This was our 3rd cruise to Bermuda and our 4th cruise on HAL. Last year we sailed on the Celebrity Summit which was an excellent cruise. The reason we did not return on Celebrity was that the Veendam was the only ship to dock in downtown Hamilton instead of the dockyard which is far removed from just about everything.
The last time we chose HAL was in 2003 on the Zuiderdam. The cruise did not meet our expectations and we decided to drop HAL from cruises that we would consider. Since then, most cruises that we have taken have also declined, so we thought that HAL should once again be considered. I expectations were not high for the Veendam but I am glad to say they not only met but surpassed them. We will once again consider HAL.
To arrive in New York we chose to drive 6 hours and park on the pier. We arrived about 12:30 and found there were only about a dozen parking spaces available. We could have parked about 15 minutes earlier but we dropped off our bags first at the main entrance and then had to go into traffic again to get to the parking lot. Once we arrived at the parking lot (now $35/day), we found out we could have checked our bags there and not on the main entrance.
After parking we went downstairs to check-in. It was simple and fast, the only slow down was filling out an easy one page questionnaire about your health. We were on board the ship in less than 15 minutes. The cabins were available so we dropped our carry-on and went to the Lido restaurant. It was not crowded for the first day (Good Surprise!). After eating we went back to the cabin and our luggage had already been delivered (FAST!). I was somewhat surprised by the lack of space in the cabin given the square footage. It turns out that HAL probably includes the balcony where as RCL does not, thus you can not easily compare the two. A nice touch was that HAL has provided a leather covering on the lower part of the bed where you can place your luggage for unpacking. The cabin steward removes it the first night and brings in back the last sea day for packing. The cabin had only one electrical outlet and it was positioned close to the desk so that any bulky plug (like a charger) would not fit. It is smart to bring something like an extension cord.
The sail away party on HAL was an on-deck BBQ which is in contrast to the Celebrity Summit which had a swinging band and a dance party (like doing the Y-M-C-A dance).
We chose the anytime dining and had to wait about 30 minutes for a table which seated 10. The first sea day we went to the Lido for breakfast and they still serve FRESH orange juice (no charge-not like RCL). Once again the Lido was not overly crowded for a sea day. For health reasons, the Lido is not self serve for the first 48 hours of the cruise. On Monday, a sea day we went to a PC lecture. The teacher was excellent and patient. Since we were still at sea, we chose to eat our nightly meal at the Lido rather than having to wait for a table.
On Tuesday we arrive in Hamilton. If you are going to do shopping this is the day to do it, because the other ships (mega-ships) leave Bermuda about mid day and HAL is the only ship around. That changes on Wednesday when two new mega-ships once again are docked and the passengers are clogging the sidewalks seeking to buy what you want. So Tuesday, you have the place to yourself.
One night we ate a the Italian Cafe (free) on board and the service and food was excellent. It was similar to what we expected in cruising 15 years ago. Make a reservation first. The other nights we ate at the anytime dining and only had a short wait.
On the last day, HAL lets you wait in your cabin (unlike some other lines) until your number is called to go thru customs. This process was easy and painless.
It's a shame that HAL is not going back to Bermuda next year because I would consider HAL again especially since it was cloudy and rained most the trip, and we therefore did not go to the beach or other places on the island.