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This was our first and probably last trip with Holland America. We had previously done a 19 night trip with Cunard which we thoroughly enjoyed. The cruise ticked all the boxes when we booked. It was travelling from Hong Kong to Japan and was stopping at Shanghai, Beijing, Nagasaki and Osaka. The cruise was really a way of getting from Hong Kong to Osaka and the visited ports. I am just glad it was only a 14 cruise and not a 6 week cruise like Independents. My wife was ready to get off after 12 of the 14 days! We did a short independent holiday in Hong Kong first. We stayed at the Peninsula and everything was more perfect than even we expected. We then moved to the Marco Polo Hong Kong where we stayed in a continental club room. It was also good place to stay and it had the advantage of being close to the cruise terminal. A hotel porter took our luggage to the terminal and we appreciated the service. My concerns about the cruise arose on boarding when the gentleman ahead tried to collect my wife's purse and he had to be pulled away by his wife. He clearly was not with it. It soon became apparent that we were one of the few people of working age on the cruise and that the number of older cruisers on board was at an exceptionally high level. It was also apparent that it was more of a floating old peoples home than anything else. One of our friends had travelled on Holland America on a Mediterranean cruise and he had not encountered this problem. Things got off to a bad start as we were not told that there was a problem with the water. After my wife had a shower the face washer was very brown. We are not used to brown water where we live and it is not something that you should have to endure on your cruise. It took days for the problem to be acknowledged and it had not been resolved by the time we disembarked. My wife's experience with the front office in relation to this was very negative. Dining was another experience. We ended up giving up asking for a table for two in the Rotterdam dining room as it was invariably unavailable without an extended wait. Nor were we able to secure a reservation for a table for two. The treatment we received from the staff member allocating the tables is almost identical to that noted by a previous reviewer. That is, almost a sense of pleasure in saying that a table was not available despite us then walking past vacant tables for two. The range of meals and the quality of meals was below expectations as was the service. However, it tended to better than the food in the Lido which was more in the way of institutional food. The chicken was overcooked and the curries undercooked. The food was quite bland, which might be a reflection of what it is thought the target market want. Then again, it might be what they do want. After returning from the Beijing excursion where not surprisingly, Chinese banquet food was served, one traveller remarked how nice it was to come back to 'real food'. The fruit was problem. It was either too ripe or too unripe. When we were in Beijing there was a vendor's cart at the Tomb and they had a really nice range of fresh fruit. I would have liked some of it as what was on the boat was not great. We did go to the Pinnacle Grill and it was a real contrast. The food and the service was what you would expect of an up-market restaurant. If we were on the boat any longer I suspect we would have eaten there more even though you have to pay extra to eat there. Unlike the Cunard cruise, there was minimal to be offered in the way of intellectual stimulation. Lectures about gems etc were really not so thinly veiled sales pitches. Nor would I count casino activities as such activities. We paid for nearly all the Holland America shore excursions and while there were some issues that ought to be addressed they were good. We paid top dollar to stay in Beijing overnight.The main issue is that some of the passengers who had mobility issues did not seem to understand the Holland America brochures. Some wag suggested that the three people sign stood for "needs three carers to push you". They did not understand that structures built in a time before lifts and escalators have access and mobility issues associated with them and that it is not easy with a walking frame on cobble stones. They are also world heritage listed so it is not as though lifts and escalators could be installed without desecrating these sites. These issues were poorly dealt with by the boat's shore excursion staff. Those who suffered were the more mobile. If you have only 20 minutes to see something and it takes the person with mobility issues 10 minutes to get off the bus then you are impacted on adversely. I have to say there was one person where there was mobility issues and they were very responsible. They waited until everybody else was off the bus before getting off but this was the exception rather than the norm. There is also a problem with disembarking at ports. We were told that the Holland America groups would have priority in Nagasaki but when we got to the immigration hall it was full of independent travellers who had been let off the ship before us. It took about 40 minutes for us to get through immigration and it took the edge off the excursion before we even got on the bus. Disembarkation was also a bad experience. We waited 20 minutes in our bus for a rude traveller who did not care about their fellow travellers. There was no apology offered and apparently this traveller had 'form' for this type of behaviour. We stayed at the Imperial Hotel Osaka after disembarkation. This was arranged through Holland America. The Holland America staff in Osaka in contrast to the staff in the boat front office were very helpful and the hotel was also excellent. It was quite a contrast to the service on the boat. Australians do not believe in tipping and that is an issue that Holland America needs to address when selling cruises to Australians. The underlying philosophy in Australia, as often repeated in travel pages here, is that wages should be adequate to live on rather than having to depend on tips. It was not all negative on the boat. The service from the room attendant was superb. I have looked at the reviews since we have returned home and find myself in agreement with Independant and wonder whether the favourable reviewers travelled on the same boat. Maybe our expectations are higher. As you can see our issues were primarily with the service on the boat and as people who paid top dollar we were left somewhat underwhelmed.

Not what we expected, and did not meet expectations.

Volendam Cruise Review by Wombat40

Trip Details
  • Sail Date: April 2015
  • Destination: Asia
  • Cabin Type: Large Ocean-View Stateroom
This was our first and probably last trip with Holland America. We had previously done a 19 night trip with Cunard which we thoroughly enjoyed. The cruise ticked all the boxes when we booked. It was travelling from Hong Kong to Japan and was stopping at Shanghai, Beijing, Nagasaki and Osaka. The cruise was really a way of getting from Hong Kong to Osaka and the visited ports.

I am just glad it was only a 14 cruise and not a 6 week cruise like Independents. My wife was ready to get off after 12 of the 14 days! We did a short independent holiday in Hong Kong first. We stayed at the Peninsula and everything was more perfect than even we expected. We then moved to the Marco Polo Hong Kong where we stayed in a continental club room. It was also good place to stay and it had the advantage of being close to the cruise terminal. A hotel porter took our luggage to the terminal and we appreciated the service.

My concerns about the cruise arose on boarding when the gentleman ahead tried to collect my wife's purse and he had to be pulled away by his wife. He clearly was not with it. It soon became apparent that we were one of the few people of working age on the cruise and that the number of older cruisers on board was at an exceptionally high level. It was also apparent that it was more of a floating old peoples home than anything else. One of our friends had travelled on Holland America on a Mediterranean cruise and he had not encountered this problem.

Things got off to a bad start as we were not told that there was a problem with the water. After my wife had a shower the face washer was very brown. We are not used to brown water where we live and it is not something that you should have to endure on your cruise. It took days for the problem to be acknowledged and it had not been resolved by the time we disembarked. My wife's experience with the front office in relation to this was very negative.

Dining was another experience. We ended up giving up asking for a table for two in the Rotterdam dining room as it was invariably unavailable without an extended wait. Nor were we able to secure a reservation for a table for two. The treatment we received from the staff member allocating the tables is almost identical to that noted by a previous reviewer. That is, almost a sense of pleasure in saying that a table was not available despite us then walking past vacant tables for two. The range of meals and the quality of meals was below expectations as was the service. However, it tended to better than the food in the Lido which was more in the way of institutional food. The chicken was overcooked and the curries undercooked. The food was quite bland, which might be a reflection of what it is thought the target market want. Then again, it might be what they do want. After returning from the Beijing excursion where not surprisingly, Chinese banquet food was served, one traveller remarked how nice it was to come back to 'real food'.

The fruit was problem. It was either too ripe or too unripe. When we were in Beijing there was a vendor's cart at the Tomb and they had a really nice range of fresh fruit. I would have liked some of it as what was on the boat was not great.

We did go to the Pinnacle Grill and it was a real contrast. The food and the service was what you would expect of an up-market restaurant. If we were on the boat any longer I suspect we would have eaten there more even though you have to pay extra to eat there.

Unlike the Cunard cruise, there was minimal to be offered in the way of intellectual stimulation. Lectures about gems etc were really not so thinly veiled sales pitches. Nor would I count casino activities as such activities.

We paid for nearly all the Holland America shore excursions and while there were some issues that ought to be addressed they were good. We paid top dollar to stay in Beijing overnight.The main issue is that some of the passengers who had mobility issues did not seem to understand the Holland America brochures. Some wag suggested that the three people sign stood for "needs three carers to push you". They did not understand that structures built in a time before lifts and escalators have access and mobility issues associated with them and that it is not easy with a walking frame on cobble stones. They are also world heritage listed so it is not as though lifts and escalators could be installed without desecrating these sites. These issues were poorly dealt with by the boat's shore excursion staff. Those who suffered were the more mobile. If you have only 20 minutes to see something and it takes the person with mobility issues 10 minutes to get off the bus then you are impacted on adversely. I have to say there was one person where there was mobility issues and they were very responsible. They waited until everybody else was off the bus before getting off but this was the exception rather than the norm.

There is also a problem with disembarking at ports. We were told that the Holland America groups would have priority in Nagasaki but when we got to the immigration hall it was full of independent travellers who had been let off the ship before us. It took about 40 minutes for us to get through immigration and it took the edge off the excursion before we even got on the bus.

Disembarkation was also a bad experience. We waited 20 minutes in our bus for a rude traveller who did not care about their fellow travellers. There was no apology offered and apparently this traveller had 'form' for this type of behaviour.

We stayed at the Imperial Hotel Osaka after disembarkation. This was arranged through Holland America. The Holland America staff in Osaka in contrast to the staff in the boat front office were very helpful and the hotel was also excellent. It was quite a contrast to the service on the boat.

Australians do not believe in tipping and that is an issue that Holland America needs to address when selling cruises to Australians. The underlying philosophy in Australia, as often repeated in travel pages here, is that wages should be adequate to live on rather than having to depend on tips.

It was not all negative on the boat. The service from the room attendant was superb.

I have looked at the reviews since we have returned home and find myself in agreement with Independant and wonder whether the favourable reviewers travelled on the same boat. Maybe our expectations are higher. As you can see our issues were primarily with the service on the boat and as people who paid top dollar we were left somewhat underwhelmed.
Wombat40’s Full Rating Summary
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