5 Seward Holland America Volendam Cruise Reviews

Visited son who lives in Anchorage, then took the cruise from June 5 - 12 from Seward to Vancouver. It was nice time of year - light long and mild weather. We had no rain on the entire trip, unusual we were told. It even close to 80 on ... Read More
Visited son who lives in Anchorage, then took the cruise from June 5 - 12 from Seward to Vancouver. It was nice time of year - light long and mild weather. We had no rain on the entire trip, unusual we were told. It even close to 80 on shore in :Haines & Juneau. There were optional trips to Skagway, but we enjoyed Haines, since we had visited Skagway on other trips. The town was welcoming and a complimentary bus to several of the sites was helpful. The entertainment was tops; we especially enjoyed the magician, comedian Garry Carson. Also, the films shown each day were an added benefit, since we hardly ever go to films at home. In Glacier Bay, several National Park rangers came on board and gave 2 talks before we got near the glaciers, then had a continuing narative while we were near the glaciers. One also did something special with the children on board. Read Less
Sail Date June 2016
I decided to take my son on an Alaska cruise as a high school graduation present, even though he really wanted to go to the Mediterranean- another victim of the falling dollar and rising fuel costs. I am a divorced mom, mid 50's, and ... Read More
I decided to take my son on an Alaska cruise as a high school graduation present, even though he really wanted to go to the Mediterranean- another victim of the falling dollar and rising fuel costs. I am a divorced mom, mid 50's, and have to admit that I tend to see the glass as half empty. I have traveled with my son all over the world. Prior cruise experience on Celebrity, RCCL, NCL and even the Disney Big Red Boat. So, although I had read all the bad reviews about HAL, I had also heard that they were making an effort to attract younger people, that the Alaska cruises have lots of teens and that their ships were elegant and understated. With that in mind, a great cruise price through an internet site and tickets on Alaska Air purchased with frequent flyer miles bought on ebay, we set out for Anchorage and the start of the southbound journey to Vancouver. I did not use any of the ship's transportation options. We flew to Anchorage, checked into the Hilton and spent a day in Anchorage. Visited the Native Heritage Center, which I frankly expected to be a boring tourist trap. Wrong! Fabulous is the only word I can use to describe it. The "college kids" working there actually grew up in the areas and in the types of dwellings represented. Next morning, bus to Seward. Called and made the reservation the day before. The bus let us off at a lodge a few miles outside of Seward, which checked the bags and delivered them directly to the ship for only a couple of dollars. Cheapest deal in Alaska. They even had a free shuttle which took us into Seward. My son was really anxious to get on board and start eating, so we boarded before lunch. The boarding process was effortless. We avoided the ubiquitous photo in front of the ship and no one chased us down. So far, so good. Then came the activities-or should I say lack thereof. I originally attributed it to the fact that it was boredom, oops, boarding day, but I would soon learn that this was every day. We were confined, until the rooms could be readied, to the eighth floor. This is the floor with the buffet, swimming pools, 2 "hot" tubs, work out room and spa. There was also 1 ping pong table and 1 floor sized chess set. ACTIVITIES - There are a lot of rooms for sitting. They have many, many names for these rooms. You can sit with a drink, a computer, a book or at a card table. If you like to sit, this is the ship for you. The internet room is also the library and is quite beautiful. Internet charges are the standard overpriced sea rates. The library has a wonderful collection of books-all of which are locked up at 10:00 PM every night. I wonder where they think you would take the stolen book? If it is before 10, you can check it out. You can also rent DVD's for a fee. One of the places that you cannot sit is a "hot" tub. This is because the tubs are never hot. They are closed with netting or drained at about 7PM every night. In the morning, they are ice cold. It became a running joke between another passenger and me. She would sit on a chaise by the hot tubs every morning until about lunch and I would say "are they hot yet?" every time I passed by. The hot tubs got hot by about 5PM, when most people went to dinner. Then they were shut off at 7PM, ready to start the cycle again. I was told that there was a "hot tub" in the spa which one could use for $80 or so for the week. I asked to see it and was told to come back at 5PM, when it wasn't so crowded. (Coincidentally, the same time the free hot tub heated up). As to other activities, the indoor pool was taken over by kids, so I never used it and the outdoor pool wasn't an option- for that you need a different cruise. The ping pong table was really popular. My son told me that he tried to play basketball one day on the outdoor deck but the net or the hoop or some other part was broken. He found a group of teenagers to socialize with and basically they wandered around the ship bored. The activities director (some 22 year old girl with a whistle) arranged some lame competitions to win points which could be exchanged for ship cups and such. One was a ping pong match. There were so many people, because there was nothing else to do, that she limited it to best of 5 points between each 2 persons in line. They also had a contest hitting a ping pong ball with a putter into a net in the swimming pool held by one of the kids swimming. Have I mentioned how boring this ship was? I spent most of the time in the gym. There was a lovely view and the requisite number of treadmills, bikes, cybex machines, weights, etc. They had a few t.v.'s which ran the news all the time. I took one pilates class, which was taught by a Russian male instructor. He claimed that no other staff showed up, so he taught all the classes, no matter what they were. I didn't take anything but the pilates and it was a killer. ENTERTAINMENT - If your idea of entertainment is having a guy sit at a piano and tell you to turn to number 71 in your book so you can sing along to "Climb Every Mountain," you have found paradise. This is the type of thing that poses as entertainment on this ship. It almost makes the adolescent bathroom and penis humor on RCCL look good. There are two shows every night. I (wrongly) assumed that the early (7PM) show was for the early diners and the late (I use that term loosely)show at 9PM was for the late diners. On HAL, the nightly show lasts approximately 45 minutes. So, I was told, the late diners, such as myself, were expected to go to the 7PM show. That would allow them to be at the dining room by 8 PM and presumably get to bed by 10-the time when most everything on this ship closes down. If you really want to stay up "late," there is a nightly movie. The last showing was usually around 10PM. There is also a casino. It has the usual slot machines, craps table, roulette table, 21, poker, etc. There is just no pizzazz. My son enjoyed the blackjack tournament one night, even though he ended up losing. FOOD - One good thing about the cruise-you won't gain weight. My son's plans for a 7 day eating binge were thwarted through no fault of his own. The comedians who make jokes about 24 hour hot and cold running food on cruise ships have never taken this line. Didn't happen. Since I'm fat enough, this was not really a downside for me, but my son had his heart set on huge portions of lobster tails and baked alaska. Beginning with breakfast, we ate it at the buffet twice. I don't think the dining room served breakfast After that, we skipped the meal altogether. It was the equivalent of a high school cafeteria. The one stand out was fresh squeezed orange juice- which was unfortunately served at room temperature. The ship is kept so hot that you are thirsty all the time for something cold to drink. All that is offered all day, except breakfast, is water, coffee, hot and iced tea. My son bought a soda card for $20 or so and he couldn't use it at the buffet or in the dining room. He had to go to the bar. And he wasn't allowed to sit at the bar because he is only 18, so the card went to waste and he was thirsty all the time. We never ate lunch in the dining room because they are only open for about 1 1/2 hours at lunch. We always ate at the buffet. Dinner we usually ate in the dining room. Generally, the food is the same. The menu in the dining is the same as the buffet. The only other option is the restaurant with a $20 per person surcharge. The night I tried to book reservations, they were full. After that, I passed by and saw the exact same occasion cake as was on our table in the dining room, so I decided to save my money. Some of the food was good-the prime rib, the Asian stir fries, the mushroom soup and the lobster tails, for example. Some of it was awful. Most of it was bland, boring and poor quality. The fresh fruit wasn't sweet, the vegetables were frozen, the danish were the same every day, the pastries were cloyingly sweet and the meat was not trimmed of fat. The dining room was set for dinner every night with a place setting consisting of no less than 10 pieces of silverware, with 4 pieces above the plate. The fish and steak knives were delivered separately. It gave the impression that Holland America in their past had an elegant dinner service and was trying to hang on to that time. Now it was just an out of place relic and seemed pompous and foolish in light of the poor sparse food. Dinner was only 3 to 4 courses and far less copious than that of other cruise ships. The menu was divided into appetizers, soup and salad as one category and a main dish. A dessert menu was presented afterwards. Portions were adequate. Food was poor and pointlessly fussed over. For example, they served escargots on one night and chose to douse them with a thick cream sauce and place the thick mixture in a pastry shell. The baked alaska was a ball of egg whites covering a cake that tasted like a mix with a tablespoon of ice cream. Service was slow and pretentious. It took approximately 2 hours to serve 3 to 4 courses of pre-prepared plates. The buffet was staffed beautifully. It was not a chow line. Everything was served to you. Lunch began at 11:30 and closed promptly I think at 1:30. There was a tea service in the dining room from 3-4. I went to it one day. They used the same tea bags as usual and the staff had no idea what clotted cream or watercress were. The buffet also had some interim light meal before dinner. Dinner at the buffet closed about the same time as the dining room, probably 9PM. Then there was a 1 hour buffet at 11PM. Nothing was served in the Casino or any of the sitting rooms, although the library had a specialty coffee bar where drinks were for sale. If you have memories of things staff greeting you with hot chocolate or cool drinks after port, they are just that. On glacier viewing day, staff came around early in the morning hawking commuter cups for sale, so you could fill up your coffee and take it outside. My son said to just describe the food as "horrible" and stop using so many words. So much for the teenage prospective. THE SHIP AND CABIN- The cleanest ship I have ever been on. The staff spent most of their time cleaning and they were insistent on standards with the passengers. You had to purify your hands every time you entered the dining room, the buffet line or came back from port. The public areas are lovely. They are mainly wood and afford ocean views everywhere. The walls have interesting art and it is worth stopping to look. We were in a cheap inside cabin. It was fine. Lots of room, lots of storage space. Suited our needs. Staff were constantly coming in to clean. PORTS- The ship spent the longest port time in HAINES, where there is nothing to do. We were there for about 12 hours. Some people took the ferry to Skagway to shop. We just walked around. The totem pole store was interesting. I enjoyed speaking with the carvers. The fort is not a fort, but a bunch of buildings and the town is tiny. An eagle watching tour is offered at over $100 per person, which we considered taking, but later were glad we didn't bother. Lots of eagles to come. On a cruise to Alaska, the ship fare is like the base sticker price of a car. My price actually doubled when the activities in port were added. And, there is not a lot of difference if you book yourself. Usually, I save a lot of money by booking shore excursions myself. In Alaska, you won't. All the money is made in the very short summer season, so prices are ridiculously expensive. And, since there are not a lot of suppliers, prices among them are pretty uniform. You can save about $50 per person on some of the flight trips, which we didn't take, booking them independently, but for the things we did, prices were exactly the same. JUNEAU - We booked sport fishing through the ship, which delivered it through Juneau Sports fishing. We were bussed to the pier and assigned to a boat with 2 other people. Had an absolutely great time. The captain was terrific. The other fisherman were lots of fun. Cost was $219 per person plus $20 each for a fishing license. We each caught a salmon (Yeah!). The captain arranged to have the fish sent to Alaskan Sea Food, where it was smoked, packed and shipped to us in CA for a charge of $77. Wanted to see more of Juneau, but after the fishing, we were exhausted and went back to the ship GLACIER BAY- Although this is not a port, it is an attraction. Spent the day on the highest deck covered in blankets watching ice fall into water and listening to the rangers describe the geology of the area. Ketchikan- The absolutely best port. We spent the shortest time there. We booked the deadliest catch tour at $145 per person. It was worth the money. At one point, the fisherman threw bait into the water and we watched eagles swoop down from the tries to catch it. Watching the eagles was glorious. The fisherman were fun and the entire experience was just great in every way. Luckily the ship had pulled in a little early so we had time to walk around. But there are many shops and so much to do there. We would have gone fishing again if there was time. In summary, if you are over 80, handicapped or expecting to have a medical emergency at sea, this is the ship for you. They actually were able to call the coast guard, turn the ship around and have a passenger taken off to the hospital by helicopter in less time than it took them to serve dinner in the dining room. Apparently, this happens with some regularity. The staff was wonderful with people in wheelchairs and those who needed assistance. If you have to go to a nursing home, for the same price you can cruise. If I live pass 80 or fall into really poor health, I will reconsider taking HAL. Read Less
Sail Date July 2008
This will be a very lengthy review it is close to 4400 words but we wanted to capture the grandeur that is Alaska and hopefully you can see it through our eyes if that is at all possible...We hope you enjoy this review Our thoughts on ... Read More
This will be a very lengthy review it is close to 4400 words but we wanted to capture the grandeur that is Alaska and hopefully you can see it through our eyes if that is at all possible...We hope you enjoy this review Our thoughts on HAL's Cruise / Tour #14 Tuesday May 20, 2008 Let me start out by saying there was my Wife, (early 50's) Step Son (18) Myself (Early 50's) the wife's lifelong friend (early 50's) and her husband (Early 50's)....This is just so you know the makeup of our group..For us this was part of our son's Graduation from High School present We like to leave a day early so we can acclimate to time changes and make sure that we get there in case of a problem with our air travel Our alarm goes off at 4:00am with no problems there is anticipation in the air setting out on a new adventure So Airport Transportation (Local Taxi) picked us up at 4:30am and they are on time. We head off to Newark NJ airport, now we live a stone's throw from JFK in New York (20 minutes) but the only way we could stay with the same airline, Alaska Air, was to leave from Newark. As Alaska Air have no flights out of JFK... We were in the airport in less than 1 hour. The only problem was that our big bag was over 50lbs. (64lbs to be exact) and I told the Wife that there was no way it could be over 50lbs because I could not lift over 50lbs with my left hand..Guess we will be buying a luggage scale HA HA.. All of our flights were on time. We went from Newark to Seattle and then Seattle to Fairbanks. We arrived at the Westmark Hotel at 4:15 Alaska time which there is a 4 hour time difference between there and New York so we were traveling for over 15 ½ hours, a long day!!!! We had dinner in the hotel prices are high but I guess that is Alaska Wednesday May 21, 2008 We woke up Wednesday morning had breakfast, this was the best value for the money at $13.95 all you could eat buffet. The food at this was passable I know I know food is very subjective some might love it I just thought it was OK. We then decided to take a free shuttle to the Museum of the North, this is located at the University of Alaska..Now this trip cost us $10.00 per person, the cost of entry to the museum. HAL charges $25.00 per person, YOU DO THE MATH When we arrived back at the Westmark we went to our room and I found it wide open WITH NO ONE IN THE ROOM..I waited there for a few minutes until housekeeping came back and I disclosed my displeasure!!!! The woman told me she had only been gone a minute but I told her it was longer then that...I was very concerned because some of my camera equipment was still in the room what if that had been stolen yes HAL and the Westmark would make good but what about the pictures that I would have missed you can't put a price on that...I called the head of housekeeping to talk to her she kept saying that she was sorry and gave me 5 vouchers for breakfast, but as you will see later I am still going to write to both HAL and The Westmark Then at 3:00 we went to meet our Tour Director Annette French...Later that day we went to the Great Alaskan Salmon Bake and Show in the Palace Theater, booked through HAL, but once again you do not have to you can book it at the Hotel and save some money..The food was very good all you could eat and the show was a rip, very very funny Thursday May 22, 2008 Today we went on the Fairbanks City, Gold Dredge #8, and Riverboat tour...These were very interesting and we really enjoyed them...As a side note the best food that I had on the land portion of our Cruise / Tour was at Gold Dredge #8 the beef stew was the best I have had in a long time, at least since my grandmother passed away and then hers was the BEST...We also got to stop at the Alaskan Pipeline for about 25 minutes, this was interesting to see..We did find out some interesting facts about Alaska it has NO STATE INCOME TAX..Local cities may impose a tax but most don't...Also because of the pipeline every person (Man woman and child) who have been a resident of Alaska for more than 1 year get a dividend check every October, last year that check was $1700.00...Also they have a program where you can buy College Credits at the current rate..So you can take your child's check and buy credits for their collage education at the University of Alaska..These tours took up all day and this was our last day in Fairbanks.... When we arrived back we went to our room prior to dinner to clean up and found that our room was ONLY ½ MADE UP...One bed was left unmade with all the dirty linens from both beds and the bathroom on it...Once again a call to the Head of Housekeeping...They sent up a housekeeper but NOT THE HEAD..So we insisted on seeing the Head of Housekeeping and she finally came up...Once again she said that she was sorry...All she offered us this time was 5 espressos from the hotel shop as we had to board buses very early in the morning...So you now see why I will be writing to both HAL (Which I think owns the Westmark) and the Westmark... Our overall impressions of the Westmark, the dinning have very limited menus and they are expensive (A New York Steak was $26.00 which is a little steep)..There has to be improvements in housekeeping...Lastly the hotel is located in a bad part of town Friday May 23, 2008 We were up early as our bags had to be out by 7:00am...Once we are loaded in our bus it is a short trip to the train station of the Alaskan Rail Road where we board HAL's McKinley Explorer for our 4 hour ride to Denali..The scenery along this rail way is incredible..While aboard we had the option of buying breakfast..The food was very good and for me it should have been as this is owned (I mean the rail road cars) by HAL..There is no way to describe the site when you first see the Alaskan Mountain Range...I have seen pictures as we all have, I have taken pictures, and they just can't do the mountain range justice.... Just before noon we arrive at the Denali Rail Road Station and get off the train and get onto buses for a very short trip to the McKinley Resort and Chalet...The Chalet is located in the Nenana River Valley...Once again everywhere you turn the scenery is breath taking...We have this whole afternoon and evening to ourselves...We had a late lunch in the Courtyard Cafe, the food is starting to improve, we often do this (late lunch) and not have dinner... HAL does offer tours and we had prebooked the Husky Homestead Tour..We had problems with this tour...We were told to meet in the lobby and someone would make an announcement and we did hear other tours being announced..My wife saw the van for the Husky Homestead Tour and we waited and waited and then they just left without paging in the lobby that they were there!!! We went to the front desk to say something and to see if they could get the driver to come back but they said that they would get us alternate transportation...As a side note the day before in Fairbanks we spent a good part of our morning on the bus running back and forth picking up stragglers...SO WHY COULD THEY NOT DO THAT HERE????? Anyway they give us a very nice young man with VERY POOR directions and we spent the next 45 minutes going up and down every side road looking for our tour, little to say we never found it and we headed back to the hotel when we were going back we found out the HAL had an office on the hotel grounds just outside the lobby...We went in there to see what we could do..The driver gave us the slip of paper that he had the directions on so we showed to the HAL Rep she looked at it and said that the directions were wrong and then refunded our money and then said she said she would try to do more for us like ship board credit but we would have to see her the next day...Our problem was our 18 year old son had picked this tour and it was the only land thing that he wanted to do and it was the way we got him to come with us so he was very disappointed to say the least Saturday May 24, 2008 Today we did the Tundra Wilderness Tour in Denali Park...Once again this was a very good tour which was part of our package (HAL's Cruise / Tour #14)...This is another tour that we really enjoyed and once again it is something that really can't be described and pictures cannot do it justice....Also as soon as I can I will post my pictures I took well over 2500 which will be culled down a lot...My final thought on Denali National Park we did not get to see Mount McKinley....They say that only about 30% of the people that go to the park every year get to see the summit from ground level because of the cloud cover Final thoughts on the land portion of our trip...Looking back on my notes I had given the food a 3 (Based on a 0 to 10 with 10 being the very best) but in reality the food has to be worth a 7....The only real problem was the Westmark's Restaurants with their high prices and their limited selections....The tours I'd also rate as a 7 because of the Husky tour and after we found out what HAL charges for the Museum of the North and what we paid it just does not add up...The Hotels here we go I really have problems here over all I'd say a 5+....If I split them up the Westmark gets a 3 and with that I think I am being kind and their Restaurant... McKinley Resort and Chalet gets a 7 because of the way they handled our tour....The land portion of the tour over all gets an 8+ the thing that pulled it out for me was the marvelous, wondrous, and beautiful sites I was truly humbled....Our tour guide Annette French she gets a 8 and the only reason that I did not give her a 9 is because I fell that when any one in her group is taking a HAL sponsored tour I.e.: our Husky tour she needs to be in the lobby of the hotel to resolve any problems like the one we had, but otherwise she was great.. Sunday May 25, 2008 Another early day we are boarding the bus at 7:15am for the long ride to Seward and the Volendam...We make a few stops on the way down our bus driver / guide is good...One of the places we get to stop is the Denali game preserve...They have some animals which we get out of the buss and are able to take pictures of...A very interesting place where they care for injured animals and are trying to repopulate some animals who are having a problem in the wild....We get our first look at the Volendam at 4:50pm...As Deluxe Suite passengers we get preferred check in, this perk is no big deal our friends who were in another cabin checked in and were just behind us on the line to board...We board and there is NO ONE to direct us to our cabin or the Lido or where we are to go so we found the elevator and found our room...The first person to impress us was our room steward his name is Lucky he called us by Mr. & Mrs. Our last name....For the rest of the week Lucky was good not impressive.....We went up to the Lido for dinner which was very crowded... There was nothing in the main dinning room so we were told Monday May 26, 2008 Today is a sea day and we get to see College Fjord we were here from 5:30am until 9:00am....My wife and I generally got up early, between 7:00 & 7:30am, no matter what time I leave the casino and most nights that is around 1:00am... We went to the Lido for breakfast and the first thing we noticed was the lack of ships officers, we did not know the entertainment personal aboard so we excluded them...On the Oosterdam 2 years ago the officers and entertainment staff would have breakfast with the passengers and we were told that that was an order from the captain, that the crew would eat in the Lido and no more than 2 to a table and mingle with the passengers...It was not to be here and I missed it...On the O-Dam we had breakfast with the Captain one morning although he only had coffee but other mornings there were others and I think that is a good thing....HAL should make it mandatory throughout the fleet...This way the officers and others know what the passengers are thinking and maybe can help resolve problems sooner before they snow ball into larger problems...The other thing we noticed in the Lido during breakfast, was the coffee man or should I say the lack of one...Our last 2 HAL cruises O-Dam and Zandam coffee men just kept going up and down the aisles on both sides of the Lido offering refills....For the 6 mornings that we were in the Lido we saw them 2x and the second time he had passed us and another waiter offered to get us coffee....The other thing we noticed was the speed or lack there of at which tables got cleaned there were mornings where we walked around for quite a long time looking for a place to eat and we saw where tables that could be cleared.. Well I am rambling about the Lido if I think of more I will catch it another day..... I do not know if this is because this is our first cruise where we did not have to worry about a high school or grammar school schedule, which would put a lot of kids onboard and younger families, so let me throw this out there...BINGO this is where in the past I have had a lot of FUN!!! This time the Assistant Cruise Director and his helper were way too serious there was no way I could heckle them as I had done on the O-Dam and the Zandam on both of those cruises by the end I had the crowd with me and helping me and when I missed a BINGO session on those 2 ships I would get stopped and asked where I had been and if everything was alright...We got the impression this Entertainment staff were not approachable....To me they seemed to be just walking around just barely doing their jobs as if they did not want to be there... The other thing that we missed was the things that were done just prior to the main shows....Like on the Zandam there was a lip sync show where I played Rob Lowe from Foot Loose...Or on the O-Dam where I got my wife to play the Newly Wed Game and we had a lot of fun both times...It is things like these things that we missed Tonight is our first formal night...I was not felling very well, maybe the land tour wore me down, but I still dressed for dinner....For dinner we had early seating upper at 5:45 at table #18 which was a table for 6 but being there was only 5 of us it gave us some room...First thing that I noticed was the number of people who dressed down this number was about 40%...By dressing down I mean no tie or jacket for men, ladies in sweatshirts, people in jeans and sneakers....As far as men in tuxes goes maybe 10% had tuxes but the rest of the 50% had suits and ties... As a side note one of the other nights my step-son arrived in the dining room and had forgotten to leave his hat in our cabin and was told he had to remove it, they were right and he did....So why can't they question others not properly dressed???? But they can stop an 18 year old kid....... Getting back to our first formal night dinner well it was like this everyone at our table ordered the "JUMBO SHRIMP" what we got was shrimp from "Cosco" or "Sams Club" and I mean the really small shrimp...You had to look way down into the cocktail dish to find them...In fact we joked that it was Krill...What we found out was that they can only take on stores in Vancouver and cannot get them in Seward so by the south bound voyage there can be and there were "SHORTAGES" ...As my review moves through the week I will talk about other things we did not have..... Menus they were good except where they forgot that they were out of something and still had it on the menu....The thing that was MISSING was the comfort food...There was no Meat Loaf or Turkey or any other comfort food...There are those of us who look forward to HAL's meat loaf and those other comfort foods they are nice for a change... I must admit one thing here because I have been one on those carrying the banner about formal nights and remaining dressed....As I said earlier I was not feeling well so after dinner I went back to my cabin and changed out of my Tux into a neat pair of slacks with a golf shirt and was still dressed better then a lot of others that night Tuesday May 27, 2008 9:00am we enter Glacier Bay National Park & Preserve ---- I was on the bow of the ship from about 8:40am right after breakfast and I can tell you it was cold then because we were making some speed...We moved up Tarr Inlet and the way you know that you are getting close to a glacier you will see the ice flow...Saw first Marjorie Glacier and Pacific Glacier...There was some Calving of Marjorie but it was tough to catch with my camera you have to be very lucky to be looking at the right spot at the right time.....Marjorie Glacier stretches back some 17 miles From there we approached Jaw Point (called so because as you round it your Jaw drops at the first site of Johns Hopkins Glacier...We were 5 miles away and it was huge Wednesday May 28, 2008 Docked at Haines---We were going to the White Pass Rail Road as we were disembarking there was an announcement that the White Pass Rail Road had broken down and that HAL would post a refund...We continued to the pier and found the HAL Rep on the pier and asked her what she thought about a replacement tour and she recommended the Wild Life Jet Boat Tour...She quoted us a price of $94.00 so we booked it for the 5 of us....The tour was OK but we only saw 2 eagles one nesting and one flying around...Well you can't make the animals come out on cue in the wild...The tour took place on the Chilcat river and the scenery was beautiful..... One side note the HAL Rep on the pier quoted us the wrong price, when we looked at our statement we found that they charged us $105.00 we went to our concierge in the Neptune Lounge and she handled it for us it for us..... Before I go on to Wednesday let me talk just a little about the weather... After all the reading I had done on the Cruise Critic Boards I was expecting the worst....We needed our heavy coats only once in Glacier Bay while we were entering it and I was hanging out on the bow.. But once we slowed down or just slowly turned in place my jacket was open....Every place we went it seemed as we approached it was cloudy and crappy looking but as we got there the sun burned off the clouds and we had glorious sunny warm days.... Thursday May 29, 2008 Docked in Juno---Here we booked the Whale Watching & Mendenhall Glacier tour through HAL....We went to Mendenhall Glacier first today...When you see the Visitor Center it is hard to believe that 250 years ago this portion was covered with ice and glacier....That is the one constant about Alaska and her glaciers the view is different from year to year.... This was the second part of this great tour....I was the first to spot a whale and for the time we were out there we saw 6+ different whales ---- A group of Sea Lions ----- and a couple of eagles....You could get this cheaper but I like not having the hassle of getting back and forth to the ship..Over all this was worth the money we spent.... Friday May 2008 Today it was Ketchikan for us and our last port of call prior to our disembarkation....As we pulled into port it was the second time that we got to see the Westerdam, the first being Glacier Bay, but as we arrived the Westerdam was pulling out...Here we had the Lumber Jack & Totem Bight tour scheduled...When we docked I did have about an hour...Which gave me a chance to walk around and through Creek Street ....My wife and Step Son one was toured out (Step Son) and my wife was not feeling good so I took my tour with my friends who had nothing book for here...As for the Lumber Jack show it was a little corny but enjoyable...The second part of the tour which was the Totem Bight Park was very interesting , we had a retired professor from the University of Alaska and he really knew his stuff about the totem poles and the stories behind them....As a side note for this tour I can tell you, you DO NEED BUG SPRAY....We get all the way through the tour and back to the ship and I find out from my friends wife that he had bug spray in his knapsack I wanted to KILL HIM HA Ha!!! Saturday May 31, 2008 Our final sea day nothing to do but sit back enjoy the ship and pack...I really don't like this day because it means that our cruise is over and I have to leave the ship and I do so enjoy being aboard so much...But the day was uneventful...We did get to see what it is meant to truly cruise the inside passage....For our last day the scenery was as we started breath taking...On a cruise like this you run out of adjectives to describe what you are seeing.... Sunday June 1, 2008 Docked at our final destination Vancouver BC Canada....We have to meet in the Showtime Lounge at 7:15am...But first it was up to the Neptune Lounge, one last time, for a quick bite to eat of the continental breakfast they serve..We have Signature Express Disembarkation.. Which means we paid and extra $16.00 per person put our bags out the night before and did not see them until we got to JFK Airport in New York and to me it was well worth it....By 8:30am they are scanning our room keys for one last disembarkation, which for me is a very sad moment it means that my vacation is over....We leave the ship one last time and board buses to take us to the airport... Final Thoughts and Comments Over all we give HAL a B+ for this cruise...It was not their best as far as we are concerned...We only have 2 other HAL cruises to compare this to and for my money they were far better....But HAL's B+ is still far better than other cruise lines A+ service....I can only hope that someone from HAL will read this and try to correct the problems...We do have plans on sending a letter to HAL about the problems that we had and I will include a hard copy of this review...Would we sail HAL again well while on board we booked our next cruise 18 days through the Panama Cannel, so I would say yes we'd sail them again....Would we recommend HAL to our friends there is a big yes to that... Let me end this by talking about the entertainment, the HAL singers and dancers their 2 shows seemed to be tired and lack luster and not very enjoyable...Janine Gardner she tried to be a comedian, notice I said TRIED TO BE and I am sorry we saw her twice.....Professor Watson he played many different instruments and was very entertaining he should have been in the last show instead of Janine Gardner...Now I saved the best, of the Showtime Lounge acts, for last Mr. Craig Diamond he is a comic / magician and was very good if you get a chance to see him you are very lucky...As far as entertainment around the ship we never got to the Crows Nest so I can't say anything about up there but around the other parts of the ship, the only bad thing I can say is regarding The Manila Quartet in the Ocean Bar they were the worst band I have ever heard they melted my Brain it hurt to listen to them.... Read Less
Sail Date May 2008
I recently came back from a one week cruise on the Volendam and a week land tour purchased through Holland American. Overall the cruise was good but there a few things Holland American needs to work on. CABIN - We were in a veranda suite ... Read More
I recently came back from a one week cruise on the Volendam and a week land tour purchased through Holland American. Overall the cruise was good but there a few things Holland American needs to work on. CABIN - We were in a veranda suite which is the perfect way to see Alaska. The room and bathroom were a good size; comfortable and well appointed. There is plenty of places to store things and the beds were very comfortable. The balcony was great. We sat out there and had cocktails and watched whales go by. SHIP DECOR - The ship is beautifully appointed. The common areas are lively and fun and the art work is really interesting. On one of the staircases I kept stopping and looking at the various paintings of the ship through time. FOOD/DINING ROOMS - My biggest complaint with the ship would be the food. It was marginal at best. I am never concerned with the quantity of food on a ship (there is always something around to eat) and I'm not a "foodie" on a cruise because I know they are cooking for the masses but even with fairly low expectations this was pretty bad. I never had one shrimp dish (and I ordered several through the week) where they didn't use canned shrimp. We got room service one night and even the shrimp cocktail appetizer was canned. I tried the Asian entrees at lunch on day and it was so full of salt that I had to throw it away. Conversely, the omelets in the morning had no flavor because they never added even a dash of salt to the eggs. The entrees at night never met the hype of the description. One entree I order was a shrimp (again) with sundried tomatoes and some other spices. It consisted on 4 mid-sized canned shrimp with jar tomato sauce on it. And speaking of using prepackaged products, I wish they had used bottled dressing on their Caesar salads. At least it would have had some flavor. This was a negative experience for the entire trip. The main dining room was lovely and the Lido deck was OK. I did not go to the Pinnacle Room because I think the charge of $30 a person is outrageous. Maybe I have been fortunate enough to be on cruise lines that don't nickle and dime you like I saw on the Volendam, but I was very glad to hear that on the evening our table mates went to the Pinnacle (they had gotten free passes because they are frequent cruisers) there was only two other couples there. Maybe if that happens enough, HAL will lower the fee to a truly nominal one. SPA/EXERCISE FACILITIES - The spa and exercise facilities were very good, with one important exception. The spa is expensive but all ships spa facilities are expensive and the treatments were excellent. Of course the staff pushes you to buy products but all ships' staffs push that. The exercise facilities were large and spacious. There needs to be more elliptical machines. There were only two of them and they were always being used. The most annoying aspect of the gym is that they are trying to sell you their various classes. I've never been on a cruise ship where they did that. Each class was $30!!!. My monthly membership at my gym is only $60 a month. In general Holland American constant push on the ship to get you to buy other things was really annoying. STAFF - With a few very minor exceptions the staff was all very pleasant and went out of their way to help. I only feel sorry for them because they are obviously required to push you to buy other things. For example, at our first night at dinner the wine steward instantly asked us if we wanted to sign up for a wine tasting class the next day for $15. The next day at breakfast I was quietly having coffee by myself on the deck and next thing I know there is a waiter next to me asking me the same question. I wanted to should "GO AWAY," but I know they are just doing what is required of them. By the way, it happened one other day at lunch when again I was by myself. The management who should know better. ACTIVITIES My final comment is on the ship-board activities. As you can guess it really annoyed me that they kept pushing you to buy things and they did that, for example, with cooking classes. Again I had never experienced this. I thought these kind of activities went with cruise Read Less
Sail Date August 2007
ALASKA 14-DAY CRUISE-TOUR ON HOLLAND AMERICA'S VOLENDAM, JULY 2007 This was my husband's (age 64) and my (age 60) first cruise. We're both "young" 60's. We did the 14-day southbound cruise-tour (Tour 20, ... Read More
ALASKA 14-DAY CRUISE-TOUR ON HOLLAND AMERICA'S VOLENDAM, JULY 2007 This was my husband's (age 64) and my (age 60) first cruise. We're both "young" 60's. We did the 14-day southbound cruise-tour (Tour 20, Double Denali, Alyeska, & Cruise), flying from Sacramento to Fairbanks (via Seattle), and returning from Vancouver to Sacramento (via Portland). Our tour began 07/07/07. Our impressions are as follows: HOLLAND AMERICA: We received our cruise-tour document package a couple of weeks ahead of time. All documents, including airline tickets, were in perfect order. HAL handled every aspect of the cruise-tour very professionally and without any difficulty from beginning to end. We bought the $15 per person baggage handling for the end of the cruise and the ship-to-airport transfer; both are very well worth it. Our embarkation was hastened by our deluxe veranda stateroom status. We stood in a separate line about a minute. Even our friends who had packed their passports in their checked luggage got checked in pretty quickly. But do keep your passports available. Even though they were not yet strictly required for entry into Canada, HAL expected you to have a passport or picture ID and a birth certificate. SHIP: Volendam, about 1450 passengers. The ship is very nice, with lots of lovely areas and bars to sit and watch the world go by. The Crow's Nest at the top deck forward is a great place to watch the scenery. I thought the decorating was beautiful in some areas and a little jarring in others. There was a bit of wear and tear visible here and there, but well maintained. The ship is well organized and has excellent diagram/maps to find everything easily. The one major disappointment about the ship was that both hot tubs are next to each other right by the kids' swimming pool and right in the midst of the forward outside eating area. So you have kids in the spas most of the time and you feel like you're on display for the outside diners. As a result, we did not use the hot tub even once. The swimming pool at the aft end is adults only. I'd give the ship 3 stars. PASSENGERS: Mostly middle-aged to older people, with a moderate sprinkling of 30's, 40's and families. People generally did not adhere to the "resort casual" look the ship tries to promote. Most people were extremely casual except for the two formal nights, during which all men wore tuxedos or jackets and most women were appropriately dressed. STATEROOM: We had a deluxe veranda suite, which was huuuuge and lovely. King size bed (extremely comfortable), curving couch, cocktail table and two chairs, dressing room separate from large bathroom. Flat screen TV and DVD player. (You can rent DVDs.) Veranda was big enough for two lounges, a good size table and four chairs, with room to spare. 5 stars. SHOPS: Shopping onboard is very limited both in terms of number of shops and the hours they are open. The jewelry shop has everything from very low cost items to super-expensive items, but isn't open much of the time. The clothing shop was small and about what you'd expect. CASINO: Nice casino with all the amenities you'd expect. DINING: The Rotterdam Main Dining Room is beautiful, service is great, and the food is very good. The Lido buffet dining is also excellent. The soups were killer good, but definitely not for a WeightWatcher -- lots of butter. Room service is 24-hours a day and very speedy. Hot items were served hot. The Pinnacle Grille ($20 per person, with reservations) is good but we didn't find it noticeably better than the main dining room. SERVICE: Service was outstanding in all areas. Our veranda suite status gave us access to the Neptune Lounge on the 7th deck (our deck). Our concierge Guilbert was always on top of everything and helped us with anything and everything. (For example, I lost my ship ID card within the very first day; he had it replaced within 15 minutes of my telling him.) The lounge offered good munchies, coffee, magazines, newspapers, big-screen TV all day and evening. Our housekeeper Didot was also delightful. Our wine steward at the main dining room was Willy, a really nice man who also showed us some nifty magic tricks. Our server I Putu was great, too. We gave them each a tip over and above the $20 per person per day that is the norm levied by HAL. they really have their act together regarding all types of service. BOOZE: We packed some wine and gin in our checked bags and my husband bought some in one of the towns we visited and brought it aboard the ship upon his return without anyone objecting. We left it out on the counter in our stateroom and every night the staff left us a full ice bucket. Maybe we're just lucky??!! SHORE EXCURSIONS: Our best shore excursion by far was the Whale Watching and Wildlife Quest out of Juneau (the kind that refunds $100 if you don't see a whale). Well, let me tell you, we saw whales -- BIG TIME! About 10 minutes into the excursion, we saw a couple of whales a few hundred yards away. Everyone was excited and said "Let's get closer!" The captain said he thought he could give us a better show a few minutes away, so we continued on. A few minutes later, we came around a curve into a bay and, lo and behold, there was a whole pod of 11 or 12 whales maybe 100 yards away. The cruise "director" said we were going to shut the engines down and put a microphone in the water so we could hear the whales. She said they were "bubble net feeding", in which one whale goes down beneath a huge school of fish and blows bubbles to scare them into a more compact ball. Then a couple of other whales "trumpet" a certain sound to scare the fish even more, then flash the white under-part of their tails to finish the scare-job. When they have the fish all rounded up, the whales all burst up out of the water with their mouths open to gather up as many fish as they can gobble. Talk about spectacular!! We saw and heard them do this 4 or 5 times before we had to leave the area. That excursion alone was worth the trip. FAIRBANKS: We met some friends for dinner who had arrived in Alaska the week before. We went to the big place on the main road that offers all-you-can eat BBQ'd salmon, fried fish, cole slaw, baked beans, salads, etc. in an outdoor setting. I thought it would probably be mediocre but they said it was great, so we went. They were right -- it was probably the best dinner we had throughout the whole vacation, including on the ship. Worth every penny. Go hungry and load up. DENALI: The train trip on the domed railcar to Denali was very nice. We spent two nights near Denali National Park in a hotel on a commercial "strip" on the highway near the park (it reminded me of the south shore of Lake Tahoe, and not in a good way). All of the hotels, restaurants, and stores are on this strip. It was disappointing, as was the quality of the hotel. It was clean and comfortable but pretty rustic and somewhat lacking in exterior maintenance. Of course, none of the other cruise-related hotels looked high-end either. The Princess Line's hotel did look a cut above ours, however. The Denali Tundra Tour was part of the included excursions. Our tour began at 5:30 a.m. -- no that's not a typo. It was about a 7-hour tour on a funky looking but comfortable bus. Fortunately, our bus driver was obviously educated, professional and well-trained, because looking back on it he had our lives in his hands. Cars are allowed only a short way into the park. The buses are allowed to go quite a few miles into the park, but it's on a narrow, one-land road that literally runs on the edge of a cliff and has no guardrails. Our bus began smoking from the dash a few miles into the park, so the driver had to turn the bus around on the one-land road in order to get back to a spot where a mechanic could come check out the bus. I'm not usually goosey about riding alongside a cliff but turning that bus around on a dime at the edge of a cliff was a bit unnerving. Someone asked the driver if there were ever accidents on the road. He said "Oh, once in the '80's there was an accident." I found out when I got home a bus did plunge off the cliff in the early 80's, with 5 people killed and 26 seriously injured. And they still don't have any guardrails. The park is pretty, but I've seen more spectacular views in Canada and the lower U.S. If you hadn't seen big mountains with wide open vistas before, you would undoubtedly be more impressed than we were. From a distance, we did see two caribou, a moose, some bald eagles, and some dall sheep that were barely visible even with good binoculars. From about 3/4 mile away, we eventually saw a female grizzly and two cubs, and a male grizzly. Given the ungodly early start to the day, the length of the trip, the relative lack of wildlife, and the ridiculous road condition, neither my husband nor I would do it again. We saw more wildlife and saw it closer up just driving along the road with our friends. (We rented a vehicle for a 4-hour tour, which afforded us some freedom and up-close moose-viewing from the road.) PORTAGE GLACIER CRUISE: Great up-close view of a glacier. Nice little boat ride. ALYESKA RESORT: Now, this is more what I expected. Beautiful, classy resort set right in the forest. The tram ride up to the Seven Glaciers Restaurant was great, as was the restaurant itself. Fantastic views. HUBBARD GLACIER: Just experiencing Hubbard Glacier would have been worth the whole cruise. The glacier absolutely dwarfs the cruise ships. But it not only looks awesome (and I virtually never use that word), it sounds awesome. This humongous glacier wraps for miles and miles back into the mountains and makes a sound like rolling thunder! When we first heard this, my husband and I looked at each other wide-eyed and both said "This alone is worth the trip." In addition to the thundering, we saw "calving" and heard the cracking you associate with that. WHITE PASS RAIL TOUR: This was the only day we had rain most of the day, so it detracted somewhat from our ability to see the views. But it was still beautiful. However, if I hadn't already bought the tickets in advance, I probably would not have gone due to the rain. ICY STRAIGHT POINT: Saw the cultural dance and story-telling of the indigenous Tlinglit people. The ladies enjoyed it, but the men weren't too impressed. JUNEAU: Nice town, with a number of several story buildings in a gorgeous setting. KETCHIKAN: Like every stop, this is a cute town in a gorgeous setting and is filled with about 100 foreign-owned jewelry stores. You feel like you strayed into a used car lot when you enter these stores. Now I understand why a few stores have a sign in the window that says "Owned and operated by an Alaskan family." We did the Great Alaskan Lumberjack Show, which was great fun and worth the price ACTIVITIES: I hate to admit we did not participate in any of the onboard activities. We spent our time either on our veranda, wandering the ship, or outside enjoying the beauty. Also, I got sick with some bizarre illness (fever and a shoulder muscle ache that moved up to my head and gave me the mother of all headaches) so I spent the last 2 days of the cruise in bed. The activities looked like they'd be pretty good, however. WEATHER: The weather was very mild (high 50's at night to mid-70's during the day). It rained parts of 2 days. I bought a sweater and a $1.50 poncho for the Portage Glacier tour because all I'd brought was a vest. SEAS: It was absolutely smooth sailing the entire cruise. Not even a hint of seasickness. HINT: Bring some good binoculars. Do not rely on the ones sometimes provided on the excursions. They are always like looking through the bottom of a Coke bottle. You will see a lot more wildlife and have unforgettable views if you bring your own good binocs. Read Less
Sail Date July 2007
Volendam Ratings
Category Editor Member
Cabins 3.5 4.0
Dining 4.0 4.0
Entertainment 3.5 3.5
Public Rooms 4.0 4.2
Fitness Recreation 4.5 3.8
Family 3.5 3.8
Shore Excursion 4.0 3.5
Enrichment 5.0 3.5
Service 5.0 4.2
Value For Money 4.0 3.8
Rates 4.0 3.9

Find a Volendam Cruise

Easily compare prices from multiple sites with one click