This was our first Holland America cruise. It was an 11-night Caribbean cruise departing on November 19th with stops at Cozumel, Belize City, Mahogany Bay, Grand Cayman, Cienfuegos, and Havana that we booked primarily for the Cuban ports. This was our 26th cruise – most of our previous cruises have been on Carnival & Princess. We arrived the evening before the cruise and rode in what is probably the dirtiest cab in Fort Lauderdale to our Hotel – The Marriott Renaissance which is directly across the street from the entrance to the cruise terminal. This is a full service hotel and arriving late in the evening were thankful it offered room service which was very good. The next morning I took a walk to the bridge East of the hotel which offered a view of the cruise ships and saw the new Celebrity Edge arriving in port. If we return to Fort Lauderdale we will stay at this hotel again. I believe HAL books many cruisers into this hotel. Our check-in time was 1pm but we spoke with the shuttle driver and he recommended we go earlier because he said the HAL terminal wasn’t crowded. The shuttle charges $6 per person for a ride from the Hotel to the Terminal. We also arranged for the shuttle (Quick & Safe I believe) to pick us up post-cruise at the terminal and take us to the airport. The charge was $10 per person. We arrived at the terminal about 12:15pm and the embarkation process went quickly - the HAL employees were pleasant and personable – we were on the ship in maybe 30 minutes. All 3 pieces of our luggage arrived shortly after boarding. We were very pleased with our cabin – it was a Vista Suite located around the corner from the AFT elevators on the verandah deck (Deck 9). It was very quiet, everything worked, the balcony had lots of room, and our cabin stewards (Gus & Teddi) were great. This cabin was conveniently located to nearly everything – our dining room on the 8th floor was one stair flight below and the Lido was two stair flights above. We used the stairs extensively except for when we returned from tours. As noted in other reviews, one of the four elevators was inoperative the entire cruise. The metal finish on the balcony exterior could have used some refinishing. The food and service in the main dining room, Lido, and room service was very good. The Lido staff are clearly overworked/understaffed and work very hard to clean tables, do set-ups, and provide drinks. We were always able to find a table – like other cruisers – sometimes we resorted to self-service for beverages. I believe the ice cream person is one of the busiest persons on the ship. The Lido closes for breakfast at 10am, lunch at 2pm, and dinner at 8pm. The burger place takes your order and then gives you a buzzer to alert you when your order is ready – very efficient. At Cozumel, we booked the tour to Chichen-Itza which lasted nearly nine hours. We spent an hour and twenty minutes at the actual site. The rest of the time consisted of ferry rides to and from Carmen De Playa and then a long bus ride to and from Chichen-Itza. The site itself is magnificent and it would have been great to have more time there but we have been trying to schedule this tour for 15 years and for one reason or another it was always cancelled – so we were thankful to finally make it there. Our tour guide was Jorge and he was very good. There was a very long line to enter the site so one of the benefits to a HAL tour is bypassing lines. At Belize City, we booked the tour to the Lamanai ruins with riverboat ride. This is one of our all-time favorite tours . . . Bernie, the tour guide was wonderful and kept everyone informed and taken care of. The ruins are in the jungle and require a walk of one and one-half to two miles but there are three large temples to see. Following the tour of the ruins, we were served a good lunch at the Ecco-Park on the river. A shipboard talk about the Chichen-Itza and Lamanai sites prior to the tours would have been helpful. We took no tours at Mahogany Bay or Grand Cayman. We booked the Santa Clara & Los Abuelos De Fiesta tour at Cienfuegos. This was an all day tour that featured an hour and one-half drive from Cienfuegos to Santa Clara which gave us a glimpse of rural Cuba and many small villages. When we arrived at Santa Clara we learned the museums we were scheduled to visit were closed on Monday. HAL refunded everyone 30% of the tour price. This was a good tour with an excellent lunch. We booked the Best of Havana tour. We met in the theater at 8am and sat there until 10am before leaving because only five buses at a time were allowed to come into the terminal. So this made an eight hour tour a ten hour tour. Our favorites were the fort overlooking Havana, El Malecon, the Revolution Plaza, and the four Plazas. If I were to do this over, I would hire one of the classic car taxi-cabs to show me Havana seeing the same things in less time. As it was, we enjoyed the tour and were served an excellent lunch. All these tours were long/all-day tours and it was very hot (except for Havana) so we used the sea days to rest and recuperate. I would recommend anyone taking this cruise rise early for the entrance into Havana – the only harbor entrance/departure more scenic that I can think of is Venice. Rather than leaving at 2am, we overnighted in Havana – leaving at 830am Thursday morning so we were able to view it once again. Arriving, the best view is from the starboard side. When converting your currency into CUC’s (Cuban Pesos for Tourists) remember to ask for “mas pequenos, por favor” because you will need smaller denominations and 1 CUC coins for tips – everyone wants a tip – even the dogs. We did not attend any of the shows in the theater - they were scheduled for 8pm while we were at dinner and if they had two shows the second show would be at 10pm which was our bedtime. We did enjoy the musical entertainment in the bars and Crow's nest which we attended every night before dinner. We thoroughly enjoyed this cruise and purchased future cruise certificates while on board. It was nearly perfect. I have read many reviews critical of the ship’s appearance and condition but I thought the interior of the ship looked great – and the promenade deck which I walked on about two hours every day, the teak looked great. Our next cruise is a 10 Day Mexican Riviera cruise on the Grand Princess from San Francisco next October.

Havana Day Dreaming

Veendam Cruise Review by jsmac3

3 people found this helpful
Trip Details
  • Sail Date: November 2018
  • Destination: Cuba
  • Cabin Type: Vista Suite with Verandah
This was our first Holland America cruise. It was an 11-night Caribbean cruise departing on November 19th with stops at Cozumel, Belize City, Mahogany Bay, Grand Cayman, Cienfuegos, and Havana that we booked primarily for the Cuban ports. This was our 26th cruise – most of our previous cruises have been on Carnival & Princess.

We arrived the evening before the cruise and rode in what is probably the dirtiest cab in Fort Lauderdale to our Hotel – The Marriott Renaissance which is directly across the street from the entrance to the cruise terminal. This is a full service hotel and arriving late in the evening were thankful it offered room service which was very good. The next morning I took a walk to the bridge East of the hotel which offered a view of the cruise ships and saw the new Celebrity Edge arriving in port. If we return to Fort Lauderdale we will stay at this hotel again. I believe HAL books many cruisers into this hotel.

Our check-in time was 1pm but we spoke with the shuttle driver and he recommended we go earlier because he said the HAL terminal wasn’t crowded. The shuttle charges $6 per person for a ride from the Hotel to the Terminal. We also arranged for the shuttle (Quick & Safe I believe) to pick us up post-cruise at the terminal and take us to the airport. The charge was $10 per person.

We arrived at the terminal about 12:15pm and the embarkation process went quickly - the HAL employees were pleasant and personable – we were on the ship in maybe 30 minutes. All 3 pieces of our luggage arrived shortly after boarding.

We were very pleased with our cabin – it was a Vista Suite located around the corner from the AFT elevators on the verandah deck (Deck 9). It was very quiet, everything worked, the balcony had lots of room, and our cabin stewards (Gus & Teddi) were great. This cabin was conveniently located to nearly everything – our dining room on the 8th floor was one stair flight below and the Lido was two stair flights above. We used the stairs extensively except for when we returned from tours. As noted in other reviews, one of the four elevators was inoperative the entire cruise. The metal finish on the balcony exterior could have used some refinishing.

The food and service in the main dining room, Lido, and room service was very good. The Lido staff are clearly overworked/understaffed and work very hard to clean tables, do set-ups, and provide drinks. We were always able to find a table – like other cruisers – sometimes we resorted to self-service for beverages. I believe the ice cream person is one of the busiest persons on the ship. The Lido closes for breakfast at 10am, lunch at 2pm, and dinner at 8pm. The burger place takes your order and then gives you a buzzer to alert you when your order is ready – very efficient.

At Cozumel, we booked the tour to Chichen-Itza which lasted nearly nine hours. We spent an hour and twenty minutes at the actual site. The rest of the time consisted of ferry rides to and from Carmen De Playa and then a long bus ride to and from Chichen-Itza. The site itself is magnificent and it would have been great to have more time there but we have been trying to schedule this tour for 15 years and for one reason or another it was always cancelled – so we were thankful to finally make it there. Our tour guide was Jorge and he was very good. There was a very long line to enter the site so one of the benefits to a HAL tour is bypassing lines.

At Belize City, we booked the tour to the Lamanai ruins with riverboat ride. This is one of our all-time favorite tours . . . Bernie, the tour guide was wonderful and kept everyone informed and taken care of. The ruins are in the jungle and require a walk of one and one-half to two miles but there are three large temples to see. Following the tour of the ruins, we were served a good lunch at the Ecco-Park on the river.

A shipboard talk about the Chichen-Itza and Lamanai sites prior to the tours would have been helpful.

We took no tours at Mahogany Bay or Grand Cayman.

We booked the Santa Clara & Los Abuelos De Fiesta tour at Cienfuegos. This was an all day tour that featured an hour and one-half drive from Cienfuegos to Santa Clara which gave us a glimpse of rural Cuba and many small villages. When we arrived at Santa Clara we learned the museums we were scheduled to visit were closed on Monday. HAL refunded everyone 30% of the tour price. This was a good tour with an excellent lunch.

We booked the Best of Havana tour. We met in the theater at 8am and sat there until 10am before leaving because only five buses at a time were allowed to come into the terminal. So this made an eight hour tour a ten hour tour. Our favorites were the fort overlooking Havana, El Malecon, the Revolution Plaza, and the four Plazas. If I were to do this over, I would hire one of the classic car taxi-cabs to show me Havana seeing the same things in less time. As it was, we enjoyed the tour and were served an excellent lunch.

All these tours were long/all-day tours and it was very hot (except for Havana) so we used the sea days to rest and recuperate.

I would recommend anyone taking this cruise rise early for the entrance into Havana – the only harbor entrance/departure more scenic that I can think of is Venice. Rather than leaving at 2am, we overnighted in Havana – leaving at 830am Thursday morning so we were able to view it once again. Arriving, the best view is from the starboard side.

When converting your currency into CUC’s (Cuban Pesos for Tourists) remember to ask for “mas pequenos, por favor” because you will need smaller denominations and 1 CUC coins for tips – everyone wants a tip – even the dogs.

We did not attend any of the shows in the theater - they were scheduled for 8pm while we were at dinner and if they had two shows the second show would be at 10pm which was our bedtime. We did enjoy the musical entertainment in the bars and Crow's nest which we attended every night before dinner.

We thoroughly enjoyed this cruise and purchased future cruise certificates while on board. It was nearly perfect. I have read many reviews critical of the ship’s appearance and condition but I thought the interior of the ship looked great – and the promenade deck which I walked on about two hours every day, the teak looked great. Our next cruise is a 10 Day Mexican Riviera cruise on the Grand Princess from San Francisco next October.
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Cabin Review

Vista Suite with Verandah
Cabin A 201
Very comfortable cabin, A/C worked great, no noise from above or below.
Navigation Deck Inside Cabins, Balcony Cabins, Suite Cabins