28 Holland America Volendam First-Time Cruisers Cruise Reviews

We chose this cruise as part of a Newmarket holiday - Rockies/ Alaska cruise and Vancouver, on the recommendation of a friend who travelled last year. I struggle to recognise our trip from some of the negative reviews posted. From start to ... Read More
We chose this cruise as part of a Newmarket holiday - Rockies/ Alaska cruise and Vancouver, on the recommendation of a friend who travelled last year. I struggle to recognise our trip from some of the negative reviews posted. From start to finish we had an amazing trip. As a first time cruiser and an optimist perhaps I am not the best judge but my friend who I travelled with is a seasoned cruiser and a realist and agrees whole heartedly that it was a great trip. The ship was excellent and very smooth. there was plenty of space for it not to feel crowded . There were a variety of environments to choose from depending on your mood. The cabin ( an outside standard twin cabin) was excellent ; clean, well furnished and with plenty of space. The cabin attendants were friendly, attentive and efficient. the shower was very large and very powerful. We took 3 trips - Tracy arm ( although we went to Endicott arm as ice in the way) was a fantastic day and worth the cost. The scenery was spectacular and we saw whales and eagles aswell as a close up and leisurely stop in front of the glacier - stunning. We also did the brothels tour of Skagway - not as sleazy as it sounds - great history walk with a delightful actress being our guide - and went kayaking to eagle island, seeing the promised eagles. There was a vast number of trips but all optional and easy to select or not as you choose. The food was plentiful and excellent with a variety of dining options. we used the Lido buffet for breakfast and lunch and the Rotterdam dining room for evening dinner. We chose to share a table each night which meant we met a variety of other travellers and this only enhanced the trip. there was a choice of entertainment each night and we attended several of the shows, listened to the music and also just stood on deck drinking in the scenery at sunset. all were of very good standard. Every single member of staff we encountered was friendly, greeting us whenever they passed. All staff were helpful - front desk staff answered all queries, however trivial, shore excursion staff were very helpful in choosing trips, dining room staff were efficient and friendly and smoothly did their job very unobtrusively. the staff in the bar we used ( crows nest for a pre dinner drink with the best view|)were delightful. we were also happy to join in the 5k fundraising walk which has over the past 10 years as a company raised millions of dollars for cancer charities in the 6 main countries used by the cruiseline - this suggests a great company ethos. My only complaint about the trip is it was over all too soon but I have fantastic memories and would thoroughly recommend it Read Less
Sail Date May 2016
We enjoyed our two-week cruise from Singapore to Myanmar and return aboard the Volendam. As first-time cruisers we found the relatively small ship very comfortable. HAL upgraded our cabin from oceanview to a Lanai cabin on the lower ... Read More
We enjoyed our two-week cruise from Singapore to Myanmar and return aboard the Volendam. As first-time cruisers we found the relatively small ship very comfortable. HAL upgraded our cabin from oceanview to a Lanai cabin on the lower promenade deck. We liked the panoramic views from the sliding glass door and the reserved deck chairs right outside the cabin were a bonus. We worried that the passersby doing their walking rounds on the deck would make us uncomfortable, but found the mirrored sliding glass door provided complete privacy. Food throughout was excellent, whether in the main dining room or on the Lido deck. Paying the extra charge for the Canaletto restaurant one evening was worth it with a different menu and wine selection and great service. Entertainment was spotty (we know HAL isn't known for its entertainment). Two nights they brought aboard local dancers from Malaysia and Myanmar and the shows were superb. Otherwise the Volendam dancers and singers were mediocre (the women were much better than the two male leads) but nevertheless not a bad way to pass the time, and their production "Droom" was a definite step up with beautiful costumes, music and dance. We found a favourite bar for pre-dinner drinks and after a couple of days the staff knew by memory what drinks we wanted and which snacks to deliver. HAL shore excursions were well organized and we felt were worth the high cost. We'd sail on the Volendam again on an Asian route. Read Less
Sail Date February 2016
I am not a usual contributor to review forums but I am struggling to reconcile the wonderful cruise just experienced on Volendam with these recent negative reviews on Cruise Critic. A strong influence on the enjoyment of any cruise will be ... Read More
I am not a usual contributor to review forums but I am struggling to reconcile the wonderful cruise just experienced on Volendam with these recent negative reviews on Cruise Critic. A strong influence on the enjoyment of any cruise will be the availability, cheerfulness and helpfulness of the ship’s crew and on Volendam from Vancouver to Sydney I thought it was outstanding. The embarkation at Canada Place was very smooth (I have experienced more frustration in an airport departure lounge for only 200 passengers). The ship is not one of the modern two to three thousand passenger types, we had 1100 passengers which is an ideal size, large enough for always a full program of activities, yet small enough to frequently encounter acquaintances and friends made during the voyage. Although not a large modern cruise ship the design of public places, the fixtures and the furnishings are all very tastefully done, in fact a real pleasure to perambulate. Restaurant/buffet fare was very gluttony tempting and again excellent service (fancy a second entree - you can ask). Theatre shows with a couple of exceptions were very entertaining and this passenger was surprised at the quality of the resident entertainer performances. Interesting lectures but sometimes the enrichment talks led into a persuasion to depleting ones wallet.There were six ports of call and three anchorages across the Pacific. Myself and friends went independently for shore excursions so cannot comment on organised excursions. I did hear some passengers complain that there were too many sea days but I suspect the same passengers may complain of too frequent ports of call on a different cruise. Very impressed with the efficiency of tender transport from anchor to uninhabited Mystery Island and to Iles De Pins. I would definitely recommend this relocation cruise from Northern summer to Australasian summer. One thing that HAL has to improve is the quality and price of internet access. If airlines can offer good WiFi why can a ship not pick up good satellite internet service? In contrast Microsoft software workshops were very instructive and helpful, and librarian equally helpful. More exercycles in the gymnasium would have avoided waiting for me but that is a minor quibble. I really appreciated how the cruise director, Tamryn, created an inclusive sense between crew and passengers. Bringing all the staff to the theatre stage and to the main restaurant was a nice touch to see appreciation flowing both ways. I also appreciated the humour (at times alarmingly sexist) of Barbara and her fellow judges at the Talent and Dancing with the Stars competitions. With these principal staff members and wider cheerful helpful crew I fail to see how anyone would not enjoy a cruise on Volendam. All in all a wonderful cruise on a very enjoyable ship. Cabin 6133 Read Less
Sail Date September 2015
My daughter and I were on the holiday of a lifetime and it included the cruise on the Volendam to Alaska. Our room was surprisingly spacious and had everything in that we needed. The roll call for safety instruction was a long faff but ... Read More
My daughter and I were on the holiday of a lifetime and it included the cruise on the Volendam to Alaska. Our room was surprisingly spacious and had everything in that we needed. The roll call for safety instruction was a long faff but necessary for the trip. The ship was easy to navigate with plans near all the lifts and stairs. We soon found our way around and knew the best places to be. With Irwin and Andreas in the bar on deck 5 who looked after us so well, with Matt, the singer guitarist, who kept us entertained every night after Phil did is quiz. It was our first cruise and so we had nothing to conpare it to but we were taking everything in our holiday stride and loving it. Even the upset of the wifi bill was not going to spoil things for us but luckily it did get sorted for us by the librarian. I must admit that the front desk were quite rude about this but did phone our room later to apologise for comments made and as Iv'e already said nothing was going to spoil this holiday. Holland America do need to look at the Wifi situation - Most places now have free Wifi so come on get your act together. Back to the cruise - we loved the ports of call tho' it's definately best to let the mad rush off first, we had plenty of time to look round each place and enjoyed meeting the locals, Todd in Ketchican was a character. Boarding again was easy and hassle free. We saw humpback and orcas, dolphins and porpoise, sea otters and seals all from the ship. My personal highlight was Glacier Bay, truly a beautiful place and the weather was just as good so set it off beautifully. All our meals were lovely on the Lido deck with all the staff giving us first class service. We did dress up for one evening but decided to stay smart casual for the rest and most people did this. Nobody was out of place and nobody went the other way by being underdressed. Yes there were a few niggles but most were with Holland America themselves and not the ship or crew. Would I go again - You bet I would and I know that my daughter would too. Read Less
Sail Date September 2015
Awful from the beginning. Rude people and nobody to help with problems. This was a trip with so much that was wrong that it would take more space than allowed. We spent extra money for this ship thinking it would be better for us as ... Read More
Awful from the beginning. Rude people and nobody to help with problems. This was a trip with so much that was wrong that it would take more space than allowed. We spent extra money for this ship thinking it would be better for us as first time cruisers, WRONG. THE TOILET in our stateroom was to the rim with water when we got into our room. They got it to go down but the next morning it was the same. They sent a plumber 3 times and could not put us in another room. All in all I had to put towels on the floor 4 different times. We took the elevator to a different floor to use the public restroom. Awful. The main dinning room was only open for lunch 1 hour every day. We spent money for formal wear for our big night, could have saved our money. This diner was a joke. The only buffet style restaurant was so small we had to wait for seats. Entertainment was employees dancing with cruise people for a contest. A piano player, a magician that is out of a county fair and tries to sell you a cheap magic kit in a Ziploc bag. There was a movie playing several times a day in the theater, free popcorn, Wow. At every turn there is someone trying to sell you something, good God art of all things. Who goes on a cruise for fun to buy art. Ridiculous. Wine seems to be the main thing they try to sell. On almost every channel on TV is a ship commercial telling you about this and that in on board store. If you play cards this is your ship. We do not. It has a very small casino. All in all this was terrible for the 3 of us. The 20 year old was bored as was myself 60 & my husband 65. Everyone that's cruised tells us to go again because they are not this bad. Just never Holland America again. We might but it will be a while, this was a very bad experience. Read Less
Sail Date August 2015
Our first (and probably last) cruise was chosen in order to visit Alaska while we were staying in Vancouver. We found the ship to be well appointed and in exceptional condition if not a little dated. The crew to be very helpful and ... Read More
Our first (and probably last) cruise was chosen in order to visit Alaska while we were staying in Vancouver. We found the ship to be well appointed and in exceptional condition if not a little dated. The crew to be very helpful and efficient. Everyone worked very hard to make life on board as comfortable as possible. Embarkation was a little military in style at Canada place, not sure how you might improve that though......at excursion points it was well managed but avoid the rush at the beginning. Dis-embarkation was well managed. Geography of the ship was confusing at times....arrows built into the carpet might help! Our cabin on deck 6 was fine, with balcony and big opening door we would like to have used it more if the weather had been kinder. We and others noted that parts of the ship were cooler than we would have liked, including the rooms at times. It was inconsistent. If you go on this ship make full use of the Rotterdam restaurant as much as possible. it was very high quality in food and staff operations. Our only complaint was that the dress code was not enforced and many passengers treated it with disregard. If you want to dine alone ensure you ask for "no-share". If you want to socialise with new contacts you can do that too. The alternative buffet (Lido) was excellent but on occasions too busy to cope with large numbers of people. There were alternative smaller scale places to eat, but they charged extra and we did not use them. Value for money? Like Holiday Camps of old and all-inclusive holidays you end up paying for a lot of activities you neither want or use. On board it was wall-to-wall events and if you like that sort of thing the cruise is for you. Were it not for Adagio (classical duo) and the Jazz/Blues quartet in the evenings we would have had no entertainment at all. The other entertainment on offer was not something for us. The Wifi was really expensive and useless. for $100 I was given 250 minutes of which 10 was useful. The rest of the time was spent waiting for connection. It will be difficult to attract younger customers in future unless this is sorted out. I understand the reason given for problems is satellite links but it should be free in 2015 and beyond. The TV was old and had a DVD player with remote which had limited functionality. The programs were poor and there was no menu to select. World BBC was available thank heaven. Today's world is streaming videos (see airline operation) not renting discs...time for an upgrade. There should be touch screen smart TV/computers in every room now with proper hi-speed wifi links available. On board shopping was expensive...wait until the last day sales. The photography could also turn out to be expensive.....you can say no to having pictures taken at any stage.......get a friend to take your pics. The shore visits were good, while we did not go on any of the (expensive) excursions there were places to explore and we took full advantage of escaping the shore-side jewelry shops. The day at Glacier Bay was worth the cost of the trip on its own. As were the occasional wild life encounters.......take warm clothing and wet protection.......it rained for 6 of the 7 days on our trip. Exercise on deck 3 under cover in all weathers but wrap up in Alaska! Overall it was a good trip but has confirmed all our worst fears about cruising. It is an acquired taste. We were warned American ships are more relaxed than British cruises and that is probably the case......note that when choosing your cruise. Leave the bow-tie at home.....I took that advice in advance. Are there any cruises available of quality in style and execution? Perhaps operators should consider it, there will be a large market for it I suspect. Read Less
Sail Date August 2015
We have no complaints about this cruise. We stayed in a Neptune suite and maybe you get what you pay for in accommodations. No one can predict the natural occurrences but we sure lucked out with glacier calving, orca and humpback whales, ... Read More
We have no complaints about this cruise. We stayed in a Neptune suite and maybe you get what you pay for in accommodations. No one can predict the natural occurrences but we sure lucked out with glacier calving, orca and humpback whales, herds of porpoise, and rainbows galore. Food was very good at all dining options. Activities were fine for us too. I probably would not get off the boat if I were to make a return cruise since we weren't all that fascinated with ports or some of the excursions we took but that has nothing to do with ship just our comments on what we chose to do. White Pass train was very nice though. I have spoke with several repeat cruisers and our "neighbors" on the next door veranda. They all had cruised on several lines and comment that HAL is their favorite. We had 1500 guests on ship and 600 employees and there were times that no one was around. Walked on Prommenade almost alone. Never felt crowded which I did not expect but sure appreciated. I also had a very nice experience in salon. Embarkation could be improved Choose HAL Read Less
Sail Date August 2015
This was our first cruise, so we have not a lot to compare with. Since we used a lot the CC reviews during our research for our cruise, I will anyhow summarise our experience in the Volendam. We have been postponing forever our first ... Read More
This was our first cruise, so we have not a lot to compare with. Since we used a lot the CC reviews during our research for our cruise, I will anyhow summarise our experience in the Volendam. We have been postponing forever our first cruise because genuinely we were afraid of hating the entire thing: we are well educated and well traveled people, that prefer either an hiking trip in a park or a very serene resort (and not much in between)... Thus, the idea of being in a confined space with hundreds of other travelers, and making new "friends" on on long dinners with strangers is not our priority. Bingo, casino, bars, trivia quiz, art sells, bus tours, pool games, etc, is not our vacation priority. A professional trip to Vancouver created the right circunstances for trying a first cruise, because Alaska cries for a cruise. We opted for an Inside Passage from-to Vancouver, with a visit to Glacier Bay in late may. We opted for the Volendam because of the size and layout of the ship. We booked an inside cabin on lower promenade (on Volendam this is the level with the outside promenade deck) because I wanted to be able to get on the promenade with as much ease as possible. Our second option would be a Lanai, but we were afraid of noise from the promenade. Besides, we love to sleep in pitch dark, and do not miss a window since I was either on a deck chair or on Crow's Nest, and my DW was on the Thermal Suites... Overall our experience with an inside cabin was great: we did not felt cramped, more than enough closets, and the bathroom had been renovated in a recent drydock (I will post some photos in the website with facts about HAL ships). The ambience of the ship was very relaxed, with not much activity going on, and it never felt crowded to me. I could always find a nice inside or outside spot to enjoy the Alaskan scenery in the company of my Kindle. I understand that for some people HAL does not provide a lot of activities, but for us that was greatly appreciated. There were some activities occurring in Crow's Nest during the mornings or early afternoon that I prefered they were done elsewhere. The DWTS concept is totally flawed in my opinion: instead of being regular dance classes, they intend to teach a stage coreography that is a tamed version of a DWTS routine: all classes started with 5-8 pairs and after 10 minutes were down to a 1-2 pairs because no one is enduring the pathetic movements they propose: "the man now pretends to blow a kiss, while the girl giggles and makes a hip movement in 1 and 2 and 3 and 4...". The majority of the "dancers" had their last high-school coreography 40-50 years ago, and lost patience very rapidly. When dining in the MDR we were always able to get a table for two, and meals were rapidly served (we were in and out in 45-60 minutes which is, for us, the perfect duration of a relaxed dinner). Quality of the meals was more than I expected for a galley serving hundreds of guests in a short amount of time. Quality of food in the LIDO was very good with a lot of selection. Deserts in LIDO were the only thing that sometimes looked and tasted like mass-produced cafeteria stuff... The hamburgers on the Dive-In were very good, and the taco bar was also excellent (the shredded carnitas and the mango salad were exceptional). Service throughout the ship was very friendly and professional (some people complain that the waiters don't remember their names after 2 days - I do not expect and do not desire that... To me the level of service of perfect). The ship was kept spotless and hygiene was almost enforced by the staff (salad thongs changed after every few minutes, staff always cleaning every surface with Purell - that for me is more important than having a pool employee knowing my name). Entertainment was so-so and very close to our low expectations: we stayed only for the last 20 minutes of one better than expected show, 20 seconds of another dreadful one, enjoyed a bit the illusionist, really did not enjoy a female singer show, and DW had a surprisingly lot of unexpected fun with the DWTS show. The Neptunes were beyond wonderful every night, HALCats were good (Regina was not), and the Adagio Duo was not what I expected (maybe I am wrong in my assessment, but I think it was too much of concert performance of "aggressive violin" late XIX pieces). There were not that many people attending the Adagio performances (the restyling of the Explorer's Lounge also did not help with this). The guitar player was very popular, in contrast with the piano man (I stopped a couple of times in the Piano Bar was moved on after one minute). About Alaska... We enjoyed the best week ever with warm temperatures, blue skies, never seen warmth in Glacier Bay, several whales seen from the boat, and a day of foggy weather on the return to Vancouver so that we were able to sample everything. It was perfect, but HAL cannot have any credit in this. Embarkation at Canada Place was ok (a bit of delay and waiting in a cramped room), but disembarkation was very fast and well organized. Overall, I would jump into another HAL cruise in a heartbeat. Read Less
Sail Date May 2015
As a first time cruiser, I didn't really know what to expect, but I can say that I did very much enjoy cruising and the destinations. However, Holland America was not really up to scratch in several areas, most prominently in their ... Read More
As a first time cruiser, I didn't really know what to expect, but I can say that I did very much enjoy cruising and the destinations. However, Holland America was not really up to scratch in several areas, most prominently in their (borderline offensive) efforts to make you buy grossly overpriced products on board. I found the embarkation process to be quite smooth and trouble free with our bags delivered promptly. Our stateroom was obviously dated. Some drawers had sticky and loose runners and the room was in need of a refresh. The bed was comfortable and our room steward was very courteous and hard working. We ate at both the buffet (Lido restaurant) and formal dinning room (Rotterdam) and found the food okay at both. The Lido was extremely busy and finding a table was difficult at times. The food in general was very "American". Lots of fatty, sweet, unhealthy food and the buffet lacked interesting and unique foods. The formal dining room was also very busy, but pre-booking dinning times was successful. The onship entertainment was poor. The performers themselves were of a high quality, but the routines were cliche, corny, and borderline embarrassing. The first nights stage show was a sing and dance celebrating all things North American and Alaskan, I mean really. Give us some well known classical songs or musicals. The dancing with the stars competition appealed to us, as we enjoy dancing, but this does not appeal to all. The cooking classes were very good, and the head chef was interesting and insightful and humorous. The extras though! Do you want a soda drink, that $2.00+15%. How about a beer, that $6+15%. What about a glass of wine with dinner, $8.50+15%. These prices are too high. There was no option for a general alcoholic drinks package. Do you want internet, wait for it, $7.50 for 10 minutes! WHAT. That's highway robbery. The shore excursions were 25% to 50% more expensive on board than exactly the same excursion bought on the dockside. There is an $11.50 per day 'service charge'. Why should we pay a service charge? Holland America should simply increase the cruise cost and pay their staff a decent wage, instead to lumping the responsibility of paying staff onto the patrons. Then there is the art actions, wine tasting, Alaskan clothing outlets, duty free, casino etc etc all designed for one thing, to take money away from you. In summary, the destination was good and we enjoyed the cruise. But, Holland America did their darndest to make us pay as much as possible for the experience. Read Less
Sail Date July 2013
Hi All, we just got back from a 1 week cruise on the Volendam, review below...hope it helps someone & is informative! About Us - We are in our mid 30's, NEVER been on a cruise before, travel often in USA & Mexico. We live in ... Read More
Hi All, we just got back from a 1 week cruise on the Volendam, review below...hope it helps someone & is informative! About Us - We are in our mid 30's, NEVER been on a cruise before, travel often in USA & Mexico. We live in Vancouver. Arrival - One of the smoothest process' we have ever experienced travelling...from the time we arrived at Canada Place, walked to the terminal checked our bags, cleared customers, we were on the ship in literally 20 minutes. We arrived at around 230pm Stateroom - Better then I had expected....we were honestly alittle worried, having never cruised before! The room was layed out well, excelled storage, many many closets. The window was large & unobstructed! Room #1823. The beds were comfortable, we wrote a note to the room steward & asked the twins to be pushed together to a queen, the pillows however were severely uncomfortable for us, we both had bad neck pain by the end of the week. Air conditioning could have been slightly colder (yes even in Alaska!) Oh & our toilet would only flush 80% of the time....very odd....we never called about it as it would flush itself shortly after! The rooms were also quieter then I expected, I did not hear anyone next door to us or in the halls, which was nice! Weather - AMAZING....wow....I know this is not something we can control...but just to brag, the weather made our trip, we have NO RAIN!! 7 Days of sunshine, 2 days we were in our bathing suits at the pool, so were many others! Service - All the staff was friendly & helpful....I did not find everyone to be as informed as you would think the staff should be....we bought the 'signature liquor package' and NO one knew anything about it, everytime we went to get a drink we had to explain what the deal was with it....very annoying on vacation. HAL needs to inform staff of promotions etc. Also our 1st night in the MDR dinner was MAYHEM....we were not approached by anyone at our table for at least 20 mins, then someone brought us a dessert menu...before ordering anything...it was chaos...I must say it did improve over the week though. Food - One if not the most important....we were left very disappointed. I must say I expected more & we are not food critics or hard to please....it was simple things like breakfast runny eggs, scrambled were like water, omelets were ok, not a big breakfast selection at all. Lunch was blah too...same items everyday & nothing special...we honestly liked the burger/taco stand at the lido pool the best! The one night we ordered room service it was cold, soggy & took about an hour & half to arrive. The dinner at MDR was good, selection was nice & that is where we ate at night. Drinks - Good selection, very fair prices, wine could use some improving...not many white wines on the menu by the glass. We bought the 'signature beverage package' this was $44.95 per person per day, covered every item we wanted (beer, hard liquor, latte's, pop, water, etc) it does add up however we had a $200 credit so after the credit it was worth it for us. We heard there was about 57 purchased. No complaints about the drinks, other then the servers knew nothing about it! Table - As others have said, we asked for open seating & were assigned a table at 8pm, we asked this to be switched & it was, we never had an issue getting a table for 2 & on our last night the frontman gave us the best table for 2 in the MDR right beside the window & we watched an amazing sunset! Ports - Jeanue, Skagway & Ketchican....Ketchican was by far our favorite, it had a unique layout & the town was not all done up for tourists we really felt like you got the 'local' feel in Ketchican. All ports are interesting & have something to offer, not to be missed! Glacier Bay - No words to describe...that is why we went & were not let down. Amazing & breathe taking. Worth doing just to see that. Disembarkation - Again, one of the smoothest process' we have had while travelling...from the time the ship called our room # to go up we were in & out in 15 mins. No lines, no customs chats, no security it was unreal! In general we were not let down by what Alaska had to offer, we enjoyed the days 'cruising' the Inside Passage is breathtaking, the weather was fantastic....we were slightly disappointed with HAL, the level of service & knowledge was not what we expected. I am not sure I would cruise with them again just for the reason of the food....it is what you make of it & we just wish the food had been better & a wider variety. Read Less
Sail Date July 2013
This was my very first cruise and thanks to Holland America & the Volendam, I can't wait to for my next cruise to some destination. Here are my observations.Embarkation:We arrived at the Canada Place cruise ship terminal early ... Read More
This was my very first cruise and thanks to Holland America & the Volendam, I can't wait to for my next cruise to some destination. Here are my observations.Embarkation:We arrived at the Canada Place cruise ship terminal early enough to be the first group to be brought on board. We found out that we had to leave our suitcases with the cruise ship terminal porters, who helped us attach Volendam luggage tags so that they would end up on the correct ship.Next was the security check as US Customs and Immigration, which went smoothly. Right before boarding, we had the Embarkation photos taken as well as being given a coupon book to shops on our ports of call.Stateroom:It's truly amazing just how much can be fit into such a small space. I was most impressed that all cabins appeared to have a bathtub standard. The bathroom also features a cabinet behind the mirror to keep all the healthy and beauty items. There is one hair dryer mounted on the mirror but I also found another one in a work desk drawer.The stateroom had three closets with adjustable shelves. One for the suitcases, and one each for the two people sharing the room. The room also features a work desk with chair, sofa, table and small bedside drawers on each side of the combined twin bed as we were a couple.Robes are included, as well as a safe that works with any card with a magnetic stripe (as long as it is not your stateroom key). The rooms are cleaned twice each day, with two chocolates delivered at night.If you have electronics that need recharging, bring an extension cord and/or power bar. I found only one outlet.Public Area Decor & Musical Entertainment:Very nice paintings and other works of art can be found all around the ship. Our voyage had a classical duo (the most well received by fellow passengers I spoke with), a piano man Don, a solo guitarist, and a quartet (Jenny and the HALcats) playing the latest tunes. Shops:There seems to be more sales toward the end of the cruise, so abstain for purchasing any gifts at the beginning. The shops include jewelry, alcohol, and a gift shop on Deck 5.Deck 5 Cafe, Library, and Computer LabThe Inspirations cafe provides sweets and coffee for a modest additional cost. This is also where computer terminals for internet access can be found. Be warned, the rates are very pricey and the speed will be slower than what is available on land. The library not only features many books but family games, chess board, and a scrabble table. When selecting a book, be aware that the the shelves are automatically closed in the late evening. The Computer lab offers computer courses around the Windows 8 operating system. It was remarkably informative.Casino:Also on deck 5 is the casino with slots, pachinko, and table games. There are slots, poker, and blackjack tournaments on various days.Deck 8 Food: the LidoLido is the place to get self-service food. Be aware that the first 48 hours will have the crew serving you for hygenic reasons. They are open for breakfast, lunch, dinner, and even a late night snack. Check each day's itinerary for the exact times. Deck 4/5 Food: Rotterdam Dining RoomPassengers have the choice between reserved seating and coming in without a reservation but this usually means sharing a table with others (a great way to meet new people). Food selections vary by the day on the menu but there are some items that are offered everyday.Dessert Night: Check you itinerary for dessert night, held on just one of the 7 nights. Very tempting offerings can be found on deck 8 by the central swimming pool (not the one at the rear of the ship).Deck 9: Crow's Nest NightclubThis was the place to go at night for a drink, dancing, karaoke, and Name That Tune games.Observation decks:Plenty of space for people to get a good view of the wonderful Alaska landscape.Spa & Gym:We went to a seminar held to a gym where I learned quite a bit about detoxification of the body but also found out what state the body can be in to never contract cancer!Daily Movies:There is a movie of the day shown twice or 3 times a day in the Wajang theater on Deck 4. Movies presented on our voyage included, "Silver Linings Playbook", "Skyfall", "Life of Pi", "White Fang", "Oz", and "Promised Land". Popcorn in bags are provided.Cooking classes:Two of the 7 days has a cooking class for an additional charge (also in the Wajang theatre). It was a lot of fun to help cook one of three dishes (appetizer, main course, or dessert). Participants are split into groups of two. If you are interested, be sure to sign up early as space is limited. You then get to eat your creations in the Pinnacle Grill nearby afterwards.Pinnacle Grill becomes Le Cirque New York:Again, for an extra cost, one can dine at Pinnacle Grill. On some nights, it becomes Le Cirque with a menu inspired from its New York City namesake.Activities:Bingo is offered 4 times during the 7 days. One of the games saw the grand prize as a cruise for 2. The remaining games offered large cash grand prizes but the catch was that you had to fill every square of your bingo card by a maximum number of numbers called out. Even the host Chase said that this would be difficult but not impossible. 6 cards for 4 games cost $35 but a 3-card option is also available for less.Bean bag toss and ring toss are also available for a quick 30 minute distraction. This are usually held in the atrium on Deck 3.Shows:Shows are featured on most nights in the lounge. Shows were either by the regular cast of performers, a comedian Kevin Jordan, or a magician.Ports of call & excursions:Excursion tickets can be purchased on board while sailing toward the port of call for convenience but a huge premium is paid. Getting of at Juneau, we were amazed at how many booths offered comparable excursions at cheaper prices. This is true for all ports of call on this cruise (Ketchikan & Skagway).Staff:Our housecleaning staff worked very hard to keep our room clean twice a day. Two of the days saw us get fruit. Cruise director Brett Rudolph was a treat to interact with - don't be afraid to approach him. Let him get to know you - you won't regret it. Culinary Arts host Beth was also quite warm to passengers, doing what she could to be welcoming and assisting in any way she could during the demonstrations that she hosted. Chase is the show host, who hosts Bingo, Ring Toss, Bean Bag Toss, Name That Tune. Be prepared for some very dry humour and a deadpan delivery from him.Disembarkation:Everything went according to the posted schedule. There was a little bit of a line up but not a long delay. We were staying in Vancouver, so were we able to get our luggage in the main waiting area before submitting our Canadian customs declaration and leaving. The taxi line was long but it was either that or walk to 6 blocks our hotel with our heavy suitcases.Overall:I loved my first time cruise experience, thanks to the crew of the Volendam. If you are preparing for your first cruise, I hope this information helps. Read Less
Sail Date May 2013
We chose Holland America because it is known to have a slightly older clientele as we are not into the 'party scene' and the proposed itinerary looked interesting. I must point out that we were not able to complete the whole ... Read More
We chose Holland America because it is known to have a slightly older clientele as we are not into the 'party scene' and the proposed itinerary looked interesting. I must point out that we were not able to complete the whole trip due to an urgent medical situation back home, but did spend 8 glorious days on board. We flew to Sydney on the day of embarkation and we were on board and in our cabin within 20 minutes of arriving at the terminal. We were very happy with our cabin, it was set up beautifully with plenty of storage space and we were unpacked and ready to explore within 30 minutes. Leaving Sydney was great! We just squeezed under the bridge and as we looked back over the city and opera house the sun was setting behind it all. Before we knew it we were out of the heads and into the night. The ocean was kind to us with very little swell and we settled in for our cruise. The crew: we had wonderful room stewards, Matt and Arbie, who did a fabulous job each day. Staff around the ship were always smiling, polite and attentive without being intrusive. A few of the Lido staff asked my name and greeted me each time I wandered by, a really nice touch. The ship: We found all parts that we visited to be in very good condition. Everything in our cabin worked, all lifts were functioning, the crew were always cleaning or polishing and the fit out was tasteful and stylish. We experienced very little vibration while underway and the only annoying noise were people dragging around their balcony furniture in the suites above us.. Dining: we had selected as you wish dining and enjoyed three evenings with interesting table guests. The remainder of our meals were taken in the Lido and again we were able to mix with a variety of passengers, all with interesting stories. Food: the day is based around food, and what food it was. Very tasty, plenty of choices, fresh and well presented. I cannot imagine there wasn't something for everyone. From breakfast, lunch, Lido grill bar, afternoon tea, dinner and supper.....made walking the promenade deck essential! Ports of call: having been to Hamilton Island before we were not expecting much but used the tenders anyway. The tender process was a little slow but once underway was well executed. Cairns would have been better if a whole day could have been spent instead of arriving at lunch and leaving 24 hours later. The main attraction of Cairns is the visit to the outer reef but a whole day is needed for this. Unfortunately there was no time to have this experience. We did the half day Green Island tour with semi-submersible and glass bottom boat tours, this was enjoyable and we saw a lot of the local reef and marine life. As we had many sea days the local cruising was relaxing, great weather though very humid the more north we travelled. We had two Reef Pilots on board who piloted the ship through the reef and who provided commentary as we went along. The only negative to this was he didn't speak properly into the microphone and the volume kept fading away. When we contacted the front office of our requirement to disembark they were helpful, provided follow up phone calls and assisted us right to the moment we stepped on shore. We will cruise again, definitely with HAL, Read Less
Sail Date November 2012
My husband and I and 5 friends cruised Alaska's Inside Passage on Holland America's Volendam from 9/19 to 9/26. This was our first cruise and I will tell you that we loved the experience. We will cruise again. Maybe with HA and ... Read More
My husband and I and 5 friends cruised Alaska's Inside Passage on Holland America's Volendam from 9/19 to 9/26. This was our first cruise and I will tell you that we loved the experience. We will cruise again. Maybe with HA and maybe not. The things we liked outweighed what we didn't but here is our assessment. 1) We loved the ship. We had a veranda room on Level 6 and the verandahs next to us were occupied by some of our friends. A a first time cruiser I wasn't sure what to expect as far as room size but it was biggger than I expected, particularly the bathroom. All in all I thought the room and the overall ship were great. Very clean. 2) The Crow's Nest. What a great spot to watch the beautiful Alaskan scenery! 3) Glacier Bay. I can not tell you what a fantastic experience Glacier Bay was. It still takes my breath away to think about it. My husband got up early the morning that we were to arrive in Glacier Bay and he saw the Alaska Park Rangers pull up in a boat next to the Volendam and board. Those park rangers, four of them, were with us all day. One was broadcasting as we entered Glacier Bay and bascially narrated everything we saw. It was as if we had paid someone for an excursion to Glacier Bay. Two of the other rangers were giving talks about the glaciers in certain spots and talking about the native people. Because the Volendam is not quite as big as some of the other cruise ships we were able to get all the way to the Johns Hopkins glacier which proceeded to calve while we were there. A huge calving event. You just have to see if for yourself. 4) The food. We thought the food was good. I'm not going to tell you that every meal was gourmet but some were. I had rack of lamb in the Rotterdam Dining Room and it was fabulous. We ate in Pinnacle Grill one night and it was quite good. Is it worth the $25 surcharge? Some of us thought it was. Some of us thought it wasn't. The breakfast buffet in the Lido has just about anything you could want and it is good and the buffet line servers go out of their way to get you what you want. 5) Canaletto Italian Restaurant. It's actually just a blocked off area next to the Lido grill BUT we all thought it was fantastic! A $10 up charge and totally, totally worth it! A beautiful balsamic vinegar reduction on your table, an awesome antipasta platter brought around for you to select from, and probably the best meatballs I have ever eaten, excellent service. Everyone loved their dishes. Our group ate there 2 out of the 7 nights. Personally, I think they should take the Pinnacle space and make it Canaletto. 6) The Staff...99.9% are great! 7) The Gym....not large but adequate and one of the best views on the ship. Great spin class! There are so many good things to say about our trip that I hate to bring up the negative but here goes... First, my husband and I purchased the Suite Amenities Package for 2 and what a NIGHTMARE that was! It was like pulling teeth to get what was included in the package. Basically, the spirits that were to be in the room upon embarkation were not there. They finally delivered some of it at 11:00 p.m. that night and some of it the next day. Our friends just called room service once on board and they got what they ordered much sooner than what we paid for a month in advance. Next, the package includes laundry but they didn't give us any laundry tickets in the beginning. The package included a breakfast someplace other than the buffet or Rotterdam on disembarkation day that we never got. I still don't know how that happened. It's too long of a story to type. The package also included either high tea or canapes delivered to the room everydday. We got it one day and never again. The package included dinner for 2 at the Pinnalce Grill ($50) and we went on LeCirgue night with 3 of our friends. We were told they would just bill us the difference of $14 (b/c LeCirqu) is $39). Not only did they bill us for the entire $39 they billed the other 3 people to our room also. Anyway, I would NOT buy the suite amenities package...big, big ripoff. Next, room service. What a nightmare! I still to this day don't know who I should call for what. If you call one number they say, "Oh, call the other room service number." They keep telling you that your steward will do this and that for you. We never saw our stewards. We had 2 of them. They cleaned our rooms and finally figured out to bring us ice 2x per day but that's it. If you wanted something in your room....good luck! Our friends next door had dirty dishes sit in their room all day. They called 2x and no one ever came to get them. We asked if we could have the stuff in our mini bar changed out for things we would use instead of what we didn't want. I asked if they could change out the cokes for water and more pelligrino. Never happened. I asked them if they could bring club soda and they were totally clueless. Never happened. The rooms were cleaned well and we always had a cute towel animal on our bed at night. In my opinion they need to divert manpower from making towel animals and instead make sure that their guests have what they need or want. Bottled water...just go to the Explorers Cafe and buy yourself a few big bottles. Don't ask room service. I was in the gym on the second day of the cruise and a woman who was doing spin class with me had a big bottle of water. I asked her where she got it and she said it was in her stateroom. No water in my stateroom. One of the guys working in the gym overheard our conversation and he said the biggest complaint that the ship gets is that it is hard to get water. Anyway, I could go on but suffice it to say their room service needs serious improvement. I think a guest should be able to pick up the phone, give their request and have it fulfilled. I shouldn't have to call 3 different phone numbers and wait 2 hours for a can of bloody mary mix. Last but not least....wine/alcohol service in the Rotterdam. If you want a cocktail, bring your own wine and pay the corkage fee or go to another bar and get your drink. It's like the room service problem. Your food waiter is not your alcohol waiter. One night in the Rotterdam we were seated at the table for a half an hour and not one of us yet had a cocktail/wine in front of us. Which is STUPIDITY on the part of HA because you are paying for it! It was very odd and we finally just gave up and brought our own. All in all, we very much enjoyed our cruise but I would probably explore another cruise line for regions other than Alaska because we just were not satisfied with the service in our room or the Rotterdam. As far as the suite amenities pkg goes, we felt that we were just plain robbed but whatever. Live and learn. I loved Alaska and would go back tomorrow if I could. Read Less
Sail Date September 2012
This was our first cruise and we choose it because we wanted to see Alaska. After researching the different cruise lines we choose HAL because of traveller reviews and because it went to Glacier Bay. We also wanted a real looking ship and ... Read More
This was our first cruise and we choose it because we wanted to see Alaska. After researching the different cruise lines we choose HAL because of traveller reviews and because it went to Glacier Bay. We also wanted a real looking ship and not a floating hotel. We didn't know what to expect as it was our first cruise and we weren't sure that we would be 'cruise people'. However we were won over the minute we stepped aboard. The cruise company went out of its way to make people feel welcome and everybody was so friendly and helpful. Every little detail seemed to have been thought of from the supply of bottle water and fruit to the cabin to the strict hygiene procedures onboard. The service staff are mostly Indonesian and were always smiling and helpful and very efficient. The staff work extremely long hours and I would imagine that their pay is quite low but my impression is that HAL do treat them better than many cruise lines. I certainly didn't begrudge the $11.50 daily automatic gratuity that the cruise line charged each passenger. We had a outside stateroom on the Dolphin deck. We choose this particular cabin as it was midships which we were told was less likely to be affected by the ships motion or by engine noise. We certainly had no problems although we never encountered rough seas so it wasn't a big test of our choice. The cabin was fine with comfortable beds and decent size bathroom. There was plenty of storage space and the air conditioning worked well (although not sure what it would be like if the weather was really hot). The only thing missing was a kettle so we could make a cup of tea first thing in the morning. But that is because we are English! One of the nice things about this ship was the fact that it was classless and if you paid more all that you got extra was a better cabin. All passengers could go to any restaurant as long as they wore smart clothes in the main restaurant for the formal nights. We tended to go to the self-service Lido restaurant for breakfast and lunch and the main dining room for dinner. The food in both these restaurants was amazing not just in the quality but in the quantity. In the main restaurant the food and the service was definitely 5-star. There was no pressure to buy the expensive wine and in fact many people seemed to be just drinking water. The only issue we had with the main dining room was that when we booked a table each night we were only given a choice of 5.30 or 8 pm. We normally prefer to sit down around 7 as 8 is a bit late and 5.30 too early. On reflection what we could have done is not book but turn up at the time we wanted. There were lots to do on the ship and we never got bored. The formal evening entertainment was what we expected -- a bit upmarket Butlins! However generally it was of good quality and worth spending an hour before retiring to one of several bars where musical entertainment was provided. For those who like going to classes there was a good choice during the day. There was also a good sized gym with amazing views. There was a couple of heated pools but they weren't used much on this trip mainly due to the cool weather (it was the last sailing in September). The shore excursions were expensive and we only went on one which was a whale watching one. This was an excellent trip and we saw many whales and other wildlife. However I believe that many 'seasoned' travellers book trips on arrival at a port which are considerably cheaper. Apart from Skagway we weren't that impressed with the ports we stopped at.However the main reason for going on this cruise was the amazing scenery. We werent disappointed although the fog spoilt things to some extent.The icing on the cake was the cruise into Glacier Bay. The captain took us close into John Hudson glacier which was simply incredible. We have hundreds of pictures but no picture can do justice to the sights and sounds of the glacier calving. All in all a wonderful trip and we are now thinking of what other cruise to go on with Holland America! Read Less
Sail Date September 2012
This type of report is unavoidably subjective. I have read on this and other forums reports about the same cruise by different authors and it is hard to believe that they were actually on the same ship at the same time. The following are ... Read More
This type of report is unavoidably subjective. I have read on this and other forums reports about the same cruise by different authors and it is hard to believe that they were actually on the same ship at the same time. The following are therefore my views only and I'm sure that other passengers from this voyage of the Volendam would disagree with me on just about every point I make. I took this cruise because I had been invited to a wedding in Las Vegas and at the time that the invitation arrived I saw a Holland America newspaper advertisement. Rather than face 14 hours flying home to Sydney from Los Angeles I decided to sail across the Pacific. Embarkation I drove from Manhattan Beach where I'd stayed the previous two nights (at the Seaview Inn on Highland Avenue, which I highly recommend) to Long Beach and this took about 30 minutes. I arrived at the Cruise Terminal at about 10.30am. I dropped off my bags (this took 30 seconds) and then headed off to find the Hertz office in Long Beach to return the car. I considered walking the 3km back to the cruise terminal but there was a vacant taxi right outside Hertz so I took it and was waiting with all the other passengers by 11.15am. We waited until about 12 noon for something to happen; I sat waiting in the shade; about 150 people waited in a tight group right at the door as though cabins were going to be allocated on a first come first served basis. As we entered the building we had our passports and documentation examined, went through security inspection and then got into another line to be photographed and given a room key. I was on the ship by 12.15pm and in my cabin by 12.20pm; welcoming my luggage by 12.30pm and then in the queue for lunch a few minutes after that. It was all a bit anticlimactic; I'd expected long lines and missing bags and to find my cabin already occupied by a family of gypsies, but it all went very smoothly. There were staff on each level to guide passengers to their cabins. The passengers were generally, to put it kindly, of an older (verging on ancient) demographic. This is probably because of the length of the cruise, 21 days from Los Angeles to Sydney and also because there were two period of sea days (4 days LA to Hilo, and 5 days Honolulu to American Samoa) that may not appeal to many younger travellers. I would have been at least 20 years younger than any except twenty of the other passengers and I think that they were all parents with small children. At least I would not have had any problem pushing my way into a lifeboat if we'd done a Titanic. Having said that their age did not prevent them from being generally interesting to talk to and as with any large group of people there were those i felt comfortable with and gravitated towards and those i avoided. At 4.15pm there was life boat drill, and these are taken very seriously since the Costa Concordia fiasco. It was not necessary to take lifejackets to this drill (this was made very clear both in writing and in announcements but this didn't stop a number of passengers turning up like they were about to go over the side). It took about 25 minutes to complete the drill. The Volendam was berthed at Long Beach next to the Queen Mary; the former Cunard transatlantic liner that is now a floating hotel and tourist attraction at Long Beach. I'd always thought that the Queen Mary was a very large ship but it looked smaller than the ship I was standing on. The 5pm departure was delayed for 40 minutes as fuel was still being pumped aboard. When we did start moving it was without fanfare or announcement. Only a blast of the ship's horn to warn a sailing boat of our approach gave people the idea that the voyage had commenced. Cabin I had originally booked a single occupancy ocean view cabin (1946) on deck 1 but was persuaded by the advice of my mother (who at 86 is enthusiastically cruising) to change to a veranda cabin on deck 6. I was in cabin 6194 on the port side of the ship; about two thirds of the way back from the front of the ship. Even with the additional cost, nearly double, I'm very glad I made the change because having a veranda means being able to get a breath of fresh air without having to make yourself presentable enough to leave your cabin to go on deck. The veranda also makes the cabin seem so much bigger with the extra space outside and also with the wall between the interior and the veranda being all glass (with curtains heavy enough to block out the sun if necessary). There was little noise from adjacent cabins or from the corridor outside. My cabin had other cabins above on deck 7 and I never heard a noise from that direction. Below me was the library and internet area and again I never heard a noise from there. There were a few squeaks if the ship was rolling but no vibration from the engines or other distractions. The cabin was spotlessly clean when I arrived and remained so for the whole voyage; any mess was mine alone. The bed was very comfortable with a good reading light and six pillows were provided; 2 firm, 2 medium and 2 soft. Plenty of storage space for everything and enough room under the bed for several suitcases. Take a power board if like me you have several things you want to charge or power at the same time. There is one power point at the desk. The bathroom is a good size and well lit; with a shower over a bath. The hot water was consistent in temperature and the water is soft enough for shampoos and soaps to lather. The cabin was serviced every morning while I was having breakfast; the room steward just seemed to know when I'd gone to eat. On the TV there are: - Usually three movies on three channels showing in a continuous cycle. - Holland America promotional material. - Promotional material for the on board shops. - Port excursion and other information. - Replays of presentations and cooking demonstrations from previous day - Fox News seemed to work no matter where we were. - ESPN, TNT and other channels worked most of the time, this depended on satellite location. - Ship location, speed, heading, weather information channel. There are 100s of DVDs available to borrow; you just have to phone and they will deliver! Food Lunch after embarkation was served at the buffet on the Lido deck (which is deck 8). For the first couple of days at sea the staff serves you at the buffet and shaking hands with all your new friends is discouraged to limit the spread of any nasty bugs that may have come aboard with the passengers. There are disinfectant dispensers all over the ship; especially at the entrance to eating areas. At this first meal the passengers were all eating like it had just been announced that no more food would be served until we got to Sydney in 21 days. The price of the tickets for this voyage means that the passengers should not have recently known hunger but they were attacking the buffet, as far as restrictions permitted, like a starving mob. Food is available almost continuously from 6.30am (continental breakfast) followed at 7am by full buffet breakfast until 10.30am; or an a la carte breakfast in the MDR from 8am to 9.30am. Buffet lunch from 11.30am to 2pm (a la carte from 12 to 2pm); burgers and pizzas available from 11.30 to 5pm; buffet dinner from 5.30pm to 9pm; a la carte 5 course dinner from 5.30pm to 9.30pm. Then a short break until late snacks from 10.30pm to 11.30pm; I haven't been to this yet but the menu looks like another full buffet dinner. For those left a bit peckish between all of the above there is room service available in your cabin at no charge. I noticed that the plates in the Lido are deceptively large and when you're served hot food by the staff or serve yourself salads then what I would consider to be a normal portion of food looks rather lonely in the middle of the plate. The first couple of times I ate at the Lido I felt a bit short-changed in terms of quantity but then realised that I was eating as much and most likely very much more than I normally do. Breakfast Always ate this in the Lido and either sat inside or by the pool. It would be impossible to leave breakfast without being well satisfied. From the fresh squeezed orange juice (I have no idea where they store all the oranges required to do this for 1400 passengers for 21 days, the crew probably sleep on bags of oranges) to the cooked to order eggs and omelettes, breads, waffles, pastries, muffins, sausages, bacon (perfectly crispy every day), cereals and fruits it is the perfect way to start the day. Special mention for the baker on the Volendam; fantastic fresh bread and bread rolls at every meal, plus croissants, muffins (the chocolate ones are the best I have ever had) and wonderful fruit buns for breakfast. Lunch Mostly I ate lunch at the Lido. Lunch in the MDR is very pleasant with large windows on three sides giving a view of the ocean. This is not open for lunch when the ship is in port. Excellent burgers, tacos and pizza were available from Terrace Grill which is next to the midships pool on the Lido deck. Dinner Ate in the MDR on formal nights and service and food was excellent. Room Service Only tried it once and the turkey club sandwich was excellent. Sea Days There were four sea days between Los Angeles and Hilo and five sea days between Honolulu and American Samoa. You're either going to love or hate these days; but if you've booked on this sort of voyage then you should have booked because you'll enjoy them. Being away from outside distractions (apart from TV and internet, which are easy to ignore on the ship) for this many days is a real break from the world you inhabit all the rest of your life. This is a bit what life was like before mobile phones, internet, Facebook, 24 hour news and constant time demands. There are few things more enjoyable, to me at least, after a satisfying late breakfast than lying on a deck chair with a good book and listening to the waves and have the warm tropical air blow over you. Entertainment Internet Connecting is expensive and slower than you will get at home; but it does work most of the time. There were occasional periods of no connection due to satellite / ship positions but over 21 days these periods amounted to less than a day in total. There are Wi-Fi hot spots about the ship but the most reliable place to use your own device is on deck 5 in the Library, where there are also computers to use. During the day there is an internet manager in the Library on deck 5 to help with any internet issues. Library If you forget to pack some books to read then don't worry; the library on the Volendam has several thousand books; all well-arranged and it would be hard for anyone not to be able to find at least a few books that they wanted to read. There are also magazines and each day a news digest of 8 pages (NY Times) or 4 pages for Australia, UK, Canada and Germany is placed here and at several other locations around the ship. Music The on board band, Elise and the HALCats, were fantastic. Elise can really belt out a tune. Having a late lunch by the pool listening to Elise sing was a great way to feel like I was really on holiday. The musicians were also the backing band in the theatre for visiting performers. There was a string quartet, Adagio Strings, playing each evening in the Explorer's Lounge and they played a variety of classical and other music. They are very accomplished and entertaining and very relaxing. In the Ocean Bar each evening a trio, The Neptunes, played for listening and dancing, and again they were very good. The pianist had his music on an iPad and he must have hundreds of songs on it because there wasn't a request that he wasn't able to play. I liked them enough to buy the CD they had for sale. They are on the ship for seven months, playing every night. Michael, a solo guitarist, played in the Piano Bar each evening and at some other locations such as the Lido Pool during the day. Will played the piano, appropriately in the Piano Bar, each evening from 9pm and he has a very wide repertoire and was happy to take requests. The barman at this bar also makes very, very good Margaritas. It is worth spending an evening listening to Michael and Will. On Stage The stage shows in the theatre aren't West End or Broadway in scale and no reasonable person would expect them to be, but they are very entertaining and very well done. The theatre itself has very comfortable seating with good sight lines and acoustics. Shows are at 8pm and 10pm each night; the 10pm is less crowded; for some 8pm shows the audience starts arriving at 7.30pm. Lorna Luft was on one night and the Original Drifters another (they weren't actually the original Drifters but still a fun group and left the audience very happy). The singers and dancers who appeared in various shows were very good and did a lot with a stage of limited size. The hit songs of the 1960s were the theme of a show called the Dinnerbelles (It would take too long to explain the name); three female singers (including Elise from the HALCats), two dancers and a male singer (who changed parts and costume about six times). Rehearsals for some shows are open to passengers and you get to see the whole show plus an insight into how it is put together. Well worth attending. Other Activities Each evening a four page information and activities brochure is delivered to your cabin. Take the time to read it and go through the list of activities. There were a vast number of lectures and activities. The Future Cruise Consultant David gave a few talks and they were worth attending just to hear his stories about the 90 cruises he has been on. He had a wealth of knowledge about upgrades, best cabin locations, best side of ships for different cruises and ports and how to compare different cruises and cabins for value for money. The computer and camera classes were very popular judging from the crowds waiting each day before the doors opened to the classroom at the rear of deck 5. There are cooking classes, some where you watch and some where you cook and then eat. At the first cooking demo I went to there was a woman (American) sitting down the front who constantly interrupted with questions that weren't relevant; I would have happily stabbed her eyes out with a pencil if I'd had one with me. If clocks need to be changed then this is where it is announced. The first time change after leaving Los Angeles about one third of passengers put their clocks back an hour as requested, about one third put them forward an hour and about one third did nothing; the confusion the next morning was a pleasure to witness. Laundry On deck 6 there are 4 washers and 4 dryers; similar arrangements on two other decks. The machines take US quarters; you need $2 for a wash (takes about 35 minutes) and $1 for dryer (takes 40 minutes). Change is available at the Front Office on deck 4 which is open 24 hours a day. Liquid soap for the washers is provided at no charge. Medium heat setting on the dryer is more than hot enough for anything less than drying a circus tent. There are irons and ironing boards also available here. Ports of Call Hilo Hawaii It rains in Hilo on 275 days a year and we arrived in one of those days. I had booked to go on a tour to the summit if Mauna Kea at 13,796 feet. My ticket was waiting for me in my cabin when I boarded. There were two groups of eight booked for this tour and we went in two minibuses operated by Arnott's Tours. My guide was Al and there is nothing he doesn't know about Hilo. After driving through the main business area of the town (which has surprisingly many buildings from the 1940s and 1950s considering that Hilo has had two big tsunamis since 1945) we had a stop to see a waterfall, which looked just like a waterfall, not particularly high or wide or fast flowing. There was a fellow making hats and bowls from palm fronds; I would have bought a hat but didn't, knowing that it was unlikely to get past quarantine inspection back in Sydney. We all clambered back onto the bus and headed to the interior of the island. After about 25 miles we stopped at an altitude of 5000 feet near a very large lava flow dating from an eruption in 1984 from Mauna Loa, the volcano adjacent to Mauna Kea. Al the guide said that this type of lava is known as Ah-Ah lava; as that is what you say if you step on it before it has cooled. We then drove in about 20 minutes up to 9000 feet to a visitor centre/shop where we waited an hour so that we could acclimatize to the altitude and watch some videos on astronomical telescopes (of which there are many on the summit of Mauna Kea). The remaining 8 miles to the summit is half dirt road and half asphalt. The dirt road is very heavily rutted and the worst road I can ever remember driving on. When we got on the bus in Hilo and started our drive I noticed that the bus had many rattles; after being on the dirt portion of the road I know why. The road is left as dirt because in the winter black ice will form on asphalt but not on dirt and because the road is so steep it would be even more dangerous than it is currently is if it were covered with black ice. The road is supposed to be graded on a regular basis; we saw the grader but no driver. We drove above the clouds and all vegetation disappeared; the landscape looked like the photos sent back from the latest mission to Mars. Al the guide told us that he had oxygen to assist people who were having breathing difficulties, hallucinations, heart palpitations and so on. The only cure for altitude sickness is to go to a lower altitude quickly and really serious altitude sickness can be fatal. When we got out at the top I felt a bit light headed but a quick self-diagnosis confirmed all vital signs within acceptable limits. The view from the top was breath taking, literally. We were above most of the clouds and could see all the way to the island of Maui, which is about 80km away. We went into the Keck Observatory; or more correctly one of the two building housing matching telescopes. Each telescope has many large hexagonal mirrors and the mirrors are kept in alignment by tiny electric motors that flex the mirror surfaces so that all the hexagons function as if they were one very large mirror. After spending about 30 minutes at the summit, where it is warm in the sun but the wind was freezing, we drove back down to the visitor centre and had sandwiches for lunch. We then drove back to Hilo and the ship. If we hadn't stopped for lunch then from nearly 14,000 feet above sea level to sea level could have been driven in about an hour. It was still raining in Hilo when we got back. I can very highly recommend this tour. I spoke to one of the passengers who had done the helicopter flight to see the active lava flows and she said that was very good and worth doing. Honolulu Hawaii I took myself by public bus to Pearl Harbor. The number 20 bus leaves from about 200 yards from where the ships dock. It is $2.50 flat fare and you must have exact change as none is given. It took about 45 minutes to get to the Pearl Harbor memorial (it does goes into the airport to the terminals, but don't worry it does come back out). The bus turns off the highway into the visitor centre to let passengers off. Tell the driver you want this stop and he will announce it loudly when you arrive. I saw the museum and also I went aboard the battleship Missouri and the submarine Bowfin. On the Missouri make sure you take one of the guided tours as the guides are very knowledgeable. If you go aboard the Bowfin then make sure you are reasonably agile as the doorways (hatchways) between compartments of the submarine are small and have a very high step. From the highway outside the visitor centre I caught bus number 20 back to the business district near where the Volendam was docked. After lunch aboard I then walked off to find a post office. On the way I saw the Iolani Palace, the only royal place in the United States and the nearby statue of King Kamehameha. I also saw many fine public buildings, none of which had been built in the last 50 years. The more recently constructed Federal Courts building looks like it has been designed to withstand an armed attack. I then tried to catch a bus to Waikiki (about 3 miles) but after waiting 20 minutes in the sun and watching packed buses go past I decided to get a taxi. Honolulu seems to have fewer taxis than any other major city I have visited. Or maybe the drivers were all having an afternoon nap. Eventually I got a taxi and went to the Royal Hawaiian Hotel. This is a pink coloured hotel is on the beach at Waikiki; built long before the high rise towers that now surround it. I wandered through the spacious public areas of the hotel to the beach. Without the background of Diamond Head Waikiki would be a rather pathetic beach; some of the hotels don't even have sand in front of them and at its deepest the beach is about 40m from hotel boundary to water. I had a look around the area behind the beach and it looks just like Surfers Paradise in Australia; many of the shops are exactly the same. So I wasn't much impressed by Waikiki. I caught bus number 20 back to the ship. I think it odd that the bus company doesn't provide a map and some timetable information at bus stops frequented by tourists. Doubly odd as they boast on the side of the buses that they are the best bus company in the US (perhaps that is an instructive comment on the average quality of public transport in the US). At least the driver on the bus was very entertaining and announced at one stop that it was the last stop and we'd all have to get off; as angry passengers surged towards the front of the bus he shouted out "just kidding" and put the bus in motion. Pago Pago American Samoa A spectacular harbour; it is surrounded by thick jungle almost down to the water and covering every bit of ground that isn't a road or built on. Coming into this port early in the morning is unforgettable. I didn't take an organised tour. I walked along the main road and saw that there wasn't much except a few ordinary shops and the local market. The Somerset Maugham story Rain is set in Pago Pago in the 1920s. Somerset Maugham visited Pago Pago about that time and was forced to stay on the island for two weeks because of a measles epidemic (which meant that he and others couldn't travel on to other destinations because of the risk of infection during the incubation period). The place he stayed is still standing and is now named in honour of one of the main characters in the story Sadie Thompson, a prostitute. In the story the rain is incessant but this isn't the rainy season otherwise yesterday's visit would have been much less pleasant. On the wharf there were lots of stalls set up just for the day. These were selling clothes and souvenirs but the offerings were somewhat repetitive; if you'd seen a couple of the stalls then you'd seen them all. I hired a taxi to take me over to the north side of the island. As we crossed the ridge from south to north we stopped to take photos of the stunning harbour. Then we drove through a national park to a perfect beach. There and back took about an hour and the pre-agreed cost was $20. The driver was a pleasant fellow but his English and my Samoan were about the same standard so we didn't chat much. After lunch on the ship (there seemingly being nowhere else to eat on land except McDonalds) I took another taxi from the dock and told the driver to go west for an hour and then turn around and come back by a different route. This driver was chatty. He'd taken the day off from his job at Ace Hardware to try to make a bit of extra money from tourists. He even called in to Ace Hardware to drive past the front door and honk the horn at his workmates to show them that he was actually working. Everywhere we drove was lush with a profusion of tropical plants and trees. Gardening seems to be a common pass time; the majority of the gardens were very neat and almost every house was growing bananas and vegetables. The two hour "tour" cost $40; I'm sure I could have bargained this amount down as there were other drivers at the wharf offering $15 per hour; but I wasn't inclined to quibble about $10 and the driver certainly needed the money more than me. Pago Pago was a very pleasant surprise to me. The island is ruggedly mountainous and the harbour is as beautiful a place as you'll ever see. But be warned; during the rainy season from December to March the rainfall is measured in metres. Suva Fiji I didn't do an organised tour here. Beaches, swimming and coral are at least 45 minutes drive from Suva; west to the Coral Coast. The ship was in Suva on a Sunday and there isn't much to do in the city of Suva on a Sunday. At 9am when I went for a walk there were three places of business open and one of them was McDonalds. I last visited Suva in 1973 and the only changes in appearance have been for the worse. There are still some colonial era buildings in the city but most have been replaced by generic multi floor buildings that could have been built anywhere and are not sympathetic to, or suitable for, the climate or the location. I went for another walk later in the day and there were more shops open; but unless you wanted to buy clothes or souvenirs there wasn't much to interest the passengers. Probably the most diverting sight I saw was a group of workers painting road markings on the road along the harbour front. There was no machine being used; they were doing it with paint brushes and tins of paint. This meant that it was very tedious work. Passengers stopped to watch and take photos. Once the workmen realised that they were the centre of attention they became more fastidious with their brush strokes. We had been warned to be careful if we wandered away from the main streets; there have been instances of passengers from ships being robbed. A couple of weeks in a secure environment like the Volendam does slightly dull your senses as far as watching out for unexpected dangers. Port Vila Vanuatu The ship docked about 2.5km from the town centre. As the passengers exited the port gate we were surrounded by taxi drivers and tour guides. It looked like every motorized vehicle in Vila was at the gates looking for someone to take for a ride (both literally and figuratively). The recommended fare for the journey to town, one way, is USD15; which I thought a bit steep for the distance although I could have reduced that amount by sharing. Although in the mob outside the gate I heard the trip being offered for USD5 by the more enterprising or desperate drivers. Also outside the port gate, along both sides of the road to the town for about 400m, there were scores of stalls all selling essentially the same trinkets, clothes and other stuff that the locals hope that heat affected tourists will think it essential to buy. I decided to walk to the town centre as I was a bit sick of walking in a circle on deck 3. The local government obviously doesn't have enough money to properly maintain the roads so they certainly don't have any money to splash out on footpaths; it was a walk and sometimes a scramble around to the town. The shops were a mixture of "duty free" ranging from the air conditioned to the dim and dingy as well as lots of souvenir and clothing shops that are all selling the same stock. There were a few cafes and restaurants but nothing that was particularly appealing. I went into a supermarket. To remind visitors that Vanuatu was formerly jointly administered by the French and the British (an unusual arrangement known as a condominium) there was a large display of tinned meat, advertised with the slogan "tin meat blong Vanuatu" and not too far away a tempting display of French breads and pastries. The most common form of commerce was people sitting under umbrellas or in small booths selling mobile phone credit. I must have walked past ten before I turned around to go back to the ship. This is in addition to every other shop also advertising mobile phone credits. The Vanuatu market was in a large open-sided structure in the main street. Fruit and vegetables were for sale; the most popular items being bananas, coconuts, yams, taro and sweet potato. The vendors looked like they are well-used to having their photos taken tourists who don't buy anything. Surprisingly, a significant proportion of the passengers walking around at these tropical ports are not wearing hats. Unsurprisingly, there are many sunburnt people at the end of each day in port. Easo Lifou Island New Caledonia Lifou Island is part of New Caledonia and about 150km North East of Noumea. Easo is a very small village on the North West coast of Lifou. The ship anchored at 7am about 1km offshore in the bluest water i've ever seen and the passengers went ashore in four of the life boats. I decided to go ashore as soon as possible, which was about 8.15am, because it was very windy and I thought that it might get so windy that they would stop passengers from going ashore. We landed at a jetty on a beach that was about 500m long. It is the only beach on this side of the island as far as I can see; and that's probably about 10km from the top deck of the ship. I walked up to the church on the promontory that we could see clearly from the ship. The path wasn't too steep. The statue on the roof of the church was blown into the sea during a cyclone some years ago and the locals thought it was lost forever. However, scuba divers visiting the island found the statue and using large air lift bags raised the statue to the surface and somehow got it ashore, up the hill and back on to the roof. I then walked to a small bay across the promontory from where I had come ashore (the promontory being only 500m wide at that point). This bay had only a tiny beach that was difficult to get down to but the whole bay was filled with coral sitting in water that was as clear as gin. Steps down on to the beach and into the water are being constructed but are currently roped off with a 'do not enter' sign; this was ignored by all visitors. The locals were offering for sale much the same merchandise that I'd seen for sale at the last three ports, except this all had "greetings from Lifou" on it. There was also food for sale. Being part of New Caledonia and therefore part of France, the food included baguettes and quiche. On my first visit ashore I went for a swim and the water was surprisingly "refreshing"; other passengers said it was cold. The beach was sand but once in the water it was mostly broken coral underfoot. This place is very beautiful and with crystal clear water, a white beach and coral it is what most people would imagine a South Pacific paradise to be. At 5pm the ship lifted its anchor and we started towards Noumea. Thursday Noumea New Caledonia New Caledonia is a department of France, so the residents behave, justifiably, as though they are living in France. Although the local currency is not the Euro; New Caledonia has its own currency; the CFP (central pacific franc; about 100 francs to AUD1.00). The ship docked at the cruise terminal is really just a large shelter and inside there were lots of locals eager to sell tickets for tours. There were not, unlike Pago Pago, Suva and Vila any taxi drivers or other locals touting for business. I went for a walk around the city for a couple of hours and then came back to the ship. I didn't get back on board as I was persuaded to buy a ticket for a one hour tour that was leaving immediately. There were only two other tourists and me in an eight seat mini bus. Philippe the driver had obviously done this tour more times that he can remember and would say "on your right" or "on your left" while himself looking in the opposite direction. We stopped a couple of times to take photos but otherwise just drove around. A more popular option was on the yellow 'train'; a road going set of small wagons pulled by a tractor disguised as a locomotive. This has the advantage that the sides are open and it doesn't go very fast. You can also buy "hop on hop off" tickets for a bus that stops at about 20 places on a route around Noumea. Place des Cocotiers is the park which forms the central square of the city. This is a pleasant space with lots of shade trees and places to sit comfortably out of the sun. On the day I was market stalls had been set up. This is was coincidental with the visit of the Volendam and the goods for sale were intended for locals rather than tourists; eg whole fresh fish and other food. There is a morning market (closes at 11am) about 500m from the dock; turn right out of the terminal and keep walking around the waterfront. Based on less than a day here, I quite like Noumea. Perhaps because it is a place that has other things to do apart from cater to the needs of the passengers on the ship. In the previous three ports of call it seemed like if the ship hadn't been in port then it wouldn't have been worth it for the locals to get out of bed that day. In Noumea the visit of the ship is just another thing that is happening today. Although I certainly stand out as a visitor, because I'm lighter skinned than the native population and not as smartly dressed as the European population, I haven't been subject today to the constant questioning about my requirements regarding clothes that I'd never wear, shops, transport, hair braiding (seriously, the last time I could have been legitimately asked this question was 1974), massages, wooden curios of all sizes and shapes, postcards of places I haven't been to and tours to places I don't want to visit. Disembarkation Given the choice of first, middle or last disembarkation time I choose the middle time; 8-8.30; as I didn't need to go to the airport and wanted to make sure that I enjoyed my last breakfast that someone else is cooking for me. Australian Immigration officials got on the ship in Noumea and spent most of a day processing everyone's arrival documentation. The night before arrival in Sydney a personalised disembarkation envelope was delivered to my cabin with my leaving time, 8.15am, and coloured baggage tags for that time. The ship entered Sydney Harbour at 5.30am, just before sunrise, and sailed slowly down the harbour to berth at Circular Quay, opposite the Opera House and next to the Harbour Bridge, at 6.30am. There was a delay of about 15 minutes leaving the ship due to a hold up with unloading the baggage. During the delay announcements were frequently made so that those departing knew what was going on and could wait somewhere comfortable rather than crowding the gangway. Overall Impression The cruise was a delight, although it took me about a week to slow down and adjust to life on board. Activities were exceptionally well organised by pleasant, intelligent and approachable staff, led by Tamaryn Hurly the Cruise Director. The hotel staff were all fantastic and no sensible request that I heard made was ever left unsatisfied. After reading some less than enthusiastic comments in various cruise reviews about the entertainment on board I was very pleasantly surprised at how good it was and how consistently good it was. I will cruise again and I will cruise with Holland America again. What didn't I like - Being a single passenger leads to minor annoyances. For example, like having first course of a meal in the Lido and going to get second course and coming back to my table to find that the table has been cleared; or worse still, coming back and finding table occupied by someone else. In the Main Dining Room for lunch a couple of times and asked for a table for one; although many two person tables available and not many people in the MDR at that time I was given table right next to serving station; I know someone has to get that table but surely it should be the last resort rather than saved for an annoying single person like me. - There was on a couple of occasions I had difficulty in making myself understood with staff. In hindsight I realise I should have spoken a lot more slowly and certainly their English is infinitely better than my Indonesian or Tagalog. That said, the staff are endlessly obliging and constantly cheerful despite very long hours of work each day and very long periods at sea without any home leave. - The relentless promoting by the shops on board; one TV channel is constant promotional material for opals, emeralds, tanzanite etc. (I know, turn off the TV) - The art auction; a careful reading of the promotional material given out by Park West Gallery shows that most of the material being offered are not unique works of art in the generally accepted use of those words. For example, the word Giclee is used to describe the material of many works; this is a fancy word used for photos printed by an ink jet printer. The works are then hand signed by the artist or "hand embellished" as though this makes the piece an original work of art; I suppose it is original in that no two printed and signed pieces will be exactly the same but the less knowledgeable passenger may think they are getting a one-off piece of art work that has some possibility of increasing in value. Avoid! - The service charge; I paid it simply because I felt that if I didn't then those who made my cruise good for me wouldn't be sufficiently rewarded, especially those who I didn't get to see like the kitchen staff and the guy who made sure the hot water kept working. HAL should just increase the price of tickets by the same amount and stop guilt tripping passengers into paying this charge as though they have a real choice. I separately gave cash tips to those staff who I felt added something extra to my cruise; room stewards (at start and end of cruise); bar staff and the young lady who served the ice cream in the Lido. Read Less
Sail Date September 2012
Many thanks to the great reviews on this and other sites. All that info really helped preparing for my first ever cruise. Here is a 1-minute review for those who are in a hurry to book their next cruise: Our experience with Holland ... Read More
Many thanks to the great reviews on this and other sites. All that info really helped preparing for my first ever cruise. Here is a 1-minute review for those who are in a hurry to book their next cruise: Our experience with Holland America was all about Luxury, comfort, extremely detailed planning by HAL and perfect execution of every aspect of the cruise, from before boarding through the daily schedules to disembarkation and beyond. Excellent route choice and a perfect balance of at-sea versus port-of-call days, allocation of resources on the infrastructure side (very short waiting time for any consumable, elevators, restaurants, ample and comfortable seating at the theaters and elsewhere on the ship), as well as a personal service level by the best and friendliest staff I could imagine. If you can afford the expense, you'll get your money's worth with HAL cruising Alaska. (and no, I am not affiliated with HAL, I have my own daytime job at a very ground-based company :) ). And for the detail oriented future travelers: Shopping for the Cruise: Expedia, Priceline and other mega travel sites did not offer the best choice on Cruise prices. Other less known online travel agencies had prices at 10-15% discount on the exact same cruise lines, cabins, cabin credits, and sail dates. That's very significant considering the cost of a cruise (more on total cruise costs below). Booking your Summer Cruise 6+ months before cruise date has its advantages. Better cabin selection for example + a $300 credit per cabin if booked by end of February in our case. No gimmicks. On March 1st and later, the credit offered went down to $50 credit per cabin. When you book your trip, you are asked to pay around 10% of the full price, and the balance payable about 2 months before the Cruise date. Cancellation insurance is an additional 7% ($80 on $1150 per person per cabin). Or you could decide to shop for bargains just a few weeks ahead of time. If you are flexible on dates, cruise lines, departure ports, and OK with fewer cabin choices, you can find excellent deals at real discounts of 40-50% off the full price. but, not on all cruise lines.. As a reference, in our case, the price on the specific HAL cruise we had paid for 4 months earlier was still the exact same price 4 weeks before actual departure. (yet, other dates/cruise lines could save you half off for a similar itinerary!). Preparations: Here is a list of items we took with us based on other members recommendations and our own needs + comments on usability in the aftermath. Flashlights - Never used those on or off the ship. Might be handy in case of a very unlikely total power outage. A power strip w/surge protection - very handy because the cabins only have 2 power outlets. Waterproof laynards - Never used those. On the ship we carried the HAL Cards in a wallet and off ship a purse/bag did the trick for anything we wanted to shlep around. My Cellphone served as the camera/video recorder proved and was invaluable for such a trip. (also used it as the video editor). - An extended charged battery or a second one are very useful too. Netbook - even away from wifi it was very useful as an eReader + to write emails for later or portions of this review. DVD Burner - My parents were delighted to get a nicely edited DVD on the final cruise day to take with on their flight back home. We also took an additional camera as a backup. You just can't afford to miss photographing the amazing sights of Alaska's nature. Ginger candy - Some say Ginger helps with sea sickness. Never came close to even considering these. The waters was mirror-calm. Walkie Talkies - We did not get any. Not even one passenger carried those with them. Effectiveness is doubtful through the metal structures of the ship anyway(?) Scarf, Coat w/Hood, Gloves - a must, especially on days when you want to be on the open decks for uninterrupted views of the incredible Glaciers and other sights. Water-tight shoes - never needed those. The most we had was light rain/drizzle in Ketchikan. Wrist watch w/alarm - No alarms clocks in the cabins. But you probably have your own watch or use your cellphone. A day ahead of the cruise: We flew in from California a day ahead of the cruise to enjoy Vancouver for a day (it deserves more!), also to make sure we don't miss our ship, and to allow our suitcases to catch up with us should they be delayed for whatever reason by the airlines. As far as hotel bookings go, this is one of the best sites I could find for hotels: trivago. For US travelers who just want the cruise, the better option is to take a 7-day Inside Passage from Seattle instead of Vancouver. Not only is the itinerary identical, but it can save you on flight costs, time, and more importantly eliminate all the overhead associated with Immigration: Going through Vancouver means doing Immigration from the US to Canada,then Canada to US (for the cruise), then 2 more times on disembarkation and flying back to the US. Cruising to Alaska from San Francisco is an option too,which we readily abandoned after learning from first hand experiences of colleagues at work (a lengthy 10 day cruise with many days in the open ocean affected by waves. Limited selection of cruise lines.Not the best route in Alaska). But do your own checks of course. Boarding.. The process was a breeze. Very efficient all around from the moment you reach the beautiful 'Canada Place' Cruise terminal, hand over the suitcases at the curb, and head toward Immigration (Canada to US). The next quick step is check in at the HAL desks to get your personal plastic Card to use as your stateroom key, ID, and for payments while on the ship. --> The cruise ship left dock at 4:15PM! - Note that you can board as early as Noon, and head straight to the excellent Lido buffet which is waiting for you.. Then by the time you go to your stateroom an hour later or so, the suitcases are already in there. Nice. Disembarkation.. Again, very efficient. Prepare your suitcases the evening before you get off the ship. Put them outside your room by Midnight, and they appear at the waiting area off the ship. You get special colored/numbered tags for that part of the process that also tells you when it's your time to get off the ship. And everything in between.. : The ship: We loved everything about the ship. The decorative elements. The artwork and flower arrangements everywhere. The carpeting and trims on the walls and windows and stairwells and elevators. Everything felt very luxurious. There are many different areas you can hang in and relax in semi private settings too: The beautiful Explorer's Cafe and Internet areas (1 min internet connection goes for 75c). The comfy Library area with a surprisingly up to date and varied selection of books, Magazines and Newspapers. And many other areas like a Tea bar section, or other areas on Decks 4,5,8,9 both indoors with large windows, or outdoors on Deck 8 at the pool/spa area or at rear deck pool area, or the front of the ship, both wide open to the elements and unobstructed views 24 hour/day. We would be hard pressed to believe that there were 1500 passengers and 600 crew members on board. You never felt crowded, and always had areas where you could just kick back, relax and read or nap with your eyes open while looking at the scenic views that only the inside passage can offer. The Staterooms: My parents stayed at a full Ocean View cabin,while we stayed at an inside room (my wife's choice). Both were on Deck 2 (Main Promenade). The rooms are not spacious, but very functional. Very comfortable beds and pillows with good air-conditioning, 32" flat-screen TV and a DVD player. The power outlets have both 115v and 220v, but only 2 in a cabin. (bring a power strip or just an in-the-wall splitter to charge all of your electronics at once). The Ocean View cabin has a bathtub. The inside cabin only a shower. The hot water comes out instantaneously and with good pressure. Can't complain about that! - Shampoo, Conditioner and soap dispenser unit is affixed to the wall. Very good quality of all 3. There is a wall mounted hair dryer in the bathroom and another portable electric one at the drawer in the room. Great sound insulation too. The rooms were VERY quite. We never heard a sound from other rooms and all were occupied. The ship's 57,909 HP engines were doing their job but we did not notice much vibrations or noise in that respect. The closets provide ample space, enough to stash your suitcases away too. They are also modular and can be set to different configurations for your wardrobe. The safe in the closet is pretty large, good enough to hold our two 12" Netbooks and much more room. They are easy to open/close by just sliding any credit card (no fee) in the slot. The Crew: -- I can't say enough praise for the Service crew!!! - We met the most wonderful, warm, thoughtful and caring service providers anywhere we went on the ship. They are not only service minded for a moment, but connect instantly and offer options or ask about preferences that did not even occur to us. Considering the fact that they only have you for 7 days before a new round of passengers comes aboard, you would expect them to be more distant or formal. But that's not the case. We got to know some of them by name from day one and they remember yours too. Amazing. Remember that there are 1500 passengers on board!! . The servers at the oh-so-beautiful Rotterdam restaurant (free to dine, just make a reservation), remembered our names and our preferences of drinks after just one visit there. The service teams are mostly from the Philippines or Indonesia. Many of them work the cruise lines for years. It's no easy job. During the cruising season they work 7 days a week non stop for 3+ months, before having a break and joining the ship for cruises on other parts of the world. Obviously they only see their families a couple of times a year. It was very interesting talking to them. I noticed other passengers engaging in conversations with them too. Some gave them personal tips at the last day, but you don't need to and can still feel good about that (read below). -- The managing teams: Those are mostly Dutch, British or Australian. The captain did a fabulous job, and the totally calmed waters probably helped towards that end. The captain messages were informative and interesting but kept to a minimum and only came on after 9:30AM in the speaker systems. It all felt very professional as far as getting to port of calls, timely departures, slowing down along beautiful scenery, and coming to full stop in front of Glaciers for as long as needed to allow everyone to absorb the magnificent sights. The passengers: Coming form the nicely diversified Bay area of San Francisco, the mix was a bit of a surprise to us. 85% or so were US/Canadian and others of European/British heritage. Only about 6 people of African origin and 10% of Indian-Asian descent. The age groups were predominantly retirees, about 20% 20-60 year old and ~20 kids which considering the fact school year was just starting made a lot of sense. Everyone was very polite, quite and easy to talk too. You did have a lot of personal space and we mostly talked to other passengers during special Tea hours or other small group events. The Food, oh the food: First, it's a myth that you have food 24 hours. There were no open buffets from 1AM to5 AM.. hmm, just kidding. From the moment you board to the moment you disembark, you can indulge yourself in a fantastic culinary adventure. Board as early at noon on departure day and head straight to the Lido buffet on Deck 8. Two identical lines of rich,varied and plentiful ready made or made-to-order plates are available. From appetizers to bread rolls to fruit plates to main courses to the many desserts - the Lido has it all. On the first 2 days you are served and cannot pick food or drinks by yourself to prevent the spread of illnesses. The lines were very short and there is ample seating available indoors or outside by the pool. We also tried the wonderful Rotterdam restaurant - free breakfast and dinners too - and found even more exclusive items on the menu that were irresistible. We went there several times for both Breakfast and Dinner during the 7-day cruise. Then there are the 'specials' - the food fests. Either a BBQ by the pool one evening, or the Philippine/Indonesian feasts on another and more surprises that keep you form ever getting bored. You can also take advantage of room service and have breakfast in your stateroom (no extra charge). That was a nice arrangement and they did not miss even one of the items we ordered. Everything arrived super-fresh and hot. Troubleshooting: The only 2 issues we had were with the air-conditioning in the room that was not cooling enough. We called the Front Desk and someone came and fixed it within 1 hour. We also called to have a breakfast tray picked up but no one came after an hour. Turned out that we needed to call some other number instead of the Front Desk. Once we did the tray was picked up 15 min later. Another passenger had what seemed like a water flow in the room down the corridor from us and a crew was on it before we even knew anything was going on, with blowers to dry the corridor and the passengers moved to another stateroom. Ports of Call: Juneau -- You arrive at 1PM and depart at 10PM, but the useful hours for in town activities actually end by 5-6PM when the Museum and surprisingly many stores close for the day. So, make sure to disembark at 1PM. We highly recommend the Alaska Museum and also the trip to the Mendenhall glacier. We opted for a round-trip with one of the local bus operators that have booths right where the ship docks. It's $16 round trip per person for a 20 min ride. The bus driver was very funny, helpful and knowledgeable. The last bus left at 3:30PM and the last returning bus from the glacier at 5:00PM. The trip is well worth it. There is a beautiful visitor center with fantastic views of the Glacier, as well as an elevated nature path above Salmon spawning areas and the Bears are right there too. We will always remember one mature bear with her 2 cubs hunting for Salmon and picking berries from the bushes. And they were just 100 feet away from us (but safely below the elevated wooden path). Skagway -- I could not visit the town because of a minor cold, but my parents took the Train trip up the mountains and found it interesting, although at $125/pp for the 2 hour round trip felt that it was a bit pricey. (The tickets on board the ship were only selling at a $5 premium - $130/pp). My wife chose to check out the stores for freebies and some small items to take home. If you are into Jewelry shopping, not only is there a 'motivational' 1+ hour presentation at the theater on board the ship, but you are also flooded with coupon books and free-gifts info to lure you into shops at all 3 ports. (not our thing but it is a revenue generating machine for the ships and apparently there are enough passengers that do go for that) Ketchikan -- We took a 2 hour tour with a local operator that takes you to places where Salmon come to spawn (and die) and others where Bear meet Salmon, and for a drive along the coast line for possible views of Whales and assured sights of Bald Eagles. They also stopped at the Totem pole Park which we did not find interesting. The final drop off point was Creek Street that makes for interesting photos with the houses built against the side of the very steep hillside and above the river. The trip cost $60/pp and included the fee for the Totem pole park and Dolly's house. Fees and expenses: So, you paid for a cruise. How much more will it really cost you? Aside from the cost of flights and lodging, should you decide to arrive ahead of the cruise or stay after, you are also going to be charged about $100/pp in gratuities at the end of the cruise. It goes without saying that you never really need to leave 'tips' while on the ship. It's all taken care of collectively. (assuming $100/pp for 1500 passengers,divided by 600 crew members and you can see that it averages $900 of tips per crew member per month. So feel good about the service and enjoy it all). It is all charged automatically to the Credit Card you provide at online check-in. Other expenses can be for wine bottles or wine by the glass, and for excursions you chose to take that can range from a basic ride around a town for $50/pp to Helicopter rides to remote glaciers which can run you $500/pp. Final notes: The numerous activities available daily on the ship were more than any person can do in one cruise. You are guaranteed to find whatever floats your boat, and the well laid out daily 'Newspaper' delivered every evening to your room, lists all the activities for the following day along with Weather forecast and other interesting facts. You can chose to work out everyday in the well equipped Gym or do anything at all. Whatever makes you happy. We saw Orca whales and some were breaching on our second day at sea. Bears hunting for Salmon. Large chunks of ice breaking off Glaciers and crushing with loud noise into the waters, many sea birds, and Bald Eagles, and pristine wilderness of forests and snow covered mountains. Everything was very unique - a true Alaskan experience and all from the comfort of a modern ship. There are many more details to the trip and surprises to enjoy, but better leave the discoveries for you. This was my first cruise, and now I know there will be more. Maybe even a repeat cruise of the Inside Passage in Alaska. It was that good. Happy cruising. Read Less
Sail Date August 2012
We stayed in the Pan Pacific in Vancouver, and when we woke up on the day of departure, the Volendam was moored right below our room. Embarkation was straightforward, with the ship's staff being very helpful. My overall impression ... Read More
We stayed in the Pan Pacific in Vancouver, and when we woke up on the day of departure, the Volendam was moored right below our room. Embarkation was straightforward, with the ship's staff being very helpful. My overall impression of the ship is confusing. It's some 11 or 12 years old, had a major refit a few years but has a retro-early 60s feel. The overall theme is flowers, but it's incoherent. The Pinnacle restaurant, the Theatre and the Crow's Nest are probably the smartest parts of the ship; our cabin with its beige/faded ivory bathroom needed freshening up although it was clean and fully functional. We soon found our way around, and took advantage of the open seating in the Rotterdam Restaurant for breakfast and dinner. An early morning tea or coffee with (small) croissants in the cabin was good. The food was generally very good with the breakfasts, steaks and Indian evening being the highlights; the seafood was surprisingly disappointing. Service was prompt and good. Tip: don't take up the offer of bottled water; ask for a jug of regular iced. The cost of drinks (before the 15% surcharge) gave us a fright, though the bottle of gin for $30+ with tonic in the cabin wasn't too bad a deal. The list of on-board activities included wine tasting, but we didn't take it up as it was really expensive for a the selection of bottom of the range/generic wines on offer. We did go to the Alaskan beer tasting, but $15 (+15%) for three small glasses of beer wasn't good value, even though I did win a bottle as a prize. The highlight of the cruise was the scenery and the excursions. The trip on the catamaran into Tracey Arm was superb. Th boat's captain turned of the engine when we were as near as was safe to the Sawyer Glacier, and we could hear the explosions as huge chunks of ice fell off the glacier into the fjord. There were waterfalls, sea eagles, seals and small icebergs - truly memorable experience - and given an edge by the transfer to the catamaran taking place in deep water, not in port! This is a must-do in my opinion. At Skagway, we took the train on the White Pass & Yukon Railway. The weather was superb, and our tour guide said it was first time in years she'd been able to see the peaks and glaciers as there was no rain, clouds or mist. The views are splendid and make for great photos. We went on the early departure, which was a bit of a rush, but did mean the train was not crowded, there were no worries about which side of the train to sit on (left side on the way up) and there was space on the platforms between the carriages. We saw that the next train was really crowded. We had some fun in the Skagway Brewery and met one of the girls from the Red Onion! At Ketchikan, we took the seaplane to the Misty Fjords and returned by boat. The ride in the seaplane was exciting but short (30 mins) and return to Ketchikan took over two by boat. Of the three excursions we took, this was the most expensive by far and the one that fell short of expectation, despite the excellent guide on the boat. If you want to do this excursion, fly out and fly back. Otherwise, save your money. The Volendam's visit to Glacier Bay was exciting. The weather was warm and the glacier was breaking up faster than usual. The top of the bay had far more ice floating on the water than usual. The glacier ice is fresh water at 0�° and the salty sea was a couple of degrees colder, so the ice bergs weren't melting. The captain explained that the Volendam wasn't equipped with a hull suitable for ice-breaking so had to keep off the edge of the ice flows. He did see a mother bear with two cubs off the starboard side and turned the ship completely around to get better view. After they disappeared, he turned the ship around again to continue with the planned route! Our steward and house-keeping were excellent and kept our cabin in forst class order. Would we travel again on the Volendam? Probably not. Would we travel again up the Alaskan coastline? Probably yes!   Read Less
Sail Date July 2012
We're in our late 40's with a 11 yr old daughter. We try to do one big vacation each year and always try to ensure it's a high-end experience. For example, last year was an exclusive Tuscan Villa for five days followed by ... Read More
We're in our late 40's with a 11 yr old daughter. We try to do one big vacation each year and always try to ensure it's a high-end experience. For example, last year was an exclusive Tuscan Villa for five days followed by ten days in 5 star hotels in Florence and Rome. With that background, hopefully my feedback will be of interest to those who share my feeling that there are no luggage racks on Hearses. My goal for this cruise was to book the best cabin on the ship I could get. We didn't go on vacation to save money. Cost be damned. Fun...isn't it? ;>) Cabin 7027: Clean and spacious. Mostly quiet when the verandah doors are closed but lots of deck noise from the Lido deck above when you're on the verandah during the day. Oh well, let's pour another cocktail and look for Bears. Plenty of storage. Bring an extension cord (Thanks Forum!). Extremely generous size cabin if you have just 2 adults. Even with our daughter using the pull out bed, which she loved, we never bumped into each other. The verandah was large as well and we spent a lot of time out there with a glass of wine, light music and our daily room-service delivered hors d'oeuvres because, luckily, the weather was drop dead gorgeous 90% of the time. This cabin is also plenty large enough for 2 adults and 2 kids who could sleep on the pullout sofa. I doubt you would want 4 adults in there but, hey, it's your cruise. The binoculars in the room, which are very powerful, enabled us to really gain an appreciation for the coastline, glaciers, whales, otters, eagles, and mountain goats. One day a Hummingbird even flew right up to my face while I was looking through them! Almost dropped them overboard! Alaska is completely under-rated in my book. Cabin Service: Extremely professional, fast and efficient. Definitely service with a smile. We took full advantage of the dry cleaning and laundry service that comes with the room and were completely satisfied. Neptune Lounge: I was pretty sure it would be a good perk and now realize I won't go on another cruise without having access to it. Dining: Definitely not The Ritz or Four Seasons but what is? Volendam food is pretty darn good. We greatly enjoyed The Pinnacle on three of the nights including Le Cirque night. I'd put that food and service level up against nicer restaurants in most large cities. We enjoyed perfectly prepared breakfasts in our room each morning, delivered right on time. Tip: if you want something that's not on the room service menu, i.e. Dijon or salmon/capers, just write it in and I bet they bring it to you. We enjoyed the MDR three nights and two lunches. We had one so-so dinner at Canaletto one night, which was the only 'miss' the entire cruise(My veal was tough and our daughter's meatballs, which she didn't plan to eat anyway, were surprisingly undercooked). Not a huge matter to us but maybe to others. We like our Red wines so after reviewing the Volendam wine list in advance I decided we'd bring our own case of wine. Their list is really good in the Pinnacle (everything up to and beyond Opus One) and not terrible in the MDR and lounges but I wanted what we're accustomed to and I really didn't want to pay $120/bottle for what I normally pay $30 for in Florida. We also ordered many drinks in the lounges and restaurants so I didn't feel bad about bringing our own to our cabin. We paid the $18 corkage a couple of times and it was preferable for us. At The Pinnacle our server quickly offered to decant the bottles without our even asking. Simply great service. Kids: Two or three times during the cruise, our lovely daughter enjoyed hanging out with the 5 to 10 kids who were her age in Club HAL. They were all well behaved and polite. There's plenty for them to do there for 2-3 hours at a time. The Club HAL Staff was Excellent. We're not the Disney Cruise type. Volendam was great for us. She read 10 large books while on board and we loved the Library and Chess games. She had a great time. Entertainment: In terms of Shows, honestly as a family, we never made it past about 10pm so the only shipboard entertainment for us was Adagio Strings and the acoustic guitarist - both were excellent. Many nights after dinner we just really enjoyed the DVD library back in our cabin. I stayed up a couple of nights until 12 or 1 at the tables in the Casino and had fun meeting other blackjack players. Lot of nice passengers on this cruise. The Casino staff were also some of the most pleasant, laid back and accommodating I've run into. Just great people. If you're a regular player I'd strongly recommend setting up a line of credit in advance. It was very convenient. Excursions: None were with HAL. We enjoyed what we did on our own including walking in town, Mendenhall Glacier in Juneau, Salmon charter fishing in Ketchikan and Liarsville Salmon Bake/Gold Panning in Skagway, which by the way got a really bad rap on the Internet so I was very wary but it was actually a great time and the food was good! (Highly recommend bestofalaskatravel.com for Liarsville and ketchikancharterboats.com for fishing (!!). The Salmon we caught arrived today via FedEx 1-Day Air and it was well worth the money for the charter and processing. Salmon were plentiful in Ketchikan. Nice weather. Three of us fished on a 31' Silverton. Price was very competitive. The Volendam Staff: Captain Peter Bos, Restaurant Mgr (Tall guy with white hair, really nice), Neptune Lounge Staff: Kristine and Olga, Room Stewards, and every other staff member we came into contact with bent over backwards to ensure we were completely satisfied, safe and informed. Each request we made was acted on quickly, efficiently and with a smile. Captain Bos also did a fine job with our Renewal of Vows ceremony, which helped me win big time points with my lovely wife of 20 yrs and it's something I highly recommend. We were the only couple who reserved it on this sailing so the Captain and Rebekah (Volendam Party Planner) spent a relaxed 45 mins with us in the Explorer Lounge. We enjoyed getting to know them and they are both top notch individuals. I'm sure all of the HAL people are. While I'm on the subject of Captain Peter Bos let me say that his focus on Safety and the passenger's enjoyment of the sights of the Inside Passage is second to none as far as we're concerned. The PA announcements were informative but not overbearing. In closing, our cabin, its location, the service level, and amenities that come with it exceeded my expectations. The Volendam was the perfect size for a 7 day cruise. Many times as we explored the ship we felt like we had a lot of space to ourselves. Our assessment is that HAL is a well managed, high quality organization. We also stayed over in Vancouver on our own for four days after disembarkation and Love that City. I would do this exact vacation again in a heartbeat. Lastly, the CruiseCritic site and Forum members provided a wealth of info for us, which helped us know in advance what to expect. We are very grateful so please feel free to ask any questions you have if you are considering the Volendam. I'm not an expert but hopefully I can return a favor. Bon Voyage and arrivederci! Chris and Lauren Read Less
Sail Date July 2012
We've never cruised before. Our style is to see a place and explore it, instead of hop off a ship, take a tour, snap a photo and hit the Lido deck. We've looked at Alaska for years and logistically, a cruise is the easiest AND ... Read More
We've never cruised before. Our style is to see a place and explore it, instead of hop off a ship, take a tour, snap a photo and hit the Lido deck. We've looked at Alaska for years and logistically, a cruise is the easiest AND cheapest way to see the inside passage. Even BC ferries and the Alaska Marine highway don't offer a savings, with a big sacrifice in comfort. Lastly, we didn't want to be hassled and we wanted to go off on our own. The Volendam itinerary gives you these opportunities. KIDS STUFF: HAL is valiantly trying to get younger, but we were in the whipper-snapper age bracket as 40 somethings. There were about 50 kids in the 1500 plus passenger list, although Arman, the cruise director, said there were 200. As a cruise director, he is sworn to lie repeatedly! The teens have the best place on the ship: deck 9, with a loft on deck 10. Perhaps a dozen teens were on the cruise and some hung out together the entire trip. Our daughter was mainly with us, but also enjoyed the Loft when she attended. Low key--minimal structure--very mellow. As far as he 8 year old, there were a minimum of screaming kids on board. The hyper children had plenty of video game action, while others could do arts & crafts. Only one child was under 8, so parents with 5 year olds will probably be kicked into the tweens room. Once again-- safe, mellow and more structure than teens. They do offer a kids only cooking class where they all made pretzels in the culinary arts center. We recommend this activity. Otherwise, we looked at the agenda & let the daughters pick what they wanted. THE SHIP: The inside cabins feel like a tomb with 4 people in them. We put on the bow camera channel on the TV, but we still limited our time there. The cabin itself was fine: Pullman bunk, single bed on the couch and the mashed together twin/king. The stewards were efficient and the towel animals were a hit. The showers worked great and the lighting was OK. But--if you can, choose a balcony or at least a window. Getting around the ship is easy and there is often minimal elevator wait time. A quirk in the Volendam is the inability to do from one end of the 4th level-the Promenade deck-to the other. Since the Rotterdam Restaurant is on this level, we always had to be mindful of going up to go down. There is a laundry on decks 2,3 & 6 and there's no irons in the rooms. 6 is always the least crowded and 2 is the most. $2 wash $1 dry. The ship loves its flowers and tries for this as a signature. There is also an art area, where it appears that everyone should buy a painting by Thomas Kincaide, painter of light. The casino is small and sad. TOURS of the SHIP: We took tours of the kitchen and the show lounge area. Both were educational about the logistics of running a cruise ship. The kitchen tour was more about the process and the back stage tour was more personal, with a chance to talk to performers about ship life. DINING: HAL is obsessed with hand sanitizer. The 1st 2 days, the buffets are service, not self serve. The captain, in his best Butch accent, is warning passengers to sanitize. There's even a steward at each end of the Lido restaurant with an industrial bottle of hand san. As far as the food--the Lido food gets old fast, especially at breakfast. We quickly learned to go to the main dining room for breakfast as well. The varieties at lunch/dinner are greater, The main dining room: Rotterdam is mostly excellent. the 4 course meal is strong on a variety of soups and interesting combinations of entrees. We didn't eat at he Pinnacle Grill. I don't get paying more, but others do. Assigned seating v. Open-- here's the deal. We never waited for open seating. We were always seated immediately. We had tables all over the place, including water side windows for 3 dinners. We also ate at the Italian restaurant, which is really just a part of the Lido restaurant sectioned off. They were great for 1 night, but hey had little differentiation of their menu. Overall, the food was excellent and the portions are way to large for an 8 year old. There is no childrens menu. This was not an issue, except the stewards were always asking if everything was OK with the food. STUFF to DO: My wife won bingo twice. We won trivia once. They have daily trivia & bingo 4 times on the cruise. We attended most of the shows in the showroom and thought the vocal talent was excellent. The highlight of the trip was Glacier Bay. We hit it on 6/24 and it was literally 72 degrees and sunny. The park ranger was almost in tears because of the scenery and the wildlife. Even the glaciers were calving as a show. There are 2 places to watch this spectacle: on the top decks OR at the stern of deck 6 with no other people, relaxing on a teak lounge chair. The area is even covered by a roof. We spent 8 hours there. IS IT WORTH IT? It's the way to see the Inside passage. If I were in the Caribbean, or God forbid, Hawaii-- I would cry. The port of calls are faitly lengthy and the Volendam hits the ports when most other ships are NOT there. The Volendam crew does a nice job at playing their roles. The on the ship-off the ship process is seamless. There are few glitches. Because we had great weather, it was a cruise of a lifetime. If the standard rain was our weather, we might view the cruise in a more negative way. Read Less
Sail Date June 2012
Overall I enjoyed my cruise to Alaska with Holland America & would recommend it, as long as you can handle a couple of "glitches". My highlights: - Food: I thought the food, and selection, was very good. - Staff: the ... Read More
Overall I enjoyed my cruise to Alaska with Holland America & would recommend it, as long as you can handle a couple of "glitches". My highlights: - Food: I thought the food, and selection, was very good. - Staff: the cruise director was charming & the support staff were gracious. - Sights: the scenic cruising in BC is really lovely, and Glacier Bay was amazing. - Activities: there was always something to do, although sometimes we chose to read or relax in the lounges. I loved the library. - Entertainment: the nightly entertainment was decent quality. They have some good singers on board for sure! - Ports: I enjoyed all the ports, especially Skagway. It was nice that the ship was always docked very close to the city & you didn't need to buy an excursion package to enjoy them. Lowlights & glitches: - Vodka I ordered via phone before the cruise never arrived & the front desk staff couldn't find record of it. However, I was charged for it! I'm still trying to get this sorted:( - Our room card had to be continuously replaced & we were NOT demagnetizing it; we missed a bus in Juneau when we were once again getting a replacement card. - Front desk staff: some - especially one of the gentleman - was very unhelpful & not good at finding solutions to problems. - We never went to Tracy Arm, & no mention/explanation was given. This was clearly listed on the itinerary, including the cruise confirmation I downloaded from the Hal website. Suggestion: - If you order an item pre-cruise over the phone, get a confirmation #. If you deal with the front office, note down the name of who you talk to. Ask them to put a note on your account where appropriate. - Get on the ship as early as possible, we didn't leave Vancouver until 5pm but as 12 noon you could go on board and have lunch, followed by ship orientations etc...it's a great time to get familiar with the ship. - If you like to party past 11pm, invite other people to meet you at the Crow's Nest ("disco" on the top desk)...it was a ghost town most nights! - Bring waterproof shoes, jacket, & maybe gloves. I wish I'd had a jacket with an attached hood that protected my ears/neck when we were in Glacier Bay! Ports: We were on a budget so we only did one excursion. There was plenty to do if you are a "do it yourselfer" like us. JUNEAU: We paid $14 (return) for a bus to the Mendenhall Glacier. You can buy these tickets from the booths in front of the ship. We walked around a bit & went to the glacier visitors centre. Then we returned to town & walked around. There is free hotspot Internet access at the library. SKAGWAY: Skagway was my favourite port. We booked an excursion, the White Pass Railroad($130 each) and enjoyed it. We walked around town & bit out of town to the cemetery...I heard a rumour that a bit up from the cemetery is a lookout point. We visited the museum which was interesting. A fun place to wander. KETCHICKAN: It was so wet here, a store clerk told us they had one day of sunshine last year! We caught a free bus in front of the ship that took us to one of the totem pole places. We caught the same bus back to town & wandered around. There is 1 free hour of hotspot internet access at the library & the museum is in the same building. Read Less
Sail Date May 2012
I'll start this review by saying that I've never been on a cruise before. My brother and sister-in-law has cruised on Royal Caribbean before and always praised it, but given that one of those enormous ships are quite a world away ... Read More
I'll start this review by saying that I've never been on a cruise before. My brother and sister-in-law has cruised on Royal Caribbean before and always praised it, but given that one of those enormous ships are quite a world away from the MS Volendam, I was essentially taking a fresh look. Plus we weren't sure if we'd enjoy it (the wife and I). I used to work for the NAAFI aboard HMS Albion and Bulwark, and so I've been to sea for extended periods (longest was over six weeks at a time), but the wife had never been aboard before. So we got all prepped and pre-ordered two soda cards prior to boarding as neither of us drink. After asking around on the Facebook page we boarded just after midday last Wednesday and had a very pleasant experience boarding - we were even recommended the bread pudding during the boarding - I'm sure any HAL regular would agree with! We got to our cabin, 1858 down on the Dolphin Deck. Now I can't praise that cabin enough - everything worked fine, only had some minor issues with our moronic neighbours that left an alarm clock going off in the early hours of the morning while they weren't in the room (but we called the front office and they sent someone up who entered the room and turned the alarm off), and the occasion sound of thrash metal coming through the wall - but nothing I can hold to HAL! We generally had breakfast in the lido (we only ate in the Rotterdam for breakfast on the first day), and always had lunch in the lido (except for one day when we had room service), and always ate in the Rotterdam for dinner (except for a trip to the Canneletto on Ketchikan night). Ironically as I'm typing this in my hotel room in Vancouver I just heard the ship's horn signalling the Volendam leaving port to go out on the second IP trip of it's season. Anyway, back to the food. Generally it was good. I had one steak which was overcooked, but still very edible. My wife did however have one half of a steak which was massively undercooked and had she not ordered two starters that evening then we would have sent it back. Only food I found lacking was the desserts in general - while there were some standouts (the bread pudding and the lemoncello in the Canneletto), in general it all seemed to be very moussey and with no real taste to it. I think the baked alaska had potential but I think I simply chose a bad evening to try it as it changes each night. Although sometimes the dishes aren't quite what you expect from the description, they generally are very tasty, if quite rich. The self service ban for the first two days is quite annoying, but I can understand it, and if we were cruising for longer than seven days then I think that I'd barely remember it. Certainly having the taco stand open only on day three onwards was a nice taste of home halfway through the trip when it was needed. I'll get onto the stops in a moment, but just to say that HAL couldn't have gone further with the events on sea days. The best things we did were the towel folding demonstrations, although I can say that there was never a bad thing being demonstrated in the culinary centre and that was apparently with a reduction in the number of events as the Party Planner only joined in Juneau. Never saw the films there, but the ones on the TV were good enough for us, but we tried not to sit in our stateroom too much. The only downside to the trip was the problem with the soda cards. We pre-ordered them and they never arrived. So we complained to three different people on the first day and eventually by dinner we got given replacement cards. But we went to use them on day two and they'd been cancelled. So after complaining some more, by dinner once more we had been given paper slips to record our drinks on, and then finally overnight the proper cards were slipped under our door. If we hadn't pre-ordered them, then we could simply have picked them up on day one after boarding as they were selling them in the lido. One other issue was Tracy Arm cruising. The online itinary has it listed prior to arriving in Juneau, but we never did it and no one said why - one of our dinner tablemates complained to the front office and they claimed it was never on the itinary and wasn't listed on the website. I have the booking documents to say otherwise - I'm sure Glacier Bay blows Tracy Arm out of the water and overall the good experiences vastly outweighed those two issues. So onto the ports - now we did this entire trip on a reduced budget - we had actually won the cruise through the Canadian Tourist Board, and so we didn't have anything in the budget for excursions. At Juneau we got off and jumped on a local bus to Mendenhall Glacier at a far cheaper cost than the HAL excursion (which also included some extras which we weren't interested in doing), we went hiking around the area in an attempt to do some Geocaches (which was a complete failure in Juneau), and found that due to there being only being one ship in town this early in the season that it felt like we had our own private glacier. Simply amazing. Second stop was Skagway. In Juneau it rained a bit (we had expected this and were wearing waterproofs), but in Skagway it was lovely - like a bright warm winters day. Having no excursions we walked around the tourist areas and went two blocks west to the local area too, and stocked up on some snacks from the supermarket. I can't stress enough that I loved Skagway, from the wooden walkways and just frankly how pleasant everyone was, it was a delight. Also anyone going this year I recommend the new popcorn place on the main drag a couple of stores short of the theatre - it's a locally run store and the cheese popcorn was just delicious. Glacier Bay was something I will never forget. Despite the snow, dense fog and strong winds, the Marjorie Glacier was worth the cost of the entire cruise alone (had we paid for it). Breathtaking and unforgettable, and the rangers helped us understand it greatly. Ketchikan was our last stop and we were warned it was rainy. Well that's an understatement - it was as if the sky decided it wanted to punish the ground with rain. We still went out but towards the end my waterproofs were beginning to fail - we didn't get out to either the totem park nor the village... but well, I can see why people do the inside passage more than once, so I'm sure we'll get it next time. But so much water. They need to paint everything in neon colors and call it a water park. Our one sad thing was that the ship passed a pod of 30 or so whales on the way out of Vancouver, and apart from seeing one single water blow from our cabin's window, we were on the wrong side of the ship and completely missed it. But last night as we returned to Vancouver, at about 6:30pm local, we were sitting the crows nest bar and we spotted three Orcas swimming past on the surface. It could have only have been spotted by the twenty or so of us in there at the time, and it felt as if Canada/Alaska had repaid us for our patience. All in all, it was one of the most wonderful holidays I've ever been on. We've already decided that it will not be our last cruise and we're looking at a cruise from Dover to Scandinavia possibly for 2014 unless we get a seriously good deal next year. HAL has turned a cruise doubter and his doubting wife into two cruise addicts. I totally get it now. If I had the money for it and could get the time off work, I'd already be booking a cruise for later in the summer! Couldn't have asked for a better time. Thanks HAL! Read Less
Sail Date May 2012
This is my first time on a cruise. I wasn't really looking forward to it since it was just a cruise and i was going to Alaska. To me it was just to get out of school and to see my cousins. I traveled with 3 of my older cousins that ... Read More
This is my first time on a cruise. I wasn't really looking forward to it since it was just a cruise and i was going to Alaska. To me it was just to get out of school and to see my cousins. I traveled with 3 of my older cousins that are about 20-30. and my aunt and uncle that were kind enough to pay for the trip. Little did i know i ended up loving it! Day 1: The first day i met up with my cousins and family and went aboard all 8 of us. We went through security and got our cards and went right to the Lido Deck (the buffet area) the eat our lunch since the rooms weren't ready yet. There was lots to choose to from but nothing really that i wanted. The first 2 days of having them serve you in the buffet kinda bothered me but it was understandable. Soon after they annouced the rooms were ready we dropped off our stuff and than made our way around the ship. we found it rather amusing they had days of the week mats in the elevator. The first show was the entertainers of the volendam. I didn't really like the show but I sat through it. we had dinner at the Rotterdam that night at 5:45 at our reserved table. It was great and the selection was great. I loved our waiters, they were funny but responsible. Most workers were either Filipino or Indonesian, and being Filipino gave i guess a 'bond' towards some of the workers. We got a few laughs from the captain that you could barely understand over the system, while you could hear David, the cruise director loud and clear. David Griffiths, 28, Australian. who i found rather charming and funny. We happened to exchange some smiles but he never really talked to anyone which was rather upseting... "Good ey" "THIS IS DAVID, YOUR CRUISE DIRECTA." "I'LL SEE YOU, AROUND THE SHIP!" Day 2: That day was a sail all day. The boat got really rocky and bumpy i couldnt quite take it anymore. I went up to the lido deck grabbed some breakfast and by 11 am i was back in my cabin sea sick. The stateroom manager was happy enough to come in give a few tips. Don't think about, eat green apples, and make sure you always food in your stomach. Due to that there are green apples almost everywhere scattered around the ship. That night was formal night there are only 2 formal nights. I went to the rotterdam on only one formal night cause i dont find a reason to HAVE to dress up all nice. Although I did go out that night at 8 to see Amore it was okay, but not the best.Day 3: Ate breakfast at the Lido and than went to go play some bingo for $25,000.Sadly we didn't have the joy of winning till the last day which was about $144 from 100,000 pot, but i highly doubt they EVER give the pot away cause you need every number on your card before they call the 47th ball.unfortunatly by the time we won we already spent over 100 dollars just buying the cards from that week. Later that we docked at Juneau. It's one long street but I didn't find it very time occupying which made us make our way back on to the ship after about 2 hours. We than watched a movie in the theater, there is a movie on everyday but we only watched 2. Day 4: By day 4 we found out we could have breakfast in the Rotterdam, so for the remaining we ate there. That day we were docking in Skagway, I didn't really enjoy Skagway it was rainy and it was a few blocks to actually get into the town from the boat. The town reminded of those old time cowboy movies where that bad cowboy would walk down the street and everyone would slip the open side to close and hide there shops, but that's my opinion. After being for around 3 hours we returned to the boat and than had sandwiches on the lido deck. Than dinner and than I believe that night was the Indonesian Crew Show. I found it entertaining and fun to watch I didn't like that it was so late but it was understandable. Day 5: Finally! a sunny day! That day we were visiting Glacier Bay where we happen to spot a baby brown bear! It wasn't cold at all I actually happen to be standing out in a t-shirt. This was also a sail all day. Day 6: Ketchican! It was sunny, bright and entertaining. Definitely my favorite stop. again after a few hours and some lunch we went back inside the boat. Day 7: We docked this day :/ I honestly didn't want it to end. The staff was amazing and crew were amazing and I came back with a whole new perspective. I'll definitely be sailing the MS Volendam again!! Entertainment: It was great, the singers were okay, but the comedian was hilarious! I loved the game shows, they were to funny. Neil Diamond tribute was great to! Being as young as I am under 20 I don't know how he was actually but he was definitely entertaining! I had a great time singing along! Everyday me and my cousins saw the guitarist Anthony Hines! Great guy, amazing voice and great at guitar. He was perfect at changing R&B and pop songs into something everyone can enjoy. Staff: A.M.A.Z.I.N.G. I miss them all. They were helpful, funny and well respected. I love the towel animals!! too cute! They remember your favorites and your name! Read Less
Sail Date May 2012
Having seen someone else's pictures taken from the deck of an Alaskan cruise ship I decided I had to go there for myself and so the booking for the Volendam Inside Passage route was made. Departing from Vancouver was ... Read More
Having seen someone else's pictures taken from the deck of an Alaskan cruise ship I decided I had to go there for myself and so the booking for the Volendam Inside Passage route was made. Departing from Vancouver was straightforward, I made my own way to the departure point at Canada Place and entered the check in queue. A nice Holland America staff member pointed out where the cases could be dropped off. I had preprinted the check-in docs and tags as per the instructions received via email. The queue for US immigration was long, especially for the majority of passengers who did not hold US passports. Once this was over we then went through the Holland America check-in, had our pictures taken and that was it we were ready to board the ship. We had a lovely sunny afternoon sipping cocktails on the deck while our fellow passengers boarded. When we checked our room it was setup as a double not a twin, this was easily rectified by our room attendant once he had finished delivering the luggage to each room. The Lido deck was very busy with entertainment and food laid on and the atmosphere was very pleasant as we set sail. Each evening we ate in the Rotterdam Dining room, based on open seating, and shared a table with other guests who were happy to use dinner as an opportunity to meet people. The food was good with sensible portion sizes allowing you to enjoy a 4 course meal if that was what you wanted. Wine by the glass was reasonable in comparison with restaurant prices in the UK, although bottles did tend to look expensive. We never felt under pressure to buy wine and water was provided free of charge from an iced jug without prompting. We generally had breakfast and lunch from the Lido buffet which was pretty reasonable for lunch and okay for breakfast. The breakfast omelettes were good, other cooked items were not quite so good. Lots of fruit juice was available for breakfast and glasses of water and iced tea were available at other meals alongside the tea and coffee. The Crow's Nest bar does nice coffees (liqueur) and has a great view since it is on deck 9 and above the bow. We didn't find the bar staff here as jovial as those in the Lido, Seaview and Casino bars where they were always ready to have a bit of banter with guests. The salon and sports facilities are nice and the staff were helpful and friendly. There is clear schedule of events for each day provided each evening and these range from talks on shopping (why go to such a beautiful part of the world and shop?), the places the cruise visits and tours (a sales pitch for their tours), cooking, towel art, digital photography skills, wine and beer tasting (charges apply), exercise, films, etc. Our tour included stops in Juneau, Skagway and Ketchikan. I liked Skagway and Ketchikan but really disliked Juneau which was our first stop. The highlight of our Inside Passage cruise was the day spent in Glacier Bay there we saw the magnificent glaciers, orcas, humpback whales, sealions, sea otters, dolphins, porpoises and the most sensational scenery. We were fortunate and had good visibility for most of the day so the camera was busy. Layers were needed if you were on deck but it was worth it to see the views without the impedence of glass. The ship completed 360 degree turns to ensure everyone had a chance to see the glaciers which really are amazing close up. Our Outside Stateroom was comfortable with excellent service from the attendants who provided a different towel sculpture for our amusement each night. The bathroom was clean and towels were never in short supply. DVDs could be ordered to watch in your stateroom and there is no charge as long as you return them. There are around 1,000 titles so something for everyone. Read Less
Sail Date August 2011
Review & Comments on Holland America Lines CruiseTour #5A - Vancouver to Anchorage via Juneau, Tracy Arm, Skagway, Whitehorse, Dawson City, Tok, Fairbanks and Anchorage - July 6-19, 2011 Our pre-cruise activity included flying ... Read More
Review & Comments on Holland America Lines CruiseTour #5A - Vancouver to Anchorage via Juneau, Tracy Arm, Skagway, Whitehorse, Dawson City, Tok, Fairbanks and Anchorage - July 6-19, 2011 Our pre-cruise activity included flying into Vancouver 10 days in advance of our cruise departure date, where we rented a vehicle from Hertz to take a self guided tour east and west of Seattle. Our eastern tour took us on the 'Cascades Loop' from Ferndale, WA to Lake Pateros, WA with stops at the North Cascades Visitor Center, Rainy and Washington Passes, a drive down Cut Throat Creek Road and a Stop at Winthrop for ice cream! The next day's drive took us from Lake Pateros to mid-town Seattle with stops in Chelan (State Route 97A is a real treat), Cashmere and Leavenworth (the entire town center is modeled on a Bavarian village). This is a great drive through the Cascade mountains and it turned out to be a primer for Alaska's mountain ranges! Next we were off to explore the western side of Washington. We toured Olympic national park including Hurricane Ridge and the Hon Rain Forest. For the latter we stayed in Forks, WA where we highly recommend The Forks Motel for their friendly staff and clean rooms. We explored Ruby Beach near LaPush and then south along US 101. Watch out for the big logs on the beach and rapidly rising tides! From Forks we were back to Seattle to pick up our boating travel companions from Knoxville, TN. We would be together for the remainder of the HAL CruiseTour. Then it was off to Victoria, BC and the Butchart Gardens. I've not seen so many flowers in one place! We then went on to Vancouver (last of many ferries!) where we spent 1.5 days sightseeing. We highly recommend the Vancouver Trolley (looks like a trolley car) as a great means of seeing and learning Vancouver City in a short time frame. Also, we purchased our hotel rooms (Sheridan Wall Centre) via Priceline. Vancouver can be pretty pricey! On July 6th we boarded HAL's MS Volendam and I was impressed with the boarding process. Although we had been instructed to board at 2PM for a 5PM sailing, we chose to get there at around 11:00AM. The baggage folks were great, and the check-in was painless. We were on board after a brief but pleasant wait. Shortly after that we had a pleasant lunch in the Rotterdam Restaurant and departed the dock right on schedule. We are first time cruisers but long time international travelers and have even lived abroad with the family for a couple years. I mention this to lay the foundation for our review. Some may see things different but then I can only relate our experience. We thought the Volendam was in very good shape for a mature vessel. The staff was always pleasant and attentive. We were on the Verandah deck (level 6) and found those accommodations very good. The food was very good, although we only experienced the Rotterdam and the Lido Restaurants. We skipped the formality of the formal evening, opting instead to leave our suits at home (didn't need the added hastle for the 11 day land portion of the cruisetour!). The Lido served much of the same food in an informal setting. My only suggestion to HAL is to more effectively organize the lines for the food stations. This isn't a big deal but I observed some folks waiting in lines they thought went one place only to find out they went another! Juneau: Our stop in Juneau was brief (8 hours - 2:30 to 10:30pm). There are many excursions available. We took the Photo Safari by Land & Sea with David as our guide. This excursion is for any photographer wanting to improve making (not taking) pictures outdoors. David was outstanding in his ability to impart his knowledge and abilities while we shot (with cameras!) whales bubble feeding, deer, sea lions and seals and bald eagles. We had a full afternoon on the boat followed by learning about bears while walking the trails near Mendenhall glacier Tracy Arm: We had great weather and made it pretty far into Tracy Arm. The floating ice was spectacular and added excitement to the crisp clean air topside. Everything you have read about dressing in layers is true. For this day, along with others where we were in higher elevations, I found blue jeans, a golf shirt, sleeveless fleece and a light waterproof windbreaker sufficient to stay warm. Otherwise, I was in shorts, golf shirt, sleeveless fleece on cool mornings and seldom needed the raincoat/windbreaker. By the way, we only had significant rain once on our cruisetour -- the last day when leaving Denali and going to Anchorage! This is probably a good time to talk about laundry since we're talking about clothing. We balanced the airlines weight and baggage limits on one hand with our desire to have clean clothes for a reasonable length of time before loosing a couple hours to doing laundry. We did laundry only one time during the CruiseTour which was in Whitehorse and we chose to go to a coin Laundromat (hint - Canadian and US quarters seemed to be interchangeable in the dryers but the washers only took Canadian dollar coins). A word of advice -- laundry facilities onboard and at the various motels/hotels were few and in high demand. That is not to say it can't be done. We never found that our free-time and the machines free-time coexisted! Skagway: We met Layna our tour director for the land portion of the cruisetour the morning of our arrival in Skagway. We disembarked MS Volendam shortly after for a brief guided tour of the town and secured our carry bags at the Westmark hotel prior to exploring Skagway. You can't check in until 3:00pm but HAL reserves two rooms to where you can securely check carry luggage) Lots of touristy shops and jewelry stores! The walking tour conducted by a ranger of the National Park Service was a big hit. That evening after dinner the tour met up and walked over to Steve Hites, North to Alaska Show. A very entertaining and informative one-man show. The next morning we caught the White Pass & Yukon Route Railway to Carcross with a stop at Lake Bennet where a railroaders stew dinner was provided. The ride on this train along with the views is spectacular. You'll want to make sure your mosquito repellent is handy this day as the mosquitoes were out-in-force at the terminal in Skagway and the walking trails at Lake Bennet. At Carcross we transferred (walked across the tracks) to our HAL Explorer Coach. This is not like your fathers motor coach! First, there were maybe 42 seats total - so lots of leg room along with big windows for watching the scenery. I was comfortable in these seats and I don't generally fit in airline or bus seats! We had two outstanding drivers -- Rex and Lori over the next several days. They, along with our tour director Lanya, are special folks. Their enthusiasm, passion, ability and knowledge about the surroundings provided us with a unique and positive traveling experience --in a word, they were great! Whitehorse (2 days): After a long day of traveling we enjoyed the Frantic Follies Vaudeville Show at the Westmark. The next day we took the Kolanee Walk and Kathleen Lake Campfire excursion. We enjoyed the bus ride, bakery stop and box lunch. Kathleen Lake is a beautiful area. Our fondest memories of Whitehorse included finding an oldies ice cream shop, the warm night in the motel (this was the warmest day during the trip -- maybe 82 degrees!) and the experience at the laundromat. Dawson City (2 days): We were about 8 hours getting from Whitehorse to Dawson City with a stop for a sandwich lunch buffet. It wasn't hard to imagine the gold rush days as the tailings from the mines are very obvious even today. We took the Exploring Along the Demptster Highway excursion with our guide Steve. The Demptser Highway is a 457 mile gravel highway that connects the remote town of Inuvik with the Klondike Highway just east of Dawson City, Yukon. Steve was a wonderful guide who imparted a lot of knowledge about the fauna, wildlife and native moors of the area during our 116 mile venture up the Dempster Highway. We spent several minutes taking close-up pictures of a moose and her calf as they dined in the water alongside the highway! Our tour was slightly modified as a result of bad road conditions. Originally we were scheduled to board the Yukon Queen II and ride down the Yukon River to Eagle. However, after taking a 2 hour ride on the Yukon Queen we returned to Dawson City and the Explorer Coach where we took the ferry across the Yukon River and drove The Top Of The Highway Road to the Taylor Highway to the Alaska Highway and eventually to Tok (pronounce Toak). We had several intermittent stops. Two of the most notable were the US border stop and the stop in Chicken, AK. What can I say about Chicken, just look it up on the Web! Tok: Tok reminded me of what an old stage coach stop must have been like. Don't get me wrong, the facilities were good; we arrived late, ate dinner, went to bed, got up the next morning, ate breakfast and left. A very brief, overnight stop it was! Fairbanks: We were another full day on the Explorer Coach traveling along the Alaska Highway. We had stops at Rika's Roadhouse & Landing, Santa Claus House - Northpole, the Alyeska Pipeline Visitor Center and lunch was provided at the Gold Stream & Dredge No. 8 tour. We had a wonderful time that evening at the Alaska Salmon Bake & The Palace Theatre excursion. The Alaska Salmon Bake folks picked us up in a blue school bus at the front doors of the Westmark Hotel and dropped us off at the same place after a great meal and entertaining show. Denali National Park (2 days): We traveled (4 hours) from Fairbanks to Denali via the McKinley Explorer train. Great sights and great food along the way. We elected to take the afternoon of our arrival off and leisurely explore the many retail shops and restaurants. We heard from others who had great fun on many of the excursions. The next day we were on the Denali Tundra and Wilderness Tour. A great, informative tour over gravel roads, along cliffs, up and down foothills some 62 miles back into the park. We saw lots of wildlife, including caribou, grizzly bears and cubs, Dahl sheep. We even had a spectacular view of Mt. McKinley (the picture is now the background view on my computer!) Some would say, "Pretty expensive shot". However, I think it was worth every bump and grind on the bus! Anchorage: We traveled (8 hours) from Denali National Park to Anchorage on the McKinley Explorer in the rain! Wow, we couldn't have timed the weather better. While the view was still good in the rain the food was better - prime rib! One night in Anchorage with time to explore the city by foot the next day and then we were off to home that evening. Accomodations: We stayed in Westmark facilities everywhere but in Anchorage, where we stayed at the Hilton and Denali National Park where we stayed at the McKinley Chalets Resorts (Aramark). They were all good, clean accommodations. Now the disclaimers and they shouldn't be interpreted as digs or complaints. One of the fun aspects of this cruisetour is the notion that you follow nearly the same route that the 'stampeders' took during the 1898 gold rush to Dawson City. Consider what those folks put up with (wait till you see some of it) and you'll be pleasantly surprised with the accommodations. We were of a mindset that each day is an adventure and we had a blast. HAL did a wonderful job coordinating baggage, rooms, etc. The tour director provided each couple/family with a packet of information including room assignment and room key, recommended restaurants, baggage out time for the next morning, etc. Food: We chose not to use the HAL plan and opted to purchase on our own. The food was all good and I'm happy to report we didn't loose any weight in Alaska or Canada. My sense is that the plan and what we paid are pretty close. We took many of our meals at the Westmark motels with the exception of the Salmon Bake & Palace Theatre in Fairbanks. This excursion was $59 per person and worth every penny. Buffet style fresh salmon, prime rib, crab and one other fish, the trimmings, beverages and desert. You can eat inside or outside and after the meal there is a fun play put on at the Palace Theatre. Travel: The Explorer Coaches were very comfortable and our drivers handled the various roadways (paved and unpaved) and ferry crossing very well. There were plenty of bathroom breaks strategically placed throughout each days journey. I guess the polite way to say this is, "We always welcomed a flush toilet whenever we had that luxury"! Remember -- each day is an adventure along the gold rush trail. The train rides were great. We had a wonderful time and as expected the only real downside was the flight home. Not because we were going home but because after all the wonderful modes of transportation we had to endure the normal lousy travel on US Airways and United with maintenance delays, missed flights and out-right rude staff! Summary thoughts: We would highly recommend HAL's CruiseTour 5A to anyone wanting to combine 3 days of pampered treatment aboard the MS Volendam and 10 days of easy, well organized, adventurous travel. We had a great time orchestrated by a spectacular tour director (Layna) along with great coach drivers (Lori and Rex). Mike & Cathy Read Less
Sail Date July 2011
Coming at the end of a 4 week holiday covering the Canadian Rockies and west coast cities travelling by car, plane and train we were looking forward to some total relaxation time. And that's just what we got on the Volendam. The cabin ... Read More
Coming at the end of a 4 week holiday covering the Canadian Rockies and west coast cities travelling by car, plane and train we were looking forward to some total relaxation time. And that's just what we got on the Volendam. The cabin staff were extremely helpful and polite. Our cabins were cleaned almost immediately we left for breakfast every morning. All crew we encountered acknowledged us and took interest in where we had travelled from. The Entertainment was first class but the timing of the first shows conflicting with dining times which made the second shows very busy.Food was excellent in the formal dining room - our last night aboard was our actual anniversary and we dined in the pinnacle grill - a further charge for this but what a meal - superb - one of the very best meals we have had - with very attentive service. We chose not to use the Lido restaurant much as it was a 'free for all' with some guests choosing to sit at tables well after their meal was finished causing others to eat standing up! - Not good. Additionally after a couple of days it was a self serve area with folks stretching over food, touching breads/pastries etc then putting them back - yuck! Lastly some people using this used it as a 'trough' - the amount of food piled onto plates only to be discarded was disgraceful - greed ruled the majority of these folks.The shop staff were nice with exception of one female assistant who really could not be bothered serving me. The photography staff were very good - we had some lovely pictures of us both taken. However the JC Black photographer was excellent and worth a visit to - her photographs were truly beautiful and a great way to commemorate our anniversary.Finally - port calls were very good - Alaska is gorgeous - visit to glacier bay was fantastic - witnessed calving, brown bears, whales, sea otters , eagles. The time cruising glacier bay was amazing - a truly unspoilt and glorious place. Read Less
Sail Date June 2011
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

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