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Holland America Line: Volendam

Volendam Review

Insider Take

Overview

Slightly larger than S-class, with Explorations Cafe and lovely floral-themed decor.

Best For People Who Want

A reasonably priced classical style cruise aboard a mid-size ship; large cabins and staterooms with private verandas; non-smoking dining areas; alternative dining venues; Internet Center.

Onboard Experience

That the mid-sized Volendam and her younger sister Zaandam offer more personalized service than the megaliners is evident from the moment you board, as a staff member warmly greets you with a gloved hand, and then cheerfully escorts you to your cabin. In a host of ways, the ship's' classical style is reminiscent of the great liners of yesteryear. You'll find no feverish singles action here, and the casino closes at an hour that will horrify some high-rolling insomniacs. What you will find is a palpable reverence for culture, art, and antiques, and lots of fresh flowers. If large cabins with private verandas, ballroom dancing and bridge float your boat, these, moderately-priced premium ships may well be the boats to float.

Volendam is fully subscribed to Holland America's "Signature of Excellence" program of enhancements to nearly every area of the ship. New features include tableside waiter service at dinner in the Lido, a new Culinary Arts Program with show kitchen for demonstrations and classes, expansion of spa and fitness facilities, upgraded Club HAL Kids Centers, and new shore excursions. The Explorations Cafe is a combination library, Internet center, music listening area and sidewalk cafe. Staterooms now offer the best mattresses and duvets sold in Europe, flat screen TVs, and DVD players. There's early boarding and a choice of four dinner seatings.

Decor

Volendam's theme is floral; each aft staircase landing features a floral still-life, while a collection of elaborate delft tulip vases is displayed outside the library. The Casino Bar showcases music memorabilia, and the atrium's focal point is a towering pipe organ, complete with dancing mechanical musicians. In the cocktail lounges, you'll find warm colors and subdued lighting, antiques, and credible reproductions of same. Handsome fabrics and marble abound throughout.

Cuisine

The unusually extensive main dining room menu features six appetizers, two soups, two salads, and six entrees for dinner, including vegetarian and low-fat options.

The alternative Pinnacle Grill specializes in dishes featuring ingredients from the Northwest, where HAL is based. Free hot hors d'oeuvres are served every evening in the cocktail lounges. A delightful Royal Dutch High Tea, featuring sandwiches, petit fours, cookies, cakes, and the accompaniment of a string quartet is offered one afternoon each cruise.

Restaurants

There are tables for two, four, six and eight in the opulent two-level Rotterdam Dining Room, which benefits from sea views and a romantically twinkling, fiber optics-lit ceiling, Rosenthal china, sparkling crystal, and crisp linens. There are four dining seatings - 5:45 p.m., 6:15 p.m., 8:00 p.m. and 8:30 p.m. Casual breakfast, lunch, dinner, and midnight buffets featuring ethnic cuisine are served in the Lido restaurant adjacent to the pool.

The cozy, intimate Pinnacle Grill at the Marco Polo on Promenade Deck specializes in the ingredients of the Pacific Northwest. Its dedicated galley includes 1600-degree grill. Bulgari china, unique holloware and a dedicated service staff enhance the elegant atmosphere, as too does the wine list, which features several California and Washington vintages not offered in the main dining room. Reservations are required and there is a $20 service charge.

Service

Holland America's Indonesian and Filipino crew is warm and gracious, though not always as fluent in English as American and British passengers might prefer.

Tipping

For years Holland America was known for its no-tipping policy, intended to make passengers believe that staff were doing it for love, rather than money. (Yeah, right.) Nowadays, though, gratuities of $10.00 per person (including children) are automatically added daily to the shipboard account for dining and stateroom service. Visit the front desk to adjust that amount. That a 15 percent service is automatically added to bar bills should surprise no one.

Entertainment

The main lounge presents variety shows, a lavish Broadway-style revue and an energizingly fervent dance production, not to mention the excruciatingly named "specta-crew-lar" in which crew members perform folkloric songs and dances. There's a jazz quartet in the Ocean Bar and fresh hot popcorn in the Wajang Theater, where you can see first-run films every afternoon and evening. Live sports broadcasts may be enjoyed in the Casino Bar.

Cabins

Standard cabins are among the biggest at sea, and with a much more modern look than one usually associates with HAL, with lots of salmon-reds, burgundies, golds, and bronzes. Standard inside cabins are 182 sq. feet, while outside staterooms are 197 sq. feet, with enough storage space for even the long-haul traveler. Balcony cabins are sublime, with more unusually spacious interior cabins. The ultramodern 563-square foot suites have large private verandahs. The 120 deluxe category A and B cabins are 284 square feet (including verandah), each with VCR, mini bar, sitting area, and whirlpool tub in the bathroom. The Penthouse suites with private verandahs are a huge 1,100 square feet with appropriately wonderful amenities, including complimentary personalized stationery, afternoon hors d'oeuvres, free dry cleaning, and disembarkation at leisure.

Stateroom amenities include bathrobes, a complimentary fresh fruit basket on arrival, stainless steel ice buckets and serving trays for use with in-cabin beverages, and massage shower heads in every bathroom. For Deluxe Verandah and Penthouse Suite passengers, concierge service is available in their own private retreat, the Neptune Lounge.

Fitness/Spa

The magnificent huge gyms on these ships are among the best at sea, with floor-to-ceiling windows surrounding dozens of state-of-the-art machines. The adjacent aerobics areas are comparably vast. The Steiner-run Ocean Spa has six treatment rooms with private shower and toilets. Two of the six rooms accommodate such wet treatments as hydrotherapy baths, seaweed wraps, and mud. The marvelous ocean-view gym has 11 treadmills, eight bikes, and an assortment of stair steppers, rowing machines, Cybex weight training machines and free weights; aerobics area; dual sauna/steam rooms and a jogging track one deck above On the deck, comfy striped cushions line a large pool on Lido Deck covered by a retractable dome that makes the pool usable even in inclement weather.

Children's Facilities

Younger passengers are kept diverted with supervised Club HAL crafts, parties, and games for three age groups 5-8, 9-12 and 13-17, with the number of counselors allotted to each cruise dependent on the number of younger voyagers. The restaurant offers a children's menu. Baby-sitting is available at sea for $7.50 per child per hour.

Attire

On the two weekly formal nights, half the men opt for dark suit rather than renting a tuxedo. Casual on these ships means comfortable, but T-shirts, jeans, swimsuits, tank tops and shorts are all forbidden in the dining rooms and public areas.

Should Be Avoided By People Who Prefer

A festive atmosphere; Broadway-style razzle-dazzle; late-night disco; single, open seating dining; dedicated facilities for kids.

Public Rooms

Volendam may lack the breathtaking atrium typical of other ships built in the 1990s, but it also lacks some of those ships' confusing layout. The large Ocean Bar, with sea views by day and romantic lighting at night, is the most popular spot for pre- and post-dinner cocktails, though it gets serious competition from another cozy lounge with piano bar, the 89-seat Explorer's Lounge, decorated with gentle colors and enormous red lamps. A harpist performs light classical favorites here in the evening.

The glamorous two-story main dining rooms, framed with floor-to-ceiling windows, feature dramatic staircases and a classical trio holding forth demurely from a perch on the top level. Just outside the second level, ladies will find a wonderful, spacious powder room with ocean views.

The main show lounge has two floors and a wide stage, with comfortable seating, though sight lines from the balcony are partially obscured. The Crows Nest observation lounge, with its 320-degree view, is the perfect place from which to watch your departure from port. The beautiful wood-paneled library has etched glass doors, comfortable chairs and ottomans, an inlaid marble table, and excellent reference and travel book sections. The nearby card room can simultaneously accommodate four dozen players.

Keep an eye open for the remarkable red-lacquer piano aboard this ship.




Ship Overview

Launched in 1999, Volendam draws on the Holland America Line's incredible collection of artwork to enhance the ship's public spaces. Included are pre-Columbian fetishes and sculptures and Renaissance-era fountains imported from Italy in the hallway galleries. The three-story atrium of the ship features an elegant sculpture inspired by the myriad moods and colors of a kaleidoscope by Luciano Vistosi.

Similar to Statendam-class vessels, these slightly larger sister ships have more playful design elements than Holland America Line's classic vessels. Triple-deck atriums have a fantastic—and fiber-optic-lighted—Murano-glass sculpture (Volendam) or an almost scary towering pipe organ (Zaandam).

The interior decor and much of the artwork found in each vessel has a predominant theme—Volendam centers on flowers and Zaandam around music. Look for Zaandam's collection of guitars autographed by the Rolling Stones and a saxophone signed by President Bill Clinton. The extra space in these ships allows for a larger specialty restaurant and a roomier feel throughout.

Holland America Line has enjoyed a distinguished record of traditional cruises, world exploration, and transatlantic crossings since 1873—all facets of its history that are reflected in the fleet's multimillion-dollar shipboard art and antiques collections. Even the ships' names follow a pattern set long ago: all end in the suffix dam and are either derived from the names of various dams that cross Holland's rivers, important Dutch landmarks, or points of the compass. The names are even recycled when vessels are retired, and some are in their fifth and sixth generation of use.

Noted for focusing on passenger comfort, Holland America Line cruises are classic in design and style, and with an infusion of younger adults and families onboard, they remain refined without being stuffy or stodgy. Following a basic design theme, returning passengers feel as at home on the newest Holland America vessels as they do on older ones.

What You Should Know

Pros

  • Ship movie theaters are also home to the Culinary Arts Centers
  • Waiters serve made-to-order entrées in the Lido restaurant at dinner
  • An evening poolside barbecue buffet is usually scheduled during each cruise

Cons

  • Expanded spa facilities make the gym area somewhat tight
  • There are no longer complimentary men’s and women’s steam rooms
  • Sandwiched between the Lido pool and Lido bar, the children’s wading pool area can become quite boisterous
Ship Stats
  • Crew Members 615
  • Entered Service 1999
  • Gross Tons 61,214
  • Length 781 feet
  • Number of Cabins 716
  • Passenger Capacity 1,432
  • Width 106 feet
  • New

Aug 27, 2017

Average is Not Good Enough

Usually, when we get off a cruise, we wonder how we will endure everyday life without a room steward or all those wonderful meals that magically appear. After this cruise, 14 days on Holland America’s Volendam from Hong Kong to Singapore, we didn’t find the transition back to day-to-day life difficult. For the most part, we found nearly everything okay on the cruise along with a few glitches. Today okay isn’t enough for us and especially for

the experienced cruisers we met on the Volendam. The whole time we were onboard, we couldn’t help but remember Holland America’s history and the high standards set in years gone by. Those glory days are gone and Holland America’s standards are different now, perhaps because the cruise line is now part of Carnival Corporation. We boarded the ship in Hong Kong after a seemingly never ending 17 hour flight from Los Angeles. Exhausted, once we boarded the ship we stumbled through the day and the mandatory safety drill. We quietly sailed out of Hong Kong harbor during dinner heading for ports in Vietnam, Cambodia and Thailand. It was a comforting feeling to know that tomorrow we had a leisurely day at sea and wouldn't set foot on land until our first port of call in two days. The ship, despite its size, runs surprisingly quiet. Walking out on deck you hear the whoosh of the wind and the smack of the waves against the hull. After a while the sounds become a soothing white noise. Weather did not cooperate during the transit to our first port of call, Halong Bay, Vietnam. Through the cooler than normal temperatures, fog, rain and gale force winds, there weren’t the usual passengers on deck marveling at the area's dramatic beauty. Some hardier passengers wrapped themselves in blankets and relaxed on the deck chairs under cover on Lower Promenade deck. On the five days at sea, passengers relaxed and enjoyed the comforts of our floating hotel. Our itinerary for most of the cruise was a day in port and then a day at sea. On the at-sea days, on-board activities ranged from tai chi, to trivia and karaoke challenges, to meetings of lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender people. Some of the activities that in days gone by were free now have a fee. You could indulge at the Greenhouse Spa and Salon, a fully equipped gym, (covered) tennis and basketball courts, two pools (one with a retractable roof) and hot tubs, performances by a comedian, and range of singers and dancers, several bars, a nightclub, movie theatre, library, an internet cafe, casino and duty free shops. Digital workshops on board help you learn about your computer and digital camera and software that would help you with both, while the Culinary Arts Centre featured cooking demonstrations which focused on the cuisines of our ports of call. Children between the ages of 3 and 17 are cared for in Club HAL, which has three age-specific areas stocked with games, toys, movies and activities to amuse younger travelers for hours. We tried to experience as much as we could - the seminar on folding towels into animals which the stateroom stewards do every night as part of the turn-down service was a highlight. Days at sea seem to revolve around the serious business of eating. To get the full cruise ship experience, it was our mission to attend at least one tea time held in the afternoon at the Explorer’s Lounge. The day we attended, there was a boisterous drink tasting held next to the tea time location. The antics of the drink tasting infringed on what should have been a relaxing atmosphere. Some people left disappointed. Not only was there noise, there were not enough seats for all who wanted to attend. And since the turnout was larger than expected, getting tea or pastries took much longer than it should. That experience isn’t the end of the world. But it shows the difference between Holland America in years gone by and today. Maybe that is why passenger loyalty isn’t what it used to be. Speaking with passengers, many who sailed on Holland America frequently, the reason they chose this cruise was the itinerary and price. For many cruisers, there no longer seems to be a loyalty to brand. To us it seemed that Holland America doesn’t give past passengers much incentive to sail on the cruise line again. On port days, there’s a range of excursions at a variety of costs or you can venture out on your own. Due to our size, we could only sail in the South China Sea. The ship was too large to dock in the heart of the cities of Da Nang, Nha Trang, Phu My, Sihanoukville and Bangkok. Instead we docked at commercial ports among cranes unloading cargo ships and trucks picking up containers. Not seeing lovely towns or the scenic countryside while in port was disappointing but not a deal-breaker. One down side was that in most of the ports you had to pay for a shuttle or bus fare into town which for the longer trips was pricey. The bus trip could take two hours or more one-way to get to Bangkok or Hanoi, which used up a big chunk of port time. The cost of shore excursions was one of the biggest complaints we heard from fellow passengers. Since many were seasoned cruisers, here are a few of their ideas and strategies. 1. Avoid shore excursions that include a meal as there is usually a big price premium for the meal and the meal is mediocre at best. For instance, the Halong Bay cruise tour with lunch was $99.95 per person. Without lunch, the tour was $64.95 per person. 2. Check the cruise boards, such as Cruise Critic, and ask past passengers for independent tour recommendations. This needs to be done as early as possible. Our passenger informer booked all her tours online a month or two before the cruise and had several great tour experiences for half the price. 3. The three-day Angkor Watt and Saigon excursion was a whopping $2,899 per person (you can buy an eight-day land tour with airfare for half that cost). A savvy cruiser made his own arrangements for his group of fellow travelers. His travel agent arranged the same tour at the end of the cruise. In Singapore, the group flew into Siem Rep and stayed at a local hotel. Their Angkor Watt excursion cost them one-third of what Holland America charged for the excursion. 4. Wing it on your own. At many ports there are tour representatives roaming the docks. Just make sure you have plenty of time to get back onto the ship in case a bus or car breaks down or encounters traffic snarls. Little things seem to irritate long time cruisers. A number of passengers commented that Holland America now charges for things that were previously included. For instances, some classes in the fitness center now have a charge as do specialty coffees such as lattes and cappuccinos. In fact the Explorations Cafe by the computer center offers pastries and coffees, all at an extra charge. Not to mention the upcharge premium restaurants, the Pinnacle Grill and Canaletto Restaurant. Another irritant for long time cruisers is comparing what your cruise line offers compared to another cruise. At Koh Samui, Thailand, the Volendam and a Princess Cruises ship both were in port the same day. Both ships had a covered waiting area at the pier so passengers can wait for the next tender. Holland America passengers noticed and commented that at the pier waiting area they were offered water and lemonade. Princess Cruises offered their passengers water, ice tea, lemonade and snacks such as cupcakes, fresh pineapple and coconut water. Dinner time was always a chance to try new foods or relish tried-and-true favorites. On the Voldendam, the two level Rotterdam Dining Room offers two dining options: dine “As you Wish” on the lower level any time from 5:15 to 9:00 p.m. Here you can choose to dine alone or with other passengers – your choice. The upper level offers the two traditional sittings at 5:45 or 8 p.m. at assigned tables. We selected a table for eight on the upper level and were lucky to be seated with six delightful table mates. We still keep in contact long after the cruise. Evening shows in the Frans Hals showroom are timed to the two sittings in the main dining room. Other dining options include the Lido Deck restaurant, which also serves breakfast and lunch and for-a-fee alternative restaurants such as the Pinnacle Grill and Canaletto. For the most part, we found the 600-plus staff, largely made up of Filipinos and Indonesians, patient and friendly. Our dining room service for dinner was on the mark and consistently good. But breakfast and lunch service in the main dining room was inconsistent and disappointing. The staff in the main dining area ran around distracted as if they were unsure what to do. At times they simply disappeared. Servers came to our table and refilled the men’s coffee cups but completely ignored the women. This happened on several occasions. We were told many new servers came onboard when we did in Hong Kong. Maybe they had communication problems, or they didn’t know their duties or were tired from the long hours. Whatever the reason, we spoke with many people who left the main dining room after breakfast or lunch complaining and rethinking sailing on Holland America again. Breakfast in the Lido Restaurant wasn’t much better. It wasn’t the food, it was the staff and set-up. During breakfast, staff served and/or prepared the hot food for the Lido buffet. It was typical for long lines to form waiting for food and waiting for a table to open up. Waits of 10 to 15 minutes for food were common. Plus, there was no designation of where the line started. On several occasions, rude people cut in at the front of the line and arguments ensued. If you forgot something or wanted seconds, you had to face standing in line again. Things were particularly bad when the ship was in port and many people wanted to eat breakfast at the same time because they were heading out on excursions. The best solution was to order room service the night before. In tribute to the Southeast Asia itinerary by the covered pool on Lido deck, the area was transformed into an Asian food stall market for lunch and dinner one day. Even though we were at sea, it felt as if we were eating street food in Bangkok or Saigon sampling pha, exotic fruits, noodles, and Pad Thai. If you aren’t into Asian food, the Dive-In Restaurant still served burgers during lunch and the Rotterdam dining room offered a regular menu with a couple Asian specialties. Most of the people onboard won’t be youthful. These mature people were well- traveled and had lots of interesting travel insights to share. Everyone wasn’t a senior citizen. There were younger couples, singles and families on board: several couples with a toddler kids, a families with elementary school age kids and a number of families with teen age kids. Our room steward was attentive but the cabin had some short falls. We were assigned a handicapped accessible cabin on the lowest deck, Dolphin Deck – not our choice or request. The difference is that a wheelchair can wheel into the bathroom and shower. The cabin had two twin beds. If you wanted the beds placed together to form a queen bed, a wheel chair had trouble getting by the dresser and getting to one of the wardrobes. It wasn’t the best thought out design for a handicapped accessible cabin. Although the bathroom had a good amount of space because a wheel chair had to roll into it, there was little space on the bathroom vanity for toiletries. The medicine cabinet by the vanity offered little storage (poor design). The two wardrobes in the cabin had doors, rather than open space. One of the wardrobes was in the same space as access the bathroom. That meant if you had the wardrobe door open you couldn’t get into the bathroom. And if you opened the wardrobe door when someone was in the bathroom, they were trapped. 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. And we accidently pushed the button for the front desk more than once. Since the Volendam is an older ship, launched in 1999 and most recently refurbished in 2014, in the next refurbishing go-round, it would be beneficial if more outlets are added in public rooms and cabins. We are in an electronic age where people travel with laptops, tablets, smart phones and cameras – all devices that must be recharged. Our cabin had one receptacle located near the dresser. There was a receptacle built into a non-functioning wall mounted hair dryer, but neither the receptacle or hair dryer worked. The dresser location was convenient to recharge electronics but an awkward place to plug in a hairdryer. Every day, we did the co-ordination dance, timing when our laptops, smart phones and cameras had to be charged. Lower Promenade deck cabins with large windows or sliding glass doors onto the deck are some of the more expensive cabins. We found that people who paid the premium price for those cabins did not get the full benefit due to their location. The Lower Promenade deck is the only deck that lets you walk completely around the ship on the outside. That means people are continuously walking around the deck as 3 ½ laps equaled a mile. Many passengers got their exercise by walking. The passengers who paid a premium for promenade deck cabins kept their curtains down and drawn shut as privacy and noise was an ongoing issue. A number of passengers seemed frustrated with the self-service laundry and commented that it was purposely ill-conceived so you use the expensive on-board laundry service. The main complaint was there was no change machine. Instead you must go to the Purser’s desk for change where there was usually a wait. Additionally, the washers and dryers were small and would only fit several pieces of clothes. What you thought would be one load turned out to be two loads. The laundry was also a source for conflict as some passengers put their clothes in the washers and/or dryers and left. On their return, they discovered waiting passengers took their completed loads of clothes out and placed them in laundry baskets because the owners were not around. This led to heated discussions on several occasions. The Voldendam can use some refreshing. A few areas on the ship are looking old and worn. Hallways walls in some places were scraped and gouged. Carpets were worn in several areas. During our cruise, the carpets were being replaced on some of the stair wells. Regardless the public rooms throughout the ship were still comfortable, with hidden nooks ideal for quiet reading time or intimate conversation. Holland America today can’t compare with Holland America of yesteryear. Even with the cons we experienced sailing on the Volendam, the cruise was pleasant and the routine was low-key and casual. All in all okay. But not the luxurious, pampering experience of years gone by. Your best strategy may be what many of the passengers did - wait until Holland America runs one of their deal promotions.

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Aug 27, 2017

  • New

Mar 1, 2017

Review of Volendam

Terrie F Age: 55 Occupation:Executive Administrator Number of Cruises: 3 Cruise Line: Holland America Ship: Volendam Sailing Date: 2015-03-3 Itinerary: Asia Over all is was fine with a friendly staff. Being on deck 7 we had access to the Neptune Lounge, and John C was a great Concierge and always so friendly and helpful. Same as the Alaska cruise back in 2013. We didn't take the cruise to eat, and basically the food was good, we had open seating

so we were put on the lower lever, and the first night was a zoo, but we believe that was due to the safety training at the lifeboat stations, so everything ran behind. Like other reviewers said...anything extra be prepared to pull out that card because it will cost you...we enjoyed eating at the Italian restaurant because of the small plates offered, and we enjoyed the pinnacle grill, it would have been better had they offered different daily menus. Need updated menus al around. Oh but the bugers and nachos on the lido were great lunches. 7002, Veranda Suite - nice size plenty of room...a bit outdated but kept clean. The cooking demonstrations were nice, and my husband attended a couple of wine tastings. Love the spa days I took, but the sales pitch for the products they used I could have done without. The excursions - Halong Bay we did he deluxe where lunch was included and it was fun. The islands were beautiful, the guy friendly and attempted to tell jokes, if you go on shore be prepared for girls on motor bikes to pull over and want to sell you pearls...which we bought for the grand girls (better than a t-shirt). Just go back and forth on $. We had private drivers in the other Vietnam locations because we're not big bus people and this was a return trip for my husband so it was special. The one tour we did that wasn't from the ship was a country side and cooking class http://www.vietnamprivatetour.com great tour, and it was less than other tour cost, plus it was so much fun, Big bus tour in Cambodia, just be prepared it's a 3rd world country, there are little children smiling and saying money but they are clueless to what they are asking for. Unlike our brats that cry because they don't have, or they need...they looked fine happy and dirty because they don't know what they don't have. If you don't want to see this, then don't go...if you want to educate yourself and want to make a difference someday, then go! We did go to the pepper plantation which was interesting. also big bus to Thailand, and pretty much it was what we expected. When we disembarked in Singapore I was ready to write a really nice review, then we disembarked. Departing in Singapore, easy.....But then my nightmare. My fault I know it, but when getting ready I got distracted and then the call came for us to depart. I left my ring, necklace and bracelet on the table. As soon as I cleared customs I realized it. Ran back thru security had to have an escort back on board, in tears ran in to the suite and in less than 30 minutes time - they were gone! GONE, I was sobbing, tore the room apart went and got John, told him the 2 guys that came in the room to clean balcony as we left, about the guy that was in the room when I ran back in (he came to get breakfast tray). My 2 days in Singapore was miserable, my ring which I just got for Christmas, my priceless necklace that my deceased dad had given me back in the 70's gone. They did a 2 week investigation and were sorry to inform me it had not be found. So no matter how nice, helpful or whatever - it doesn't matter. I would have gone on another Holland vessel, but never again. Customer relations in Seattle is slow to respond and until I wrote the president I hadn't heard verbally from anyone other than email. Don't leave your things around, no matter how helpful the sfaff....they aren't all honest.

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Mar 3, 2015

Asia

Over all is was fine with a friendly staff. Being on deck 7 we had access to the Neptune Lounge, and John C was a great Concierge and always so friendly and helpful. Same as the Alaska cruise back in 2013. We didn't take the cruise to eat, and basically the food was good, we had open seating so we were put on the lower lever, and the first night was a zoo, but we believe that was due to the safety training at the lifeboat stations, so

everything ran behind. Like other reviewers said...anything extra be prepared to pull out that card because it will cost you...we enjoyed eating at the Italian restaurant because of the small plates offered, and we enjoyed the pinnacle grill, it would have been better had they offered different daily menus. Need updated menus al around. Oh but the bugers and nachos on the lido were great lunches. 7002, Veranda Suite - nice size plenty of room...a bit outdated but kept clean. The cooking demonstrations were nice, and my husband attended a couple of wine tastings. Love the spa days I took, but the sales pitch for the products they used I could have done without. The excursions - Halong Bay we did he deluxe where lunch was included and it was fun. The islands were beautiful, the guy friendly and attempted to tell jokes, if you go on shore be prepared for girls on motor bikes to pull over and want to sell you pearls...which we bought for the grand girls (better than a t-shirt). Just go back and forth on $. We had private drivers in the other Vietnam locations because we're not big bus people and this was a return trip for my husband so it was special. The one tour we did that wasn't from the ship was a country side and cooking class http://www.vietnamprivatetour.com great tour, and it was less than other tour cost, plus it was so much fun, Big bus tour in Cambodia, just be prepared it's a 3rd world country, there are little children smiling and saying money but they are clueless to what they are asking for. Unlike our brats that cry because they don't have, or they need...they looked fine happy and dirty because they don't know what they don't have. If you don't want to see this, then don't go...if you want to educate yourself and want to make a difference someday, then go! We did go to the pepper plantation which was interesting. also big bus to Thailand, and pretty much it was what we expected. When we disembarked in Singapore I was ready to write a really nice review, then we disembarked. Departing in Singapore, easy.....But then my nightmare. My fault I know it, but when getting ready I got distracted and then the call came for us to depart. I left my ring, necklace and bracelet on the table. As soon as I cleared customs I realized it. Ran back thru security had to have an escort back on board, in tears ran in to the suite and in less than 30 minutes time - they were gone! GONE, I was sobbing, tore the room apart went and got John, told him the 2 guys that came in the room to clean balcony as we left, about the guy that was in the room when I ran back in (he came to get breakfast tray). My 2 days in Singapore was miserable, my ring which I just got for Christmas, my priceless necklace that my deceased dad had given me back in the 70's gone. They did a 2 week investigation and were sorry to inform me it had not be found. So no matter how nice, helpful or whatever - it doesn't matter. I would have gone on another Holland vessel, but never again. Customer relations in Seattle is slow to respond and until I wrote the president I hadn't heard verbally from anyone other than email. Don't leave your things around, no matter how helpful the sfaff....they aren't all honest.

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May 7, 2014

singapore to singapre

The cruise commenced and ended in Singapore and was overall very enjoyable even given the illness issue. The ship itself is probably showing its age somewhat which is more apparent if you have sailed on one of their newer vessels (i.e. Oosterdam). For a first time cruiser it is good value. Personally I would opt for one of their more recent vessels. The food in the Lido Buffet was good to very good and an improvement on other HA ships we have

travelled on. The same applies to the main dining room where there was plenty of choice. We opted for fixed dining on this occasion and managed to be teamed up with a great couple from Sweden which led to some very interesting discussions over dinner. We dined at the Pinnacle Grill (their speciality restaurant) for which you pay a surcharge of around $25 per person. This is a step up from the main dining room in terms of food quality and service and is well worth the surcharge and as a change from the normal routine. The decor was not as impressive compared to the similar restaurant on the Oosterdam and is no doubt due to the age of the ship and the limited space available on Volendam. We occupied stateroom 6102 on Navigation Deck which is an outside stateroom with two large windows overlooking the front of the ship. Immediately outside is a corridor which leads on to a deck area in front of the stateroom which is a great vantage point when entering ports. It is in our view the pick of the outside staterooms if you don't want to upgrade to a balcony version. There are a number of bars/lounges spread throughout the ship in which various artists perform. The main showroom put on a number of shows and of particular note were two Scottish entertainers who performed twice during the cruise. They were definitely the highlight with the quality of the remaining acts of a lesser standard. Outside deck games are available as well and a reasonably stocked library. We tend to organise our own excursions usually at a much lesser cost than the ship's excursions and better quality. However the ship's excursions are well organised and it means that you don't have to bother yourself particularly if you are not computer savvy with organising it yourself and are prepared to pay the extra. The cruise was a good introduction for people who had not visited Asia previously although we had already been there a number of times ourselves but still found it interesting. Singapore is always fascinating with its ever changing skyline, great hotels and a myriad of restaurants lining the river. They have also developed "Gardens by the Bay" which is essentially a botanical garden with every type of plant from all different climate zones. It incorporates two huge greenhouses to maintain certain plants in a controlled atmosphere - well worth a visit. We stayed at the Grand Copthorne in a fabulous room looking down the river and couldn't their reception staff teach some other hotels about client service ! It was also possible to catch a river ferry right outside the hotel to anywhere of interest and it was very cheap. Next stop was Malacca where it is quite easy to walk from the pier to the places of interest. It has quite a few historical areas due to Portuguese, Dutch and British colonial administrations. As we had been to Penang a number of times we limited ourselves at this port to a walk around their historical buildings and downtown - always interesting. Next port was Phuket and we opted to go to Padang Beach which we had visited some 20 years prior. Whilst in those days it was a paradise it is now wall to wall shops and wall to way beach chairs - a bit of a disappointment and perhaps taking off to one of their other less crowded areas would have been a better choice. The highlight of the whole trip was an overnight stay in Burma (Myanmar). We opted to fly to Bagan (a former capital ) which is situated in a valley on the edge of the Irrawaddy river. There are some 3000 odd temples in this valley of varying sizes and designs and it well worth a visit. We flew Air KBZ, a local airline who could not be faulted with excellent inflight service. We booked our overnight stay with Oway Travel and could not recommend them more highly. They are a local company in Rangoon and organised our entire two days without a hitch. They arranged transfers from the port (some 60kms from the city) to the airport and return, two return tickets to Bagan, pick up and return transfers at Bagan to the hotel and overnight in a deluxe room at the Aureum Palace Resort Hotel - a truly incredible architectural achievement which was only matched by the gracious and courteous manner in which the staff responded. Next call was to Port Blair in the Andaman Islands which was a complete debacle from the obtaining of visas to arriving at the port itself. We were unclear from the relevant websites exactly what type of visa was needed for what was essentially a six hour visit. We emailed two different authorities (the visa issuing company and the high commission in Canberra) both of which went unanswered. Eventually we applied for a tourist visa which cost $135 EACH for a six hour stopover. That however was not the end of it - the day before reaching Port Blair we were advised that we needed to fill out further visa forms as well as provide a photocopy of our passports. Needless to say the entire ship was more than a little rattled particularly as the Front Office had to do all the photocopying !! To top it all off there was no immigration activity carried out !!! Presumably by the look in the dining room they decided that a meal was better than carrying out further immigration checks !!!!!! After all that we decided to remain on board and wonder why Holland America even entertain going there given the inconvenience to the passengers for what is essentially a six hour stopover - you don't need this short of hassle on a holiday. There are any number of more attractive options in Thailand etc., who are keen to welcome tourists. Langkawi was a refreshing change and as always is a great spot to visit with some incredible beaches. Unfortunately my travelling partner fell ill with a gastro problem which had swept the ship and which he managed to cop twice. That put somewhat of a dampener on the remainder of the trip. To the ship's credit they responded instantly by a major and ongoing disinfection of the ship and their medical team was brilliant. We managed an overnight stay in Kuala Lumpur which is about 60kms from the pier. Again an interesting city with substantial improvements since our last visit and plenty to see. The cruise terminated at Singapore. The one disappointment with this cruise was the crew who seemed to lack friendliness and courtesy which is so apparent on their other ships.

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