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1 Helpful Vote
Sail Date: September 2013

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.

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Sail Date: August 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.

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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.

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Sail Date: March 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: February 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
1 Helpful Vote
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
1 Helpful Vote
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: January 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: November 2012
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: February 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
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