We are a fairly active couple in our late 50's who have most recently cruised (twice) on Princess. (We have also cruised on Carnival and Royal Caribbean.) We chose this HAL Veendam cruise because we wanted to go to Canada; we liked the size of the Veendam; and there was a very good sale.
Here is my review based on the above ratings:
Dining--As already mentioned in previous reviews, there is no self-service in the Lido buffet during the first 48 hours of the cruise in order to lessen the chance of norovirus. I thought this would be annoying, but the staff was really good at serving everyone quickly. We ate all of our breakfasts at the Lido and enjoyed them. The lines for made-to-order foods moved relatively quickly. There was a nice assortment of fruit and breads (although the croissants and chocolate croissants were gone by 8am on the last two days of the cruise and were not replaced). We ate lunch on board ship only twice--sea day and the day in Halifax. The wait More
for our pizza at Slice on the sea day was very long and the pizza wasn't worth waiting for. The burgers and fries at Dive Inn while we were in Halifax came rather quickly (not many folks on board) and they were delicious! We had "anytime dining" in the Rotterdam dining room and learned after the first night that you really need to make an advance reservation. (The wait line to be seated if you don't have a reservation can be quite long.) I am not a particularly adventurous eater and I did not like the menu because the choices for the entrees, in particular, were too "fou fou" for my tastes. There were some "regular" menu items that were available every day, but they seemed too bland--baked chicken, etc. I managed to find something to eat each evening, but it wasn't like on my cruises on Princess (or even Carnival) where I had a hard time choosing an entree because EVERYTHING looked so good. The food tasted fine and I would recommend anything prepared with fruit--the cold fruit soup appetizers and the fruit crumbles for dessert were the best.
Public Rooms -- I thought everything on the Veendam looked fine--not as glitzy as Carnival nor as sophisticated as Princess. The pool and spas were great--never crowded and we were always able to find a lounger near the pool--even on the sea day.
Cabins -- This was not a splurge cruise for us, so we had an outside cabin with two portholes on the lowest deck, Deck 4. I wasn't expecting much, but was actually a very nice cabin. The portholes provided sufficient natural light; there was a ton of storage space; the bed was super-comfy; the tub, while small, was appreciated by my spouse; and it was very quiet.
Entertainment -- This was the best cruise for entertainment that I have ever been on! Most cruise ships tend to have a bunch of dancers and a couple of singers, but it was just the opposite on the Veendam. We had 6 singers (2 female and 4 male) and only 2 female dancers. The singers, all of whom had appeared either on Broadway or in traveling Broadway shows, were fabulous singers. The Bob Mackie Broadway Show is not-to-be-missed! The duo who are an opening act for Cirque du Soleil were very entertaining--don't miss. As for the performers around the ship--they were all excellent. The music ranged from a classical duo (violin and piano) to a guitar soloist to a pop band to the oft-mentioned (and not-to-be-missed) Barry from Boston. The only "miss" was the Halifax Citadel performance. I was expecting more bagpipers and some drummers for this performance, but it was just one bagpiper and a travelogue presentation about the Citadel--a snoozefest.
Spa and Fitness -- The fitness room had a good assortment of equipment and it was never crowded when I was there. I particularly enjoyed the refreshing cool towels in the mini-fridge after my workout.
Shore Excursions -- I looked at all of the excursions thinking we would take one or two, but I was surprised by how "sedate" they all seemed to be. Most of them seemed to involve a lot of bus riding and there were very few "active" excursions such as biking, hiking or water sports. It probably has something to do with the cruise demographics, but there were plenty of 20 - to - 30 year olds on board as well as active older people such as me and my spouse. And, of course, the tours were outrageously expensive for what you got. For example, a bus ride from Sydney to Baddeck to tour the Alexander Graham Bell museum cost around $80 per person. We rented a car and did the same thing (and more since we drove completely around St. Andrews Channel) for around $90, including car rental, gasoline and museum entry for 2.
Embarkation: The embarkation and debarkation were both amazingly fast and easy--probably the best I have ever experienced.
Service -- The service was just OK. Our room steward was very good, but the service in the Rotterdam dining room was pretty hit-or-miss. We had Anytime Dining and it seemed that when we were seated at a table for two that we had much worse service than when we were seated at a table for 6 or 8. The exception was on our last night when we were seated at a table for 6 and it took 2 hours for us to complete our dinner. The waits between courses were unacceptably long. Also, one night we had a problem with plumbing and it took one hour with two phone calls and a personal visit to the Front Desk to get a plumber to our room. Once he got there, the problem was fixed in a matter of minutes, but it should not have taken that long to get the plumber there in the first place.
Value-for-Money -- Since we got a very good rate on our cabin, I would say that we got fairly good value for our money. But had we paid the prices being charged for the higher-classed cabins, I would have said it was poor value-for-money.
So, in summation, the HAL Veendam is a decent ship and we had a good time on the cruise for a good price. But for that extra "oomph" of service, food and shipboard activities, it's got to be Princess. Less