning to end. If I have missed any areas, let me know. Read Less
Sail Date December 2004
Volendam 1/15 - 1/24 2005 Day minus One -- Leave The Arctic Cold of Michigan! My cruise partner (best friend Joan) and I set off for Ft. Lauderdale on Friday, January 14. My ever patient boyfriend Joe (also know as the Melancholy ... Read More
Volendam 1/15 - 1/24 2005 Day minus One -- Leave The Arctic Cold of Michigan! My cruise partner (best friend Joan) and I set off for Ft. Lauderdale on Friday, January 14. My ever patient boyfriend Joe (also know as the Melancholy Italian) was enlisted to drive us to the airport. He was also enlisted to stay at my house while I was gone and baby-sit my flock of cats. He may be melancholy, but he knows how to earn those ever elusive boyfriend points. I had been having trouble with my car, so Joan met me at my house and we dropped my car at the dealership on the way. Joe picked us up there as previously arranged, and we loaded enough luggage for 8 people into his car and set off for Detroit Metro Airport in a frenzy of anticipation. However, when we got to the airport, things started to go downhill. As we pulled up in front of the terminal, I detected a huge flurry of activity in the back seat. Joan was frantically pulling things out of bags and purses and starting to hyperventilate. When I nervously enquired as to what was wrong, she admitted she couldn't find her cruise documents and passport! The MI, ever patient, pulled to the side and we all tore the back seat apart, looking for the documents. Not there. I began deep yoga breathing, and we got out our cell phones. Joan called the dealership, and had them go search my car -- not there. Then she called her brother, and had him go to my house and look in the window of her car to see if he could see the documents. Nothing. Then I called Holland America to find out what our options were. They couldn't have been nicer or more helpful, and promised to reissue the cruise documents at the pier. All we had to do was get Joan's birth certificate and we were still good to go. Joan called her sister-in-law and had her go search her house for the birth certificate. In the meantime, Joe let us off with all our luggage and promised to pick up the birth certificate and Fed-Ex it to us at our hotel in Ft. Lauderdale. As he drove away, he said he would have given a million dollars to have a photo of our faces. NOT an auspicious way to begin such an anticipated trip! We got checked in with no problems, and went to the gate to wait for our flight. Actually we went to the bar and each had double gin and tonics to sooth our frazzled nerves. However, as we walked past the gate, we noticed our flight was delayed about an hour. Sigh. Another glitch. As we sat in the bar sipping our drinks and eating nachos, my phone rang. The Sainted MI had taken Joan's keys and given her car a good search when he got back to my house. There, hidden under the folded up sunshade, he found the Sacred Missing Documents! When he heard our flight was delayed, he leapt back into his car and thundered back to the airport, documents in hand! He made it in plenty of time (miraculously without a ticket) and Joan raced out to the front of the terminal to retrieve them. He then drove happily away, very glad to have us off his hands. The trip was saved!!!! After that, everything went smoothly. We had a nice flight to Ft. Lauderdale, and took a cab to our hotel ($13 with tip). We were at the Marriott Marina, which we won on Priceline for the amazing price of $80/night. We paid much more in the past for hotels not nearly as nice. It was our first Priceline experience, and we were 100% satisfied. Upon arriving, we headed immediately for the restaurant where we had a great dinner. Then we stumbled exhausted to bed, SO relived to be in the right state with the right paperwork. Day One -- Departure Day! The next morning we ordered room service (we deserved it after the previous day) and loaded back up to head to the ship about 10:30 a.m. To our amazement, the Marriott offered a free shuttle to the pier (we saw no mention of this at the Marriott website), and we caught it to the Volendam with just one other couple, Ken and Bonnie from Boston. We were at the pier in about 10 minutes, and on board no more than 20 minutes later. I think we waited in line behind just 5 people before we were checked in and issued our room cards. We then walked directly onto the ship -- no waiting around in groups by number! Once on board, we headed directly to the Lido for lunch. That first lunch in the Lido set the tone for all the rest of the meals we enjoyed there -- excellent food, great service (always a waiter to carry our tray to a table) and rarely any lines. Joan had a hot entrEe for lunch while I had a delicious grilled sandwich. We both had the broccoli soup, which was outstanding. All the soups we tried, in both the Lido and dining room were amazing. We had only been seated for a moment when a waiter came by to take our drink orders. We clinked glasses and gave a toast to FINALLY being back on a ship! After eating, we snuck down to the 6th floor to see if we could find our cabin. Thanks to our wonderful room steward Yemin (who we had yet to meet), it was ready and immaculate. No dust bunnies, no leftover underwear from other passengers or dirty glasses for us! We dropped off our carry on bags and headed out to explore the rest of the ship. The Volendam is the smallest ship we have cruised so far. We had cabin 6130, a mini-suite on the Verandah deck and found that by going only two floors up or down we could be wherever we wanted to be on the ship. We loved the layout and had no problems easily finding our way around. Because the spa and fitness center are VERY important to our enjoyment of a cruise, we headed there first. Actually, the fitness center is only important to me, since Joan follows a strict "no exercise" policy, but she willingly accompanied me to check it out. It is beautiful, with lots of treadmills and stationary bikes, free weights and weight machines and a large carpeted area for group classes. They offered Pilates, Yogilates, Yoga and Fit Ball classes for $11 each, or unlimited for $69 for the whole cruise. They also had some free classes, Stretch and Relax, Stretch and Trim Tummy. I signed up for the unlimited pass, and noted the time for Yoga on the Beach for our day at Half Moon Cay. Both Joan and I wanted to have massages on the beach then, and I didn't want to miss yoga (I'm in yoga teacher training and an avid student). That chore completed, we headed back to the spa. We both signed up for Hot Stone Massages for $130 for the following day in Nassau, since we had already decided not to get off the ship. Regular price is $143 for 50 minutes, the $130 price is the port day price. We also selected massages on the beach for Half Moon Cay at $99. Our cabin was located directly beneath the spa, a very fortuitous location indeed! Next, off to the Pinnacle to confirm our reservations. It is absolutely beautiful, quite elegant and serene. Everything was in order so we headed to check with the Maitre d' to see if we could change our dinner seating. We requested the 8:00 seating, but had been given the 8:30 instead. Since in my normal, non-cruising life I get up at 5:00 a.m. and am normally in bed by 9:00, an 8:30 dinner lacked appeal. After a short wait, we were allowed to seat ourselves in front of this Very Important Gentleman. However, when we expressed our desire to change our seating, he pooh-poohed our request. "Oh no ladies!" he admonished. "I have you seated at the special singles table! Very nice, you do not want to change!" Chastened, we slunk away, feeling very ungrateful. We then headed for the front desk to turn in our $50 each room credit we received from our travel agent. We also signed up for the unlimited pressing for the whole cruise for $30. They also offered unlimited laundry for the cruise for $70, but as we had enough clothes for at least 3 weeks, we decided to do the $12 bag of laundry as needed instead. With all our chores complete, we wandered the ship for a while longer exploring the various lounges and other areas. We ended up a the Crow's Nest and ordered our second drink of the day from a lovely waitress named Lady. One excellent Long Island Ice Tea later, we heard the announcement that we could (legally) proceed to our staterooms. We headed down and in the elevator lobby saw several room stewards starting to deliver luggage. One of them asked us our room number and then introduced himself as our steward, Yemin. He said he had just delivered 3 of our 4 suitcases to our room, so we headed down the hall to unpack. We were delighted with the storage available in our room. There were 2 separate closets for long dresses and one more with hangers for short items and shelves. There were 9 drawers in the dresser and two bedside chests with one drawer each. We were able to unpack (our last bag arrived shortly after we got to our room) and stow everything (including enough shoes to open an outlet store) with a minimum of trouble. The bathroom included a tiny but deep Jacuzzi tub, a sink with counter, a mirrored (both sides -- useful for seeing the back of your hair) medicine chest with 3 shelves and a long shelf under the sink for additional storage. There was an old style hair dryer mounted on the wall in the bathroom and a much nicer one in a drawer in the dresser. The dresser top had a lovely metal ice bucket (filled, of course, with ice), glasses, an awesome make-up mirror and a rack for holding papers and information booklets. There was a TV with remote and two curtains, one between the hall into the room and the room itself and one between the sleeping area and the couch (that folded out into a bed). There was a small round stool for the dresser and a small table that you could raise and lower in front of the couch. The verandah was a serviceable size with two chairs, one upright and one lounge, and a small round table. The door swung open onto the verandah, and unlike our balcony door last year on the Zuiderdam, it locked into place when fully open. There was a bowl of fresh fruit (apples, a banana and an orange) and a tiny vase of flowers on the dresser. All in all, a very nice and serviceable sized room; not as large as our SS suite on the Zuiderdam, but much better than the regular veranda room we had 3 years ago on the Celebrity Millennium. Muster passed uneventfully and we finally shoved off at about 5:30 instead of 5, due to about 180 late arriving passengers. Our dinner reservations in the Pinnacle were for 7:30, so we tricked up a bit and flounced down to dinner at about 7:25. The meal was fabulous, with excellent service. Joan had the clam chowder, filet and baked potato, while I had the salad with blue cheese, planked halibut with bEarnaise sauce and 2 king crab legs and asparagus. For dessert, I had the chocolate volcano, and it was perfectly prepared, hot and melty on the inside with some lovely orange infused whipped cream. Joan, feeling rebellious, went against our waitress's recommendation for the volcano and chose the cherries jubilee. Note to self: listen to the waitress. The jubilee was only fair, and she was sick with jealousy over my volcano. The only glitch in the service was with the wine steward, who was too busy with a full house and never got back around to us to see if we wanted seconds or an after dinner drink. We tipped the waitstaff for the excellent service, and waddled back up to bed. We never attend the shows, but the first night's entertainment was the Music and Comedy of Mike Robinson & the Volendam Singers and Dancers in Dream Vacation. Colin James played piano in the Piano bar, the Moonlight Strings were in the Explorer's Lounge and the Tritones were up in the Crow's Nest. There was a Single's mixer in the Crow's Nest at 11:30, but we figured we would meet the best of the singles at our "special" table at dinner the next night so we went to sleep. The new pillow top beds and luxury sheets were divine, and we slept like babies. Day Two -- Nassau Seas were a bit high on the trip to Nassau, but thanks to the wonders of Bonine there were no problems with seasickness in our cabin. We woke up to a cloudy and cool day, similar to the weather we left behind in Florida. Had room service for breakfast, on time and accurate. The eggs could have been better, they were slightly overcooked. Very strong coffee. We adored the bathrobes, they are very soft and warm, nicer than the ones offered in the spa area. Neither Joan nor I are very impressed with Nassau. I made the obligatory trip to Atlantis last December with the MI, and although it was beautiful, I have no need to go back. Instead, we both indulged in Hot Stone Massages with Kari in the spa. I consider myself a massage expert, and this was without a doubt the best massage of my life. She worked out deep knots in my shoulders (placed there from years of computer work) and gave me the lofty title of "Tightest Shoulders I Have Ever Seen in My Career." I was so proud. Joan was equally impressed with her massage (she was booked directly after me). We both directed Kari to just work on our upper bodies, and were thrilled with the results. The obligatory product sales pitch wasn't too bad, and we each purchased one item. I had my first Yogilates class with one other brave soul. When the teacher asked about our previous yoga experience, I said I practice 6 days a week, and Gary said he was a yoga virgin. No matter, Yvonne gave a nice, basic intro to yoga and Pilates class and we both enjoyed it. Our room was cleaned perfectly by Yemin. I was on the balcony when he buzzed the buzzer to see if I minded if he cleaned, and of course I didn't. We went to the Lido for lunch, and enjoyed the wonderful soups again. After lunch, we played Bingo and didn't win a thing, but did discover an excellent new drink, the Grapefruit Cosmopolitan. Bingo was $20 for 4 sheets of 3 cards each, or $10 for 4 sheets of one card each. They were trying to show the football playoff games in a couple of the lounges, but kept losing the signal. We saw one poor fellow waiting, hoping against hope that the game would come on. There was a nice array of snacks available, but the game refused to materialize. His wife came up and pleaded with him, but he was resolute -- he wanted to stick it out. Then the game flashed up on the screen for about 30 seconds before disappearing again, and his wife gave up. She knew that flash of hope would keep him there the rest of the afternoon, and she was right. We then tried to attend tea in the Explorer's Lounge, but there was not a seat to be had. Obviously the crowd (mostly seniors) enjoyed this event, and there was a bottom in every seat that didn't budge until the last drop of tea was drained, and the last pastry and tiny sandwich consumed. We huffed back to our room very disappointed. We decided to detour to the 7th floor and hunt up the famed Neptune Lounge, sacred space of suite occupants. It wasn't marked on the Volendam map we received, but we soon located it by the aura of wealth and privilege that it exuded down the hall. It looked lovely, very serene and well stocked with comfortable chairs, TVs, munchies and manned by a sharp-eyed attendant who could tell at a glance that we were interlopers. We sighed and said "Maybe someday!" That evening was the first of 2 formal nights. We dressed up in long gowns and dangerously high heels and tottered down to the dining room to meet our fellow singles. That was a bit of a letdown, since the youngest of the bunch wasn't going to see 60 again, and the oldest was on the far side of 80. However, they were a charming and well-traveled group, and we had a lovely dinner. Dieter, a debonair college professor from Chicago, gave a hilarious account of the singles mixer the previous night. Apparently everyone there except him was either on oxygen or in a wheelchair! The whole cruise was definitely an older crowd; the hallways were lined with folded wheelchairs and the average passenger age had to be 65 at least. We didn't mind, in our mind seniors are MUCH preferred to children! They served filet for dinner, which of course Joan the Carnivore devoured. I had the pasta, which was delicious and just the right amount. I had noticed on the boards that some people complained the portion sizes were small, but I thought they were perfect, and you could always order more. I had the chocolate soufflE for dessert which was divine, and Joan had the hot fudge sundae, which was only OK. We couldn't find the photographers to have formal pictures taken, so we took pictures of ourselves all over the ship. We then retired to our room to watch videos on our VCR (Friends and Sex and the City). We were glad to have brought them, as the TV reception was still poor due to the weather and the channels were limited. Still very high seas, but we slept like babies once again. Day 3 -- Sea Day We rocked and rolled all night due to the aforementioned high seas. After breakfast in the Lido, (we found the eggs much better in the Lido than from room service), I headed to the fitness center for my Yogilates on the Ball class. It was fun in rolling around the room on the giant fit balls. It was a beautiful sunny day, so we headed to the aft pool to enjoy it. The main pool was covered and was very hot and humid, besides being quite wet due to all the water sloshing about. Lounge chairs were hard to find at the aft pool, so we ended up at a table with 4 upright chairs. They offer nice towels and good drink service in both pool areas, and you could really notice the ship moving up and down by looking off the aft horizon. Thank heavens for Bonine! We did spot the famous lemonade, but the waiter ran out just before he reached our table, so we didn't get a chance to see if it was as good as reported. Lunch in the Lido was just OK, we weren't overwhelmed with the day's choices (lamb shanks, tilapia, wiener schnitzel, chipped beef). I stuck with the sandwich counter, and that was fine. They had excellent ice cream offerings every day, all afternoon long, with both regular and waffle cones available. The cookies were also outstanding. We then hurried down for the wine tasting in the Pinnacle, but were very disappointed when only 6 people showed up and they cancelled the tasting. It was only $7.50, so we couldn't understand why more folks didn't show. To console ourselves, we went to high tea in the dining room, and it was fabulous. We asked for a table for 2, and had delicious tea with milk or lemon, pastries and lovely little sandwiches. After tea, we wandered to the casino to lose a little money. I left Joan at the Roulette table and headed to the Internet cafe to send a couple of e-mails to friends and the MI. Then Joan and I met back up and headed to the Ocean bar for $4.75 martinis. We had the excellent service we experienced everywhere on the ship, and watched the sun set into the Atlantic (and saw the green flash - NOT from the martinis!). After that busy day, we ordered room service for dinner. We called down to housekeeping and our beloved Yemin came early to turn down our beds and change our towels. Room service was great and served in two courses, appetizers and soups first, and entrees and desert later. We ordered off the dining room menu and had another great meal. Then to bed for another good night's sleep. Day 4 -- St. Thomas This was Immigration morning and it was the smoothest we've ever been through. NO long lines, and we didn't have to report until almost 8:30. We had breakfast in the Lido then headed back to our room to prepare for our day ashore. We were anchored in the harbor, as 3 huge ships were hogging the docks (Princess, Royal Caribbean and Carnival). We planned to take the ferry to St. John's and luckily our ship tender docked right next to the Charlotte Amalie ferry, so we got to skip the cab ride to Red Hook. The 45 minute ferry ride cost $7. Once there, we took a cab to Trunk Bay for $4. Trunk Bay is beautiful but IMHO not really any nicer than Maegan's bay on St. Thomas, and was a lot more trouble to get to. They did have a nice little changing/rest room area and a place to get snacks. We grabbed a little lunch (hot dogs $3.50, $1.25 pop, $2.00 bottled water, $1.00 chips) and headed down to the beach. It was crowded but clean. By this time, we had only about an hour and a half before we needed to head back, so we tried to soak up as much sun as possible. I walked up and down the beach, about a mile in each direction. When we were ready to go, we easily found a cab back to the ferry. Lucky for us, we caught the 2:15 ferry back because the next one to Charlotte Amalie wasn't until 3:45 and the last tender to the ship was at 4:30. We got back onboard the Volendam about 3:30, and just caught the tail end of afternoon tea in the Explorer's Lounge. Due to so many people going ashore, we were able to get a seat this time, and it was just what we needed after a tough day of sunning and ferrying around. The ship left St. Thomas a little late due to late passengers tendering back. We went to the Lido for dinner, and ran into Beverly and Mike from the Cruise Critic boards! She guessed it was us from the description I gave on the boards, and was lovely and personable. The dinner menu was the same as in the dining room, double baked potato and black bean soup, red snapper (dry), and Thai spring rolls (v. good). The sea had settled down now that we were in the Caribbean, and we slept the sleep of the innocent (almost). Day 5 -- Dominica I woke up early to see the north part of Dominica (Dom-in-EEK-ah) sliding past our veranda. Such a beautiful island, very mountainous and completely covered with lush green foliage. We docked at Roseau at about 8:00, and went to the Lido for breakfast and one of us went to the gym for aerobics. We had signed up for a the Rain Forest and Emerald Pool tour, so we met in the Fran Haus Theater to get our marching orders. We met a Chuck and Marie from Connecticut who were very nice and lots of fun, and made sure we got on the same van for our tour. Our group was fairly large, and we had about 6 vans of 10 people each in our caravan. Dominica is the most beautiful island I've seen yet. It was so green and so beautiful, and not spoiled by huge hotels and T-shirt shops. Our guide, Andrea, was fabulous, and very proud of her beautiful homeland. The tour itself was fantastic. We drove up into the mountains (gorgeous views) and into the rainforest to see the Emerald Pool. It was about a 10 minute walk over a slightly rocky and uneven path; it could have been slippery if the path was wet. Luckily for us we had a rare, perfectly sunny and dry day. The rain forest gets up to 400 inches of rain a year, so a dry day is a treat. We saw lots of glorious foliage, wild orchids and beautiful rivers and waterfalls. But the waterfall into the Emerald Pool was the best, and the pool itself was huge and very beautiful. You could clamber over the rocks into the icy cold water if you wanted, Joan waded in to her knees, and Chuck plunged in like a dolphin. After a few minutes of frolicking, we headed back up the path, (more difficult on the return. Folks with limited mobility might want to reconsider this particular tour). We hopped back into the vans and headed to an old hotel where we had some VERY strong rum punch and watched some native dancing. Then we headed back up the mountains for a stop at a scenic view overlooking Roseau and the beautiful Volendam docked below. A few vendors had set up some stands at the stop, and we got some amazing buys on Dominican pure vanilla essence ($4.00 for a bottle that would cost at least 8 times that at home, since it was essence and not extract) and Dominican soap (3 bars for $3.00). They also had Dominican hot sauce ($2.00 a bottle), handmade baskets for $5 and some other trinkets. We made one more stop to see the two kinds of Dominican parrots (found nowhere else in the world) then headed back down the mountain and returned to the ship. We strongly recommend taking a tour of Dominica, it's an amazing island and the people are friendly and welcome tourism. Currently only Carnival and HAL stop there, so go before it gets overrun and crowded like the other cruise ports. When we got back on the ship, we checked the menu for dinner and were not impressed. We stopped at the Pinnacle to see if we could get reservations, and were lucky enough to find an opening at 8:00. I had the shrimp scampi this time, and Joan growled her way through another filet. We BOTH had the volcano cake, and it was perfect once again. We ordered Sambuca for an after dinner drink, but it arrived without the customary 3 coffee beans floating in it. When we mentioned this to our waiter, he disappeared and was back in a moment with 3 beans for each of us, which he carefully floated on the surface. As the MI is Sicilian, I knew that any true Italian would consider it the worst of luck to drink Sambuca without the coffee beans, so this gesture was greatly appreciated. It was just another example of why dinner in the Pinnacle is worth every penny of the $20 fee! Day 6 -- Barbados I woke up in time to watch us dock in Bridgetown, Barbados at about 8:00 the next morning. There were 3 other ships already there, but the port is large so we didn't have to tender. We had another tour booked, this time the Plantation Great Houses and Orchid Farm. There was a shuttle from the ship to the tour bus, this time a huge Greyhound type, very comfortable and air-conditioned. Barbados couldn't be more different from Dominica. It's much flatter and MUCH more settled and affluent. We saw huge homes, expensive shops and even more expensive vehicles as we headed inland for our tour. The plantation houses were lovely; the first was occupied by the great great grandson of the original owner, and allowed tours through the first floor only, as they still lived in the home. The floors, paneling and ceilings were made of Brazilian mahogany, and all the rooms had wonderful two tiered shutters to let in the cool breezes. The grounds were spectacular, and the owner himself conducted the tour. We had another glass of strong rum punch and got back on the bus for the Orchid Farm. We have never seen, or even knew existed, so many kinds of beautiful orchids. Some grew in the ground, some in pots and the most amazing grew in the air alone, strung up on wires above the ground. We had a brief warm shower, obviously a common occurrence as the farm had a rack of umbrellas for you to borrow. They had a nice, if a little pricey, gift shop and snack bar available. I can't recommend this stop enough -- it was fantastic! Then back on the bus for one more plantation house, this one unoccupied but fully furnished with exquisite antiques and examples of clothing from the 18th Century. The walls were 2 feet thick to protect it from the hurricanes, and also had the lovely 2 part shutters. After yet another glass of punch, we got back on the bus and some of us asked to be let off in town to do a little shopping. The prices were reasonable ($1 US = $2 Bajan), but the shops were nothing special. We did find some whole nutmeg in the cruise terminal after a short cab ride back from downtown ($5 US). That night was barbecue night on the Lido where we had great ribs, steak, chicken, sausages and all-you-could-drink pina coladas in real coconut shells. Sides were baked potatoes, cold slaw, baked beans and Caesar salad, and a Caribbean band played while we ate. Awesome! Day 7 -- Sea Day We slept in, and then headed for the Lido for breakfast. I had a Pilates on the Ball class in the gym, then headed back to the room to watch one of the 2 movies that were shown on the TV each day (Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban that morning). We went to the dining room for lunch and enjoyed it, although it was packed and the service was very slow. I got the wrong entrEe, but they corrected it without a fuss, and the dessert was awesome. Our veranda had sun, so we tanned a bit, even sacrificing high tea. I checked my e-mail and came back full of news. The MI had a kitty escape, but luckily the slippery one came back after scaring him half to death. He said he was about to call me on the ship -- what did he think I would have done? It was the second formal night, so we rejoined our tablemates at the singles table. We headed down early determined to find the photographers, and we did, taking several shots with different backgrounds (we do love pictures of ourselves). Joan and I both had just 2 lobster tails instead of surf and turf, which was no problem at all. We enjoyed visiting with our tablemates since we had all done different things over the past couple of days. Then back upstairs to bed for us -- while our "senior" companions drifted off to other activities. Joan informed me that I will make a great senior, but I told her I was too dull, the real seniors were much more active! Day 8 -- Sea Day I had booked a second hot stone massage for 8:00 that morning since I enjoyed the first one so much. Because it was the first appointment of the day, I got the port day price of $130 instead of $143. Kari didn't try and sell me a thing, and the massage was as good as the first one. We had breakfast in the Lido, and I was already feeling sad about returning home to instant oatmeal and no one to cut my grapefruit into perfect little sections for me. We got dressed up a bit and headed down for the Mariner's reception -- 900 of the 1400 people on board were Mariners! That really does say something for HAL. They were serving white wine, champagne, Bloody Mary's and juice; along with great hot snacks and mixed nuts. Dottie, the cruise director, and the Captain made speeches, and awards were given to members. 2 people on the ship had more than 700 days on HAL, and Joan and I felt very small with only 16. We had a nice lunch in the Lido with HUGE portions of pasta -- too much for me. The waiter was worried I didn't like it, but it was enough for at least 3 people. We enjoyed more of the wonderful ice cream and great cookies for dessert -- I knew I hadn't done nearly enough yoga to counteract their effects. We waddled back to our balcony for some sun. At 3:30, famished, we went to the dining room for high tea, and at 4 I headed to the gym for Yoga, while Joan headed to the casino for roulette. We rejoined our single friends for dinner -- crab legs that night, beautifully cracked and served with drawn butter. Then back to our room and another restful night. Day 9 -- Half Moon Cay (NOT!!) I woke up to watch the beautiful island of Half Moon Cay coming into sight off our balcony. We both raced up to the Lido for breakfast and ran into both Beverly and Mike and Chuck and Marie doing the same. It was a beautiful sunny day and the white sands of HMC were gleaming at us out the window. The first tenders, containing the photographers, massage girls and other workers were lowered to the sea. We could see that the seas were very rough as the tenders bobbed around like corks and the waves were crashing off the rocks near the pier. Our Captain seemed to be having a bit of trouble finding a spot to anchor as we kept swinging around and maneuvering into different positions. We were starting to get a little nervous, so we headed back to our room to start the upsetting task of packing up as a distraction. The Captain made periodic announcements about his concerns about anchoring, and finally, about 10:00, he admitted that we would not be able to anchor safely and our stop was cancelled. We were SO disappointed, especially since we could still see those beautiful beaches gleaming in the sun from our balcony. However, Joan quickly sprang into action and changed her massage on the beach back to the spa. We do believe in making lemonade from lemons whenever possible. We could see how rough it really was, though, as the crew worked for at least an hour trying to get the tenders back onto the ship. In fact, a crewmember fell overboard trying to reboard, but was safely rescued. In spite of the fact that the Captain promised to refund our port charges for the day and open some champagne for dinner, we were desolate. All day, we stared sadly out the window at other beautiful beaches of the out islands sliding past our veranda. We slowly did most of our packing and then gloomily went to the Lido for lunch then to the photo shop to purchase a few photos of ourselves. One of the photographers was still seasick from her jaunt on the tender, so we realized the Captain really had made the right decision. We had a final high tea in the dining room, and revisited a few of our favorite places on the ship. We had reservations at the Pinnacle for dinner, so we dressed and headed down at 7. It was another lovely meal, although tinged with sadness since we knew it was the last one (at least on this trip). We then headed back to our room to finish packing and get our VERY heavy suitcases in the hall for disembarking the next day. Day 10 -- Disembark (v. sad) We woke up about 7:30 and sadly took our last showers and finished our last little bit of packing. Then we headed up to the Lido for breakfast and were devastated to find out that it closed at 8:00 that morning! (it was then about 8:15). We were able to get a little coffee, which we sipped in the pool area. We headed back to our room to wait until our number was called -- a really nice feature. By turning on the radio to station 5, we could hear all the announcements while relaxing just a bit more in our lovely room. When we were called, we headed down to the gangplank, quickly found our luggage and were through customs in about 10 minutes. Then we caught a cab with absolutely no trouble and were soon at the airport. Ft. Lauderdale airport was MOBBED and we saw lots of frantic people who were going to miss their flights due to the long lines to check in. We were on Spirit, and the check in was very strange. You waited in a LONG line outside for your boarding pass, then waited in another LONG line inside to drop off your luggage, then in ANOTHER long line to clear security. Also strange was the fact that there are almost no restaurants or shops inside the security gate at the Spirit terminal. Our only choice for food was a Nathan's Hot Dog stand, which entailed yet another long line. We sadly ate our hot dogs while waiting for our flight, glad we had sensibly booked a 12:30 p.m. flight so were in no danger of missing it. We boarded right on time and uneventfully made our way home, where the MI was patiently waiting to ferry us back. It was a WONDERFUL trip on the Volendam and we couldn't recommend it more highly to anyone considering this ship! Odds and Ends Tipping: In spite of the $10/day added to your shipboard account, we usually tipped wherever we went. We gave drink waiters $1-2 per order, tipped at the Pinnacle and gave our wonderful room steward an extra $20 halfway through the cruise and another $20 at the end. He was worth every penny, as was everyone else we tipped. The Pinnacle: I think it is also worth every penny of the extra $20 charge (only $10 if you go the first night). I do wish the menu changed during the cruise, but we still managed to eat there 3 times and loved it. The Staff: We didn't feel the staff was less friendly than we had noticed in the past. Everywhere we went we were greeted with smiles and hellos. They were all busy, but always polite and seemed to be happy to be there. We had excellent service in every single area of the ship. I could even hear our wonderful room steward Yemin singing as he cleaned our neighbor's balcony one day. The Volendam itself: Still a beautiful ship. We noticed a few tiny signs of wear and tear (a rip on our sofa that was sewn up, a crack in the frame of the TV) but nothing that detracted from her beauty. She was clean, clean, clean and someone was always working to make her even cleaner. There were hand sanitizers available in all restaurants, and as you left and re-entered the ship. The restrooms were always clean and well maintained. We noticed no foul odors and never had any problems with our toilets flushing or with our water pressure. Our veranda was washed clean of salt every day, and we never lacked for anything. That's our story, and we're sticking to it. I kept all the daily newsletters and flyers we received, so if anyone has any specific questions please don't hesitate to e-mail me. I know this is very long, but I gained so much great info reading other reviews that I wanted to give as much information as I could back to other cruisers. To quote our cruise gurus, Tom and Mary Milano: May your next cruise be your best! Read Less
Sail Date January 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
It was a thoroughly enjoyable cruise but embarkation at Vancouver was a nightmare as we had to queue for three hours as two ships were being taken on board. Even people whom had been off the ship for an excursion and promised a fast track ... Read More
It was a thoroughly enjoyable cruise but embarkation at Vancouver was a nightmare as we had to queue for three hours as two ships were being taken on board. Even people whom had been off the ship for an excursion and promised a fast track lane were queuing with new arrivals much to their disgust. This was one of the only negative sides though. The cabins were very clean and the staff looked after them excellently. The food in the main restaurant was delicious and compliments to the chef for the mixture of magic flavours. The soft music played by the quartet in the background added to the delight of the experience. Would always advise to ask to be seated on a large table as the company of our new friends we made added to the enjoyment. The bar staff were always on hand to get you a drink and everywhere was very clean and well presented. We even had complimentary popcorn in the movie theatre! The shows were average the most enjoyable being when the Filipino staff staged their own. Contrary to one of your previous critiques we found the Dessert Extravaganza wonderful. There must have been about 150 sweets all looking extremely delicious and the design of the ice sculptures and decorations added to the experience and we have photos to prove it. One of the chefs actually displayed by the pool his craft of ice sculpturing and others the art of vegetable decoration which was interesting. Sailing through the Tracy Arm was unbelievable and as we are given to understand that Holland America is one of the only cruises to go through there it is well worth it. The naturalists that came on board gave a continual and interesting talk on the area and any wildlife and were also available to talk to in the Crow's Nest bar. We came home with 300 photos between us and did not know which way to turn for photo opportunities. One excursion we can thoroughly recommend is the trip on the Yukon Railway in Skagway. We took the Ultimate trip which takes you on the coach up and train back. We stopped off for lunch at a delightful place called Caribou Crossing where we had a barbecue lunch and visited the small visitors centre they have built there. We were surprised that the weather was so good and even when the sun was out you could sit on deck with a cosy blanket over you supplied by the cruise liner. Probably for us the only down side was the buffet area as there was often a long queue and the food was not as good as we expected but the solution to this was to eat in the main restaurant for all meals which could not be faulted. Food was never a problem as it could be found somewhere 24 hours a day!! By the end of the cruise your helpings gradually decline due to ones clothes not fitting but we were amazed to see people eating the midnight buffet after a six course dinner! Where do they put it all! Some were even taking a large plate of chocolate cookies to bed with them. This cruise is tremendous as the scenery is breathtaking and you really do go back to nature as so much of it is inaccessible. Probably one of the highlights of my life. Read Less
Sail Date May 2005
This was our first cruise on HAL. Our check-in was okay, except for filling out the same boarding forms in the terminal that I previously filled out online. The terminal agent could pull them up on her computer screen, but said she ... Read More
This was our first cruise on HAL. Our check-in was okay, except for filling out the same boarding forms in the terminal that I previously filled out online. The terminal agent could pull them up on her computer screen, but said she couldn't print them out. Other than that our boarding was uneventful and our luggage was at our stateroom when we arrived. We found the stateroom to be very nice. We had more room than on Celebrity's Mercury with the same category. Lots of closet space and the whirlpool tub was a special treat. The Mercury did not have a tub. The dining room service and food were excellent. The portions were smaller than Celebrity's, but that was a plus in our minds. We also liked the idea of having nightly substitutions available, such as sirloin steak, in lieu of the offered entrees. I opted for the sirloin steak on the last night just to try it out and found it to be very good and cooked as I ordered. The buffet was very good every day as was the hamburger, pizza, and taco venues. Since this was a coastal trip, the weather was variable between sunny and light rain. We enjoyed having the movable cover over the Lido pool which was adjusted according to the weather conditions. While we did not attend any of the onboard entertainment, we just enjoyed the laid-back feeling of the ship. Our first port was Astoria, Oregon. It was raining, but we had prepared ourselves with raincoats and rain pants which proved to be invaluable. The local townspeople were very helpful in directing us to transportation to the downtown area, which looks as though they are trying to develop into a tourist area. The best spot we found was Lindbergh's Danish Bakery which had great pastry and really great prices. We walked back to the ship, approximately a mile or so, along a pleasant waterfront walkway. Astoria does have a weekend tram, but we found the walk very nice even in the rain. Our second stop was Victoria, Canada. We had bought a Butchart Garden and winery tour, but the night before arriving in Victoria, the ship's tour officer called to say the tour had been canceled and would we want to go on another tour. We had made previous appointments onboard the ship, so all the other tours we considered interfered with those appointments. A reason was not given for the cancellation. We took a bus to Victoria's inner harbor which was very nice. We walked around some shops and through the Empress Hotel. Upon our return to the ship, my fiancee (Vicki) went to the ship's spa for an "exotic" manicure which was to include a neck and shoulder massage. Vicki was extremely disappointed and quite upset at the results. The manicurist ripped and tore at her nailbed (didn't bother to soften the cuticle), which was quite painful and left Vicki's cuticles sore, jagged, and very unattractive. Thank God for Neosporin which she began applying immediately once she was back in our stateroom. Vicki had received a manicure in Sacramento just four days prior; the amateurish manicure given on board the ship left her nails in far worse shape. In addition, the neck and shoulder massage was extremely disappointing. The entire experience was far from relaxing or beneficial. In order to avoid this experience, Vicki recommends that you check credentials and inquire about experience. All in all, we had a nice, albeit short, cruise. HAL is in our plans for a possible October cruise to the Eastern Caribbean. Read Less
Sail Date May 2005
Volendam Ratings
Category Editor Member
Cabins 3.5 4.0
Dining 4.0 4.0
Entertainment 3.5 3.5
Public Rooms 4.0 4.2
Fitness Recreation 4.5 3.8
Family 3.5 3.8
Shore Excursion 4.0 3.5
Enrichment 5.0 3.5
Service 5.0 4.3
Value For Money 4.0 3.8
Rates 4.0 3.9

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