For starters, my mom's luggage did not arrive from her flight to New York (the fault of the airline, not the cruise ship), and we were forced to board the ship without it. My mom alerted the ship to the problem and they did everything they could on their end to retrieve the bag. The lady at the desk could not have been more helpful or accommodating. She had my mother's only clothes (the ones on her back) laundered, pressed, and delivered to her the next morning, loaned her an entire formal outfit, including shoes, gave her a well-equipped toiletry bag with everything she could possibly need, and ensured that my mother's luggage was received as soon as possible. As a result, we never missed a beat and a disaster was turned into a nonentity. This meant so much to me, and I will always remember the kindness of the staff in this situation.
That kindness extended itself throughout the week. Every member of the staff was warm and willing to do whatever it took to please vacationers. They were highly professional, always smiling, and treated us like royalty. I have to say that they were the best staff I've ever experienced on any cruise ship.
As to the food, I am quite a picky eater. There were some meals that were not impressive, but I have to say that overall,the food was very good. Yes, the onion soup was so salty as to be unpalatable, and yes, there were a few times when I took a bite of something and pushed it aside. But Holland America really tried - they served a great variety of "high-end" food, night after night, and everyone in our party, ages 20-76, found food they liked, both on the buffets and at the nightly sit-down meals.
Speaking of ages, that was one area that shocked me. The vast majority of the clientele fell between 55-80 years old. The Veendam is clearly aware of this, because all of their entertainment and even the music in the nightclub catered to this age group. The nightly shows put on by the Veendam entertainment crew was outstanding, an incredibly talented group. I did remark to my parents, however, that I would have liked just one show that had more contemporary music for the middle-agers like us. My 20-year-old still enjoyed the shows because the talent was so strong, but she was eager to get to a nightclub in Bermuda where she could hear "her type of music" once during the week.
Regarding the ship itself, I found it to be refreshingly small, easily maneuverable, and adequate for our needs. I would not recommend it for people with small children, as there is only one tiny pool. The beautiful teen section went unused the entire week and seemed like a waste of money and space. One of the elevators felt like a death trap and I couldn't believe it remained that way for the entire week. Regardless, for our age group, the ship was just right. I really couldn't care less about enormous ships with climbing walls and ice rinks. I actually preferred this less glamorous one that was comfortable and provided a fantastic staff to client ratio. To me, that is much more important to my overall enjoyment of a trip.