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Sail Date: October 2007
Background Information: We live in FL and have been on 9 cruises in the past two years. This is the third one on HAL. Embarkation: We drove to the port and left the car in the Park & Fly lot. Very handy with fast shuttle to the ship. ... Read More
Background Information: We live in FL and have been on 9 cruises in the past two years. This is the third one on HAL. Embarkation: We drove to the port and left the car in the Park & Fly lot. Very handy with fast shuttle to the ship. Arrived at the pier at about 2:00 PM and was on board in about 20 minutes. Very efficient staff. Ship: The Volendam was totally booked, but there was no crowding in most venues. The ship is getting old and is need of repairs to carpets, walls, etc. Some elevator buttons did not work. There was a toilet problem the first morning. It was fixed within a few hours and didn't reappear. The A/C was very unbalanced. Some rooms were too hot and some too cold. It seemed to get worse as the cruise went on. They tested the emergency generator one day and we got brownish water in the shower. This was reported in a September 2007 review, and I guess it is still a problem. Our (outside view) cabin was very large and comfortable. There was lots of storage. This class of cabin did not have a refrigerator, something other cruise lines have as standard. Dining Experience: We had late (main) seating at 8:30 PM. The dining room was relatively quiet and our service was excellent - totally up to the high HAL standard. Food variety and overall quality was good, but relatively bland - not up to previous HAL experiences. We found the Lido buffet food to be OK, but nothing to rave about. The staff did not keep the tables and floors cleaned as well as other ships. This was somewhat of a shock, given HAL's reputation. The Lido pool food area was messy and out of some items much of the time. Not acceptable. Ship Activities: The stage shows and talent were very good. However, the other ship activities were a big letdown. There were no craft or cultural activities. The sporting events were few and very poorly scheduled. The cruise director and his staff seemed like they were uninterested and there was very little excitement. Shows were sometimes scheduled before main dining and sometimes afterwards. This created conflicts with other activities. Overall, this was the worst experience we have had with shipboard activities. Shore Excursions: We didn't take any, so I cannot comment. Disembarkation: Very well organized and no crowding. We were allowed to stay in our cabins until our number was called. Overall: Up until this cruise, HAL was our favorite line. I had no problem recommending HAL to anyone. However, this cruise changed my opinion. HAL has, without a doubt, the best crews and service we have seen. They are professional and friendly and a joy to meet. I feel that this ship's management has let down them and their customers. The cruise director has done a very poor job with his staff and the event planning. The captain also should get his share of blame for the physical condition of the ship. Also, we were shocked that we did not see one of the ship's officers attending our Mariner luncheon. This was meant to thank HAL's repeat customers, who are the bedrock of the lines profitability. The fact that the captain did not assign one of his staff to do this showed his lack of interest in the passengers. Read Less
Sail Date: October 2007
I am a solo male traveller (57 yrs.) who was looking for a quiet restful hassle free type of vacation.With my October 2007 7-night cruise on Holland America's Volendam (Eastern Caribbean), this was exactly what I got. To begin with, ... Read More
I am a solo male traveller (57 yrs.) who was looking for a quiet restful hassle free type of vacation.With my October 2007 7-night cruise on Holland America's Volendam (Eastern Caribbean), this was exactly what I got. To begin with, I got a very good deal when I booked on-line. I presumed this was because it is still hurricane season in October in the Caribbean and there is a chance one's itinerary could be changed as well as storms and rough seas. Our weather could not have been more perfect. We had not a drop of rain and skies were clear and seas calm the entire week. If you come from a dry climate you might find the humidity of this region a bit challenging but the ship was beautifully air-conditioned throughout. GETTING THERE I flew into Ft. Lauderdale from Montreal the day before. Planes can be delayed and this eliminated the stress of worrying about missing the boat. I would highly recommend this option. I stayed at the Comfort Inn on Sterling Ave. What a great choice! The internet rate was $89. There was a free shuttle from the air-port. I just called the hotel and they picked me up within twenty minutes. The room was very nice,large, clean and cool. There was a lovely outdoor pool area with palm trees and a poolside bar for those who enjoy a drink. The free breakfast was one of the best I have encountered anywhere. Boxed cold cereals,packaged instant oatmeal, fresh fruit, toast, bagels, waffles, yogurt, muffins and plenty of good coffee or tea. The hotel then provided a free shuttle to the ship. I arrived about 11 a.m. and started a quick embarkation process. I had pre-registered and obtained my boarding pass on-line. This greatly quickens the procedure. From start to finish it was no more that 30 minutes before I was walking up the gang plank and posing for a welcome aboard picture. (Note: The cruise photographer takes pictures throughout the voyage but there is absolutely no pressure to purchase any of them. They are displayed in the Photo Gallery daily and those you do not wish to purchase are shredded at you request) Once on board we were invited to lunch in the Lido deck as our cabins would not be ready until about 2 p.m. The food in the Lido restaurant is varied with many selections and well prepared. This is a cafeteria style restaurant so you will line up at busy hours. The ice-cream bar and desert table ( my weakness) was a sweet tooth's dream come true. MY CABIN I had a outside cabin on the Dolphin deck which was very roomy(especially being solo). I found the beds extremely comfortable. The bathroom was huge by cruise ship standards with a nice marble vanity and a tub/shower combo. There was plenty of a closet and drawer space as well.It was clean and well maintained throughout the voyage. The TV was of great quality with something for everyone. It included CNN, TSN, 2 movie channels plus a classic TV channel. Ship info and ship entertainment are also broadcast. There are also 4 music channels pumped into the cabin with various genres of music.If this is not enough there is also a DVD player. DVD's are available for rent. I brought a few of my favorites from home. DRESS Let me say a bit about packing here. Dress during the day is casual, shorts & T-shirts. Evenings are smart casual. Slacks and a collared shirts are fine for the men. Formal nights a dark suit or tux are requested. There are several options for laundry and pressing. There is self-serve laundry on the ship. A load will cost $2. to wash, $1 to dry.(Quarters are available at the front desk) As well there are irons and ironing boards that are free of charge. Ironing in staterooms is not allowed as a fire-safety measure. There is also a laundry service. I believe it is $12 for what you can get into one of the laundry bags provided. I used the pressing service. This was more expensive but convenient. 5 shirts and a suit cost me $23. There is a more expensive express service.With the ordinary service getting your clothes back will take over 24 hrs. so plan ahead for your dress-up clothes. A free shoe shine service is also available. ACTIVITIES The main activity I wanted to engage in while on board was relaxing in a deck chair and watching the sea roll by. Each evening there is newsletter outlining activities for the next day delivered to your stateroom. There is no pressure to join any of them but if one wishes to be active there seems to be lots to do. Also delivered each day is a mini NY Times news sheet. In addition to this I received a special Canadian supplement with news from Canada. I imagine other nationals received something similar. A very nice touch I thought. DINING The food was wonderful all around. My only complaint is that there was too much of it. Be prepared to put on a few pounds. I preferred to have breakfast in my cabin. In general I found the room service menu to be adequate and varied as long as one did not intend to use it for every meal. The breakfast menu had plenty of the things I like to eat in the morning. Just fill out the breakfast request card. Check off the items & time you wish and hang it on your door handle before 2.a.m.They will do the rest. Very satisfactory. LUNCH I enjoyed a light lunch in the Lido restaurant. To avoid the line-ups try to be there at opening 11:30 or wait until near the end of lunch service, I think around 2:30 DINNER IN THE MAIN DINING ROOM This was something I looked forward to each evening. The menu is posted at the entrance after lunch so one can check it out and ponder what delicious dishes to order. I am no gourmet but I thought the menu was varied, delicious and beautifully presented with impeccable service. Considering these guys do three seatings an evening it was really remarkable. I was assigned a table with five other solo travellers. We at least had that in common. Sometimes it can feel like you are the only non-coupled person on the planet, so I thought this was a nice touch. PUBLIC AREAS I thought the public areas were lovely. The theme of the Volendam was flowers and there were elaborate as well as smaller bouquets placed throughout the public rooms. In addition to this there were many paintings an other objet d'art to enjoy. The library was well stocked with books DVD's, board games,jig-saw and crossword puzzles.There were perhaps 20 computers available but be warned using them will cost you plenty! I do not gamble so I cannot comment on the Casino although it seemed to be quite busy with the usual games and slots. Nor am I a big drinker but I did enjoy a spiked coffee after dinner in the Explorations Lounge where there was a stringed quartet playing classical pieces. There was also a decent size shopping area. One nice service was that evenings before shore excursions, a list of "guaranteed shops" on shore was provided. This meant that they had been checked out and were selling genuine articles and not knock offs. I did not attend all of the evening shows but the ones I did I enjoyed and were of a good quality. I was entertained and I think that is the point. Also check out the movie theater. There is a different feature shown several times a day. Apart from the Lido restaurant at lunch time, I found this ship to have a feeling of being uncrowded. That was nice. FELLOW PASSENGERS Definitely an slower, older crowd, although there were some younger folks as well. That suited me fine as I was not looking for a party ship. How often at 57 and a bit overweight does one get to feel young and thin? I spoke to one man who had teenage grandchildren who've cruised Holland America and one of the bigger party ships as well. They told him they preferred Holland America because there were so few teens enrolled in the teen program, that they were treated like kings. On the party ships they had to wait in line for everything. SHORE EXCURSIONS I did three of these which I booked on line. There were several options available to chose from at each port. I knew it would be hot so I chose ones that were not too long and did not involve a great deal of activity. I found they were well organized and the guides pleasant and informative. I did a mini-bus tour of San Juan including stops at one of the forts, a beach and old San Juan. I did similar at St.Thomas. It is quite mountainous and we were taken to the highest point where the views were spectacular. Nassau included a visit to a garden/zoo place where the pink flamingos put on a most amusing show. Another very nice touch (one of so many) on the part of Holland America was this; when we arrived back at the ship from out day out in the heat, a steward was waiting at the bottom of the gangplank handing us damp, cool towels to freshen up with. Very nice. I cannot say enough about the service on the Volendam. It was A+ at all times and delivered with a smile.It was the many small thoughtful touches, like the cool towels that helped made this trip so enjoyable. You may well forget what day of the week it is with this level of indulgence, but not to worry. Each time you step into one of the elevators you will be reminded. The carpets are changed daily and the day of the week is printed on them. DISEMBARKATION If you follow the instructions which are given days in advance regarding luggage, custom forms etc.and listen for category to be called then there will be no delays or problems. Also recommended is to attend the disembarkation talk given on the next to last day of the cruise. Not only will you pick up useful information but as a finale the crew from all the services gather to supply a very touching musical farewell. In short if you are looking for a relaxing, slow-paced holiday with impeccable service and amenities then I have no reservations about recommending Holland America's MS Volendam. Read Less
Sail Date: September 2007
We live in Florida, so we drove to Ft. Lauderdale. We spent the night at the Hampton Inn on Commercial Blvd. We like this motel because it is very clean, reasonable in price, has a nice serving area with coffee and tea 24/7 and has a good, ... Read More
We live in Florida, so we drove to Ft. Lauderdale. We spent the night at the Hampton Inn on Commercial Blvd. We like this motel because it is very clean, reasonable in price, has a nice serving area with coffee and tea 24/7 and has a good, complimentary breakfast in the mornings. Newspapers are furnished, an in house computer for checking e-mail is always set up , a Steak and Ale is close as are other restaurants, it is also close to the area of Coral Springs which has many, many dining places, and I feel safe there. As this is a motel that caters to the business crowd, the clientele is pleasant, quiet and there is very little traffic or little traffic compared to the Tourist spots. Embarkation was not too bad. I have RA, so I was able to sit while my husband stood in line...perhaps for 45 minutes to an hour, and then joined him at the document checking desk. As we had pre-registered on line, we gave them our Boarding pass and it did go faster. Once we were on board, we ate lunch on the Lido Deck and had to wait a while for the cabins to be opened. The cabin was plenty roomy. We had an Ocean view on the Main Deck and found it comfortable for two adults. We had plenty of storage space and closet space. Our suitcases fit under the beds. Our cabin had four big, sturdy hooks on the wall. I found them handy for hanging dresses and our garment bags. The bath had a bathtub and spa shampoo and such was on the washbasin. The potty was slow to flush sometimes but it did always eventually flush. Once it was like five minutes or so and that was disconcerting. Once, when the emergency generators were being tested, brown water came out of the shower, but it only happened once. And our cabin was hot. We had the temperature gauge down as low as possible and it was just plain hot. We called the desk twice. They Sort of brushed us off. Then it went out completely. We live in Florida and tolerate heat better than most. But that took me to the office. The person at the desk said they would go to the cabin and inspect it. As my husband was napping on the bed, shirt off, and sweating a lot, I hope she got a true reading. He said she did come. Avoid Cabin 2520 unless you have the temperature checked and the morning we got off it was still very warm. Food: The food on the Volendam is delicious. It is Tasty, it is Well Prepared and it is Well served. They do things such as the Dutch High Tea, the Indonesian Tea and other theme teas. The Dinners were innovative and well cooked. Sometimes I ordered the alternative steak and it was always cooked just right. The starters were good, I liked being able to have the pasta as an entree if one wished, I only tried the chicken noodle soup and it was excellent, the deserts were very good. Creme Brule, Baked Alaska, a chocolate confection in a parfait glass that was delicious. They also had delicious cookies on the buffet line on the Lido. They also had a separate line for salads. The salad fixings were good...but no ice berg lettuce. I still like iceberg. And the dressings were strong. The Blue Cheese was excellent, I thought. Breads tasted fresh baked and could have made a meal alone. They were that good. I have to say the Omelet served in the Lido deck was perfect. It was always cooked just right, and extra back or ham or sausage was available. It made a perfect breakfast. And they do have grits on the Lido. But you have to ask, because .in the Dining room, I don't think they know what grits are. We found out on the last day and acted like fools I know in our delight at finding we could get bowls of grits for breakfast. We are southern and I admit, love our grits. The late night snack was better than a huge buffet, I thought. They had burgers off the grill, pizza, hot dogs, cold cuts, breads, small cakes and cookies, ice cream...all very good. They served Pineapple pizza that was actually good, which I consider quite a feat. FLASH!!!!!The delectable goodies in the case in The Explorations Cafe on Deck Five are complimentary. The coffee is NOT. But those delicious breakfast rolls, then those afternoon cookies and the evening appetizers and fruit is at no additional charge. And in the Casino Bar, they serve the fancy mixed nuts. It is not just peanuts. I have to say I noticed classy little things like that often on the Volendam. We also received a Tile at the Mariner's Brunch. Which I liked much, much better than the Past Passenger Reception which this replaces. The wine was complimentary, which my husband enjoyed, the food was smart and innovative, with salmon, another fish dish, steak and a quiche being the entrees offered. My husband ordered the quiche and enjoyed it. I had finished one of the large omelets on the Lido a few hours before so I only had the shrimp cocktail, it was good and I had the Mango Banana Strudel, which I thought was not their best. The tables were lovely with flowers,real orchids, and yes, I know how difficult it is to grow orchids. We sat by the window and shared a conversation with missionaries who had just been in Hawaii. They were charming and dedicated.On the Volendam, Everything they did with food was just very good except the Chef's Choice Diner. I did not care for that dinner, but one out of many meals was not good, so who could beat that record for excellence? The Ship: The ship is lovely. Fresh flowers are everywhere, the public rooms are pleasant and I never saw any crowds. I found lot of places to read and just sit and think while enjoying beautiful surroundings. I have to say the view from the Crow's Nest is always breathtaking. The Library was large and used a lot. One cloddish passenger did sit down and start talking, loudly, on her cell phone to someone. I had a few words with her, her husband was very rude to me and I left. I was embarrassed that I had said anything but it is so rude to start in on personal matters on a cell phone in a library on a cruise ship. Is nothing sacred? Why do they allow cell phones on cruise chips? And on most days, CNN International was the only news available. Ugh. That is my personal opinion. UGH. UGH. I missed Wolf Blitzer. I missed Headline News. I missed FoxNews and MSNBC. I would rather have those than some of the channels they carried. Entertainment: I did not see any of the shows. And I am sorry I missed them. Our tablemates at dinner went to all of them and enjoyed them all. We played Trivia every day and did scattergories one day. I thought there was a lack of activities. The Volendam had one game of general trivia each day and we had two days of Name That Tune and two days of scatter gories. There was no TriBon, no Pictionary and not even a Sports Quiz. They did the values clarification sheets like things you take in a ship wreck and such. I had expected more activities, like on Celebrity, but it was not so. And that passenger group was well educated and very competitive and I think would have enjoyed more such brain teasers. One Trivia Quiz session must have had fifty people there, and that was the biggest crowd, outside of Bingo and the Shows that I saw anywhere. I did go to the Casino and played the nickel slots. I did not win much, but I played a lot and did not lose much, so I was happy. I am not much of a gambler, I just enjoy seeing the reels spin and playing the bonus rounds. The Casino is small, but also never crowded and the staff is excellent. Shore Trips: We toured the El Yunkee Rain Forest in Puerto Rico. The trip was a Holland American Tour. We boarded our bus and I was surprised at two things on our trip to the Forest. The Bus Driver made remarks which I considered rude and anti-American. If they wish to be independent, I say more power to them. And if, as he said, they can come in as a state if they wish, well, not many people think much of the folks in D.C., of both parties, right now anyway and who knows what they are up too. But it was offensive and out of place. We had vets on that bus. And I was stunned at the burglar bars on the homes. They were everywhere and even extended to the porches. It was like the homes sat in metal boxes. I had no idea crime was that bad in Puerto Rico and I wondered what they did in case of fire. What if they lost the key? It was good that one did not see starving children or children begging for money like one does in other places in Central America and on other islands. The people were very well dressed, looked prosperous and of course, they are already USA citizens. The Rain Forest was lovely. Our driver knew the names of the many lovely plants, such as wild ginger and such, and I enjoyed that part. I did not like it when he stopped at a tourist trap and said we should use the rest room because they would be closed in the forest. They were open in the Forest and clean too. It is a USA National Park too. In the Virgin Islands, we took the tour, also a Holland American tour, to St. Peter's Place and rode the Paradise Tram. St. Peter's was lovely with a nice gift shop. We could have a tropical punch drink there too. The roads were steep and often cars would pass so close I felt I could pat them on the head. That was a bit much. The people in the USA Virgin Islands seemed friendlier, more fellow USA citizens than in Puerto Rico. I did not see nearly as many burglar bars and none of the entire home enclosed in wire boxes like on Puerto Rico. The view from the Paradise Tram was awesome and the workers on the Tram friendly and patient with scared, elderly tourists who didn't know it was like a ski lift ride. I found the USA Virgin Islands to be a pleasant tour. Our driver was from Haiti and it was hard to understand him and I did not like that. I liked him, and we tipped him as we tipped in Puerto Rico. Both made a good effort to show us their respective islands. I did not go ashore in the Bahamas. I don't swim was the reason for Half Moon Cay, and I had an arthritic flare in my right foot when we were docked in Nassau. I would consider both tours worth the money but next time, for the same money, I would take the excursion to St. John's Island. Don't Miss..............Kenn, the Piano Man. He does a fine show. Even though the cabin was hot, and that was a major irritation for me, the cruse went quickly. I hope Holland America fixes their AC system, even if it means putting in new units. That cruise on the Volendam came near to being perfect, but for that. Disembarkation was very quick for us. Because of my foot, I had to request assistance and I left in a wheelchair. Even while we were being whisked through, I noticed people very quickly leaving the ship. I would say they did an excellent job on that. The cruise was great. The cabin got too warm sometimes. And on the day the AC went out, it was downright hot. I would make sure I inquired about the condition of the AC in my cabin when booking. Other than that, you should be prepared to enjoy a wonderful week. Read Less
Sail Date: December 2005
My family of 4 sailed on 12/26 along with 8 other family members, including 4 children 14 and under. The children's program was nice but not up to par with other ships, which disappointed our small travelers who were used to much ... Read More
My family of 4 sailed on 12/26 along with 8 other family members, including 4 children 14 and under. The children's program was nice but not up to par with other ships, which disappointed our small travelers who were used to much more. We purchased beverage stickers for $28 plus gratuity at the start of the cruise and all week the waiters ignored the kids when they wanted pop at the bar. On several occasions an adult had to approach the bartender and point out that the kids had been waiting for some time. The meals in the restaurant were good but got a bit better as the week went on. The buffet was much the same very day and got boring quickly - no name tags for various dishes and the menu posted was often wrong. There are periods between breakfast and lunch and dinner and the midnight buffet (which starts at 11:15) where there is no food available other than room service - another first for us as previous cruisers. The occasional shortcomings that we encountered seemed to be directly related to short staffing. Our room was fine and our cabin steward was sweet - no complaints. Our dining service was often slow due to no extra help and iced tea was a problem for the first couple of days until I made my preference known and then he took care of me every day. Getting a beer or wine during dinner is a very slow process and often you feel that they have forgotten - again due to very few staff assigned to this task. The entertainment was okay but not great - the kids were amused but the adults were used to much more. Our shore excursions was somewhat disappointing, partially due to the islands we visited. San Juan is the same dump it was when I sailed there 27 years ago and Nassau was as dirty as it was 2 years ago when we stopped. St. Thomas was beautiful as always and a must to return to. Overall we had a great time because we were all together and tended to make our own fun, but the ship is certainly geared toward a more sedate crowd - normally there are 10 children on board each week - over Christmas break they had 300 and were not prepared - they ran out of ketchup on day 5! But, our family won the boat building contest and I won a slot contest for $500 so it was a great week overall. Our next cruise will probably not be on Holland America because we want a more upbeat experience for our money - my sister used them for Alaska and was very pleased, but they did not bring young children with them and that may be the difference. nice ship, great staff (although not enough of them) and pleasant week. Read Less
Sail Date: November 2005
My wife and I recently returned home from one of the most memorable cruises of our lives. This was our 7th cruise and our 3rd in succession with HAL. All of our cruises have been enjoyable but HAL just seem to be the perfect match for us. ... Read More
My wife and I recently returned home from one of the most memorable cruises of our lives. This was our 7th cruise and our 3rd in succession with HAL. All of our cruises have been enjoyable but HAL just seem to be the perfect match for us. However, this was our 1st cruise on the Volendam, and I must say, the Volendam is the 'BEST KEPT SECRET' in the cruise industry! As we arrived at the pier in Ft. Lauderdale, embarkation was a breeze. Since we arrived about 2:00 p.m. there were very few lines and we were quickly on our way up the escalator to the waiting lounge where we received the customary photo-shoot, and on our way across the gangway to the Volendam. She is a mid-sized ship of 63,000 tons, built in 1999. She will be going into dry dock in December 2005 to be refurbished, but I can't imagine what HAL can do to improve this ship except for new carpeting and perhaps brighter colors in some areas. Otherwise, the Volendam is very ELEGANT. She is the perfect size, easy to find your way around, and one of the very few ships that has a 10 night itinerary out of Ft. Lauderdale that visits Nassau, St. Thomas, St. Maarten, Dominica, Barbados, and Half Moon Cay. It doesn't get any better than that. Our cabin A6170 w/balcony was perfectly located at mid-ship, with easy access to the mid elevators. On our way to our room, we met our smiling Cabin Steward, "JABARR" who already knew our names. (Don't ask me how!) He assisted us with our 'carry-on' bags which merited him a handshake (with something in hand) and from that point on, there was nothing we wanted that "JABARR" would not do for us. Our room was kept IMMACULATE; fresh towels, clean wine glasses, ice-bucket kept full on its shinny silver tray, fruit bowl replenished daily with sparkling silverware and cloth napkins, and every night we returned to our room to find cute little animals-shaped towels on the bed with milk chocolates to form their eyes; a very nice touch indeed. The Volendam is not a 'fancy ship' but she certainly is ELEGANT. She is dignified with 'richness and grace', if you will. She is 'classy' and tastefully luxurious with all the fresh flowers, paintings, and art-work scattered throughout the ship. But, no 'glitter'; that's for the "Fun Ships." She always sails with capacity crowds of mature, well-seasoned passengers who return (back-to-back cruises and sometimes several times a year) to enjoy her ambience! We met one older couple who has 88 cruises to their credit and they swear the Volendam is their favorite ship. Captain WIEGER VAN DER ZEE announced at the 'MARINER'S PARTY' that there were 800 'MARINERS' (repeat passengers) on this cruise. Everyone on the Volendam dresses up and respects the dress code for the evening. On the 3 formal nights, you would be hard presses to see women who aren't wearing long formal gowns or evening attire, and men without tuxedos or dark suits. And don't even THINK about entering the Dining Room dressed inappropriately; THAT AIN'T HAPPENING! Merlyn and I had requested a table for 2, but were assigned to a table for 4. (Table 110 w/ocean view) Assigned to our table was a lovely couple from Scotland; John and Wilma, both of whom were on their very 1st cruise. I must say, we could not have met a more pleasant couple. In fact, we spent a lot of time together during this cruise. They were the talk of the ship. On formal nights John was always decked-out in his customary 'SCOTTISH KILT' and Wilma was always beautiful in her gowns. And I must cover myself by mentioning my own lovely wife, Merlyn, who received many OOOHS and AAAHS with her selection of long glamorous evening gowns. Our Dining Room Waiters were 2 of the best; GEDE' (pronounced Gooday) and INDRA. Merlyn and I enjoyed the Pinnacle Grill so much, we dined there 3 times which gave us the opportunity to experience almost everything on the SCRUMPTIOUS menu. What fabulous meals! And to add to our excellent Pinnacle dining experience were 2 of the best waiters we have ever encountered; CARLOS PROMANA and SINISA MITROBIC. They really know what people want and expect from a 5-star restaurant and they deliver. Do yourself a favor, and treat yourself to this luxury! In reading various ship reviews, I notice there aren't very many reviews on the Volendam. Now I know why. Those who know what ELEGANT cruising is all about, don't write about them; they keep it a secret. (How many 6-star cruise reviews have you read lately?) And the VOLENDAM is the best kept secret in cruising. In fact, I should just keep my big mouth shut, so there will be room for our next planned cruise; which of course will be on the refurbished, ELEGANT, VOLENDAM. I rate the VOLENDAM 5 stars only because 6 would be a PERFECT rating and NOTHING is perfect. But, the VOLENDAM is pretty close! Read Less
Sail Date: January 2005
Volendam 1/15 - 1/24 2005 Day minus One -- Leave The Arctic 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 ... Read More
Volendam 1/15 - 1/24 2005 Day minus One -- Leave The Arctic 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 meantime, 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 a.m. 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 entrEe 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 an 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 a.m. 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. 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 bEarnaise sauce and 2 king crab legs and asparagus. For dessert, 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 waitstaff 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 losing 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, TVs, 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 wheelchair! The whole cruise was definitely an older crowd; the hallways were lined with folded wheelchairs 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 soufflE 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 aforementioned 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 lose a little money. I left Joan at the Roulette table and headed to the Internet cafe 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), handmade 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 barbecue 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 entrEe, but they corrected it without a fuss, and the dessert 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 dessert -- 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 hot dogs while waiting for our flight, glad we had sensibly booked a 12:30 p.m. 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! Read Less
Sail Date: November 2004
This was our first HA cruise. Have tried Carnival and Royal Caribbean in the past. We expected the "white glove" service advertised by HAL. Embarkation went smoothly for us, but we didn't arrive at the port until about 2pm. ... Read More
This was our first HA cruise. Have tried Carnival and Royal Caribbean in the past. We expected the "white glove" service advertised by HAL. Embarkation went smoothly for us, but we didn't arrive at the port until about 2pm. Check in was much slower than usual, we were told, due to a new computer system. Passengers arriving earlier stood in very long lines; perhaps it's better to come on board after 1 and have a smooth check in rather than try to rush the process to get onto the ship and find long lines! Anyhow, we were greeted by a wonderfully polite gentleman with white gloves who escorted us to our cabin. We then went to the Lido for a quick bite and then, naturally, the muster was held. We left the port with light rain but a smooth embarkation. That evening, however, the seas were quite rough and unpacking was a challenge. We were bounced around in our cabin quite dramatically. Skipped dinner due to upset tummies and went to the Lido around 7:15 for a bite - found out the Lido closes PROMPTLY at 7:30 - no ifs, ands or buts. The line closes and the curtains are pulled. Dinner was fine. The next morning we docked at Nassau and had a few hours (too few to do much) in the sun. Then we left for the rest of the trip. Our stop in Tortola ended up being a wonderful experience for us - but the ship tours were canceled due to rain. We were lucky to have booked the tour independently and had a lovely catamaran/snorkel afternoon. Got back on the ship in a rain storm that had everyone in a sour mood. During our ten days we had horrible weather - it was sunny only a day or so. We had a LONG day in St. Thomas (perhaps to shop, shop, and shop?) but the day in Dominica was about 6 hours (and threatening skies). All excursions were canceled in Barbados due to weather and we were unable to go to HMC due to gale force winds and high seas. During this weather we wondered if there were stabilizers on the ship. We have never been bounced around as much as on the Volendam. There were "barf bags" placed at all elevators. You couldn't go out onto the veranda or you'd get a salt shower. The upper decks were so windy that you felt you would be blown off. The aft pool was splashing all around on the deck. The sun would come out for a bit, and then the rain clouds threatened again. You can't change the weather, but this made life on the ship more evident. There was very little to do. There was no music played on outer decks. Nothing near the pools. During the breaks of sun, the decks were cramped with people trying to capture a ray or two - no music. Just people laying around. Movies were played in the Wajang Theatre, but there were two a day. Not bad choices, but who really wants to spend four hours a day inside in a theater? At least there was popcorn - a VERY SMALL BAG - but fresh. The casinos were full - and full of smoke. With allergies, we had to avoid the area completely. However, one of our members won over $4000 during her cruise! We heard of a number of winners playing the slots, so if that's your bag, go for it! There was a daily happy hour with 2 for 1 drinks at the Dolphin Pool and our CC group, which started out at 14 and GREW, met there daily. It was between 4 and 5 daily. Thought they should extend happy hour to accommodate people, but that never happened. Your choices of entertainment were very slim and not too appealing. Team trivia for 45 minutes a day, but not daily Bingo. Spa offerings - where they tried to sell you products. The kitchen tour was extremely popular and crowded. Shopping was not as plentiful as RC; small shops and extremely understaffed. I stood in line at the counter for nearly 15 minutes to buy a tube of lipstick. Our cabin steward was a disappointment. Being in a mini-suite, we expected good service. In fact, we gave our steward a $50 additional tip on the second day for service expected and only asked that he keep our ice bucket full. Not only didn't he do that on a regular basis, but he NEVER changed the sheets in 10 days! There was a blood stain on the side of the bed for the entire time. The wallpaper in our cabin looked as though something was thrown against it - lord only knows what. The bathroom had mold in the shower. There was a black film in the toilet bowl, which he said was the "water" but looked like filth. We washed down a lot of the cabin ourselves. The counter and small table were NEVER wiped down. The crew washed down the balconies while we were in Tortola and there was an awful cleaning solution left on the rug at the door. It actually burned my bare foot. We moved the rug under the chaise lounge and every day the steward moved it back - but didn't take care of the cabin. We felt as though he took the money and ran. We left the auto tips in place. The people in the Lido were extremely stingy with some of their food. I never had a problem, but I don't eat ice cream. They serve the ice cream with what looks like a cookie scoop - and don't ask for more than two or you'll get a dirty look. One very small older lady wanted a scoop of tuna and a scoop of chicken salad for lunch one day and I saw the fellow use a TEASPOON. When she asked for more, like Oliver in the movie, he was obviously unhappy. If fish was offered in the line, you were given a very small "taste" rather than a full portion. If you wanted bacon in the morning, you were given two small strips. For some people, that wasn't enough. Ice tea was available, but when it ran out, it was gone. Too bad. I never once saw the lemonade being served on deck as they advertise. We're in our 40's and our group ranged from 40 to 65 - and the majority of us were BORED. There wasn't enough offered. The evening entertainment was short and the majority of the nights it was the "Volendam cast". These kids sang and danced their hearts out, but it was definitely an amateur hour. The comedian was the spouse of the cruise director, Dottie. An excellent Australian singer performed one night-the highlight - and then we had a juggler and a pianist. Televisions in the room played four movies daily, intermittently. TNT was offered but the satellite was out too much to watch anything. CNN was the international version - we never had any US news except Powell's resignation the second to last day - and we were heading back home. "Motown" was offered in the Crows nest one night - and consisted of 30 minutes of music! The highlight was the Rosario Strings trio who played nightly in the Explorer's lounge to a packed house. Thought they should have played in the theater to the entire ship - but then HA wouldn't have any drink revenue coming in. All of the lounges had decent entertainment early in the evening - but NOTHING during the day! And with three days in port canceled, people were ON THE SHIP. When HMC was canceled, Dottie added a movie - some old flick from the 60's or 70's I think - and a talk with her for 30 minutes; perhaps another trivia game. WOW! We all stayed in our cabins, being thrown around due to the list of the ship - and packed. The restaurant service was the best we've ever had on land or sea. We were seated at table 74, a table for two near the railing on the upper level. We had a waiter, Andi, assistant waiter Max and our head waiter Jusuf. These three gentlemen made us feel as though we were the only people on the ship. The food presentation was fantastic and the offerings were delicious. We couldn't have been happier with the restaurant. Ate at the Pinnacle one evening and it's everything that people say - fantastic food and service. Well worth the $20/pp fee and CASH tip. Remember that - you need to tip in cash. No one tells you that and some people were caught off guard and had to go back to their cabins for money as it's a cashless environment - but we had heard this before on the boards and were prepared. It was a wonderful evening. All in all, the trip could have been a true disappointment with the weather and lack of activities, dirty room, etc., were it not for the fantastic Cruise Critic group we had on board. We stared out with 14 people and it grew from there. We even had a group picture taken the last formal night and it will serve as a wonderful momento of friendships made. My dear husband and I feel grateful for the friendships developed on this ship. We met at 2pm on the second day at the Dolphin Bar and we all clicked - what a wonderful experience! We still enjoy cruising, but after this trip we're not too eager to book with HA again. Read Less
Sail Date: January 2004
Traveled with six other people. It was our sixth cruise in as many years. Had previously been with Celebrity, Royal Caribbean, and Princess cruise lines. The Volendam was a complete disappointment. The food was poor to average. Not a ... Read More
Traveled with six other people. It was our sixth cruise in as many years. Had previously been with Celebrity, Royal Caribbean, and Princess cruise lines. The Volendam was a complete disappointment. The food was poor to average. Not a single meal could be called memorable in a positive manner. The entertainment was unimaginative. One night's entertainment consisted of a ventriloquist, another night was a pianist. The "special" Indonesian crew staff night was indescribable. Even the bingo board was broken for a day or two. For two days the ship smelled of raw sewage. The captain announced that they were having problems with the ship's waste management system. Toilet flushing was on again - off again. The seventh day out, all toilets on the sixth floor were out of use. Twice, I was grossly overcharged for purchases from on-board shops. Bought one watch - was charged for two. Bought three photographs - was charged for fourteen. However, the crew and staff were excellent. We all agreed that this would be our final cruise with Holland America. Had mixed feelings about the shore excursions. Swimming with the stingrays in Nassau was the highlight of the trip. However, swimming in the ocean on Dominica (where the sewage runs right into the ocean) was disgusting. Read Less
Volendam Ratings
Category Editor Member
Cabins 3.5 4.0
Dining 4.0 4.0
Entertainment 3.5 3.5
Public Rooms 4.0 4.2
Fitness Recreation 4.5 3.8
Family 3.5 3.8
Shore Excursion 4.0 3.5
Enrichment 5.0 3.5
Service 5.0 4.3
Value For Money 4.0 3.8
Rates 4.0 3.9

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