We are a family of four from Montreal, Canada, with two teenaged children. This was our 21st cruise, so we are moderately cruise-experienced, on a variety of cruise lines. This was our first experience with Holland America Line. We did our ... Read More
We are a family of four from Montreal, Canada, with two teenaged children. This was our 21st cruise, so we are moderately cruise-experienced, on a variety of cruise lines. This was our first experience with Holland America Line. We did our homework prior to sailing, and came with lowered expectations. Boy! Were we surprised!
We sailed on the Veendam on July 28th for a 7-day cruise from Montreal to Boston. Port stops included Quebec City, Charlottetown PEI, Sydney Nova Scotia, Halifax Nova Scotia, and Bar Harbor Maine. We had a large outside cabin, Category FF #0721.
Embarkation in Old Port of Montreal was quick and painless. Arrived at 11am and were on the ship at 11:30.
Cabin 721 was ready for us, and was quite large compared to other cruises we’ve been on. Everything was as expected and working. The bathtub drain clogged up, but removing the plug solved the problem. We rented a mini-fridge for this voyage for $2 a day (as categories lower than balcony cabins do not have one) and it worked perfectly. A small bother on Veendam is that cabin 721 is NOT on deck 7, as one would logically expect. In fact, the higher the cabin number, the LOWER you are located on this ship. (We adapted)
The ship: Yes it’s small. Not much going on… but enough that we weren’t bored silly. Elevators were slow, but that is typical of ALL cruise ships. The Veendam was very stable, not much in the way of rocking or pitching; just some occasional slow, smooth rolling. We didn’t encounter any storms or rough weather/seas on this sailing. This being a small ship, everything was close at hand. Not a ton of walking, like on the mega-ships.
The Food: We found the food quality to be excellent in the main dining room and the buffet. Buffet selection was, at times, limited, or half closed. They did not keep stations open past their scheduled closing times (like we’ve seen on other lines) when the area was still busy. They also followed food themes in the buffet (Indonesian, Filipino, etc.) a bit too much for the size of the buffet… a bit less theme and a little more general variety would have been nice. Buffet breakfast was pretty much the same every day, but lots to choose from. There was a lot to choose from in the main dining room menu most nights, as well. The Dive-In Burger grill was good (they give you a pager). The pizza was awful. We also tried the chicken wings from the casino bar, which were dry and not very tasty. We didn’t order room service (Didn’t need to). Drinks were excellent and properly mixed.
Service: The staff on this ship were, in one word “Amazing”! Always smiling, always attentive, and eager to please. Sometimes there was a language barrier (usually at the buffet) but they were never rude, with one exception: The cook at the Dive-In Burger counter. I arrived one day at 4:45pm and it was closed. The schedule said 5pm. I pointed this out to him and he proceeded to strongly argue with me that it was after 5pm. Every clock on the ship said otherwise. I had time to wait for an elevator, go downstairs, wait again in line at Guest Services, make a complaint, and it still wasn’t 5pm. But this was an aberration. I guess he was having a bad day. It wouldn’t have been so bad if it wasn’t the only food option available at that time. (I’m diabetic and need to eat when my glucose is low)
Entertainment: Not much. Just OK. Shows were average. Dancers lacked precision at times. Singers were passable. The comedians put me to sleep, literally. We did not attend the final show, billed as the ship’s band playing to a nature video presentation. There were a couple of other combos playing in the lounges, more old-style lounge music, not our thing. Hannah was the DJ in the disco. She “lacked skillz”, but played ok music, one song at a time… not many people in attendance most nights. Our kids did not go to the teenager hangout, which was deserted. Only the animator was there, sitting on her phone. There were teenagers on the ship: they were all just too cool to attend, ours included.
Internet: We tried the HAL Navigator App. This needs to be put out of its misery! What a useless piece of junk. The ONLY thing it was good for was the menus in the dining room. Problem was, it was never updated. It showed the same menu every night, until the last night, when somebody decided to fix it. There was no information about shows or entertainment, couldn’t book anything on it like dining reservations, complete garbage. Internet packages were expensive, and other passengers said the service was unreliable. We used our cell phones in port and when the ship was in range of a tower.
Conclusion: This was one of our better cruises, having just come off a miserable sailing on the brand-new MSC Seaside in March. The quiet atmosphere on Veendam made for a very relaxing experience. HAL could create little more atmosphere at the pool decks; some lively music or something would be nice. It doesn’t need to be loud. No pool games or wild animators are necessary. The muzak that was playing was too boring, though.
The Indonesian and Filipino crew literally made this trip for us. They were awesome. Every crew member we passed greeted us, and many remembered our names. Even in port. And they work HARD. Very attentive, and if I even looked unhappy with something, they fell over themselves to make sure I was taken care of. I just can’t say enough. Thank you to the crew and staff of this fine ship! Read Less