Our recent cruise on the Volendam was our 21st and it was all we expected from Holland America. We arrived at the pier around 11:30 walked right through the security check and right to the the checkin window with wait. When entering the terminal we were given number 3 which was our boarding number We proceeded upstairs to a comfortable waiting area and chatted with other passengers until the 1:30 boarding time. HAL will not allow passengers on board until the ship is all clean and all cabins ready. A smiling young man took our carry on bags and escorted us to our cabin. We received a nice upgrade by the way. We sailed at 5pm to the usual sail away party and the bells and whistles and sirens from the condos lining the short canal.
Our first two days were at sea. The second day was very rough and we had to cancel our reservations at the Marco Polo dining room. We were unable reserve again as it fills up quickly and no reservations were available for the rest of the week. THe Volendam herself is a beautiful ship. She is clean and bright with fresh flowers and works of art everywhere. As on most of the newer Holland ships she has a two level dining room. We had a table for two on the upper level by the aft windows. The service and the views were equally outstanding. The food was excellent in our opinion and the service outstanding. There have been recent complaints obout cutbacks and lack of service.We did not see it. Our dining experience was outstanding.
We can sum up Bonaire, Isla Margarita and Dominica by saying there is not much there so take a tour or stay on board. There is little to no shopping. A few vendor tents here and there with local crafts. We took the ships tour in Bonaire and Margarita but many passengers were getting far better deals from the local cab drivers. The tours are excellent and the islands are very nice. You will learn a lot of facinating history on these trips. We happened to be in Isla Margarita the day of Carnival which began at 4pm but they had a childrens parade earlier. We have pictures of the kids in costume that we will cherish forever. We stayed on board in Dominica as it was Sunday, raining and there is very little to be seen around the ship. We had been in St.Lucia before and toured the island so we decided to take the water from the pier to downtown. You think the vendors in Jamaica are bad? You ought to see the cab drivers in St.Lucia. We spent about 15 minutes fighting these guys off, got back on the water taxi and returned to the small shopping mall by the pier. St.Thomas was our final port of call. This was our 10th time on the island. We have been there and done that so the day was spent shopping. Carnivals Destiny was the only other ship in port that day so the crowds were not bad. A day at sea then a day on Half Moon Cay, Hollands private island. We talked to passengers who have been to Labadee and to Princess Cay and all agree that they cannot compare to this island. There are plenty of chairs for everyone. The beach is beautiful soft white sand. The lunch is brought over from the ship and set up in a large serving area. Cold things served cold and hot things hot. Hot dogs, hamburgers, ribs,chicken and many salads fill out the menu. It was a beautiful day with bright blue skies and a warm sun. It was a perfect way to end a perfect 10 days.
You will be disappointed with The Volendam. It took a day to figure out which decks went where but after that it was a breeze. The entertainmet was excellent. Three production shows by a well matched high energy cast. There was also a singer/impressionist and a piano player who both drew multiple standing ovations. There also was a good ventriloquist with a nasty little Jamacian puppet named Matilda.
We honestly could find no complaints with any part of the cruise. Food, service, cabin, lido dining, all excellent. By the way there were three formal nights which we felt was one too many. The suit-tux ratio was about 60/40 in favor of the suits.
Best tips we can give is "sit in the balcony for shows." Sightlines are far better and make reservations for the Marco Polo early as it fills up fast and as one poster has recently written "on the first morning of the cruise go to the front of the ship on the top deck, take a deep breath of the fresh salt air and exhale all your troubles and worries." Then plan to enjoy your time on board to fullest. We did. It works.
But finally back in Ft Lauderdale reality set in. We had to fly Northwest Airlines back to Detroit. This disaster could be another full review!!