We left Tampa a little early as everyone was onboard sailing for Key West where we were able to dock right at Malory Square what a surprise as we thought we would be at the Navy base. First time to Key West and met friends who showed us around. A very active port and with spring break starting for some universities quite lively. Having to sail at 6:00 and having arranged a fixed seating for diner at 5:45 pm meant we missed the famous Key West sunset. This dining seating arrangement would have been better for 6:00 to 6:15 as most of the port tours did not get back until 5:00 or 5:30 pm leaving little time to shower etc. This and the fact that we had brown water in out bathtub were the only two setbacks on our trip. The brown water was fixed immediately and we had no future problems. The ship sent us a plate of various chocolate's to make up for this unfortunate happening. Nice touch. The rest of the trip was excellent and we can not say enough about the wonderful and excellent staff be they front desk, staff that you would meet in the hallways and our dining experience was just wonderful. We would rank the service and staff with a 6 out of 5 and the food a 5 out of 5. The Pinnacle room was fantastic with steaks out of this world.
As for ports none of them stood out Belize, Santo Thomas -Guatemala and Casta Maya, Mexico. We did not take in any of the ship's tours preferring to arrange our own. In Belize we went to the Lamania (sp) Mayan ruins that took 7 hours but well worth it. In Guatemala we met Gus of Go with Gus on a humanitarian tour. All reviews describing Gus are true a true humanitarian who provides assistance to 14 schools up the river from his home town of Livingston. Gus by the way also lives in New York city 6 months of the year. We went to two schools that required transport up the river where we were able to provide some of the school supplies, medicine and children's clothing that members of our trip provided. The children were wonderful but in obvious need of assistance. I strongly recommend anyone traveling to Guatemala take in this tour as it is a eye opener to see how just one man can do such great deeds. Casa Maya has grown substantially since we were first here 5 years ago. Still not much to see but I understand those that took in some of the ship tours had a great time. As for us we just walked around the shopping complex taking in the free entertainment and some of the stores bargains.
Arriving back in Tampa we were able to stay in our staterooms until our time came to leave the ship. Much nicer then having to wait like cattle to disembark on Princess and Royal Caribbean. As of this writing the Veendam will be on its last five day tour prior to going to drydock for the next 35 days. I believe they plan to add a new pool ( much needed) and up to 80 more staterooms. The Veendam is now showing its' wear and I just hope that when it goes back into service the same staff and service is provided. This sailing was just our 8 cruise but one that we will remember.