We live in Naples, FL and we decided to drive to Ft. Lauderdale, FL the day before the cruise (Dec 12, 2006) and stay at the Sleep Inn in Dania, FL the night before. (We had had a bad scene with the last cruise - a three-hour wait for the Cruise Connection bus leaving Ft. Lauderdale on the last cruise.) The motel was close to the Cruise port, easy to get to (I-75 from Naples, via I-595 east, via I-95 south, to exit 22, to Sheridan) was rated 3 star by AAA, was only $77 per night, had free shuttle to & from ship (more about this later) and they let us park our car for only $7 per night during the cruise. (We like December cruises because (1) they are cheaper, (2) the hotels & motels in FL are cheaper than in the winter months, (3) cruises have Christmas decorations, and (4) there is always a cold snap in Naples in December). When you go into the motel, be sure you always reserve the time for your shuttle the next day. After that, we then went to Dania Beach. There was a supposed to be a great restaurant there, but we found that it hadn't opened yet. Ate across the street from the Sleep Inn at a Mexican restaurant - very good.
Next morning we had plenty of time, took the 11 o'clock free shuttle and had a long line at the embarkation. We never knew what the trouble was, (maybe we were just early, but later arrivers had a 2 or 3 hour wait, they said). The Set Sail pass worked like a charm. We were on the Volendam by 1 pm. Ate lunch in nice buffet. It was like a long cafeteria, with only two or three stations of salad and desserts. Beth didn't like that - she wanted lots of stations, no long line of food, like NCL. We were at our cabin by 1:30 pm (earliest time possible). Had a nice balcony. There was room for a chair, a big lounge chair and a small table. When we both wanted to sit & talk, we brought out the chair from inside, if no chance of rain. Had refrigerator (a good reason to have a balcony room), and a great bed & pillows. Plenty room for two people. We were in the very aft end of the ship. I like the aft end, even though the vessel shuttered a little a night at that end. The aft end is closer to the food, both the buffet and the main dining room. It's a long way to the place where you embark, though. There are two curtains, one between the bedroom area and living room area, and between the WC and the bedroom area, that keeps noise and light out of the bedroom area - very helpful. It allowed me to awaken early and not disturb the Beth. Next was the horrible, but necessary Lifeboat Drill. Only the government could think how to start a cruise with a demeaning drill, like that. Never sensed any odor on the ship during the 10 days.
Entertainment. Very good. Pretty dancers and singers. I was amazed at all the fine talent. Everyone said ventriloquist and the duck was hilarious (we missed it), but every other night was also good, except the last night. I liked the entertainer and director Luke Yankee. Had some hilarious stories about his mother, Eileen Heckart, and all the Broadway and Hollywood stars she worked with. Some things were very poignant. It was an interesting seminar. Spa Beth loved the Spa. She bought the $89 package for all 10 days and enjoyed it every day