Veendam - Western Caribbean: Veendam Cruise Review by jboitx

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Veendam - Western Caribbean

Sail Date: March 2005
Destination: Western Caribbean
Embarkation: Tampa
My partner and I have been together for over six years and this is our second cruise together. Our first cruise was the 15-night spring Transatlantic on Royal Caribbeans Splendour of the Seas in 2003. We are both educated professionals (hes a CPA and Im an educator) in our mid-20s. We are both a little mature for our age, so we thought the older, more affluent travelers on HAL would suit us just fine  we are NOT Fun Ship people. That being said, we are still pretty laid-back and low key&just not binge-drinking party boys.

We took Southwests early flight to Tampa and then just caught a cab to the cruise terminal. Taxis were readily available at Tampas airport and the trip cost us $25 including tip. Check in was efficient, but brusque, and we were in group #9 to board the ship early for their new Signature of Excellence service. In the cruise terminal, there were large numbers of the ships crew milling around, urging people to buy the soda card. Promptly at More 11:30, they began boarding the ship with the same brusque efficiency that had checked us in.

Once onboard the ship, we learned that our room wasnt ready yet, but lunch was prepared for us in the Lido restaurant. The food was pretty good, but the servers and waiters seemed a little disinterested. One thing that amused me was the guy who set my tray. Onboard this ship, when eating in the Lido (buffet), you are not allowed to get your own tray and empty plate. They have a steward who does that for you, and reminds you several times to sanitize your hands with the free Purell situated at the buffet line entrance.

After lunch (and several more soda-card offers) we were free to roam around the public areas on the ship. My god, this is a gorgeous boat. While she didnt look like too much on the first glance, the Veendam is an elegant, classy lady on the inside. The new Explorations Cafe that had been recently added during a month-long dry-dock was incredible. There were plenty of comfortable couches, chairs, workstations, and well-lit reading areas. They also have a lovely library full of brand-new books, including a host of travel books that have some good tips on many of the ships ports-of-call. The Explorers Lounge is a heavenly, quiet retreat with intimate booths and tables, good bar service, and is the perfect place for pre-dinner drinks with new or old friends. The casino is small, but active, and the dealers are all spectacular.

The only public room that I feel needs improvement is the Rotterdam Dining Room. The poor Rotterdam looks like a Shanghai brothel. There are red lacquer and gold accents everywhere, and it is extremely poorly lit. I kept thinking back to the grand floor-to-ceiling windows in the Splendours two-level dining room and imagining what HAL could do to fix the problems I saw in the Rotterdam.

Our stateroom was incredible, though. We had a guaranteed inside cabin, but didnt hope for too much. The room was easily as big as the deluxe oceanview that wed had on the Splendour. The colors were warm and inviting, the bathroom was adequate (although we didnt have a tub, but thats no problem), and the sheets and mattresses were heavenly. All of these things had been added during the dry-dockalong with the LCD TV, which was nice. Our cabin steward, Harry was wonderful. There were towel-animals every night and he took the time to organize our personal junk for us too. It was like coming home to a new room at the end of each day.

The ship had adequate activities planned and there was live music EVERYWHERE. If you didnt like the classical being played in the atrium, you could go out to the Lido pool where they were playing island beats, or sit in the Lido restaurant where they had the jazz greats singing all the time. I took both of the cooking classes and they were certainly worth the $30 they cost. The shops on board were nice, but the small atrium area got crowded after dark. The entertainment was okay during the production shows, but I heard from fellow passengers that the comedian and the magician were terrible.

Speaking of terrible, it has come time to talk about the disappointing aspects of the trip. First off, the ports of call are not good ones. In Grand Cayman, we went on the Stingray City tour, not the one that the boat offered, but a local company that advertises right by the tender terminal. The stingrays were a really cool, once-in-a-lifetime experience that I just dont need to repeat. Other than stingrays and snorkeling, there just isnt a lot to do in Grand Cayman. That is, unless youve got some banking to do there, or are looking to drop some serious cash on a Rolex. Montego Bay in Jamaica is much the same. Unless youre doing an organized trip, just forget about getting off the boat. We took the shuttle to town and while there; we were constantly heckled by locals asking for money. We were offered every illegal drug/service imaginable and we ended up walking back to the boat, just to kill time. In Costa Maya, we took the local tour of the Mayan ruins and had a fantastic time. The shopping was a let-down again because most of the stuff for sale at the cruise terminal and in the fishing village was made in China.

The other aspect of the cruise that was a big let down was the food. We usually ate breakfast in the Lido every morning, and that was good. They had a wide variety of things to eat. The menu didnt change at all, but really, its breakfast. How different do you want it to get? We ate lunch in the dining room and that was pretty good, too. The service was usually poor in the dining room at dinner and it just got worse at lunch. The food at dinner varied from so-so to nearly inedible. We ate twice in the Pinnacle Grill, twice in the Lido, and three times in the Rotterdam. The Pinnacle Grill was a real let-down because we had to pay extra for it. In the Pinnacle, the rolls were actually cold in the middle, the steaks were of poor quality, tough, and overcooked, and the desserts were no better than the ones served in the dining room. The Lido just served until 7:30 and the food was the exact same as the food in the Dining room. The desserts were often flavorless and stale, and both times we ate in the Lido, we actually saw them take the desserts out of the commercial boxes they had come packed in. The food in the dining room was the same low quality that it was in the Lido, but the service in the Rotterdam was terrible. We almost never saw our waiter, our water and tea glasses were always empty, and the only person who seemed to care about us was the wine steward, until he found out we didn't want any wine.

All in all, we were not too impressed with HAL. We met some really cool people on board and were all planning another cruise together, but definitely on a different line. Less

Published 04/09/06

Cabin review: N595 Standard Interior Stateroom

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