Fodor’s Expert Review
Slightly larger than S-class, with Explorations Cafe and lovely floral-themed decor.Read More
Best For People Who Want
A reasonably priced classical style cruise aboard a mid-size ship; large cabins and staterooms with private verandas; non-smoking dining areas; alternative dining venues; Internet Center.
That the mid-sized Volendam and her younger sister Zaandam offer more personalized service than the megaliners is evident from the moment you board, as a staff member warmly greets you with a gloved hand, and then cheerfully escorts you to your cabin. In a host of ways, the ship’s’ classical style is reminiscent of the great liners of yesteryear. You’ll find no feverish singles action here, and the casino closes at an hour that will horrify some high-rolling insomniacs. What you will find is a palpable reverence for culture, art, and antiques, and lots of fresh flowers. If large cabins with private verandas, ballroom dancing and bridge float your boat, these, moderately-priced premium ships may well be the boats to float.
Volendam is fully subscribed to Holland America’s “Signature of Excellence” program of enhancements to nearly every area of the ship. New features include tableside waiter service at dinner in the Lido, a new Culinary Arts Program with show kitchen for demonstrations and classes, expansion of spa and fitness facilities, upgraded Club HAL Kids Centers, and new shore excursions. The Explorations Cafe is a combination library, Internet center, music listening area and sidewalk cafe. Staterooms now offer the best mattresses and duvets sold in Europe, flat screen TVs, and DVD players. There’s early boarding and a choice of four dinner seatings.
Volendam’s theme is floral; each aft staircase landing features a floral still-life, while a collection of elaborate delft tulip vases is displayed outside the library. The Casino Bar showcases music memorabilia, and the atrium’s focal point is a towering pipe organ, complete with dancing mechanical musicians. In the cocktail lounges, you’ll find warm colors and subdued lighting, antiques, and credible reproductions of same. Handsome fabrics and marble abound throughout.
The unusually extensive main dining room menu features six appetizers, two soups, two salads, and six entrees for dinner, including vegetarian and low-fat options.
The alternative Pinnacle Grill specializes in dishes featuring ingredients from the Northwest, where HAL is based. Free hot hors d’oeuvres are served every evening in the cocktail lounges. A delightful Royal Dutch High Tea, featuring sandwiches, petit fours, cookies, cakes, and the accompaniment of a string quartet is offered one afternoon each cruise.
There are tables for two, four, six and eight in the opulent two-level Rotterdam Dining Room, which benefits from sea views and a romantically twinkling, fiber optics-lit ceiling, Rosenthal china, sparkling crystal, and crisp linens. There are four dining seatings – 5:45 p.m., 6:15 p.m., 8:00 p.m. and 8:30 p.m. Casual breakfast, lunch, dinner, and midnight buffets featuring ethnic cuisine are served in the Lido restaurant adjacent to the pool.
The cozy, intimate Pinnacle Grill at the Marco Polo on Promenade Deck specializes in the ingredients of the Pacific Northwest. Its dedicated galley includes 1600-degree grill. Bulgari china, unique holloware and a dedicated service staff enhance the elegant atmosphere, as too does the wine list, which features several California and Washington vintages not offered in the main dining room. Reservations are required and there is a $20 service charge.
Holland America’s Indonesian and Filipino crew is warm and gracious, though not always as fluent in English as American and British passengers might prefer.
For years Holland America was known for its no-tipping policy, intended to make passengers believe that staff were doing it for love, rather than money. (Yeah, right.) Nowadays, though, gratuities of $10.00 per person (including children) are automatically added daily to the shipboard account for dining and stateroom service. Visit the front desk to adjust that amount. That a 15 percent service is automatically added to bar bills should surprise no one.
The main lounge presents variety shows, a lavish Broadway-style revue and an energizingly fervent dance production, not to mention the excruciatingly named “specta-crew-lar” in which crew members perform folkloric songs and dances. There’s a jazz quartet in the Ocean Bar and fresh hot popcorn in the Wajang Theater, where you can see first-run films every afternoon and evening. Live sports broadcasts may be enjoyed in the Casino Bar.
Standard cabins are among the biggest at sea, and with a much more modern look than one usually associates with HAL, with lots of salmon-reds, burgundies, golds, and bronzes. Standard inside cabins are 182 sq. feet, while outside staterooms are 197 sq. feet, with enough storage space for even the long-haul traveler. Balcony cabins are sublime, with more unusually spacious interior cabins. The ultramodern 563-square foot suites have large private verandahs. The 120 deluxe category A and B cabins are 284 square feet (including verandah), each with VCR, mini bar, sitting area, and whirlpool tub in the bathroom. The Penthouse suites with private verandahs are a huge 1,100 square feet with appropriately wonderful amenities, including complimentary personalized stationery, afternoon hors d’oeuvres, free dry cleaning, and disembarkation at leisure.
Stateroom amenities include bathrobes, a complimentary fresh fruit basket on arrival, stainless steel ice buckets and serving trays for use with in-cabin beverages, and massage shower heads in every bathroom. For Deluxe Verandah and Penthouse Suite passengers, concierge service is available in their own private retreat, the Neptune Lounge.
The magnificent huge gyms on these ships are among the best at sea, with floor-to-ceiling windows surrounding dozens of state-of-the-art machines. The adjacent aerobics areas are comparably vast. The Steiner-run Ocean Spa has six treatment rooms with private shower and toilets. Two of the six rooms accommodate such wet treatments as hydrotherapy baths, seaweed wraps, and mud. The marvelous ocean-view gym has 11 treadmills, eight bikes, and an assortment of stair steppers, rowing machines, Cybex weight training machines and free weights; aerobics area; dual sauna/steam rooms and a jogging track one deck above On the deck, comfy striped cushions line a large pool on Lido Deck covered by a retractable dome that makes the pool usable even in inclement weather.
Younger passengers are kept diverted with supervised Club HAL crafts, parties, and games for three age groups 5-8, 9-12 and 13-17, with the number of counselors allotted to each cruise dependent on the number of younger voyagers. The restaurant offers a children’s menu. Baby-sitting is available at sea for $7.50 per child per hour.
On the two weekly formal nights, half the men opt for dark suit rather than renting a tuxedo. Casual on these ships means comfortable, but T-shirts, jeans, swimsuits, tank tops and shorts are all forbidden in the dining rooms and public areas.
Should Be Avoided By People Who Prefer
A festive atmosphere; Broadway-style razzle-dazzle; late-night disco; single, open seating dining; dedicated facilities for kids.
Volendam may lack the breathtaking atrium typical of other ships built in the 1990s, but it also lacks some of those ships’ confusing layout. The large Ocean Bar, with sea views by day and romantic lighting at night, is the most popular spot for pre- and post-dinner cocktails, though it gets serious competition from another cozy lounge with piano bar, the 89-seat Explorer’s Lounge, decorated with gentle colors and enormous red lamps. A harpist performs light classical favorites here in the evening.
The glamorous two-story main dining rooms, framed with floor-to-ceiling windows, feature dramatic staircases and a classical trio holding forth demurely from a perch on the top level. Just outside the second level, ladies will find a wonderful, spacious powder room with ocean views.
The main show lounge has two floors and a wide stage, with comfortable seating, though sight lines from the balcony are partially obscured. The Crows Nest observation lounge, with its 320-degree view, is the perfect place from which to watch your departure from port. The beautiful wood-paneled library has etched glass doors, comfortable chairs and ottomans, an inlaid marble table, and excellent reference and travel book sections. The nearby card room can simultaneously accommodate four dozen players.
Keep an eye open for the remarkable red-lacquer piano aboard this ship.
Launched in 1999, Volendam draws on the Holland America Line’s incredible collection of artwork to enhance the ship’s public spaces. Included are pre-Columbian fetishes and sculptures and Renaissance-era fountains imported from Italy in the hallway galleries. The three-story atrium of the ship features an elegant sculpture inspired by the myriad moods and colors of a kaleidoscope by Luciano Vistosi.
Similar to Statendam-class vessels, these slightly larger sister ships have more playful design elements than Holland America Line’s classic vessels. Triple-deck atriums have a fantastic—and fiber-optic-lighted—Murano-glass sculpture (Volendam) or an almost scary towering pipe organ (Zaandam).
The interior decor and much of the artwork found in each vessel has a predominant theme—Volendam centers on flowers and Zaandam around music. Look for Zaandam‘s collection of guitars autographed by the Rolling Stones and a saxophone signed by President Bill Clinton. The extra space in these ships allows for a larger specialty restaurant and a roomier feel throughout.
Holland America Line has enjoyed a distinguished record of traditional cruises, world exploration, and transatlantic crossings since 1873—all facets of its history that are reflected in the fleet’s multimillion-dollar shipboard art and antiques collections. Even the ships’ names follow a pattern set long ago: all end in the suffix dam and are either derived from the names of various dams that cross Holland’s rivers, important Dutch landmarks, or points of the compass. The names are even recycled when vessels are retired, and some are in their fifth and sixth generation of use.
Noted for focusing on passenger comfort, Holland America Line cruises are classic in design and style, and with an infusion of younger adults and families onboard, they remain refined without being stuffy or stodgy. Following a basic design theme, returning passengers feel as at home on the newest Holland America vessels as they do on older ones.
- 10 passenger decks
- specialty restaurant, dining room, buffet
- Wi-Fi, safe, refrigerator, DVD
- 2 pools (1 indoor), 2 children’s pools
- fitness classes, gym, hot tubs, sauna, spa
- 6 bars, casino, dance club, library, showroom, video game room
- children’s programs
- dry cleaning, laundry facilities, laundry service
- Internet terminal
- no-smoking cabins