We are a family of four - DW, 2 DD (ages 9 and 6, respectively), and myself. DW and I decided to book a cruise at the end of June 2013, after getting an email from HAL which had a promotion that the third and fourth passengers would sail for free. A seat sale from Porter Airlines kept the travel costs to a minimum, with the combined cost cruise and flights to Boston and Quebec City to and from Toronto was as much as we would have paid if we just booked just a cruise to the Caribbean for Allure of the Seas at an off peck time.
We picked the m/s Veendam cruise scheduled for Aug 24 to 31, 2013. The Canada and New England itinerary was 7 nights and we would sail out of Boston, MA and be visiting five ports of call - Bar Harbor, MA (via Tender); Halifax and Sydney, NS; Charlottetown, PE; and Quebec City, PQ (overnight) and disembark from Quebec City.
As per our usual routine, we flew into Logan International Airport the night before the cruise. Call for the hotel shuttle for a pick up and arrived and checked into the Embassy Suites Boston at Logan Airport (using my Hilton points) at around 10:30 PM. Next morning we had the complementary hot breakfast, after which we then took a Minivan Taxi to the Cruise Port. The cost of the taxi was $38 (around $22 with an additional $13 toll charge plus tip).
After dropping off our luggage and filling out the forms and getting the key cards photos, we then were able to board the ship. The overall time to get onto the ship was just around 20 mins and was able to get to the Lido on Deck 11 before noon time for Lunch. Just before 1 PM we were informed that our cabin was ready. We got an Inside Cabin, with the beds being put together (as a Queen size), an upper bunk and the couch converted as single bed. The cabin was located on Deck 4 forward of the ship.
The Veendam is the second smallest ship that DW and I have sailed on (under 50,000 tons). The total number of passengers on the cruise was around 1,400 (with 80 kids around the ages of the DD's). Overall, in comparison to the other ships that we cruised on, this was a nice change as to reach the various parts of the ship it could be walked in a just a few minutes. It only has two main elevator banks located forward and aft. There is self-laundry (cost of $2 for wash and $1 to dry) available along with fully service. Even though it was built in 1996 (and refurbished in 2009), the ship as a whole still looks good and not too worn out. As the cruise was very port intensive, the ship being not like a Royal Caribbean ship (which is full of various activities) was not an issue for the family and actually was a plus as it allowed us to focus on the ports.
For the most part we used the Lido (Deck 11) for most of our breakfasts and lunches during our cruise. One main thing that was a major nuisance was that at the starting of the cruise and only on day three that we were able to self-serve at the Lido. As the result on the first day there was long line up to get lunch, as everything was served out only by the staff and there was no one directing the passengers to line up at each station. Even after self-serve was available, the serving of the main entrees were still done by the staff.
For breakfast we like to get the Congee that was available at the Asia station. The Ice Cream station was very popular with the DD's and the choices were of either a bowl, waffle or a regular cone with a daily rotation of various flavors was great.
We called for room service a couple of times during cruise. We found that if you ask for the popular time (like 8 to 8:30 AM) the order could be delayed, were as an earlier time you would get it within the requested time.
Originally we had Open Seating Dining when we booked the cruise, but after asking to be put onto the Early Seating Dining wait list (on the first day); we surprisingly received confirmation of the change the next morning. The Early Seating Dining was scheduled daily for 5:15 PM at the Main Dining Room (MDR) on Deck 8. The 5:15 PM dining time was the most earliest that we have encountered, but the Late Seating at 8 PM would have been too late for the DD's.
Overall the food was good with only a couple of nights that as a family we didn't really like the choices on the menu and after dinner would go to the Lido to get the kids additional food. We also tried the Italian Specialty restaurant and enjoyed the antipasta, entrees, and desert. The portions were on the petite side, but given the early dinner time, it was enough.
We were able to attend most of the shows except for a couple nights when it was a Comedian and a Soloist. I also had a chance to watch a couple of movies at the Theater on Deck 7 that I missed (Iron Man 3 and Jack Rasher).
This was the primary reason why we booked the cruise, was to visit the East Coast of Canada. From Boston, MA, our first stop was Bar Harbor, ME and we were able to ride the open time (after 10 AM) tender. The town was small, but given that it was short stop we were able to see most of the main street before returning back to the ship.
The next port was Halifax, NS and as the kids were not very interested in the Titanic related sites, we decided to just do a one hour Taxi tour around the city. After which we then asked to be dropped off away from the port terminal in order to walk around the city before returning to the ship.
I booked out a couple of rentals for Sydney, NS and Charlottetown, PE. The rentals allowed us to visit the Fortress of Louisbourg and Avonlea (Village of Anne of Green Gables) in Cavendish, respectively. The kids enjoyed the both outings and we were able to manage our time accordingly without be rushed due to an excursion schedule.
In Quebec City, PQ as we were docked overnight we just took a relaxed approach and only planned to just walked around the city without any firm plans or places to visit other than going to the Chateau Frontenac (as it is the major landmark of old Quebec).
We left the ship for the final time at 8:30 AM picked up the luggage (for Yellow 1) and got a Minivan Taxi to the Airport. We arrived at before the check in time and had to wait for almost a couple of hours and spent some time a waiting sitting on a bench until 10:50 AM. We then checked in our luggage and waited for our 12:50 PM flight back to Toronto. The flight was uneventful and we were able to be back at home by 4 PM and ending another great cruise.