The opportunity to cruise the East Coast of Canada and the US was one which we were quite excited about. These ports were many of the places which I had always wanted to visit.
Let me start my review with where we went versus how we got there. The two experiences were very different. The cruise started in Boston. We stayed at The Langham the night before the cruise and enjoyed Boston completely. The hotel was perfect as we were close to the old city while being only minutes to the cruise terminal. We boarded the ship and the first stop was Bar Harbor, Maine. A quaint fishing village. We too a ship excursion on the Lulu Lobster Fishing Boat. It was amazing, we saw sea lions as well as caught a few lobsters. The guy who ran teh excursion was great and made the trip a complete pleasure. Then walked around teh town and had some great lobster chowder. Next up was Halifax. Another great port. We toured the town and then headed out to Peggy's Cove.. well worth the trip out there. The place was spectacular but really cold.. so bring a jacket! Then off to Syndey, Nova Scotia... not much to do there, but we met the friendliest people ever there and it made it another fine day. Then on to Charlottetown, PEI.... this place was out favorite stop. PEI is amazing and beautiful. We hired a private guide who took us to the North shore were we walked on some of the purest sand beaches I had ever seen. And then the customary stop at the Anne of Green Gables house which was fun... we even walked in the the Haunted Woods. Finally on to Quebec City after day at sea. Quebec makes me feel like I am in Europe. The sites are amazing and the food even better. As I said all the ports turned out to be as expected if not more.
That brings us to the matter of the cruise and how much Holland America has declined over the years. I should note that our first cruise was with HAL and it was a amazing experience and sold us on cruising. This time things are different.
The embarkation in Boston and disembarkation in Quebec was perfect. Little wait in then on or off the ship. In Quebec the luggage was there and loads of cabs to get us to the airport. So first impressions were good.
The room we chose was an outside cabin with a large window. The room was in good shape and had ample room for the two of us. A bathtub in place of the shower stall was a nice change and made showering each day much easier. This is where the good kind of ended. Our room steward was nowhere to be found. Not sure where he was bu when I called to get some things for my stateroom, he was on break.. I asked a break from what since he haad yet to even say hello and it was close to dinner.. the person said that they would page him.. after one more call and another page he showed up 40 minutes later... this was my first guess that service was in not what it was on HAL let alone other cruise lines.
The food... ahhh the food. One thing I remembered about HAL was the quality of its food. The dinner room was a place I came to expect great food which was well prepared and served in a timely fashion. This is no longer true. Where do I start.. order soup on the first 2 night.. cold both times. I order the steak one night.. very over done. We learned that the food in the Lido was the same as the dinner room.. that helped me to better understand why the food was now so poor... they are preparing cafeteria food not "dining" food. The only meal which hit the mark was the 2nd formal night. When the Lobster was hot and the steam prepared correctly.. maybe the staff had finally hit their stride. The service in the dining room mirror the food quality. We waited to be delivered food, after a while it seemed just a random exercise in food delivery. Drinks were ordered and then the wait began. Overall the worst service in a cruise ship dining room I have ever seen.
In terms of on-board activities... another failure on Holland America's part. If you like reading or sitting quietly to contemplate your life, then the ship is for you. We found that there are few activities happening on the ship. Trivia once or twice a day, few activities which require any physical actions. I guess they cater to a demographic that simply want to sit and watch the world go by... they were happy to sell you a spa treatment to fill your time.
So overall I would say that if you think this cruise has the destinations you want then I would recommend it to you. If you also want a great cruise experience I would suggest that you pass. How far Holland America and the Veendam have fallen over the past few years... This is more like a Carnival ship with mediocre food but without the fun.