My wife and I had sailed 4 times on Celebrity but had heard that Holland America was a step above, so we decided to pay extra and sail South America on the Veendam. We were late boarding due to an outbreak of GI illness on the previous cruise. Once we boarded we had to wait for several hours in the pool area, as our staterooms had not been decontaminated. For the first half of the cruise, significant measures were taken by the crew to eliminate the threat. This included having a crew member serve water, tea, and coffee at the Lido, which resulted in long lines. The ship in general was very similar to the Celebrity Constellation, which we had sailed on in December through Panama. The food quality was about the same; some excellent, some very good.
The cabin, a veranda, was a little larger, and had a flat screen T.V. rather than the Celebrity old style. The sofa was synthetic leather rather than fabric, which was stickier in the hotter weather. We never received the room directory, as they were cleaning them, although we asked several times. The veranda had a deck chair and standard style which was nice. We were permitted to bring bottles of wine aboard from the port visits, which we were not permitted to do on the Celebrity. Our biggest problem was the room temperature. As we headed toward warmer temperatures, our room stayed between 78-82 degrees F, and dispite a worker attempting to fix it once and several visits to the Guest Services desk, it was never fixed. The worker told us that many people were complaining, and some staterooms were too cold and others too hot.
One issue that apparently has happened only recently in the Lido restaurant is that food trays are not provided. This was annoying, because after standing in line for a while for a plate or two, we had to go to our table, and if we wanted more than two plates we had to stand in another line. We assume it is a cost savings to HAL hoping that passengers do not waste food and do not go to get seconds. In the main dining room, the Rotterdam, service was very slow as noted by many folks we sat with. We did receive a daily newsletter in our stateroom, rather than having to go to the lobby to pick it up.
The fitness center was very poor - I don't think the equipment had ever been changed out from the original, there were not many machines, and the weight machines were very old. Gym towels were difficult to find, and the wipes to wipe down the equipment was often out. Attendants were hard to find. After several days of waiting for machines, we quit going. The Constellation, on the other hand, had state-of-the-art equipment, along with a plentiful supply of towels, attendants, etc. and very little if any wait. We always ordered room service for breakfast as we like to wake up leisurely. My wife noted that the breakfast selected was more limited on the Veendam than on Celebrity. The evening entertainment was excellent. For most of the cruise, they did not put the port's weather report on the TV, which made it difficult to dress properly. Most of our fellow passengers had sailed HAL before and noted this cruise was far below their previous experience.