After arriving in Auckland to some pretty indifferent weather – high winds, rain and chilly temperatures – the afternoon we went to join Volendam was pretty nice. Check-in was a breeze, and it wasn’t long before we were in our deck 2 stateroom unpacking and planning the rest of the day.

Volendam is spending her third season in Australasia, and the part of the 12-day cruise we are experiencing is from Auckland to Christchurch. From there the ship will continue on and making the Tasman crossing to Hobart, eventually bound for Sydney.

Volendam is 11 years old and a more traditional kind of cruise ship, complete with a dark blue hull, a proper promenade deck you can walk around, and a decor with hints of art deco glamour. But she’s showing her age a bit here and there, though, especially in staterooms, and will be entering dry dock next year to have them upgraded from their original design to a new colour scheme including fresh curtains and upholstery.

Our stateroom is a double with an ocean view window, and although it’s compact there is plenty of wardrobe space. Oddly there’s no fridge, even though soft drinks and water are left on your desk in the form of a mini bar, and the bathroom is has a  small tub with a shower combined.

Dining wise, Holland America’s prides itself on taking food very seriously. On Volendam there is a main dining room with one section reserved for traditional two sittings, and another for As You Wish, open seating dining, both serving international cuisine. Other options include the Lido for casual buffet-style dining, and Canaletto for Italian (it’s just an area of Lido which has been separated). What we are holding out for is the Pinnacle Grill, the ship’s gourmet eatery which incurs a surcharge of US $20 – that’s been reserved for our last night on board – and promises to be the ultimate in dining.

As for bars and lounges there are plenty. The Explorers Cafe is a favourite spot for us to get a decent coffee and enjoy the view – it’s got some lovely leather loungers by the windows for relaxing in. This is also the internet cafe, although I’ve been able to get a wi-fi signal from our stateroom, thus avoiding the schlep upstairs to post this blog! Another favourite spot is the Piano Bar where every night between 7pm and 8pm you get 2-for-1 martinis…..which can be very dangerous!

At this stage of the cruise, we have only had one port of call to explore, which was Tauranga yesterday – a pretty beach community on the Bay of Plenty. The key excursion from here is to Rotorua and its famous hot springs, but as we’d seen that before, and it was a glorious day, we decided to walk the base of Mount Maunganui, and then to the summit. It’s a challenging walk which is can be done one of two ways – a 60-minute easier round trip, or a 40-minute tough round trip. Either way you work up a sweat, but the views from the top are sublime.

Afterwards we hit the spa for a well earned bit of pampering. The Greenhouse Spa, run by Steiner, is forward on deck eight and my treatment room had big windows offering a lovely view. I opted for a combo treatment which included a 25-minute back massage, with 25 minutes of foot reflexology. My Japanese therapist, Teru, was excellent. Ben opted for a 50 minute Swedish massage, great for working out the aches and pains of our big workout!

Right now, we have just arrived into port serving the art deco town of Napier. It’s another beautiful day, if chillier than yesterday, and our afternoon’s entertainment is all about wine – an excursion to Hawkes Bay to enjoy the stunning local scenery and some gorgeous New Zealand wines.

Stayed tuned for part 2 of this voyage in next week’s blog!