First of all, my wife and I are experienced cruisers and the last to ever make any complaints. We do not have high expectations and appreciate every amenity and kindness offered to us.
We had originally booked a guaranteed inside cabin. With less then 48 hours before embarkation, we were assigned cabin 314. This was a cabin on the starboard side of the ship with, what they called, "a fully obstructed view". I was perfectly content to have natural light for our cabin and in fact, the view was not "totally obstructed". When we arrived at the dock, we had a different cabin number, 419, which was a downgrade as it was an inside cabin. Upon pointing this out to the woman at the counter, she spoke to her supervisor. About 15 to 20 minutes later, the counter woman & supervisor returned and apologized for the error and gave us cabin 409 which was the same as cabin 314. We had to be escorted onto the ship to get our cabin keys. My cabin key was totally wrong, with someone else's name. Of course, it did not work. I went to the Front Desk to have it corrected. Upon returning to the cabin, it still did not function. The third cabin key did work properly. My wife's cabin key, which worked the first time, failed to work after my cabin key had been corrected. Several trips back to the Front Desk and both our cabin keys were functional.
I had arranged a "Meet & Mingle". The fine folks at Cruise Critic even went so far as to arrange some prizes for a raffle which they had suggested. I had informed HAL that Cruise Critic & Facebook were to have a combined "Meet & Mingle". I had received an e-mail from HAL indicating that we could have the "Crow's Nest" from 10 a.m. to 11 a.m. on our sea day with signage, water, tea, coffee & cookies and, if time permitted, a visit from an Officer or two. We did get the "Crow's Nest", which is available to anyone at any time, but nothing else that was promised. HAL had completely dropped the ball. I was put into a somewhat humiliating position, since I had announced on Cruise Critic & Facebook what HAL was offering us. We did have a surprisingly exceptional turn out. I did go to the Front Desk to find out why we were not given what was promised. A fine woman representative from HAL's customer relations told me that the woman who had signed my e-mail from HAL did not follow through or there was a mix up in communication, as the ship had received no notification of our planned event. We were offered some "apology" compensations. We settled on some offers. One offer was a lunch in the "Specialty" restaurant. Now that food was excellent. This was the type of food and service I was hoping for on a more "upscale" cruise line. It is a shame that if one wants good food and service, he has to pay extra. Customer relations did make every effort to correct their errors through compensations. They did have to make quite a bit of apologies. We have never had any occasions on other cruise lines for apologies.
Our cabin stewards and waiters were excellent. I do feel bad for the waiters & busboys because of the cut-backs in staff and the over-worked conditions, making it almost impossible to get the service one used to get on a cruise ship. The food was served in small portions. This is fine, not having the main focus of a cruise on food & having passengers leaving dinner feeling bloated and uncomfortable. However, the food was just mediocre and not served hot. I will admit that the last two evening meals were quit good. I believe this was because on the previous night, after waiting an unacceptable length of time for service, we did walk out. On other cruise lines, one could choose to go to the Lido deck if they decided not to go to their assigned dining, but the Lido deck was closed. I later found out that there was 24 hour room service. This is what we used when we walked out on dinner. We were offered a bottle of wine the next evening as compensation for the poor service. Again, I do not blame the waiter or busboy.
The exterior of the Veendam had been painted over many, many times with many signs of rust. The wooden decks, railings & deck chairs were all weathered. On deck 6 the atrium was nothing more then wasted space.
We chose not to take any of the ship's excursions. Bermuda has excellent bus and ferry service, very reasonably priced for a 3 day pass. We had a wonderful time exploring the Island. We allowed ourselves to become completely exhausted, yet happy at all we had seen & done. The weather was perfect. The people of Bermuda are extremely, naturally polite and pleasant.
We will not cruise with Holland America again.