You too can go to AUS/NZ even if you are a penny pincher: Volendam Cruise Review by Julie the Cruise Director

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Julie the Cruise Director
Member Since 2009
18 Forum Posts

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You too can go to AUS/NZ even if you are a penny pincher

Sail Date: December 2011
Destination: Australia & New Zealand
Embarkation: Sydney (Australia)
We planned our holiday New Zealand Cruise, our first on Holland America Line, about 6 months ago, and used other Cruise Critics reviews and message board to plan many aspects of our trip.

We booked our trip through USAA travel agency available to military or former miltary members. We are experienced internet travel searchers, and still was a better deal than we could have gotten anywhere else. We found the best flight deal through and then booked directly through the airline (Asiana Air) for our flights than connected through Seoul. Asiana is very much like flying used to be. Flight attendents are uniformly young, with the same uniform and hairstyles, and a heavy emphasis on service (hot towels, hot tea, diet coke in the middle of a 14 hour flight if you ask, lots of movies on your personal screen). We had to get over the sticker shock of flights costing half again as muich as the cruise for the four of us, but it is summer, Christmas, and a heck of a long More flight from Chicago to Sydney and back, so we bit the bullet. That also bespeaks that the cruise was a really good deal for a 16 day over Christmas.

Boarding was quick and efficient, and we were able to get to our cabin right away as oppsed to having to carry stuff around for several hours. It was clear immediately that the cruise was mostly older Australians, which we were fine with. We had a 1st level ocean view cabin in the aft of the ship (#1945) which was great and had a large window. Plus not any of the engine noise bugged us.

We went straight up and add at the Lido buffet, which was varied and generally very good, with sushi, fresh ice cream, and a good ceasar salad bar and pasta made fresh daily. Then we were off the ship to get UGGs and go to he Opera House. We missed the tours that afternoon but made plan to attend one in the morning.

We had fixed early seating in the main dining room, which we went to all but 3-4 nights as we like having the same table and wait staff that knew our names and preferences. Our waitstaff struggled with their English, but tried very hard. Our bar waiter was excellent and even made the kids a chair out of champagne tops and an origami bird. Food in the main dining room was standard fare, trying to be a litle too fancy. my 11 year old daughter had ceasar salad and chicken breast with veggies almost every day, so nice to have the "always available" options. In general, red meat was very small portions, but willing to get more if you would like. I always ordered a meal size salad for the salad course, and then something else for dinner, because if you can't overeat on a cruise ship, where can you?

The next day (the ship stayed berthed in Sydney overnight) we went ot the Opera House and the Harbour Bridge, plus walked around the Rocks. Awesome city.

General notes about pluses and minuses of HAL as compared to other lines (at least Disney, Norwegian, and Carnival, which we have sailed on before):

1) Great library, almost the size of a small town library, along with a chess/scrabble/majong area. I checked out several books and read them on the trip. there are also Eron chairs that you can sit in and watch the sunset.

2) Another unexpected feature...each room has a DVD player, and a listing of about 1,000 DVDs that can be checked out from the front desk. Everything from Finding nemo to the first 2 seasons of Rome are available.

3) Camesoli's, the italian restaurant on Lido deck from dinner, requires a reservation but is free of charge, unlike Pinnacle. Very good italian food and antipasto.

4) The teens have their own small deck, The Oasis, with tables, a wading pool, and some of the best views on the ship. Awesome.

5) There is a smalldeck off of the gym which has some navigational equipment on it but is still available to stand on.

6) The Susan G. Kolman walk for the cure on the last sea day that HAL offers is a nice touch, and you get a t-shirt, a sense of comraderie, and pink lemonade for $15 donation

7) Get a tailor-made omelette or sandwich from Rene on Lido deck...hard to beat.

8) The bathrooms have a bathtub in them which is deep enough to be serviceable. Very useful if you are not feeling well or have a kid who got seasick.

9) There is a small movie theatre and free popcorn. The same space is used by raising the screen to expose a show kitchen, which has several classes/day on cooking specific items.

10) There are free computer classes on everything from Windows 7 to Movie Making, and how to take best advantage of your digital camera offered by Aiden. I am pretty savvy with the computer, but Aiden was excellent, and even if a class with peopel of vastly different experiences with computers, I learned new things every time, and was impressed that he wasn't trying to sell anything, but rather lead people to free public resources.

11) Scenic cruising through the fjords was well-commentated on the main decks by Jeremy. This was a good blend of animal-sightings, knowing what you are looking at, and history of Capt. Cook and the oginial Moari people

12) Ships (or municiplalities) arranged for free shuttles from the several working ports we docked at into the town

13) Room service, which I always order on ships because it is free and such a treat, was very good, quick, and varied enough to be a good "fourth meal."

14) The pool was small and no slide, but freshwater, with a cool dolphin thing in it, which is wonderful as we are used to some of the ships having saltwater pools which are hard to get used to and yucky for little kids who invariably get a big mouthful

15) Fresh flowers throughout the ship, including on all of the tables in main dining room. Not something I would expect to make a difference, but it was a very elegant tough and nice to see

1) Food at Rotterdam dining room was of good quality, but too fancy with "recommendations from the master chef." A small thing, but only offered a really good steak once, and when they offered lobster it was a small 1/2 tail. The waitstaff struggled with English, and we found it easier to point to the item we wanted, and difficult to make any smalltalk

2) Beer list was not great, but they did have a few Australian beers.

3) For a quad, the room set-up is odd with a queen bed at the end and the twin pull down over part of the queen, then the sofa converted to a twin.

4) Again, a small thing, but they had a small thing of lotion provided at the beginning, but didn't replace it once used, so we had to buy lotion at a port.

5) We went to two of the shows... not great, especially compared to other lines. The movies took up that time for us.

6) Our preference at play here, but there were 5 formal days over 16 days, and most of them were heavily formal (tuxedos for men). I was glad my husband brought a tie, but we were still underdressed, and like a more casual atmosphere, which HAL is not

7) We were in port on Christmas and New Year's Day, and at sea the following days. Perhaps at least for one day we could have switched that so people didn't have to work to open tourist areas on Christmas Day.

8) The Captain's messages at first were shockingly negative, although eventually we found them amusing. As we were sailing across the Tasmin Sea, he did a whole thing about how "the Tasmin claims its victims" and a kayaker who died trying to cross recently. After another (albeit smaller) earthquake in Christchurch he spoke about how it wouldn't effect us, "only feels like you are running aground." it would have been more amusing it we were a naval vessel instead of a pleasure trip. That sai, amazing maneuvering in Milford Sound, turning the ship around fully to give everyone a good view.

So, overall, an unforgetable trip, and totally worth skipping Christmas for. A 9 on 1-10. Less

Published 01/12/12

Cabin review: EE1945 Large Ocean-View Stateroom

Avaiable for 4 people; plenty of closet space; actual bathtub and great towels/robes, bed set-up odd but worked; big window (leave a stuffed animal in window so you can find it at pots)

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Port and Shore Excursions

5) Napier - take the free shuttle and then just walk around to take pics of the sights, all art deco after the earthquake in 1931. Our daughter bought a foldable scooter at a sporting goods store. It was about $140 USD, but worth it so she didn't have to rent scooters or bikes, and gave her more than worth the value to tool around towns. Plus we took it back with us. Napier also has cool gardens right on the waterfront. 6) Tauranga - two of our "must see" things in new Zealand were glowworms and mud pools. We were told we couldn't do both in a day, until we found Tim Taylor Tours on a Cruise Critic review. Tim priced out the whole day for us, and was waiting for us at the pier with an umbrella on a very wet day. A great tour, and we say teh Rakipi and Waitamo caves, and then went to Te Puia for the geysers and mud pools, plus seeing a kiwi pretty close. An expensive day, put totally worth it. Tim will customize however you want, at 7) Auckland - My 13 year old had her heart set on bungy jumping in New Zealand, the nation that invented it. her parent's were not so excited, but we will only be there once, so we booked through the i-site for her ot go in the only ocean dip bungy jumpt in the Southernn hemisphere, which was totally worth it, and her head did not get bit off by a shark, which was an irrational fear I had. Harbour Bridge bungy jump through AJ Hackett was awesome.( About $120/jumper plus $20/watcher, plus $45 for the really cool photo packet. We also saw some of the America's Cup NZ ships, and went to Circus Circus to meet a colleague. A World Cup store was near the port, and everything was on sale, so a field day. 8) Bay of Islands - a tender port - after several big days we were ready to just walk around, but others we were with went kayaking and had a great time. Also could have gone to the treaty signing site a short public ferry to Russell.
Read 263 Auckland Reviews

1) Oban, Stewart Osland - a tender port, and really just an island of abouit 800 people. You can walk around, get postcards, and go up to an observation area with a good view of the ship. It's the anchor of the boat in the legend that the South Island is a Moari vessel and the North Island the fisherman. Don't expect to find shops, but if you want a hike or to see birds, a nice stop 2) Dunedin - We got tickets reserved ahead for the Taori Railway Gorge (, at $160 for 2 adults and 2 children (compared to almost $600 if we had booked through the ship). You can take a shutle into town, pick up your tickets, and take some pics of the beautiful railway station. The train trip was lots of gorges, cattle, alpaca, and sheep country. Reminded us of the Skagway trian trip in Alaska. You can buy drinks and snack aboard, which is pricey, but what are your options? Stand between the trains for the best pictures and the wind in your hair. After the train trip go to the Cadbury World Factory for chocolate wonderfulness ( Sock up at the company store for the best pricing that we have every seen for Cadbury products.
Read 207 Dunedin Reviews

We left our home in Michigan at 7:00 am on a Friday, and arrived at our hotel after leaving the Sydney Airport at 11:00 am on a Sunday, so it's a long trip even with the 16 hours time difference any way you cut it. It's best of course to just push throug hthe jet lag and try to go to sleep around normal time wherever you are at, which we did. We got "Sunday Fun Day" tickets for public transit at the airport (plus about $10/pp for an airport fee) and took the train into downtown. Very worth it. Our hotel, The Menzies, was right across the street from the Wynard Station (booked through Novotel site...Novotel is one of the reliable chains we have found that routinely offer doubles with two double beds...hard to find in Europe or Australia). Even though we arrived at 11:00 am they allowed us to check in, which was very kind. The room was small but clean with clean towels and a remote that worked, which is our basic criteria. We then got a map from the concierge and walked down to Darling Harbour (about 3 city blocks of easy walking) and took the ferry to Manly Beach. Always take the public ferry as there are several other companies that have ferry service but are far more expensive (and in our case included with our Sunday Fun Day passes, but you can get an all you can ride pass other days as well for about $15/pp). Manly Beach was great, and we watched the surfers and put our feet in. Then we returned and took a separate ferry to Tauranga Zoo. We say all of the usual animals, with larger exhibits for koala, kangaroos, and Tasmanian Devils (did you know they are transmit one of only three known contagious cancers, called Devil Tumour Mouth Disease), and we saw a live duck-bill platypus for the first time ever. When a quick bite and back to our hotel because we were dragging by 7:00 pm. In the morning we had breakfast (included) at the hotel, went for a swim, and then walked to the cruise terminal. A note...we each had one suitcase and one carry-on backback, which made getting through the airport and to the ship much easier. Plus, you can wash your clothes on the ship, and we still brought a few items we didn't wear, plus had room on the return for our various trinkets.

3) New Plymouth - We were the first big ship to go into this port, so they had ceremonial dancing and the Moari face touching that is typical. After that we choose to talk along the seashore to the town (cold have also taken the shuttle). The walk was about 45 minutes, but there were guides from the town along the way, plus several nice play areas. When you get into town there are public scupltures all over, and a free local museum. We found a Cantebury shop for All Blacks jerseys (not cheap, but worth it), and went to a local craft fair and got a kiwi dool made out of a chenelle blanket from HandmaideNZ, two very nice women ( 4) Wellington - you are docked so close tothe Westpac stadium that the All Blacks stay at; it is incredible. Otherwise, this is a very walkable city. We walked along the harbour, and got free wif-fi along out way. Went to a play area with a large slide, and then to Te Papa, the national museum. The museum is free (except special exhibits...we went to Unveiled, a wedding wear exhitibt from the London Museum; not sure worth it), with great exhibits about techtonic plates, invasive species, and 20th century New Zealand social movements. Could easily spend all day there. On the way back we saw an Occupy Wellington (after the Occupy Wall Street movement) encampment.

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Julie the Cruise Director
Member Since 2009
18 Forum Posts
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