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Holland America Line: Volendam

Fodorite Reviews

Average Rating
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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

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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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Sep 16, 2013

Alaskan Cruise

This was our first cruise to Alaska which we boarded in Vancouver. It was awesome and fantastic. We were on the Volendam and I know that there last cruise on the Alaskan route is September 24th. Just make sure you take advantage of their shore excursions and all that the ship has to offer. I took computer classes on photo organization and editing.....it was so informative...you had to get to class early! The food was wonderful, take advantage

of the Pinnacle Grill which is a little extra but well worth every dollar! The spa was amazing...I actually got my hair cut and coming from Miami Beach...and being a fanatic about my hair...I normally wouldn't have allowed anyone to cut my hair but she was amazing...(I went ot get it blown out)...Marlene should be working in New York City or Miami Beach! She was trained in London and she was the best! The staff was wonderful and I am now recuperating from our 7 days in heaven: visiting Alaska with Holland America! Food was good and many choices for those of us that like to watch what we eat! We took advantage of the Pinnacle Grill which was a little more but a very relaxing and romantic experience for my husband and I. Staff for excellent! We upgraded to a suite and we loved it ! As this was my husbands dream trip, we afforded ourselves the luxury of a suite...and with it came free laundry and dry cleaning services and a concierge room. Less packing for me and we had personal service..everyone was very attentive! Plenty of space and a nice balcony. Extra bathroom space was the icing on the cake! So much to do...computer classes, dancing lessons, lectures, cooking demonstrations, exercise classes and lectures....wow....the classes were wonderful. We took advantage of them all and sometimes we just read in the explorers Lounge...our needs were were totally fulfilled> And the Spa..don't miss getting a massage and hair services. Marlene will surely be offered a job in a Paris or New York hair salon! Don't miss the excursions. We took the Tracey Arm Excursion as our first one and it was beautiful. My first glacier, was seen here...and then we got to see Orca Whales (otherwise known as the Killer Whales I believe).. We went Kayaking in Skagway with Packers Expedition....and I understand they also provide hiking tours...which would be great. White Pass train ride was a nice experience and then to Kayak on a glacier lake. And don't worry, they had all the clothing and although it was lightly raining, this was a fantastic adventure for us. And then do some Salmon Fishing in Ketchikan. What a great way to finish our last shore excursion! We were able to send what we caught home. I normally don't like fishing at all but this was a wonderful time! Ask for Axel for your boat captain! My husband had been talking about taking a trip to Alaska for many years. We even offered to take all our children around 5 years ago but just couldn't put it together with everyone's schedules. So we made the decision to go it alone, just the two of us. What a wonderful trip we had. We took the Volendam out of Vancouver. We arrived 2 days early and stayed at the Pan Pacific Hotel. What a gem and great location no only for getting on the cruise ship but for touring Vancouver. On sailing day you simply hit the elevator button and you are a few feet from the entrance of the entrance to embarkation of ship. Outside the door is the hop on and off buses which we found was a great way to see Vancouver! Sailing day was a breeze, they were so organized and it was a mere 10 minute procedure. We took the inland passage route and it was beautiful every minute of the day. Even when it rained....

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Aug 17, 2013

Alaska

All in all not an experience we would want to repeat. Mediocre food. Very nice cabin. Kept very clean by the young Balinese staff Did not care for the entertainment. Very expensive tours when booked through the cruise line The staff from Bali and Singapore were lovely people, but the same could not be said about the European and American staff, who were obnoxious and ignorant. The food was mediocre most of the time,

and inedible the rest of the time, although the sweets were not bad. The weather was very poor, and the whole experience was boring. They try to charge 11 dollars a day, for tips, but obviously they use it to supplement the obscenely low wages that most of the staff are paid, especially the Balinese and Singaporeans. You can tip who you want. You don't have to pay this surcharge, and all you have to do is inform the purser when you get on the ship at the start of the cruise. We found this out when we went with Royal Caribbean, which, incidentally, is 100 times better than this lot. Drinks are very expensive on board, and they ran out of the only beer that I liked, towards the end of the cruise. Not to be repeated.

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By Neil_CR

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Mar 10, 2013

Asia Singapore to Kobe

Lies from Holland America LIES on a 28 day cruise with Holland America(HAL) Volendam. Feb 4-March 4 2013 Stateroom requested Suite G2706 ... Paid $3850 per person march 2012 The same stateroom selling for $2200 per person in December 2012 two months before sailing. Called Holland America office and talked with supervisor who informed me that he could not refund the difference but would upgrade to window stateroom. No refund

but an update from HAL offered........BIG MISTAKE..DO NOT ACCEPT UPGRADES...... FEB 4 Day 1 to Day 14 To our shock and dismay the uPdated Stateroom is below galley kitchen Suite number 3372--- avoid any even numbered unit between 3300 to approx 3400. Noise started at 5:30 am every morning lasted (2 weeks). It sounded like large industrial mixers and chains being dragged through the walls of our suite. Notice that the location of the galley kitchen is never advertised on their website, on any brochure or on any ship map.. They show it as a blank spit with no information. LIES FROM HAL # 2. Asked to be moved to verandah suite for the last 2 weeks of our 4 weeks cruise. Estimate given to us $699 per person for 14 days left on the cruise...... We said yes because we were desperate..before we moved I found an old email listing the price for a verandah upgrade to be for $599 per person for entire 28 day cruise....caught HAL again in a lie. LIES FROM HAL #3..... FOOD SERVICE ON A 28 DAY TRIP FROM HAL Breakfast : stick to toast butter and jams... Milk imported from china...it smells. Be careful if you are coming from North America No respect for vegetarian cooking...all pasta dishes cooked with same utensils whether meat sauce or vegetarian in the Lido.. Chef is too busy trying to sweet talk the single women guests rather than worrying about serving good quality food by his untrained young staff. If he starts with Hello Darling ...move to another place to eat....LIES FROM HAL #4. The quality of food in both the main dining room and the Lido is mostly mediocre served by waiters that would never eat it themselves. Reminds me of my college dorm days.. Day 2,5,8, 12,16 The Main Dinning Room (Ida the evil matire'd) Look out for the maitre 'd on the 4th floor dinning room. He basically does not want to give you a nice table for 2... Most nights we waited for 15 minutes even when there were many small tables open. We wondered if he had something personal against us although we were polite and appropriately dressed. it would seem that this man needs some multi-cultural and manners training. The smile he use shows when his supervisor is around is not sincere. More Lies from HAL #5. Day 18 The last time we ate in the main dining room was on our 18th day of a 28 day cruise. The dinner started with us finally getting a nice table by a window, for once. We ordered some wine and had our dinner. We expected to enjoy our evening , as we were leaving Shanghai. But as The ship left the magnificent lights of Shanghai our nightmare started.. We usually go to bed around 10 pm as we are not much of late night people. I went to bed as my wife watched tv in bed next to me. All of a sudden, I start to feel my fish and bok choi started to rise in my stomach. I barely made my way to the washroom where my dinner flew out of my mouth at full speed. This lasted the next 4 hours as I sat by the bathtub making sure not to make too much of a mess. After each throw up I ran the shower to make it disappear... Next morning my wife went down to the doctors office and picked up some anti-diarrheal pills ... We were told I was on voluntary quarantine, in our room. As I slowly waited out my condition in a room with no heat , while the temp in China dropped below freezing.... Calls regarding the lack of heat were ignored. LIES from HAL #6. Day 19 Next morning while freezing in our verandah suite my wife took charge as I lay in bed shivering. She got me tea one cup at a time because if you order the flask from room service, it was at most lukewarm , not hot. She cancelled my excursion bookings for Beijing and the Great Wall of China. . I could not bear the thought of a twelve hour excursion, riding buses 3 hrs each way without a rest room on the bus. My wife was determined to go see the Great Wall the next day... So she would have to go alone. Day 20 The day started with me still in bed and my wife running around the ship to get me some HOT soup. Lido serves two kinds of soup everyday. One is usually cream based the other being vegetarian. She brought me a cup of the vegetarian soup which I have to describe as smelling of rotten eggs with green leafs floating on the top. The smell of this soup started me into throwing up again. Please take a can of chicken noodle just in case you catch a bug as consommé is not available. My wife noticed that she was feeling a little tired. As she rested in the afternoon on her bed, I knew that she too would be sick. It happened around 3 pm. She ran to the bathroom and threw up so violently that I was afraid for her. I jumped out of my bed and took charge. Now I had to be in control. She had magnificently handled my sickness , now it was my turn. As she sat near the bathtub spilling out her guts, I phoned the doctor and asked for more pills. The nurse came to our stateroom and informd us that we were both quarantined. If we violated quarantine we would be expelled from the ship and have to find our own way home. This seemed an extreme threat when we were left extremely ill, in a room with no heat. We stayed in bed watched some movies and drank lot's of water $3.75/ bottle. A night from hell..no heat in our room. Temp outside approaching freezing. Both confined to our stateroom. God help us.. A day from HAL...More Lies from HAL#7. Day 21 A new day dawned with me feeling better and my wife still feeling the effects of up chucking all night... Breakfast meant calling room service ....some cereal and toast with tea...we could not look at any other food. The joy of eating was gone. Phoned the front office. Requested that they clean our room and give us some fresh towels. We were informed that they would send someone in the evening to clean up. We basically lived in the filth of our stomach up chucking for 48 hours. Our normal stewards did not want to clean up. Also, no heat in the room. We were told that someone would check the heater but it had been days since our first request. We sat in our room waiting for some help which came at 7pm with a knock on the door. An officer named Arpalata appeard with 2 stewards. The Stewart's cleaned the washroom and disinfected the room. We were grateful. Next came the guy to fix the heater. We finally had a clean room with some heat. Things were looking up. The doctor called and inquired about our condition. We told him we were feeling much better. He informed us that we were no longer in quarantine. We were free to roam the ship. Free at last...I so much wanted to see Tianmann Square and salute the heroes of 1989. It was not to be. Thanks HAL. Day 22 Beijing day 2 We stayed on the ship in Bejing . Had a quiet breakfast of hot cereal and toast with lot's of Earl Grey tea. My wife found a stash of Earl Grey tea to take to our stateroom. We have become Earl Grey tea bag lifters. HAl holds back any useful information on each port until all the excursions are sold out. They are so dishonest in not sharing any information about the ports visiting until the night before.. They need to put all the information on a intranet site which we could easily access. As for the Internet rates with Holland America, it is almost criminal of charging there customers who have bpaid thousands of dollars such ridiculous rates..More lies from HAL..

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By John_CR

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Aug 23, 2012

Alaska from Vancouver

This was our first cruise, and was part of a longer four week stay in Canada. Friends who have been cruising always get excited when talking about cruising, but we were distinctly under-whelmed. The food was distinctly average, probably because we had high expectations. There was certainly variety, and lots of fresh food, which was good. The Italian Restaurant was a disappointment, and we ended up in the Rotterdam, largely because

it was good place to meet with other passengers and the food was acceptable. The steaks were good, but given the location, the lobster was very poor. Early morning tea in the cabin was always prompt, but I've never seen such small croissants. The stateroom was fine, and more spacious than expected. We were on the Promenade Deck, with a view (some have restricted or no view at all). The absence of a clock was a discussion point, but the SatNav on the TV made up for it. We hired a DVD which was good. Overall the stateroom was somewhat tired, and the beige coloured bathroom didn't help, though everything worked as it should without any hitches. The bed was two singles pushed together, which hadn't been locked together properly. The steward was first class. We looked through the daily list of activities, and enrolled for a couple. The cookery session was just a demo by the on-board Le Cirque chef - we thought we would actually making something and participating, not just watching. The wine tasting was expensive and poor as the chosen wines were just generic varieties which can be bought for under a fiver a bottle in any supermarket. The Alaskan beer tasting was again expensive - US$15 for small amounts of three beers. The Skagway Brewery was far better, both in terms of cost and experience. The shows were very ordinary, and we only went once. The galley had worked hard for the chocolate evening, which included ice sculptures (clearly from moulds), but the best by far was the Curry Evening. We took three excursions. The best by far was the trip by catamaran up Tracey Arm. We transferred at sea and the small boat motored away from the mother ship up the spectacular fjord to the incredible Sawyer Glaciers. The captain of the catamaran switched off the engines so we hear the silence - interspersed with the thunderous cracks of the calving of the glacier. The fjord was also full of wild life. The catamaran returned us back to the Volendam at Juneau. Recommended! At Skagway, we travelled on the White Pass & Yukon Route Railroad. The weather was beautifully warm and clear, and made for spectacular views and photographs. The cost was the same as the walk-up price at the station, though we entrained on the quayside. Recommended. At Ketchikan, with took the Misty Fjords seaplane and catamaran tour. We'd never been in seaplane before, and with low clouds, the flight was exciting. The flight of around 45 minutes by air required a 2½+ hour journey home, which, despite the best efforts of the first glass guide, wasn't the best way to spend a couple of hours. There wasn't a lot to see, so if you are considering seeing the visiting the Fjords, take the seaplane both ways. Otherwise avoid. The Alaskan scenery is absolutely spectacular. My photos could easily be made into postcards. I am delighted we went, if only to confirm that global warming (whatever the causes) is happening, and the glaciers are melting quickly. I doubt we will be passengers on a HAL cruise again, but the Alaskan experience was superb.

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Nov 23, 2011

Australia and New Zealand

It was very enjoyable(except for an illness occurring for a few days). Excellent staff who managed cabins, food and enquiries. Excellent guest artists and very good HAL contracted artists. Provided everything that was advertised for the cruise. Excellent. And the service by the (mostly Philippino) staff was also excellent. Average. I booked a double bed but the room had 2 single beds. When I notified them of their error they joined the

2 together. This was disappointing having to sleep on rigid mattress sides in the middle of the "double" bed. Very good most of the time. But this was determined by the staff member managing the activities. For example; D.J. Phil was great with organizing games and activities and focussed on the guests. But the Cruise Director spent more time talking himself up instead of focussing on the enjoyment of the guests. Not Applicable to us. We had pre-planned our own excursions. I got sea-sick. I thought I was "doomed" for the rest of the Cruise. BUT.... I visited the Spa section and received an acupuncture treatment that completely cured my sea-sickness. The guest performers, "Acrobatica", were amazing as they performed acrobatic stunts of balance and strength. And they did all this whilst the boat was rocking in heavy seas. One afternoon near sunset, I was looking out over the ocean and saw something out the corner of my eye. Lo and behold, 3 dolphins were swimming along with the ship, "playing" in its wake, breaking the surface and then diving back in. What beauty to see nature at play with this huge man-made vessel. The artists and shows were diverse. Everything from the Vollendam singers to magicians and acrobats. The Pina Coladas were made from the milk of the gods. (I loved 'em) Hey... I won Bingo twice!!! The places we stopped at in New Zealand were perfectly chosen by the cruise line. I think we saw the best of New Zealand. My only complaints of the whole experience would be the minor few of arrogant Americans who treated the Philipino staff badly and the overbearing Cruise Director, David. However, according to the staff I spoke with, it was his first time as Director after completing a "training run" just recently. So in time he may improve. (we hope)

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Sep 4, 2011

Vancouver-Alaska

A very positive experience. The crew worked very hard to make the total experience as satisfying as possible. Having read previous reviews casting some doubt on the Volendam, we were very pleased with the cleanliness, service and general completeness of the ship. Food was consistently of high quality, exceeding our expectations. The ship took a very firm line on preventing cross-infection. Hand sanitisers were fitted throughout all dining areas

and no self-service was permitted for the first 48 hours. This caused no inconvenience and gave a degree of confidence in the safety of dining. The main dining room provided quality menus and quality food. The Lido was fine for breakfasts, lunch and snacks. Our stateroom was sufficiently spacious to make the room suitable as a retreat when required. Comfy bed, clean bathroom, plenty of storage. i note that one reviewer complained about the TV programmes. Really? Why are you on a cruise? There was always something if you wanted it, but why would you? Although there was a wide variety of on-board activities, we made only sparing use of these. Commendation for the range of reading material in the library, plenty of board games. Cooking demonstrations were enjoyable. Happy hour in the Crows Nest was a nightly highlight with friends, along with the trivia quizzes. The excursions were somewhat of a mixture. Don't miss the White Horse and Yukon rail trip from Skagway - it is great. The Salmon Bake at Juneau was a bit indifferent, but we enjoyed the gold-panning. Sure, we all knew the pans were "salted" with flakes, but it was still fun. Also indifferent was the Best of Ketchikan by Land and Sea - enjoyable at the salmon cannery but disappointing at the Saxman Village experience and the boat trip. Overall, a great week. A very satisfying combination of relaxation and experiences. Special commendation for the Captain and crew for the day in Glacier Bay . We were as close to the glaciers as possible and the way the ship was rotated at the glacier face to give everyone the best possible views was a great piece of seamanship.

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Jul 28, 2010

cruise tour alasak

We couldn't have been treated better. Everything about this cruise ship from the food/entertainment/tours/friendliness was outstanding. I will cruise again with Holland America and recommend this ship to all. Wide variety/fresh. excellent I was upgraded from an outside cabin to a balcony. It was spacious and wonderful Great shows. Lots to do or we could just relax. Explore the entire ship as there are things to see/do that could have been

missed We took a 3 day cruise and an 8 day tour starting in Vancouver and ending in Anchorage. This was our first cruise so we were skeptical about being on a ship. We had a great time. The tour was wonderful. We had a great tour director and bus driver who made it so much fun, we didn't realize sometimes we were on the bus for 8 hours.

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Jul 15, 2010

HK-HK

overall cruise experinece: good.it was value for money but it was not a luxury cruise.date of travel: oct 2009 on a 15night cruise from HK to da nang,saigon,nga trang,xiamen,sanya,shanghai n HK again. my mother is in a wheelchair with limited mobility . the ship and travel agencies were all informed of this during booking and we were assured that this ship is well catered for handicaps and elderly people. the handicap facilities were good but the

staff needed training on how to deal with embarkation and disembarkation for wheelchairs. no one offered t help me push my mom up or down the gangplanks at each port of call. and when i asked for help, they gave me a black face.very different from costa romantica ( costa line) which i will later write a review about. Food: not the best. a lot of it but after the 4th day it got boring. 1 main dining room with 1 set service and 1 variable service.its best to go early if you want to get a table for 2 as they dont assign the same table every time.food at the main dining room wasnt very good for the first few days but it improved .towards the end they offered escargots and lobsters etc so that was nice.the service was lovely though and they always offer to change your dish if you arnt satisfied.loved the duck l'orange and escargots.mmm.... Lido deck: thats where the buffets are.they have buffets for breakfast, lunch and dinner.lots of service stations and varities but its the same stuff throughout the cruise. after the 1st 5 days it gets a little boring.but lots of staff ready and willing to help you carry your plates and drinks to your table so you can continue getting more food. breakfast was mostly egggs, sausages, smoked salmon .a small selection of congee .lots of juices lunch : 2 kinds of pasta , some form of asian noodles and dishes that arnt very authentic or interesting.roasts are usually tough and dry.daily salads that dont vary much .not very appealing to me but it proved popular with most of the passengers.i usually waited till 3pm and filled up on pizzas. drinks: they have a good selection of teas and coffees, chocolates etc .you can also order soft drinks or alcohol from the service/bar staff there. pizza station: theres a pizza, sausage and hamburger station near the pool .LOVELY pizzas there, hot and lots of cheese .self service station for tacos and hamburgers. very nice room service: good variety at no service charge.theres also daily breakfast room service supper: never tried that. desserts: extremely sweet.theres a daily ice cream bar which was rather popular but i found it too sweet. overall for food: more cafeteria style but good if you like a lot of choices and arnt too fussy. cabin: lovely.very spacious with lots of closet space and seating area.mattresses were extrememly comfortable.a 3 seater couch long and comfortable enough to lie in, a coffee table and another arm chair. a 21" flat screen tv which we never turned on as there wasn't much on tv. Semi big bathrooms with very hot and high pressure water.lovely amenties which were topped up every day.I ADORED their shampoo and bathgel.thick cotton bathrobes and towels which were also changed upon request.nighty turn down servcie with a top up of ice and cute towel animals every night..cabin stewerds were v friendly and efficient. not much going on. or rather, not much which i was interested in. spent my time reading, listening to my ipod, eating and talkint to people didnt join any of their excursions. they were all rather expensive.i did however sign up for a private car in shanghai through the tour desk.it was v expensive (usd1000 for 8 hr) .it was all right but shanghai is easy enough to navigate by cab, and there are lots of cabs at the dock , a mere 5 min walk from the ship. they use meters so no bargaining needed.went to the old part of shangai where theres lots of food and stalls selling stuff. had tea in an authentic tea house ( where queen elizabeth is said to have visited) and had the famous xia long paos ( 20 for usd 2) Xiamen offerede free shuttles to the city center which was nice and had lots of activities. just be prepared to squeeze and push your way onboard the shuttles back to the ship. a cab should cost no more than usd 5 though.lots of small stalls and resturants offering food. some of my friends took the ferry across to an island where theres lot of nice building to look at. i prefered shopping and food :) sanya: due to bad weather the captain decided not to stop at sanya, so we had an extra day on board the ship da nang, vietnam: horrid.thired a cab for usd 50 for 4 hours.went into the cultural center which was sleepy with overpriced food.did a ride down china beach which was rather nice.there was a small resturant by the port which offered decent local food and a view of the sea.much better deal. the costa romantica ( we went in april 2010 ) docked in a differnt part of da nang which was much much better. phu my (saigon ), vietnam: nothing to see at dock area. hired a cab for usd 100 for the 4 of us (7 hr) to take us into the city center .it was a 2 to 2.5 hr ride into the city through shanty towns. very distressing to see such appalling places.some of my friends took the city excusrions to see shadow puppets and war tunnels and said it was good but very expensive.(usd 100 to 150 each) my suggestion is to join up with some like minded passengers and hire a cab to do what you want. it would be much cheaper nga trang , vietnam: we hired a cab for usd 30 for 4 hours to take us into town where theres a wet market. had local food there and lots of ice cold coke. blazzing hot . but i managed to buy lots of hand painted vietnamese clogs for a bargain ( usd 10 for 4 pairs) but you have to do lots of bargaining. cokes are about usd 1 /can. great photo ops there with the wet market overall opinion: its easy enough to get around these places by cab. just be ready to stick to the budget you have in mind and be prepared to bargain. the tours offered on board are very expensive ( nothing below usd 50 pp) and you can easily do it for half that amount. be warned though , the cab drivers in vietnam were very tricky, they would ask you for more $ than agreed upon at the end of the trip we enjoyed it a lot . met lots of nice people.my only complaint is the treatment by the crew at the gangway.bad bad attitudes. 2 formal nights but not every one dressed up.cocktail dresses were adequate .for other nights dresses were fine.

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Feb 19, 2010

Auckland to Sydney

We had a great time aboard the Volendam everything was excellent, food, service, cabin staff just wonderful very friendly. Hal seems to go to more ports than the other cruiselines already planning our next cruise probably with Hal Excellent very impressed Great clean, beautiful beds Average- Bingo was a bit dear, cooking classes were interesting. We went on a few excursions found quite expensive even though we enjoyed them but you can organize

to do same when you get off ship for less than half the cost we found out Overall really enjoyed the whole experience to me cruising is the best holiday Thought it was great that we also not only went to New Zealand but Tasmania & Melbourne as well which was great. First stop Tauranga went on an excursion to Rotarua excellent day. We also went on the Trans Alpine rail /bus trip too much wasn't that fussed too much sitting and driving. In Melbourne went to Ballarat Soverign hill gold rush town this was in our opinion the highlight of the excursions.

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By Del_CR

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Aug 4, 2009

Sydney to Auckland

Everything was great except the daily bingo entry was very expensive and only about half of the money collected was returned to the players in prizes. The food was excellent and well suited to different tastes. They have a different menu every day. The staff in the restaurant are wonderful. The stateroom is excellent. Cleaning of room is checked 3 times a day by cabin staff. The onboard activities were OK, except the bingo which is too

expensive to have fun. The excursions were wonderful! We mainly booked our own excursions on shore as it was much cheaper than pre-booking on the ship. Overall I loved the trip. It was very relaxing and the staff could not do enough for us. The only thing we resented was the US$11 each service charge added to our bill each day for the 17 days of the cruise. However, you could opt out of this by contacting the service desk during the trip.

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Jun 9, 2009

Singapore to Hong Kong

We had some very bad experiences on the Holland America Volendam. The hoiday was a disaster. The toilets, both in the cabins and the public areas, were blocked almost as frequently as they were working, with effluent floating to almost overflowing in the public areas. The ship stank of sewerage for the first week until we were in port for a day and the system was completely turned off and rectified. The veranda suite that we had booked had

not been cleaned, nor was it cleaned until two days after boarding. Some of our neighbouring cabins had dirty towels stuffed in the wardrobe, and the sanitary bins in the cabins had used sanitary items in them. Obviously they had not been cleaned either. glass door leading to the veranda had been badly smashed and was stuck together with tape all over. There was no view, except of tape, with the door closed. Service was very poor overall. The crew seemed overworked and did not have time to attend to the passengers needs. We would never, ever, go anywhere with Holland America again. The food varied from good to microwaved, dried up dreadful meals. Overall it was poor to mediocre. Do consider going under your own steam on some of the venues that the excursions go to. We did this in Borneo and instead of costing over $100 each we paid less than $50 for three. This included transport and boat hire for the day. Over all the experience was dreadful and will not be repeated!

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Mar 20, 2008

Southern Caribbean

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, was always 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. Cindi [email protected]

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Dec 23, 2007

Panama Canal

As a change of pace this year, my wife and I decided to spend Christmas and New Year’s on a cruise ship. The two of us, along with my daughter and her boyfriend, took a ten-day cruise on the Volendam, round trip from Fort Lauderdale, to various ports in the Caribbean and Central America. I  had a good time, but was not wowed as I was, for example, on our previous cruise on the Paul Gauguin. If I was grading this cruise I would give

it a B or B+. Here are some specifics.    EMBARKATION. This was relatively smooth and painless. Although the official embarkation time is listed as 1 pm the ship does allow people on earlier. We showed up at the pier at about 11am and were on board about a half hour later. Registering online earlier at the Holland America (HAL) website and filling out the form there did save some time, and I recommend all passengers do so. I cannot comment on the efficiency of HAL’s transfer options from the airport because we arrived in Fort Lauderdale a few days before sailing and stayed with relatives. Getting to the pier in Fort Lauderdale by car was quite easy.    THE SHIP. I thought the ship was quite attractive; it has a floral theme and there are lots of bright flowers throughout. Since this was a holiday cruise there were also lots of Christmas decorations, trees and so forth throughout. HAL gave us a complimentary upgrade in cabins from the K-class cabin I had ordered to an H-class cabin, which was nice of them; for some reason my wife and I were given a wheelchair-accessible cabin, which had a nice walk-in shower; my daughter’s cabin had an actual tub, a rarity on cruise ships. Every stateroom comes with a flat-screen TV and a DVD player. DVDs can be rented for three dollars a night from the library (and are free to people who have booked a suite rather than an ordinary stateroom) but parents may wish to bring DVDs from home to entertain kids.  One discordant note was that for the first few days of the cruise our toilet did not flush properly. One would push the flush button and nothing would happen. Sometimes after about three or four minutes the toilet would then flush, other times it never would. After repeated calls to the plumbing department, the toilet finally began working properly on about day four of the trip. Another feature about the cabin that we didn’t like was the dearth of electric sockets. There was one in the bathroom and only one in the main cabin.     DINING. There are essentially four dining venues: the Rotterdam dining room (decks 4 and 5), the Lido buffet (deck 8), the Pinnacle Grill (an extra-fancy restaurant for which an additional charge of thirty dollars per person is charged for dinner)  and room service. I never used the latter two and so cannot comment on them. There is a form menu for breakfast at the dining room which does not change, but every day there are three or four special breakfasts available on that day only. I ate most of my breakfasts at the Lido buffet and was very impressed. I think it is the most extensive breakfast buffet I have seen on a cruise ship (it had all the special breakfasts available in the dining room as well as a ton of other stuff) and also has freshly-squeezed orange juice (for some reason I think the orange juice I had in the regular dining room was not freshly squeezed). Likewise, I ate most of my lunches at the Lido and was also impressed, though chilled fruit soups, which I particularly enjoy, were never available there even though they were available at the dining room. There is also an ice cream parlor at the Lido with excellent ice cream, the flavors of which change regularly. (The banana ice cream was particularly good.)  Right off the Lido buffet, in the pool area, was a place where you could get burgers, hot dogs and pizza. The one hamburger I had there was pretty good. We ate all of our dinners in the dining room. HAL is doing some sort of test at the moment and half the passengers had assigned dinner seating (on deck 5) and the other half had “open seating” on deck 4. We were in the latter group, but after getting a table with a nice view and a good waiter on our second night, we made reservations for that table at a particular time for the duration of the cruise; it was convenient that we could, at one time, make a standing reservation for the duration of the cruise.               There were special menus for Christmas Eve, Christmas and New Year’s, which may have disrupted things a bit. It resulted, for example, in some duplication of entrees during the cruise. Prime rib was served four times in ten days, for example, and on two consecutive days. Turkey was served twice, within a few days of each other. (We all thought, by the way, that the turkey was mediocre; it tasted more like pressed turkey than the stuff one carves off the bird.). Generally speaking I thought the entrees were good, but nothing was particularly memorable.  We also thought that more chocolate desserts were necessary (on some nights there were no chocolate desserts at all, and we are a family of chocoholics). Finally, I would have preferred more chilled fruit soups at dinner; one day, when I knew that chilled banana soup had been served at lunch (which I couldn’t eat because I was out on a shore excursion) I asked at dinner whether I could possibly get some for dinner, and without even checking the waiter said that was impossible.       SERVICE.  All the people on board seemed very friendly and attempted to be helpful, but sometimes were not up to the task. There was a lamentable lack of knowledge on the part of some people. For example, on one morning we were cruising by an island that I thought was Cuba. I went to the front desk to ask whether it was, in fact, Cuba, and the person there had no idea. She attempted to find out the answer but couldn’t; finally a deck-hand walking by confirmed that it was. You would think that this was something she would have known. On another occasion there was a dessert at the Lido that I couldn’t identify; I asked the person behind the counter what it was and he didn’t know. There was also a certain amount of disorganization. On one night the waiter simply forgot to serve us bread at dinner; none of us particularly cared (if we had I could certainly have just asked for it) but that never happened before on a cruise. The “dessert extravaganza” midnight buffet was also badly disorganized. The buffet was arranged in two long lines but the items were never identified and the people serving them often had no idea what they were. (The posted menu listed white chocolate mousse cake as an item; I never did find it.)  It was also unclear whether the two lines were the same (I think they were) but each line had two beginning points, so that people wound up meeting in the middle and reaching over each other. Children got to the buffet before the opening time and smeared chocolate on things; it would have been smarter, I think, to have a separate “kids only” buffet that perhaps started a bit earlier.      PORTS AND EXCURSIONS. Our ship stopped at five ports and spent the rest of the time at sea. Our first stop was on Half Moon Cay, HAL’s “private island” in the Bahamas. We had brought our own snorkels with us, but even though there was a designated snorkeling area we found absolutely nothing in the way of fish, just a lot of first-time snorkelers who screamed in delight every time one of them saw somebody’s foot underwater. The beach was nice, though, and we spent a pleasant few hours on the island despite the disappointing snorkeling. We were delayed leaving the island because of two idiots who, despite the numerous announcements about how the last tender left at 3pm, did not make it. The captain, after making progressively more urgent announcements on ship about these people (even resorting, at one time, to asking everybody to look to the person next to him and asking whether they were one of the people) finally (and somewhat belatedly, in my opinion) organized a search of the island, where the two morons were found attempting to swim to the ship through the rocky ship channel, where they succeeded in getting themselves cut and bruised.            The second stop was Oranjestad, in Aruba. We arrived here on the day after Christmas, and because that is a holiday there,  most stores closed at 2pm. Had we arrived late because of the afore-mentioned morons there would probably have been no opportunity for shopping at all, but the ship managed to make up some time overnight and most people had a little time to shop. In the afternoon my wife, daughter and I took the “ticket to paradise”  shore excursion to DePalm Island. This looks like a giant private water play area containing a beach, water park, snorkeling reef, open bar, buffet, etc. I didn’t bother taking my snorkel because I was told one would be provided, but the island was so mobbed that no snorkels were available. After I pointed out that I would either be given a snorkel or a refund, one was found, but I missed about twenty minutes of snorkeling time. The snorkeling was pretty good, particularly if you like bright blue parrot fish, which are everywhere.        A day later we docked in Willemstad, Curacao, a very attractive city with Dutch style architecture (you could almost believe you were in Amsterdam except for the fact that the buildings are pastel colored). We spent a very pleasant few hours walking around and then my wife and I took the “Spanish water” shore excursion to the site of a sunken tugboat that has become crusted over with 70 years of barnacles and reef. Excellent snorkeling here too, although the water was somewhat rougher than at DePalm Island and much deeper; the sight of the fish going in and out, and over, the sunken boat was very interesting.      The Panama Canal was next. The ship’s itinerary does not provide for a complete transit of the canal, only a trip through one lock to Gatun Lake, at which time the ship turns around and returns. However, an optional shore excursion (“Panama Canal Experience”) allows a transfer to a smaller vessel which goes all the way through to the Pacific, followed by a bus ride across Panama back to the ship. We took that excursion, which turned out to be quite memorable, though not necessarily in a good way. Because of delays at the entrance to the Canal, the shore excursion was also delayed, and if a ship misses its lock time, the wait to the next one can be quite extensive. Ultimately we wound up being delayed by almost five hours, and got back to the Volendam after 10pm, after doing the last few hours of the Canal in darkness, missing both dinner and that evening’s show. (The Volendam did keep the Lido buffet open for dinner after its normal hours, though.) A number of people left the shore excursion early and were bussed back to the ship.  My wife and I have differing opinions about this excursion. She is fascinated by the engineering of the Canal and thought the excursion was a successful one; she liked the fact that she got to see the Canal both in darkness (though lit up) and in the daylight. I thought that if you go through one lock, you pretty much have gone through them all, and I found the excursion, particularly with the delays, boring.       We all agreed, though, that the next day’s excursion, in Costa Rica, was wonderful. The port here is Puerto Limon, a squalid little town with nothing much to offer, so shore excursions are pretty much a necessity. We took the aerial rain forest tram excursion. After a lengthy drive through interesting scenery we arrived at a rain forest preserve, where we boarded cable cars for a trip, about 75 minutes long, through the rain forest, both through the middle section and then, on the way back, higher, through the canopy. Wildlife exists there but was pretty hard to spot, although we did see a toucan, some birds, and some butterflies, and heard (but did not see) howler monkeys. Even without seeing more wildlife, though, the trip was interesting and scenic. After it, we took a nature walk, where we saw giant ants, a very poisonous snake, and a sloth in a tree. This was followed by a tasty “native-style” buffet lunch and the obligatory visit to the gift shop, which actually had some very nice stuff in it. There followed another two-hour ride back to the ship. All in all, this may have been our best excursion, and I recommend it highly.            SHOWS.  There was a show just about every night, and they were generally fairly good. A troupe of singers and dancers gave three shows; other evenings there were comedians and magicians.             DISEMBARKATION. This is generally the worst part of any cruise, but HAL handled it pretty well. Breakfast was served early in the Lido and in the dining room and then you just waited around until your disembarkation number was called. At least on this ship, unlike many ships, you can wait in your cabin rather than in a public room. For some reason disembarkation was delayed here and although we had requested 9am disembarkation we didn’t wind up getting off the ship until about an hour later.             SUMMARY. As I said, this was a good cruise but not a great one. Since HAL considers itself a premium line, it should, I think, stand out from the others, and I’m not sure it did. A premium cruise ship, for example, should hand out water bottles to people heading off to the private island without then billing them two and a half dollars per bottle. A premium line should not have the cruise director tell passengers that when filling out the comment card, “excellent” means the same thing as “met expectations”; this kind of grade-grubbing is a bit off-putting. All in all, I would certainly travel with HAL again, but I wouldn’t necessarily seek out a Holland America cruise over others.  

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Jun 29, 2007

Vancouver

This was our first cruise for my wife and I.  We chose HAL for the price and the scheduled fitted our vacation plans.  As a first time traveler on a cruise, it is possible that we were influenced by the first time experience, but I will try to be as objective as possible. The for us in this cruise (more later on regarding that).  It was clean everywhere we went and it did not look rundown or worn. The Glacier, there was no sea

motion and we got there in time.  First Day: Hubbard Glacier: We spent plenty of time at Hubbard Glacier and got close enough to see the ice caving.  The fact that the Volendam is not a big ship allowed the Captain to maneuver close to the glacier (when we arrived there, the Celebrity Cruises ship Summit was leaving, we talked to some Summit passengers later on and found out that they did not get to see the glacier because their ship was too big and they could not get close enough, since it was quite foggy, they did not see the glacier, so it was an advantage that the Volendam was small and was able to get close to the glacier.  Hubbard Glacier is a sight to see, very impressive. Second Day: From Hubbard Glacier we cruised overnight and arrived at Icy Point Strait, not an impressive stop and I did not care too much for it.  The village of Honnah is very rustic and not very pretty.  The only good thing about Icy Point Strait is that the whales were giving us a show while we were there.  We saw whales when we traveled on the tender from ship to shore and then while we were cruising out.  We took the wilderness tour and saw nothing but trees, no wildlife at all (except for some eagles, but you see those all the time). Third Day:  Skagway - we cruised all night long and arrived at Skagway early in the morning.  We had all day at Skagway, it was the longest stop-over for the cruise.  The town is nice and small, with a lot of shops full of Chinese made souvenirs (although you can find some stuff made in Alaska).  We took the Klondike train/bus ride and it is awesome; this is not a trip for people who are afraid of heights.  The highway is kind of scary but the people working the tour were very professional. Fourth Day: Juneau – as the Capital of Alaska it is quite bigger than the other ports visited.  The ship docks right next to downtown and there are plenty of the mandatory souvenir stores.  If you decide to go to Mendenhall Glacier don’t pay for the tour. You can catch a bus for $12 roundtrip just off the ship.  When you get there, you can walk around and see everything you need to see.  We took a whale watching tour and it proved out to be outstanding.  For the first 2 hours we were disappointed, but then the whales decided to put on a show.  We saw about 6 or seven humpback whales with one breaching.  We were told by the cruise directors that not every time they go out they see so many whales.  Wildlife animals have their own agenda and they don’t always cooperate with the tourists. Fifth Day: Ketchikan – nice town, different from the other ones we visited with a lot of tourist trap stores.  It was raining all the time we were there and we stayed mostly on the ship. Sixth Day: Cruising the inside passage.  Nice ride, the area is beautiful and the weather was clear. We arrived at Vancouver early the next morning and the trip was over. Checking in and out of the ship:   the checking at Seward was seamless.  Easy and fast considering that they had a lot of people to check in.  The luggage arrived at the stateroom early, but not early enough for us to change for dinner.  Disembarking in Vancouver was a breeze, HAL has a really good system to disembark and the luggage was picked up the night before, so we did not have to carry anything off the ship. The stateroom: we got 3371, it was very clean and comfortable.  The Indonesian crew does a great job in keeping everything clean and organized.  The bed was a king size and was very, very comfortable, I actually miss it, my bed at home is not as good.  I would have to complaint about the TV programming, it was lacking and the signal was not great.  They have a DVD but it proved impossible to use, I asked the cabin attendant and he did not know how to use it.  The bathroom was clean and we had a bathtub.  Water pressure was ok and we always had hot water.  My other complaint is that there is no clock in the room, so we had to keep the cell phone on to check the time. The Service:   service was outstanding.  The Indonesian crew does a tremendous job and everyone smiles.  Many of them remember your name and your drink preferences. The Food: the food was excellent.  The main restaurant had a fine selection and well presented.  We only went 3 nights because we had the late seating (8:15 pm) and you finish your meal around 10:00 pm, so for us it was too late and you get out of there too full and took late to sleep.  The Lido restaurant had a fine selection and variety.  I have no complaints about the food; it was excellent and plenty of it. Entertainment:  most of the entertainment was mediocre and geared towards the older crowd on board (probably about 90 to 95% of the passengers were older couples).  We did not care for the entertainment.  Actually the best entertainment was the show that the Indonesia crew put together.  There was very little to do on the last day of the cruise and that was a disappointment.  We spent the whole day and night cruising and there were very few worthwhile activities going on. Activities:  the Volendam, while it is a fine ship, it is not geared towards families and kids.  There are very few things for families to do and no official entertainment geared towards families.  If I had kids, I would not take them on the Volendam.  They had a game room in the back of the ship and the pools, but that was about it.  The library on board was well stocked and my wife spent a lot of time there.  We do not gamble, so we did not go to the casino.   The fitness center is ok, you can exercise while watching TV or looking out at the ocean while you cruise.  They had many sales of items on the ship and actually I had the impression that they were trying to sell you stuff all the time.  We did not visit the restaurants on board where you have to pay to eat.  We visited the Crow’s Nest night club a couple of times but the crowds were small and the entertainment was boring. Overall, the experience on board was positive.  The ship was in great shape, my only complaint would be that the windows were dirty from the rain and dust and they were not cleaned at any time throughout the cruise.  We took the ship for the ports of call and the tours.  The ship’s staterooms and general areas were very clean (except for what had been noted), the food was excellent, the service was outstanding.  We liked the idea of having a five star hotels takes us around to see new places.  I think I will try to use HAL for our next cruise.  

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Jun 22, 2007

Alaska

The Volendam is the nicest ship we have sailed on. It's the right size at 63,000 tons and 1400 passengers. It was our third cruise on Holland America. We have cruised to many different places in the world. We have been on five of the Big Seven cruise lines, and this was our second cruise to Alaska..   We like the big outside cabin at 197 sq. ft., with the large bathroom with tub and shower, all the storage space, and setting area.  The

beds were extremely comfortable.        The embarkation was smooth and fast with Holland American representatives available to walk us through.  Our luggage was picked up from our hotel room which was across the street from the pier and appeared in our cabin shortly after boarding.   We had booked late, six weeks out, so we did not have a choice of cabins, but they assigned us an outside cabin in D category.   The layout of the ship was very well done.  We found it easy to find our way around.  The ship has great lounges, the Crow's Nest with it's panoramic view, and the Ocean Bar with comfortable chairs and large windows.   The service was excellent.  The room steward was great.  The dining room staff was outstanding.  From the head waiter, who appeared at our table almost every night, to the wine steward.  The food was outstanding with a great selection every night.  The dining room tables were not crammed together.  Our table was in the stern next to the large windows.  The Lido Buffet was well laid out with no long lines.  The food was well above average cruise ship food.  The ice cream was great. The Pinnacle Grill Alternative Restaurant was excellent.  Every member of our table of six had dined their, the two gentlemen twice.  It is a must on this ship.    Two of the ports, Icy Point Strait and Sitka, we had not been to before.  We cannot comment on the shore excursions.  We did our own shore excursions. The shows were entertaining but not the flashy quality of Carnival.  But we don't cruise for the shows.   The service in the lounges was great.  We would have before-dinner cocktails, either in the Crow's Nest or in the Ocean Bar.  A waiter was at our table the minute we sat down, addressed us by name, and had short, pleasant conversations with us.  They remembered us and how we liked our martinis. They provided us with peanuts and the hors d'oeuvres man would appear shortly after.    The teak deck chairs with cushions on the outside promenade deck we really enjoy but have found missing on several of the cruise ships we have been on.  Holland America and the Volendam are a class act.   The disembarkation in Seward went very smooth.  The six hour Kenai Fjord boat ride, before they took us to the Alasyeska Resort for two nights, was very enjoyable seeing whales, a large glacier and other sea life.   We will definitely cruise on Holland America again.   

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Oct 18, 2006

Southern Caribbean

We traveled on the HAL Volendam, and were very happy with the experience. The cruise left from Vancouver Canada and sailed through the Inside Passage then returned to Vancouver. This is a tip for Americans traveling to and from Canada, and does not mean anything bad against HAL. Even if you are just going to Canada, have a current passport with you! The travel agent had assured me that, as a US citizen, all I would need is a driver’s

license. This used to be the case, but is no longer valid. Now, the minimum requirement is a valid driver’s license AND a certified copy of your birth certificate. Also, if you have a young child, a birth certificate is required or they will not even let you onto the plane to Canada. Shortly, travel to Canada is almost definitely going to require a passport for everyone. When we arrived into Vancouver, there were several HAL greeters at the luggage carousel who were extremely helpful. If you put the supplied HAL tags on your luggage HAL will retrieve them and place them in your cabin when you board. The process for boarding the ship was very easy, but it seemed it would have been easier if I had filled out the proper forms on the HAL website. I will definitely do that next time. When you board, you have a picture taken which will be put into an identity card which will act as your pass for getting on and off of the ship, whether in the USA or in Canada. This makes things very easy while sailing. When we first arrived, because the rooms were still being made up, we were directed to the Lido Deck for a welcome aboard lunch, which was very nice. By chance, as we were getting onto the elevator, we noticed both of our suitcases being brought onboard, so we were able to relax. Granted, the buffet was a bit crowded, but if one person holds a table while the other goes through the line, it should go much more smoothly. The selection is very nice for lunch, though I have to say I enjoyed the breakfast items best at the Lido Buffet. As we soon found out, soda is not complimentary, but the Lido has continuous water, coffee, tea and iced tea available. As someone else had mentioned, you can refill water bottles at the Lido as well. The ship is a nice size, in that you can find most everything easily, and there are detailed maps of the ship at every elevator bank (there are three sets down the middle of the ship). The age level of the passengers does seem to be a bit high (we are in our mid 40’s and we definitely felt young in the crowd), but that was all right because we don’t really like to mingle with people we are never going to see ever again. The down side is, there are not too many activities offered by the ship, so you need to be able to entertain yourself most of the time. The cabin we had, a standard large cabin, was extremely comfortable and certainly big enough for two people. The bed was very nice and we both slept very well on it. We never really used the television in the cabin, so we don’t know what sort of selection they have. The room was very quiet, and the PA system does not make announcements inside the cabins, so if there is something spontaneous going on you might not hear about it until it is too late. We had heard that we should get the early seating for the dinner at the main dining room, and since we scheduled on line and fairly early we were able to get it. Again, however, the suggestion came from someone who was much older than ourselves, and on our next cruise we will seek the later seating. We ate most of our dinners in the Rotterdam Dining Room, which was very nice and the servers were very attentive. The first evening, be prepared because everyone in the serving staff (the waiter, the wait captain, the head of the dining room, the wine steward, etc) will come to the table and introduce themselves, which after a while became a little tedious but everyone was very nice. The meals were all very nice, though the seasoning was a bit bland (again, the average age of the customers). We did try the Baked Alaska because you are supposed to have it once, but once I think was enough; it was not bad, but certainly nothing terribly special. Being an Alaskan cruise, every meal in the Rotterdam had at least one salmon dish, though none of it was wild salmon but farm raised Atlantic salmon but it was still very good. Our breakfasts were all from the Lido Buffet, and without exception they were excellent. There was an omelet station as well as the regular line where egg dishes and French toast and fruit and other things were available. Again, make certain one person holds the table while the other stands in line. Lunch was often also at the Lido, though once we did eat at the Rotterdam and it was very nice. Sometimes, when my wife would sleep in, I would bring a tray back to the cabin; the staff was very helpful about that and would pick up the tray afterwards when we left it in the hallway. We went one day to the Dutch High Tea in the Rotterdam which was nice, but the tea is simply from tea bags (though I learned how to make scones which we have regularly now!). We often ordered from room service which is available 24 hours, which is good because the dining times can be a bit rigid, and the midnight snack often was not available. The room service menu is a bit limited, but we always liked what we ordered (grilled salmon and steak sandwiches). Coffee was available all day long, though snacks were not always laid out. Our cabin attendant was very courteous and was very happy to work around our schedule no matter how late we slept in or how early we came back. The nice little touches like the cute towel animals were always appreciated. The cabin was always very clean and he remembered my name immediately. Even when he was busy elsewhere, the other attendants would always make certain he quickly got word when we needed something. We made several stops along the cruise, and mainly we enjoyed all of them. One thing to remember, the Alaskan pan handle is a temperate rain forest, so it will rain every day you are ashore; dress and prepare accordingly (raincoat, rain hat, ear drops, etc). Our first stop was in Juneau, and we had taken an excursion there. We rode a bus up to see a glacier up close and a little nature walk. We saw a stream with large red salmons swimming along, and my wife was able to take close up photos of a small mother black bear and her baby as they were getting the salmon. Then she got some excellent photos of the glacier and we headed back. Even though it is the capital of Alaska, Juneau is a tiny little city, and the bus driver even pointed out the infamous site for the ‘bridge to nowhere.’ She also told us about the different types of salmon native to Alaska. Be prepared, at every stop along the way there will be jewelry stores operated in conjunction with the cruise lines, and the personal shoppers will hype them mercilessly. Try, instead, to get to some of the independent outlets where native Eskimo artists have their lines shown. My wife got some extremely elegant reindeer antler and ivory jewelry at several different towns, and they are definitely unique. Our next stop was in Skagway, and this was wonderful. This was the only day that it did not rain to any significant amount. We had signed up for the Brothel tour, which was very informative and the young lady who led the tour was very knowledgeable and friendly. She pointed out the various locations where brothels had been set up (Skagway was the last stop before beginning the overland trek to the Yukon, and she knew a great deal about that as well!). She pointed out where the various different establishments had been (from private back rooms to almost elegant hotels, and how they operated from informal to elegant to the truly horrific practices where women forced against their will were exploited!). Skagway is also the site of very beautiful flower gardens all throughout the town (this was a very pleasant surprise, and we got some unique and memorable photographs of these). The retail area of Skagway was nice (this is the town where most of the cruise staff will shop for their own personal items, so everything is relatively reasonable), with an excellent chocolate store that has a wide selection of sugar free items if needed. Though we did not get off of the ship, we cruised through the Glacier Bay National Park and like all the rest of the inside passage the scenery was beautiful. We were able to get many wonderful photographs of glaciers, streams, valleys, and all sorts of wildlife (we got pictures of lazy seals riding on icebergs and moose getting a drink and birds hunting for fish). Our final port was Ketchikan, and this was probably the most jewelry-centric of the ports so we just got on with it. We had signed up for a whale watching tour here, where they guarantee that you will see at least one whale or you get a 50% refund (apparently they have only had to give out the refund once). As we were searching for whales, the captain took us to see all sorts of other animals along the way. We got spectacular photos of eagles and seals and deer and all sorts of things. Finally, they found some whales when we had only about twenty minutes left before we had to go back in, and it was well worth the wait. They brought us to within about 100 feet of the whales and we could take pictures of them breaching and diving and spouting and it was great! The naturalist on this boat was excellent and talked about all sorts of things while we searched (for instance, eagles can swim if they accidentally overshoot a fish but they don’t like it!). On the way back in, we all had some samples of smoked salmon that was very tasty. My only complaint about the cruise was that the assigned naturalist on board the cruise ship was not terribly helpful. She did not have very many scheduled lectures and she only had a few talks over the PA system (which cannot be heard in your cabin or in the dining room). Stepping out onto the Walking Deck one afternoon, I literally heard her over the PA saying ‘that was something you almost never see!’ I learned far too late that you should have your camera with you at all times, because the ship actually can be a great spot to view nature from. By the time I got back to my cabin and found my camera and got back out, the Orcas had finished frolicking and had all swam away (groan!). Not quite so bad, the exercise spa facilities are terribly small, with most of the space being devoted to activities that have a separate charge. The first morning, I went to the spa and it was very difficult to get a treadmill or stationary bicycle (though the view when you can get one is great!). After that, we just walked every day on the outside walking deck which was actually better anyways. There is a medical facility that is accessible in the bow of the ship, but the regular nurse’s hours are quite limited and the doctor is in attendance only about two hours a day. There are a few meeting rooms that never seemed to be used and I thought it might have made things seem a little more spontaneous if there were some talks or lectures on various subjects available. The staff at the photo shop was especially nice and helpful to us, even though we did not buy any of their pictures. We had bought a new digital camera that neither of us knew how to use, but one of the staff set a time for me and by that evening we were both pros with the camera! Another nice touch was the self-service laundry facility, and you can get quarters from Customer Service for this; it was nice to be able to keep the dirty laundry to a minimum and with being wrapped against the rain when it was warm outside I ran out of clean clothes several days before I had planned to. Being in the wilds of Alaska, we only had cell phone service on board one day, and no access to wireless internet, but the internet café was decent (we purchased the bulk minutes plan, and that was relatively reasonable). The crew tries to make every experience pleasant, which often means having high priced specialty drinks available (like hot mulled wine or spike coffee for viewing the glaciers up close). There were a few piano and live music lounges across the ship which was nice, but no real dancing because the ship simply isn’t large enough which was a drag because we had hoped to learn how to dance. There are a few events which offer wine or champagne which can be a nice change from the endless coffee and water (a couple of art sales and lessons on wine tasting). If you purchase hard liquor, it must be surrendered to the ship until you depart, though apparently you can keep wine and beer in your room (I do not know this for certain, though, since we never got around to trying). It is also nice to have tips in your final statement, though I did tip our cabin attendant extra and thanked him for his help. When we had arrived back in Vancouver, you need to be packed and ready the night before. I still was able to get a tray from the Lido and we ate in our cabin, but disembarkation begins very early (about 7 AM). Granted, calling people first by their ticket color and then by their cabin range made it all right because you have less congestion getting off of the ship. Remember, when you disembark you are entering Canada so have your travel documents ready (again, it is best to have a passport!). We then stayed over night in Vancouver before we flew back to the USA. You pre-clear through Customs and Immigration before you get on the plane in Canada, and if you have a passport you can electronically check in for the flight rather than physically waiting in line. All in all, we were very happy with our experience and will be happy to travel with HAL again in hopefully the very near future.  

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Oct 14, 2006

Southern Caribbean

We enjoyed the cruise very much. The service, for the most part was excellent. We took a ship's excursion in Aruba and visited the aloe farm and plant. This was interesting. In Curacao, we got a taxi and visited the places a friend from there had suggested. We drove by the floating market and then into the old district where our friends husband was born and raised. They are restoring the large old houses into offices, was interesting

to see one not yet done as well as those finished. Went to the Kona Ku Hotel and museum. We took the whale watching trip in Dominica and saw five whales up close, one was a baby. The night the chef had a special show in dining room, we were under the speakers and left and went to the Pinnacle Grill, the service was extremely poor. We told James Deering, the hotel manager, and he treated us to another dinner there, needless to say the service was almost too good, we felt rushed. Our cabin steward, Matt, was outstanding, as well as the crew in the dining room. We had to skip a snorkeling trip at Halfmoon Cay, and told them that morning. Our money was refunded. We have been to St. Thomas many times, so only went to Havensight for a short time. Our cabin was 6172, midship, a wonderful location. One thing odd was that flowers came on breakfast tray one morn. and they took them away when they took tray. We would prefer flowers rather than the fruit basket. May be a way to do this, does anyone know? Boarding was a breeze. All in all we would recommend the Volendam, but really any of the HAL ships. Think the Mass dam will be our favorite, the art collection on it is really wonderful. Our deck furniture needed to be repainted and noticed the chair mats on deck chairs were frayed. The large bath towels were like drying with sandpaper, the smaller ones nice and fluffy. The bath mats were all frayed the tub mat looked as if it had mildew on it. We also noticed that they did not have many of the elaborate flower arrangements we have seen before on HAL ships. This ship was just coming back from Alaska, so they did not have the wine we chose, and people were ordering beers that they did not have.  

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Jan 12, 2006

Southern Caribbean

Mt husband who is 61, myself and friends of ours were excited to leave on our first 10 day cruise. We cruise every January. We flew into Ft. Lauderdale Airport the day before we lefton our cruise. I read all the cruise reviews I could before we left & they talked about the eldery cruisers and they were correct. I felt like a young person around all the old people in wheelchairs and with their O2 tanks. You need to give them credit, they

could be sitting home!! It took a hour of waiting in line to board the ship. We were told this is unusual but they were having problems with the cameras. The Volendam was a beautiful ship, clean and well taken care of. The rooms are a good size and the bathroom was the largest I've had on any cruise I was on prior to this one. There was a bathtub too. Our bags were in our room by the time we arrived. We unpacked & took a tour of the ship. We had the late seating at 8:30PM. Our waiter & bus boys were terrific. They were friendly but quick. You never had to ask for anything twice. The captain of our area of the dining room was attentive. I asked him if we would have creme brulee and he told me that the menu rotated and we would not be having it during our cruise. I was a little disappointed. The next night, our table was served crume brulee...what a surprise and it was so good. While we are talking about food, we thought the breakfast was very good. Fresh pancakes, waffles and a great choice of fruits. Breafast ended at 11a. Lunch on the lido deck was okay but not great. They did have burgers, hot dogs and toco's as well as the usual. The desserts were out past lunch and almost always there were home made fresh cookies. They were my friend and my downfall. Dinner was good. My husband & girlfriend were not impressed. Room service was good, quick and a pretty good selection. We had 2 days at sea which we loved but sat on the back deck because the main pool had a retractable roof and it was too windy for the elderly people sitting there. It was also too hot with no breeze. We met a couple from Alberta Canada. They were in a group of about 85 farmers and cattle ranchers on the cruise. My friend & I really enjoyed talking to Donna and she taught us the difference between a bull & a steer as well as alot of other things about raising cattle. She invited us to a sing along that night by her group. We went and really enjoyed singing .cowboy songs. Sunday, we arrived at Aruba. We had signed up for snorkeling on a beautiful cat. The snorkeling was great and the ride gave us a good view of the Island. We stopped at a beach for 45 minutes and my friend and I went on a double tube ride behind a speed boat. We screamed alot during the 10 minute ride and loved every minute of it. After a shower & lunch, we went into town. The shops were all closed because it was Sunday and I was disappointed. My daughter had visited Aruba last year and loved it so I was anxious to see the island. We rented a stick shift jeep which had seen better days and needed shocks, to take us around. We drove to Baby Bay and then to the natural bridge. We were surprised by the cactus growing everywhere. We ended up at the California Lighthouse in time to see a beautiful sunset. Would like to visit for a week sometime in the future. Monday we were at Curacoa. We slept a little late as we had no excurision booked. We left the ship and took a short ferry ride to a little village. The buildings were so cute and so Dutch. The village was so touristy. Knockoff pocketbooks were everywhere. Found 2 internet cafes but could not email home from either. There was a party at castoff with fireworks. But there was no steel drum music at anytime during the cruise. We were in the Caribbean but I guess Holland America must have forgotten. The music was from Frank Sinatra's time. It hurt to listen to the music. Tuesday another day at sea. It must be hard for the cruise director and the staff because the ship was dead by 11pm. The Crow's nest was also dead most times. I am use to a piano bar with the piano in the middle and a bar around it. Songs like "piano man" and "Margarittaville" should be played so everyone can join in not "Strangers in the Night" which puts people to sleep. Wednesday we arrived at Dominica. It is very green with mountains and very pretty but not much there. We were taken by vans through a jungle for about 45 minutes. We arrived at the river for our tube ride. This was listed as very active in the listing. I was a little concerned but my friend Jean said "how bad can it be floating down a river?" When we were put into tubes with plywood wired to the bottom it should have been a red flag. It was over rocks and rapids and a little scary at time but a great ride, I would do it again. Next month they have alot of rain and can take the river all the way to the beach, we could only go half way. We saw a couple of rainbows and 2 whales as we pulled out of Dominina. NEAT!!!! Thursday we visited St Thomas. My husband was a little under the weather and was not up to the ferry ride to St. Johns. It took longer than we thought so I caught the ferry back to Red Hook so I could meet my husband to go into town. We had to be back on the ship by 3:30.My friends went on to Trunk Bay which they loved. Friday was another day at sea and we were getting a little sad that our cruise was coming to an end. Saturday we were tendered to Holland America's private Island. It was perfect. There were a couple of little showers but we really enjoyed our day on the island. It was so relaxing and a perfect last day for our cruise. Sunday were arrived back at Ft Lauderdale. Leaving the ship was quick , our bags were in a certain area and there were people to direct us to our bags. We really debated the pro & cons about Holland America. There were alot of elderly guest but no children which was a plus. The ship was nice & the food was good. I would sail again with Holland America. We also enjoyed the ports. They really need to improve their entertainment. They need a steel drum band and peppy music. Hope this helps answer some questions.  

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Mar 20, 2005

Eastern Caribbean

The sister ship the Zaandam was newer and more up to date. I understand the Volendam goes into dry dock in Dec. for a total re-do. It needs it. The rugs are stained, the menu at the Rotterdam dining room not great. The food good but NOT fabulous like when we were on the Zaandam. I was happy with the port of call on this trip. It was the 10 day Eastfarer trip and Dominica (do not confuse with the Dominican Republic) was the best. Not

yet built up and still with active volcanic activity they have the BEST snorkeling in an area called "Champagne Reef". The bubbles from the geothermic gases heat and bubble the water . Saw turtles and many varieties of fish. Accomodations: The beds were the best. New and all the new style "Heavenly bed" but he pillows felt like shriveled foam and were not comfy at all. The room was adequate but tired looking. Most of the ship in fact was tired. they all were polishing and cleaning all the time but you can vacum a stained rug and it will still be stained. I had the best cabin steward ever "Yusef" cleaned so well I offered him a job... my teen slept until the afternoon and he still smiled and managed to clean up after us. Just so you know. If you have late seating for dinner (and they now have 4 seating times) please let the cabin guy in to do a final clean or let him know it is ok to sign off for the night...they work 12 hour days and he had to wait for some idiot to leave his cabin at 9:00pm to clean...and the steward had been working since 7:00 a.m. The waiter we had for the dinners was not about to go out of his way to chat. He knows he is now getting his tip no matter whether he gives service or not (it is added onto your bill at $10 per person in the cabin per day). I will not rec'd this ship until it gets back from dock. From 1-10 I give the food a 6 and the on ship classes a 2...there was nothing interesting to do if you were not into the trivia games or making a sail boat that will hold a case of soda before it sinks in the hot tub.. .Holland America line has been taken over by Carnival and it is not the same as it once was. Everyone agreed they needed a better menu and Maybe after the re-do in a yr I will try again....but I doubt it.  

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Jan 15, 2005

Eastern/Southern Caribbean

Day minus One - Leave The Artic Cold of Michigan! My cruise partner (best friend Joan) and I set off for Ft. Lauderdale on Friday, January 14. My ever patient boyfriend Joe (also know as the Melancholy Italian) was enlisted to drive us to the airport. He was also enlisted to stay at my house while I was gone and baby-sit my flock of cats. He may be melancholy, but he knows how to earn those ever elusive boyfriend points. I had been having

trouble with my car, so Joan met me at my house and we dropped my car at the dealership on the way. Joe picked us up there as previously arranged, and we loaded enough luggage for 8 people into his car and set off for Detroit Metro Airport in a frenzy of anticipation. However, when we got to the airport, things started to go downhill. As we pulled up in front of the terminal, I detected a huge flurry of activity in the back seat. Joan was frantically pulling things out of bags and purses and starting to hyperventilate. When I nervously enquired as to what was wrong, she admitted she couldn’t find her cruise documents and passport! The MI, ever patient, pulled to the side and we all tore the back seat apart, looking for the documents. Not there. I began deep yoga breathing, and we got out our cell phones. Joan called the dealership, and had them go search my car – not there. Then she called her brother, and had him go to my house and look in the window of her car to see if he could see the documents. Nothing. Then I called Holland America to find out what our options were. They couldn’t have been nicer or more helpful, and promised to reissue the cruise documents at the pier. All we had to do was get Joan’s birth certificate, and we were still good to go. Joan called her sister-in-law and had her go search her house for the birth certificate. In the mean time, Joe let us off with all our luggage and promised to pick up the birth certificate and Fed-Ex it to us at our hotel in Ft. Lauderdale. As he drove away, he said he would have given a million dollars to have a photo of our faces. NOT an auspicious way to begin such an anticipated trip! We got checked in with no problems, and went to the gate to wait for our flight. Actually we went to the bar, and each had double gin and tonics to sooth our frazzled nerves. However, as we walked past the gate, we noticed our flight was delayed about an hour. Sigh. Another glitch. As we sat in the bar sipping our drinks and eating nachos, my phone rang. The Sainted MI had taken Joan’s keys and given her car a good search when he got back to my house. There, hidden under the folded up sunshade, he found the Sacred Missing Documents! When he heard our flight was delayed, he leapt back into his car, and thundered back to the airport, documents in hand! He made it in plenty of time (miraculously without a ticket) and Joan raced out to the front of the terminal to retrieve them. He then drove happily away, very glad to have us off his hands. The trip was saved!!!! After that, everything went smoothly. We had a nice flight to Ft. Lauderdale, and took a cab to our hotel ($13 with tip). We were at the Marriott Marina, which we won on Priceline for the amazing price of $80/night. We paid much more in the past for hotels not nearly as nice. It was our first Priceline experience, and we were 100% satisfied. Upon arriving, we headed immediately for the restaurant, where we had a great dinner. Then we stumbled exhausted to bed, SO relived to be in the right state with the right paperwork. Day One – Departure Day! The next morning, we ordered room service (we deserved it after the previous day) and loaded back up to head to the ship about 10:30 am. To our amazement, the Marriott offered a free shuttle to the pier (we saw no mention of this at the Marriott website), and we caught it to the Volendam with just one other couple, Ken and Bonnie from Boston. We were at the pier in about 10 minutes, and on board no more than 20 minutes later. I think we waited in line behind just 5 people before we were checked in and issued our room cards. We then walked directly onto the ship – no waiting around in groups by number! Once on board, we headed directly to the Lido for lunch. That first lunch in the Lido set the tone for all the rest of the meals we enjoyed there – excellent food, great service (always a waiter to carry our tray to a table) and rarely any lines. Joan had a hot entrée for lunch, while I had a delicious grilled sandwich. We both had the broccoli soup, which was outstanding. All the soups we tried, in both the Lido and dining room were amazing. We had only been seated for a moment when a waiter came by to take our drink orders. We clinked glasses and gave a toast to FINALLY being back on a ship! After eating, we snuck down to the 6th floor to see if we could find our cabin. Thanks to our wonderful room steward Yemin (who we had yet to meet), it was ready and immaculate. No dust bunnies, no leftover underwear from other passengers, or dirty glasses for us! We dropped off our carry on bags and headed out to explore the rest of the ship. The Volendam is the smallest ship we have cruised so far. We had cabin 6130, a mini-suite on the Verandah deck and found that by going only two floors up or down we could be wherever we wanted to be on the ship. We loved the layout, and had no problems easily finding our way around. Because the spa and fitness center are VERY important to our enjoyment of a cruise, we headed there first. Actually, the fitness center is only important to me, since Joan follows a strict “no exercise” policy, but she willingly accompanied me to check it out. It is beautiful, with lots of treadmills and stationary bikes, free weights and weight machines, and a large carpeted area for group classes. They offered Pilates, Yogilates, Yoga, and Fit Ball classes for $11 each, or unlimited for $69 for the whole cruise. They also had some free classes, Stretch and Relax, Stretch, and Trim Tummy. I signed up for the unlimited pass, and noted the time for Yoga on the Beach for our day at Half Moon Cay. Both Joan and I wanted to have massages on the beach then, and I didn’t want to miss yoga (I’m in yoga teacher training and avid student). That chore completed, we headed back to the spa. We both signed up for Hot Stone Massages for $130 for the following day in Nassau, since we had already decided not to get off the ship. Regular price is $143 for 50 minutes, the $130 price is the port day price. We also selected massages on the beach for Half Moon Cay at $99. Our cabin was located directly beneath the spa, a very fortuitous location indeed! Next, off to the Pinnacle to confirm our reservations. It is absolutely beautiful, quite elegant and serene. Everything was in order so we headed to check with the Maitre’d to see if we could change our dinner seating. We requested the 8:00 seating, but had been given the 8:30 instead. Since in my normal, non-cruising life I get up at 5:00 am and am normally in bed by 9:00, an 8:30 dinner lacked appeal. After a short wait, we were allowed to seat ourselves in front of this Very Important Gentleman. However, when we expressed our desire to change our seating, he pooh-poohed our request. “Oh no ladies!” he admonished. “I have you seated at the special singles table! Very nice, you do not want to change!” Chastened, we slunk away, feeling very ungrateful. We then headed for the front desk to turn in our $50 each room credit we received from our travel agent, Best Price Cruises. We also signed up for the unlimited pressing for the whole cruise for $30. They also offered unlimited laundry for the cruise for $70, but as we had enough clothes for at least 3 weeks, we decided to do the $12 bag of laundry as needed instead. With all our chores complete, we wandered the ship for a while longer, exploring the various lounges and other areas. We ended up a the Crow’s nest, and ordered our second drink of the day from a lovely waitress named Lady. One excellent Long Island Ice Tea later, we heard the announcement that we could (legally) proceed to our staterooms. We headed down, and in the elevator lobby, saw several room stewards starting to deliver luggage. One of them asked us our room number, and then introduced himself as our steward, Yemin. He said he had just delivered 3 of our 4 suitcases to our room, so we headed down the hall to unpack. We were delighted with the storage available in our room. There were 2 separate closets for long dresses, and one more with hangers for short items and shelves. There were 9 drawers in the dresser, and two bedside chests with one drawer each. We were able to unpack (our last bag arrived shortly after we got to our room) and stow everything (including enough shoes to open an outlet store) with a minimum of trouble. The bathroom included a tiny but deep Jacuzzi tub, a sink with counter, a mirrored (both sides – useful for seeing the back of your hair) medicine chest with 3 shelves, and a long shelf under the sink for additional storage. There was an old style hair dryer mounted on the wall in the bathroom, and a much nicer one in a drawer in the dresser. The dresser top had a lovely metal ice bucket (filled, of course, with ice), glasses, an awesome make-up mirror, and a rack for holding papers and information booklets. There was a TV with remote, and two curtains, one between the hall into the room and the room itself, and one between the sleeping area and the couch (that folded out into a bed). There was a small round stool for the dresser, and a small table that you could raise and lower in front of the couch. The verandah was a serviceable size, with two chairs, one upright and one lounge, and a small round table. The door swung open onto the verandah, and unlike our balcony door last year on the Zuiderdam, it locked into place when fully open. There was a bowl of fresh fruit (apples, a banana and an orange) and a tiny vase of flowers on the dresser. All in all, a very nice and serviceable sized room; not as large as our SS suite on the Zuiderdam, but much better than the regular veranda room we had 3 years ago on the Celebrity Millennium. Muster passed uneventfully, and we finally shoved off at about 5:30 instead of 5, due to about 180 late arriving passengers. Our dinner reservations in the Pinnacle were for 7:30, so we tricked up a bit and flounced down to dinner at about 7:25. The meal was fabulous, with excellent service. Joan had the clam chowder, filet and baked potato, while I had the salad with blue cheese, planked halibut with béarnaise sauce and 2 king crab legs and asparagus. For desert, I had the chocolate volcano, and it was perfectly prepared, hot and melty on the inside with some lovely orange infused whipped cream. Joan, feeling rebellious, went against our waitress’s recommendation for the volcano and chose the cherries jubilee. Note to self: listen to the waitress. The jubilee was only fair, and she was sick with jealousy over my volcano. The only glitch in the service was with the wine steward, who was too busy with a full house and never got back around to us to see if we wanted seconds or an after dinner drink. We tipped the wait staff for the excellent service, and waddled back up to bed. We never attend the shows, but the first night’s entertainment was the Music and Comedy of Mike Robinson & the Volendam Singers and Dancers in Dream Vacation. Colin James played piano in the Piano bar, the Moonlight Strings were in the Explorer’s Lounge, and the Tritones were up in the Crow’s nest. There was a Single’s mixer in the Crow’s nest at 11:30, but we figured we would meet the best of the singles at our “special” table at dinner the next night so we went to sleep. The new pillow top beds and luxury sheets were divine, and we slept like babies. Day Two – Nassau Seas were a bit high on the trip to Nassau, but thanks to the wonders of Bonine, there were no problems with seasickness in our cabin. We woke up to a cloudy and cool day, similar to the weather we left behind in Florida. Had room service for breakfast, on time and accurate. The eggs could have been better, they were slightly overcooked. Very strong coffee. We adored the bathrobes, they are very soft and warm, nicer than the ones offered in the spa area. Neither Joan nor I are very impressed with Nassau. I made the obligatory trip to Atlantis last December with the MI, and although it was beautiful, I have no need to go back. Instead, we both indulged in Hot Stone Massages with Kari in the spa. I consider myself a massage expert, and this was without a doubt the best massage of my life. She worked out deep knots in my shoulders (placed there from years of computer work) and gave me the lofty title of “Tightest Shoulders I Have Ever Seen in My Career”. I was so proud. Joan was equally impressed with her massage (she was booked directly after me). We both directed Kari to just work on our upper bodies, and were thrilled with the results. The obligatory product sales pitch wasn’t too bad, and we each purchased one item. I had my first Yogilates class with one other brave soul. When the teacher asked about our previous yoga experience, I said I practice 6 days a week, and Gary said he was a yoga virgin. No matter, Yvonne gave a nice, basic intro to yoga and Pilates class and we both enjoyed it. Our room was cleaned perfectly by Yemin. I was on the balcony when he buzzed the buzzer to see if I minded if he cleaned, and of course I didn’t. We went to the Lido for lunch, and enjoyed the wonderful soups again. After lunch, we played Bingo and didn’t win a thing, but did discover an excellent new drink, the Grapefruit Cosmopolitan. Bingo was $20 for 4 sheets of 3 cards each, or $10 for 4 sheets of one card each. They were trying to show the football playoff games in a couple of the lounges, but kept loosing the signal. We saw one poor fellow waiting, hoping against hope that the game would come on. There was a nice array of snacks available, but the game refused to materialize. His wife came up and pleaded with him, but he was resolute – he wanted to stick it out. Then the game flashed up on the screen for about 30 seconds before disappearing again, and his wife gave up. She knew that flash of hope would keep him there the rest of the afternoon, and she was right. We then tried to attend tea in the Explorer’s lounge, but there was not a seat to be had. Obviously the crowd (mostly seniors) enjoyed this event, and there was a bottom in every seat that didn’t budge until the last drop of tea was drained, and the last pastry and tiny sandwich consumed. We huffed back to our room very disappointed. We decided to detour to the 7th floor and hunt up the famed Neptune Lounge, sacred space of suite occupants. It wasn’t marked on the Volendam map we received, but we soon located it by the aura of wealth and privilege that it exuded down the hall. It looked lovely, very serene and well stocked with comfortable chairs, TV’s, munchies and manned by a sharp-eyed attendant who could tell at a glance that we were interlopers. We sighed, and said “Maybe someday!” That evening was the first of 2 formal nights. We dressed up in long gowns and dangerously high heels and tottered down to the dining room to meet our fellow singles. That was a bit of a letdown, since the youngest of the bunch wasn’t going to see 60 again, and the oldest was on the far side of 80. However, they were a charming and well-traveled group, and we had a lovely dinner. Dieter, a debonair college professor from Chicago, gave a hilarious account of the singles mixer the previous night. Apparently everyone there except him was either on oxygen or in a wheel chair! The whole cruise was definitely an older crowd; the hallways were lined with folded wheel chairs and the average passenger age had to be 65 at least. We didn’t mind, in our mind seniors are MUCH preferred to children! They served filet for dinner, which of course Joan the Carnivore devoured. I had the pasta, which was delicious and just the right amount. I had noticed on the boards that some people complained the portion sizes were small, but I thought they were perfect, and you could always order more. I had the chocolate soufflé for dessert which was divine, and Joan had the hot fudge sundae, which was only OK. We couldn’t find the photographers to have formal pictures taken, so we took pictures of ourselves all over the ship. We then retired to our room to watch videos on our VCR (Friends and Sex and the City). We were glad to have brought them, as the TV reception was still poor due to the weather, and the channels were limited. Still very high seas, but we slept like babies once again. Day 3 – Sea Day We rocked and rolled all night, due to the afore mentioned high seas. After breakfast in the Lido, (we found the eggs much better in the Lido than from room service), I headed to the fitness center for my Yogilates on the Ball class. It was fun in rolling around the room on the giant fit balls. It was a beautiful sunny day, so we headed to the aft pool to enjoy it. The main pool was covered and was very hot and humid, besides being quite wet due to all the water sloshing about. Lounge chairs were hard to find at the aft pool, so we ended up at a table with 4 upright chairs. They offer nice towels and good drink service in both pool areas, and you could really notice the ship moving up and down by looking off the aft horizon. Thank heavens for Bonine! We did spot the famous lemonade, but the waiter ran out just before he reached our table, so we didn’t get a chance to see if it was as good as reported. Lunch in the Lido was just OK, we weren’t overwhelmed with the day’s choices (lamb shanks, tilapia, wiener schnitzel, chipped beef). I stuck with the sandwich counter, and that was fine. They had excellent ice cream offerings every day, all afternoon long, with both regular and waffle cones available. The cookies were also outstanding. We then hurried down for the wine tasting in the Pinnacle, but were very disappointed when only 6 people showed up, and they cancelled the tasting. It was only $7.50, so we couldn’t understand why more folks didn’t show. To console ourselves, we went to high tea in the dining room, and it was fabulous. We asked for a table for 2, and had delicious tea with milk or lemon, pastries and lovely little sandwiches. After tea, we wandered to the casino to loose a little money. I left Joan at the Roulette table and headed to the Internet café to send a couple of e-mails to friends and the MI. Then Joan and I met back up and headed to the Ocean bar for $4.75 martinis. We had the excellent service we experienced everywhere on the ship, and watched the sun set into the Atlantic (and saw the green flash – NOT from the martinis!). After that busy day, we ordered room service for dinner. We called down to housekeeping and our beloved Yemin came early to turn down our beds and change our towels. Room service was great and served in two courses, appetizers and soups first, and entrees and desert later. We ordered off the dining room menu, and had another great meal. Then to bed for another good night’s sleep. Day 4 – St. Thomas This was Immigration morning, and it was the smoothest we’ve ever been through. NO long lines, and we didn’t have to report until almost 8:30. We had breakfast in the Lido, then headed back to our room to prepare for our day ashore. We were anchored in the harbor, as 3 huge ships were hogging the docks (Princess, Royal Caribbean, and Carnival). We planned to take the ferry to St. John’s and luckily our ship tender docked right next to the Charlotte Amalie ferry, so we got to skip the cab ride to Red Hook. The 45 minute ferry ride cost $7. Once there, we took a cab to Trunk Bay for $4. Trunk Bay is beautiful, but IMHO, not really any nicer than Maegan’s bay on St. Thomas, and was a lot more trouble to get to. They did have a nice little changing/rest room area, and a place to get snacks. We grabbed a little lunch (hot dogs $3.50, $1.25 pop, $2.00 bottled water, $1.00 chips) and headed down to the beach. It was crowded but clean. By this time, we had only about an hour and a half before we needed to head back, so we tried to soak up as much sun as possible. I walked up and down the beach, about a mile in each direction. When we were ready to go, we easily found a cab back to the ferry. Lucky for us, we caught the 2:15 ferry back, because the next one to Charlotte Amalie wasn’t until 3:45, and the last tender to the ship was at 4:30. We got back onboard the Volendam about 3:30, and just caught the tail end of afternoon tea in the Explorer’s Lounge. Due to so many people going ashore, we were able to get a seat this time, and it was just what we needed after a tough day of sunning and ferrying around. The ship left St. Thomas a little late due to late passengers tendering back. We went to the Lido for dinner, and ran into Beverly and Mike from the Cruise Critic boards! She guessed it was us from the description I gave on the boards, and was lovely and personable. The dinner menu was the same as in the dining room, double baked potato and black bean soup, red snapper (dry), and Thai spring rolls (v. good). The sea had settled down, now that we were in the Caribbean, and we slept the sleep of the innocent (almost). Day 5 – Dominica I woke up early to see the north part of Dominica (Dom-in-EEK-ah) sliding past our veranda. Such a beautiful island, very mountainous and completely covered with lush green foliage. We docked at Roseau at about 8:00, and went to the Lido for breakfast, and one of us went to the gym for aerobics. We had signed up for a the Rain Forest and Emerald Pool tour, so we met in the Fran Haus Theater to get our marching orders. We met a Chuck and Marie from Connecticut who were very nice and lots of fun, and made sure we got on the same van for our tour. Our group was fairly large, and we had about 6 vans of 10 people each in our caravan. Dominica is the most beautiful island I’ve seen yet. It was so green and so beautiful, and not spoiled by huge hotels and t-shirt shops. Our guide, Andrea, was fabulous, and very proud of her beautiful homeland. The tour itself was fantastic. We drove up into the mountains (gorgeous views) and into the rainforest to see the Emerald Pool. It was about a 10 minute walk over a slightly rocky and uneven path; it could have been slippery if the path was wet. Luckily for us we had a rare, perfectly sunny and dry day. The rain forest gets up to 400 inches of rain a year, so a dry day is a treat. We saw lots of glorious foliage, wild orchids, and beautiful rivers and waterfalls. But the waterfall into the Emerald Pool was the best, and the pool itself was huge and very beautiful. You could clamber over the rocks into the icy cold water if you wanted, Joan waded in to her knees, and Chuck plunged in like a dolphin. After a few minutes of frolicking, we headed back up the path, (more difficult on the return. Folks with limited mobility might want to reconsider this particular tour). We hopped back into the vans and headed to an old hotel where we had some VERY strong rum punch and watched some native dancing. Then we headed back up the mountains for a stop at a scenic view overlooking Roseau and the beautiful Volendam docked below. A few vendors had set up some stands at the stop, and we got some amazing buys on Dominican pure vanilla essence ($4.00 for a bottle that would cost at least 8 times that at home, since it was essence and not extract) and Dominican soap (3 bars for $3.00). They also had Dominican hot sauce ($2.00 a bottle), hand made baskets for $5, and some other trinkets. We made one more stop to see the two kinds of Dominican parrots (found nowhere else in the world) then headed back down the mountain and returned to the ship. We strongly recommend taking a tour of Dominica, it’s an amazing island, and the people are friendly and welcome tourism. Currently only Carnival and HAL stop there, so go before it gets overrun and crowded like the other cruise ports. When we got back on the ship, we checked the menu for dinner, and were not impressed. We stopped at the Pinnacle to see if we could get reservations, and were lucky enough to find an opening at 8:00. I had the shrimp scampi this time, and Joan growled her way through another filet. We BOTH had the volcano cake, and it was perfect once again. We ordered Sambuca for an after dinner drink, but it arrived without the customary 3 coffee beans floating in it. When we mentioned this to our waiter, he disappeared and was back in a moment with 3 beans for each of us, which he carefully floated on the surface. As the MI is Sicilian, I knew that any true Italian would consider it the worst of luck to drink Sambuca without the coffee beans, so this gesture was greatly appreciated. It was just another example of why dinner in the Pinnacle is worth every penny of the $20 fee! Day 6 – Barbados I woke up in time to watch us dock in Bridgetown, Barbados at about 8:00 the next morning. There were 3 other ships already there, but the port is large, so we didn’t have to tender. We had another tour booked, this time the Plantation Great Houses and Orchid Farm. There was a shuttle from the ship to the tour bus, this time a huge Greyhound type, very comfortable and air-conditioned. Barbados couldn’t be more different from Dominica. It’s much flatter, and MUCH more settled and affluent. We saw huge homes, expensive shops, and even more expensive vehicles as we headed inland for our tour. The plantation houses were lovely; the first was occupied by the great great grandson of the original owner, and allowed tours through the first floor only, as they still lived in the home. The floors, paneling and ceilings were made of Brazilian mahogany, and all the rooms had wonderful two tiered shutters to let in the cool breezes. The grounds were spectacular, and the owner himself conducted the tour. We had another glass of strong rum punch and got back on the bus for the Orchid Farm. We have never seen, or even knew existed, so many kinds of beautiful orchids. Some grew in the ground, some in pots, and the most amazing grew in the air alone, strung up on wires above the ground. We had a brief warm shower, obviously a common occurrence, as the farm had a rack of umbrellas for you to borrow. They had a nice, if a little pricey, gift shop and snack bar available. I can’t recommend this stop enough – it was fantastic! Then back on the bus for one more plantation house, this one unoccupied, but fully furnished with exquisite antiques and examples of clothing from the 18th century. The walls were 2 feet thick to protect it from the hurricanes, and also had the lovely 2 part shutters. After yet another glass of punch, we got back on the bus and some of us asked to be let off in town to do a little shopping. The prices were reasonable ($1 US = $2 Bajan), but the shops were nothing special. We did find some whole nutmeg in the cruise terminal after a short cab ride back from downtown ($5 US). That night was barbeque night on the Lido, where we had great ribs, steak, chicken, sausages, and all you could drink pina coladas in real coconut shells. Sides were baked potatoes, cold slaw, baked beans and Caesar salad, and a Caribbean band played while we ate. Awesome! Day 7 – Sea Day We slept in, and then headed for the Lido for breakfast. I had a Pilates on the ball class in the gym, then headed back to the room to watch one of the 2 movies that were shown on the TV each day (Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban that morning). We went to the dining room for lunch and enjoyed it, although it was packed and the service was very slow. I got the wrong entrée, but they corrected it without a fuss, and the desert was awesome. Our veranda had sun, so we tanned a bit, even sacrificing high tea. I checked my e-mail, and came back full of news. The MI had a kitty escape, but luckily the slippery one came back after scaring him half to death. He said he was about to call me on the ship – what did he think I would have done? It was the second formal night, so we rejoined our tablemates at the singles table. We headed down early determined to find the photographers, and we did, taking several shots with different backgrounds (we do love pictures of ourselves). Joan and I both had just 2 lobster tails instead of surf and turf, which was no problem at all. We enjoyed visiting with our tablemates since we had all done different things over the past couple of days. Then back upstairs to bed for us – while our “senior” companions drifted off to other activities. Joan informed me that I will make a great senior, but I told her I was too dull, the real seniors were much more active! Day 8 – Sea Day I had booked a second hot stone massage for 8:00 that morning, since I enjoyed the first one so much. Because it was the first appointment of the day, I got the port day price of $130 instead of $143. Kari didn’t try and sell me a thing, and the massage was as good as the first one. We had breakfast in the Lido, and I was already feeling sad about returning home to instant oatmeal and no one to cut my grapefruit into perfect little sections for me. We got dressed up a bit and headed down for the Mariner’s reception – 900 of the 1400 people on board were Mariners! That really does say something for HAL. They were serving white wine, champagne, Bloody Mary’s and juice; along with great hot snacks and mixed nuts. Dottie, the cruise director and the Captain made speeches, and awards were given to members. 2 people on the ship had more than 700 days on HAL, and Joan and I felt very small with only 16. We had a nice lunch in the Lido, with HUGE portions of pasta – too much for me. The waiter was worried I didn’t like it, but it was enough for at least 3 people. We enjoyed more of the wonderful ice cream and great cookies for desert – I knew I hadn’t done nearly enough yoga to counteract their effects. We waddled back to our balcony for some sun. At 3:30, famished, we went to the dining room for high tea, and at 4 I headed to the gym for Yoga, while Joan headed to the casino for roulette. We rejoined our single friends for dinner – crab legs that night, beautifully cracked and served with drawn butter. Then back to our room and another restful night. Day 9 – Half Moon Cay (NOT!!) I woke up to watch the beautiful island of Half Moon Cay coming into sight off our balcony. We both raced up to the Lido for breakfast, and ran into both Beverly and Mike and Chuck and Marie doing the same. It was a beautiful sunny day, and the white sands of HMC were gleaming at us out the window. The first tenders, containing the photographers, massage girls, and other workers were lowered to the sea. We could see that the seas were very rough, as the tenders bobbed around like corks and the waves were crashing off the rocks near the pier. Our Captain seemed to be having a bit of trouble finding a spot to anchor, as we kept swinging around and maneuvering into different positions. We were starting to get a little nervous, so we headed back to our room to start the upsetting task of packing up as a distraction. The Captain made periodic announcements about his concerns about anchoring, and finally, about 10:00, he admitted that we would not be able to anchor safely, and our stop was cancelled. We were SO disappointed, especially since we could still see those beautiful beaches gleaming in the sun from our balcony. However, Joan quickly sprang into action and changed her massage on the beach back to the spa. We do believe in making lemonade from lemons whenever possible. We could see how rough it really was, though, as the crew worked for at least an hour trying to get the tenders back onto the ship. In fact, a crewmember fell overboard trying to reboard, but was safely rescued. In spite of the fact that the Captain promised to refund our port charges for the day and open some champagne for dinner, we were desolate. All day, we stared sadly out the window at other beautiful beaches of the out islands sliding past our veranda. We slowly did most of our packing, and then gloomily went to the Lido for lunch, then to the photo shop to purchase a few photos of ourselves. One of the photographers was still seasick from her jaunt on the tender, so we realized the Captain really had made the right decision. We had a final high tea in the dining room, and revisited a few of our favorite places on the ship. We had reservations at the Pinnacle for dinner, so we dressed and headed down at 7. It was another lovely meal, although tinged with sadness since we knew it was the last one (at least on this trip). We then headed back to our room to finish packing and get our VERY heavy suitcases in the hall for disembarking the next day. Day 10 – Disembark (v. sad) We woke up about 7:30, and sadly took our last showers and finished our last little bit of packing. Then we headed up to the Lido for breakfast, and were devastated to find out that it closed at 8:00 that morning! (it was then about 8:15). We were able to get a little coffee, which we sipped in the pool area. We headed back to our room to wait until our number was called – a really nice feature. By turning on the radio to station 5, we could hear all the announcements while relaxing just a bit more in our lovely room. When we were called, we headed down to the gangplank, quickly found our luggage, and were through customs in about 10 minutes. Then we caught a cab with absolutely no trouble, and were soon at the airport. Ft. Lauderdale airport was MOBBED, and we saw lots of frantic people who were going to miss their flights due to the long lines to check in. We were on Spirit, and the check in was very strange. You waited in a LONG line outside for your boarding pass, then waited in another LONG line inside to drop off your luggage, then in ANOTHER long line to clear security. Also strange was the fact that there are almost no restaurants or shops inside the security gate at the Spirit terminal. Our only choice for food was a Nathan’s Hot Dog stand, which entailed yet another long line. We sadly ate our hotdogs while waiting for our flight, glad we had sensibly booked a 12:30 pm flight so were in no danger of missing it. We boarded right on time, and uneventfully made our way home, where the MI was patiently waiting to ferry us back. It was a WONDERFUL trip on the Volendam, and we couldn’t recommend it more highly to anyone considering this ship! Odds and Ends Tipping: In spite of the $10/day added to your shipboard account, we usually tipped wherever we went. We gave drink waiters $1-2 per order, tipped at the Pinnacle, and gave our wonderful room steward an extra $20 halfway through the cruise, and another $20 at the end. He was worth every penny, as was everyone else we tipped. The Pinnacle: I think it is also worth every penny of the extra $20 charge (only $10 if you go the first night). I do wish the menu changed during the cruise, but we still managed to eat there 3 times and loved it. The Staff: We didn’t feel the staff was less friendly than we had noticed in the past. Everywhere we went we were greeted with smiles and hellos. They were all busy, but always polite and seemed to be happy to be there. We had excellent service in every single area of the ship. I could even hear our wonderful room steward Yemin singing as he cleaned our neighbor’s balcony one day. The Volendam itself: Still a beautiful ship. We noticed a few tiny signs of wear and tear (a rip on our sofa that was sewn up, a crack in the frame of the TV) but nothing that detracted from her beauty. She was clean, clean, clean, and someone was always working to make her even cleaner. There were hand sanitizers available in all restaurants, and as you left and re-entered the ship. The restrooms were always clean and well maintained. We noticed no foul odors, and never had any problems with our toilets flushing or with our water pressure. Our veranda was washed clean of salt every day, and we never lacked for anything. That’s our story, and we’re sticking to it. I kept all the daily newsletters and flyers we received, so if anyone has any specific questions, please don’t hesitate to e-mail me. I know this is very long, but I gained so much great info reading other reviews that I wanted to give as much information as I could back to other cruisers. To quote our cruise gurus, Tom and Mary Milano: May your next cruise be your best! Cathy and Joan   

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Sep 22, 2004

Alaska

All in all it was a wonderful cruise. The service (dining as well as cabin) was excellent. Not sure if ours was the typical cruise, but most passengers were of the 70+ age bracket. Not really geared for the "younger" crowd. No current music (mostly 50's, 60's and 70's hits) or activities geared more for the elderly (bingo, games, seminars, etc.). I highly recommend the Pinnacle Grill (it is worth the extra fee to dine there). Food there

was excellent and service tops too. Being the end of the Alaska season was great too as the shopping bargains on board as well as at each stop were phenomenal. Was a very memorable experience for my mate and I.

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Jul 14, 2004

Alaska

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! 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 a camera 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!).

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May 26, 2004

Alaska

We took a Wednesday to Wednesday cruise to Alaska from May 26th to June 2nd. The best thing about this cruise was it was midweek and the school year had not ended so there were few children on the ship. The median age of the guests was probably 60. The ship was very clean. We were allowed to board the ship when we arrived...about four hours before sailing time, which was very convenient. I didn't feel clean the entire seven days I was

on the ship because the shower water at the hottest setting was barely lukewarm. There was a hairdryer in the bathroom that was very weak and I had to run it for such a long time that the tube where you held onto it got so hot I had to use a handtowel in order to keep holding it. Also, there was no electrical outlet in the bathroom! The electrical outlet was by the desk (we had a suite) which was very inconvenient using a curling iron, plus we had a cell phone to charge and three movie camera batteries which took an hour apiece to fully charge. Only one electrical outlet in these suites is just not enough. Also, one of the main reasons we booked Holland America was that every brochure raved about their food...it was OK. I've had food just as good at a diner. The best meal was the last day on the ship...there was an Alaskan cookout by the pool and the food was made on charcoal grills...steak and salmon. That dinner was especially good. My feeling is that thiscruise ship wasn't bad but it didn't live up to their advertising. If you go to Skagway take the Yukon White Pass trainride...it's great. Make sure you only get the train ride if that's what you want. I thought I only signed up for the round trip train ride and ended up with a one way train ride and then a bus trip to pan for gold. Also, the helicoptor ride to the glacier is great. It's expensive but worth every cent. Take a movie camera if you can. You will get some great pictures.  

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Dec 27, 2003

Southern Caribbean

The cruise was especially disappointing since we planned it at least 6 months in advance and ordered A minisuites. My mother, husband, 12 year old son and I traveled together. We had two minisuites-one for grandma/grandson. The cruise had an inauspicious start. AS we waited to embark we were handed a letter stating embarkation would take a while as people on the last cruise had been taken ill with the dreaded stomach virus. Well, they

weren't kidding--over two hours later, after standing for three hours (not nearly enough chairs available) we were let on, just in time for the buffet to close. The roses and champagne my husband had ordered and paid for months in advance for a bon voyage party were not in the room--in fact they never came. No, sorry, no roses available. Then later on , ten hours later, they sent the bottle of champagne. The next day they sent some treated carnations sprayed with last for ever spray. If that was the extent of my disappointment, so what. But the trip was actually boring, boring, boring. At sea, there weren't any activities unless you were addicted to Bingo or a heavy drinker. The music was downright amateurish--it was the worst live music I had ever been exposed to in a supposedly quality environment. The New Years party was not a party but a waiting around for nothing gathering. They didn't even release the balloons they had heaped into the pool under a net. I don't know why--it was just the most boring gathering in a splendid arena. The crew cleaned but the ship didn't sparkle and on top of that everyone was constantly reminded that they may become sick at any moment. In fact many people were sick, sea sick. The ship rocked and rolled at one point so intensely that we observed people falling down! Apparently we had bad luck cruising in rough seas, but no one offered us Dramamine. When I did get sick it was when I was scrunched in the whirlpool tub in my cabin--the water had turned brown swirling so vigorously and the jets had popped out into the muck--I wondered if it was because the tub had not been scrubbed in ages, or was I just so dirty. When I stood up I was so dizzy that I nearly passed out. I spent the rest of the next 24 hours at sea lying in bed not eating, feeling miserable, afraid to complain because they might quarantine my family, who were basically ok. They played ping pong for hours while I was ill. There was nothing else to do. The cruise director did not exist. There were absolutely no real attempts to entertain people. The feeble group activities were limited to bingo. And let me not forget to mention the occasional faint smell of sewage which threatened to intensify, but then disappeared. The ship-arranged shore activities were awful. Half Moon Cay was nice, but crowded and overpriced for snorkeling equipment. And there weren't too many fish where they directed us. We had to wait two hours to disembark at Puerto Rico because passengers refused to report to immigration. The security chief reminded me of Inspector Cleusauu (misspelled I'm sure). His ineptness was distressing to say the least. When we finally got on our tour two hours late, it was boring and amateurish--don't take any ship arranged trips to the rainforest or you'll be sorry. On top of that, we felt in danger as the driver sped up and down the mountains, nearly crashing into other tourist busses filled with equally unimpressed and sorry passengers. The "rain forest" was les impressive than the flora and fauna of the Catskill Mountains two hours drive from New York. However, later in the afternoon, on our own walk through Old San Juan, we had the best meal of the trip, in a Chinese takeout on a side street in old San Juan, followed by an ice cream at a truly distinctive Ben & Jerry's. Our best meal by far. St. Martin was closed when we arrived on New Year's Day, so it was a bust, too. The sailing on an America's Cup Regatta ship held promise, but we were scared to death as the ship sped perpendicular to the water--I watched in horror as my son slid down the side and only at the last moment was he able to cling onto a piece of the ship. By the way we were goaded into not wearing life jackets by the crew--so uncool. I wonder if their insurance company knows that. Tortola was gorgeous but the caves were as crowded as a subway in Manhattan at rush hour. The transportation to Virgin Gorda was seedier than any transportation available in New York. Suffice it to say I thought we wasted our money and time and what should have been a memorable trip was memorable for all the wrong reasons. So the staff was nice at times, why shouldn't they be...so there was a lot of food--it was fairly repetitive and boring, except for the alternative restaurant which charged extra. The linens on the bed were dowdy and worn, even the toilet seat had a crack in it. No, the next time I travel I'm staying on land in a first rate hotel, unless someone can convince me it was just the Volendam, or Holland America experiences in general, which are substandard or boring. I have stayed at the Waldorf Towers, the Manor Richelu, Frontanac and Queen Elizabeth in Canada, at Kingsmill Resort and at several Disney properties, to name a few. All were better than this experience.

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Dec 1, 2003

Southern Caribbean

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 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 appetizers 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 Crows nest 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 license 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 odor 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 traveling 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. Conclusion 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.

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Nov 1, 2003

Southern Seafarer

We were a group of 15 friends and relatives taking our first Holland America cruise, Nov 1st to 11th 2003, on the Southern Seafarer itinerary visiting Bonaire, Isla Marguereta, St. Lucia, Dominica, St Thomas and Half Moon Cay (Bahamas). I won't comment too much on the destinations as we never took any of the Holland America planned shore excursions. We've seen a lot of the Caribbean islands and consider the itinerary average, with two

exceptions - Half Moon Cay is probably the nicest beach I've ever been to, well organized and clean - and - if you're into souvenirs, Isla Marguereta has, by far, the best buys. The Volendam is a beautiful ship, we had an inside cabin and found it to be spacious with plenty of closets and a comfortable sitting area apart from the bed, showers were of good size and we were very happy with the whole set-up. The public areas inside the ship are very good apart from the atrium which is generally blah, particularly on deck 3 where it's just a big dark empty space with a grand piano (never heard it played) off to one side, not sure why they don’t use the space better, if nothing else, they could add some more shopping, though there is already plenty on the decks above. The restaurant is beautiful and we were fortunate to get a table right by the panoramic windows at the rear of the ship. I found the table service a little slow, though both waiters were likeable and seemed to try their best, they accommodated all our special requests. One evening I crunched down on a shard of glass in my Caesar salad and cut myself slightly while removing it from my mouth, everyone was very apologetic and we were provided with 3 bottles of wine as compensation though I was disappointed with the maitre’d who apologized but went on to say when I pressed him on how they were going to prevent it happening again ‘These things happen’ ‘It’s a good thing you didn’t swallow it’. The public areas outside the ship are also very good, 2 good sized pools, one of which can be completely covered, plenty of deck space, no problems getting a lounger, even at 10am, maybe because the majority of passengers were older and didn’t seem to spend as much time lounging around in the sun. The Lido deck buffet area was excellent, good choice and quality of food, lots of space and pleasant helpful staff, I’ve read complaints about the Lido buffet, but I certainly have none, they must have improved the hours as they seldom seemed closed between 6am and midnight. There was a lack of entertainment during the day on deck, which was a little disappointing, but maybe once again that was due to the average passenger age. All in all, other than those items already mentioned, we were happy with our cruise and for a quiet relaxing holiday we’d go with Holland America again.

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Oct 25, 2003

Southern Caribbean

Like a Cruise out of a Steven King Novel, let the fun begin. From limited hours and food rationing in the Lido Buffet, to lack of service in the beautiful Rotterdam Dining Room, shipboard activities that seem to not exist, Cruise Director and staff totally absent, and the Vegas style shows (Excuse me) more like the Waffle House on the Vegas strip. I traveled with my wife who is disabled with MS and totally wheelchair dependant, not once

in 7 days was any assistance ever offered to carry a food tray or even open a door. As for Holland Americas slogan "Tipping not Required" it should read "TIPPING TOTALLY UNDESERVED". On the Volendam we were basically on our own for 7 days. Food was rationed in Dining Rooms if you ordered more than 1 main course you got what they decided you should have and 1 only. The Lido Buffet was closed far more than it was opened. Room service was good, but got old after a while. This is the first Cruise I have ever been hungry on. To be fair to Holland America we are going on the Zaandam in December, maybe we just experienced a bad ship. We'll let you know.

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Jul 21, 2003

Alaska Inside Passage

This was our 6th Hal cruise. The Volendam is beautiful and well designed. Our ocean view cabin was spacious and very comfortable. We had plenty of storage space and loved the bathtub. Our cabin steward provided excellent service. The Rotterdam dining room is beautiful. We had a table for 4 on the upper level. Food ranged between good and excellent. However, service could have been a lot better. Our waiter was very polite, but he obviously

was new and had a language problem. He made many mistakes with our orders. However, he did try very hard but he just wasn't experienced. I was very surprised to have this problem on HAL. On other cruises we may have had these problems at lunch or breakfast but we assumed it was because HAL was training new waiters at these mealtimes. We also found it very strange that the dinning room is not equipped with cocktail forks. It is rather awkward to eat escargot, crabs , etc with a dessert fork. We asked the maitre'd about this and he said of course they have them, but I don't think they do. We asked for them several different times and never even saw one. It may sound petty, but I think HAL is cutting corners in the strangest ways. The entertainment was quite good. The Broadway shows were entertaining and the costumes were fabulous. The CD was fine but the professional appearance of some of his staff can use a little improvement. Meals at the Lido restaurant were a disaster. The hours for the dining room were too short 8-930AM for Breakfast and only 1 hour for lunch 12-1PM. This made the Lido and Pool Deck BBQ have long lines. (The quality of the food here was only fair) Then, after waiting on these long lines, you could not find an empty table to sit down at. This is not my idea of fun. This never happened to us on any other HAL ship in Europe or the Caribbean.) It did happen on the Carnival Spirit though) Embarkation and debarkation were very smooth and well organized. However, the Vancouver Airport is not equipped to handle so may cruise ships at one time. It took over 2 hours to get through customs and airport check in.) All in all we enjoyed the cruise, but think HAL may be trying to expand too fast or perhaps cut corners. This cruise certainly was not the same caliber of our first rate Scandinavia cruise on the Rotterdam 3 years ago. We are booked on the Oosterdam with our family for New Years but I am seriously thinking of changing to another line. This cruise was just not up to par with the other HAL we have taken in the past. Maybe it is time for a change?

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Nov 30, -0001

Alaska

Dear Fellow Cruisers, Just this past summer I enjoyed my first cruise. It was spectacular and a dream come true! My Grandma decided that I was old enough to go on a cruise with her. My mom, dad, sister, grandma, aunt and baby cousin went with me. We boarded the Volendam on the 22nd of July, beginning our trip in Vancouver, Canada. Our journey would take us on a round trip through Juneau, Skagway, Ketchikan, and back to Vancouver. The first

couple of days on the cruise, I was feeling quite ill from the rocking of the ship, but it slowed up within a couple of days. We stayed in a delightful suite located on the Navigation Deck. It had space to fit five with a large couch, queen size bed, baby crib, T.V., powder room, bathroom, and a mini-fridge. How cute! Oh, and a deck. Our fabulous room steward was Mohammad. He did a wonderful job opening up the hide-a-bed, and keeping it clean. Now for the food (my favorite part)! For breakfast we would eat in the Lido, which was a buffet type restaurant. You could choose from bacon, cereal, french toast, sausage, pancakes, and plenty of other yummy foods. You could also choose from tons of things to drink like milk, orange, grape, cranberry and other kinds of juices. Next is lunch. For lunch, we ate either at the Lido or by the pool. In the Lido, they had different kinds of lunch foods every day. One day, they treated us with an Indonesian lunch. And another day, it was a salmon bake. Also in the Lido, they had a salad bar, soup, and an ice cream bar. Then comes the most extravagant meal of all: Dinner. We ate dinner in the Rotterdam Dining Room. On one menu there were foods such as: Prawn Cocktail, Lobster Bisque, Original Senor Pico Caesar Salad, Pan Roasted Pacific Rock Fish Fillet, and Filet Mignon. And on the dessert menu was: Running of the Mousse Cake, Tiramisu Cake, and Raspberry Sorbet. And last but not least, the late snack in the Lido. Every night was a different theme. The best night was the Dessert Extravaganza! The chefs worked all week on this event, perfecting every detail. It had every dessert you could imagine. The crew was another great feature. They worked long, hard hours, but never slowed down. They were always cheerful and willing. Some of the crew members I remember most are Ketut, Sutarwo, Barly, Ibnu, Yono, Jeffrey, Dean, David, Jimmy,Lucky, and Muhammad Ali:the Yummi-Yummi Man. And wherever we were eating, they always had a highchair ready and waiting for my cousin. And the crew show they presented was amazing. I will never forget it. The shore excursions were also an amazing experience! We saw whales, ancient totem poles, and much more. I look forward to going on my next cruise. It will definitely be with the Holland America Cruise Line. I encourage everyone to go on a cruise with Holland America because they are an experienced team and I have gained many memories that I will cherish forever! Love and many thanks, Jessi and Nicole Howard

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Nov 30, -0001

10-Day Caribbean Wayfarer

Embarkation:         Boarding started at 1:00.   We were told that HAL no longer provides priority boarding for repeat customers, as over ½ of their passengers have sailed with HAL before, but boarding went very quickly anyway.  The life boat drill was held at 4:30 and we set sail promptly at 5:00. The Ship:         The ship is absolutely beautiful!  Flowers are everywhere.  HAL said

they spend over $1 million per year per ship on flowers, and it definitely shows on this ship.  I highly recommend the ship’s art tour, which is usually held around 3:00 before the life boat drill.  There are many unusual pieces of art work on the ship totaling $2.5 million.  My favorite is a painting entitled “Old Women’s Mill.”  Old women go into this mill and are cranked out as young women, with their young men waiting for them to come out.  I have seen several reviews where the people have said that the atrium glass column looks gaudy, but once I found out that it is made entirely of Murano glass imported from Italy and is a kaleidoscope, I was fascinated by it.  You keep your eyes on it while you walk around it and you will see all the different colors of glass.  The ship is in top condition.  Everything looks new.   The Lido Restaurant had plenty of room for the lunch crowds and there was never a wait for a table.  There is a beautiful room called the Tulip Room which has Dutch vases filled with different kinds of tulips.  There is also an internet café which is open 24 hours.   The Wajang Theatre played recent movies and the seats are very comfortable.  The Fran Hals Lounge has some very nice love seat/couch type seats that I highly recommend over the barrel type chairs which are quite uncomfortable.  It was not hard to find a seat for any of the shows, and you can see the stage for anywhere in the theatre.  There are two swimming pools on the Lido deck.  One is outside and the other is inside with a retractable dome. Cabins: We had a large outside room on the lower promenade deck.  I like this deck because it is close to everything.  Many people do not like the constant foot traffic past their windows, but it does not bother me.  People cannot see in during the day, but at night if you have the lights on, they can see you, so it is best to draw the drapes if you want total privacy.  The room had a king-size bed, two night stands, a sofa, an ottoman, a table, a chair next to the desk/dresser, and four large closets, one of which was large enough to store empty suitcases in.  The bathroom has a hair dryer and a shower/tub which was more than adequate.  There is plenty of storage in the room, lots of nooks and crannies and hooks to use if you need them.  One word of advice:  Bring one of those outlet/power strips, as there is only one outlet in the room.  There is no outlet in the bathroom, only a hairdryer with a small outlet on it that says “for razor use only.”  You need to plug in curling irons, etc. in the one outlet on the dresser/desk.  Another note:  the hair dryer is plastic and you can only  use it for about five minutes before it becomes too hot to handle, so if you have long or thick hair, you might want to bring your own hair dryer. Food: I do not like “fancy” food, so I don’t think I am a good judge of the quality of the food on board. My table mates thought that the filet mignon and assorted varieties of seafood were excellent.   I had heard people comment that the quality of food on HAL has declined over the years, and I can confirm that they have switched from a seven-course to a five-course dinner.  I frequently made substitutions, one day substituting the appetizer of cheese tortellini for the dinner entree.  There was never any problem or hassle with the substitutions.  I was pleased with the hamburgers, veggie burgers, hot dogs, tacos, french fries and pizza served everyday on the Lido deck.  I did not attend any of the midnight buffets, except for the chocolate extravaganza which consists of all types of desserts made of chocolate.  It is truly paradise for a chocoholic! Ports of Call: This was a ten-day wayfarer Caribbean cruise, with stops in St. Kitts/Nevis, Martinique, Dominica, Trinidad/Tobago, St. Thomas/St. John, and Half Moon Cay, Bahamas.  After the initial two days at sea, there was one port after another until one final day at sea, and then the last stop was Half Moon Cay, Bahamas.  Several shore excursions were offered at each port.  The shore excursions are rated in the booklet as 1, 2, or 3.  All the ones I chose were rated 2, and some were more strenuous than others.  If you do not like to walk on uneven terrain or slippery rocks through rainforests, you should definitely stick to the shore excursions rated 1.  In general, all the sightseeing was far away from the port, at least one hour traveling on narrow, winding roads.  I found out that although I do not get seasick, I do get car sick, and by the fourth port, I was tired of the traveling to the mountains.  I do feel that the excursions could have been explained better.  I would not have chosen two of them if I had known how much walking was involved.   This was more activity than I wanted to do on a vacation.  But the sights were worth it. St. Kitts/Nevis: Brimstone Hill Fortress and Gardens tour ($54)--There are about 80 large steps going straight up to the top of the fortress.  They are made of uneven stones and many people had difficulty navigating them.  You do not have to go to the top, but that is where the best view is.  We did take our time and held on to the side and made it all the way up for pictures of the surrounding islands.  The gardens tour was walking but it was on level ground and much easier for seniors to get around on.  We also stopped at a batik factory where they make the lovely batik scarves, shirts, etc.  If you have already seen all there is to see in St. Kitts, you can take an excursion to Nevis, its sister island. Martinique: St. Pierre and Tropical Tour ($69)--This was a long, long drive to get to St. Pierre.  In my opinion, it was not worth the drive to see St. Pierre.  The way back you stop in the tropical gardens.  The gardens are very beautiful and there are flowers and greenery everywhere.  The trip was a 5-hour one, so there was no time to go into the downtown area before heading back to the ship.  Our guide was very pleasant.  The actual downtown area (Fort de France) is very congested and somewhat dirty, and people did comment on how rudely they were treated in some of the shops. Trinidad/Tobago: We chose the Asa Wright Nature Center tour ($54).  Again, a very long drive on narrow, winding roads.  The path through the nature center is very rocky, uneven, somewhat slippery with very little steps or handrails.  The worst part is you are entertained as you make your way down the path by the scenery and your guide’s narration, but then when you get to the bottom, it is nothing but all uphill to get back to base.  Although I thoroughly enjoyed the nature center, I felt that the walking was very strenuous, with no place to rest, and it was also very hot and of course raining intermittently throughout.  Our guide told us that 70% of the wildlife at the center is seen right in the front before you go down the path because they put food there.  I would not advise an elderly person or someone not used to walking to walk down the path.  It was something to see once in a lifetime. Dominica: Dominica’s Favorites Tour ($54)--This is the only tour offered that stops at both Trafalgar Falls and the Emerald Pool.  The terrain you walk on to get to the falls is more even and not nearly as rocky as the trip to the Asa Wright Nature Center in Trinidad.  The falls are beautiful, but frankly, if you have seen one fall, you have seen them all.  It is not advised to go to the top of the falls, it is very dangerous and slippery and the authorized guides will not take you there.  The walk to the Emerald Pool is very easy, and this stop is included on most every tour.  You can also swim in the water if you would like to.  I very much enjoyed this tour.  Dominica is the most undeveloped of all the islands, and the scenery is outstanding.  I highly recommend this tour. St. Thomas/St. John : Island Drive and Coral World ($34)--This was a beautiful drive with several short stops to see views from the top of neighboring islands.  Magens Bay is one of the top ten beaches in the world and is the place for swimming.  Coral World is a nice stop to view underwater life from several indoor tank areas.  Nice and clean park and the stop there is a little over one hour, more than enough to catch several feeding times for the fish. It is easily walked and several people in wheelchairs chose this tour.  Another stop on this tour is called Mountaintop.  There is some shopping here and a view so spectacular that you just have to see it for yourself.  This is the most popular attraction in St. Thomas and deserves the title.  On a clear day you can see all the way to Puerto Rico.  This was my favorite excursion.  There was not enough time after having lunch to shop in the main shopping area, but there are several stores right by the dock (we docked in Havensight).  You can walk there or take the free shuttle.  I spent two hours there shopping around for the usual souvenirs.  You can take a side tour to St. John’s, the ship anchors and lets those people off and then they take a short boat ride to the ferry to St. John’s, which I was told also has outstanding beaches and views. Summary  This was by far the best cruise I have ever had.  The weather was in the 80s everyday, no rain.  The seas were so calm that it did not even feel like we were moving, but floating.  The ship was gorgeous, the crew helpful and attentive, the fellow passengers pleasant to talk to and virtually no pushing, shoving, or rudeness.  I can only hope that future cruises are as good.

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Nov 30, -0001

NOT FOUND

Ship: Volendam The Volendam is a new ship and it is a very attractive ship with light woods and a floral theme.  There were many fresh flowers on the ship as well as floral artwork. This ship also has a Promenade Deck that can be used for walking around the ship, a feature that many new ships don't have. My inside cabin on the Navigation Deck was large and very nicely decorated and had a queen-sized bed, a sitting area,

plenty of closet space, a large bathroom with a hair dryer, and a credit card activated safe. The food was generally good, both on the Lido deck and in the dining room.  The Lido deck also has a grill that makes great hamburgers, and there is also a taco bar and great stir-fry.  One night they had a barbecue on the deck with steak, salmon, sausages, chicken, salads and lots of desserts.  The food was great, but it was pouring rain, so the effect was not what it should have been. The dome was opened only a crack to let the smoke escape. They did have a great steel band playing during the barbecue Service in the dining room was not what it should have been due to the fact that we had no assistant waiter.  That was the only real negative about this cruise other than the check-in that was a long wait with people being herded from one area to another. This ship has an alternative dining room called the Marco Polo.  There is no charge, but reservations are required for dinner.  Lunch is on a walk-in basis.  It is an elegant restaurant, beautifully decorated, and it serves northern Italian cuisine.  The two meals I ate there, one lunch and one dinner, were very good.  The food was superior to the dining room food. The entertainment was typical cruise ship except for the excellent steel band and the singers and dancers who did the production shows.  Fairly new movies were shown twice daily in the movie theater. There was a much better passenger mix on this ship than on my first cruise with Holland America on the Westerdam two-years ago.  The passengers on that cruise were nearly all very elderly. This 10-day cruise took us to six ports and we had three days at sea.   The first port was Antigua, and since, I'd been there before, I just walked around the town.   Our next port was St. Lucia.   This is one place I'd wanted to see and it did not disappoint.  Took a ship shore excursion that drove through the winding, mountainous roads through banana plantations and a rain forest and visited a "drive in" volcano, botanical gardens and Diamond Waterfall.  We had lunch at an old sugar mill at Soufriere.  The lunch was served buffet-style and featured a Caribbean menu of flying fish, chicken with raisins, breadfruit, plantain, rice with spinach, coleslaw and ice cream with fresh shredded coconut for dessert.  It was a nice treat to eat the local food in such a lovely setting.  St. Lucia is very beautiful and is more like a South Pacific island than the typical Caribbean island.  Our next port was Barbados .  Even though I'd been there in 1994, I took the same shore excursion with a shipboard friend and enjoyed seeing some of the same sights  again.   Next came Guadeloupe where I took the "Volcano and Grand Island Drive" tour in the afternoon.  The tour took us to the Soufriere volcano, but low clouds obscured the view of the volcano.   Then came St. Thomas where there were six or seven other ships in port and we had to tender in due to lack of dock space. St. Thomas is beautiful, but all the tourists descending off the mega-ships are a negative.   Our last port was Nassau and we were only there for a few hours on the last day of the cruise.  Here I took the shore excursion to Ardastra Gardens, Zoo and Conservation Centre where we saw marching flamingoes.  It is a beautiful garden with many exotic plant and animal species on display.  It was a nice way to end the cruise.

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Nov 30, -0001

Alaska

I delayed in posting this awaiting a response from Holland America re: a situation you will read about later in this review but didn’t want to delay the post much longer since there are no other reviews of this cruise for 2005. So bear with me if this is not as detailed as it should be. This was our first “cruise” other than the one we took on the Yangtze about 10 years ago. That was a river cruise and only had 150 passengers. We

are not into going to the Caribbean as we don’t do sun so Alaska interested us. And we wanted to see scenery. We received a brochure from Grand Circle Cruises, which included a 10 night trip with 7 nights on the Volendam. We figured that seven nights would be best to try “cruising”. Though we booked in January, the highest level available was the Main Deck or the Promenade Deck (one above the Main” and all the Verandas are above that. So we settled for Main and – based on advice from friends – requested not to be assigned the higher Promenade deck because the walking track goes by your window and it’s recessed. The main deck windows (we definitely wanted an outside cabin) were large and flush with the outside. We were VERY happy with it. I guess I can say right now that were very happy with 99% of the Volendam experience (more on the 1% later). We knew – from other reviews posted for prior years – the Volendam was not new (In fact it’s the third HA ship with that name. And, in December, it will be modernized (over only two weeks!) with a major emphasis on gourmet food.). But we liked the fact that it was not a MEGA-ship! It only has 1400 passengers and it was small enough that I could go from level 3 to level 7 and to the other end of the ship in under 10 minutes to catch different views. Also, we knew that the Volendam was not a “Party boat”. And service was a bit more formal. That is something disappearing from the cruise industry and we wanted to experience it before it is gone. We made the right choice. Remember as you read this that I’m reviewing the ALASKA itinerary. The sun goes down at 11pm in early June and rises at 3:30 am! So there is plenty of time to see the great scenery. Hence, they don’t have a lot of on Board activities. Every evening there is a “show” but it’s mostly “show tunes” or a magician. The “older folks” enjoy that. I say “older folks” when I’m 60 because I mean those in the 75plus range. HA draws an older crowd. My guess is 50% of passengers are over 50 years old and 75% over 40. School wasn’t out yet but I only saw 4 children – plus a baby – on board. But I liked this pace and everyone I met was great! Oh, back to onboard activities. There is a casino but usually pretty empty and everyone hit bed by 1pm or so because they wanted to see the scenery the next morning. Food, plenty of it and quite good for the number of folks they serve. Served Dinner is by seatings and the first day there was lots of frustration as couples who booked together for their vacations found that they had different seating times!). You meet with the Maitre ‘D the first afternoon (take a number and wait 30-40 minutes) but they will usually accommodate you. We were just a party of two and so were able to get a private table. At breakfast and lunch in the Dining Room they seat you wherever there is space so you get new dining partners which I enjoyed. Also, the buffet on the Lido deck is always open for dinner and you can sit where you want. While I thought food was good it was still from a steam table so I ate less meals there. They also have the Pinnacle Room which an “optional” choice for dinner. It has own kitchen and staff. This is a $20.pp extra for dinner (but only $10.00 on the first night... and I suggest you try it!). We had formal service and the largest and best Porterhouse steak I’ve had in years. Some folks on ship complained that they didn’t want to pay extra but we felt by avoiding the overpriced and highly hawked cocktails, we spent our funds more wisely! The two formal nights were also fun. You don’t need a tux; just a nice jacket or suit. (The rest of the time, you can wear as casual as you want.) The room was much larger than I expected and there is more closet space than you can use! The ONLY defect in the room is that there is – unbelievably – no CLOCK. So bring one with you! And refill your water bottle in the Lido, or expect to pay for new ones each day. So we didn’t have a Veranda. Guess what? We didn’t miss it. It was too cold to sit outside many days and there was plenty of room on top deck where you had a 300 degree viewing angle. And if your Room was on the wrong side of ship you missed the wildlife and some of the Glaciers. So if you don’t get a Veranda, IMHO, don’t worry. We also chose the Vollendam because it’s small enough to get into areas where larger ships can’t and ALWAYS docked right in the center of the port towns. So you could get off and on and off and on. Some larger ships need you to tender to shore. The Filipino cabin staff was fantastic. You’ll make a friend for life! I was amazed that the Maitre ‘D remembered my name (and everyone else I saw) at every meal or on the deck without a cue card. And he did that with many of the 1400 others! Okay, now the only bad experience. We wanted to book some of the optional tours before we left home as a few sell out. We didn’t want many as we wanted to explore on our own. But we knew the narrow gauge train ride in Skagway was a must. And HA’s price was EXACTLY the same as booking it with the railway direct. But HA offered a combo tiur called “The Ultimate Yukon”. For $85. pp more than just the train ride, we would go on a bus into Canadian Yukon and see scenery and then have a BBQ Chicken Lunch at Coyote Crossing. Sounded fair to us. It was a disaster. It was raining – which it usually does – but the defroster on the bus didn’t work. So the young female bus driver (A college Student) passed n old rag around to buss to have us continually defog the windows. Then she did the same, while driving with one hand, wiping with the other and narrating the “tour”. We felt very unsafe for the 2-hour drive. So we get to the luncheon and are fed Chicken legs (because they said they “sold out of white meat and the salmon they had”, cold coffee and two day old rolls which cracked on the ground when I dropped one! When we got to the train ride part we were so glad to be off the bus. Needless to say I don’t recommend this optional tour. But what bothered me most was the fact that immediately upon returning to the ship I went to the Shore Excursion office to tell them about the safety problem and inedible food. They took down my info and my cabin number. I figured that I would have my report acknowledged – and maybe even a partial refund as it was a HA arranged tour. I got neither. I even wrote to the Shore Excursions email address on the web site to see why I received no response and got – you guessed it – NO RESPONSE! This was the only black mark and failing grade I gave HA on tour cruise experience with them. So, in summary, We loved the trip, and loved the ship and – of course – LOVED Alaska! We will return and would definitely sale on the Volendam again. (The value for money paid wa excellent!). However we would NEVER purchase an optional tour from their Shore excursion again. When you are “blown off” the way we were, you don’t want to get burnt again. Steve in Philly.

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Nov 30, -0001

Alaska

Our Alaska cruise from Vancouver to Alaska onboard Holland America's VOLENDAM was wonderful. We flew out of Calgary Alberta the morning of Wednesday, August 3, and arrived in Vancouver at 10:30 a.m. Took a $28.00 taxi ride from the airport to Canada Place, breezed through the check in line at the terminal and was on board by 11:40 a.m. After a quick walk around on the ship, we ended up in the Lido restaurant on level 8 for lunch. The announcement

came at 1:20 saying our rooms were ready. We proceeded to our inside room cabin 2612. As we were checking our room out, our luggage arrived so we unpacked and were ready for the 7-day cruise by 2:15. Stateroom 2612 This was our first inside cabin and we were pleasantly surprised by the size and the spacious feeling of the room. It was midship, just around the corner from the stairs/elevator. Our concerns about being next to the laundry room was unfounded. No sounds at all. There was a staff staircase between our room and the laundry room. Occasionally we could hear faint footsteps running up/down the staircase, but only a few times during the entire cruise. We didn't see our cabin steward until day 2 or 3.He put an extra bottle of water in our room one day and left areceipt for $2.00. We did not order the water, and it took us 2 more days to track him down to have it removed from our bill. (which it was) The room was always looked after and we had towel animals on 2 of the nights. (I think the formal nights) The ship: The Volendam is noticeably a much smaller ship than the Oosterdam we sailed previously. At 781 feet long it is almost 200 feet shorter and has 400 less guests and staff. The smaller size was most noticeable in the Frans Hals showroom and the Rotterdam Dining room. Nevertheless, there was plenty of room for everyone and we did not feel crowded at all. The Volendam does have an outdated look to it. The colours and soft hues around the showroom, main foyer, even the bathroom tile could use an updated look and we thought the main display of a neon lighted column in the  main foyer was tacky as was the display of plaques and such on the hallway close to the Marco  Polo Restaurant. The ship was very clean, no foul smells. One of the elevators got stuck one night, trapping a young fellow inside, but was looked after immediately after we called for assistance. We did not like the inroom safe. To lock and unlock the door, you needed to swipe a credit card. Of course, the use of the safe was free, and the cc was just to open and lock the safe, but by using a credit card, you always had a credit card on you. We found the public washrooms around the ship to be very spacious, plentiful and very well maintained. Deck 3 is your outside walking deck, where 3 1/2 laps equal 1 mile. No jogging allowed on this deck, just continuous non stop walking. All in all, we really liked the Volendam and would travel on it  again with no hesitation. The food: We found the food in the Rotterdam Dining Room very good. We had every dinner meal in the Rotterdam Dining Room (the main dining room) with 2 great couples, Don and Marlon from Minneapolis and Bruce and Judy from Burlington, Ontario. We had the early 5:30 sitting in the upper dining room, at table 34, right at the aft. Wonderful table but had to draw the curtains a few nights, as the sun was very hot beating into the room. The servers were wonderful. Actually we had the best service of our 2 previous cruises on this one. There was open seating on the night in Juneau, but found it nicer to be dining with our regular dining mates. We had room service for our first breakfast (yes, we had a light breakfast in our room, before getting mobile and going upstairs for the main breakfast). On two mornings the breakfast came 15 minutes early. It actually woke us up one morning. We were not impressed. We had a few lunches in the Lido Restaurant on level 8. The selection was disappointing as was the hours of operation. There were many times when no food was available at all.The hamburgers, pizza and tacos from the grill area were all enjoyed very much. Shore Excursions: Juneau: Not much to do right in the town of Juneau. It is a one street town. It was raining this day but not too cold. We went up in the Mount Roberts Tram, walked around the top of the mountain and came down, walked around town, then back to the ship. Don't Miss; The Red Dog Saloon. The joint was hopping when we went in. Skagway: A much bigger town than Juneau. We did the White Pass Railway. It was a great trip with wonderful weather and scenery. Don't Miss; A stream just packed with salmon runs beside the sidewalk just beyond the downtown area. It was fun to watch the salmon going upstream. Ketchican: The largest of the 3 towns. We spend a few hours shopping in the morning and in the afternoon, did the floatplane tour and with a beautiful day, totally enjoyed the 2 hours that this tour took. We even landed on a lake in the middle of the mountains and got off the plane and stood on the pontoon of the plane. AWESOME. Ship Day on day 2. We cruised Tracy Arm, seeing all of the broken off ice chunks from the icebergs. We saw the wonderful colours of the ice (blue, green) on this chilly, rainy day. Ship Day on day 4. We cruised Glacier Bay and got real close to Margerie Glacier. Entertainment: Always had lots to do in the course of a day. Of course, if you want to curl up on a sofa and do nothing that is totally cool also. We attended all of the evening showroom shows. Found the big production shows a bit below average from past cruises. The juggler was good, the magician was just OK. Played Name That Tune every night in the Crowsnest. Even won the Country Music one. Elaine got down to waiting for one number in the big Bingo jackpot the last day. Just about won the $3700.00 US :) In Summary: Alaska is a great cruise for people looking for great scenery and a little out of the ordinary shore excursions. (Dog sledding??) The Volendam was a great ship for this trip and not having an outside room did not matter. The people you meet, the staff that serve you and your attitude on what you want to get out of the trip will make it or break it. In this case, it definitely made the trip.

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Nov 30, -0001

Alaska

This was my first Cruise; I had built it up so much, I was afraid I would be disappointed. I was not! It was the most wonderful vacation I have ever been on. The Volendam, is Spacious, and has the most beautiful art work, and there are always fresh flowers on board the ship, with the most beautiful vases. There are plenty of places to sit and relax, and just enjoy the scenery out the windows. Or out on the many decks. When I was on the

cruise, the Activity Staff and crew, made me feel like family, they were caring, considerate, tender, and loving. They treated me as if they had known me for years. This is truly how a cruise should be. There are so many activities to do everyday, you can choose to do any, all, or none of them, it is up to you. The Formal Dining room is a place of complete elegance, yet, it is a place, and you can feel comfortable going in just jeans and a t-shirt. They do have two formal nights, but if you don’t have a formal dress, that is all right, you can wear a pantsuit or a nice church dress. The Headwaiters and Stewards are very friendly and will make sure you have plenty to eat. They are kind and considerate, and if you try something new and don’t like it, you can send it back and they will get you something else, and they don’t mind doing it, their job is to serve and please you. It makes them happy to see a smile on your face. Please, Go and enjoy a cruise on the MS Volendam, the Inside Passage to Alaska is what I took and it was absolutely wonderful.

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Nov 30, -0001

Southern Caribbean Wayfarer

46 to 55 2000 We sailed January 5, 2000 on the Southern Caribbean Wayfarer.  Overall, it was a wonderful trip. Embarkation: Very smooth.  We were met at the Ft. Lauderdale airport by HAL representatives, transported to the cruise ship docks, were checked in quickly, and waited about an hour to board the ship.  A new feature is the electronic ID card and door key, all in one-very handy.  The Lido buffet opened at 2 p.m.

for a late lunch, which was a pleasant introduction to life on board. Ship: The Volendam is new (we were on its eleventh sailing) and the ship glowed.HAL takes great care of its ships, but you could tell that everything was new and for us, that was a special addition to our trip.  As usual, there were fresh flowers everywhere, fine art lined the public areas, everything was kept spotless-in sum, the elegance that one expects to find on board a Holland America ship. Cabin:   Spacious, comfortable, and almost identical to other cabins we have had on HAL.  My husband, our 11 year-old son, and I shared an outside cabin on the Dolphin Deck. The cabin has two single beds that can be converted into a large, comfortable queen-ours was already made up as a queen.  The sofa ingeniously converts into a single bed, which the steward made up each evening and returned to a sofa in the morning.  There is lots of closet and storage space-the hinges on one closet squeaked terribly, but after a word with the steward, they were quickly fixed.  The bathroom was well designed, quite spacious, and included a tub.  We enjoyed being on the port side of the ship, as we always could see the town where we were docked.  If you want the water view in port, choose a cabin on the starboard side.  Our cabin steward was wonderful, but nearly invisible, unless we needed something.  He always seemed to know when we had gone and magically made or turned down our beds, changed towels, brought ice and fruit, and freshened our cabin. Dining: Both the dining room and the Lido are open for open for breakfast and lunch.  We sometimes ate breakfast in the dining room and found the food to be fresher, but the service at times wasn't as attentive as at dinner.  We enjoyed the Lido at other times and found lots of selections presented attractively.  For those who didn't care for the entrees, there was always a salad bar and a sandwich bar. The desserts were far too good for waistlines and there was always a wide selection available.  The dinners in the dining room were excellent with at least 4-5 choices in each category.   The Volendam has an alternate dining room-the Marco Polo-available by reservation only, but we enjoyed the food and the service in the main dining room so much that we were never tempted.  Our dining stewards were attentive and friendly.  The first evening, our son ordered a glass of milk-after that, every evening a glass of milk was awaiting him when we arrived.  The stewards remembered all sorts of small details like that throughout the cruise.  And of course, they always had a joke or a magic trick for our son at the end of the meal.  The quality of the food was good-appetizers ranged from ordinary to quite interesting and among the entrees, there was always at least one selection of seafood and beef.  The salads tended toward the ordinary-we saw a lot of iceberg lettuce.  Desserts were wonderful and usually there was a flambéed dessert such as Cherries Jubilee or Bananas Foster.  Entertainment: Perhaps this was the weak point of the cruise.  Some of the entertainment was great, such as the magician Leo Ward, and the Volendam singers/dancers with high energy and great costumes.  Some performers were so-so and we saw the worst comedian we have ever seen one of the nights.  The evening shows were not well attended-good seats were usually easy to find.  However, a large number of the cruisers were part of a group called Jazzsea 2000 and they had their own jazz bands performing at night.  We were able to attend these performances as well. Club HAL: Our son participated in a number of the children's activities.  The Club HAL Director did a great job and tailored the activities to the participants' specific interests (not hard to do-there were only 13 children on the cruise).  Every sea day there were six to eight hours of activities; on port days, activities were scheduled only in the evenings.  There were lots of giveaways-T-shirts, pens, stuffed animals, disposable cameras-our son had a great time. Ports of Call: We stopped at six ports of call on the Wayfarer cruise, none of which we had visited before.  The shore excursion office had numerous tours for all stops, but we took only one (in Dominica-in part because we had only a five hour stop and we wanted to make sure that we made it back before the ship sailed).  It is quite easy to arrange your own tours on most islands at a much better price.  The highlights: Half Moon Cay: HAL's private island-and we weren't expecting much.  However, we were pleasantly surprised at how relaxing it was.  The beach is beautiful, there are lots of chaise lounges and umbrellas, and there are no vendors to bother you.  The water wasn't all that warm, but some people were swimming in the crystal clear water.  We had a barbecue lunch ashore to the sounds of a steel band.  There were lots of "toys" for rent, but we didn't see too many takers. St. Thomas: We took a taxi into town, did some shopping, and arranged our own tour there (actually, the guide found us).  A two-three hour tour of the island in a 20-passenger surrey was $15 per person and we were taken back to the Volendam at the end.  We heard and saw all we wanted to see-some history, several stops to admire the views, and a 15 minute stop at Coki Beach to walk.  We could have stayed there two hours and been picked up by later tour and a few in our group chose to do that. Dominica: This island was the least developed of the islands that we visited.  We took the tour to Trafalgar Falls and Emerald Pool and learned a lot about the history and the flora and fauna of the island from the guide.  We probably could have done better than the $45 per person charged by the ship, but we felt more comfortable knowing that the ship wouldn't sail without us.  Dominica offers natural beauty and was a wonderful contrast to the other more developed islands.  We were late in returning to the ship and never got to see the city where we docked nor did we get to do any shopping (although there didn't seem to be much of interest to buy). Trinidad: We docked right in town, so we decided to walk around the city.  The taxi drivers were relentless as we left the terminal, and we thought the posted prices high for trips to different parts of the city and the beaches.  Port of Spain is not a very pretty city, but we got a sense of daily life from walking around.  However, we never did see any of the "notable" sites and in retrospect, we should have taken a taxi tour of the city, at the very least.  A steel drum band came aboard and gave a concert in the mid-afternoon. Martinique: The taxi drivers were waiting-and the prices in Martinique are very high.  We decided to take the ferry to the beaches across the bay and we found a driver who would take us to the ferry dock.  The beach at the Sofitel Hotel was small but nice and we enjoyed our time there.  Fort-de-France seemed pleasant and we did some shopping, but went back to the ship in the mid-afternoon to see a folkloric dance show by a Martinique troupe. St. Kitts: We had to tender in and there found a taxi that took us to Brimstone Hill Fortress for $15 per person.  The driver decided that we needed a city tour as well, so he showed us the highlights and told us all about the history of St. Kitts, before taking us to the fortress, which was very impressive and well worth the visit.  On the way back, he decided that we needed to see Frigate Bay as well, so drove us past Basseterre to a point where we could see the Atlantic Ocean and the Caribbean on either side of a narrow spit of land, and then took us back to Basseterre.  There was some great shopping there and particularly lovely were the batiks. Disembarkation: Smooth and quick.  Delta and US Airways came aboard to provide check-in service, our bags were checked at dockside, and we were taken quickly to the airport, ready to head home. Overall, we had a great time.  We often hear comments about the higher average age of passengers on Holland America.  People do tend to be older, but it makes for a more relaxing and tranquil cruise (this is not the cruise line for those who want to party all night long).  Still, there is plenty of activity of every level and one can choose to take part or not.  For us, a quiet afternoon stretched out on a chaise on the Lower Promenade Deck can't be beat.  That tranquility and the level of service we have come to expect from Holland America are why we wouldn't hesitate to cruise again on Holland America.

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Nov 30, -0001

New Zealand - Australia

We boarded our cruise with great expectations and the efficiency used during the check in process was impressive. We handed our luggage over, filled in the paperwork and wandered up to our state room in very short order. Then we opened the door to a very pungent disinfectant smell. My wife being a neat freak looked at me and from that, I gathered that this was not a good sign. However, we went in and immediately opened the balcony door (contrary

to the sign) to let in fresh air and proceeded to unpack. Opening up the first drawer, we saw all the paperwork left over from the previous occupants and we had to clean that out. On closer look, we noted the many stains on the carpet and specifically a major one near the bed that was very sticky. An examination of the bathroom did reveal fresh towels but the ring around the bathtub prompted my wife to state that there was no way she was going to get in there. The more we stayed in there, the more we noticed that the previous occupant was a smoker and that the blankets and furniture did indeed smell like stale smoke. Hence the need for disinfectants. I must add that since the crew has so little time to prepare for the next trip, such happenings may be expected. Smoking seems to be such an issue these days and I wondered if the company might consider adopting the same approach many hotels have by designating smoking sections on the ship. If you break the rule and smoke anyway, an added hefty charge would be added to your final invoice when you leave. But after a nineteen hour flight, our only objective was to catch up on our sleep. The ship got underway and the following day, we started to explore our new environment. They say that first impressions always last and the first thing we noted is that the ship looked tired. Most of the carpeting reflected excessive traffic wear and much of the woodwork showed years of over polishing. Walls would definitely need a new covering with all the luggage marks rubbed off at least. Our next areas of concern were the costs of the tours offered. I worked out the averages of all tours offered for this cruise to be $150 USD per person or $300 USD per couple. With fourteen days to go, this would amount to a fair bit of change for those who would want to see everything. A few days into the trip, word got around that the same service was available from the downtown tourist bureau at roughly half the cost and in the local currency. The exchange rate being much more favorable, would amount to a much better deal. The excellent downtown shuttle service offered at all ports of call was an attractive option available to those who wanted to see the sights at their own pace. Tourist information services were excellent and the local volunteers who manned these positions were always an terrific source of information. We also appreciated the attention to virus controls used throughout the ship. The provision of what seemed like hundreds of hand wash stations all over the ship became a norm for people to use.

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