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31 Holland America Expedition Cruise Reviews

Zaandam's 7 Day Glacier Discovery out of Vancouver made for a great introduction to Alaska. We took advantage of both the Misty Fjords float plane and Mead Glacier helicopter excursions. They exceeded our expectations...worth every ... Read More
Zaandam's 7 Day Glacier Discovery out of Vancouver made for a great introduction to Alaska. We took advantage of both the Misty Fjords float plane and Mead Glacier helicopter excursions. They exceeded our expectations...worth every penny! Glacier Bay, specifically the John Hopkins Glacier, was a fantastic site to see. The early September sailing date allowed the captain to sail very close to the glacier since the harbor seal cub rearing season had expired. The pea soup was excellent followed by al-fresco dinning on the rear-Lido deck with food from the salmon bake. Great food and beautiful scenery...we were spoiled. Having sailed Holland America before, we found food quality up a bit from the generally very good offerings. On the first night we ate at the Pinnacle. I had a tender porterhouse so big it barely fit on the large oversized plate they served it on. Being one of only 3 or 4 couples in on this first night at the Pinnacle, service was outstanding and we were sent-off with a small ad hoc aluminum foil basket of assorted chocolates to finish in our cabin. We've done both Pinnacle and Le Cirque and these specialty dining experiences always leave me feeling like I get more than my money's worth for the upgraded dining experience. We like to relax and enjoy the sit-down breakfasts, lunches and dinners and generally skip Lido buffet dinning. Here again, service was generally excellent with one minor lapse on a breakfast that forgot to include the "whipped butter" with the pancakes. That was quickly corrected by the next day's breakfast. Cappuccino is now charged for, but I found the coffee flavor much improved over past offerings when it was included in the price. For me, it was worth it at less than $2 per cup. Room service was used for appetizers before dinner and afternoon snacks. The grilled chicken sandwich was really good with juicy slices of avocado. The assorted cheeses had nice variety, but they could include a slightly higher quality cracker in place of the saltines...minor point. The smoked salmon appertizer was just right with generous amounts of capers. The shipped never felt crowded, and the Adagio (classical) and Neptunes (jazz) musicians were top notch...made for very enjoyable, relaxing after dinner entertainment. These venues were never crowded. We took the train up to Anchorage which offered great scenery. HAL definetely knows how to do Alaska. Next time, we'll add the excursions up to Denali and will probably cruise south-bound enjoying the great food and service. If sailing out of Vancouver, I would recommend coming in a few days early. Vancouver is one of North America's most beautiful cities. Take a day trip to Vancouver Island and visit Victoria and Butchart Gardens. Read Less
Sail Date September 2013
We love HAL and have completed 10 Cruises with 3 of them just this year with 1 more to do in Dec. Greatest Cruise Line ever. On our 24 Aug. Alaska Cruise there were a few pluses that made the Cruise even more efficient than ever. For the ... Read More
We love HAL and have completed 10 Cruises with 3 of them just this year with 1 more to do in Dec. Greatest Cruise Line ever. On our 24 Aug. Alaska Cruise there were a few pluses that made the Cruise even more efficient than ever. For the mandatory emergency drill on the first day they scanned the room cards to see who was there rather than having to listen to crew members wailing over loudspeakers 30 feet in every direction. This greatly speeded up the process and made it painless. On a few decks there were kiosks where you could book your excursions from there. I'm not sure if you could print the tickets right then and there but you could book the excursions and have the tickets delivered to your cabin. This proved to be very handy for many. At the Mariners Luncheon the Captain and members of his crew stood up front and greeted everyone as they entered the MDR with a loud and cheery good afternoon in at least 6 languages. Nice touch. The dis-embarkation process was the smoothest that I have experienced. As everyone knows you get a ticket with a number/letter and a colour. They only made one announcement during the entire process. Your dis-embarkation was at such and such a time and that was when you showed up at the platform. There were no announcements of this colour/number could leave. People only showed up at their time and there was never any crowds or further announcements. It was a breeze. And there waiting at the end of the gangway was at least 10 crew members, including the Cruise Director wishing you safe travels. Very well done indeed. I was greatly impressed. Read Less
Sail Date August 2013
After our comfortable flight with Emirates to Osaka we had a night to relax in our hotel.transfer to the port of Kobe seemed to be well organised but on arrival at the embarkation it was absolute chaos.It took nearly 90minutes to board ... Read More
After our comfortable flight with Emirates to Osaka we had a night to relax in our hotel.transfer to the port of Kobe seemed to be well organised but on arrival at the embarkation it was absolute chaos.It took nearly 90minutes to board .endless queuing despite documents being in order.Not a good start to a 5 Star Cruise! Our stateroom on the Verandah deck was as expected.our stewards were extremely helpful. No complaints. However the food in the Rotterdam and the Lido were not of the same quality we had on previous cruises.we had fixed dining in the Rotterdam every night and soon discovered that the food was not served hot . We complained to the maitre d and had a very indifferent reply .(how dare you !) The stewards were very efficient being let down by the kitchen. Entertainment was ok nothing outstanding .daily activities were adequate . Travel guide information was good but information for the independent traveller was not very forthcoming .many of our fellow passengers did not like to be herded in large groups on shore excursions .The prices were so inflated too. Nagasaki was ideal to explore on your own using public transport.the ship docked conveniently within walking distance. Shanghai was the best port of call.We docked opposite the Pearl Tower. A fantastic view from our stateroom. We choose HAL because the smaller ships can dock in places not suitable for larger vessels. However Hong Kong was The Great Anti climax.instead of the Ocean Terminal we docked at a container port without any facilities. Not only were we robbed of the spectacular entry into Hong Kong Harbour but wevended up in a backyard! The cruise information on your webside tells you that ships are docking at the Ocean Terminal,Downtown. As a result disembarkation was a debacle. No taxis were available and your choice was you and your luggage were transferred to the Ocean Terminal.What a joke! The second choice an overpriced bus transfer to your hotel ($34 per head !) costcutting by HAL and a further opportunity of taking money of its passengers Read Less
Sail Date March 2013
Where do you begin exactly....check-in. Chaos, nightmare....and it all went downhill there after. It took around 2 hours to be herded through checkin, it felt more like passing through some boot camp rather than starting a relaxing ... Read More
Where do you begin exactly....check-in. Chaos, nightmare....and it all went downhill there after. It took around 2 hours to be herded through checkin, it felt more like passing through some boot camp rather than starting a relaxing upmarket vacation, it was hot, uncomfortable and totally lacked any form of organisation or privacy for the weary traveller. Having survived this ordeal it was time to set foot on ship....and oh what a warm welcome there was NOT to be had, not a single HAL representative to meet and greet, just the security team. Overall a very good first impression. A Travel Lodge would do better. Food! Spectacular only by its awfulness, bland, always over cooked, meat without fail was tough. Plates were cold and food often little more than warm. HAL should feel thoroughly ashamed at what arrives on the plate and the fact that animals died in vain to produce it. A major part of our cruising enjoyment comes from the dining experience, however after several table changes and the fact that the food was so poor for the first time in 13 cruises we were prepared to opt out of evening dining, sadly the lido was on a par with a works canteen and there was no real alternative. Thankfully we were able to savour some exceptional local food during our shore excursions or we would have returned home having lost weight! Another bone of contention was that of feeling constantly hounded to spend money...this started as we arrived in the stateroom to find a mountain of info re treatments, sales and special offers. It was hard to sit quietly in the public area without being repeatedly asked for a bar order...why is it not possible for staff to hover rather than hound.....after all any decent hotel manages to achieve this balance the world over. Another HAL initiative is charging for after dinner cappuccino this is apparently because they are now using a better quality coffee, not just adding frothy milk.... The latest HAL earner seems to be the charges for the shuttle buses.....come on now surely we have paid to travel to a destination so why is this cost not factored into the overall holiday price? And as for scrimping on the port fees and docking in Hong Kong's freight dock that surely will take some beating, the hours travel we were forced to endure to get us where we should have arrived in the first place was just the final nail in HALs coffin as far as we are concerned. Oh and finally HAL staff were there to thank us for sailing with them etc etc...again NOT Read Less
Sail Date February 2013
We arrived at the terminal around 1:30 and was greeted with a check in line that snaked all over. For a ship with only 1150 people, taking 2 1/2 hours to check in is pretty bad. The line was just as long when we did get checked in as it ... Read More
We arrived at the terminal around 1:30 and was greeted with a check in line that snaked all over. For a ship with only 1150 people, taking 2 1/2 hours to check in is pretty bad. The line was just as long when we did get checked in as it was when we started. Felt the ship was fairly dirty when we got there and it took about a week for it to really look better. By the time we left 49 days later, it was looking really good. Experienced some of the same problems the lady from the previous cruise wrote about. Our commode over flowed several times, but they responded quickly each time. The ship was the coldest we have ever sailed on and there were MANY people sick with colds, etc. I swear you could almost see your breath in some of the spaces. Cabins in our area lost partial power several times but maintenance was right there. The food and service in both the dining room and the Lido deck were very good. The only complaint was that there were times when it seemed the dirty dishes would never be picked up, especially in the outdoor areas. Due to the length of the cruise, we may have had special entertainers, but all were very good. I couldn't have afforded to pay to see them on the outside. All of the staff were very friendly and the customer service people, ie. Future cruise, computer help,excursions, etc, kept longer hours than usual. We had several tender ports and in general, they went pretty smooth. Over all a pretty good cruise. Read Less
Sail Date February 2013
This was a cruise that opened up a totally different world to me and that is what really made it special... from the over the top production of Carnaval in Rio de Janeiro to the basic life of the Amazon. Holland America had a great ... Read More
This was a cruise that opened up a totally different world to me and that is what really made it special... from the over the top production of Carnaval in Rio de Janeiro to the basic life of the Amazon. Holland America had a great itinerary. Going to the Sambadrome was an experience of a lifetime - although expensive, it was worth every cent! Then traveling the Amazon was on a totally different track with the focus on basic living. The variety of the ports made it very interesting. Food was a step better than on previous Holland America cruises. Life on board was good, but there could have been more and more varied activities. Only real criticism was the shore excursion director. He did not seem to be on top of the tour guides and when this was pointed out, his people skills seemed lacking. Several of us guests had issues with him. He also did not promote the Brazilian way of life... I tired of his remark to "lower your expectations" for Brazil. BUT, an exuberant travel guide and Brazil itself more than made up for him. Embarkation was long- moved slowly through the ship to the showroom for our papers-they need to work on doing this better... did not use port facilities that were available. Disembarkation was a disaster. Almost 3 hours to get through customs - There were few agents to start with and on top of that, the number of wheelchairs that were all ushered to the front of the line was unbelievable.... Saw so many people who had never had showed any mobility issues in wheelchairs - guess they had learned to work the system. Read Less
Sail Date February 2013
Reviews of the Veendam are overwhelmingly positive for South American cruises and quite mediocre for Bermuda cruises, and I now understand why. The South America and Antarctica itineraries are wonderful scenic and adventure cruises, with ... Read More
Reviews of the Veendam are overwhelmingly positive for South American cruises and quite mediocre for Bermuda cruises, and I now understand why. The South America and Antarctica itineraries are wonderful scenic and adventure cruises, with strong history and naturalist support; but if you're the sort of person who cruises for the luxury-floating-hotel experience with an occasional glance out the windows, Veendam has enough niggles that it might become irritating. The cruise began in Valparaiso with a plethora of birds, as well as seals and whales, and this set the tone for the entire cruise. The presence of Chris Wilson as naturalist and Antarctic specialist made this cruise; he was often on deck as well as lecturing, full of information and identification. The list of observed wildlife covered two full sides of paper tightly spaced. For birders and others interested in wildlife this cruise is unmissable. The scenery is also spectacular; any 20 minutes in Antarctica contains all of the scenery of a complete Alaska cruise. We were unable to dock in Puerto Montt because of the levels of swell and the wind direction (tender port) but the 20 or so who missed the ship in Santiago managed to board via a local boat. Castro is a small, not very interesting town, but the cruise in and out are worth being on deck for. From this point on, until Puerto Madryn, penguins were common in the water. Chacabuco is likewise not of great interest, although trips into its hinterland are modestly interesting; but again the cruise in is as good as any Norwegian fjord and well worth getting up early for. The Chilean fjords and the associated glaciers are good (but nothing like Antarctica). Punta Arenas used to be a major city on the Straits of Magellan but is less significant since the opening of the Panama Canal. There are two large colonies of Magellanic penguins nearby. We went to Magdalena Island which has a large and accessible colony, as well as kelp gulls with babies, cormorants, and a teenage gang of giant petrels. We went on the ship's tour but others managed a tour via zodiac that was much less time-consuming. We had to miss Ushuaia because of strong winds, so off to the Antarctic. Heading out into the Atlantic we encountered large pods of dolphins and seals, as well as many sea birds, usually missed because this part happens at night. The Antarctic itself was foggy, rainy, and snowy which spoiled much of the views but seemed to bring out the wildlife: many whales, many thousands of penguins, and occasional seals. Itinerary around the peninsula is weather and ice dependent, so we missed the Lemaire Channel and Deception Island but managed most of the other high spots. Heading North we discovered we would be going to Puerto Madryn because of weather in the Falklands. Puerto Madryn is the base for two long excursions which were perhaps only marginally worth it (2.5 hours at least each way, and occupied all of the time in port). Montevideo seems to have improved since our last visit, and looks a bit more lived in. The architecture is interesting. There are high-quality shops quite close to the port. Finally, Buenos Aires, a moderately interesting city, but not one that I find as attractive as its publicity claims that it is. Now back to the niggles: HAL uses open-topped containers on hot metal surfaces to keep food warm in the Lido and this just doesn't work -- so all of the food, all of the time, is lukewarm. We really began to miss having hot food by the end. Something similar must happen in the main dining room because food there was never hot either. Sharing a table in the MDR guarantees at least a 2 hour meal. Often it was 25 mins before an order was taken, and sometimes 40 mins before the first course appeared. This is not a criticism of the waitstaff who work really hard; there are just two many tables per server to make the system work. So overall the food itself is of better quality than Princess, but it doesn't taste any better because of temperature. The ship is noisy. There are loud machinery noises on every deck and I don't know how some people slept in their cabins; even walking by was sometimes painful. There were a number of breakdowns: several (?3) cabins has major floods which meant people being moved to interior cabins for a few days; a sprinkler went of in the phone exchange disabling emergency and front desk phone access for a few days; there were rumors of a fire. Accidents happen, but at this level suggest some management problems. Entertainment wasn't strong (less of a problem on this itinerary). We seemed to be carrying 20+ entertainers who only gave one show (sometimes less) over the 2 week middle of the cruise. The HAL dancers only appeared on the first and last nights. The classical quartet were not well received by music lovers. The other lounge entertainers suffer from the availability of music today: who wants to hear a poor cover of a song when they can listen to the original on their MP3 player? The CD made announcements three or four times a day about the usual farrago of pointless retirement-home nonsense that cruise ships specialize in, but was mercifully brief in the theater. The "photographers" made their usual annoying tours of the ship (c'mon, folks, if we all stop buying this rubbish, they'll eventually stop producing it). The handwashing machines in the Lido are a nice touch. The gel dispensers are everywhere, but there isn't a staff member standing by them to "encourage" their use, which is a pity. The staff serve in the Lido for the first 48 hours which seems sensible and also seems to work. So no Noro for us on this cruise. There were very few smokers on this cruise so even the promenade deck was relatively smoke free (and not filled by smoking staff as it tends to be on Princess). Sadly, the major indoor smoking venue is the casino which is open in several directions so that its smoke fills most of the deck it is on. The gym was so hot that it was unusable. Apparently this was unfixable even though the outside temps varied from +35 to 0 C. The long flights needed to get to and from this cruise probably selected a demographic that's younger than typical HAL. There were only a handful of people with scooters or wheelchairs (who should NOT have gone on a tour requiring crossing a rocky beach from ship to shore). Mostly Americans, Canadians, Brits and Aussies. These big-ship Antarctic cruises are always hanging by a thread. So if you're interested in wildlife or the natural world, take the chance while you still can. Read Less
Sail Date January 2013
CABIN SS - Superior Veranda Suite on the Navigation deck is one of the best cabin layouts possible found on HAL Vista class ships. Large bathroom with both tub and shower, plenty of closet and drawer space for 28 day cruise, spacious ... Read More
CABIN SS - Superior Veranda Suite on the Navigation deck is one of the best cabin layouts possible found on HAL Vista class ships. Large bathroom with both tub and shower, plenty of closet and drawer space for 28 day cruise, spacious feeling, large deck with both settees and table and chairs - smoked glass railing. One floor up to Lido deck. No noise except a little chair scraping at the end of the afternoon when they clean the Lido deck pool area. Everything worked and temperature of room easy to regulate. Would recommend port side cabins for this itinerary for the best views. DINING: getting better all the time with smaller portions of better quality entrees and usually excellent soup and appetizer courses. Dinner salads cold, fresh and crispy - always a good choice when not ready to eat a full dinner. Specialty teas excellent with the addition of the Aussie Tea which was another chance to get those delicious ANZAC biscuits alone with some other new Aussie treats. Good selection of after dinner cheeses and various desserts. LIDO food similar to all HAL ships with remarkable variety though often just a very slight sprinkling of salt perked up the favors enough to make them sing, or use of optional spicing/flavoring sauces available on the side. PINNACLE GRILL- I found new asian menu items to be an excellent addition though DH found his "Silver Label" steak to be tough and overly massive. SERVICE: excellent on all levels. Oosterdam was a ship of smiles like all HAL cruises. Ship condition good. ENTERTAINMENT: Solar ellipse and enrichment lecturers all superb, even the wacky "Star Lady" grew on you with her novel approach to valuable astronomical information. Shows great variety. Adagio classically accomplished pianist and violists first rate and an excellent change over the Adagio Strings quartet's typical fare. ITINERARY: Excellent, though one missed port (MacKay - AUS) due to high winds, but spent more time cruising the Great Barrier Reef in the day light as we positioned ourself for the Solar Eclipse. Water was too cool for easy snorkeling in New Caledonia which was a disappointment, but Hamilton Island stinger suits in the GBR made snorkeling there comfortable - be prepared if you travel to this area in November - not yet hot enough but Isle of Pines beach has to be one of the prettiest places on the planet. Hobart Tasmania was a very nice stop, even if this meant giving up the NZ "sounds" that are included on other itineraries to this part of the world. All NZ stops were very good up the eastern coast - very port intensive but all shore excursions were great - two train trips into the inland and even one visit to the Hobbit film village which was a surprising and unexpected delight. SHOPPING: Fell in love with the NZ "possum silk" sweaters and bought several of them even though quite pricy -best deals in Dunedin at I love Merino shops, but found some last minute choices in Auckland as well. These are going to be travel staples as they are light weight, comfortable, easy to pack, breathe and provide wonderful warmth and wind insulation. NOVEMBER WEATHER - even though this is the start of summer it was quite cool and the Oosterdam public rooms also felt quite cool - we needed to dress more warmly than we expected. Wish we had purchased our "possum silk" sweaters earlier in the trip. Read Less
Sail Date November 2012
Cabin - we like the plexiglass balconies on deck 4 aft of the lifeboats. Big balconies, close to MDR steps, no noises from below or from the elevators. The beds and pillows on HAL are my favorite. Plenty of storage space for the too, too ... Read More
Cabin - we like the plexiglass balconies on deck 4 aft of the lifeboats. Big balconies, close to MDR steps, no noises from below or from the elevators. The beds and pillows on HAL are my favorite. Plenty of storage space for the too, too many clothes we both brought. Meals - We ate most breakfasts in our room and always had coffee there. It was always, always delivered within the first few minutes of our time frame. We ate in the MDR every nite but one - went to the Caneletto then. The Lido was for lunch. Every meal was great. We had Anytime Dining and really enjoyed meeting new people. The first formal night there was a long line with many of us given pagers. It was annoying but only about a half hour wait. It never happened again. We made a reservation only one night. Entertainment - was the best I have seen on any cruise. The Zuiderdam singers and dancers were really talented and the shows were very well done. The costumes were striking and there were a lot of costume changes. The comedian was really funny and the steel drum band was quite good. Journey South played two nights and we liked them. We missed the magician and his dog "Indy" but I hear they were very good too. Mario in the Northern Lights lounge was a highlight. We enjoyed his music trivia and line dancing. Stryker in the piano bar was both a good singer and pianist. We only play video poker in the casino so I have no comments other than it's smokey. Cruise director, Dave, was the best CD we have ever had. His personality and professionalism are apparent from the first time he speaks. He really was terrific. The ports and excursions were all good. Highlights for us were the Panama Canal Experience and the Aerial Tram in the Rainforest. Snorkeling in Bonaire was excellent. Overall this was a great cruise. Any criticism about the Zuiderdam is unfounded as far as we could determine. She is a wonderful ship with a wonderful crew. Read Less
Sail Date February 2012
We were on the 28 day cruise - Singapore - Hong Kong via Cambodia, Thailand, Vietnam, China and Korea. This cruise was advertised as a Collectors cruise. To our disappointment this was a back - back cruise. With that concept we were ... Read More
We were on the 28 day cruise - Singapore - Hong Kong via Cambodia, Thailand, Vietnam, China and Korea. This cruise was advertised as a Collectors cruise. To our disappointment this was a back - back cruise. With that concept we were subjected to the same food selections in the dinning room, and repeat entertainment (the ships singers & dancers) on the second segment of the cruise. Having experienced this syndrome before we would not have picked this cruise. We were duped by the phrase "Collectors" a grand substitute for back to back. Embarkation and immigration Not good, in fact down right bad in Singapore. Total chaos, took us almost 2 hours to embark. China ( Beijing) was a disaster. Took us 3 hours to be cleared and a delay of 5 and a half hours to leave. No explanation was ever offered. Had us concerned. HAL appears to be struggling to get ASIA right. The ship and cabin The ship and the cabin was extremely cold. We literally froze for the 3 days in Beijing, extra blankets, placing towels against the door, socks to bed etc, made little difference. The cabin was clean but dated. The fabrics faded and the toilet was smelling (In spite of the cabin steward's efforts). This ship is well past its prime according to other Holland America cruisers. The lighting was poor, a hardship as we were constantly filling immigration related forms. Service Superb. Many staff we encountered only briefly, addressed us by name and were always ready to go the extra mile to help. In fact they made up for the many inconsistencies and irritants on this cruise. We must note HAL have cut back on numbers which means their willing staff have more to do with less, explains the delays in the dinning room and the room stewards, rushing like crazy. The entertainment Mediocre, sufficient maybe for this port intensive cruise. Some of the headliners were pathetic, basing their acts more on action and antics as opposed to content and quality. Annie Francis and Vincenzo Gentiles were outstanding. The Adagio strings were exceptional, the piano bar entertainment was very good. Our pet peeve and disappointment was the music in the Ocean Bar. This is the one place dedicated to and advertised as the place for 'Ballroom Dancing'. The floor was good, the music was beyond bad. It was a jazz club (not a good one either), with a rude and sometimes down right snaky leader ( Mark Dunn). He would not play music you could dance to. When requested he invited the requesting guests to take themselves to the rock band (was referring to the HAL cats in the Crows Nest?). We brought this music fiasco to the attention of management days into the cruise, no improvement. We stopped patronizing the Ocean bar. The various workshops were well presented. The Digital Photography workshops very good. Kristen was remarkable in her knowledge and presentation skills. The Library dated. We missed the guest speakers to talk about the history of the places we visited. Travel Guide, Spencer Brown was excellent and unbiased and dealt mostly with what to see, do, avoid and how to get about. Mariners recognition - a PR disaster. What was HAL thinking when they selected a few and ignored the rest to invite for the captain's reception, some were awarded medals for 100 days, others ignored, some had over 200 Days. There are lots of things that must be improved if HAL expects to stay competitive and to keep its loyal customers. We were disappointed, tried hard not to let them spoil our trip to an unforgettable part of the world. Read Less
Sail Date February 2012
Have never before complained about a cruise, but our experience, coupled with comments by veteran HAL cruisers on this same cruise, convinced us this was a disaster experience. GENERAL APPEARANCE of Zaandam: Others commented on worn ... Read More
Have never before complained about a cruise, but our experience, coupled with comments by veteran HAL cruisers on this same cruise, convinced us this was a disaster experience. GENERAL APPEARANCE of Zaandam: Others commented on worn interiors (and even ship's exterior) so I won't repeat those criticisms. CUISINE: Expected excellent cuisine but this was not the case. Menus repeated in second 14 day segment which was was not consistent with the way the "Explorer" format was explained. Very good food and wait staff in the 2 specialty restaurants but at these prices, meals should be of higher culinary and creative quality throughout ship. Desserts in MDR and Lido looked good, hyper infused with sugar, and unexciting in taste. The six people at our table often omitted desserts or took only a few bites. COST CUTTING MEASURES: *Wait staff were so downsized, meals were sometimes served very slowly. At one to point we were rushed along to finish and leave so the next dinner seating could occur. The problem was not that we were slow eaters, but the food service was extremely slow. *Adequate planning did not occur to enable smooth customs clearances at several ports. We were held aboard while procedures were worked out. Having traveled to many of these same countries before, I don't understand the reason for such delays. *Someone made a decision to turn down the heat in dining rooms, spa, and staterooms. This cost saving strategy was reversed only when the front desk was stormed by angry, freezing passengers. A trip to the medical clinic proved interesting. Many passengers AND crew were being treated for colds and respiratory symptoms and no wonder! * Educational lectures on history, culture, politics did not occur. For us, learning new things about countries we visit is part of the cruise experience we have enjoyed most but such learning opportunities did not exist INACCESSIBILITY OF EXECUTIVE PERSONNEL: We asked to meet with the Hotel Manager at one point, and we made our request quietly and tactfully. Our request was deflected by other front office staff and ultimately we were refused. What kind of an organization is this? HAL if you think you are above meeting such requests, your business and PR will suffer greatly. On other cruises the Captain was highly visible. Such was not the case on either segment of this 28 day cruiseSHORE EXCURSIONS: Very worthwhile in every port although the majority of passengers we met arranged independent tours because, as they explained, the costs were "too dear". CABIN ATTENDANTS: Were fabulous, attentive, eager to please, and over-worked although they would never have admitted this. Our pair of attendants were assigned 29 rooms to clean daily! WILL WE GIVE HAL ANOTHER TRY? Think once was enough, too bad! Read Less
Sail Date February 2012
Took first cruise on the Holland America line and was generall very pleased. Food was excellent, service in the main dining room was very good, ship was clean, deck chairs were readily available, pool warm, entertainment excellent and ... Read More
Took first cruise on the Holland America line and was generall very pleased. Food was excellent, service in the main dining room was very good, ship was clean, deck chairs were readily available, pool warm, entertainment excellent and lectures by Brett and Microsoft workshops by Molly great. Having a daily Catholic mass on board was a plus. I did not try the spa,bingo, gym or art auctions. There is a great deal on laundry but no self-service machines. You can put all you can in a bag for $20! We had so much in it that I wondered how they got it out! However, the shops on board were way overpriced and the service in the Italian (reservations needed but no extra charge) restaurant was awful. It left us wondering if this is where the line trains their waiters. Salads were forgotten one night and bread another. Wine had to be ordered three times one night and two the other. That said, the worst rip off was the internet - slow and expensive. In Aruba there is a very cheap internet cafe right on the dock at the terminal. Wait and walk around town and do it later when there are no lines. I think it was $6 for 90 minutes! The ship charged $50 for less time. In terms of side trips: the travel through the whole Panama Canal was expensive ($149) but worth it if you have never done it. Read Less
Sail Date January 2012
I chose this itinerary last year because of the ports. Being an avid snorkeler, I was anxious to explore the aclaimed waters of Grand Turk and St. Thomas. Unfortunately, last year we happened upon a little storm called Hurricane Tomas ... Read More
I chose this itinerary last year because of the ports. Being an avid snorkeler, I was anxious to explore the aclaimed waters of Grand Turk and St. Thomas. Unfortunately, last year we happened upon a little storm called Hurricane Tomas and there would be no Grand Turk and all the beaches at St. Thomas were closed. So---we decided to try again this Nov. As it turned out, our daughter was going to be flying home from San Juan the day we ported there, so we joked that she should cancel her flight and sail back with us. She thought that was a good idea, so I started the several calls to Holland America to see if it could be done. At first we were told yes. Then when I called back to go ahead with it, the Jones Act was brought up and we were told that since she wouldn't be going to a foreign port (Halfmoon Cay didn't count and Grand Turk was the day before San Juan), that she wouldn't be able to go. After some research, I found out that San Juan and USVI were exempt and I called again. They said they would send off a letter to see if it would be approved, but I'd have to get a room assigned first (we had reserved an SZ guarantee). I was told to call the room inventory department and talk to them. This was about 6 weeks before our cruise and they kindly assigned us to a SS category room and took the information to send whereever to get approval for "delayed embarkation" (or something like that). A few days later I got the approval letter by email and was then able to add her to our cabin. About 2 weeks before our cruise, I got an email from Holland America offering an upsell to an SA suite for $199 @ for my husband and myself (our daughter wasn't charged). I immediately took it. Having read about the extra emenities and extra space (and having never had a suite before), I figured this was a great time to experience the "suite life"! Since I was vacationing in Ft. Lauderdale for the week before the cruise, I rented a car from Budget and we returned it to the Quay Center right by the port and took the free shuttle to the port on Nov. 5, 2011. Embarkation: Being in a suite made it a breeze! Quite a contrast from our embarkation a year before! As soon as we got past security, we were whisked away to a check in area for suite passengers only. After filling out the medical questionaire and getting our ship cards, we were sent upstairs and taken to the front of the line. Once on the ship (about 11:30), our room was already ready so we went there and unpacked our carry-ons. SA Suite: I was impressed! It was twice the size of the veranda room we had last year. Loved the couch with the curved side (almost like a sectional) that folded out into a bed for 2. Our daughter said the bed was comfortable. The 2 side chairs were ample in size and comfort. The coffee table was a good size (the 3 of us had a complete dinner on it twice) and it was adjustable (although ours wasn't working right and we had to hold it up with our knees if we had 3 plates of food on it). The bed was king size and very comfortable and loved that we could leave the curtains open above the desk and see the ocean from the bed. The deck was also twice the size of our deck last year. Loved having a table and 4 chairs around it. Plus there were comfortable cushioned whicker lounge chairs and ottomans and a side table or 2. There was even a clock on the wall! Also loved the larger bathroom and the changing/vanity room. The bathroom had 2 sinks and 2 showers. I was afraid the stand up shower would be small, but it was a decent size. The tub was a jacuzzi tub and it worked well. We even had a free bottle of champagne and a large bottle of water as a gift from the hotel manager. I also loved the free flowers that arrived the next day. Our cabin stewarts, Putu and Wayan, were fantastic---thorough, fast, and very personable. Dining: We had our first returning Mariners lunch on embarkation day. It was very good, although it understandably took a long time. Most of our lunches were in the Lido. The first 2 days we had breakfast in Lido, then decided to try Pinnacle which was a benefit of our suite. Pinnacle for breakfast was fantastic! Service was fast, food was great, servers were great--we really appreciated this benefit. We only went to the Rembrandt 3 times. It was good all 3 times, even had a waiter who made my daughter and myself a rose out of paper. Ate at Tamerind one lunch. We aren't huge Asian food fans but heard so much about it that we wanted to try it. We did enjoy it. Ate at Canaletto once and really enjoyed that. Service in Canaletto seemed much faster then in the Rembrandt. Ate from the Lido deck bar b q the first night---it was pretty good, too, although I think I would opt for prime rib in the Rembrandt next time. Had reservations for Pinnacle for dinner on the last night, but our daughter ended up sick and throwing up, so we had room service and stayed with her that night. Also had room service dinner one other night and thoroughly enjoyed it. It was nice having our whole meal right there and not waiting between courses. We have no complaints about the food. Some was better then others, but we certainly didn't go hungry. Service; Outstanding everywhere we went! Although I really didn't think I'd use it, I found the conceirges in the Neptune lounge very helpful, too. They made our dinner reservations, printed out our boarding passes, and even checked my daughter in when we were in San Juan. Entertainment: We only went to the main stage 3 nights. We were spoiled by Joel Mason last year and he wasn't there this year. The illusionist was very good. We even enjoyed the staff show. Activities: Went to the digital creative photo editing class and really enjoyed it. Also loved the cooking demos. Would have done the cooking class, but they were cooking shrimp and my daughter and I as allergic to shrimp, so we passed on that. Did the card making class and made 2 really nice cards. I even participated in the Classic Volleyball match. My team won and when I got back to my room, there was a prize on the bed---a Holland America thermal glass. We also enjoyed the pool a couple of times. It always amazes me that there can be that many people on board and the adult pool is often empty. I also love that the adult pool is really for adults and kids are sent to the family pool---a couple other cruise lines didn't do that and I find jumping, splashing, screaming kids annoying when I'm trying to lounge in the pool. Ports and excursions: Again our plans for Grand Turk were foiled! There was a north surge hitting the beaches that day and all the snorkel excursions were cancelled. We hung out at the beach by the ship and actually found the snorkeling there to be much better then I expected. Not very clear, but there were a lot of fish there. In San Juan we encountered heavy rains again. In St. Thomas we rented a car and headed to Cowpet bay. The snorkeling there was exceptional, but it was cut short by a lightening storm. We had hoped to check out several beaches, but the overcast and storms didn't help out. After 3 hours, the lightening stopped and we did snorkel a bit more, but I was glad we didn't pay for a snorkeling excursion that day. Halfmoon Cay was beautiful, even the weather. Disembarkation: Apparently not very many employees showed up for customs and it took a bit longer then expected to get off the ship. But we were still at the airport by 9:30. There was no wait for a taxi to the airport and it was only $14. Again we didn't have the time we expected, but we had a great time none the less. Good enough that we did the onboard deposit for a future trip again. Read Less
Sail Date November 2011
I heard lots of complaints about the lack of the Wow factor however the service, food,shows and ports of call more than made up for it. We stayed at the Holiday Inn Express on the State rd. It took 10 minutes to get to the port and thanks ... Read More
I heard lots of complaints about the lack of the Wow factor however the service, food,shows and ports of call more than made up for it. We stayed at the Holiday Inn Express on the State rd. It took 10 minutes to get to the port and thanks to All Star transport, we were picked up after the cruise within 5 minutes of our call. You need to be aware of the port charges (if not included in your charge) We paid over $500. each in port fees and taxes-quite a chunk. In addition there is a service charge of $11.00 per day per person-not a huge amount but it adds up. If you drink don't expect a hefty one. They carefully measure each drink to the tune of 4 to 6.50 each with a 15% gratuity added on. You are not permitted to carry on hard liquer but can take as much wine as you wish. The excurisions were good but for me I chose to stay on board during the actual canal trip. We actually saw more on the way out so we're glad we did it. We would do it again and loved the experience. The low point of course was deimbarkation which is always the case. Long lines, finding the luggage and getting your transportaion-however this one was well organized and efficient. Do at least one dinner in the Pinnicle and one in the Italian(free) restaurant. Our favorite was the zip line in Costa Rica. No matter what age you are you will love it. Read Less
Sail Date November 2011
Travelled from Sydney to Auckland with many ports whilst en route. Volendam is showing her age - looking worn around the edges and needing a face-lift - but this did not detract from our enjoyment of this fab cruise. Particular ... Read More
Travelled from Sydney to Auckland with many ports whilst en route. Volendam is showing her age - looking worn around the edges and needing a face-lift - but this did not detract from our enjoyment of this fab cruise. Particular highlights include: mayor of Burnie greeting us when disembarking; wonderful botanic gardens at Dunedin (easily walkable on a day ashore); beautiful weather on the day we 'tendered' into akaroa; genuine warmth of reception by the people of Napier; wonderful scenery in Mount Manganui. Life onboard was generally fun with a variety of entertainment. Our favorites were great quizzes organised by cruise director David and DJ Phil. Questions did tend to be rather geared to US residents, but hey, we can cope. Didn't win though! The evening meals were much better than I remember having on Ms. Veendam earlier this year but breakfast and lunch were still a bit of a scrum in the Lido self-service restaurant. Much better to go to the Rotterdam for a sit-down affair if time available. Our cabin was clean, had a wide range of storage, and was generally quiet but had odd ominous banging sounds from below on occasions (engine room? tenders?). We made full use of the self service laundrette, having been away for a week by the time we got on board ship. It really does seem odd that you still need an enormous number of US quarters to operate the washers and dryers, it's probably time that they sold tokens which would be much more user friendly. Opted for open dining which means we could go any time we wanted rather than be tied to a specific sitting. Generally shared with other people in tables of 6-8 and this worked very well most of the time and forced us to socialise with others, which was enjoyable and entertaining. Evening shows were not to our taste for the most part, but we recognised that all had talent. Usually quite difficult to find space to sit if one went after dinner. All in all, we had a fab time and would thoroughly recommend this itinerary. Read Less
Sail Date November 2011
This was a 24 night cruise - Roundtrip down the Amazon River to Manaus with return to Ft. Lauderdale. Ports of call were: St. Lucia, Devils Island, French Guiana; Amazon River ports: Macapa, Boca da Valeria, Manaus, Parintins, Alter da ... Read More
This was a 24 night cruise - Roundtrip down the Amazon River to Manaus with return to Ft. Lauderdale. Ports of call were: St. Lucia, Devils Island, French Guiana; Amazon River ports: Macapa, Boca da Valeria, Manaus, Parintins, Alter da Chao, Santarem; after exiting the Amazon ports were Barbados and Aruba. Let me preface this review by stating that I loved this cruise. It was an exceptional experience to witness life on the Amazon River and visit the ports of call. I hadn't done any recent research on the Amazon River (shame on me) so proceeded with the impression that I would experience jungle views from the ship and see lots of jungle wildlife during the cruise. Much land along the banks of the Amazon River has been deforested. There are urban areas surrounding many of the ports of call. The urban area of Manaus is home to close to 3 million people. To experience what I had anticipated, one would need to travel inland. That stated continue I will continue with review of cruise. I traveled solo and met some folks I'd love to travel with again. The Prisendam was touted as the "best" of the Holland America ships. This is not true. The Prisendam is starting to show her age and members of the staff were not all veterans -- some were spanking new employees of Holland America. The cabins are spacious. I had an ocean view category E which included a walk-in closet and a bath tub. Furniture throughout the ship could use new upholstery. . There were issues with air conditioning during this cruise. Some cabins had no air conditioning for the first 11 days, and because the ship was pretty much sold out passengers without air conditioning were offered fans (which from complaints I heard just didn't relieve the heat of the cabin). My cabin had some strange water leak from behind the toilet -- it was fixed twice before it stopped leaking. (Later during the cruise the carpeting outside of the bathroom door was always wet. I reported this to my cabin steward and for the remainder of the cruise I put a towel from the pool on it. The room steward removed it daily and I replaced dry towels daily.) The limited Spa offers sauna and steam baths without the purchase of a spa pass, and there is a gym with exercise equipment. It's an old ship and is showing its' age. Embarkation: Was extremely slow. Verification of Yellow Fever vaccinations and Brazilian visas slowed the process to a crawl. Apparently, some passengers were clueless that these were requirements. Classes were offered of Word 7, related photo microsoft software and using all the features on cameras. Classes were well attended and had great content! Lectures on ports were offered. Some misinformation and helpful information was provided during these lectures. There were also a few lectures on topics unrelated to the cruise itinerary. They were ok. Culinary classes were offered and were well attended. Sea days tours of the ship were provided and well attended. Please be advised that "Anytime Dining" on this ship requires a reservation. This caused major unpleasant issues for a number of hungry passengers during the first week of the cruise. The maitre de was rude (I am being kind; I assume he was new and will be replaced after the dry-docking of the ship.) The first two days of the cruise "Code Red" was implemented as a preventive measure to avoid the spread of illnesses during the cruise. The Lido buffet isn't really spacious enough to accommodate roped off sections of the space generally used for traversing the buffet sections. This was an acceptable inconvenience. Who wants to be quarantined during a cruise? Because the ship cannot filter the muddy water of the Amazon, there were some water restrictions during the cruise. The self serve laundries were closed for about a week, the ships laundry was closed for a few days and there was a day or two when the Lido buffet used paper napkins. The hot tubs were emptied and not refilled for this portion of the cruise (Brazilian law prohibits the emptying of water from the ship). The salt water pool was also emptied and not refilled until departing the Amazon River. Temperatures were in the mid 80's for the duration of the cruise and the humidity was high. There were insects attracted to the lights from the ship at night, but during the day insect annoyance was non-existent. (This included eco tours out of Manaus.) Most passengers had prescriptions for Malarone as did I, but I personally never saw one mosquito. The night before entering the Amazon River, I laid out all my clothes by the back pool and drenched them with some super insect repellent that unfortunately, lasts through 5 washings! Totally unnecessary for this cruise. There were a couple of great excursions arranged through the CC roll call; one for St. Lucia and the second for Manaus. [Please read the roll call for detailed information; http://boards.cruisecritic.com/showthread.php?t=1235455]. Ports of call: St. Lucia: Took an excellent excursion arranged by a member of CC. Highlights: Traveled by van and boat. Food and beverages were provided during this excursion, with a blue beverage van appearing at most of the scheduled stops. Swam beneath the Pitons, viewed the old volcano, sulphur springs, banana plantation, and a meditation garden. Devil's Island (Ile Royale) French Guiana: No sharks visible. Required to tender into this port of call, waited for open call to go over. It was definitely worth the tender ride over. One can hike a couple of miles and view indigenous rodents, birds and buildings from the old prison. There is also a small hotel on the property. Macapa: Port of entry for ships entering the Amazon. The excursion ride into Macapa revealed views similar to most Latin American countries. Macapa is a great sized urban area. I've never seen so many shoe stores in my life!! (Minimum heels were probably 6 inches). Local police are also Brazilian military -- carry side arms and are never alone. Most shocking: Saw a trashed Dunhill package of cigarettes--on the back side has a photo of a foot minus a toe and a couple of black toes and letters stating "Gangrena." It's an effective deterrent to smoking. Definitely got my attention. Santarem, Brazil: Santarem is the third largest city along the Amazon....I never left the port to visit the city; I boarded a small boat (24 passengers) from the dock! Today was the piranha fishing excursion.......it turned out to be a wonderful opportunity to visit a couple of tributaries, view a number of "meetings of the water," view water crafts that local folks utilize to visit shopping areas, view a couple small ranches, a number of local fishermen, lots of different birds, a funny orange butterfly and what is considered the Amazon jungle. Boca da Valeria, Brazil: Boca da Valeria, a tiny village of the original native Indians. It appeared to be a poverty stricken area -- it felt like Tijuana, Mexico25 years ago with all the children asking for money. Some adults and children were dressed in costumes, others held odd pet animals that originally came from the jungle...sloths, a couple monkeys, a huge snake, various lizards...if passengers took their photos they wanted $1 payment. They had a small school, church and a one room bar specifically for tourists. The passengers loved it. $2 ice cold beers and water which beat the cruise ship prices. There were small fishing boats, built like canoes but with 5 horse engines that offered rides up the tributary to the village of Valeria. The ride was fun. I hooked up with another single woman that wanted to go -off we went. We traveled about 2 miles--lots of water birds visible. We didn't pass any housing. When we stopped, the guy waved for us to follow him up a 30 degree incline...it was muggy and warm...the perspiration is just dripping off of us. We get to the top and there is the larger village Valeria. The school looked new and had the red clay roof tile; the main street had street lights...and pretty much every house had a satellite dish out front. There was one pole with all kinds of wires going to and from a solar energy panel. Turns out the solar panel was providing energy for the telephone lines in the community. I was a little surprised....most of the houses had little electric meters out front. Manaus, Brazil: [Free wifi at port office] Another excellent excursion arranged by a CC member. (Weather was rainy for a large part of the day.) First we traveled to an Indian community housed on Federal Protected land. A prayer ceremonial dance/performance was provided. Costumes (or lack thereof) and odd musical instruments entertained us. Next we visited the Pink Dolphin Research facility (a lengthy small boat ride). We couldn't actually swim with the dolphins, we could stand on an underwater platform and the folk that work there attracted the dolphins near us with food...The water was toasty warm which encouraged most everyone to participate. Sneaky mammals. The dolphins would stay underwater and swim behind you and push your legs to terrorize you, and then pop up to receive their treats. After visiting with the pink dolphins it was about 2 hours (because of heavy rain) to get to the lunch on a floating restaurant. The buffet of local foods provided was excellent and included piranha. . The best part of the excursion for me occurred behind the restaurant. What a delight! We were able to view monkeys in the trees, and caiman (smaller alligators) in the water. Multiple types of birds. This for me was the highlight of the day. (I didn't like the dolphins swimming behind me and pushing at my legs. Day 2 I had planned to meet with a couple of other passengers and walk around Manaus city center. Coming off the ship, I saw the driver of the little boat the previous day; his boat was available to provide tours, so another great day of boating up and down Amazon River tributaries. Parintins, Brazil: As an excursion offered by the ship, Holland America leased the convention center and had a mini performance of the Boi Bumba Festival performance. God! What a party for the eyes. The costumes were fantastic...most of the lead roles in the performance had huge feathers...two of the costumes must have been 20 feet wide and high...they guys were like harnessed in them.... Then they had 30 foot high snakes coming out the sides of a face that had to be 30 feet high, a fish that had to be longer than my house...after the chorus sang and danced, each opened and the most festively dressed female important character was revealed....came down to floor level and was harnessed into the most outrageously beautiful feathered back costume. This undoubtedly was the best ship excursion offered, both in value and passenger satisfaction. Alter do Chao, Brazil: Small little port we had to tender into... the small dock was too small to accommodate easy docking of the tender boats e so they had a small vessel docked and the ship tender pulls along side, passengers transfer to the smaller vessel then out to the ramp. It's like a pass through. Very very small town, looked like it may be a vacation area of Santarem, Brazil. We were only there a few hours--enough time to swim in the Rio Tapajos (tributary to Amazon...clearer water--brownish tint but not muddy) and walk 10 minutes into town to see what trinkets were available. Seems like all of the street vendors along the Amazon buy their products from the same company! There was one nice shop, which had art work from a number of Tribes. I believe the name of the shop was Arariba. I could have spent a full day in there just looking. Bridgetown, Barbados: Went to the Boatyard Beach. Taxi was $10 entrance with chair, umbrella and drink with taxi back to cruise port every 15 minutes $12. Water and weather were perfect! Other passengers raved about the Green Monkey excursion offered by HAL. Bequia, one of the Grenadines Islands: Tiny little island, from which one can view St. Vincent (7-9 miles north depending on the source of the information.) The ship anchored off of Port Elizabeth. It is a "port" because the ferry runs to St. Vincent multiple times a day. Gorgeous, not actually geared up for tourists or at least not for ships full of passengers. Interesting fact: There are fisher people that hunt whales during our late winter/early spring. It wasn't clear if each boat could be licensed for two a year or the island of Bequia was allowed two per year. Aruba: Free wifi from the Renaissance Hotel lobby next to the coffee shop. I spent the short time here in the Crystal casino. The food was good...not as outstanding as past Holland America cruises. Lamb was on the menu every day and defrosted crème puffs (similar to those available at Sam's Club or COSTCO stores) were laid out twice daily as dessert options. Pasta and pizza were available on the Lido deck afternoons between meals. One excellent option that Holland America continues to provide is ordering from the dining room menu for room service. Afternoon tea was provided daily with various themes. An added attraction was the String Band that played daily. They were excellent! I dined at the Pinnacle Grill one time with some friends I made onboard. It was enjoyable. Service was choppy (new staff), the entrees satisfactory, and the desert fabulous! The experience fell short of past experiences of dining in Holland America ships in the Pinnacle Grill. It was a very relaxing cruise. Early nights for most passengers. Internet access through the ship was costly and not worth purchasing. It was better to find free wife at ports or internet cafes. The best entertainment on the Prinsendam was performed by a group called Rosario Strings, this group consists of three musicians, one played the piano, another played the cello and another played the violin. They played during tea and in the evening in the lounge across from the backdoor of the casino. You can read my blog on (scroll back to day one): marzerks.wordpress.com You can view my photos: https://picasaweb.google.com/lh/sredir?uname=107639993556552852051&target=ALBUM&id=5694332682474933409&authkey=Gv1sRgCK3Fl-GixeXbtwE&feat=email Read Less
Sail Date November 2011
First and foremost I will start off as - no question - I had fun since went with my friends. That was my objective - spend time with close friends, sun, read, and eat lots of good food. I have been on the Mexican Rivera cruise on ... Read More
First and foremost I will start off as - no question - I had fun since went with my friends. That was my objective - spend time with close friends, sun, read, and eat lots of good food. I have been on the Mexican Rivera cruise on Carnival before. Due to hurricane we were diverted to Catalina (Come on! Catalina? Seriously? Who pays for a 7 day cruise to stop in Catalina?!) The weather may not be the cruise line's fault - but for the "Holland America brand" you would think they could have picked something else - like say - stay in Cabo for 2 days? We stopped in La Paz on the other day. La Paz is the cleanest city in Mexico I have ever seen. I will probably go back there for a week on my own someday. Cabo is excellent as always! My biggest complaint about cruising to Cabo - why does it always have to be the shortest port stay??? There were 6 of us all together in our group - all age ranges. I was VERY disapointed in this cruise and Holland America. This brand isn't even remotely luxury as was expected. The food is horrible. I've sailed Carnival 3 times and their food was so much better in selections and options. And I believe people's first complaint about Carnival is the food - so that's how bad it is on this ship. While we had a few bright spots (Maha in dining room was lovely, our room steward was excellent, and another waiter in the bar where we met every night made our nightly before dinner meet for drinks very nice) the rest of the service was lacking. Especially the lido deck. My first thought was no incentive for them to even clear plates and refill drinks. And how do you have a Taco special on the deck but out of tacos? Room service is very prompt and on top of it. But that's all I can say for that - zip selection - and zip taste. My best friend (her first cruise) and I splurged and got a balcony on the Rotterdam deck. While the balcony was beautiful - you cannot help leaving with that bad taste in your mouth of such good money wasted for nothing. We could have just flown to Cabo for the week much cheaper and guaranteed good food. On our way off we talked to two guys on our floor who we never met before who were complaining about what a waste of money this cruise is, now that makes us 6 plus two more. How many more? Oh and most of all - the shower is mostly warm, lukewarm and lots of intermitant cold water in between. Had to keep turning the shower off and let it run through the bath - I did not pay for 7 days of cold/lukewarm showers. Obviously the hot water doesn't reach that high up - or it's seriously out with everyone else showering for dinner. This ship looks and acts old. It seems like a cookie cutter ship. Nothing special about it. Important for non-smokers - not a lot of spots for smokers to go - and I certainly didn't appreciate having to have that smoke in my face all day long at the adult pool. No ventilation in the casino. You can't get away from it. On your balcony or on the deck. Sorry smokers - but all cruise ships need to adopt a smoke free environment. Clean air is first and foremost when sailing in the open waters! Read Less
Sail Date October 2011
As a seasoned cruise vacationer, I've come to the sad conclusion that Holland America, a self-proclaimed "Premium" cruiseline, unfortunately falls way short of it's mark. If you're expecting the Hilton, you're ... Read More
As a seasoned cruise vacationer, I've come to the sad conclusion that Holland America, a self-proclaimed "Premium" cruiseline, unfortunately falls way short of it's mark. If you're expecting the Hilton, you're likely to receive a Holiday Inn experience. Although many aspects of our recent cruise experience were delightful, such as the Vista Lounge entertainment, ports of call, shore excursions, and most planned ship-board activities, it is quite apparent that this company runs it's basic operations on a shoe-string budget, and is not considered a good value for the money. I attended this cruise in October 2011, along with my husband, and my elderly mother, with whom we shared our stateroom. After paying a hefty $3,000.00 for all 3 of us for our 11-day cruise to the Panama Canal & Central America, we found out that the cruise had later been discounted to many other guests at a rate of only $599.00 per person in order to "fill" the ship. Upon further inquiry with the ship's front desk, we were not offered any discounts, upgrades or incentives. Since there are so many comments to include, I've listed them in condensed bullets as follows: ~ There was a consistent, foul odor of sewage in some interior areas of the ship, which was very offensive. One of the elevators had a strong stench of urine! ~ The ship's architectural details were beautiful and elegant throughout, although age-worn and weather-beaten. The outdoor chaise lounges poolside at rear of ship were very dirty and worn. Upon our first visit to the Sports Bar, the vinyl covering on many chairs and sofas were very worn, cracked and peeling (although they were repaired and spray-painted by a maintenance person on the days following, out in the open public bar area during our cruise)! Other intrusive maintenance duties were also being performed during our cruise, such as power washing and painting, temporarily closing certain main areas of the ship, which annoyed and inconvenienced many guests. These operations should be conducted in-between sailings while the ship is not serving guests! ~ Although some crew members throughout were friendly and informative, many seemed apathetic and/or uninformed. The language barrier of the primarily Indonesian crew was tremendous (the worst I've ever encountered on a cruise), and we could not engage many in any in-depth conversation. In addition, each time we asked a passing staff member for directions to a particular event location on the ship, we received a different answer! ~ Our stateroom was spacious, clean with very comfortable bedding, although the bed for the third guest in our room--my elderly mother--was just a pull-out, cot-style bed. Our stateroom stewards were excellent, very efficient and accomodating as they could possibly be, but they could not provide an in-room clothing iron, and we needed a room fan since the A/C was not cool enough for our liking. ~ Food items in the Lido Buffet were fair-to-good at best, with unimpressive, limited, and repetitive utilization of ingredients and presentation. Instead of a traditional self-service buffet, we endured a demeaning soup-kitchen style of service for our main entrees, with meager portions being slung onto our plates. ~ "Cold" food items, such as seafood appetizers and salads, were served at room temperature. Most desserts were unimpressive and of institutional-quality, as you would find in the freezer section of your local grocer. ~ Guests are forced to traverse the entire Lido Buffet Dining Room, and back and forth to their table, in order to completely gather individual food and drink selections for each meal, as buffet serving trays are not provided! Many of the elderly and handicapped guests were very obviously annoyed with this. ~ Tables were not promptly cleaned between seatings in Lido Buffet Dining Room. Dishes and dirty ashtrays were a constant occurence at outdoor poolside deck tables. There were inadequate air-conditioning levels in the Lido Dining Room. ~ Food quality and presentation in the more formal Vista Dining Room was good-to-very good, but not outstanding. Service was very disorganized, and turned out to be a long, 2-hour ordeal to receive our full meal to it's fruition. In addition, with the Vista Dining Room location at the rear of the ship, we could feel and hear the tremendous rumble of the ship's engines beneath our feet---not very pleasant in a formal "5-Star" dining room setting! ~ Most specialty events were held during late evening hours, 9PM or later, after a long day of shore excursions, when everyone was too exhausted to attend! ~ We, as many other guests, were very disappointed in the quality of just one particular ship-board music venue, Amanda and the HalCats, who sang and performed top-40 style music in a very much off-key and amatuer manner, causing most of us in the audience to cringe! ~ Very limited indoor accomodations for smokers, with none for cigar smokers, except for the rear outdoor deck area. ~ Although many wonderful amenities were included in the cruise price, we've found exorbitant "nickel-and-dime" charges throughout the cruise for "extras" on board, such as a can of soda for $1.95 plus mandatory 15% gratuity, a $40 per day charge for use of the Hydro-Tub, and unreasonable charges for internet and cell phone use. When weighing the pros and cons of this particular cruise, I would not recommend Holland America Cruiseline if you have high expectations regarding daily operations and services. But, if you are willing to pay a premium price for this cruiseline and look past some or all of what we had endured on-board, then you'd probably enjoy the ports of call and shore excursions. Read Less
Sail Date October 2011
The Holland America Zeiderdam is comparably smaller than our previous cruises, which made it much more comfortable to get around. Due to the size it also limited the activities that were offered. The majority of the passengers were older ... Read More
The Holland America Zeiderdam is comparably smaller than our previous cruises, which made it much more comfortable to get around. Due to the size it also limited the activities that were offered. The majority of the passengers were older than 60 years and there were only a handful of small children aboard. The food was good but not good enough to want seconds and contrary to most rumors, the dessert were OK. I personally had ice cream when I wanted dessert. All food service closes at 10 pm and there is not even drinks available later during the night. The customer service was lacking in attention. The one bright enjoyment was the digital seminars held free of charge on board by a certified Microsoft expert, 12 in total. He was superb. The night life on board is also lacking much. If you want a comfortable cruise with no excitement on board this is the cruise for you, but if you want some excitement particularly on the sea days, I would suggest you go with another cruise line. A plus was DVD movies were available for free to view in your room and return in 24 hours. Also there were numerous computers available in the library, which was one of the most beautiful I have seen on a ship and the best organized. The entire deck level with the library included a full liquor bar, and coffee bar, a wrap around observation area with reclining chairs. This was indeed a most relaxing area. Our cabin was on deck 8 (8028)with a veranda. We had a tub and a great shower. There was small spaces for personal items. Under the bed however were drawers to also space for suitcases. We also had a flat screen TV with good reception. The lights were a challenge. Overall the cabin was equal to others we had been. "The noise level was very low from the hallway. Read Less
Sail Date October 2011
We were completely "blown away" with the quality of cruise experience we had on the Noordam. Not one staff member would get less than outstanding ratings. The staff was excellent at remembering you as a guest - was very ... Read More
We were completely "blown away" with the quality of cruise experience we had on the Noordam. Not one staff member would get less than outstanding ratings. The staff was excellent at remembering you as a guest - was very personable - and made great recommendations. The casino staff was beyond courteous - and even though we didn't win much - were always encouraging and inquiring about our day. :) We participated in the "Chef's Dinner" which was restricted to 24 total guests. It was one of the best experiences! Kinda "Iron Chef" meets cruise. The Wine Cellar Master participates and this would be my #1 recommendation to participate on the ship. We ate at the Pinnacle Grill and the food was fantastic. I would put the Grill up against any Steakhouse. The seated dining experience was excellent too. We only participated in the buffet dining during breakfast. The rooms were cleaned spotless everyday - and our Steward was fantastic also. Overall - I will - moving forward - only travel on a Holland Cruise. Read Less
Sail Date September 2011
I with my wife and friends traveled to Seattle to cruise on the Holland America Line Oosterdam, as first time cruisers I was really looking to get going on our voyage to Alaska. The ship looked very impressive and after finally getting on ... Read More
I with my wife and friends traveled to Seattle to cruise on the Holland America Line Oosterdam, as first time cruisers I was really looking to get going on our voyage to Alaska. The ship looked very impressive and after finally getting on board we checked out our cabin; I expected it to be really cramped but I was surprised how nice it was, my wife was not so impressed. We were next door to our friends so me met on our adjoining buy separated verandas. The problems presented themselves after realising that there was so real service in the dining room it was a buffet style lunch but after getting our food which was excellent we had to get on another line to get our drinks, 8 ounce glasses of juice or ice tea,leaving or food cold and unprotected.This continued for every meal at the casual dining room. The main dining room was excellent but the the formal meals were with the king crab, lobster and fillet mignon were when we were at open seas, the shipped tossed around that pretty good so if you were prone to sea sickness your substitute meal was green apples and tea if the ship served the fancier meals when they were in more protected waters it would have been much calm seas to sail in and more passengers would have enjoyed the king crab, lobster, and fillet mignon, maybe I just answered my own question. I would also explain that every morning I, we, awoken by crew members dragging and then slamming the deck furniture together at 5;30am every morning the front desk said that they would investigate and correct this problem, the told me that everyday, very polite but very unprofessional They gave us $100 for ruining our sleep every morning. Read Less
Sail Date September 2011
Rather than a detailed account of our trip I will highlight some of my impressions and offer some tips and hints. I have also included some information that I had a difficult time researching before our trip. This was our third Holland ... Read More
Rather than a detailed account of our trip I will highlight some of my impressions and offer some tips and hints. I have also included some information that I had a difficult time researching before our trip. This was our third Holland America cruise and second aboard the Volendam. (Note, we boarded the ship in Skagway but this form does not have that port in the drop down list). In general, the land tour and cruise exceeded my expectations. The land tour was super organized and the handling of baggage and other details was extraordinary. Room keys were always provided as soon as we departed the bus and our Tour Directory, Gwen, did an outstanding job of taking care of all of our travel needs. We also had a great bus driver, Rick, from Fairbanks to Whitehorse. The bus (coach) itself was full but was configured for just 44 passengers. This meant we had extra leg room. The coach had a reasonably sized bathroom and we were not discouraged to use it (other bus drivers on tours usually tell us to only use the bathroom in emergencies). There were also frequent rest stops, usually every two hours or less. The coach had video screens, music via provided headphones, just like a plane. HAL had two buses on the same route but they tried to stagger our times so that the restrooms and other facilities would not be overloaded. We also had several buses from other tour companies that seemed to be duplicating our itinerary. The trains to Denali and Fairbanks were also comfortable and there are good views on either side of the train. I highly recommend this Cruise Tour itinerary. It provided a diverse schedule of included activities. All of the hotels were centrally located and they were clean and well maintained. I read some negative reviews of the Westmark in Beaver Creek but our room was fine. We didn't get the meal plan but were satisfied with the number of meals that were included. We used the $25 per person coupon at the Westmark Whitehorse for breakfast and dinner. We are light eaters and the restaurant gladly split our dinner, even putting it on two plates for us. Unfortunately the Salmon was dry and other diners reported similar disappointment in their entrees. The days start very early and we usually did not attempt to eat breakfast on most days. We brought snacks and instant oatmeal which were sufficient to eat in the room. There were usually stops in mid morning and mid afternoon for additional refreshments. We did not book any of the land tour excursions but opted to try to do some things on our own. We asked the bus driver on the included Denali tour if he could leave us at the Visitors Center before returning to the hotel and he happily agreed. We took the time to see the movie, view the exhibits, etc and then went on the free shuttle bus to the dog kennels. They had a good presentation and ran the sled dogs on a dirt path. On the second day in Denali we took the free shuttle from the hotel to the Visitors Center. The shuttle runs every half hour and is convenient. We then joined the 10:00 am free Ranger led hike. There were 20 of us on this hike and the Ranger said he would call another Ranger if more people showed up. This hike lasted about 2 hours and was fun and informative. Similar hikes are offered by HAL but cost almost $100 per person. At the end of the hike we saw a Beaver dam and were told that between 4pm and 6 pm is the best time to actually see the beavers at work. The Beavers are up to 100 lbs and they pull their downed trees right along the hiking path down to the dam. We were sorry to have missed that. We walked back to the Science Center and then had lunch at the Visitors center. We did not have to go back to the hotel and just walked down the path to the train which departed at 4 that afternoon. The Fairbanks visit included excursions (sternwheeler, and gold mine) were both done well. On the sternwheeler, there are free doughnuts, and later in the day free salmon dip with crackers. I thought they would charge for the coffee but this was free also. The best seats on the boat are on the left side. The gold panning was fun but they sort of lock you in the gift shop after since you have to take the train back to the busses even though it is a five minute trip. However they have free cookies and coffee in the shop so can't complain too much. The Yukon portion of our trip was far more scenic than I envisioned. There are two long bus rides but they are broken up with frequent stops and some fun activities on board. Again, our bus driver, Rick, and our tour director, Gwen, did a admirable job in entertaining us. The dog sled presentation and demonstration just outside Whitehorse was disappointing. The talk was good but we couldn't believe they used a motorized ATV instead of letting the dogs pull a real sled as we saw in Denali and in Fairbanks. In Whitehorse we took the free day to hike the river trail. It is essentially one loop and takes you to the fish ladders and back. A pleasant way to spend the day. There is also a trolley that costs $2 one way and $4 for the whole day. The White Pass railway was a great way to end our land tour. The best seats are on the right side of the train. Embarkation in Skagway went smoothly and we were on board before 1 pm, in plenty of time for lunch on the Lido Deck. The main dining room was closed that day so it was not possible for Mariners who embarked in Skagway to have lunch there. The Volendam recently completed a refurbishment and the ship was in excellent condition. However one big exception was the mold on our shower curtain. I am sure our room steward would have changed it if I asked. We had a "guaranteed" port hole room and were upgraded to a room with a large window and it was midships on the lower promenade deck, a great location. I was a bit odd having people walking past the window but we checked and it is almost impossible to see into the room during daylight hours. We usually like to eat at the Lido but found that the buffet was a "free for all". Some of the food was on the line too long and the "display" dishes looked better than what was served. Desserts were not replenished often enough and the line for the ice cream was always long. The toppings were inexplicably placed before the ice cream which led to even longer waits on line. The dinner buffet does not offer any more service than lunch. You still have to pick up your own drinks, entrees, etc. In general, the food tasted much better in the dining room. We ate dinner in the Lido the first night while still in port and one side was open for staff only. The staff side had a nice view of the bay and the guest side had a view of the pier and the graffiti covered rocks. The Lido has almost the same menu as the main dining room but on formal night they did not have the lobster. The main dining room had Surf and Turf that night and we opted for Surf and Surf and the waiter did not hesitate in bringing us two lobster tails each. They were large and perfectly cooked. Probably the best lobster we have received on any ship. I packed light and just wore a dark shirt and tie. I saw several others dressed similarly and no one seemed to mind. We ate all of the other dinners in the main dining room as well. We had open sitting and whenever I called for a reservation for a table for two I was only given the options of 5:30 pm and 7:45. this worked for us. Without a reservation, a table for two meant a 20 to 25 minute wait (they give you a beeper). It seemed like many of my previous suggestions had been incorporated. I guess they really do read those comment cards. There were few announcements, particularly in the stateroom so there were no repetitive reminders about bingo, etc. There were more activities than I remember on previous voyages. The entertainment was excellent and the shows were better than any I remember. The singers/dancers were good as was the comedian (Lee Bayless). Debarkation went smoothly and a nice improvement is that you can wait in your stateroom until your departure time. We had breakfast in the dining room on the last day and the waiters did not rush us at all. We walked the short distance to the train station. The train leaves frequently and it takes about 30 minutes to the airport. Just make sure you are on the Canadian Line. You can pay via credit card. We used our credit card frequently in the Yukon and did not need to change to Canadian currency. Leave extra time for the airport because you must go through U.S. customs and there was a long line. This turned out to be longer than I expected. I would be glad to provide any other information so feel free to ask. Read Less
Sail Date August 2011
B A C K G R O U N D When I learnt that I had to go to the United States this Summer, I had already booked our annual family holiday- it was to be a 7 night cruise in the Western Mediterranean on the Seabourn Spirit. Upon realizing that ... Read More
B A C K G R O U N D When I learnt that I had to go to the United States this Summer, I had already booked our annual family holiday- it was to be a 7 night cruise in the Western Mediterranean on the Seabourn Spirit. Upon realizing that could no longer be, I cancelled with Seabourn and started looking for a cruise departing from the USA. Two things intrigued me about the Veendam's offering- one, was the size of the ship, as she is very much the last relatively small, 55,000 ton cruise ship deployed on one week 'Sun' cruises during the Summer ex. USA from a major cruise line. Second was the nature of her itinerary- she sailed the Bermuda run of 'old', visiting St. George prior to sailing for an hour or so into Hamilton, Bermuda, docking right on Front Street. This was the Bermuda voyage of old, the classical Bermudan cruise that took you right into the heart of the island, and didn't strew you on the Royal Navy Dockyard miles away from anything of interest. You saw Bermuda for what it really was, something that is rare on today's island cruises (i.e. St. Thomas, St. Martin). And so, I booked an outside cabin, class FF Number 716. The fare per person for this cruise was $1199. P R E- C R U I S E I arrived in New York one week prior to the departure of the cruise. I stayed in The Ritz-Carlton, New York Battery Park, which although not bad was very much over-priced and I would struggle to justify staying here again. It was not akin to all the other Ritz-Carlton hotels I have stayed in, and although being on Battery Park proved tranquil at night, it was a 40 minute subway ride to anyplace of interest besides Wall Street. Again, the hotel wasn't terrible by any stretch, but for the cut-throat market that New York City is, the Ritz left a lot to be desired. E M B A R K A T I O N This was a quick, sound embarkation. Upon arriving at the Manhattan docks, a porter took our luggage and we moved into the terminal. Upon completing the signing of the medical form, we arrived at the check in desk where we quickly completed the procedure before being handed our cruise card, clearing security and then boarding the beautiful M/S Veendam. 5+ stars, a great embarkation. T H E S H I P The Veendam was recently very extensively refurbished, even being partially re-built. This has created a cruise ship which is traditional in design, yet has all the modernity that one would expect from a vessel of this age. The Explorers Cafe, a library, coffee shop, lounge and internet cafe area seemed very much like the Seabourn Square, which is quite a compliment. It was a lovely area to have on the ship. The two tiered main dining room, with a string quartet playing every night was also reminiscent of dining being an event, not the mere consumption of food- the theater was a comfortable show lounge, although I would recommend going to a show early. The Lido was akin to that of any cruise ship, with enough tables. The stern pool with the movies under the stars screen was a great addition to the ship, as was the culinary arts center which doubled into quite a nice cinema. The fitness center was more than adequate, with commanding views of the bow. Through a little-known about corridor, which you can access either from the fitness center or the promenade, one can right onto the bow of the ship. The Veendam had a sophisticated ambiance about her, with all of the comforts, intimacy and familiarity you would expect from a smaller ship, coupled with most, if not all of the features one would find on the larger vessels. When all is said and done, she was a lovely measured balance. E N T E R T A I N T M E N T The entertainment aboard was plentiful and varied, if not a slight tad more sedate than that found on the larger vessels on this route. The evening shows all were great, as were the cabaret acts that really did make you roar in laughter. There were interesting dance classes, seminars, music all over the ship, pool games on deck, dancing on deck too, the disco at night, and so on. It was lively, fun, but not over-the-top or in your face. The Culinary Arts Center had a varied program which was great for foodies, and there was also a dedicated wine tasting area. The Arts Center coupled into a cinema, and HAL would keep a table of popcorn, etc. ready at the entrance. Julie, the Cruise Director did her job well. Overall a fine balance in the on board entertainment. P O R T S OF C A L L St. George, Bermuda- When we arrived at St. George we were informed that the port had been cancelled for all but excursion guests, as one of the two tenders had had an engine failure and was unable to sail that day. Holland America Line offered non-excursion passengers a free bus transfer from Hamilton to go back and see St. George (about 40 minutes drive) as compensation. As I had taken the Bermuda island tour, we were put on tenders to St. George- as soon as our tender left the Veendam raised her anchor and set out for the 1 hour cruise into Hamilton. Upon boarding the bus for out tour, we only spent minimum time in the parish, as we had a tour of the entire island coming up. Nonetheless, from what one saw St. George really is a beautiful part of Bermuda- think St. Martin prior to the cruise boom, when she was still as she used to be. Islands people living their lives, shops, etc. designed to cater to the Bermudan people, not tourists. One needs not speak about the beauty of Bermudan beeches, for they really are something else. Nothing can possibly compare (I, myself, live on an island, and the Bermudan beeches blew me away). Although the future Veendam cruises in 2012 will not include St. George, I would strongly recommend getting on a bus and spending some time there. Hamilton, Bermuda- As Bermuda is such a small island, our stay in Hamilton was very much a stay of every parish in the country, as our great excursion took us on a round trip of the entire island. As I have repeatedly said, outside of the Royal Navy Dockyard, Bermuda is very much an relatively untouched, not overtly touristy place, which makes it all the better. As the Veendam docks right on Front Street, she acts as your city center hotel- you get off the ship and voila, you are in the heart of Hamilton. The city itself is fully walk-able, and has some good shopping, quite comfortable surroundings as well as a colonial British flair that reminded me of my own country (itself a former British island colony). I took a diving excursion which was one of the best dives I have undertaken, and we dived a recent wreck of a ferry which was good in the sense that they had cleaned her out to make her accessible to non-wreck divers. The beeches in Bermuda, again, need no introduction as they are truly fabulous, especially if you go to anyone other than Horseshoe, which can get quite crowded. C A B I N- Our cabin, Class FF Number 716 on A Deck was very comfortable, and had as much space as I expected. Two twin beds as well as a sofa that extended into a third bed during the nights, and a sitting area in the morning/daytime hours. The toilet, although small, had enough space with a bathtub that coupled as a shower. I do believe, however, that although there was nothing outwardly wrong with the cabin, the toilet needs a freshening up. Nonetheless, overall, a comfortable place to dwell and sleep in, enough room, good storage space and a good sea-view from the picture window. We had air conditioning problems for the first two nights, but to be honest they were not too extreme. It was fixed after two nights, a letter of apology was sent to us, as well as a credit which was more than generous. S E R V I C E- The service on board was wonderful, and, as HAL markets itself, premium. The waiters were great, the room steward attentive and friendly, the excursion staff helpful, the cruise director approachable, and the bar staff were courteous. Everything was as needed to be. The reception helped a lot in many situations. The Captain, however, was far less visible than that of any master in a cruise I have previously taken. He did seem to live in his own cocoon and never mixed with passengers. Even when I sent him a letter about a wonderful experience, I received a message from the Guest Relations supervisor telling me that they were pleased- the Captain didn't do anything less than his duty, which although fine, isn't what I expected. Beside this, which I wouldn't even call a gripe, the service on board was truly great. F O O D This is where the Veendam really shone. When once considers this isn't a luxury cruise, the food was approaching luxury standards. Exciting menus, everything was cooked very well, tasted wonderful and dinner was something to look forward too every evening. The lido also had a wide variety of food, although lunch would end at 2:30 every day, which was about the time I'd come back aboard from touring Bermuda. They had nothing but very light snacks until dinner, which was a shame. Some days the burger joint and pizzeria would be open at this time, and in those situations there was no problem. I think it is vital for a cruise ship to have at least one eatery serving food during all daytime hours, other than room service. Other than that, the food was superb. C O N C L U S I O N Will I be returning to Bermuda in the future? Yes, yes and yes ! Will I be returning to HAL in the future? Three yeses. Both proved to be wonderful and replenishing. It is a shame that HAL are pulling this itinerary after 2012, so if I were you I'd do everything to experience it before then. This is the last remnant of 'classical' Bermudan cruising, of going to the islands through their real gateways, St. George and Hamilton, not the massive cruise port on the North of the island. When the Veendam departs Bermuda for the last time, an era in Bermudan cruising would be over. The Veendam is a delightful ship, that offers a premium experience with great value for money. This is a wonderful cruise vacation that was very much a 'premium' experience that I would full heartily recommend. Read Less
Sail Date July 2011
Accommodations ashore were in the Westmarks, a chain of hotels of varying quality cobbled together by Holland America ranging from a suite at the Westmark Fairbanks to the Westmark BeaverCreek (which had only single beds that could not be ... Read More
Accommodations ashore were in the Westmarks, a chain of hotels of varying quality cobbled together by Holland America ranging from a suite at the Westmark Fairbanks to the Westmark BeaverCreek (which had only single beds that could not be moved together). Given that BeaverCreek is little more than a dot on the Yukon map, a short chunk of solid land surrounded by bog, no complaints. Accommodation aboard for the 4-day cruise portion was an inside cabin with a California-King sized bed that almost filled the room from wall to wall. For meals ashore and aboard the train, one can purchase meal tickets from HA or go it alone. We went it alone, paid for two great meals on the train, breakfast and dinner, a buffet breakfast at our Denali lodgings, and a superb gourmet meal at the SalmonBake in Denali. Best deal in WhiteHorse is the bbq chicken from the WalMart next door to the hotel. Included in the tour price (and well worth it) were a gourmet meal at the Westmark Tok, a fun supper with entertainment at the Westmark Beaver Creek, and a miners stew for lunch in Fairbanks. Aboard the Zuiderdam, plenty of variety in the food, including a venison steak at dinner, and baked alaska every night. We ate fish and chips ashore in Ketchican and are happy we did (try the green hut on the pier). Our companions on the bus and train were mainly in their sixties and our tour guide must consider herself lucky we were such a harmonious bunch. As for the scenery, we took a thousand thousand-words worth of photos. Read Less
Sail Date June 2011
Our December cruise on the Zuiderdam was our third, all on Holland America ships. The first two were on the Eurodam. My wife is in her mid 60s and I am 71. We are generally fit, like to visit new destinations and we enjoy meeting other ... Read More
Our December cruise on the Zuiderdam was our third, all on Holland America ships. The first two were on the Eurodam. My wife is in her mid 60s and I am 71. We are generally fit, like to visit new destinations and we enjoy meeting other travelers. On this cruise, we traveled with two cousins. Unfortunately, the cruise got off to a bit of a rough start as the Zuiderdam was late getting back into Port Everglades from its previous cruise. When we arrived at the ship at about 11 am, we found passengers from the previous cruise still disembarking. Apparently, the ship had had a mechanical problem the night before. This, of course, caused long lines and delayed embarkation. Surprisingly, however, luggage was in our rooms by around 4pm and the ship was only delayed in sailing by an hour or two. We found the Zuiderdam to be showing its age a bit - at least compared to the newer Eurodam. Rubberized flooring around the central pool had a few stains that apparently can not be removed and there was the occasional spot of rust. Wall coverings are getting a bit tired and in our cousin's room the refrigerator failed early in the cruise. The deck crew, however, was constantly on the job of polishing and repainting. We found the ship's crew as hard working and pleasant as always on Holland America. Our room stewards were delightful. However, drink service at both the main dining room and at the Crow's Nest during happy hours was a bit slow and appeared understaffed. Ships' officers were very involved with the cruise. I saw the captain almost as much as I saw my wife - well, not quite. The recent requirement that ship's staff must serve coffee, soft drinks and desserts (rather than self service) at the Lido Restaurant for the first two or three days of the cruise for health reasons took a bit of getting used to but when it reverted, lines were shorter. The only disappointment of the cruise occurred at the Panama Canal portion. Due to exceedingly heavy rains recently in Panama, day tours had to be cancelled due to flooded roads and that night the brief port call at Colon was cancelled because of heave winds off the Caribbean. We did get through the locks to Gatun Lake although the Canal had been closed completely the day before. Meals, as usual, were excellent. We dined most nights in the Vista dining room and enjoy getting dressed up for the formal nights - something we don't do at home. I even went so far as to buy a tux for this cruise (JC Penny has a great price on worsted wool tuxes). I figure I'll be able to save on rental costs for future cruises. Although there were four of us in our party, we usually asked for larger tables as that gave us the opportunity to meet other cruisers - most of whom we found informative and delightful to talk with. Read Less
Sail Date December 2010
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