Volendam Cruise Review by Mary Seas
- Sail Date: March 2017
- Destination: Asia
- Cabin Type: Large Ocean-View Stateroom
Our embarkation heralded two problems with this cruise.In the large reception area at Yokohama there were no HAL staff to help anyone with a mobility problem Each passenger was on their own to get aboard. Throughout this cruise the lack of HAL staff to assist those with mobility problems was evident .Many of the ports had very long walks to get to the ship and there were no wheelchairs and freindly Indonesian staff to help.
The other problem was HAL did not understand the Chinese governments ruling in October 2016 that cruise passengers did not need a Chinese visa to disembark in Shanghai if they had a Chinese government licensed tour prebooked for 2 or more peoplel HAL demanded waivers to be signed at embarkatiom that state we would perhaps pay fines, be put off the ship and other nasty threats and certainly not be allowed to board in Japan/Yokohama if we did not have a Chinese visa and sign their HAL lawyers' release of liability . Many statements put in front of us to sign were false such as we needed visas for Japan,Taiwan and Hong Kong. WE checked in at 3PM on March 14 and had various letters and notificaitons from the Volendam front office about our lack of Chinese visa until 9PM on March 18 when notice came that HAL Seattle had recognized the October 2016 China 15 day free visa program for passengers on this sailing of the Volendam arriving the next norning in Shanghai. Even at 7AM im the morning of arrival HAL staff were working out how to get their passengers through immigration under the new rules. This immigration stress continued fo rthe full cruise as we were troted around to present ourselves on and off the ship for the 2 weeks cruise for Japanese, Taiwan and Hong Kong immigration. Nothing was made easy for the passengers.
WE also had the strange occasion of the mandatory life/safety drill in the middle of dinner service so everyone had to get out on deck for the 40 minutes in the middle of dinner service when all client services and dinner was shut down aorund 7PM . Poor planning for an 11 PM departure.
The Volendam is a moderate sized ( 1432 passengers) older HAL ship launched in 1999. We sailed on it in 2006 and it has had some updates including lanai added to some promenade cabins The Explorer lounge has been enlarged and joined with the nighttime MIX venue But overall it has not changed There are fewer fresh flowers and plants which was the Volendam theme and far fewer staff in the dining rooms and as cabin stewards The HAL updates of BB King and Lincoln Center are not there. Rooms do not have refrigerators but you can rent one!
So we had a full ship with a busy itininerary and it was too cool for casually eating outdoors. So the Lido was crowded upon embaraktion and it sometimes became so crowded that finding s seat for breakfast or lunch became nasty with many internationsl guests not communicating well
Our first hours also saw a special ceremony as the Mayor of Yokohama honored the captain for bringing HAL to Yokohama instead of to Tokyo Harbor. This was this captain's first trip to Japan Volendam was now coming to Yokohama in a political/econimic decision. In return Yokohama and other new ports would provide cultural guests onboard fo rthe passengers. First were Japanese drummers from Yokohama. later came Geisha dancers, Japanese women instrumentalists, and Chinese acrobats in Shanghai. Shimizu welcomed our arrival with a faireboat Another town brought out its Japanese drummers for our embarkation. The message was HAL was new to most of these ports and some would get one HAL ship visit in 2017. . , .
So when we sought counsel from the shore excurison staff they had no idea what some of the tours were about They were without any clue how rigorous some of the tours might be They proved wrong on two as not easy but quite strenuous excursions Of course the passengers learned how strenuous when the tours were run for the first time.
So the Volendam started off on its itininerary and got the passengers off in Shanghai with many delays and unexplained quirks . Then the ship tried to leave Shanghai and found a pilot problem that not only delayed departure after 11PM but had the ship sitting anchored in Shanghai's harbor for about 13 hours. The captain finally notified the passengers he had winds and fog problems although no fog horns blared. There was no ship motion problems but we wer stalled and the captain canceled the Okinawa port Naha as he ahd not left Shamnghai on time. But he got to Taiwan a day early. Surprise we did not get back our port and taxes from Okinawa. "You got an extra day in Keelong". But there was no need to get an extra day in this industrial city. Did the captain just prefer not to go back to Japan na dOkinawa?
So the weather remained cool ( highs in the 50's ) until Hong Kong and limited everyone's energies as drizzle and rain came
Immoigraiton in Hong Kong was difficult for all as the demand was made that all passengers get a number and leave the ship on call between 4PM and 6:15Pm walkign through the barren hallways of the former Tai Kak airport now the HK cruise terminal. It took most peoole 90 minutes to do the deed. There were limited staff to help those with limited mobility as all staff needed to go through immigraiton esepcially those leaving the ship the next day. . Few wheel chairs were avallable to walk about 3/4 of a mile of corridors. Mandatory for all to walk off the ship but with no assistance.
Cabns were very standard on this vessel at just under 200sq ft Lots of closet space Renovation had nice showers. HAL had the cheapest quality toilet paper ever and saved on giving us only one bar of soap in 2 weeks and one 1 ounce of hand cream in 2 weeks No replacements. The common containers in the shower held the shampoo and conditioner. The bath wash there made a good air scent fo rthe bathroom Our cabin on the lower promenade did not get access to its deck most of the trip as workers tore apart the pipping, moved tenders painted and hammered away for 2 weeks Water got dumped daily over our windows on the the inner aspect of the promenade The workers made thi s hellish room in the night time and dining carts groaned overhead late at night
Activities were very limited on this cruise The Digital workshop have not been updated since 2015. The cooking classes were ludicrous unless oyu paid Trivia was the busiest activity with an internaitonal following. The casino has raised its minimums on everything so don't look for penny machines Bingo appeared late in the cruise.-not our thing,. The evening music was best in the Ocean Bar with a dynamic trio for dancing and light jazz. The Adagio classic duo was better than our last cruise- young musuicians with some life in them. The piano man was a bit "old college try" and not our thing with very old material .
The main shows were quite variable. The dancers were excellent. Best show was the dancers by themselves. The male singers were good and the women singers atrociaous with shrill voices that hurt the ears Either HAL needs to recruit better thier female cast singers, , put better filters on the women's microphones or get women who don't break glass with their shreaks.
This cruise was busy with ports WE did not use the pool as it was too cold. WE had to fend off crowds to get a seat at shows and meals. Dinner service was a quiet respite each night away from crowds as many did not use the dining room and went to the lido to avoid getting into nice clothes after 6PM
We saw little of the . officers and leadership in 2 weeks we had inadequate informaiton from the bridge The staffing everywhere has diminished on HAL and we rarely saw anyone to assist a handicapped person,. WE would arrive to a embarkation ramop to find no HAL person present at the bottom but security at the top so there was no effort to assist anyone up the ramnps.
Dining started off with quality fresh ingredients Soon we noticed the fresh fruits wer disappearing We went from luscious large navel oranges to small bitter oranges as inedible Large grapes the first week never reappeared. Pineapple disappeared into canned varieties, The management of ice cream declined over the two weeks from many flavors to Neapolitan either all three or as one of the three flavors melting as not frozen in a form Icecream in the Lido and dining room was soft and runny My frozen yogurt had large ice chunks from poor storage
Too many of HAL's dishes have chillis and hot spicy ingredients not appropriate for an older clientele Allergic to chilis I ofund themn in soups, salads, appetisers, everything.
The quality of the vegetables on this HAL ship was better than most HAL experiences. Both variety and appropriately cooked. WE saw lots of beef entrees but rare pork except in the Asian bar No BarB Q. The pasta bar was very slow to get a eprsonal order and had only 2 varieties.
In the Lido the prepared breakfast egg, potato and meat items were not warm This made us revert to personally made egg dishes and waiting long for fresh cooked food The food on the hot table was not warm.
Dinner entrees were not very inspired limited to one pasta, one salad, one beef, one fish, one chicken and an additional try Risotto was a common entree. Appetizers/starters included chilled fruit soups, occasional shrimp cocktail, foie gras, tartars, ec Soups wer served in a pretentions manner of serving the garnish or ingredients in a dry bowl and pouring the broth over it as done on Top Chef But really it did not add much. WE started asking for the broth witout the garnish! Salads at dinner were insipid with little fresh bounce.
Winter /root ingredients made them reserved
250,000+ people have entered their email