587 Holland America Volendam Cruise Reviews

Sometimes it is the little things that make a voyage remarkable. We arrived in Vancouver to a beautiful sunny and warm day. I had forgotten how green and beautiful Vancouver can be at this time of the year. We were met by a very friendly ... Read More
Sometimes it is the little things that make a voyage remarkable. We arrived in Vancouver to a beautiful sunny and warm day. I had forgotten how green and beautiful Vancouver can be at this time of the year. We were met by a very friendly Holland America representative who helped us find our luggage, answered all our questions and provided great company. As part of our booking we received transport to the hotel and was surprised to have received a cab ride compliments of HAL. We were expecting a bus. Not having to worry about transportation was great. We were very pleased with our accommodations at the Pan Pacific hotel. Our room was ready early for us and we were able to check in at 10:30 am. After a quick sanitizing of our room we felt comfortable to settle in for the day. The next morning our suitcases were picked up in our room and taken to the ship. Another nice extra. We tried to tip the porter, but he refused our tip stating that everything was taken care of. Another nice extra. Checking in on the ship took a little longer than expected. We were in a line for about 45 mins and then waiting another 15 mins to board. We headed straight to our cabin and found it to be in a great state. While sanitizing the cabin, we found some damage on the desk and found the refrigerator was soiled and contained an opened bottle of water. A quick call to concierge and the fridge was emptied and cleaned for us. Sail away from Vancouver was late. We were supposed to have sailed away at 5, but didn't get underway until 5:55 pm. We went top deck to sail under the Lion's Gate bridge. A quick trip to the Lido for dinner. The Prime Rib roast was delicious. The hilight of Day 2 has got to be dinner at The Pinnacle Grill. This evening was formal night and we usually skip it. We decided instead to take in the PG and it was excellent. Crab legs were available but no cavair. The food and service was the absolute best. We were warmly welcomed and our server Diane was gracious, professional, friendly and made the evening. The food was excellent with my only complaint being we ate too much. I should also point out that the Dive In was not on this cruise. Before we leave Day 2, we had lunch in the main dining room. Let me just state that we are not fans of the MDR, but lunch today was great. The food was hot, tasted great and the servers were somewhat attentive. We weren't offered tea or coffee at all, but we weren't in the mood for any either. We had planned to go to the Dutch Tea but decided not too. Just too much food. We will be trying the MDR more on this cruise. So far we are also very pleased with our Steward Doni. Very friendly and approachable and we appreciate his hard work. He has been with HAL for 10 years and it shows. Doni takes great pride in his work. Day 3 was Juneau. We had wonderful weather and a great whale watching tour. The folks on the excursion were wonderful. Tonight we decided to try the MDR for dinner. It was below expectations. My DW's Caesar salad had hardly any dressing on it whatsover, the steak was a little undercooked and her veggies were cold. The seafood platter that I had was salty. I had the pork for an entree and it was good, however, my potato was cold also. When our server brought us coffee, he didn't bring any spoons so we had to wait until dessert was served before we could try our coffee. We were surprised by this service as we arrived at 7:00 and there were plenty of empty tables in the dining room. Day 4 was Skagway and what a wonderful day. The sun was shining and the temperature hit 17 Celsius. A great day for exploring the down town and for the white Pass train ride. The train ride was a wonderful experience and I highly recommend it. Day 4 was also a Lido day. Partially because the MDR is not living up to a great experience and also because we are now at the part of every cruise where nothing looks especially great on the menu. Tonight we took in the Volendam Singers who performed the first performance of Classique. We enjoyed the show and thought that they did a wonderful job. Day 5 and Glacier Bay. The sun was shining, the water was like glass and the views were outstanding. Clearly the highlight of our cruise. You truly owe it to yourself to visit this majestic land. Our second formal night. On a side note, we are noticing that more and more passengers are choosing the Lido over the MDR. We went to the MDR for lunch and it was excellent. Service was good and the food tasted great. I had Asian Pork Ribs which were tender and served in a tangy sauce. DW had the burger and it was great also. It would appear from our unscientific experience that the MDR is a great place for lunch. For dinner, we ordered room service with items from the MDR. We enjoyed the surf and turf on our balcony while we cruised. It was wonderful. The food was excellent and enjoying it on our balcony made it a very special evening for us. Tonight's show was comedian Rich Purpura. We really enjoyed him. During a time when many comedians resort to vulgarity and expletives to be funny, it is always refreshing to find a comedian who is funny without being insulting or rude. A note on the ship. The Volendam appears to be in great shape. I haven't heard any complaints about the plumbing or air conditioning. It does appear though that the air conditioning is disabled while the ship is in port. Her decor is a tad dark and we find our suite to be dark also. I am a little disappointed though that the " flower ship " does not have a lot of flowers throughout the ship. There are only a scattering of orchids in the Lido and most of them are in a sad state. There are a couple of large floral displays in throughout, but I was expecting more. The floral arrangement in the Pinnacle Grill is outstanding. Day 6 and Ketchikan. We decided to try the MDR for breakfast. DW ordered waffles and I ordered Eggs Royale. Both meals were cold. Butter did not melt on the waffles and the eggs Royale were cold in the centre. On the plus side, the hash browns were hot. We have decided that we will not be going back to the MDR for breakfast or dinner anymore. I am always concerned about the health issues of eating food that is not served at the correct temperature. We also find that the service is lacking in the MDR. Waiters rarely approach your table to inquire whether everything is to your liking and instead sometimes ask at the end of your meal whether you enjoyed it. I simply cannot understand how room service can deliver a meal piping hot while the MDR cannot. Today was spent exploring Ketchikan and shopping. Lunch was at Burger Queen and their halibut sand which is the best. Just turn left once off the ship and walk until you come to the tunnel. The takeout is right at the end of tunnel. Last day. The last full day of our cruise was cruising the inside passage. As Alaskan cruise is different from other cruises in that there is nearly always beautiful scenery to watch all around the ship. Lunch today was in The Pinnacle Grill and it was delicious. The food was tasty and hot and the service impeccable. Lots of passengers out shopping today and enjoying the casino. We had dinner tonight in the Lido and it was disappointing. There was only one poor lady serving the hot line and many of the items were not available. Tonight's entertainment was the show Droom. It was really enjoyable. The costumes were amazing and the dance moves were wonderful. The scenes with the butterflies were amazing. All in all, a most wonderful and enjoyable cruise. Sun and clear skies for the entire trip and a great experience aboard the Volendam. Read Less
Sail Date April 2014
Second time cruising with HAL. Had previously been on the Oosterdam to New Zealand and this time was introducing my father to cruising as he has long been a critic and swore he would never go on a large ship. We had two days in Hong Kong ... Read More
Second time cruising with HAL. Had previously been on the Oosterdam to New Zealand and this time was introducing my father to cruising as he has long been a critic and swore he would never go on a large ship. We had two days in Hong Kong prior to departure and it was busy in town as was Chinese new year. Embarkation went smoothly after a fairly long walk through the shopping centre. It was quite amusing as the route that you had to take traversed a number of floors and corridors of a busy shopping centre and HAL had placed staff at each point to direct you. There was an orderly system in place using numbers and drinks available. Seemed to be a large number of Australians on board but also considerable Americans and Canadians. We were very happy with the size and amenities of our Oceanview stateroom. To be honest it was larger than our room in Hong Kong. Beds were comfortable, plenty of storage space and a nice lounge. I had read extensive reviews about the Volendam and was slightly apprehensive about the conditions on board. I needn't have worried. I can't comprehend how previous reviewers have described this ship as old and run down. My father is extremely discerning and not once did he find something to complain about. There were so many nooks and crannies to explore and the artwork was great to look at. We became regulars on the Lido poolside for the sail-away music sessions and also loved the Explorations café and library. Crows nest chairs were extremely comfortable and one of my only gripes was that you couldn't get coffee service up there (the bar staff there told me to go down to the Lido and bring up my own cup of coffee and we saw a few people doing this. I recall on the Oosterdam the café was next to the Crows nest so this wasn't a problem. We loved the Lido restaurant and the regular Philippine and Indonesian themed nights. Food was of an extremely high standard in all restaurants and only negative was the night my father had rack of lamb when it was served very rare. My father didn't send it back but the server was aghast that he hadn't eaten it. We loved the formal nights and the final night international night. Activities onboard were many and varied. I did the Asian beer tasting and found it excellent (as was the beer). The entertainment was varied and of a pretty good standard. The comedian from South Africa was excellent (can't recall his name), we went most nights and would generally sit up the back as my father would want to leave after a few songs/minutes. The one exception was the 'amore' performance on the second last night. He loves his music and both the male and female lead vocals were exceptional and the performers had obviously put in a lot of practice and thought. We loved it so much we almost went back for the 10pm act. Service was of a high standard and I really take my hat off to the long suffering front office staff who had to endure the ridiculous questions and downright rude people. I had the misfortune to lose my credit card in Hong Kong so had to spend some time at reception sorting out a cash deposit and got to see the staff in action. They all deserve medals. My favourite was a man who came across to complain that the tour desk had refused to book him on a tour (which was booked out), "I don't care if it's booked out-I want you to book me on the tour right &^*%$ now '. The team handled it well. Our room attendants were both very discreet and always seemed to be able to sneak in and do the room when we were away. The briefings by 'Ian' on what to expect in each new port were exceptional and spot on. His photos of each port and what to do were insightful, knowledgeable and amusing. We did the Halong Bay cruise and the transfer to Saigon from Phu My. In Laem Chabang we took a privately arranged tour for just the two of us (Thailand Attractions with Jo- thoroughly recommend it). We went to the Bridge on the River Kwai and the Thai Burma Death Railway cemeteries and Hellfire Pass and museum. Was a 3am departure from the ship (and we still got served in the lido at 2.30am) but well worth it as Hellfire pass was humbling. Coming back to the ship on time was a nightmare as it was a 4 hour drive and it was raining and traffic was heavy. We returned to the Volendam with 20 minutes to spare. Loved all the ports and especially Sianhookville. So undeveloped it was hard to find commercial souvenirs. We walked a few blocks away from the markets and found the most amazing little cafes and bars. Saigon was also excellent and if you are doing this cruise certainly look at the HAL transfer option as it gives you the freedom to wander at your own pace around Saigon. All in all we loved the cruise on the Volendam and it converted my father (he's already planning his next cruise). I would cruise on this ship again. Disembarkation was smooth Read Less
Sail Date February 2014
we are first time cruisers with Holland America. was interesting to be on a smaller ship, only problem with smaller ships is when sea is rough you feel the movement of the ship more. The ship was well maintained, but found that crew would ... Read More
we are first time cruisers with Holland America. was interesting to be on a smaller ship, only problem with smaller ships is when sea is rough you feel the movement of the ship more. The ship was well maintained, but found that crew would be cleaning the decks either early evening or in morning just before breakfast, so decks were wet, especially aft deck near Lido restaurant. Food was very good, we ate most of our evening meals in the Rotterdam restaurant, service was very good. it was lovely that all the ladies received a red rose in the dining room on Valentines Day....nice touch!! the ports were good, but the travel time from the port of Laem Chabang into Bangkok is around 2 hours. it actually took over 3 hours getting back to the ship..........beware! do your tours on first day in Bangkok as the traffic jams are horrible. The staff seemed to go that extra mile to make the passengers feel at home and well looked after. the entertainment wasn't too bad ( not as good as larger ships) our cabin was very noisy....cabin no. 3374 on Lower Promenade, mid ship. lot of engine noise. we paid the extra for an unobstructed view, but had railings in front of window. were also on the deck that everyone used for their morning constitutional...... front desk were extremely helpful and we were moved to another cabin. it was on the dolphin deck (lowest deck) but it was a larger cabin and we had a better view! We would cruise again with Holland America...found the experience very relaxing! Read Less
Sail Date February 2014
This was my first cruise with HAL and as the 11th time I have cruised there were some areas that disappointed me. 1. was the lack of supervision of sanatizing hands prior to entering a restaurant. Whilst there were bottles of the liquid ... Read More
This was my first cruise with HAL and as the 11th time I have cruised there were some areas that disappointed me. 1. was the lack of supervision of sanatizing hands prior to entering a restaurant. Whilst there were bottles of the liquid there, noone was superevising to see if people used the solution. I was shocked to see people leave the washrooms and not sanatize hands before entering the dining areas. Other cruise lines have rigid rules regarding this. 2. Standard of dress. On formal nights when men were dressed in dinner jackets, suits etc. some individuals were allowed into the dining room in Tshirts. To me this was an insult to those men who had flown to our embarking port carrying the appropriate attire. 3.Cabin. As this was a cruise to celebrate our Golden Wedding we had 11 months before the sailing date requested a quiet mid ship cabin and were allocated cabin 3385. Not knowing any different we accepted it as assumed HAL were acting in our best interest. It was under the galley and the noise early hours of the morning was disturbing. We were able to shift after 4 nights but why when we were so specific as to our needs did they allocate this cabin. There was nothing wrong with the cabin apart from the noise. As to the rest of the cruise. The ports in Vietnam, Cambodia, thailand were excellent. Entertainment was good, food also and the lectures were first rate, especially the port information. Tipping is steep but we found out from previous HAL passengers after we returned home that you do not have to pay this and can tip those crew you only wish to. Pity we did not know this before we sailed as the amount billed to us and then converted by our bank from USD to NZD was a lot. Previous passengers have told us that standards have slipped a lot but as this was my first HAL cruise I cannot comment on this. Read Less
Sail Date January 2014
Just back from a 14 day cruise from Singapore to Hong Kong. I honestly thought about NOT writing a review on the trip because it was so "Un newsworthy" . The Volendam was in excellent condition, everything "worked", the ... Read More
Just back from a 14 day cruise from Singapore to Hong Kong. I honestly thought about NOT writing a review on the trip because it was so "Un newsworthy" . The Volendam was in excellent condition, everything "worked", the weather was great, and the crew performed up to all expectations. As on all previous HAL cruises, the entertainment was very low key, and "unremarkable". (Entertainment in the main theater was poor, and the entertainment in the individual lounges was excellent ) For those not used to HAL ships, the Volendam is a nicely laid out smaller ship. (1800 passengers) Unlike larger ships, you rarely (if ever.) have to wait in a line, and we have never felt crowded anywhere on board. We especially enjoy the full walk around deck, and put in a couple miles a day trying to walk off all the food. Speaking of food, the food onboard was "cruise line typical", noting bad, but nothing to rave about. (Having sailed on both RCCL and NCL over the past 6 months, I would rate the food on board the Voldndam a step above both of them, but not up to the standards set 10-15 years ago on any of the cruise lines) I did enjoy the fact that the company went out of their way to stock "real" exotic fruit from the far east. Snake fruit, Lychee fruit, Mangosteen, Dragon Fruit, Passion fruit and more were available from time to time. (NCL's idea of "exotic local fruit" seems to be canned Dole fruit cocktail) While I can not comment on any of the shore excursions, (We set up our own at each port through the message boards here.) I heard no complaints from fellow passengers who did use ship excursions. Port times were generous, with no shore stays so short so as to be an issue. . As usual both my wife and I enjoyed the "little things" HAL does, from the cold wet towels and lemonade waiting for you when you board each day, to the several themed "parties" that are thrown each cruise. Kudo's also to the tech person at the computer lab who helped us with our malfunctioning camera, and the librarian who watched over the extensive (For a cruise ship) library. Bottom line? HAL is not for those who want all the fancy bells and whistles in their cruise, but for those who like smaller ships, are "port" driven, or who enjoy cruising the way it "used" to be, this may be the line/ship for you. Read Less
Sail Date January 2014
Yet again the HAL ship and crew exceeded my expectations- we were delighted with our Christmas/New Year cruise on the Volendam. The itinerary was well planned giving an overnight in Hong Kong on the ship which was berthed at a glorious ... Read More
Yet again the HAL ship and crew exceeded my expectations- we were delighted with our Christmas/New Year cruise on the Volendam. The itinerary was well planned giving an overnight in Hong Kong on the ship which was berthed at a glorious harborside airconditioned multistory shopping centre. This is particularly rare in Hong Kong and whilst the centre was crammed with Christmas shoppers, it was very easy to access the ship and slip off the ship for last minute shopping and free internet at starbucks. Of course the view from the lounge, dining room or decks of the harbour lights and laser show was spectacular. This trip had extensive port calls and I especially liked the 4 stops in Vietnam covering the north, centre and south, which gave a nice taste of the regional variety and hsitory of the relatively small but fascinating country. Cambodia provided contrast as an early emerging country, very poor but historically rich. HAL might like to think about enriching visits to Cambodia with more effort into giving customers some stories from travellers experiences of culture. We took a sightseeing trip which really lacked heart as sightseeing hard lives without context is more sad than enriching. I have visited Thailand before and again enjoyed this vibrant country although we declined the arduous transfers to Bangkok and took some short local excursions which were well conducted. I still get a bit sad with the tourist elephant shows though. It might be time for tour providers to move to presenting these majestic animals in a natural environment rather than a circus. A mother even had her 3 month old calf chained to her during the "performance". Arrival at Singapore unfortunately coincided with three other ships so we plastered a smile on our dial to cope with unusual crowds, baffling directions and long waits for our transfer to the airport. It made a few people less than cheery, but honestly it was a minor annoyance after such a lovely trip. The Volendam is not my favourite HAL ship- that would be the Oosterdam, but who would like to be on the same ship over and over- or have each ship in the exact same design and decoration? Whilst our oceanview cabin was perfectly placed midships and hardly allowed for any movement I really missed the balcony for a convenient private space to enjoy the sea views. I have only compliments for the cleanliness, attention of the stewards and comfort factors of the stateroom. There is plenty of storage space, mini bar and ice, but a secret is that you can hire a barfridge for a small cost to keep your own wine and cans cold. The other tip is to spoil yourself with a "suite amenities" package (cost variees with duration of the cruise). This package provides unlimited daily laundry; initial 2L spirits and wine set up; two monogrammed bathrobes to take home; dinner at the Pinnacle; daily canapes or high tea in your cabin; and $100 in beverage cards. You also get suite disembarkation privilages including final day breakfast in Pinnacle and a final joy of NOT having to place your luggage outside the cabin on the final night. We discovered all her sides and loved the lounges tucked away here and there. The fellow passengers were an amazing mix from absolutely all corners of the world, not surprising as HK is such a central embarkation port. This alone provides the crew with new challenges trying to cater for massive variety in tastes, language and culture. In my observation they were alert to this and proved why HAL is well know for its international appeal rather than appealing to the american cruise segment. Read Less
Sail Date December 2013
We stayed in the inside stateroom on the main deck. We had a great time. We were happy with everything - service, our room, food in Lido and the Rotterdam restaurants. A well balanced and healthy selection for most tastes. We did not ... Read More
We stayed in the inside stateroom on the main deck. We had a great time. We were happy with everything - service, our room, food in Lido and the Rotterdam restaurants. A well balanced and healthy selection for most tastes. We did not find hot food to be not hot as we planned our meals and started eating immediately after getting a meal. We found our inside stateroom to be adequate, it was cleaned/changed twice a day. Our room was closer to the midship and when we had rough seas (we had 3 meter waves 2 days out of 12) we could hardly feel it, We did spend most of our time outside as there was so much to do and see. We did not use internet on board as it was extremely overpriced and slow (we were told). It cost $55 for 1 hour 30 mins. All the destinations had free wifi either in port itself (Laem Chabang) or in local cafés. We enjoyed all the destinations. We used Holland America excursions for the most destinations, however will not do it again because all the excursions were heavily overpriced and you could get a lot better deal/value if you organise excursions with fellow cruisers. There was no problem with organising a trip from all the destinations and one could join in with others to cut the cost. Thailand - we recommend to visit Noong Nooch tropical gardens in Pattaya. An entry ticket costs 500 baht each and there are cultural and elephant shows each hour which are amazing. There was an opportunity to participate in elephant show which we did. You could also feed elephants for a little cost. There are absolutely breathtaking gardens which could take days to go around. There are also aviaries and animal enclosures. You could feed an arapaima for 20 bahts. We loved Sikhanoukville. You need to understand the country and the history to appreciate a few hours' stop in it. People of Cambodia are very polite and respect your privacy. We had no issues whatsoever. After walking in a market with some interesting smells we hired a tuc tuck for a couple of dollars who took us to a local beach which was beautiful. Beers in a restaurant on the beach were $1/beer and a free wifi which worked great. Vietnam - we would not recommend 'sensational Saigon' excursion by Holland America. It was a whistle stop through some uninteresting place ie a post office a church the presidential palace all very boring we were also taken to the zoo for 20 mins including toilet time. I would rather take photos beside the many war relics like tanks, mig jets,helicopters etc that are on display in many parts of the city. Weather in December... It was pleasantly warm in Singapore, Thailand, Cambodia and southern Vietnam however as soon as ship started moving north from Nhang Tra weather changed dramatically and temperature dropped to plus 9 degrees Celsius. It was cold in Hong Kong also. We left Hong Kong on the day we disembarked Ms Volendam. We followed fellow cruiser's advised and checked in by Kowloon station which is within walking distance from the port (expect to pay 30 HK dollars for transfer). All the airlines have check in desks there and luggage goes direct to your flight. This requires a to purchase a rail ticket to the airport which is very quick and efficient. The train stops within the airport. Very convenient. Your hand luggage could be left at the left luggage just 30 meters from check in. We absolutely recommend this trip as it was a very positive, trouble free and culturally enriching experience.   Read Less
Sail Date December 2013
We loved it! It was the longest cruise we've taken, and were afraid it might be too long. Bit it wasn't. It was just right! Interesting how the passenger profile changed from the Sydney - Singapore segment to the Singapore-Hong ... Read More
We loved it! It was the longest cruise we've taken, and were afraid it might be too long. Bit it wasn't. It was just right! Interesting how the passenger profile changed from the Sydney - Singapore segment to the Singapore-Hong Kong leg. The first segment included many from Australia, and many of passengers were older couples (like us--72). very few children. From Singapore to Hong Kong, many Chinese passengers and children replaced the older and Aussy passengers. So many great things about this cruise and ship! A comfortable cabin, friendly and efficient crew, good shows, wonderful lounge music and good food made the onboard experience a very good one. Shore excursions were interesting but at times exhausting--especially those to Hanoi, Ho Chi Mien City, and on Java and Balli. But the facinating sites made the long bus rides worthwhile. The one shore stop that was disappointing--and really the only negative on the whole cruise--was at Sihanoukville, Cambodia. Dirty, irritating vendors, ill-prepared for visitors--this stop should be eliminated from the cruise's itinerary! I hear Ankor Watt, Cambodia is wonderful and facinating, but how many will be willing to pay the $3,000-plus tab to take advantage of this multi-day side trip? Our pre-cruise side trip to New Zealand and post-cruise stay in Hong Kong helped make this a truly memorable trip. I would recommend it to anyone who can afford the time and expense of the cruise. Read Less
Sail Date November 2013
Due to recent orthopaedic surgery I could not fly long distances so had to change our planned Alaska followed by Eastern Canada cruises to something closer to home. We were delighted to be able to embark at our home port. This is the first ... Read More
Due to recent orthopaedic surgery I could not fly long distances so had to change our planned Alaska followed by Eastern Canada cruises to something closer to home. We were delighted to be able to embark at our home port. This is the first time this has happened to our knowledge. A 1 Hour suburban train ride versus 14 hour flight! Unfortunately the Port staff were not familiar with HALs usual routines. We stood in the priority boarding queue but unfortunately none of the Port staff knew to serve us. Only after a complaint to a HAL officer was the problem rectified and I am sure it will not be a problem again. The ship was clean & well maintained and the fresh flowers were a delight. The night before we departed we received a second upgrade to a A balcony suite and as it was my birthday on departure day things started in fine form. The entertainment was great, this was the best group of HAL entertainers ever on a HAL ship. Not only the 4 leads could sing in perfect pitch but the remainder of the group as well. The Murder Mystery dinner was excellent. First time I have ever been offered this on any ship. A most entertaining evening with the best dessert ever. Dining was excellent in whichever venue we choose. Again we went Open Seating and never had a problem getting a seat at our requested time. We ate several times in Pinnacle Grill and Canaletto and in both places enjoyed the extra special service. As always all staff were cheerful and attentive, any request was dealt with quickly. The mature aged cruise director was one of the best we have come across. He managed to be efficient and entertaining with out too much of the "are we having fun" attitude. Our veranda suite was perfect for our needs and the bed, again one of the most comfortable at sea. We enjoyed using our balcony for a before dinner drink or occasional room service meals. After being disappointed that we couldn't make it to USA & Canada it was a pleasant surprise just how much we enjoyed cruising in our own backyard with a side trip to Indonesia. Yes, you can go more cheaply with other cruise lines but its worth the bit extra to go with an old friend who treats us so well. Read Less
Sail Date October 2013
We are a married couple in our early 60s, veteran cruisers, and partial to HAL. This was our longest cruise, although we have enjoyed two trans-atlantic cruises. We left Maryland a day ahead and flew to LA. We stayed at the Comfort Inn ... Read More
We are a married couple in our early 60s, veteran cruisers, and partial to HAL. This was our longest cruise, although we have enjoyed two trans-atlantic cruises. We left Maryland a day ahead and flew to LA. We stayed at the Comfort Inn Cockatoo in Hawthorne (review on Trip Advisor). After unpacking a little, we ate dinner at El Pollo Loco and walked to find a grocery store. We finally found a large strip mall and bought Cokes and a few misc. items for the cruise. The next morning, we ate breakfast at the hotel, walked to the strip mall again for some exercise, and got the shuttle ($34/2, Super Shuttle) to the ship. We boarded the “Volendam” around noon and found our room: Lower Promenade deck (3410). Our ocean view room was more a promenade view, and while no one could see inside our cabin, it was disappointing to have to look past the walkers to see the ocean. We had booked a guarantee, so this is the risk we took, but I would not want this deck again. Furthermore, the lights were always on outside our window. Our room did not have a refrigerator, but we appreciated the lighted magnifying/regular mirror on the desk, the good hair dryer in the drawer (along with the dryer in the bathroom), and the tiled bathtub!! This ship has self-serve laundry with free laundry detergent. The ship printed The New York Times digest daily (plus Canadian and Australian versions); copies were available at the buffet and in the library. However, ask at the front desk, and they will deliver it to your stateroom. For the first 48 hours, we were served our food, a policy we appreciate on HAL. The MDR was not open on embarkation day, but the buffet was an excellent option (free sushi bar). We ate there almost every day, but we would check the MDR’s lunch options before going. We were assigned AnyTime dining and were pleased with the flexibility of eating when we liked and at how large a table. If we wanted to eat with friends, we could make a reservation. On a 21-day cruise, we enjoyed meeting so many different people, as opposed to eating with the same people nightly. The food was superb in the main dining room, and while I never requested the vegetarian menu I had read was available, every night’s menu had several vegetarian options. We were not as impressed with the service; the waiters seemed continually rushed, and we rarely had our water or iced tea glasses refilled without repeated requests. We tried the Caneletto one night ($10 charge); the food was excellent and the service outstanding. Outdoor afternoon food could be had by the pool: assorted Mexican offerings, delicious guacamole, and pizza. At 10:30pm, a themed buffet opened in the Lido. You can check out the menu in the afternoon. Cookies seemed to always be available, but the ice cream is dished up, not self-serve, so it was available only at meal times. Be sure to read the daily program, for an occasional specialty lunch was served on deck. The tropical fruit buffet was spectacular, with many unusual fruits as well as fresh coconuts carved open upon request. The shrimp bbq was also amazing. But we knew some people who missed these, as they were not announced anywhere but in the program. Ship activities were standard – but definitely enjoyable - fare, although one thing I had not seen before was “Good Morning, Volendam,” a live talk show with the cruise director and the culinary director. They bantered and always had a guest on. The ship provided a bridge director, a Protestant minister (who conducted Bible studies each sea day, a very welcomed activity and, again, one we‘d never seen before), a Catholic priest, and a Jewish rabbi (who left in Hawaii). Craft lessons, cooking demos, computer classes (go early to get a computer!!), and Dancing With the Stars at sea offered more opportunities to stay busy. Trivia games were so well-attended, we had to arrive well in advance to secure seats for our group and be near enough to the cruise director to hear the questions. HAL’s libraries are well-known for their excellence. The coffee bar (coffee drinks are priced reasonably; desserts and snacks are free) is right there, so be prepared to be tempted. The gym has the standard equipment and classes. Unfortunately, there is no running track, and signs prohibit jogging on the Promenade deck. We made do with a circuit on the sports deck, although it necessitated about fifty times around to equal a mile! Movies are shown daily in the theater (free popcorn runs out early), and if you miss one, it will be shown on the TV the next day. Hundreds of DVDs are available for in-room use; call the desk to have them delivered, or pick one up yourself (much quicker). The King Neptune ceremony to initiate those who had never crossed the equator was great fun. The lecturers are always good on HAL. We sailed with Destination Expert Ian before, and he had informative lectures on the ports with excellent tips for the do-it-yourselfer (a separate excursion woman had lectures on the ship’s offerings); he is funny, and his travel trivia is not to be missed. The oceanographer and astronomer were especially good; the Iranian refugee not so much. The evening entertainment is, again, standard fare. Some shows were great, even worth going to the second showing; others, so-so. Shows included a classical pianist, a harmonica player who played with an orchestra and was amazing, a ventriloquist with a Jamaican “dummy” (hilarious; best show of the trip), plenty of singing & dancing, two crew shows, a comedian, and Polynesian dancers from shore. Around the ship, various venues offered classical music (oh, I never saw free chocolates in the Explorers Lounge), a piano bar (very popular), and dancing opportunities. We had seven port stops. The first was Hilo. We watched the ship come in, and Hawaiian dancers were on our bow to sing a welcome chant and dance the hula; we received leis as we disembarked – a very nice touch. The federal gov’t was shut down, so our plans to hike in the VNP were scuttled. We had rented a car ($40) beforehand from Budget. A shuttle came right to the pier, and it didn’t take long to get the car. We drove to Punalu'u black sand beach, walked the beach, enjoyed the sea turtles, and ate a lunch we had brought (a small food truck there does serve some food). We drove back to Hilo and continued north to see Rainbow Falls and the Boiling Pots. We found Onomea Dr. for some stunning views and continued our drive along the coast. Back in town, we cruised along Banyan Dr. and walked through the Queen Lilio. Gardens before turning in the car The next day we docked in Honolulu for a long day (11pm) ashore. We booked a car here, too (Thrifty, $40), and while we found the shuttle quickly, it wasn’t long before we knew we’d made the mistake of getting the car at the airport. We had a long drive and hit terrible traffic. Once on our way, we hiked up Diamond Head ($5/car, hot and humid in mid-October, but we were rewarded with beautiful views) and then began our Oahu Circle driving tour: Hanauma bay ($1 to park, $7.50 to swim); Halona blow hole; hiked to the overlook of the lighthouse at Makapuu Pt (hot, humid, and – really - too long a walk on asphalt for the view); Macadamia Nut Complex (fantastic stop with myriad tasting stations: coffee, plain and flavored macadamia nuts, sauces, etc; outside, we approached a huge bin of macadamia nuts in the shell and could crack as many as we wanted, using their tree stumps and rocks); Kualoa Park (Chinaman’s Hat) where we walked the beach and marveled at the Koolau Mts. on the other side; Sunset Beach; and the Dole Plantation (get the pineapple whip, and stroll through their gardens)before returning the car. The ship had an expansive Hawaiian BBQ on deck, and after that, we went into town to walk around Chinatown and downtown (Iolani Palace and Capitol). It might be easy enough to get the bus to Waikiki, but we were led astray and finally gave up and went back to the ship and watched local Polynesian dancers for the evening show. A few more sea days, and then we arrived in Pago Pago. Again, owing to the federal gov’t shut-down, our plans to hike in the national park were stymied, so we chose instead to hunt for an internet café. We discovered McDonald's no longer offers it even though your device will show a McDonald network; the public library (a good walk to the left of the ship) charges $5 for all day; but one intrepid woman from our ship found the telecommunications building, and they magically turned on public access, and we used it for free at the market place (easy, short walk right from the ship). We returned to the ship to get snorkeling equipment, walked to the local bus depot, and went to Tisa's Barefoot Bar ($2 each, one way bus; $5 each entry; review on Trip Advisor). The water was warm, and the fish were abundant. We snorkeled an hour or so, and it started to storm, nixing plans to see more of the island on the bus or just walk around. It absolutely poured on the bus ride back, and the driver must have taken pity on us and took us right to the ship instead of the depot, and we got drenched getting on board. The storm continued well into the night, with the promenade deck closed and pools emptied. Suva, Fiji, was next. We enjoyed the pretty entrance into harbor, and a local native band played as we arrived. With another couple, we got a local taxi driver to take us to Colo-I-Suva Forest Park for $20 each, with him explaining he would show us some sights on the way and wait two hours for us at the rainforest. After having a local guide explain the map to us and tell us the key turns to take on the trail, we enjoyed a beautiful hike past 8 pools and small water falls. The last pool had a rope swing, and we saw several plunging into the very cold water! We took our time with the hike, spending almost 2 hours returning the way we came, although a shorter exit route is available. Our driver stopped at Raintree Lodge for some reason (hoping we’d buy something?) and then tried to get us to stay with him until 4pm. None of us wanted to. He dropped us at the ship, whereupon he told us we owed him another $40 for the extra hour! The other couple with us, having no more money, stood their ground, but – annoyed - we finally gave the cabbie our remaining $10. We changed, ate lunch, and went back out, finding free wifi right by the ship (outside a café providing internet)! We walked then to Thurston Gardens (don’t expect gardens, per se; this is more like a city park) and back into town for some stores (it was Sunday, so most were closed). A Fiji marching band thoroughly entertained us as the ship prepared to leave. Our plan in Pt. Vila, Vanatua, was to snorkel at Hideaway Island, but getting there proved a test of our patience. With another couple, we tried to get a taxi to Hideaway Island. It is a 5km walk into town, so we were at the mercy of aggressive, loud, and ultimately lying taxi drivers. We finally found a driver to take us, for $5 US each, to the town and insisted he let us off there. We then got a $3US/pp bus (privately owned, red "B" on license plate) to Hideaway Island. It was low tide, so we walked to the small picturesque island and paid 1250 vt (credit card; $15 AU) to use the island. The island has a restaurant, bungalows for longer stays, restrooms, a 650vt hamburger BBQ, coral beach, and beautiful water. We snorkeled and marveled at the number of fish (including a huge school of fish), saw some live coral, and the underwater post office! We laid in the sun for awhile, walked around the island and enjoyed the tidal pools, and took their boat back to shore where we paid $5US to get back to the ship. On ship days, many, many tents line the walkway from the pier, so we wandered through those. Lifou, New Caledonia, was a very welcomed respite from the madhouse we encountered in Pt. Vila. This is a laid-back, relatively unspoiled S. Pacific island. After tendering in, a small singing group met us at the jetty. We probably could have hired a driver at the pier, but no one was hawking their services, and we hadn’t planned on it anyway. We walked to Jinek Bay ($15 each to snorkel) which is stunningly beautiful. We didn’t pay to snorkel, but nothing prevented us from surveying the water and reef without walking the stairs to the entry point. The grounds are pretty, and we stayed in the shade for a while, gaping at the water! From there, we walked the hill to the church. It gets steep, but the views are impressive, and the small church is open. We walked back toward the ship and further on to a larger church and cemetery, spotting grass huts along the way. We walked a good deal further, but there’s really nothing to see, so we walked to the jetty and wandered the small market there. After lunch on the ship, we went back, and I enjoyed Easo Beach (right by the jetty) while my husband snorkeled (look for sea turtles). As with every island we have seen, the water is unbelievably beautiful. Last port stop was Noumea, New Caledonia. Dancers with drums greeted us. We needed an ATM (no US or AU dollars accepted), and one was just a few blocks away. While our plan had been to walk the entire way from the ship to Baie des Citrons and catch the water taxi to Duck Island, we ended up buying (500 cpf) cruise ship hop on-hop off (11 stops) bus tickets, walked to the Morning Market for fruit, and caught the bus to the first bay along our walking path. We walked along the marina in clouds and rain showers to Anse Vata, got (for 1250 cpf, each, r/t) water taxi to Duck Island, fearing we'd not be able to get in the water. But the sun came out! Duck Island is beautiful with walkways, bath houses, covered tables, landscaping, and a restaurant. The water was so cold, but we persevered for the best coral we've ever seen and for quite varied fish. We sunned a bit and walked around the island, watching wind surfers. Water taxi back, ho-ho bus back to ship. After changing clothes, we took the iPad and phone to the internet café right off the ship. Even paying for connectivity, we got none (too many people trying), so we walked around the town a bit, enjoyed the promenade, Chinatown, and Latin Quarter and then saw a McDonald's. A $3.50 Coke later, we quickly contacted family members. We were among the last ones to get on board. Local dancers and drummers were entertaining the ship again, and as we stopped to watch, the girls grabbed three of us to dance with them!! The next day we docked in Sydney, which was the end of the cruise for us. Be sure to get up early to see the entry into Sydney Harbor. It is magical!! We were off the ship by 8:30 (we enjoyed having a last breakfast on board and staying in our room until our number/color were called), breezed through customs, and got a taxi to our hotel. We stayed in the Meriton Serviced Apartments on Kent St., very close to Darling Harbor, Hyde Park, and Chinatown. The taxi fare said $14.50, but we were told $20 – perhaps some extra fee is involved from Circular Quay? Had we not had so much luggage, it would have been easy to catch the train or a bus; the transportation hub is right there. We enjoyed this trip thoroughly, continue to be impressed with HAL, and the days flew by. We spent three days in Sydney and then flew to Melbourne for ten days. If you have any questions, I’ll be happy to answer them.   Read Less
Sail Date September 2013
After my last cruise this spring on the Nieuw Amsterdam we said we would not travel again on HAL due to the attitude of some crew members we experienced. My mother convinced us to try them again as she likes HAL. We left Vancouver on ... Read More
After my last cruise this spring on the Nieuw Amsterdam we said we would not travel again on HAL due to the attitude of some crew members we experienced. My mother convinced us to try them again as she likes HAL. We left Vancouver on Sept.11 and the embarkation process was flawless and very quick. Our room was ready and was in good condition. We had dinner in the Rotterdam dining room and our waiters were Hindi and Edi who were fantastic. Even though we had open seating we were able to reserve the same table each day and got to know them well over the week. They were the best pair of waiters we have had on HAL and they made for an enjoyable trip. The next day was cruising the inside passage and just after noon we sailed into a large fog bank for most of the day which was eerie but soothing. Next day arrived in Juneau and walked around town, did some geocaching then back on board. Next day was Skagway and I went out by myself to do my geocaching then came back on board to get my wife and mother and took a trolley ride around town which was interesting. Next day was spent mostly in Glacier Bay National Park which was great. On the 16th we arrived in Ketchikan and again did geocaching and tourist shopping. What was remarkable was other then the fog on the second day we had fantastic weather with mostly sunny days and no wind and NO RAIN which is hard to believe. We did not have a bad experience anywhere on this trip which put some faith back in HAL. Even though we spent time in the Casino I do not believe that anyone won any jackpots and payouts were very low. Lots of people around were very dismayed at the lack of payouts especially on the bonuses. Richard, the casino host was very good and friendly however. Read Less
Sail Date September 2013
Since the moment we stepped on the boat, we were treated like royalty. The stateroom attendants, waitstaff, bartenders and even managers knew us by name. Every step we took we had a welcoming smile, good day mam/sir, and may I assist you. ... Read More
Since the moment we stepped on the boat, we were treated like royalty. The stateroom attendants, waitstaff, bartenders and even managers knew us by name. Every step we took we had a welcoming smile, good day mam/sir, and may I assist you. We could not be more happy. The food was incredible. Lots of options for a variety of eaters (vegan/vegetarian/gluten free/ even low sodium). The staff kept us busy with activities daily. The shows were incredible! Comedian, magician, professional singers, dancers and musicians entertained every night. Again, we were extremely satisfied with the plethora of options on the boat. We had new movies running in the theatre daily and running on the tele in your room the next day. Our stateroom was an inside cabin 2691. We have been on several cruises before, and the size of this room was considerably larger than others. My husband and I agreed that the queen bed was more comfortable than expected too! We had a pull out coach that we never used, but it was nice to sit on and eat room service at the table. We found it difficult to live for 3 weeks without a fridge, but with talking to other passengers found that you can rent a fridge for $2 day. (not advertised) Just ask at main office. We did not have a tub either, but we wouldn't have used it if we did (too small). All port days we did our own thing. We were on a budget, so we did not book any excursions. We walked through the main port and hopped on a local bus. At Hilo, Hawaii there is the best travel company called Hoppa On, Hoppa Off. Well worth the money for what you get. Very friendly and affordable transportation that shows you the island. The rest of is;ands we took city buses for a dollar or 2 each way and had a great time. The snorkeling was the most memorable experience. TAKE YOUR OWN SCUBA MASK! We brought our own and so glad we did. The beaches would rent them for 15-20 dollars, but you can buy your own from walmart for $5-10 and be set the entire time. -Waikiki on Oahu Hawaii is beautiful- check out punchbowl cemetaary and the view. -Pago, Pago- take city bus for $2 and go to $2 dollar beach. Best place in the world! -Vanuatu- hideaway beach and underwater post office is amazing! -Fiji- take a tour to rainforest and waterfalls. Check out their local markets, huts and culture. Stay out of Suva! -New Caledonia- french speaking, so learn how to say "i'm sorry I do not speak french, do you speak english?" The locals will respond easier to that than "english?" You will get laughed at -Sydney- take the bridge walk. It's amazing!   Read Less
Sail Date September 2013
From embarkation to disembarkation this cruise was fun and easy. There were no hassles at all.Being a smaller ship it was easy to make friends and after 24 days you start to get to know most faces. The food was amazing and service ... Read More
From embarkation to disembarkation this cruise was fun and easy. There were no hassles at all.Being a smaller ship it was easy to make friends and after 24 days you start to get to know most faces. The food was amazing and service excellent as usual. The only thing i could complain about is the activities during the day were sparse, many people were complaining about being bored but i think that was down to the cruise director being in the job to long and having blinkers on when it came to his area of responsibility. The Vista suit stateroom we had was the best we have had so far with spa bath and extra long cabin and good size balcony.My husband got a blood infection on the first night and was looked after very well by the doctor and his team,because of there care we were able to carry on our cruise.Overall a dam good cruise and would not hesitate to recommend Holland America to anyone.   Read Less
Sail Date September 2013
A friend and I took this cruise with some reservations, having seen other member reviews. I realise everyone has different expectations, and possibly we struck it lucky, but there was very little in this cruise that we were not happy with! ... Read More
A friend and I took this cruise with some reservations, having seen other member reviews. I realise everyone has different expectations, and possibly we struck it lucky, but there was very little in this cruise that we were not happy with! I have to admit to two things - firstly that this was our first cruise, so we have nothing to compare against, and secondly that they weather was exceptionally good for the whole week, which made the trip even better. Even the Captain commented on how lucky we were because the warm, sunny weather we had was unheard of door a whole week - apparently you would be lucky normally to get one good day! However, overall, it was a fantastic experience on every level.The Volendam might be just a little dated but is kept in fantastic condition and spotlessly clean. The stateroom was very spacious, with loads of storage space, and the public areas are smart and comfortable. The ship never felt crowded, and there were always lots of quiet corners to find a spot to relax. The daily programme of activities was long and varied, although we tried very few of them, as we enjoyed the relaxation and he days went too fast anyway! The Rotterdam dining room was great, and we saw no need to try the speciality (extra charge) restaurants. The food was excellent with lots of choice at dinner each night, brought to the table promptly, and served hot. The waiting staff were very attentive and friendly. We had opted for the anytime dining, rather than fixed seating times. We booked ahead on three nights, but had no difficulty getting a table when we didn't. The only exception was the last night, when they wanted us to link in with the fixed seating time - but as they did a crew parade during each sitting, I assume it was because of that. The crew parade was great fun, with all the diners joining in during a song by waving their napkins, and we were quite happy to have had to eat at a specific time so as not to miss this. We had breakfast and lunch in the Lido buffet. Yes, it was busy, but we were happy to take our food to a table on the Lido deck when the restaurant was full, and we always found somewhere to sit. (The rudeness of other passengers was noticeable, though!) The choice and quality of the food couldn't be faulted, and the servers were great, although it is fair to say there are occasional communication difficulties between servers and passengers. I loved the way the waiters changed their uniform to match the area we were visiting, or a special themed meal. We tried the afternoon high tea on two days, and again were not disappointed! We really enjoyed the song and dance shows in the theatre - a small group of eight performers. Not a West End style of show, but nevertheless enjoyable and well-performed and just right for the size of the venue. Before and after dinner each night, we spent some time in the Ocean bar, where a superb trio, the Neptunes, had a repertoire of the "great American Songbook". They were superb, and I can't imagine getting better lounge-style entertainment anywhere. Although we only had an inside stateroom, we had paid a supplement to choose a cabin on the Promenade deck (no. 3355), and it was in a wonderful location for quick access to the deck for scenery watching or exercise, plus being just along the corridor from the Atrium, so close to all the public areas. The ports of call had little to offer. However, as a gateway to excursions, they were a big success. In Juneau, we bought a ticket on the dockside to visit the Mendenhall Glacier, and we pre-booked from home for a full day excursion from Skagway on the White Pass Railroad and by minibus into the Klondike. Again the wonderful weather made the trip extra special (even the guide was taking photos, as she had never seen the lakes looking so fantastic!) but I would definitely recommend this trip. The scenery is fantastic, and the trip included a (very touristy, but quite acceptable) barbecue lunch at Caribou Crossing. This was well worth the visit to see the huskies and the wildlife museum. We booked through Chilkoot Tours (cheaper than through the cruise line) and they were excellent. For anyone who worries about missing the ship, they also offer some guarantees about getting you back. We didn't do a tour from Ketchikan, and an hour's walk was enough to see the place, so we headed back on board. Glacier Bay was breathtaking, and the Captain arranges some fantastic photo and video opportunities, by taking he ship in really close and turning, so that everyone gets a good vantage point. Would I sail on the Volendam again? Definitely!!oo Read Less
Sail Date September 2013
I really liked Holland America. Dancing in the Crow's Nest was wonderful. Chase took requests & played all our favorite songs. (No techo ... yay!) The main dining room food was great & so was the service. (I loved the Baked ... Read More
I really liked Holland America. Dancing in the Crow's Nest was wonderful. Chase took requests & played all our favorite songs. (No techo ... yay!) The main dining room food was great & so was the service. (I loved the Baked Alaska). The dining room was beautiful with stars on the ceiling & leather chairs: always a plus. And the food was MUCH better than the Lido. I enjoyed the shows, especially Northern Lights. Ping pong was fun, but the paddles need glue. The outside top deck had tinted wind shields which made the view look too dark. Clear wind shields would be much better. Our cabin was nice. Bathroom facilities worked great. However, I don't like the metal cover on top of the toilet paper or the lid on the bathroom trash can. The excursion we took to beautiful Tracy Arm Fjord was amazing. The high-speed catamaran picked us up at the ship during the service call & returned us to the ship in Juneau. It was definitely worth the money. Juneau & Skagway were cute towns. The clouds, however, cut off the mountain tops both days; and Juneau was a little rainy. Glacier Bay was spectacular! Our best weather day was in Ketchican. We loved charming Creek Street. We had heavy fog after Ketchican, so we didn't see much of the Inside Passage. (We saw the lower half of the mountains of the Inside Passage on the way up, since the tops were shrouded with clouds). A lot of the Inside Passage is sailed at night. The Capilano Suspension Bridge in Vancouver was very fun with Cliff Walk & Treetops Adventure. (AAA discount). Tip: Don't eat raw onions. They can make you sick if they aren't freshly cut from a whole onion.   Read Less
Sail Date August 2013
We flew into Vancouver a few days early. We stayed at the Renaissance Vancouver Harborside Hotel,which we liked very much.It is only a few blocks from where you get on the ship. Had an ocean view that was really a nice view of the harbor. ... Read More
We flew into Vancouver a few days early. We stayed at the Renaissance Vancouver Harborside Hotel,which we liked very much.It is only a few blocks from where you get on the ship. Had an ocean view that was really a nice view of the harbor. There is a building in front of the hotel that blocked part of the view, but we still really enjoyed it. The pool here is open 24 hours! So nice not to rush back early to use the pool. The staff here is very nice. We took the Hop on Hop Off Bus, which was just ok,it took us to the sights, but the prerecorded commentary was nothing special. We got off at Granville Island to the market for lunch. Grabbed some deli type food and ate outside. We were wishing we could take some of the beautiful produce from the market with us! We also stopped at Gastown to shop a bit in the souvenier stores. The next day we grabbed the hop on bus (we had a two day special) and went to the Aquarium in Stanley Park. It was a nice Aquarium and I am glad that we took the time to go as the information I learned about the artic animals was a nice tie in to the Alaska trip. About noon it became very crowded,so we left.Getting the Hop on bus back to our hotel was a lengthy process, about 1 and 1/2 hours. We grabbed a cab to Canada Place,where the ship was docked, from the hotel. This is a short walk, but not so fun with luggage. Cab was $5.00-no need to buy a transfer.Cab airport to hotel was $30 to $35.00. AT THE VOLENDAM- we got there at 2 pm and just walked right through, no lines, no waiting. We had a large inside on the Veranda deck. It was spacious, with ample storage space for two or more. Our stewards were great. We brought on 4 bottles of wine in our carry ons with no problem, but they are going to change that for 2014, so you can only bring one each. The boat was nice. They closed the cover over the pool area in the center so people could swim all through the trip even though it was too cool to swim on the outside deck pool. THE FOOD: Holland America offers a huge variety of food for breakfast and lunch at the Lido and we ate there most days. The food is a bit bland,but overall good. Dinner was another story. Dinners were really repetitive with the same menu (mostly) in the dining room as in the Lido, and very limited. Stuffy,formal food. Always steak, salmon and chicken, just a hunk of protein,not creative, little variety. In fact if you like salmon, this is the ship for you- every day had at least two salmon offerings. One day they had a salmon bake on the deck (I wouldn't bother to take an excursion to the salmon bake-you will have more than enough on board)that same night there were two salmon entrees in addition to the salmon entree on the every day menu. These were all just hunks of salmon with sauces. The service in the dining room was attentive but so slow. We ate in the Lido a lot of nights because we didn't want to get out of really casual clothes and into "smart casual" or take the time to sit for 2 hours at dinner. I wore less of my "smart casual" clothes than I expected. We only went to the dining room on the two formal nights and once for the mariners brunch. The dinner service in the Lido was a surprise. Long lines. You had to stand in the whole long line to get anything and since there are no trays you had to go back more than once to get everything. They are closing off half the Lido at dinner and reserving it for staff. We could barely find a seat on the guests side. The tables weren't being cleared and we finally pushed used dishes to the edge of a table and sat down. No one offered us a beverage at all. Surprisingly poor situation, and I hope Holland America fixes it! ENTERTAINMENT: Bleh! All the movies were involving Alaska, and mostly B level stuff. The song and dance revue at the start of the cruise was really, really bad. The magician was good and I would go to that. Usually I don't care about the entertainment but this trip has a lot of days at sea, and we were hard pressed to find something to do. Did one culinary show which was pretty lame as well. SCENIC CRUISING: We spent a day in Glacier Bay and another in the Inside Passage. Both were wonderful. We sat at the Crow's Nest for Glacier Bay and had a great view. They served pea soup which was surprisingly good, and had park rangers on board to narrate. Our Captain got close to the glaciers and turned the boat so everyone got a great view. It was a very nice day. The Inside Passage was also just lovely. Starting in the afternoon until the sun set, we were sitting on the open rear deck watching the scenery. At different times during the cruise we also saw whales and porpoises.DISEMBARKING:The end went very smoothly. It took a bit of time, but it moved along well. We returned to the Renaissance for overnight. They had a room ready for us at 9 AM! We took the subway (a 10 minute walk from the hotel) and then walked 20 minutes to reach Van Duesen Botanical Garden, which was awesome. We spent several hours there and just loved it. Read Less
Sail Date August 2013
We sailed the Volendam on the 7 day round trip out of Vancouver to Alaska the first week of June 2013. I'm a new cruiser and had heard/red mixed things about cruises. This is what we experienced: Boarding and logistics at Vancouver ... Read More
We sailed the Volendam on the 7 day round trip out of Vancouver to Alaska the first week of June 2013. I'm a new cruiser and had heard/red mixed things about cruises. This is what we experienced: Boarding and logistics at Vancouver were extremely well organized. The only advice I have is save the HAL transfer and take a cab, it's much less expensive. The ship itself is mid-sized, not huge, it still looks like a ship, not a floating hotel. Interior is very tasteful and appropriate for a ship. Nice paintings of older ships etc. Food was really outstanding. I'm pretty harsh on food quality, for work I eat at many top end restaurants, most disappoint me. The Food on the Volendam did NOT disappoint. In the main dining room they serve a great variety with a different menu each day (with some constants). The portion size is appropriate (not too big). In this case deserts did taste as good as they looked. Service is good, but can be a tad slow on room service. Always easy to find a quiet corner, didn't feel like we were fighting other people cabin is very quiet and comfortable.This is not a party ship. The guests were mostly 50-70, lots of Europeans and Australians. Everyone was polite. Read Less
Sail Date June 2013
We had so much fun! Although not the 100,000+ ton size and not the newest, this ship packed in excellence all the way. Now we know why it was rated the highest of the several HAL ships going to Alaska. What a difference an excellent Hotel ... Read More
We had so much fun! Although not the 100,000+ ton size and not the newest, this ship packed in excellence all the way. Now we know why it was rated the highest of the several HAL ships going to Alaska. What a difference an excellent Hotel Manager and Cruise Director makes. The staff went out of their way to do extra special things for us, such as bringing an extra chair for our veranda. The music and shows were top notch. Every night we cycled between dancing to the HAL Cats (top tunes from all the recent decades) in the Crows Nest lounge, and to the Neptunes (30/40s songbooks) in the Ocean Lounge. The "Northern Lights" and "Roadhouse" stage productions were the best choreography, singing, and cleverness ever--and well executed by very gifted professionals. Both the magician and the comedian had extensive resumes and well-worth attending--definitely not 'B class.' The food menus were extensive, and well-prepared/presented. Instead of shifting special foods to the extra cost restaurants like some ships, they've retained some in the main dining room, such as the traditional escargot. Little extras made this ship stand out. (1) In the suite, each person had 3 pillows, with 3 different levels of hardness/softness--literally nice touch! (2) We each had personalized stationary in the stateroom. (3) The chef came to each table in the dining room to check the quality of the food. (4) The 'customer service' desk called us every day to find out if we needed anything. (5) You could wait for disembarkation in your room [most cruise lines require you to wait in a public area]. The professional photographers were excellent (we bought all the photos), but alas, still VERY pricey. Since this was our 4th Alaska cruise, we didn't do any excursions this time (we did the spa package instead), but recommend the dog sled and the Skagway train excursions. The national parks gold rush museum in Skagway is interesting, and the Totem museum in Ketchikan (both within easy walking distance of the ship). Some tips: (a) if you have several electrical devices, bring a power strip; the room only has one, one-hole electrical outlet; (b) both Skagway and Ketchikan now carry very extensive amber jewelry [haven't seen this good since the Europe Baltic cruise]; (c) there are good 'midnight rations' (food) on the Lido, but only from 10:30 to 11:30pm (after that the ship completely wraps up for the night). The 'easy off' independent disembarkation was great! We don't like repeating ships, but this ship we will go on again. Read Less
Sail Date June 2013
This was my very first cruise and thanks to Holland America & the Volendam, I can't wait to for my next cruise to some destination. Here are my observations.Embarkation:We arrived at the Canada Place cruise ship terminal early ... Read More
This was my very first cruise and thanks to Holland America & the Volendam, I can't wait to for my next cruise to some destination. Here are my observations.Embarkation:We arrived at the Canada Place cruise ship terminal early enough to be the first group to be brought on board. We found out that we had to leave our suitcases with the cruise ship terminal porters, who helped us attach Volendam luggage tags so that they would end up on the correct ship.Next was the security check as US Customs and Immigration, which went smoothly. Right before boarding, we had the Embarkation photos taken as well as being given a coupon book to shops on our ports of call.Stateroom:It's truly amazing just how much can be fit into such a small space. I was most impressed that all cabins appeared to have a bathtub standard. The bathroom also features a cabinet behind the mirror to keep all the healthy and beauty items. There is one hair dryer mounted on the mirror but I also found another one in a work desk drawer.The stateroom had three closets with adjustable shelves. One for the suitcases, and one each for the two people sharing the room. The room also features a work desk with chair, sofa, table and small bedside drawers on each side of the combined twin bed as we were a couple.Robes are included, as well as a safe that works with any card with a magnetic stripe (as long as it is not your stateroom key). The rooms are cleaned twice each day, with two chocolates delivered at night.If you have electronics that need recharging, bring an extension cord and/or power bar. I found only one outlet.Public Area Decor & Musical Entertainment:Very nice paintings and other works of art can be found all around the ship. Our voyage had a classical duo (the most well received by fellow passengers I spoke with), a piano man Don, a solo guitarist, and a quartet (Jenny and the HALcats) playing the latest tunes. Shops:There seems to be more sales toward the end of the cruise, so abstain for purchasing any gifts at the beginning. The shops include jewelry, alcohol, and a gift shop on Deck 5.Deck 5 Cafe, Library, and Computer LabThe Inspirations cafe provides sweets and coffee for a modest additional cost. This is also where computer terminals for internet access can be found. Be warned, the rates are very pricey and the speed will be slower than what is available on land. The library not only features many books but family games, chess board, and a scrabble table. When selecting a book, be aware that the the shelves are automatically closed in the late evening. The Computer lab offers computer courses around the Windows 8 operating system. It was remarkably informative.Casino:Also on deck 5 is the casino with slots, pachinko, and table games. There are slots, poker, and blackjack tournaments on various days.Deck 8 Food: the LidoLido is the place to get self-service food. Be aware that the first 48 hours will have the crew serving you for hygenic reasons. They are open for breakfast, lunch, dinner, and even a late night snack. Check each day's itinerary for the exact times. Deck 4/5 Food: Rotterdam Dining RoomPassengers have the choice between reserved seating and coming in without a reservation but this usually means sharing a table with others (a great way to meet new people). Food selections vary by the day on the menu but there are some items that are offered everyday.Dessert Night: Check you itinerary for dessert night, held on just one of the 7 nights. Very tempting offerings can be found on deck 8 by the central swimming pool (not the one at the rear of the ship).Deck 9: Crow's Nest NightclubThis was the place to go at night for a drink, dancing, karaoke, and Name That Tune games.Observation decks:Plenty of space for people to get a good view of the wonderful Alaska landscape.Spa & Gym:We went to a seminar held to a gym where I learned quite a bit about detoxification of the body but also found out what state the body can be in to never contract cancer!Daily Movies:There is a movie of the day shown twice or 3 times a day in the Wajang theater on Deck 4. Movies presented on our voyage included, "Silver Linings Playbook", "Skyfall", "Life of Pi", "White Fang", "Oz", and "Promised Land". Popcorn in bags are provided.Cooking classes:Two of the 7 days has a cooking class for an additional charge (also in the Wajang theatre). It was a lot of fun to help cook one of three dishes (appetizer, main course, or dessert). Participants are split into groups of two. If you are interested, be sure to sign up early as space is limited. You then get to eat your creations in the Pinnacle Grill nearby afterwards.Pinnacle Grill becomes Le Cirque New York:Again, for an extra cost, one can dine at Pinnacle Grill. On some nights, it becomes Le Cirque with a menu inspired from its New York City namesake.Activities:Bingo is offered 4 times during the 7 days. One of the games saw the grand prize as a cruise for 2. The remaining games offered large cash grand prizes but the catch was that you had to fill every square of your bingo card by a maximum number of numbers called out. Even the host Chase said that this would be difficult but not impossible. 6 cards for 4 games cost $35 but a 3-card option is also available for less.Bean bag toss and ring toss are also available for a quick 30 minute distraction. This are usually held in the atrium on Deck 3.Shows:Shows are featured on most nights in the lounge. Shows were either by the regular cast of performers, a comedian Kevin Jordan, or a magician.Ports of call & excursions:Excursion tickets can be purchased on board while sailing toward the port of call for convenience but a huge premium is paid. Getting of at Juneau, we were amazed at how many booths offered comparable excursions at cheaper prices. This is true for all ports of call on this cruise (Ketchikan & Skagway).Staff:Our housecleaning staff worked very hard to keep our room clean twice a day. Two of the days saw us get fruit. Cruise director Brett Rudolph was a treat to interact with - don't be afraid to approach him. Let him get to know you - you won't regret it. Culinary Arts host Beth was also quite warm to passengers, doing what she could to be welcoming and assisting in any way she could during the demonstrations that she hosted. Chase is the show host, who hosts Bingo, Ring Toss, Bean Bag Toss, Name That Tune. Be prepared for some very dry humour and a deadpan delivery from him.Disembarkation:Everything went according to the posted schedule. There was a little bit of a line up but not a long delay. We were staying in Vancouver, so were we able to get our luggage in the main waiting area before submitting our Canadian customs declaration and leaving. The taxi line was long but it was either that or walk to 6 blocks our hotel with our heavy suitcases.Overall:I loved my first time cruise experience, thanks to the crew of the Volendam. If you are preparing for your first cruise, I hope this information helps. Read Less
Sail Date May 2013
We embarked at Hong Kong.Should have been Ocean Terminal but changed to Modern Terminal,a container port,which incurred a taxi fare of around £25. Checking in was relatively easy and fairly quick. We had booked a guaranteed o/s large ... Read More
We embarked at Hong Kong.Should have been Ocean Terminal but changed to Modern Terminal,a container port,which incurred a taxi fare of around £25. Checking in was relatively easy and fairly quick. We had booked a guaranteed o/s large cabin with allocation on arrival.(we were told the cabin no.2 days prior to departure).The cabin was a good size, queen bed,and bathroom had tub as well as shower which was good. Public areas very clean as was our cabin. Rotterdam Restaurant was good.On 2 nights a little slow,but overall, very good.Food was tasty and good selection.Not continually pestered by photographers, which made a change from other ships we have been on. Entertainment average only.When in port at Shanghai,a group of girls came onboard to perform acrobatic moves.They were absolutely brilliant!! How they got into the positions that they did,was unbelievable! The best entertainment of the cruise! Docked in centre of Shanghai,the Bund and Padong directly opposite ship.Buildings were illuminated at night which made for good photos.Spectacles very cheap in Shanghai.(prescription pair £12 )!!! The old town with its pagodas was good to see. The Great Wall in Bejing is best visited by onboard cruise tour.Long journey to get there and very difficult to negotiate if doing it on your own.The pollution in Bejing is bad.You can taste it, and there is a permanent 'fog' hanging.Summer Palace pretty but not enough time allocated to it as time spent in heavy traffic in Bejing. Dalian our next port but never took a tour.Went shopping. Pusan in South Korea was interesting.The ship was charging $69 each to see the Beomeosa temple and Jagalchi fish market.We did it ourselves by taking bus 66 from outside cruise terminal to Lotte dept.store where the subway was situated (10min ride).We took subway line 1 (orange line) from Nampo(111) to Boeomosa (133) which took about 25 mins.Outside subway we took a taxi up a very steep hill(about 2.5km) to the temple.We returned in the same manner. When we reached Lotte dept store on return, it was a 10 min. walk to the market where EVERY type of fish could be viewed.The market was HUGE and well worth a vist.We returned to he ship by taxi which was very cheap.The total cost for 2 of us for everything was£14!!!! All the stations are numbered which made it relatively easy to negotiate. Nagasaki was really nice and very easy to see on your own.We came out of the port and turned left where a tram stop was situated in the middle of the road.We got a tram into town and then changed to another to take us to the Peace Park(approx 20 mins in total). The museum,epicentre etc are all situated around the same area.From there we took another tram to see the Kofukuji temple and Spectacles bridge which are near to each other.We walked back towards the ship via a large shopping area and onto Glover Gardens,which is situated opposite the ship.Cherry blossom was out all over Japan which made everywhere look lovely. A day ticket for the trams can be obtained for 500Yen (about 4 pounds) which allows you on any tram as many times as you wish. Disembarkation in Kobe was smooth and we were transported to the Belle Vue Garden Hotel near Kansai airport for an overnight stay.The hotel was nice but nothing going on in the area so we decided to go to Osaka Castle.we took the local train from Isimisani station and then changed to the Osaka loop line which took us direct to the Castle.All stations are numbered and signs also in English which made the Castle relatively easy to find.The Castle was huge and very picturesque, especially with the blossom in full bloom.Nice walks around the castle with picnic areas everywhere.The journey took around 45 min. and cost about £15 return, for both of us. We have cruised wth HAL before and have really enjoyed this itinerary. It was different. We would recommend this to anyone thinking of doing it. Read Less
Sail Date March 2013
This was my 11th cruise with Holland America, and my second venture into Asia, but the first time for these ports of call: Singapore, Thailand, Vietnam. I hail from California, so I had long flights ahead to get to Singapore. ... Read More
This was my 11th cruise with Holland America, and my second venture into Asia, but the first time for these ports of call: Singapore, Thailand, Vietnam. I hail from California, so I had long flights ahead to get to Singapore. Singapore I have less than 24 hours in Singapore before we set sail tonight, and I felt that, to maximize my opportunity to see the city, I opted for the always-fun Hop On, Hop Off bus. I spent about 4 hours, riding around the city and seeing the highlights and stopping off at a few places. Several items of note: Singapore is really clean and pretty, with lots of green spaces and streets virtually litter-free; the skyline is full of building cranes, and they apparently are in action seven days a week; Singapore most likely has the greatest concentration of shopping malls in the world. Orchard Road is always touted as "the place for shopping whilst in Singapore", but don't let that fool you. Virtually every six blocks there is another mall, filled with boutiques, cafes, local stores, high-end name stores, department stores, you name it. The city also boasts a beautiful Botanic Garden, and I stopped off there for a little while. I meandered through various mini gardens and saw some pretty orchids, before I realized I was fast approaching "the wall". By that, I mean that suddenly, I felt very tired and worn out, but I still needed to visit Merlion Park, the place where Singapore's iconic statue of a merlion sits. A merlion is a mythical creature with a lion's head and a fish body. It represents Singapore's history as a fishing port. I also still wanted to take a ride on the Singapore Flyer, a very imposing ferris wheel, 15 meters higher than London's Eye. A complete round trip on the Flyer takes 30 minutes. Well, perhaps tomorrow morning. I left the hop on bus at the Raffles Hotel stop, which was also conveniently across the street from my hotel and gathered a bit of energy so that I could do a very touristy thing - sit at the Long Bar in Raffles, and enjoy a famous Singapore Sling cocktail. $26 later (yes, that darn drink cost that much) I walked back across the street and up to my room. By this time, all I wanted to do was take a long hot shower and go to bed, but I was hungry and needed to eat dinner. I usually like to go out to a cafe somewhere and enjoy the local cuisine at an outside patio table, but the idea of walking anywhere at that point was simply too much for me to consider. I opted instead for the hotel concierge's suggestion of the Asia Market Cafe, conveniently located upstairs in the hotel's selection of dining spots. Boy, what a great decision! The place was packed with a combination of locals and hotel guests, most of whom were of some Asian persuasion. I stuck out like an Easter parade in Tel Aviv. The cafe offered a buffet of local cuisines and the wait staff hovered over me like mama bears, giving me a tour of each station, explaining the various foods, bringing me two newspapers to read should I feel so inclined, asking me every few minutes if they could bring me anything, etc. Normally this kind of attention would annoy the crap out of me, but this time, I felt very pampered and well looked after. And the food was AMAZING! I tried all sorts of new dishes, the names of which I do not remember, but everything was delicious! There were lots of seafood, curries, noodles and vegetables. I finally returned to my room about 8 pm. I had been told that there was a laser light show at Merlion park, put on nightly by the Marina Bay Sands hotel across the little quay from the park, at 9:30. Since the view from my hotel room looked smack dab across to the venue, I decided to try to stay up long enough to see the show. I showered and puttered around and was not disappointed. The show started promptly at 9:30 and lasted for 15 minutes. My non professional camera captured a little bit of the show, but I enjoyed being able to stand on my balcony from the 20th floor and see the show in my jammies. Good night Singapore! Well, my grand plans to get up early this morning and visit the Singapore Flyer pretty much disintegrated into my sleeping in late (time caught up with me) so by the time I had my coffee, got dressed, etc it was past 9:30. The horror. I still needed to do a little shopping to find a couple of lightweight wrap style skirts or something similar for the cruise. It is very hot and muggy in this part of the world and I just don't have much in my wardrobe that fits the bill. To my surprise, I went out and found that most stores don't open until 11:00! Seriously? On a Monday in one of the biggest shopping cities? Oy. So I wandered around for a little bit and then had a bite to eat - another great brunch of Asian food, and then found what I needed, and by the time I got back to my hotel it was noon and time to check out. I would like to mention here that the Fairmont Hotel is divine. They bend over backwards to provide outstanding and personal service and I really appreciated that. My room was lovely and the view fantastic. They hailed a taxi for me and an hour later I was on board the Volendam and settling in. Check-in was really easy and fast. They are very efficient, at least here in Singapore. I've had a few times, sailing with Holland, where we've had to wait in line for quite a while, but this time I made sure to show up about an hour or so after checkin started, and I think this helped to make check-in a much shorter and painless process. My stateroom is smaller than I am used to, but when traveling as a solo cruiser it costs twice as much than if you share, so my normal balcony suite accommodations were off limits for me price-wise. At any rate, my room is very comfortable, with a large double window, a nice and comfy king size bed and plenty of storage. A small couch and coffee table rounds out the room. My bathroom has a tub and shower and is plenty big for me. There's a nice flat screen tv and DVD player above a small desk. My luggage had not yet been delivered to my room, so I headed out to explore the ship. The Volendam is one of Holland America's older ships, but she is still in good shape and hey, like my Daddy always said - if the captain wants to sail/fly/drive her, I'm in for the ride. Let's go! We had 4 or 5 sea days on this cruise ---- I love sea days. So many choices. Get up early or sleep late. Daily two mile walk or not. Read book in between napping or update blog. A host of activities on board from which to choose. I tend towards getting up early and doing my two-miler on the promenade deck, which then makes me feel good about myself, and then plopping down on the Lido deck and having an extra large breakfast buffet. Sure sir, hand me one extra of those little hash brown thingies! I will dip it in my plain yogurt to convince myself that it really is healthy. Right. After lunch, there was a meet and greet for our cruise critic group up in the Crow's Nest, a cocktail lounge on the top deck of the ship that has awesome views looking out over the bow. We were a big crowd this cruise - over 50 of us, and it was nice to put names with faces! The rest of the day just seemed to float by. I didn't accomplish anything which is exactly the point of a sea day. Koh Samui Koh Samui is Thailand's third largest island. Its palm-lined sugary white shores in this Gulf of Thailand make it a popular destination. There are quite a few coconut plantations on the island, and products such as coconut milk and oil make up a large percentage of its revenue through the export of these items. We had a scheduled tour thru my cruise critic roll call for this (and all of my upcoming tours) which included a visit to a small temple with a mummified monk; a waterfall; sculpture garden; a demonstration of how island monkeys are used to father coconuts from the tall palms; an off road trek thru the jungle in a 4-wheel open bed vehicle (oh my poor back!) and the highlight of the day - an elephant ride. All stops were great, and the day just seemed to fly by. Our lunch was really great, it is always nice to partake of the local foods. I don't eat meat, so I always look forward to having local seafood, and I was not disappointed. Koh Samui is a really nice island - if you want to get away from it all, and spend a week lounging beachside, this is the place to do it. Food and drinks are cheap, people are friendly, weather is warm and humid, perfect for hourly dips in the warm ocean or a cool pool. Bangkok The ship docked at Laem Chabang, the port outside Bangkok, and a 2 hour drive to the city itself. I had booked an all day tour to the city, and joined 7 others in my cruise critic group for the day. Our guide, Lift, from BKK Tours, picked us up in a beautiful, comfortable and air-conditioned van and off we went. Our day's sights were to be the Grand Palace, Wat Po, a long tail boat ride along the canals, the food/flower market, and a nice lunch at a local restaurant. We left at about 8:30 and returned shortly after 5 PM. The day included 4+ hours in the van.... Bangkok is the capital of Thailand and has a population of over 11 million. There are miles and miles of high rise buildings, temples, palaces, canals and busy street markets - something for everyone. The Grand Palace is a stunning place. It was built to serve as the official royal residence although the current king (Rama IX) does not live there these days. It has very unique Thai architecture, and on the grounds sits Wat Phra Keo, the Temple of the Emerald Buddha. Many of the statues, Buddhas, pagodas and shrines are gold leafed - I have put some photos on my album in facebook and will post a full album upon my return home to my photo site - and mother of pearl is used extensively on many of the royal buildings and shrines, including the reclining building at Wat Po. Simply beautiful when you look at it up close and appreciate how much work goes into building and creating these. Bangkok is also known as the Venice of the East, due to the many canals slicing through the city. We took an hour ride on a longtail boat, an easy-to-navigate long motorized canoe type of boat, through the maze of canals hidden inside the city. Since it was so incredibly hot and muggy, (about 90 degrees with similar humidity levels), the ride was welcome, as we enjoyed cool water breezes and a shady cover over our heads. There are many small homes built up along the banks of the canals, and for many of them, the only access is by boat. After visiting the Grand Palace, Wat Po, and our canal boat ride, we went to a local restaurant for a scrumptious lunch of seafood, rice dishes, vegetables and ice cold beer. We had a bit more time before having to head back for the 2 hour ride back to the ship, so we visited the flower and food markets that lined the streets. We walked through blocks and blocks of food stalls, and enjoyed the aromas of thousands of roses, orchids, and other pretty flowers along the flower section. Cambodia Cambodia is a small country tucked in the upper eastern side of the Gulf of Thailand, neighbor to Thailand, Laos, China and Vietnam. Sihanoukville is known as the "agreeable port", and is a province of Cambodia. It is also our port of call for this country. It attracts young tourists with its "relaxed" beach atmosphere and is also home to the country's national beer brewery, Angkor Beer ( also available everywhere for $1 a bottle. The brewery there is the main employer for the townspeople at the moment, followed by fishing and tourism. Sihanoukville is Cambodia's only developed port. Traditional boats still bring in the daily catch. The boats go out at night, staying out until nearly dawn. The boats are small and they use green lights to attract the fish. To keep fishing sustainable, no large troller type fishing is allowed, which helps to keep the fish population healthy and growing. As we sail throughout these waters at night, we can see hundreds of these "green light" fishing vessels dotting the watery landscape. During our time in port, a group of 25 of us gathered in two minivans with dubious air conditioning - it was screaming hot and humid - and visited the fishing village first thing out. It was good to see the fishing village early in the morning, because later in the day makes for a much more, ah, vivid experience, olfactory-wise. I was able to get some good photos of the village, what the small boats look like, the daily catch of shrimp being rinsed and shelled on the docks, young men mending their nets, and young children doing what they do best, playing and giggling at us. Our tour was arranged through the Don Bosco Hotel School, a non profit organization founded after the Italian saint. There are a number of Don Bosco schools scattered across the world, and this one is the only one in Cambodia, focusing exclusively in hotel trades. Disadvantaged and orphaned teens, once accepted, are provided with two full years of schooling in all manners of hotel operations, as well as English immersion, free of charge. The school only has space available for 300 students in any given year and each year over 1,000 apply. The current volunteer managers, a lovely couple from Germany, formally trained and experienced butlers themselves, came to Don Bosco only 11 months ago on holiday, and were so taken with the work being done at the school and the need for more hands on management and assistance, they left their old life behind and stayed on. The kids that are fortunate enough to be accepted into the program view Peter and his wife as their parents, and all are extremely devoted to them. Every one of the students works very hard and they will, upon completion of their program, have their choice of employment at any 4 or 5 star hotel in Cambodia and elsewhere in the region. With tourism growing so quickly here, there is no shortage of jobs, and all will find employment immediately. These young people's lives, as well as what families some of them have, will be immeasurably and profoundly changed for the better once completing this program. We were all moved deeply by what we saw and none of us left without offering an additional cash donation to help sustain this phenomenal place and these hard working and determined young students. We stopped off at a couple of places before we arrived at the Don Bosco Hotel School - an old pagoda atop a large hill, which afforded us the opportunity to look out over the city and out to the sea - it was a lovely view. We also ventured down a 9 kilometer long dirt road to a nice waterfall, spending some time there to stretch our legs and wander about. In town, we spent a little time at the school's own ice cream factory/store and enjoyed a scoop of our favorite flavor. Then, we headed out to the school. We were enthralled and utterly impressed with their facility and their students. They range in age from about 16 to 25 and each one was dressed in black slacks, crisp white shirts and black vests. They were in a receiving line when we arrived and each bowed and greeted us as if we were royalty. Ha! Once we were seated, Peter had each of them introduce them self, giving their name, age and where they were from. Then, some other students came in, dressed in Cambodian costume dress, and performed a short traditional ceremonial dance, after which lunch was served. A couple from our tour had spent the morning at the school, cooking with the students, having forgone our other tour activities. Now, they joined us, and I was lucky enough to sit right across from them so I had the pleasure to hear how much fun they had (and how hard they worked all morning, grinding spices, building the grass boats our curry was served in, etc.) and it was clear they had fallen madly in love with these kids. Peter is teaching them very formal methods of restaurant service, and as each course was presented and served, a student server came with our plate, stood directly behind each of us, and as each table was ready, Peter called out "serve" and in unison, the students placed our dish on the table at our setting in front of us. They were quiet as a mouse, and you hardly knew they were there. The food was authentic Cambodian fare, spicy but not overly so, and delicious. A dessert of home made mango ice cream over diced local fruit cooled our mouths and was a fitting end to a spectacular morning. We said our goodbyes to the students at the school, boarded our two vans and headed back towards town and our ship, stopping at a local beach for about half an hour. I took a short walk along the shore, dipping my feet into the water and finding it quite warm and inviting, and wound up joining others from my group under a big shady tree, and had a bottle of Angkor, enjoying the beach, each of us quiet in reflective thought about what we had experienced at Don Bosco. Saigon (Ho Chi Minh City), Vietnam Our port of call today was Saigon. The city is about 90 kilometers from the port where we docked so once again we were in for a 2 hour ride, one way. The itinerary included a visit to an old (circa 1909) pagoda called the Jade Emperor Pagoda, a visit to the War Museum, Independence Palace ( also referred to as the Reunification Palace), Red Cathedral, Post Office, lunch at a noodle restaurant, and a little shopping at an outdoor market. There are about 90 million people in the whole of Vietnam, and 9 million of them are in Saigon. 70% are farmers, either rice or rubber farmers, and these two products are the country's largest exports. For people who do not go to college, they either work in factories or farm. Their average monthly salary is about $200 per month. Almost none of them will ever be able to buy a house or apartment. For those that do go to college, they can expect much better jobs, and they make 2 to 3 times the monthly income of those that don't go to college, on average. The Jade Emperor Pagoda reflects the Buddhism and Taoist beliefs in four spiritual animals - the dragon, which represents power, the unicorn which represents wisdom, the Phoenix, for peace, and the turtle, for long life. inside the pagoda, the Jade Emperor presides over the main sanctuary. There is also a famous room off the sanctuary which contains the Hall of the Ten Hells, depicting what happens after you die if you have done bad things. They illustrate the ten torments awaiting evil people. Note to self - don't be bad or evil. Saigon is 70% Buddhist, 20% Catholic, and 10% the ubiquitous "other". You know, it's those famous and oft-referred to "they" that are probably the "other" group, don't you think? I think. Oopsie, I digress. Our next stop was the War Museum. Virtually the entire museum was filled with photos and commentary about the Vietnam war with the United States, from the North Vietnamese point of view. While I don't wish to tread down that slippery slope of political opinion, let me just say that I found it extraordinarily interesting to view a very graphic photograph and read the caption beneath explaining what was taking place in that photo. The way I looked at it, there could actually be several different interpretations of the same photo, yet every caption underneath every photo in that museum was 100% anti-American. I left there feeling pretty disturbed. The first Communist tanks that rolled through Saigon on April 30, 1975 arrived at the Reunification Palace, a government building built originally as the Norodom Palace for the French governor general in 1868. In 1963 the place was renamed Independence Palace and is a fantastic example of 1960's architecture. I felt like I should be catching a glimpse of Don Draper from Mad Men around every corner. The place is totally groovy, man! Winding up our tour of Saigon, we stopped in at a local noodle house across the street from the large street market and had a great lunch of seafood noodle soup, vegetable spring rolls and beer. Lip-smacking delish! A little wandering through the market being hounded by hundreds of vendors to come into their stalls to buy their wares, and I joined my group for the two hour ride back to the Dam ship. I just love sailing on Holland America because we can always say "dam". Hot Dam! Nha Trang While every port stop has been a great one, I found that Nha Trang was a most pleasant surprise. Hugging the central coast section of Vietnam, I expected it to be a beach town with little else to offer. While it is a very popular seaside retreat for Vietnamese and world tourists alike, it is also home to a lot of colonial style architecture, Champa Kingdom relics from the 8th century, and the Truong Son mountains which line the miles of stunning shoreline. There are also numerous small agricultural villages just a few minutes outside of town. We docked at about ten AM, which is a bit later than usual for a port, but we didn't leave until eleven PM. I had a tour scheduled with my group and we met on the dock at 10:15. Into the minivan we hopped, and off we went to explore this port area. My initial observations were that this city is lovely! Clean streets, pristine white sand beaches, a bustling yet orderly flow of taxis, trucks and motor scooters, all choreographing perfectly on the city's streets. Our first stop was at an embroidery factory and store in town. We saw young women hard at work doing beautiful needlepoint, and their completed works were framed and displayed throughout the shop. As is common with most tour companies and guides worldwide, this was more than just an opportunity to see local craftsman, it was an obligatory stop, hoping you would buy things. I don't mind it, because tourism, especially in its infancy here in Vietnam, is a very important and critical industry, as I noted earlier. We then continued through the center of the town, eventually making our way out to the countryside, through some small villages, passing by fields of rice patties, finally arriving at the Cai River, where we hopped on (yes, I mean that quite literally) a small little boat with one of those cute, but smelly, put-put engines. We passed underneath an old wooden bridge, and spent the next half hour meandering down the river, banana and mango trees to our right, old fishing boats tied to tree limbs dipping down to the river's edge, small homes and huts, occasional water buffalo and cows. It was totally relaxing. After a bit, we tied up alongside a tiny dock at the water's edge, and climbed out and walked about 100 feet to a beautiful old village house. Chickens were running around cock-a-doodle-dooing in the yard, a small puppy was tied up alongside a fence by a shed, barking at us, and our guide stopped us to talk about the family that lived there. Now, they are a bona fide family, but they were clearly set up for small groups of tourists, because their main source of income is weaving, and they had a nice supply of woven goods set on shelves in their weaving room. We were allowed to tour parts of their home - we saw their kitchen, which is a combo of indoor/outdoor, and quite large, actually. We also saw their worship room at the front of the house, the separate sleeping quarters for men and women, and the toileting areas (just off the kitchen, next to their parked motor scooters). Our minivan had arrived and so, after a nice snack of local fruits and some green tea served by the residents, we headed out and continued our journey through the countryside. We stopped off at a few more places - a grass mat weaving place, where some of us got to operate the loom, a rice paper plant where we watched the full process of turning rice into first a powder, then heat and water steps into rice sheets, drying, and then finally shredding the dried sheets into rice noodles. I will never eat these again without thinking of what I saw and how much goes into making them! We sat for a few minutes and watched some women making those famous conical hats, and then we sat by the river and had a leisurely lunch. Afterwards, we stopped off at a very special pagoda - attached to it is an orphanage, housing 120 children. The orphanage is self-sufficient with donations and subsidies provided by the government. There are several teachers that provide schooling, teach English, and several nuns who look after the children. Da Nang and Hoi An The city of Da Nang has been around since at least the 1600's, but most people today recognize its name from the Vietnam War, as it is where the U.S. troops first landed in 1965. Nearby, China Beach became the place where troops enjoyed sand and surf as much needed recreation. The city fell to the North Vietnamese in 1975. Today, Da Nang is the fourth largest city in Vietnam, with approximately 1,000,000 people in residence. Hoi An is a small historic town about 22 miles from Da Nang, and is recognized as such by UNESCO. It's narrow and winding streets are an historian's delight, filled with beautifully preserved architecture evident in its temples, houses and meeting or assembly halls, as well as pagodas, water wells, bridges markets and a wharf. The village is a wonderful example of symbolic oriental cities in the Middle Ages. We were picked up by our tour guide and small bus and drove through Da Nang on our way to Hoi An. Along the way, we passed by the old American base that was used extensively during the war. It is now used as a naval base by the Vietnamese military, but you can still see a number of the old American barracks along the outskirts of the base. We also passed by ( and later visited the shop) the Marble Mountains. They are each named for elements - water, metal, wood, fire and earth. The earth is the highest peak. They make some fantastic pieces taken from the marble of the mountainous area. We spent a leisurely day wandering the narrow streets of Hoi An, and hopped onto a small river boat for a 20 minute trip down the river until we reached a small village devoted to ceramic making. An elderly woman and her granddaughter demonstrated the art of the wheel, with the younger one spinning the wheel around with her foot, and the elder forming the clay in the center of the wheel into a small bowl. She then started a second piece, which was a lid that fit perfectly on the bowl she had just finished. We had a nice lunch at a quiet restaurant down a small street and then spent another half hour shopping and walking through the central market before hopping on our bus and heading back to the ship. Cruise Life There are some great people that I have met as part of the cruise critic group, and we've had a number of days together on tour in which to get to know one another more than just in passing. We are a diverse group - we come from Canada, Macau, Greece, U.S., Australia, U.K., Scotland. We are single, married, aunts, nieces, sons and daughters. Retired, in school, working. First time cruisers, long time cruisers. I've had "anytime dining" option this cruise and it has had its benefits and its drawbacks. Benefits are that you get to meet more people because you generally sit with different people every meal. The downside to this is that you generally have to reintroduce yourself to people anew each night, you have to try to remember people's names, and as the days go by that list of names grows longer. You have to repeat where you're from, what you do, how long you've cruised, why are you cruising alone, do you have children, blah blah blah. Ack, it just wears you OUT! On sea days, there are always at least three things to do in any given hour. And those are just what's listed on our daily program. That doesn't count eating, reading, swimming, working out, walking, people watching, drinking, gambling, shopping, and sleeping. Haha! Yesterday was our fourth sea day and I attended three talks - one was a Q and A with the Captain. People asked him all sorts of questions and I found it fascinating. I might add that Holland America has its first ever female Staff Captain aboard our ship. The Staff Captain is second in command, although not second most important. That dubious honor goes to the ship's chef. The Captain told us the ship would sail without him, but never without the chef! Hahahahahahahahha. The second talk I attended was a slide show given by our ship's travel guide. He shared with us his favorite places in the world, and his pictures were beautiful, especially those taken in Iceland. That location just got bumped up a couple of notches on my "must go" list. The third talk I attended was a presentation, via slides, of the hotel manager reviewing what goes on in dry dock and how our ship was redecorated in just 14 days. Absolutely amazing what was accomplished in just two short weeks. Now, if only our mother ship could be so efficient.........(for those of you who don't know what I mean by that, well, never mind...) Next came happy hour. Two for one drinks in the Crow's Nest, the bar and lounge area on the top deck. Can't pass that up on a lazy sea day. I've also taken a few tech courses with our techspert on board. I can't recommend him highly enough. He is a retired engineer-type guy from Intel and teaches a series of classes on how to use your digital camera, using the new Windows 8 operating system, editing photos, setting up files and folders, etc. Some of the courses are very basic, which I skipped, but others have been quite helpful. I have learned all about Windows 8, how to use Skydrive, which is the Windows version of the Apple iCloud, and how to edit my photos using Photo Gallery, another Windows application. I learned how to take a series of photos in preparation for combining them into one panoramic picture once downloaded into Photo Gallery. Really neat! Halong Bay Our last port of call was Halong Bay, A UNESCO world heritage site. It is located in Northern Vietnam in the Gulf of Tonkin. Halong Bay has nearly 2,000 islands, most of which are uninhabited. The total land area is over 500 square kilometers, so you can imagine how big this area is. Halong Bay means the bay of the descending dragon. Local legends tell how a dragon was sent by the Emperor of Jade to fight the onslaught of attackers. In the process, the dragon spat jewels that landed in the sea. The dragon then landed in the sea, with just it's humps sticking up out of the water, which are the islands we now see. Our group had planned a private tour on our own little ship (called a ship, supposedly, because it had its own tender boat). We left the dock at a little past nine a.m. and did not return until well past six p.m. It was a long but lovely day on Paradise Cruises. The islands and the bay are gorgeous, but even more so on sunny days, when the green and translucent waters contrast sharply with bright blue skies. Sadly, our weather was quite cool, and very overcast. While it may have been a damp day, it did not dampen our spirits. We visited a cave while on our cruise. The Sung Sot Cave. We tendered in the cute little boat to a small dock, then had to climb about 200 steep steps up the mountain to the mouth of the cave. Once inside, we were awestruck at the sheer enormity of the cave. HUGE. To walk from the entrance to the other side to exit was one kilometer. This one was probably three or four stories high as well, filled with loads of stalactites, craters, and thousands of years worth of water eroded floors and walls. Simply gorgeous. After the cave, we sailed a little bit longer and then anchored for lunch. First class all,the way, it was a bountiful buffet of meats, seafood, noodles, rice, vegetables, salads, soups and even jelly fish! Yum. After lunch we visited another small island, called Ti Top Mountain, and climbed 400 steps up to the viewing area at the top. Beautiful vistas were the reward for that really tough trek up, then another 400 steps down. And so ends another tour, and another cruise, my friends. We sailed proudly into Hong Kong harbor early this morning, after spending a lovely evening on the ship, and a nice dinner with my cruise critic friends. I really really enjoyed this cruise! The ports of call were all wonderful, and while some of the places we wanted to visit (like Bangkok, Saigon, Hanoi) were long drives from the ports, I feel that's the price you pay when you cruise, sometimes. Most port cities are just that - small towns or cities built up around and in support of port activities - and often the tantalizing places are far more inland. So you have to factor that in when you're planning your trip. Rome, for example, is one of the most fantastic cities in the world to visit - but when you sail there, you sail into a pretty ugly and uninspiring port which is more than an hour's drive from Rome. Ya gotta just go with the flow! That's my motto. The service on the ship was 95% fantastic. My stateroom stewards were terrific, as usual. While I will probably not ever take a stateroom on the lowest passenger deck again, my room itself was more than adequate, and very comfortable. The reason I would pass up the lowest deck in the future is, although the crew decks are underneath this deck, it's not all crew cabins down there. There are engine rooms and other machinery type rooms that, based on where your stateroom might be, cause a lot of noise at times, and annoying vibrations. Next time, I'd go up a level (assuming I sail solo again and can't afford my favorite cabin, a verandah). The Volendam is a beautiful ship, and easy to navigate and move around in. If you sail with Holland America regularly, you can easily find the "standard" sections - Crow's Nest, Lido, Explorer's Lounge, shops, casino, etc. Dining room food was very good, but I've had a bit better on past cruises. While anytime dining was a nice option, I am seriously giving thought to going back to assigned dining in the future. Part of the overall cruising experience for me, on Holland America, is the superb attention the dining staff gives you when you sit in the same place at the same time every evening. They get to know you well, and seem more attentive, than with anytime dining. This is not to say that the service is lacking with anytime dining, it's just that I think it's ramped up a couple of notches with fixed dining option. Just my humble opinion. There's no shortage of things to do on the ship during sea days, as I noted before. You can be as busy or quiet as you wish. Entertainment - my favorite is Adagio Strings. They are a small combo that plays classical music in one of the lounges and it's really nice and relaxing to sit and listen to them, either before dinner, or after. The HAL entertainers were pretty good - I've seen better, I've seen worse. The guest entertainers were all quite good. Loved the dulcimer player, and the comedians. There was a couple who combined terrific ballroom-type dancing with some "magic" costume changing that was really enjoyable. Would I recommend this cruise itinerary? Absolutely. Would I recommend Holland America? Absolutely. Love the line. I'm loyal to them for a reason - they've earned it. Read Less
Sail Date January 2013
We have never been to the Far East before and so were very excited about this HAL cruise. We made excellent use to the CC forum and booked all our trips as part of our 51 strong CC group. We found the forum invaluable and made many friends ... Read More
We have never been to the Far East before and so were very excited about this HAL cruise. We made excellent use to the CC forum and booked all our trips as part of our 51 strong CC group. We found the forum invaluable and made many friends on our numerous trips. We flew out to Hong Kong and spent an extra day exploring this fascinating city. Embarkation was very chaotic and as previous reviews have stated the visa process paper the most complicated l have ever seen! You do only need group visas if you are not staying over night anywhere. This will save you loads. Ship is very comfortable and cabin spacious. I especially liked the amount of room in the bathroom. We were worried about being so far aft and wondered if we would hear engine noise. I'm pleased to report that except for 1 night when it was rough and the Captain had his foot down we heard nothing. It was also very handy for stairs to the LP deck at the back. Crew without exception were wonderful and seemed to have time to interact with passengers. The best crew on any ship we have sailed on. Food was very good, ample, hot and tasty. We did not however feel the Pinnacle Grill was worth the extra 50 USD. The steaks were massive and just too much for us. Maybe we just choose wrong on the night. Entertainment was very poor and the worst we've had on any major cruise line. This was the one thing HAL should work on otherwise everything else was excellent.Itinerary was great - full of fascinating ports: Halong Bay - easy to arrange on the day. 4 hours is enough and the caves are really worth seeing. It was a wonderful hot sunny day here which l am told is very rare. We went with 20 other CCs and booked a whole junk with transport to and from the pier for 20 USD each with a guide Saigon - arranged in advance with CCs. Wonderful day out especially enjoyed the water puppets and the sight of all the bikes I think this was 65 USD each Read Less
Sail Date January 2013
The Ship: Holland America Volendam The Cruise: 14 Night Singapore to Hong Kong The Dates: Jan 7-21 2013 The Cruisers: Alan (age: 61) & Susan (age: a few years younger than Alan, but I better not say exactly!). Our friends Kim ... Read More
The Ship: Holland America Volendam The Cruise: 14 Night Singapore to Hong Kong The Dates: Jan 7-21 2013 The Cruisers: Alan (age: 61) & Susan (age: a few years younger than Alan, but I better not say exactly!). Our friends Kim and Charlotte also accompanied us from where we all live in Taipa, Macau. The price: $799 pp for an inside cabin when booked about 30 days before departure. This was our ninth cruise, but our first on Holland America. We'd heard that cruisers sometimes call Holland America "The Geriatric Line" so perhaps we've been avoiding them. After all, we're still young Woodstock generation spring chickens looking for the all-night party! Well, just kidding......not really! We arrived in Singapore two days before our cruise and enjoyed two wonderful nights at the Swissotel , Merchant Court near Clarke Quay. On the day of embarkation , we arrived well relaxed at the cruise terminal around 12:30pm, or about half an hour after the earliest suggested check in time. Check in was lightning fast! We were in our cabins within twenty minutes! How did that happen? It's never happened that fast before! We were in cabin 2676 on deck 2 a.k.a. Main Deck. Our inside cabin contained more storage space than any other cruise ship we've been on and more than we would ever use! It was almost a shame that now that we are older we are traveling much lighter. As the wife noted, the bed was also wonderfully comfortable, the best we've slept on for a cruise . The bathroom was more than adequately equipped. The only downside was the shower curtain which if not manipulated properly might flood the bathroom floor. We also didn't particularly like the placement of the TV, so high up it was difficult to watch and use the remote. You had to fully extend your arm in an upward position just to change channels. But we weren't there to watch TV anyway. Crew: Mostly Indonesian and Filipino with Dutch officers. Our Indonesian cabin attendant was great! He took wonderful care of us and entertained us with creative towel animals at night. We chose the open seating dining option. The downside of this option is that you have a different waiter almost every night and don't get to know any of them really well. However as we exited the dining room every night on the fourth floor, we did get to know a young Indonesian attractively dressed in a red uniform who passed out dates and ginger as a parting gift. He had an engaging smile and we always looked forward to talking with him each evening. The Food: The food exceeded most of our expectations. We especially liked how there seemed to be special care taken with the seafood, not to overcook it. The shrimp, scallops, and lobster were excellent and I enjoyed a second or third serving on occasion. There were plenty of foods that we enjoyed both in the main dining room and in the Lido buffet on the pool deck. The tropical fruits were great especially the papaya and mango. A couple of the few things we did not care for were the green beans (too stringy) and the sushi (not much choice). Entertainment: We attended nearly all of the shows in the main theater. We found most of the performances entertaining, but not as good as some other lines. We would however put two performers and one duo in the exceptional category. They were a Chinese dulcimer player named Xu, an African-American singer with an especially powerful voice named Ebony and a married couple from Belarus that wowed the crowd by dancing and changing clothes incredibly fast. We were pleasantly surprised that the Microsoft computer classes on board were both free and highly informative. We enjoyed these on a couple of occasions. I think I paid for these on another line a few years ago. I am somewhat of a trivia addict so I attended these nearly every day. They were fun and I met many interesting people during the course of the friendly competition. My only input would be that there could be more variety in the questions and also in creating different types of these shipboard games. For instance, on Celebrity they had a trivia game called "Battle of the Sexes" which was great fun. Pools & Hot Tubs: I have to give the Volendam negative marks in this area. There are just two jacuzzi hot tubs on the ship. They are both located next to the main pool near the center of deck eight. The problem is that there is no supervision in this area. According to the posted signs children are not to use the hot tubs without adult supervision if they are under 16 years old. However during most afternoons the tubs were in fact full of unsupervised children. While most were respectful, a few were out of control. There was one particular overweight child that enjoyed splashing other guests and doing cannon balls into the hot tubs. On still another occasion, I heard him screaming while exiting the elevator next to the Lido Restaurant. As I entered the elevator I noticed the reason for his gleeful screams....he had pressed all the buttons and apparently felt proud of his actions! We began calling him Dennis the Menace! Many other guests commented on his behavior, but the crew and/or parents did nothing. Intangibles: This is the first ship we have been on that allowed guests access to the bow and other areas forward and aft that are normally out of bounds. We enjoyed that. The Voyage, Ports of Call & Tour Excursions: Our first night at sea was agony. The captain had warned us as we left Singapore that we would skirt the edges of a typhoon. Between 3-5am, the ship was really rocking, but by mid-morning things had returned to normal. After a sea day we arrived in Koh Samui. The ship was anchored near the town of Nathom on the northwest side of the island. After tendering and walking, we hired a taxi in downtown Nathom. I recommend resisting the temptation of hiring one off the pier. Similar to most places in southeast Asia, the price will drop as you get further away from the drop off point. We negotiated a trip of several hours to visit both the largest waterfall which is in the middle of the island and Chaweng Beach on the east side. Neither the waterfall nor the beach were spectacular, but they were okay and our short time there passed quickly. We had glimpses that made us think there were probably some better spots near some of the more exclusive resorts. On a future trip, we have plans to try one of the resorts on the neighboring island of Koh Phangan. Also Ang Thong Marine National Park looks enticing. Too bad we didn't have more time here! Our next stop was Laem Chabang, the cruise port for Bangkok. Since we'd done Bangkok before and it's quite a distance away, we decided to stay on the ship. It was great to have the ship almost to ourselves! I would doubt there were even a hundred people left on board the first day of an overnight stay. It was like living on Johnny Depp's ghost ship! Our next stop was Sihanoukville, Cambodia. We took a shuttle bus from the port into the downtown area. The town's buildings were an interesting mixture of new construction, squalor and rubble. One gets the impression though that the economy is improving and the people also reflect that. We hired a tuk-tuk to a nearby beach resort called Sokha Beach Resort and Spa. We enjoyed all of it.....the pool, beach and massage for several hours before returning to the ship. The following stop was Phu My, Vietnam, the port city for Saigon. We joined a Cruise Critic tour run by Smile Tours for this stop. It is a long drive of roughly 2.5 hours from the cruise port to the downtown area. We visited the Presidential palace, some markets, and the War Remnants Museum. Our guide's English was sometimes difficult to understand, but at least it was about half the price of the Holland America tour. We both felt the war museum was a little too one sided and hard to stomach. Our next stop was Nha Trang, Vietnam. We liked the slower pace of this beach resort town. There are plenty of nice hotels here including a Sheraton not far from where the shuttle bus dropped us off. However, my wife and I were a bit upset by the way Holland America advertised their shuttle bus. They said it would take approximately thirty minutes to reach the downtown area. It seemed a bit quick getting there so I decided to time our return trip. It took less than eight minutes! A number of ship passengers also told us they were upset with the travel information provided by the on-board port excursion director. They said he failed to mention a beautiful neighboring resort called Vin Pearl Island. Our ship actually parked right near the over the water gondola lift to the island. Those that I talked to that did visit Vin Pearl Island claimed it was wonderful. Our next to last stop was Danang, Vietnam. The wife elected to stay on the cruise ship as we had been here before. I took the shuttle downtown and did some walking in the central business district. It was hard to have much fun given that I was constantly being asked if I wanted a ride in a tuk-tuk or to buy something. A number of other guests I talked with went to Hoi An and appeared to have enjoyed it much more. Our last stop was Halong Bay. Since we had already done an excursion on a junk of Halong Bay a couple of years ago while sailing on Legend of the Seas, we decided to join another Cruise Critic organized tour of downtown Hanoi. Like Saigon, we again had a long mini-bus commute into the city of about three hours. However, this time we had a better guide. His name was Dinh Quang Giang. He helped my wife shop for clothes as well as buy spices in the market. We took a rickshaw ride through the city and visited Senator McCain's old residence a.k.a Hanoi Hilton. Besides visiting all the regular city highlights, our guide also introduced us to several mugs of delicious cold draft beer that cost only forty cents a glass. If you are interested in touring Hanoi at a reduced price, I suggest you contact Mr. Giang via e-mail: dinhquanggiang@gmail.com He uses a reliable Mercedes Benz mini-bus, will quote you a fair price and speaks good English. Disembarkation was as easy as boarding had been. Overall, this cruise was a great value for us and the positives far outweighed the few negatives. Perhaps Holland America is not for everyone. Nightlife usually ends by 11:30pm, but for the most part we enjoyed our time on Volendam. Just look out for Dennis the Menace! Read Less
Sail Date January 2013
Holland America -- Volendam -- 14days Hong Kong to Singapore This is our own views on cruising with Holland America. Being experienced cruisers we take every cruise as our first and try not to compare, as so many try to compare ... Read More
Holland America -- Volendam -- 14days Hong Kong to Singapore This is our own views on cruising with Holland America. Being experienced cruisers we take every cruise as our first and try not to compare, as so many try to compare companies and end up spoiling their trip. We like to cruise on itinerary. Just recently undergone a refurbishment although did look like it had been done quickly and maybe needed a little better finishing touches. Embarkation -- A little chaotic, boarding in Hong Kong is done in the end of a shopping centre, you drop your bags on pier then a longish walk to check-in. It took around 2 hrs. from dropping bags to being on board, at least chairs were supplied so the waiting in lines was limited. The compulsive safety drill was professionally done, being repeated a number of times for passengers went ashore to enjoy Hong Kong due to a late departure. Food overall was very good, the buffet variety was good although at times was not very hot, if brought to the chefs attention they were happy to make sure you were given it hot. We opted for 'any time dining' we never booked or waited to be seated. We were willing to share tables. Menus were always varied and food was well cooked and presented, waiters made sure any changes were done. Although waiting staff seemed to be thin on the ground which at times caused some delays but being on holiday there was no need rush. Entertainment was quite poor, 3 visiting comedians was a bit over the top. The ships own show team seemed not to do a lot, the quality of the singing & dancing was quite amateurish. Cabin was very well kept and maintained to a very good standard, cabin steward worked very hard and seemed to have a lot more cabins too service which may show the reduction in staff. Towels were of a good quality. Bath robes supplied for use. Dis-embarkation was simple from the ship. Long queues for immigration, there are no porters to assist with luggage, one problem was the very long queues for taxis which required a walk through a small shopping area. Taxis were plentiful though one you get to the rank. If you are going to a hotel it is worth have the name & address of the hotel for the taxi driver as many hotel chains may have more than one hotel. If you are an independent and require transfer to the airport take a taxi. On the dis-embarkation information stated $39 each, but on the reverse stated taxis cost around $25 for the cab. If this is you first visit to the area it is worth investing in a guide book to cover the ports of call Currency -- Most ports of call will accept US$, try getting small notes, it worth getting a small amount of local currency in Hong Kong, Vietnam, Thailand & Singapore. Visa's these are issued on board, Holland America adds a large handling fee. These are still cheaper than organising your own. These are charged even if you do not go ashore. Holland America do charge an exorbitant handling charge, for Cambodia we were charged $45 and actual visa cost $20 (making around additional $37,000) Gratuities $11.50 per day per person, you can remove or adjust this amount. Ports Of Call Hong Kong -- If you need to arrange your individual transfer's just head follow the signs for taxis, all are metered & most take credit cards (cost about £20gbp) Hong Kong is very easy city to get round yourselves using the underground/metro. Get yourself a metro map, this way it will show what exit you want from each station saving a great deal of walking. Try to avoid Hong Kong taxis for short journeys as you may be stuck in traffic for long periods. Halong Bay -- Tender Port - Junk trips are easily available on the pier exactly the same as ships tours at a fraction of the cost (around 15-20 US$) plus admission to caves. We actually visited some place the ships tour did not. At the fish farm you could purchase live sea food and the lady of the junk would cook it for you at no cost. A trip to Hanoi is not recommended as it involves a 3-4hr trip each way. Da Nang -- A trip to Hoi An is a must, easy to negotiate an on portside taxi / minibus who will take you to Hoi An with a visit en-route to the Marble Mountain. Marble Mountain is marble statues are produced and shipped all over the world some weighing many tons. You can take the lift up to the top, not actually a mountain, but if you visit on a cruise tour you are expected to walk up or stay on the coach. Hoi An is a trip back in time, one of our favourite places of all. You need to purchase a tourist ticket at one of the booths, this allow you to visit 5 places on the map ranging from temple to restored houses. By doing your own tour will give you a lot longer to visit at your own pace. Nha Trang - the shuttle bus will drop you in the town, not a lot to see in town. Taxis available outside the port gates, bargain hard. Usual tourist sites to see in the town but there are some nice places to visit within a short drive. Phu My - for Saigon / Ho Chi Minh City the port is around 2hrs into the city. There are plenty of Mini buses available portside a seat will cost about 30-35US$, don't be tempted to go outside the port gates these will rip you off and waste your valuable time. Holland America transfer $59 each. The government buildings / museums close for lunch 12.30-14.00. Getting around Saigon is easy, taxis are metered and cheap. Sihanoukville, Cambodia -- shuttle into town supplied free of charge which drops you off near to the central market, a trip back in time sells everything from usual tourist items to live fish. You will be soon surrounded by tut tut drivers, all seem to speak very good English. Slightly different to the usual tut tut, actually motorcycles with a trailer, so make sure you are happy with its condition. Not a lot to see as this is quite a new port of call for cruise ships. Laem Chabang , If you want to organise your own transfer its easy to do, do a Google search for Bangkok airport transfers. A good quality car for 2 cost us 1800baht each way (Bangkok Airport Transfers) Taxi / Minibus available in terminal for Pattaya (30mins) Bangkok (again 2hrs) prices are a bit higher than booking online prior, but allows you get together with others to keep the prices low. Getting around in Bangkok is easy using skytrain or tut tut. Koh Samui -- Tender Port -- Pier is awash with taxis, Koh Samui is a large tourist area and this was evident in the prices, be tough on haggling. The island is not that large and a road runs right round the edge. Singapore - cruise port is easy walking to metro so getting around is very easy. Read Less
Sail Date January 2013
We chose Holland America because it is known to have a slightly older clientele as we are not into the 'party scene' and the proposed itinerary looked interesting. I must point out that we were not able to complete the whole ... Read More
We chose Holland America because it is known to have a slightly older clientele as we are not into the 'party scene' and the proposed itinerary looked interesting. I must point out that we were not able to complete the whole trip due to an urgent medical situation back home, but did spend 8 glorious days on board. We flew to Sydney on the day of embarkation and we were on board and in our cabin within 20 minutes of arriving at the terminal. We were very happy with our cabin, it was set up beautifully with plenty of storage space and we were unpacked and ready to explore within 30 minutes. Leaving Sydney was great! We just squeezed under the bridge and as we looked back over the city and opera house the sun was setting behind it all. Before we knew it we were out of the heads and into the night. The ocean was kind to us with very little swell and we settled in for our cruise. The crew: we had wonderful room stewards, Matt and Arbie, who did a fabulous job each day. Staff around the ship were always smiling, polite and attentive without being intrusive. A few of the Lido staff asked my name and greeted me each time I wandered by, a really nice touch. The ship: We found all parts that we visited to be in very good condition. Everything in our cabin worked, all lifts were functioning, the crew were always cleaning or polishing and the fit out was tasteful and stylish. We experienced very little vibration while underway and the only annoying noise were people dragging around their balcony furniture in the suites above us.. Dining: we had selected as you wish dining and enjoyed three evenings with interesting table guests. The remainder of our meals were taken in the Lido and again we were able to mix with a variety of passengers, all with interesting stories. Food: the day is based around food, and what food it was. Very tasty, plenty of choices, fresh and well presented. I cannot imagine there wasn't something for everyone. From breakfast, lunch, Lido grill bar, afternoon tea, dinner and supper.....made walking the promenade deck essential! Ports of call: having been to Hamilton Island before we were not expecting much but used the tenders anyway. The tender process was a little slow but once underway was well executed. Cairns would have been better if a whole day could have been spent instead of arriving at lunch and leaving 24 hours later. The main attraction of Cairns is the visit to the outer reef but a whole day is needed for this. Unfortunately there was no time to have this experience. We did the half day Green Island tour with semi-submersible and glass bottom boat tours, this was enjoyable and we saw a lot of the local reef and marine life. As we had many sea days the local cruising was relaxing, great weather though very humid the more north we travelled. We had two Reef Pilots on board who piloted the ship through the reef and who provided commentary as we went along. The only negative to this was he didn't speak properly into the microphone and the volume kept fading away. When we contacted the front office of our requirement to disembark they were helpful, provided follow up phone calls and assisted us right to the moment we stepped on shore. We will cruise again, definitely with HAL, Read Less
Sail Date November 2012
Volendam Ratings
Category Editor Member
Cabins 3.5 4.0
Dining 4.0 4.0
Entertainment 3.5 3.5
Public Rooms 4.0 4.2
Fitness Recreation 4.5 3.8
Family 3.5 3.8
Shore Excursion 4.0 3.5
Enrichment 5.0 3.5
Service 5.0 4.2
Value For Money 4.0 3.8
Rates 4.0 3.9

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