We boarded the Veendam late due to the previous cruise running behind and also as the Veendam had been infected with a shipboard virus. This resulted in several hours delay, but obviously this was beyond HAL's control. The entire ship had to be decontaminated prior to boarding, but this at least meant that the ship was possibly healthier than any other cruise! All self-service of food was banned and we were asked to minimise personal contacts during the cruise. The crew served us our food using plastic clad hands and the food counters were glad-wrapped to prevent us from contaminating the food. There were various other health related precautions, but we took this in our stride as it was for our own protection.
The cruise itself was as per previous cruises with HAL and we were happy with most aspects. The ban on self-service meant that we had to rely upon the crew giving us reasonable portions, and sometimes this was not the case as they served somewhat smaller meals than perhaps I may have served myself. However, one can always go back for more, or ask for more - so this wasn't a huge problem. they did tend to run out of peppermint tea, but that's a comparatively minor issue.
I had read on Cruise Critic how the recent refurbishment had resulted in an uglier ship, and I do have to wonder about people who made those comments. One only sees the ship when on dry land, and the external aesthetics are irrelevant anyway - it's the comfort and amenity that counts!
As the cruise was around South America there were many Spanish speakers on board, and HAL ignored this for the first couple of days and made announcements only in English - this was changed after a number of complaints, after which more announcements were made in Spanish as well as English.
My main complaint lies not with the crew or HAL, but with the countrymen of a certain western nation whose members tend to feel that they are God's chosen ones. Despite having a background of slavery this omnipresent group seem not to have realised that slavery is no longer in vogue, and they often treated the crew like slaves. I would have been greatly pleased if this group could re-discover the words "please" and "thank you" instead of barking their requests for food without any pretense at politeness or respect. The crews are hard working people trying to support families from whom they are separated for long periods of time. We should all show them more respect and appreciation.
The cruise itself was very enjoyable although some of the ports are less than exciting. We missed Port Stanley due to poor weather, but this was compensated for by excellent weather around the horn, and this was far more important. Many people miss the horn due to inclement weather, so we were very lucky. The high point was the Chilean Fiords which are simply amazing. We have cruised both Alaska and the Norwegian Fiords, and this was like the two merged together - only longer and more extensive. The up-close view of glaciers was impressive and the views spectacular.
I would recommend this cruise to anyone, with the proviso that they add on a couple of days to visit Iguazu once they reach Buenos Aires. Iguazu was simply the most magnificent sight I have ever seen, and deserves a couple of days seeing that you are in the general area. If you miss out on a decent visit to this wonderland, then you will miss a most amazing place, and one of the most awesome locations on Earth!