June 15-29 2nd week was a Dancing with the Stars theme cruise Our 94th cruise
Large comfortable cabin
Upscale hotel quality mattress
Very good food in dining room
2 world class singers in the ship's show
The bad: just about everything else!
Passengers known as guests are treated as a necessary inconvenience by the majority of staff including many senior officials. Service ranges from poorly or untrained to outright rude. The numbers of staff are woefully inadequate. HAL starts with a you can't touch anything in the buffet for two days and the result is very long lines for everything even when there are not many passengers around. Even when this is over most items are not accessible and so many of us just gave up trying to get anything. There are about 3 staff to serve the entire buffet. They even keep the napkin wrapped silver behind the counter. When you are handed a plate it is often so hot it cannot be held with bare hands.
Finally after two days you can get your own coffee. I approached with two cups and a senior staff member standing in front of the coffee machine greeted me with "good morning sir" and then turned around picked up a cup and helped himself to a cup of coffee! In the small dance lounge there were 3 mid level officers taking up prime seats with the only ones left those with no view of the dance floor and a full room. They never moved while we were there. A very senior food staff person was smoking on the outside food eating area. Staff never moves aside or gives passengers the right of way and were frequently in elevators with carts etc.
Cabin steward was mostly adequate although there was a hair in our bathtub on boarding day and 3 other times - indicating lack of attention. Toilet was also not adequately cleaned on a number of occasions.
Dining room food was very good most of the time. Service ranged from abysmal to barely adequate. We finally found a waiter that at least did not keep us there for hours. However, we often had no salt and pepper on the table, butter not replenished, water rarely replenished. Asking might or might not get results, but he was better than we had experienced previously.
The buffet. We love to dance, not eat, so we normally eat in the buffet on a band break. However aside from the terrible wait for anything in the buffet the food was some of the most unappetizing in appearance we have ever seen. Trying a couple of things confirmed that it was equally bad tasting. How it could be so bad and the dining room so good escapes us. So we gave up on the buffet and stayed with the dining room. It is obvious there is insufficient staff. Even the lounge which was large usually had one bar server. Same in the theater.
Dancing - HAL is pushing its Dancing with the Stars connection on all ships this year and has a number of themed sailings. The second week was the themed sailing -- more about this later.
There was one small floor of about 10-12 feet wide and perhaps 20 feel long square feet with lots of corners to dance. The band was one of the worst ever. Although they would occasionally play a song with the correct dance tempo, we concluded that it was mere coincidence. Most of their rumbas and foxtrots were at warp speed. And during the first week they frequently would delve into a jazz set sometimes with members of the ships orchestra. We sent a written complaint about that - more about that later. They also took extraordinary long time between songs. It seemed they never played together and had dozens of music books and would discuss and flip pages incessantly between songs. We did keep track and during one 45 minute set they played 7 songs! Always on time arriving, but then they started talking not playing. Almost always would leave early for breaks and at end of evening.
The second week was the themed Dancing with the Stars cruise. Now obvious to anyone except HAL management apparently there would be a lot of ballroom dancers on a ballroom dancing themed cruise! Remember the size of the dance floor and the description of the band!
The Veendam has a huge dance floor in front of the stage in the showroom. Although covered with tables and chairs which were rarely needed anyway they could have easily been moved for some nice dance sets as the showroom was only used for 2 shows most nights and 1 show some nights. Even if they only had CD's it would have been a wonderful place to dance.
OK so turning to the "theme Dancing with the Stars". We are confirmed Princess fans and only took this because of the theme. We had 2 stars and 2 celebrities. During the entire week they had a Q&A hour which was very interesting, they had a 1/2 hour fashion show with gowns from the show, they had a photo session - only ship photos permitted, and they had one of the evening shows as a dance exhibition. That's it for the week. They did not do any dance classes. Nor were there any dance classes offered. No hosts either ladies.
They do have a "dance contest" actually several each cruise. But for you ballroom dancers forget it. If you have cruised before, think hula hoop contest, Elvis contest and other zany games. They taught a one minute routine which was quite involved but had only a couple of moves that were real ballroom. The winners were not good dancers, but those who were the most entertaining - read made the biggest fools of themselves! They had a Kim Johnson video showing the dance before each time and showing a basic pattern, but that was never in the routine.
Now if your idea of cruising is a quiet and restful experience the Veendam is not for you. It was the absolute worst cruise ever in terms of rest and relaxation. As noted we are dancers and therefor up late. We had a cabin facing the rear promenade deck. At 6:15 every morning HAL felt it was necessary to wash the deck and our windows with high pressure hoses even when we hadn't moved (2 nights in Quebec). That was our first wakeup call each morning. Then we had the cruise director who while not in the cabin was very loud and very talkative with a speaker just outside our door at full blast. As mentioned we were at the rear of the ship, so not too long after the window washing docking would begin. That includes the stern thrusters and the windlasses on rope deck 2 decks down. That goes on for another 30-45 minutes. Then we had a door to the outside deck with a non working closer. It was one of those very heavy old fashioned teak doors. With the wind and whatever else it would slam and cause the entire rear of the ship to shake. We called on that but nothing ever was done. (We discovered we could lock it and put up the red tape which gave it an official look and so we did). We noticed that other doors within hearing were just as bad. And finally we had a very chatty Captain who chose to use the PA that comes in your cabin to give us weather, wildlife and remind us to wash our hands. So no rest for the weary. This of course makes us a bit cranky in the morning.
And the ship is dirty and worn with a lot of fraying carpet and more dust that we have ever seen. Again, probably because they do not have sufficient staff for anything.
Just before the end of week one, we received a form to let them know of any concerns since we were not getting the end of cruise evaluations. I listed a number of things mentioned here and received NO RESPONSE WHATSOEVER!! And of course none of them were remedied. So instead of the end of cruise comment card, we thought it would me most helpful to write our evaluations here where at least someone would read them!
All in all a very poor experience. We definitely will not stray from Princess in the future !