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I hope this review will help first timers with some information I wish I had known before sailing. So, I will make my review in order starting with boarding. We were notified while in Singapore that our cruise ship port had changed from Harbourfront to another port in Singapore. This actually ended up being more convenient for us, but it points out that you must continue to read your email up to the time of cruising. Some passengers went to Harbourfront and found no cruise ship there, or information. VISAS: I wish we had known that HAL was going to take care of our visas on board. Even though the documentation says that we are responsible for visas, I called HAL and they did say they would complete the visas for us on board. We had pictures taken prior to our departure from the states, and that was a waste of money because they took our pictures upon embarkation. Not very good communication for this. CHECK-IN: Checking in was easy enough and took about 1/2 hour with most of that spending time completing visa documentation. STATEROOMS: We were located on Main Deck which is Deck 2. The pros: the room was spacious enough for the two of us. We had plenty of closet and drawers for storage. The bathroom was adequate for our needs so no complaints. Cons: The room was hot upon arrival and we were told the air-conditioning on Main Deck was not working, but that they were working on it. The stateroom also smelled of mold. The TV was older and there are no mini-refrigerators. You can rent one for $2USD/day. The cabin steward brought us ice each day and there is plenty of ice in the Lido cafeteria, so I didn't find this to be a problem. The air-conditioning was fixed and the room was comfortable. Overall, the stateroom, at least for the Main Deck is showing it's age. FOOD: Food was pretty good. We had the choice to eat in the Lido (buffet) or Rotterdam (higher quality). I don't really think you can complain when it comes to buffet food. There were plenty of food offered and of course, food is going to get a bit cold sitting under hot lights and in bins, but that is the nature of buffet food. The Rotterdam was very nice, and they offered many options over the course of the cruise. So, you could check out the menu in advance to see if anything appealed. We had two formal nights on cruise in the Rotterdam. There are two other restaurants you can choose for small up charges. I can't comment on those as we did not try them out. The Explorations Cafe serves espresso drinks. It was very good but I would've like to see them open earlier than 7am each day for us type people that drink real coffee. ONBOARD ACTIVITIES: This will be a mixed review. There were plenty of activities onboard and HAL delivered a daily schedule to each stateroom. I like the cooking shows and Digital Workshops. I also used the library quite a bit to do research for each port. Library Tip: The good guidebooks are locked up behind the librarians desk and you have to ask for the guidebook that you want. There are an adequate number of books on the regular shelves. You may not leave the library with the guidebook. The library is adequately stocked with books, puzzles and games. I found onboard activities to be good. ONBOARD ENTERTAINMENT: Onboard entertainment was weak. There are no big production shows with real actors and entertainers on the main stage. This is where you can see HAL; at least on Volendam cutting costs by using staff for entertainment. In the lounges and pool areas there were singers, but I thought they were less than talented in some cases. So, don't expect very good entertainment. SERVICE: The staff were always smiling and willing to help out at all times, including wait staff, cabin stewards and shops. The main HAL staff seemed a lot less friendly with the exception of the Shore Excursion staff. SHORE EXCURSIONS; This is where most of my criticism will be. Some of the passengers had a saying for shore excursions: "they don't tell you what they can't sell you". To some extent, I found this to be true and very disappointing. SHORE EXCURSION TIPS: Do some homework before you go so that you know what might interest you. Sign up for your ship's "Roll Call" in advance before you depart for your cruise. Someone in this group will likely take the roll of putting together a Meet and Greet group which will usually meet up on the first full sailing day. We ended up meet and making shore excursion arrangements with others in this group and saved at least 1/2 of what ShoreEx charges and with a lot more flexibility. Don't fall for the "ship will leave without you" scare tactic. Yes, it is true that if you are not back in time, the ship is not going to wait for you. BUT, in most cases, you have absolutely nothing to worry about. You will get the hang of this right away..how the shore excursions work and how to negotiate for taxi's and so forth. Don't be afraid. Just start meeting up with people and asking who is going on their own. You will find a lot of people that you can go along with. One major complaint I had during our particular cruise had to do with a port change due to a typhoon. We missed out on one port due to a typhoon headed toward us, so naturally the Captain had to make that decision. However, we were expecting to get into the next port earlier than scheduled due to the change. But, we had to anchor off shore with no opportunity to go to shore. That was fine also because we did have some waves near port. However, as an offering, HAL gave each passenger a glass of champagne for the inconvenience. I thought about how much port charges and and wondered if HAL ever had to pay those port charges, which we were charged for. What added insult to injury was in the following port of Brunei; HAL charged any passenger wanting to go to city center $50USD for a 1/2 hour transfer there and back. I thought after missing out on one port that they could have comp'd us for that. The insult was that the local bus was available right outside the cruise port about 100m and cost $1 to go to City Center. Many passengers were VERY ANGRY about this. HAL really let us down on that one. Summarizing port excursions: our port excursion expert was very good in helping us out for those people that wanted to go on their own and you should take advantage of meeting with him at his desk when he is there. This is posted in the daily activities. Port excursion prices range from about $50 and up and I would say they average about $150 PP. The only excursion that was worth paying for was the Bangkok transfer and guide to the Grand Palace. Bangkok was about 2 hours from port so this eliminated a lot of research and hassle. We could've done better, but unfortunately, there was a celebration in Bangkok on our first day in port and many roads were shut down. It wasn't worth the risk of trying to get to Bangkok and back to the ship when we left port at 5pm on the second day. The Saigon transfer was worth it also and we had plenty of time on our own to see District 1 in Saigon (Ho Chi Mihn City). So, work with other passengers while on ship to make arrangements for excursions, or just go on your own. You will still do much better than ship prices no matter what you do. DISEMBARKATION: Very organized. We took the MRT straight from the Harbourfront Port (this time) to the airport for around $1.50. It was very easy. Don't take the ship transfer. It's expensive. The cabs will also be a lot less than the ship. SUMMARY: Well, my summary is based upon the fact that we had a great discount on a last minute cruise booking. So, when I consider that, we averaged about $100 USD per day for our cruise for the two of us in total, it was worth it even considering my poor review of particular aspects of HAL. If we had to pay any more than that, it would not be worth it considering the age of the ship. That is not to say that some areas are up to date such as the digital workshop. But, the ship decor reminds me of 80's Las Vegas. Would I do it again on Volendam? It would have to be a very inexpensive sailing to get me back on that ship.

HAL Volendam needs to be better.

Volendam Cruise Review by AKJonesy

12 people found this helpful
Trip Details
  • Sail Date: December 2015
  • Destination: Asia
  • Cabin Type: Large Interior Stateroom
I hope this review will help first timers with some information I wish I had known before sailing. So, I will make my review in order starting with boarding. We were notified while in Singapore that our cruise ship port had changed from Harbourfront to another port in Singapore. This actually ended up being more convenient for us, but it points out that you must continue to read your email up to the time of cruising. Some passengers went to Harbourfront and found no cruise ship there, or information.

VISAS: I wish we had known that HAL was going to take care of our visas on board. Even though the documentation says that we are responsible for visas, I called HAL and they did say they would complete the visas for us on board. We had pictures taken prior to our departure from the states, and that was a waste of money because they took our pictures upon embarkation. Not very good communication for this. CHECK-IN: Checking in was easy enough and took about 1/2 hour with most of that spending time completing visa documentation.

STATEROOMS: We were located on Main Deck which is Deck 2. The pros: the room was spacious enough for the two of us. We had plenty of closet and drawers for storage. The bathroom was adequate for our needs so no complaints. Cons: The room was hot upon arrival and we were told the air-conditioning on Main Deck was not working, but that they were working on it. The stateroom also smelled of mold. The TV was older and there are no mini-refrigerators. You can rent one for $2USD/day. The cabin steward brought us ice each day and there is plenty of ice in the Lido cafeteria, so I didn't find this to be a problem. The air-conditioning was fixed and the room was comfortable. Overall, the stateroom, at least for the Main Deck is showing it's age.

FOOD: Food was pretty good. We had the choice to eat in the Lido (buffet) or Rotterdam (higher quality). I don't really think you can complain when it comes to buffet food. There were plenty of food offered and of course, food is going to get a bit cold sitting under hot lights and in bins, but that is the nature of buffet food. The Rotterdam was very nice, and they offered many options over the course of the cruise. So, you could check out the menu in advance to see if anything appealed. We had two formal nights on cruise in the Rotterdam. There are two other restaurants you can choose for small up charges. I can't comment on those as we did not try them out. The Explorations Cafe serves espresso drinks. It was very good but I would've like to see them open earlier than 7am each day for us type people that drink real coffee.

ONBOARD ACTIVITIES: This will be a mixed review. There were plenty of activities onboard and HAL delivered a daily schedule to each stateroom. I like the cooking shows and Digital Workshops. I also used the library quite a bit to do research for each port. Library Tip: The good guidebooks are locked up behind the librarians desk and you have to ask for the guidebook that you want. There are an adequate number of books on the regular shelves. You may not leave the library with the guidebook. The library is adequately stocked with books, puzzles and games. I found onboard activities to be good.

ONBOARD ENTERTAINMENT: Onboard entertainment was weak. There are no big production shows with real actors and entertainers on the main stage. This is where you can see HAL; at least on Volendam cutting costs by using staff for entertainment. In the lounges and pool areas there were singers, but I thought they were less than talented in some cases. So, don't expect very good entertainment. SERVICE: The staff were always smiling and willing to help out at all times, including wait staff, cabin stewards and shops. The main HAL staff seemed a lot less friendly with the exception of the Shore Excursion staff.

SHORE EXCURSIONS; This is where most of my criticism will be. Some of the passengers had a saying for shore excursions: "they don't tell you what they can't sell you". To some extent, I found this to be true and very disappointing. SHORE EXCURSION TIPS: Do some homework before you go so that you know what might interest you. Sign up for your ship's "Roll Call" in advance before you depart for your cruise. Someone in this group will likely take the roll of putting together a Meet and Greet group which will usually meet up on the first full sailing day. We ended up meet and making shore excursion arrangements with others in this group and saved at least 1/2 of what ShoreEx charges and with a lot more flexibility. Don't fall for the "ship will leave without you" scare tactic. Yes, it is true that if you are not back in time, the ship is not going to wait for you. BUT, in most cases, you have absolutely nothing to worry about. You will get the hang of this right away..how the shore excursions work and how to negotiate for taxi's and so forth. Don't be afraid. Just start meeting up with people and asking who is going on their own. You will find a lot of people that you can go along with.

One major complaint I had during our particular cruise had to do with a port change due to a typhoon. We missed out on one port due to a typhoon headed toward us, so naturally the Captain had to make that decision. However, we were expecting to get into the next port earlier than scheduled due to the change. But, we had to anchor off shore with no opportunity to go to shore. That was fine also because we did have some waves near port. However, as an offering, HAL gave each passenger a glass of champagne for the inconvenience. I thought about how much port charges and and wondered if HAL ever had to pay those port charges, which we were charged for. What added insult to injury was in the following port of Brunei; HAL charged any passenger wanting to go to city center $50USD for a 1/2 hour transfer there and back. I thought after missing out on one port that they could have comp'd us for that. The insult was that the local bus was available right outside the cruise port about 100m and cost $1 to go to City Center. Many passengers were VERY ANGRY about this. HAL really let us down on that one.

Summarizing port excursions: our port excursion expert was very good in helping us out for those people that wanted to go on their own and you should take advantage of meeting with him at his desk when he is there. This is posted in the daily activities. Port excursion prices range from about $50 and up and I would say they average about $150 PP. The only excursion that was worth paying for was the Bangkok transfer and guide to the Grand Palace. Bangkok was about 2 hours from port so this eliminated a lot of research and hassle. We could've done better, but unfortunately, there was a celebration in Bangkok on our first day in port and many roads were shut down. It wasn't worth the risk of trying to get to Bangkok and back to the ship when we left port at 5pm on the second day. The Saigon transfer was worth it also and we had plenty of time on our own to see District 1 in Saigon (Ho Chi Mihn City). So, work with other passengers while on ship to make arrangements for excursions, or just go on your own. You will still do much better than ship prices no matter what you do.

DISEMBARKATION: Very organized. We took the MRT straight from the Harbourfront Port (this time) to the airport for around $1.50. It was very easy. Don't take the ship transfer. It's expensive. The cabs will also be a lot less than the ship. SUMMARY: Well, my summary is based upon the fact that we had a great discount on a last minute cruise booking. So, when I consider that, we averaged about $100 USD per day for our cruise for the two of us in total, it was worth it even considering my poor review of particular aspects of HAL. If we had to pay any more than that, it would not be worth it considering the age of the ship. That is not to say that some areas are up to date such as the digital workshop. But, the ship decor reminds me of 80's Las Vegas. Would I do it again on Volendam? It would have to be a very inexpensive sailing to get me back on that ship.
AKJonesy’s Full Rating Summary
Enrichment Activities
Value For Money
Embarkation
Dining
Public Rooms
Entertainment
Cabin
Fitness & Recreation
Shore Excursions
Service
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