This cruise formed the second week of our holiday which had already included visits to some of our favourite places in Canada, and a 2 day trip on the Rocky Mountaineer - so it had a lot of competition to contend with even before we left Vancouver. This was our first time with Holland America, and first impressions of the ship were very favourable. All of the public areas were beautifully presented with comfortable furniture, paintings and a sprinkling of antiques, giving the ship a feeling of restrained luxury. We dined mainly in the main restaurant aboard in the evenings, although table service was also available here for breakfast. The buffet restaurants served a wide variety of regional dishes, reflecting the origins of the main elements of the crew. It would be difficult not to find something to please most palates. The situation of these restaurants on the higher decks, with large picture windows, meant that nothing had to be missed at meal times! Our stateroom was comfortable with a large picture window, ample storage and a range of facilities including a DVD player and access to an extensive range of free films from the ship's library - not that there was either the time or inclination to take advantage of this facility.
But the real stars of this cruise were the scenery, the wildlife, and the range of excursions offered. From Juneau, whale watching and rainforest adventure (whale sightings were guaranteed) followed by a trek through possible bear country to Mendenhall Lake at the foot of Mendenhall Glacier. The Red Dog Saloon was an attraction not to be missed before returning to the ship. At Skagway, we opted for the White Pass and Yukon Route railway excursion over one of the 2 passes into the Yukon territory, built to serve prospectors pursuing their dreams of gold and wealth in the late 1890s. A fabulous trip but possibly not for people suffering from vertigo. Amazing scenery and enthusiastic on board commentary. THe highlight of this cruise, however, was the entry into and cruise up to Glacier Bay. Huge snow capped peaks all around stretching into the distance, and getting up so close to the main glaciers, listening to the movement and cracking of the ice (white thunder) and small calving of floes into the water around the ship, handy resting places for the Stellar Sea Lions in the bay.
Our last port of call in Alaska was Ketchikan, "the rainfall capital of North America" where rain is measured in feet rather than inches. However, on this particular day, the sun shone out of a cloudless sky all day. Very significant First Nations presence in the area and Creek Street was not to be missed, particularly as there was still a large run of salmon making for thir spawning grounds further upstream. The Inside Passage cruise back to Vancouver rewarded with more sea lions, sea otters and schools of dolphins/porpoises attracted to the ship.
Would we cruise with Hollland America again? Most definitely. The Volendam was avery elegant ship with extensive facilities, daytime activities and varied entertainment in the evenings.
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Times cruised before: 6-10 Sailed: September, 2010
Quality of Food
We ate mostly in the Rotterdam Restaurant - the main restaurant on the ship. Absolutely no complaints about the quality or variety of the food on board.
The variety of acts - and venues - on board meant there was always something that you would want to see.
Best was undoubtedly whale watching (including watching a sea eagle catching a fish right beside the boat). Least favourite, although still very interesting was Saxman Native Village in Ketchican, but probably becuase I was expecting more.
All the crew were unfailingly polite and helpful. However, I'd have to say the bridge staff who pointed out the presence of wildlife on a regular basis throughout the cruise.