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

Veendam
by George in NY
Bermuda
August 29, 2010

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 departure areas 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 georgeny@verizon.net please note Veendam in subject area. I dump a lot of mail, this way I won't think you are spam.

George in NY