Hello! We got off of Veendam yesterday morning (May 25) and after making our way home from Quebec City and getting a good night's sleep I would like to give a little review of our cruise.
Before we left I posted a thread on this site titled "Sailing with Mixed Emotions" (or something close to that) because I was feeling like I'd made a mistake booking this ship, and this line. Everyone was telling me my kids would hate Holland America and be out of place there, and I got caught up in reading so many negative reviews about the Veendam. But after getting a good pep talk here I went in feeling better about things. So here is my review:
Pre-Cruise: Drove from Toronto to Boston the day before the cruise, spending the night at the Courtyard by Marriott Downtown Tremont St....the rooms really are small, but the hotel is nice and the location was great. Just a few minutes walk to Boston Common and Cheers. Employees were helpful and the doorman had us a cab in 2 seconds flat to take us to the pier.
Embarkation: A little hiccup here, as we were delayed in boarding due to "the tide being too low". Apparently they could not get the gangway at a safe angle and we had to wait. They did eventually provide chairs and were good and communicating what was happening. Everyone was on their phones / computers checking when high tide would be coming, lol. As for the age thing, the very first thing a fellow passenger in line said to me was "What is a young girl like you doing in a place like this?" (I am 43 lol) Everyone laughed because me and my family were the only ones without grey hair in sight - but it was all in good fun. We later came to find out we were by far not the youngest on the ship!
Cabin: We were on Deck 5 (Main Deck) outside cabins 507 and 509 as far forward as you could get! These were port hole rooms, they were fine good views. There were no issues with motion or rocking, the entire cruise was so calm and stable it was not always easy to remember we were moving! Fair warning to light sleepers, these cabins are very noisy in the morning when coming into port - something mechanical gets turned on and it is very loud and then what sounds like the anchor chains dropping. This sounds very loud and goes on for a long time. However, it didn't bother us at all, mainly because my husband is a deep sleeper and slept right through it all, and I was up early anyway and actually grew to love the sound. I mean, we are on an actual, functioning ship at sea. Where else can you hear an anchor being lowered into the ocean right below you? What a thrill, really, and I miss it now with nothing to hear but an alarm clock and traffic. Sigh.
Fellow Passengers: Met some awesome people, young and old. Some real characters that I am going to miss. My children (12 and 14) made friends and also heard the life stories of some very fascinating people. My youngest just smiled and said "Wow, the people you meet on a cruise ship". Yeah, the people all right! I am not particularly social and had planned to pretty much just keep to ourselves but it turns out the fellow passengers really helped make the cruise special.
Food: Loved it! Did the Lido for breakfast and lunch and the dining room for dinner. My husband had a few dinners that he felt were questionable but I guess I ordered better than he did because I felt I had a great meal every night. My kids loved the Terrace Grill and usually had burgers and tacos and nachos every afternoon while playing ping pong. Wonderful Dessert Extravaganza one night on deck, wow! But my favourite dessert was in the dining room, the Banana Rum Caramel Sundae.
Staff: Everyone was wonderful. Very friendly. We did wind up tipping our cabin steward a bit extra, which is unheard of for my husband, but he was wonderful!! Only thing I found slow was the bar service, but that may be because I didn't break down and order drinks until the final day, and by then I think the bar staff already had their favourite regulars, because it took me half an hour to get a beer delivered to me, while others were getting theirs faster, and also slow to receive my wine at dinner, I was literally finished my meal and then my wine arrived...
Boston - just had time to stroll around, lovely city and we would like to visit again. Took some touristy shots outside of Cheers for the kids!
Bar Harbour - again strolled around town, walked down to the beach area, found a wine shop and picked up a cheap bottle of wine to take back on board
Halifax - walked (or should I say it felt more like a hike!) up to the Citadel, did a tour, saw the noon canon being fired and they had a 21 gun salute for Victoria Day, walked along the boardwalk and back to the ship.
Sydney - rented a car and drove out to Fortress Louisberg, and up to Glace Bay area and back to Sydney
Charlottetown - rented a car, did the Central Coastal drive, then walked around the city a bit and back to ship
Quebec City - walked around the old town, just beautiful!!
By the way in Sydney and Charlottetown we rented from Budget, they pick you up at the port, give you maps and whatever help and info you need, and drive you back to the ship when done. Easy peasy!
The Ship (ms Veendam): I went in with doubts, but I truly fell for her. The only indication of her age that I could see, is the small size compared to how big the ships are being built today. But this is a beautiful ship! Now I didn't go over everything with a microscope but she looked in top shape to me, everything working properly, no issues at all. The layout was nice, it was elegant, rooms were spacious...what a pleasant surprise for me since I did not know what to expect! My favourite spot for sailaways was in the Retreat area, just pull a lounge chair around to face aft and wave goodbye to each skyline. So peaceful.
Open Dining: Early and Late seatings were already booked so were assigned open. We thought this option would work for us since we don't like having to rush to dinner, or wait too late for dinner. But no, it didn't really work out that way. You have to arrive by 5:00-5:15 to get a table and if you miss that you are out of luck until 7:15-7:30. People started making reservations to get in at better times but then that seems to defeat the purpose of being spontaneous and eating when you want. I think this needs to improved upon. Our Open dining turned into a rush to the dining room every night to get there by 5:15. Oh well, once we got there it was all worth it. but just FYI.
Disembarkation: Efficient, smooth, fast (too fast I wanted to stay on longer) and out like clockwork. My kids devised a plan to swim out after her when she left, and they would be morally obligated to rescue us and pull us aboard and then we would have a bit more time until they put us off at the next port, lol.ï¿½
Well, I guess I have gone on a bit much, and at the same time have probably forgotten things as well. Final thought is I guess that I loved this cruise and I would cruise on Holland America and on Veendam again in a heartbeat!