Let me start by saying this was my 14th cruise experience, and second on HAL. I had severe reservations about sailing on HAL again, as I had a bad experience with the Westerdam, where I purchased a "run-of-the-ship" booking, and ended up with the worst, noisiest cabin I have ever seen. Still, since the Volendam was a newer ship, and the cabins looked good on the Internet virtual tour, and I specifically booked an outside cabin with a large window, thinking this problem would be solved. Of course, when I get to my cabin, I have two portholes! Another problem which was not solved, and was in fact WORSE, was the overall inconsistency and lack of interesting activities and entertainment on this ship. My wife and I (and apparently many other cruisers, based upon complaints I've heard) enjoy Karaoke, both watching and performing. This ship had NO KARAOKE MACHINE on board, with one of the staff intimating to me that the majority of the passengers don't seem to mind (I read this to mean the predominantly older folks). There was also a passenger entertainment night on board. Since I sing and play piano, I was asked to participate, but with no rehearsal, and signups on the same day as the event, I declined. HAL simply does not see fit to involve passengers in the entertainment aspects of their cruises as much as Carnival, Royal and the other lines. Comedian/magician Leo Ward deserves mention, as he was simply excellent; the Volendam orchestra was very good, as well. They also had a very good piano singalong/name-that-tune feature in the piano bar with Ken Bevan. But some of the other entertainment left much to be desired - a juggler who often dropped balls, and a singing troupe that did a Tom Jones/Vegas-style tribute by singing Englebert Humperdinck songs! I spoke with cruise staff on these issues, and they explained that HAL contracts with another company, and any issues I had with the entertainment should be taken up with them. Totally unacceptable! In general, the cruise staff on HAL seems uninterested in providing a good time, and are inflexible as to the activities (for example - there was NO VOLLEYBALL on board the ship), as if to say "this is the way we do it, take it or leave it." All of the wait staff and service on HAL are attentive and excellent (perhaps, at times, too attentive - I often felt badgered into purchasing a drink!). Occasionally, the time gaps between courses at dinner were rather large, but the food was good (though, interestingly, not as much selection as on othe Westerdam cruise I took in Jan. 2001). Ports on the Wayfarer cruise were quite interesting, and while the excursions are expensive, we took them because of our unfamiliarity with the ports, and the assurance that we would be returned to the ship promptly. The catamaran cruise in St. Lucia deserves special mention. You get to see two ports (Castries and Soufriere), and it's a nice feature to have a tender pick you up after seeing the entire Island while sipping delicious free rum punches!
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