The economy has had its impact on the Veendam as they are attempting to do the same with less people and thye are failing. Cabin stewards have more cabins to work on, wine stewards have more table to wait on and dinning room servers are rushing between tables.
Night 1 the bottle of wine was served during the entree, day 2 in the middle of the salad course. When ask why the poor service we were told there use to be 11 wine stewards working in the dining room, now there are nine and come June the number drops to six.
Attention to detail is lacking throughout the ship. We were on a 31 day cruise and they kept running out of food, flowers were wilting and light bulbs were burning out and not being replaced. No attention to detail!
In the showroom on the day 2 there was one light bulb burned out. By day 24 there were 8 burned out bulbs. By day 11 the flowers were looking sad in the Lido dining area and were finally replaced on day 13. No attention to detail!
Day 3 they ran out of Special K. It was replenished on day 14 but by day 21 it was gone again. By day 24 they ran out of skim milk. The last day of the cruise there was only whole milk. You would think they would look at the overall age of their customers and would know what kind of cereals they eat and what kind of milk they put on them. No attention to detail!
The tipping plan doesn't just take care of those who serve you but Holland America uses it to subsides salaries they should be paying. 35% of the tip goes to the room stewards, 35% goes to your dining room servers and 30% goes to the people who wash your sheets and cook the food. When you go to a hotel do you tip the people who work in the laundry or cook you food? Of course not. The hotel pays them, but Holland America cheaps out and expects you to subside salaries of people you don't have direct contact with.
We cruised from Buenos Aires down around the Cape, up the west coast of S America, through the Panama Canal and ended up in Ft Lauderdale. Some of the ports were really lacking. San Blas Island was the worst. Before we landed numerous crew members said there was no reason to get off the ship. You can walk the island in 30 minutes and the only thing you see are natives selling stuff and asking $1 to take their picture. To get to downtown Lima is a 45 minute ride. Some ports you can't walk out of as they are in the middle of no where or it is not safe. Seeing the pyramids in Peru was the highlight.
The price of excursions was outrageous. Most ports there are cab or van drivers offering you the same tour for less than half of what Holland America is charging. The transfer to the Ft. Lauderdale airport using Holland America is $19 a person. You can take a cab from the terminal to the airport for $19 and they don't charge by per person.
A real profit center for Holland America is the Internet. I felt sorry for people who were very slowly surfing web pages knowing they were running up a big bill. Most ports you can find wifi or Internet cafes and do all your email for free or for $1 an hour.
On board Microsoft runs a computer lab. It was great and there was always a big crowd for the various sessions that included photography and the latest you can do with Microsoft products.
Duplicate bridge was very good and had an excellent teacher.
You are no longer out of touch with what is happening in America as they have added Fox News and ESPN. CNN International is worthless in covering what is happening in the US.
Most Captains are not very personable, but ours was. He participated in a two hour lesson on how to make pizza. He was very funny and answered any question put to him.
If you cruised all over the world but hadn't done S America, then I would go. If you haven't, then skip this one as the ports don't compare.
We have cruised on Holland America six times and this will probably be our last Holland America cruise as they have lost their edge. They have forgotten attention to detail. The food was okay, but nothing really special. Celebrity's foods is certainly a few notches better. More nights than not we skipped the showroom entertainment as it was not very special.
Hope this helps if you are trying to make a decision using the Veendam or Holland America.