Why should you take an Ocean Cruise?
Is it the ship or the ports of call? Maybe both!
For this time it was the ship …….
Michael Osborne's review of HAL Volendam
One of the most popular larger cruise lines for mature travellers is Holland America.
A brief history (from their website)
In 1870 a group of Rotterdam Entrepreneurs met and founded the C.V. Plate Reuchlin & Company with the aim to operate a regular Trans-Atlantic Steamship Company from Rotterdam to the New World The Rotterdam (I) after having been delivered left on 15 October 1872 from Rotterdam for New York. It carried 70 passengers and 800 tons of cargo.
On 18 April 1873 the Netherlands American Steam Navigation Company or NASM (Nederlandsch Amerikaansche Stoomvaart Maatschappij in Dutch) was founded. Within no time everybody called it the Holland America Line but that name was not officially adopted until 1896.
For more than 140 years, Holland America Line has been a recognized leader in cruising, taking our guests to exotic destinations around the world. If you are looking for some of the most spacious and comfortable ships at sea, award-winning service, five star dining, extensive activities and enrichment programs and compelling worldwide itineraries, you've come to the right place. We are committed to our mission: through excellence, we create once-in-a-lifetime experiences, every time.
Today, Holland America Line's fleet of 15 elegant, mid-size ships offers more than 500 sailings a year visiting all seven continents. Cruises include both popular and less-travelled ports in the Caribbean, Alaska, Europe, Mexico, South America, the Panama Canal, Australia, New Zealand and Asia - as well as unique voyages to the Amazon, Antarctica and our extended Grand Voyages.
For our review we chose to sail from Singapore, on a cruise that took us to Malaysia, Thailand, Myanmar and back to Singapore.
We sailed on the msVolendam, a long-time favourite with Australian passengers and we were not disappointed.
Sailing from Singapore
For International passengers Holland America Line (HAL) can arrange hotel accommodation for the night(s) preceding the cruise. This was also used to have a group meeting of passengers the afternoon before and to set arrangements for the coach pick-up and transfer to the ship for the following morning.
As Singapore is such a fascinating country, we suggest both arriving a few days before and then staying a few more on returning from the cruise.
Volendam was built in 2000 and has a gross tonnage of 63,000, with 10 decks, 18 elevators, can carry 1,440 and with a crew of 620. The automatic stabilisers ensure a smooth as possible cruise.
Volendam features five types of staterooms, from interior to the luxurious Neptune Suites. This allows you to choose what suits your budget.
As you wish dining
You choose where, when and with whom you dine, from among their many choices, from snack bars like Dive In. The casual all day Lido, the main and wonderful Rotterdam, which is open for breakfast, lunch and dinner in a more formal atmosphere. For that special meal (at extra cost) they feature Canaletto, an Italian restaurant showcasing small share plates and the multi award winning Le Cirque – a very special dining experience that is not to be missed.
Then again, you can always order the meals of your choice to be served in your stateroom.
Bars and Lounges
The Explorer’s Bar where popular classical music is enjoyed over relaxing cocktails.
The Crow’s Nest, which is on the top of the ship with exceptional views and live entertainment.
Mix is a selection of bars, with entertainment and also has draught beer, for us Australian’s.
The Oceanbar is at the stern and next to the adult swimming pool. A favourite when leaving a port and at sunset.
The Signature Beverage Package
Recently introduced to Holland America which allows you to select from a variety of wine, beer, spirits, cocktails – including non-alcoholic – soft drinks and coffee on a daily basis of up to 15 drinks per day. Conditions do apply.
These apply to the cruise we were on and may vary from cruise to cruise.
The Master of the Wine Cellar. This was a most wonderful sommelier Fernando. His knowledge of the contents of his cellar was exceptional. His expert advice was used on many occasions, with relation to some of the international wines on-board. But not to worry as Fernando really appreciates Australian wines and he offers an extensive selection.
Fernando also runs Q & A and wine tasting events during the cruise. Do not miss his Cellar Master’s Dinner. Between Fernando and the chef, they create a fine wine and food event of exceptional quality. Warning – book early, as seats are limited.
Themes such as Asian Beer,Tropical Sangria and a Wine & Cheese Sail Away are a great way to leave port.
The Gran Hals Lounge features International artists presenting concerts and musical productions, all backed by the singers and dancers of the Volendam.
From poker machines, games of chance and table games, such as roulette and poker tournaments.
As this is now your floating holiday accommodation, what is available to keep you occupied (should that be necessary)?
Exploring the ship
Why not start at the Explorations Café?
Set up as a coffee house with an extensive library. The aromas of the fresh pastries and ground coffee will lead you to this, another special section of the ship.
It also features 24-hour internet access, with a range of time packages available,
Spa and Beauty
The Greenhouse Spa and Salon is the place to get your body and mind into the complete relaxation mode. From hair dressing to massage, to full beauty treatments.
The Signature Shops
All offering tax and duty free shopping. From HAL souvenirs, jewellery, clothing, even premium liquor to cosmetics. The very special Merabella Luxury Collection with a stunning selection of jewellery will attract you into the shop.
The Art Gallery
Where unique paintings, art work and sports memorabilia are on sale and on offer at the exciting auctions.
The Photo Gallery
Not in your own picture? The talented staff will pose you for the very rewarding pictures to take home. They also cover the ship and when you disembark for a shore tour.
A wide range of excursions are available for each port-of-call. Sit with the professional experts and they will tailor a tour where you will get the best from the limited time ashore,
Also important is the security factor, as the tours are licensed and will get you back to the ship on time.
Readers often ask as to what was the highlight of a trip.
For us it was the time on the ship; headed by the crew, from the senior officers through to the cleaners. You would not meet a more polite and friendly team. Nothing was a problem and everything they did for you seemed to be a pleasure.
The ship itself was spotless and very well presented; we enjoyed the little lounge areas, when we needed a little quiet time.
Like most Australian’s, we like to travel and we enjoy our food. The choice of restaurants and food bars was a delight. From the smallest snack to a gourmet feast, the choice is there.
We would like to make special mention for the staff in the main dining room Rotterdam.
They have the amazing ability to not only remember your name, but also your preferences with the food and wine. Bravo!
A special thanks to the Dining Room Manager, Raymond van Hoorn, his team were all excellent.
Suppose we had better mention that we sailed from; Singapore to Malacca in Malaysia, then to Penang, Malaysia. Next to Phuket, Thailand, followed by three nights at Thilawa (Rangoon) Mynmar (Burma). Then to Port Malai, Langkawi, Malaysia. Followed by Port Klang (Kula Lumpur) Malaysia and then back to Singapore.
For more information about Holland America Line, contact a travel professional, call 1300 987 322 or visit www.hollandamerica.com.au