As an introduction we are on our first cruise aboard the Holland America Veendam. We have cruised on several other Holland American ships however decided a couple of years ago to switch away from Holland America. However this year we wanted a cruise that would include the holidays and a non-European cruise thus we opted for the South American cruise and included the return cruise making this a back to back adventure. The views and opinions expressed in this review are those solely of the author who is in no way connected with Holland America. We know and respect your views and opinions which may be totally different from ours. You had a different cabin, perhaps different waiters, different restaurants, etc. throughout the cruise(s) and thus saw the same cruise from a different perspective.
The ship reflects recent refurbishing throughout. The ship was launched in 1996. We don't know exactly what the theme was supposed to be thus we will call it 1920's Supper Club Modern. Many areas look as though we have reentered the supper club era of the 1920s.In any event the ship is being well maintained for the guest. Bytoday's standards the Veendam has to fit into the small ship category, after all there are large and mega ships with over 4000 passengers and small ships with around 750 passengers. With a passenger compliment of around 1350 passengers the Veendam is definitely not considered a large cruise ship by today's standards. From our view that is very good as we don't really care for the rock climbing, the boisterous swimming pool antics and adventurer land aboard a cruise ship. Upon closer inspection you will notice several broken or cracked glasses and windows throughout the ship. Some of the metal especially around the outside windows is pitted and rough indicating it was not recently replaced.
The first cruise left from Rio de Janerio and thus there were more passengers from the United States. On the second leg of the cruise starting in Santiago, there were even less from the United States. The Neptune Club on our deck was only occasionally visited by a person from the United States.
We are taking back to back cruises on this ship thus we have one segment from Rio to Valparaiso followed by a segment from Valparaiso, Chile to Buenos Aires. Several of the ports will be the same thus we have an opportunity to see more at each port. We have previously visited some of these ports, just a couple of years ago, and this trip will give us an opportunity to see things we missed in the past.
Seating throughout the ship contains both comfortable and uncomfortable seats. Funny you say that we would start the review about seating. We were so fascinated that we even took dozens of pictures. Some seating appears to be for "munchkins" as they have extremely high back with very small seats. In the Showroom At Sea almost all seats have low backs, thus providing little comfort for a lengthy show. On top of all of this, unless you select a chair to sit in you will find nothing but bench h style seating, all of which we found uncomfortable. What were they thinking?
Dining room seating is much better however some chairs have arms while other are open chairs. There seems to be no consistency at any of the tables---just whatever is available at the time. Get to your table a few minutes early and select your own chair even if that means borrowing from another table.
In our cabin we had a leather couch however I challenge anyone to try to sit for any length of time when the ship is moving and tossing as you will most certainly be tossed to the deck because of the slickness.
The ship as a whole is nice and clean and one will get used to dÃ©cor.
RESERVATIONS Just a note about making reservations. Not all published cruise prices will be the same, however most cruise agents can match the lowest price you may locate on another cruise site. Just ask! We waited almost too late to purchase a suite cabin and we had to move to a different cabin at the end of the first cruise as the first cabin we purchased had already been sold. You should try to get the same cabin throughout all your segments as you don't want to have to move after a few days at sea. We deliberately chose the starboard side on our first segment as that gave us a shore view from our veranda and on the returned segment we chose the port side so we could again have the shore side view from our verandah. That worked really well. Now a word about location of the cabin. Our first cabin was 035 about midway on the Navigation Deck. The second cabin was 006 which was at the front of the ship. This made a really great difference on the open seas however not a concern in the inland passages. The ship's movement was almost never felt when we were in cabin 035. Don't be eager to take the first suggestion from your travel agent if you are not pleased with the location on the ship. There are also cruise web sites where you can check available cabin locations on each of the decks.
Changing cabins should be an easy process (in our judgment), however Holland America apparently does not have a firm policy on this thus a separate letter has been generated back to corporate. On the next to last day of our first segment we still had not received anything from the front desk about our move to another cabin. I inquired three times and each time got different information. Finely on the last evening of the cruise we received a letter with partial information about the move to cabin 6. We still had no key to our cabin though thus another visit to the front desk where we advised to come back the following day. Our new cabin was made available to us around 0930 on the last day of the cruise and we received a new cabin key card upon visit once again to the front desk. We had not received any statement of charges for the cruise so we asked and was told we could have an interim copy. We also did not receive a survey questionnaire and were advised we would get that at the end of the second segment. We moved most of our personal belongings with a crew member helping us with a rack of clothes. BOARDING THE SHIP----We flew to Rio de Janerio and boarded the ship at the terminal in downtown Rio. It was a total disaster as the terminal is under renovation for the forthcoming Olympics. The main area was completely closed and HA had all passengers' crowded into spaces just inside the entrance. Once checked in, you had to go to a backroom and wait to be called by group number for boarding. I can understand the need for the renovations as the terminal is in bad need of repair. If you arrive during this renovation period, just be patient. Once inside this portion of the terminal space there is nothing to do other than sit or stand and wait for your boarding number to be called. Listen carefully for that number as there was no PA system.
We provided the computer generated boarding pass at the check in counter. I could not believe how many ahead of us did not have that pass with them Your passport will be confiscated and you will be given a receipt. If you need to update your credit card or change to a different credit card from the one you originally gave HA, you cannot do it at check in and will have to proceed to the Purser's Office once aboard. A word about your passport. Holland America apparently has the feeling that we as guest are not capable or responsible enough to carry our own passports. You will be told that the retention of passports is necessary for customer officials to quickly check the ship's roster. In any event you may find, as we did, a reluctance at some ports to even exchange currencies. In Buenos Aires we were refused twice because we could not produce the original passport. To complicate the matter, Holland America does not exchange monies aboard ship and even the casino refused our Brazilian money. TIPâ€”make a couple copies of your passport before you leave home. Do this in color as the black and white copies may not look all that official. We found that by producing a color copy and discussing with a clerk what Holland American had done concerning retention of our passports, the on shore transactions went smoothly. Our passports were returned two days before the end of the cruise.
Once our group number was called the process went rather quickly however there will be those that try to jump the line by not following the called number. The staff sent all we saw to the back of the line and that was the way it should be. ABOARD SHIP----You will soon learn that sanitation is of primary concern for HA as you will be asked to wash your hands as you enter the ship and there are hand sanitizers located all over the ship. We personally think it is a good ideal. You will be asked to stop at the end of the gangplank for a picture to be taken. We just try to accommodate the photographer as he/she is doing their job and we normally have no intention of purchasing that photo. These are just snapshots and remember you don't have to purchase any of them.
The Holland American staff, almost without exception, provides a genuine excellent level of service. Everyone greeted us with a warm greeting and their service was impeccable. There were some guest though on the second segment of the cruise that apparently felt they deserved more that friendly service. They displayed an arrogance with DEMANDS. Frankly I think they need to find another mode of travel. One passenger got very upset with the waiter because there wasn't a certain kind of tea available for him. Give me a break!!
Travel on cruise ships has definitely changed for the worse in the past two decades. Some passengers want to dress as "slobs" and expect to sit next to you on formal night while wearing a pair of sandals and a gross t-shirt. On smart casual nights one can see flip flops, ragged t-shirts and shorts. We even saw one 80 year old woman wearing what appeared to be gym shorts on smart casual night. These are some of the same passengers that demand their food be served immediately, reject their entrÃ©e and send that glass of wine back as they state it is not suitable. They was also the person at the purser's desk arguing about the $5.95 drink charge which they swear is not theirs. We don't personally have a problem with these type passengers however we do believe they would be better off traveling on a container ship or oil barge in the future.
OUR CABIN----We have been traveling on cruises since 1980 thus we have been on board a number of different ships. This time we decided to give up one of our cruises of the year so we could have a suite. Best decision we ever made. We selected cabin 035 on the first segment. However because we waited too late to decide on this cruise we had to change to cabin 006 (which was just a stone's throw away from 007) on the second segment. Not a big deal as the staff will move us at the end of the first segment. Cabin 035 was on the starboard side which gave us the shoreline on the travel both south and north. Cabin 006 will give us the same shore side verandah view on the return trip back.
Our suite was fabulous. More space than we usually have in a hotel room and a patio that was unbelievable. Two lounge chairs and four sit down chairs, a table and still a lot of room left. We had our beds configured for a king size and the industry still does not have this down. There is that split in the middle that is most uncomfortable. Our living room area was very large with a coffee table, two club chairs and a sectional couch. There was a closet with a large bar with lots of glasses, and a mini bar filled with drinks. The bathroom was very large with three closets, the most we have ever had on a cruise. There was a dressing area just outside the shower area that was really outstanding. Mirrors all over the place along with lots of counter space. The cabin was very tastefully decorated. Carpet almost new as were the covers on the verandah chairs. Lighting throughout the cabin was excellent. There is small desk working space juts opposite the bar. There are more drawers and closets in this cabin than one will have clothes to fill. If don't mind gambling a little and waiting until the last minute for your cruise, you may find a suite at a greatly discounted price. If you do, reserve it immediately and make your travel accordingly. Please be aware that some cruise destination, including embarkations, may require that you have a visa in addition to your passport and depending on the number of such visas needed for a particular cruise, it may take some time to get those.
NEPTUNE CLUB ROOM----Since we are in a suite we have access to the club room on the Navigation Deck where we have a full time concierge. Coffee, water, teas, small desserts and sandwiches throughout the day. Television and internet hook up (don't get excitedâ€”please review my section on the Internet). The concierge staff was excellent and most accommodating. This is just a nice place to relax away from the crowds in some parts of the ship. You can save the long lines at the tour desk by letting the concierge make the tour reservations and obtain your tour tickets. On the first segment of the cruise we noticed just guest from the suite section, however on the second segment we were surprised to see some in the lounge that were not suite guest. At least one of them appeared to have been brought to the lounge by one of the suite guest. It is our opinion that if guest did not pay for this level of cabins they should not be using the Neptune Lounge. We also witnessed some passengers who kept the concierge busy for lengthy times as they asked trivial questions. One woman insisted that the concierge go over her entire dining room times and options day by day for the entire cruise. By the way those times and options were clearly listed in the daily bulletin.
In the suite category you are given several amenities complimentary and one of those is the free laundry and dry cleaning. We sent a bag everyday and many times the laundry came back to us on the same day we sent it. The service was excellent.
Another perk one has with the breakfast served just for suite guest in the Pinnacle Dining Room. Once again the service was outstanding. You can also have a continental breakfast in the Neptune Lounge.
Anyone contemplating an upgrade to the suite level should check the HA bulletin to see a list of everything that is offered in the suite class. If you are a frequent HA guest and have reached the three or four star level, a combination of those rewards along with the suite amenities could weigh heavily upon one's decision on where to travel and what cruise line to take.
We received priority boarding on tender departures and once the passports were returned they were available in the Neptune Lounge thus we did not have to stand in long lines to get our passports.
ENTERTAINMENT-----I inevitably hear some passenger state that they don't care that much about the cruising and destinations, as they come on board for the entertainment. Look friend, I feel sorry for you if your number one objective in cruising is for the entertainment. Some shows are not all that good and if you stayed at home you could probably find some really good high school productions that would suit your taste. On our next to last night aboard we had a male and female singer that were very good. The dancers need to work on their portion of the act. I felt so sorry for one entertainer I had to leave the auditorium 10 minutes after he started. I was actually praying that some could get though their act without totally screwing it up or forgetting their lines. One magic act had little professionalism in it and the children at the local library club will provide you a better magic/comedy act. All in all the evening shows were acceptable with some actually being good. Pick your entertainment nights and if the act does not live up to expectations then just politely leave.
INTERNET---Let me get this "negative" out of the way first. I paid for the 250 minutes internet service as soon as I boarded in Rio and then being the sucker I am paid again on the second segment for another 250 minutes. Looks like I would have learned my lesson. I used up my first 150 minutes just trying to log on and was successful a couple of times. I figure my emails are costing me about $20 an email. This is by far the worst internet service aboard any ship in the world. Don't expect any sympathy or assistance from the "clerk" on board as he would just as soon you left him alone. After three days I swore off the internet and decided I would never again pay Holland America even as much as dime for their internet service. A walk though this morning (our 6th day) revealed only one person using the internet in the internet cafÃ©. In our cabin the service is even worse. At the concierge desk there are two computers and wireless however it is not good. Yesterday I was ashore in Montevideo and took my iPad with me. Found a Wi-Fi hookup at the California Burrito Company restaurant. It was free. The hook up was amazing. Just as good as my cable service back home. I learned from other passengers that had also enjoyed such success at other internet cafes in the town. We even used Facetime and SKYPE, which by the way is "can't be used" aboard ship. Save money and most of all save frustration by waiting until you are docked and then look for an internet cafÃ© or Wi-Fi spot. We are now two days away from our final destination and the internet has some reliability. We noticed almost all terminals are in use today. We were able to hook up to the internet with only two tries and sending e-mails took less than 20 minutes. What a deal!! Before I receive numerous e-mails. I am aware that the satellite transmission of communications in some parts of the world are rather limited and this may be the case with the South American cruise. However, in all fairness to the customers, HA should not be selling services it cannot deliver.
CROWS NEST------On deck 12 at the front of the ship is the Crown's Nest, a place that we frequently have gone for quite time to read. This location is actually large and quite during non-sea days. More passengers use on sea days with some talking so loud they disturb others. One corner is for smokers so if you don't like second hand smoke better stay away from that section. The seats are not all that comfortable as they as low backs and small seats. Lots of bench seating if that is your thing. Occasionally there is a group or travel club meeting on one side to the area. The bar opens later in the day as there is dancing and music in the evening hours. Lots of fog on our trip thus seeing much from the 12th deck was rather limited. I will not list the name, however there was a large travel group from one US company and if that is the way they conduct their tours I will most certainly not be using that company in the future. The "hostess" was actually quite rude. In one waiting area she insisted on getting her group up front and ahead of others that had been waiting. Please remember these are not HA employees but rather independent tour operators. If you are invited to attend a Captain's cocktail, you will more than likely find it located in the Crowe's Nest. There will be no "hand shaking" from either the Captain or his crew. All for health reasons.
THE CAPTAIN-----The Captain came to the Neptune Lounge (where the suites are) on the very first evening and brought key personnel with him. This was excellent and another benefit when purchasing a suite. He returned on a later date and chatted with the passengers. There was a special Indonesian luncheon for the suite guest held at the Pinnacle Restaurant with both the hotel manager and the Captain attending. We had to miss the stop at Port Stanley, however the Captain explained more than once it was a safety issue due to the weather. He was sincere and his explanation was acceptable. He seemed to always be truly concerned about the guest aboard. He left us after the first cruise segment and a new captain came aboard. He was present at the first night reception held in the Neptune Lounge for the suite guest. We had an unusual experience as we had two Captain's with the first segment Captain going on leave at the end of the first segment and a new Captain coming aboard.
THE FLORISTâ€”You can purchase from HA, through a pre-board internet program, flowers for your room. We paid a premium price and the flowers did not look that good the day we boarded. Within three days they really looked bad as the roses had swiveled up and dropped their petals. We had to toss them on day 5. HA puts a small bouquet in your cabin if you are on the suite deck. They too withered to nothing after day 4 and were taken out of the cabin by the room steward. On our second segment of the cruise we received a very nice bouquet in our suite. We were never sure who sent them as there was no note. They lasted for several days. In fact the flowers at our dining room table were changed several times as they did not hold up all that well.
FOOD---There are six main food locations on the ship. The ROTTERDAM is the main dining room located on decks 7 & 8. Breakfast, lunch and dinner is available. You may be assigned (for dinner) early, late or open seating. The LIDO is the deck 11 cafeteria type dining open for breakfast, lunch and dinner. You will find the cafeteria line to be broken down into various food sections designed to make the lines shorter and service faster. Does not always happen as some passengers just can't make up their minds on what they wanted. There are the two specialty restaurants, the Pinnacle, where one can get steaks and sea food and the Canaletto Restaurant where Italian food is available. Both of two restaurants require an extra charge. The TERRACE GRILL is located on deck 11 at the end of the swimming pool. You can get hamburgers, hot dogs and fish and chips for lunch or late afternoon snacks. The SLICE Pizza is located on the aft of deck 11 and is weather dependant.
We dined all over the ship and we are convinced the quality of the food is the same wherever you go except for the specialty restaurants where you pay an extra fee. If you are being served you will swear the portions are much smaller than on past cruises and we think you will be correct. They seem to count the exact number of green beans or asparagus spears and they will be much less than in the past. In the Rotterdam the asparagus spears were wilted and about the diameter of a pencil. In the Pinnacle the asparagus spears were three or four times the diameter, were green and crisp and served with an excellent hollandaise sauce. They were top quality. However in all fairness, you can ask for more. One evening when crab legs were being served the waiter told us the crab legs were small and not that many and if we wanted to have that entrÃ©e he could bring more to start with. We accepted the offer and the crab legs were indeed small and there were only two on the original plate.
Food in my judgment, is about what you are going to get back home in a nice restaurant location. It will be served with a little more fanfare though. At the LIDO food is similar to any cafeteria back home. You can always order seconds and the wait staff will accommodate your request.. This reduction in the quantity is certainly being done by the "pencil pushers" as they try to figure out ways to increase the profit margin.
The suite guest can have breakfast in the Pinnacle Restaurant with no additional charges. Lunch and Dinner in the same location comes with an extra charge ($10 & $25). Sometimes a quiet evening is worth the price. Not all the suite guest knew about the "no charge" Pinnacle dining for breakfast. Ask the concierge what days breakfast is served for suite guest.. The dinner meal is actually very good with the steaks being great quality and grilled exactly as you order. The bone in rib eye that I ordered was excellent and would challenge any steakhouse in Dallas. The food and service was so good, we are going back for a second evening. There are always a few that think they the staff in the dining rooms are servants and thus they make unreasonable demands. We saw one male that did not like the selection of teas available and he actually threw a fit. Another passenger ordered eggs Benedict and she did not like the way they were served while just a couple of tables away the woman insisted the meat was not prepared correctly and thus sent it back. For those in suites the Neptune Lounge is open for breakfast snacks such as coffee and Danish, however not a full breakfast. You can also get snacks and coffees at the Explorations CafÃ©. When we first arrived on the ship, there was no self service of food items. This was relaxed a little after the first 48 hours and you could serve yourself on certain items on the Lido Deck. There were some food items that continued to be served by the wait staff. This no self service policy applied to all food areas throughout the ship, including the Neptune Lounge for the suite guest.
You should certainly not go away from the ship hungry and the wait staff that we met tries hard to make your dining experience a good one.
MOVIES---There are several choices depending upon the days. On deck 11 there is the large outdoor screen which had excellent picture quality and however the sound system is very poor. A lot of the passengers left the area after only a few minutes due to the poor sound quality. You just flatly could not hear the sound. Once the weather turned cold no one seemed to attend these movies. Look for the free popcorn.
Movies on certain days may be shown in the Showroom At Sea. The screen is smallâ€”smallâ€”small. Not much more than your large TV screen at home. Sound is acceptable though. No popcorn. There is the movie theater on deck , the Wijang Theater. The screen is large however don't expect high quality on the screen nor expect high quality sound. The seats in the center section are comfortable. Popcorn is free and you get about 1/3 of a bag. The number of bags is limited and if you get there at the beginning of the show don't expect pop corn as the bags will all be gone. Movies we saw were just DVDs, some of which reflected a lot or use or improper mishandling.
EXPLORE TECHNOLOGY----This is a series of "classes" that Microsoft and HA provided free of charge. There is minimal seating, so get thee early. I think HA must go out of their was to obtain the most impersonal people anywhere when it comes to the technology and internet. I would have to give this person a very low rating when it comes to a friendly personality. She has an almost scripted program format , so don't expect to interrupt her and ask a question. Her voice presentation was without much volume thus if you are sitting close to the back of the room you may find hearing difficult. One good aspect is that we were told the "lessons" could be downloaded from the internet when you returned home. As a note, this is supported by Microsoft so expect to get a sales presentation pertaining to Microsoft products. You can learn a little about some of the subjects however if you are already an advanced used of software and the internet you may find these presentations rather boring. Some subjects included cameras and photography however once again don't expect in-depth technical assistance. FOOD PREPERATION & ENTERTAINING---If you have very many sea days you will most likely be looking for something to occupy your time. Perhaps a culinary workshop or food preparation would be to your choosing. Some of these classes have a fee associated with it, thus you have to sign up and be preregistered before going. We just attended the free ones as we are not professional chefs and have no desire to become one. Cake decorating drew about a dozen guest and lasted about 20 minutes. The presentations are made in the Culinary Arts Center (that is the Wajang Theater on Deck 7) BEVERAGES----There are eight locations throughout the ship where you can obtain beverages with the MIX being in the center of the ship on Deck 8. It's a sports bar thus if the satellite transmission is working you can pick up a football game from the US. You can purchase a drink card for 50% of the retail cost and alcoholic drink cards are also available for a discount. Check at the Wine Cellar on deck 7.There is no refund at the end of the cruise. We just paid by the day for whatever we ordered. There is a wine special where you can purchase three bottles of wine for a fixed price. This will actually save you some money if you expect to consume three bottles of wine during your cruise. There is a wine cellar on Deck 7 where a selection can be made. Taking your own non-Holland America wine will incur a corkage fee in the dining room.
EXPLORE OUR WORLD----These presentations cover a wide range of subjects, some of which are interesting and other which will give you an opportunity to sleep for an hour. We noticed guest attending were involved in a lot of activities, such as reading the Kindle, crocheting, talking and reading a book. You might want to drop by one of two sessions to see if anything interests you. Don't expect to earn your PHD from the subjects being discussed. Some classes there are discussions on ports where the ship docks. The speaker/presenter was very good. CASINO-----I am usually negative when it comes to cruise ship casino, however this time I make an exception. This is a very small casino, with one roulette table and no crap table. Not all that many slot machines. There are one and two cent slot machines, however I never did figure out a way to play only a penny. The staff is friendly, accommodating and patient. I write patient as there were several novice gamblers that did not know the games or rules, however the staff took their time and made the people feel good and want to gamble. They still lost, however had a good time in doing so. There are Texas Hold'em Tournaments, Slot and Blackjack Tournaments. Texas Hold'em tournaments had buy ins on the first segment which was $30 however it went to $60 on the second segment. The slot tournament had a grand price of $500. The casino is closed while in Chilean waters and at all ports. Video cameras are not allowed however still pictures are permitted in the casino.
THE SIGNATURE SHOPS----Sales of merchandise seems to pop up just about anywhere. Could not believe all the people pushing to get those t-shirts at pool side (2 for $25).Most of the "stuff" in the stores one just does not need. The watches and jewelry can be purchased stateside or on the internet at about the same prices or lower. Perfume available on this ship was rather limited and when my wife asked the prices it was more than state side sales prices. The store close to the MIX Lounger was clean and very well lighted. There is a liquor store on the same deck that carries a few drug items and snacks. If you think you will want snacks or drug items, bring them with you. The cost aboard is way out of line. There are several "sales days" aboard, some around the pool or on the deck where the shops are located. Just what you needed more "stuff" to put into that suitcase and take home for the next garage sale.
PHOTO GALLERY------The ship offered all the photos taken of you aboard the cruise for a one time price of $299.00. Throughout the cruise we never saw very many passengers making purchases at the photo shop, however on the last day at sea of the first segment, we witnessed several making package as well as individual purchases. Many of the photos taken on shore and in the dining room were actually not all that great. They were just poorly concrafted snap shots and I know you can do much better. Even the formal night photos were out of focus, poorly posed and just enlarged snap shots. We noticed very few guest stopped by the photo locations on formal nights. The ship also has a special section called "Black & White". We talked with the graduate photographer, a young girl from England, who studied design, etc. and went into the photo portion after graduating. She has limited settings for her work and she tells me that generally the work is done on 8 X 10. There is no charge for the settings, however she advises there is a limit of 18 clients per cruise. You have to be into this type of photography to enjoy it and many are not all that keen about the rather off the wall concept for portraits. You will find though some of these type approaches to photography being highly acclaimed especially in the photo magazine contest. THE OUTSIDE WALKING TRACKâ€”DECK 6---This is a walking track with several signs posted that advise "No Jogging Allowed"---In spite of that, you are going to encounter the person who thinks they are still a high school jock and can run down all those who walk on this deck. This is really a nice area to enjoy and four trips around the deck will give you your daily mile. Walk in the direction indicted by the arrows, not opposite like those "jocks" who apparently could not read. TOURS The ship's staff will offer a presentation on the various tours that are available. This will more than likely take place on the first morning after sailing. You can also go on line after registering and pre reserve your tours via the internet. We found this easy to do and on top of that your tour tickets will be delivered to your stateroom on your first day at sea. If you happen to be staying in a suite the concierge has the ability to reserve your tour at his/her desk and print your tour tickets immediately. Under the "ports" section I have discussed some tours. Benjamin along with another crew person made presentations on tours each morning. While they never misrepresent the tours, you may find the actual tours a little different than the presentations. For example the City of Rose and the German settlement tour was listed as 3 Â½ to 4 hours. This was a tender location. We waited on the ship from 8:05 until 8:30 when we boarded the tender. After arriving at shore we had to wait until a second tender arrived which took us to around 9:15AM. The moved through the city to a stopping point above the city where we stopped for 5 minutes before proceeding o Puerto Arenas where we arrived at 10:15AM and advised we had approximately 30 minutes to visit the town. We reboaded at 10:50 and proceeded to the town of Fruitillar where we were again given 30 minutes to visit the German Settlement. Leaving at 11:45AM we arrived back at the dock around 1PM, boarded the tender and was back on the ship at 1:40PM. If you count all the waiting time then it is possible to get 3 Â½ to 4 hours posted in the tour brochure. Actual time at the two site---one hour with all the rest being travel and waiting time. If you had done this on your own you could have seen a lot more and spent additional time at both locations. LAUNDRY & PRESSING & DRY CLEANING The laundry and dry cleaning with a suite cabin is complimentary. Otherwise there is a charge. Before you go cheering about this a word of caution. Don't send any really good, especially designer, clothing to be washed or cleaned. After 5 laundries your under clothes will no longer be a bright white, but rather a dingy gray. Those shirts you had laundered and starched will look a little dingy after just a few washings and your trousers will not hold a crease even a few hours after wearing. The bottom line is that the free service is a fantastic idea however the wear and tear on your clothes may end up costing you in the long run. My colorful polo shirts have lost their brightness and now look like dollar store shirts. Perhaps I can pass them off as designer polo shirts that were designed with dingy colors and by cutting a couple of holes in the blue jeans I now have designer blue jeans. As for the under shorts---they did not cost that much so I will toss them upon return home.
PUERTO MONTT, CHILE This is an anchor port with about a 15 minute tender ride to shore. The landing port is a little over one mile from city center. There is very little around the actual port other than some local shops. The walk to town center will take about 30 minutes over concrete walkways and some gravel intersections. We found little to do in the town center other than browse through some of the local shops and stores. Tired of ship food---there is a McDonalds in the middle of town. We would suggest taking one of the ship's tours thus on our return trip we decided to take the tour that goes to Puerto Varas and Frutillar, the "city of roses" and the "little black forest". USHUAIA, ARGENTINA----- This is a neat little town of about 60000 population and is the most southern city in the world. The day we were there the weather was spectacular with the temperature around 50 degrees. A short walk from the cruise ship to downtown and St. Martin Street where one finds all the shopping, including internet cafes and restaurants. If you want to use the internet there are several locations on St. MARTIN'S Street and at a very nice hotel the Wi-Fi is free plus the coffee is rather good too and at a reasonable price with no charge for the internet. You will though need your own laptop. There are several museums plus the train to the end of the world. People are friendly and the US Dollar was accepted everywhere we went and credit cards could be used with your passport. One day we were there many of the shops were closed all day on Wednesday. By the way---tour guides at the end of the pier will tell you that just about everything you go to see will be "at the end of the world". According to the ship's personnel this is basically true as it is the mostly southern large city in the world. As we leave Argentine and return to our cabin we have a notice from Guest relations (still puzzled by guest relations title) that as we head for Chile we need to complete an entry form for each person. The form has been partially completed thus all we have to do is check a few blocks and sign. No doubt the cruise line feels as though many or some of us don't have the ability to complete such forms so they do it for us. A letter attached states that we need to have a copy of our passport which the cruise line has previously given us. When you make your last stop in Chile an immigration office usually aboard ship will ask you for that form before you leave the ship, so hang onto it.
PUNTA ARENAS, CHILE-----This is a neat town with a very clean downtown area. The port though for our ship was in the industrial cargo container section and if you are going to the city center you should get a taxi ($10 per cabin or ride one of the vans ($3 per person) as going to town. It is too far to walk. There is a very nice port downtown and the days we were there a Seaborn ship was berthed. The area around that port is very clean with lots of new construction including a large casino. You can easily walk to the downtown from this port. There is some small amount of shopping about a mile from the pier. If you are not on a pre-paid tour there are dozens of taxis available in downtown and for a flat price they will take you most anyplace you desire to visit. We hired a taxi to take us an hour's drive away to a penguin colony. The price for three hours was $100 which included a return to our ship. In downtown we found a neat coffee shop, candy store/deli all rolled into one. Decorated in Christmas colors and trim, the place offered free internet (need your own PC or iPad). This was a friendly very clean stop located just a block off the main square on the main shopping street. At the park square there are dozens of local vendors selling trinkets as well as locally made crafts. Prices are most reasonable. A very nice tourist bureau office is in the park.
You may have taken just those tours offered by the cruise ships or you may be an independent traveled and contract for your own tours. Around the square are lots of taxis and tour operators.Let's compare one of the tours offered at this port.
The ship tour programs calls this the Patagonia Experience Otway Sound & Penguin Reserve -4 hours for $94.You travel to Otway Sound mostly over gravel roads. You will walk to the penguins area and from beginning to end is about 1 Â½ miles over dirt, gravel, tundra and wooden walkways. The walk is not difficult however the walkways re uneven. Your guide will speak English. There are no stops and you are kept to a rigid time schedule. Most likely some guest will not be aboard on time to return from the tour. You will wait along with all the others.
Now let's do the same trip "on your own". The cost for the driver to and from the ship was $100. You have to pay to enter the park and that is $4 each for you and your traveling companion. At the sound there is a $11 per person entrance charge. Total paid for the trip is $130. No tip to the driver. Total paid for the cruise ship tour is $188 plus $5 guide tip for $193. Savings for independent travel for this trip is $63.00
How do the trips compare? On the ship's tour you have English speaking guide, large bus type seating and service from ship back to ship with no corners about being late as the ship will wait. On the independent travel you save $63.00. The driver speaks very little English. You get service from and back to ship. The driver stops for you to take pictures along the way of the jack rabbit, sheep and wild birds. Not going to be the case on the large bus. The seating is car level with small seats however there is air-condition. Almost to your ship and you spot a souvenir stand so the driver stops. Not the case on the bus. Will the ship wait if your are late returning----NOT in a million years.
You weigh the difference and see which is best for you. Time was not a factor as both the taxi and the bus returned some 4 hours before departure time..
MONTEVIDEO, URUGUAY-----The ships docks right downtown thus walking into the city center is easy. Once off the ship, look for the "green walk way"---that being the sidewalk that is painted green and one that will lead you away from the pier and into the city. Although we were there this last time on a Sunday there were still some stores open and lots of locals on the streets. Travel a few blocks up the street from the pier and make a left toward the city park area which is a few blocks up a slight incline. There is a church on one corner across from the park so look for that church steeple so you can track your way. Want to use the internet (must have your own PC)---well there is a small California Burrito Company store on your right as you go toward the park. Free and fast internet hookup so you can send everyone an e-mail. It's free however at least purchase a drink from the friendly operator. He will appreciate your business. The burritos are hugh so don't order more than one. Traveling on toward the park and then past the park, you will leave the old town and enter the newer financial and hotel district. Worth your time to see all the locals busy shooing and hustling from office to office.
If the city center is not your thing, we suggest going to the COLONIA DEL SACRAMENTO which is a UNESCO World Heritage site. It is a 2 Â¼ hour drive each way. You can opt for a tour from the ship or hire a driver at the pier. A personal driver will not take quite as long to get to the town. There are tolls along the way thus check to see if the driver is willing to pay those tolls. We had lunch at one of the local restaurants in the town. It was a long day with cobblestone streets inside the old city. Walking may be a little difficult however it can be done. Wheelchairs are a little more difficult to navigate.
There is also a steam train ride available however we were advised this is primarily a tourist attraction like one might find at a large amusement park.
Just across the street from the ship terminal entrance is a large pavilion filled with shops and many restaurants. Fresh meats are being bar b q'ed and grill over open pit fires. This is definitely a place to visit and to have lunch or dinner. FALKLANDS ISLANDS No doubt our most interesting and adventurous port stop. First the tenders have to travel quite a way to get to Port Stanley. The water was rough and the winds very strong. We went ashore without any tour reservations and found a local person that took us on a fantastic penguin tour about an hour away from the docks. He had a 4 wheel drive Range Rover that was needed as we crossed private ranch land to reach the nesting and beach area. We were the first to arrive at the area where we spent about 30 minutes observing and photographing at least 200 penguins. We can say this was a fantastic opportunity. As we left several other 4 wheel drive vehicles arrived and all in all at least a dozen by the time we got back to the gravel highway. We were paying $40 each for our trip will some of these other people had paid as much as $259 per person to see the penguins. Oh they did get a box lunch thrown in. We could not have been more pleased with this experience. It was fantastic and we saved a large bundle of money. Upon return to the docks we spent the next hour touring the small port town of Port Stanley. By the way that would have been another tour charge had we purchased on the ship. The time on shore was short, however by 1:30PM we were ready to return to the ship and we caught the last tender back to the ship before tender service was suspended. Those still on tours and on shore found long lines and long waiting time for their return trip to the ship. We were about two hours later leaving the area due to these long waits caused by large waves and high winds. The ride back consisted of repeated tossing's by the waves and getting along side of the ship became a real challenge for the skipper of the tender as we tried several times before being able to get along side. Even then many of us got thourghly soaked by the splashing waves that hit the tender. You can walk all over Port Stanley in a short period of time. We don't think a paid tour for walking is necessary. There is a war memorial that you need to see. Also a large general store right on the waterside street(The West Store), where you can get groceries, a cup of coffee, books and souvenirs, wines, toiletries plus there is an electrical store where cameras and supplies are available.. The place is clean and prices are reasonable. Across the street is the Capstan Gift Shop where some nice gifts c an be found. Numerous gift shops are in the downtown area. There are some small coffee and bakery shops that are worthy of your stooping by. Look for them on the side street away from the water. Pass up the "trinkets" shop as many of these souvenirs may not be of such great quality. There are two churches downtown just opposite the water and a restaurant across from the newspaper office. (Christ Church Cathedral , St. Mary's Catholic Church and The Tabernacle, United Free Church).Close by is the Post Office. The Whalebone Arch is in this part of town as is the 1982 Liberation Memorial. A school is also located downtown. The houses are quaint and most have a brightly painted roof that can be seen from a long distance. The wind blows very hard so bundle up for your walking tour. We were told that the Falklands get 40% of all their electrical power from wind turbines and that the percentage is increasing on a steady basis. If you are interested in the history of the Falkland Islands, including the 1982 war with Argentina, may I suggest that you research back at home before you come as books are rather expensive in the Falklands and I have yet to find that really good one about the 1982 war. Most in the bookstores are written from the perspective of a daily journal by one of more of the residents of those days. You can drop more than $300 per person on ship purchased tours for the Falklands or you can have an equally great time for less than $50 each by becoming your own travel agent. Just get to the dock early as the number of guides is limited. There is a close by penguin area where one can actually walk (about 1 Â½ hours each way) and that is 100% free. What a fantastic job to have just meeting the 50 or 60 cruise ships per year and providing tour guides around the island! This in my opinion would be a great fun job, very limited workdays and a fairly good income. Now one would have to bear the cold and winds which never seem to die down. If you are a cruiser and have never been your own travel agent, there is no better time especially with the internet, to save yourself a bundle of money, get away from the crowds and take some fun and adventurous tours on your own. If you are tired of waiting on that constant straggler missing from the bus after every stop, if you are tired of the pushing and discourtesies at each stop, may I suggest trying a tour on your own. Start several months ahead of your trip and gather up tons of information and don't forget to check reviews on what has been the experience of others. CAUTION---There are live mines located in numerous places of the area. They are marked with signs, thus observe those signs and don't enter the marked off areas. Our guide says that mines are still being removed however the process is very costly and progress is slow. EXPLORATIONS CAFÃ‰---This is place along the port side on deck 8â€”just past the casino where you can get a book, coffee drink or use the internet (good luck on the internet). In fact this is one of the most frequently used areas we noticed on the ship. Large windows let you look out on the port side. You are close to the Rotterdam Dining room, thus a good place to meet friends before dinner. On the opposite side of the ship is another good place to meet friends at the Explorer's Lounge. Coffee is sold at about the same price you would pay at Starbucks. In the Neptune Lounge (suite guest) there is no charge for coffee including cappuccino. OCEANS BAR---Has some good seating with large windows on the starboard side. Music and entertainment in the evenings. Check the daily bulletin for drinks specials (usually the second one for $1) each day.
TIPPING ABOARD SHIP I have read numerous posting on web sites in which questions have been ask about cruise ship tipping. There is no simple answer in spite of the fact that cruise ship experts , especially those working for the industry, will attempt to give you a "concrete and simple" answer to your question. On board this two segment trip Holland America added $11 per day per couple on the first segment and $12 per person per day on the second segment. total charges. Thus we paid for a 28 day , two segment trip $640.00. This means we paid $640.00 in tips for this limited number of employees, such as cabin stewards, their assistants, the waiter, his/her assistant and "others". In addition we paid 15% in tips for those drinks we purchased. Now if there was someone that was really outstanding, such as your waiter, to whom you have already committed $96.00 in tips, you may want to give him or her some additional cash. While Holland America used to provide envelopes for this at the end of the cruise, there were no visible envelopes around, however the front desk would be most happy to provide as many as you desire. Just remember that your waiter who was serving three tables of six has already received $864 from the mandatory tips for those past 16 days. On top of all of this you most likely were not served every meal by that waiter as you may have dined in the Lido or had service in your room. The point is that the cruise industry really screwed the tipping situation up when they started their "mandatory" program. You now give the same tips whether your service is good, poor or outstanding. On the other hand there are those passengers that without the "mandatory tipping" would most likely leave the ship without having left any tip. Now there are the "good guys" who will leave that waiter an extra $20, $50 or $100 bill as they leave the table on that last day. The real answer to that question is to "absorb" the Holland America "tip policy" and give something extra to that person what you think about his/her service. If there was nothing really outstanding then you have already tipped enough. By the way, these employees aboard the cruise ship are not paid great wages and their livelihood likely depends heavily upon your tips. Did you know Holland America makes that same wait staff pay for their inte3net usage? It is no wonder we see so many staff at the internet cafes on show where they make telephone calls back home or send e-mails to their families.
SHIP'S CRUISE SURVEY OR EVALUATION At the end of the cruise expect your service to get about as good as it can get as every crew member is aware that a survey form is about to land in every cabin. However that was not our case as we did not receive a survey form. When we inquired at the front desk we were advised that if you are on a back to back or multiple cruise segments you will receive a survey from only at the end of the cruise. We don't think this is fare to either the staff or the customer. For example we changed Captains, Cruise Directors and many wait staffers at the end of the first segment. One of these was outstanding when another was just satisfactory. There is no way, unless I write a narrative on each employee, that those reviewing the survey will know who I am evaluating. I will probably not turn in my survey form and send a letter AND the survey form to Corporate instead.
BACK TO BACK CRUISES----We have done this in the past and without a problem as we have always stayed in the same cabin for the entire cruise. This time it was a little different as the cabin we reserved on the first segment was not available for the second portion of the cruise. I was assured by a representative at corporate that we would have no problem. Not exactly true. Our first segment cabin was 035 and the second segment cabin was 006. One of the port side and the other on the starboard side. On the last evening of the first segment we still had no guidance on the move so I went to the front desk and was told I would get a letter later that day. I did receive a letter in a couple of hours and I suspect it was generated as a result of my visit to the front office.
I noticed there was no new cabin key thus back o the front desk. I was informed that a new key could not be issued UNTIL THE actual cruise date which would be the following day. I once again asked about the actual move and was assured that a cabin attendant would assist. I even verified this with the concierge.
We wanted to get off the ship as it was docked at Valparaiso however this was not going to be possible as we still had no new cabin at 10AM. Finally shortly after 10AM a cabin attendant came to the area where we were waiting and advised the new cabin had been cleaned. We moved out personal belongings with only one load of hang up clothes being moved by the cabin attendant. It just seemed as though no one knew what to do. We returned to the front desk where we were issued a new cabin key for the new cabin. At 11AM we ask a about leaving the ship and learned that the new boarding passengers would start boarding at 11:45AM. We did not want to get involved in any additional waiting lines thus we left the ship, went to the terminal and shortly after that reboarded so we would not have to wait with new boarding passengers. Holland American did not assist us in any way and I to assume they thought we could just work "it" out. Well we did, as we retuned back to the ship before noon time. So much for touring any of Valparaiso. One certainly needs to work out as many details on such a change before the final day. You can eliminate this problem completely by reserving the same cabin for your entire cruise.
SHOULD I RESERVE MY NEXT CRUISE WHILE ABOARD SHIP? If you want my short answer it is "NO". I know it may be tempting to only have to pay a deposit of $100 for a cruise nearly two years away. You will also be advised that "credit" will go back to your home town (or wherever) travel agent. It may also be tempting from a standpoint that you may be able to select exactly the cabin you always wanted. Do you have any idea what world conditions will be some 18 months from now? Will those cruise destinations you desire now still be the ones you want to cruise to in 18 months? The economic stability of business and countries throughout the worlds are such that I just tend to say, let's wait until a closer time when I actually want to cruise. I look for destinations we want to visit, fro great fares and super accommodations aboard the ship. Sometimes it takes a little waiting to get just the right combination. There are new ships being added by the cruise industry every year plus there are new ports being opened up throughout the world. I have come to the point where we are looking for quality service, quality food, quality cabins, etc without breaking the bank. Rather than four cruises in two years we are opting for two or three where we can enjoy cruising at our expectations. Holland America has a 212 page Cruise Atlas 2012-2013. The booklet is very good and was planned well. You can browse through all the Holland American cruises for the two year period. Fining a copy locally may be difficult thus requesting a copy form HA may be the best way to get a copy. There were limited copies available on this cruise however there was a notice asking that the brochures be returned after reviewing.
EXPLORE WELLBEING & Salon This is where you can go for a fitness class, acupuncture or across the hallway for a hair makeover or touch up on your fingernails. The Greenhouse and Explore Wellbeing will set you back a few dollars regardless of what you desire. While my wife used the hair dresser I stayed away from all of this section. If it is your thing â€“then go for it!
YOUR TRAVEL GUIDE BENJAMIN Some good information with lectures throughout the cruise. Held in the Showroom at Sea.
RELIGIOUS SERVICES Mass was celebrated in the Wajang Theater at 8AM
ART AUCTIONS There were none---hurray!!!
LATE NIGHT DANCING Available at several of the lounges throughout the evening
LIBRARY There is a large library on deck 8 at the Explorations CafÃ©. Books can be checked in and out at the desk. A few paper backs are available for exchanges. You do not have to check these paperbacks out, just leave one as you take one. You will find a few books in the Neptune Lounge if you are a suite guest.
We chose this cruise becasue of the destination, Bermuda. We were not disappointed. Bermuda is an incredibly beautiful island with the best beaches. Beware, however, the ship, the Veendam. We expected as is typical with Holland America ships for the rear deck to have a pool, as is listed in their brochure. We love to go for a COOL dip, every hour or so, after laying out in the hot sun. Cool pool...NO. how about 3 HOT tubs. That's right in their new Reatreat area they have removed the pool and put in 3 hot tubs!
The retreat area also has a bar area which we typically enjoy in the late afternoon for the social atmosphere. Not so here. The bar stools were so uncomfortable and uninviting, few people used them. And whose idea was it to put in the pizza bar in an area typically designed for adults? Who loves pizza more than kids? That's who used it.
We paid $40 extra to enjoy their fine dining experience, Le Cirque. I ordered my favorite fish, sea bass. It arrived dry. I sent it back. Another arrived dry. I expected morefrom this supposed first class dining experience.
Very poor customer service. Bathroom pipes overflowed. Gives new meaning to "poop deck". Toilets in cabins and common areas would not flush. There was overflow in cabins. Friends had floating material flood their cabin and were offered nothing in compensation. Our cabin did not flood, but toilet would not flush for over 1/2 day. We complained during the cruise and wrote a letter afterward and not even offered a small inconvenience discount for a future cruise. This is an older ship and not as nice as others in the fleet. I won't cruise Holland any longer. Absolutely disgusted with the company and lack of communication and concern for customers and our health and safety. Even after I was specifically requested to write a letter by an agent of Holland, nothing was done to keep me as a customer. Additionally, after requesting to be taken off of all of Holland's emails...I still get them. Good food, but no regard for customer satisfaction. Spend your money elsewhere.
Here is a copy of a letter we sent to Holland America about the horrible experience we had in March 2008 on the Veendam. This letter only discusses the ship. It does not discuss the horrible experience we had in Cozumel. We asked that we be compensated for at least half of the $1,784.76 we paid in advance and in good faith. We did hear back from Holland America and they offered us an upgrade if we buy another trip. How gracious! Not!
When we embarked on our cruise on March 9, we were shocked to find our room filthy and in a state of total disrepair. When we booked our cruise in January, we initially wanted to be on a higher deck but were told that none of the rooms were available. We agreed to a room on the lowest level because the Holland America agent assured us it would be just as nice as any other, and we would be able to have a double bed, and that the room would be located in the middle of the ship. Based upon the company's reputation and the website, webelieved we had little to be concerned about.
We entered the room, which was located at the farthest end of the ship (the second room from the end) to discover two single beds, sticky goo on the nightstand and dresser surfaces, dirty walls, a sticky/dirty temperature control knob, stained and dirty carpet, and a dirty bathroom counter, mirror, and medicine cabinet. It took two different trips and a telephone call to the front desk for the room to be properly cleaned and the beds put together. We resigned ourselves to the room's location.
We sent Holland America photographs, which showed the condition of the furniture -— it was so bad it would not be accepted for donation by a charitable organization. It is inexcusable to ask your guests to spend a week in a room with chipped furniture, scratched walls with holes in them, and stained carpets. The temperature in the room was hard to control and fluctuated from being too hot to being too cold.
With the exception of our hard-working and attentive cabin steward, none of the ship's executive staff bothered to follow up and assure that our grievances had been resolved.
Nowhere in the literature we reviewed about the cruise line or on the website did it say we would have to endure such a nightmare. Your promotional materials assure quite the opposite. Holland America honored none of the promises made by the agent who sold us the trip, the promotional materials, or the contract.
The condition of our room made what should have been a relaxing and enjoyable holiday a very stressful experience that we would have done anything to avoid. Like so many others, we had a choice of which cruise line to sail and based upon positive comments at some of the travel websites we chose Holland America.
Our third Southern Caribbean cruise with Holland America. The first was in '05 on Veendam (see review '05), second on Ryndam in '06 and this cruise again on Veendam. Tampa departure, S category cabin -- same as other cruises. Veendam is showing her age now. Little things: carpeting needs replacing, rust showing through the hundreds of coats of paint here and there, bright work not so bright, etc.
On our first cruise on Veendam a complimentary private cocktail party along with a sit-down formal dinner for S & P category guests. This time a buffet luncheon. The Captain did personally greet the S & P guests but everyone had to line up in the hallway. Rather strange.
Terrible odors (sewage, fuel?) occasionally in the cabin and hallways. Totally unacceptable!
Rotterdam dining room food good, but not outstanding. Pinnacle Grill was superior, and all service was excellent as usual.
Renewal of Vows package handled very well with a very nice souvenir album included, but the photographs were sub-par.
Arrived in San Juan late (engine problem?). Could not launch tenders at Grand Cayman, rough waters. Good decision by Captain, but disappointment for passengers.
No sickness on board. Muchemphasis was placed on hand washing and using sanitizers placed about the ship.
HAL is obviously still the seniors' choice for cruising. You will not find rock climbing, ice skating, etc. here.
It appears HAL is dumbing down its dress code. Now just two categories, smart casual and formal, with one less formal night than usual. So much for cruising elegance.
We will still continue to cruise with HAL unless things really deteriorate. We'll see.
Holland America Line Veendam by big apple Eastern Caribbean December 21, 2005 Just completed 10 day cruise and was very impressed with new bedding and large towels.Veendam is going into dry dock for extensive renovations in Jan which will bring it up to the standards of the other ships It will receive a new enlarged work out area which is badly needed and will convert over the speciality coffee to a fee basis.The food continues to be a high point however some improvement is needed with desserts and bread items.The cheese tray after dinner needs some assortment and in particular should be different in the Pinnacle special restaurant.
The shows were well done with a very high energy dance group.Music in the various bars was very good before dinner with most people returning to their favorite each night.The activaties around the ship were well run with a decent particapation level.Most passengers appear to like this size ship and this will continue to be a selling point for Holland.Some 90% were repeat passengers and one individual had over 965 days of cruising on Holland.Getting on and off the ship was handled very efficiently whic alwaysmakes for a happy cruiser.Am convinced that a good cruise director is major part of a good cruise experience and they have it here with Jason and his asst gary.The former will be headind to the new Nordam shortly and deseves this opportunity.holland needs to continue ther efforts in attracting a younger crowd to perpetuate their goal of being the best of the main line cruise ships.Yoy will not go wrong picking this ship for the total cruising experience however do not expect much action in the crows nest after ten at night.
Our experience and such. Age group 60 and 55, started cruising 1984, do minimum two cruise a year often three, this year four. We stopped really counting at 50 cruises and we cruise any and all lines. Generally ship is our interest not itinerary but Bermuda is exception. I will not really comment on Bermuda itself other than great island like no other! Always enjoy our time there, have sailed there many times in past years though not in recent years except as one day stop on reposition sailings.
Hurricane Daniel, Earl, and Fiona, what us worry? No problem going though didn't tender atSt. George's went direct to Hamilton better anyway in our opinion. Some rocking on way home but nothing really bad, Captain left early on Friday and fell in behind Earl.
EMBARKATION - Through the years we have sailed numerous times from Manhattan Piers, always electing to use Long Term Pier Parking. NY Parking is never inexpensive at $30 a day, paid in advance at lot arrival, it is almost reasonable but only by NY City standards.
This year construction activity is evident and continuing. I found that the parking and departureareas were reversed from what I have come to know through the years. Now upon driving up the initial ramps you are greeted with two signs and options. Parking up ramp to right and Arrival/Departure Drop off to left. The parking ramp used to be at end of drop off area. This confused me, would there be luggage handling in parking or should I drop off first then will there be another ramp to access parking? I elected to drop off luggage first. technically this is the wrong choice but in reality this particular trip proved advantageous. I say this because when we did park it was about as far away from the ship as you could and still be on upper pier. That made getting luggage to your ship's pier a bit hard as porters were few and far between in Pier 88 parking area and Veendam was on pier at opposite end. Although we will be sailing from Manhattan once again on October 6th and will go directly to parking and hopefully find an the luggage handling better. This because if you drop luggage first you must then drop back to street and head back to pier entrance from 12th Ave. Easy enough to do but traffic only allows 3 cars at a time to make left into piers for most part. Therefore returning to pier could take 15 minutes or could take an hour and a half depending on traffic situation. In this case it took about 30 minutes to make one City block or so loop around.
After all that actual embarkation on Veendam was a breeze. Desk lines moved quickly and there were more than enough staff handling all. All pier staff were pleasant and helpful. We were onboard within 20 minutes of actually getting on a line.
CABIN - We had been assigned an aft verandah suite 085 having booked this cruise late and having to take a BC Suite Guarantee. This cabin is one of the cabins added in the last retrofit of the Veendam when aft pool was removed. It is located on Deck 10, Navigator deck, the same deck as the "real" suites. Though being labeled a veranda "suite "I would consider it really a veranda Cabin. The S suites or Deluxe Verandah Suites on Deck 10 are the "real "suites. As on most ships this "suite "category does not receive the benefits offered the Deluxe Suites such as private concierge lounge, or those lovely chocolate covered strawberries they were placing in those S Suites. We peeked inside and they are vey large and nicely appointed suites. We can't really complain though since we could have booked one of those but at DOUBLE the price we elected to take our chances especially since this was really a pre-cruise cruise we threw onto our cruising year. This is an "older "ship by today's standards though not all that old by ship standards, having a verandah was reward enough. The Veendam does not have almost all verandah cabins like the later mega ships now do.
The cabin itself, design, space, and verandah, no complaints in any of those areas, Cabin was clean and well appointed featuring Queen bed, plenty of closet and drawer space, hair dryer and moveable cosmetic mirror. Bed and bedding were comfortable, cabin steward Roke ( you can call me Ralphie ) did great job. Cabin bathroom features a Jacuzzi tub but note it is one of those deep ones you almost need a step stool to get into. Water pressure and hot water were excellent no complaints from wife. I know this is important to the ladies for rinsing the soap from the hair. Also, for the ladies, the hairdryer located in a drawer at the desk was 1600 watt with a concentrator nozzle. Linda said it was fine although she had brought her own anyway just in case. She could have lived with using this one.
The veranda was good sized and had two chairs and a lounge, there was room for all. A nice touch was that chairs had comfortable cushions on them. A touch you no longer see on most ships.
In fact the cabin was exceptional in many ways with one, sadly MAJOR, exception. No not AC as some reviewers have noted in their commentaries, our AC worked flawless, had to keep it set low was that cold. The problem was plumbing! As I said water was great. It was drainage that proved a problem. The sink almost constantly GURGLED, blub, blub, blub. Initially some water also could be seen pushing back out of tub drain. Do not write this off as a minor issue. Ship noise does not bother me, that creaking and groaning you sometimes get is welcomed I love it. The retreat area above us 6:30 am setting out the deck chairs sliding above no problem. This BLUB, BLUB, BLUB, loud and annoying as well as almost constant. It was noted almost immediately while still at NY pier and my first call, fearing sewer blockage and seeing gunk coming from bathtub, was met with sympathy and assurances. That said, so were all the calls about the issue during the week. I even spoke to a ships plumber who assured me he was making a part and would repair it finally in the morning, that was third day. As we left the cabin the morning of our arrival back in NY the sink wished us a fond farewell, BLUB, BLUB, BLUB. I do not know if any other cabins have a similar problem but I believe at least in this cabin it is a probably unfixable plumbing design problem. All the attention we were given was probably an every week response to a problem they can do nothing about.
Location, very aft, not great in rough seas but very convenient to dining and buffet and pool area.
DINING - HA has acceded to the anytime, freestyle, As YOU Wish, whatever dining. It does not work well in my humble opinion but I do admit we like are traditional dining. Since we booked only a month or two before sailing we were bound to accept anytime dining and be wait listed for traditional. First night we elected to not do dinner having had afternoon buffet and hoping that we would better fit into formal night attire excluding one meal. The next day I spoke to the Restaurant Manager and requested traditional dining. He told me it was very full and that I shouldn't expect it. I thanked him and went on my way. By dinner time we had received dining change to main seating table 32. So second night we had a table for six, we were alone, empty spaces everywhere. They have the tables for traditional but not the staff! Second night we were joined by a couple and a single gentleman who all reported they had been at other tables, the couple had no one at their table, the single was an add on he felt at another table. These were our table mates for the rest of the cruise. There were two empty seats. There were half empty tables all around us. Table 32 location was great right by aft windows. Service was fair at best though I am sure that the waiter and his assistant did their best. They seemed to be covering a large section with ever changing numbers. I do not think it was their problem or work ethic but never the less service, slow and uneven. NOT their fault.
Despite what lines would try to make you believe, that anytime dining is a benefit for us, in reality it allows them to use less staff. So you are left with hard pressed traditional dining waiters, and anytime dining which is anytime you want to eat if you have a reservation and if you eat early. Otherwise please take this beeper and it will be thirty minutes to an hour and a half until we can seat you. I admit some still rave about it but we just don't get it.
FOOD - In general very good and we had no complaints. We don't normally sail HA, having done so only once before on the Noordam. Then we found the food bland and desserts tasteless. On Veendam we found the food to be well spiced, presented and tasty for most part. I won't dwell on food simply because it is truly a matter of personal taste. Let's leave it that no one should have a problem finding something they enjoy to eat.
The buffet area I felt was very good. It is set up somewhat different in that each section, Asian, Salad, and such is really run as a separate little line. Initially this makes you feel like you are butting in line going around people but once everyone gets the way it works it isn't that bad except when really busy. Then all these people waiting in line in little service sections block the main aisle. First two days staff serve you at buffet which slows everything down a lot, once they are sure we are not going to have a Noro problem self serve becomes the standard.
Slices, the pizza area aft, I had read that pizza was not good. Okay NY pizza is best in country so NY passengers are never going to be happy with ship pizza. I have found really good pizza on ships, Celebrity comes to mind but long ago, I don't know about now. The Veendam pizza is passable, not as bad as reported in my opinion but it will not satisfy your pizza cravings while at sea. Makes for a quick acceptable snack while lounging in retreat area.
While we didn't bother, a couple of our table mates did finally get seated one evening at the Canaletto Italian dining area for dinner. This is a section of the Lido buffet that is turned into a small Italian dining room each evening. While no extra charge reservations are needed to get seated for most part. After waiting all week to get in our tables mates were not happy with the food finding it the same as Italian dishes offered in regular dining. However I do think it is more for the small Italian restaurant atmosphere it mimicks than the food that makes it popular.
We never go to pay additional dining as we firmly believe that this detracts from the normal dining experience provided on ships. Simply we are believers that eventually if the lines find it possible, virtually all dining will become ala-carte added cost restaurants, at least this is their dream from the accounts point of view. We will have no one to blame but ourselves if this ever happens. So I cannot speak to it.
ENTERTAINMENT - As we expected on a smaller ship, it was not the gala major shows but was good none the less. It was not the showroom that struck me but the small lounges, intimate and comfortable. I found myself sitting and enjoying a string quartet nightly at the Explorers Lounge. This being remarkable in that I normally do not listen to any music. I found their playing remarkable and enjoyed having a cocktail there awaiting dinner time. The only annoyance was those When You Wish dining beepers announcing your table is ready now making you suddenly feel like you were at the Outback in the mall.
I heard the doo wop show and the crew show were excellent, we did not attend either and apparently we should have.
ODDS & ENDS
Having giving up cigarette smoking for over two years now I do still enjoy one cigar a week most weeks. I Still try pay attention for the current smokers and I found the Veendam about as friendly to smokers as you can expect now a days. An ashtray was available in cabin if needed. Smoking is allowed on verandah and cabin.
The aft retreat area starboard side I believe had ashtrays prominent on most all the tables you didn't have to hunt for them. Smoking was allowed in the casino. The Casino is open to a couple lounge areas. NOTE smokers, a separate questionaire was incorporated in the end of cruise survey. They asked one if you were currently a smoker, NO. They asked if HA banned smoking in the cabin and the veranda would I still sail HA, NO. If smoking was banned completely on ship would I still sail HA, NO. My answers are simply because some friends are smokers and we group cruise and they will not sail on any ship that bans smoking hence neither will I despite no longer smoking myself. Second although I can do without it I do enjoy a couple cigars during a cruise as do several of my friends that I sail with many times. Finally despite giving it up myself I still feel that smokers have been unfairly set upon with using many made up excuses. But maybe now that obese people and perfume wearers are targeted more and more with taxes and nose wrinkling the righteous wrath will be spread out more.
We chose Veendam to sail to Bermuda because it was smaller and more intimate than the latest offerings. Also because she docked in Hamilton and we wanted to enjoy that again having sailed many times to Bermuda years ago on smaller ships like Celebrity Zenith. We experienced what we wanted in the Veendam, more intimacy with passengers and crew, nicer small gatherings in lounges. With the exception of dining room experience all was far more intimate and enjoyable than todays large ships, which we also love for most part. Larger offers better amenities usually, smaller offers more of a previous years cruise experience.
Ice cream lovers will rejoice that it is available in the Lido most hours of the day by dessert section and features cone or dish, soft or hard, fixings help yourself all at no extra charge. I am not a big ice cream eater but had a soft serve cone and it was very good.
Coffee lovers will rejoice that capucchino and such is still offered at dinner and at no extra charge. It is also available at the Explorations coffee bar where it is charged for. It also takes some waiting while each cup is made. They offer a coffee card for I think they said $26 but while I normally take it when ship charges at dinner for brewed real coffees it didn't make sense here. I simply paid for it as ordered. They also have a small selection of cookies and baby sandwiches at coffee bar. I saw a gentlemen ask for one as he passed by and the coffee guy said sorry only with coffee purchase. Of course same are available and free upstairs in Lido. But come on give the guy the cookie, they are free after all no matter. Coffee bar on quota for how many he can bring down or what? Was poor call on his part in my opinion. And not reflective of the fine service we found elsewhere.
Room Service, always early by 15 minutes of night before ordered times but always good and accurate. Often a followup call to inquire if order was correct and okay. Also larger menu than most ships now have including omelette's and such available from room service. Do not know if in all cabins or if because of purported "suite. “
Service exceptional staff throughout. One obviously having a bad day guy handling beverages only notable staff problem. He was approaching level of actually being nasty to passengers. This as very far from normal service with a smile we found for most part.
Passenger mix, older than usual and to be expected on end of season time frame and HA. There were certainly some kids on board and some young family members. Most probably traveling with grand parents. As one lady at pool area announced to me, my husband is 91, but I am only 80. Must have been trophy wife ha ha. I am 60 and I will admit I felt a lot younger than my years by the second day. It was like being a kid again. This is not a bad thing. Still as I said we booked Veendam knowing smaller ship and often a tad older cruisers. We enjoy their perspective and conversation for most part. My motto has been lately, every 100 years new people. Knowing my replacement is on order, I can enjoy all ages now for most part.
Also more foreign passengers than I expected, Europe and Latin America I suspect from languages heard. Americans many from Long Island and Manhattan.
Bermuda still our favorite island and we still do it via moped. Taxi's expensive as always but bus ferry reasonable and not a problem. People still great but they have their share of drug crime and such now as do we all. Not something you really see however as a tourist there. It is very safe to go out and about on your own but as anywhere you should pay attention to your environment.
Expensive island, but always has been. We noted little things like Bermuda Chowder still maybe $6.50 but bowl much smaller. We enjoy a small lunch or two on island but check prices, you may be shocked at a $4.95 iced tea. Gratuity added on bill even for couple at lunch so look at bill before you add tip. Bermuda is a place to just go and see forget paid excursions for most part unless looking to go fishing.
DISEMBARKATION: Here again its the little things. Something few lines offer but that all should! Day of disembarkation in cabin morning room service, total room service menu. No running to Lido or dining room while trying to get ready to be thrown off! Also no bums rush out of cabin....enjoy cabin until your color code is called.
Veendam is in early docked by 7am and I would bet everyone pretty much off by 9:30 am or close to it. But disembark was smooth and they do offer that 7:30 walk off with your own luggage if you have it all with you and can carry it yourself. We put ours out and took late disembark having our own transportation at pier. Still we were off by 9:30 found luggage and got into porter line which wasn't long. I apologized up front to porter but advised him we had a long walk ahead. I felt bad since these guys obviously make their real money in tips and the more runs they get in the more they make. Still not my fault pier operation parked me two piers away. He was very pleasant and gracious about it. He did get an extra tip because of his nice demeanor. Still I wish they would be able to park you closer and I do hope this is a temporary thing because of continued construction. Still better than flying now a days!
So disembark early and smooth enough!
I am sure their are many things I didn't answer about ship and you can feel free to email at email@example.com please note Veendam in subject area. I dump a lot of mail, this way I won't think you are spam.
George in NY
My favorite vacation is a cruise. Sometimes I take a grandchild, sometimes alone or with a friend. This time I brought my daughter. I have taken over 40 cruises; some on very old beat up tubs and some on deluxe luxury liners. I have always had a good time although sometimes it took an effort to ignore poor service or other problems. I think that the attitude of the cruiser is the primary determinant of the success of the cruise.
Pros: Nicely appointed cabin with large veranda. Generally friendly and efficient service throughout the ship. Long stays in most ports. Room service breakfast was on time and arrived hot every day.
Cons: Pool closed at 7:00 and hot tubs were only warm, closing at 10:00 PM. There was no craps table in the casino and very smoky air the night I was in there. The Daily Program was not in chronological order and quite difficult to see what is happening at the present time. There was an unpleasant odor in some areas of the ship.
Details My daughter and I took a pleasant Alaska Airlines flight to Anchorage from our hometown in California.The Holland America transfer by bus to Seward left soon after our plane arrived. It took about three hours to reach the ship. The ride was through beautiful scenery with a driver who gave running commentary about what we were seeing and facts about Alaska.
We were on the ship about 6:00 PM. It was announced that the normal 8:00 PM dinner would be served at 8:30 after the emergency drill. Since it had been 16 hours since breakfast and we had eaten very little while traveling, we opted to pay the $20 premium to eat NOW in the Pinnacle Grill. The dinner was nice with very attentive service. It might have been worth the extra cost for big steak eaters; but we did not find the food to be enough better than the regular dining room fare to warrant the extra charge. We did; however, appreciate the quieter atmosphere and excellent service.
Cabin By the time we finished dinner our luggage was in the cabin. It was the second voyage after dry-dock, and all soft furnishings and carpets were new. I did not like the color scheme in our B category veranda suite, but it was clean and well appointed. My daughter, Anne, thought the bold colors were fine. There was plenty of closet and drawer space in the main cabin, but the two little glass shelves in the bathroom were barely adequate for two. A pleasant surprise was the deep whirlpool tub/shower combination. For seating there was a full length black sofa and a small arm chair plus the vanity stool. The table was adjustable for cocktail or dining height. The good sized veranda had a lounge with pads, two chairs, and a small table for drinks. It had teak flooring and was very private. We used it a lot since the weather was brisk and clear the whole week. We had the cabin attendant remove the expensive items from the mini-bar and used it for the extra juice we ordered each morning. The lighting was good and the beds very comfortable. The walls were very thin so that we could hear too much from the next cabin.
Since Anne normally works nights she is a day sleeper. We seldom left the cabin before noon. The steward was very good at working around our schedule; the cabin was usually made up by the time we came back.
Dining Overall the food was good, but usually not excellent. The room service menu for breakfast included a variety of meats and egg dishes plus the usual cold items including cereals and breads. The orange juice tasted fresh squeezed. It was delivered cheerfully, on time, and was always hot. The room service menu for the rest of the day, especially after 10 PM, was very limited.
We ate only one meal in the Lido restaurant as there were no trays to carry the food, relatively poor selection, and a long line.
Meals in the dining room were adequate, but of variable quality, with ample variety in the choices. The company at our assigned 8:00 PM table was very pleasant. The servers were stretched much too thin. Our waiter served five tables with 24 guests. That is too many to do a good job with formal dinner service, but he really tried. Anne likes her coffee with her meal, but it was always served after dessert even though she asked for it earlier. We found the soups and starters to be the best part of the meal. Desserts were quite ordinary.
The grill in the pool area had plenty of tasty snack type foods available during the day: Hamburgers, hot dogs, tacos, nachos, etc. Unfortunately none of these items were available after 6:00 PM. The pizza in the pizza shop was fairly good.
Most ships hold a cocktail party for their repeat cruisers. The Veendam had a very nice lunch for us.
The Ship The ship was generally clean and attractive. I did not like the mix of carpet colors, but they were clean, mostly new. Several elevators were out of service at all times. Luckily the ship was not full or it would have been even more of an inconvenience. Sometimes only one elevator out of a bank of four was operating.
The lounges were nicely decorated with extensive artwork and fresh flowers. The Explorer lounge was my favorite place. It included many comfortable chairs, the well stocked library, the computers, a coffee bar, the jigsaw puzzle table, a DVD collection, games for checking out, and friendly staff. Anne spent her late evening hours in the Crows Nest where there was dancing and karaoke. Unfortunately there was often a bad, sewage type, odor in parts of the ship at various times. It was especially noticeable in the Crows Nest and on the lower decks. On most cruises my favorite activity is the trivia games. Although the Veendam's version of the game had a nice mix of trivia questions, the attitude of the cruise director, Jimmy, made playing unpleasant for a few of us.
The self service laundry was convenient and clean. It cost $2 to wash a standard load and $1 to dry it.
During dry-dock the craps table was removed from the casino. It was replaced with a poker table. This was a major disappointment for me as playing craps is one of my favorite evening cruise activities. The water in the swimming pool was a bit too cold the first day and the hot tubs were definitely not hot any day.
Entertainment There was a good selection of activities available throughout the day, although many of them had an extra charge. The Daily Program was not easy to follow as it was not presented chronologically, but by type of activity. This would have been great as an addition to the usual method of presentation by time, but was not good for quickly seeing what is going on now or arranging your day in the morning before leaving the cabin. The shows in the evening were average. We most enjoyed the "Encore" show with excellent singing and the Indonesian show put on by the waiters and stewards.
The movie theater was comfortable, and popcorn was served during the afternoon showing that I attended.
The Itinerary Alaska was beautiful and the towns had plenty to see. We did not take any of the ship excursions, but did our own thing in each town. We especially enjoyed Creek Street in Ketchikan and the State Museum in Juneau. The scenery and glaciers were marvelous in Glacier Bay. In Haines it was about a half mile walk into the small downtown area. Some very young entrepreneurs were selling hot chocolate and playing the violin for coins in front of a well stocked shop with local art and souvenirs. We did most of our shopping during the trip at that shop. The postcards that I mailed from Haines got to my family and friends the day before I got home.
Debarkation Our waiter did not leave a room service menu the night before so we did not know it was available. It is. When we came back from the dining room breakfast the beds had been made up for the next guests and the towels removed from the bathroom although we had been told that we could remain in the comfort of the cabin until our group was called to leave. We had left our hand luggage in the cabin so the steward would know we had not left. I know they have short turnaround time, but I would have appreciated the full use of the cabin until my time to leave the ship. On the positive side, we had a ship to airport transfer; therefore, once we put our luggage into the hall the night before, we did not have to bother with it again until we picked it up at the airport.
Overall it was a very nice cruise, and we had a good time. On my next cruise to Alaska I will choose a ship with a craps table in the casino just because I like to play.
My husband, 62, daughter, 26, and I, 58, spent 7 wonderful days on the Veendam. Our deluxe verandah suite was a joy! It was so roomy and the verandah was big enough for us to lounge out there together or have room service at the table & chairs. The room steward opened the sofa bed for our daughter each night and made it up for her, including little towel animals which she delighted in. The little extra touches were very much appreciated. I will probably always go for the large suites from now on.
The meals were delicious and I love it that they allow you to have seconds or even thirds on something you really love. Our tiny size 4 daughter ate her weight in king crab legs I think! She loved the way we were waited on in the Rotterdam Dining Room. We truly felt pampered and came away feeling spoiled at the end of the week.
One thing we noticed on this Easter weekend cruise.....LOTS of kids! I mean, I never saw so many kids on one cruise and one older woman was heard to grumble, "I thinkI made a mistake and got on a Disney Cruise!" They did tend to take over the pool and there was literally no room for anyone else. The line at the ice cream counter was always long! If there was a place for kids to go, they didn't use it. The pool was their official hangout.
The use of the Neptune Lounge came in handy several times. I wanted a last-minute beach day and the concierge was perfectly willing to help arrange it.
Being very computer-addicted, my daughter used the computers in the Exploration lounge daily. It was a little pricey, but I think she would have been disappointed if she hadn't been able to stay in touch with her friends and particularly, her boyfriend. Since my daughter was with us, we used the Spa a lot more than I usually do. We had a couples massage while she had a massage, facial and back cleansing. We all came away from the experience feeling terrific. Later, I got my hair done for formal night. On the last day of the cruise, we took advantage of the specials offered and we had a combination of manicure, neck & shoulders massage and ankle & foot massage. While I was in the chair having my shoulders & neck massaged, the girl said, "Dolphins!" so I got to see them going by the ship.
When our lovely week was over, we had no problems at all disembarking. It was very efficient and quick. I looked back at the suite before I closed the door and was a little sad to see the perfect week come to an end.