We've been traveling with HAL now for four years. This cruise was not the worst, nor was it the best. I'll try and write a review that is helpful to future cruisers, with specific examples of the highlights and weaknesses of the Veendam.
First impressions: Not great. The captain delayed embarkation, so those cruisers who arrived early were given a numbered ticket and told to sit down. We arrived at about 11:45 am, and ended up waiting about 45 minutes after we were checked in. Those who arrived at 11:00 waited an hour and a half. Luggage handling was efficient. Upon arrival to our stateroom, we found the following issues: extremely warm room, no batteries in the TV remote, and not enough towels for our quad room.
How they handled the initial issues: Engineers finally showed up four days into the cruise to fix the air conditioner. Batteries arrived about five hours later, and the steward explained that the extra towels are brought to the quads at the evening turn-down service.
Dining: We enjoy eating in the dining room, and were thrilled when we discovered that our steward from our previous cruise, Tono, would be our "As you Wish" steward again. I truthfully do not understand the complaints about the food on this ship - we always ask the steward what he recommends. One night we were all set to order the beef, but Tono said that due to a reported fire in the galley (the captain had informed us prior to dinner about this) that the meat was not marinated properly and it was a little tough. He steered us to something else on the menu that we hadn't considered, and it was excellent. If you establish a relationship and communicate with your steward, you will have better food and faster service.
Ship Condition: Overall just fine,
Although the Veendam is an older ship, it was clean in public areas, and was in much better condition than the Ryndam that we were on last year. There were SO many complaints from other guests about the warmth in the cabins -- we met some couples who were traveling together that threatened to camp out in the atrium to make a point about the uncomfortable conditions.
Nickel and Diming: We missed the complimentary cappuccino that was offered on previous cruises. The Cannaletto is also now charging a fee. These were irritations that won't stop us from cruising, but left us disappointed, since they were new policies. We also heard through the grapevine from more than one crew member that HAL is now requiring stewards to purchase their uniforms. Not cool.
Ports: Please see my port reviews - all were enjoyable, but PEI was a little disappointing, and Sydney was just OK. Bar Harbor was our favorite.
Crew: The Indonesian and Filipino crew are excellent. As mentioned before, we were not impressed with Engineering. We also had poor experiences with the photographer, who was extremely rude to my daughter (most people did not cooperate with them, even during formal night). My family also saw a guest call a cab for an extremely drunk professional singer in Quebec who was making a fool of herself.
The Captain: Captain Bos was noticeably unavailable to guests during the cruise. He handled the fire in the galley with great communication, and moves the muster drill forward with seemingly numerous latecomers. He didn't bother with either one of our meet and greet activities.
Surprises: On the Quebec to Boston portion, save some time for the Bar Harbor re-entry with customs. Do not book early morning excursions. For some guests this was a problem. Also be prepared for an incredible taxi line for disembarkation. Our flight left at 12:30 which was fine, but FYI we waited in the taxi line for almost an hour. Lastly, when the ship thrusts sideways into port, it does shake, and unfortunately this is in the early morning, usually about 6:30 am. Everyone in my cabin woke up at least twice during this cruise due to the shaking.
Overall: 8/10 I enjoy cruising with my family and we always make the best of our travel, and try to roll with unexpected irritations. Having been to Europe numerous times, this cruise was mildly interesting, but not spectacular.