26 Holland America Volendam Panama Canal & Central America Cruise Reviews

The price was right and we were traveling with friends who had never been through the Panama Canal. We usually always travel with Holland America and always pleased with travel Volendam was small and getting from bow to stern difficult ... Read More
The price was right and we were traveling with friends who had never been through the Panama Canal. We usually always travel with Holland America and always pleased with travel Volendam was small and getting from bow to stern difficult since galley is inconveniently located thus creating a safety hazard. The entertainment was mediocre except for the ventriloquist. A comedian was so crude and awful that several people walked out, including us. I did enjoy America’s Test Kitchen. We missed the crew show which is always a popular inclusion in entertainment. The Allegro Strings was a poor replacement for Lincoln Center on other ships. The lifeboat safety drill was disastrous. The announcement was unintelligible in cabins to announce the drill and once on deck, deck crew microphones were out of batteries or dysfunctional. The initial drill is important since it is supposed to indicate the competency of the crew. We didn’t even have to put on life preservers. Read Less
Sail Date October 2019
Panama Canal was on the bucket list, so we pulled the trigger. The price on the Volendam from Fort Lauderdale to San Francisco was to good to pass up. This was a 17 day cruise in April so there were kids on board at all, and the average ... Read More
Panama Canal was on the bucket list, so we pulled the trigger. The price on the Volendam from Fort Lauderdale to San Francisco was to good to pass up. This was a 17 day cruise in April so there were kids on board at all, and the average age of the cruisers was probably about 75. My wife and I are in our early 50’s so we were some of the youngest on board. We are very active so this review, especially the port stops is geared to the more active types. Volendam is now 20 years old and she shows her age a little bit but it is well taken care of and still very luxurious. It was below capacity (about 1200 passengers) so there were rarely lines anywhere and it is a very spacious considering it’s a small ship compared to most of the big beasts out on the Caribbean. There were plenty of activities on board to keep us busy on the sea days. America’s Test Kitchen was very cool and the EXC port talks and historical talks were fantastic. Pools and hot tubs were never crowded. Our room was an Outside View right on the promenade deck. We were right next to a door leading out to the wrap around promenade, so it was almost like having a balcony…. We loved the accessibility of the room to the walking deck. The had plenty of storage space even with all the clothes we brought for the 17 days. We used the $20 laundry bag service 1 time in the middle of the cruise. The bathroom had been remodeled and the new glass door shower was the largest we’ve ever had on a cruise ship and the temp and water pressure were always consistent. Embarkation in Fort Lauderdale took only about 20 minutes once we got to the terminal which was only a couple miles from the airport. Debarkation took about 30 minutes in SF. Sailing under the Golden Gate Bridge in the morning was also quite spectacular. All in all, with ship, the canal, calm seas, and 9 port stops, it couldn’t have been better. Every part of the cruise exceeded our expectations. The food and service in main dining room was fantastic and even the buffet was quite good. Room service was also excellent, with a different towel animal every night! That’s 17 different animals…. Cartagena: We took a taxi to the old walled city and walked around for several hours. Beautiful architecture and very Caribbean looking. The port had a shop and a nice aviary for no charge with many parrots and other exotic birds and animals. Leave a half hour to explore this area. Panama Canal: Awesome piece of engineering and history. Very cool to see the lock systems and the many other big ships transiting the canal. Costa Rica: Did a HAL zipline excursion. The place was near the coastal town of Jaco and we rode an aerial tram to the top then zip lined our way down the mountain. There were reptile and butterfly displays at the base that were very interesting. Sadly, we didn’t see any wildlife other than iguanas. Very fun tour though. Nicaragua: Took a peddle taxi tour of the little port town. The place was very poor, but our driver was very cool and spoke good English, so we learned a lot about the country and the politics. Not much to see, but made us appreciate what we have here at home. Guatemala: Took a HAL bus for a “on your own” tour of Antigua. It was about an hour bus ride through the countryside with guides giving some history of the area. Antigua itself was very pretty with many fabulous churches. We walked all over town and it was very nice. Puerto Chiapas: Took a HAL excursion to some Mayan ruins and then to a demonstration of how cocoa beans are grown and processed into chocolate. Nice tour but we thought a little over priced at $100 per person. Huatulco: Our favorite stop. Excellent swim beach right by the pier. We took a $5 taxi to Playa La Entrega a couple mile away and it was great. Excellent snorkeling and many restaurants right on the beach. We were there on a Sunday so many locals were there with us which actually made it more fun. The vendors pester the locals too….. Manzanillo: Ship docks right downtown. Lots of shops right there. We took a grueling hike up to the cross on the mountain to the right of town. We were hot and sweaty but the view was amazing. Puerto Vallarta: Did another zipline tour through HAL. This was a great excursion but only for the very physically fit. Right of the ship we boarded a little speed boat that whisked us about 30 minutes south to a bay where we switch to Unimogs to drive to the Zipline. Basically like an Army truck. Perfect for the crazy dirt road. Then after getting geared up, we rode mules up to the top of the mountain. And then it was more than just ziplines. We also repelled down a waterfall, did 2 giant waterslides, and then a new roller coaster zipline to end the tour. Very awesome!! This was our favorite zipline ever. Cabo San Lucas: Went parasailing then walked all over town. Read Less
Sail Date April 2019
Embarkation was organized by group number you're assigned as you check in. We spent a few minutes chatting with fellow passengers and soon enough we were called aboard. There probably is not a wait if you arrive after 11 or so. We ... Read More
Embarkation was organized by group number you're assigned as you check in. We spent a few minutes chatting with fellow passengers and soon enough we were called aboard. There probably is not a wait if you arrive after 11 or so. We were early for this cruise, unlike others where we sailed through embarkation. We chose the expedited group for disembarkation, meaning we carried our own luggage off at 7:30 AM. I highly recommend it because we were through customs and in a cab to the airport by 7:45. It sure beats hanging around the theater or a bar for a few hours waiting for your group to be called. We were very happy with the remodeled bathroom in the cabin. The glass walk-in shower is super-convenient, drained well and was tiled with a no slip surface. The clothes line in the shower served to dry wet clothes overnight, no problem. The cabin was clean and comfortable. Gatot and Sigit took great care of us including the towel animals and chocolates every night. The TV is small and could be upgraded, but it's just fine to catch MSNBC in the morning and maybe get a DVD for a movie one evening. There were plenty of hangers in the closets and there were plenty of drawers and shelves for all your things. We took advantage of the flat-rate laundry bag and got our clothes back and pressed the same day, both times! I'd say the food was very good. We ate at the Lido Buffet and in the Dining Room. I was very impressed by the caring service we got at anytime dining. The beverage service was prompt too. We shared meals with new table mates each time. There were always plenty of laughs. The final night was a standout, from the excellent service in the dining room to the excellent seared Ahi and the rest of the menu. The burgers at the Dive-In are delicious as are the crunchy fries. Be sure to visit the various musical venues as they're all very entertaining. The Adagio pianist and violinist were great! We met members of the house band and their music was as nice as they are in person. Don't miss the Blue Earth show! America's Test Kitchen is definitely worth the time. The presenter is super and you get new ideas. It's too bad that the food wasn't passed around for tasting at the presentations we attended. The gym is clean and has good, new equipment. It's cool to watch the ocean go by as you're on the elliptical. Bar service is great, as always. We spent most of our time at the Aft Bar in the smoking section. You always meet fun people there, and this trip was no exception. Bernard the bar man took great care of us and even arranged for servers to come by after he closed for the night. We found the Signature Beverage Package to be a good deal on this cruise. There are six sea days when you can really enjoy the package to your heart's content. The Panama Canal is the highlight of this cruise and it sure didn't disappoint. Just wrapping your head around locks without pumps takes some understanding. The on board narration helped make you feel like you're part of the experience, regardless of where you happen to be. The ship itself is beautiful. Be sure to notice the beautiful and creative flower arrangements all over the place. There's even orchids on the tables in the Lido Buffet. I noticed workers sprucing up the white paint in preparation for opening the forward decks to passengers during the canal passage. The naturalist is a gifted font of knowledge. Glenn-Michael, the lead EXC is super. He was all over the ship and uniformly seen chatting with one guest or another. He shared some great hints during his port talks too. The officers impressed me by being so accessible and always being around for sail-aways and sea day parties. Even the captain had time to chat for a few minutes. One of us needed some medical attention and found the crew there to be excellent. The check on you and make special arrangements as needed. The small charge for a bit of medicine plus the personal care turned around what could have been a major downer. Holland America does a great job; the Volendam is a fine ship with a highly skilled and friendly staff. Read Less
Sail Date April 2019
We do an annual late winter cruise every year. We've traveled mainly on HAL, and have been pleased with the smaller ships and good service. This year we did the full transit of the Panama Canal, leaving from San Diego. We ... Read More
We do an annual late winter cruise every year. We've traveled mainly on HAL, and have been pleased with the smaller ships and good service. This year we did the full transit of the Panama Canal, leaving from San Diego. We splurged this year on a Neptune suite. We have had one in the past, and really enjoy the bigger room, but especially the larger balcony. They are twice the size of the Vista suite. The extra perks of the Neptune Lounge and the Concierge service is excellent. We met quite a few other Neptune suite passengers, and had many interesting conversations. The room steward was top notch. Always had ice, coffee and fresh fruit. Laundry service was top notch and was always ready by the next day. Embarkation was very smooth. Neptune passengers go through the same embarkation as the 4 star Mariners. There is virtually no line. For tender ports, there is no need to go for disembarkation passes. You simply hold up your room key, and you're put on the next tender. Unfortunately, there is no priority disembarkation after the cruise. We travel with our daughter, who has a learning disability. She gets her own room. But, she gets to know everyone on board. Her favorite breakfast was an omelet. The Lido omelet chef knew her by name, and what she ate. The same goes for the salad bar crew. We chose to eat in the dining room, along with another couple. Our daughter ate salmon nearly every night, and she had a chocolate mint mocktail every night. For desert, it had to have chocolate. Our dining staff went our of their way to accommodate. On the last night of the cruise, there was no chocolate deserts. But, they went back and got one for her. In addition, my daughter had told them previously that she liked carrot cake. They brought out 2 pieces of carrot cake. She ate one, and carried the second one back to her room. You can't find service like that just anywhere! Every evening, the wine steward would make an origami animal. We did have a complimentary dinner at the Pinnacle Grill. It was very good. It was more than I would normally eat. Steak done to perfection. The only thing I regret is that I didn't try breakfast at the Pinnacle. It was included with the Neptune suite. But, I did have breakfast at the dining room. It is a step above the Lido and I would recommend it. Lunch is also very nice. Lido is a typical buffet. I didn't eat breakfast in the Lido, but opted for a light breakfast from the Neptune Lounge. Lunch offered an International option. They rotated national foods, and it was interesting to try foods from other nations. They were all Asian offerings. The ports were very nice. Some of the places aren't as developed as much as on the Caribbean ports. Cabo San Lucas is a tourist trap, and we didn't have a bunch of time there. We booked a glass bottom boat tour on Viator. A long walk to get there, but well worth it. We didn't book anything in Guatemala, and their port area was very relaxing. On Honduras, we booked with a local guide and it was very informative. In Costa Rico, we booked the eco tour, which took us to a rive to see crocodiles. We visited the aviary in Cartengena, which was very enjoyable. Entertainment was very good. John Wing was the comedian on board. He was runner up in America's Got Talent. I'm not big on production numbers, so I didn't attend. We did spend several evenings at the Crows Nest. Some nights we were the only ones there, some nights there were quite a few. Happy hour at the Crows Nest is always a lot of fun, especially the 2 for 1 drinks. The crew was very accessible, even the Captain. The team at the Neptune Lounge couldn't do enough. I would definitely travel this itinerary again, and would definitely would travel on the Volendam. Read Less
Sail Date March 2019
Our group chose this cruise unanimously in spite to the fact that at least 6 of the 26 of us had been through the Panama Canal on a cruise before. We had excellent cabin and dining staff. Brilliant Entertainment! The dining menus ... Read More
Our group chose this cruise unanimously in spite to the fact that at least 6 of the 26 of us had been through the Panama Canal on a cruise before. We had excellent cabin and dining staff. Brilliant Entertainment! The dining menus were up to par as we had experienced on the previous 4 cruises our group had taken on Holland America. The food quality in the Main dining room and in the Lido restaurant was very very good. Our group evening at the Pinnacle Grille was exceptional. The staff on the ship were exceptionally courteous and helpful. One of the very high points was the classical pianist, Hyperion Knight, who entertained us. His on stage work was enthralling but the real cherry was the "practice sessions" he had in The Explorers's Lounge. My wife and I happened on him one morning early in the cruise in the lounge playing the piano. There were only 3 other couples in there at the time and we sat through what turned out to be a "private" concert. He played (without sheet music) for and hour and a half almost continuously and his music had us entranced. He was very personable as he chatted with us and talked about his music. This happenstance became more widely known as the cruise progressed and what started out as a concert for 6 persons became a "practice" session to a full lounge to another day with standing room only to having to be there half an hour ahead of his impromptu unscheduled sessions. He was also a fun participant in the twice a day Trivia sessions. His trivia knowledge is formidable and it was great fun playing with and against his teams. At the end of the cruise everyone of our group were expressing how much they enjoyed this trip and were asking when we would be planning the next one. For a bunch of 75 year old high school pals it was a great time. Read Less
Sail Date January 2019
This was our second sailing on the Volendam (Sixth on Holland America, twenty sixth overall) It was a simple 15 day Panama Canal crossing from San Diego to Ft Lauderdale. What was remarkable to me about this cruise was that there was so ... Read More
This was our second sailing on the Volendam (Sixth on Holland America, twenty sixth overall) It was a simple 15 day Panama Canal crossing from San Diego to Ft Lauderdale. What was remarkable to me about this cruise was that there was so LITTLE to remark on. Everything worked, everything ran smoothly, the food was great, the ports were as advertised. On the subject of ports, we called on eight, and with one exception, we were the only ship at each port. That made for VERY pleasant days. As has always been our experience on HAL, the ship was full of "Baby Boomers", with few younger people on board, and virtually NO children. (Perhaps because the school holidays had just ended?) This led to all of the (many) enrichment lectures on board being VERY well attended, and late night entertainment being almost non existent. The ship itself was in very good condition, with virtually no issues. The only thing we noticed was one flooded bathroom, and that was (According to one of the engineering officers) due to "something" (I will refrain from being graphic) being flushed down the toilet that should not have been. Reaction by the crew as fast and efficient, and the effected passengers were well taken care of. Food on board this ship was "cruise normal", with meals in the main dining room being slightly above average, the food in the LIDO above what I have come to expect, (on mainline cruise lines) and the food in the Pinnicle Grill well above expectations. All in all a great cruise, well worth the cost, and highly recommended (IF you have no children with you, and IF you can entertain yourself and are not looking for the ship to entertain you all day every day. Read Less
Sail Date January 2019
We chose this cruise because my husband wanted to sail through the Panama Canal and we had experienced an amazing transPacific cruise on the Holland America Noordam in 2018. This was a type of journeyman cruise compared to that on a ... Read More
We chose this cruise because my husband wanted to sail through the Panama Canal and we had experienced an amazing transPacific cruise on the Holland America Noordam in 2018. This was a type of journeyman cruise compared to that on a smaller, older ship with fewer passengers, amenities and activities. The shop’s air conditioning was faulty with many of the public areas kept at painfully cold temperatures. I talked to the cruise director about reading of this issue on earlier Volendam cruises and he admitted the frigid air conditioning was an ongoing problem which they had not resolved. There was also, perhaps not coincidentally a ship wide respiratory infection. The crouping, coughing etc. must have affected half the passengers. Everyone had the Volendam virus. My husband and i both came down with it and are still affected more than two weeks after disembarking. The good: the meals in the dining room and Lido were very good. The EXC tour director, Jude, was excellent and entertaining. The Adagio violinist and pianist were excellent as was the pianist at the Ocean Bar. The rest of the entertainment was mediocre. The crew were friendly and helpful. But the boat is so in need of updating and repair. The ports were fine but most everyone was interestedin the canal experience which was remarkable. Gatun Lake was beautiful. Cartegena was impressive. We liked Huatalco and the city of Antigua in Guatemala. The port of Corinto Nicaragua was not good. Costa Rica was interesting and we enjoyed the combination aerial tram and river rafting tour. The commentator thriugh the canal was excellent. Read Less
Sail Date January 2019
We continue to chose Holland America for the customer services, dining experience and how they prioritize you and your experience. The comedian (Andrew Kennedy) was hilarious. Holland America is really trying to appeal to a younger ... Read More
We continue to chose Holland America for the customer services, dining experience and how they prioritize you and your experience. The comedian (Andrew Kennedy) was hilarious. Holland America is really trying to appeal to a younger crowd, which I appreciate. We have traveled Holland America with our daughter, who is now 14, since she was 9. She has always enjoyed Club Hal. She prefers to be in Club Hal, then with us. This was her first year in The Loft. There were no very many teens in The Loft, but she did meet one girl she would make plans with to meet after dinner. They had a great time playing cards, ping pong, video games, etc... New also really appreciate the fact that all persons who work with the children have to have a min of a Bachelors Degree. Club Hal provided an educational experience for her when we went to Alaska on Holland America. The Loft is more about independence for the teens. They can come and go as they please and it is open till midnight. Our daughter would highly recommend both programs. The Panama Canal was an unforgettable experience. I would highly recommend this cruise. Aruba was gorgeous (just remember to bring cash, since there are several shopping locations that only take cash), Curacao was beautiful (make sure you see the moving bridge), zip line in Costa Rica, Guatemala (you can bargain at the shopping location they shuttle you to), Nicaragua (Use the bike taxi to eat at El Pigeon-great fish and beers), and in Oaxaca walk to the city over the hill. If you decided to use a credit card in Mexico make sure you are charged in Pesos. They will not give you the accurate exchange. A return was charging us 118.00 (US) and we asked for our bill in Pesos. The bill then went down to 76.28 (US). Just an FYI---there was an Excursion named Puerto Vallarta Sights and Tequila Distillery. Fist of all your are not taken to a distillery. You are taken to a tasting. The Tequila is good, however they doubled the price of the bottles, just for us. We were also taken to a jewelry store for a waste of 30. min. We did see some downtown sights for an hour and a half. The rest of the time was used to shuttle us around to a photo location, a jewelry store and a shopping area. When all was said and done, I would go on this cruise again. Read Less
Sail Date December 2018
The cruise started with the worst embarkation situatin. We need wheelchair assistance to embark because of the long walks. Holland America's Ft. Lauderdale operation to have two wheelchairs used for a significant number of people. who ... Read More
The cruise started with the worst embarkation situatin. We need wheelchair assistance to embark because of the long walks. Holland America's Ft. Lauderdale operation to have two wheelchairs used for a significant number of people. who would be taken to a table top counter, processed and assigned to a holding area to await wheelchairs to board the ship. Never, in our 50 some cruise experiences, have we had to wait 2 1/2 hours to board a ship, NOT EVEN ON A MEGA SHIP! . If anyone thought this was an anomoly, debarkation was no better -- two wheechairs. It was quite apparent, from embarkation, no handicap assistance on the ship in the buffet or other area, and debarkation, the mobility challenged were treated as 2nd Class Citizens and Holland America was doing you a favor rather than providing service. It took three days for maintenance to fix the HVAC in our cabin as it went from FREEZING when we boarded ship to a SAUNA a day later back to Freezing. We asked at one point for Holland America to send us home from the first port stop in Curacao. New Years Night found the ship in a FREEZING mode with passengers wearing parkas and shipboard staff wearing sweatshirts and hoodies. And then, at midnight, the freezing became unbearably hot. Only one more day left -- thank goodness!!! Excursion vendors were not asked to accommodate the mobility challenged or handicapped. They were not asked to provide even step stools on high access vehicles. When I asked Sydney in Excursions about this she became belligerent and offensive. I discussed this with her supervisor, Abigail, who agree that vendors should be asked to provide easier access. I suggested Sydney would make great excursion director on a container ship. We were most surprised by the lack of service and accommodaion. Holland America has historically, and still does, market to more mature audiences. They were quality conscious and most considerate of the mobility challenged. We sailed with them on a number of occasions. Not anymore! Read Less
Sail Date December 2018
Iren & Vadim Timof (72 years old. Fremont California). That was our 13-th cruise. We enjoyed with our Panama cruise from Fort Lauderdale to San Diego (December 18,2018 to January 3, 2019). Service on board was excellent, but ... Read More
Iren & Vadim Timof (72 years old. Fremont California). That was our 13-th cruise. We enjoyed with our Panama cruise from Fort Lauderdale to San Diego (December 18,2018 to January 3, 2019). Service on board was excellent, but dining menu in restaurant and buffet was poor. The same we can say about shops range. Very sorry. We liked all our excursions. It was very good arranged. Cabin service was very good. Everything was on time and with smile. We were exited with Christmas and New Year celebration, especially with lighting Christmas Tree and singing Christmas songs! Special thanks to a little girl who lighted Christmas Tree!. The most pleasure we got from Adagio music duo violinist Cristian and pianist Nadya. Cristian is an exceptional artistic talent. He excites the audience emotionally and engages each listener intellectually. He sparks a love for chamber music in the hearts of every listener. Thanks. Read Less
Sail Date December 2018
First time for Panama Canal. Holland America received great reviews. The ship it self was like an ice box! When inquired we were told nothing could be done. Our cabin was never warm as was the rest of the ship. My wife received a ... Read More
First time for Panama Canal. Holland America received great reviews. The ship it self was like an ice box! When inquired we were told nothing could be done. Our cabin was never warm as was the rest of the ship. My wife received a bad rash and when we went to desk for assist they called doctor and I was informed there would be a charge to open the office and charge for any medication. After 9 PM the ship was dead. Staff very friendly, the one high point. Casino staff were great. Food was just average, nothing special. Tea at 3 was good, Shows were so so, One male singer who did Lionel Richey was very good. Magician was also very good. Rest of entertainment not very good. Sorry to say it let a bad taste for Holland America. I will never cruise Holland American again. I have been on 16+ cruises and this was the worst. Read Less
Sail Date December 2018
We simply chose the Holland America volendam because the dates fit in with several of the party we were cruising with. We do enjoy Holland America and our only bad experience out of 7 sailings with them has been on the veendam in the ... Read More
We simply chose the Holland America volendam because the dates fit in with several of the party we were cruising with. We do enjoy Holland America and our only bad experience out of 7 sailings with them has been on the veendam in the spring 2018 so we were a bit anxious about this booking on the volendam. We were absolutely delighted with our experience on the volume down. She is well maintained. Her food is excellent. The crew was extremely friendly. when we had any issue the staff bent over backwards to help us work it out. If we submitted a common card with anything the least bit negative we got a phone call to our stateroom and if we were not in our stateroom to take the call we got a note on our door. They then followed up to make sure every little thing was perfect. of the seven sailings with Holland America in the last two years I have to say this was probably our best overall experience, even though we did enjoy all of our other sailings except on the veendam. What I'm coming to realize is that most ships seem to go through a low period, And then if the company is smart measures are taken to get its act together and correct their weaknesses and make the ship much more pleasing and accommodating to passengers. The volendam is the same class of ship as the veendam and westerdam. As beautiful as a koningsdam and the eurodam are we do enjoy the smaller ships and this class a ship that the volume down is in is somewhere between 1300 and 1450 passengers. A great experience and we would definitely cruise on her again. It was really hard to even find constructive criticism to give on our end of cruise survey. Read Less
Sail Date December 2018
Panama Canal cruise, service was great, activities were great, our room was not good, we had banging pipes starting at 5:30 in the morning and 4 hrs every night. We were on the 3 rd deck, dining room up above, they gave us ear plugs, ... Read More
Panama Canal cruise, service was great, activities were great, our room was not good, we had banging pipes starting at 5:30 in the morning and 4 hrs every night. We were on the 3 rd deck, dining room up above, they gave us ear plugs, showed us other rooms that were not acceptable. Will never do that deck ever, when you walked outside on the deck you could hear the pipes, they need to insulate the pipes, duck tape doesn’t make it, needs a upgrade. Activities were good, entertainment, there was a variety of different entertainers that were good. Justen the cruise director was good also, the chef came out every night to talk to every table. Barry from Boston on the piano was Fantastic, went there every night to see him. Joel in the Ocean Bar was Fantastic also. Some of the servers like Alex was very good at his job, Jenny and Dewi in the Lido were also very Great. Read Less
Sail Date November 2018
We wanted to do the Panama Canal so chose this cruise. The ship cannot handle the hot weather, the AC when finally repaired (5 days no AC at all in rooms) was still not enough to cool the rooms!!!!!!!!!! Dinning room food was very good ... Read More
We wanted to do the Panama Canal so chose this cruise. The ship cannot handle the hot weather, the AC when finally repaired (5 days no AC at all in rooms) was still not enough to cool the rooms!!!!!!!!!! Dinning room food was very good as expected. As was the food in the Lido. Tours were not very well organized, the usual stickers were not used. We were told just to go to the dock and find one of the in many cases 3 busses which resulted in much confusion. Entertainment was the usual Holland American shows in the showroom. Not great but some of the entertainers brought on board were good. The Oceans bar had a quartet that were very good and I encourage Holland America to not discontinue this entertainment. The room stewarts worked very hard to keep the many rooms clean under their responsibility. Towel animals in the room at night was always fun. Read Less
Sail Date October 2018
I should preface this review by explaining that my wife and I love to travel and our preferred mode of travel is by cruiseship. We have travelled far and wide around the world and if there is one thing that we have learned from this is ... Read More
I should preface this review by explaining that my wife and I love to travel and our preferred mode of travel is by cruiseship. We have travelled far and wide around the world and if there is one thing that we have learned from this is that the more one travels the more one realizes how much more there remains to be seen in the world. I feel sorry for people who don't enjoy travel and I also feel sorry for people who wait until they are too old to enjoy their travel experiences. We live on a small Gulf Island near Vancouver Island in British Columbia. Our neighbors (for 6 months each year) spend their winters at their home near Galveston, Texas. We visited with them in Galveston prior to flying on to Ft. Lauderdale where we stayed for another few nights at the Marriott Hollywood Beach Hotel. This is a lovely new hotel right on the beach and it is only a short cab ride to the pier at Port Everglades. Embarkation was absolutely painless. A very professional (older) staff had us onboard 10 minutes after arrival! The quickest and smoothest handling ever. 'Nuff said. This was our first time on the Volendam but having travelled before on the Ryndam, Maasdam, Zaandam and Veendam we were pretty much familiar with the similar layouts of this class of HAL. We have sailed with other cruise lines but seem to prefer the standards we associate with HAL. The Volendam didn't disappoint. She is another classic mid-size vessel with well-appointed staterooms and public areas. We really enjoyed the well-stocked library and other quiet public areas. The service was exactly what we have come to expect from Holland America. Seamless service from all the staff from our stateroom steward through to all the wait staff in the restaurants. I suppose you could call us traditionalists because we prefer and received an 8:00 PM assigned dinner. I have a difficult time trying to understand the sense in having to make a new reservation everyday for dinner. Surely a guest could slot themselves into a conventional dinner time from 5:30, 6:00, 8:00 or 8:30? Anyways, I hope the cruise lines don't abandon the traditional dinner times altogether for the as you wish format. The food was very good. We enjoyed eating a leisurely breakfast in the formal dining room, then we either skipped lunch or had a light salad type lunch in the Lido and then sat down for the serious formal dinner at 8:00. I find that we have to pace ourselves or none of our clothes will fit after a week or so of this onslaught. Luckily we never lasted long enough at night to make any of the evening buffets. We usually caught the 7:00 PM show and for the most part we enjoyed all the entertainers. As usual, the casino never got a penny from us. The transit of the Panama Canal was something that I had looked forward to all my life and it did not disappoint. We entered the Gatun Locks from the Atlantic at daybreak and exited through to the Pacific at sunset that night. We had a balcony stateroom so we spent a considerable amount of time watching from there. I find it fascinating however, that some people didn't really show much interest in the whole affair. The cruise line had printed a very thorough brochure outlining all the workings of the canal; there was a very excellent and informative resident ex-pat American lecturer and also a retired female canal pilot who shared her life experiences. Both of them owned hobby coffee plantations in northern Panama and both were very approachable and interesting in conversations with the passengers. There was also a narrator on board provided by the canal authority who gave periodical detailed snippets over the ship loudspeaker and of course a library full of research data on the complete history of the canal and its workings. With all this information I found it surprising to hear people "thinking with their mouths" and really at a loss as to how the whole thing worked. The gravity principle of the lock systems is really quite simple but I heard one person suggesting that we were going to be "plucked out of the water and magically lifted from one lock to another!" This would be quite a feat I'm sure to be able to lift 60,000 plus tons of steel! We only took two shore excursions so I cannot really comment to any great extent about these offerings. Our trips consisted of a rather poor city tour of Cartagena and an interesting trip from Puntarenas, Costa Rica up into the mountains and coffee growing areas. We had a lovely lunch with some of the ripest and sweetest fruit I have ever experienced for dessert. We have been to all of the Mexican ports so for the most part we just wandered around the main city squares in such places as Puerto Vallarta, Mazatlan and Cabo San Lucas. There was a day stop at San Diego where nearly half the ship (mostly Americans) disembarked and was replaced by more Canucks. Then we had a few days at sea before stopping at Victoria, B.C. By now the temperature had plummeted and the transition from 9 degrees off the equator to 49 degrees into some very unseasonable cold weather was a reality hit that we were now nearing home. The next morning saw us tie up at Canada Place in Vancouver and after a 20 minute subway ride right off the pier we were home. The disembarkation was equally as painless as the embarkation had been 19 days earlier. The ship went for a two week refit back to the graving docks in Esquimalt near Victoria where they were reportedly going to change out carpets and such and then it will spend the summer on 7 day trips to Seward with 7 day returns to Vancouver. After a summer of this the ship will be repositioned to the South Pacific for an extended time in this area of the world. All in all, this was an extremely relaxing trip and it got us motivated to book the next tour. This time we will sail on board the Eurodam next year from Copenhagen, Scotland, Iceland, Greenland, Newfoundland, St. Pierre, Nova Scotia and disembarking in New York. (another carrot out there to keep me working one more year) Read Less
Sail Date April 2008
We took the March 12 sailing for 10 days, including partial transit of the Panama Canal. Unlike other recent sailings, the weather was great, and we made all stops as scheduled. We have been on about a dozen cruises, but this was our first ... Read More
We took the March 12 sailing for 10 days, including partial transit of the Panama Canal. Unlike other recent sailings, the weather was great, and we made all stops as scheduled. We have been on about a dozen cruises, but this was our first experience with Holland America. Embarkation: The embarkation process was smooth and orderly. We got there at 11:30, so it was probably the most crowded time to board. But they moved very efficiently and the whole process only took 15 minutes or so. The main hold-up on boarding seemed to be the photographers who were taking pictures of all passengers as they board. Without that delay, the whole line would have moved even faster. Having boarded early, our cabin wasn't ready until 1:15, but we were able to have lunch in the Lido cafe. Cabin: We had a standard outside cabin on the 2nd floor. It had more storage than we needed, and seemed bigger than the pictures on the Holland America website had led me to expect. The air conditioning worked fine, and we had no problems with the toilet (as other reviewers have reported). Our cabin steward did a great job. Ship: Overall, the ship was very nice. It has a nice gym, which was never crowded. I noticed a previous review complained that the gym was too warm, but it was quite comfortable on this trip. Maybe they got the hint. The ship does have some maintenance issues. Some of the stairways had drippy ductwork, so a bucket was always positioned to catch the water. One morning the lower level corridors smelled horrible, but our cabin smelled fine. We never did find out what caused that odor, but it was corrected fairly quickly. The area around the pool was nice, but people insisted on "saving" deck chairs all day. As early as breakfast time, there would only be a couple of people using the chairs, but every chair had a book or bag on it, holding it for whenever the owner came back. The crew didn't seem to do anything about that. Entertainment: We really enjoyed the entertainment on the ship. The show lounge had 3 shows by the ship's song and dance team. There were 2 comedians, a magician, a pianist and a singer who were all excellent. In addition, a speaker gave several talks about various aspects of Panama and the Panama Canal that were both informative and entertaining. In the other lounges there were a string quartet, a pianist and a jazz quartet that were all very nice. Shore Excursions: In Aruba we took the Spanish Lagoon Kayaking excursion, which included both kayaking and snorkeling. The water was beautiful, but the guy running the tour was a former drill instructor, and he liked to talk. Before we got in our kayaks, he insisted that we stand in the sun for an hour listening to him give us instructions. That was totally unnecessary. Then before we went snorkeling, we got to listen to another half hour of instructions. He talked so long, the tour lasted an hour and a half longer than it was supposed to, and some people missed their dinner time. We enjoyed the kayaking and snorkeling, but there was way too much wasted time for us to recommend this tour. In Curacao we took the See and Sea tour, which included a bus tour of the area, a stop at the Curacao distillery, and an underwater boat ride. The boat wasn't a submarine, but when we boarded, we were taken down some stairs so that we were sitting abut 5 feet below water. It was a great way to see the fish, although people prone to motion sickness should think twice. Overall, we really enjoyed this tour. In Panama we took the Gatun Locks and Kayak tour. A bus ride took us to the locks for an up-close view of ships passing thru. Then we were taken to a hotel so we could kayak in the lake. We had a really great guide, and thoroughly enjoyed this tour. At times the lake was quite windy, making the kayaking quite challenging. Fortunately they had a boat that followed the group, and several kayakers opted to stop and ride the boat the rest of the way. Overall, a really great tour. In Costa Rica, the area near the ship was really trashy, and locals pester you constantly the second you step out of the pier gate. Since we had not booked a tour with the ship, we bought a tour from a company on the pier. This was a big mistake. Those people will tell you anything to get you to buy their tour. They promised we would be back in 3 hours, when they really had no intention of being back by then. We almost didn't make it back before "all aboard" time, 4 1/2 hours later. Another group got back 25 minutes late, and almost missed the ship. Another family on our bus was told that the bus was going directly to the beach. Instead, they had to sit thru the whole tour, and got to a beach 2 hours later. We've done these kinds of independent tours in other ports with no problem, but people should be warned not to buy them in Costa Rica unless they are willing to risk missing their ship's departure. Dining: Overall, I thought the food was quite good. There were some items I didn't care for, but that is to be expected. The staff is obviously stretched thinner than on previous cruises. The waiters were very good, but so busy just trying to get the food out, they didn't really have time to notice if somebody didn't care for their selection. On previous cruises, they would offer to bring something different, but that didn't happen on this cruise. We took advantage of the ship's Wine Card - an option not mentioned or promoted anywhere, but available from any waiter or bartender. They sell cards good for either 10 or 20 glasses of house wine. We bought the 20-glass card for $67.50 plus tip. This was a good deal because their house wine is normally $4.50 per glass plus tip. Before buying it, we were unfamiliar with the label of their house wine, but a bartender was happy to give us a taste so we could decide if we liked it before committing to that many glasses. We found it quite acceptable. Folks with children should be aware that Holland America tends to attract an older group of passengers. They had some children and teen areas, but we saw very few children on the ship. On the other hand, there were many passengers with wheelchairs, walkers, and scooters, and the crew seemed to be very helpful to passengers needing assistance. Overall, we really enjoyed this cruise, and would sail with Holland America again. Read Less
Sail Date March 2008
ms Volendam 10 Day Southern Caribbean & Panama Canal Sunfarer Float, 03-12 to 03-22-08 The Search for Some Global Warming Cruise Ship Stats: 61,000 GT, 26 Ft. Draft, 777.6 Ft. Length, 111 Ft. Wide, 1999 Launch, 1485 Passengers, 601 ... Read More
ms Volendam 10 Day Southern Caribbean & Panama Canal Sunfarer Float, 03-12 to 03-22-08 The Search for Some Global Warming Cruise Ship Stats: 61,000 GT, 26 Ft. Draft, 777.6 Ft. Length, 111 Ft. Wide, 1999 Launch, 1485 Passengers, 601 Crew, Distance Covered: 3371 NM, Fuel Consumption: 85 Gal / Mile, Potable Water Prod.: 370,000 Gal / Day Ship Staff: Master: Capt. Pieter Visser, Hotel Manager: Theo Haanen, Dining Rm. Manager: Raj Kantharaju, Executive Chef: Nizam Nor, Cruise Director: Rebecca Fabischek Personal Staff: DW of 35+ years, Judy PRE-PORT TRAVEL (Departed 0500 Prescott, Arrived Sky King (aka Sky Harbor) airport 0700): Spent well over an hour (with another 1000 souls) snaking along the winding chrome posts adorned with seat belt strapping as folks continued to cough, fart and whine. Also, a gaggle of cell phone gabbers kept us entertained making sure their conversations could be heard throughout the terminal. We boarded our winged cigar tube (US AIR) @0900 and proceeded out to the tarmac where we enjoyed a warm and cozy two hour delay due to a faulty relay switch. Following the delay bonus and the four hour flight we touched down in beautiful Ft. La-de-da. We schlepped our luggage out to the curb to await our Sleep Inn chariot. And, being smokers, we were in need of a coffin nail or two. Could have used a blast of bourbon also but to date no outside bars have been opened by the pickup portals (seems like a money maker to me). This was another freebie stay at the Sleep Inn in La-la land from cc points. Clean room, functioning plumbing & TV, complimentary shuttles & full breakfast works for us. Following check-in we went across the street to load up on wine at Publix for the cruise, had a libation & shower and then made our way back to the shopping center to have some Italian eats. We returned to the room to slap some tags on the luggage and box of potables and to become one with Morpheus. EMBARKATION DAY I shot down to the Walgreens on the corner following breakfast and picked up a cheapo straw hat with a chin string. One mustn't be hatless on a cruise, no? Sassy casual don't you know. Following checkout via shuttle we zoomed down to the pier for a flawless check-in. Main DR was closed for lunch so up to the Lido for buffet goodies AND A LONG AWAITED MARGARITA (to be followed by several mango daiquiris after life boat muster). The cabin was ready 1300ish or so. AS YOU MIGHT WISH DINING: We had late upper traditional seating, table for two, by the rail as per our preference. After talking with folks during DR breakfasts it seemed like a 50-50 split as to the merits & pitfalls of AYWD. I do know that after talking with our waiter that he certainly was not to enthralled with the change. I think it will probably shake out just fine as they tweak the system. CABIN (Dolphin Deck, Outside, Amidships, Port Side): Everything looked great. No dust bunnies, soiled skivvies or other hazards noted on arrival. Looked like they even rinsed out the bed linens real nice for us, the stool in the head went whoosh okay and the ice bucket was full. Life is good Jethro. After a cordial greeting with our steward Imam I told him our requirements were minimal: 2 buckets of ice refreshed A.M. & P.M. , an extra towel for DW's nightly hair drying ritual and a couple of boxes of Kleenex for the bedside stands. The appointments for the cabin looked a bit worn but then again so am I. I prefer the bed against the bulkhead and the couch by the window configuration but it was not to be (just the opposite). I'm not a big fan of the RV (aka, teacup) bathtubs since my contortionist bathing skills have dwindled appreciably over the years. But then again, so what? CASINO: I no longer gamble, however, my DW donated forty or fifty clams to the HAL coffers via the slots. Every time I passed the casino during the evening it appeared that gambling was brisk and the tables were crowded. DEMOGRAPHICS: Typical HAL crowd. Some youngsters (I prefer mine prepared well-done or deep fried if they're unruly), those going through their mid-life crisis and, of course, close relatives (age wise) of God. Some of the near centenarians seemed a bit more, well, frumpier then noted on prior floats. Just a useless observation. Perhaps the cold winter & flu season had something to do with it. DRESS CODE: I didn't take my laser crowd counter or clipboard but my overeducated guess would be that on formal evenings perhaps 35% of men were decked out in dinner jackets/ tuxes, 40% in some sort of matching dark suit, and the remainder donning a rather eclectic hodgepodge of Goodwill wear. We like to dress up in the more traditional manner but what other's do is, well, their thing. I didn't see any leather T-shirts or plaid 'gommer' shorts worn in the DR on formal or sassy casual nights. No juicy gossip to report. ENTERTAINMENT: Not really a strong suit of this cruise but there were certainly exceptions. But first let me get this off my chest. During the entire cruise the show times were @ 7 & 9 P.M. What bright light bulb in Seattle thought this one up? Needless to say, it was my only major bug-a-boo for us (well, not that major mind you) on this cruise. We generally enjoy cocktails and dancing in the Ocean Bar or Crow's Nest prior to late seating, have a leisure dinner and then, perhaps, attend the show. Well, obviously it's logistically impossible to do so, at least for us, with the 'new & improved' show schedule. So we didn't catch any of the shows and had to bury our misery (NOT!) in the bar lounges instead. Now for rating the ongoing entertainment IMO: Excellent / Above Average Category : Ocean Breeze Strings, Tom Scott Average / Mediocre : HAL Cats, DJ Bob, Piano Man Charley, The Manila Quartet. Enough said. EXPLORER'S CAFÉ: Well appointed with lots of books and magazines. I checked out a couple of mindless tomes filled with murder, mystery and raw sex. My kind of cruise reading. EXPLORER'S SERIES LECTURES: One of the highlights of our cruise. Richard Detrich gave informative, well organized power point presentations on the Canal (and building thereof), Panamanian history, culture & politics, a focused lecture on coffees and advise on those planning to find new retirement digs. His enthusiasm for Panama was infectious. FOOD, DINING ROOM: I find the new menu quite adequate. I won't really comment on specific dishes other then the fact that I'm a fishy kind of guy although I do really enjoy HAL's lamb and venison preparations. I was able to order off menu as long as I mentioned it the evening before (Halibut Steaks, etc. : I don't care for deep fried Cod, etc). One ongoing problem with HAL (& other lines) is that hot items need to be served hot and cold items need to be chilled adequately and not served at room temperature. I mentioned this and wrote a comment card following the first dinner and henceforth item temperatures were improved. Otherwise the food was very good overall. Some items a tad bland, others prepared just right. But again quite subjective so I'll let it rest. LIFE BOAT MUSTER: Slicker than boiled bear fat. Well organized, no ship shutterbugs or obvious drunks noted. LAUNDRY: Sent out pretty much everything that would require ironing (shirts, slacks, formal wear, etc.) using the $30 unlimited pressing option. I slipped Imam Five clams to be sure everything got back by early afternoon the next day (and it was) since our first formal would be the following evening. We used the pressing service pretty much every day for touching up prior evening wear. We did a 'cram the bag' on the 7th day of the cruise for $12. Everything came back just spiffy with no lint balls on the Jockey's. LIDO DINING: Since we dined in the DR every night (other than the Aruba barbecue evening) we used the Lido for breakfasts and lunches only. Always a great spread and service. My only suggestion to the manager was to have longer serving spoons for the rear compartments in the salad bar. This would alleviate the need for passengers to stick their entire arms (and shoulders for the vertically challenged) under the sneeze guard to reach some of the condiments. MAINTENANCE, SHIP: Everything looked great overall. An occasional water stain on a ceiling, a nick or two inside the elevator doors, a crack in the DR window, a worn chair here and there but it certainly beats our digs. We set our thermostat at it's lowest setting in the cabin upon embarkation and it pretty much stayed @ 72 degrees throughout the trip. There was a telltale sewage odor for an hour or so one sea day on the Promenade Deck but no biggie as far as I'm concerned. It amazes me that such a large ship with so many moving parts and a passenger and crew count north of 2000 that more problems don't occur. HAL maintains their ships quite well IMO. MARINER BRUNCH: Since the had quite a few Mariners on-board there were two brunches on various sea days. They didn't have any ceremonial award of medals like the evening functions of bygone days nor a brief speech of some sort by the captain. Speaking of Captain Visser, I was slightly disappointed that his visibility during the cruise (walking the decks every now and again, etc) was basically nil. Just another observation. We should be receiving our HAL copper gedunk medals on the next float. I would assume they would have some sort of ritual elsewhere for the medallion folks. PINNACLE GRILL: I made reservations for dinner for the Master Chef night and a reservation for lunch for a sea day. Unfortunately, they switched the dancing dinner (which was kind of fun really-hadn't attended one for awhile) and I cancelled the reservation. Likewise, we were just to full from breakfast to appreciate a Pinnacle lunch so I cancelled that one also. With that said, we've had the opportunity to dine in the Pinnacle Grill on dozen times or so on other HAL vessels and they have always been excellent. ROOM SERVICE: We tend to "Veg Out" mid-afternoon on sea days in our cabin. I generally order two cheese platters and two salmon platters to munch on while sipping wine and viewing a DVD. Port mornings we go for the door knob card breakfast. Except for one early morning request (0600-0630 delivery time frame) that didn't show up (we dashed up to the Lido @0635 so we'd be able to catch a 0700 independent tour) everything was delivered on a timely basis. SERVICE, BEVERAGE & FOOD : Overall, outstanding as usual (including the housekeeping service). This is truly the backbone and reason for so many Mariner's / repeaters on HAL. We encountered a number of staff that we had met on prior cruises aboard the Prinsendam, Ryndam and Statendam. It was indeed like returning home. SMOKING : Always a big bugaboo during these PC times. Since we smoke we spent all our pool and sunning time back by the aft pool. Likewise, we frequented the Ocean Bar & Crow's Nest in the evenings. I didn't observe a lot of 'scowling and waving' going on during this cruise so it seems a temporary truce has been reached. SPA / SALON: DW signed us up on embarkation for the couple package for $160 (personally I prefer to just pay the $20pp/day when I wish to use it) but after many years of marital bliss I rather just smile and say those three little words , "That's great honey". Judy had some sort of voodoo coloring done with her hair that included the use of a roll of tin foil, various toxic chemicals and conditioners. Some gal named Olga gave me a hair snipping session and beard trim. All is good. WEATHER: Couldn't be more perfect. More like a mill pond than a sea. I kind of missed a little 'rocking & rolling'. Mid 70's to mid80's with mucho humidity. PORTS OF CALL / EXCURSIONS HMC : We were able to tender in and enjoy the beach and surf. Didn't rent a toolshed. Just a clamshell. My darling beach bunny got fried which meant smearing her back throughout the cruise with Nivea. Food was very good and the service as usual exceptional. ARUBA: We had contracted the Jolly Pirates folks for an afternoon sail,snorkel & suds sail but unfortunately engine problemos caused a cancellation. I was able to get a last minute sail & snorkel down on the beach with the DePalma folks on a catamaran. Great times had by all. BTW, city bus fare round-trip down to the beach as $2.30 USD. Got back to the ship by 1800 to enjoy the barbecue festivities. CURACAO: I booked another sail & snorkel on the 'Bounty' with Capt. Perry. The price ($120/couple) included pick up and drop off service from the pier. Great day with another six couples. PANAMA CANAL: We chose to do a HAL ferry transit excursion (no choice really, couldn't get off the ship otherwise) after going through the Gatun Locks. After having read McCullough's The Path Between the Seas and viewing his Nova documentary (which features the Prinsendam back when it was with Royal) I was pumped to get up close with the Pacific side locks. I wasn't disappointed. Men literally moved a mountain. Anywho, it was well worth the endless bus drives and humidity. Next visit we'll check out the Embera Village tour which I heard lots of good things about. COSTA RICA :I booked a Charley Soto A1 tour via the internet prior to the cruise for $50 pp and what a great tour it was. We had a private car with a driver that provided us a great day. We visited a private plantation and played with a sloth, hit a banana plantation, did a hour long float on the Tortugero Canal via private boat and then reached Bonita Beach for lunch. After lunch we made our way down to the local supermarket to pick up some coffee and Nivea. Great day. Debarkation: Quite smooth. We used the $15 pp boarding pass /express service and was quite pleased. FINAL THOUGHTS : We enjoyed our voyage on the Volendam. However, we tend to prefer the Prinsendam & S-Class ships on HAL. Although if friends called and asked us to join them on the Volendam we wouldn't hesitate to do so. We have a tentative bookings in Nov. on the Prinsendam for a 26 day 'jungle float' and again in Nov. '09 for 24 day 'bye-bye Europa' float. TA's been bugging us to give Seabourne a whirl in 2009. We'll see. So much to see, so little time. I can only thank God that we have our health and wherewithal to do so. Thank you Volendam folks for an overall wonderful 'float' ! Bon Voyage & Good Health! Bob Read Less
Sail Date March 2008
On February 11, 2008, we embarked on our first Holland America cruise. This ten day vacation was excellent with only some minor problems. There is no doubt that it was expensive, but part of that included the Panama Canal fee. As a ... Read More
On February 11, 2008, we embarked on our first Holland America cruise. This ten day vacation was excellent with only some minor problems. There is no doubt that it was expensive, but part of that included the Panama Canal fee. As a contrast to some of the bad reviews provided on this board, we feel that perfection is impossible to attain. It is important to put the overall experience into proper perspective. The embarkation process was fast and smooth. A porter took our luggage, we parked in the concrete garage, passed through the screening process and boarded the ship in less than one hour. The luggage was delivered to the rooms very quickly. The Lido was crowded for lunch on the first day, but that is expected and normal. We like fixed seating at 8:00 P.M., but were assigned AYWD. After a quick trip to see the maitre d', this was resolved to our satisfaction. He gave us a great table for two, fixed at 8:00 P.M., in a very good location. After the second night, we received a letter from the officer in charge of the dining rooms telling us that our "request for a table change had been denied". Our maitre d' ignored this and we had our table available on most days for breakfast and lunch and always for dinner. He continued to provide us with superior, personalized service and we demonstrated our gratitude at the end of the cruise. There have been many comments about the air conditioning, condition of the ship and the operation of the toilets. The air conditioner in our room was fine. We found the ship to be cool and comfortable in all areas, except the gym. The instructor in the gym deliberately kept the temperature high because he believed that heavy sweating is good for you. I've been working out in gyms in Florida for over twenty years and I like a 75 degree environment. We did see the minor wear on carpets, furniture and in the elevators, but it was really not bad. At the time of our sailing, we did not see any cracked windows. There was a small leak under some stairs between Desk 2 and Deck 1. The ship was very elegant and classic. After dinner, we enjoyed strolling the deck or listening to the string quartet. The only real disappointment I had was that no dark beers were served in any of the bars. I think I can overlook that inadequacy. To be fair, much of what we found was geared for the older crowd, i.e., people aged 60 to 80. I would estimate that the average age of the passengers on this cruise was about 70. This we did not mind and noted that the number of children and teens on this ship could be counted on the fingers of one hand. As with other HAL cruises this season, the ship did not stop at Half Moon Cay because of windy conditions and high seas. We did not mind and the ship arrived at Aruba earlier. This island was not beautiful, nor were the people particularly pleasant. However, the shopping was excellent and we got some nice bargains. Curacao was wonderful and we had a great time. Rather than taking an excursion, we shared a taxi (van) with two ladies, aged about 80 or so, who were just delightful. They had more energy than we did! For not a lot of money, our driver gave us an excellent, narrated tour of the island. He explained the history, lore and culture of the people and took us to many beautiful and interesting places. The Panama Canal was remarkable. We stood on Deck 9 and used a platform that passengers shared to take pictures. My traveling companion took the excursion to Panama City, but he was disappointed. Because it was a Sunday, the driver took the passengers to both the old city and the new. [The trip normally only includes only the old city, as the traffic congestion during the week makes a visit to the new city nearly impossible.] My traveling companion said that there was only one non-commercial stop in the old city. The rest of the stops were at tourist traps. It was obvious that the tour company had an arrangement with these merchants. Instead of souvenir shops, time should have been spent visiting historical sites. He did ask the driver to stop at some churches or museums, but the driver refused. Casco Viejo (old city) has many beautiful buildings (some undergoing restoration), however there is wrenching poverty. Some poor people were dancing on the streets for money or trying to sell items to the tourists. The contrast between rich and poor in this country is striking and very sad. Costa Rica was the high point of the trip. As in Curacao, we hired a taxi. We had a guide and a driver and it was not terribly expensive. They asked us what we were interested in seeing and our approximate time frame. We photographed beautiful vistas from mountain sides, exotic and rare palms and lovely beaches. One stop was particularly interesting and fun. This was a facility run by a woman recognized by the State for protecting the fauna of Costa Rica. She nursed injured animals, raised beautiful and exotic birds from eggs and was very knowledgeable about their habits and needs. We held a large scarlet macaw and a toucan. The toucan was very tame and would fly away and come back as the spirit moved him. His feathers were soft, his body was quite warm and his long beak was light green with orange. The Indonesian crew of the Volendam is friendly, helpful, well-trained and responsive. There were some minor slip-ups and communication problems as the crew should spend a bit more time studying English. At one point, an elderly passenger was stricken on deck. The crew member present simply did not understand the seriousness of the situation and the medical response time was delayed. It took several of us to convince him to call 911 (used on the ship, as on land) immediately. The crew in the Spa/Gym were sub-standard. They seemed to be under the impression that they were superior to just about everyone. Requests were met with blank stares and a lack of willingness to serve. They directed me to other locations of the ship or to other crew members to fulfill minor requests. I did have to visit sick bay at one point and a female Canadian nurse was abrupt and even rude. There is one point that I must make about this voyage. The seas were very rough during the first 4 days. The movement of the ship was excessive for a modern vessel (1999) and a number of the passengers and even crew members got seasick. There were a few extreme cases. I later learned from a member of the crew that the stabilizers had been damaged in a storm earlier in the year and were not functional. I think this was unfair to everybody on board and did, at one point, make the sailing less than pleasant. While I realize that time is money (they only spend a matter of hours in port between cruises), I think that this problem should have been addressed. Overall though, it was a wonderful vacation. Read Less
Sail Date February 2008
I am writing to express my total dissatisfaction with the above cruise. Friday, February 8th marked a week since my husband and I returned from this cruise which we booked to celebrate our 30th anniversary. It was not only the most ... Read More
I am writing to express my total dissatisfaction with the above cruise. Friday, February 8th marked a week since my husband and I returned from this cruise which we booked to celebrate our 30th anniversary. It was not only the most expensive10-day cruise we've been on but without a doubt the worst cruise experience we've ever encountered even though we did have a few enjoyable experiences. This was our first cruise on Holland America and we were looking forward to the great service and food previous Holland America cruisers had told us about. We had previously considered a Baltic cruise on Holland America but decided to try this one before booking a European cruise with you. We flew down to Ft. Lauderdale a day early to begin our celebration with a Marriott rewards night at the Hollywood Marriott Spa Hotel. We almost paid for a cab ride to the ship even though we had an airport transfer since our travel agent was told by someone in your corporate office that Holland America did not do transfers to the ship from this hotel anymore even though your 2008 brochure indicated otherwise . On the day of the cruise, January 22nd, we were checking out and my husband was arranging a cab to the ship when he noticed a HA representative named Sylvia displaying a Volendam sign on a desk in the lobby. We explained our situation to her and we were able to secure a transfer to board the ship. She told us that since we had already paid for this transfer we should check with the office once on board to get credit. We did receive a credit; however, we should not have had to do this on our vacation since we tried to resolve it before we left. Before boarding the ship, we had to complete a health form assuring that we had no current or previous lower GI illnesses yet 2 days into the cruise, 14 people were quarantined for this illness with no other explanation except that all hot tubs, mineral spas and pools would be closed until further notice. There was no more self-service food service of any kind and everything was served to you. The Lido deck had plastic wrap all around the front of the glass displaying what food was available. The actions taken were understandable; however, the service staff did not offer salt and pepper or any other condiments. You always had to ask for them and the staff made your request seem like an inconvenience to them. There was an update on the status of the illnesses for the remaining 8 days of the cruise. When we booked this cruise, we requested early seating for dinner as we've done on 5 previous cruises. Since you now have half your dinner seating set aside for open seating, we were put on a wait list. When we received our travel documents, we asked our travel agent to verify our dinner seating status. Our travel agent was previously told that early seating was the same as main seating which we later learned was 8 pm and not 6 pm as we had requested. Our agent was told by your corporate office that they could not change our wait list status a month before the cruise and that we would need to speak with the maitre'd once we boarded the ship to request early seating which should be no problem, and it wasn't. However, we were sandwiched in at table for 6 with 5 people already seated the second night of the cruise. Our waiter was a very nice young man, however, our table was the last of his 5 tables to be served and several nights we were "chimed out" which was very insulting. This had never happened to us on any other cruise line because there was always ample staff to wait on our table. While the food in the dining room was acceptable, it was not as good as what we have experienced on other cruise lines. The variety of food offered in the Lido dining room was "lack luster" at best. The last night of the cruise, we had dinner in the Pinnacle Dining Room and that was superb. I'm not sure why your other food service was so poor. The excursions were terrible, especially in Curacao and the Panama Canal. The 2-hour bus ride on the Panama Canal excursion to catch the ferry that took us through the canal was extremely inadequate. Our tour guide, Skip Berger, did not really add to our experiencing the Panama Canal! It was pretty much the same thing on the 2-hour trip back to the ship. For the money, the Curacao excursion was extremely disappointing and both tours were overbooked and very crowded to really appreciate being there. The Costa Rica excursion was very enjoyable. Our stop at your private island, Half Moon Cay, was super. We had our own cabana and my husband surprised me with a Butler service to include a full bar and lunch but we were charged for 2 additional bottles of champagne which should have been part of the package, especially since the package was priced for up to four people and it was only the two of us. Our room steward never introduced himself to us as other stewards have done on all of our previous cruises. He was always late making up our room and when the time changed in Costa Rica, we didn't know because he never turned down our bed that evening. The next morning we got all over the in-room dining staff because we ordered breakfast for 6 am and here it was 6:45 with no breakfast only to learn that the time had moved back an hour and in reality, it was only 5:45 am. You might consider an approach that guests can use to let the room steward know they are out of the room. This will allow the room steward to attend to the room on your guest's schedule. There was no ATM on board and you could not cash a personal check. The only two bright spots during this whole cruise were the beautiful formal pictures taken and the most exceptional meal we ate in the Pinnacle Grill our last night on the cruise. We did pay extra for that meal but it was worth every penny! It's a pity that the dining room food did not have the same quality. The shopping ambassador, Jason Bridge, dining room waiter, Suko, butler at Half Moon Cay and server "Edward" at the cafe bar were the highlights of your staff and service. Holland America will not be a cruise line of choice when we consider future cruises if another line has the itinerary we desire. Read Less
Sail Date January 2008
My wife and I arrived at the port and quickly checked in for the cruise. We had requested early fixed seating for the dining room but had been assigned open seating. So, as soon as we boarded the ship, we went immediately to get that ... Read More
My wife and I arrived at the port and quickly checked in for the cruise. We had requested early fixed seating for the dining room but had been assigned open seating. So, as soon as we boarded the ship, we went immediately to get that situation rectified. The dining room staff was courteous and immediately assigned us seats at a nice table by a window in the dining room. Then we went to check out our room and found the air-conditioning not working. After we sailed, we finally got some a/c, but the a/c effectiveness varied by day. Apparently we were not the only passengers affected because, early in the cruise, the Captain announced that passengers were complaining about the air-conditioning, and, because of the design of the ship, there wasn't much that could be done. Soon after setting sail, the captain announced that, due to high winds, the stop at half Moon Cay would be bypassed, and instead the ship would spend an additional three hours in Aruba. What followed were two sea days and three nights of very choppy seas. The onboard activities available during those days were limited. The cruise line did refund to everyone the Bahamas port tax that had been collected. The weather improved and the stops in Aruba and Curacao were nice. Before the cruise, we had been concerned that stores would be closed in Curacao because the ship was stopping there on Sunday. Fortunately, the stores were open until early afternoon, and this satisfied our need to shop. We also visited and toured the oldest continuously operating synagogue in the western hemisphere and its museum. We found that very interesting. As an added bonus, everything in Curacao was within walking distance from the ship. The Panama Canal visit was fascinating, and we enjoyed watching the workings of the canal. We had booked the excursion that was to go all the way through the canal on a tour boat, but the excursion was canceled after we waited two hours for clearance from the Panamanian authorities. Later after dinner, the captain announced that the tour boat would not have had enough time to operate, and refunds were given. The Volendam was in line to go through the Panama Canal at 5:30am and docked in Gatun Lake about 9:00 am - right on time. So, I'm still not sure what really went wrong, but it sure was a disappointment. The ship tried to accommodate everyone on alternative tours, but we opted to stay on board to avoid the rebooking chaos occurring at the Front Office desk. The next stop was in Costa Rica where we went on the excursion on the aerial tram through the rain forest. The tour was quite enjoyable and included a tasty lunch of local specialties. We would recommend this tour to future visitors if looking to learn about foliage. Visitors looking to see animals, however, would be better advised to take other excursions. The final two days of the cruise were wonderfully relaxing amidst calm seas and beautiful weather. About the time of arrival in Aruba, it was announced that some cases of Norovirus had occurred on the cruise. Measures to contain the highly contagious virus were then put into effect. In the Lido restaurant, for example, self-serve was eliminated. This required extra personnel to serve everyone cafeteria style, and the entire crew pitched in. Even the Cruise Director was working behind the serving line. Kudos to the crew for their efforts to successfully contain the virus. Another measure was to put Purell sanitizing solution stations all over the ship for passengers to use on their hands. These were everywhere, and at one point we were sanitized about eight times in a five minute period. The joke became that we should buy stock in the company that makes Purell. The Captain was rightfully concerned about limiting the potential spread of the virus, although some of his announcements sounded a bit panicky. Some other observations: Cabin service was pleasant but unpredictable. One evening our cabin was not cleaned at all, and several times we returned from breakfast mid-morning to find the beds unmade. Dining room staff was also pleasant but seemed to have too many tables to service, as they were frequently absent. In short, it's not that the service was poor, but based on service received on other cruises, the level of service on this cruise was not comparable. Regarding entertainment, we saw one very mediocre comedian and decided to skip the rest of the shows. The Front Office desk staff was outstanding and helpful. One attendant even closed the desk (during a slow period) and came with us to our room to address a problem with the in-room safe. Cabin size was spacious and storage was plentiful. Finally, the ship could use some refurbishing and/or repair. Chair arms are worn both in the Lido and dining room, and some elevators fail to function. There was a big crack in a window adjacent to the dining room on level five, and a glass entry door to the dining room shattered during the cruise. Read Less
Sail Date January 2008
Just completed a fascinating 10-day partial transit of Panama Canal. Health Dept. placed a 5-day "code red" restrictions due to a virus outbreak on the previous cruise. The Volendam staff was pressed to handle the extra work ... Read More
Just completed a fascinating 10-day partial transit of Panama Canal. Health Dept. placed a 5-day "code red" restrictions due to a virus outbreak on the previous cruise. The Volendam staff was pressed to handle the extra work required by the restrictions, but handled it with efficiency and aplomb. Kudos to the captain for keeping the guests well informed. Service from the wait staff was exceptional. Our outside cabin was always clean and room attendant attentive. The activities were varied and suitable for the average guest (age 60?). My husband and I took a tour of the island on Curacao and ziplined in Puerto Limon, Costa Rica. Both excursions were handled smoothly. The stops in Aruba, Half Moon Cay and Puerto Limon were exciting. Colon should be removed completely as a stop. Daily, a lecture was given on board about the building of the Panama Canal which enhanced the transit. We chose early seating dining and the food was very lovely in appearance but maybe just above average in taste. We also dined at the Pinnacle Grill and while the steaks were almost perfect, the other food items were almost tasteless. The entertainment was varied: comedian, banjoist, and the ship's song and dance team. The library was exceedingly well stocked but, sadly because of the health restrictions, it remained locked for the first five days of the cruise. The disembarkation went without a hitch and being allowed to remain in our stateroom until our color was called was a real plus. The Volendam's wait staff is excellent. They anticipated our needs and kept everything in order. But the ship is very tired: carpet stained, large dining room window cracked, some window shades inoperable, a/c in our state room never fully operational. We received value for our money and will travel with Holland America again. Read Less
Sail Date January 2008
This was my fifth cruise with Holland America, the second with Holland America for my son and his friend (both 24) and the first for my traveling companion (56), so throughout this review I may compare to other Holland America ships, not ... Read More
This was my fifth cruise with Holland America, the second with Holland America for my son and his friend (both 24) and the first for my traveling companion (56), so throughout this review I may compare to other Holland America ships, not other cruise lines. We arrived a day early and stayed at the Comfort Suites - Federal Hwy in Ft. Lauderdale. This was perfect as Comfort Suites will pick you up at the airport and deliver you to the cruise port. They offer a free continental breakfast and you may make your own waffles. Cost was reasonable and they accept corporate and military id's for discounts. Also offered is a small pool. Smoking inside is prohibited. We made reservations directly with the hotel. We arrived at the port at approximately noon...waited in line for a brief five minutes and were onboard eating our lunch in less than 15 minutes. The Spa offered a "thermal suite" couples pass for $160. The thermal suites contained six heated tiled lounge chairs, a Jacuzzi that fit four comfortably and two Turkish steam rooms. The larger steam room (seats 10 average sized folks) was broken for the first five days of the cruise. The smaller Turkish steam bath (seats 4 average sized folks) was in working order the whole cruise. The saunas were located in the changing rooms so were separate for men and women. Both were in good working order the whole cruise. I was disappointed that the mineral pool bath was unavailable on this ship, as it was on the Zuiderdam and Noordam (guess I was more excited about researching the Panama Canal than the vessel I'd be traveling in!!) Soda cards were not available for purchase the first day of the cruise. The second day they were available for $18 plus tip and were good for 20 sodas of your choice. This was a great deal because individual sodas were $2.42 inclusive of the mandatory tip. Also offered were wine cards and cocktail cards. (I'm not a drinker so cannot provide the cost or savings offered, but they would be worth looking into if you enjoy alcoholic beverages.) Mother Nature prevented us from visiting Half Moon Cay, the winds were very strong and the waves 15-20 feet high, tendering into the Cay would have been dangerous. I concurred with this decision and was delighted that the passengers would have extra time in Aruba. Aruba didn't disappoint us!! The water was gorgeous!!! Unfortunately, the wind continued to annoy and the sand was blowing and the clouds were plentiful. I will definitely travel again to this destination and hopefully Mother Nature will be more helpful. The casinos are abundant and fun, and felt like they were paying out more than the ship's casino. Curacao was such a festive sight!! The ship pulls into a river and docks in Otrobanda, on the other side of the water (less than a football fields length) is Punda, which passengers can access via free ferry or choose to walk a block to the floating bridge and then across the bridge to the dock market. The Villages displayed well cared for buildings painted in bright blues, greens, yellows and oranges. One wanted to giggle in delight just looking out from the ship. Mother Nature again played with us with a number of small rain showers. We didn't even bother to get to a sandy beach, instead walked about on both sides of the bridge. My son and his friend ventured away from the ship in Punda a mile or so and took a taxi over the vehicle bridge that spans the water. The view was perfect!! I was sorry to have missed that opportunity. Casinos were plentiful here as well, and offered table play as well as slots. Lots of laughs. We will be pleased to find another cruise with this port on the itinerary. The seas and wind calmed as we departed Curacao, and we all sighed in relief. Then the Captain informed us that a GI bug had infected a number of passengers. He asked that those infected, please stay in their cabins. Reasonable request right? Keep all of the other passengers and crew healthy to enjoy the cruise. We entered the beginning of the Panama Canal at about 6am. Holland America provided an on board narrator for the cruise through the two locks to Lake Gaston and on the return. I was very impressed and the narrator was well informed and helpful in sighting crocodiles, etc. It is a wonder that canal! I've never seen so many freight ships while on a cruise! The water flows into and out of the locks from below the water level, so I was a little disappointed that I couldn't witness the millions of gallons of water entering and leaving the locks. Traffic goes north before noon and south afternoon, so we anchored in Lake Gaston for a few hours with the many freighters that were also waiting to pass through the canal. Excursions were offered, however the 7 hour canal tour was cancelled and will NOT be offered on future cruises of this itinerary. My understanding is that the previous cruise's passengers went on the excursion at 7am and didn't return to the ship until 10pm and threw the whole schedule of the cruise off. So, if the Canal is your priority for a cruise and you were hoping to see many of the locks on excursion, this may not be the cruise for you. The second port in Panama to pick up those on excursions didn't offer the shopping bargains we had expected. Unfortunately, we didn't dock until 4:45 and the Free Zone stores and shops were closed by the time we got there (only about 3 blocks from the dock). It was fun to walk around and see what stores I could have gotten some bargains in though. There must have been a thousand employees of the stores leaving work and walking to the buses....it felt like a place I'd have shopped until I dropped! Security did stop my son and friend and asked for i.d. before allowing them into the fenced in area....we presumed they looked like locals, thus the checking of ids. Now, for the infected passengers who refused to stay in their cabins and came out among the rest of us to witness passage through the two locks shame on you!!! One woman even passed out on the bow of the boat because she was unwilling to stay in her cabin knowing she was sick and could infect the other 500 folks on the bow of the ship! The Captain then informed all of us, that if you were sick and in quarantine the ship's crew would be checking randomly to insure that you were in your cabin if you were sick. If you were not in your cabin, then your name would be announced over the loud speaker so everyone would know you were infected and acting like a jackass (the last phrase is mine). Throughout the day the Captain kept the ship passengers informed of protocols being put in place and informed us that a crew of disinfection cleaners would be meeting us in Costa Rica. I was well pleased with the actions put in place, the lido deck buffet and drinks were now to be served by staff. Everyone was to wash their hands frequently and use the Purell in abundance to contain the disease. Books and games in the library were not available. If you played in the casino gloves were available. Lounge chairs were sprayed every 5-6 hours, as were the lido deck tables and chairs. Costa Rica was splendid!! We had booked on line with Oscar Brown tours. We arranged for the zip line (AWESOME ADVENTURE), the banana plantation tour and the Canal tour for the cost of $105 (less than the ship offered excursion for just the zip line). The zipping above the trees and over the river bed was fantastic...I can only compare it to the thrill of white water rafting! This was only a 30 minute ride from the port with an additional 10-15 minutes between the banana plantation and the Canal tour. Should I go again to Costa Rica I would negotiate with a taxi driver instead of using Oscar Brown tours and believe I could have done the same activities for probably $75. My son and his friend decided to stay at the zip line facility (I can't remember the name, but it has "Ranch" in the name) and take advantage of the horseback riding offered there. Our driver came back to pick them up but wanted his full payment for the reservations we had made. They loved the horseback riding tour and were able to explore and see the little red poisonous frog, the green poisonous frog and the bullet ant. They felt that the zipline and horseback riding activities were exhilarating and should not be missed by anyone with only one day in this port. The food on the ship was excellent---great variety and taste. I loved the ice cream availability all afternoon. One evening the dining room offered a "special entertaining dinner." I don't' want to spoil it for you, but don't miss it!!! I only saw two shows which were entertaining but nothing to rave about. Show times were weird -6:45 pm for late diners and 8:30 for early diners. There was a delightful string quartet that played each evening in the Explorers lounge and at dinner some nights that were excellent and enjoyable. The casino offered about eight table games: craps, blackjack, three card poker, roulette and many one cent and two cent slot machines, about 20 nickel slot machines, about ten 25cent machines, three$5 and twelve dollar slots. The casino closed nightly at about 12:30am, after day five it reopened the slots a few hours later, as customary for Holland America. Both formal nights are NO SMOKING in the casino. The Crows Nest was empty all day and early evenings. About midnight until 2AM it had the largest crowd of about 20-30 of the young folks. Nightly, I counted two other passengers over the age of 40 in there. Its beautiful space and worth the midnight elevator ride to see the young folks dancing. There were only three entries into the ship-building contest this cruise. I was disappointed there weren't more competitors! LOL. Over all, this was an excellent cruise with a great itinerary. My only disappointment was the Pinnacle Grill on this ship. It is windowless to the ocean. The service was neglectful (and that's being kind) and hap hazard. We had to ask for bread and the wine steward, the wheat berry rice contained no wheat berries and when noted to the waiter he shrugged with no explanation, the bEarnaise sauce had separated in the three different containers served on our table. When the cream in the coffee curdled and a fresh cup was requested the waiter wanted to argue that it was how the coffee was brewed! Hmmmmm. Not the type of service we've received in the main dining room or in the Pinnacle Grill on the Maasdam, Noordam or Zuiderdam! Must have been a bad zodiac night for dining! I love cruising with Holland America. I believe the Captain instituted the correct actions in dealing with Mother Natures' curve balls during this cruise. I would definitely cruise this itinerary again and Holland America. Feel free to e-mail if I can provide more information for you. Read Less
Sail Date January 2008
This was our 10th cruise, our first with HAL. We were looking for a trip with some new destinations for us so the Panama Canal and Costa Rica were what sold us. We were traveling with another couple who also had a great time. Also not ... Read More
This was our 10th cruise, our first with HAL. We were looking for a trip with some new destinations for us so the Panama Canal and Costa Rica were what sold us. We were traveling with another couple who also had a great time. Also not their first cruise. Hotel: We stayed at the Comfort Inn in Hollywood. Good choice. The people were friendly and helpful, the grilled chicken sandwich poolside hit the spot, and the $7/night parking and free shuttle transfer was great. While we did not get as good a rate as I've seen published here (we got $107), they did not charge us for the 1st night parking or the last day. Be sure to make your shuttle reservation as soon as you check in -- they fill up quickly. We didn't want to be forced into a very early shuttle and have to sit in the cruise terminal all morning. The shuttle took 1/2 hour to get to the ship, and when we disembarked they were there within 1/2 hour to pick us up. Embarkation: This was the fastest, easiest I've ever been through. We had completed the on-line form, so it was get our picture taken, grab our cards and on to the waiting area. Since we had arrived somewhere near 11:30, we didn't have a very long wait to board the ship. We went right to the Lido deck for lunch, and into our cabin by 1:30. Cabin: The cabin was very spacious. Larger than any I had been in. We only turned on the TV a few times, watched an interesting show on jewelry making, and CNN a couple times. We never made use of the DVD player, but that was a nice touch. Food: Can't say enough about how good the food was in the Lido. We ate breakfast and lunch there every day (except one lunch in the DR -- too slow!). The food was fresh, delicious, a great selection of anything you could want. This was the best casual dining room we've had. We sat at a table of 6 in the DR for dinner. Table 62 -- upstairs, early sitting. Formal nights are not my thing, so we skipped two nights in favor of the Lido, but all other nights the food was excellent. (The Lido serves just about the same menu -- minus the pricey surf/turf, on formal night.) Shore Excursions: Half Moon Cay -- I had the foot and ankle massage in the beach hut. Very nice. Beach was very, very clean. Soft sand, although the water was a little chilly. We opted for the $14 clamshell to keep the sun off of us on the very first day. The BBQ was a distance from the beach area, but it was good. Aruba: We visited friends at the Westin for the day because we have been to the island before, but the other couple we were with took the island tour and loved it. The Butterfly Pavilion was their favorite stop. Curacao: We have been here before -- this time I found it very dirty. Lots of construction going on, lots of trash. Even the path from the ship leads through a construction site. We took a small footbridge near the floating market and ended up in a very bad part of town -- abandoned buildings, piles of trash, etc. When we stumbled across the Maritime Museum we decided to go in. $6pp seemed like a lot for the little museum, but it was interesting. Panama Canal: I don't suggest getting up at the crack of dawn to get up on deck for this. I waited until a reasonable hour, daylight, and saw everything. I've been through locks before, but the process is fascinating. We had a Princess ship next to us, and it's amazing how close together they are going through there. We did not take a tour, but chose to sit in the Crow's Nest for the morning. This is the greatest place -- the view is fantastic, and unless there's a dance class or trivia contest going on in there, it's quiet. The little shopping area Colon 2000 is nothing to write home about -- mostly the stop is just to pick up the tour groups after exiting the locks. Costa Rica: We took the train/eco boat trip. The train is old, and I'm glad we did it first (some of the tours did the boat then the train) because it would have been a let down. The seats were wet, you can't see much from your seat (they stop so you can get up if they spot something), and the sloths and monkeys are way up in the trees. Bring your binoculars and zoom lenses. We saw the boat on the canal as we passed over on a bridge and I thought "uh-oh" -- the water is a coffee brown color. But it was the highlight. We saw so many different types of birds, lizards, sloths (one with a baby very close to the boat). The little shopping area at the HAL ship dock is fun -- much more reasonably priced that at the canal boat dock. On board activities: I was very surprised about the charges for activities on-board. Spinning classes were $11, Pilates $11, wine tasting $15, a "how-to" mixology class was $10. Seems like they already own the exercise equipment -- why the charges? We did enjoy the tour of the kitchen (although it was short, and they dumped us in the Pinnacle Grill without even saying "thanks for coming" -- most of us weren't sure the tour was even over), and the backstage tour. You got to cross the stage, go backstage and meet the singers and dancers. It was fun -- and very popular. Spa: I also had a Swedish massage -- great. I expected the product sales pitch after the massage, so I wasn't surprised. Art Auction: I always love the art auctions. Negatives about the ship: The prices of everything were high. Sodas $2, water getting off the ship $1, drinks $7, photos $15 for small $40 for formal shots. When you first get onboard they are trying to sell you the 3 or 5 bottle package of wine. They'll pour it at dinner, you can take it to your room, etc. Thank goodness someone had mentioned the wine card on this website (and the soda card). $36 plus 15% grat. for 10 glasses of wine. I overheard one woman on the 2nd day complaining to the front desk that the $10 charge for her glass of wine could not be right! I immediately stopped her and told her about the wine card. The staff never mentions this option -- you have to ask for it. While it's house wine (they offered me chardonnay, pinot grigio and merlot and cabernet), it's available at all the bars and at dinner. The soda card is $18 plus 15% grat for 20 glasses of soda (fountain soda, not cans). Still -- these prices beat anything they are pushing. (And, we did bring liquor aboard with us in a carry on without a problem.) Service: It is evident that staff is being stretched. Waiters are covering more tables, cabin stewards are responsible for more cabins. Service was not what it has been in the past, but this is not the individuals fault, it's industry-wide. State of the ship: I'm glad to read that the ship will be dry docked before returning to Alaska. It does need some refurbishment -- but overall I thought it was great. I hope they get some new chairs -- most were very uncomfortable if you were sitting in them for any length of time. The Crow's Nest had some recliners -- nice touch. The library has some nice ones with headphones -- I could never get the sound down low enough, but that's just me. Read Less
Sail Date December 2007
We started our journey at 2:30AM on Nov 2 when we got up to catch our super shuttle to the Phoenix airport. We had a 6am flight to Ft. Lauderdale. The flight was uneventful and we arrived about 4pm. We called the hotel Sleep Inn Dania, FL. ... Read More
We started our journey at 2:30AM on Nov 2 when we got up to catch our super shuttle to the Phoenix airport. We had a 6am flight to Ft. Lauderdale. The flight was uneventful and we arrived about 4pm. We called the hotel Sleep Inn Dania, FL. They met us about 30 minutes later and took us to the hotel. Back ground information. I am 62 and wife is 58. We celebrated our 34th wedding anniversary on the cruise. We were in a group of 4 other couples. We knew two of the other couples and met two new couples. It was great meeting the new couples. One couple the husband is 73 and the wife is 57. They have been married for 26 yrs. Very nice people as was everyone else. The Hotel was great. Room was great. Was very impressed with everything. Free breakfast in the morning and free shuttle to the airport but you need to make your shuttle time as soon as you check in. They fill up fast. Got to the ship about 10:30am and had to wait till 11:15 to be able to board the ship. We were one of the first to board. We were not able to take our carry on to the room. I suspect that if I just went to the room it would of been okay but decided to take the carry on with us up to the Lido deck for lunch. We were able to take our carry on to the room about 1pm so it worked out. Our luggage arrived about 2pm and we unpacked. the room was very spacious with lots of room to hang things. We had a shower/tub which was great. Much to my surprise we ate most breakfast and lunch on the lido deck. Had dinner each night in the dinning room. My thought was to eat everything in the dinning room but it was fun to end up doing what I did. Shows were okay. I liked the comedy guy who told all clean jokes which proves you don't need vulgarity to tell jokes. There was also a guy who did unicycle and even had a member of the audience on his shoulders. Very impressive. Our cabin steward was Mohamad Ali who told us that he had a famous brother. He was great and very attentive to our requests. We did our own thing on excursions so much cheaper and we got to do things our way. Did some duty free shopping in Colon, They have a good variety of liquor but did not have what I wanted. Get your liquor in Colon as the prices are lower there then on the ship. They ship will tell you different but its not true. I was not all that impressed with the food. Some nights were good and some nights it was not. Please remember that my comments are subjective and not meant to influence you in anyway. I expected more flowers and ambiance but did not fine it. Our dinner staff people were great Ida and Harry table #162. We tipped extra to our cabin steward, dinning room staff and the Wine steward. A friend got a wine card and some how the wine steward forgot allot to punch it. Don't know how that happened!!! Over all we had a nice time. My D/W enjoyed the cruise more then I did. I would sail HAL again but would not be my first choice. On the other hand my wife had opposite opinion. Robb Read Less
Sail Date November 2007
Warning - This will be a very long post, just read the bits you want to. Background 19 nights Panama Canal cruise from Vancouver to San Diego aboard the Volendam. It was smooth sailing all the way apart from the first 2 nights but they ... Read More
Warning - This will be a very long post, just read the bits you want to. Background 19 nights Panama Canal cruise from Vancouver to San Diego aboard the Volendam. It was smooth sailing all the way apart from the first 2 nights but they weren't too bad and didn't cause us any discomfort. This cruise was to celebrate my 50th birthday with my sister. We are from Scotland and have cruised 4 times previously but this is the first time with Holland America. These are my thoughts and may differ from other cruisers on the same cruise. Vancouver We flew straight to Vancouver from Scotland (10 hours) and stayed for 4 nights at Le Soleil Hotel. It was a small boutique style hotel, the rooms were all suites (separate bedroom and lounge) and furnished in the Louis XIV style. I must recommend this hotel, it is in a fabulous location and had so much more character than 'big chain' hotels that are every where. Our 4 days were great, we did all the sights around the city and also went to Grouse Mountain. I have been to Vancouver before and really like it but there was a lot of building work going on at the moment. 28th September - Embarkation We made our way to Canada Place around 12 Noon, our bags were quickly taken from us and then we had to go through immigration. We had our finger prints taken and also the iris of our eyes were scanned. This is the first time we've ever had to go through this and it was a bit daunting. As I had filled out pre-registration on line (apart from registering our credit cards) all we had to do was register our credit card and we were on our way to the ship. We were told that the rooms were not ready but to make our way to the Lido where lunch was being served. As we were in a deluxe suite with access to the Neptune Lounge I thought it would be a good idea to check it out before lunch. Good idea, as our room was very near the Neptune Lounge and a quick glance through the open door showed us it was ready. Suite I won't go into too much detail of the suite as many people before me have already done so. Suffice it to say that it met our expectations. We have stayed in suites on Princess and NCL, and this was on par with them. We were pleased to see the welcome bottle of champagne from the captain, the bottle of wine and 2 complimentary soda cards from the travel agent plus $50 per person on board credit, were already in place. We then visited the Neptune Lounge and introduced ourselves to Guillbert, who was fabulous, so courteous and just wanting to please. After lunch in the Lido we went back to the room, where our room steward Asriel introduced himself. He too was very courteous and couldn't do enough for us. He also brought our 4 suitcases so we could unpack way before the obligatory life jacket drill. There was room for everything, nice high hanging closets where you could hang full length dresses for formal nights and still have room to spare for shoes at the bottom. There was enough room for 4 large suitcases and 2 carry ons to go under the beds out of sight. The room also had a dressing area which was great for doing your hair and putting your make up on, this area could also be closed off from the bedroom by a curtain. The beds are wonderful and comfortable and the goose down soft pillows and duvets are to just die for. Captains welcome cocktail party All the deluxe suite guests were invited to meet the captain, have a glass of champagne etc. and also meet all the other officers in the Neptune Lounge on the first evening. It was also a great time to meet other suite guests. We realized there were lots of Scottish connections with the officers. The Food & Beverage managers' son went to Glasgow University, the Cruise Director had family from Preston Pans and visited a lot, the Customer Relations Manager has a Scottish boyfriend and used to live in Leven, so we felt really at home. Dinner We had the 8pm sitting on the upper level at a table for 8. Our steward Ida and assistant steward Ness introduced themselves, as did Charlie the wine steward. They were just fabulous at keeping us entertained, getting to know our likes and dislikes and we really have nothing but good things to say about them. The first night there was only the 2 of us at a table for 8 but we were assured that the other guests would join us the next night. This is the first time we've had fixed seating, Princess and NCL let you eat where you want when you want. But I'm really glad we had fixed seating on this cruise and we had some great table mates who kept us laughing and amused all the way through the cruise. Entertainment The Volendam cast put on 4 shows (one they repeated after San Diego). The lead singers were really good and the dancers were so energetic. We did a backstage tour and saw the tiny spaces they have to keep all their costumes in and where they have the many clothes changes throughout the show. We had a terrific violinist who played with the London Philharmonic orchestra, and had just been playing at Buckingham Palace for Prince Charles and Camilla. She was really outstanding. Also a fantastic singer from Australia also did a show one night. Other nights were comedians, jugglers, pianist. We used to try and not fall asleep as the shows were very good (we were still on a different timezone body clock). They weren't the lavish productions Princess put on but they were still good. Brunch with the Captain for Suite guests One day suite guests had brunch with the captain and other officers. There was lots of champagne, wine etc. being poured and the food was wonderful. Another great time to meet suite guests and the officers. Ship The Volendam is smaller and older than other ships we've been on, and it was in really great shape, there was always someone cleaning the outside, painting the teak verandah banisters, cleaning the brass work, polishing every inch of it, fresh flowers everywhere that she really does not look her age. 29th September - Astoria, Oregon We went on the Seaside and Cannon Beach trip, they were nice little towns with a few good shops but nothing much else apart from a lovely beach but it was too cold to enjoy it. When we got back to the ship we had missed lunch so we went to the Neptune Lounge and picked up a few snacks to take back to our cabin to eat on the verandah. Our table mates joined us that night so we had a lot of introductions to do and get to know everyone. 30th September - At Sea (my birthday) and the 1st of 5 formal nights After opening my presents, then having a champagne breakfast, my sister and I had both booked ourselves into the Spa for some treatments. It was wonderful, what a great way to spend my birthday being pampered. We then had lunch and went to the dance class. There were 4 dance hosts on the ship, one of whom was the dance instructor - Ray, who was fantastic, very funny and made jokes with everyone to put them at their ease. He is a retired professor of psychology and a fabulous dance teacher. Over the 19 days we learnt the Waltz, Foxtrot, Cha Cha, Marenge, Samba, Rumba, Tango and the Swing. We both thoroughly enjoyed the dance classes. We then went to the craft class but wasn't too impressed as no-one demonstrated what to do and there were no finished articles of what you were making so that you could see what the end result would be. It was just instruction table by table which is not the best way to teach about 20+ ladies. We decided to go back and have cocktails on the verandah and start to get ready for the first formal night. I really enjoy getting dressed up and as it was my birthday it was extra special. The dance instructor Ray sat at our table and kept us entertained with his jokes and stories. There were now 9 of us at the table (we squeezed him in but it was fine). The ship also gave me a birthday cake and the waiters all sang happy birthday to me which was fun. We then went to see the show and fell into bed after midnight. It had been a great birthday. 1st October - At Sea It was so nice to relax on the verandah as the weather started to warm up. There was lots to do on the ship, we only went to the dance class and cooking demonstration by the Pinnacle Grill chef Sheldon. We also tried the craft class but left after a few moments. We had lunch in the Lido, they have a great sandwich bar where a server makes your sandwich to order with anything you want on it. We used this every day for lunch when we were on the ship. 2nd October - San Diego There wasn't much choice of tours from the ship here, so we decided to take a taxi to the Old Town which was just great. It was very mexican and had all sorts of old fashioned shops, mexican restaurants, museums etc. We spent all day here as the weather was lovely and in the 70's. I just hope the fires have not destroyed too much of this lovely city. A lot of guests got on here so there was another cocktail party in the Neptune Lounge to meet the captain and officers. We were also invited the 2nd time. 3rd October - At Sea and the 2nd of 5 formal nights We were getting into the routine, breakfast on the balcony, touring the ship, dance class, cooking demonstration, craft class, lunch in the Lido, hors d'oeuvres from the Neptune, cocktails on the verandah, get ready for a lovely dinner. We were well and truly in the holiday mode. 4th October - Cabo San Lucas, Mexico It was getting much hotter, now high 90's. We had to tender ashore. We decided to go on the ships tour - Discover Todos Santos. We had a 1.5 hour drive there and the same back and the most interesting thing to see was the Hotel California which inspired the Eagles to write their song. The hotel is lovely, it looks as if it hasn't changed a bit from the 60's, all very colorful and quaint. We had lunch here, walked around a while then headed back to the ship. I probably would have preferred to stay in Cabo San Lucas as we were very tired and hot when we came back and didn't want to walk around too much. The air conditioned ship was beckoning us. 5th October - Puerto Vallarta, Mexico Here we decided on the taste of Mexico tour. We saw the sights of the town, its lovely church, shopping and then went off for our cookery lesson Mexican style in an open air restaurant. We all had the ingredients in front of us to make Salsa with avocado, the chef talked us through what we had to do e.g. dice up the onion, tomato, chilli, squeeze of lime, pinch of salt, mash up the avocado etc. We then ate what we made, this was really a lot of fun and we finished off by flattening and cooking our own enchiladas to eat with our lunch. All washed down with Margaritas. We really enjoyed this. In the evening we went on the Rhythms of the Night tour on Las Calletas island which we reached by boat. The island is beautiful, lots of lovely dancers met us at the pier. The dinner was very good, eaten under canvas watching the sea, it was buffet style which was served up with Margaritas or whatever you wanted to drink. The toilets were amazing, carved out of the rock with candles lit all around. The show was also fantastic and was based more on an Aztec style. The trip back to the boat was great with dancing and drinking, but we got soaked when we left the boat as a thunder storm had started along with lightening and by the time we got back to the ship we were drenched although the boat gave us umbrellas the rain was just torrential. We were just in time to see the Indonesian crew show when we got back to the ship which was very good, there is a lot of talent amongst the crew. 6th October - At Sea and the Master Chefs dinner Another lovely lazy day whiling our time away with all the activities aboard the ship. Tonight was the Master Chefs dinner, this was a unique experience for us. It started off with ballet - the waiters dancing in to the Viennese waltz and delivering napkins to everyone. The starter was brought in by the waiters performing to a Swing song. The main course was brought in with the waiters spinning plates on top of poles. The dessert was outstanding - Chef Rudi's 'Hats off dessert' with a white chocolate chefs hat topping off a wonderful delicious pudding. All the guests were given chefs hats to wear and the menu was in the shape of a chefs hat with corkscrew, wooden spoon. It was so impressive I kept it as a souvenir. This is unique to HAL and something we've never come across on other cruise lines. We then went to the show and again fell into bed after midnight. 7th October - Acapulco, Mexico I've already been to Acapulco, I enjoyed it last time and I wondered if I would enjoy it this time. I was not disappointed. We did the City Tour with Cliff Divers. We enjoyed this trip especially the cliff divers, they were even better than I remembered. We had an advantage point from the restaurant right beside the cliffs. We even got photos of the divers afterwards as they came to the restaurant (looking for tips, but who can blame them after putting their lives at risk). We were also treated to a Mexican dance show and a man doing rope tricks. We then went back to the ship for a sandwich and came back out to go shopping. We only went a short way when someone came up to us and said he would take us to a shop who paid him to take us there. I had done this on the last trip so I said this was probably the best way to get what we wanted. Again we were not disappointed. The shop was huge selling all sorts of Mexican ware and we could barter with the price. We bought quite a lot and then we were taken to the market. Again the man took us to where he would get commission but also somewhere which sold really good quality mexican jewelry. Again we bought things, we then went to another stall and also bought other stuff. He said if we were happy with his service we could give him a tip but he didn't want anything for taking us around in his car. We were really happy so of course gave him a tip. 8th October - Santa Cruz, Mexico and the 3rd of 5 formal nights. We decided to take the Scenic Drive and La Crucesita tour here. It was very picturesque and took lots of lovely photos, we stopped at a place with a vantage point to take a photo of the ship which has turned out great. Tonight was the black and white ball, when it is ladies choice in the Crows Nest. All the officers marched in with the captain, lined up and when the music started the ladies had to ask the officers to dance. I didn't need to be asked twice. I danced with about 5 - 6 officers and it was great fun. Again this doesn't happen on other cruise lines. 9th October - Puerto Chiapas, Mexico This is a new port that is just trying to establish itself with tourism to cruise ships. We chose to do the Mexican Charro festival which was a show on horse back. First out were about 12 young girls proving they were very proficient horse woman with their display. We also had a display showing men roping a bull and men doing rope tricks on top of horses. It was very good, and thought it was well worth it. The port put on a spectacular display of dancers and musicians to greet us as we came off the ship and also when the ship was leaving. I hope the cruise liners decide to make this a regular stop as the people really put themselves out for us. 10th October - At Sea Another sea day to relax and enjoy everything the ship had to offer. Tonight we went to the Pinnacle Grill. I was going to do this for my birthday but I thought it much better fun being at the dining table with our table mates on the formal night. My sister had brought Dom Perignon champagne with her to celebrate my birthday so we had it chilled for us and brought to our table. It was delicious, as was the food. The steak was really tasty even though it wasn't Aberdeen Angus beef, the best beef in the world :-) 11th October - Puntarenas, Costa Rica Here I did the Train Ride & Mangrove glide and my sister had been booked on picturesque Sarchi but she cancelled at the last minute as she wasn't feeling too well. The anti malaria tablets she was taking were bothering her stomach. Before the trip we went into the town to buy a few things we needed. It was pouring rain, the locals told us it had rained for 3 days, others on the ship said this was the first time they'd ever seen rain in Puntarenas when they'd docked there before. It was still raining when we left to go on the tour, as we were passing through towns and villages we saw lots of localized flooding. The tour was very good especially the boat ride through the mangroves. We did see quite a few animals - crocodile, hawk, beaver, monkeys, iguanas. That night we ate in the Lido as I did not get back till about 6.45pm, the ship had to wait for a tour bus to get back as they had been stuck in a landslide and were more than 2 hours late getting back. We found out later the tour that was late was the one my sister should have been on. Dinner in the Lido was certainly not as good as the restaurant. It was the same menu but it had been lying out for a while as we were nearly the last ones to be served. One night (can't remember which one) there was also the chocolate dessert buffet at 11pm. This was spectacular, there was every kind of dessert imaginable all laid out in a splendid display. The chefs had made lots of carvings out of chocolate, fruit, ice etc. to decorate the tables. I really have not seen this kind of spread before. It was laid out around the swimming pool. 12th October - Scenic Cruising, Golfo Dulce, Costa Rica and the 4th of 5 formal nights The scenery was lovely and we whiled away our time on the verandah watching the world go by. Of course we went to the dance classes and joined in lots of other stuff that was going on around the ship. Again we got dressed up, got our photos taken by the professionals and had a great dinner. 13th October - Panama Canal We got up just before 6.30am to see Panama city and the ship going under the bridge of the Americas. Panamanian rolls were being served on the outside deck so we got some and went back to our verandah to get a great view of entering the first lock. It took a long time to get through the locks but it was a great day as this was my first time going through the canal. The ship had brought someone on board who explained everything you ever needed to know about the canal and what and when it was all happening. The ship had a sale of Panamanian goods up on the Lido deck and this was really jumping like a fair. Tonight was the Filipino crew members turn to entertain us, and again it was very good. 14th October - Cartegena, Columbia Here we did Scenes of Cartegena, I can thoroughly recommend this tour, we saw all the sights we wanted to see - Old City, Monastery, La Popa, The Fort, and of course more shopping. I felt really comfortable here, although there were a lot of vendors a firm no sent them on their way. Although we did buy quite a lot from them as they too are trying to make a living and feed their families. This was one of my favorite ports. It was Indonesian night in the Dining Room, all the waiters dressed up and during dinner the guests learned to play the Angklung (Indonesian instrument). They were conducted by a veteran of the Angklung and played Twinkle, Twinkle and Que Sera. It was another enjoyable night at dinner. 15th October - At Sea and the last of 5 formal nights Another day to just do what we wanted around the ship and get ready for the last formal night. Tonight the chefs took a bow and it was the parade of the Baked Alaska's. This is great fun and it's nice to see the waiters also enjoying themselves and posing for photos. We asked our waiters, wine steward and Head Waiter to sign our menus as they were very grand. This is a great memento to keep. 16th October - At Sea A great day to just do everything we wanted to do in our own time, drinks on the verandah, Neptune Lounge treats and not even think about packing until after dinner. The last supper was great, I must say the food was very good every night, much better than some cruises I've been on. It was also time to say goodbye to our table mates, exchange email addresses, and to give envelopes with their tips out to our room steward, waiters, wine waiter and Guillbert in the Neptune Lounge. They had looked after us soooo well for 19 days we just thought they deserved more than the $10pp per day charged to our room. They were all so pleased and very gracious when accepting them. We put our luggage out just after midnight and had our last nights sleep in those fabulous beds. 17th October - Disembarkation, Fort Lauderdale We had our last breakfast on the balcony, and left the ship at 9am. We picked up our luggage, got a taxi to the airport and got our hire car to drive up to Sanford International Airport in Orlando where we were getting a direct flight back to Glasgow (8 hours). I must say this was one of the best cruises I've had and Holland America do so many thoughtful and different things than other cruise lines, just to name a few: Indonesian afternoon tea Royal Dutch afternoon tea Black & White ball - ladies choice to ask officers to dance Brunch and meet the captain and officers Cocktail party and meet the captain and officers Dance Hosts Indonesian Night in the Dining Room Baked Alaska parade Chocolate buffet Master Chefs dinner etc. etc. etc. I had the best 50th birthday ever, a holiday that I will always remember, memories I will never forget and a fantastic collection of photos, thanks HAL. Scotland Read Less
Sail Date September 2007
Volendam Ratings
Category Editor Member
Cabins 3.5 4.0
Dining 4.0 4.0
Entertainment 3.5 3.5
Public Rooms 4.0 4.2
Fitness Recreation 4.5 3.8
Family 3.5 3.8
Shore Excursion 4.0 3.5
Enrichment 5.0 3.5
Service 5.0 4.2
Value For Money 4.0 3.8
Rates 4.0 3.9

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