My wife and I took a cruise aboard the MS Veendam on 3/15/2003 and thought it was just an ok cruise. This was our sixth cruise but the first aboard a Holland America ship. There were some positives and there were some negatives. The negatives though outweighed the positives so this will be our last cruise aboard a Holland America ship.
First let me cover the positives. The food in the Rotterdam dining room was great and it was well presented. The choices were aplenty and the only menu item they need to work on is the salads, just not enough choices throughout the week. The dining room staff and service in the dining room was awesome. My wife and I sat at a table for two in the late seating and we were treated the same way as the tables of four and six. The head waiter and the assistant waiter worked together unlike other cruise lines I have sailed on where they have distinct roles. The Maitre D' was always around and was also very helpful and attentive, this was a welcomed surprise. Another welcomed surprise was that the Lido buffet was excellent. Most cruise lines that I have sailed neglect the buffet but this was not the case on the MS Veendam. The food and the service in the Lido buffet was great, though for breakfast there were long lines but these lines were not existent during lunch and dinner. The Lido buffet is definitely recommended.
Another positive about the MS Veendam was the size of our cabin. We had more room in these cabins than I have ever had on a cruise ship, with the exception of Disney which was about the same size. The room steward was also great and was very nice always saying "hi" in the hallways. The last positive that I experienced was the Art Auctions. These auctions were very well organized and they brought out all the art that passengers requested. The auctioneer was also great and kept all passengers interested in these auctions.
Now for the negatives. Our first impression of this cruise line began at the terminal. We had all the forms that Holland America sent us filled out correctly and we still had to wait in a very long line to turn these forms into the agent. The length of time that we stood in line with our carry one luggage was approximately 1 hour and 30 minutes. For a cruise line that caters to the elderly this is unacceptable. All members of the party that were over age 18 had to stand in these horrible lines to show there picture ID. After you wait in line you again wait in the terminal for about 30 minutes until the cruise line calls your number that you receive when you get into the terminal, at least you can sit down during this process. My wife and I are 26 and 25 and our legs were tired, I cannot imagine how the elderly passengers felt, especially while holding there carry on luggage. Holland America needs to improve the check in process. The other cruise lines that I have sailed I have never been in the terminal longer than 1 hour and on the last two no more than 15 minutes. Disney had us checked in and on the boat in less than 15 minutes. So Holland America needs to fix this issue right away. Due to this issue I will never recommend any of my older friends, parents, or other family members to sail this line.
Then after waiting to get on the ship, we had more waiting in store for us on board the ship. This is the first cruise line that I have ever sailed on that just looked at the credit card in the terminal to verify that we have paid for the trip. If you have never cruised, cruise ships are cashless, (except in the casino), so therefore these ships have to have credit cards on file. We had to get on board the ship so they could swipe the card and again we had to wait in line. Then one the second day of the cruise we had to refill out the immigration papers because there was a mix-up at the terminal, again more waiting, due to the fact that we were not the only ones who had to fill out these papers again. So basically that 1 hour and 30 minutes in line at the terminal was wasted!! Some more information about the waiting game aboard the MS Veendam, had to do with our second room key. When we boarded the MS Veendam my wife and I went our separate ways for about 30 minutes only to discover that our second room key did not work in the door. This was a minor issue and did not bother me at that time that it happened, mistakes like that happen on land in hotels all the time. But, it took the staff over 30 hours to correct this issue. So for two days my wife and I had to do everything together, even if we both weren't interested in the activity. I went to the front office to get it taken care of for the third time and asked to speak with a manager who proceeded to not even listen to us, because all he did was nod his head and then he said we would have key by dinner, (it was 9am), I told him this was unacceptable since we were told the day before that key would be there by dinner and then by breakfast. I finally demanded that they fix it ASAP and he called engineer who met us in the room 30 minutes later and it took him 10 seconds to fix this issue. So over 30 hours to fix our key issue and it took 10 seconds to fix. This again is unacceptable. So not only did we have to wait but the manager was rude and only said about 10 words to us.
The entertainment on board the MS Veendam in the main lounge, Rueben lounge, was non existent. We had the comedian on stage one night and she was excellent but the other 6 nights were horrible. Other than Bingo and the movies in the Wajang theatre daytime activities were also non-existent.
This cruise was very organized in my opinion. The first day we were on the cruise they double booked the Wajang theatre with bingo and the movie. Then the fourth day of the cruise we had farewell dinner, with 3 days to go. First time ever we had the farewell dinner before the last day, let alone in the middle of the cruise. Very odd!! When we were going to be in Cozumel they informed the passengers that were going on a early morning shore excursion not to order breakfast in there rooms, but when we went up to the Lido Buffet at 6am when they opened the long was horrible. We finally got through the line at 6:30 and had to rush through breakfast since the line moved like a turtle. They should have a line open for shore excursion passengers only, like two other ships I have sailed.
The debarkation was great, they gave you numbers and then let you sit in public areas until those numbers are called. This was the best debarkation ever. Until, we got down to the luggage area. Other lines I have gone on the luggage area is chaotic but the luggage is together. Not on Holland America. You have to search for every single piece of luggage, and one piece of our luggage was no where to be found. We told an agent who helped us look for the luggage for about 1 minute and then we were to fend for ourselves. We finally found the luggage under another piece of luggage that was tipped over on top of it, but not in the color section of our baggage tag, it was about 5 rows away with different color tags.
I waited a week to write this review thinking of the positives since I know all about the negatives. My point is that first impressions and last impressions our lasting impressions and neither were positive experiences. I love cruising and I was happy to be cruising but I also would like to receive the service that makes Holland America so great, I did not receive this service, so I will never sail this line again.