This was our 10th cruise and we usually choose our ship for the itinerary. The last cruise was on Celebrity, 6 years ago. We chose HAL this time because we were traveling with friends who had never been to Bermuda and we liked the fact that we had an extra day there, although in the end, all aboard was for 12 noon on the last day so unless you are going on a ship excursion, there was not much time for more than walking around Hamilton. Had celebrity been there the same amount of time, it would have been our first choice. Docking in Hamilton, we felt, was another plus.
Our friends had traveled strictly on HAL cruises for their first 4 with another group who were firm HAL believers. The 4 of us together have been on 2 RCI cruises more recently. Our only other experience with Holland America was the Eurodam last summer in the Baltic and all around the ship and itinerary were wonderful, probably our most favorite cruise overall, so we felt the Veendam was a good choice.
We had a wonderful time, despite the "bumps in the road".
Embarkation was a breeze, along with disembarkation. Being our first time out of a NY port, we did not know what to expect. We arrived to the terminal and we had group #32 and were on board by 12:15 and our cabins were ready. Luggage arrived very quickly. The usual Muster Drill was held at 4:15 and it seemed more disorganized than most. There must be a better way than calling out cabin numbers...checking cruise cards??
Our cabin was an obstructed view on Deck 6, but for the same price as an inside, so it was nice to have the window for daylight. Cabin was very clean, roomy and our cabin steward did a great job all week. We like to walk so it made it nice that 6 is the deck for walking (4 laps around is one mile).
Being an older ship, it was beautiful yet the A/C in our cabin was inconsistent. At night, it felt much too warm, however, for some of the public rooms, I carried a sweater because it was so cool.
The entertainment was diverse and there truly was something for everyone. The Piano Man was terrific and the lounge where he played was a huge draw at night. The showroom entertainers were very talented, but for us, 3 nights of revue type shows were a little too much. The comedian was very funny and we missed the magician due to our dinner in the Pinnacle Grill being the longest time spent at a meal...not complaining, it was worth every minute of it. There was a bit of confusion with our Pinnacle reservation, having booked it prior to departure. When we got to our cabin, we had a different day noted for our dinner, and our friends who we were dining with had totally different day, but after speaking to Sal? , the manager, it was all cleared up to our liking.
The Lido Buffet was adequate but we were there early on most days for breakfast so we did not have too much problem getting what we wanted. There was plenty of variety, although it seemed as though it was short-staffed at times, to handle the larger crowds.
We have been choosing My Time Dining for the past few cruises as it is better if you need the flexibility, especially when you are in ports where you don't know what you might be doing ashore each day. We have to wonder, though, if you miss out on the more personal service having the same waiter each night. The food in the Rotterdam was very good, although the menu was very different.Our one friend ordered the steak, "always available", 2 nights because he did not like the other choices. Of course, we always managed to find something to our liking and never went hungry! Apparently, as well, smart casual means jeans and a T-shirt. My husband had a nice, dressy pair of shorts on with a golf shirt one night and he was reminded of the "dress code"...only long pants in the DR.
The two most disappointing things were as follows:
Service in the Rotterdam was inconsistent. One evening, we went there early so we could go off the ship to Harbor Nights (Wed). We did not see the wine steward, who had a bottle we wanted from another evening...and after the waiter took our order, it seemed although he forgot about us. Very, very slow! So on the next evening, we spoke up to let the waiter know we had an excursion and that we needed to be in the terminal and gave him the time. Again, we felt we were in the dining room in plenty of time...but his response was..." I have 7 other tables". He was very efficient and we were finished in plenty of time.
The other negative was the evening of the Dessert Extravaganza. It was held in the Atrium and to quote someone who I was following..."it's like salmon trying to swim upstream". No real organization as to how cruisers should go around the areas and they were serving themselves which made it even more difficult. On the Eurodam last summer, it was done poolside, with 2 lines on either side and it flowed much better. Be prepared if you go to see/ partake of this.
We love Bermuda (4th time there). We kayaked, and rode a Segway; two things we had never done there, as well as enjoyed the beautiful beaches and ocean. A cruise is truly a great way to go.Your ship is your hotel, you have the benefit of your meals and entertainment. (Lunch in the Dockyard area for 2 with no alcohol, just one soda and two lunch entrees was $50.) For the previous 2 cruises, we took our children when they were 10 & 11; then, again, with our children and their spouses in 2006. One day, we hope to go, once again, with our grandchildren added in to the mix. Sorry to say that we would be reluctant to travel on Holland America the next time, be it Bermuda or elsewhere.