Our flight from London got us in to Hong Kong Airport in mid afternoon. The pick up arranged by Holland America Line was not that satisfactory, but eventually we were delivered to the ship. When we had completed the signing on, we were allowed aboard, but there was nobody greeting new passengers at this stage, so we made our way to our "stateroom". We were in one of the "deluxe suites" on the seventh floor, with the serendipitous cabin number 7007 - the result being that every waiter onboard knew us a Mr and Mrs James Bond.
The Volendam is a 61,000 ton ship that carries up to 1400 passengers and 600 crew. She is 780 feet long, and does a max speed of 23 knots. Really a floating city, but there was plenty of space around for all the passengers to find their own nooks and crannies. We did not frequent, for example, the casino or the spa. We tended to go to most of the lectures, whereas 2/3 of the guests avoided them. Chris used the swimming pools regularly, but not many did. We did not use the Lido Restaurant - it was self service, and where you went if you wanted to really load your plate with food, and I would guess was frequented regularly by half the passengers.
These shots of our stateroom show its size and grandeur, complete with sitting area, bar, balcony, jacuzzi and large verandah - in all 556 sq ft of real estate according to the brochure. Although they called all cabins "staterooms", this really was one.
Deck 5 offered a choice of lounge areas plus a "library". The library had a reasonable choice of books, but with an American bias. It also had an Internet connection and computers, but at horrendously expensive prices. Anyone would not want to sit and browse the internet here, if you wanted to keep your life savings intact - I just used it to check emails once a week. The girl in charge of the Internet section was particularly bad at connecting with customers, preferring to sit by her own computer, and let the passengers get on with it themselves. She refused to help many people having trouble with getting online. However she was among only a small handful of bad staff. The majority of staff went out of their way to be helpful and pleasant.
We did not patronise either the casino or the jewelry store. The casino was invariably packed with serried rows of North Americans mindlessly pulling the handles of one arm bandits, or crowded round gaming tables of various sorts - certainly cruise ships have to rely on their casinos to pad out their profits. The Jewelry store (and there was an art shop too) seems odd to me, they begged the question as to why anyone would go on a cruise to China in order to buy a watch or a painting - I can only assume that Americans need to shop 24/7.
Mind you I was almost on eating and drinking 24/7. This is the Pinnacle Grill and Wine Cellar. With free cabin service of food and restaurants serving from 6am to midnight, one could eat any hour of the day that you wished, and by the look of many of the punters, they did just that. My net weight gain was 4lbs in the 2 months we were away, and once home, I managed to get that off in 2 weeks.
The options on swimming were either the covered mid ship pool (it did have a retractable roof for good weather) or the open air rear deck pool.
Various walkways took you round the top, back, side and front. The keen could do a 3 times round the ship walk to log one mile.
Happy hour got you 2 cocktails for the price of 1. And there were the odd eating "spectaculars" like the Chocolate Extravaganza
There was a lot of dining to be done. To the left the Sommeliers Dinner - not a good choice, as the so called sommelier had no idea about the wines, and largely ignored the punters, both this night and the other nights. He was a strange man who had the air of the Ancient Mariner about him, and walked endlessly through the dining room, never pausing to speak to a single customer.
And this is us enjoying "formal night" (there were 2 per week) in the Main Dining room.
Our spacious balcony on the Volendam - the deluxe suites had a balcony twice the size of other suites. The orchestra played at our captains's reception for suite passengers. This was very good.
You had your own waiter and wine waiter assigned to your table. Mainly Indonesian or Philippine, and were invariably excellent staff.
Most of the entertainment (there was a different show each night) was pretty middle of the road, but once in a while there was a really good act - Gary Arbuthnot, a flautist from Northern Ireland, and Sally Jones, a British singer of Lloyd Webber hits, were particularly good.
I think Chris quite enjoyed this, the "Master Chef's Dinner". I found it a bit too much OTT. We chose to avoid the second of these dinners by going to the Pinnacle that night.
The oddest of the officers was the "Hotel Manager", we never saw him except at these receptions - I understood that he was about to retire, and had given up with passengers. The Neptune Lounge concierge girls, Raine and Kay, did a great job in sorting out any problems we had from arranging tickets, to changing money or getting a plumber to unblock our drains.
The middle management were very helpful Colin da Souza in the Pinnacle and Pippin, an assistant manager in the Main Dining Room - there were 4 of these assistant managers, each responsible for part of the large dining room - oddly we never met the actual manager here, he must have been too important to mix with the customers.
Our first port of call - Shanghai
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