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The cruise industry is trending towards larger ships, but the applause during the "Meet the Captain" session for the smaller size of HAL's venerable 1500-person Volendam shows that there's much to be said for this class of ship. And this vessel is perfect for visiting Alaska, winding through the narrow straits of the inside passage and especially navigating the spectacular Glacier Bay. We were a group of 10 (our family of four with two teens, my brother's family of four with two children, and my parents) and shared three adjacent staterooms on Deck 2. The ship is now 18 years old, but it has been well-maintained and is about to go in for another dry dock refurb later in 2017. Even with four in a room, our ocean-view room had plenty of storage space and we had enough room, not that we spent a great deal of time in our stateroom. The ship doesn't have a lot of the extras that newer, larger ships have. But while it lacks in some features, thankfully it also lacks in line-ups and waiting. Even though the cruise was fully-booked, we hardly had to wait for anything, and the ship never felt crowded. We really appreciated HAL's commitment to high-quality live music. The classical violin/piano duo, piano player, five-piece band, and especially Ashley Wey and her jazz trio were all very good. The shows and entertainers were good -- the productions are not 'broadway standard', but the entertainment was an improvement on our experience on this same cruise five years ago. I'm said that HAL no longer does their late night dutch chocolate extravaganza, I'm sad that they no longer have live music in the dining room on formal nights, I'm disappointed that there are no ice sculptures or carved watermelons, and it was a shame that the library books were unavailable for hygiene reasons. But these are small quibbles -- the overall experience was wonderful. It helped that the weather in Alaska was, reportedly, the best all season. Sunny clear skies every day; Skagway was actually uncomfortably hot. Glacier Bay was magical with such clear skies and calm seas. We had no problem making reservations for our group of 10 in the dining room, even though we had "anytime dining". The service in the dining room and throughout the ship was outstanding; everyone was very friendly and accommodating. Embarkation in Vancouver was tricky, with three large ships in port that day. Thankfully, everything went off without a hitch -- lots of extra staff were brought in to help move people through the process efficiently, and we had no problems whatsoever. Our advice: arrive early -- we showed up at 9:30 and we went through all the embarkation steps without a problem. The ship started boarding promptly at 11:30, and we were on and having lunch by noon. Disembarkation was similarly smooth, with good directions and very efficient staff. We loved our family cruise. We had the opportunity to spend time together in one large group, and other times different groups would do different things. In the evenings after dinner our teens enjoyed the teen club and our niece and nephew took in various activities in Club Hal. It was a great way to enjoy time together as a family while also enjoying the chance to each do our own thing if we wished.

Wonderful multi-family experience in Alaska

Volendam Cruise Review by mrgoetz

10 people found this helpful
Trip Details
  • Sail Date: August 2017
  • Destination: Alaska
  • Cabin Type: Large Ocean-View Stateroom
The cruise industry is trending towards larger ships, but the applause during the "Meet the Captain" session for the smaller size of HAL's venerable 1500-person Volendam shows that there's much to be said for this class of ship. And this vessel is perfect for visiting Alaska, winding through the narrow straits of the inside passage and especially navigating the spectacular Glacier Bay.

We were a group of 10 (our family of four with two teens, my brother's family of four with two children, and my parents) and shared three adjacent staterooms on Deck 2. The ship is now 18 years old, but it has been well-maintained and is about to go in for another dry dock refurb later in 2017. Even with four in a room, our ocean-view room had plenty of storage space and we had enough room, not that we spent a great deal of time in our stateroom.

The ship doesn't have a lot of the extras that newer, larger ships have. But while it lacks in some features, thankfully it also lacks in line-ups and waiting. Even though the cruise was fully-booked, we hardly had to wait for anything, and the ship never felt crowded.

We really appreciated HAL's commitment to high-quality live music. The classical violin/piano duo, piano player, five-piece band, and especially Ashley Wey and her jazz trio were all very good. The shows and entertainers were good -- the productions are not 'broadway standard', but the entertainment was an improvement on our experience on this same cruise five years ago.

I'm said that HAL no longer does their late night dutch chocolate extravaganza, I'm sad that they no longer have live music in the dining room on formal nights, I'm disappointed that there are no ice sculptures or carved watermelons, and it was a shame that the library books were unavailable for hygiene reasons. But these are small quibbles -- the overall experience was wonderful.

It helped that the weather in Alaska was, reportedly, the best all season. Sunny clear skies every day; Skagway was actually uncomfortably hot. Glacier Bay was magical with such clear skies and calm seas.

We had no problem making reservations for our group of 10 in the dining room, even though we had "anytime dining". The service in the dining room and throughout the ship was outstanding; everyone was very friendly and accommodating.

Embarkation in Vancouver was tricky, with three large ships in port that day. Thankfully, everything went off without a hitch -- lots of extra staff were brought in to help move people through the process efficiently, and we had no problems whatsoever. Our advice: arrive early -- we showed up at 9:30 and we went through all the embarkation steps without a problem. The ship started boarding promptly at 11:30, and we were on and having lunch by noon. Disembarkation was similarly smooth, with good directions and very efficient staff.

We loved our family cruise. We had the opportunity to spend time together in one large group, and other times different groups would do different things. In the evenings after dinner our teens enjoyed the teen club and our niece and nephew took in various activities in Club Hal. It was a great way to enjoy time together as a family while also enjoying the chance to each do our own thing if we wished.
mrgoetz’s Full Rating Summary
Enrichment Activities
Value For Money
Embarkation
Dining
Public Rooms
Entertainment
Cabin
Fitness & Recreation
Ages 13 to 15
Ages 16+
Service
Onboard Experience
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Cabin Review

Large Ocean-View Stateroom
Cabin D 2678
Our four-person room had the main bed under the window, with a pullman bunk over one side of the bed, and a convertible sofa bed. The layout would be better if the pullman was over the sofa bed, but this layout was manageable, even with our teenaged children. Lots of storage space; more than all four of us needed. A fridge would have been nice, but not a necessity. Only two power outlets -- our trick is to bring a multi-out usb charger with a European plug to charge all of our devices.
Lower Promenade Deck Inside Cabins, Outside Cabins

Port & Shore Excursion Reviews

  • Glacier Bay
    Amazing experience. Only two cruise ships are allowed in Glacier Bay each day, and it's definitely worth considering which cruise you select based on whether or not Glacier Bay is on the itinerary. Park Rangers board in the morning and provide commentary, history, cultural context, and help spot wildlife. The ship cruises slowly past the glaciers and stops at the north end of Glacier Bay next to the constantly-calving Marjerie glacier for about an hour
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  • Mendenhall Glacier
    I had read that local blue bus transportation to the glacier was $7 per person, but when we arrived all of the stands showed prices of $45 per person. It's hard to know if this was a permanent change or just a price hike considering that the weather was outstanding. Regardless, for our group of 6 we just got a taxi for $35 each way plus $7pp for the park passes. Uber may be cheaper, but they have to drop you off about a mile from the visitor's center, whereas taxis go all the way in the national park.

    The area itself is great, even though the glacier itself is quite far away from the visitor's center. The walk to the waterfall is an easy walk and well worth the trip
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  • Ketchikan
    We just enjoyed walking around the town and enjoying the free things to do. The visitor's center has a map with a guided walking tour -- there's one steep section but the rest is a pretty easy walk
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  • Skagway
    Skagway is a quaint town that is mostly a National Park. We enjoyed just walking around the town and exploring the park visitor's center and museum. The park offers free guided walking tours which are a good way to hear more about the history of the Klondike gold rush
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  • Vancouver
    I read other reviews about problems with embarkation in Vancouver. Our experience was excellent, with the caveat that it's best to arrive early. Our ship (HAL Volendam) was due to start boarding at noon; we arrived at 9:30 and there were several staff stationed around Canada Place to instruct you where to go to drop off your bags. With three ships in port that day, the Port of Vancouver used one of the convention center halls as a makeshift check-in area. Check-in started at around 10, and we were then sent to US customs & immigration. One member of our party was told that we should go out and have a coffee, because customs won't be open until 1pm. But this was not true -- customs was already open and we were through in minutes. We then waited for about 45 minutes until 11:30 when our ship was cleared for boarding. We had the obligatory photograph and then we were on board having lunch by noon
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