Holland America Line - Cruisemates Reader's Cruise Reviews
CruiseMates' Readers Cruise Reviews
Holland America Line

Veendam
by Lee Wurschmidt
Alaska
May 24, 2009

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.