This was our third "last" family vacation. Four of us, including 2 girls, ages 20 and 23. Our last family cruise was the Zuiderdam in 2007, but the two of us have been on the Maasdam twice and the Zuiderdam in the last couple of years.
The flight into LaGuardia the day before embarkation was spectacular! Flew up the Hudson River to amazing views of Manhattan in the late evening sun with clear skies. It was fun picking out the landmarks, and we were able to take some nice pictures from the plane. Easily able to get a taxi (Ford Explorer) that could hold the four of us and our luggage. I had to load the luggage while the driver watched, and provide the directions to our hotel that I had printed from Google Maps.
We stayed at the Verve Hotel, part of the Choice Hotels chain, (almost) free using hotel points. It is halfway between the airport and the pier. The free room is the one across from the ice machine, next to the entrance to the the underground parking garage with the gate that opens and closes all night, and near the room with the microwave and its beeping timer. In addition, while I was told when making the reservation that there would be a $35 charge because we had two extra people staying in the room, they did not tell me until we checked in that it was $35 per person for the extra two people.
After checking in around 8:30pm, DW said, "The Empire State Building is open until 2:00am, let's go!" So we did. While there was a long line, it was a nice clear night to see the lights of Manhattan. DW likes McDonalds, and there is one across from the Empire State Building, so we stopped for a late night snack. We had the hotel send a car to pick us up at the Empire State Building. The driver couldn't find the place. He had to call me several times to confirm the intersection where we were standing.
Check in on Sunday went smoothly, starting around 11:30. Our cabin was mostly ready, so we dropped off our carryons and headed to the Lido for lunch. After lunch, the girls found their chairs to get some sun while I wandered around the ship. There were racks of barf bags by the elevators--not a good sign. There was handsome wedding party having photos taken out on deck; they must have had some very nice wedding photos.
The Norwegian Star, which was docked next to us and would also be sailing to Bermuda, but wouldn't arrive until a day after the Veendam, set sail while we stood in the lifeboat drill. After the drill we ran up to the top deck to take photos as we sailed away. It was the first time to NYC for all of us, so we didn't want to miss anything, including the Intrepid, Empire State Building, Freedom Tower, Statue of Liberty, and Verrazano Narrows Bridge. It was a little rough by the time the pilot disembarked.
Our luggage was in our A Deck, outside cabin (queen bed, upper bunk, and converted sofa) before it was time to get ready for dinner, late seating in the MDR at a table for four next to the window. We had a pre-dinner snack at the sailaway BBQ by the Lido pool.
Monday was not the best weather, so we spent the day in the covered Lido pool area. Tropical Storm Alberto loomed off the east coast of the U.S. According to the Captain, winds were 55mph (moderate gale). By the end of the day, the ship was really rocking, there were major waves in the Lido pool, the outside decks were closed, and seasickness was affecting people, including me. So I missed dinner that evening. Due to the motion of the ship, the singers/dancers show was cancelled and a comedian performed.
Due to the bad weather, we arrived in Bermuda about an hour and a half late on Tuesday. The ship approaches the island from the east side. It sails through a channel across the entire north side of the island, past the Royal Naval Dockyard-where the Explorer of the Seas and the Norwegian Dawn were docked, before arriving in Hamilton with the help of a tugboat named "Powerful" (great name for a tugboat) that assisted the ship in spinning 180 degrees so that it docked on the starboard side along Front St. That afternoon we did some shopping on Front Street and found the library and used the free internet available anytime in the patio area out front. Intermittent showers that day.
The weather Wednesday was perfect! We bought our transportation passes and took the ferry to the Royal Naval Dockyard, where the Norwegian Star and the Celebrity Summit were now docked. We did a little shopping and picture taking before taking the ferry to St. George. It was such a nice ride! That ride alone was worth the price of the transportation passes. After more picture taking and exploring, we took the bus back to Hamilton and were dropped off right on Front St.
Wednesday night they close Front St. for Harbor Nights. Local vendors sold their wares, and there were performances by several groups including a bagpipe group from Canada, a glee club from Penn State that arrived via the Celebrity Summit, a Zumba demonstration, and a local drum line. We skipped dinner that night.
Right near the bow of the ship we found Joan E. Thompson. She had painted a watercolor of the bow of the Veendam while it was docked, including the name of the ship, and a few of the buildings on Front Street. The print is dated 2012 and double-matted. I think we only paid $10 for it. It is such a nice memento of our cruise
Thursday was the national holiday, Bermuda Day. Despite intermittent showers again, the Bermudians lined the street all day, cooking, eating, visiting, and celebrating under their canopies. There was a bicycle race, half marathon, and later, a very slow moving four hour parade. We thought transportation might be problematic that day, so we watched some of the festivities from the ship, and some from the street. If you are a runner, you may wish to consider taking your next trip to Bermuda over Bermuda Day so that you can participate in the half marathon. If DW had known about it ahead of time, she might have participated.
On Friday morning, we took a quick bus trip to Elbow Beach, where the sand was not pink like we had expected. Maybe other beaches have pink sand, but that one didn't. When we returned to Hamilton we walked to the Bermuda Cathedral and Fort Hamilton. The Captain had to delay departure waiting for several people. Seas were calm as we sailed away.
Saturday was another beautiful day at sea. We went to the morning Mariner's Lunch so that DW could participate in On Deck For The Cure.
The sunrise was beautiful Sunday morning as we returned to New York, back up the Hudson River; but it was a little hazy/foggy, and there was a lot of shipping traffic . We did the the self-disembarkation, grabbed a cab across the street from the pier, and were at LaGuardia by 8:30. Our flight was scheduled for 2:30, but to our surprise, the agent checked us onto an earlier flight. Our connection was in Cleveland, and Customer Service there again bumped us up to an earlier flight without charging us extra. This trip we flew Continental/United, from whom we seem to receive the best service.
Just a note about dinner. We always choose late (8:00pm) fixed seating in the MDR. We had a table to ourselves this time. At a nearby table for six, one of the couples usually arrived late. When they arrived at 8:20 one evening, after the others at the table had ordered their meals, the result was a mixup in the delivery of the food, inconvenience for the others at the table, delays for the other tables, and more work for the staff. At another table, a group strolled in at 8:49 in their best Tshirts and jeans and sat down. Just a reminder to be considerate of others, which may mean making other dining arrangements if you can't make your scheduled dinner time.
Miscellaneous notes about the ship and the cruise:
* The big black screen looming over the "Retreat" did not seem to be used at all.
* There was an unattractive net stretched beneath the lights in the MDR.
* There was a designated teen area one deck up from the "Retreat".
Had not read of that prior to the cruise.
* Watch for daily happy hours listed in the Explorer. Second drink for $1.
* Shows were singers/dancers or comedians. We enjoyed the singers/dancers.
* Caramel apples were a big hit at Thursday night's dessert extravaganza.
First time we had seen them offered.
* You can buy playing cards in the casino for $1.
* The only time there was a chair shortage was the mid-afternoon sailaway from Bermuda.
* The teak deck chairs on the Lower Promenade Deck seemed to be in poor condition.
* We're not "foodies". We were very satisfied with our meals, especially the desserts.
We think some people over-expect when hundreds of meals are being served at the same time.
* The lines at each station in the Lido are confusing.
People at each end think they are at the beginning of the line.
* The hand washing machines in the Lido were not something we had seen before.
* Our dining room stewards, Hery and Supono, were the best!
* Our cabin stewards, Handa and Pri, were also very good. They organized the cabin for us perfectly.
* If you are going to Bermuda, pick up Frommer's Bermuda 2012 to assist in planning.
* There is only one fast food restaurant in Bermuda, a KFC in Hamilton.