Shipmaven: I'm a newbie on HAL and would appreciate your insights. I have a group of about 40 going on the 6/23 sailing and would like some info mainly on the ship. What is she like, your preferences, dislikes, things that we must absolutely do/see while on the ship, etc.
Many of these folks that are going (only reason we picked HAL is because of the date and r/t Vancouver) have never sailed before, so I want this to be a positive experience for them. Me on the other hand I'm a loyal P-line cruiser (platnium) so it will be interesting to see how it compares.
Candidly, I'm getting a little "lip" back from my TA who says its HAL but until I get on board, etc. don't know who is at fault.
I appreciate you taking your time and providing some of the responses. I know in the end everyone will have a good time...how can you not have a good time on a cruise!!!
Thanks SeaMaven for your offer. I had talked a number of people, and the impression I got was that Volendam (HAL) wasn't that great. However, I would love to hear your opinion. Most of the negative comments were about the service on board and the entertainment.
My apologies for taking longer than anticipated before getting back to this topic.
Cruiser1time - I'm really surprised to read about the negative comments you've heard. My group and I just returned from 18 nights aboard Volendam, and our service was top-notch. We had great cabin stewards, great table stewards and associated personnel at our table, great service in the lounges. I've sailed on Volendam each year since she entered service, and have never had a problem. I'd be interested to hear specifics of the negative comments you've heard.
As for entertainment, admittedly it can be spotty, but a lot of that is very personal. Some people enjoy production shows, others like piano bar, others like lounges where they can dance, others like disco, and still others enjoy the classical/light classical music of the Explorer's Lounge. HAL atmosphere in general is more subdued than, say, Royal Caribbean, Carnival, etc.
ajdequmbia - not knowing on which Princess ships you've cruised, I can't try to make comparisons (I'm also a Princess Platinum member). Volendam is smaller than the Sun Class, and has the more classical atmosphere of the HAL "S-Class" (Statendam, Maasdam, Ryndam, Veendam) and "R-Class" (Rotterdam, Amsterdam, Volendam, Zaandam) ships. Holland America is known for its refined decor and beautiful fresh flowers on board - in fact, I recently learned that HAL is the largest single purchaser of flowers in the world!
At any rate, the decor theme of Volendam is flowers, and you'll see that throughout the ship in artwork as well as the gorgeous floral displays. The two-level Rotterdam Dining Room is, IMHO, much more beautiful than the low-ceiling dining rooms on the Princess ships, and gives the impression of being more spacious. The Pinnacle Grill at the Marco Polo (alternative restaurant), which features steaks and Pacific Northwestern cuisine, is worth every penny of the modest surcharge. Again, IMHO, it far exceeds the quality of beef in the Sterling Steakhouse. I don't know what cabin types your group has booked, but HAL's cabins are generally larger than those of other cruise lines. I've found their verandahs to be larger as well, and this, of course, applies to Volendam. If anyone is travelling in a full suite (Category S), they will have use of the newly installed Neptune Lounge, which is the concierge lounge. Just about any and all transactions can be taken care of by the Concierge and you never need to go to the Front Desk. For those who enjoy listening to music and dancing, there are a number of venues on board - the piano bar, Ocean Bar, Crows Nest (becomes a disco late at night), Explorer's Lounge (no dancing). I'm only hitting highlights - if you have anything in particular you wish to know, please tell me.
For those interested in art, by all means take the art tour that's offered on just about every cruise. It will explain the works of art throughout the ship. Some are several centuries-old originals, others are replicas, others are more contemporary. As first-timers, your group will undoubtedly be interested in the galley tour as well.
Volendam has added Tracy Arm to her itinerary - the morning of the day she arrives in Juneau. Beautiful scenery from the ship. When she's cruising Glacier Bay, many congregate in the Crow's Nest for spectacular views - there will be some specialists on board from the National Park Service narrating the scenery.
Quite honestly, there's nothing that I dislike about Volendam (whereas I couldn't wait to get off Star Princess earlier this year - not because of the ship herself, but the crowds). In fact, I now have two more cruises booked on Volendam in 2005. I feel very much at home when I return to her. And that's due in great part to her outstanding Officers, Staff and Crew as well as the beauty and comfort of the ship herself.
Shipmaven thanks so much for your info. It really sounds like a beautiful ship. I agree with the 2-level dining room, that is one thing I do dislike about the P-line ships. I'm very excited about the cruise. Not only am I taking my husband's family but also a group of fellow friends/associates so this info is good to know. Does the ship schedule regular tours (i.e. to discuss the art work) or is that something I should see about getting scheduled directly once I get on board.
You're very welcome. Normally, an art tour is scheduled on every cruise, but it can't hurt to seek out the Guest Relations Manager and inquire. Her/his hours are posted each day in the daily schedule. Captain Wieger van der Zee will be in command - cannot think of a finer Master.
Thank you Shipmaven for your detailed input. It helps me a lot ot hear such positive comments from you. The negative comments I read were mostly about the service and the entertainment from various reviews in particular those on cruise critic. Also, I was at a dinner one evening, and a lady sitting next to me told me that she would not go on HAL again. She did not say why, and I left it at that.
Hi ShipMaven, one quick question but I'm sure I'll have more as I am planning to do a cruisetour in summer 2007. How does everyone do so many cruises? Frequent cruiser miles? Or has everyone saved so much for retirement that they can do this without problems?