The food on this ship was the worst. No worries about gaining weight on vacation for 14 days. Some of the food was bland or way to salty. Some of the food seemed to be recycled from day to day. I stayed with the food items they couldn't mess up, such as boxed cereal, fruit, yogurt, salads and deli sandwiches. My boys said the hamburgers were yummy and they liked the pizza and ice-cream. Many of the passengers I talked to also complained about the poor quality of food, so it wasn't just me being way too critical. Some cruise lines charge for hot chocolate, but the Veendam does not. You can buy a soda card for $20.00 (good for 20 sodas).
The entertainment was lacking. The only good entertainment was an illusionist, David DaVinci, and the movies shown in their movie theatre (new release movies). They really need to have more activities to entertain especially on the days out to sea.
Ketchikan: We went on the Bear Creek zip line adventures. It was a lot of fun. Since we did the 14 day cruise, we visited some ports twice. The second time we went to the Lumberjack show and did last minute souvenir shopping. The Lumberjack Show was just okay.
Haines: We toured the little town and did the Wild Eagle Preserve Float excursion. The boys had a great time and bought a shirt from the tour guide (some of the proceeds go to the bald eagle foundation). It was the only shirt they wanted in Alaska. A lot of people complain there's not much to do in this town and the ship is there for a long time. Definitely book a long excursion through the ship.
Juneau: We climbed up Mt. Roberts both times. The start of the trail head is at the end of 6th street. I think it's about 1 mile from the dock to the start of the trail and the trail is about 2 miles to the tram. We rode the tram down both times. They charge hikers $5.00 to take the tram down or it is free if you purchase at least $5.00 in the gift shop. We also went to the Mendenhall Glacier. The boys were able to pick up pieces of the ice and hold them in their hands.
Sitka: We booked a kayaking tour through the cruise ship. This was my 12 year old's favorite excursion. Very peaceful and the scenery was spectacular. We also walked to the Raptor Center, which was the highlight of my trip. We got to see a bald eagle close up. We hiked the trails in the National Park and walked to McDonalds to get yummier food than what was offered on the ship.
Seward: We booked the Ididarod dog sledding on our own. They sent a shuttle to pick us up at the dock. We thoroughly enjoyed the adventure. We also went to the Sea Life Center. We have been to many aquariums before, so we were not impressed. The only thing I saw that I've never seen before was puffins.
Skagway: My favorite port. We walked around the quaint little town and went on the White Pass Railroad. Well worth the money.
Hubbard Glacier: outstanding an wonderful. We actually got really close to the glacier and saw the calving.
HAL prides itself for offering great service. They did not meet my expectations. Maybe my expectations were too high. I did enjoy only having approximately 1300 passengers on board. I never felt like there were crowds of people around. I've been on ships with over 3,000 passengers and you feel every one of the 3,000 people (long lines, people constantly in your way, can't find a chair to sit in by the pool, etc.) This was not an issue on The Veendam.
We loved our vacation. Next time we will do a different cruise line, one with yummy food.