Friday, March 13, 2009

The Volendam

The Volendam is our temporary home. Our stateroom is on the 6th level, inside. There’s a curtain on the wall behind the bed to give the illusion of a window. Neighboring cabins have windows and sliding glass doors for their verandas. They have small sitting areas and they have to take a few steps to reach stuff but their rooms cost several times what we paid.

We have a king-sized bed taking up half the room and then a love seat, a chair, a table (slightly larger than your Thanksgiving turkey platter) and a dresser. There are 5 closets – one with a small safe – some with shelves – and there’s a bathroom with a shower/no tub. The tiny room forces one to everything away every time it’s ued and generally that’s what we do. It’s a little bit of fun to know where everything is.

Our small suitcases are under the bed but the large one doesn’t fit so it’s under the desk redefining it as a not-desk and making the ottoman easy to trip over in the dark. We’ve one electrical outlet in the bathroom but it runs nothing more than a shaver. To charge the electric toothbrush or to clean the brush heads with the ultraviolet light we must use the outlet on our not-desk. Likewise that’s where we can charge batteries or run our waterpic. Using a waterpic is messy enough over a sink but on the not-desk there’s another level of difficulty.

Our room steward, Dedi, has to clean 29 staterooms twice a day, every day. 29. I think that’s twice as many as the guys did last year. Dedi brings mail – notices of promotions on board, the daily activities schedule, special notes, bills and the condensed New York Times (8 pages long and 2 days old). He cleans the bathrooms and I’ve seen him in a room with a huge washer so think he has to launder all the sheets and towels.

He delivers fresh ice and fruit daily and then he has to meet passengers’ whims. Since people with the verandas likely paid $8,000 or more EACH to be in those large and fancy rooms, it would not surprise me to hear that there are daily whims.

In his spare time he folds towels into animal shapes and decorates our bed with them adding 2 golden coins of milk chocolate and an invitation to order room service breakfast in bed the next day.

Living in this high-rent district it is surprising to see that the self-service laundry is busy all day. It’s $2 per load of wash including soap but we don’t like their soap so brought our own. Often people go to and from the laundry in their robes.

There’s a snack bar, a cafeteria, a restaurant, and a fancy restaurant. One is required to use hand sanitizer before entering any food area and shaking hands is discouraged as is holding the handrails. If people start to get sick all the salt and pepper shakers are removed from tables and stewards come along to offer salt and pepper touched only by their gloved hands.

The best food is in the Pinnacle but there is a $20 per person cover charge and, with the other restaurants “free,” it seems an unjustified luxury though they grill the asparagus and it’s quiet and relaxed while the Rotterdam has hundreds eating there in 2 shifts and all the vegetables are steamed or baked. We had only 2 “free” coupons for the Pinnacle so we eat dinner in the Rotterdam restaurant and breakfast and lunch in the Lido cafeteria. One can eat somewhere 24 hours a day paying only for bar drinks or soft drinks.

The stewards seem to have to serve twice the number of tables compared with last year. Sometimes the wine steward doesn’t make it to our table until the main dish is served. The cut backs are clearly hurting the level of comfort here. The stewards seem exhausted when they walk the halls. Who can enjoy an outing knowing that people are slaving away on board all day? Who can consider room service? The trays must weigh 50 pounds but if the service isn’t used another job is cut. What to do? I’d like to have my brown shoes polished but hate to ask.

Last year the staff had time to visit and many of them worked to learn the language of the passengers but now it’s here-your-are and they take off. We’ve also noticed that the spotless stainless steel and brass aren’t as spotless. The life raft containers look dirty. It’s not that we need spotless but it just shows how pushed the staff members are. Some of the higher level people are short with passengers and I think they are just exhausted. Likely they get grief from crew and passengers.

What else? There are shows every night – comedians and jugglers; magicians and singers; dancers and what-all troupes. Rick generally hates them and I like to give most a chance so go alone. Most seem to come on board for a day or two and then jump off to find another ship. Tough way to live or exciting. Not sure.

There’s a daily movie with popcorn and there are cooking demos and tours behind scenes in the kitchen. There’s a gym, a spa, an indoor and outdoor pool and a couple of hot tubs. There are shops, a casino and a library. The library lends books for free, offers internet for $.55 per minute (for dialup speed) and rents DVDs. One can walk the lower promenade deck with 3.5 laps equaling a mile. Clearly posted are warnings – NO JOGGING. I break that rule occasionally because around the corner at the bow the wind can be very strong and jogging a few steps is the only way to have my feet keep up with the rest of me.

The naturalist gives lectures and commentaries on the deck and the magician gave a lecture on Houdini. One can purchase “art” though the reputation of on board art (in general) is not reassuring.

There really is always something to do. The TV offers CNN or Turner Classic movies or showings or any lectures or commentaries by the naturalist or entertainer as well as a closed circuit showing of what can be seen from the bridge.

Being onboard I wish not to say I’m hungry but rather that I’m feeling peckish. It seems appropriate to like and want tea but I’m making little progress there. Dinner at 8 feels reasonable though at 5:30 my stomach needs reassurance that it will be fed.

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