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H Plotkin

Age: 55

Occupation:self employed

Number of Cruises: 20+

Cruise Line: Holland America

Ship: Volendam

Sailing Date: November 1st, 2003

Itinerary: Southern Seafarer

We were a group of 15 friends and relatives taking our first Holland America cruise, Nov 1st to 11th 2003, on the Southern Seafarer itinerary visiting Bonaire, Isla Marguereta, St. Lucia, Dominica, St Thomas and Half Moon Cay (Bahamas).

I won't comment too much on the destinations as we never took any of the Holland America planned shore excursions. We've seen a lot of the Caribbean islands and consider the itinerary average, with two exceptions - Half Moon Cay is probably the nicest beach I've ever been to, well organized and clean - and - if you're into souvenirs, Isla Marguereta has, by far, the best buys.

The Volendam is a beautiful ship, we had an inside cabin and found it to be spacious with plenty of closets and a comfortable sitting area apart from the bed, showers were of good size and we were very happy with the whole set-up.

The public areas inside the ship are very good apart from the atrium which is generally blah, particularly on deck 3 where it's just a big dark empty space with a grand piano (never heard it played) off to one side, not sure why they don’t use the space better, if nothing else, they could add some more shopping, though there is already plenty on the decks above. The restaurant is beautiful and we were fortunate to get a table right by the panoramic windows at the rear of the ship. I found the table service a little slow, though both waiters were likeable and seemed to try their best, they accommodated all our special requests. One evening I crunched down on a shard of glass in my Caesar salad and cut myself slightly while removing it from my mouth, everyone was very apologetic and we were provided with 3 bottles of wine as compensation though I was disappointed with the maitre’d who apologized but went on to say when I pressed him on how they were going to prevent it happening again ‘These things happen’ ‘It’s a good thing you didn’t swallow it’.

The public areas outside the ship are also very good, 2 good sized pools, one of which can be completely covered, plenty of deck space, no problems getting a lounger, even at 10am, maybe because the majority of passengers were older and didn’t seem to spend as much time lounging around in the sun. The Lido deck buffet area was excellent, good choice and quality of food, lots of space and pleasant helpful staff, I’ve read complaints about the Lido buffet, but I certainly have none, they must have improved the hours as they seldom seemed closed between 6am and midnight. There was a lack of entertainment during the day on deck, which was a little disappointing, but maybe once again that was due to the average passenger age.

All in all, other than those items already mentioned, we were happy with our cruise and for a quiet relaxing holiday we’d go with Holland America again.

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