We were very excited to be on the Veendam with all the new changes. We had booked a C cabin but with the new upgrades it turned into a balcony spa cabin, lucky us! Our last cruise was on the Rotterdam (BB cabin) 28 days in 2008 so we knew how wonderful Hal cruises can be but we were sure surprised with the Veendam. Hal has changed the cabin steward set-up to two persons per cabin, sounds wonderful but was not a good outcome on this ship. We hardly ever saw the young men, if we wanted something it was up to us to figure a way- like simple request for ice. They were phantoms, our past Hal cruise experiences were totally opposite, service was the best part of the cruise. The dinning room staff was very polite but slow, we made dinners 4 of the 7 nights in alternative dinning. Also, food was not the same quality we have had on prior cruises. The Pinnacle Grill was wonderful, food excellent and service was what you would expect in fine dinning, the Italian restaurant was outstanding. The food was soooooo good, the service was top notch. We dinned in these two restaurants twice each, we tried to go back to the main dinning but after a night of bland cold food, we just could not do another evening of torture. The new Martini Bar piano player was the best entertainment on the ship (for us), bar and waiter staff was excellent reminded us of the Rotterdam service. The shops do crowd in on the lounge area but did not hinder our enjoyment. We did not see the new show area, so can't comment.
The new spa cabins are very tight in space, even though they are listed as same size as bb/ba we hardly had room to walk around the bed. Happy that we only had 7 nights in this cabin. The decor was wonderful, and the Hal bed was great for sleeping. We enjoyed the balcony during the day cruising National Glacier Park, which was the highlight of this cruise. If there was anything special about this spa cabin regarding spa services we was unaware/uninformed during the cruise never received any info regarding spa services. The water fountain on the counter was nice but took a lot of counter space, the wooden mat under sink okay, the water (again no info) sitting on the counter was not appealing to us, nor did we use the foot odometer. The bathrobes have always been available on past cruises with Hal, so why this is called a spa cabin eludes us. I did use the beauty salon, Ronny Sungaurd was using a magic wand instead of a comb, he is outstanding with colour/cut. We had spent 2 1/2 weeks in Alaska interior driving up to Denali National Park and touring as much of the interior as possible (1000) miles-I badly needed to get hair fixed for the remaining four weeks of travel. Ronny was able to give me a beautiful new look that took off ten years (per my husband) since this was a 60Th birthday trip for me what a gift from Ronny.
The ports which we stopped at were Juneau, Ketchikan, Haines- we loved walking around Haines Alaska, a real Alaskan town with people who lived in Ak not full of 6-7 cruise ships pax. Ketchikan , we booked the "Bering Sea Crab Fisherman Tour" our favorite tour of the whole cruise, a great experience full of info abt fishing and we snapped beautiful photos of Bald Eagles when throwing the caught fish back into the water. Wish we had more than half day in Ketchikan. Juneau was so crowded we got back on the ship. My husband was in wheelchair and we could barely move through the people, wanted to take the shuttle to Mendenhall Glacier but the crowds were overwhelming, the tram was longest line, so we went back to the ship. We don't understand why people are so eager to shop in these ports and all the tourist shops are so abundant!!!!!!!!! The glory of Alaska is nature, animals, mountains, water, ect-but shopping seems to be the highlight for many pax.
We loved the six hour tour in Seward with Reknown Tours, we cannot say enough about this company!!!!!!!!!! We booked the train from Anc to Seward which arrived late and they held the boat. They were at the train to pick us up and we went straight to the boat. They also held our bags overnight since we had driven to Seward on Friday and our cruise departure was Sunday. The weather shortened our cruise but we saw beauty and animals such as whales, porpoises, sea lions, birds, ect on a very rainy day. The ranger on board was passionate about the fords and made the experience wonderful for all.
After touring Alaska on our own with rental car and train we would highly recommend this option for others since it allows you to set your own pace and plan longer or shorter visits based on individual interests. Very easy to do with advance planning. We used a combination of hotels, motels, cabins, B&B's for our travel, we felt we got to see and experience Alaska before our cruise.