A good time was had by all of us five cruising southbound on HAL Veendam on May 24, 2009.
My sister-in-law and her daughter booked one of the new lanai cabins on the lower promenade deck. It is super nice and very convenient. Just open the cabin door onto the beautiful teakwood deck that surrounds the ship to view scenery from port, starboard, bow or stern. I have a feeling that these lanai cabins will be prime real estate when word spreads how great these rooms are.
My husband, mother-in-law, and I had a verandah cabin on Deck 9. BC 215, Deck 9, plenty of room for three. The couch bed was quite firm, but I slept ok on it. The bedding was snuggly. Our heater did not work very well, so the room was chilly in the mornings. The big, deep balcony was wonderful with a chaise lounge, a chair, and mini table. The railings allow you to see the water while sitting. A very nice touch is the lighted make-up mirror. A good blow dryer is in the drawer, and you plug it in when you need it. We had plenty of drawer space and ample closet space and hangers for three. The hot tub jets really help relax the kinks out after a long day on shore.
This room is the last in the row on the starboard side, We found it to be quiet. If we wanted to see port side views, all we had to do was walk a short hallway to the outside door.
Our other room was CA 344 Lanai cabin on the Lower Promenade deck. This room is smaller than the Verandah cabin, but it is so nice. Only two can stay in this cabin. The door opens directly onto the teakwood deck. This room is midship and conveniently located. There are chairs reserved for the cabins just outside the doors. Our first time cruisers stayed here and loved it. If I ever get the chance, I'll book a room like this again.
The size of this ship is perfect for Alaska cruising. There are so many open air viewing areas on Veendam that everyone who wants a spot at a railing can have one. The bow of the ship where the Veendam bell hangs is my favorite spot. Out there with the sea breeze blowing my hair makes me realize I'm cruising on a real liner.
The new Showroom at Sea is beautiful. We enjoyed the first-class entertainment, which I think would appeal mostly to a 35+ age group. The performers are outstanding talents.
The Explorers' Lounge is a haven for relaxation. The aromas from the coffee cafe helped create just the right atmosphere for kicking back with a good story. There is even a jigsaw puzzle that is laid out on a huge table for those so inclined to put pieces together. My niece enjoyed meeting people and playing board games on the new computerized game tables. I would love to have one of those at home!
The food was excellent everywhere from the Lido buffet, to the taco bar, to the "Slice" pizza, to the Rotterdam main dining. We especially enjoyed the Master Chef's Dinner on the last night of the cruise. We had "anytime dining" and never once had to wait for a table. I guess we just timed it right. Our meals were also served in an efficient and timely manner. Afternoon tea time was wonderful, as well as the dessert extravaganza. And the Dutch pea soup served on deck on glacier viewing days was a really nice touch.
As for "The Retreat", I thought it was nice. We braved the cold and got in the hot tub one morning. I think that on a balmy day, it could be super relaxing to lay out on a chaise lounge chair in the cool shallow water and watch a movie on the big screen. We even met Captain Van Maurik out there, and he graciously had his picture taken with us.
This cruise was wonderful! The itinerary, which includes our favorite port, Haines, can't be beat. Sure, there are things that are not perfect on Veendam, but overall the ship, staff, and crew provide a good product. It was a grand voyage!