The Ship I was generally impressed with the ship itself. The interiors were elegant but understated - a welcome change from the Carnival ships I sailed on out of Long Beach. When we sailed on Veendam in May 2009, she had only been out of dry-dock for a few weeks and everything was in very good repair. Many of the refurbished spaces were very smart and light. It is a very easy ship to get around, though the elevators by the dining room are poorly placed and cause a little confusion when people exit the elevator directly into the already-formed line for dinner.
The Food The food was good and very enjoyable. It wasn't the best I've ever had (it is, after all, basically banquet food), but never disappointed. Meals in the main dining room were more enjoyable than in the buffet. Unfortunately, the buffet was always chaos. This is partially due to the set-up - many foods must be served by a staff member which causes delay. However, the other issue here is that many of passengers ask a plethora of questions and complain, which slows everything down. The service in the main dining room is friendly, though a bit clumsy - drinks like iced teas and water go without refills ever after asking and for the first three nights of the cruise the service took so long that we either had to miss that evening's show or skip dessert.
The Service Again, service overall was very friendly, but often seemed to miss the mark. The major exceptions are the drink servers and the ship's librarian - both of which are stellar. On the first day when we arrived, the cabin was not properly configured for the number of people in our group, but they quickly fixed the problem. We also ran into an issue where one of our party members lost her hearing aid batteries - and none were available for sale on the ship. It's not Holland America's fault that the batteries were lost, but given the age of many of the ship's passengers it seems really bizarre that they do not stock any. We were told that there were assisted listening devices available for the show and that one would be delivered to our cabin, but this never happened. It took three days to find out that the devices were not compatible with the theater's equipment. However, on our first port day, someone from the ship delivered batteries to our cabin free of charge.
Amenities The new "Retreat" on the back of the Lido desk is visually a great space and will be really enjoyable when the ship goes to Mexico or other warm places. However, in Alaska sitting in a deck chair in a foot of water just seems like a bad idea. The Explorations Cafe (the library) is a really inviting space and the fact that there is a fulltime librarian helps to make it a really useful space, too. The Mix bar/lounge is one of the freshest spaces on the ship and many of the ship's entertainers come here to hangout. The pool area was kept nice and warm even though we were in Alaska - there is something strangely decadent about sitting in a hot tub while next to a glacier.
The Cabin The cabin was pleasant, surprisingly spacious, and functional. Plenty of closet and storage space. The cabin also had a new flat screen TV.