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18 Holland America Cuba Cruise Reviews

I don't know what all the fuss is about, but I actually loved the Veendam. This was my 7th HAL cruise and the 1st on the Veendam. If you want a quiet relaxing cruise this is the one for you. I went with a group of elderly ... Read More
I don't know what all the fuss is about, but I actually loved the Veendam. This was my 7th HAL cruise and the 1st on the Veendam. If you want a quiet relaxing cruise this is the one for you. I went with a group of elderly gentlemen and had a fantastic time. Yes, there are not a lot of activities and the ship is older and smaller, but kept in immaculate condition. I had no problems on this cruise. I had a Vista suite, cabin B082 in the very aft of the ship in the corner. The cabin attendants (Indy & ?) were very attentive and kept the cabin in tip top shape. No problems with the heating or air conditioning. No clock, so bring one along, and only 1 electrical outlet but ask the cabin attendant for an extension cord or bring one along also. I found that the food was outstanding. I was a little hesitant on some of the beef dishes, but I needed not to be concerned as the beef tenderloins and short ribs were very tender. The dining room steward was friendly and attentive. Lunches were in the Lido room and a wide selection of dishes. This ship is mainly for the elderly, and the ship's personnel are geared to this age group. I was surprised on the amount of ship's personnel that were on board. Very few children on board. Did not attend any evening shows, preferring to spend my time with a good book. So if you want to get away, read some good books and just relax this is the ship for you. It's not a party ship, so don't be disappointed on the lack of activities. Read Less
Sail Date January 2020
Love Holland America and wanted to experience an 11 day cruise with lots of stops. Embarkation went very well. Disembarkation could have been less crowded. Only three custom officers on duty. Love the Lanai Ocean view room. Walked ... Read More
Love Holland America and wanted to experience an 11 day cruise with lots of stops. Embarkation went very well. Disembarkation could have been less crowded. Only three custom officers on duty. Love the Lanai Ocean view room. Walked everyday around the ship and it was enjoyable. Sat in our reserved chairs, for relaxation time, that are provided for us just outside our sliding glass door. Dinning was very good. We did open seating and requested our favorite wait staff's table which was open to us several evenings. Food was well prepared and tasty, The service excellent and everyone was concerned with meeting our dinner expectations. Entertainment was very good with the energetic piano man Martin Kaye. The piano bar was hoping each night with Don at the keys. Veendam dancers were satisfactory. The service on Holland America was exceptional. We had positive interactions with Customer Service and Shore Excursions. The ship was going into dry dock after this cruise so the maintenance staff was very busy replacing carpeting and general up keep of the ship. The Captain's message each night regarding the sea and the next day's port was very informative. Seven ports in 11 days was nice. Did some excursions and sometimes just walked around the port stores. Did one private tour in Roatan named AJ's Monkeys and Sloth. Very fun. I would highly recommend this cruise. Read Less
Sail Date March 2019
We enjoyed this cruise. We missed Roatan due to high winds. We ate in the Pinnacle one time on opening night when they offered a 25% discount. They combined it with our 15% discount we get for being 3 start mariners. Pinnacle on ... Read More
We enjoyed this cruise. We missed Roatan due to high winds. We ate in the Pinnacle one time on opening night when they offered a 25% discount. They combined it with our 15% discount we get for being 3 start mariners. Pinnacle on this ship has windows so you can have ocean-side dining. The restaurant was also good. My only comment would be that we have gone from formal night to gala night to come as you are. Old t-shirts and flip flops should not be part of gala night. Room service breakfast was excellent, always on time. Holland offered water color classes but they cancelled them as the person was transferred to Rotterdam. My understanding is that she will offer them there and if they concept takes off, it will go to other ships. I am told that the Ocean Trio is going away from this ship come mid-year. Adagio was also quite good. Stewards did a great keeping our cabin up, they are assigned around 30 to keep up with. Gym opened at 6 AM every day and they kept the music down, much appreciated. Captain was excellent and dealt with a couple of weather systems very professionally. Cuba Form - If you say you are going ashore Holland gives you a Cuban visa (tourist card) when you get on to fill out. It costs $75. Don't lose it or you will be charged $75 to replace it. Cienfuegos - I found the information provided in the Cuba orientations and lectures on board to be very biased. The usual phrases such as "100% literacy" without telling you that Cubans do not have free access to information or "free health care" without telling you that they don't even have Advil. Very disappointing. Sailing In - The approach is interesting, try to be out on deck to catch it. This is a tender port for Holland. It is a 15 minute ride in, two Holland tenders and one Cuban boat. Brochure time for the visit is 8 AM to 5 PM. We got there at 8 AM. People were able to go ashore without a tour. Holland typically was giving tender tickets when we cleared. For this port they did not give out tickets until 9 AM (this did not apply to the 4 and 5 star mariners.) The last tender for independent travelers was at 3:30 PM. I thought I could take a shorter tour and then have time to wander around. The ship's shorter tours left later in the morning (around 10 AM.) Irrespective of the ship tour, most did not have time to wander around outside of the tour. They might have some time to shop in Jose Marti Square in Cienfuegos at the end of the tour, but that was it. Our tour (Santa Clara) returned straight to the dock at which point where we were strongly urged to return to the ship. In my view there are a number of constraints that limit one's time here. The Cuban government says the ship can only clear the narrow part of the channel in day light. In mid-December that about 5:30 PM. The ship can't afford to be running late. The dock is a choke point as everyone has to go through Cuban immigration and customs coming and going. The officials were friendly and efficient, money-changing was quick, too, but they can only handle so many people at a time. They did not take our picture. Money - Change some and get some change. This is one of those places in which some of the rest rooms have an attendant you need to tip. Also some small bills for tipping guide and driver. Shopping - I am not much of one, but some folks were quite pleased with some of the hand crafted items they bought. Leather purses, wood domino sets, etc. But I also saw a lot of folks changing money back at the end of the day. Tours - The Cubans had new buses. Good ride, a/c, had bathroom inside. The guide spoke good English. The driver was good and careful. Roads are ok, not much traffic. Santa Clara Tour - The order may be reversed and if time is limited one won't do everything on the tour. Between the ride in and out of Cienfuegos, we saw the main square and the Passo del Prado. We did not drive through Punta Gorda. We stopped in the main square of Santa Clara and walked about a block to a new restroom facility they have built. They on about another block to "Grandparents Party." A senior center with folks who danced and shared their stories. They also had crafts for sale. I chose to go out on the street and look around. Next to the Armored Train, an event from the Cuban Revolution. More time to take in the street scene. Then a buffet-lunch at a hotel outside town. Not bad, like the Lido honestly. The last stop was Che Guevara's mausoleum. It wasn't listed, but it was worth seeing. The tour listed seeing a monument to John Paul II, but we didn't see that. Then back to the ship. Santa Clara is about an hour a way. Read Less
Sail Date December 2018
This was our first Holland America cruise. It was an 11-night Caribbean cruise departing on November 19th with stops at Cozumel, Belize City, Mahogany Bay, Grand Cayman, Cienfuegos, and Havana that we booked primarily for the Cuban ports. ... Read More
This was our first Holland America cruise. It was an 11-night Caribbean cruise departing on November 19th with stops at Cozumel, Belize City, Mahogany Bay, Grand Cayman, Cienfuegos, and Havana that we booked primarily for the Cuban ports. This was our 26th cruise – most of our previous cruises have been on Carnival & Princess. We arrived the evening before the cruise and rode in what is probably the dirtiest cab in Fort Lauderdale to our Hotel – The Marriott Renaissance which is directly across the street from the entrance to the cruise terminal. This is a full service hotel and arriving late in the evening were thankful it offered room service which was very good. The next morning I took a walk to the bridge East of the hotel which offered a view of the cruise ships and saw the new Celebrity Edge arriving in port. If we return to Fort Lauderdale we will stay at this hotel again. I believe HAL books many cruisers into this hotel. Our check-in time was 1pm but we spoke with the shuttle driver and he recommended we go earlier because he said the HAL terminal wasn’t crowded. The shuttle charges $6 per person for a ride from the Hotel to the Terminal. We also arranged for the shuttle (Quick & Safe I believe) to pick us up post-cruise at the terminal and take us to the airport. The charge was $10 per person. We arrived at the terminal about 12:15pm and the embarkation process went quickly - the HAL employees were pleasant and personable – we were on the ship in maybe 30 minutes. All 3 pieces of our luggage arrived shortly after boarding. We were very pleased with our cabin – it was a Vista Suite located around the corner from the AFT elevators on the verandah deck (Deck 9). It was very quiet, everything worked, the balcony had lots of room, and our cabin stewards (Gus & Teddi) were great. This cabin was conveniently located to nearly everything – our dining room on the 8th floor was one stair flight below and the Lido was two stair flights above. We used the stairs extensively except for when we returned from tours. As noted in other reviews, one of the four elevators was inoperative the entire cruise. The metal finish on the balcony exterior could have used some refinishing. The food and service in the main dining room, Lido, and room service was very good. The Lido staff are clearly overworked/understaffed and work very hard to clean tables, do set-ups, and provide drinks. We were always able to find a table – like other cruisers – sometimes we resorted to self-service for beverages. I believe the ice cream person is one of the busiest persons on the ship. The Lido closes for breakfast at 10am, lunch at 2pm, and dinner at 8pm. The burger place takes your order and then gives you a buzzer to alert you when your order is ready – very efficient. At Cozumel, we booked the tour to Chichen-Itza which lasted nearly nine hours. We spent an hour and twenty minutes at the actual site. The rest of the time consisted of ferry rides to and from Carmen De Playa and then a long bus ride to and from Chichen-Itza. The site itself is magnificent and it would have been great to have more time there but we have been trying to schedule this tour for 15 years and for one reason or another it was always cancelled – so we were thankful to finally make it there. Our tour guide was Jorge and he was very good. There was a very long line to enter the site so one of the benefits to a HAL tour is bypassing lines. At Belize City, we booked the tour to the Lamanai ruins with riverboat ride. This is one of our all-time favorite tours . . . Bernie, the tour guide was wonderful and kept everyone informed and taken care of. The ruins are in the jungle and require a walk of one and one-half to two miles but there are three large temples to see. Following the tour of the ruins, we were served a good lunch at the Ecco-Park on the river. A shipboard talk about the Chichen-Itza and Lamanai sites prior to the tours would have been helpful. We took no tours at Mahogany Bay or Grand Cayman. We booked the Santa Clara & Los Abuelos De Fiesta tour at Cienfuegos. This was an all day tour that featured an hour and one-half drive from Cienfuegos to Santa Clara which gave us a glimpse of rural Cuba and many small villages. When we arrived at Santa Clara we learned the museums we were scheduled to visit were closed on Monday. HAL refunded everyone 30% of the tour price. This was a good tour with an excellent lunch. We booked the Best of Havana tour. We met in the theater at 8am and sat there until 10am before leaving because only five buses at a time were allowed to come into the terminal. So this made an eight hour tour a ten hour tour. Our favorites were the fort overlooking Havana, El Malecon, the Revolution Plaza, and the four Plazas. If I were to do this over, I would hire one of the classic car taxi-cabs to show me Havana seeing the same things in less time. As it was, we enjoyed the tour and were served an excellent lunch. All these tours were long/all-day tours and it was very hot (except for Havana) so we used the sea days to rest and recuperate. I would recommend anyone taking this cruise rise early for the entrance into Havana – the only harbor entrance/departure more scenic that I can think of is Venice. Rather than leaving at 2am, we overnighted in Havana – leaving at 830am Thursday morning so we were able to view it once again. Arriving, the best view is from the starboard side. When converting your currency into CUC’s (Cuban Pesos for Tourists) remember to ask for “mas pequenos, por favor” because you will need smaller denominations and 1 CUC coins for tips – everyone wants a tip – even the dogs. We did not attend any of the shows in the theater - they were scheduled for 8pm while we were at dinner and if they had two shows the second show would be at 10pm which was our bedtime. We did enjoy the musical entertainment in the bars and Crow's nest which we attended every night before dinner. We thoroughly enjoyed this cruise and purchased future cruise certificates while on board. It was nearly perfect. I have read many reviews critical of the ship’s appearance and condition but I thought the interior of the ship looked great – and the promenade deck which I walked on about two hours every day, the teak looked great. Our next cruise is a 10 Day Mexican Riviera cruise on the Grand Princess from San Francisco next October. Read Less
Sail Date November 2018
We chose this cruise because of the Cuba visits. We traveled with another couple. Our cabins were next to each other. From the beginning it was a great experience. The ship is smaller. Floor six was great for walking each day. 4Xs ... Read More
We chose this cruise because of the Cuba visits. We traveled with another couple. Our cabins were next to each other. From the beginning it was a great experience. The ship is smaller. Floor six was great for walking each day. 4Xs around was a mile. Nothing seemed rushed or crowded anywhere. The cabin, the buffet breakfasts, the dining room experience were all top notch. The entertainment was superb! The best we've experienced in 25 years of cruising. We enjoyed our visits at each stop. We didn't book any excursions from the cruise line. We selected a tour guide upon disembarkation at Belize. He was great and made our trip so memorable. In Cienfuegos we walked to the square. It was Sunday and all activity was there. We visited with people who took larger tours from the cruise line and they felt herded and had impersonal experiences. We booked a tour online for Havana. Havana Journeys was the company. We provided a credit card number about a month before we left the US. It included a guide, a 57 Chevy with air conditioning and about a 6 hour tour. Most importantly it provided us with a fabulous guide, Ada, whose English was perfect. She met us just a short walk to the Square from the ship. This tour qualified for the "People to People" experience required in Cuba. All in all the Veendam was a great experience for the four of us. Read Less
Sail Date October 2018
We have had Cuba on our wish list for some time and were looking to get away after my recent surgery. It was great to get away and have time to relax. The Veendam is an older ship and smaller than we are used to. We have sailed with many ... Read More
We have had Cuba on our wish list for some time and were looking to get away after my recent surgery. It was great to get away and have time to relax. The Veendam is an older ship and smaller than we are used to. We have sailed with many different cruise lines over the last twenty years and have never experienced a more friendly and helpful crew throughout the ship. Yes there are signs of wear and we had elevator problems, but the crew more than made up for that. Even the captain was very friendly and accessible. He set the tone for his ship. We were fortunate to have happened on a wonderful wait staff on anytime dining and we booked them for every night of our 11 day cruise. Kiki and Andrew made our dinners fun and something we looked forward to each evening. Even the people at the check in counter remembered our names and welcomed us every night. Even though there were fewer evening shows than on the big ships the evening shows were very good. This was our first cruise with Holland America, but it will not be our last. Read Less
Sail Date October 2018
We chose this cruise because it went to Cuba, and because, after visiting Cuba, we wanted to immerse ourselves in a selection of beaches. We stayed one night pre-cruise at the Rodeway Inn Airport/Cruise Port. A free shuttle picked us ... Read More
We chose this cruise because it went to Cuba, and because, after visiting Cuba, we wanted to immerse ourselves in a selection of beaches. We stayed one night pre-cruise at the Rodeway Inn Airport/Cruise Port. A free shuttle picked us up from the airport. The next morning the hotel provided a low-cost shuttle to the cruise port. I think we paid $2 each (maybe $3) for the 9 a.m. shuttle. There is a sports bar attached to the hotel where we ate dinner. It was good. A gift shop on the premises sells beach stuff, souvenirs and wine. They have a garden area and a pool. The room was clean and comfortable. I cruised with my husband. This was our 16th cruise, 14th with Holland America. We just made 4-Star Mariner status on our last cruise, mostly sailing in the Caribbean. My first impression of the Veendam was its cleanliness. I was impressed. The artwork is interesting, especially after I took a ship's tour of some of the art during one of the sea days and learned more about it. The elevators were not working so well. That's the only thing I noticed that was sub-par. Of the eight elevators (4 aft, 4 bow), six were working. The rest were very slow. I did a lot of walking up and down the staircases. Luckily Veendam is a small ship. Embarkation was smooth. Since we were new 4-Star's on this cruise, it was our first experience of being in the first group to board, definitely a plus! Disembarkation was equally smooth. As 4-Star's, we were given the option of getting off the ship whenever we wanted - up until 9:30 a.m. when everyone had to leave. When you get off that late, it's easy to find your bags. There aren't that many left to claim. We had open seating and ate in the dining room every night except one, when we were too tired and hungry to wait and went to the Lido. Everyone looks forward to Surf & Turf and Crab Legs on special dining room nights, but the best meal I had was beef stroganoff. Try it! Entertainment was mediocre. The Veendam singers and dancers are talented, I just don't enjoy those shows as much as the guest entertainers. There were only three guest entertainers. One I really liked, Tony Pace. He's a Vegas performer and does singing and comedy. Another comedian I don't remember very well and the third was a harp player. She was very talented, but I was bored. Just not my thing. Service was excellent everywhere on board, except for one bartender. Maybe he was having a bad couple of weeks. We came on this cruise for the Cuba ports. Before we left on the cruise, we were informed that any excursions had to be booked through Holland America because we had booked the cruise after June 2017. On board, we discovered that we could have also booked through third party excursion companies as long as they offered the People-To-People experience. However, some of our fellow cruisers did not book any excursions, they just went off on their own. And they seemed to have more People-To-People interactions than we did on our 8-hour (mostly) walking tour. Be aware, when you visit Cuba, that public restrooms are few and far between. And you are expected to tip the attendant. Bring your own toilet paper and hand sanitizer. We walked around various town squares, saw lots of statues, went to a fort, and - the highlight - ate at an interesting restaurant, La Bodeguita Del Medio. The food was very good. Also went to a cultural center and saw a group of rappers (music). They were so entertaining, and they were all women aged in their 80s and 90s. I don't know what they were rapping, but they were certainly enjoying giving us a show. You will not be disappointed in seeing Cuba. The people were all very nice, they smile a lot, if you tell street performers and vendors "Gracious, no" they will leave you alone. The literacy rate in all of Cuba is 98%. They are intelligent people and talented. Every school child gets education in singing, dancing and music in addition to academics. And yes, there are a lot of classic American cars in use. Everywhere. The stop in Cienfuegos was a shorter day, and the excursions were only about 4-5 hours long. If you want to book a ship's excursion in Cienfuegos, book early before you leave home. HAL didn't have enough excursions for everyone on the ship to take one. We saw a lot on the island, and I am so glad I got to visit Cuba. We were in stateroom 648 on Main Deck, one deck below the walk-around deck. It is just off the aft elevators/staircase. It was very quiet except for every morning around 5 a.m. that I was awake, I could hear deck hands rinsing off the walk-around deck. If I wasn't awake, the sound didn't wake me, but if you're a light sleeper just be aware of that. Service was excellent throughout the ship. We loved Becca, the cruise director, and were really impressed with Captain Steve MacBeath. He's only 36 but has 20 years experience on the sea. The other ports: Georgetown, Grand Cayman: we walked to and from Seven-Mile Beach. Love the beach, but the walk seemed longer than last time we walked there. I guess we're older. Water was great! Ocho Rios, Jamaica: We took an excursion to Bamboo Beach Club. The water was more choppy here than at Grand Cayman with more shells and coral along the shore. Made it harder to enter and exit the water. Unlimited drinks and lots of appetizers were served. Grand Turk: went to the beach right next to the dock. Beautiful water, low waves, perfect! Amber Cove, Dominican Republic: A manufactured town with lots of amenities including free wi-fi. We took an excursion to Coconut Cove Beach. To get there its a 45-minute open-air bumpy ride on dusty dirt roads. But the beach is nice. Waves are strong, water not as clear as Grand Turk. Unlimited rum drinks and beer, very good lunch. Half Moon Cay, Bahamas: sheer perfection. Read Less
Sail Date October 2018
Great round-trip cruise from Boston to Cuba on the HAL Veendam. A lovely ship carrying around 1200 passengers for these two weeks on a relaxing itinerary with a number of sea days. The food was great and started off the first night with ... Read More
Great round-trip cruise from Boston to Cuba on the HAL Veendam. A lovely ship carrying around 1200 passengers for these two weeks on a relaxing itinerary with a number of sea days. The food was great and started off the first night with fresh haddock as a choice at dinner. We chose the early fixed seating as its great way to get to know to people and also the dining room stewards who took great care of us. HAL carries a Catholic priest chaplain on all its cruises so we had the option of Sunday and weekday Mass. We were scheduled for two Cuba stops, but the second one was cancelled by the port of Cienfuegos due to an fuel leak from another ship which blocked the pier there. So we had two full days in Havanna and a very interesting 8 hour HAL excursion named 'Best of Havanna ' visiting the major sites, mostly in the colonial part of the city. A wonderful meal in a local restaurant was included and surprisingly for me, an air conditioned coach took us around. We had the chance to interact with the locals who were most friendly and proud to show us their island. The other stops we had were Key West, Ocho Rios, Georgetown, and Half Moon Cay. As I work in Miami and know a number of Cuban foks there, I was glad to have this opportunity to experience some of their culture and history. Read Less
Sail Date June 2018
We selected the Veendam because of it's smaller size and lower key atmosphere. This was our first trip on the Veendam (but not our first cruise) and the ship was fabulous. She is well maintained. The staff ratio is excellent and ... Read More
We selected the Veendam because of it's smaller size and lower key atmosphere. This was our first trip on the Veendam (but not our first cruise) and the ship was fabulous. She is well maintained. The staff ratio is excellent and the food is the best we have experienced. Our children enjoyed the activities geared toward them. The shows were well produced. The room was well sized, the decor of the ship is tasteful. The main dining room food was extraordinary! The afternoon tea daily was something fun for mother/daughter/grandmother to do. We played tennis and enjoyed the pool. Several of the staff went above and beyond. The spa services were well priced and well done. The library was a good resource for family time. Overall, this was our best cruise out of the 4 we have taken. The island time was lovely, and disembarkation was well handled. We would do this one again! Read Less
Sail Date June 2018
We chose this cruise because of its Havana port of call. We booked via Holland America reservations and received a complimentary upgrade from a a BC Vista Suite to a A category Vista Suite on the Navigation Deck (10). We arrived at ... Read More
We chose this cruise because of its Havana port of call. We booked via Holland America reservations and received a complimentary upgrade from a a BC Vista Suite to a A category Vista Suite on the Navigation Deck (10). We arrived at the cruise terminal around 10:15am and went swiftly thru security and the various Cuban Visa desks, we waited in the waiting room for approximately 30 minutes. At 11:30 we were allowed to board and we were settled in our cabin with 5 minutes of our group being called in the terminal. We unpacked our bags and explored the ship. Our cabin (A051) had ample space to hang our items, and pack in the drawers. The cabin was in need to new wall-paper, etc, but it was very clean. There was also space under the bed to store two 22" rollaboards as well as one large 42 or 44" bag. The cabin comes with a small tub and there was plenty of space to store items in the bathroom on the shelves as well as your own shampoo and soap in the shower. The ship was launched in 1996 and it is on the older side however we very much enjoyed the small size and ease of travel. We make a rule to never ever use the elevator on the cruise ship in at attempt to combat delicious food. I used the gym on five occasions to run on the treadmill since Veendam does not have an official running track and running on the Promenade deck is prohibited. The equipment was fine however the temperature in the fitness center was very warm and the air was stuffy. I only waited once for a treadmill and that was only about 3-4 minutes. For dinner, we had standing reservations at 8pm each night and dined on the upper level of the MDR at a table for 2 (requested). Our waiter was fantastic and worked hard in his full section, but always delivered impeccable service. The food was very good, from the appetizers to the desserts. The coffee on the ship was some of the best I ever drank- though I am not a coffee snob in the least. We purchased the Elite Beverage Package and our sommelier always had two glasses of our wine ready for us within 5 minutes of being seated. It was fun to see tuxes and gowns on the Gala Nights and we enjoy dressing up on all nights. Our evenings were spent at the piano bar or in the casino and found we would spend the evenings with the same cruisers listening to music. Our before dinner drinks were taken at the Ocean Bar listening to the Ocean Trio. We very much enjoyed our excursions. We booked all 3 with HAL. We visited the Mayan Ruins in Costa Maya, we took a Fury Catamaran Cruise with snorkeling in Cozumel, and we did the Hemingway Hangouts and Hideaways in Havana. All three were great. Our cabin steward was fantastic and did a phenomenal job making towel animals for us to enjoy in the evenings. My only two complaints regarding this cruise were: 1) The temperature in the public spas was very warm. Our cabin AC was mediocre to non-existent. Most nights I slept without a sheet and getting ready in the cabin after a shower was awful. 2) I understand most if not all cruise lines allow smoking in the casinos, but it would be lovely if this practice is ended. I love that HAL does not allow smoking on any balconies and the smoking is contained to a small area on the starboard side of the ship in the back. We are already looking to book our next HAL cruise to the Panama Canal in spring of 2019. Read Less
Sail Date April 2018
I chose this cruise specifically to be on board the Veendam. We cruised Alaska last year on the Zaandam, which is a sister ship to the Veendam. We enjoyed it much more than our Mexico cruise the year before on a much larger Carnival ... Read More
I chose this cruise specifically to be on board the Veendam. We cruised Alaska last year on the Zaandam, which is a sister ship to the Veendam. We enjoyed it much more than our Mexico cruise the year before on a much larger Carnival ship. There was nothing wrong with the Carnival cruise but it was very much a party ship compared to the last time we had cruised on Carnival about 12 years before. The Zaandam was our first HAL cruise and we very much enjoyed the more sedate attitude of the cruise. No obnoxious drunks or poorly supervised kids. The Veendam was great and I would absolutely cruise aboard her again. We had our 13 year old daughter aboard and it was her first experience with the teen program on the ship, and being over Easter there was a large number of kids on board (160). She made a couple of friends and enjoyed herself, but I think she is still young enough she would have liked the more structured atmosphere in the 9-12 age group but she wasn't allowed to go there anymore. It would be nice if HAL allowed an overlap between the age groups. Being 13 is very different from being 16-17, and she would have had more fun hanging out with 11 & 12 year olds. Not a big deal...in a year or two she will much prefer the teen Loft. I originally booked an inside cabin but eventually upgraded to a balcony vista suite. It was quite roomy and we very much enjoyed having a balcony. I know next time we cruise without a balcony we will miss it. We are from a small town so we are always impressed with the dining options on cruise ships. Everything was delicious, and the proportions were adequate without feeling like I was stuffed after every meal. Embarkation was the fastest we have experienced. Less than 45 minutes total. We had two sea days and we enjoyed the activities offered. Entertainment was not as good as on the Zaandam. Some of it was targeting an audience a couple decades older than us, but the singing and dancing was good. Sound could have been better. We played tennis for on board exercise. Plenty of time service opportunities on the Veendam. Service was excellent, although occasionally a little slow in the dining room. We had open seating so I think sometimes it was slow depending on which wait team we were seated with. We won this cruise so we only paid for the upgrade to a vista suite. Obviously great value for our money, but before we embarked I saw that inside cabins were down to $469pp so for 7 nights that's a great value. Read Less
Sail Date March 2018
A perfect cruise. We were in suite 018 - right opposite the Navigation Lounge. Medwin, the concierge, was very attentive, as were our cabin stewards. The food in the dining room was very good. After Key West, our next stop was ... Read More
A perfect cruise. We were in suite 018 - right opposite the Navigation Lounge. Medwin, the concierge, was very attentive, as were our cabin stewards. The food in the dining room was very good. After Key West, our next stop was Cozumel. Take a taxi from the ship - $13 one way - to Playa Uvas. $15 entrance fee which includes chair, snorkeling, ride in a boat and a free drink. It's a bit rocky entering the water but easy enough - I'm 71. I got a Blue Hawaiian. I'd advise not to have anything but bottled water to drink in Cozumel. That night I started to feel a little lightheaded and when I woke up the next morning - a sea day - I had a horrid headache with constant vomiting. The ship's doctor and nurses were excellent and determined quickly that I didn't have a virus. I had an IV for fluids, pain medication and anti-nausea medication. 3 hours later I was fine. The bill was $344 but my travel insurance will pay the claim. Later we met 3 other women who had a drink at Cozumel and were sick with chills and fever for 3 days - they missed Havana. In Havana we chose not to sign up with any of the ship tours. Instead we booked our driver and guide with www.oldcourtours.com. We met our driver and guide about 500 feet from where the ship docked and spent 6 hours touring Havana. Amazing. In an old convertible. We saw so much of Havana and stopped for lunch at an excellent place that the driver knew. I think it cost us about 240 CUC - the Cuban money you have to use in Cuba. Easy to change money before you exit the ship. I ran out of CUC and tipped the driver and the guide in dollars - you can do this and even use any currency in a private transaction but do change money for the CUC.. Havana is hopping at night with bars and restaurants open and music playing - right by the ship. Cuba is very safe - no police, no soldiers and no guns. Castro took them all away in 1966. The next day we stopped in Cienfuegos, Cuba. This time we did take a tour from the ship. We went to a garden and then lunch in a beautiful hotel outside by the pool which is right by the sea. Then a bit of time in Cienfuegos proper - we were lucky to see a music rehearsal in the theater in town and some free time. Bathrooms in Cuba probably won't have toilet paper so bring your own. We went tubing in Jamaica - a tour from the ship. The night before we arrived in Jamaica we all got a letter saying how dangerous Montego Bay was and we almost cancelled. Glad we didn't. We just didn't bring our phones and we had the best time. There are many opportunities where pictures are taken and you can purchase them at the end. Very relaxing tubing down the river. And very safe. In Grand Cayman there's a 7 mile beach. We got off the ship and piled into a big taxi and for $5/person we got to the beach. No admission fee but you do have to pay for a chair. There was a restaurant for lunch and plenty of water and snacks to buy from stands as well as home cooked rice and beans. The ship listed this tour as "difficult" - not the case. A lot of easy walking. I wonder what an "easy" tour is. I'm not a shopper - my friends are so I can't comment too much on shopping. The ship was supposed to dock at Ft. Lauderdale at 7:00 a.m. Due to high winds, it didn't dock until 9:40 a.m. My flight was at noon so while we were waiting I changed my flight to 2:30 for peace of mind. The $75 change fee will also be paid by my travel insurance but if you don't have travel insurance, Holland America will pay a change fee if the ship docks late. The trainer in the gym was not the best. He didn't seem happy to be there. The morning stretch class which is supposed to be half an hour was only 20 minutes; the same for the ab class. And one morning at ab class, he just lectured us about what kinds of food to eat and we didn't get to do any ab exercises. Dinner at the Pinnacle was excellent. The movies were current and shown at multiple times. The shows were fun. The ship is quite old and you have to watch some movies on a DVD. Our concierge got us the movies we wanted but I don't know how else to get them. But the ship is small so there are less people. Remember - the average age on a Holland America cruise is 104 so the ship is very peaceful with no loud music and no loud drunks. Read Less
Sail Date March 2018
We like to tease ourselves with a cruise in February or March to escape the cold weather in Missouri, so we booked this cruise last spring. After reading some of the reviews over the past 9 months I was a little concerned about the ship ... Read More
We like to tease ourselves with a cruise in February or March to escape the cold weather in Missouri, so we booked this cruise last spring. After reading some of the reviews over the past 9 months I was a little concerned about the ship but that was all unfounded. The Veendam is a wonderful ship and I actually enjoyed it a little more that some of Holland America's larger ships as I didn't have to walk so far. The food on the ship was very good and the cabin was also good. We started off with 2 sea days but then we were in port at St. Thomas, St. Barts, St. Lucia, St. Johns (Antigua) and St. Croix all in a row. Then another sea day and HMC along with the Nieuw Amsterdam. With a second ship at HMC, it was little crowded, but we tendered ashore for a couple of hours and then went back to the ship. The personal on the ship were fantastic. I wouldn't hesitate to sail on this ship again. Read Less
Sail Date March 2018
We chose this cruise because it went to Cuba and we were interested in visiting the island. We took three ship tours: Havana, Tropical Nightclub and Cienfuegos. All were good and gave us a nice overview of the cities and an idea of the ... Read More
We chose this cruise because it went to Cuba and we were interested in visiting the island. We took three ship tours: Havana, Tropical Nightclub and Cienfuegos. All were good and gave us a nice overview of the cities and an idea of the way the Cubans live. Apparently, the tours are required to fulfill the "People to People" criteria set forth by our government in order to visit the island. The cruise lines make a lot of money on these tours! The ship was clean, service was good and food and entertainment were up to par with what we would expect. Everything was well organized. The two ship production shows we saw, put on by the singers and dancers, was excellent; as was the concert pianist who also sang, danced, etc. We would recommend this trip to anyone interested in seeing Cuba and the peoples' way of life. Especially noteworthy is the large 50's cars used for taxis. Read Less
Sail Date February 2018
We decided on this cruise because it visited two ports in Cuba. We have previously sailed on Holland America and have been pleased. The Veendam, though an older vessel, was well kept and we had a marvelous time. We were upgraded, with ... Read More
We decided on this cruise because it visited two ports in Cuba. We have previously sailed on Holland America and have been pleased. The Veendam, though an older vessel, was well kept and we had a marvelous time. We were upgraded, with an additional payment, to a verandah room, and thoroughly enjoyed the balcony views. The excursions were well managed, the food in the main dining room was very good and all the employees were very helpful and friendly. There was absolutely nothing to complain about. During our port stop in Jamaica, we wanted to have a beach experience, which HAL did not offer, so we booked on Resortforaday.com and went to the all inclusive Hilton Rose Hall Resort and had a great time. There was plenty of on board activities to keep us busy. They had two cooking shows on the days at sea, and the musical/dancing reviews were excellent. One of the best troupes we have seen on board ships. I did not care much for the magician and the Pianist was entertaining. We did have to tender for two of the ports, which I do not like, but not much you can do about that issue. Read Less
Sail Date February 2018
We were initially booked on the Eurodam for our annual New Year's cruise but my husband was scheduled for a medical procedure at the same time. So, I searched for a cruise to replace the New Year's cruise. We have wanted to see ... Read More
We were initially booked on the Eurodam for our annual New Year's cruise but my husband was scheduled for a medical procedure at the same time. So, I searched for a cruise to replace the New Year's cruise. We have wanted to see Cuba and I noted that the Veendam had a February 7th sailing. HAL allowed me to transfer the cruise without penalty (we are 3 Star Mariners and we booked the New Year's cruise only days before). I initially booked a Lanai verandah guarantee but hoped that either a Verandah or Vista Suite would be offered at a discount. Sure enough, about 3-weeks prior to sailing, I received a great offer on a Vista Suite for only $300 per person and I snatched it up immediately. Embarkation was fairly easy. We arrived to the port around 12:15 p.m. and there were a lot of passengers in line. HAL collected the Cuba Visa applications from everyone prior to getting into line to check in. We then proceeded to check-in. All in all, we were through the check-in process in less than :30 minutes and our room was ready. We went to the MDR for lunch to avoid the crowds at the Lido buffet. Regarding meals, we pre-booked at the Pinnacle for every dinner. We love the Pinnacle and enjoy the fine dininig options and great service there. The Veendam did not disappoint. We had fabulous meals there with great service and the Cellar Master, Neil, and our wine steward, Jason were always accommodating. Regarding the ship itself, the Veendam is the smallest HAL ship that we sailed but we like it very much. The main decks with the things that we needed were all from the 7th - 11th floors and our cabin 156 was on Deck 9 so we simply used the stairs for everything with no need to wait for elevator service. I loved that convenience. The ship is in decent shape. I do like the larger HAL ships and the décor on the newer ships is more attractive, but this ship was very comfortable and clean. Also, our Vista Suite was very comfortable and quiet. Our room stewards did an amazing job and left us some of the best towel animals I've ever seen on a cruise. The ports were great ones. Havana was a "Must See". We took an 8-hour land tour throughout both Old and New Havana and it was fascinating. I must say that Cuba's infrastructure has not been touched since 1959 and it shows, but it was also evident that Havana it its heyday must have been fabulous. With that being said, the buildings looked like they were in complete disrepair and paint must not be available. Roads have potholes galore. It was easy and fast to get through the streets of Havana because there aren't many cars there so we were able to see almost all of it. The classic cars there are used as private taxis. Some of them are in incredible shape and it's a large part of the culture. The restaurants are actually in people's homes. We had a meal at one in Havana and the food was very good. Our guide also brought us to a good cigar store so that the guys were able to purchase their Cuban cigars. You are allowed 100 cigars per person per U.S. Customs laws now. You are able to change American money to Cuba "CUCs" right at the terminal when you get off of the ship. It was quick and easy. You also can change the money back in the terminal before you re-board if you wish. Cienguegos is located on the southern central part of the island and it has much natural beauty. It's truly a shame that the country is so poor because this part of Cuba could be a stunning resort area with proper development. The bay in Cienfuegos is beautiful as is the countryside. It was a lovely port to visit. We've been to Montego Bay and Grand Cayman many times in the past and love those two ports. We climbed Dunn River Falls in Ocho Rios and we went on a great private boat tour of Stingray City, snorkeling and a small beach with many starfish in Grand Cayman. All were fun and the weather was great throughout our cruise. I would recommend both the Veendam and the Cuban itinerary to travelers. This was truly a memorable vacation for us and we met a couple who became great friends of ours that we plan on traveling with again soon. Read Less
Sail Date February 2018
Our second time on Veendam. It is just the right size for oldsters. The ship is immaculate,everyone of the staff is friendly, the food is very good. The Lido buffet has the kitchen staff putting food on the plates, so there is minimum ... Read More
Our second time on Veendam. It is just the right size for oldsters. The ship is immaculate,everyone of the staff is friendly, the food is very good. The Lido buffet has the kitchen staff putting food on the plates, so there is minimum chance of contamination by passengers hands. We enjoyed the Pinnacle and the Caneletto restaurant and really enjoyed them. Our cabin was the typical balcony cabin with a chaise lounge and 2 chairs. It was kept excellently by the stewards. It was midship, but next time I would get a cabin closer to the elevators, to avoid the long walk We stopped at Key West, Cozulem and Cuba. Costa Maya was too rough and windy to dock so we missed it. Cuba Is a newer port for HAL, so there are a few kinks. It get dark at 6pm and there are very few street lights so it is pitch black. Our 4 hour tour started late at 4pm and we went to an OK restaurant from 4to 6. Then in the darkness we went on a panoramic ride to an artist establishment. It was disappointing trying to enjoy this in the darkness. But Cuba was an experience I'm glad I had. Every college student should see how communism works. Getting on and off the ship went smoothly. Read Less
Sail Date January 2018
We took care of the kids and grand kids over Thanksgiving We decided to "get out of Dodge" over Christmas and New Years. Also wanted to see Cuba. Only negative is you have to spend 8 hours in Havana on a people to people tour ... Read More
We took care of the kids and grand kids over Thanksgiving We decided to "get out of Dodge" over Christmas and New Years. Also wanted to see Cuba. Only negative is you have to spend 8 hours in Havana on a people to people tour which we did (USA regulations). That same night we went to the Tropicana show which was tooooooo much for one day. Didn't get back to the cabin until 1:00AM. I will tell you that we have been on over 20 cruises including some of the more expensive ones like Seabourn and Silver Seas the food and cabin service was the BEST on the Veendam. A little plus was a first class NY Pizza bar for lunch. The other ports such as Cancun, Costa Maya, Jamaica were "ho hum" for us...been there done them many times. The entertainment was OK for a mid sized ship. Nice 12 days...perfect weather. Read Less
Sail Date December 2017
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