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16 Holland America Cuba Cruise Reviews

Excellent embarkation, and oddly, they seem to have dispensed with the silly health declaration. The nature of the muster drill has changed. One must not leave the cabin at the first alarm, but wait for the third or be told off by Miss ... Read More
Excellent embarkation, and oddly, they seem to have dispensed with the silly health declaration. The nature of the muster drill has changed. One must not leave the cabin at the first alarm, but wait for the third or be told off by Miss Trunchbull, who now works for HAL. Shades of Costa Concordia telling the English speakers to jolly well stay in their cabins as the ship went down is what this brought to mind for me, but ‘whatever’. We booked this one knowing that the lanais would mean very few non - reserved deck chairs on the walking deck. Initially we were pleased to see that there were plenty of deck chairs but then we noticed that they were almost all where the steel side went up to the railing, so no sea view. As the cruise went on, our fellow cruisers took to “reserving” the very few good loungers with towels. This is not the cruise for anyone who loves sitting on the boat deck. HAL also removed the cushions every night at 5:30! (Nobody on the cruise was quite THAT old.) We note that some passengers seem to have adopted a “Manifest Destiny” attitude on the walking deck, and will bark out “Coming through!” Or an imperative “Excuse me!” (As opposed to a polite one) and then expect you to clear the entire path for them instead of merely passing by. There were a few odd ducks on this cruise, but more on that later. Food in the MDR was disappointing compared to previous HAL cruises, as well as every other line, except MSC. The portions are beginning to be skimpy, even for a small adult. This is not really a problem, you just order more courses. The real problem was the menus. The regional menus were invariably Cuban. This cruise didn’t even have Cuba as a stop and Cuban food is famous, in Canada, at least, for not being very good. (My apologies to any genuine Cubans, who doubtless know where to get the good stuff.) The addition of paid menu items drastically reduced the variety offered without extra charge. Service in the MDR was spotty and slow until we finally met Agus and his sidekick Bonbon. The good news about food on this cruise is that the Lido had some much better food than the MDR. The salad bar was better than any salad ever seen in the MDR and by getting a slice of meat off the joint, you can get just what you want. The Asian is generally good, and the pizza and Dive In are good, too. Breakfast was always excellent, but you must specially ask, and wait three minutes, if you want a hot, crisp waffle. (You DO!!). The baked goods at breakfast were good except for the croissants. Drink service, at least for the non alcoholic choices, was spotty, but we found that staffers didn’t mind in the least if you just poured your own when they left their pitchers at their stations. Desserts were generally disappointing on Veendam, including, alas, the macaroons in the Library which we enjoyed vastly on Noordam last year. (A pitiful collection of books, as well. Definitely bring lots of your own reading material.) For all that, the Explorer’s Lounge in the library is your best chance for a decent, small, dessert. Watermelon was just slightly rotten from the start to the finish of the cruise. In a strange way, this is almost impressive. On a happier note, the milk was fresh right to the end, and milk is often not worth drinking after the first week or so. Others have complained about AC problems on Veendam; ours was fine. Plumbing, often HAL’s Achille’s heel, generally worked, though there were a few leaks in the atrium and once walking past a cabin with an open door, we heard a staffer say, “that is NOT normal!” .......So naturally we looked in ...... to see water pouring from the ceiling. As reviewers have reported for some months past, there were only five of eight elevators working, which was sometimes very inconvenient. Midway through the cruise a little miracle happened and a sixth elevator came back to life. This made for four at the rear and still just two at the front. Those who don’t like stairs might do well to choose the aft of the ship till this is fixed. There are some wonderful things about these old ships that old age doesn’t damage (and the Veendam is definitely due for either a massive refit or a transfer to a lesser line). The laundry rooms are a boon to those who travel light, even when all the machines don’t work. They even provide free detergent. The old fashioned walk around deck is a glorious way to get exercise. The cabins have massive amounts of storage. On HAL everyone gets a bath tub in outside, balcony and suites cabins, which is also wonderful. There is a vague sort of dignity to Veendam that is rather loveable. There are fundamentally no hard sells. The photographer was never once a pest, nor was the cruise director annoying. They didn’t seem desperate to close down dining venues on port days. They even offered a pretty decent tea (scones and jam were both blueberry for some reason, and cream was skimpy and not clotted). Nevertheless service was good in the MDR at tea time and they didn’t try to herd you into a tiny corner of the room as some ships do, even letting you choose your own table, which we appreciated. One lovely thing about this cruise was the utter and complete absence of terrible bands playing on the pool deck. Music of any sort was rare in public areas, though they did have a pianist in the bars sometimes, and some noisy music on the back deck of the Lido. They also don’t subject you to the choice of boiling under a duvet or freezing without one, opting for the old fashioned luxury of triple sheets. Very civilized. Possibly the walls are paper thin in the cabins, but I think it much more likely that the old dude travelling solo in the next cabin was either terribly inconsiderate blasting his tv for hours, or (let’s be more charitable) he may have been deaf. Another unusual cruiser was the fellow who turned down a table at a breakfast where tables were rare, pointing at the ceiling. Sure enough, there really was a camera up there, but I can’t imagine it mattering (what does one DO at breakfast in public that couldn’t be caught on camera? Perhaps I lack imagination.) More to the point, who the heck checks out their environment that carefully on vacation? Spies? Criminals on the run? The fellow who wore the Betty Boop bandana tied around his head for formal night (and a different bandana under a giant top hat with a very wide red sash on the second formal night) did rather catch the eye. Recovering from brain surgery? Winning a bet? Or just giving the rest of us a chuckle? May he recover fully, or win his bet as the case may be, and keep making formal nights fun. Some things about the Veendam itself are odd. The cabin numbering system on Veendam is chaotic, but this is more than made up for by the fact that the beds and pillows are both pretty comfortable, which is also a little odd for cruises in general. For some unknown reason, they sprinkle cinnamon on the cottage cheese in the Lido. This is merely an eccentricity, but I still wish they wouldn’t. The Crows’ Nest is strangely democratic. There are just a few recliners facing the front, and they are off to one side, but there is a padded bench all the way along the front windows. So everyone gets a window seat, though few get the view. We missed Half Moon Cay, nothing strange about that, we find that about half the time, the waves are “too high” to tender. (Makes you wonder how those lifeboat tenders would fare in a bad storm at sea, doesn’t it?) The part I liked about this time is that the captain actually added the real reason, which was that the supplies and staff hadn’t gotten there. On the second formal night, when they finally produced a first rate dinner in the MDR, one steak seemed to have been boiled, which is odd as steak is usually the last thing that Cruise dining rooms would ever go wrong on. Oh, well, the flourless chocolate cake was even better than what we make at home (many things on this cruise were not) and they had added berries, which idea we liked enough that we will copy it. There wasn’t anything seriously wrong with this cruise, but not a lot was terribly good. The ship itself and the service have both just come down far enough for us to think that we will definitely revert to Celebrity, our other favourite, for our next cruise. Read Less
Sail Date January 2019
This itinerary offered a day in Cienfuegos, Cuba and Belize, both of which were of interest to us. Other ports were Nassau (never got off the ship), Half Moon Cay (very pleasant), Grand Cayman (fine if you're looking to buy ... Read More
This itinerary offered a day in Cienfuegos, Cuba and Belize, both of which were of interest to us. Other ports were Nassau (never got off the ship), Half Moon Cay (very pleasant), Grand Cayman (fine if you're looking to buy Tanzanite, I suppose), Roatan (too windy to make port), and Cozumel (read on). First the ship itself. This is an older, or as HAL likes to put it, "vintage" ship. It has been cosmetically well-maintained for the most part, but 3 of the 8 elevators were not functioning during our cruise ("we're waiting for parts" says HAL) so getting around during busy times was somewhat more difficult. And we had plumbing problems in our stateroom that had to be reported three different times before they were fixed. "You can't expect the shower to drain when the ship is moving" was what one guest relations person told me. Um, no. But then, I've learned to expect poor guest relations service from HAL. The people in the room down the hall from us couldn't get the heating/air conditioning to work and as far as I know, that problem never got resolved. Service from the room stewards and food service staff was excellent - always pleasant and helpful. The guest lecturer was very interesting and his hour long lectures flew by. As for ports, Half Moon Cay is always a pleasant stop, very clean and well organized. Nassau we've been to before and saw no reason this time to get off the ship. Cienfuegos was interesting and the excursion we took there well done, as was Belize. Grand Cayman was just not for me. In Cozumel, our excursion did not follow what was in the description, but HAL shore excursion staff refunded 1/2 the excursion cost. Read Less
Sail Date December 2018
Avoid accepting cabins 131 & 133. Located over Ocean Bar. Music from Ocean Bar heard in room from 9:30 pm to 11:45 pm most nights. (We could hear every note, every thump and even the voice of the singer!) This is a known problem on ... Read More
Avoid accepting cabins 131 & 133. Located over Ocean Bar. Music from Ocean Bar heard in room from 9:30 pm to 11:45 pm most nights. (We could hear every note, every thump and even the voice of the singer!) This is a known problem on this ship. They moved occupants of both cabins to another suite the following day and gave a $70 credit. It took both cabins' occupants going down to complain to get moved. (They initially tried to play it off like saying some occupants are just "more sensitive" than others to the music when they are well aware they have had this problem for many cruises with these cabins!) Holland America operates smaller ships, less crowd, no drunk and rowdy passengers. The staff is always pleasant and smiling. The room stewards remember your names and are eager to please. They take care of 29 or so rooms. They work very hard and deserve a personal tip at the end of the cruise. The time in port could be longer. Most ports had to be back on ship 3:30 pm. Only one small swimming pool that was too cold to go in for our taste. The Lido Restaurant was good with a variety of foods each day. The salad bar was nice. However, was closed for several hours between meal change overs. Desserts were good. Pizza required placing an order. Pizza was not what I call pizza. Preferred previous arrangement to request a slice. Hamburger, hot dog and fries were excellent, required placing an order. Taco bar very good. All three close at 5:30 pm. Read Less
Sail Date December 2018
This was our 16th cruise; most of our cruising has been to interesting/exotic ports. We chose this 10 day cruise because of the 2 Cuban ports, Cienfuegos and Havana. The itinerary is otherwise mundane. We took private tours in both ... Read More
This was our 16th cruise; most of our cruising has been to interesting/exotic ports. We chose this 10 day cruise because of the 2 Cuban ports, Cienfuegos and Havana. The itinerary is otherwise mundane. We took private tours in both Cuban ports. In Cienfuegos, we toured with Hector Hernandez (we read about him in CC) to Trinidad then back to Cienfuegos. Great tour and guide, with a courteous driver using a reasonably up to date car with AC. In Havana, we used Cubaoutings.com (see review in Trip Advisor) and our guide Abel was fabulous. Part of it was in a classic 50's convertible. The other ports of Half Moon Cay, Cayman Islands and Cozumel were forgettable. In Half Moon Cay, the beach is private and all the employees work for Holland America. Still, we had a property theft on the beach and the ship washed their hands of any responsibility so please watch your belongings carefully and leave anything valuable on the ship. The service on the ship was up to the Holland America high standard. I liked the food. My girlfriend was less enthusiastic about it. We did the Pinnacle grill 1 night and were both a bit disappointed. Although the service was great, out steaks were not grilled well and the side dishes were bland. We used a discount for the meals that did not appear on the ship account. We needed to have it corrected later so do check your account regularly. The entertainment was geared to a smaller ship and an older demographic. The shows were OK. There was no classical music played except occasionally by the piano/violin duo, and the violinist was well below par for a ship and hard to listen to. Now for the ship itself. There were multiple annoyances related to the aging physical plant. The toilet barked and howled when flushed (we called it Fido). Once water backed up from the floor drain and left a puddle.The AC ran full tilt and was not controllable, leaving the cabin cold when the balcony door was closed. We eventually complained and they sent a front desk person up to measure the temp at about 64 deg before sending the maintenance guy. The balcony was being painted and on 1 occasion they left a mess when they were done. We had large puddles of water on the balcony just outside the cabin. They laid towels down to try to absorb them. We later found out the water was likely from washing the Lido deck above us, but initially they appeared puzzled by it. There were 2 elevator banks, 4 elevators each. 1 elevator was out in each bank the entire cruise. The others worked slowly, the doors closing like molasses and the cars often skipping the floor we were waiting on. So, the cruise was great for the Cuban ports and the service but was otherwise well below average for a contemporary cruise. Read Less
Sail Date November 2018
It included a taste of Cuba It was our first cruise with Holland America previously with Princess Celebrity Seabourne and Silverseas Having read the reviews with cruise critic we were a bit reluctant to book but it was only cruise in the ... Read More
It included a taste of Cuba It was our first cruise with Holland America previously with Princess Celebrity Seabourne and Silverseas Having read the reviews with cruise critic we were a bit reluctant to book but it was only cruise in the time frame that included Cuba To start checking was easy no lines or wait Our Neptune cabin was ready on boarding Veendam is an old ship showing some signs of wear but quiet charming in a traditional manner. There is definitely a problem with the elevators going from being readily available some times to not at all. Dining well again a little mixed Lido and main restaurant pretty average but we found the Pinnacle grill outstanding great food choices and excellent staff. Well worth the $35 charge We dined in the Thomas Keller restaurant on Seabourne last year and put Pinnacle way ahead. Entertainment while lots of choices throughout the ship not outstanding but very acceptable Our biggest problem on the cruise was our Neptune Suite The suite itself outstanding but the antiquated air conditioning a total disaster I did note a number of cruise critic reviews about this but if you are a light sleeper do not book a Neptune suite.. To be fair to Hollan America they offered me the use of a quieter suite to sleep in Still not the ideal situation after paying so much money I could find no problem at all with staff in any part of the ship all very helpful and professional. Tours we on were fine some of the buses quiet old but expect that in the Caribbean. Read Less
Sail Date October 2018
Cuba cruise. Group of 6, family and friends. One Neptune Suit, one Vista Suite and one interior cabin. Embarcation went ok, usually they load the wheel chairs first. One of our party was disabled and used wheelchari assist. We were ... Read More
Cuba cruise. Group of 6, family and friends. One Neptune Suit, one Vista Suite and one interior cabin. Embarcation went ok, usually they load the wheel chairs first. One of our party was disabled and used wheelchari assist. We were the last to go on the ship. The ship was clean. One of my highlights on Holland is the Culenary Arts and the Microsoft classes. Both so interesting. Dinning was the best I have had on any of my 6 cruises. 3 on Holland, 2 on princess and one on Norweigan. Presentation and taste above the average for sure. Service the best!! The entertainment was average from what I have seen. Two entertainers other then the ship signers and dancers. Majic and comedy, Both great! And the ship singers and dancers were good just not memerable. As I already mentioned the Culenary Arts and Microsoft classes are the best. Seems drinks have gone up a bit, did not get a beverage package. And did not appear that the prices were the same everywhere . Ports were good, although our one disabled person booked a shore excurtion and it was a tender that we did not see on the cruise site prior to the cruise. She wanted to try but was just not going to make it. They would not refund, we understood somewhat. The service was an A+ in every aspect! Every employee always made eye contact and has a friendly Hello. All services were kind and friendly. Best service by all . Just out of their control to fix air conditioning on an aging ship! I do not think we will be do Holland again, for sure not on the Veendam! On my other Holldand cruise, Amsterdam cruise, in a Neptune Suite , also had problems with air conditioning. Very disappointed ! Read Less
Sail Date April 2018
The other couple we went with like the Holland America Line very much. We are Celebrity Cruises but we said we would go since we wanted to go to Cuba. Check in was the easiest I have every had. The ship is very, very old and we were ... Read More
The other couple we went with like the Holland America Line very much. We are Celebrity Cruises but we said we would go since we wanted to go to Cuba. Check in was the easiest I have every had. The ship is very, very old and we were told it was going in for refurbishing in 2019 or it was being sold. We were late to two port by a couple of hours. I have never been late to a port before in all my cruising. Very disappointing. The staff was great and the food was good. The dancers were excellent and the shows were good and all entertaiment was very good. We were more than two hours late to our disembarkation port and it was very stressful since we had a plane to catch (but we just did make it). All the ports were great and enjoyed visiting on the islands we visited. Read Less
Sail Date March 2018
We choose this cruise specifically for the opportunity to visit more than one stop in Cuba. As a frequent cruise vacationer (this being my 6th cruise, but first with Holland) I was less than impressed with the cruise overall. Ship was ... Read More
We choose this cruise specifically for the opportunity to visit more than one stop in Cuba. As a frequent cruise vacationer (this being my 6th cruise, but first with Holland) I was less than impressed with the cruise overall. Ship was old and showed her years. Most staff were not exactly friendly and only occasionally interacted with our party. Food was bland and occasionally cold. The Lido Buffet it seemed was understaffed and lines were delayed. Due to unforeseen weather conditions the Captain was forced to cancel our second stop in Cienfuegos, Cuba. Very disappointing to everyone I spoke with on the ship! Apparently very few cruise ship are small enough to transit this port past the sea wall. Shallow entry with sand bars and any winds (which are frequent to this port) and the ship cannot dock safely to tender guests to shore. The Captain opted to drift with the current 100 miles south of Cuba and parked the ship with a light breeze across the bow. Back up plans were weak and activities doubled to keep the passengers entertained. I am an avid scuba diver so I did enjoy the ship arranged dive excursion. We selected a different People to People tour for our interaction with the Cuban people and Yosel Vazquez with I Love Cuba Photo Tours was absolutely Fantastic!!! Wonderful stops, photo memories of our journey, great food and transportation! He was the best part of our trip! Read Less
Sail Date February 2018
We chose this cruise as a great way to visit two ports in Cuba, Havana and Cienfuegos. I will address this first as it's my one complaint, although a big one. We paid more for the itinerary than sailings that visited Havana alone. ... Read More
We chose this cruise as a great way to visit two ports in Cuba, Havana and Cienfuegos. I will address this first as it's my one complaint, although a big one. We paid more for the itinerary than sailings that visited Havana alone. Holland America does not tell you that Cienfuegos is dicey to get into, and you may or may not make it. We were told the reason we could not get into the port was wind. My husband and I were standing on the promenade deck during the announcement with no white caps and several fishing boats in the distance sitting calmly on the water. Hmmm... If what we experienced was too windy to get into Cienfuegos, it's a wonder the ship ever gets in. We also checked weather.com around the time we'd have left port and the winds were only 11 mph. I have contacted HAL, but so far their response is "we're sorry you were disappointed". The cruise staff did add activities and made it a nice day at sea, and the weather was lovely. But an extra day at sea is not why we booked this particular itinerary nor what we paid for. HAL buyers beware. On to the more positive aspects of this cruise... Hotel: The night before the cruise, we stayed at the Hampton Inn in Las Olas. Great location, nice hotel, friendly staff. Highly recommend OB-House for breakfast. It's a bit of a hike from the Hampton Inn, but certainly doable. We took the shuttle to the port. They also picked us up after the cruise for a nominal fee, stored our luggage for several hours back at the Hampton Inn while we bummed around Las Olas again, and took us to the airport for our later-day flight. Wonderful service. Embarkation and Disembarkation: Quick and easy. Short lines, helpful people. The Veendam: The ship is older so I was surprised what nice shape it's in, and we are pretty picky. The crew was cleaning the carpets, wiping down and polishing banisters, cleaning glass, etc. on a daily basis. The ship did not show it's age. Deck chairs and loungers were decent, same for the tables in the eating venues. Very nice ship, liked the size. Just fyi, if you like to walk, as we do, four times around on the promenade deck equals a mile. Our Cabin: Cabins are maybe a bit smaller than on newer ships, but really fine. The bathroom was small with a shower and curtain alone. The only issue is there was one plug in the entire cabin and that includes the bathroom. This is important to know and easily addressed. Bring a power strip so you can plug in all your devices. And if it's important to you to have your phone or a clock on the nightstand, bring a long extension cord. The plug is at the vanity. There are both US and Euro outlets, so if you have an adapter, you could plug in two devices or, better yet, two power strips. Dining: We had early seating at a table for six. Loved our tablemates. Each evening with them was fun. HAL food is quite good and the Veendam is no exception. Great selection. We are "vegetarish", not vegetarians but prefer meat infrequently. We had lots of great options. Food selections in the Lido were particularly excellent. The past two HAL cruises have included many Asian options and that's one of our preferred food types. Everything fresh and delish. Loved the salads at lunch. I'd start with the "salad of the day" and customize from there. Extra good. And the ice cream area was well patronized for good reason. Yum. Entertainment and Activities: The production shows were quite good, especially the last one which centered on dancing. The dancers were here and there around the ship, very friendly. The guest pianist Juan Pablo was excellent and very funny. Don't miss him if he's performing. There was also a magician heralded as winning some contest in New York. We watch America's Got Talent in the summer. Let's just say this guy would not make the semi finals. Our dining tablemates were big into trivia, so we did this with them alot in the evenings. Fun. We also learned to play a Cuban version of dominoes and a dice poker game called Cubilete. The cruise staff was excellent, particularly Misha and Cisco. America's Test Kitchen was new to us and a fab addition to HAL ships. Very well attended. We like to cook and the demos gave great tips for both ingredients, cooking techniques, and equipment. They don't sell anything, so no pressure. We have since joined America's Test Kitchen and now have the app on our phones. Greatly enjoyed this. Service: Both our cabin and dining stewards could not have been nicer or more efficient. Same goes for the Front Desk staff and Activity Directors. Ports: First was Key West. Hadn't been there for several years. We'd forgotten how much we like it. We had lunch at Pepe's. It's the oldest restaurant in Key West. Funky with great food. They sometimes have plates of jumbo shrimp with wonderful homemade sauce. It's not on the menu, so we asked and were in luck. Yum. In the past, we've done the hop-on / hop-off bus which I highly recommend. Gets you around and provides good info. My brother-in-law suggested we visit the Mel Fisher Maritime Museum. It was very interesting and well worth spending time there. Havana was next and the highlight of the cruise. We did a private tour through Havana Journeys. I cannot recommend them highly enough. Read their reviews and you'll see why. We paid extra for our tour to be in a convertible rather than a hardtop. Well worth the extra money. If you want Cuban cigars and rum, best to buy them in Cuba and not elsewhere in the Caribbean. Much better pricing in Cuba. The dancers on the ship told us Cuba's National Ballet was performing the evening we were in port. But they also said it's very difficult to get tickets, as they sell out quickly. Our guide took us to the Gran Teatro (gorgeous gorgeous building) box office just in case, and we were able to get tickets, as did our guide. So we met her and her boyfriend at the ballet that night and saw a performance of Giselle. Absolutely wonderful. Yes, many dancers and cruise staff from the ship were there also. Glad all were able to enjoy this beautiful and unique event. Cienfuegos was the next port, but as I mentioned earlier, even with the lovely weather, it was deemed to windy for the ship to enter the port. Grand Cayman was our last port. Another place we've been to several times, and a fun place. We went snuba diving, sort of a cross between scuba and snorkeling. Instead of being on your back, the tank floats above you on a raft. A ~20' hose connects the tank to your regulator. But my #1 recommendation, if you've never done it, is Stingray City. A 'do not miss' on Grand Cayman, imo. I'd have given this cruise four stars had it not been for the missed port with only a "tough luck" from HAL when they clearly knew this could be an issue and chose to not inform us ahead of booking. Other aspects of the cruise were great and we had a very nice time. Read Less
Sail Date February 2018
The Veendam offers a somewhat pleasant get-a-way as long as you understand what your getting. The Veendam is a rather small older ship compleatly lacking in any of the modern features offered on newer larger vessels. This is a good fit for ... Read More
The Veendam offers a somewhat pleasant get-a-way as long as you understand what your getting. The Veendam is a rather small older ship compleatly lacking in any of the modern features offered on newer larger vessels. This is a good fit for the crowd it attracts which averages at least retirement age. Enjoy a nice quite experience at Sea this is your ship. Want some excitement and new experiences find another cruise. Ship was clean and mostly well maintained but still had the elevator issues others have mentioned. Food and Service was good overall. At times the selections offered on the Dining Room Menu where a bit strange. However, a quick request to the waiter and a nice steak was quickly served. The buffet again had a good selection but the layout was very confusing with the start of the line often in the center of the buffet with no clue it it went right or left. The Eastern Caribbean Itinerary included some limited times in port and it is clear that many of the ports are really not yet ready for tourist to return especially if they expect the same choice of activities offered before the storms. Biggest pleasant surprise was the Entertainment. Singers and Dancers put on two excellent shows plus two excellent guest entertainers. Much improved over previous Cruise on the same ship. Again if you are at least not actively planning your retirement you can do much better for just a little more. Read Less
Sail Date January 2018
I chose this cruise relatively close in to sail date because I had never been to Cuba and price was a Top 10 Deal. Have been cruising HAL for 20 years so am used to seeing service levels and amenities decline every year. However, unless ... Read More
I chose this cruise relatively close in to sail date because I had never been to Cuba and price was a Top 10 Deal. Have been cruising HAL for 20 years so am used to seeing service levels and amenities decline every year. However, unless HAL improve the boarding, administration, and in-PORT experience, they will not be able to continue filling these cruises. On the plus side: 1. The entertainment was the best I have experienced on HAL - enjoyed every night in the Queen's Lounge (or whatever they call it these days). 2. Staff, while being forced to do more and more each cruise are still pleasant - but far fewer are on repeat contracts. 5 - 10 years ago, I would see the same staff, cruise after cruise, but did not recognize any on this one. 3. Cleanliness. Well kept. 4. Captain. A real Irish joker who ran a tight ship. 5. BBC Earth. 6. Adagio Day 1 - Boarding: Easy and quick, but not provided with 4 Star pre-Boarding card - told to sit in waiting area, and only realized that the ship was actually ready to board for 4 Stars when I noticed other people going straight from check-in desk to gangway, bypassing holding area. On-Board Account. As usual, no shareholder credit appeared, even though I had specifically asked for and received confirmation of such credit from my travel agent. Had to have that email photographed for front desk to "send to Seatlle for confirmation" before S/H credit appeared. Why can they not get this right? Sets a bad mood for beginning of cruise. Day 2 - Key West. Arrived at Military Pier, a 30 minute tram ride to downtown. WHY? Cost cutting? NCL was at main town dock. Had to leave by 4pm. WHY? We only sailed at 12kts for next 2 days. Day 3. At Sea. Rough, but it's January so no complaints, other than public rooms on ship were kept at ice cold temperatures inside. I became quite ill by end of cruise. Day 4. Costa Maya - Did not dock. Winds gusting to 50kts. Why sail 120 miles south of Cozumel and then 120 miles back (at 6kts for 20 hours) when winds have been at gale force all previous day? Why not simply have an extra day at Cozumel? And why did Captain wait until 30 minutes AFTER we had performed a U-Turn at Costa Maya to explain? Day 5 - Cozumel. I like Cozumel, rented a car as always, and went to San Gervasio ruins and the east coast beaches. Disappointed that as it was Sunday, the Eco-Park at the south end was closed. But have noticed on last three HAL cruises that many ports are docked at on national or religious holidays. Why? Are dock charges less? Also note that ship docks about 3 miles south of town, at a purpose built shopping center, where prices of Mexican souvenirs are five times the price that the local artisans charge in the downtown Mercado. Day 6 - Havana. Well, only half a day. Good tour of Hemingway's home and fishing village followed by night walk in old town. Fortunately we had a very well educated and interesting guide. But ship arrived an hour late thanks to late departure of an MSC ship in the dock we needed, and immigration, currency and bus boarding procedures took another hour. NOTE - US Dollars (cash, all denominations) are widely accepted in Havana despite the EXC director telling everyone to line up (and waste time) to exchange $100 to Pesos. Day 7 - Havana (a couple of hours). Appallingly disorganized walking tour of approximately 12 blocks by an anti-Trump guide, who spent all his "P2P time" berating US policy instead of describing the buildings. I left after the second (of the four squares we were supposed to see) because it was quite clear that this idiot had no intention of taking the group to the remaining two squares or to the park where most of the shiny 1950s American cars were available. I filed an official complaint with the Shorex desk but as of today, have not received an apology or a refund. NOTE - you do NOT need to do HAL Shorex's and old Havana is safe, clean and walkable. If you go, take one of their expansive bus tours on day one to acclimate to the country and then do your own city walking tour on day 2. By getting off the ship yourself at daybreak, you might get 4 hours of sightseeing (embarkation was 1130). Day 8. Disembarkation/FLL. Disappointing taste in mouth because they charged me for Crows Nest cocktail the night before even though I had presented a $25 beverage card. When wasting 15 mins to get it rectified at front desk, was told "Oh the charge did not go through on the gift card, so we billed your account". If I had not opened the final statement and seen this, I would have been out the money, because the gift cards are cruise specific, and the remaining balance would not have been valid on my next cruise. Customs a breeze because I always choose self-offloading. But as usual, crooked taxi driver attempted the $20 scenic dock tour instead of the $11 direct to airport route. This time, I was wise to it, and told him to go the correct way. He feigned ignorance, and could hardly speak English, but as this is the second time in two cruises they have pulled this trick, be aware and ready for an argument, or call an Uber, where you know the fare in advance. Overall, ship and staff were good, but administration (4 star boarding, two accounting mistakes) needs attention. Biggest change must be to increase time in port. Need at least 2 more hours in Key West and Cozumel, and some way to get more time in Havana - maybe a second overnight so that the entire town can be explored. We were constantly reminded that the Cuban way is to not start the day til 10 am, and then do very little. So why depart at 1130? Costa Maya is just an artificial shopping center and small village, so dropping this port and adding an overnight in Havana would be much more valuable. As I have been to over 100 ports with HAL, my future focus now is hours in port, and I'm no longer interested in a mere six hours, as traffic everywhere has curtailed the ability to see as much as ten years ago. HAL should compensate for this by INCREASING time in port. Otherwise, with limited new destinations to see, I will be less inclined to do a repeat itinerary, if I know i will be seeing less than on previous cruises. Read Less
Sail Date January 2018
I choose this cruise because it went to Cuba - overnight. I travelled solo. The first night they had a solo travel meet-up in the bar and it was empty. And they never did again like on other ships. My room was great -632. And the two ... Read More
I choose this cruise because it went to Cuba - overnight. I travelled solo. The first night they had a solo travel meet-up in the bar and it was empty. And they never did again like on other ships. My room was great -632. And the two stewards were fabulous. I was so disappointed in the Lido Cafe. They are only open certain hours. And they close completely between 8-10:30. And then reopen with a “fast food” type of buffet for an hour except the last two nights - it was 11-1. I asked the supervisors why isn’t it open on one side until 12. Like most ships and he responded the crew needs to prepare and they need their breaks! Sorry not my problem. I probably would avoid the Veendam for this . Also i saw a supervisor reprimand two hard working servers in the Lido Cafe the last morning in front of me. I felt so bad I tipped the server. The information about CUBA was so misunderstood. Just for instance the instructions on the paper they give us says not to smile when taking the picture in immigration - that is incorrect. And they told us American $$ can NOT be used in CUBA. So untrue. I bought things and tipped in dollars. The people were happy. Also the second day I didn’t take the people to people and got off the boat with hundreds of other people. No one checked. And the Cubans were so gracious in immigration and Customs. - The boat is old and needs renovation. There were several plumbing problems on my floor But the gym was fabulous. On the 11th floor - with a view. - all new equipment and a great staff! Great spa also. The entertainment was great ! I would like to go again on a similar cruise but would think twice about the way the Lido schedule is and the attitude of the management staff - not the workers. They are fine I also liked the excursions and the staff! But no music around the ship. Most ships have entertainment around the pool. There was no vacation mood around the ship! Also the room had no mini fridge. And no one told me until the last day that you can rent one! Bad marketing Read Less
Sail Date January 2018
My wife and I (as well as most others) was to visit Cuba. The other ports, Grand Cayman, Costa Maya and Cozumel. Because we had been to the three ports, we didn't spend much time in the ports. Here is a recap to the cruise: ... Read More
My wife and I (as well as most others) was to visit Cuba. The other ports, Grand Cayman, Costa Maya and Cozumel. Because we had been to the three ports, we didn't spend much time in the ports. Here is a recap to the cruise: Embarkation - We took the air program thru HAL. Best move we could have made. We left Hartford in snow - on time. Our connection was in Charlotte where it was also snowing, Things looked good until we got out of the terminal. It took over 2 hours to de-ice our plane, needless to say we are now on borrowed time to get to the ship. We got to the ship 5 minutes before it left. HAL's shore people were outstanding. They waited for us at the airport, had a bus waiting and got us to the pier with no time to spare. Cruise personnel were waiting and rushed us on the ship. Rating: A+ Entertainment - Spotty at best. We usually go to the evening shows but I think we made 2, the others seemed to just kill time. Rating: C- Food - Dining room food was good, the servers seemed to be spread thin, we never got a chance to get to know them. We ate at the Pinnacle and the Italian restaurant, Both were very good. The Lido's choices were limited, unless you liked pork. No real food lines. Rating: B- Room: We had a balcony. Everything worked and the staff were excellent. Rating: A Excursions: Only tours taken where in Havana. The car tour was just fair, drove around 2 hrs with a driver who spoke no English. We did a p to p stop both days which were very interesting. The next morning we took the walk around Old Havana. Fair, some people walked around on their own which would have been better. A lot of people were unhappy because HAL never notified anyone that they added tours later in the year. Therefore they didn't get to see much of Havana. Rating: C+ Debarkation: Excellent. Rating A+ All in all, glad we went but next time will go for a longer period and go on a cruise that had a lot more to do. Read Less
Sail Date January 2018
We took this cruise because the dates worked out well for out schedule. We also had never been on a Holland Ship before and thought that might be interesting. The ship itself is older and smaller but is well maintained. We found the food ... Read More
We took this cruise because the dates worked out well for out schedule. We also had never been on a Holland Ship before and thought that might be interesting. The ship itself is older and smaller but is well maintained. We found the food in the dinning room to be comparable to other cruise lines. The Lido cafeteria had food prepared for you rather than sitting out. This made the food fresher but also slowed down the eating process at busy time. Overall, I liked the Lido system better than other ships. The ports of call were very lacking but we new this when we booked the cruise. We stopped at the private island but it rained all day so we didn't get off. We had a sunny day on our stop at Grand Turk Island. There is not much to do there but it was a nice day on the beach. Our stop at the Dominican Republic was cancelled due to rough weather. That left our final stop at San Juan. We toured a fort but being we've been to San Juan twice before, we chose to return early to the ship. I guess I found the smaller ship more confining. The staff were nice but at times it seemed they were under staffed. Usually on ships, the staff are picking up your dishes before your even done eating but here there were often tables that had not been cleared. This occurred around the ship not in the main dinning room. The fitness room was very small. They had a good number of treadmills and bikes but there weight machines were few and old. I think the small size of the ship made for a rockier ride. They said most days the seas were 6 feet with the last day being 12 feet. Overall not the best experience except for the food. Read Less
Sail Date January 2018
I overlooked the fact that the Veendam is HAL's least desirable ship because I wanted the opportunity to experience Cuba. Unfortunately, the circumstances for our visit to Havana were complicated by the current administration's ... Read More
I overlooked the fact that the Veendam is HAL's least desirable ship because I wanted the opportunity to experience Cuba. Unfortunately, the circumstances for our visit to Havana were complicated by the current administration's revision of its Cuba policy, which required redoing all the shore excursions. HAL was remiss in communicating these revisions to customers to let them know when new options opened up. Furthermore, the Havana excursion I booked was a great disappointment -- it did not go to some of the places promised, e.g. the famous mosaic art installation, and emphasized public squares, a fortress and a cemetery. There was no attention to art or architecture. The people-to-people segment was poorly explained. The tour did include a surprisingly nice lunch in an attractive restaurant. After an eight-hour tour, I was too tired to go out again after dinner for the Tropicana tour, which I regret because I heard good things about it. In Cienfuegos, the botanic garden turned out to be an arboretum with nary a flower in sight. The other ports were all places I had been before. The chocolate making and wine pairing excursion in Cozumel was very enjoyable. The tea at Good Hope Great House in Montego Bay was pleasant but poorly organized. The Veendam is showing its age. One aft elevator was out of service throughout the cruise and a second was broken for several days. A broken pipe forced me to change cabins. Fortunately the ship was not sold out. Cabin steward service was excellent. The onboard activities were sparse with little to engage the mind. The food in the dining room was excellent, significantly better than I had experienced last June on the Maasdam. Judging from my experience, I would not advise anyone primarily interested in seeing Cuba to book a HAL cruise. One day (even less on some itineraries) is not enough time to spend in Havana, especially with inferior shore excursions. Read Less
Sail Date December 2017
Having sailed Holland American three times before, twice in the last year, we had been pleased so we did not have second thoughts about the Christmas/New Year Cuba inauguration cruise. We have sailed other cruise lines numerous times and ... Read More
Having sailed Holland American three times before, twice in the last year, we had been pleased so we did not have second thoughts about the Christmas/New Year Cuba inauguration cruise. We have sailed other cruise lines numerous times and enjoyed newer ships. However, we opted for services, activities, entertainments, dining, ports of call, and excursions. All of the aforementioned, except the ports of call were a disappointment. . Resolving issues such as additional charges after receiving final bill at disembarkation is a hassle. Room attendant reported Mini bar charges that we did not consumed. We did not think to check inventory on embarking or disembarking simply because we did not consume any. Lesson learned check inventory and or ask for removal so as not to incur disputing your bill changed after after disembarkation to no avail. First time ever experience on 20 or plus cruises. Our cabin did not have hot water until the second night of the cruise, entertainment and activities on the ship were a let down - everyone waked around looking at one another and or complaining to each other. Excursions are the highlight of cruising and we ended up cancelling one because of time constraints so that was a bitter sweet taste in booking others. Observing other's agitation compoundedand hearing their complaints with our experiences prompts this review. Holland American is better than this so it is most difficult for me to think that complaints will not be addressed. I understand and make allowances for some let downs. I understand that attendants are very busy and I give them the benefit of the doubt. However, so many let down experiences added up on this cruise worthy of making note. Read Less
Sail Date December 2017
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