My husband and I celebrated my retirement by booking an Alaskan cruise-tour on Holland America's Veendam. We have travelled extensively in Europe, Hawaii, Canada and the U.S. but have never before taken a cruise. This particular cruise had been highly recommended by some friends and relatives.
Overall, we were happy we did it and saw Alaska, but the cost, not to mention the fact that a lot of things aren't included, such as meals on the land portion and bottled water onboard ship, was pretty high, above and beyond the already high price for the package.
The Veendam absolutely excelled at service. We were never disappointed and every request was pleasantly accomodated. For example, the first night after we departed was designated a formal night and even after careful packing, my husband's shirts were wrinkled. There was a huge line in the tiny laundry room to use the provided irons, so I called the cabin steward and gave him to shirts to have pressed, by 5 p.m., I said. The shirts were beautifully pressed and returned two hours later--ahead of schedule.
We are very great fans of wine and fine cooking, so I think our expectations were somewhat above most others. We had a few really fine entrees, but most were what we would call "good." The buffet wasn't open enough hours, and it was just a cafeteria--a nice cafeteria, but still a cafeteria. The dessert night was pretty impressive, though, but mainly in terms of aesthetic appeal of the chocolate Eiffel Tower, etc. and not in the high quality of the desserts. The wine selections on the menu were kind of run of the mill and expensive. I think the people who were the most impressed by the food may not have been as sophisticated gourmets types as we are, and I mean no disrespect to anyone by that remark. I'm just trying to put our criticism in context.
The bands in the bars, especially, the versatile young Canadian rock and reggae cover band in The Crow's Nest, were awesome. Well worth it. The Broadway style shows were fun to watch and the kids were talented. We were bored by the illusionist and Tom Jones imitator. We didn't gamble, but a lot of people sure did and enjoyed it.
Our cabin was spotlessly maintained and our steward was excellent.
The shore excursions were really expensive. We took three less expensive ones that involved tours in Sitka, Juneau and Ketchikan. Sitka and Ketchikan were excellent, Juneau was a waste of money, unless you have never been to a fish hatchery before. People who took the costly helicopter-type trips were generally pleased with them, though.
Would we cruise again with this line? Yes, but not a cruise tour, although we are grateful to have seen the splendors of Alaska's interior.