Holland America has extended their cruising itineraries to include the island of Bermuda aboard the ms. Veendam. I was excited about taking this cruise and had planned for it for several months--reading, researching and looking at many videos and photographs. I also read several Member’s Reviews about this ship, the food, accomodations and staffing. My trip began from Cleveland, Ohio to LaGuardia on the day of embarkation. A minor glitch was at the airport where the ground crew “forgot” to unload the luggage. Thanks to Maria, the Holland America airport representative and the staff member from the Lost Luggage Dept., the luggage finally appeared 90 minutes later. The Veendam embarks on Sundays for the Bermuda trip and the bus ride to the ship’s terminal took us through Manhattan on a very hot afternoon. All of us on the bus cheered up as we spotted the Veendam in the distance. Our checked luggage was immediately off-loaded and the check-in procedure was very quick--there weren’t too many people left in the terminal and the ship’s photographers were packing up their equipent.
I booked a Lanai Stateroom and it was nicely furnished and ready for my arrival. I noticed it was very warm in the room as I entered and one of my cabin stewards, Teguh assured me that once we were underway, the temperature would be fine. He was absolutely correct. The air-conditioning worked very well for the full duration of the cruise. Besides the under-bed storage, there was ample closet space. Elemis products were available in the bathroom.
Because of my late arrival time, the Lido buffet was closing but I was able to enjoy some pizza and iced tea at the Retreat. The ship departed on time and passengers enjoyed the New York skyline as we moved out of the harbor.
FOOD-- I enjoyed breakfast each morning in my stateroom. While the list of available breakfast items is somewhat limited, there is enough to start the day. One morning my breakfast hadn’t arrived at the correct time and I got a phone call from Room Service, advising me that my tray should arrive within 20 minutes which it did. The Lido serves pretty much the same food as the main Dining Room however there is a certain lack of imagination on the fresh vegetable selections. Carrots, celery and cabbage, stir-fried, seems prominent. Lido meals are served by a cheerful staff and sometimes the wait staff is there to assist in carrying plates to a table. However, I still miss the trays that Holland America made available to passengers a few years ago and have since discontinued. It made carrying multiple plates a lot easier!
I took two evening meals in the Canaletto area of the Lido and found it to be excellent. Chicken and veal dishes are well-prepared and the tomato sauce tasted freshly-made. A very nice selection of breads are offered as well as olive oil for dipping. On a side note--all breads are prepared and baked on the ship.
A pool-side barbeque was offered the first evening which featured chicken, ribs and steaks along with baked potatoes and other accompaniment. The Dessert Extravaganza is a traditional treat with Holland America and was well-attended.
SHOWS-- I’m not a big fan of “Game Shows” and endured the first night’s production of: Stack That Tray, Make That Bed and Hit That Golf Ball. Perhaps the BEST show of the cruise was “Encore” which featured two of the singers, the stage band and the Adagio Strings. It was a well-constructed performance and the show received an immediate standing ovation from the audience. The remainder of the shows were quite good with the exception of a male cast member who, when he appeared onstage, immediately dropped the upbeat tempo of the show with dialogue or banter with the audience. THE SHIP-- The Veendam was launched in 1996. It has been unfairly stated in some reviews that there was “rust” in some places and “looked tired.” This ship sails in sea water 365 days of the year. The crew does a lot of work on the ship while in port: painting, window cleaning and general polishing. I found the Veendam to be very well-maintained. Cleaning went on continually. One night I discovered the cabin staff washing down the walls, rails, house phones and anything else that could be washed! There is a very concerted effort to keep down any illnesses--good job, crew!!!
BERMUDA-- The island is beautiful and the weather was pleasant. The ship was unable to anchor off St. George because of windy conditions and so we docked in Hamilton instead. This was fine with me as Hamilton is centrally located on the island. A one-day travel voucher was offered free to all passengers so we could use the transportation system to visit other parts of the island. Harbor Night was held on Wednesday from 7-10 p.m. with music performances, Gombey dancing and street vendors. The residents are very friendly and willing to stop and chat. Bermuda might be an expensive place to visit using local hotels and restaurants but having the ship right on Front Street was a perfect way to visit. I did a lot of walking to visit many of the places I’d planned to see. Bear in mind that some places involved going uphill which can be tiring for older travelers or those who use mobility aids. As far as shopping goes, there are the usual jewelry places but there are bargains available if you research beforehand and some places like the National Gallery are free to view. I didn’t do many of the scheduled activities as I’m not a casino or bingo fan but the Microsoft Workshop was very good and I gained quite a lot of information about organizing digital photos. Cooking demonstrations were offered and I attended two of these plus a kitchen tour which I found interesting. There was a variety of passenger demographics--many were senior citizens but there was a mix of young and middle-aged cruisers as well. Disembarkation was quick and I was dropped off at the airport with plenty of time to spare before my return flight. Great cruise and thanks HAL!