At the risk of losing all credibility with veteran CC’ers at the outset,this was our first cruise. I had been to sea in my twenties thanks to an enlistment in the US Coast Guard. I've always loved being on the water, be it a sailboat or even a short hop on a ferry. I’m like the dog riding with his head outside a car window, I love the wind, waves and spray. My wife does not share my passion, due to earlier experiences, queasy overnight ferry trips from Spain to Morocco and between Portland, Maine and Yarmouth, Nova Scotia. After 31 years of marriage, she surprisingly, agreed to join me on a cruise - I’m indebted to her big-time! We chose HAL’s Veendam cruise to Bermuda. We liked that there were 2 ports-of-call in Bermuda and one more day in Bermuda than was offered by competing cruise lines.
Luckily, we live only 25 miles from Manhattan. Embarkation was an easy, ho-hum process. We had a quick buffet lunch in the Lido restaurant and had plenty of time to unpack in our stateroom and tour the ship before getting underway on a beautiful Sunday afternoon. We chose a Lanai stateroom on the Lower Promenade deck. The sliding glass door gave us immediate access to the port side deck. A pair of assigned deck chairs outside our stateroom gave us a front porch, opening to a our own Main Street. All the pedestrians: passengers and crew alike, would greet us throughout the day. “Howdy, neighbor!”
The stateroom service was always attentive and prompt, even when there was an “equipment malfunction”. We had none of the air conditioning problems in our stateroom that was cited in reviews earlier this summer. However, one evening the toilet in our bathroom would not flush. We called the Front Desk and were given a work order number. I was worried we would face having to use the public restrooms for the remainder of the night and next morning. We went to the late show at “The Showroom”; when we returned we were pleased to find our toilet operating properly.
The food was consistently very good and the accompanying service was top notch. We enjoyed our breakfasts and most dinners in the Rotterdam Dining Room. One evening we made reservations in The Canaletto and on the second formal night we had dinner in the Pinnacle Grill. I think we would have been just as happy to have had a lunch instead the $20 dinner surcharge over the main dining room wasn’t worth it, I think the $10 luncheon surcharge would be more in line. The only lapse we encountered in otherwise impeccable service happened while dining in the Pinnacle Grill. It took an unacceptably long time for our drink orders to arrive. The beverage steward must have had to go forward and up four decks to the Crows’ Nest to get our drinks!
The entertainment was good, hopefully some of the talent presented in the Showroom at Sea are soon to be up and comers entertainers. We especially liked the stand-up comic, Jeff Nease who was genuinely funny. His 50 minute act was very entertaining, with just a hint of innuendo and naughtiness. However I felt, the dancing provided in the nightclub was meager, there were only two dancers performing. Two or three more dancers would have improved the shows significantly.
Several previous posts mentioned that the Veendam is an old ship; she entered service in 1996, 14 years ago. This isn’t old for a well-maintained ship which the Veendam is; the original Queen Mary served over 31 years plying the North Atlantic before retiring. I found the public rooms always clean, the exterior hull and superstructure free of rust stains and the well travelled Lower Promenade’s teak decks always spotless.
Our first stop was a 24 hour visit to St. George, at the far eastern end of the island chain. The ship anchored far from shore, requiring a 25 minute tender/ferry trip into the small harbor town. St. George is a very small town with a small museum and a quaint old St. Peter’s Church coupled with a several gift and clothing stores. For lunch, I recommend the Wahoo Grill and Waterside Bistro on Water Street, a new pub in town. Try the Grilled Wahoo Fish tacos - what else? I get the impression that St. George is a poor, out-port cousin to Hamilton, the island’s more cosmopolitan capital city with sophisticated shopping, restaurants, near-by tourist facilities and of course, the convenience of direct pier access in the center of town.
The following morning, Wednesday, the Veendam steamed over to Hamilton where she tied up along Front Street for two and one half days. Hamilton being centrally located made it easier for passengers to go on shore excursions. We departed early Friday afternoon. Unfortunately, rain showers forced the cancellation of the sail-away barbecue.
One last item should be mentioned. Our last sea-day, was Saturday, September 11. As is his custom, Captain Rik Krombeen broadcasted the ship’s status and reporting on the ship’s progress in reaching New York. He eloquently stated that this day was the anniversary of 911 and reminded us of the thousands who died as a result of the attacks on the World Trade Center and the first responders who sacrificed their lives saving others. Unfortunately, this tribute was pretty much lost in the lunch time din of the Lido Restaurant. But I hope his gesture does not go unnoticed.
Sunday morning we tied up at the Passenger Terminal. We opted to get disembark at 9:45AM, allowing us enough time for a leisurely breakfast in the MDR.
All in all a very enjoyable first time experience especially for my wife. She says that that a lot credit is due to non-drowzy Dramamine.