Veendam Cruise Review by jahzed1: Awesome Sights on a Lackluster Cruise Line
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Awesome Sights on a Lackluster Cruise Line
Let me begin by saying that the cruise, embarkation port and the ports of call were tremendous. The sights from the ship were tremendous and aside from fall, this cruise path was downright awesome in the late spring.
This was only our second cruise experience. We have previously sailed on Costa in the past to Norway and found it to be an amazing experience. Based on our previous experience and from friends who have touted Holland America Lines (HAL) as one of the better cruise lines to take, we decided to take this cruise with them. Unlike our usual selves, we did book this through our local travel service and I think we got a very good rate on the cruise and airfare.
So, let's start with the good:
The dining room - We selected the late (7:45 PM) seating in the main dining room. The setting is beautiful and we had a beautiful table for two. Our steward was amazing and quickly learned what our preferences were for wine, drinks, cordials, etc. He was very More friendly and his English was very good. As it turned out he was the maitre'd for seating folks for breakfast in the dining room. His assistant wasn't quite as good with his English, but was equally as friendly. We were a bit overwhelmed by the Italian dining experience with Costa (not to mention we put on a few pounds during that cruise), so it was very pleasant to be offered only four courses (five if you count the cheese option with dessert). The food, was very good with only a few minor exceptions (the shrimp in the shrimp cocktail were kind of droopy) and the portions were not typical, American, jumbo plates of food. We were able to have dinner and drinks and leave the restaurant satisfied, but not bloated.
The cleanliness of the ship - The ship and our staterooms were always very clean, with our stateroom being immaculate all of the time. Not unlike Costa, there were always staff that were cleaning throughout the ship most of the time.
The service by our cabin steward - From the get-go, our cabin steward was always willing to help out and make sure we had exactly what we needed. Our room had been set up as two singles and was changed back to a double bed within a half hour of asking the steward to make the change. He always knocked before entering the room and made sure our towels were always changed out from the morning. I thought his English skills were fine and we were able to communicate with him very easily.
And now for the not-so-good:
Our stateroom - We paid a tad extra for the "Veranda Spa" room with private balcony, but it was obviously something that had been added (perhaps during the alleged 2009 renovation?) after-the-fact. Rather than have a big glass door with side windows leading out to the balcony, we had a very small glass door. When you were on the balcony you could see the weld marks from where they had sealed over old openings/added the new balcony. Worse yet, the ceiling panel directly in front of the door (on the inside) was held in place with two wooden shims. While kept clean, the furnishing in the rooms were dated. The wardrobes didn't sit flush with each other and the doors on one never quite closed.
The ship in general - Overall, this ship is in pretty sad shape. Despite reading numerous times about the update in 2009, the furnishings were pretty tacky and weather-worn throughout the ship. There were many spots of rust throughout the entire ship on everything from railings, to the deck areas, the roof for the pool area, and on and on. The ship is minimally in need of a good paint job. I just couldn't get past the feeling that I was on the Love Boat and expected to see Captain Steubing make his rounds with Julie.
The drink package - All I can say is that the drink package is a complete rip-off for this cruise/cruise line. We ended up paying the same for the drink package for this seven-night cruise as our 12-night cruise on Costa. The package included covered alcoholic beverages under $7, soda, water, specialty and specialty coffees and you could have a maximum of any of these up to 15 per day. Costa added a bottle of wine with dinner for the same price too - not with HAL. So, with expectations to access drinks and lattes whenever we wanted, we purchased the package. This was NOT the case. According to the cruise staff, Canadian law dictated that only one bar could be open per deck, so finding the designated bar was always a challenge. To make it worse, the bars (all of them on board) didn't open until 3 PM, so there was no way to access bottled water during the day and to get a drink before 3 PM - forget it. Also, they didn't have a great number of bartenders or wait staff at any of the bars so you often waited for your drinks for a long time. As a person who prefers a good gin/tonic, the worse part of the drink package was the ship running out of limes by the fourth day of the cruise. I know there is a lime shortage and the prices have increased, but they are still available and to offer me a lemon for my drink is unacceptable. Lastly, none of the bars on the ship had a cappuccino/espresso maker. You had to go to the Explorer coffee shop to get one - deck 7, middle of the ship and they were unable to make you a decaf coffee drink...each day the barista had a different excuse about the machine being broken, getting service, getting beans, etc. We would have been better off not getting the drink package and just getting a bottle of wine with dinner and a few drinks here and there.
The excursions - luckily, I get to review these later, but seriously consider looking at local guides via trip advisor or other websites. Less
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Cabin review: Veendam 109
Our room was one of only a few that must have been added when the ship was "refurbished" in 2009. From the very small veranda, you could see the openings that had been welded over and where the hole had been cut for the new doors to the balcony. Rust was showing on many areas on the balcony and exterior of the ship in general. The furnishings in the room were OK, but very dated. There was a water-feature/fountain that sat unplugged throughout our cruise - I don't think I would have wanted that thing on anyway. There was lots of room for storage with three large wardrobes across from the bathroom. None of them fit too well and the doors didn't always close completely. The beds were an upgrade at this stateroom level and were VERY comfortable and you were provided with three pillows each with varying firmness. The linens were very nice and comfortable as well and we slept like a baby. We had purposely chosen a deck on the starboard side of the ship to get good views of the coastlines and they were indeed phenomenal. The room was kept immaculate by our awesome steward. The room was made up as two twin beds and he promptly converted it to a double bed upon our request. He was very friendly and always got us new towels prior to bed. We had breakfast in our room on two mornings and the room service was impeccable.
Port and Shore Excursions
One of the best days of the cruise was our last in Bar Harbor. We had both been there about 16-17 years prior and it was like seeing an old friend. We took a local company's bus to Cadillac Mountain before having lunch in town and exploring it on our own. Bar Harbor is just such a stunning location and a great part of America. Whatever you do, make sure that you get to spend some time in town and to see the amazing Maine shoreline.
I cannot say enough about the beauty of Prince Edward Island. From the well-manicured lawns to the friendly people to the red soil, this island does not disappoint. Charlettetown is an easy place to walk about and tour. We took a local carriage ride to get the lay of the town and it was awesome.
We also took the "Lighthouse of Prince Edward Island" tour from HAL. While it was nice to see, we spent way too much time on a bus to see four light houses (two from the bus) and the other two up close. Those two were indeed beautiful, but there was just so much riding to get to them. The tour director even commented that she thought the tour should be called "Landscapes and Lighthouses of Prince Edward Island."
You could easily have found an independent contractor to give you a better, shorter, more self-directed tour for the same (if not lower) price. Also, while they are more than happy to sell you the tour, HAL does not send staff members on them to maintain the quality/consistency of the experience for guests. This tour was just OK.
The weather in Halifax was the worst of the trip. The tour we took included Peggy's Cove and the Titanic grave site. The tour, while rainy and relatively miserable (from a weather perspective) was very good and the tour guide excellent. She made the most of the crappy weather and we learned a great deal about Halifax, the explosion of 1917 and the Titanic on the trip. I think anything that you would have booked (private or not) would have been crappy due to the weather. We did get to the Maritime Museum on our own prior to the tour and that is definitely a must-see!
You could easily have found an independent contractor to give you a better, shorter, more self-directed tour for the same (if not lower) price. Also, while they are more than happy to sell you the tour, HAL does not send staff members on them to maintain the quality/consistency of the experience for guests. This tour was good.
Quebec City is an awesome place and the port places you right in the middle of the old town. There is so much to do and see and as long as you are able to walk, you can access most of what you need to see in town. The city tour was a bit long for my taste and we really only got out of the bus at the citadel, a park and for the elevator ride for the panoramic view of the city. We were glad that we explored the old town at length and on foot the day of embarkation and the morning before the tour.
I will repeat this many times, but you could easily have found an independent contractor to give you a better, shorter, more self-directed tour for the same (if not lower) price. Also, while they are more than happy to sell you the tour, HAL does not send staff members on them to maintain the quality/consistency of the experience for guests. This tour was just OK.
Cape Breton Highlands National Park
Ugh, this was our only full-day tour. The weather wasn't the greatest and that did not add to the experience. We spent an inordinate amount of time on a bus travelling on some roads that actually made us nauseous. We stopped for a break at a small restaurant and a few other scenic overlook spots, but most of the time was spent on the bus. On Costa, our full-day tours included gourmet lunches at great restaurants and featured local fish and other dishes. Our tour stopped at a restaurant that had been featured on the Food Network, but when we got inside we saw that three tables had been pushed together and we were offered cold cuts, cheese, egg salad and rolls for lunch. Yes, they had a fairly good chowder and some awful and chewy mussels too...woo hoo - NOT! The best part of the lunch was the apple cobbler and getting on the bus to get back to port. We basically ran from the buses right onto the ship to get off on time and never got to explore any of Sydney at all.
You could easily have found an independent contractor to give you a better, shorter, more self-directed tour for the same (if not lower) price. Also, while they are more than happy to sell you the tour, HAL does not send staff members on them to maintain the quality/consistency of the experience for guests. This tour was just terrible.