We are a small family of two adults and one teen and we find cruising a wonderful way to spend a vacation that allows our son freedom (whilst on the ship thanks to the teen center) but also provides for shared experiences on land. This is our third cruise in the last three years and we had a great time. Sadly, the Veendam is not returning to Bermuda next summer.
First, New York (Manhattan) Cruise Terminal is adequate once one is inside but access by automobile/taxi is difficult especially when three ships are at dock and one of those ships is rather large. Check in went quickly and painlessly and after a relatively short wait we were on Veendam.
The Veendam is an older and smaller ship that is perfectly nice but is showing its age and size. Compared to the Celebrity Solstice and the HAL Nieuw Amsterdam, public space on the ship was tight and dining options were more sparse. The air conditioning seemed to struggle on sunny, hot days. Whilst our stateroom was never overly hot, despite setting the thermostat to its coldest setting and closing the drapes, our room would warm to about 72 Fahrenheit when it was in the afternoon sun. As it is an older ship, the grind of maintenance seems almost continuous on the Veendam. The day before we boarded they had varnished the wooden handrail on our verandah, which meant it still smelled of the varnish for the first day. The seating area by the pool bar was unavailable for two days as its wooden handrails was stripped and varnished. But despite these minor inconveniences, the ship overall was very nice.
The cruise to Bermuda (and back) was painless despite some stormy seas (mostly in the distance). The biggest issue, as usual on an American cruise, was deck chairs. Because HAL had created "Lanai" cabins on the Verandah Deck (each with two "reserved" deck chairs on that deck), there were fewer chairs than normal. Unfortunately, each morning I would watch as people came by and left a towel and a book on multiple (in one instance ten) chairs and then went off to breakfast. I never saw any member of crew enforce HAL's policy on deck chairs, so whilst virtually every available chair was claimed by 9 am, most spent the majority of the day unoccupied.
The cruise had two formal nights and most people were reasonably well dressed for the first night (a handful of dinner jackets and formal dresses, most males in jackets and women in dresses) but standards fell somewhat on the second night. I realize this is a touchy subject but why do Americans refuse to maintain even the most basic dress standards? That said, overall the people on this cruise were far better dressed than those on our Celebrity Caribbean cruise.
We ate in the main ding room, the Lido deck, Slice and the Pinnacle Grill on Le Cirque night. Most of the meals in the main dining room were perfectly acceptable, the equivalent of the dining room of an upper mid-market hotel, and occasionally the meals were really quite good (some of the the featured chefs' creations were fantastic). The Lido was something of a disappointment, the food was for the most part adequate but selections were thin and often only one side was open so waits could be long. Overall, I found the dishes a little less imaginative that those on the Nieuw Amsterdam's Lido deck. The meal at the Pinnacle Grill was quite nice (and the plates were fun) but we would likely return on a regular (non Le Cirque) night in the future.
There are two caveats to our main dining room experience. The first seems, sadly, increasingly common, ordering anything other than a bottle of wine at dinner can be difficult once the meal has begun. As the regular waiter takes non-wine steward drink orders, it can be difficult to add another glass of wine or another drink. The other is that the Veendam is clearly struggling with open dining at dinner. Although we had booked the second dinner, we did notice that those who did not often had a long wait. I had not noticed this on our previous ships (both of which were launched after the more flexible dining arrangements came into being).
The biggest advantage that Veendam has over most of its competitors is that it docks in central Hamilton and not out at the Royal Dockyards. Quite literally. one can be strolling Front Street ten minutes after finishing dinner. We took buses to two beaches and took the ferry to the Royal Dockyards complex during our stay and shopped everyday.
Back on the ship, the Veendam had an adequate supply of bars but lively entertainment was in somewhat short supply. Everyone from the piano player to the Halcats were quite skilled but the choice of music was a bit on the mellow side. In fact, despite enjoyable moments at each venue the cruise would have been something of a snooze without Harvey of the Neptunes. He was quite the entertainer and realized putting on a show involves more than just playing music at a highly skilled level.
Overall, a great destination, very good food, acceptable entertainment on a nice but older ship. If the Veendam cruises again to Bermuda, I would take it. All three of us had a perfectly good time.