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Jorge Gonzalez

Age: 54


Number of Cruises: 1

Cruise Line: Holland America

Ship: Volendam

Sailing Date: June 29th, 2007

Itinerary: Vancouver

This was our first cruise for my wife and I.  We chose HAL for the price and the scheduled fitted our vacation plans.  As a first time traveler on a cruise, it is possible that we were influenced by the first time experience, but I will try to be as objective as possible.

The for us in this cruise (more later on regarding that).  It was clean everywhere we went and it did not look rundown or worn.

The Glacier, there was no sea motion and we got there in time. 

First Day: Hubbard Glacier: We spent plenty of time at Hubbard Glacier and got close enough to see the ice caving.  The fact that the Volendam is not a big ship allowed the Captain to maneuver close to the glacier (when we arrived there, the Celebrity Cruises ship Summit was leaving, we talked to some Summit passengers later on and found out that they did not get to see the glacier because their ship was too big and they could not get close enough, since it was quite foggy, they did not see the glacier, so it was an advantage that the Volendam was small and was able to get close to the glacier.  Hubbard Glacier is a sight to see, very impressive.

Second Day: From Hubbard Glacier we cruised overnight and arrived at Icy Point Strait, not an impressive stop and I did not care too much for it.  The village of Honnah is very rustic and not very pretty.  The only good thing about Icy Point Strait is that the whales were giving us a show while we were there.  We saw whales when we traveled on the tender from ship to shore and then while we were cruising out.  We took the wilderness tour and saw nothing but trees, no wildlife at all (except for some eagles, but you see those all the time).

Third Day:  Skagway - we cruised all night long and arrived at Skagway early in the morning.  We had all day at Skagway, it was the longest stop-over for the cruise.  The town is nice and small, with a lot of shops full of Chinese made souvenirs (although you can find some stuff made in Alaska).  We took the Klondike train/bus ride and it is awesome; this is not a trip for people who are afraid of heights.  The highway is kind of scary but the people working the tour were very professional.

Fourth Day: Juneau – as the Capital of Alaska it is quite bigger than the other ports visited.  The ship docks right next to downtown and there are plenty of the mandatory souvenir stores.  If you decide to go to Mendenhall Glacier don’t pay for the tour. You can catch a bus for $12 roundtrip just off the ship.  When you get there, you can walk around and see everything you need to see.  We took a whale watching tour and it proved out to be outstanding.  For the first 2 hours we were disappointed, but then the whales decided to put on a show.  We saw about 6 or seven humpback whales with one breaching.  We were told by the cruise directors that not every time they go out they see so many whales.  Wildlife animals have their own agenda and they don’t always cooperate with the tourists.

Fifth Day: Ketchikan – nice town, different from the other ones we visited with a lot of tourist trap stores.  It was raining all the time we were there and we stayed mostly on the ship.

Sixth Day: Cruising the inside passage.  Nice ride, the area is beautiful and the weather was clear. We arrived at Vancouver early the next morning and the trip was over.

Checking in and out of the ship:   the checking at Seward was seamless.  Easy and fast considering that they had a lot of people to check in.  The luggage arrived at the stateroom early, but not early enough for us to change for dinner.  Disembarking in Vancouver was a breeze, HAL has a really good system to disembark and the luggage was picked up the night before, so we did not have to carry anything off the ship.

The stateroom: we got 3371, it was very clean and comfortable.  The Indonesian crew does a great job in keeping everything clean and organized.  The bed was a king size and was very, very comfortable, I actually miss it, my bed at home is not as good.  I would have to complaint about the TV programming, it was lacking and the signal was not great.  They have a DVD but it proved impossible to use, I asked the cabin attendant and he did not know how to use it.  The bathroom was clean and we had a bathtub.  Water pressure was ok and we always had hot water.  My other complaint is that there is no clock in the room, so we had to keep the cell phone on to check the time.

The Service:   service was outstanding.  The Indonesian crew does a tremendous job and everyone smiles.  Many of them remember your name and your drink preferences.

The Food: the food was excellent.  The main restaurant had a fine selection and well presented.  We only went 3 nights because we had the late seating (8:15 pm) and you finish your meal around 10:00 pm, so for us it was too late and you get out of there too full and took late to sleep.  The Lido restaurant had a fine selection and variety.  I have no complaints about the food; it was excellent and plenty of it.

Entertainment:  most of the entertainment was mediocre and geared towards the older crowd on board (probably about 90 to 95% of the passengers were older couples).  We did not care for the entertainment.  Actually the best entertainment was the show that the Indonesia crew put together.  There was very little to do on the last day of the cruise and that was a disappointment.  We spent the whole day and night cruising and there were very few worthwhile activities going on.

Activities:  the Volendam, while it is a fine ship, it is not geared towards families and kids.  There are very few things for families to do and no official entertainment geared towards families.  If I had kids, I would not take them on the Volendam.  They had a game room in the back of the ship and the pools, but that was about it.  The library on board was well stocked and my wife spent a lot of time there.  We do not gamble, so we did not go to the casino.   The fitness center is ok, you can exercise while watching TV or looking out at the ocean while you cruise.  They had many sales of items on the ship and actually I had the impression that they were trying to sell you stuff all the time.  We did not visit the restaurants on board where you have to pay to eat.  We visited the Crow’s Nest night club a couple of times but the crowds were small and the entertainment was boring.

Overall, the experience on board was positive.  The ship was in great shape, my only complaint would be that the windows were dirty from the rain and dust and they were not cleaned at any time throughout the cruise.  We took the ship for the ports of call and the tours.  The ship’s staterooms and general areas were very clean (except for what had been noted), the food was excellent, the service was outstanding.  We liked the idea of having a five star hotels takes us around to see new places.  I think I will try to use HAL for our next cruise.


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