We decided to have a really relaxing Christmas and escape cooking the turkey etc., cruising in 'our own backyard' seemed to fit the bill nicely. Home to the port was a breeze as we live only 30 minutes north of Auckland, embarkation was quick and easy and we were onboard in time for the Mariners Lunch in the Main Dining Room.
Our first impression of the Volendam was the dim lighting in both public areas and cabins but we soon got used to it, secondly the ship is looking a little tired in places but in no way did we let the fact spoil our enjoyment. Our cabin was oceanview, midships on Deck 1 (Dolphin Deck), my husband is prone to seasickness so the lower down the ship the better for him. The cabin was very quiet but in a handy position with only a short walk to the lifts. It was spotlessly clean, very roomy with plenty of storage space, wonderful comfy beds and we were very happy with it.
By choice we had fixed early dining which was at 5.45pm, this was a mistake as we found it to be too early especially on port days when it was a huge rush to get spruced up. We could have changed to Open Seating dining or the Lido but we had such great table companions we didn't want to desert them. We ate breakfast everyday in the main dining room also lunch on sea days, found both menus to be good except for the Kippered Herrings at breakfast, never again!! Only ate lunch at the Lido a couple of times, plenty of variety and we did not encounter long lines. Overall our opinion of the food in the MDR was mostly very good, tasty and well cooked with plenty of choices. We did eat one night in the Pinnacle Grill, it was very enjoyable but frankly we're not sure what all the fuss is about.
The evening entertainment in the Frans Hal lounge was okay, but somewhat repetative with most, if not all, acts coming from Australia - not a New Zealand act in sight!! The Christmas Day celebrations were excellent with Santa arriving and all the children getting a present also New Years Eve was a fun night kicking off in the Crows Nest at 9pm then moving down to the Frans Hall lounge at 11.30pm where the champagne was flowing and the party really began to see in the New Year.
Our fellow cruisers were a mixed bunch with many Americans onboard and we met some great people and had lots of laughs.
The crew and staff were excellent especially our waiters in the MDR, always had a smile and nothing was too much trouble. We did have a bit of bother with the Front Desk with amounts charged to our onboard account that were nothing to do with us, this took several trips to the Front Desk and some heated discussion before the amounts were removed - so beware and check your account very carefully.
Even though we were cruising in New Zealand we enjoyed all the ports and cruising in Milford Sound, the weather was pretty cold in the south of New Zealand and once we left Stewart Island we had heavy swells before the Sounds and crossing the Tasman was definitely rocky with a number of people being ill, thankfully we were okay. The highlight had to be sailing into Sydney at 5.30AM, rounding the Heads and seeing the Harbour Bridge and the Opera House in the distance with the sun coming up - magic.
All in all we had a great trip, and are already planning our next cruise on the Volendam.