This was our first experience with Holland America. My best friend who has traveled quite a bit recommended HAL. She said we would enjoy it. We chose to book over the internet and specifically the Tampa port because my husband has relatives in the area and we wanted to go early for a visit with them.
We stayed at a Comfort Inn near the stadium and we were very pleased both with the motel and with Sam Selzer's steakhouse nearby. We had a very good meal there and went back for cocktails the next evening also.
We did a trial run to find the port the day before our sailing, which is normally what we do when we travel. We found the port fine, but unfortunately when we left the port we could not find proper signage and got delayed in our return to the motel. We wondered then how difficult it would be when we left after our trip to return home.
The embarkation went extremely smoothly. We arrived around 12:30 and we did not have to wait in line long at all. In fact, they wanted to divert us to the special "express" line because they noticed my husband's "boot" (he broke his foot two days after our reservations were made.) He chose not to do that, and fortunately we were processed sooner because we did not take that particular offer.
Soon we were aboard, having lunch and getting into our cabin which held our luggage soon thereafter. That was a first compared to other cruises where we often didn't see our luggage until after dinner that evening. The only comment I would make in a negative sort is that the a/c was apparently not working or not working well. We were told after we set sail it would cool off, which it did.
the muster went fine and soon we were enjoying the beginning of our cruise although the rain prevented a sunny sailaway that we looked forward to.
Dinner was great. We had the open seating and we like to eat early. This worked in our favor as we never had to wait for a table. We met several people during the week and enjoyed our conversations with all of them.
The ports were new ones to us. Key West was very hot and our only excursion. We took the Hemingway house tour. The tour seemed to be running long and by the time we were through the house I was ready to return to the ship, leaving the tour of the little white house behind. The port at Belize was very hot, and not much to see in the way of anything but local stores, which were not air-conditioned. I talked briefly with a shop girl who made me very sad. she said she would never be able to visit my country because it is very hard to obtain a visa and too expensive. I was sorry that that was the case as I love our country and like to hear other's experiences of their visits.
Guatemala is a beautiful country. The lush green mountainous scenery is breathtaking. The people are so friendly and eager to please tourists. I imagine in time to come this port will be much more developed and attract many visitors. I hope it doesn't lose its charm.
Our whole cruise was very good overall. I have seen a lot of the caribbean and now I'm ready to try some other ports. The Veendam is a beautiful ship and the crew was helpful and friendly. Our cabin guy was a great asset.
The only thing that was in anyway negative was the signage as I said earlier when leaving the port. Tampa needs to work on that one.