Veendam Cruise Review by Sangamo: Veendam/Honest Assessment
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This is the last year for Holland America full week cruises to Bermuda. Take this cruise now if you want the advantages of docking in downtown Hamilton and spending the most possible time in port. If you are looking for a Vista class newer ship experience, this may not be for you.
My 15th cruise and third on H-A; embarcation in Manhattan was very quick and terminal facilities comfortable (less than 45 minutes after arriving about 11:15). We had booked a BC verandah suite guarantee and got a BA. Stateroom was comfortable but on small side, particularly as to the closet which is too narrow. Many NY/NJ passengers; prices were cut at last minute. Staff generally friendly. There will be a new cruise director, as this one's contract expired after this cruise.
The ship is not the rotting hulk portrayed in some of the negative reviews, but it is not in tip top shape either, certainly compared with Westerdam (sailed last November). Specific facts: as others have More mentioned, there is a permanent black net in the Rotterdam dining room to catch potentially falling glass ornaments from the ceiling. Also our stateroom manual lock did not work and one of the side glass panels to our verandah was shattered (but not falling out). Otherwise, we had no problems with climate control either in stateroom or in public areas, and overall ship was clean and in fairly good condition. We attended "Cooking with the Stripes" which is really a Q&A with the captain and chief engineer, and there were a number of questions from other passengers about the ship's physical condition.
Biggest positive on this cruise is the opportunity to dock in Hamilton and spend four days in Bermuda. From Hamilton you can get bus or ferry anywhere on island, no need for ship's tours. Buy a multi day pass, good on ferries and buses. We were even able to get (free) wifi from shore occasionally while docked. If you want to spend the most time in Bermuda, take this cruise. We took a prior Princess cruise stopping one day at West End with the larger ships; Hamilton with a smaller ship is much better. Try to "reverse commute" to the ends of the island - we got stuck in St. George's when large groups from the big ships were trying to ferry back to Dockyard, and had to wait to take a bus as ferry was full. Buses are reasonably comfortable and a good way to see the island.
Biggest negative on this cruise was service in Rotterdam dining room. We got off to a bad start at the Mariner Welcome Luncheon - sat down at 12:30 and it took 45 minutes just to get an iced tea despite several requests, and an hour and 5 minutes to get entree, not acceptable for a limited menu fixed luncheon. This left a bad taste which persisted to some degree throughout cruise; service was slow and uneven for the any time dining. Either they are understaffed or not well trained/organized, or both. The only time we had a waiter really concerned about pacing of courses was when we moved tables one night, had to re-order everything, and food still came out quicker than any other night. Usually I recommend fixed seating, but early seating at 5:15 is too early, and with late seating at 8 you will miss some shows only offered at 9/9:30. Despite what they say it is almost impossible to get reservations (unless you are in a full suite or four star Mariner) but except for formal nights, we were seated in less than 30 minutes. Formal night may take an hour. Canaletto was much better but make reservations right away as they fill up. Lido food was adequate but not spectacular. Rotterdam food was pretty good, especially soups. I found Slice pizza to be good.
Ship is well laid out with most activities and public space on Lido or Upper Promenade. Shows focus more on singing with less production/dancing/scenery, plus a comedian and magician. Because of the buildout on Decks 9 and 10 aft, the aft pool area is limited.
Disembarcation went pretty quickly and we had no problem getting a cab (it helps that the H-A dock is first from the entrance; the folks getting off the NCL Star and Disney Magic at the same time had a lot more trouble getting cabs). Less
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Cabin review: BA142 Vista Suite with Verandah