This was my fourth cruise on the Volendam in past three years.
Last year I did the reverse Sydney to Vancouver so I was well aware of sea days and port calls and quite familiar with the Volendam.
Overall it was a pleasant cruise with lots of sea days which I often enjoy more than all the hectic activity of port days.
A few observations:
The Volendam is well maintained and the Indonesian/Filipino crew as usual provides good to excellent service with a smile.
The recent dry dock added a bunch of the Lanai rooms on the LP deck. Seems a shame that the chairs in front of these rooms are reserved for the rooms occupants, many of whom seem to never even use them, leaving very few available LP deck chairs to the remaining 1300 or so passengers to use. The lower prom deck is still a wonderful fake teak wraparound deck that i love.
The room: Had an obstructed view room on lower prom deck. Typical holland america room , plenty of storage, comfortable beds etc..
However, once again, for the sixth straight time on Holland we had requested two twin bed configuration as two men traveling together. Once again arrived to find one queen bed and once again had to wait several hours until the steward could be found to separate the beds. So once again after overnight flight and wishing to take a nap after boarding had to wait for beds to be fixed. Why in the world Holland cannot or will not provide desired bed configuration to the room steward so it can be set up properly is a mystery. It would certainly seem a simple enough thing for the steward to get it right the first time rather than having to come back and redo it all. Years ago on Holland this seemed to never be a problem but for some reason a request for two beds seem to be totally ignored.
The TV's really need to be upgraded. I would have thought/hoped that the recent renovation would have included new TVs but did not.
The food: I ate most of my meals in the Lido. Overall the food quality seems to have declined a bit since a year ago but was still more than adequate. The service in the Lido was excellent for us as we were fortunate to have a wonderful gal named Rena take a liking to us and go out of her way to be super friendly and bring our drinks, or anything else she thought we might need. The ice cream girl, Natalie, was also just a delightful person who knew our names very quickly and dished out ice cream with a smile.
Once again I was disappointed with the lack of variety in the Lido salad bar. It's ok but basically the same thing day after day. The fresh fruit selection was also very limited.
On the bright side there was a much better cheese selection this year than last.
I thought the food at the poolside Dive In was better than before. The burgers were great and the Mexican buffet was very tasty as well.
I was a bit disappointed in the number of poolside BBQs....sure seem to remember more of them on previous cruise and they always seem to be very popular with all the guests. I think we only had two in 25 days. Especially with warm clear weather most every day it would be nice to have few more outside dining options.
Room service was very fast and got our orders correct every single time.
Had a few meals in MDR and overall it was fine.
As usual some good shows and some that were in my opinion awful. It certainly seemed the entertainment from YVR to HNL was better than the second half of the cruise.
The enrichment lectures were also a mixed bag. We had a Professor Cooper from London University who gave a series of lectures regarding the plants and animals in the Pacific Ocean. He was a bit of the absent minded professor but his enthusiasm for his subject was so overwhelming and he could get so excited over a jellyfish that he was just a joy to hear and seemed to be a big hit as his lectures were all packed.
Another lecturer concentrated more of the stars of the southern skies and personally I found the presentation to be very dry and dull....especially after the enthusiasm of Dr. Cooper.
The musicians around the ship in the bars were quite good. The classical music with violin and piano featured two very talented young ladies.
The mix bar guitar player was also quite talented.
Seems that the timing of the bar entertainment needs to be adjusted in the pre dinner hours as all of them take their breaks at the same time? If it were staggered a bit then it would enable guests to move from one location to another to hear music.
Our cruise director Tamyrn was excellent....hard working gal that treated the passengers like adults ....her daily updates on the PA system were well done without her droning on and on or driving everyone crazy with "toodle do" type nonsense.
Nice touch was bringing several hundred of the crew staff onstage one night for a well deserved round of applause.
There were a lot of Aussies aboard along with usual Americans, Canadians, and a scattering of Brits and Euros. All in all a decent polite bunch to cruise with though of course as usual there were a few that don't quite grasp the concept of waiting their turn in lines.
No real problem with smokers after having some idiot smoking a disgusting foul smelling cigar the first day out of Vancouver on the promenade deck which was packed with guests at sail away time. And of course the Holland deck staff is not about to confront him to point out no smoking there...eventually he got the message as several passengers complained to him that the smoke was drifting down the length of the prom deck and smelled terrible. Reluctantly he finally finished the thing and after angry glares disappeared never to return with any more cigars.
Of course the casino continues to be smokers heaven and the place smells like an ash tray. The starboard side back deck on Lido is full of smokers but at least there the smoke is usually quickly blown off the stern and i for one do appreciate the smokers sticking to this dedicated smoking area.
Seattle was very nice with a perfect sunny day and a welcome free shuttle to the space needle and Pike market.
Honolulu as always is a wonderful stop...It would have been nice if they would have included at least one more island, Maui, Kauai, big island etc as they did last year but for some reason we sure seemed in a big hurry to head out to sea again.
I one again enjoyed Samoa. Got on a local bus for two bucks which was just wonderful. This year we went in the direction of the town of TULA....this is a much more scenic drive than going the other direction as we did last year. We got to experience all the locals coming and going and some really nice scenery as we wound along the road next to the sea. Its an old beat up local bus and the driver blasts out Reggae music which adds to the "ambiance". At the end of the line near Tula the driver stops for about 20 mins before heading back. Fortunately his stop is right across the street from a local elementary school. When i wandered over for a look i was invited into a classroom to talk with the kids who were oh so excited to see what i might have to say and demonstrate the energy and enthusiasm that only a bunch of kids seem to have.
If you want a pleasant day for a few dollars take the local bus up to Tula. It's about an hour or so up and then back on same road. Take some goodies to give the school kids and you'll be well rewarded with smiles from some truly cute kids.
Fiji is just not my favorite place. The interior in my mind is really not very pretty. I visited a couple of beaches that were also disappointing. The ship docks right in the middle of town so it's pretty easy to just wander around the local markets etc. The main bus station is right in front of the ship so if you want to get a local bus there are lots of choices but overall i'd likely just stay in town next trip.
New Caledonia is a good port call and the ship docked this year right in the middle of town. This is a very french island and seem to be quite a few rather upscale retirement / second home condos. Local bus is good and takes you to some really nice beaches...only hassle is trying to exchange to local currency as they won't take USD...and the change place at the dock would not change less than $50 usd which i find very strange indeed.
Mystery Island is a beautiful remote island with some really nice beaches and not much else..the weather there this time wasn't great so not all that many passengers went swimming.
Isle de Pines: This was my first time here and it is a very lovely island with some really great beaches and scenery. Unfortunately it was quiet cool and windy when we were there so only the bravest went swimming/snorkeling. Easy to just walk around to several nice beaches.
Sydney. One of the great cities of the world and a very beautiful port. The ship docks right next to Circular Quay/Opera House, and The Rocks area which is just a wonderful spot.
Disembarkation was simple and painless. Plenty of taxis if needed.
We stayed on a few extra nights in a SYD hotel. It would seem a shame to me to be in Sydney and not spend a few extra days. The mass transit system of subways, buses, trains and ferry boats is easy to use. A ferry over to Manly beach or to Doyles on the beach or a bus over to Bondi beach is very easy to figure out. Sydney can be very expensive but there are also a lot of beautiful spots to roam around and it can be done without spending an arm and leg. In spite of signage at SYD airport about free wifi it simply did not work.