I was sailing with my husband for our anniversary. We have been on several cruises, but this was our first time on HAL, first time to Bermuda and first time to NYC. So, I sure felt like a newbie!
New York City: We spend 2 nights pre-cruise in NYC. Our hotel was the Comfort Inn, Times Square on 47th Street. Nothing fancy but met our needs and we found the location to be superb for sight-seeing and getting to the ship on Sunday. They offer free continental breakfast which we enjoyed each morning before we hit the ground running.
We were able to see and do everything on our list in our quick 48 hours in New York! On Friday we visited downtown, the WTC memorial, a stroll through Chinatown & Little Italy, dinner in SoHo and the Empire State Building at night.
On Saturday we went to the Top of the Rock (Rockefeller Center), Grand Central Station, and the library in midtown. We then hopped the subway to the Flatiron district and walked our way through Gramercy, the village/west village, over to the meatpacking district to stroll the High Line park then back to west village for dinner. Met some locals at a bar while catching the Rangers game and ended up at a late night improv show.
Sunday morning came much too fast and we still had significant ground to cover. The hotel allowed us a late check out so we were able to leave our bags in our room, ate breakfast then headed to the Upper West Side and Riverside Park. Stopped in Zabar's, had a yummy brownie from Magnolia Bakery, admired some lovely historical buildings then found ourselves at Central Park. We grabbed a bike carriage tour as we were beat. Finally, our last stop - the Guggenheim museum. My husband just wanted to check out the building, not actually visit the museum. Took a few pics and we were through!
I had wanted to be on the ship by 1:30 but it was already after 1 when we were leaving the museum. I was starting to get a little uptight, especially after my husband talked me into the subway back to the hotel instead of a cab. In hindsight, he agreed with me (of course) that cab would have been the best option it took much longer than anticipated to the hotel. However, we made it to the hotel, grabbed our bags and a taxi and found ourselves at the pier and on the ship by 2:30. There was absolutely no line so we literally checked in and walked on the ship.
The Ship: We had room # 383. Normally, we get a balcony. However, since we knew we would be spending such little time in our room, we initially were just going to get an inside room. The HAL rep then told me about this obstructed view room which was the same price as the inside category with some natural light.
We were pleased with our room. It was located on deck 6 (Lower Promenade), aft. We enjoyed being able to get out on the same level of our room. Although our room was "obstructed", the obstruction was not close to the window, but rather on the outside of the promenade deck so we actually were able to see quite a bit from our window and had easy quick access to what we found to be one of our favorite parts of the ship - the lower promenade deck. We loved to be able to walk around so close to the water & also that there was ever hardly anyone out. We did respect those staying in the rooms with doors to the deck so we were sure to not use their chairs or make noise outside the rooms.
We found the ship to be in great condition and repair. Most of our cruises have been on Carnival so we enjoyed the simple elegance of the Veendam. No glitz or glamour, but not lack beauty.
We did notice a faint sewer-like odor and the AC was not as cool as we would have preferred. If I had to pick any negatives about the ship, these would be the only things I could even think of and neither prevented us from having one of our best cruise experiences ever.
I know there had been lots of discussion regarding the aft pool area. Albeit a bit odd, we enjoyed the hot tubs and used them on both sea days. I wish they would keep them a little hotter though.
Public Areas: We enjoyed the different bar areas and the Lido deck. Of course we spent some time in the Crow's Nest enjoying spectacular views.
Entertainment: We went to most of the shows and found them a step above what we experienced on previous cruises. We noticed that there were fewer actual entertainers but the quality of the performances was above typical cruise entertainment. In the evenings there was live entertainment in some of the different lounge areas; seemed to be a little of something for everyone. We took advantage of the theatre and watched a couple movies on sea days.
Dining: We opted for anytime dining and don't think we could ever go back to assigned dining times. We enjoyed being able to eat at our leisure without being rushed. We made reservations on the formal nights but all the other times we just showed and and were seated within minutes. We were open to sitting with others so that might have made it easier than waiting for a table of two.
Because our room was so close to the dining room, we found we ate their most of the time for breakfast and dinner. For lunch, we ate in town when in Bermuda and at the Lido on sea days.
We found the food to exceed our expectations. No complaints. I did miss my chocolate melting cake from Carnival, but other than that all the food was great. We didn't eat at any of the specialty restaurants. We aren't foodies and I hate to cook, so we are not difficult to please. There was always great variety in the menu options. The French Onion Soup was delish. I had it every night!
Bermuda: On the first day, we tendered to St. George. We rented a double moped. I know there are lots of opinions on moped rental. I would only advise this as an option to those who really feel up to the task. I am glad we opted for the scooter because it allowed us to see so much more of the island than we would have had we relied on public transportation. However, it also was a hair-raising experience at times.
On day one we drove around St George and St David's where we had lunch at the Black Horse Tavern. Went to Cooper Reserve Park for some beach and snorkel time then headed to Hamilton with a Swizzle Inn stop along the way! We kept our scooter parked next to the ship while we were there.
On day two, we toured the northern shore a bit then went to Gibbs Lighthouse, Fort Scaur, Church Bay for snorkeling, then Henry VIII's for lunch. I think we visited some other beaches then ended up at the newer Swizzle Inn where we ended the day with some yummy drinks before heading back to the ship.
Day three was south shore beach hopping. We visited Elbow, Astwood then walked Warwick Long to Horseshoe, stopping at every cove in between. Warwick was our favorite and Horseshoe was our least favorite as it was overcrowded and terribly overpriced. We had lunch at Coconuts then headed toward the Dockyard area to check it out and turn in the scooter. We planned to ferry back to Hamilton but our timing was off so we just hopped the bus back.
All I can say is that after being in Hamilton, I would not want to be docked at the Dockyard. We didn't feel the area had as much charm as the rest of the island. I think the Veendam offers the perfect itinerary with St George and Hamilton. Even just staying at Hamilton the entire time would be better than any day at the Dockyard. However, that is just my personal opinion. I met some people on our ship that preferred the Dockyard area to Hamilton, so that just goes to show how valuable an opinion is ;)
We thoroughly enjoyed our stay in Bermuda - a beautiful island and culture.
Fellow Passengers: Mostly mature travelers. There were hardly any children but then again we were sailing the first week of June so not sure what the mid summer crowd will be. We actually enjoyed the low key entertainment and didn't miss one bit the hairy chest contests and such. We napped, watched movies and enjoyed meeting new people while on ship.
How did we enjoy our first HAL cruise? Well, we took advantage of the reduced deposit and onboard credit for a future cruise!