Best for people who want: A laidback, relaxed environment with not to many children around, midsized ship, excellent service, impeccable décor and a small splash of fun!
Age group: 40+
First impressions: When I first arrived in Canada place, Vancouver I was taken by surprise. The minute you unload your luggage you are finished any work for the remainder of the seven days of luxury and fine dining. They load your luggage on a trolley and you do not see it again until you enter your cabin (which might I add were superb). Embarkation was smooth and swift; there was a short line to go through the metal detectors(seemed long but was not at all) you then enter a short yet time consuming line to receive your ship identification card. At this line, you must present your immigration questionnaire (I strongly suggest you fill this out on the HAL sight otherwise, you will be moved to a very, very long line). You then go through us customs (you must have photo I.D. even if you are under the age of 16, I was almost denied boarding). With a quick snap of acamera and a scan of your card, you walk along the metal gangway that leads to an awaiting seven days of perfect relaxation.
Dining: Dining was excellent! Every night there was a new selection of delicacies to choose from in the Rotterdam dining room (1 of 3 dining areas). People said the food was a little normal but I strongly disagree. The Marco Polo restaurant was another restaurant you go to. I, personally did not go to this particular restaurant, mainly because of the 20$ USD surcharge but my aunt and uncle went to it and the said it was excellent! The lido restaurant was a buffet, but that did not mean there was no quality, the food was superb here and the buffet was at least 40ft long! Any meal could be enjoyed here. Also a poolside bar had salads, tacos, hamburgers, chicken burgers, hotdogs and pizza.
Cabins: The cabins are the largest around and the nicest I have ever seen (from photos that is). I was in a inside K category room (room #2563, Main deck). The two lower twin size beds could be pushed together (though the room seemed bigger if they were not pushed together), there was a bed that came out of the ceiling that the steward pulled down (my cabin steward was Joko, All cabin stewards are Indonesian) there was also a couch that the cushion flipped over to make a bed. The bathrooms had a shower, sink, blow dryer and very noisy toilet (it scared my mom every time she flushed it!).
Ship stats: 1440 double occupancy passengers 105ft beam 27ft draft 780ft length 647 crewmembers registered in Netherlands 60,906 GTR 23 knots max speed
Before sailing on her I began to think of the Volendam as the Cinderella of the HAL fleet. For a fleeting moment in time she was the largest ship in the HAL fleet. From there her fortunes changed. Eclipsed by the Rotterdam class and the new "Vista" class she and her sister the Zaandam seemed to become the forgotten middle children of the fleet.
After returning I had not planned to submit a review on this cruise (my 15th). This was my friends last trip, as he was in the final stages of liver cancer. When he was told that the tumor had metastasized he was given 6 to 8 months. As it turned out, he had 6 weeks. He passed away peacefully two weeks after our return.
Embarkation: We booked this cruise less than 2 weeks prior to sailing, during a Holland America "flash sale" with his doctors whole hearted permission. In a word cheap, especially for a Verandah cabin. Since it was a 10 day cruise and it left on a Thursday, I didn't expect I would be dealing with a "spring break crowd." Our group of 4 arrivedfrom Orlando, via one-way car rental, and when I dropped the group off at 2:00pm, the embarkation area was deserted. When I arrived after dropping the car off about 40 minutes later it was still deserted. I had my choice of 3 available boarding Agents. It actually took me longer to walk across the huge warehouse size room, than for them to process the paperwork. Spooky.
The Ship: I'm a veteran of the Statendam class ships. I love them. The Volendam and Zaandam are slightly larger and the most notable change for me was having both pools on the Lido deck, instead of the aft pool one deck down. I actually found that very convenient, especially traveling with someone that wasn't particularly mobile. The lounges (Crows Nest, Explorers, Ocean Bar, Piano Bar) are essentially the same as the Statendam class with the exception of the Piano Bar. Instead of being a cozy hideaway it is open on one side, has a small dance floor and is in the major traffic pattern from mid-ship to the dining room. Cutting to the chase, it was not my favorite space. The Crows Nest was, with its circular bar and comfortable nooks and crannies. The verandah stateroom (7055) was wonderful, although I could see the need for a second full length hanging closet instead of several half closets with many shelves.
The Passengers: Shortly after embarkation and settling my friend in the stateroom to rest, I walked the decks to get a feeling about the other passengers. Although all age groups were represented the majority of the passengers were 70 plus. Again, I was prepared for this since this was a longer cruise with a Thursday departure. The parade of walkers, wheelchairs, electric wheelchairs, scooters, and people with canes (my friend included) led me to think that for this cruise HAL should have changed its funnel colors to white with a large red cross. Still there was a significant crowd (age 30 to 50) each night in the Crows Nest. The ship was sailing with only about 900 to 1,000 passengers so it had a ghost ship (River Styx?) quality
The Food: Since we had been on the Statendam out of San Diego in October I had expected the food to be of the same caliber, which was consistently excellent. It wasn't. Perhaps it was a "provisioning" East Coast, West Coast thing. Don't get me wrong it wasn't awful, in fact it was quite good (for the most part). There were hits and misses. The steak on the first night left me with the thought, "so this is what mad cow beef tastes like." The soups were generally wonderful, as were the fish courses. The salads continue to be boring and as aforementioned the beef ranged from great to nearly inedible. Service can make up for a lot of shortcomings, but alas our server in the dining room was somewhat clueless and his assistant nearly invisible. Considering the whole rear section of the main floor was empty (eerie in itself) because of the low passenger count you'd think they would have had adequate staffing. Leisurely dining is one thing, a 20 minute wait every night from the time your dinner plate is removed until you get coffee is another.
The food at the Lido where we did most breakfasts and several lunches was very good. The specialty stations for omelets in the morning or stir fry at lunch did a commendable job. As I noted in my Statendam review, a thoughtful touch are the servers that help the elderly and those with mobility issues with their trays. I had first hand knowledge of how that helps on this cruise. The food station by the Lido Pool became a favorite this cruise with very tasty burgers and well stocked taco bar.
Which brings me to The Pinnacle, I have no complaints about the food. It was excellent. We said so to the restaurant manager on the way out. Then like a lawyer who asks one too many questions and blows his case he asked, "and the service?" While I thought of an appropriate response another member of the group responded, "not great." In fact the service at times was offensive. They make a major production of just getting you seated at the table, and it was as if there training never got further than that. It was like a musical that has all the good numbers in the first 10 minutes then drizzles on for several more hours. Either they were obtrusively hovering (swarming the table to bring courses) or disdainfully shunning. A request to have a steak sent back so it was medium rare (as ordered) instead of blood red (as delivered) was greeted with an attitude bordering on indignation, water glasses weren't refilled without having to ask, and the bread basket sat empty. Not ordering wine brought an audible gasp. Never before had I rated the service a number one (poor) on the HAL questionnaire, but I did so this time. I hope management actually reads those things. The "we're so special and you're lucky to be eating here" doesn't work on any level.
Cruise Director and Staff: Usually a great source a barbs in any review for me, but this was different. They were great. They showed genuine concern and respect for the passengers. They were involved, they were appropriate, they were engaging. Instead of fleeing on formal nights at midnight (when they go officially off duty) from the Crow's Nest, they danced, mixed and mingled. They performed their bingo, trivia and pool game functions with a great sense of fun. This is what a Cruise Director and Staff are supposed to look and be like. Other ships in the HAL fleet and cruise industry could learn a thing or two from them.
Entertainment: A distinct improvement over my last HAL cruise. The production shows had less of a lip synced quality, the dancing was competent (especially considering how much the ship was rolling the second night) and the staging and costumes although decidedly not "cutting edge" were enjoyable. The individual "headliners" were for the most part entertaining. One singer a bass/baritone was described in the daily program as "he'll remind you of Howard Keel" had me out of my seat in 4 bars. Not clapping, but sprinting for the exit. Most definitely not my style, but he did sing loud enough that anyone other than the completely deaf could hear him.
Ports: Private Island, Grand Cayman, Costa Maya, Cozemel, Vera Cruz. Do yourself a favor check out www.portreviews.com. It will give you information and reader reviews on all the ports, far better than I can do here.
Dante's Inferno. At Costa Maya, which is a large facility built by the friendly folks at Diamonds International we had a huge problem. Arranging for a ships wheelchair to take my friend from the finger pier where we were docked to the main pier where the shuttle ran was done through the front desk. We confirmed the pick up arrangements with the Boarding Officer when we left the ship. Simply, we would send back someone from our party several shuttles early to get the wheelchair so we could pick him up, at the junction of the main pier. The point was for him to be able to swim in the Ocean one last time, and walk as little as possible. We taxied into the fishing village and had lunch and our swim. It was perfect. On the way back he enjoyed the salt water pool at the port facility but his energy was fading. As arranged we sent the "advance party" to pick up the wheel chair 2 shuttles early then I boarded a shuttle with him. When we arrived, there was no one at the drop off point to meet us. We waited another 5 minutes, and it was hot. He decided to walk with my assistance the 1,200 feet to the gangplank which was located at the bow. Frankly, it was an ordeal, especially for someone who a month before was extremely physically active. He was humiliated but determined, and I was livid. When we were halfway to the gangplank, one for the "advance party" came sprinting from the gangplank, without a wheelchair. She explained the new Boarding Officer refused to release the wheelchair, nor would he confirm our arrangement with the front desk. He said one of them would have to go up there, as he wasn't going to call. By the time his cousin got up to the front desk, waited in line and confirmed the arrangement we had made it back to the ship. Meanwhile, the Boarding Officer had been peering out the gangplank watching us struggle the whole time. Truly sadistic. After getting my friend settled back in the room I had a "chat" with the front desk. Yes, I'm aware of HAL's policy about ship wheelchairs not being used off the ship, but since they had given us permission to use it, they should have honored it in a timely fashion. One phone call from him to the front desk would have solved the problem, but he refused to yield. Instead while his cousin waited impatiently in line we struggled back, his mortality exposed in every shaky step. The Boarding Officer, Dante because of his inflexibility, and severely rude attitude added considerable to an already difficult situation. When a major part of your clientele is aged, immobile or infirmed having someone devoid of compassion is not only distasteful, it's dangerous. Shame on you HAL.
Service in general: With the above noted exceptions, both good (cruise staff), not so good (dining room service) and horrendous (Dante), the level of service was acceptable but lacking the "sparkle" I usually associate with HAL. This was just prior to HAL switching over to their new tipping policy and the uncertainty seemed to distract the staff. Pleasant but flat would be another way of describing it.
Disembarkation: Because the ship was going into dry dock immediately after this cruise we were allowed to stay in our stateroom until our disembarkation number was called. It was painless.
Final Thoughts: I've been trying to write this last part for many weeks, with no luck. The Volendam was not as charming as the Statendam Class ships, nor as classy as the Rotterdam /Amsterdam, and certainly not as flashy as the new Vista Class but it performed its 10 day itinerary very adequately, providing a comfortable but uninspired cruise experience. This is one cruise I can't wrap up in a nice little literary bundle. It will always be bittersweet.
Caribbean back to back cruises on P & O Golden Princess and Holland America Volendam - A comparison
P & O Golden Princess 7 night Eastern Caribbean itinerary - Inside Cabin B316 Baja Deck 11
22 November 2003 Departure from Fort Lauderdale 23 November At sea 24 November At sea 25 November St Maarten 26 November St Thomas 27 November At sea 28 November Princess Cays 29 November Arrival Fort Lauderdale
Holland America Volendam 10 night Southern Caribbean cruise - Outside Cabin D2599 on D Deck
01 December 2003 Departure from Fort Lauderdale 02 December At sea 03 December At sea 04 December Willlemstad Curacao 05 December Isla Margarita Venezuela 06 December Port of Spain Trinidad 07 December Fort de France Martinique 08 December St Thomas 09 December At sea 10 December Half Moon Cay 11 December Arrival Fort Lauderdale
We are Australian, married a "Baby boomer" couple still working. We travelled with 2 very good friends, also from Australia. Our occupations are Manager of a Travel College, Registered Nurse and our friends are Managers of General Stores in the Australian outback. This was their first cruise and the fourth in total for us.
We stayed atThe Holiday Inn express prior to the cruise and between cruises. This hotel is well located about 5 minutes by taxi from the Princess Terminal. It is a comfortable "no frills" hotel reasonably priced.
We took a taxi to the ships, as the Shuttle bus at times was unavailable or booked out. The taxi ride was about USD 5.00 per person.
We will talk in this report about the cruising experience on the two ships as much has been written about the ports of call in other reviews.
The Golden Princess cruise
In June 2002 we undertook a cruise from Barcelona to Venice on the Golden Princess and were so impressed that we booked again on the same ship for the above Caribbean cruise. We had exactly the same cabin, B316 an inside on Baja deck 11.
1/ Positive Comments
The design of the inside cabin made good use of mirrors to enhance the feeling of light and maximise space. The open space wardrobes without doors provided plenty of hanging and storage space for our requirements. The self-service laundries were spacious with plenty of washing machines, dryers and ironing facilities. Change machines and laundry powder dispensers were available in each laundry. Cost of laundry - USD $1.00 per wash and 0.50 per drier.
The service in the "Go as you please" dining rooms was excellent on all occasions. We tried these restaurants at breakfast, lunch and dinner. During the evening, if there was a wait for a table, we were given a paging device and we had a drink in one of the bars until it activated. We found this very civilised.
The two "Ozzie" men having hearty appetites, had 2 entrees at some dinners. This was not a problem for the waiting staff or kitchens and the second entrée was supplied cheerfully and graciously. Exactly the same thing happened on a few occasions with extra desserts being requested.
The Horizon court buffet self service operates 24 hours a day and was also very popular, particularly before and after shore excursions. The availability of any type of cooked egg including boiled eggs for breakfast in the main dining room was great.
Sabatinis Restaurant, where a surcharge was paid was good. The Italian food was excellent and well presented. The service was a little slow, possibly due to the staff stopping to sing congratulations to most of the customers who were celebrating birthdays and anniversaries etc.
A master class wine tasting was also very well done, held in Sabatinis during an afternoon when we were at sea. The Head Waiter was extremely knowledgeable about the wines presented.
The coke card, purchased for USD $22.50 per person enabled us to get as many club sodas or cokes as we wanted. We found this very good value, particularly when we came back hot and thirsty from the tours.
We were the only four "Ozzies" on board and must have made a lot of noise or had distinctive accents as quite a few people commented, "you must be one of the "Ozzies".
The wine list in the restaurant is a great improvement on our last Princess cruise with much greater variety and well priced.
The Skywalkers lounge is a great place to relax during the day a very quiet spot with a great view.
Afternoon tea is served in one of the dining rooms at 3.30pm by white gloved waiters worth "putting on the Ritz"
The cooking demonstration and tour of the galleys is great. The Golden Princess was also promoting its cookbook, personally signed by the Head Chef. Our mate Gary, who is also a very good cook himself, bought one and was impressed with its photographs and recipes.
The service aboard Golden Princess was exemplary. Toiletries were replaced in our cabin without asking. The dining and drink waiters didn't miss a beat. These staff came from all parts of the world such as Eastern Europe and South East Asia and spoke excellent English, even understanding our Aussie accents!
Captain Bernard Warner stated, "This is a happy ship." How right he was. He and his officers were highly visible in all areas of the ship - managing by walking around and ensuring the passenger's needs were met. Nothing was too much trouble.
2/ Negative comments
The decking or wooden veneer on the Promenade deck was very slippery when wet for people walking and running for exercise.
The main evening show "Lights, Camera and Action" we had seen 18 months previously on the Mediterranean cruise. Perhaps they could change the shows every 12 months or so. The comedians were also not very funny in comparison to our previous cruise.
I think that ice creams and Cappuccino should be included in the cruise fare, rather than as an added expense.
We were confused once we arrived at the Princess Cruise terminal at Fort Lauderdale. After getting out of our taxi we were not sure if we had to take our luggage to the check in counter ourselves as was done on our Europe cruise. Eventually a porter told us to leave our bags behind and they would fix things up. It was a little confusing and we suggest that a large sign be placed telling people to leave their bags with the porters and that bags do not have to be taken into the terminal building. I think that more Princess staff should be outside the Terminal building assisting with "meet and greet" as first impressions that people make are important.
The Volendam cruise
1 Positive comments
Very good wooden decks give a good grip on the walking deck and jogging track. On the Volendam joggers must jog around the sports deck. They are not allowed to jog around the Promenade deck. Very good "Las Vegas" style shows with high quality dancing. Our hearts were in our mouths however when the poor female dancers on several occasions nearly lost their balance as they were performing on a revolving platform on a ship that was sailing in rough seas.
The appearance on the ship of an excellent steel band called "Caribbean Magic" whilst we were docked in Port of Spain Trinidad was a highlight of our visit to this Port.
A lockable drawer, as well as a safe in our cabin provided a secure place for cameras, video equipment etc.
The shipboard accounts gave an accurate listing of expenses and shipboard purchases.
The cabin gave privacy by means of a curtain across the passage leading to the door of the cabin, blocking off light from the main corridor at night.
Three handrails in the bath and a non-slip bath mat were good safety features.
The sandwich and ice-cream bars available in the Lido buffet were of a high standard, with cheerful staff working hard to oblige the passengers.
The cooking demonstration and tour of the galleys was entertaining and well presented.
Dutch high tea was elegant and delicious.
The Marco Polo restaurant, where an additional fee was charged, was a culinary highlight for us. Utterly professional and gorgeous food and wine.
The Captains cocktail party was good fun with generous serves of drinks. It was great to see public acknowledgment of excellent crew service by the Captain at this event.
The midnight dessert extravaganza was a visual and culinary feast.
The Java Coffee shop provided excellent complimentary coffee and cookies during the day and was well patronized. Having take-away popcorn for patrons of the cinema was a nice touch.
Hot appetisers were served prior to dinner in the Crowsnest lounge and this was much appreciated.
Jean loves kippers for breakfast. These were available most days in the sit-down dining restaurant - Rotterdam. The Crowsnest bar had the most beautiful views at the front of the ship with very comfortable recliners and foot stools to take a nap in. Judging by the snores from some of the chairs, other people enjoyed them as well.
The Captains cocktail party provided multiple photo opportunities. We had several formal photos taken which were of very high quality. The organization of the portraits was more streamlined that Princess, without long lines forming for different photo backgrounds.
The embarkation and disembarkation were well organized, with staff members positioned at various points to get people through with a minimum of fuss.
There was a very good updated map of the ship's current position on the level 5 deck.
Passengers were able to remain in their rooms until their departure time was called, rather than waiting in a lounge area, as we had to do on Princess.
1 Negative comments
The safe in the room required a credit card to access it, thus requiring us to wear neck pouches continuously on board for our ship card and credit card.
No photo I.D. in the computer meant carrying photo I.D such as passport or drivers licence when entering and exiting the ship.
Very little space was available on the bathroom vanity unit for toiletries (poor design).
The wardrobes had doors, rather than open space, opening into the area opposite the bathroom, causing congestion.
A fridge was not available in the room, although an ice bucket was provided.
There wasn't a light stand on the bedside cabinets but a light was positioned above the bed. The design of the light switches over the bed made the controls difficult to find at night.
Our cabin steward was friendly and helpful but forgot a few times to renew soap, shampoo etc. We left a reminder note on the bed for him and this was always attended to promptly.
The toilets had an unfortunate habit of not flushing in port. Was this a design fault? We encountered a few distressed passengers like ourselves, searching for a public bathroom when this occurred.
On at least two occasions, we noticed a very strong odour in the cabin and corridors like a strong blue vein cheese smell, which was most unpleasant. Other passengers also commented on this.
The self-serve laundry seems designed to get passengers NOT to use it, instead encouraging use of the expensive ships laundry service. A change machine was unavailable, instead passengers had to go tho the Purser's desk for change. The washing machines were half the size of those on the Golden Princess-for the same amount of money. The one iron and ironing board were designed for right-handed people- running along the wall instead of 90 degrees to it. The iron would not turn fully to the cool setting, making it difficult to iron delicate fabrics without "catching".
There are 3 dress codes instead of 2, for dinner. Formal, Informal and Casual. We feel 2 dress codes of Formal and Casual are enough otherwise the men need to have a dinner suit for Formal as well as a Jacket and tie for Informal. This makes it a little difficult for people travelling a long distance or people who are away for a long time on their holiday and who want to travel as lightly as possible like us on this trip. We were away in total for about 5 weeks.
Dining room service was inconsistent. Our second sitting evening dining staff were good, although overworked and distracted at times. The wine waiter had a great sense of humour and was a lot of fun.
The breakfast staff in the main sit-down dining area were sometimes taciturn and argumentative with food mix-ups occurring regularly. It seemed as if they were lacking sleep and possibly had communication difficulties with the English language. (Maybe it was our Ozzie accent).
Jean was also seated at one breakfast sitting in the Rotterdam dining area with a charming elderly couple from Florida. The waiter was brusque and abrupt with them and they became confused about their breakfast order. He left the plates of food on the table when they stated they had not ordered it, embarrassing them. Jean reassured them that the waiters often mixed up breakfast orders and not to worry about it. Jean works in an aged care environment and realises the importance of speaking clearly and slowly to enhance communication and preserving the dignity of older persons.
Many of the passengers on this cruise were elderly and some were frail as well. It would be a good idea to train the crew in the special requirements of this group as becoming impatient and bustling them makes communication much more difficult.
Why is it not possible to have eggs on the menu for breakfast other than fried in the main dining room? This happened on at least two occasions.
The restricted dining hours in the Lido buffet caused long lines to form for meals-particularly during breakfast. Waits of 10-15 minutes were common. It would be a better idea to have 24 hour buffet service as on Princess. Or at least extend the breakfast hours.
Staff serving up hot food at the breakfast buffet limited the amount of food offered. Heaven help the passengers who forgot something once they had passed through the line. Jean found the easiest way to get tomato juice for breakfast was to order it on room service. This was very well done by our room steward.
On the formal nights "special" food was not served until the last of 3 formal dinners eg Lobster, caviar, and escargot. This differs from Princess, who "rewarded passengers for attending formal nights with Lobster, Tom turkey. Pheasant etc on each formal night.
We wondered being a 10 night cruise, if the kitchens were starting to run out of various menu items as the cruise progressed. Towards the end of the cruise, 2 of us ordered oysters as a starter for dinner. 2 oysters were served for each portion.
The bar staff were also inconsistent. During the day the passengers needed to go to the Crows nest bar for service, rather than staff circulating around the lounge for orders. Service was much better during the evening. On one afternoon Jean enquired at the bar if it was open. The surly reply was "I just served you a glass of water didn't I"? This type of lippy sarcastic comment reveals that the male serving staff require further training in customer relations. The expression "The customer is always right" springs to mind.
We do not believe we are hard to please passengers, being easy going Ozzies. Other passengers asked us our opinion of the service staff and agreed with the inconsistency as well.
For our type of cruising, we think Princess has got the right formula for today's cruising market.
The four Ozzies agreed that the modern approach to buffet and dining service shown on Princess is the way of the future.
We have all booked on future Princess voyages for later in the year
Princess - well done - keeping up the high standard will encourage us baby boomers to continue cruising with you. The motto "Back where we belong" says it all for us.
Holland America have some corrective work to do to fix the problems outlined by us above, particularly in the service area. More of a "Nothing is too much trouble" approach is what is required to meet the present passenger expectations.
Holland America Line Volendam by Dave MacLean Alaska July 7, 2003
This was my tenth cruise to date. I've cruised previously on Norwegian, Princess, Royal Caribbean, Celebrity and Holland America. It was my third cruise to Alaska -- one of my favorite itineraries, especially considering I live in Vancouver and an airline trip is not required. We had a Category A "mini-suite" verandah cabin on the Navigation Deck (cabin 7045 on the starboard side).
I didn't have high expectations. Everything I'd heard said that Holland America was still not doing a good job on their embarkation, despite the changeover to computerized immigration forms and a new system. WRONG!
The change from their old system (which was dreadfully slow and cumbersome) to this new one was absolutely amazing. We'd input all our immigration data beforehand AND printed out and brought a copy of the info with us (as suggested on the HAL website) to the pier. Departure time was 5 p.m. and embarkation was due to start at 2 p.m. We called a cab around 1:20 and arrived at Canada Place about 1:40. As promised, we got an express embarkation line, filled out the "SARS"question sheet (while standing - takes 2 seconds), handed that in, went directly up to the counter, got room key cards, and were onboard within five minutes!
I was completely impressed with this system. Previously I thought Princess was the best at embarkation, but I think HAL has them beat now -- although why they don't take your credit card information at the time you sign in, rather than making you have to line up at a later time at the purser's office is beyond me. All the other lines I've sailed manage to get that info taken up front before you board.
Cabin Maintenance and Attendant
We did not get a good cabin steward on this trip. He didn't introduce himself, ask our names or where we were from, and was often hours behind in cleaning the room – e.g., we'd leave the room at 10 a.m. and he wouldn't get around to cleaning it until 1:00 or 1:30 p.m. Any other cruise I've been on, the steward seems to automatically (as if by magic) know when you've left and, voila, 10 minutes later you can come back to a clean room!
I started off having to find him on the first afternoon as there was no soap in the room, neither hand nor bath. Later he tried to come into the room to make it up for the night around 7 p.m., knowing that we were at second seating which doesn't commence until 8 p.m. He would take the comforter off the bed every night and fold it away, whereas we wanted it on. We had to put it on ourselves each night and he would always see it on the next day.
We ran out of the little hand soap bar on Day 3, but never received another one. We did thankfully have some of our own soap and anti-bacterial cleanser with us.
One day we went back to our cabin after lunch to find the door lock would not open. Both of our key cards registered red lights. I went searching for the steward --- his comment was, "door not working, don't know why, called locksmith long time ago." I tried to impress upon him to call again before he went off shift for the afternoon, as it was absolutely necessary that we gain access to get our helicopter excursion tickets for a glacier tour and some proper clothing. He replied, "are you sure you need to room now?" Oh, yes, I'm sure, please call maintenance again. They did eventually come and let us in the room, so we made our excursion. I wonder what would have happened had we not grabbed him and made it clear that it needed fixing ASAP. On another day the toilet would not flush for about two hours. We called down to the front desk and were told they'd been advised by several others of the problem, and were looking into it.
Good points about the room were the balcony and the bed, which was quite comfortable. We had morning breakfast from room service, which was always good and delivery was always on time.
We had just returned less than six weeks prior from a trip onboard RCI's "Legend of the Seas," and the differences in cleanliness between that ship and the Volendam were amazing. On Legend OTS, people were constantly cleaning everywhere - public washrooms, railings, elevators, hallway art --- just everywhere, all day and night. Even the buns and bread were handed out by the assistant waiter rather than left on table. We felt as if we could eat off the floors.
On this sailing of the Volendam, I was amazed at the lack of cleanliness. I did not notice at any time (other than the final morning in Lido) people wiping down anything, cleaning public washrooms, walls, elevators, gym equipment, etc. It gave me the feeling that RCI maintains their ships on a higher level.
Several locations on Upper Promenade Deck 5 were very smoky. My partner has asthma and found this a floor to avoid if at all possible, except for the Rotterdam Dining Room. The smell of smoke drifted through the Ocean Bar, Casino, Seaview Lounge and Explorer's Lounge. HAL seems to have a disproportionate amount of smokers onboard, and it gets annoying when you can't enjoy various parts of the ship, or even your own balcony (watch for the cigar smokers on balconies).
I was disappointed to notice that people apparently are starting to "dress down" on formal nights. I'd rented a tuxedo and actually felt out of place wearing it, as there were so few among the other passengers. I realize that Alaska is quite casual during the day and one needs extra clothes for the possible rain and cool weather, but it seemed that many people were dressed kind of "frumpy" on formal nights compared to most other ships I've sailed.
There were several children and teens on this sailing, and they were very energetic and well-behaved.
My guess would be the approximate age on this sailing was around 45; we saw every age from newborns right on up.
Rotterdam Dining Room
We had second seating, at a table for two on the upper level. We had extremely bad service here. I have usually enjoyed the dining room experience, and looked forward to it each night as the waiters, assistant waiters, etc. are usually such nice folks and go out of their way to be pleasant. The maitre d' and head waiters never showed their presence the whole cruise. Our waiter and assistant waiter did not introduce themselves or ask our names. It was an odd feeling, as I'd never seen such a distant wait staff on a cruise ship before. Our waiter (who was probably in mid to late 40s) on two different nights dropped plates to the floor. One night he knocked over my partner's ginger ale on the table and then dropped a fork on his suit trying to right the glass. He frequently put the orders in the wrong places on surrounding tables as well as ours. He only had a total of 16 people in his station. We spoke with some of the other guests, who were not very happy either.
I had nothing dropped on me, just a couple of wrong salad dressings and one night no fork to go with the Key Lime Pie – and it took 10 minutes to flag him down for one. The swan amongst the ugly ducklings in the dining room was Bartender/Sommelier Evangeline, who would have our ginger ales and sodas on the table each night before we arrived and would stop by and have a nice chat with us. Thank God for her or we'd have had no staff at all speak to us in the dining room. Our wait staff never talked to us, other than to ask the order. They never recommended a meal either.
Although our particular service was lacking, the taste of the food itself was wonderful -- far better on the Volendam than on the back-to-back Statendam cruises we took last fall. (On the Statendam, however, we had fantastic service everywhere, which made up for not-so-great food and some other mishaps.)
We avoided "Dutch" night, and made reservations for the Pinnacle Grill at the Marco Polo" that night instead. We'd tried the new Pinnacle Grill on the Statendam twice and knew what to expect. We were certainly not disappointed. The menu is fantastic, well worth the $20 charge. We had wonderful service from staff there, and left them a nice (cash) tip to show our appreciation.
There were very good naturalists onboard and we had just a fantastic day in Glacier Bay. The weather cooperated the whole week - sunny and clear skies. We spent a couple of hours at Margerie Glacier on different sides of the ship and saw plenty of calving. I'll have some pictures up to my albums soon. Ours was the only ship in the area at that particular time.
We opted for the "Four Glacier Adventure by Helicopter" tour. This was spectacular! Our pilot Jamaica was terrific, and she was able to answer all our questions. She landed us on a beautiful glacier and it was totally awe-inspiring. To go out walking on a glacier, taste the fresh running water, and breathe the clean air defies description. You just have to do it yourself to get an inkling. We captured many digital pictures on this excursion.
We went on the "Glacier Point Wilderness Safari" tour. This is another great tour, one I'd been on a couple years ago. This combines a high-speed catamaran ride with a hike and then a canoe up to Davidson Glacier. We had spectacular weather for this one as well and it was an exhilarating experience. Some of the people from southern climes were a little chilly and needed extra clothing (supplied by the tour), but for us the temps were just right.
Here we took the "Magnificent Misty Fjords by Floatplane" excursion. This entails about an hour's flight with a 10-minute landing in a lake. This was a super tour! At the request of the tour people (and their generous offer of a nice Promech Air baseball cap) my partner and I were separated onto different planes and were both able to copilot these planes. This was a terrific experience for me (as well as an ideal spot to get more fantastic pictures).
We were quite tired most evenings after late dinner and did not stay up to watch the late shows in the Lounge. Most of the public areas were too smoky and that kept us away from them as well. One night we did get to catch the Volendam singers and dancers in a Broadway Production number called "Showstoppers," which was very well performed by all.
The final day, Sunday, was spent at sea on our way back to Vancouver. As we'd had such lousy service on this cruise, we were not very sad about having to disembark in the morning. Although I tried to have an open mind and go at this in a positive vein, I am left with a bitter taste in my mouth for Holland America. Perhaps it's just not my particular "fit".
It may be that I'll need to hang up my Mariner's Pin for a few years, and stick with just the cruise lines and ships that feel perfect for me. After my limited experiences, I am still inclined to say Royal Caribbean and Celebrity are the ones that give me the right feel.
HAD A GREAT TIME. Didn't want it to end
My sister and I just got back from the April 18th thru 28th - 10 Day on Holland America's Volendam (Wayfarer itinerary). What a great time and what a beautiful ship. I didn't meet any staff member that wasn't friendly and ready, willing and able to help in any way. I still can't understand how the entire staff could remember our names so quickly.
Sara, one of the officers and a new addition to the Volendam staff always had this big smile on her face and you could really tell she enjoyed what she was doing.
Also met Captain van der Zee. What a great sense of humor as well as very professional. Enjoyed speaking with him and absorbing all of his knowledge.
Met a lot of very interesting people on the ship and had a great time with them. Hopefully we will stay in touch and meet again on the next cruise or one down the road. Thanks for a great time Jim and Ruth (the slipper people), Maryann and John, Richard and Charlene, and Beryl and Mike.
Marco, the video photographer, wasalways showing up to catch you on his video camera. He did catch me doing the "pole dance", which later in this article will be discussed. I think he was having as much fun as everyone else on the ship.
On each of the formal nights we had an officer who sat with us. His name was Andy and he was the Environmental Officer. It was very interesting listening about his duties on board. What a very nice man and a wonderful dancer.
There were many different age groups on the ship. A lot were families with children, but that was probably due to it being Spring break and Easter weekend. The majority of the people are of mature age and for my sister and I, in our early 50's, it was an enjoyment. There are a lot of activities on board for those who want to join in. For those who don't, they can do whatever.
The 3rd deck is really nice, as it is lined with lounge chairs to sit quietly and read or just enjoy the ocean view, but is also where people go to walk or just take a stroll after dinner.
They have an internet room set up with computers so you can retrieve your emails or send them out to family and friends, or if you have to do a little work from the ship. The cost was about $50.00 for 100 minutes or $75.00 for 250 minutes. It's a lot cheaper than calling from the ship, or using a cell phone. Most of the time my cell phone wouldn't work anyway.
Embarkation and Disemarkation was nothing less than a pleasure and run like a well oiled machine.
When we arrived on the ship at 1:30, they took us to our room. We had a Deluxe Verandah Suite. It was HUGE! Very spacious and loaded with amenities. The verandah was so large it had a round table with 4 chairs and 2 lounge chairs and still there was plenty of room. My sister and I spent a lot of time on the verandah. What a great place to relax. This will definitely be a must on each and every cruise. Well worth the extra money.
As usual, we brought way too many articles of clothing. So we got busy unpacking. We met our cabin steward, Sri. He was a wonderful person and took great care of us. Always checking and making sure we didn't need anything and just basically attending to our every need.
After the lifeboat drill we returned our life vests to the cabin and made our way up to the Crows Nest. This is the best place to be when leaving port. What a view. The staff in the Crows Nest was wonderful. Eva served our drinks and went out of her way to make sure everything was just right. There was also Jay, who too served drinks, but he could make the most fabulous flowers and animals out of paper. I believe its called origami. What a talent he has.
The food was good and seemed to be consistent. They have an alternative dining room called the Pinnacle Grill which charges $20.00 per person. It use to be called the Marco Polo and there wasn't a charge, but that has since changed. The food is excellent. We ate there 1 night. What a treat. We usually ordered room service each morning, and the food was brought on time and still hot. What a great way to start off the day. We usually ate out on the verandah. We also had dinner brought to our rooms a couple nights when we just couldn't bear to get dressed again. Usually this was when we hit a port and had a very long day. The dinners were also brought on time and hot. This was the same menu as the dining room.
The Lido pool was very refreshing. To my surprise, it is a freshwater pool. They have 2 pools on the ship and both are freshwater. Very nice. Edrick served us drinks at the Lido bar. Always a smile on his face and can't do enough for you. He even made my sister and I these little Dutch hats the day before we left. I will treasure them always. The Lido restaurant is very nice with a lovely view.
Our itinerary took us to Curacao, Isle de Margarita, Trinidad, Martinique, St. Thomas, Half Moon Cay, and then back home to Ft. Lauderdale.
After 2 days at sea our first port was Curacao and we arrived on "their" Easter Monday. The city is so colorful, but not much was opened that day because of the Holiday. We did however walk through the streets and wandered through whatever shops were open.
Next was Isle de Margarita, Venezuela. My sister opted to go on the horseback ride and I opted to go on the Rhumba tour. My sister said the horseback riding tour was breath taking. She could, at one time on the trail, look down from the mountain and see the Volendam. She said it looked a million miles away. The Rhumba tour Maryann and I went on was nothing less than fantastic. Our guide, Marbella was absolutely the best. This girl could really dance and get everyone on the bus involved. She didn't stop the whole 5 hours. The drivers name was Julio and boy could he dance while driving or standing. He never stopped. The bus that picks you up at the ship is painted all kinds of wild, bright colors. It reminded me of the "Partridge Family Bus". The music is playing and everyone in the bus is doing the "Rhumba". On the trip to the beach for the famous "rum punches", Marbella gave us a history lesson and points of interest about Isle de Margarita. Anyone planning on taking this trip better listen to the history lesson, or they might end up like me and a guy named Ed. We both got the answers wrong and had to dance in front of everyone on the bus. Ed did the Rhumba and I did a "pole dance". The dance takes place while the bus is moving up and down the hills while standing in the front of the bus on the way back from the beach and all the rum punches. What a hoot. I even got a dollar tip. I wasn't sure if that was because they enjoyed the pole dance or wanted me to sit down.
Then on to Trinidad. I'm not quite sure why we stop there. I definitely wasn't impressed.
The next day on to Martinique. What a gorgeous country side. My sister and I opted to go into town and walked around the streets. We passed this wonderful old church and peeked in. The stained glass windows were magnificent. They seem to also be into shoes because there was a shoe store at every corner. They had a craft fair going on in the park and we walked down to it. Some of the hand made items were exquisite.
Then on to everyone's favorite, St Thomas. A woman's shopping paradise. There were about 5 ships in port the day we arrived. The streets and shops were very crowded. Did a lot of walking and way too much shopping. We were going to take the island tour, but the diamonds, liquor, gold and perfume were calling our name. Maybe next time we will take an excursion in St. Thomas, but I somehow doubt it. Thanks John for the great idea on what to get my husband. He loved the camera. He can't wait to use it. And maybe if I'm good he'll let me take it on my next cruise.
After a day in St. Thomas we were out at sea all day and a well deserved rest.
We weren't able to anchor at Half Moon Cay because of the sea conditions, so we cruised slowly, and slowly being the key word here, towards home. It was kind of disappointing not to be able to see Half Moon Cay, but there will definitely be a next time. My sister and another couple we met were going to go parasailing if we were able to anchor in Half Moon Cay. Next time.
We arrived back at Ft. Lauderdale at 8:00 am. Our fantasy had come to an end and it was back to reality. All we can do now is wait until our next cruise. Definitely on Holland America, maybe again on the Volendam (Seafarer itinerary) next April.
I felt it was necessary to write this email, because there was not enough room on the cruise card that we received on the last day. I have just finished a year of fighting cancer and was given the all clear. My husband thought we should get away and relax, and rejuvenate. As we have cruised before and found it a very relaxing and a very luxurious way to see the Caribbean. We perused the internet for a holiday that would fit into our short time frame. We have never been on a Holland American ship before, but have always heard they were one of the top lines. We did not hesitate to call our travel agent to book us on this 10 day cruise starting April 8th 2003, from Ft.Lauderdale.
We arrived at our outside stateroom and we very pleased with the accommodations. The bathroom was larger than the one on our last cruise, which we found a pleasant surprise. We quickly unpacked, changed and went upstairs to the Lido buffet for lunch. As on our previous cruise we took our food outside to enjoy the fresh air and atthis time, Port Everglades. The food was very good. After which we toured the ship to acquaint ourselves with all the nooks and crannies. Arriving back at our cabin my husband asked what I had got all over the back of my shorts. Dirt! Dirt from the chairs on the deck. Day Two outside for breakfast it happened again. This never happened on the other ship, first of all; the bus boys never let you walk with a tray of food, and they always carried them for you. (These young chaps would rather converse with each other than help the guests.) Secondly, there was always staff on the deck cleaning off the tables and chairs so nobody ended up with dirty shorts/pants etc. Thirdly, they seem to have a better understanding of the English language, so that when you asked then for a common type of food, they knew what you were talking about. Fourthly, they were always courteous to the tourists, they didn't just grunt at you. The first evening, we were seated at a table and were the first to arrive, joined shortly by one couple and then another, after the introductions we found out where everyone was from and if they had cruised before. Both couples had cruised many times, and they had cruised on Holland American before, but not the Volendam. This was a valuable benchmark. I am going to list and explain the problems that we faced on this cruise, but more importantly the problems you face from this ship in your fleet. 1) The Captain - my new friend from the dining table and I were all alone in the hallway waiting for a tender, when the captain started to walk towards us, as we were about to say good morning to him he quickly turned his head and started to whistle. I found that extremely rude of him, and very pompous. My friend said what a difference from the H.A. cruise they had been on just weeks before, there the captain was always friendly and treated the passengers with respect. 2) The Cabin Steward - some mornings we would be gone for 2 hours or more before we wandered back to our room to change and found our bed had not been made. The last cruise within 10 minutes the room would be completely ready for our occupancy. Are you short staffed? 3) Hotel/Restaurant Manager - not sure which one let down his end of the bargain but 6 days into the cruise we ran out of lemons for our tea. Then, Oranges for freshly squeezed juice for breakfast. Yogurt for breakfast. And when I asked for Brown Toast the second last morning in the dinning room, I was told there was no more and that they only had white toast, I said okay, but I was never brought any. 4) Bar steward/deck server - one departure party on deck the ship was serving breaded shrimp and something else, so we stood in a line and waited our turn to be served these items. When arriving at the server he placed one shrimp on the plate. Expecting more, was told "that's all you get, come back later" Four of us in shock shared the one shrimp. 5) Wine steward - in the dinning room the wine steward never showed up at our table till well into the main course, who in there right mind would order any wine at that time. Once we managed to get his attention and had wine with our meal. 6) Waitresses - In the Explorers lounge, waiting our turn for dinner and anticipating a nice casual drink before hand, we sat down and waited and waited but were never approached. The captain had two tables reserved for him and some guests and when they arrived the waitresses were all over them, they seemed to come out of the woodwork. On delivering the drinks to the captain and his guests my husband asked if they could serve us. (We had been there at least half an hour) We were told we would have to wait as they had to go over to another area to give out drinks. We never got served in that lounge. 7) Pool side servers - I was amazed at the lack of interest these servers took in their job, there were drinks glasses rolling around the deck under tables and finished glasses on tables, and these servers just walked past them. Plus I was never asked if I would like a drink. Cleanliness is obviously not stressed on this ship. And a sense of pride in the employees is greatly missing. 8) Internet - We paid for the privilege of using the internet once on the Volendam and then the bloody thing was down until the last day. When we arrived at a port we found an internet café to retrieve our emails and the scores of the hockey games. These expenses were never refunded. 9) Newspaper - not available for 3 days...? 10) Crew - in a discussion with working members of the Volendam on shore, they eluded to excess drinking and partying by the white suit members of the ship. This, we never saw, but arrogance was very prevalent among most of the male members of this group.
Something is amiss on the Volendam; it needs your prompt attention.
Now you have asked for suggestions on how to improve the voyage. Any voyage.
I would like to suggest that there are special points of interest in every port of call and that they should be mentioned in the daily newspaper along with what the port of call is noted for, (shopping, produce, export etc). This would help all, but especially the older, frailer passengers that just can't take the length of the tours but wouldn't mind seeing some of the points of interest. It would give them something to ask the taxi driver about instead of leaving it up to the driver himself.
Another suggestion I have is about the elite dinning room. Talking to passengers, who dinned in there for the additional cost, stated they were disappointed, the food was the same as in the main dinning room. It would be nice if it wasn't at an additional cost but that a reservation was all that was needed. Also the television stations that are aired on the cruise are brutal, since we are cruising in the western hemisphere why are we subjected to CNN Europe? And CNN financial? Surely you can receive CNN North America and maybe the CNN that gives sports highlights and financial high lights.
We enjoyed our cruise. We needed to relax and we did. The previously mentioned items were an annoyance to us, but I believe they are a much bigger problem to your company as people were talking and not everyone is as honest in their remarks as we are. People who like to cruise do it often. In the state of the economies around the world today you need to keep these people coming back to Holland America, shake-up the Volendam crew before they send all your patrons to your competitors,
This cruise was terrific. Everything on the ship was wonderful. The state room was bigger than we expected.
Being in a room with a veranda made the trip more enjoyable. We will surely go on Holland America curise's on our next cruise.
SUMMARY This cruise, the first for my wife and me on Holland America, was an enjoyable cruise, but was not our among favorites. Our previous cruises were on Royal Caribbean (4) and Celebrity (1). We agreed that the "personality" of HA was just not a match for us. There were things we liked and things we didn't like, just like any cruise, but our overall evaluation is that we would cruise HA again only if the value or itinerary was exceptional. This cruise illustrated that each line does, indeed, have its own personality, and what is just wonderful for some will be viewed as not wonderful by others. Many of our fellow passengers just loved everything; we enjoyed most things.
EMBARKATION/DISEMBARKATION We went to Ft. Lauderdale a day early, so took a cab to the port; the hotel shuttle was overburdened - 6 ships at the port + the Boat Show that day! Though we had to wait a while for the cab, total time from hotel departure to arrival in our stateroom was a bit over 1 hour. And the stateroom was ready when we arrived at 1:15, so westopped by, went to the Lido for the Welcome Aboard buffet, and explored the ship. This was much smoother than we had feared, based on some other reports; no lines anywhere, though later arrivals did not have things quite as painless, with some reporting having to wait an hour on the HA bus before they were permitted to begin the registration process. We pre-registered online; I'm not sure it made any difference as the agent asked for the print-out of our forms.
Disembarkation was equally smooth. We had an early flight, so were the 4th or 5th group off, being called at about 9:00. We got a cab immediately (it was a Tuesday) and were checked in, luggage checked, security checked, everything, and at the gate by 10:00!
SHIP/PUBLIC AREAS The ship was quite nice, and of a "comfortable" size (full @ 1400+ passengers). We thought it was smooth (except for one day), but others complained that it was not. It was very easy to get around and never felt crowded. I like a wrap-around Promenade Deck, and Volendam has a beauty - protected in front, wide, lots of chairs. We don't particularly notice decor, but it was fine. The Frans Hals performance lounge was the most customer friendly of any we have experienced; good seats, lots of room to get in and out, with excellent viewing. The Wajang Theater is a separate movie theater which was also used for religious services; much better than using a lounge. The Atrium and Front Office area were smaller than we have been accustomed to, but were certainly adequate. The Bar/Lounges, Casino and Shopping Arcade were places where we noticed the impact of the (smaller) size of the ship. Many of those areas were small. The main walkway went through, not alongside, the Seaview Lounge. The Ocean Bar was adequate, but quite small for dancing, and it was the dance band lounge. The Crow's Nest Lounge was very nice. We are not big pool area fans, but that seemed to us to be more than adequate. The aft Outside Pool area was quite nice. The Ocean Spa Gym was large and well equipped, and not well used. The Casino was quite small, but seemed adequate.
One of the nicest features of the Volendam was the excellent viewing areas forward and aft on several decks. Many ships have cabins on there, but the Volendam had public balconies that were great for viewing when arriving/leaving ports, or scenic cruising along one of the islands; they were not crowded as it was not always obvious how to get to them. You could get all the way to the Bow when the Volendam was not at sea; that was also kind of neat. The Crow's Nest Lounge was a great inside viewing area.
One feature we did not like, but is, we understand, not all that uncommon, was that the Main Level of the Dining Room could not be reached from the rest of its deck without going up/down a deck and then down/up again. We found that we commonly want to go between the Dining Room and the Atrium/Front Office/Shops; you could not do that without going up and down. The Galley was what blocked the path. Our biggest complaint about the ship is the frequently reported sewage odor. I would describe it as unpleasant but not obnoxious, occasional but too frequent. It was noticeable perhaps half a dozen times during the 10 days. We never noticed it in our cabin, thankfully, but did notice it in the Atrium area (of all places) and in certain portions of the Promenade. Based on similar comments I have read, it appears to me that there is a design problem that allows this to happen.
CABINS Our cabin, #D2591 on Deck 2, Main Deck, was an outside cabin w/o balcony. It was spacious, with great storage (we didn't use it all), and comfortable. The bathroom was quite adequate, and had a tub, but since it was only 3/4 size, it was essentially useless. Our cabin steward was excellent: friendly but unobtrusive, prompt, knew our names after the first day. We often get a balcony, but with the price difference on the Volendam, we chose not to. We missed being able to sit out at times, but with this itinerary, it was not a big loss.
One nit-picking annoyance. Our ship pass did NOT have our picture on it, and did not work in the room safe, so we were required to carry the ship pass, photo ID, and credit card (for the safe) whenever we were not in the cabin. That was a nuisance; I like to carry only the ship pass and leave my wallet in the safe.
DINING All of our dining experiences were good, but not great. Our Early Seating table was at the very stern of the ship. Except for the one rough-sea day, it was great; nice sunsets, moon, stars, nice viewing overall. The food quality and choices were fine. Most entrees were enjoyable or better; those that weren't were promptly replaced. In general, our tables' experience with the steaks was not good; either tough or rubbed with something that was not particularly good. Several pork choices were too pink for our taste. In one case, a replacement was provided that was done properly and still very juicy and delicious. In another case, a substitute of an appetizer was requested instead; a luscious full plate of wonderful, tender shrimp was provided. So overall, we would rank the food quality as typical of our previous cruise experiences.
The dining room service, however, was not on a par with those previous cruises. I don't blame it as much on our Waiter and Assistant, who gave it a good try, as much as I blame it on the staffing decision makers. Our servers started out with 25 passengers to serve; an adjustment was made and they then had 21 passengers, consisting of tables of 8, 7 & 6. On other cruises, we have typically seen our servers be responsible for 16 or so. Perhaps a VERY experienced team could have handled these 3 large tables; our service suffered. Little things. Like not always serving a given course to everyone at the table at the same time. Having the salad dressing in those little cups instead of presenting and serving the choices; and not offering ground pepper (it was on the table). Not cleaning the table of crumbs before dessert. And the service was often slow, almost certainly the result of too many to serve. It was NOT unpleasant as a whole, just less than we are accustomed to. Perhaps service has deteriorated at the other lines as well since we last cruised (RCI) two years ago. I will say that our servers did learn our drink preferences and other routine food choices after a few days. They never learned our names.
The Lido Buffet was a pleasant place to eat, with good food, good choices, reasonable lines, and usually good availability of seating (for 2, anyway). It took a little learning to know where things were, but it was fine.
The passengers, for the most part, followed the dress code for the day at dinner, but some would dress down after dinner for the show and lounges. The atmosphere was very pleasant, and not "stuffy".
ENTERTAINMENT/ACTIVITIES The entertainment was only adequate. We did not attend any of the cast shows after the first night. The performers were not inspiring to us (we are demanding) and were lip-synching to a pre-recorded sound track. So we choose to do other things those nights. The other performers were OK. No names, and of varying ability, but adequate and entertaining. That is all we expect, and we are pleasantly surprised if they exceed that.
The activities were another area we were disappointed in. There were very few organized fitness activities. This may seem trite, but we really missed the (equivalent of the) ShipShape $$$ program that RCI has. There were organized fitness activities several times each day, and the $$$ were an inducement to attend. On this cruise, I think there may have been one unhosted walk and one stretching activity each day. After observing the stretching one day, and seeing 3 people attended, perhaps the demand is not there. But we missed that.
We also felt that, while the typical games and activities (and bingo!) were there, there was not the breadth and number of choices that we have been accustomed to.
PORTS/SHORE EXCURSIONS The ports and shore excursions were fairly typical, and I won't go into detail on them. Bonaire was quaint; our Glass Bottom Boat tour was cancelled because the boat broke down, so we walked around the small town, which was pleasant. Isla de Margarita, however, was not a pleasant experience. It is desert-like, very poor, dirty, and the dock area is out in the middle of nowhere; the "Island Tour" excursion had very little to show off. Local craft vendors set up next to the ship. We left feeling very sorry for the inhabitants, and thankful for what we have. Other passengers reported that the snorkeling was great, and the part of the island they saw was quite attractive. St. Lucia was beautiful, but the cab drivers near the dock were obnoxious in their persistence; not threatening, but still annoying. Dominica, like St Lucia, is a quite nice "rain forest" island. St. Thomas - nothing I can say that hasn't been said a hundred time by others; we went to St. John, which was quite nice except for a rough ferry - read "small boat" - ride of 30+ minutes. Half Moon Cay, HA's private island, has typical activities, but lots of them, and is VERY well done. It was so hot, though, that we came back to the ship for lunch, and enjoyed the day onboard. We both enjoy sea days, of which we had 3. The cruise started out with 2 of those seas days, which was kind of nice to allow getting settled into the cruise.
CONCLUSION If you made it all the way through this lengthy report, Thanks! And congratulations! But please re-read the first paragraph. This cruise was fine, it really was! It just wasn't us.
I am 14 years old and this was my first cruise. I went with my grandfather, my mom, my borther and, my two cousins. The crew members couldn't have been more friendlier. They always smiled and said good morning. They would even stop to talk to you and asked you your name and where you were from and how you were enjoying the cruise. The food was awsome, along with the great survice. Down in the fancy dining room they had a whole bunch of elagent desserts and they were really good (i had choclate covered strwberried). Our room was awsome, we got upgraded to the 7th floor. I loved the belcany, at night i would go outside and look at the stars it was really beautiful. The crew members who cleaned your room were really nice and did a good job. Althogh i felt kind of bad because me being a teenager and all have a tendency to leave clothes lieing around, but the person folded them and left them on my bed which was really nice. I know that the crew works really hard so i made surethat he didn't have to do that next time.
There was plenty to do for all ages. They had 2 swimming pools, 2 hot tubs, an exercise room(which you had to be 16 to get in if you don't have an adult with you, but haha i look like i am 17 so i had no trouble getting into it), there was a movie theater, a theater(i watched a show the last night it was really good),you could also rent movies they had a huge list to choose from, they had a lot more things to do but i am probably boring you with that.
Although I only stayed on the cruise for 5 days i would say that it was awsome and I wish i could have stayed for the whole 10 days but we had to take the land tour of alaska. So i would say if you want to have an awsome vacation that you take holland America and go on the Vollendam. You and your family will have a blast.
Where to begin? This was our first cruise so it's very difficult to say if this cruise was "better or worse" then others. I can say however that I cannot imagine a better vacation.
Check in went like clockwork, everyone we met, from the dockside helpers to the HAL reps could not have been more professional and pleasant.
We are 55 years old and I was afraid that the Crowd was going to be much older. There was a nice mix of ages on this cruise.
We did have second seating, and noticed a much older crowd heading for dinner at 5 as we were getting ready for our "afternoon" swim.
The entertainment was fine, for what it was. Although I could have done with out the Barry Manlow Review and the Evening with "The World's Best Banjo Player". (There goes that age thing again.)
The staff could not have been more helpful, happy and professional. Not once in 10 days did I feel like anything less then "an honored guest".
The food was fantastic and plentiful. I did hear a few complaints about the tenderness of the beef, I also noticed that these peoplenever brought it to the attention of the servers or asked for another cut.
A few of the more active shore excursions were cancelled due to lack of interest. Kayaking and skin diving to name a few. (Age?)
One busy afternoon on the Lido deck I went to get an iced tea. The pre-poured iced tea glasses were empty. I simply took an ice water, emptied it, filled it with ice and then held it under the iced tea spigot to pour my own glass. An older gentleman was watching me, as he also wanted an iced tea. I was absolutely astonished when he made the following statement. "So this is what it's come to on Holland America, pouring my own iced tea! I will never sail on this line again!" Go figure.
Anyway as I stated this was our first cruise but it will not be out last. The next time we might try a different cruise line, just to check out the differences.
But it sure is hard to imagine, friendlier service, bigger cabins (cat. B with Balcony) better food or a lovelier overall experience. (Even though I did have to pour my own iced tea!)