This was a 12-day Transatlantic Cruise from Lisbon to Boston. I was a little ambivalent about going on this smaller and older ship. I knew it had recently been in dry dock for some sprucing up, so I was curious what we would find. Well, it was wonderful. It looked as though all the carpet and furniture in all the public areas had been replaced. The furniture was comfortable and inviting. And, like all Holland America ships, they absorb people well - I never felt like I was in the middle of a huge crowd. It's a relaxing and very pleasant environment.
The food, as with our every other HAL cruise, was really excellent. We had two occasions that were a disappointment, though. One evening in the Main Dining Room, I ordered lamb kabobs. They were terrible - cold, hard, dry. I immediately told our server that I wasn't happy with the dish and he very rapidly brought me something else I chose. So, it really was no problem at all. The replacement was paella, which I thoroughly enjoyed.
The other less-than-lovely experience was in the Pinnacle Grill, which is HAL's premium added-cost dining venue. We usually go twice during a cruise because we really enjoy it. This time, however, we cancelled our second reservation. We waited 20 minutes for our appetizer, and about two-thirds of the way through my appetizer I found a 10" hair. The manager was mortified. Then we waited over and hour for our main dish. I was ready to walk out, but it was too late to go to the Main Dining Room. The manager was extremely apologetic, and confessed that they had been having difficulties in the kitchen. Needless to say, despite the excellent food, it was an unpleasant experience. The manager called our room a couple days later to apologize again and to say that he hoped we would come back so he could show us a better time. We didn't return. None of this should be taken as a review of all the Pinnacle Grills fleet-wide. Each restaurant is it's own, sort of like a franchise. Every other experience we've had in the Pinnacle Grill on other ships was top-notch.
The embarkation in Lisbon wasn't what we expected. We stay in a Neptune Suite, and on every other cruise, as soon as we check in we're told "feel free to board any time". This didn't happen this time. It was a decent length wait. I don't mean this as a complaint, but as an observation that if they say priority boarding is one of the benefits of having a suite, then they should make sure that happens.
One notable enrichment activity: on the sea days, they have America's Test Kitchen, which is a cooking instruction - just like there might be on t.v. Each of them were excellent.
As a side note: we are a same-sex couple. We have never had one second of a negative encounter/service because of it. (In fact, for the cruise we took for our 25th anniversary, they decorated our door with balloons and streamer and a huge sign. They also brought a decorated cake to our table.)
Our 12 days on Veendam were simply great. I would readily choose this ship to sail on again.
This was a standard Neptune Suite, with the usual amenities and spacious living area. There were two differences from the Neptunes on the larger/newer HAL ships: (1) the bathroom was smaller - one sink instead of two, and a tub/shower combination rather than a separate shower enclosure. (2) the veranda was substantially bigger than on every other HAL ship we've been on. It was at least 160 sq ft. There were two lounge chairs and a dining table for four. While the veranda was the same length as any other Neptune veranda, it was about 3-4 ft deeper.
The beds and pillows are always a dream on HAL. The beds are so comfortable, regardless of what category of stateroom you have. The stewards are attentive and helpful - and always remember your name.
The only way we can afford a Neptune Suite is because we use the HAL visa for everything. We like to take a cruise every 3-4 years, and by that time we have enough points to save thousands. So, we use it as an upgrade - and end up paying what one would for a standard veranda room, but we get twice the space and nice amenities.
We spent 3 days in Lisbon prior to boarding.
We rented a car and toured the island on our own.
unimpressive port in the extreme
We did a Segway tour of the city. Great time!
Lovely town to stroll around - and through the shops. Fiori Oils/Vinegars is a great shop.