thomasale Posted October 27, 2006 #1 Share Posted October 27, 2006 Volendam 10/14/2006 This was our 30th anniversary cruise. It was a 10 day southern Caribbean itinerary and our first time on HAL. We have several cruises with Celebrity and have been on RCCL once and Carnival Once. We have never had a “bad” cruise and once again enjoyed ourselves immensely. We still have to say that Celebrity is our favorite line. It is not dissatisfaction with our HAL experience as much as it is our overwhelming satisfaction with Celebrity. In this review, I will try to recap each day. “We” are my wife of 30 years Sandy (age 53) and myself also 53. Day 1 Embarkation day is finally here and our long wait is over. We have everything packed and the car is loaded. We only live about 85 miles north of Ft. Lauderdale in Port St. Lucie. I have made this trip many times and know the way. We hit the road at 10:00 a.m. just as planned. Beautiful day and all is well. We head south on the turnpike and I set the cruise on an easy 65 MPH…I will let everyone else be in a rush now because I am on Vacation and I want this baby to last. We get into the cruise mode with reminiscing about our previous trips and thinking about what we will do on this one. Next thing I notice is the Miami Dade county line…uh oh we missed the exit to cut over to I95 for Port Everglades. No big deal because we can turn around. Okay things did get a little tense as traffic going north on 95 is heavy and if we would have just taken 95 from the start we wouldn’t have missed the exit. We get there at about 12:00 noon and so has everyone else. I drop my wife off, check the bags, and head to the parking garage ($12 per day) which is right across from our terminal and is covered. Get in line (sunny and hot) we slowly move into the terminal to be greeted by another huge line. We wade through that line and I can’t help but think why didn’t they steer us all inside and get us out of the heat and into the a/c. They then give us a number (for what turns out to be no apparent reason) and head us to the express check in line. Those that didn’t do the express are sent to another line. Guess which line is shorter? (memo to self, forget “express” check in) the other is shorter and thus faster. We get aboard at about 2:15 (that’s a 2 hour and 15 minute embarkation!!!) and are taken right to our cabin 6165. It is amidships close to the amidships elevators. Starboard side. (all the southern carib ports would have been better on the port side) The cabin is beautiful and all the gifts from our TA are there (4 bottles of wine, Pinnacle Grill, and complimentary photo. There is the beautiful arrangement of flowers for Sandy with the note “I hope the next 30 years are as great as the next 30 years” Not quite what I said but the message gets through and the arrangement is BEAUTIFUL and lasts the entire cruise. It is our first balcony and we go right out on it and notice a funky odor but assume it must be Port Everglades. We go back inside and decide it is time to check out the Lido. Up we go for the usual buffet fare. Pickings seem especially lean but we figure its’ around 3:00 and it must be shutting down. The ice cream is excellent and on a waffle cone is hard to beat. The hours on that are generous and we took advantage of that feature a lot! We go down to check out our table. Our dining assignment is 5:45 upstairs. Our table number is 33. Aft window table for 6. We had wanted the 6:15 dining but decide the window seat is beautiful and we will see about our tablemates before trying to switch. We look at a lot of the rest of the ship and it is just as beautiful as we imagined and you on Cruise Critic described. The Volendam is divided into a lot of little rooms with plenty of private spaces to while away the hours. The décor of flowers is everywhere. The artwork is impressive and the furnishings are comfortable and classy at the same time. We are very excited about this trip. Back to our room to prepare for dinner. Casual tonight and I am glad. We head down to the dining room, no time for a cocktail and we arrive 5 minutes late at about 5:50. Our tablemates are already there and we introduce ourselves. John and Barb Toye from L.A. He is a retired Presbyterian Minister and she a retired school teacher. Dave and Chris King. Dave is director of the YMCA in Portland, Oregon and Chris a homemaker. We hit it right off. It turns out that Chris is the daughter of John and Barb. We all love wine. We have 3 grown children and so do Chris and Dave. The conversation never slowed and we were nearly the last to leave every night. There would be no changing this table and it was one of the highlights of our cruise. We are hoping they will come to the Princess Emerald cruise we have booked for next summer. I had the Mahi Mahi with sauce and my wife had the Prime Rib end cut. My fish was excellent. My wife’s end cut was dry and tough but that is how it often is. Our waiter Hance offered something else but she declined and doubled up on desert I think. Hance and his assistant Winnie were a good team. Hance had a soft manner and easy smile and although I believe Winnie was stretched too thin as far as tables went the service was efficient and we were happy. The wine steward Enrique also was stretched thin. He paid us more attention than others after we ordered a bottle of Opus One. We rarely were without his attention. It still makes me uncomfortable when I know that the surrounding tables were being slighted and we were receiving the favorable treatment. I just do not understand short staffing. The heat in the dining room was unbelievable. I attributed this to our being seated upstairs. I later found it to be the case in most of the dining area including on deck 4. This is a shame and I am sure that over the course of the cruise this affects our enjoyment and certainly contributed to our missing a couple of dinners here. In general we were quite delighted with our first day. We went for a stroll on the promenade. Stopped and had a couple of drinks. Listened to some music at the lounges. We met Reggie in the Oceans bar and listened to the String Trio. We went back to the room and I went out on the balcony again. The odor was still there…I was sure it couldn’t have followed us from FLL. It was an annoyance at worst, and our bed had already been turned down by Eddie…The bedding is the absolute best I have ever slept on…the BEST Day 2 day at sea We awoke after a beautiful nights sleep on that fantastic HAL bedding and I went up on the aft deck for some pictures. I got them, of the sunrise. I love this time on the ship when it’s waking up. I find the morning people fun to be around and easy to engage in conversation. I went back and got the wife and we went up to the Lido for our first breakfast. It was the usual fare. I did try the Musseli and thoroughly enjoyed…had some each morning thereafter. I also had the full contingent of other offerings. FRESH SQUEZZED OJ!! MMMMMMmmmm…scrambled eggs (blechhh) toast was not fresh ( I ordered a bagel from then on) Coffee was outstanding (it mysteriously changed to too thick mid cruise, but Explorations had been discovered by then and maybe that’s what put me off the regular stuff J My wife then went off and I went to the main pool. Here I met a delightful woman of 85 whom I spent a couple of hours mostly listening to. She had a lot to offer and I usually like to spend my time listening to stories and sharing current views. No doubt Ruth does too because we shared quite a bit in that time. The sun was beautiful and I LOVE the freshwater pool. I wonder how the temp goes from Ocean temp of 84 degrees to the just above freezing the pool water felt? Around 11:30 they began to close the overhead cover, I guess this was due to the windy condition? In any event it soon got too stuffy in the area so I left. Lunch and then the library. Did I mention how beautiful this area is? Loads of little areas to sit with a book. Current periodicals, and music stations to sit at. There are also plenty of computers. We brought our own laptop and was able to connect in a number of spots around the ship but not in our room. Cruise Critic had a meet and greet at 4:00 in the Crows Nest. Scott in Maine was responsible for arranging this. The cruise director Scott was in attendance. Everything he does seems forced including his smile. I have only been impressed by a couple of cruise directors on other ships and at least Scott had the courtesy to show up. If I was him, I would have been sure to have some h’doerves set up though. It was great to meet the others such as Scott in Maine, Seafun, and others. The only member I didn’t meet was Bglen from South Carolina. I never did catch up with them. Oh well maybe on a future cruise. There were about 30 or so in attendance and it was very nice to “put a face with the name” We went to the Lido as I was not feeling up to another hot night in dining room. We had dinner here twice and to be honest I wish they would just give you your entree when you order it. Instead they give you a number and then a waiter in training comes looking for you and your number (really just the number) The problem is this leaves the waiter wandering around always and even after he has delivered your food, and he can see you eating he comes by again and again looking all over for a matching number. Bad system. This first night my wife orders fettuccine with neither sauce… Plain and something else. I just order the shrimp bisque. When the waiter hooks up with us he has the fettuccine sauced with a thick alfredo and my soup is beef bouillon something. We eat what comes and get some ice cream for dessert. We love the ice cream and its’ availability. It is very good. A donation at the casino and time for bed again. Oh yeah we do stick our head in several shows and as my mother said if you can’t say something nice don’t say anything at all…enough said. Day 3 Day at Sea Another beautiful day at Sea. We enjoy to the max. Dinner at our table and I am anxious to spend some more time with our table mates. They won’t be joining us but they do have the courtesy to advise (as we did the night before) and so it is just the 2 of us and we have a lovely dinner. I do not remember what either of us had. We just enjoyed ourselves and the service was excellent. Day 4 Aruba We meet up with Pat and Scott, another couple we met onboard from Galveston Texas. We do a little shopping and then get a cab to Palm Beach. We go through some pretty tough spots on the way to the beach. It is very dry in Aruba and our driver advises that they have not had appreciable rain since February! The beach is nice but I would not rave over it (maybe that’s because we have very nice beach’s here) In any event we have a nice day. Pat and Scott advise that they have the late seating main floor and they are not going at all any more…too HOT…too bad because the Lido is less than satisfactory. When we get back to the ship we get ready for the Pinnacle. Our TA gave us a certificate good for dinner. We have reservations at 6:30. The setting is beautiful and we are introduced to our waiter. He is the only one we are ever introduced to. He did a fine job but I must say he did not out service Hance in the regular dining room. Sandy had the Crab Cakes. I do not remember what I had but I can tell you I wish I had the Crab Cakes. In this regard I have to fault our waiter as he never made any suggestions. He showed and described the meats but that was it for flair. We each had the Filet and I ordered Scalloped potatoes and Asparagus. Sandy had Mushrooms and Rice. All very pedestrian. Filets were cooked to perfection and presented beautifully. Taste not exceptional. Not even in my top ten for dinners which I think it should be. After all it’s called the Pinnacle! Desert? Sandy had baked Alaska and I had the chocolate molten volcano…that made the hairs stand up on the back of my neck. Day 5 Curacao A delight! Colorful and sights all around the ship where we docked. You could get right off and walk to shopping which we did. Or shall I say Sandy shopped and I took in the local color. There are beer gardens sprinkled all over town. It makes waiting very pleasant. The weather has been perfect every day and this is no exception. Dinner in the Rotterdam and we get reunited with our tablemates. We recap whats been going on and find that all is well for them too. I have the duck (my first time) I enjoy dinner very much and the wine even more. Service again outstanding and the maitr’d fills in for Winnie and does so very well. I must admit this is the first time I have seen a maitr’d serve table and I applaud them for pitching in this way… Day 6 Dominica This was the highlight of the trip. We booked with Beno on line. This island is so beautiful. I have over 200 photos. I will not try to describe what I have seen but will be posting pictures soon. Thank you Cruise Critic for the Beno tip. Our guide was Desmond so you don’t have to have Beno and you will still enjoy!!! Dinner in the Lido and no my first impression was not wrong. Same Chinese Fire drill. (no offense) Day 7 Day at Sea We have this down pat now…it does rain this day but it didn’t bother our reading or naps one bit. We really enjoy the spacious room. Again on this day our toilet works intermittently. They always come and fix it but what a job and frankly it embarrss’s me!!! Day 8 St. Thomas What is there to say here…I go to Snuba which is over by Coki Beach. I am with another Cruise Critic Tom and we have a great experience with Frank from VI Snuba. I get back and we walk to town for some shopping. I must say I do not enjoy this and always feel a little bit Carnied here. Sandy loves her jewelry and this is the price I pay to have such a great spouse. Gladly pay!!! Day 9 Half Moon Cay So much hype here…except it is not hype. If you love the beach this amazing. Sand like talcum powder and water crystal clear. We had a clam shell and I recommend that. We shared it with the Westerdam and I feared crowds but it really did not feel overwhelmed. The barbecue is a joke and a lot of work for the crew. Skip it or step it up with full time crew on the island. JMHO Day 10 boo hoo You all know this story so I shall skip it.Over,done kaput. Suffice to say we had a great cruise on a great ship with a great crew! This is my review of the Volendam. We are glad we sailed her and are thankful to all on the boards who helped us and led us to the best she has to offer. Oh yeah, the bar service was fantastic and we enjoyed Reggie in the Oceans bar especially. Best of luck to him in the future. I was a little disappointed in the HMC bar service. They did not seem too interested in serving here, but I can get my own drinks. They did not know what a Coco Loco was and at the main bar they only had Bacardi Limon rum???blechhh. My preference for Celebrity has a lot to do with the little things. HAL has a fine product and certainly outdistances X in many respects. It may have something to do with your first love. I did NOT spend the 10 days comparing to X. In any event, I spoke to many loyal X cruisers and not a convert to HAL in the bunch. I will say this, I am looking forward to a cruise on a Vista class ship, but that will be after a couple of doses of the X treatment again. I am glad for all the options and hope that everyone finds the line they LOVE… Now, how far until July 16th? J Link to comment Share on other sites More sharing options...
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