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For travelers seeking a rich itinerary mixed with cultural experience at an affordable price, Holland America Line’s 1,432-passenger Volendam delivers.
The roundtrip voyage begins and ends in Singapore and brings clients to Myanmar (Burma) along with Thailand and Malaysia. The new 14-day Asian Adventure itinerary samples a range of ports of call: Phuket, Thailand; Thilawa (Rangoon), Myanmar; and George Town, Langkawi, Port Kelang (Kuala Lumpur) and Malacca, Malaysia.
I found the mid-sized seagoing ship’s itinerary to be an affordable option. Plus, it included numerous countries and a variety of dining and entertainment options.
The majority of people onboard Holland America Line tend to be couples over 50 years old from North America, Australia, the U.K., the Netherlands and Germany. There were also younger couples, singles and some families with children on our cruise. The passengers I spoke with listed Myanmar, with its glistening pagodas, monasteries and unspoiled villages, as a highlight of their trip. Some even said the extended 2½-day stay in Myanmar was their main reason for booking, while others said they were attracted by the excellent value of seeing so much of Southeast Asia on just one itinerary.
The ship provides a wide range of destination-focused shore excursions for an additional cost. Guests can learn how to make Thai curry, see how rice is farmed and experience an elephant ride overlooking Phuket on an excursion called Siam Elephant Safari. They can also see the sacred Shwedagon Pagoda and watch it change colors at sunset and shimmer after dark. Other nature and wildlife trips, such as options to visit Langkawi on Pregnant Maiden Island and Wet Rice Island, are available as well.
Dining includes fresh local dishes from around the world in addition to the more traditional options. Passengers choose from the upscale Pinnacle Grill, Canaletto, the Rotterdam dining room, Lido buffet, pool deck or room service. For one night on every cruise, the pool deck transforms into an Asian market with food stalls.
Although we were at sea, it felt as if we were actually out on the streets in Penang, sampling noodles, dumplings, steamed buns and more.
Other activities include everything from learning how to write Chinese characters, morning tai chi sessions and Burmese dance classes to slot machines and bridge tournaments. There are kids’ clubs, two pools, hot tubs, a fitness center, five lounges and Broadway-style production shows onboard.
Throughout the ship, hidden nooks with sweeping vistas are ideal for quiet reading time or intimate conversation. In the evening, passengers return to rooms ranging from balcony suites with teak-lined verandas to cozy interior staterooms with extra closet space. The Volendam will sail the Asian Adventure itinerary, departing from Singapore, on Feb. 16.