The land tour (8 days with HAL) was awesome and exceeded our expectations, Anchorage/Denali/Fairbanks/Dawson City/ whitehorse/ Skagway but the sea part to Vancouver was not fun.
I would not cruise with HAL on their ships again.
1. Indonesian and Filipino staff have poor English comprehension - a big problem in the case of an emergency (Costa Concordia). They try hard, but lack English language skill.
2. Customer service at the front desk is very poor. The worst of any cruise ship we have seen.
3. Overall Poor maintenance - the ship is WAY overdue for a major refurbishment
Below are my comments on the HAL follow up survey:
As an experienced cruiser (35+ cruises) , I can say this Volendam cruise was absolutely the worst cruise that we have ever been on. My wife and I are NOT chronic complainers, we are not demanding - but we expect a decent cruise experience. The experience started on Saturday 6/27 when (dead tired) we flopped down in our cabin at 2:00 to take a nap. The room was cold (62.4F to be exact 16C). I awoke at 4:30PM with the sniffles (had a cough for the rest of the cruise) and tried to turn the temperature up. It did not respond. We called the hotel desk at 5:00PM and they said that they would "send a technician to our cabin' - #1939. No response - at 5:25 I called again. This time the hotel sent a clerk to check the temp which he confirmed at 16C. Then we went to dinner and the show. Back in the room at 9:45 and still cold at 16C. This time we went to the desk and asked to be shifted to another room. The staff person refused. Told us to sit and wait a while while the same desk clerk rechecked the temperature. Sick of waiting, we went down to the room. Finally a tech came at about 10:30 and reset the control unit. It continued to operate imperfectly for the next three days. Day two - no water was running in the sink or toilet from 6:00-7:00AM - the toilet packed up after a BM at 8:00AM. Afraid to use the room toilet for the next three days, my wife and I did all of our necessities in the public rest rooms which were also operating imperfectly.
After a terrific (yes, I said terrific) land tour (8 days) we were of a mindset for a good sea experience. If the staff had given us another room, all would have probably been fine and the cold room would have been forgotten. Lord forgive them if they had needed to upgrade us to a higher level (sic). Might have cost HAL $20. But with the bad temperature controller, and the defective toilet, we were set up for a negative experience. The food was so so and the entertainment was ok, but our room experience was terrible. We also also became much more critical of the ship. After an 11:00PM general emergency alarm due to a bad pulley in a cabinet that was emitting smoke, it became evident to us that the Volendam needs to be taken from service and gone over with a fine tooth comb. The systems are in desperate need of proper maintenance and a good deep cleaning program. The sewer system, the mechanical systems, and the guest ventilation systems. Somebody threw up in the aft promenade deck vestibule early on in the cruise and the vomit smell was there till we left the ship. Poor maintenance in general. It is VERY doubtful that we will cruise with HAL for a third cruise.
Princess and Celebrity have much higher standards and do not cost that much more.
Many of the staff are great and went out of their way to serve us. These include the cabin steward, the bar staff, and the waiters. The front office delivers very poor customer service despite the phalanx of awards on the board. The English proficiency of the staff is a big problem.
Like I said the a/c and the inoperative toilet made for a bad experience. I will say that the bed was comfy - small consolation. The steward while unseen for most of the cruise, did a respectable job and was friendly when we saw him.... but he is not a plumber or an electrician.
Lots to do in Skagway. We were only here for 5 hours of sightseeing, but it is a nice place to visit.
The town is not bad. See Creek Street for sure. Much too much tickey tacky shops selling cheap Chinese trinkets and "Alaska" stuff that is way over priced. Do the Anchorage Saturday street fair for real AK products and forget buying stuff here. Do a fly expedition - but do NOT book with the cruise lines. Example: the cruise lines want $250+ for a flight seeing trip. Book 6 people with Southeast Airways for about $100 per person for a nice flight with highly competent pilots.