Review of

Holland America Lines' ms Volendam III

ms Volendam docked in St. Thomas, U.S.V.I. - Photo by K. Krenz


At Port Everglades in Ft. Lauderdale, FL, on Sunday November 7, 1999, one of Holland America Lines' newest additions to it's fleet arrived from Fincantieri Shipyard, Marghera, Italy. The ms Volendam carried workers, crew and staff members who were putting the final touches on this fabulous new ship. On Monday November 8, 1999, my wife, Maureen, and I were among the first passengers to sail onboard this, the largest ship of the Holland America fleet.

As soon as the ship's photographer snapped our photo we scurried up the gangway with excitement and anticipation because we would be among the first to view her interior. We walked onboard and were immediately greeted by the staff and escorted to our stateroom by a white-gloved, Dutch-uniformed, staff member. The first things I noticed were the vibrant, cheery, welcoming colors of the carpeting, walls and ceiling with its shiny brass highlights. Also strong in the air was the smell of "new," similar to that new car smell. This 2-day preview cruise impressed us so much we decided to choose this ship for our vacation. The article is based mainly on our 10-day "Exotic Cultures" Caribbean cruise onboard the ms Volendam.

What's new on the ms Volendam? Holland America offers some great new features on their new ships, and they added some of these same features to their existing fleet as well. As the ms Volendam is the largest ship in the fleet, she offers some new and exciting amenities. Alternative dining is just one of these features: For example, if you want a break from the ship's dining room for lunch or dinner, you can eat at the Marco Polo restaurant, featuring light Italian entrees made to order. The Marco Polo looks just like you've walked off Park Avenue into a fine New York City restaurant, and is a great place to celebrate a special occasion or just dine alone with your partner or newfound friends. Reservations are required at the Marco Polo (except for lunch, which seats on a first-come, first-served basis). In this area of the ship, you would not even know that you are dining onboard a cruise ship-you are transcended to another place and time-it's a good break from the normal cruise routine. The menu here remains similar through out your cruise so dining here is desirable once maybe twice during your cruise. Remember: reservations for the Marco Polo should be made early on during your cruise, because space fills up quickly.

 

 

 

Maureen and I dine in quiet luxury in the Marco Polo restaurant.


The other optional dining feature now offered on all Holland America's ships is the Lido Restaurant, onboard the Volendam. The Lido Restaurant is open in the evening between 6:30 and 8:30 for casual dining (though times will vary with certain cruise Itineraries). During the evening in the Lido Restaurant, the normal cafeteria style tables are dressed elegantly with white linen, candles and place settings. Since this was a new feature on our cruise, many passengers were not aware that they could dine in the Lido Restaurant, so my wife and I spent our first formal dining night here, along with about 12 other passengers who also learned about this wonderful new feature. The dress code is casual--we saw everything from a jogging suit to a tux--and we found this to be a very quiet and romantic place to dine. In fact there was a gentleman tickling the ivories just for us from the restaurant's grand piano. (Being serenaded by a piano player is another wonderful amenity found on every Holland America ship during casual dining. )

This new casual dining feature is a great change of pace for those of us who don't like the hustle and bustle of the mass-market cruise line dining rooms. Throughout my many years of cruising I have found dining rooms onboard most ships to be quite noisy--I've grown tired of shouting in order to have a conversation with my fellow table mates. Just watching the waiters and busboys running around constantly can create a very hectic dining experience. I personally enjoy this new-found dining freedom that many of the cruise lines are beginning to offer. This new solitude of dining in the Marco Polo or the Lido Restaurant is perfect for my tastes, and surely it will keep others, and myself, coming back to Holland America. We enjoyed this new feature so much that we dined twice in the Marco Polo, and three times in the Lido Restaurant. My feelings regarding alternative dining, as stated, is a personal opinion. I do know that many passengers book a cruise for the formal dining experience and love the ambiance of the main dining room.

Both the ms Volendam and her newest sister ship, the ms Zaandam, have a larger Lido Restaurant. Included in the newer features of this extended Lido are a sandwich station/omelet station and expanded soup and salad bar area. When we didn't have breakfast in our stateroom, we enjoyed freshly squeezed orange juice from a crazy contraption where oranges go in one end and juice comes out the other. I enjoyed this juice with a freshly made to order omelet and other fine breakfast goodies.

 

 

Our category B stateroom onboard the ms Volendam.

This was a perfect choice for our tastes. - Photo by K. Krenz


For our personal vacation we choose a category B stateroom, which has a veranda, where we could enjoy the mini-suite qualities of this stateroom. Don't get me wrong, a standard Category B veranda cabin is considered a mini-suite, and the complimentary personalized stationary attested to this. Our Stateroom was a spacious 288 square feet with a queen size bed that converts to a twin, a large couch, chairs, a coffee table that you can raise and lower to meet your needs, and a 20-inch TV with VCR. Many movies, both new and old, are complimentary and available for veranda suite guests. Also found in this mini-suite is a stocked refrigerator and honor bar with treats. The spacious bathroom features a bath tub/shower with whirlpool and is stocked with plenty of soaps, shampoos, conditioners and body lotions.

The veranda features a nice aluminum framed lounge chair with a matching chair and coffee table. Holland America's verandas are very spacious compared to standard verandas found on some of the other major cruise lines. Yes, you may pay a little more, but you will receive a much better value in the long run. Veranda prices might look more attractive with other lines, but they are not equal. For example, on other competing lines the veranda is only furnished with two plastic chairs and a plastic table giving you enough space to sit--not really to stretch out. To get the same amount of space a category B standard veranda on Holland America would have, your client would need to buy up a few categories, or buy at the suite level, paying more to get the same space. So if you want to spend a lot of time out on your veranda, you're more likely to satisfy your needs on a Holland America Line ship. I enjoyed the extra legroom on our veranda, and found myself napping often on the lounge chair.

Another great feature of our category B stateroom was the ceiling to floor glass windows and glass door that span the whole width of the stateroom. On this class of ship the balcony bulwark is made up of clear tinted safety glass, so virtually nothing obscures your view of the ocean/ports. The only thing that may get in your way is the teak railing. We enjoyed the view from our mini-suite immensely and kept the curtains open night and day--there is nothing like rolling over and waking up to a spectacular panoramic view!

The standard staterooms on the ms Volendam and ms Zaandam are also very spacious. We were assigned to one of these staterooms during our 2-day preview cruise. The average size of a standard ocean view stateroom is around 196 square feet. This makes Holland America Lines staterooms much larger than the industry average. In fact, you will find these rooms similar in size to staterooms including balconies on some other cruise ships. The ocean view cabins offer the same wonderful features that are found in the veranda cabins, minus the veranda, VCR, refrigerator/honor bar, and whirlpool jets in the bathtub. The inside cabins are slightly smaller and have a shower instead of a bathtub. All staterooms are equipped with a safe, hair dryer, clothesline in the bathroom and plenty of drawer and closet space.

Also new to the ms Volendam and ms Zaandam is the Cyber Café. Here many computer terminals connect you to the Internet for the latest stock quotes, or you can e-mail a picture of your new tan to family and friends back home. Yes, cruising has jumped into the 21st century!

Both the ms Volendam and ms Zaandam are laid out similar to other ships in the Holland America fleet built since the ms Statendam. For those passengers who have cruised on these Holland America ships, he/she will feel right at home. Since the ms Volendam and ms Zaandam are longer than the other Holland America ships, the aft outside pool area has been expanded and offers more space for those of you wishing to catch up on your tan. The sunning area has been expanded up to the sports deck to make one of the largest sunning areas found on a Holland America ship. If you still want a shaded area don't fret--the Lido pool midship is still covered by a large sliding dome for inclement weather, and offers a shaded area.

The three-deck high glass centerpiece titled "Caleido" located in the atrium.

- photo by K. Krenz


Located at the Lido pool are the hot tubs/whirlpools, Dolphin Bar and the Terrace Grill, which serves pizza, sausage, hotdogs and hamburgers in short order fashion--not in warming trays. I like my fries hot and crisp, so I was never disappointed. Also located here is a taco, salad and "fixin's" bar. A short walk aft is the Lido Restaurant, serving one of the best breakfast or lunch buffets afloat. When you enter the receiving line for lunch, a small menu card is handed out so you know what is being served ahead of time. It was nice to break away from the pool in the afternoon to go to the Lido Restaurant for a refreshing ice cream cone or sundae with all of the fixings from the complimentary ice cream bar.

Another new feature by the Lido pool is a blackjack table, for those of you who can't break away from the pool to head to the Casino. It was interesting watching fellow shipmates gamble in their swimwear.

One deck above the Lido pool is the Sports Deck. Here are the paddle tennis courts, shuffleboard, jogging area, and one of my favorite features of a Holland America line ship, the Crow's Nest lounge. This glass-enclosed lounge, located over 100 feet above the waterline, offers a bridge-eye panoramic view of the world as you cruise by. Maureen and I can always be found in this lounge when we want to get away from the heat on deck. Three interior design themes are present here, one masculine (similar to a hunt club), one feminine (with a floral design similar to a solarium) and the other, well, somewhere in-between and more contemporary. Our favorite area was in this contemporary styled area located dead center, overlooking the bow of the ship. In this area are brushed leather lounge chairs with hassocks. It was nice to sit back, put our feet up and take in the spectacular panoramic ocean view. This lounge is usually a very quiet place to read and relax, though later in the evening the Crow's Nest transforms into a nightclub for passengers who are night owls.

While we were cruising between Roseau and Cabrits, Dominica one afternoon, we were relaxing in the Crow's Nest while being served "Dutch High Tea," along with other wonderful goodies. While we were sipping tea and snacking, we enjoyed the breathtaking view of Dominica's dramatic and pristine landscape passing by. High tea is just another wonderful feature your clients will enjoy while cruising onboard a Holland America ship.

Below the Crow's Nest on the Lido Deck is the Ocean Spa Gym, where you can ride a stationery bike, walk a treadmill, take an aerobics' class or lift weights while taking in the panoramic ocean view. Also located here is a small seating area, beauty salon, sauna and massage.

 

 

"Limin" in the Crow's Nest enjoying the panoramic bridge-eye view of the Caribbean. - Photo by M. Krenz


The two decks below the Lido is where the heartbeat of the evening's entertainment takes center stage, the Upper Promenade Deck and the Promenade Deck. The Frans Hals Lounge brings you the latest in Broadway entertainment. On all sailings in 2000, exclusive feature shows will be presented such as "Barry Manilow's Copacabana" extravaganza and "Dick Clark's New Year's Rockin' Eve," where passengers will be invited to participate in celebrating the millennium once again. Designed after a theater in Amsterdam, the Frans Hals showroom sparkles with the evening's entertainment--literally. Woven into the comfortable couches and chairs is a metallic thread that shimmers with the showroom's lighting. Two large circular staircases will bring you up to the balcony if you desire a birds-eye view.

Maureen and I participated in the "Dick Clark's New Year's Rockin' Eve" event. To be honest with you, I thought that this would be just mediocre entertainment, but I was pleasantly surprised to find an audience participation show with plenty of generous give-aways to the many who participated--and almost everyone participated. We won a beautiful Delft Holland America Millennium plate, which I proudly display at home.

On the Upper Promenade Deck you will find the Gift Shops/Shopping Arcade, Casino and Casino/Sports Bar, the Ocean Bar (where a dance band can always be found before going to the dining room), the Seaview Lounge and Piano Bar, and the Explorer's Lounge (where one can enjoy complimentary hand-made chocolates, non-alcoholic coffee beverages, and listen to the Rosario strings). Also on this deck is the upper level of the Rotterdam Dining Room, where you can descend the grand staircase to make a "showy" entrance during formal nights in this two-level dining room.

Found on the Promenade Deck is the main level of the Frans Hals Lounge, the Photo Gallery, Front Office, Shore Excursion desk, Java Café (where you are served complementary specialty coffees), Wajang Theatre, Marco Polo Restaurant and the Video Arcade.

I do want to mention one of the more interesting places onboard, the Skyroom, found aft on the Sports Deck of the ms Volendam. This is a private area for youth and children to gather. The floral theme of this room is prevalent throughout the ms Volendam. The large surreal painting, floral carpeting and sculptures in this area will transcend you to a childhood fantasyland.

Like all Holland America ships, the ms Volendam is filled with artwork both old and new. When I cruise with Holland America I always find myself taking time to appreciate the artwork. Art is not only found displayed in cases or hanging on the walls, on the ms Volendam it can be found as the beautifully crafted marble table found in the Library, or the three-deck high glass centerpiece titled "Caleido" located in the atrium. "Caleido" has received many unusual comments, and I have to admit that this work threw me off for a while. But around day 7 of our cruise, while I was waiting for my wife at the front desk, I began to understand the sculpture. Most everyone looks at this colorful glass cylinder and just sees a tall colorful glass cylinder, but the true focus of this piece is the whole Atrium area. While standing in vicinity of the front desk, look toward the staircase. The wall behind it is lined with thousands of small mirrored rectangles, and I realized that these mirrors come alive with the colors reflected from the centerpiece. As I started to pace back and forth watching this colorful show, I drew a small crowd of curious passersby with whom I shared my discovery. I guess as the cruise was "de-stressing" me--my mind opened, and my focus changed. I think there is a lesson to be learned from this work of art, we sometimes focus on tree/object/person/instrument rather than looking at the beauty of a forest/city skyline/human race/symphony.

All of Holland America's ships feature a wide wrap-around teak deck on the lower promenade. Here many passengers are found walking after eating a hearty breakfast in the mornings. So many cushioned teak lounge/deck chairs line this deck that you will never have to worry about searching for a place to relax. This teak deck is so wide that you will never have to worry about being disturbed by someone bumping into your chair--you can read or nap comfortably while listening to the sound of the ship cutting through the ocean. As with all Holland America ships, this area reminds me of photos taken from the great ocean liners of a by gone era. Sometimes I walk this deck late in the evening and find myself the only passenger here. During these times I daydream of the romantic days of ocean crossings when great steamships were the only means of traveling to exotic places--the first stage in starting a new beginning.

Yes, Holland America Line may seem more expensive up front, but this line is in a class unequal to the other mass-market lines. You will experience more personal space per passenger, larger cabins and more amenities compared with any other mass-market cruise line. Also the other misnomer is that this line is only for older people. I've been cruising with Holland America Line since I was 35, and find it to be the best kept secret in the cruise market for clients my age, and for the young at heart. Because most Holland America ships hold fewer passengers than ships of a similar size, you will find more privacy and quiet areas when you want a respite from all of the fun happenings onboard.

Kristopher Krenz, MCC

Additional Photos of the ms Volendam (click on the names below)

The Rotterdam Restaurant

Lower Promenade Deck

The Penthouse Suite

The Lido Pool

The Lido Restaurant

The Explorer's Lounge

 

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