Veendam cruise 4-21-17 15 nights FLL – Montreal. Long and detailed. Skip to the conclusion if you only want the summary.
Getting to Florida to day before the cruise proved to be full of adventure. Our Southwest flight left the gate early, only to turn around on the taxiway due to an ill passenger. They ended up being removed from the plane by paramedics. By that time, the runways were backed up and we were #10 for departure. We ended up arriving in FLL an hour behind schedule.
Good friends from a previous cruise picked us up at the airport and we enjoyed a wonderful German dinner at the Old Heidelberg Restaurant. After a great dinner they dropped us at our hotel, the Hampton Inn Fort Lauderdale cruise port north. The hotel is right next to a shopping area so if we find we need anything in the morning it is convenient. When checking in they offered us a transfer to the cruise port for $6/pp. Even Uber would be more than that so we signed up for the 10:30 departure.
Just before turning in for the night a text came in from Holland America telling us there would be a delayed embarkation due to a delayed arrival of the Veendam. I posted a note on cruise critic and it was quickly confirmed that the Veendam was well behind schedule.
Friday April 20 – Embarkation day.
First think is I spoke with the front desk at the Hampton. They already knew about the Veendam and had arranged a 2:30 shuttle to the port. They also offered us 2:00 late checkout. We enjoyed our breakfast and sat with another couple heading to Veendam who were not yet aware. We walked over to the strip mall next door and perused a few of the stores. We bought a few small items including a travel pack of cleaning wipes for the cabin.
Walking back we noticed a McDonald’s right next door to the Hampton. We visited McDonalds for a dollar promo soft drink and two dollar promo iced coffee. We returned to the Hampton and considered using the pool but in the end decided not to. I used the time to catch up on e-mails and also to book airfare for next March’s cruise on Zaandam beginning in Santiago, Chile.
While hanging out we also caught an X-men movie on HBO. The movie ended at 1:45 so timing worked well. We closed up the suitcases and headed down to the lobby. The 2:30 shuttle ended up full with 14 passengers heading to Veendam. There were still lines of disembarking passengers waiting for buses and shuttles. Veendam had arrived at 11:00. We were given boarding card number 15 and after a while were called to get our cabin cards. Boarding began at about 4:00 and we were on board at 4:30.
With a 5:15 dinner we had little time before dinner but we did check out our cabin. Due to a late upgrade we are in Vista Suite #181. The cabin is clearly larger (longer) than our normal outside. The verandah is double the depth of the one we had on Koningsdam, with a full size lounger, two chairs, and a small table. The bathroom is the same except for a jetted tub, but it is a small tub so I doubt we will ever use it as a tub. I was pleased to see the old tube TV had been replaced with a small flat screen.
We are assigned table 50, a 6-top in the dining room. We were joined by one other couple and we seem to get along fine. The other two seats remained vacant. Our wait staff is Rota and his assistant Putu Adi (Adi). Our wine steward is Ricardo. We know we have had Ricardo as wine steward before but it has been many years.
Dinner was great with the traditional first night Prime Rib enjoyed by all four of us. Holland’s culinary team knows how to do Prime Rib right. It was hard to make a choice at dessert so we had to get two. The Banana crisp is always so good. We visited the Ocean Bar for “The Ocean Trio.” They also just boarded today and the drummer is ill. However the remaining two did a great job without the drums.
When their set was over we joined the small group at the Piano Bar. We ended up staying over an hour and had a great time. Thinking it was unusual for us to stay up this late (10:45) we checked out the ‘late night snack’ in the Lido only to find grilled Shrimp as a selection. Needless to say a few Shrimp were eaten. It was 11:30 before we called it a night!
Saturday, April 22, 2017 – Port Canaveral, FL
Veendam docked at 7:10 in Port Canaveral joining Disney Magic, the Queen Victoria, and a large Carnival ship. Disney and Carnival was on a turnaround while the Queen was on a port call like we were. My Nephew lives 30 minutes from the port and he agreed to pick us up and spend the day with us. We enjoyed a dining room breakfast and at 9:15 my nephew and his girlfriend picked us up.
We took a scenic ride along the various islands back to his house. He showed us some projects he is working on and we walked the block to his beach. Took some photos there and enjoyed the breeze. Walked back and then left to enjoy an “Art show” at the County Park. What a huge park this was! We walked a lot and by 12:45 made it back to the car. Next we headed back towards the port passing thru Cocoa Beach and the famous “Ron Jon’s surf shop.”
Between port Canaveral terminals A & B there is a public area with a row of waterfront dining and marina establishments. We enjoyed lunch at “Grills at the Port.” The Mahi sandwich was terrific and the fish tacos (also made with local Mahi) were greatly enjoyed. After lunch we took in the Exploration Tower at Port Canaveral. Just the view from the observation deck is well worth the modest admission price. We also took in the exhibits on the development of the port and the space center’s history. But it was now 3:30 and with a 4:30 all aboard it was time to get back to Veendam.
Ten minutes later we bade our nephew and GF farewell, we will see him again closer to home in four weeks. Back on Veendam I quickly changed and headed up to the pool while DW began to prepare for dinner. The pool was wonderful. Very clean and nice warm water. DW would love this! I stayed in the pool nearly an hour and enjoyed a conversation with another guest. I showered off using the pool showers and headed back to our cabin for a quick change into dinner clothes.
With just enough time I went to the Ocean Bar to get Happy Hour wine. Then I stopped at the Pinnacle Grill to see about making lunch reservations for us and two cruise critic friends. The first ‘sea day’ opening is next week Saturday! I made the reservation.
The dining room opened and we enjoyed dinner. Same couple from last night was at the table but the final two seats were again vacant. Halibut was the entrée we both enjoyed. The Mango-Blueberry Crisp sure made for a great dessert.
Leaving the dining room at 7:00 we visited the Ocean Bar where the Trio (still without a drummer) was playing. We listened until their set was done and took care of some business at the front desk, and also checked to make sure all our expected on board credits were posted to our account (they were). As there is a single “Welcome aboard” show tonight at 9:30, and the Piano bar is not starting until 10:00, we retired to the cabin to enjoy the Verandah from where I am creating this log.
We saw Hengky our room steward. I asked him about the white cloths on our carpet on both sides of the bed. He explained they say “Good night” and “Good morning,” and that is something left for guests in Neptune and Vista suites. No, they are not napkins! We talked a little bit and he said his last contract was on Prinsendam and he greatly prefers the smaller ships. He’s been with HAL six years. Hengky is most accommodating and I am sure we will have no issues with our cabin service this cruise!
A few notes so far on Veendam. Veendam has a tarnished reputation on cruise critic. Indeed, there was some kind of mechanical issue that caused her to be late getting into Fort Lauderdale, and I am sure than tarnished the end of many guest’s Panama Canal cruise with missed flights and connections. On the other hand, the service so far has been stellar, even after Embarkation day obviously being a great extra strain on the crew.
The Lido deck, poolside is terrific with more than ample tables as well as two full rows of loungers for any sun worshippers on board. The aft lido deck (“Retreat”) is certainly not as nice as an aft pool but what turned us off is more the smell of smoke back there (even on the non-smoking side) than the retreat redo. The Ocean bar is large, open, and had a ‘full house’ when we visited tonight. I sure wish that HAL president Orlando Ashford would visit a ship like Veendam and see how much the guests enjoy the ‘traditional’ HAL entertainment offerings. When we passed by Adagio they also had a full house listening to them at 7:00.
At this time, we are greatly looking forward to the remainder of this cruise and the two sea days ahead of us until we reach Boston.
Sunday, April 23 – At Sea:
We did not order coffee & tea this morning. We woke on our own and were waiting at the dining room when they opened for breakfast at 8:00. We enjoyed breakfast at a six-top table and attended the 9:00 interdenominational worship. Afterwards we stopped in the lido for juice and coffee before heading to the cruise critic meet and greet in the Crow’s nest. This was very well attended and we met most of the folks we will be touring with.
We changed into swimwear and enjoyed the still quite warm pool. I relaxed on the lido pool deck while DW changed out of the swimwear. When she returned we had lunch, salad from the lido and a burger and hot dog from the Dive-Inn. I attended the 2:00 destination talk on Boston and Bar Harbor and then went back to the pool. By now we have hit higher seas and the pool water action was fun. The captain announced a few water spouts around the ship (port side) and I left to pool to view these. Something neat to see that I’ve never seen before, but of course the camera was in the cabin. All too soon it was time to get ready for Gala night dinner.
We caught the end of Happy hour but both the Crow’s Nest and Ocean Bar were out of the wine DW enjoys. Walking past the mix they enticed us to try the $4.00 ‘sip and savor’ pre-dinner glass. Dinner was quite nice with our table only set for four. Everything was enjoyable with lots of laughs.
We caught the last three songs of the trio (still a duet without the drummer) in the Ocean Bar and went to the showroom for the Captain’s welcome aboard. It was nice that guests had a choice of beverages and I went with a diet Coke. What surprised us was that the Captain did not introduce his senior staff. The show tonight was the singers and dancers with “Classique.” While parts of the show were entertaining (mostly the live violinist) overall it was not our cup of tea.
We went to listen to Barry from Boston at the Piano Bar. He had a full house, but tiredness overtook us by 9:30 so we called it a night.
Monday, April 24 – At Sea
Coffee & Tea were delivered early, 6:45 with a 7-7:30 time slot. We were up so no complaints. We sat out on the verandah a while until the wind got to us. Veendam is now sailing pretty much into the wind and it is coming in on our side, starboard. Breakfast was enjoyed in the DR but DW thought her eggs lacked something. She did order “No salt” so who knows?
After breakfast she returned to the cabin to do her P.T. exercises and I walked the ship. I ran into our dinner tablemates and a few from the cruise critic gathering. At 10:00 we went to the lido pool deck for the HAL clothing sale but nothing was there. Yes, there was some rain outdoors but it was dry and pleasant on the pool deck. We found the sale outside the shops but it was the same things we already have.
We ended up back in the cabin and dozed off for a while, this sea air sure helps us relax. Lunch was in the lido and dive-inn again. After lunch was pool time followed by the 3:00 talk on the pirate Blackbeard and his ship that was discovered off the North Carolina coast in 1996. We stopped by tea in the mix and had an appointment with the future cruise consultant where we bought two sets of future cruise deposits as well as one set for friends we are meeting after the cruise.
Dinner was enjoyable and was followed by a special guest entertainer, the madman of music, David Meyer. His performance with an electronic xylophone was outstanding and at shows end he received a standing ovation. We next visited the Mix for “Barry from Boston” at the piano bar. Barry is the most interactive piano bar entertainer we have enjoyed. This evening he found a guest in the room from Scotland and then gave him the job of finding the “Two worst Scottish accents” in the room during a sing along of “500 Miles.” I ended up winning one of the awards, what fun!
We hung in there until the end of his first set at 10:30 and called it a night. Tomorrow is Boston.
Tuesday, April 25 – Boston
Veendam docked right on time in Boston. I caught the (very) early sunrise through a small break in the clouds. That was the only time we saw the sun all day. We left the ship about 9:00 and found that one of the hop on / hop off companies was offering tours right from the port. After a short wait we were on our way to pier number 2 near Faneuil hall. Nearly everyone on the port shuttle went directly to take the main line hop on tour. As there was a break in the rain, we elected to walk around the area and got on the 10:30 Harbor cruise (included in the ticket). We enjoyed the harbor cruise although the ‘driver’ of the boat had great challenges docking at the Navy pier.
After the harbor cruise we boarded a bus and did the entire loop. Towards the end of the tour the rain began again and after we left the bus it began to downpour. We made our way to market. We thought about having a slice of pizza to wait out the rain but at nearly $5.00 a slice thought we would just head back to the ship. As we approached the pick-up point the shuttle driver Bunker was just pulling away. Bunker recognized us from the morning and stopped so we could board. He truly earned his tip and we were very grateful!
We were back on Veendam at 3:00 at had a late lunch of salad, pizza and a burger. We left our jackets out to dry. Dinner was again very enjoyable, although it took longer tonight. We were invited to a “3, 4, & 5 star cocktail party” in the crow’s nest at 7:00. No one made any announcements or welcome at the party. We met some very nice cruisers, but overall thought the gathering lacked a purpose.
The show featured the music of the Beatles by Jesse Kazemek. Again the show was very good. We next went to the Mix where cruise director Jude told the gathered crowd that Barry was ill and could not perform. This gave us the excuse to make it an early evening and we turned in.
Wednesday, April 26, 2017 – Bar Harbor, Maine
This was the first morning the coffee & tea delivery was not early. It was about 7:15. We went down to breakfast at about 8:15 and they began calling tender numbers shortly after. At about 9:00 they announced no wait for tenders but did say that they expected a rush between 9:30 and 10:00.
Regretfully it is a rainy and foggy day. We did go ashore but our prebooked private group excursion on the Lulu lobster boat was canceled via e-mail the prior day. We walked around and saw most of the town. About half the shops remained closed but those open had some reasonable deals. DW obtained a fleece jacket and a hooded windbreaker at one shop. Most of the restaurants were closed. By 11:30 we were back at the tender pier and were soon on our way back to Veendam.
We bobbed around in the water about 20 minutes while waiting for the tender dock shipside to clear. Once onboard we hung our jackets to dry and enjoyed a lido lunch. I spent quite a bit of time in the pool and hot tub. We attended the 3:00 movie, and it was a full house in the theater.
Dinner was very good. Ricardo the wine steward is entertaining. I enjoyed a pork chop and scallops wrapped in bacon. A new dessert was on tonight’s menu, “Apple blossom.” It was very good. After dinner DW tried to find seats in the Ocean Bar while I distributed my tour reminders for Thursday. No seats were available. We went to the showroom early for the singers and dancers in “Heat.” By 7:40 the room was standing room only. The show was okay. The rocking of the ship surely gave the dancers some added challenges.
By the time the show was over we were exhausted and called it a night. We ‘lose’ an hour tonight moving to Atlantic Time and have an 8:15 shore excursion meet time tomorrow in Saint John, New Brunswick.
Thursday, April 27, Saint John, New Brunswick, Canada – King’s Day
Veendam arrived in Saint John just a few minutes late, apparently due to the challenges of docking with strong tidal currents. Our private tour group met at 8:15 and the ship was cleared at about 8:30. We were off the ship within five minutes and quickly met our guide for the day, Alexei of Go Fundy Tours.
Alex took us to his van and off we went. It was still foggy and a bit rainy in the morning but the weather did improve as the day progressed. We first visited the reversing falls which were quite a torrent heading downstream as the tide was out, and hour after low tide. He also showed us his ‘secret’ passage under a bridge to another lookout. We visited the fort at the highest point on the city. While it looked historic it is a recreation built in the last 30 years.
Alex told us that the best things to see are outside of town. The area is known for wonderful scenery and wildlife viewings, as well of course, for the world’s largest tidal changes. We headed to Saint Martin on the Bay of Fundy. Along the way we made several other stops for photo ops. At Saint Martin, we climbed the lighthouse for 360 degree views. The fog had lifted inland and had retreated to the harbor entrance. There are two covered bridges and several lobster boats in port.
When the tide is out the lobster boats are aground, but by this time the tide was well towards high tide and one of the boats was preparing to leave as we watched. We next drove a mile or so down the road to see the Saint Martin sea caves. These large caves were bore into the sandstone cliffs by waves over many centuries. Alex parked the van a little past the caves and asked if we were up to a 30 minute walk ‘through the woods.’ Everyone was game.
We basically walked above the sea caves to a few overlooks where we could see the sea action up close. We also had great views back toward the village (and watched the ship’s tour bus pull into to restaurant). Alex also showed us a 19th century family cemetery above the caves.
We opted not to stop in the restaurant preferring to see more. The tour was to include the Fundy Trail parkway. Due to insurance complications (this is a private road) Alex could not obtain access this early in the year. We drove to the small town of Sussex and stopped at a Tim Horton’s for a rest break. Alex provided beverages and a snack. There were several banks nearby so I visited an RBC branch to obtain some Canadian currency from the ATM.
We returned to Saint John via the expressway. Returning to the reversing falls the tide was right at high tide and the flow was still reversed. There were many more birds enjoying the high water and there were no ‘falls’ as the water covered the rocky river bottom by many meters. Alex took us to the beach where the fog greeted us once again. Afterwards we returned to town at about 2:45 and he left us at the city market. We settled up with Alex and he accompanied us into the market where he provided a sample of smoked sweet Salmon. Everyone enjoyed the sample; it was quite tasty and actually sweet.
In the city market I purchased some cut tulips for cabin. The only other purchase was a can of diet coke. We stopped in the mall to use the restrooms and look in the ‘dollar souvenir shop.’ We walked back to the ship.
Today is King’s day (The Netherlands King Alexander’s 50th birthday) and Veendam had scheduled several special events. The first being a “King’s day afternoon tea.” This was the first complete “Service failure” of the cruise. We went to the dining room and found there was still a line, so we returned our jackets and touring essentials to our cabin. Back to the dining room it still took us over 15 minutes in line to be seated. The poor dining room host was seating everyone by himself and he really needed help.
We were seated with four others who were about done with their tea. Our cups will filled with hot water but no one came around with tea. Finally the tea appeared. No one came with any small sandwiches or desserts. Finally DW got so frustrated, she went and found a waiter and had him come over with desserts. The almond cookies are not what they once were. She left to clean up after our day ashore. I spoke with the dining room hose and shared with him how the service was not up to HAL standards.
We went to dinner and much to our surprise another couple was at our table. After five nights it was rather awkward having a ‘new’ couple join us. They were rather quiet and are celebrating their 60th anniversary. Dinner was very good, especially the Dutch Apple Pie dessert. We attended the show, comedian Mike Robinson. I don’t generally like ventriloquist acts however Mike’s was rather enjoyable.
As we were seated in the midst of a row, we could not make a quick escape to the 9:00 King’s Day party in the crow’s nest. Rather we enjoyed the trio and the Ocean Bar. When their set was complete we went to the crow’s nest and by that time some were leaving and seats were available. We enjoyed listening to the band and seeing the crowd. Many of the ship’s officers were present but I noticed they nearly exclusively stayed in the own little groups rather than mingling with the guests.
Just before 10:00 we headed down to the Mix to listen to Barry at the Piano bar. We managed to stay until 10:50 and called it a night.
Friday, April 28 – At Sea
Today is the fifth foggy day in a row. This is getting to be a bit much. We slept in being woken by the coffee/tea delivery that came at 7:28. A bit later we began to stir and made our way to the dining room a little after 9:00. I attended the 10:00 “BBC Earth” presentation and most appreciated the middle section which was on the Rockhopper penguins of Cape Horn. I worked some on my log and then distributed the tour reminders for tomorrow’s tour in Halifax.
We had Pinnacle reservations for noon with cruise critic friends. The food was all very good but they did mix up DW and my orders (wrong sides with wrong entrees) so they needed to take it back. Of course apologies came that the kitchen mixed things up. However they also had our dessert orders confused and it really appeared the servers were rather clueless.
I enjoyed the pool (rather warm) and hot tubs (not as warm as they should be) for a while before getting ready for the gala evening.
We stopped by the Ocean Bar for the end of Happy Hour on our way to dinner. Dinner was good and was followed by Vocalist & Impressionist Tricia Kelly. We have seen Tricia at least once, I think twice before. My opinion is she would do better singing her original material. We enjoyed Barry at the Piano Bar. His impression of the captain’s weather announcement was hysterical and I laughed so hard I cried. Quite a way to end the evening. Back in the cabin, I noticed we were moving at high speed towards Halifax and we ended up docking around midnight.
Saturday, April 29, 2017 – Halifax, Nova Scotia
We woke already docked in Halifax. Our meeting time for our tour with Paul McNeil of Halifax Titanic Historical Tours is 9:15 so there is no rush this morning. We enjoyed a dining room breakfast and I had the special order Gingerbread waffles. They were very good. They gave me four which was way more than I could eat so some were shared with others at our table.
We met our tour group with everyone on time in the Ocean Bar. Paul was waiting for us immediately outside the terminal building and away we went on a very through tour of the historic and photo scenic sites around Halifax. We were at the Citadel for the firing of the noon gun, were able to tour inside the Citadel after the firing, saw the sites of the Halifax explosion of 1917 and the cannon that was shot 3 ½ miles into Dartmouth. We also stopped by the Titanic gravesite and many other places, including a number of the seven universities in Halifax.
One think Paul pointed out on numerous occasions is how new construction is designed to match or blend in with older buildings in the downtown area. A booming ship building industry has made Halifax into a boom town and growth is evident, even though they average fifteen feet (nearly five meters) of snow per winter. Paul pointed out a snow pile still slowly melting in a parking lot, and the snow was still white. The weather improved during the day and by early afternoon it was becoming rather pleasant.
We went to the nearby (30 minutes) authentic fishing village of Fisherman’s Cove. It was obvious they still caught fish here as you could smell the fish, but in a pleasant way. He showed us a five pound lobster. We had a great lunch at “Wharf Wraps” with some of the best Fish and Chips I recall. They make it from a ten ounce Haddock fillet lightly crusted and fried. Yummy. After lunch we returned to Halifax via the older bridge. Interestingly, they are ‘raising’ this bridge incrementally so that it gives an additional six feet of clearance to ships. This is being done while the bridge remains in use. Paul showed us the hydraulic jacks installed on the cables. Every night they bridge is raised a little bit. This is expected to extend the life of the bridge by 50 years.
Returning to the port everyone agreed this was a great tour. We did some shopping at Pier 21 and I bought a couple of polo shirts. We were back on board just in time to get cleaned up for dinner.
Dinner was very nice tonight despite an apparently lackluster menu. I went with our server’s suggestion of the “Clod tenderloin.” It reminded me of a good London Broil. The show tonight was local talent, a Celtic concert by the “MacDonald sisters.” After the show we enjoyed Barry at the Piano Bar. We’ve been staying up past 10:30 every night lately as Barry is a bad influence, but also so much fun.
Sunday, April 30 – Sydney, Nova Scotia
Coffee & Tea were brought a little early but I had previously been out just to catch an actual sunrise! Yes, no fog! Although we don’t dock until 11:00 in Sydney the dining room is on a port day scheduled so we went for breakfast at about 7:40. We enjoyed sharing travel tales with two couples we had not met before. I attended the Sunday non-denominational service and brought tea & coffee back to the room.
The sail in to Sydney is quite pretty. It was extremely windy and about a half-hour after the pilot boarded the ship listed further than we have experienced in 27 prior cruises. Fortunately DW was seated at our desk and was able to catch the bottles as they began to fall. We ended up docking about 30 minutes late, and this is a brief call to begin with.
We had a private tour set with Blackwood tours along with one other (unknown) couple. Despite our best efforts to be among the first group off the ship, we were the later ones to arrive. Still, we left long before the ship’s tour buses and were off on a very through tour of the area. Our driver/guide was Tom and the owner Bob also came along. We enjoyed a great ride down the St. Andrews channel to the Scottish highland village of Iona.
We took a “Cable ferry” across a narrow point of St. Patrick’s channel and then drove to Baddeck. At Baddeck we were treated to some incredible views of the waterfront, a cute lighthouse, and the Bell mansion across the lake on a hillside. Next we had 45 minutes to explore the Bell museum, and we felt this was just the right amount of time to spend there. After leaving the building we saw two Bald Eagles soaring above us. We tracked them for some time and were able to get a few photos and video.
Leaving Baddeck we stopped to see St Ann’s lake and bay. We tried to stop at Gaelic college but it was closed. We climbed the mountain, stopping at the viewpoints well worthwhile to stop. We got off the highway for some great views along the northern end of St. Andrew’s channel and returned to the port at 4:40 for our 5:30 all aboard.
With very little time we did peruse the vendors at the port market and made a few purchases, including a photo of Veendam passing behind the Sydney lighthouse. Back on board we quickly changed clothes and made it to dinner. The elusive ‘third couple’ made an appearance tonight.
The show was comedian Jim McCue. I did not think he was very funny, although some on board enjoyed his routine. We sat in the back for a quick exit to get good seats at the Piano bar. We stayed until Barry’s extended first set ended at 10:45. We were again in stitches over his interpretation of the captain’s announcement.
Monday, May 1 – Charlottetown, PEI
We were up early as we had a full day planned. Breakfast was in the lido and I waited a long time to get an Omelet made. Even though we reached the lido a little after 7:00, the starboard side was not yet opened. Of course, after waiting for an Omelet, then it was open.
The two couples touring with us were ready and we disembarked promptly at 8:10 with no delays. We used “Tom’s port guide” and found our way to Founder’s Hall, where the Enterprise rent a car van picked me up. I was back 20 minutes later with our mini-van for the day. Our primary objective for the day was to have “Fun with Falcons.” We booked this through “Experience PEI” and made no mention of being cruise ship passengers. My phone application “Waze” got us there with time to spare for our 10:00 presentation.
If I could give this outing ten stars on TripAdvisor I would, but their limit is five stars. This was the most personal & close up encounter with these magnificent birds that I have ever experienced. What a wonderful day learning about, holding on my hand, and seeing these incredible creatures in flight. This is a “Once in a lifetime” type of experience that I recommend without hesitation. Jaime and his family (including several very well behaved dogs) are a delight. Bring lots of empty memory card space on your camera for sure!
After our two hours with Jaime we headed West the few additional kilometers to the Confederation Bridge village. This bridge connects PEI to New Brunswick and is the only fixed crossing. Many of the shops in the village had not yet opened. We enjoyed the welcome center where I obtained maps for the “Central Coastal Drive” tour that we would take along our return to Charlottetown. We purchased a few hats in the gift shop and stopped at a Tim Hortons for coffee and a small snack.
The Central Coastal Drive was a great way to spend our afternoon returning towards Charlottetown. We enjoyed the lighthouse at Victoria Harbor and many wonderful views along the coast. We visited the Port-La-Joye-Fort Amherst National Historic Site and saw two of the three lighthouses near there. We crossed the West River and soon found we were back on the main highway.
We stopped at Cows Creamery, rated #1 in the world for Ice Cream by Tauck World Discovery. We also visited the “Anne of Green Gables Chocolates” for some chocolate covered potato chips. We filled up the van with fuel and I dropped everyone off at the ship at 3:35 to return the van. I was back on the ship at 4:00 for our 4:30 sail away.
Dinner was fine but unexciting. I ordered a “Grilled flank steak” and received three small slices of what looked more like London Broil. The waiters knew I would want more so a second helping was ready. We skipped the singers and dancers show “Dance” in favor of watching the transit of Veendam under the Confederation Bridge. It was really cold on the deck over the Crow’s Nest and it reminded me of viewing in Antarctica, except I was not prepared for this cold. They how lowered the one antenna to ensure clearance but it looked to me like we had plenty of room as we sailed under.
We went early to the Mix to get seats in the back area near where friends usually sit. Again we greatly enjoyed our time there and stayed until Barry took a break at 10:35.
Tuesday, May 02, 2017 – At sea, up the St. Lawrence river.
The fog is back. We gained back the hour last night and needed it. Coffee/tea was delivered at 7:30. We went to breakfast in the DR and for the first time this cruise ended up with four companions that we did not enjoy. When all four show up with their ‘newspapers’ and they are more interested in looking at the papers than having a conversation that is not a good sign.
Finally today there is an “America’s test kitchen” presentation that DW attended at 10:00. I stayed behind to catch up my log and also look over e-mails while catching yesterday’s movie “Passengers” on the room TV.
We joined our dinner tablemates for lunch at the Pinnacle. Today were the two Mariner’s lunches. The menu was particularly unappealing and the Pinnacle sounded like a better option. The food in the Pinnacle is very good, but the wait staff seems quite challenged. I heard they boarded just four weeks ago in San Diego, but would HAL put rookie servers in the Pinnacle? They seem to have trouble communicating with the guests…
In the afternoon we attended the Q& A with the captain. The Q&A led our opinion of the Captain to improve. He clearly takes responsibility for the ship. I also found it interesting that he sailed with Veendam on the Amazon River cruise a few months back as a passenger as he wanted to experience the itinerary.
Tonight is the last gala night of the cruise. The fog had kind of lifted during the day but came back with a vengeance at dinner time. Surf and Turf was the popular entrée tonight. Without asking, our waiters brought me two filets and two lobster tails. One of the filets was exceptional. The other was overcooked and I did not eat it. The Lobster was very good for frozen, no complaints.
The show tonight was the “Skinny German Juggle Boy Hilby.” Realizing that people’s tastes in entertainment differ, I thought this was the single worst entertainer I’ve even seen on a cruise. When I was pretty sure he was occupied in a different direction I made an early escape. The Piano Bar was again the place to be and we stayed until Barry’s break at 10:35.
Wednesday, May 3 – Saguenay, Quebec
This is the Veendam’s only call this year at Saguenay, and that is a shame. I really don’t understand why HAL doesn’t change up the Canada/New England cruises a bit. Saguenay has a well-earned reputation as the friendliest cruise port in the world and we agree. Townsfolk were on the dock as the ship tied up. They were dressed in period costumes and did a number of dances. The Veendam tweeted its horn several times in reply.
We were off early (8:15) for our planned 9:30 tour and enjoyed the pier area, where we were served complimentary Blueberry pie, Blueberry juice, got to cut a log like a lumberjack resulting in a nice souvenir, and took photos with a historic car and Native Americans. All this before passing off the pier! Saguenay also has a modern clean cruise port. About seven vendors were present (along with tourist information and a pleasant coffee shop). We ended up purchasing a wood carving of a lumberjack.
I took a walk to an ATM at a bank a few blocks away. Regretfully the ATM was only accessible from behind locked doors and the bank did not open until 10:00. We were on time for our tour with “Tours adventure Fjord et Monde” and checked in quickly. It was not until after we left the port that the guide told us that due to lingering snow the National Park, the primary destination of our tour, was closed. They had alternatives to “Substitute.”
It turned out that three of the six “Steps” of our tour could not be done. We could not view the nativity scenes in the village of Riviere-Eternite as the path was still buried in snow. We could not visit the Arse-de-Tabatiere National Park and see the “7th most beautiful view in Canada” as it was closed. Finally our visit to the Anse-Saith-Jean marina area became a one hour ‘lunch stop’ rather a brief coffee break as only one local craft shop was open and there was time to fill up.
We did enjoy the visit to the unique covered bridge and the Pyramid in town. But as we generally do not take time for a full lunch on a port visit when time is so precious we felt we did not receive what we paid for.
Getting back to the port at 2:00 we quickly prepared for the 2:15 meeting time to attend “La Fabuleuse” a show performed by over 100 local volunteers. This show was truly magnificent and the special effects were Broadway quality. Live animals, real antique vehicles, fire and paratroopers were all part of the performance. This is very highly recommended if you are lucky enough to have a port call in Saguenay.
Returning to the ship we quickly prepared for dinner. After dinner the onboard show was Piano Virtuoso Hyperion Knight. He is superb. We made a quick exit at the end of his show for the Piano bar and enjoyed another evening until Barry’s break at 10:35. This is becoming habit-forming. What are we going to do Saturday night when we are off the ship???
Thursday, May 04, 2017 – Quebec City
We went to the Lido the second day in a row for breakfast. Today they had waffles and I got them hot right out of the waffle iron. Before breakfast, we enjoyed sailing up the Isle de Orleans and with the morning sun effectively right behind us, the colors we great for photography from the balcony. Yes, sunshine – only the second sunny day since Florida!
I had arranged a rental car for the day with Avis from the Hilton hotel. We met another couple who joined us for the day and took an Uber to the Hilton. Finding the rental car in the Hilton’s underground garage was quite an effort. While we were upgraded to a Grand Cherokee, this was by far the dirtiest rental vehicle I’ve ever seen, like it had not been washed for months. Regardless, it was a good deal and got us where we needed to go for the day.
We found our way to Montmorency Falls and Ile d'Orleans Island. We spent about two hours at the falls including a ride on the cable car and a walk over the suspension bridge hanging over the falls. With the combination of snow melt and recent heavy rains the falls were roaring and kicking up a lot of mist.
Next we drove over to the island. We enjoyed the tour of about 2/3 of the island and stopped for several photo ops. We found a great orchard where they make Apple ciders and Apple Ice Wine, along with other Apple products. Could not resist buying some to bring home. We stopped at a café for a light lunch. Nothing exceptional but it was a good chance to take a break. We left the café a little before two and all agreed to head to the Basilica of Saint Anne-de-Beaupre. This was worth the half-hour drive as it is an enormous Basilica and quite beautiful. After the Basilica we began to drive back stopping to fill the fuel as we approached Quebec City.
A slow taxi ride returned us to Veendam at about 4:40 and we prepared for dinner. This is our last evening in the dining room as cruise critic friends invited us to the Pinnacle for the last dinner tomorrow. We said our farewells to Rota and Adi and thanked them for their service and taking care of our special requests. Same with Ricardo our wine steward.
There is no 8:00 show tonight and by the time we left the dining room the “Trio” (which ended up being a duo nearly the entire journey) was just wrapping up their set in the Ocean Bar. We returned to our cabin and enjoyed being out on our verandah as the sun went down and the city lights came on. I brought my log up to date and caught up on e-mails. At 8:45 we went down to the Mix and secured prime seats for the piano bar. Tonight was exceptional and not crowded as many guests attended the 9:30
performance in the showroom but we stayed in the piano bar. When Barry took his short 10:35 break we went to the late night snack and had a light bite. We then returned to the piano bar and remained until after 11:30. The cruise is almost over and we are making the most of it!
Friday, May 05, 2017 – Quebec City - day two
After our late night we did not order in coffee & tea and we slept until 8:00. We went to breakfast in the dining room and enjoyed visiting with two couples from Canada. We returned to the cabin for a while and had an invite on our phone from our friends to join them for pre-dinner appetizers in their suite tonight. It is raining this morning but it appears a break is coming late morning / early afternoon. We also need to pack today.
We left the ship around 11:00 and took a taxi to the farmer’s market. We enjoyed walking the market and ran into the friends we are having dinner with tonight. The orchard we visited yesterday had a stand at the market. A few different items were available which were sampled. We also bought a few single-serve bottles of non-alcoholic cider for immediate consumption. So good.
With our friends we walked back to Veendam. We put our purchases in the room and had a light lunch at the lido. We left the ship again about 1:30 and walked to and through the lower part of the old town. We visited a few shops and at one they had a lot of blueberry products from the Saguenay region. We sampled a blueberry cider and it was unique and enjoyable so we obtained a bottle to bring home.
We returned to Veendam at about 3:00 and began the packing process, which was essentially complete by 4:15. We called our dinner tablemates and asked if they would like to meet in the Ocean Bar for happy hour. They met us there and we were able to say a proper farewell. Our friends we are having dinner with are in a Neptune Suite and invited us for pre-dinner drinks and appetizers at 5:30. From their verandah we watched the sail under the Jacques Cartier bridge as we head towards Montreal.
We went to the Pinnacle Grill at 6:00 for our reservation. We laughed as we were seated at the exact same table for our two lunches at the Pinnacle. Once again, the food at the Pinnacle was very good and the service below par. I ordered the King Crab legs and it had to be a full pound of them, so good. Our friends like the Cherry Garcia ice cream from the Baked Alaska but are not fans of the meringue. They prearranged for the ice cream to be available separately. Once again, the dessert order was confused.
I ordered the Chocolate Volcano cake and only ate about half of it. They did bring extra Cherry Garcia ice cream so I had some of that. We enjoyed our meal with these new friends and bade our farewell at about 8:30. We returned to the cabin to find Hengky & Krikson as they took good care of our needs especially with our abundant use of the laundry service, so we had a little thank you for them.
Afterwards we went to the Piano Bar one last time this cruise. Had a wonderful time there until Barry’s break at 10:35, when we headed back to call it a night.
Saturday, May 06, 2017 – Disembarkation & summary
The Veendam seems to be perpetually late, and again this morning was no exception. The distance from Quebec City to Montreal is not very great, and despite leaving Quebec City early, we were 45 minutes late to dock. Of course, this pushes back everyone’s disembarkation time.
We went to the dining room for breakfast at 6:30, as we were passing parts of the very industrial port. It was nearly 8:00 by the time the gangway was in place and the door was open so luggage could be retrieved by shore side staff. Sure enough, our 8:00 departure became 9:00. Taxis were waiting and a $25.00 cab ride got us to our downtown Avis car rental.
I hesitated to book Veendam based on cruise critic feedback and reviews. Some on board had issues with their cabins, especially with climate control. Fortunately we had no such troubles. The entertainment is way above what we experienced last fall on Koningsdam, and despite its age, I much prefer the smaller ship size.
One of the aft elevators was out of order the entire cruise.
I don’t know who is responsible for the entertainer’s schedules but it seems to me that a little tweaking, especially of the Ocean Bar trio would serve passengers well. Their first set is at 6:30. This is too early for first seating guests and also too early for late seating guests looking for pre-dinner cocktails and entertainment. I would think that bar revenue would increase with a tweaking to 7:00 for the first set, and it would entertain more guests.
The Adagio duet had a large early audience but I often saw just two or three couples at the later sets. I would really like to know who determines these schedules, is this corporate dictate or is this managed on each ship? If on the ship, is it the cruise director, hotel manager, who?
It is not the ship’s fault that the weather was so horrendous, but many on board were commenting that this cruise is ‘just too early.’ That may be why they had to reduce the price so much as sailing date approached. Perhaps the experts in Seattle should consider doing this one two weeks later as I think that would make a huge difference. Alternatively, do a Caribbean / Bermuda repositioning cruise, calling on Aruba to comply with the Jones act.
“America’s test kitchen” was invisible on the first two-thirds of this sailing. We were told the presenter had a family emergency. Fair enough. Is there no chef on Veendam that with the CD could not do an entertaining kitchen demo? We’ve attended some wonderful cooking demos on various ships and no corporate tie in was needed to provide guests with a great sea day experience.
What really ‘made’ our cruise was Barry from Boston in the Mix Piano Bar. He starts at 9:00 and takes one very short “Eight minute break” at about 10:30. Barry will be on our booked Maasdam New Zealand/Australia cruise over the holidays and it will be great to see him again.
In summary, this was a pretty okay cruise so far as the on board experience. Certainly not four stars, but way better than our Koningsdam experience last fall. 3 ½ stars to the Veendam with hopes that things may improve as we would like these smaller ships to stay in the fleet. Read Less