This type of report is unavoidably subjective. I have read on this and other forums reports about the same cruise by different authors and it is hard to believe that they were actually on the same ship at the same time.
The following are therefore my views only and I'm sure that other passengers from this voyage of the Volendam would disagree with me on just about every point I make.
I took this cruise because I had been invited to a wedding in Las Vegas and at the time that the invitation arrived I saw a Holland America newspaper advertisement. Rather than face 14 hours flying home to Sydney from Los Angeles I decided to sail across the Pacific.
I had originally booked a single occupancy ocean view cabin (1946) on deck 1 but was persuaded by the advice of my mother (who at 86 is enthusiastically cruising) to change to a veranda cabin on deck 6.
I was in cabin 6194 on the port side of the ship; about two thirds of the way back from the front of the ship.
Even with the additional cost, nearly double, I'm very glad I made the change because having a veranda means being able to get a breath of fresh air without having to make yourself presentable enough to leave your cabin to go on deck. The veranda also makes the cabin seem so much bigger with the extra space outside and also with the wall between the interior and the veranda being all glass (with curtains heavy enough to block out the sun if necessary).
There was little noise from adjacent cabins or from the corridor outside. My cabin had other cabins above on deck 7 and I never heard a noise from that direction. Below me was the library and internet area and again I never heard a noise from there. There were a few squeaks if the ship was rolling but no vibration from the engines or other distractions.
The cabin was spotlessly clean when I arrived and remained so for the whole voyage; any mess was mine alone.
The bed was very comfortable with a good reading light and six pillows were provided; 2 firm, 2 medium and 2 soft.
Plenty of storage space for everything and enough room under the bed for several suitcases.
Take a power board if like me you have several things you want to charge or power at the same time. There is one power point at the desk.
The bathroom is a good size and well lit; with a shower over a bath. The hot water was consistent in temperature and the water is soft enough for shampoos and soaps to lather.
The cabin was serviced every morning while I was having breakfast; the room steward just seemed to know when I'd gone to eat.
On the TV there are:
- Usually three movies on three channels showing in a continuous cycle.
- Holland America promotional material.
- Promotional material for the on board shops.
- Port excursion and other information.
- Replays of presentations and cooking demonstrations from previous day
- Fox News seemed to work no matter where we were.
- ESPN, TNT and other channels worked most of the time, this depended on satellite location.
- Ship location, speed, heading, weather information channel.
There are 100s of DVDs available to borrow; you just have to phone and they will deliver!
I took myself by public bus to Pearl Harbor. The number 20 bus leaves from about 200 yards from where the ships dock. It is $2.50 flat fare and you must have exact change as none is given. It took about 45 minutes to get to the Pearl Harbor memorial (it does goes into the airport to the terminals, but don't worry it does come back out). The bus turns off the highway into the visitor centre to let passengers off. Tell the driver you want this stop and he will announce it loudly when you arrive.
I saw the museum and also I went aboard the battleship Missouri and the submarine Bowfin. On the Missouri make sure you take one of the guided tours as the guides are very knowledgeable. If you go aboard the Bowfin then make sure you are reasonably agile as the doorways (hatchways) between compartments of the submarine are small and have a very high step.
From the highway outside the visitor centre I caught bus number 20 back to the business district near where the Volendam was docked. After lunch aboard I then walked off to find a post office. On the way I saw the Iolani Palace, the only royal place in the United States and the nearby statue of King Kamehameha. I also saw many fine public buildings, none of which had been built in the last 50 years. The more recently constructed Federal Courts building looks like it has been designed to withstand an armed attack.
I then tried to catch a bus to Waikiki (about 3 miles) but after waiting 20 minutes in the sun and watching packed buses go past I decided to get a taxi. Honolulu seems to have fewer taxis than any other major city I have visited. Or maybe the drivers were all having an afternoon nap. Eventually I got a taxi and went to the Royal Hawaiian Hotel. This is a pink coloured hotel is on the beach at Waikiki; built long before the high rise towers that now surround it. I wandered through the spacious public areas of the hotel to the beach. Without the background of Diamond Head Waikiki would be a rather pathetic beach; some of the hotels don't even have sand in front of them and at its deepest the beach is about 40m from hotel boundary to water.
I had a look around the area behind the beach and it looks just like Surfers Paradise in Australia; many of the shops are exactly the same. So I wasn't much impressed by Waikiki.
I caught bus number 20 back to the ship. I think it odd that the bus company doesn't provide a map and some timetable information at bus stops frequented by tourists. Doubly odd as they boast on the side of the buses that they are the best bus company in the US (perhaps that is an instructive comment on the average quality of public transport in the US). At least the driver on the bus was very entertaining and announced at one stop that it was the last stop and we'd all have to get off; as angry passengers surged towards the front of the bus he shouted out "just kidding" and put the bus in motion.
A spectacular harbour; it is surrounded by thick jungle almost down to the water and covering every bit of ground that isn't a road or built on. Coming into this port early in the morning is unforgettable. I didn't take an organised tour. I walked along the main road and saw that there wasn't much except a few ordinary shops and the local market.
The Somerset Maugham story Rain is set in Pago Pago in the 1920s. Somerset Maugham visited Pago Pago about that time and was forced to stay on the island for two weeks because of a measles epidemic (which meant that he and others couldn't travel on to other destinations because of the risk of infection during the incubation period). The place he stayed is still standing and is now named in honour of one of the main characters in the story Sadie Thompson, a prostitute. In the story the rain is incessant but this isn't the rainy season otherwise yesterday's visit would have been much less pleasant.
On the wharf there were lots of stalls set up just for the day. These were selling clothes and souvenirs but the offerings were somewhat repetitive; if you'd seen a couple of the stalls then you'd seen them all.
I hired a taxi to take me over to the north side of the island. As we crossed the ridge from south to north we stopped to take photos of the stunning harbour. Then we drove through a national park to a perfect beach. There and back took about an hour and the pre-agreed cost was $20. The driver was a pleasant fellow but his English and my Samoan were about the same standard so we didn't chat much.
After lunch on the ship (there seemingly being nowhere else to eat on land except McDonalds) I took another taxi from the dock and told the driver to go west for an hour and then turn around and come back by a different route. This driver was chatty. He'd taken the day off from his job at Ace Hardware to try to make a bit of extra money from tourists. He even called in to Ace Hardware to drive past the front door and honk the horn at his workmates to show them that he was actually working. Everywhere we drove was lush with a profusion of tropical plants and trees. Gardening seems to be a common pass time; the majority of the gardens were very neat and almost every house was growing bananas and vegetables.
The two hour "tour" cost $40; I'm sure I could have bargained this amount down as there were other drivers at the wharf offering $15 per hour; but I wasn't inclined to quibble about $10 and the driver certainly needed the money more than me.
Pago Pago was a very pleasant surprise to me. The island is ruggedly mountainous and the harbour is as beautiful a place as you'll ever see.
But be warned; during the rainy season from December to March the rainfall is measured in metres.