In a lot of ways, the whole exceeded the sum of the parts as we had a wonderful time (despite a number of little issues) because of very good weather (other than cyclones at the end), exotic ports of call, and a great crew. Embarkation was a non-event for this cruise, as we had done the ship's previous cruise to NZ -- getting off and back on in Sydney was a breeze. Disembarkation was also smooth (despite the misinformation described below).
On the positive side, the crew overall were superb .. cabin stewards, restaurant and buffet people, the Pinnacle grill staff, the (too few) wine stewards, and the front office staff were all warm and helpful. They made a point of remembering our names and our food/drink preferences. We enjoyed breakfasts on a wonderful balcony (albeit with periodic smoking (even CIGAR) problems from next door) and lovely meals in the Rotterdam dining room. We opted for the open dining time but never waited for a table as the maitre'd took care to seat us at a table by ourselves without delay.
In terms of issues, previous reviews of the Volendam accurately describe it as needing some refurbishing. In addition to the visual evidence of wear and tear, there were also noise problems --- many of the noise and other problems owed to the number of children on board. The main pool became theirs, and the rules against diving and jumping into the pool were totally unenforced. Children ran through the buffet in bathing suits and bare feet; young children were also allowed to run freely in the nightclub. According to an announcement from the captain, teenagers actually trashed one of the lounges one night. While the captain was legitimately upset, it is hard to feel sympathy for HAL, given its encouragement of children with its pricing policies. It would have been good to know beforehand this cruise was specially marketed to families.
Loved the huge balcony ...