CruiseMates' Readers Cruise Reviews

Holland America Line Veendam by J.Burton Alaska May 11, 2003

This cruise started out from Vancouver and we had great expectations as we were considered " HAL Mariners" due to a previous cruise on the Ryndam which we enjoyed immensely.

It was a complete surprise that the start was totally delayed due to chaos in the terminal which we were informed was caused by Security issues. We wondered what was happening while we waited in line to be checked in since we could see the ship already conducting it's lifeboat drill while we waited and waited. HAL had installed a special lineup for people who had submitted online but this line crawled since only two wickets were for it's use. The regular line was much faster and we finally made it onboard 5 minutes before departure time. Needless to say the departure was late. We were totally offended when the Captain came over the PA system and apologized for the delay which he blamed on " late arriving passengers" . Not true, HAL - Get more wickets going.

Upon entering the ship and logging our card in we were escorted to our cabin which we had booked as " Run of ship ". Well we sure ran , as our small inside cabin was located only 1 door from the stern of the ship on the lowest deck "A". No upgrade here for " HAL mariners". There was even a sign advising us not to worry if we heard loud noises as this was the propeller used for docking the ship.

The cabin is small and functional but has no fridge, a small safe that uses a credit card to lock and unlock plus you need to keep track of your mechanical room key as well as you shipboard account card used to charge things. HAL should upgrade all their ships to using the regular swipe cards for doors too. The bed was hard and the sheets/pillow cases were badly stained and we called to have them changed. This did not bode well with the Housekeeping department but they sent the Cabin attendant after our second call. We finally received clean sheets.

During the voyage our cabin at times smelled of some kind of cleaning fluid that HAL used to clean the carpets in the hallway. We were assured this was safe. Our A/C malfunctioned for 1 and 1 half days in our section of the ship and we were given a fan and told to open the doors until they repaired this problem. Nothing else was offered other than a curt "we're sorry ".

The worst issue with the cabin was the lack of hot water during the whole voyage. We called three times to try and have this issue dealt with but it never was. Lukewarm was it, way down in the bowels of the ship. Again nothing offered, other than " we are trying". Our cruise mates on the next floor up experienced no problems with their hot water of which they had plenty.

For a ten year old ship, the Veendam is a beautiful ship otherwise. Staff are constantly cleaning up, polishing, painting and otherwise looking after the ship. The Atrium was quite exceptional with it's artworks and glass sculpture.

We dined in the Rotterdam dining room with the early sitting and enjoyed this immensely. The menu was exceptional, food was fantastic and the service was the best ever experienced. Thank you, Gusti and Kadek, best waiters around. Lobster, baked alaska and the best desserts. Who could ask for anything more, but if you did , they provided.

The Lido Restaurant buffet was well presented, food was very good and all went well whenever we used it. Great bread pudding....

The entertainment in the Reubens lounge was top notch with the cast of the Veendam doing their "Up on the roof and Party Gras " song and dance numbers.

The Veendam provided a Naturalist for this Alaska voyage which made it more interesting with all the announcements of points of interest or sightings of any whales, dolphins or other animals.

Of the Alaska ports visited - Juneau, Skagway and Ketchikan - Skagway was the best as we rented a vehicle for the day and went exploring on our own. We wandered around the Chilkoot pass area, Deyas ghost town, the White Pass summit highway all the way to the Canadian border. The Customs officers advised us that since we were Canadian and driving a U.S. rental vehicle we could not enter Canada. Some kind of import law. Sad, as we wanted to go further to WhiteHorse and see the Yukon Territories. Even so, the scenery we saw was magnificent in the warm sunshine which they said was unusual for that time of the year.

Juneau was cloudy and wet for our visit but we managed a long walking tour of the town which we enjoyed.

Ketchikan is a shoppers paradise with all the free gifts they give away along with the number of stores and the sheer variety. Old Creek street and the funicular ride to see over the port were interesting. I even found some books for sale in the library which is located in the same building as the museum.

The return voyage was uneventful and the disembarkation went smoothly.

Except for the problems noted we enjoyed our time on the Veendam and would travel HAL again. Their " No tipping " required policy ensures that you receive top notch service from all wait staff versus other lines that remove the tip automatically from your shipboard account. The difference shows.

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