The Japan to Vancouver 16 day cruise was our fourth on HAL. Volendam is the smallest of the four ships we have been on, but it has all the characteristics of the larger versions and we felt right at home from the outset. The crew is ... Read More
The Japan to Vancouver 16 day cruise was our fourth on HAL. Volendam is the smallest of the four ships we have been on, but it has all the characteristics of the larger versions and we felt right at home from the outset. The crew is probably the biggest plus - as with all our other HAL experiences, with minor exception, all crew members were friendly, polite and could not have been more helpful. The cruise itself was exactly what we had expected - and with the six sea days it was a relaxing way to recover after two months travelling in SE Asia. While the northern Japan ports were for the most part largely forgettable, the Alaska portion was very memorable.
The Ship. The ship is very well laid out, and although small, still has most of the amenities one would expect. However, while some will say the ship is in great shape - it is really not, and the upcoming refurbishment (this fall?) should spruce things up considerably. The crew works very hard to keep it clean, but there are many examples where age is creeping in. The chairs in some of the bars are tattered and ripped in places. Carpets are getting old and worn, The bathroom in our stateroom needs an upgrade. Some of the public rooms need repainting. To name a few. Nothing significant enough to ruin a cruise - but things that do need to be upgraded.
Stateroom. We had an inside cabin (older ship - very few balcony cabins put their price at a premium - for this type of cruise inside worked just fine). It was well laid out, lots of space for storing belongings and was very quiet. Bed very comfortable.
Dining Room. We tend to eat most of our meals in the MDR but this time for the reasons below we ended up taking many breakfast and lunches elsewhere. All the dinners in the MDR were either very good or excellent. However, breakfasts were - to be blunt - abysmal. Service was exceptionally slow and the impact on temperature was as to be expected - warm to cold. The lunch experience was not a great deal better - slow - cold and often not quite what one had asked for. I have no idea why (maybe two different supervisors) but whatever it was there was a hugely noticeable difference between breakfast/lunch and dinner.
Lido. On the whole, quite good once you can get by the herd mentality of buffet dining. The approach of having staff serve (ie no self serve) has certainly slowed things down a great deal - particularly for the popular "cooked to order" stations. But on the whole - the food was warm to hot, relatively fresh, and usually refilled quickly. If a HAL rep reads this - one suggestion for the Lido - why cannot there be a toaster station where people can at least do their own toast? Nothing is more frustrating then getting cooked eggs (or whatever) and then having to find the station where toast is made (it is not the egg station by the way) - and then waiting while one of the staff has to cook the toast (it normally takes three times to get it brown), while serving other customers? There has to be a better way.
Pinnacle Grill. A huge disappointment! We have been to the PG twice before and this time we were not impressed with the steaks or the King Crab. In fact, we had steak and crab legs two days later in the MDR and both were superior to what we had had in the PG. Menu could use a change once in while as well.
Caneletto (sp?). The Italian extra charge (minimal) was Outstanding - no other way to put it.
Signature Drinks Package. We received this as a perk for early booking. On the whole it was fine, although the selection of wines covered by the package available by the glass in the MDR was extremely limited. Not sure why they could not offer a bit better selection there. Also, when we tried to address this by asking if we could upgrade our Signature Package to Premium (at our cost) we were told we could not. I don't really get the "no, we don't want your money" and if you are not happy, too bad", approach. Bar tenders were, without exception, fabulous.
Entertainment. The entertainment on this cruise was probably the best on ANY cruise we have been on. Lots of activities programmed each day, including interesting talks, bridge, games, port visit talks (and not endless attempts to sell excursions), movies etc etc. The entertainers ranged from good to outstanding. No complaints here at all.
Gym. Good, clean, well laid out with sufficient apparatus. It did get tiresome when working out to have to constantly listen to the gym rats trying to sell the benefits of eating seaweed, cleansing or using specially designed insoles. The promenade deck is outstanding for walking.
Dress Code. Ah yes - the dress code. HAL has abandoned formal nights and adopted Gala Nights at about the same frequency of the old formal night. However, the definition what constitutes "Normal" and/or "Gala" dress is not well laid out and subsequently the result is confusion and inconsistency. HAL has to get a grip on how they define gala or they will continue to confuse guests, cause embarrassment and potentially lose business.
In summary, this was an enjoyable cruise, good value for money and reflected exactly what we have come to expect from HAL. There were a few areas where our expectations were not met, however this has always been the case regardless of the line we have chosen. Read Less