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Volendam

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When it launched in 1999, Volendam had the highest passenger capacity in Holland America's fleet, carrying some 1,432 passengers at double occupancy. And, in a move that seems quaint now, it proved its modernity by being the first ship in the fleet to boast a dedicated internet centre.

Volendam has come a long way since then -- attested by the dozens of plaques along a Deck 4 corridor, picked up from ports around the world. Through the years, dry docks added many improvements, and a late 2017 dry dock will bring more upgrades, including completing the refurbishment of every cabin bathroom.

Jazzy refurbs aside, Volendam is a classic, old-school cruise ship, which still maintains the tradition of dress-up nights. You won't find climbing walls, ziplines or other bells and whistles offered by the new mega-ships. Instead there are cooking demonstrations via America's Test Kitchen, trivia contests, tech classes and some of the best location experts at sea. You might say that Volendam is the perfect "Goldilocks ship" -- big enough to offer plenty of activities and enrichment, but not so big that you get lost in the crowd.

The ship's service is phenomenal, a hallmark of Holland America. Wait staff and cabin stewards are primarily Indonesian and Filipino; most officers are European, with many coming from Holland. Restaurant staff provide polished service, yet also have a sense of humour. You'll be greeted by every crew member you pass, whether a cabin steward or a painter.

Daytime dress on Volendam is resort casual and goes even more casual in Alaska, where standard port-day clothes include jeans, hiking boots and sweatshirts. However, beachwear, distressed jeans and men's tank tops are never permitted in the fine-dining restaurants.

Evening dress ranges from smart-casual to very dressy. Informal nights tend toward country-club casual, with women in slacks or skirts and nice tops and men in collared or button-down shirts and khakis. You can wear neat jeans in the fine-dining restaurants on informal nights, but shorts are never allowed at dinner. This is a traditional ship, so there are typically two "gala nights" on seven-night cruises and three on 10-night cruises. On gala nights, men are required (at minimum) to wear collared shirts and slacks in the fine-dining venues; jackets and ties are recommended. We even spotted some men in tuxedos (you can rent them onboard, so step it up, guys!). Dresses, skirts and slacks are all appropriate gala attire for women, who tend to go more glam than the men. Cocktail dresses are common, and there will be a few who go all-out in long gowns. This is definitely the time to show off your sequins and statement jewellery!

Theatre

The Frans Hals Theater is located at the front of Deck 4, with balcony seating on Deck 5. Lower-level seating is in armchairs and banquettes, with cocktail tables, while balcony seating is theatre-style. Decor is in warm reds, oranges and rust. It's home to nightly live shows, at 7 and 10 p.m., as well as enrichment and port lectures, bingo and, in the case of our Asian cruise, tai chi and chi gong classes during the day.

Live evening shows featured four singers and six dancers, and varied from a production that focused on classical music to an international dance show to U.K. pop to a rather odd dreamscape called "Droom." The dancers were excellent, and so were most of the singers. On other nights, a competent comedic magician, string duo, solo crooner, concert pianist, flautist and an embarrassingly bad comedy pair entertained. One night was reserved for "Frozen Planet Live," a BBC nature video production, accompanied by a group of live musicians. And we can't forget the perennial Holland America Line favourite -- the once-per-cruise crew show, with folkloric presentations from the native countries of these hardworking individuals.

We thought the port lectures, delivered by the onboard Location Guide, were excellent. He had plenty of tips and insights for independent travellers, including top sights and explanations of local transportation systems -- particularly important on our Asian itinerary. The guest enrichment lecturer, who spoke about Chinese history, drew standing-room only audiences with his excellent presentations.

Beginning in October 2017, the new Explorations Central (EXC) program will be in place on Volendam, including guide talks about local customs; encounters with local cultural representatives who come onboard to offer demonstrations and information on etiquette, language, food and other cultural aspects; and a dedicated EXC stateroom TV channel featuring destination documentaries.

Daily Fun

Daytime activities include trivia contests, bingo and art auctions with raffles and giveaways. Once during each cruise, there is a gallery tour and a backstage tour of the theatre, which includes a chat with the cast. Both are fun and fascinating. Meet-ups for checker and Scrabble players, Ping-Pong aficionados and shuffleboard mavens are announced in the daily bulletin. And, of course, there are the usual "lectures" and pamper parties from spa and shop personnel.

On sea days, there is also a daily free 45-minute live cooking demonstration by the America's Test Kitchen host, who cooks two themed dishes (themes include salmon, chocolate, chillies, meatless meals and Italian flavours) and provides great tips about techniques and ingredients. High-quality colour recipe cards are free with each session. The same host offers a hands-on workshop for eight participants about once a week ($39, except for 5-star Mariners). We took part in both types of America's Test Kitchen events and thought the program was excellent.

In partnership with Microsoft, the Digital Workshop offers free, 50-minute programs on all things tech. Topics include Skype, digital cameras and how to edit photos; some sessions focus on questions and answers.

At Night

This isn't the sort of ship for glow parties -- instead you'll find an activity like a nightly movie, screened in the 125-seat Wajang Theater. On our cruise, a Location Host offered evening cultural lectures, including the history of Japanese manga, Chinese customs, dim sum and ramen. Holland America is experimenting with adding a second location expert; his presence was definitely helpful on our itinerary.

The casino offers more than 60 slots, Texas Hold'em and 3-card poker tables, roulette, lotto and five blackjack tables. Tournaments include slots and Texas Hold'em.


Volendam Bars and Lounges

The bar and lounge scene is fairly mellow on Volendam, with choices to fit your tastes, whether you like to peacefully sip a martini, listen to a combo or hit the dance floor. Don't expect techno raves from this crowd!

Crow's Nest (Deck 9, forward): Perched high atop the ship, with great views through its arc of floor-to-ceiling windows, this is the ship's largest lounge. One side has a seating area with tables and chairs for conversations or playing games. The forward-facing windows are lined with armchairs for those who want to watch the ship's progress. And the starboard side has a large dance floor with a bandstand and big-screen TV. In the centre of it all is the round bar. Decor is in shades of purple, blue and orange. The house band or DJ entertains here in the evening, but there are also evening trivia contests, too.

Lido Bar (Deck 8, midship): This is the go-to spot for lido loungers, and also serves Lido Market customers who bring their food out to the deck. Self-serve beverage stations also offer complimentary pitchers of water, lemonade and iced tea.

Sea View Bar (Deck 8, aft): This small bar serves the outside pool and fleet of loungers at the back of the ship. It's only open when the pool area is active.

Ocean Bar (Deck 5, forward): A lively spot for pre-dinner cocktails, this bar features a trio that entertains from early evening until after-dinner hours. Comfy club chairs and tables surround a small dance floor. Floor-to-ceiling windows make this a popular daytime hangout, too.

Mix (Deck 5, midship): This eclectic trio of bars is located next to the casino. The sports bar is the place to go if you're looking to tip a microbrew and watch some action. On our cruise, March Madness finals drew an enthusiastic audience. The plush martini bar offers nearly 20 different concoctions, as well as a flight. The Champagne bar, located somewhat incongruously next to the piano bar, serves wines by the glass or bottle. In the evenings, the piano bar might host a sing-along and in the daytime, there could be a martini tasting. A row of low tables and cushy grey velvet armchairs along the window side of this bar is nearly always occupied by readers, ocean-gazers and people-watchers; they're the perfect spot to do all three.

Explorations Cafe (Deck 5, aft): One of our favourite spots on Volendam, this lounge holds the ship's large library, and offers jigsaw puzzles, board games and computer access. The leather lounge chairs with footstools are the perfect place to relax and watch the world float by. Or curl up in a leather club chair with a good book and a cappuccino from the espresso bar. Something about the place really does make you feel like you're in a private club for explorers, as you page through a coffee-table book plotting your next adventure.

Explorer's Lounge (Deck 5, aft): This lounge with orange tub chairs arrayed around low tables seems to have less personality than the others onboard -- though the larger, window-side armchairs are popular during the daytime. It serves wine, cocktails and Champagne, and has piano entertainment in the evening.

Neptune Lounge (Deck 7, midship): Available only to Neptune and Pinnacle suite denizens, this small lounge offers a living-room style seating area, with big-screen TV, library and refreshments. An array of snacks and hors d'oeuvres is served throughout the day, and an honour bar is available. One of the best perks is the onsite concierge, who can make reservations and ensure you'll never have to stand in line at the reception desk.


Volendam Outside Recreation

Pools

The rectangular main pool (open 7 a.m. to 10 p.m.) and its leaping dolphin sculpture are located on the Lido Deck (Deck 8), midship. Next to it are two octagonal hot tubs (open 9 a.m. to 10 p.m.). Double rows of loungers face the pool, while tables and chairs are tucked under the Deck 9 overhang. The Lido's glass roof opens to the sky on warm days. (Beware, the noise when it starts sliding open will make you jump.)

The oval Sea View pool (open 7 a.m. to 10 p.m.), located on a broad outdoor swath of the same deck, aft, is the spot for sun-worshippers. It's accompanied by a large contingent of loungers, as well as tables with wicker chairs. One section of tables, protected from the elements, is designated for smokers. The pool itself is surrounded by shallow water and a wooden bench, for those who might like to sit with their feet in the water.

Recreation

Volendam's recreation options are fairly basic. On the Sports Deck (Deck 9, aft) you'll find a practice basketball court on one side and a reduced-size tennis court on the other. Forward are four shuffleboard courts. In the shaded area of the Lido Deck, two Ping-Pong tables got a lot of use on our cruise.

Sun Decks

In addition to the numerous loungers to be found around the pools, there are also loungers on Deck 9, where the scene is quieter. When the weather warrants, additional loungers are set up on Deck 10, forward, at the front of the ship. Despite a glass windbreak, breezes can be strong up there, though.


Volendam Services

Avid bridge players can be found in the ship's Hudson Room (Deck 5, midship), where there are 10 tables. This room also hosts daily Catholic mass, Jewish Sabbath Eve services and Sunday interdenominational religious services. Reception and the shore excursions desk are located on Deck 4, midship, as is the photo gallery and art auction gallery. The ship's shopping area, on Deck 5, midship, hosts boutiques selling Holland America Line logo items, ranging from Teddy bears to T-shirts to tote bags, a small selection of Joseph Ribkoff resort wear, makeup and perfume, high-end jewellery and watches, cigarettes and alcohol, a nice selection of drugstore sundries, and costume jewellery. An area between the Explorer's Cafe and Explorations Lounge hosts two desks where you can inquire about and book future cruises.

Wi-Fi for purchase by the minute ($.75) or in multi-minute packages ($55 for 100 minutes; $100 for 250 minutes; $175 for 500 minutes; $250 for 1,000 minutes) is available throughout the ship, and was generally reliable, though sometimes slow. However we found it expensive, compared to the pricing on some other lines. You can also connect, using your purchased minutes, via 12 computers (including one set up for wheelchair users) in the Explorations Cafe. Thanks to a partnership with The New York Times, you can access the newspaper's website for free.

We were particularly pleased with the easy-to-navigate, no-fee portion of the ship's Wi-Fi service, which included the daily schedule and the opportunity to create our own daily itinerary, choosing from the available activities. You can also check your ship's account, investigate shore excursion options and explore onboard venues.

Spa

The Greenhouse Spa, on Deck 8, is operated by Steiner and offers an array of pampering treatments (with seven treatment rooms) and salon services at prices comparable to other spas, both at sea and on land. Elemis products (the same line as cabin toiletries) are featured. Facials and massages start at $119, while a Thai herbal poultice massage ($195) or a longer Aroma Spa Seaweed Massage ($259) will cost you more. Manicures (from $29), pedicures (from $45) and hair care (from $29) are available in the salon. Special services for men include shaves (from $45), a facial ($119), MANicure ($29) and beard trim-up ($15). Waxing and teeth-whitening are offered for both sexes. As is the case with most shipboard spas, be on the lookout for daily specials, sampler combos and shore day deals.

Access to the spa's thermal suite costs $40 for a day pass -- or you can add it to any treatment for $20. It includes heated ceramic loungers; a heated, mineralized hydropool; and two steam rooms.

We thoroughly enjoyed our treatment, as did every other passenger we spoke with. Just remember, through your blissful daze, that a 15 percent tip is automatically added to all services.

Fitness

Volendam passengers on a strict exercise regimen will be hard-put to offer excuses if they allow their routine to lapse while onboard. Located forward on Lido Deck (Deck 8) is the large and well-equipped gym, with a wide range of equipment including Cybex weight machines, free weights, exercise balls, seven treadmills, four stationary bikes, seven bikes for spin classes, five ellipticals and two rowing machines, which can be used while watching one of the flat-screen TVs or while gazing through the wall of windows at the unfolding scenery from the bow. An aerobics section is also included in the gym, featuring daily classes; Pilates, yoga and spin instruction are available for $12 per class. Free classes are also held here and in the Crow's Nest lounge. Examples include "morning stretch," "fab abs" and "total body conditioning." Athletic trainers are on hand to provide professional health consultations and screenings for a fee. The fitness centre is open from 6 a.m. to 9 p.m., and is restricted to passengers 16 and over. An adult must accompany teens 16 to 18 years old.

There is a small jogging circuit on the Sports Deck (12 laps equal 1 mile) and the Lower Promenade Deck is popular for walking laps (3.5 laps equal 1 mile).

You won't go hungry on this ship! Dining options are plentiful, from poolside burgers to afternoon tea to hearty late-night snacks, not to mention its three restaurants and complimentary 24-hour room service.

A few years back, Holland America departed from its focus on traditional continental cuisine, to introduce a choice of foods more in keeping with the ship's itinerary. Don't worry, you'll certainly still be able to get your grilled steak or salmon -- but also items like sushi, noodle bowls, Indian dal and grilled bockwurst. We particularly enjoyed the regional dishes served on our Asian itinerary.

The line takes the needs of vegetarian, vegan and gluten-intolerant diners seriously. If you have dietary restrictions of any kind, consider contacting the Ship Services Department prior to cruising to discuss your needs.

The main dining room provides a special 22-dish menu of vegetarian and vegan appetizers, salads, soups and mains, created by Master Chef Rudi Sodamin. Additionally, 30 more vegetarian dishes rotate throughout the Lido buffet and main dining room menus. On top of that, the main dining room offers a vegetarian choice in every course of its regular dinner menu.

The galley stocks gluten-free bread, waffles, muffins, hot dog and hamburger buns, pasta and pre-made desserts and will do its best to cater to gluten-free diners -- however, there is a small risk of cross-contamination since there isn't a separate, sealed gluten-free galley. For those with restricted sugar intake, sugar-free desserts are available at every restaurant, and more extensive low-carb and diabetic options are available on request.

On sea days, all passengers can have breakfast, lunch and dinner at the Lido Market buffet or in the main Rotterdam Dining Room, and the specialty Pinnacle Grill is open for lunch and dinner. On port days, lunch service in the main dining room and Pinnacle Grill is suspended.

Tip: Want to add some zing to your food? Request some spicy, flavorful sambal sauce; it's kept onboard for Indonesian and Dutch crew.

Free Dining

Rotterdam Dining Room (Decks 4 and 5): The Rotterdam Dining Room, located aft, fills two stories, with the second-level balcony overlooking the main level on Deck 4. Decor is old-school cruise ship glam, with elaborate chandeliers and a ceiling of star-like twinkling lights. The predominant colours are blue and gold, with the service staff dressed in white jackets. The restaurant's upper level has plenty of tables for two, while larger groups tend to be seated on the lower level.

At breakfast (8 to 9:30 a.m.) and lunch (noon to 1 p.m.), the restaurant is open-seating, and singles will be invited to join others at a table, if they'd like. At dinnertime (5:15 to 9 p.m.), you have two choices. Passengers opting for traditional dining can book one of two dinner seatings: 5:45 p.m. or 8 p.m. The other alternative is the ship's "As You Wish" flexible dining program. Those choosing this option can make reservations ahead of time (up until 4 p.m. the day of) or simply walk in between 5:15 and 9 p.m. We noticed that, during peak dining times, there was often a small line of diners without reservations waiting to be seated. You're better off making a reservation; you'll check-in separately from those without reservations and be whisked to your table.

For a leisurely breakfast, the Rotterdam is delightful. The extensive menu includes 11 cold cereals and four hot ones. You can also go light, with a fruit parfait or three spa selections, like muesli or a veggie frittata. But if your motto is "go big or go home," try one of three eggs Benedict options (our Dungeness crab version was delicious), a full English breakfast or a hearty skillet -- there's one for meat-and-potatoes lovers, and one with a Southwestern flair for vegetarians. If carbs are your thing, opt for the Belgian waffles, pancakes or banana-bread French toast. Want something really different? On Asia sailings, try the "Pan-Asian Breakfast" of miso soup, rice, broiled salmon and Japanese omelette (tamagoyaki). Note: If you order starter-type items, like fruit, your breakfast will be served in two courses.

At lunch, served only on sea days, you'll find starters, including soups and salads; and a half-dozen mains, usually including a couple of sandwich options, a fish dish, a meat dish, a pasta and a vegetarian option. There's also an "Express Combo," pairing your choice of two options (black bean soup and a mini avocado and bacon burger, for example). Deserts include four plated items (lemon meringue pie with strawberry sauce was the perfect prelude to an afternoon nap) and a choice of ice creams. While lunch choices here are limited when compared to the vast Lido Market buffet, it's also much quieter.

Dinner brings an extensive menu of signature dishes (onion soup, Caesar salad, New York strip steak, grilled salmon and roast chicken), which are permanent favourites as well as a changing menu of seven starters, seven main courses and four or more desserts. We enjoyed appetizers like grilled lamb kebabs with cool yoghurt-cucumber sauce and creative soups like Korean dak kalgusku (made with knife-cut noodles, shredded chicken and aromatic vegetables). You'll also find more traditional items like mushroom and wild rice chowder or shrimp brochettes. Fresh fish is on the menu whenever it's obtainable, and we enjoyed a variety of seafood on our cruise. While grilled salmon was perfectly cooked, a dish billed as "tempura" arrived in a heavy fish-and-chips style batter, rather than the lighter tempura preparation; an order of soft-shell crab had the same issue. Meat tended to fare better, with steak perfectly cooked to order (although the New York strip could stand to be thicker). Chicken dishes were consistently juicy, and pork and lamb mains were also delicious. For traditionalists, there were dishes like prime rib and beef bourguignonne; for the adventurous, quail with apricot bread stuffing and port wine sauce. Modifications and special requests were never an issue. Service was excellent; if a waiter noticed a dish wasn't pleasing a diner, it was instantly whisked away and replaced. Desserts were tempting with chocolate cakes, tarts and puddings adding the most to our waistline. For non-chocoholics, the galley makes a mean strudel. Thankfully, dessert portions are on the small side, so you can order without too much guilt. A cheese plate is also available, with fairly mundane selections.

Afternoon tea is served daily here, at 3 p.m. Servers circulate with trays of tempting treats, including scones, finger sandwiches and mini-pastries and tarts.

Tip: Be aware that Deck 4 doesn't go straight through from bow to stern; if you're heading to the dining room from the front of the ship, you'll have to go up to Deck 5 (or down to Deck 3) and walk for a bit before you can return to Deck 4 again to get to the dining room.

Lido Market (Deck 8): This buffet restaurant is a wonderland of choices, serving breakfast (as early as 5:30 a.m. on shore days; from 7 to 10 a.m. on sea days), lunch (11:30 a.m. to 2 p.m.), a more limited late lunch (2 to 5 p.m.), dinner (5:30 to 8 p.m.) and late-night snacks (10:30 to 11:30 p.m.).

There are two serving lines and two seating areas, located on either side of the ship. Seating can also be found on the central lido deck or outside next to the aft pool area. On our cruise, it was always a bit difficult to find a table at breakfast and lunch, because it was usually too chilly for folks to eat outdoors. The bustling restaurant is bright and airy, with floor-to-ceiling windows lining either side. Decor is in tones of light sea green and peach, with bright, modern glass lighting, and colourful mosaic tiles backing the walls behind the serving lines.

"Marketplace" is an apt name, because at breakfast, you'll likely hop from station to station, getting a server to cook you a made-to-order omelette, an egg over-easy, some French toast, a full English breakfast -- or even a bowl of Asian congee, with the add-ins of your choice. There is a bounty of dangerously delicious breads, muffins, bagels, croissants and pastries -- though we kept expecting the luscious caramel-pecan sticky buns to be warm. Smoked salmon, kippers, bangers, bacon and more can be had on the side. And you'll also find cold cuts, cheeses, cereals, fruit and veggies. While you may need to wait a few minutes for your cooked-to-order item, we far prefer this system to buffet items that have been sitting for who knows how long. If you're in a huge rush, though, you can help yourself to some scrambled eggs, sides and the breads.

Lunch brings a popular salad bar with two-dozen ingredients, including meats, cheeses and lots of fresh veggies. You don't help yourself, though, but rather tell a server what you'd like. This was our go-to lunch; the only annoying thing was the salad bowl, which is high on one side and low on the other, making it a messy proposition to toss your salad. There's also a server-manned pasta bar, with several sauces, two types of pasta and 18 possible add-ins including mushrooms, onions, cheese, meats, peppers and more. We thoroughly enjoyed a special "choose your own ingredients" Asian noodle soup option offered one day. And the pizza guy can serve you three different kinds of pies. Sushi? Yep, several different types of rolls. At the carvery section, you can pick up a slice of turkey breast, leg of lamb, roasted strip loin or pork, depending on the day. There's also a different carvery sandwich each day. Five daily main courses include fish, chicken and red-meat choices, plus pasta and a vegetarian dish. There's also a baked pasta casserole. Sides include a soup (we enjoyed the crab and asparagus soup), potatoes, rice and vegetables. A self-service section has lunch meats, cheeses and charcuterie, with bread nearby so you can make a sandwich. You'll also find five changing varieties of sandwiches and panini, packaged to grab and go. For dessert, choose among eight plated items, like cream puffs, coconut flan, a strawberry-rhubarb tartlet or apple pie. There's also hand-dipped ice cream and several types of cookies.

Dinner is a casual affair, with fewer, comfort-food oriented offerings. There's a carvery station with rotating roasts, and a different carvery sandwich -- the "Del Toro," for example, with beef brisket, bourbon barbecue sauce, roasted bell peppers, cream cheese, tomato, lettuce, mayo, onion and cilantro on a garlic baguette. The seven mains include a pasta, fish, chicken and red meat choices. A steak of some sort is usually also available. Sides include soup, baked potatoes and "loaded mashed potatoes." The four dessert choices usually include an ice cream sundae, or you can opt for cheese and fruit.

Tip: While many of the items are duplicated on both buffet lines, they aren't exactly the same -- so take a scouting trip to check out the options.

Dive-In (Deck 8): Befitting its name, this dining option is found next to the main pool on the Lido Deck. We were tipped-off about the great burgers by a fellow passenger -- and were instantly hooked. Choose among three juicy, made-to-order beef burgers (the most decadent has Gouda cheese, bacon and caramelized onions), a grilled chicken breast sandwich and a grilled portabella mushroom sandwich. There are also three types of hot dogs with different toppings, and crispy fries.

Dive-In also hosts a self-serve taco and nacho bar, stocked with ground-meat filling, guacamole, salsas, cheese, onions, tomatoes and more.

Room Service: Complimentary 24-hour room service is available for all passengers, with additional fees for some items at breakfast or from speciality restaurants (only available during their regular hours).

The complimentary breakfast (6 to 11 a.m.) includes continental options and cold cereals, as well as two omelets and a classic American breakfast of scrambled eggs, bacon, sausage, hash browns and toast. Upgrades to salmon Benedict or steak and eggs will cost you in regular cabins, though. We frequently ordered room service breakfast, using the night-before hangtag ordering system. Our meal was invariably served on time (toward the beginning of the requested time period), hot and with special requests, like hot milk for our coffee, honored. There was never a mistake or missing item -- a testimony to Volendam's high level of service.

All-day dining (11 a.m. to 11 p.m.) features classic items like chicken noodle soup, chili, Cobb salad, pulled pork sub and rigatoni. Desserts include cheesecake and chocolate chip cookies. The all-night menu (11 p.m. to 6 a.m.) is a more limited version of the all-day menu. The room service menu standbys are well-chosen to sooth everything from a touchy tummy to a midnight chocolate craving.

Fee Dining

Pinnacle Grill (Deck 4, midship); $39 at dinner; $10 at lunch (some items additional)

Volendam's premium dining experience is available for dinner every night, and lunch on sea days. The small, swanky space has dark, art-covered walls, lots of wood paneling, dramatic floral arrangements and Venetian-style glass chandeliers. Red banquettes line the wall and chairs are finished in black with blue tufted upholstery.

Although the Pinnacle Grill's dinner menu now includes more eclectic dishes (tomato broth with spicy lemongrass chicken, cioppino or baked stuffed eggplant), surf and turf are the main draws here. The five choices of steaks -- from the 7-ounce petit filet to the 23-ounce porterhouse -- are from the sustainably produced Double R Ranch brand of beef. Chip in an extra $59 for the Fred Flintstone-sized President's Cut bone-in ribeye (not worth it, in our experience). Choose from six different sauces for your steak.

Salmon, king crab legs and halibut round out the dinnertime seafood choices, with a 12-ounce lobster tail carrying an extra $20 tariff. A nice choice of sides includes fries with truffle aioli, creamed spinach, grilled asparagus, baked potato and more. Sides are generally small, so don't hesitate to order several if you're sharing. The six desserts include a Ben & Jerry's Cherry Garcia baked Alaska, a vanilla souffle and our favourite, the intense "Grand Marnier Chocolate Volcano Cake," served warm. It's about the closest thing you can get to a dark chocolate I-V.

Pinnacle Grill's smaller lunch menu includes some dishes from the dinner menu, but adds sandwiches (black cod, tri-tip and burger) and a salad with chicken. The only steak is a beef tenderloin. Desserts include a strawberry Pavlova and a warm fudge brownie with coffee gelato.

Explorations Cafe (Deck 5 aft); a la carte: This espresso bar is where you can get your latte fix, with most barista drinks in the $2 to $4 range. You can also buy tea, hot chocolate, sodas and water here, and pick up a free mini cupcake, brownie or savory snack to wash down with your beverage.

Canaletto (Deck 8 midship); $15: Volendam's Italian speciality restaurant is cordoned-off from the Lido Market space and open only at dinner. Although it has different carpeting and chic, gray chairs, it really doesn't feel like a totally separate restaurant. The menu concept is based around the sharing of both small starters and large plates, and servers encourage diners to do just this. Let them guide you as to the number of items you should order for your table. Among the small plates, we can definitely recommend the antipasti's cured meats, marinated veggies and dips, as well as the beef carpaccio. A fellow diner also loved his zuppa di pesce (seafood soup). Large plates include four pastas (the spaghetti with clams and shrimp was excellent), a delicious gnocchi with a deeply flavorful short rib sauce, prosciutto-wrapped veal tenderloin, chicken cacciatore and grilled sea bass. Four traditional Italian desserts are available, including tiramisu and cannoli, as well as an Italian cheese plate. The menu also recommends several Italian cocktails ($7.95), like a Bellini, Negroni or Aperol spritzer to get you in the Italian mood.

Volendam has received major (and much-needed) updates to its cabins. All cabins received renovated bathrooms; they were also refitted with new carpet, drapes, bed furnishings, sofa, chair (or chairs, in the suites) and accent pillows. The look focuses on muted tones of light tan and grey, with sea-foam green accents. Tech upgrades include adding a USB port and converting TV programming to an interactive system.

All of Volendam's cabins, which we found to be mostly too small to be completely comfortable, and suites are equipped with a safe (opened by swiping a credit card), a powerful hair dryer and lighted, 5x-magnification makeup mirror (both located in the desk/vanity), drinking glasses and a classy brushed-metal ice bucket set on a chrome tray, as well as a chrome fruit basket. A bible is tucked into a bedside drawer. The cushy beds are covered with high thread-count sheets and down duvets.

All cabins also offer flat-screen TVs that feature the usual network channels, including news from BBC, Fox and MSNBC, as well as shipboard announcements, port lectures and movies. TVs have an interactive setup that offers movies, the daily schedule and other features.

Due to its age, Volendam is short on electrical sockets (regular cabins have only one outlet -- aside from the razors-only bathroom socket -- with a U.S.-type socket and a European-type socket), so if you're toting an array of tech gear, bring along a non-surge protector power strip or a multi-USB plug.

Befitting its dress policy, Volendam offers ample closet and cabinet space, with plenty of sturdy wooden hangers. Features like built-in tie and belt hangers are a nice touch. We also like the ability to customize the closets, converting hanging areas into shelf space with fold-down shelves. A full-length mirror can be found on the inside of one closet door. There are also two wall hooks for clothing or robes on either side, at the foot of the bed.

If you've sailed on Volendam in the past, you'll do a double-take when you see the chic new bathrooms, which feature an upscale look of shades of grey, tan and beige, with modern, terrazzo-style countertops and travertine-look floor tiles. The corner cabinet is gone, replaced by three tiered shelves. A panel of textured grey wallpaper features subtle, tone-on-tone foliage designs. All bathroom vanities are equipped with two glasses, tissues, a generous bar of Elemis soap, a shower cap and lotion; showers feature large pump bottles of Elemis shampoo, conditioner and bath gel attached to the wall (ladies, use the refreshing, minty shower gel cautiously on delicate areas!). There are new, broader showerheads (which still offer a massage option) and, just like the old ones, they can either be hand-held or placed in a wall holder for a traditional-style overhead shower. Washcloths, hand towels and bath towels are fluffy Egyptian cotton, and a comfy, knitted waffle-fabric robe is provided for all passengers.

Services to all cabins include shoeshines, bed turn-down service with a chocolate and a towel animal, and keeping the ice bucket stocked. On appropriate itineraries, beach towels are also provided in the cabins.

Volendam offers 54 pairs of connecting cabins, mostly on Decks 1, 2 and 3. There are 197 triples available, deploying a sofa bed, in nearly every cabin class; some are included in the connecting cabin options. The 57 quads include a sofa bed and a pulldown upper bed, stored in the ceiling.

Accessible staterooms are divided into three groups. The four suites and one cabin that are "fully accessible" include wide interior and exterior doors, wheelchair access to both sides of the bed and a roll-in shower with grab bars, shower seat, accessible shower controls and hand-held showerhead. The three cabins and one suite that are "single-side accessible" only have wheelchair access to one side of the bed. Thirteen "ambulatory accessible" cabins have all of the above, minus wheelchair access to the bed.

Interior: The interior cabins on Volendam come in a variety of configurations, ranging from 182 to 293 square feet for an accessible cabin. Check the deck plan carefully when booking, and you could end up with truly spacious digs! Generally, these cabins include a sofa bed or love seat, a desk/vanity with three drawers and a stool or chair, nightstands with two drawers, and a small, oval, adjustable-height table large enough to park a room-service tray -- though this is the one piece of furniture that's likely to get in your way (good thing there's no porthole, or you might be tempted to toss this table overboard!). The cabins with love seats also include an end-table cabinet with a lamp. There is typically a bank of three closets (larger cabins have more), with both shelves and hanger rods.

Most beds can be configured as either twins (actually giving the cabin a more spacious feeling) or one queen but, in a few cabins, the beds can't be moved. There are built-in reading lights over the beds, and two sets of master light switches on the padded headboard. Just be careful that you don't accidentally hit the switches when readjusting your pillow, as we did. A set of curtains above the bed mimics the decor of ocean-view rooms -- so try imagining there's a window back there and save some cash! There are no mini-fridges, but for-purchase bottled water and soft drinks are placed on the desk. Complimentary fresh fruit will be placed in your cabin upon request.

Beige walls, coupled with blond woods and pale burled-birch laminate on the built-ins keeps things light. The look will become even airier and modern when the current dark sofas and melon-colored stools or chairs are reupholstered with light beige fabrics in the late-2017 refurb.

All inside-cabin bathrooms are equipped with showers, which have a shower curtain, grab bars, a chrome-wire corner shelf and a massage-style showerhead. The impressive, renovated bathrooms have more stylish, modern finishes and additional recessed lights built into either side of the mirror. However, if you're sharing a cabin, don't count on two people being able to prep here at the same time. The lighted makeup mirror on the desk definitely comes in handy!

Tip: If you want a longer sofa, rather than a love seat, book a stateroom designated as a "triple," which has a sofa bed. You give up the largely unnecessary cabinet at the end of the love seat in double rooms -- but the trade-off is worth it.

Ocean-view: These cabins range in size from 140 to 319 square feet, with similar furnishings and decor to the inside cabins. Typically, there is more closet space, with as many as five closet sections. Your ocean views will be through portholes or rectangular windows, so take note of the difference when booking. In most cabins, the head of the bed (or beds) is against the window wall, with both sheer and blackout curtains covering the window.

Outside staterooms on the Lower Promenade Deck (Deck 3) are on the smaller side, yet they're a favourite of many repeat cruisers because of the easy access to the wide teak promenade, complete with teak loungers evoking an era of true ocean liners, that circles the ship. (Some of these outsides have fully obstructed views.)

Twenty-one cabins on this deck are Lanai-category (196 to 240 square feet), with sliding-glass doors that directly access the promenade and include reserved deck chairs just outside the doors. The wide overhang of the Promenade Deck makes all Lower Promenade Deck cabins darker, and although the windows are covered with a one-way film, prying eyes can still see inside when the lights are on. Unless you're an incurable exhibitionist, keeping the curtains closed whenever the interior is illuminated is necessary.

While some outside cabins will have bathtubs up until the November 2017 dry dock, all tubs in these cabins will be converted to shower stalls (similar to the ones described above for interior cabins) during the bathroom remodel. If you want a tub, your only choice will be to book a suite.

Tip: Some of the Lower Promenade cabins that are listed as "fully obstructed" really aren't; they are "partially" blocked by the outside bulkheads around the promenade, and from a few, you still have a limited ocean view. They are priced comparably to an inside and can be a fantastic bargain, especially the ones at the aft of the ship.

Mini-suite: The 297- to 379-square-foot (including the private veranda) Vista Suites, located on Decks 6 and 7, offer a bit more room, floor-to-ceiling windows, upgraded decor and an outdoor area large enough to hold a lounger, chair and small table. Inside are a leather sofa and an end table adjacent to the outside door. In many of the suites, the sofa converts to a bed. The desk is fitted with six drawers, the table is larger than in regular cabins and there are four closet sections. Additional perks include binoculars, fresh flowers, slippers, umbrellas, a variety of pillows and concierge service. Bathroom tubs are jetted, and additional toiletries include Elemis bath salts, mitt and elixir, plus temple balm, eye gel and lip balm.

Suite: The 558- to 566-square-foot (including the 170-square-foot veranda) Neptune Suites are a big step up in luxury, with a long list of perks and amenities. A marble-floored foyer leads to the living room area, with floor-to-ceiling windows and a large sectional sofa, including a sofa bed sleeping two persons, flanked by a round glass coffee table, two upholstered chairs and an end table with lamp. In the bedroom area, a long dresser with 12 drawers and two cabinets line the exterior wall, topped by more windows. The TV is housed on the dresser, on a turntable that swivels to face the bed area or the living room area. In the cabinet below it, you'll find the DVD player. There's also a Bose Bluetooth-enabled Soundlink speaker you can sync to your smartphone to play some tunes.

A door from the living room area leads to the ample veranda, which is large enough to hold a dining table with four rattan chairs, two mesh-fabric loungers and a side table.

Next to the bed are nightstands; one nightstand has two drawers and the other nightstand has a cabinet. Wood finishes are blond and the beige wall coverings have a subtle satin striping effect. A built-in cabinet just past the foyer holds the mini-fridge stocked with beverages (all carry a charge), ice bucket and a pod-style espresso machine with three choices of coffee, creamers, sweeteners and cups.

Off the bedroom you'll find the spacious dressing room, with three generous closet sections (one includes a full-length mirror) against the back wall. On one side, a marble-topped vanity, stocked with cotton balls, tissues and a hair dryer, thoughtfully includes a small sink; underneath, are three drawers and a cabinet. Above the vanity, there's a mirror and a lighted 5x-magnifying mirror attached to a swinging arm. An upholstered stool tucks under the vanity. The dressing room leads to the bathroom, with a single sink and jetted tub. Although the upgraded finishes are chic, the bathroom seemed small compared to suite bathrooms on newer ships.

In addition to all the Vista Suite perks, Neptune suite occupants also receive complimentary laundry, pressing and dry cleaning; an expanded room service breakfast menu -- or an option to have breakfast in the Pinnacle restaurant; corsages and boutonnieres for the first gala night; priority boarding for tendered ports, as well as priority dining and seating requests. They can also wake up to complimentary mimosas with room-service breakfast, enjoy afternoon tea in their suite and nosh on complimentary evening hors d'oeuvres. And, they gain access to the exclusive Neptune Lounge on Deck 7, including sparkling wine served at embarkation.

This ship also includes a single 1,296-square foot (including the 180-square-foot veranda) Pinnacle Suite, located just behind the bridge on Deck 7. These swanky digs offer a dining room that seats eight (with a bar-topped buffet), a pantry complete with microwave and a U-shaped leather sofa in the living room, flanked by two chairs, a coffee table and a side table. On the opposite wall, there's also a desk and chair. Rich wood paneling and niches for original art or fresh floral arrangements complete the look.

The curtained-off bedroom holds a king-sized bed, vanity and upholstered chair. A door leads to the bathroom, with double sink, shower, jetted tub and separate toilet area. From the bathroom, another door leads to the huge walk-in closet, with five storage sections. Just past the suite's entrance foyer is a guest powder room, with toilet and sink.

Balcony furnishings are the same as the Neptune Suites.

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