We chose HAL again after examining the Alaska ports visited, length of cruise, & the passenger capacity of the Volendam. It can accommodate (per the HAL website) 1432 guests and only has about 9 floors. We booked directly with HAL & received no perks, just their lowest price for a Large Ocean View stateroom for 2 adults, roundtrip airfare, transfer from/to airports, & travel insurance. We also "guaranteed" the type of stateroom desired, selected open dining & paid all at once on our credit card which gave us air miles for the purchase. Exactly 90 days before our cruise date we received the exact category of room assignment & confirmation of our airline tickets. We were directed to website called FlightEase to see the exact info about the tickets. Our airline confirmation number was listed there-- the "Airline Locator" number -- so we could also lookup the info on the airline's website. If you go to any cruise-related website &/or the HAL website you can search for the cabin category & find the location of the cabin category you are assigned. Our cabin was initially in the farthest back, lowest deck on the ship. Twenty days before sailing & up until the day before, the email offers started coming in -- "Club Orange" offer for $25/person/day (which apparently is included in the price of any HAL suite); 4 times we were offered an ever decreasing price to upgrade to a CA category, which if you look on the chart is a Lanai cabin with a sliding door to the ship's exterior deck and 2 reserved deck chairs. In the middle of all these offers we were automatically upgraded one floor up, & moved toward to middle of the ship to the DA category with out any action from us. Ten days prior to sailing we booked 2 shore excursions (Tracy Arm Fjord & Glacier Explorer, White Pass Summit Scenic Railroad) thru the HAL website. Looking back, we should have booked thru a travel agent to see what free perks we could have received with our booking at the same price;we should have waited to book our excursions onboard the first day to receive the onboard spending credit which counts toward your "Mariner Society" loyalty program (every $300 converts to one bonus cruise day to help you move up the program levels); we also should have paid out the balance over time. If the price decreased, we could have called & asked for the lower price. Once you pay for it all, they wont make any adjustments.
After the major walk thru "Canada Place" boarding dock to check in, the stateroom was underwhelming to say the least. Despite being very clean, one could not overlook the tired look of the furnishings. The drapery hung limply on the rods, obviously needing pressing; the upholstery was worn, showing obvious signs of wear. The TV was an 18' type from the the 1990s. The window needed exterior cleaning. We were amazed at the large amount of closet space for hanging. We didnt even use 2 of the 4 closets available. There are even drawer units under the bed. Each bedside table had 2 ample drawers. The bed was 2 twin mattresses pushed together -- very comfortable.
With "Open Seating" dining, one can still call for a reservation. However they are available at only 530pm or 745pm. Nothing in between. If you tell them you will sit at a 4-8 person table you will have to wait till all are seated before you can order. We were 30 minutes late to our 515 reservation & had to wait in the long line with those lacking reservations. We tried our luck other nights, opting for walking up whenever we were ready to eat dinner & being led to a table having 2 available seats. Only once we opted to dine in the Lido Market on the 8th floor due to a 20min wait time for 2. In the main dining room, you order all your courses at once & you can order more than one item if you desire it. Alcohol orders are taken & served by servers different from food servers. The food is delicious, beautifully presented, with modest-sized portions. Dont expect very attentive service. The servers are quite concerned with taking orders quickly, clearing other tables away, bringing dishes to be washed & bringing out the food. They are literally rushing as fast as they can to perform those duties first. We found attentive service to the diners is LAST. It appeared wait staff was under-staffed: many websites state the Volendam crew number at about 675. The "Voyage Log" we received in our cabin on the last night stated they had only 567! It sure is felt in the dining room.
The stateroom was underwhelming to say the least. Despite being very clean, one could not overlook the tired look of the furnishings. The drapery hung limply on the rods, obviously needing pressing; the upholstery was worn, showing obvious signs of wear. The TV was an 18' type from the the 1990s. The window needed exterior cleaning. We were amazed at the large amount of closet space for hanging. We didnt even use 2 of the 4 closets available. There are even drawer units under the bed. Each bedside table had 2 ample drawers. The bed was 2 twin mattresses pushed together -- very comfortable.
The entry into Vancouver airport was a cattle call. Massive groups of people moving from one station to the next;collect baggage;move thru line at Canadian customs; then massive line at Canadian security again. Then move to line for cruise ship terminal transfer; then board bus & wait in heat for the bus to fill up.
Driver wasted time giving us the scenic route thru town 30 min drive took 1 hour, he even stopped for water bottles (he asked for a vote)...