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Just off the Volendam Today

Discussion in 'Holland America Line' started by LUV2Cruz2, Feb 11, 2006.

  1. LUV2Cruz2

    LUV2Cruz2 Guest

    We had a wonderful 10 day cruise with seas like glass...except for our 2nd day at sea when there was just a little motion...nothing worth mentioning and really conducive to being rocked to sleep.

    As usual the service was fantastic and our S Suite was my usual one that I try to book for each voyage on her. Regina was our wonderful concierge and even though it wasn't all that long ago, Sheila had to take her turn at the front office, but she made sure that Regina took care of us in providing us with our daily fix of chocolate dipped strawberries delivered to our suite everyday. As soon as we got on board, Regina made it a point to tell us that Sheila told her to make sure to give us "special" treatment...and as usual...and I hope as with everyone else in the S Suites, we WERE given special treatment.

    The upgrade to the library area and internet cafe is marvelous! They did a fantastic job of it. It's now all opened up and each room melds into the other. Estelle, our internet host said she loves it because she gets to enjoy visiting and talking with the pax instead of being cooped up in one little room.

    The Neptune lounge is now a hot spot and our suite was so close to the lounge that I was able to use the internet in my suite and on my verandah....now that was really great.

    I don't eat in the Lido much, but I'm wondering if anyone knows: Did they just change it so that you can get the WHOLE dining room menu there? I didn't seem to notice that on my other voyages and I'm not so sure I like that all that much. I can understand people not wanting to get dressed for dinner, but I do believe that in the past, if you didn't want to have the dining room menu you could go to the Lido and have a buffet type meal with roast beef or ham or other things that weren't on the dining room menu.

    Maybe I just overlooked it before, but I think if they want to serve the complete dining room menu in the Lido, they should use just half the Lido for that and the other side for items that weren't on the dining room menu so that one could have more variety. Just a suggestion.

    Our area of the dining room seemed to have some problems with the service that never did get rectified, but we handled it pretty well. We were at a table for 4 and when we all ordered steak and we all wanted it done differently they constantly mixed up the orders. Our waiter, Lalu was always sorry, but he told us he didn't have any way of knowing which steak was which because they all looked alike coming out of the galley. All at our table being professionals suggested that they use those little different colored "steak identifiers" back in the galley before they brought them out and that way we wouldn't have to spend time switching plates and sides around.

    Other issues with food service had to do with room service. I only used it once because the one time I used it was so dreadful that I didn't want to take a second chance. I ordered breakfast and when room service brought the tray, he literally put it quickly down on the table and took off like a flash....I had to chase him down to give him a tip. He didn't even have time to stay and take the lids off the plates to make sure the order was correct...which it wasn't. The galley forgot half the meal and mixed up the other half.

    I was talking to Regina later that day and just mentioned some of the crazy things that were happening. I made it clear I wasn't complaining because I can understand how busy food and beverage can be. She took it upon herself to make a report because she really saw that all the problems seemed to be coming from one direction...the galley.

    I guess her report did some good, even though things never really changed in the dining room...always mixups, but the maitre di did come to our table to apologize and told us if there was anything we wanted just to tell him. All we wanted was for the us and our tablemates to have our meals served properly, and to have the iced tea not be like lemonade.

    When I went back upstairs Regina told me that the head of the dining room told her to tell us that whatever we wanted from then on to let her know and they would prepare it especially for us and to accept their apologies. Ok...that made me happy..although I didn't take them up on the offer.

    The Pinnacle Grill was tremendous and the food and service was wonderful and we had such a great time with Johnny. Our meals at the Pinnacle were enjoyable. I also liked the idea that PH and S Suite pax could have our breakfast served in the King's Room. I liked that alot because we didn't have to be seated willy nilly and our meals were served on time. The only thing we all laughed about for breakfast was that when any of us there ordered hash browns, it would be a surprise what type of potato made its way to our tables.

    I have seen many people ask about tipping in the Pinnacle and I've seen many people say that the tips that are automatically charged to our account do not include the Pinnacle. I figured I'd ask Johnny...he told us that our automatic gratituity certainly does include the Pinnacle, but that they would also be very pleased if we gave them a little extra cash...which we did....happily.

    There is another thing that goes on now in the dining room that I never noticed before, and that is that there are more "extra" shows that go on in the dining room. I can understand the "Baked Alaska" parade because it's tradition, but there are others that I think take up too much time from the waiters and asst. waiters that could be spent on better serving the meals in a more timely manner. It seems to me that each waiter has too many tables to take care of. Maybe they need more help in the dining room.

    The food on HAL, IMO, is just "so-so". Some things are better than others IMO. Some people rave over the meals and I imagine it's a matter of taste. I believe the food is better on Celebrity and Carnival than on HAL. They have lots of fancy names, but I don't think the dishes live up to the names.

    Would that stop me from sailing HAL and especially the VODM? HAL no!!! I'm already going to book another cruise on the VODM in the fall..and can't wait for it.

    Is there room for improvement? There always is and I don't expect everything to ever be 100%.
    Our cabin steward, Adi, was wonderful and so was everything else. I just truly believe they can improve the food service in the dining room and the Lido...and room service.

    The cruise was wonderful and I'd recommend HAL to everyone. I didn't go to any shows...I've seen too many in my time and they're all pretty good and pretty much all alike. We did take a "Best of Dominca" tour that was really worth the $39. The spa was great.

    I really cruise to relax and do or don't do whatever I like. I live on a beach, so I'm not interested in going to the beaches on cruises. I sure did lay around, get pampered and got some much needed rest though!
  2. ShipMaven

    ShipMaven Guest

    Thanks for your excellent, well-rounded and thorough review! I enjoyed reading it.
  3. sail7seas

    sail7seas Guest

    Thanks for your review. I enjoyed reading it especially as we disembarked the day you boarded and some of our experiences were very different......but that is how it happens sometimes.

    We thought the room service was as good as we have had....we've had as good but can't remember when it was much better. Every morning our breakfast came perfect....One night we had room service dinner which we just about never do and that was excellent. Go figure!!! :) They even called to be sure we were satisfied and to ask if we wanted anything more. We also were in an "S" and very near the Neptune Lounge. That's our favored location.

    We were fortunate to have a great dining steward (Heri) who took terrific care of us.

    I fully realize that people can be on the same ship at the same time and have a totally different experience and I'm always interested in hearing about the way others are viewing things.

    Thanks for sharing with us. It's great to hear about people's experiences on the various ships.
  4. Thanks for your wonderful review. Glad to hear that a few "crazy" things aren't going to keep you from sailing HAL again.

    Love the new Explorations Cafe!! We got to first enjoy it on the Ryndam in November.
  5. sail7seas

    sail7seas Guest

    I forgot to mention that I so agree with you about Pinnacle. We ate there twice and each time it was wonderful. Johnny took excellent care of us and was as pleasant as could be. The first time we went, I didn't love the table he originally took us to and I guess 'he read my mind' and immediately asked if we would prefer another. He took us to the one we almost have against the glass when we dine in any of the Pinnacles that have been converted from Odyssey/Marco Polo. Then I felt like I was 'where I am happiest'. We had a great steward and a delightful dinner. I splurged on one of the few desserts I let myself have and my volcano was perfect.

    When we returned another time, Johnny took us to that table he knew we enjoy.

    Pinnacle was a totally delightful evening in all respects....(and, we like you, always leave additional tips.) Technically speaking, some of the automatic tip does trickle down to them but it is such a small sum by the time it gets all the way to them that we do not consider it suffcient. Though there is gratuity added to the price of wine, we always tip the Wine Steward extra as well as the waiter and Maitre d' (if we consider it appropriate). Sometimes we tip him, sometimes not.
  6. sage

    sage Guest

    I am so looking forward to our cruise on the Volendam after reading your very enjoyable review. I too am looking forward to the Explorations Cafe, as we also enjoyed the one on the Ryndam. Thank you again for your thoughts.
  7. LUV2Cruz2

    LUV2Cruz2 Guest

    Thanks for the replies. I do have a question for other cruisers who also tip the steward at the beginning of the cruise in addition to the auto-grats.

    I notice that there are many people who say they give the steward "something a little extra" upon meeting their steward.

    I'm curious to know for a 7 day cruise, and 10+ days, just exactly is "a little something extra"? What do you all consider an appropriate amount? I think this is important simply because I feel there are more people who feel the $10 pp per day is sufficient and that's ok too. I'm wondering though if "over-tipping" can create a problem with future expectations of cabin stewards and lead to diminished service because they do not get what they feel they deserve at the beginning of the cruise.

    What do you all think is appropriate for excellent service "above and beyond"?
  8. I can only remember once having a bad meal at the Pinnacle from the many times that we have dined there on all the ships.

    And I can never resist having the chocolate volcano cake. We aren't into desserts but that is one I can't pass up.

    We always tip the waiter extra as well as the wine steward.

    On the Volendam and her sister ships, we love the tables right by the glass windows looking into the hallway.
  9. sail7seas

    sail7seas Guest

    This is just my opinion and no one has to agree with it..... :)

    My DH and I always tip our stewards additional above the automatic gratuity. BUT, I would never give it to him at the start of the cruise; when we first meet him.

    For ME, that feels as though I am 'bribing' him to give me good service. I feel the message is that if I don't give him something extra at the 'get-go', we will not get good service.

    That simply is not the case on HAL. I won't speak of other cruiselines as it has been too long since we have sailed with anyone but HAL.

    IF we are not receiving good service from our steward, I would nicely speak with him about what I felt was lacking. If we still were not getting the service we expect, I would speak with the GRM. IF the situation continued, I would speak with the Hotel Manager.

    Nothing like that has ever happened. While, of course, we have had some stewards that we considered to be 'better' than others in those subtle (or not so subtle ways). If the service were lacking, I would not quietly suffer it and them moan and groan about it here on the Internet BB or on the comment sheets at the end of the cruise.

    Why should we have terrible service on our vacation and do nothing to have it get better? We would not 'suffer' in silence.

    IMO.....on HAL, none of us needs to pre-tip to get the service we hope for.

    With that being said, we have never left an HAL ship without saying thank you to our stewards with a smile, a handshake (sometimes a hug :) ) and an envelope expressing our thanks in the traditionall accepted manner.

    (***Sorry, this is far more than you asked but it pushed a button with me. :) )
  10. Just for the record, we never tip our cabin stweard anything at the beginning of the cruise. The $10 per person per day is not enough. So at the end of the cruise we do tip extra to our cabin stweard, dining room staff, and anyone else who ha made our cruise an enjoyable one. I never like to tell anyone how much they should tip extra as I feel that is a personnel matter. It all depends on the service that you get as to how much you wish to tip extra.
  11. sage

    sage Guest

    We too tend not to tip at the beginning of the cruise, but we can never leave without extending extra for all the wonderful service that we have received. One of the biggest smiles I ever got at the end of the cruise was from the gentleman who dipped my ice cream everyday when I handed him an envelope. He was always there for me with that chocolate ice cream and a warm cookie.
  12. sail7seas

    sail7seas Guest

    Sage....That is so nice and a reminder to me that sometimes I fail to tip the fellow (like the ice cream server) who isn't on the 'obvious' list to whom we wish to give something extra. The ice cream man on VODM was a darling and always had a huge smile and friendly greeting if DH or I asked for a sugar free/fat free 'treat '. Now I feel badly it didn't occur to me to give him a small envelope. It would have meant a lot to him to know how much we appreciated his friendly service.

    I won't make that mistake again.
  13. Judi

    Judi Guest


    Thanks for a wonderful review! :thumb

    I was especially pleased to read that the Neptune Lounge is now a "hot spot" as we'll be in 7021, which is just across from there....I'll enjoy not having to lug the laptop down to the Internet Cafe every time I want to use it! Mal D. has a tendency to nap in the afternoon, so I'll be able to surf quietly with a glass of Iced Tea in the Neptune!!!!
  14. When you mentioned that they had special things going on in the dining room other than Baked Alaska, are you talking about the Master Chef's Dinner??
  15. LUV2Cruz2

    LUV2Cruz2 Guest

    When you mentioned that they had special things going on in the dining room other than Baked Alaska, are you talking about the Master Chef's Dinner??

    Amsterdam - Hawaii - March 22, 2006 --KK

    Yes, I was referring to the Master Chef's Dinner and there was another one or two special "shows". I didn't think the Master Chef's Dinner and the "surprise" was anything special that the time should be taken away from passengers getting served their meal. It seemed to me that all the preparation for these things made the wait staff hurry and sluff along so that the "show" wouldn't be disrupted.

    There was also a "show" from the dining staff that REALLY rushed the dinner along. On the cruise I took on the Zuiderdam last June, they had one night when, they used the show lounge for the Indonesian staff to put on a show that I think did them more justice where EVERYONE could see them without straining their necks and ignoring their meal that really did them justice. It was also filmed so anyone who didn't either have the time or take the time could view the whole thing later on in their cabins. I liked that arrangement much better.

    I don't know...just MAYBE our table was the only one not getting the absolute best experience in the dining room, although I did hear other people mentioning the difference in this cruise.

    I'm not trying to be contrary and complaining, but I can only tell you what I saw for myself and experienced that seemed to be so different from all the other times I sailed the Volendam. I really really love that ship and I just have really that ONE concern and it seemed to all generate from the food and dining service.

    I'm sure they will get it down to a science and maybe another part of the problem was that it seemed there were a lot of dining staff who were really new to the ship and they just got the job after the VODM got out of dry dock.

    You know when you're used to a certain level of service where you find it hard to even be concerned about anything for so long and then all of a sudden suddenly, there seemed to be a little chink in the armor? This was what I felt. It will in NO WAY stop me from sailing my favorite ship again but I thought it should be mentioned from my point of view.

    I will be anxious to see if anyone here goes to dinner and has Lalu and his asst. waiting on them if things change from what we experienced.

    If there IS a problem, no matter how slight with the management of food, I felt they should know about it. If no one lets HAL know about differences, good or bad, they will never know if they're doing a good job or need improvement.

    I don't mind criticism at all when there are solutions offered that could make it better. I don't like voicing concerns without offering solutions.
  16. sail7seas

    sail7seas Guest

    Luv2Cruz........Of course, you should write your opinions and observations. We want to read all the viewpoints available.

    I am a bit confused though.

    We were on the cruise ahead of yours and VODM had the Master Chef's Dinner in the dining room one night out of the ten day cruise but there was no other show.

    There was the Baked Alaska Parade as always and the Dining Staff sang the beautiful GoodBye song per usual, but that was all the 'dining room entertainment.'

    The only change from all past cruises was the Master Chef's Dinner......which we experienced on VODM last October.

    What is the other entertainment about which you are referring?
  17. I would also like to know about all the other entertainment in the dining room.
  18. LUV2Cruz2

    LUV2Cruz2 Guest

    They had the Baked Alaska, the Chef's surprise dinner, the dining staff singing and I thought there was something else. I believe everything but the Baked Alaska parade, which is a tradition is enough. We and many others were sitting at the lower level and it seemed everyone but the people sitting around the stairwell could see anything without twisting and turning in their chairs and having to stop eating to watch the shows.

    IMO, it's just a waste of precious time that could be better spent making sure that the diners were being tended to. I just don't see what the reason for this is. There was no "surprise"....that I noticed, MOST people couldn't even see who was talking and where the voice was coming from. I expect something like this from a Carnival ship but I don't see why HAL would want to take the pax time away from dinners to see a show and hear a group of people sing who obviously are not all that gung-ho about it.

    Our own waiter said that this was something they were forced to do and it didn't seem as though they enjoyed it much at all...let alone doing it a couple times. He apologized to us for not asking us if we wanted more coffee or tea because he had to join the show.

    It's just my opinion that something like this shouldn't be done if the galley can't even get it together to make sure the waiters know which steaks go to which diners. I don't mind a little extra pizazz if it's not at the expense of something else. JMO.
  19. So far we haven't had the Master Chef's dinner on any of our cruises.

    Since we eat at 5:45, we are always done before the Baked Alaska Parade. Each cruise our waiters tell us that it will be at 7:15. A few times we have waited until then - but nothing has happened. We checked with a couple of other dinners who sat near us and they said that it never happened until 7:30 for the most part.

    Ever since they started these new dining times, we haven't seen a Baked Alaska parade.
  20. LUV2Cruz2

    LUV2Cruz2 Guest

    Our dining time was at 6:15. For the "Magic Chef's Surprise" they only had 2 dinner seatings that night and we were told to show up at 5:45. I really didn't notice anything special about it and it was hard to see anything that was going on anyway.

    One thing they did was when we all got to our tables, the napkins were missing and we all had silly paper chef's hats on our tables. My tablemates were wondering where the napkins were and I told them that that was probably the surprise. We had no water or iced tea or anything served at that time either. Then the wait staff came parading through the dining room with a woman dressed in a very short skirt wearing a chef's hat leading the parade and sure enough....they made some sort of production giving us our napkins. Personally, I thought it was a bit silly as the food wasn't any different than it had been any other night and it just made the delivery of water and other beverages very rushed. I was mostly puzzled by the whole thing. If it was to recognize the chefs we got a better view of them all when they were introduced in the Frans HAL showroom.

    I just don't understand what HAL is doing as it seemed so "un-HAL" like. As I've said several times, this is just the way I felt about it and it wouldn't stop me from sailing HAL, but if it continues, the Pinnacle will likely see more of me...which I don't think they'd mind. ;-)

    The dining experience in the Pinnacle is more to my liking and approval anyway.

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