June 15-24, 2017
(For context: my wife and I are both in our late 60s. This was our 24th cruise since our honeymoon in 1977. We’ve ocean cruised on Eastern Seaboard Line (1), Holland America Line (aka “HAL”) (4), Royal Caribbean ... Read More
June 15-24, 2017
(For context: my wife and I are both in our late 60s. This was our 24th cruise since our honeymoon in 1977. We’ve ocean cruised on Eastern Seaboard Line (1), Holland America Line (aka “HAL”) (4), Royal Caribbean (7), Windstar (4), Oceania (1), and we’ve Europe river cruised on Uniworld (7). My review is of course subjective. As always, your mileage may vary).
This cruise was our 40th wedding anniversary celebration, our third cruise to Bermuda (twice docked in Hamilton, once at Dockyard). We chose this specific itinerary because unlike other east coast departures this season that tie up at Dockyard or only spend one overnight at Dockyard, Veendam spent three nights in Hamilton. There were lots of things to like on this trip, but some not so terrific issues, too. It always seems to us, though, our lasting memory of every cruise is positive.
Our HAL pre-cruise hotel was the Langham in the financial district. A very positive 4-star experience once we got there. (As seems to happen more often than not, the included HAL Logan airport-to-hotel transfer began with an hour-long standing wait for the SUV pickup (for only us) in the hot airport parking garage with the pleasant-enough HAL greeter. “It’ll be here any minute” became very tiresome. The Langham was well-located for walking to many of the tourist sites, interesting places to eat/drink, and a short walk to the waterfront where preparations were underway for the “Boston Sail 2017” international tall sailing ships parade on Saturday morning (also Veendam’s departure afternoon). Our hotel room on the sixth floor was well-appointed, with a comfortable king bed and capable air conditioner. The only non-4-star experience was the noticeable lack of servers/service during our tasty, separately purchased full breakfast on Friday morning in the hotel restaurant. Our Saturday morning breakfast came from Dunkin Donuts a block away.
On embarkation/Saturday morning, the HAL transfer from the Langham to Veendam, docked at the Black Falcon Cruise Terminal, was organized and efficient even with the added chaos of the Boston Sail 2017 already well underway in the area. HAL’s Masdam was also on her turnaround day, tied up in front of Veendam. Security and check-in went well, and we walked aboard to find our cabin already available.
Veendam does not show her age. For the whole cruise, we never saw a single indicator she was not lovingly maintained. The hull looked to be freshly/continuously painted. All of the public areas, passageways, outside teak decks, stairways, dining rooms, clubs, lounges, Lido pool and deck chairs, and 2-deck showroom looked like they were freshly painted/carpeted/furnished with not a single worn-out looking piece of furniture or fixture. That has to be quite a feat for a ship her age.
Then there was our cabin. We were lucky enough to be able to afford a Neptune Suite, #009, for this cruise. It had lots of room, a king bed, a dressing area with mirrored vanity and sink, plenty of drawers/closets/storage, a minibar, a leather L-shape couch with side chairs and a glass-top sitting table, an (unusually small) flat screen TV with DVD player, a BOSE mini Bluetooth speaker, and a bathroom with tub. It had the largest balcony of any cabin we’ve ever had, long and deep enough to comfortably fit a round table and four side chairs, plus two large recliners and another small table. Overall, the cabin was quiet from all sides. Everything looked great. As we were soon to learn, though, not everything was as perfect as it seemed.
The first thing we noticed was the noise coming from our cabin’s 3-foot by 3-foot ceiling grill over the couch, which appeared to house the heat, ventilation, and air conditioning (“HVAC”) system. Inside it we heard a random but almost-continuous annoying mechanical or electrical rattle. We reported this to the wonderful Neptune Lounge concierge, Dinelle, who said she’d report it to the “technical” department. The noise was minimized by the time we got back from supper that first evening, and eliminated early the next day. Also at bedtime the first evening one of the heavy mirrored sliding closet doors fell off its track as it was being opened, and luckily it missed my wife’s foot. Earlier in the day when we first got to our cabin we noticed several gashes on the adjacent wall, so this probably wasn’t the first time this door had come off its tracks. When we reported this to Dinelle, (we were sure by then she must’ve thought we were going to be troublemakers for the entire cruise), she had “carpentry” reattach the door the next morning. The worst issue, though, aside from the sometimes lukewarm-to-frigid showers, appeared during the afternoon of our second cruise day when the temperature and humidity in our cabin reached unbearable levels. Our guess was when “technical” fixed the ceiling noise, that also stopped the HVAC cooling. Of course, this same evening was also the cruise’s first “dress up” night, plus our actual wedding anniversary day. After we’d showered and dressed for the evening, we were both still uncomfortably hot and drenched as we left our cabin. So much for formal anniversary photos that evening. We had arranged for our anniversary celebration dinner in the Pinnacle Grill, which turned out to be a worthwhile extra-charge venue with excellent food and service. While we were at supper, the outstanding Dinelle (can you tell we were very impressed?) called upon “technical” again to try to fix the HVAC, and she also arranged for someone put a nice box fan in our cabin before we returned. The fan definitely helped, and although “technical” did come back several more times during the week, as did Dinelle during her breaks to check on our cabin’s temperature, our suite never did cool down during the cruise. We happened to overhear other passengers’ comments when we’d pass in the starboard passageway on our deck, and it turned out our cabin wasn’t the only one with uncomfortable temperature/humidity issues. Perhaps “technical” knew this was an ongoing issue in this aging ship, and there were already box fans at the ready for anyone who needed one? We also heard of a fifteen-minute power outage in one section of cabins during the week, but we didn’t experience that ourselves, and there apparently were frustrations with lights in cabins that didn’t work, and a TV remote without batteries. Attention to details issues. One usual cruise ship malfunction we thankfully didn't experience except for one hour on the last day of the cruise: Our cabin toilet flushed every single time we pushed the button. Outstanding!
In addition to the very capable Concierge Dinelle and her coworker, Concierge Micaela, our cabin stewards, Dwi and Mas, were outstanding. They were cordial, seemingly happy, efficient, hardworking, and there wasn’t a single instance when we were lacking for anything. Dwi even placed a different towel figure every night on our bed before we returned for the evening.
We ate almost all of our breakfasts and lunches in the Lido buffet on deck 11. The variety of offerings seemed adequate, the soups and baked goods we tried each day were excellent, and we enjoyed the custom-made omelets at breakfast. The Lido attendants delivering coffee/tea/drinks and setting/resetting tables were cordial and accommodating. The layout of the two identical service lines on each side of the Lido weren’t very well laid out, and passengers never seemed to figure out how to queue up at the different stations along the lines. It was pretty much a free-for-all.
The main dining room menu variety seemed a bit less than we’ve experienced on other ships, but we always found something we liked, served hot when it needed to be, and cold when appropriate,… except for a warm, wilted, very tired “signature” Caesar salad (only selected once) that had probably sat on a galley staging table way too long. As in the Lido, the soups in the MDR were delicious. The waiters, assistants, and sommeliers seemed a bit overworked for the number of tables they were assigned, but they were always pleasant and helpful.
Veendam has an actual “movie” theater on deck 7 which also doubles as the venue for the cooking presentations. There were several Windows 10 classes on different topics in the classroom every day. Also scheduled were the usual trivia games, wine tastings, shore-side shopping tips, casino events, napkin folding demonstrations, art auctions, and daily religious services. We only attended a few of the nightly events in the showroom,… an entertaining juggler one night, a funny ventriloquist another evening, a very good singer who worked with the showroom band one night, and a unique BBC video enhanced by the live showroom orchestra along with a violin and piano duet from one of the lounges. Due to the timing of our open seating suppers, we didn’t get to the showroom in time to get seats to watch the singers/dancers.
After a very smooth day-and-a-half crossing from Boston, Veendam slowly sailed into Bermuda’s Great Sound, maneuvering through the narrow channel past the two larger cruise ships tied up at the Dockyard. We even had a chance to witness one of the underway Youth America’s Cup competitions close-up as they sailed past. Our docking location in the middle of Hamilton turned out to be very convenient. Shopping is along the main street in front of the cruise terminal. It was only a short walk to the ferry terminal, and to the adjacent tie-up for various boat water-related excursions. On Wednesday evenings during the summer the main street in Hamilton is closed off for a street festival for locals and tourists. We enjoyed a sunset sailing catamaran excursion with easy-flowing rum swizzles our first evening in Hamilton, while sailing quietly past all of the amazing multi-million-dollar huge motor and sailing yachts in Bermuda for the month of the America’s Cup races. We also went on a motoring catamaran water tour excursion to the other side of the Great Sound for swimming off the boat. We had all picture-perfect-weather days with blue skies and warm temperatures.
As always, our time in Hamilton was much too short. As Veendam turned for home we passed through the Bermuda Great Sound again, and we got to see both the US and Kiwi varsity foiling catamarans out practicing for the weekend’s final races. Our crossing back to Boston was also smooth, although we had thirty-six hours of dense fog, requiring Veendam’s very loud, very piercing, deep-throated ship’s horn sounding 4-second blasts every three minutes around the clock as its foghorn until we were almost back to Boston. I suspect many cabins with a balcony like ours thought the ship’s horn sounded like it was inside the cabin. Not much sleep happening in our cabin that last night on board.
Disembarkation went well, and except for several confused HAL shore-side greeters not knowing which bus/coach to direct passengers and their luggage to so they could get to their correct destinations, everything else (in the rain) seemed to proceed okay. Our HAL transfer to Logan was uneventful, especially since it was a Saturday morning.
We’ll have lasting memories of this cruise. Veendam looked well cared for in most every respect except for maybe the aging HVAC, electrical, and plumbing issues. The staff everywhere aboard was as friendly, competent, and accommodating as any we’ve experienced anywhere. As usual, we’ll probably embellish both the good/fun times, and the hiccups along the way, when we tell our friends and family about our trip. But in the end we’ll be happy we celebrated our 40th wedding anniversary on a cruise to Bermuda. Cheers! Read Less