Volendam – new cruise ship from Holland America Cruise Lines

Jeannie Block

Holland America’s First “V”-Class Vessel Reflects Innovation And Evolution Of The Line’s Concepts

Although it’s obviously a bit hackneyed, Holland America Line’s captains duti-fully make a reference to all their “dam” ships, when speaking to what is almost always an unusually large (upwards of 40 percent) number of loyalists who show up for the free libations and pomp that mark HAL’s repeat-passenger awards presentation during every sailing. Predictably, audience responses to the captains’ joke range from groans to giggles to guffaws.

Well, another “dam” ship, the Volendam (the ninth in the current fleet and the third to bear that name), debuted last November in Port Everglades, Florida, for an annual seasonal schedule of alternating 10-day, roundtrip, Eastern/Southern Caribbean voyages. She’s the first of a new series of “V”-Class vessels that includes at least one other “dam” ship, the Zaandam, which had her maiden voyage last May.

As for all the “dam” designations, the venerable line historically has followed a pattern of naming passenger ships after various irrigation dams that cross Holland’s rivers. But some have been named for communities or cities. The Volendam’s namesake is a small, popular, tourist town, where the likes of Picasso and Renoir used to vacation.

This latest arrival is an evolution of the four exceedingly successful 1,266-passenger Statendam (“S”-Class) vessels, introduced between 1992 and 1996, and the somewhat larger, 1,316-passenger flagship Rotterdam, which followed in late 1997. Actually, both the Rotterdam and the 1,440-passenger Volendam were built on same-size hulls and are much alike, except that the latter, with 62 additional staterooms, is listed at 63,000 gross register tons, 3,350 grt more than her predecessor.

Like those before her, the Volendam is a classically designed Holland America product that will immediately be familiar to repeaters. Traditionally named public rooms–like the Ocean Bar, Explorer’s Lounge, and Crow’s Nest–plus the show lounge and restaurant are located and laid out in much the same way as on the “S”-class quads. And like the new Rotterdam, there’s an alternative restaurant, an open piano lounge with a dance floor (in place of the enclosed piano bar), and a staffed children’s room on Sports Deck (more younger families are coming aboard). Another singular feature on the new arrival is a third staircase and four elevators, amidships, that make it much easier to move between decks.

There’s no mistaking the majestic decorative styling first created for the Statendam by principal architect Franz Dingemans and his Dutch firm. As on the other ships, interiors are palatial in look and feel and feature a distinctive theme–flowers on the Volendam–that is subtly blended into artworks, doors, fabrics, and other design elements. (The design approach overall seems a trifle softer than on earlier vessels.)

Woven artfully into the Volendam’s grandeur, too, is HAL’s omnipresent multimillion-dollar collection of antiques, artworks, and paintings, from 17th century and later treasures to a host of fine, newly commissioned works–among them, wonderful oils on canvas of earlier HAL ships by noted maritime artist (and sea captain) Steven J. Card. The more than 100 pieces displayed are described in a printed guide for self-viewing. Or follow social hostess Danielle on a fascinating guided tour.

The balconied Frans Hals Show Lounge gets the nod as the artistic “piece de resistance.” Harmoniously bright and colorful with touches of Art Nouveau, the showroom’s inspiration was Amsterdam’s famous, early 20th century Tuschinski Theater. Three lavish HAL productions–Barry Manilow’s musical “Copacabana”; “Las Vegas Nights,” a flashy reprise of the mecca’s heyday; and the romantic “Broadway In Concert 2”–are featured presentations.

Among the newly added “V”-Class units are 48 mini-suites with verandas, all in space gained by extending Navigation Deck aft and relocating the outdoor swimming pool up to Lido Deck, close to the indoor pool and the Lido Restaurant. Veteran HAL hotel manager Willem Cruijsberg told us that the demand for veranda units on the other ships constantly has exceeded availability.

Like the 120 similar mini-suites on Veranda Deck, each measures 284 square feet (including balcony) and have extra amenities like a VCR, whirlpool bath, and minibar, as well as standard cabin features–large closets, deep dresser drawers, double (or twin) bed and sofa, a safe, multi-channel music system, satellite and shipboard TV programming, and phones with voice-mail.

Accommodations overall are listed in 17 pricing categories that additionally include 565-square-foot (plus veranda) suites, 196-square-foot standard outside units, and only slightly smaller inside units. The one Penthouse Suite, a luxurious 946 square feet, is crammed with fine art.

The alternative restaurant is positioned, as on the Rotterdam, amidships on Promenade Deck (in space that on the “S”-Class ships houses a pair of meeting rooms) and is near a pair of HAL fixtures–the Wajang Theatre (top-run movies and fresh-made popcorn) and the Java Bar (complimentary specialty coffees and cookies). All are located just off the signature three-deck atrium and its focal piece named “Caleido,” a monumental, light-filled crystal structure that uses a unique technique to change colors.

Named for 13th century Italian seafarer Marco Polo, the 88-seat restaurant, termed “artfully elegant” by designer Dingemans, reflects a less formal tone than the one on the Rotterdam, which food & beverage manager Alexandra Grieten explained was meant to be one-of-a-kind, in keeping with the sole dignity a fleet flagship deserves. (Grieten, at 29, has the distinction of being the youngest person and first woman on HAL ever to hold what is considered the number three shipboard slot.) The Marco Polo Restaurant has its own galley, cooks, and service staff.

Corporate master chef Reiner Greubel developed the fare he denotes as California-style Italian cuisine, which onboard is the province of executive chef Luciano D’Avanzo, whose resume is a litany of fine worldwide establishments. A typical menu lists Antipasti (appetizers)–bruschetta, mozzarella ala caprese, and frittura mista di mare; soup; specialty salad; and five Piatti Principali (entrees)–creatively prepared veal, chicken, lamb, beef, or fish dishes. For something less fancy, there’s pizza, gourmet-style.

Visually, the room is quite in keeping with the ship’s museum-like character. Paintings of all sizes, shapes, and quality hang in seemingly haphazard groupings, an idea Dingemans got from visiting restaurants in Italy where paintings bartered by hungry artists for something to eat were hung scattershot. Traveling Europe, he collected originals and prints, many the work of unknowns, which he mingled in “studied disorganization” with etchings by the likes of Rubens, Rembrandt, and Picasso.

Service starts at 6:30 p.m., and reservations (which are necessary) are booked on a schedule that, we were told, assures that diners will have an unhurried meal. Unlike similar venues on many other lines, no additional charges are suggested.

Although the Marco Polo makes for a deliciously done special-night occasion, the grandly appointed, two-deck Rotterdam Dining Room is its own typical HAL class-act. Fine food served on tables set with Rosenthal china by the line’s hallowed Indonesian and Filipino staff are main reasons why the line long has enjoyed its high repeater rate.

Incidentally, the area housing the Lido Restaurant’s two-section buffet (most passengers come here for breakfast and lunch) gained some space from the Lido Deck extension. New, too, are a sandwich bar and a daily ethnic-special counter, which provide even more choices to what are arguably the most extensive lunch (and breakfast) spreads on any ship.

Responding to another industry trend, one more Holland America first took root on the Volendam. Called the Web Site, it’s a room with several computers, where passengers can send and receive e-mail and surf the net. There’s a basic 75 [cts.] per minute cost to start, plus some other modest charges, depending on the service. It’s located portside, Upper Promenade Deck, between the casino and the restaurant, near the library and two meeting (and card) rooms displaced by the Marco Polo Restaurant. Captain Hans van Biljouw expects that the line’s other ships soon will have similar intemet setups.

In summer the ship plies Alaska’s Inside Passage, on weeklong roundtrips out of Vancouver, calling on Juneau, Skagway, and Ketchikan and visiting Glacier Bay National Park. She returns to Port Everglades in early October to resume her Caribbean cruises. One of the two alternating 10-day roundtrip itineraries, “The Seafarer,” calls on St. Lucia, Barbados, Guadeloupe, St. Thomas, and Nassau; while “The Wayfarer” route includes St. Kitts, Martinique, Trinidad, Dominica, St. Thomas, and the line’s delightful private Bahamian island, Half Moon Cay.

Incidentally, the Amsterdam, a ship similar in size to the Rotterdam, is due to debut in October. And hot off the wires, Holland America has announced the signing of a $1.6-billion order for a new class of, initially, four 84,000-grt/1,800-passenger megaships to be delivered between fall 2002 and fall 2004. But the line didn’t disclose what their “dam” names would be.

For more information contact your travel agent or Holland America Line (Cruise Travel Magazine), 300 Elliott Ave. W., Seattle, WA 98119; on the web at www.holland america.com.

COPYRIGHT 2000 World Publishing, Co. (Illinois)

COPYRIGHT 2001 Gale Group

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