Millennium Cruise Aboard the Volendam

Rich and Kathy’s Millennium New Year’s Cruise
Holland America Line’s Volendam
December 29, 2000–January 6, 2001

Thirteen months had passed since our last cruise on the Westerdam of Holland America Line (HAL) with Rich’s parents. Since then we had relocated to Oregon, moved into a new house, settled into new jobs, and we were ready to celebrate the real new millennium with a cruise aboard the Volendam (built in 1999). In fact, we saw the Volendam on her maiden voyage when we were onboard the Westerdam in the Bahamas.

Wednesday, December 27, 2000 — Pre-Flight Hotel

We decided to stay at the Clarion Airport Hotel to use their Park-and-Fly service for 2 reasons: we had an early flight out of PDX the next morning and we feared that, because it was the holidays, parking at PDX would be in short supply.

Thursday, December 28, 2000 — Fly to Ft. Lauderdale

5:30 a.m. came early as we got up to catch the 6:00 a.m. shuttle. Well, we didn’t make that one, but we did catch the 6:20 a.m. shuttle. Our flight wasn’t until 8:30 a.m. so we had plenty of time. Our plane left as scheduled and we arrived in Atlanta to catch our shuttle to Ft. Lauderdale. Atlanta was chaotic and our plane was delayed. We finally took off again and landed at the Ft. Lauderdale airport without incident. We collected our bags and grabbed a taxi to the Airport Hilton. This was the same hotel we had stayed in for our 1997 cruise on Celebrity’s Century.

At that time,  Rich’s parents were in Florida and met us at the hotel, where we visited overnight. This time Rich decided to call the parents and let them know we had arrived. Well, our cell phone set off the smoke alarm. So, Rich quickly redialed using the hotel phone. We went downstairs to check things out and noticed many other Holland America passengers milling around. Not only was there a HAL welcome desk set up but you could tell the cruise passengers by the excited smiles on their faces.

Friday, December 29, 2000 — Embarkation

After a good night’s sleep, the morning of embarkation had finally arrived. We were so excited. We had breakfast in the hotel and did a little shopping in the gift shop, trying to kill time until we could leave for the port. Finally, at 11:20 a.m. we decided it was time to go. We checked out of the hotel and hopped in a taxi. As we arrived at the port, our excitement grew. There’s nothing like that first sight of your ship in port. Our eyes immediately scanned the dock and identified other ships sailing that day, too, such as the brand new HAL flagship, the Amsterdam. Celebrity’s Zenith was also in port.

Time passed quickly and we were finally able to board the ship. We couldn’t wait to see our cabin. This would be our very first mini-suite, complete with a balcony! After the obligatory welcome aboard picture, we were escorted to our mini-suite (#6198, port side, deck 6).

We were quite pleased to see that they had delivered one-dozen, long-stemmed red roses and a chilled bottle of champagne to our cabin. This was just a sample of what was to come with the “Just for Us” package we had ordered to add to our cruise celebration.

After a quick tour of our cabin, we set out to tour the ship. We noticed that all of the decorations from the Christmas cruise were still displayed, including many Christmas trees. For our cruise, they also added several Happy New Year’s banners. The next order of business was to check our seating assignment in the dining room. We quickly found the beautiful 2-story Rotterdam dining room in the aft section of the ship and discovered that we were seated at a table for 6 by the window. It was a beautiful location, but our “Just for Us” package guaranteed us a table for 2. We checked our schedule, and found that the Maitre d’Hotel would be available at 2 p.m. in order to fulfill dining requests. We had a quick lunch in the Lido and then met with the Maitre d’.

Upon verifying that we did have the “Just for Us” package, he moved our assigned table to a table for 2 on the lower level, close to the center of the room for second seating (8:15 p.m.).

We then made lunch reservations for the Marco Polo, an alternative Italian restaurant, for later in the week. We also went on a Spa tour. Soon it was time to grab our life jackets and report to our muster station for the lifeboat drill. Finally, all necessary business was taken care of, and we returned to our mini-suite, popped open the champagne, and went out to relax on our balcony, all ready for the sailaway at 5 p.m. We noticed that 2 Holland America velour robes, part of our “Just for Us” package, had arrived. We also found the tux that Rich had ordered waiting in the closet. This would come in handy as there were 3 formal nights on this cruise.

On previous cruises, we had experienced sailaway on the aft of the ship. This was a first for us — sailing away on our own private balcony. The condo dwellers flickered on their lights as we sailed past and our fellow passengers in neighboring suites raised their glasses with us in a Bon Voyage toast.

At 7:15 p.m. we went to the Ocean Bar for pre-dinner cocktails and hors’doeuvres. This was one of our favorite places on the Westerdam. We met a couple of friendly bar waiters, Rico and Nestor. True to form, the service was incredible.

We were soon called for dinner by the ringing of the hand chimes. Dinner tonight was casual. We met our dining room staff for the cruise: Putu (waiter), Andi (assistant waiter), Dasep (head waiter), and Ichsan (wine steward).

Kathy: Creole-Style Langoustine Cocktail, Mushroom Cream Soup, Broiled New York Sirloin Steak Cafe de Paris Sauce, and Praline Ice Cream.

Rich: Sweet Tomatoes and Buffalo Mozzarella, Mushroom Cream Soup, Broiled New York Sirloin Steak Cafe de Paris Sauce, a Coconut/Mango Sundae, and, in honor of Rich’s mother, a Cappuccino.

We learned from our experience on the Westerdam to skip the first night’s entertainment, which is mostly an introduction of the cruise staff. After dinner we decided to go to the Explorers Lounge for an after dinner drink and white chocolate covered strawberries, a tradition we started on the Westerdam. Well, every cruise on every ship seems to be different. This one was interesting in that a lot of people onboard had also taken the Christmas cruise the week before. They seemed to already have claimed the Explorers Lounge and it was a bit crowded. It wasn’t the intimate experience we had on the Westerdam. On the Volendam, this lounge was located on the same deck as the dining room so people were more likely to stop by after dinner. We also noticed this time that the entertainment was geared for the older passengers that HAL caters to.

We were surprised at how rough the seas were this night. Not as bad as the rough night we had on the Westerdam, but pretty rough. We didn’t think this happened this time of year, but it can happen any time a storm passes through. But rough seas don’t bother us. In fact, we like the ship to rock us to sleep at night.

Saturday, December 30 — Half Moon Cay

Today we anchored at HAL’s private island, Half Moon Cay in the Bahamas. We were glad that we had the opportunity to enjoy this island, and its lunch barbecue, last time on the Westerdam with the parents, because this time the water was too rough and the tender service had to be discontinued mid-morning. The Amsterdam was also at anchor with us.

At 10:15 a.m., we had breakfast in the lido. After breakfast, we walked the promenade (3.5 times around was a mile). After lunch at the poolside grill, we watched from the promenade deck as the tenders were raised. At 3:30 p.m., we enjoyed afternoon tea in the Explorers lounge. At 4:00 p.m., we visited the shore excursion desk to book a catamaran tour in Jamaica. We then retired to our balcony, where we enjoyed some of the Belgian chocolates from our gift box (also part of the “Just for Us” package). At 7:15 p.m., we again enjoyed pre-dinner drinks in the Ocean Bar, and then off to dinner (formal tonight).

Kathy: Crab Cakes, Caesar Salad, Veal Medallions, Ginger Creme Brulee, and a glass of French Syrah wine.

Rich: Captain’s Antipasto Plate, Parisian Onion Soup, Roast Beef Tenderloin Chateaubriand, a Strawberry Sundae, and a glass of French Syrah wine.

After dinner we spent some time in the Crow’s Nest where we met our servers there, Charisma and Alvin. During the day, the Crow’s Nest is the observation lounge, with a panoramic view out the front and sides of the ship, and at night it becomes a lounge and disco. The entertainment here is geared to the younger crowd, which we enjoyed for a change.

Sunday, December 31 (New Year’s Eve) — Day at Sea

At 8:30 a.m. we had breakfast delivered to our cabin. We enjoyed eating on our balcony as we watched the ocean go by. The weather was beautiful, so, at 10:00 a.m., we found a couple of lounge chairs by the aft pool where we relaxed until lunch time.

At 1:00 p.m., we ate lunch in the lido, including a stop at the ice cream bar. After lunch we walked our mile around the promenade. Then it was off to our balcony where we relaxed until Dutch high tea was delivered to our cabin at 4:00 p.m. Our show tonight was before dinner at 6:45 p.m.: Las Vegas Nights. The show was less than spectacular. As Dad would say, the singers and dancers were peppy. After the show it was off to dinner. It was the second formal night, so Rich had to — um, got to — wear his tux again.

Kathy: Pheasant Pate, Gourmet Mixed Greens, Roasted Prime Rib of Beef au jus, and a glass of Chilean Merlot.

Rich: Malossol Caviar, Fresh Tomato Soup Florentine Style, Grilled Pork Chop, a Hot Fudge Sundae, and an Oregon Pinot Noir.

After dinner, we posed for the formal photo that came with our package. Although there were several parties starting in several of the lounges at 10:30 p.m., with complimentary champagne and party hats, we chose to celebrate privately in our cabin. At 11:00 p.m., they delivered our Mini-Dessert Extravaganza with champagne. At midnight, we toasted in the new millennium on our balcony.

Monday, January 1, 2001 — Ocho Rios, Jamaica

Today, we were the only ship at dock. It was a very cloudy day. At 1:00 p.m. we left the ship to go on our catamaran sailing excursion. When we reached the dock, we were told that the water was too rough and they had canceled our shore excursion. So, instead, we stopped at the shops at the dock and bought a t-shirt for Kathy and a pound of famous Jamaican Blue Mountain coffee beans. At 2:00 p.m., we were back on our balcony relaxing. At 5:00 p.m., we went up to the Crow’s Nest observation lounge to watch the sailaway from Jamaica.

We had to get back to our cabin to get ready for the Captain’s invitation-only, VIP party at 7:30 p.m. We think we got invited because we were in a mini-suite. The party was fun — we got to meet the Captain and the Hotel Manager, and the caviar and champagne flowed freely. It was here that Rich found out he loves caviar. Uh oh, this could be an expensive habit. After the party, we headed to the dining room for dinner. Tonight was Dutch night, so we got to wear our “funny” hats during dinner.

Kathy: Bami Goreng, Erwtensoep (Dutch pea soup), Seafood Zeeland (seafood over rice), and Kona Cheese Cake.

Rich: Bami Goreng, Vermicelli Soep Met Balletjes (beef consommé with vermicelli and meat balls), Gebakken Tong Fillet (fillet of dover sole), and Creme Caramel.

At 9:30 p.m., we headed to the Explorers Lounge for cappuccinos. Then at 10:15 p.m., we got our seats in the balcony of the 2-story Frans Hals Show Lounge to see Glenn Smith perform. Glenn is a terrific singer and piano player. It was a wonderful show.

Tuesday, January 2, 2001 — Grand Cayman

This was the only tendering port other than Half Moon Cay. Also at anchor with us was the Norwegian Sky, the ship we are booked  for our Alaska cruise on May 6.

We had breakfast in our cabin and then caught a tender to Grand Cayman. Once ashore, we caught a taxi to 7 Mile Beach.

We were dropped off at the Royal Palm Hotel where we did some swimming from the beach. It was partly cloudy all day and the water was a little chilly, but still enjoyable. We then took a long, 2-mile walk along the beach to the Westin where we did some more swimming. At 12:30 p.m., we grabbed a taxi to downtown where we did some window shopping.

Once back on board, we had a wonderful lunch of world wraps in the lido. After lunch, we again retired to our balcony where we watched the 5:30 p.m. sailaway from Grand Cayman. At 7:15 p.m., we were back in the Ocean Bar for pre-dinner drinks. Dinner was casual tonight.

Kathy: Thinly-Sliced Asian Pork, Three Cheese Tortellini, and Fillet of Beef Wellington.

Rich: Thinly-Sliced Pork, Grandma’s Chicken Noodle Soup, and Fillet of Beef Wellington.

We got our seats in the balcony for the 10:15 p.m. show, Copacabana. This was a wonderful show. The production was well done and the performers did a great job. We were pleasantly surprised, especially after the show earlier in the week.

Wednesday, January 3, 2001 — Cozumel, Mexico

This was Rich’s first visit to Mexico. The weather was beautiful, not a cloud in the sky. There were quite a few other ships in port, including Celebrity Millennium, Carnival Ecstasy, Carnival Sensation, and, once again, Norwegian Sky. After breakfast on our balcony, we left the ship and caught a taxi to Chankanaab Park.

The first thing we did was grab some lounge chairs and enjoy swimming in the lagoon. Soon it was time to visit the thatched-hut bar and enjoy a couple of cool piña coladas. The scenery from the bar was incredible!

After our refreshment, we walked through the re-creation of Mayan ruins where we ate a freshly made tortilla with salsa.

On the way out of Chankanaab, we saw tree branches falling in our path. When we looked up, we saw a baby iguana in the tree above us.

We caught another taxi back to the ship where we had lunch at the satay bar. After lunch we enjoyed some time by the aft pool where we saw porpoises jumping around in the ocean. At 2:00 p.m. we enjoyed our regular relaxation on our balcony. Rich ran out at 4:00 p.m. to grab some pizza and brought it back to the cabin.

That night there was a special deck party and barbecue at the lido pool area. We chose to eat there at 7:30 p.m., rather than the dining room that night at our usual time of 8:15 p.m. We had ribs, steak, corn on the cob, bratwurst, rolls, salad, and dessert while a band played. At 8:30 p.m. we enjoyed the drink of the day (margarita) at the dolphin bar, served by one of our favorite bar stewards, Alvin.

We then stopped by the front desk to check out a video to watch in our cabin. (Mini-suites include a video tape player.) Tonight we watched Cary Grant in North by Northwest.

Thursday, January 4, 2001 — At Sea

We took advantage of our day at sea by relaxing on our balcony in the morning. At 12:30 p.m. we arrived for our lunch reservation at the Marco Polo restaurant. What a wonderful place! We really enjoyed the Italian food.

Kathy: Mixed Greens with Gorgonzola Cheese & Olive Oil Dressing, Fettucine with Garlic, Tomato, & Olive Oil, Frangelica Sponge Cake, and a glass of Italian chianti.

Rich: Chile Soup in Beef Broth, Spaghetti Bolengese, Frangelica Sponge Cake, and a glass of Italian chianti.

After lunch we — yes, you guessed it — relaxed on our balcony. At 4:00 p.m. we took our camera and went around the ship taking photos. At 7:30 p.m. we had pre-dinner drinks in the Atrium Bar. Tonight was the 3rd formal night. Rich was growing weary of donning a tux, so tonight he just wore his sport coat. Nobody threw him out of the dining room for not wearing a tie.

Kathy: Escargots, Caesar Salad, Lobster Tails, and Baked Alaska.

Rich: Malossol Caviar, Caesar Salad, Grilled Salmon, and Baked Alaska.

At 10:30 p.m. we retired to our cabin where we watched another video, Cabaret.

Friday, January 5, 2001 — Key West

After the ship docked in Key West this morning, we were able to use our cell phone to check our messages at home. It was good to be back in the U.S. At 10:00 a.m. we exited the ship and walked into Key West. It was another beautiful day.

We covered practically the whole island on foot. Our first stop was Harry Truman’s Little White House where we had a very interesting tour.

Then it was on to the Ernest Hemingway house for another tour.

One of the interesting things here is that they still have descendants of Hemingway’s 6-toed cats. Hemingway had about 50 cats. There are 60 cats on the property today.

After our second tour, we walked down Duval Street and had lunch at Crabby Dick’s. Kathy had a
shrimp basket and Rich had catfish & Key West Ale. We then split a piece of key lime pie.

At 2:00 p.m., we were back on the ship, where we once again enjoyed relaxing on our balcony. At 4:00 p.m. we went up on deck for coffee and ice cream. Then it was back to our cabin to undertake the difficult chore of packing.

Dinner tonight was casual. At dinner, we got copies of the week’s menus and handed out tip envelopes.

Kathy: Crab & Artichoke dip, Mixed Green Salad, Roasted Prime Rib of Beef au jus, and an Almond Crunch Sundae.

Rich: Malossol Caviar, Manhattan Clam Chowder, Roasted Prime Rib of Beef au jus, and an Almond Crunch Sundae.

At 11:00 p.m., we left our bags outside the cabin for disembarkation and went to sleep in preparation for the early wake-up call the next day.

Saturday, January 6, 2001 — Disembarkation

The wake-up call came at 5:30 a.m. By 6:00 a.m. we were in the lido having coffee. At 6:15 a.m. we went to the Wajang Theatre to check in with Delta Airlines. After checking in, we headed back to the lido for a continental breakfast. Then it was time to sit in the Explorers Lounge for 2 hours waiting for our disembarkation number to be called (#20). At 8:45 a.m. they called our number, we got off the ship, checked our bags with Delta at the dock, and grabbed a taxi to the airport. We arrived at the airport at about 9:30 a.m. where we waited until we could board our 12:20 p.m. flight to Dallas/Fort Worth. We changed planes in DFW and flew the second leg home. It was a long, tiring day. We arrived home at about 7:00 p.m., Pacific time.

Summary

We really love being out at sea. This may be more important than the destination itself. Having our own balcony enhanced the experience greatly, especially since it was just the two of us. However, we think that cruising is a very social experience and a great way to visit with others. We are looking forward to our May cruise to Alaska with the parents. It will be exciting to see Alaska and, when Rich steps foot in Alaska for the first time, he will have visited all 50 states.

Ship Comparison — Random Thoughts

The Volendam (built 1999) is a newer ship than the Westerdam (built 1986), and, in our opinion, had a few improvements. The Lido area on the Volendam was arranged better with separate food stations, instead of just one long buffet line. The food stations had a variety with such things as wraps, satays, ice cream, pasta, salad bar, etc. The drink stations were also easier to access and there were more of these. The Westerdam did have a better wait-staff. There were also more elevators on the Volendam (16 vs. 12). The Marco Polo alternative restaurant was a welcome change as well.

About Kathy

Author of Cruise and Travel-Themed Novels ("Real Women Wear Red" / "Real Women Sing the Blues"), Songwriter & Poet