I wanted to wait a few months to go by to write this review of our trip on the Volendam which left Vancouver on Sept 29, and ended in Shanghai a month later. This was our fifth cruise on Holland America and longest by far. Having never been to the Far East, this cruise had us very excited with anticipation. The itinerary looked wonderful and we were curious to see if we would have any cruise fatigue for what was for us, a long cruise.
The Volendam is one of HAL's small ships, and just the right size for us. The ship was clean and appeared to be in fine shape, and our outside cabin on deck one was perfect. We planned excursions for every port, but also savored the 14 sea days.
To summarize, the Alaska portion of the cruise was very enjoyable. It rained in Ketchikan, but that did not stop us from having an enjoyable time with the Native Culture tour. A trip to the Mendenhall Glacier in Juneau is always fun, and the cruise through Glacier Bay was spectacular beyond belief, the weather being perfect that day. The ranger that gave the onboard commentary said that it was one of the best days of the year; the visibility was breathtaking. There was a scheduled stop after that, Dutch Harbor, that was cancelled, but more about that later.
I could go on and on about our stops in Japan, but I will just say that it was a dream come true to see a little bit of Japanese culture and hospitality up close. Kyoto and Tokyo was amazing with its shrines and temples, and we were treated with utmost courtesy everywhere we went. The smaller places we went, like Shimizu and Hakodate, were also welcoming and always interesting. The onboard lectures about Japanese culture and the upcoming Chinese ports kept us entertained as well as informed.
After a little over a week in Japan, it was on to Beijing. We saw the Great Wall, the Temple of Heaven, Tiananmen Square, the Ming Tombs, and the fantastic Forbidden City. We did this over two days on a HAL overnight excursion. We had a fantastic guide, which we both thought was the best guide on any HAL excursion we had ever had. A one day stay at Qingdao followed, which was also very enjoyable. Last was Shanghai, which really blew us both away with its beautiful and modern skyline. We left the Volendam very happy, but actually wishing we could stay for more.
The main point I want to make about this trip is that if you look for positives, and stay upbeat, little problems (even some big ones) can be overlooked. I can't say this cruise was "perfect". No cruise is. Just to list a few issues - our dining reservations were mishandled somehow, and we originally were assigned to open seating, but it was quickly resolved. When we did get out preferred seating, one of the couples never showed up the entire cruise. The other couple spoke limited English. No problem, we made friends with them after only one evening. It rained off and on in Japan the whole time. However, if you take in the sights and appreciate the wonderful things you are experiencing, this is not such a big problem. The HAL front desk gave us a fright when they said that we had no disembarkation trip to the airport (we did). However, they later corrected their mistake. We missed a port, Dutch Harbor when a storm made the ship rock and roll and the Captain had to change direction. I got a little sea sick one day, which is always no fun. The entire Korean itinerary had been scrapped a few weeks before and replaced with more stops in Japan. When these little glitches happened, I kept one thought in my mind - how lucky are we that we get to see these wonderful places and enjoy this ship where you can take it easy on the sea days, and look forward to the next port ? I read some of the negative reviews on here and I simply can't relate to them,.Yes, I know that some people experience problems that are greater than the ones we had, but the overall experience is all important. Focus on the positive things. We loved this cruise and will be going back for more.
Cabin was clean and comfortable. We never had a noise problem. Temperature in the room was always fine - never too warm or cool. Our room stewards, as on every HAL cruise we have taken, were excellent. We felt right at home. We got a cabin with a sofa, which we consider to be an important feature,