We recently completed a wonderful 31 day journey on Veendam, from Buenos Aires to Fort Lauderdale. I hesitated to actually write a review, as it seems, many are written only by negative travelers, but this rates a mention.
From start to finish the whole experience was so full of surprises and 18 wonderful places to experiance and learn about.
Let me say I expect the best, as New Zealander's we travel long distances to cruise ,and this was our 6th journey on H.A.L,we have also experienced Princess and Azamara Journey, but our heart belongs to H.A.L, the real experience of cruising, not glitz and glamour, climbing walls, and huge shopping malls, dignified and well run ships, component Captains, with staff that are simply great. Veendam has quiet spaces, an excellent library, tasteful decor.A stable ship,as well ,it seems.
Good food, and I have to confess we do not eat in the main dining room, only once for a Mariners Lunch this cruise, but that was beautiful, we find being waited on, not really our style and the food in the Lido is excellent, the same really...this was a lengthy cruise and the quality of the meals didn't alter from beginning to end, at times over run by eager consumers, the staff never stopped smiling and some folk really forget their manners I'm afraid...
We had a balcony cabin on verandah deck, well placed, carefully chosen for stability in the journey around Cape Horn and in the Southern Oceans, perfect, spacious with carefully designed storage, which one would be hard pressed to fill...comfortable, large leather couch, and good bed and bedding, which is a feature of H.A.L. Good bathroom facilities, with a whirlpool bath, all more than adequate.
The on board entertainment was varied and enjoyable, a long cruise and not everything suited us, and if so, we didn't go, simple...
I had researched the Ports Of Call as much as possible, essential in parts of the world you are not totally familiar with .We took H.A.L. shore excursions, we don't always do this, but in countries we are not so familiar with, this seemed, and was the best option, no concerns about time .They were managed very well indeed .We travel for the destinations, and were not ever disappointed, so many highlights, The Falkland Islands ,unfortunately we missed, well we saw them in the distance, in a gale, but were prepared, as often it is not suitable to enter an unsheltered harbor , where tenders are the means of transport..Cape Horn, in a gale as it should be seen, wonderful, Ushuaia, stunning mountainous scenery, then the Fjords of Chile, glacier's amazing landscapes. Chile its self ,huge volcanoes and lakes ,beautiful, and then the desert, hard to comprehend, The Atacama simply desolate, but in places tamed to produce...the Candelabra geoglyph ,related to the Nazcar lines ,a beautiful surprise on a perfect evening, sun setting ,as we left General San Martin, Peru.The amazing museums. Lovely Lima at Easter with the parades, Ecuador, with its tropical plants and fascinating animals, and the Panama Canal.. Really a wonder of the engineering world, we will never forget .Much, much more, but you need to go and be surprised...and amazed..This cruise is for those who really want to see and experience an adventurous part of the world. We so look forward to traveling with Holland America line again soon.
My one slightly negative thought, regarding H.A.L cruises and ALL cruises in general, is more has to be done, to try to combat the outbreaks of illness, almost epidemic on most cruises, if you read the reviews, and certainly on this one, respiratory illness, obviously very contagious..Could there be more attention paid to thorough sanitizing of cabins at the end of the cruises, like pillow protectors, and mattress protectors, changed /washed, and all cabin surfaces at least wiped with disinfectant, I know with limited staff, and a very short time frame , this is difficult, but honestly it is a huge problem. One wonders if the actual air conditioning systems are checked and filters or whatever is required, changed by a regulation system, on all ships perhaps. I know much of the care and responsibility is down to the individual ,and some don't care about the etiquette of covering your mouth etc, but it has to be a joint effort and thorough cleaning seems to be the best option, maybe cruises cannot be back to back, maybe time taken to get everything "hospital"clean.. at regular intervals is to be considered..
Cruising is such a wonderful way to see the world ,surely something can be changed or tried, there must be answers.