1 Helpful Vote
Sail Date: June 2013
My mom and I took this cruise on the MS Veendam leaving out of Boston June 1st with stops in Boston, Bar Harbor, Halifax, Sydney, Charlottetown, and ending in Quebec. We're both pretty new to cruising. We took a cruise last year ... Read More
My mom and I took this cruise on the MS Veendam leaving out of Boston June 1st with stops in Boston, Bar Harbor, Halifax, Sydney, Charlottetown, and ending in Quebec. We're both pretty new to cruising. We took a cruise last year to Alaska on Royal Caribbean and enjoyed it immensely. We chose Holland for this cruise since it was the only line that offered this itinerary in June. Initially we were a bit hesitant to sail on Holland since the reputation seemed to show that it appealed mostly to an older crowd, and that was definitely the case. I'm only 22 but i'm not really interested in the late night activities that appeal to a lot of people my age so it wasn't really a problem. The first night I was worried that the cruise wouldn't be very lively since at the opening night show the crowd was not too enthusiastic but everyone definitely seemed to have a lot of fun as the week went on. We don't like socializing with new people that much but I was surprised how friendly everyone was on this ship. Of course we encountered a few bad apples but I think that's the case wherever you are.The Veendam is small so you see a lot of the same people over and over again. We got to know a few people that we talked with multiple times and we met a lot of people from our area, Bay Area (CA), so that was nice. We were a little frustrated at times at how long we had to wait to walk from one place to another, or get on and off the ships and the tender, since we moved much much faster then everybody else. But that really wasn't that big of a deal. We stayed in a Verandah Cabin B Category, towards the middle of the ship. We actually were upgraded to a balcony which was really nice. We wished we could have had a balcony in Alaska so it was great to have one this time. We tried to use our balcony whenever we could but there were a quite a few times that we couldn't because it was too cold or rainy, but I think that's unavoidable in the area. I get sea sick so I think the location of the room definitely helped. The ship was very rocky the second night, more so then I had ever experienced, but it calmed down after that. And in our room it never was too bad. Our room was very nice, it was bigger then we expected it to be and I loved that there was lots of closet space. My only complaints would be the shower, which was very complicated and hard to turn on. We ended up taking baths most of the time which was okay since the bath had water jets which was nice after a long day walking around ports. The light switches were also confusing, we could never remember which switch turned on which light since there were so many of them. Our room was always cleaned when we came in and I loved the fact that they leave chocolates on your bed every night. The service on the ship was really great, not much to complain about. They weren't as enthusiastic and in your face as Royal Caribbean which we didn't really mind. Our waiters seemed to have a lot of trouble speaking English so he didn't talk to us much and we did have some trouble with ordering on occasion. The first night they gave my mom regular coffee instead of decaf and she was kept awake all night. When we tried to explain what they did the next night they couldn't understand what we were saying and offered us tea instead, that was definitely frustrating. On RC our waiter was so friendly, he knew us all by name, and he talked to us a lot of every night, so I definitely missed that experience. The food was good, definitely on par with RC. We didn't eat in any of the specialty restaurants since it seemed kind of ridiculous to pay more when you already paid for a perfectly good meal in the dining room. I'm a picky eater so there were some nights that I had trouble finding something to order in the dining room, there was one night we ate in the lido instead, but for the most part I was very impressed with the food. I really liked the international menu they had on the last night and the late night dessert buffet that occurred towards the end of the cruise. The entertainment was really top notch and a far step above what we saw on RC. I was a music and theater major in college so I am pickier then most when it comes to performers, but I was incredibly impressed with the selection they had. The singers were very good. There was one man in particular, an operatic singer, that was truly phenomenal. We absolutely loved the comedian they had on too. The Dancing with the Stars show was fun, I love the TV show, so I enjoyed watching the audience competition. We watched the viola and piano player in the Explorer's lounge almost every night as well and they were really a joy to listen to. The cruise director Kelsey was really sweet and friendly too. She seemed much more genuine then the one we had on RC. The ship was small and I do wish they would have offered more on board activities. Many activities were scheduled at the same time or at inconvenient times and there just wasn't quite enough scheduled to begin with. We didn't get a chance to see any of the cooking shows since they were always in the morning when we had port excursions, but I was curious to see how those went. We didn't go to the pool either since we were usually too cold. But we enjoyed going to the shows every night and many times we hung out in the library and played games or read which was nice. We also enjoyed looking in the stores. At first we thought everything would be too expensive but there were some really fantastic jewelry sales we took advantage of. I got 2 necklaces, 2 bracelets, a pair of earrings, and a watch for under $60. What I really liked about this itinerary was the fact that there were port stops almost every single day. I was really eager to see this part of the world and it definitely didn't disappoint. In Bar Harbor we took the excursion entitled: Panoramic Acadia National Park. This tour would have been alright but the bus was incredibly hot the whole time which it made it nearly impossible to enjoy, many on the bus were feeling sick due to the heat and the winding roads. When we asked to turn the AC up they said that there wasn't much they could do, this problem needs to be fixed. The views from Cadillac Mountain were great though and we really enjoyed walking around Bar Harbor afterwards. I would recommend Adelmann's deli and grill for lunch there. It's farther down main street and goes unnoticed by a lot of tourists I think, but they have a much cheaper lobster roll that was delicious and really great soft serve. We were delayed for a bit getting off in Halifax. We thought it was customs but I found out after the cruise it was because they were arresting one of the crew members. We saw a lot of police coming on board so it explains a lot. In Halifax we took the Peggy's Cove and Titanic combination. This was probably my favorite excursion because our tour guide Ellen was so phenomenal. She told many stories and legends of Halifax that were truly fascinating. Peggy's Cove was cold and windy but still quaint and nice to walk around, I took lots of great pictures there. The titanic grave site was really interesting as well, I never knew so many of them were buried in Halifax. Halifax as a town was great too. We walked to the public gardens and the citadel and around some of the main shopping streets. In Sydney the weather was rough so we were delayed getting off of the ship and had to tender. We did the Baddeck your way: Hike to the Falls excursion which went to Baddeck and hiked to the Uisge Falls. The tour was great and I actually enjoyed the hike a lot, it was nice to get some exercise after spending so many days eating. The only bad part was how rainy it was the whole time, we were all soaking wet and freezing on the bus ride back. In Charlottetown we took the Island Drive and Anne of Green Gables tour. I really loved getting out to look at the red beaches in Cavendish and Green Gables was really nice too. Our tour guide was a little boring and seemed to run out of things to say on the drive but that wasn't too big of a deal. Charlottetown was a nice place to walk around, lots of cute shops and historic buildings to look at. Quebec City was probably my favorite place, the Chateau Frontenac took my breath away when I turned the corner and saw it for the first time. We didn't do any excursions, we spent seven hours walking all around the city and had a lot of fun. The next day we did the tour that takes you to the airport and stops at Montmorency Falls. The Falls were nice, not that impressive compared to Niagra, but still nice. I never felt like I didn't have enough time in any of the ports. We were able to do an excursion and walk around every city and never felt like we were missing anything. Lastly we took part in bingo a lot during the week and didn't have much luck until we did the win a free cruise bingo and WE WON A FREE CRUISE! We have been wanting to go the Caribbean and we were going to go on one of the big RC ships but now we'll be going on Holland, we're very excited! Overall we had a fantastic week and I can't wait for our next cruise :) Read Less
Sail Date: June 2013
What a shocker.Experienced cruisers here found Veendam staff just plain downright unhelpful and surly.Anything was a trouble,whether it was opening a a door whilst carrying trays,or asking for something hotter or even a glass of ice ... Read More
What a shocker.Experienced cruisers here found Veendam staff just plain downright unhelpful and surly.Anything was a trouble,whether it was opening a a door whilst carrying trays,or asking for something hotter or even a glass of ice water. As for the food,it was barely department store cafeteria quality.Overcooked,(especially vegetables),repetitious and spongy.Fries left to go cold and not new ones on offer,grills running out all the time and a long wait for new orders,oily schnitzels or fish that was tasteless and very fatty roasts. If you wanted a light grilled hamburger or something from the pool grill at lunchtime,then the wait was huge as only one person was there to take orders,cook,prepare and dispense.Requests for additional persons to helped were frowned upon. The red and green apples on offer (the mainstay) were ok but occasional pears and even more infrequent red plums were well past use by date.Strawberries had mould as did the occasional blueberry (and I said blueberry!) The food was basically a huge disappointment and serving/waiting staff did nothing to brighten the day. No wonder the ship had a poor mark recently by cleanliness and food inspectors. The ship is tired,and HAL can't even bring themselves to provide a a juice outside of breakfast or an espresso that does not cost extra.Thats a disgrace. Most passengers were tired of surly staff and poor service after only a day or two.And another issue.Most signs around the ship or cabins referring to use of toilets,litter etc were worded in a most unfriendly manner.No please or thank you.Just DO NOT ....etc. Small cabins but basically functional but TV/CD was poorly placed for viewing. OK evening entertainment. Embarkation was cold.And on disembarkation not a single staff member to say thanks! HAL is not a premium line in any manner.It is substandard.We were on board for 2 weeks.Never again. Read Less
Sail Date: June 2013
We've been traveling with HAL now for four years. This cruise was not the worst, nor was it the best. I'll try and write a review that is helpful to future cruisers, with specific examples of the highlights and weaknesses of the ... Read More
We've been traveling with HAL now for four years. This cruise was not the worst, nor was it the best. I'll try and write a review that is helpful to future cruisers, with specific examples of the highlights and weaknesses of the Veendam. First impressions: Not great. The captain delayed embarkation, so those cruisers who arrived early were given a numbered ticket and told to sit down. We arrived at about 11:45 am, and ended up waiting about 45 minutes after we were checked in. Those who arrived at 11:00 waited an hour and a half. Luggage handling was efficient. Upon arrival to our stateroom, we found the following issues: extremely warm room, no batteries in the TV remote, and not enough towels for our quad room. How they handled the initial issues: Engineers finally showed up four days into the cruise to fix the air conditioner. Batteries arrived about five hours later, and the steward explained that the extra towels are brought to the quads at the evening turn-down service. Dining: We enjoy eating in the dining room, and were thrilled when we discovered that our steward from our previous cruise, Tono, would be our "As you Wish" steward again. I truthfully do not understand the complaints about the food on this ship - we always ask the steward what he recommends. One night we were all set to order the beef, but Tono said that due to a reported fire in the galley (the captain had informed us prior to dinner about this) that the meat was not marinated properly and it was a little tough. He steered us to something else on the menu that we hadn't considered, and it was excellent. If you establish a relationship and communicate with your steward, you will have better food and faster service. Ship Condition: Overall just fine,Although the Veendam is an older ship, it was clean in public areas, and was in much better condition than the Ryndam that we were on last year. There were SO many complaints from other guests about the warmth in the cabins -- we met some couples who were traveling together that threatened to camp out in the atrium to make a point about the uncomfortable conditions. Nickel and Diming: We missed the complimentary cappuccino that was offered on previous cruises. The Cannaletto is also now charging a fee. These were irritations that won't stop us from cruising, but left us disappointed, since they were new policies. We also heard through the grapevine from more than one crew member that HAL is now requiring stewards to purchase their uniforms. Not cool. Ports: Please see my port reviews - all were enjoyable, but PEI was a little disappointing, and Sydney was just OK. Bar Harbor was our favorite. Crew: The Indonesian and Filipino crew are excellent. As mentioned before, we were not impressed with Engineering. We also had poor experiences with the photographer, who was extremely rude to my daughter (most people did not cooperate with them, even during formal night). My family also saw a guest call a cab for an extremely drunk professional singer in Quebec who was making a fool of herself. The Captain: Captain Bos was noticeably unavailable to guests during the cruise. He handled the fire in the galley with great communication, and moves the muster drill forward with seemingly numerous latecomers. He didn't bother with either one of our meet and greet activities. Surprises: On the Quebec to Boston portion, save some time for the Bar Harbor re-entry with customs. Do not book early morning excursions. For some guests this was a problem. Also be prepared for an incredible taxi line for disembarkation. Our flight left at 12:30 which was fine, but FYI we waited in the taxi line for almost an hour. Lastly, when the ship thrusts sideways into port, it does shake, and unfortunately this is in the early morning, usually about 6:30 am. Everyone in my cabin woke up at least twice during this cruise due to the shaking. Overall: 8/10 I enjoy cruising with my family and we always make the best of our travel, and try to roll with unexpected irritations. Having been to Europe numerous times, this cruise was mildly interesting, but not spectacular.   Read Less
Sail Date: June 2013
Embarcation/disembarkation was smooth and trouble free. We were on board before noon at Boston, and were the last group off in Quebec at 9:00AM. Overall, this is an older ship that is showing some wear and tear. While it is immaculately ... Read More
Embarcation/disembarkation was smooth and trouble free. We were on board before noon at Boston, and were the last group off in Quebec at 9:00AM. Overall, this is an older ship that is showing some wear and tear. While it is immaculately clean, a major renovation is needed particularly in the cabins. Cabin was rated as a verandah suite (#131) and was no different in size from a standard verandah cabin. There was a full tub/shower and a single sink in the bathroom and adequate room for toiletries and medicines. The closet space was very spacious with 4 separate sections and plenty of good hangars. The bed seemed larger than a queen but not quite king sized, and was very comfortable. A leather sofa, desk chair and large coffee table provided a seating area. The verandah had a full size lounge chair and 2 sitting chairs, all with padding. There were plenty of glasses available along with the usual small ice bucket. Luggage fit easily under the bed. A hammock has a removable top and can be used as a hamper. The cabin had one drawback, in that it was located over the Queen’s Lounge and music could be heard while the band played. Since they stopped at 11:30 it wasn’t a problem for us but would be for early to bedders. Open Dining was best used by reserving ahead of time. With a reservation, seating was immediate. Otherwise, waiting time varied from a few minutes to 25-30. Food was very good overall in the MDR. Service was a bit slow and the staff appears overburdened at times. The Pinnacle was excellent as usual. We tried Le Cirque and I was not that impressed as portions were very small and not really worth the difference over the usual Pinnacle surcharge. The Lido was a typical buffet operation which we used only for breakfast and lunch. The food was generally very good and the variety was satisfactory. Overall, the only area that needs improvement are the desserts in the Lido and MDR. TIP: In the Pinnacle for the surf & turf, they will switch the shrimp for a lobster tail if you ask. Entertainment was below expectations and not as good as other HAL ships. The production company had a few good voices but the attempts at dancing were below high school show standards, and the attempts at comedy (by the troupe) were so bad that it was painful to watch. A comedian/magician put on a decent show, and two of the singers put on a classics show that was actually excellent. A pianist/violinist duo played nightly and were pleasant. The piano bar had a big following and was the only lively night spot. Shopping was limited to a few clothing and souvenir areas but had a huge watch and jewelry area. Other activities were a bit limited, mostly bingo, trivia games, and shopping talks. The timing on these were somewhat odd, such as no movie during the day we were at sea, and many activities during dining hours. The ports and excursions are what really made this cruise a success. Bar Harbor was a quaint village to walk around and grab a lobster roll at the wharf. We took an Oli’s Trolley ride to Arcadia National Park and the views from the top of Cadillac Mountain were spectacular on a bright sunny day. Thunder Hole was another scenic and fascinating stop on the tour. In Halifax we had a tour to the cemetery where Titanic victims are buried and our guide made this far more interesting than I had expected. We then were driven to Peggy’s Cove where we had adequate time to wander on the rocks and look around the shops. In Sydney our tour was to Baddock to see the Alexander Bell museum that was a first rfate museum and set overlooking beautiful Bras d’or lake. The to and from Baddock was beautiful and made for a fascinating drive. Charlottetown is a good walking town with lots of shops and restaurants. A tour of the island included the Green Gables site (no big deal) and a stop at a beach that was next to cavernous cliffs of red earth that were uniquely beautiful. Our final port was Quebec where we docked overnight. Our first day was unusually warm and sunny which was perfect for a trip to Montemerency Falls and St Anne’s shrine. The falls were scenic but not impressive if you’ve been to Niagra, The basilica at St Anne’s was incredibly ornate and full of interesting places such as the crutches left by pilgrims or the replica of the Pieta or the intricate mosaic ceilings. Our booking with HAL included a night at the Chateau Frontenac with transfers. HAL really handled this well. We left the ship at 9:00 and picked up our luggage, boarded the bus and were at the HAL hospitality desk in the lobby by 9:30 where we received our taxi voucher for the next day transfer to the airport. We then picked up our keys at the front desk and were in our room by 9:45. Things could not have gone smoother. TIP: Join the Fairmount Hotel club (no charge) and get free wi-fi.   Read Less
Sail Date: June 2013
I took my best friend, husband, elderly mom and 5 year old on this cruise. We drove from Massachusetts to Quebec City in a rental car, which is a bit expensive but really the cheapest option. We rented it for one day and due to one way ... Read More
I took my best friend, husband, elderly mom and 5 year old on this cruise. We drove from Massachusetts to Quebec City in a rental car, which is a bit expensive but really the cheapest option. We rented it for one day and due to one way PLUS dropping in Canada it was about 250. for the day. Considering that averaged to 50 bucks a person and it is an easy, easy drive it was way worth it. I never thought I would like a cruise (we have done a Windjammer but I don't think it counts). I LOVE to travel and have done a fair amount of it (for an American). What I love about traveling: seeing new places, eating great and/or local food, meeting new people, and wandering. For the cruise I was worried the food would be bad, I would feel bad about the staff waiting on us, that I would be bored on ship, that I wouldn't like being tied down to a schedule, and that I wouldn't like having a deadline in port. I was right (to SOME extent on all counts). The food was OK. The thing that is surprising is you're not as disappointed because well, you can order something else. Some things were terrible, and something were a pleasant surprise. It was disappointing not having GOOD coffee the whole trip. The coffee in the cafe in the library was good BUT you have to pay. One negative while on the subject of food - the wine steward. We ordered 1 glass of a 12.25 dollar a glass wine. Then the wine steward swooped in and really tried to pressure us to buy it by the bottle. We said we didn't know (we didn't know if we'd even like it) and we told him we'd wait to decide and just ordered one glass. He went on and on about how we'd save money. So we looked at the wine list again and I added it up. It was the exact same price so we decided against it. We got 2 bills. One for the glass of wine and one for the bottle. We were confused and just decided to do nothing but chalk it up to lesson learned. I am used to hustlers and higglers but didn't expect on the ship.I was NOT bored on the ship. As someone who does NOT sit in the sun but enjoys going, going, going on vacation I kind of enjoyed the forced relaxation on the ship. We played scrabble and ping pong and chess and just sat in the hot tub. It really was nice. Off the ship was a different matter, There really was just not enough time (for ME). I like to immerse myself in a place. I feel like I just got a glimpse of most of the places. We rented cars most days which went surprisingly well. I just called the places I reserved cars at and they were all there in 10 minutes. I rented vans for the 5 of us which was great and really nice $ wise. The excursions were just too pricey for me for the 5 of us so for less than 10-20 bucks per person we got to see the island (but plan well so you know exactly what you are doing!). Boy, I wish I wore a watch! You'll need one on the ship. They don't have many clocks and you really need one for meals, special things on board, getting on and off, etc. Things that were better than I expected- Club Hal- my kid really liked it and I liked the staff, hanging out on a ship and often, the view. We had one lousy experience coming off the ship in Bar Harbor. Being on the bottom deck we were last and lost 3 hours just waiting for them to call us to be able to get to shore.Oh- we were in 730 and 728. They were fine except noisy in the AM when we came into port. Um, very noisy. Read Less
Sail Date: June 2013
We flew to Boston the night before our cruise and stayed at the Embassy Suites Hotel at the airport, which was very nice. The embarkation went very smoothly and we were on board before noon enjoying lunch on the Lido deck. We knew the ... Read More
We flew to Boston the night before our cruise and stayed at the Embassy Suites Hotel at the airport, which was very nice. The embarkation went very smoothly and we were on board before noon enjoying lunch on the Lido deck. We knew the ship was old but I still think it looked lovely and have no complaints. Our cabin was a Verandah stateroom with a nice balcony which we really enjoyed. There was plenty of cupboard space, a large king bed and a hide-a-bed for my brother to sleep on at night. There was always lots of hot water and good water pressure in the shower. We were very pleased with our choice of cabin. I cannot say enough good things about the staff. They were always friendly, polite and courteous and willing to help with anything. Our cabin was always kept neat and tidy. We used room service several times and it was always delivered promptly. The fire drill was another story... it was a complete fiasco, but thankfully we never needed it. The food was OK, but simply OK, that's all. Some things were quite good but other areas were definitely lacking. The French Onion Soup was definitely not authentic French Onion Soup, the black forest cake was nothing like it should be and the Rocky Road Ice cream was just plain vanilla. They also used frozen shrimps for the shrimp cocktail and it was really tasteless. The coffee was not very good and several times they only had decaffinated coffee, which is totally unacceptable! The ports of call were all very nice. We did not take shore excursions but went on our own and rented a car several times. Bar Harbour is a very nice little place to visit and we took a tour on Olie's Trolley which was very nice. We only went to one show and I was pleasantly surprised. They had a concert with two world class singers who did a very nice job. In summary, they could definitely improve in the food area, but we all enjoyed our cruise and felt we had pretty good value for our money. Would I use HAL again? I might, but I would definitely read your cruise reviews first.   Read Less
2 Helpful Votes
Sail Date: June 2013
We just returned from the 7 day Boston to Quebec cruise on the Holland America Veendam. This was my first cruise though my wife and mother-in-law, who I travelled with, had been on small ship cruises to Alaska and Germany before. My ... Read More
We just returned from the 7 day Boston to Quebec cruise on the Holland America Veendam. This was my first cruise though my wife and mother-in-law, who I travelled with, had been on small ship cruises to Alaska and Germany before. My expectations and perspective are based on research on Cruise Critic and other web sources and supported by conversation with other more experienced cruisers on the ship. Overall I rate the experience as a 3 of 6 - middle of the road but frankly just not good enough. Some very good, some great, but most just OK or less. The ship was well maintained but was certainly past its prime. The staff (mostly from the Philippines) were consistently friendly, helpful, and made a great effort to know your name and personal preferences. The itinerary was good - Boston, Bar Harbor, Halifax, Sydney, Charlottetown, and Quebec, but the short times in port (average 8 AM to 4 PM) made visiting very hectic. The HAL excursions were expensive and we chose not to use them, a good decision based on comments from those who did. Our cabin was a Lanai which had sliding door directly out to a public promenade. We liked this very much and had all the privacy we needed. The stateroom itself was fairly small and made more so by the excess of useless furniture and throw pillows that we spent too much time just moving out of the way. My opinion as a noobie is that there shouldn't be anything in the cabin that isn't functional and useful - there just isn't any extra space. The food was a disappointment. Sorry but it was cafeteria quality in the MDR as well as the Lido. Over cooked meats and seafood, no sauces, soggy vegetables, etc. The best choices were always those that did not need to be cooked - salmon and tuna tartar, beef carpaccio, salads, and desserts, or those that could hold up to excessive hold times like soups. HAL was good in moving people around - embarkation, disembarkation, on and off at ports, etc. Well organized. Entertainment and on board recreation was weak. The theater was incredibly uncomfortable with many seats having obstructed views, The performers were second rate at best. The pool was tiny and dominated by screaming kids jumping around unsupervised. My biggest beef though was how HAL "nickels and dimes" you from start to finish. Drinks are expensive, no free Wi-Fi (you had to pay through the nose for any internet access - complete crap), they bombarded you with photos to pay excessive amounts for (including interrupting every dinner with a photographer and forcing you to run a gauntlet of photo stations to get through the ship), etc. Others may have a different view but my preference is give me top quality, add the quality to the price, give me great service on the ship, and leave me alone. HAL did not do this and we will not be back. Our next trip is booked with Azamara and I hope and expect that we will have a different experience. If not, our cruising days are done. Read Less
1 Helpful Vote
Sail Date: June 2013
June 15-29  2nd week was a Dancing with the Stars theme cruise  Our 94th cruise The good: Large comfortable cabin Upscale hotel quality mattress Very good food in dining room 2 world class singers in the ship's show The bad: ... Read More
June 15-29  2nd week was a Dancing with the Stars theme cruise  Our 94th cruise The good: Large comfortable cabin Upscale hotel quality mattress Very good food in dining room 2 world class singers in the ship's show The bad: just about everything else! Passengers known as guests are treated as a necessary inconvenience by the majority of staff including many senior officials. Service ranges from poorly or untrained to outright rude. The numbers of staff are woefully inadequate. HAL starts with a you can't touch anything in the buffet for two days and the result is very long lines for everything even when there are not many passengers around. Even when this is over most items are not accessible and so many of us just gave up trying to get anything. There are about 3 staff to serve the entire buffet. They even keep the napkin wrapped silver behind the counter. When you are handed a plate it is often so hot it cannot be held with bare hands. Finally after two days you can get your own coffee. I approached with two cups and a senior staff member standing in front of the coffee machine greeted me with "good morning sir" and then turned around picked up a cup and helped himself to a cup of coffee! In the small dance lounge there were 3 mid level officers taking up prime seats with the only ones left those with no view of the dance floor and a full room. They never moved while we were there. A very senior food staff person was smoking on the outside food eating area. Staff never moves aside or gives passengers the right of way and were frequently in elevators with carts etc. Cabin steward was mostly adequate although there was a hair in our bathtub on boarding day and 3 other times - indicating lack of attention. Toilet was also not adequately cleaned on a number of occasions. Dining room food was very good most of the time. Service ranged from abysmal to barely adequate. We finally found a waiter that at least did not keep us there for hours. However, we often had no salt and pepper on the table, butter not replenished, water rarely replenished. Asking might or might not get results, but he was better than we had experienced previously. The buffet. We love to dance, not eat, so we normally eat in the buffet on a band break. However aside from the terrible wait for anything in the buffet the food was some of the most unappetizing in appearance we have ever seen. Trying a couple of things confirmed that it was equally bad tasting. How it could be so bad and the dining room so good escapes us. So we gave up on the buffet and stayed with the dining room. It is obvious there is insufficient staff. Even the lounge which was large usually had one bar server. Same in the theater. Dancing - HAL is pushing its Dancing with the Stars connection on all ships this year and has a number of themed sailings. The second week was the themed sailing -- more about this later. There was one small floor of about 10-12 feet wide and perhaps 20 feel long square feet with lots of corners to dance. The band was one of the worst ever. Although they would occasionally play a song with the correct dance tempo, we concluded that it was mere coincidence. Most of their rumbas and foxtrots were at warp speed. And during the first week they frequently would delve into a jazz set sometimes with members of the ships orchestra. We sent a written complaint about that - more about that later. They also took extraordinary long time between songs. It seemed they never played together and had dozens of music books and would discuss and flip pages incessantly between songs. We did keep track and during one 45 minute set they played 7 songs! Always on time arriving, but then they started talking not playing. Almost always would leave early for breaks and at end of evening. The second week was the themed Dancing with the Stars cruise. Now obvious to anyone except HAL management apparently there would be a lot of ballroom dancers on a ballroom dancing themed cruise! Remember the size of the dance floor and the description of the band! The Veendam has a huge dance floor in front of the stage in the showroom. Although covered with tables and chairs which were rarely needed anyway they could have easily been moved for some nice dance sets as the showroom was only used for 2 shows most nights and 1 show some nights. Even if they only had CD's it would have been a wonderful place to dance. OK so turning to the "theme Dancing with the Stars". We are confirmed Princess fans and only took this because of the theme. We had 2 stars and 2 celebrities. During the entire week they had a Q&A hour which was very interesting, they had a 1/2 hour fashion show with gowns from the show, they had a photo session - only ship photos permitted, and they had one of the evening shows as a dance exhibition. That's it for the week. They did not do any dance classes. Nor were there any dance classes offered. No hosts either ladies. They do have a "dance contest" actually several each cruise. But for you ballroom dancers forget it. If you have cruised before, think hula hoop contest, Elvis contest and other zany games. They taught a one minute routine which was quite involved but had only a couple of moves that were real ballroom. The winners were not good dancers, but those who were the most entertaining - read made the biggest fools of themselves! They had a Kim Johnson video showing the dance before each time and showing a basic pattern, but that was never in the routine. Now if your idea of cruising is a quiet and restful experience the Veendam is not for you. It was the absolute worst cruise ever in terms of rest and relaxation. As noted we are dancers and therefor up late. We had a cabin facing the rear promenade deck. At 6:15 every morning HAL felt it was necessary to wash the deck and our windows with high pressure hoses even when we hadn't moved (2 nights in Quebec). That was our first wakeup call each morning. Then we had the cruise director who while not in the cabin was very loud and very talkative with a speaker just outside our door at full blast. As mentioned we were at the rear of the ship, so not too long after the window washing docking would begin. That includes the stern thrusters and the windlasses on rope deck 2 decks down. That goes on for another 30-45 minutes. Then we had a door to the outside deck with a non working closer. It was one of those very heavy old fashioned teak doors. With the wind and whatever else it would slam and cause the entire rear of the ship to shake. We called on that but nothing ever was done. (We discovered we could lock it and put up the red tape which gave it an official look and so we did). We noticed that other doors within hearing were just as bad. And finally we had a very chatty Captain who chose to use the PA that comes in your cabin to give us weather, wildlife and remind us to wash our hands. So no rest for the weary. This of course makes us a bit cranky in the morning. And the ship is dirty and worn with a lot of fraying carpet and more dust that we have ever seen. Again, probably because they do not have sufficient staff for anything. Just before the end of week one, we received a form to let them know of any concerns since we were not getting the end of cruise evaluations. I listed a number of things mentioned here and received NO RESPONSE WHATSOEVER!! And of course none of them were remedied. So instead of the end of cruise comment card, we thought it would me most helpful to write our evaluations here where at least someone would read them! All in all a very poor experience. We definitely will not stray from Princess in the future ! Read Less
Sail Date: June 2013
This was our first time on H/A. We had previously gone to Alaska with Princess. The food on H/A was definitely an improvement over Princess where presentation ruled and taste did not. Had the best lasagna I ever had on on the Veendam. ... Read More
This was our first time on H/A. We had previously gone to Alaska with Princess. The food on H/A was definitely an improvement over Princess where presentation ruled and taste did not. Had the best lasagna I ever had on on the Veendam. Staff was just as your expect - excellent. Dining room seemed disorganized the 1st 2 nights - open seating meant a 20-30 minute wait, and we asked to change to fixed seating. Entertainment was very good. The singers - esp 2 of them - were outstanding. Juggler was quite good. It was mostly free of the juvenile bathroom & sexual humor that is so common. Violinist and accompanist were quite good. Decor seemed a little dated, and all the pillows on the bed were quickly stashed in the closet; who wants to deal with that each night? Not me. Excursions were a little disappointing - weather interferred with mt top view - fogged in. Guide to Peggy's Cove was excellent as was the tour of the Titanic graves. PC itself was cold and rainy and I wondered if it would equal its postcard look even on a beautiful day. Double deck bus tour in charlottetown was a total waste; guide was terrible. Couple behind us were about to leave tour when we stopped for the walking part - which was not guide-led but on your own. Very poor value. Very. Transfers were done quickly. Sanitation keep us all well - emphasis on hand sanitation. Disappointed that there was not more planned for day at sea. Offerings were repetitive. There were not the educational programs that we had with Princess to Alaska. Totally useless meeting for disembarkation took up time - it was given in printed form later. Library & library area very pleasant but smoke from the casino seeped out and into library which was very annoying. Very. We would travel with H/A again, finding the excellent food, less "edgy" entertainment, smaller ship to our liking. Read Less
1 Helpful Vote
Sail Date: May 2013
I was very disappointed with the whole cruise. When we went to board in Boston, we had to wait for 2 hours because the gangway would not reach the ship. We were told that the Captain lowered the wrong side to compensate for the low tide. ... Read More
I was very disappointed with the whole cruise. When we went to board in Boston, we had to wait for 2 hours because the gangway would not reach the ship. We were told that the Captain lowered the wrong side to compensate for the low tide. That gave me confidence in the Captain!! The food on the buffet was cold most of the time, they were forever running out of coffee. Breakfast was cold, and had to wait for coffee. Seriously???? Then, the waiter at our dinner table took 35 minutes to bring us coffee. Our stateroom had no hot water one day, and then there was no water at all. I had to call the desk 3 times before getting someone to look at it. The shore excursion people booked us on a tour we did not sign you for. The one we requested was full, so they just booked us on some different one. Nothing at all like what we asked for. So, I had to go through hoops to get our refund. If we asked a question very few staff could answer it. I have been on two other cruises. Different cruise lines, and this was by far the worst one. I wish I could get my money back!! The shows in the theater were like amateur night. I only went to the first two, and then could not bear to sit through another one! Read Less
Sail Date: May 2013
Safely home after a glorious cruise on the Veendam. Weather in Quebec was wet, windy and cool. Cruising the St Lawrence Seaway was foggy and overcast but the weather improved greatly when we arrived in Charlottetown, Prince Edward Island. ... Read More
Safely home after a glorious cruise on the Veendam. Weather in Quebec was wet, windy and cool. Cruising the St Lawrence Seaway was foggy and overcast but the weather improved greatly when we arrived in Charlottetown, Prince Edward Island. The sun was shining and the countryside reflected a verdant green. Our private tour with Duncansisland tours was fantastic as we traveled through the countryside and along the coast. What a great person and guide. Throughout the Maritimes, folks were friendly, warm and outgoing....even had a former Legislator stop us as we were walking near the provincial building(Province House) in Charlottetown, sharing history and encouraging a visit where there was an excellent film depicting the "beginning" of the country, Canada (no charge and well worth the visit). One of the best lobster dinners was at the Lobster Wharf....and the scallops were exceptional. Sydney, we rented a car and traveled a portion of the Cabot Trail...sights unseen previously....no traffic just one lovely view after another and even a lighthouse at the top (Neils Harbor). Again, beautiful weather... Clouds met us in Halifax but no rain and again, we rented a car for a visit to Peggy's Cove, traveling down scenic Route 3 (the Lighthouse route) and got as far as Lunenburg (a UNESCO world heritage site) where there was time for delicious Chowder before traveling back to the ship. If renting a car, it could not be more efficient... At Sydney, Enterprise had a car waiting to take us to their office....in Halifax, it was a brief walk across from the Pier. Just remember to book ahead. Some were disappointed in Sydney as every car in town had been previously booked (150). Bar Harbor was warm...in the 80's....bright and sunny. Took a brief Ollie's Trolley tour to Cadillac Mountain....Lobster in town, fresh and accompanied by tasty blueberry pie.....less expensive than in the Maritimes. Walked across the "Bar"...from which Bar Harbor was named...There was a bit of a delay with Immigration processing and the tender opertation but as soon as the staff was aware of the "slow down", they quickly moved to remedy the situation. In fact, the ship contracted with a commercial vessel for some of the tendering....and we had a nice mini cruise from Bar Harbor to the ship. The Ship was everything and more than one would expect. Service was friendly and responsive. Cruise Director, Kelsey, was ever present, pleasant, articulate, a great sense of humor and knowledgeable. Music everywhere for anyone's taste...Shows were enjoyable...great comedian, wonderful Tenor and dancers. The fellow cruisers were friendly and outgoing. The Meet and Mingle was successful, thanks to staff, all the cruise critic folks who attended and the great communication that took place from well traveled folks, Canadian and American. The Cruise Director, Kelsey came as well as the Hotel Director, Don. The Canadians were particularly helpful regarding the ports....some even had family ties to the Maritimes and many seasoned American cruisers had visited the area previously. Almost all who signed up, showed up....just have to make it clear the next time that 1000 is AM....not PM.... Disembarkation was effortless and moved more quickly than scheduled. The Port in Boston and immigration was simple as we processed previously when we arrived in Bar Harbor on the ship. The trip to the airport was brief and efficient as there were plenty of taxis to accommodate the crowd. It was a wonderful cruise....one of the best....so those who have upcoming plans, I am sure you will feel likewise. The only suggestion is that the ship remain in port an hour or so longer as we really had to move quickly to see all that we wanted to see. Read Less
Sail Date: May 2013
My wife and I chose the VEENDAM for this sailing because it visited each port twice. This gave us 2 chances to get some good weather...and we needed it ! We flew into Boston 2 days early and really loved our time in Boston. It is a great ... Read More
My wife and I chose the VEENDAM for this sailing because it visited each port twice. This gave us 2 chances to get some good weather...and we needed it ! We flew into Boston 2 days early and really loved our time in Boston. It is a great city with SOOOO much history. The embarkation was delayed for about 3 hours. Not really sure why....rumors said Noro...once on board Captain said fog and traffic were the reason. Who knows? We had a verandah suite category A and it was clean and large enough for the 2 of us on a 14 day voyage. No complaints about the room. Some days going up to Quebec City were so calm and warm that the balcony was a great spot. Going back the weather changed from warm and sunny to cold and rainy...did not use it much then. The dinners and food overall were very good and even the buffet was better than average. Nice job culinary staff! Room service was hit or miss on getting all of the order right. On 2 occasions I got my coffee cup, cream and sugar....but no coffee. Really? The ship brought on outside performers and they were what made the shows so good. Two sisters did a celtic show, bagpipers, comedians that were funny...just great. The ship staff was good , just not excellent. Overall a nice ship, a good crew, and a good enough cruise. The BIG disappointment was the casino. It is old, small, and several machines were broken and even dismantled. Not at all like any casino on any ship we've been on (34 cruises). Read Less
2 Helpful Votes
Sail Date: May 2013
My husband and I decide to take the first New England/Canada cruise (POC Boston, Bar Harbor, Halifax, Sydney, Charlottetown and Quebec City) of the season for the Veendam that departed from Boston. First off let me advise you to watch the ... Read More
My husband and I decide to take the first New England/Canada cruise (POC Boston, Bar Harbor, Halifax, Sydney, Charlottetown and Quebec City) of the season for the Veendam that departed from Boston. First off let me advise you to watch the taxi cab drivers if you are departing from any Airport Hotel properties or catching a flight from Boston after your cruise. The cost should not be more than $25.00 (that includes the toll fees the driver must pay for entering and leaving the airport) So be sure to ASK how much they will charge you and make sure they start the meter. We received an e-mail a few days before our cruise advising us that there has been an GI illness breakout during the cruise of South America and that the ship would be doing a complete CDC required cleaning of the ship before our departure so they asked we not arrive before 1 pm. The ship was supposed to arrive in Boston by 7 am. However, while going up to our room we could the ship arriving to the dock around 10:30 am (please note: we were advised that the ship was delayed due to very bad weather while sail from Florida) and my husband and I figured there was no way the ship would be able to leave by 5 pm that evening. I wont go into all the details about the embarking because not all the issues were due to HAL staff but more towards the Boston Port Authority staff not being prepared to the first cruise ship of the season. Once we got to the check-in area, it was a breeze. We entered the ship on the main deck (level 5) and we were able to go directly to our room 676 (inside cabin ALT area). The room in our view was very spacious for an interior room and plenty of closet space and desk area. The bathroom was a good size with a shower only that had a soap/shampoo/conditioner dispenser. There were shelves and plenty of counter space in the bathroom for our items. We had a king bed, couch, and a chair in the room along with a small coffee table that stored under the desk area. Our room steward was Donald and we cannot say even nice things about him and his crew. They kept our room spotless through the whole cruise. The ice bucket was always full and we never wanted for anything. Donald and his staff were ALWAYS working and keeping our section of the deck clean. I NEVER saw dirty dishes from room service in the hallway. There was always a room service menu for breakfast each evening on the bed along with chocolates, the next days itinerary and our little towel animal of the day. The selection of food in the Lido dining room and Rotterdam formal dining room were wonderful. Even though we have the Dine when you like plan we chose to eat in the Lido Restaurant as they usually service the same dishes as the Rotterdam. We heard from other guest that dining in the Rotterdam lasted over 2 hours and some people had to leave before dessert to catch the 8pm performance in the showroom. On formal nights the Rotterdam serviced filet mignon and lobster the Lida only services the filet mignon, which was wonderful both nights. Here is a helpful note I learned from the staff, if you dont want to dress up for formal nights but still want your lobster, call room service and they will delivery any of the items prepared to your room. So you can have your lobster without dressing up!!! A number of passages who we met preferred eating in the Lido due to the food choices (ie you could have seconds on the items you like along with a wonderful variety of desserts to choose from without having to ask the waiters). The exploration Cafe served wonderful and tasty coffee drinks that cost no more than starbucks and just as good. They also offer some delicious food options at no charge to go with your beverage. The Veendam provided a new entrainment format. They start have they onboard performers but they now offer performers from the different ports of call you will be visiting and special guest performers. I also enjoyed a spa treatment during my trip. The spa treatments while in port are generally a better deal. My spa treatment included the use of the Thermal Room. It has heated tiled loungers, a mineral water spa, dry and wet sauna and showers. Blissful time !!!!! All the ports of call were very nice communities and we felt had many choices for all the passengers. Please be aware in the Port of Bar harbor the ship is tendered so if you are in a wheelchair, scooter or unable to walk up and down stairs you will not be able to go ashore. The ports of Sydney and Halifax offered a wide array of local artists works and crafts as way on a farmers market in Halifax. The view of all the ports harbors were breathtaking and offered excellent opportunities for great Kodak moments. All the ports, offer free WIFI but some have better service than others. All the POCs have their own special features but the arrival into Quebec City was the crown jewel of the trip. The city is breathtaking both day and night. Disembarkation in Boston was a breeze!!!!! Did we run into bad weather, yes.... We were unable to stop in Sydney,.... Was it the crew's fault NO!!!!! Overall, this was one of the BEST trips we have ever had and we look forward to our next adventure with Holland American and their fabulous staff and crew. Thank you for a memorable experience. Read Less
Sail Date: May 2013
Our cruise on the Veendam usually went seemlessly. Quebec City was beautiful but rainy so we couldn't explore as we wished. The next day was raining during our cruise day so that was an indoor day. We took an independent excursion at ... Read More
Our cruise on the Veendam usually went seemlessly. Quebec City was beautiful but rainy so we couldn't explore as we wished. The next day was raining during our cruise day so that was an indoor day. We took an independent excursion at prince edward island the next day. It was a lot of fun. Sydney the next day was a quick walk through the city. Not much to do. Halifax was ventured into the next day but an injury forced us back to the ship. The temperatures were cool in the 40's and 50's.the next day was Bar Harbor - touristy. Pros of the Veendam. Cabin Service was exceptional. we were blessed with a new towel animal nightly and really looked forward to them. James Caldwell on the piano at the Mix Bar was exceptional at providing great entertainment and including the crowd in selections. He sang his own style and it was great. The Mix Bar staff with Jose and company was great. The special Le Cirque meal was memorable and quite the value for our splurge night. Service was top notch. Most meals in the Rotterdam dining room were very good. The number one comedian in Canada was hysterical!! Our room was more spacious than anticipated. Cons on the Veendam. In the Rotterdam dining room we were sometimes forgotten by the service on refills. Once at breakfast we seemed to wait endlessly. The tendering process at Bar Harbour was confusing. It seemed that we had to get off the ship even if we didn't want to. Also we were made to wait for over an hour to disembark. this process seemed chaotic. Charges for fitness classes were absurd. Read Less
Sail Date: May 2013
We took this cruise as a means of transportation so we could visit some of the Canadian maritimes without the driving time. The cruise accomplished this. The ship was quite clean, how much of this was due to the sanitation process ... Read More
We took this cruise as a means of transportation so we could visit some of the Canadian maritimes without the driving time. The cruise accomplished this. The ship was quite clean, how much of this was due to the sanitation process ordered by the CDC right before our sailing is unknown, but I was pleased (and I am finicky) The food overall was good, and some was very good. The service in the main dining room was not great as they were very understaffed and undertrained. The people working in the food areas worked very hard, but servers had to bus the tables and fill the water glasses as well as take orders and serve. Past cruises (on other cruise lines) have had personnel for each of these tasks. Just seems like the parent company (Carnival) is trying to cut costs at the expense of the passengers' comfort. The entertainment was fine although not spectacular. The housekeeping staff was quite attentive. The personnel at the "information" center were terribly and continuously uninformed and not knowledgeable. At one point when we inquired as to a time zone change, we were misinformed. Luckily, we called back to confirm the information we were given, and at that point were given the correct time zone info. Perhaps, this seems like a small issue, however, the reason we inquired was that we had a shore excursion departing 7:30 the next morning. It WAS an issue for us. Shore excursions were enjoyable overall, however, we booked the cruise early in the season, and some of the destinations had not opened for the season. The venues opened only for the cruise ship passengers on a limited basis. I was made aware of one of these situations (Acadia National Park) when booking online, and this was fine. However, a second excursion (Louisbourg Fortress in Sydney) was also only partially open for the season, and we were not informed of this prior to purchasing the excursion...and this excursion was booked at the counter on the ship!! The "specialist" should have explained we would only be seeing a small part of the Fortress before taking our money. Very bad way to treat your passengers. That said, I would encourage future passengers to take the Fortress excursion during the open season as it appeared to be quite interesting had it been open. Finally, one major complaint that may or may not affect other passengers, but one of our suitcases was cut open and the zipper destroyed somewhere between giving it to the porter at the dock prior to embarkation and arriving in our cabin. We immediately reported it to the "information" counter. They attempted to have their upholsterer repair the damage so that it was at least usable, however that person could not repair it. "Information" asked us what the purchase price of the piece was and when it was purchased. We gave them the info, and they indicated they would credit us (on our ship account) for the suitcase. What we didn't know was that the value would be depreciated, and we would be left on our own to search out a store to purchase a new suitcase so we could have something to carry our belongings off the ship. HAL would not reimburse us for the full replacement value, the cab drive to and from Sears in Charlottetown to get the suitcase, and no compensation for the 2 hours of shoretime lost trying to locate a suitcase. The line did as little as they could to remedy the situation. I don't advocate lying, but had we known then what we know now, we would have inflated the cost of that piece of luggage destroyed to cover the remainder of costs incurred due to HAL's negligence. Again, the cruise served it's purpose for us which was primarily as a form of transportation. While I can't say I would never sail HAL again, I have definitely been on better cruise lines. Don't be ticky-tacky with your passengers' comfort and money HAL. Read Less
Sail Date: May 2013
Hello! We got off of Veendam yesterday morning (May 25) and after making our way home from Quebec City and getting a good night's sleep I would like to give a little review of our cruise. Before we left I posted a thread on this site ... Read More
Hello! We got off of Veendam yesterday morning (May 25) and after making our way home from Quebec City and getting a good night's sleep I would like to give a little review of our cruise. Before we left I posted a thread on this site titled "Sailing with Mixed Emotions" (or something close to that) because I was feeling like I'd made a mistake booking this ship, and this line. Everyone was telling me my kids would hate Holland America and be out of place there, and I got caught up in reading so many negative reviews about the Veendam. But after getting a good pep talk here I went in feeling better about things. So here is my review: Pre-Cruise: Drove from Toronto to Boston the day before the cruise, spending the night at the Courtyard by Marriott Downtown Tremont St....the rooms really are small, but the hotel is nice and the location was great. Just a few minutes walk to Boston Common and Cheers. Employees were helpful and the doorman had us a cab in 2 seconds flat to take us to the pier. Embarkation: A little hiccup here, as we were delayed in boarding due to "the tide being too low". Apparently they could not get the gangway at a safe angle and we had to wait. They did eventually provide chairs and were good and communicating what was happening. Everyone was on their phones / computers checking when high tide would be coming, lol. As for the age thing, the very first thing a fellow passenger in line said to me was "What is a young girl like you doing in a place like this?" (I am 43 lol) Everyone laughed because me and my family were the only ones without grey hair in sight - but it was all in good fun. We later came to find out we were by far not the youngest on the ship! Cabin: We were on Deck 5 (Main Deck) outside cabins 507 and 509 as far forward as you could get! These were port hole rooms, they were fine good views. There were no issues with motion or rocking, the entire cruise was so calm and stable it was not always easy to remember we were moving! Fair warning to light sleepers, these cabins are very noisy in the morning when coming into port - something mechanical gets turned on and it is very loud and then what sounds like the anchor chains dropping. This sounds very loud and goes on for a long time. However, it didn't bother us at all, mainly because my husband is a deep sleeper and slept right through it all, and I was up early anyway and actually grew to love the sound. I mean, we are on an actual, functioning ship at sea. Where else can you hear an anchor being lowered into the ocean right below you? What a thrill, really, and I miss it now with nothing to hear but an alarm clock and traffic. Sigh. Fellow Passengers: Met some awesome people, young and old. Some real characters that I am going to miss. My children (12 and 14) made friends and also heard the life stories of some very fascinating people. My youngest just smiled and said "Wow, the people you meet on a cruise ship". Yeah, the people all right! I am not particularly social and had planned to pretty much just keep to ourselves but it turns out the fellow passengers really helped make the cruise special. Food: Loved it! Did the Lido for breakfast and lunch and the dining room for dinner. My husband had a few dinners that he felt were questionable but I guess I ordered better than he did because I felt I had a great meal every night. My kids loved the Terrace Grill and usually had burgers and tacos and nachos every afternoon while playing ping pong. Wonderful Dessert Extravaganza one night on deck, wow! But my favourite dessert was in the dining room, the Banana Rum Caramel Sundae. Staff: Everyone was wonderful. Very friendly. We did wind up tipping our cabin steward a bit extra, which is unheard of for my husband, but he was wonderful!! Only thing I found slow was the bar service, but that may be because I didn't break down and order drinks until the final day, and by then I think the bar staff already had their favourite regulars, because it took me half an hour to get a beer delivered to me, while others were getting theirs faster, and also slow to receive my wine at dinner, I was literally finished my meal and then my wine arrived... Ports: Boston - just had time to stroll around, lovely city and we would like to visit again. Took some touristy shots outside of Cheers for the kids! Bar Harbour - again strolled around town, walked down to the beach area, found a wine shop and picked up a cheap bottle of wine to take back on board Halifax - walked (or should I say it felt more like a hike!) up to the Citadel, did a tour, saw the noon canon being fired and they had a 21 gun salute for Victoria Day, walked along the boardwalk and back to the ship. Sydney - rented a car and drove out to Fortress Louisberg, and up to Glace Bay area and back to Sydney Charlottetown - rented a car, did the Central Coastal drive, then walked around the city a bit and back to ship Quebec City - walked around the old town, just beautiful!! By the way in Sydney and Charlottetown we rented from Budget, they pick you up at the port, give you maps and whatever help and info you need, and drive you back to the ship when done. Easy peasy! The Ship (ms Veendam): I went in with doubts, but I truly fell for her. The only indication of her age that I could see, is the small size compared to how big the ships are being built today. But this is a beautiful ship! Now I didn't go over everything with a microscope but she looked in top shape to me, everything working properly, no issues at all. The layout was nice, it was elegant, rooms were spacious...what a pleasant surprise for me since I did not know what to expect! My favourite spot for sailaways was in the Retreat area, just pull a lounge chair around to face aft and wave goodbye to each skyline. So peaceful. Open Dining: Early and Late seatings were already booked so were assigned open. We thought this option would work for us since we don't like having to rush to dinner, or wait too late for dinner. But no, it didn't really work out that way. You have to arrive by 5:00-5:15 to get a table and if you miss that you are out of luck until 7:15-7:30. People started making reservations to get in at better times but then that seems to defeat the purpose of being spontaneous and eating when you want. I think this needs to improved upon. Our Open dining turned into a rush to the dining room every night to get there by 5:15. Oh well, once we got there it was all worth it. but just FYI. Disembarkation: Efficient, smooth, fast (too fast I wanted to stay on longer) and out like clockwork. My kids devised a plan to swim out after her when she left, and they would be morally obligated to rescue us and pull us aboard and then we would have a bit more time until they put us off at the next port, lol.� Well, I guess I have gone on a bit much, and at the same time have probably forgotten things as well. Final thought is I guess that I loved this cruise and I would cruise on Holland America and on Veendam again in a heartbeat!   Read Less
Sail Date: May 2013
Arrived a day early for sightseeing in Boston. Very hot, temp in the low 90s. Surprised, it wasn't that hot in Atlanta. Boarded next day, June 1st, no problems, went smoothly. Room HH302 is shown as total obstructed, but you could see ... Read More
Arrived a day early for sightseeing in Boston. Very hot, temp in the low 90s. Surprised, it wasn't that hot in Atlanta. Boarded next day, June 1st, no problems, went smoothly. Room HH302 is shown as total obstructed, but you could see the ocean a little. Room was larger than on the larger ships we cruised on with Royal. Actually had tub with shower. Small sofa, small table with chair was nice. Beds comfortable, room service great. Staff was cordial. Ship was a lot smaller, but felt spacious inside. Lots of places to just sit and rest, read a book, whatever. Casino small, Rotterdam dining room nice, again dining service great. Lido buffet very nice, large selection of food. Loved the ice cream bar, maybe a bit too much! Plenty of variety for drinks, desserts, overall food was quite good. Bar Harbor was nice, took Ollies Trolley up to Cadillac Mountain, beautiful scenery, had lobster rolls for lunch, tasty. Halifax stunning. Fairlawn cemetery where Titanic dead was buried was well kept. Sad, gravestones were marked unknown and a number like 142. A few had names listed, but not many. Maritime Museum very interesting also. Trip to Peggys Cove well worth it. Postcard type scenery. Lighthouse is nice. Sydney weather was horrible, not a lot to see. Be advised, trips and rental cars go quickly in Sydney. Would have liked to travel to Baddeck to see Alexander Bell Museum, but weather too lousy. Charlottetown was beautiful. Took horse drawn trolley around for city tour in the morning, light house tour by bus in afternoon. Great photo ops at lighthouses. Can still climb up in them if you want. Quebec City was great. Bus tour in morning, water tour to the falls after lunch. Falls are taller than Niagra, but not as wide or wild flowing. Quebec is very European, Someone remarked "as pretty as Paris, but locals much nicer". Speaking of locals, everyone at every port seemed genuinely nice folks. Very open to show directions, offer opinions on what to see, places to get a quick snack or lunch. Overall very satisfied with value of the cruise, staying on the ship in Quebec City was a nice touch, allowing for more sightseeing time, but no extra cost. Had breakfast, lunch, and dinner on board, still got a great night sleep for next morning flight out. Just a suggestion, our flight left at 11:05am. Paid Holland to get us to airport on time. We were called at 7:25 that morning everything went smoothly. Overall great cruise for the money, would recommend it. This was our first cruise with Holland, as well as first cruise to New England and Canada. Hope to go again. Read Less
Sail Date: May 2013
After a wonderful first experience cruising last year on Princess, we were excited to go again but this time with Holland America. The reviews I read prior to booking were a mixed bag of good and not-so-good so we took a chance. From the ... Read More
After a wonderful first experience cruising last year on Princess, we were excited to go again but this time with Holland America. The reviews I read prior to booking were a mixed bag of good and not-so-good so we took a chance. From the first night when we were all but scolded by the head steward in the dining room for lingering too long at a table designated for the 8:00 dinner seating (we had anytime dining but were SENT to the other dining room by those seating us) to the total lack of available food between 8pm and 11pm (and at other times during the day if you didn't want to wait for room service) to the "not bad but also not good and definitely not exceptional" taste/quality of the food to the lack of service by the stewards at the buffet - the whole realm of food on the ship was substandard. I could go into lots of detail but I won't, I'll just give a few examples: my husband asked for a glass of orange juice at the buffet after he finished his workout one morning at approx 10:30am - he was told breakfast was over and there was no more juice; he observed at lunch time, again at the buffet, that a passenger had plates in both hands but was handed a drink with no offer to assist her to a table; empty plates remained on tables while stewards fussed around with silverware or sweeping floors; waiting 30-45 min (pager in hand just like any other restaurant) for a table at dinner; when I called for a dinner reservation I was told the only times available were 5:15 or 5:30 - you didn't need a reservation for those times as they were always available!; running out of plates and ingredients to make sandwiches at 3:30 in the afternoon - the sandwich station was the only buffet station open when we returned from our excursion; etc. On other topics, the entertainment and staging was just OK - no elaborate sets (actually not really scenery/sets at all) and only 2 dancers. One comedian was good, the other so-so. NO instructions on how to work the shower configuration - we never did really figure out how to not freeze or scald ourselves even after 7 days! About the only thing I can say was nicer than Princess were that the robes in the cabin were thicker and nicer. I had a couple of mixed drinks which were rather weak - I will only ever order wine or beer from now on as you can't (or it would be harder) to mess with the quality of those. My husband spoke to the management more than once about several of these issues and, while they listened, they only resolution they offered was "order room service" which isn't really an option unless you want to spend the whole cruise in your cabin waiting for it. As for the shore excursions, I don't think I will book those in advance in the future. We spent a lot of time on a bus to be told we had 15-20 minutes to see the destination. I can't blame HAL for this but it definitely was a disappointment. The schedule had to be kept so we were moved along quite quickly. All in all I can only assume they were understaffed or no longer care about the service aspect of cruising. Needless to say we won't be sailing on HAL any time in the near future and that's exactly what I said on my survey at the end of the cruise. I will vote with my hard earned dollars and time to choose a line that provides exceptional service and makes me feel special. That's what I want on vacation! Read Less
2 Helpful Votes
Sail Date: March 2013
Embarkation in Buenos Aires was a bit chaotic as there were 3 large cruise ships in port that day. You needed to pay attention to which line-up you were in and who you should give your luggage to. We had a fairly long wait in the ... Read More
Embarkation in Buenos Aires was a bit chaotic as there were 3 large cruise ships in port that day. You needed to pay attention to which line-up you were in and who you should give your luggage to. We had a fairly long wait in the terminal. We had expected to be onboard the Veendam for lunch but had to seek out a shop and buy a sandwich while waiting to board. Once we got past security, the process was very efficient and we were on board by 2:30 PM. Our luggage was waiting in our room. We loved our lanai stateroom. The large windows allowed us to see the scenery even when lying in bed with a cold! The sliding door allowed easy access to the deck for photographs. Cabin was clean and in good repair. We enjoyed the many, varied activities on board. The Spanish lessons were great and a good idea! We very much enjoyed dancing to the Neptunes in the Ocean Bar every evening. The entertainment on board was mostly of high quality. We especially enjoyed the magician and the singers. We were disappointed in the comedian. Benjamin's talks about wildlife and geography were very interesting but would have benefited from a question & answer session at end. We found seating in the Showroom to be uncomfortable. The timing of the Indonesian crew show seemed poor. We had been up early to see glaciers, were in port all day and had to be up early the next day to view Cape Horn. An 11 PM program seemed rather late. We enjoyed the food in the dining room, Pinnacle Grill, and Lido restaurant. The dining service seemed better organized than on previous cruises and there were few delays once we got to the dining room. The staff were very friendly and helpful. We liked the open dining so we could sit with different people every meal. It was too bad that there was little publicity about the Indonesian food in the Lido. We would have enjoyed going but did not know about it until we were in the dining room that evening. We had really hoped to make it to the Falkland Islands but understand the need to avoid bad weather & sea conditions. In Montevideo, we walked around on our own and found a wonderful handicraft market. In Puerto Madryn, we had a private excursion to the Punto Tomba penguin reserve which was excellent. We enjoyed seeing the sheep farms and local wildlife. From Punta Arenas, we took the HAL excursion to Magdalena Island to see penguins. It was a great day and there were hundreds of penguins. The scenic cruising in the Beagle Channel was wonderful and the beauty of the scenery exceeded our expectations. It would have been nice if the windows on the ship in Lido and public areas were cleaner. In Ushuaia, we took the HAL excursion to the Tierra del Fuego National Park and catamaran ride in the Beagle Channel. This was a very worthwhile tour. We were late getting back to the ship so were glad that it was a HAL tour! We had a private tour in Puerto Montt that took us past Lake Llanquihue, to Petrohue Falls, and up a chairlift to the Osorno Volcano. This was a wonderful day and we were exceptionally lucky to have wonderful weather so we could get to the volcano. On the whole, we felt that we received balanced information about each port including available transportation and sights. There wasn't the emphasis on HAL-only excursions and jewelry shops that we have encountered on other cruises. We had only one port where we had to use the tenders. Distribution of tender tickets was very disorganized, confusing and unfair. Disembarkation was efficient. At the front desk, we were able to arrange the same disembarkation times for all members of our private tour group. We arranged to be picked up at the port and had an all-day tour of Valparaiso, Vina del Mar, and Santiago before being dropped off at the airport at 6 PM. Internet service was slow, sporadic and expensive. We were trying to keep in touch with family members with health issues and found it difficult to have good access to internet. Several times, we went to internet sites on shore. It would be useful for HAL information to identify sites for internet access in ports. Overall, we had a wonderful time on this cruise. The ship seemed to be well- run. We appreciated the daily updates from the captain, Peter Bos. All the announcements were always concise and timely. Although the Veendam is a somewhat older ship, it seemed to be in good repair. Read Less
Sail Date: March 2013
February 18 -- March 5, 2013 Veendam This particular cruise was blessed with good weather--little rain, warm temperatures (66 F) and reasonable seas. Weather was so good, we actually made it to the Falklands. We had one of the ... Read More
February 18 -- March 5, 2013 Veendam This particular cruise was blessed with good weather--little rain, warm temperatures (66 F) and reasonable seas. Weather was so good, we actually made it to the Falklands. We had one of the "A" Veranda suites at the aft end of deck 9. The balcony was usually large and we could see sights on both the left and right. It was well worth the price. This is the perfect cruise for those who really like cruising--i.e. watching a unique part of the world drift by. The "at sea" days spent in the Beagle Channel, Chilean fjords, etc. make for some amazing cruising. I do wish someone had told us that it's not really cold in Puerto Arenas and Ushuaia in March; we needed air conditioning, not winter clothes. Also wish someone had told us that by late February most of the penguins have left. Scenery wasvspectacular. We're moderately experienced cruisers. Here are our pros and cons for this cruise. Pros: - Nice sized cabin, comfortable furnishings, large veranda and comfortable bathroom. - Consistently good, though generally not exceptional, food. The beef, pork and lamb selections were unusually well prepared. Also enjoyed the extra spiciness on some of the Asian entrees--not something you get on other cruise lines. - An extremely experienced staff that is efficient, pleasant and courteous. - Excellent presentations on wildlife and the natural world by the Excursion Director. - The Captain, Peter Bos, while consistently a figure of authority, struck the right chord between casual and formal. It was clear the welfare of the passengers was one of his highest priorities. Having experienced a cruise with a norovirus outbreak, his comments on hygiene were appreciated. Cons: - This cruise was cursed with some of the most impolite passengers we've ever experienced, which challenged the professionalism of some of the younger members of the staff. - The internet service was deplorable. It might have been OK 5 years ago, but with the explosion of smart devices it was grossly inadequate. At mid-day if you actually could get a connection, the response time was either exceedingly slow or you'd get logged out. Sometimes between 10 AM and 6 PM you couldn't even log on. If Response time was only acceptable before 10 AM and after 6 PM, which tells me the problem is inadequate capacity. At $.55/minute on the base plan, slow response quickly gets pricey. - Disembarkation was a disaster. I won't go into particulars, but HAL should have backup plans for when 6 cruise ships arrive in the same port at the same time and all need to get the passengers off so a new set of passengers can board. We also had difficulty with overnight stay in Santiago before the cruise. The transfer staff delivered us to the hotel 6 hours before our room was available; no coherent plan for handling the passengers while they waited for rooms. Hospitality should extend to pre and post cruise events; HAL should do better. Read Less
Sail Date: March 2013
This was our first cruise with HAL and probably the last one. We've cruised with other companies before and HAL is not our favorite. The reason we choice this cruise was the destination, the specific week(s), and the last-minute ... Read More
This was our first cruise with HAL and probably the last one. We've cruised with other companies before and HAL is not our favorite. The reason we choice this cruise was the destination, the specific week(s), and the last-minute awesome deal. We were traveling with 2 children. The embarkation in Buenos Aires was not the best one we've seen. Thousands of people stuck in one building waiting for their turn to embark (3 ships embarking on that day). The cabin was pretty good size, 2 beds, upper berth, couch. Bathroom amenities were good: shampoo, conditioner, and bath gel dispensers in the shower. The shower cabin had standing water - about 2 inches - after each shower taking. so we used our towels to put on the floor in the bathroom so the water doesn't leak into the room. We told the front desk, but nothing was done about this. Towel animals were made each night - nice touch. No refrigerator in the cabin. Plenty of hangers available (upon request) and plenty of closet space, even drawers under the bed. Great bath robes, but no slippers. The towels were very old and HAL needs to buy some new ones. They were OK to put on the floor but not use on one's body :). The food - Very disappointing. The food taste and presentation were way better on Princess and Celebrity. My favorite here - escargot, lamb chops, herring. HAL has the worst pizza ever, I wouldn't call it pizza, some dry bread with barely any cheese. Worst hot dogs ever! No fresh berries at all, the only fruit available: apples, pears, plums (for 1 day), bananas (for 1 day), grapes (1 day), that is it! Unacceptable! Cream brulee was only available for one night, cheesecake - 1 night, the worst cheesecake. The buffet food is not even worth mentioning! The room service was punctual, but the food is just OK. And what is up with all the restaurants being closed from 8pm until 11pm. The only food one can get during those hours is from the room service and that is VERY limited. The midnight chocolate buffet was so so, the best thing was watermelon slices. The German night buffet was OK, good desert and sausages. The entertainment - well, it's not a big ship, so no production shows here. Our favorite were the violinist, the Spanish singer and that is it. One comedian and he wasn't very funny, just running around the stage, seemed to be high on something :). The ship entertainers - not worth watching. As far as the entertainment goes - boring. The photography by the way is very overpriced. $20 for 8 by 10 picture, $25 for a portrait the same size. The excursions - way overpriced, would never spend a penny on these. The staff - all the staff in dining areas are from Indonesia or Philippines, awful service and language barrier. Didn't even know who our ma'tre d was and we didn't care either. The ship overall - needs refurbishment, and some younger crowd. The nightclub and the library was full of sleeping retirees. The best thing about the cruise - the kids club. The kids loved it!!! Read Less
Sail Date: March 2013
This was my sixth cruise, from Buenos Aires to Santiago trough the freaking waters of Cape Horn, actually sea was mostly calm. Embarking at BA took 2+ hours waiting, passengers of 3 ships had to pass migration controls, but finally got to ... Read More
This was my sixth cruise, from Buenos Aires to Santiago trough the freaking waters of Cape Horn, actually sea was mostly calm. Embarking at BA took 2+ hours waiting, passengers of 3 ships had to pass migration controls, but finally got to our cabin and baggage was there. The ocean view cabin was spacious, with a 3 seats couch convertible to bed. Having read in other review that the steward after the first night never returned the bed to sofa, I was direct about this topic with a tip on hand and we could enjoy our couch every day. This is important because the TV is on front of the sofa and is not pleasant to seat on a bed with your back on the wall. Call ports were nice. We took a city tour in Montevideo, a short trip to a sea lions retreat in Puerto Madryn, a 50 miles trip to see 14 penguins in Punta Arenas, the souvenir shop had hundreds, we had a lunch with centollas, giant crabs, at Ushuaia, and a long trip around lake Llanquihue at Puerto Montt, the best part of the cruise were the Brujo and Amalia glaciers, and the fjords, not really fjords, but about 3 days sailing trough narrow straits with snow covered mountains on both sides. I live in a tropical country so this was my best attraction. Sea lions and dolphins accompanied the ship from Punta Arenas to Puerto Montt. Finally disembarking at Valparaiso was better than embarking. We always read complains about food, I have a couple also, but in general I would say that in all our six cruises, dining was good, and perhaps after too many days out, I miss the home cooking. In this particular cruise, desserts were below average. Cruise was almost full, but I counted only 6 children, few young couples and a lot of seniors. Entertainment was at basic level, but this ship has a big movies theater, popcorn included and perhaps a library larger than of my town. It is impressive, they have thousands of books, and many table games. Library was always crowded. Actually we had to struggle to get a table to assembly a puzzle. One night we left a puzzle partially assembled and the following morning a couple of sweet ladies were working on it. We speak Spanish and expected at least to have one TV channel in that language. Actually we had the same cable channels that we see at home, but without subtitles, only the advertisements were in Spanish because the ship uses the same satellite for Latin America. Overall was a nice cruise, good and friendly staff, I think we would take another cruise with Holland. Read Less
Sail Date: March 2013
We were lucky to have some of the best weather of the season with only one rough sea-night that unfortunately prevented us from going to the Falklands. The rest of the time, we had some strong winds, etc. but no rain and relatively calm ... Read More
We were lucky to have some of the best weather of the season with only one rough sea-night that unfortunately prevented us from going to the Falklands. The rest of the time, we had some strong winds, etc. but no rain and relatively calm seas so the scenery was spectacular. One ship pilot in the Beagle Channel said we had the nicest day he could remember since 1975! We spent 3 nights in Buenos Aires - A large dirty, grafitti and run-down city but the service, food and wines were great. The American dollar rules here. Do not buy Argentinian pesos in advance. The pesos were approx. 4 per $1 Canadian here in Canada and we were offered 7 per $1 US while there. Definitely a good bargaining point. I even had a leather jacket made to measure over-night! It is gorgeous. The cruise was fine. A smaller, older version of the Eurodam. The bathrooms are in need of a 'spruce up' but otherwise, it was up to HAL standards. The food was, as expected, quite good, the service was very good and there, was, as always, lots to do. My only complaint is HAL's tendering process for those "independents" not taking their tours. Fortunately this only occurred in Puerto Montt. It was a madhouse to get tendering tickets. (If you were taking one of THEIR tours, the tender boats were reserved only for them for an entire hour.) One poor little woman given the task of handing out the tender tickets was mobbed by hundreds of people, without any order or sensibility. We were tender group number six but got off on the second boat because most of the people fighting for tickets didn't even want them. One woman asked for and got 25 tickets but we didn't see her on the tenders or in the port. We wanted the tickets to meet our tour, which was leaving 45 minutes after our arrival in Puerto Montt. Some people missed the beginning of the tour as a result but GV Tours was very helpful. Apparently, this is NOT how other cruise lines handle the situation. I found it extremely unsafe and, given the average age of those on the cruise, it is a wonder no-one has been seriously injured. I did complain, and HAL sent me a bottle of wine but I still think they need to revisit their system.) But now for the good stuff. We really enjoyed the Lanai rooms and being able to get out on the deck with ease. We had old-fashioned deck chairs assigned to us, complete with plaid blankets and cushions. While there were a lot of people walking by, we didn't feel 'invaded' (although sometimes people assumed they could cut through via our rooms, not realizing they were private rooms, as the glass is mirrored - so good for a laugh). I enjoyed the ability to be in and out with my cameras and tripod. And, we met some other really nice people next door. I must also mention HAL's Travel Guide Benjamin. His information sessions were EXCELLENT. Very informative. His knowledge of birds and wildlife was OUTSTANDING. Packing was a challenge as we needed 3 seasons: Summer, Winter and Formal. You definitely need a warm jacket to be outside and enjoy the scenery. A hat and gloves are also welcome. As for the tours: We walked Montivideo. Definitely easy to do. In Puerto Madryn, we took the Shore Excursions tour to Punta Tombo. We were met on the pier by a driver, (cannot remember his name but it was French and he was charming), who drove the four of us to the penguin colony. He was very informative and very knowledgeable. The drive is long, almost two hours each way, but I love penguins, sooooo..... (Photos to follow). In Punta Arenas, we booked again with Shore Excursions and went to Otway Sound Penguin Reserve. Not that many penguins were still there but I got some good photos and the scenery was beautiful. I think it was worth it. A small bus of approximately 18 or so, and they willingly dropped us off in the middle of town at the end to do some shopping. Wanna see my penguin hat? LOL Our friends went sea-kayaking. I don't know who they booked with but it was literally half of what the HAL people were paying on the same tour. I think they had hoped it would be a bit more scenic but they paddled with a lot of porpoises. In Ushuaia, we had our third and final tour with Shore Excursions. There was some confusion about our pick-up time because the ship arrived early. Nevertheless, Macarena, the guide, and the driver showed up. Unfortunately, about half an hour into the trip, the bus broke down and they had to call for another, which arrived in about an hour. As a result, the guide was determined to show us every last bit of the 'End of the World' and it was too long. We really didn't need to visit the beaver dam and peat bog. Most people wanted some time back in town to shop but we, and all tours, like HAL, had to stop at the park's 'information centre', and their prices were outrageous. Normal stuff..... Would I recommend Shore Excursions again? Yes. Definitely vs. HAL. Especially when their prices are better. The smaller groups are so much nicer! We greeted Cape Horn just before sunrise one morning. Most people were out on deck to mark the passing and the Captain sounded the ship's horn. We all received personalized 'Certificates' and we are now entitled to wear a huge gold earring in our left ear and put one foot on a table anywhere. LOL In our last stop, in Puerto Montt, we used a company called GV Tours and they were very efficient, with a nice small bus. The tour included all the well known stops and lunch was also included. Gail, the owner, was very pleasant and helpful. Puerto Montt is the best place to buy local sweaters for $20 to $25. There is an avenue about a block from the port that is lined with vendors (about 4 blocks long). In Valparaiso, we used a company called South Excursions to get us from Valpo to Santiago, via a vineyard, which included tours of both towns. It was very good too. We stayed at a very small hotel, Manoir Atkinson, in the 'hip' part of Valpo. Great location (except I spent the entire time sick in bed. Fortunately, really nice linens!) We found a great handicraft market in Santiago, called Los Dominicos, an artisan craft market where we did lots of shopping. A MUST for different items, mostly made there by the artisans, and pretty reasonable. We used the subway system to get around. Not too hard. Our hotel was called Hotel Orly and we had apartment efficiencies, which was great so we could reorganize our luggage. It was a great adventure and I will always treasure the opportunity to travel around Cape Horn and see my beloved penguins. Read Less
Sail Date: February 2013
We began planning this cruise in May 2012 and found some friends who also booked the trip. We were fortunate to be able to select a corner cabin on the Navigation deck as we had a larger deck. After booking the trip we had a tougher time ... Read More
We began planning this cruise in May 2012 and found some friends who also booked the trip. We were fortunate to be able to select a corner cabin on the Navigation deck as we had a larger deck. After booking the trip we had a tougher time trying to book flights that were reasonable. Not wanting to risk missing our embarkation and wanting to take advantage of visiting Santiago, Chile we left California on Feb.17th and arrived in Santiago early on the 18th. I had arranged a private 3 day tour that included touring Santiago,overnight stays in both Santiago and Valparaiso as well as wine tasting and transportation for our entire stay pre-cruise. We had a great experience with the tour company. Prior to boarding the ship we had a tour of Valparaiso and Vina Del Mar and arrived at the port a little after 1PM. Embarkation went smoothly. We had purchased a case of wine while wine tasting and were able to bring it on board with no problems. I was concerned as just after having our photo taken and going through security there were vendors selling wine packages and bottles of sparkling wine and the person was saying you could bring in 3 bottles. I believe this was just a sales pitch. After boarding we went to our room and were greeted by one of our room stewards, Harrison. He gave us a card and we found him to be quite helpful the entire cruise. We soon had our bags in our room and unpacked. We explored the ship prior to the safety drill. Our friends joined us on our balcony for sail away. We had late seating and were given a table for 4 next to the window. We had great service the entire cruise and our waiters were very fast. We all enjoyed the variety of food served in the MDR. The only issue we had is that they really could use more wine stewards. We would bring our wine and pay the corkage fee but felt that the service in this area has deteriorated over the years. We ate dinner on two nights at the Pinnacle Grill and the food and service were wonderful. The steaks were tender and cooked to perfection. We had room service a few mornings when we were going to get off the ship early but otherwise ate in the Lido. We found the food well prepared and the service good. I noticed that the food was not as salty as what I experienced on the Statendam last year. We were always able to get a table. About half through the cruise we discovered the grill near the pool and liked the empanadas,tortillas, beans and salads. We went to the Chocolate extravaganza near the end of the cruise but did not eat anything. There seemed to be less items than on earlier cruises. The entertainment on the ship was above average. We would go to the mix every evening at 7 PM to listen to Kenny (the guitar player). This was followed by pub trivia. There were always a group of us competing and trying to win one of the coveted ship pins! After dinner we would listen to the Adagio strings play or would go to the main showroom. A few nights we listened to the piano man. We had mostly smooth sailing. We were very impressed with Captain Peter Bos. He would make several announcements a day about our itinerary and let us know why he was altering course. He avoided several storms and we did not experience too much rocking and rolling. We had glass-like sailing while going through glacier alley and through the Chilean fjords. Passengers were all on deck enjoying the fabulous views. During these times the naturalist on board would make announcements about the area and would also point out various glaciers as well as wildlife. We had to take tenders into several of the ports and the tender process was slow. We learned that those taking Holland Excursions were given priority. We had booked independent excursions on Puerto Montt and Puerto Chacabuco and would get down to the waiting area as we entered the port so we could be among the first non Holland excursion passengers to get a ticket for a tender. We did take a Holland excursion to Otway Sound to see penguins. Of all of our ports, this excursion was our least favorite. We boarded a bus and after over an hour ride where our guide offered to stop the bus so we could take photos of sheep and cows, we arrived at our destination only to see a total of 14 penguins!! What a disappointment. When we got to Ushuaia we walked around the town. While in Puerto Arenas we took a taxi to a place where we were able to explore replicas of Magellan's ship,a boat used by Shackleton when he went to rescue his men, and a boat used by the first people to inhabit the area . We also saw them working on a replica of the Beagle. Our biggest thrill was being able to dock at the Falkland Islands on March 1. We were able to purchase an independent tour with a few others from our cruise. We took land rovers on a 2.5 hour journey over rough terrain to Volunteer Point where we saw thousands of penguins. We saw King, Gentoo, and Magellan varieties. We arrived early in the morning and the sun was shining and there was no wind. We were able to stay 2 hours before heading back to Port Stanley. Due to our stay at the Falklands and in order to avoid a storm we did not actually round Cape Horn but we got close enough for me. Our final port was Montevideo, Uruguay and we explored the city on our own. Disembarkation took quite awhile as there were 5 ships in port. We were to get off the ship at 9:30 but did not get off until 11. Once off the ship we were faced with an hour wait in a long line waiting for a taxi. What a zoo!! We did get to our hotel in Buenos Aries and spent the day on a city tour. We enjoyed a great Argentina barbecue dinner and the next day left for a two night stay at Iguassu Falls. So happy we added this on to our trip as it put the icing on our best vacation to date. I would definitely recommend this cruise to others. Read Less
Sail Date: January 2013
We sailed Jan. 10, 2013 on HAL Veendam from Valparaiso, Chile to Buenos Aires, Argentina, via the Antarctic peninsula. Actually WE didn't sail from Valparaiso, we got on in Puerto Montt. And herein lies our tale. We had three ... Read More
We sailed Jan. 10, 2013 on HAL Veendam from Valparaiso, Chile to Buenos Aires, Argentina, via the Antarctic peninsula. Actually WE didn't sail from Valparaiso, we got on in Puerto Montt. And herein lies our tale. We had three pre-cruise omens that we chose to ignore: Patti's car blew a head gasket for the second time in eight months, Steve backed the pickup into the garage door and demolished it and Steve's dad, 95, had a mild heart attack that nobody told us about until afterward. We drove the now-repaired car to LAX on Jan. 9 and boarded American Airlines to Santiago, via Miami. As we got to the gate we saw that the flight was delayed about ten minutes. But it wasn't long before a gate agent announced that our flight, originating in Miami, had a mechanical and would be. delayed about 35 minutes. It turned out to be an hour and a half. We were supposed to make an 11:15 p.m. connection to Santiago in Miami, and before we ever left LAX we were busy calling HAL's passenger emergency line as well as our travel insurance company to say that we'd likely miss our connection, and probably the ship's embarkation at 5 p.m. Jan. 10. Not until we reached Miami at midnight did we learn that the 11:15 p.m. flight to Santiago never took off and had been rescheduled for 7 a.m. the next morning. But leaving at 7 a.m. almost certainly meant we wouldn't reach the ship in time to embark at 5 p.m.-- it's an eight-hour flight to Santiago, plus time at the airport for customs & immigration, plus 2-3 hours in a bus over to Valparaiso. Turns out the ship didn't depart until 7 p.m., but how could we have known that? More calls to HAL. Dozens of AA passengers who missed their connections were directed to a rebooking desk in Miami where AA put them on next available flights and provided an overnight stay in an airport hotel, transportation and meal vouchers. It took more than an hour to stand in line. We stayed in a plush Sofitel, but we insisted that AA fly us all the way to the ship's first port of call on Jan. 11, Puerto Montt, Chile, and we were successful in being put on an 8:30 p.m. flight to Santiago on Jan. 10, with a morning connection on LAN Air to Puerto Montt. We checked out of the Sofitel at noon but spent all afternoon there, using free internet in the lobby, admiring the view and spending our meal vouchers in their terrific, if expensive, restaurant. Once in Santiago we were supposed to call HAL and report when we would arrive in Puerto Montt, however we made the mistake of leaving the international terminal and going to the domestic terminal where we couldn't find an international telephone. Much praise to HAL, however. They tracked us and met us in Puerto Montt and transported us to the Holiday Inn Express hotel where about 18 other delayed passengers were overnighting in order to join the ship the next morning, Jan. 12. All of us quickly bonded and later we became "PMS" -- Puerto Montt Survivors. But our adventure wasn't over. Many in the group took advantage of the day in Puerto Montt to walk around the town (as we did) or take private tours. I, for one, bounded out of bed around 4:30 a.m. Jan. 12 to watch the Veendam approach, but I saw that the wind was whipping up whitecaps in the harbor and the water was very rough. The Veendam came in and anchored in the bay. We all climbed on a bus for a short ride to the pier where a score of shore excursion buses and vans were waiting. We didn't know at that point that the Veendam's Capt. Pieter Bos had cancelled the port call at 7 a.m. because the wind and waves prevented safe use of tender boats. A HAL local rep came aboard our bus to say that we'd likely be driven six hours to the next port of call, Castro, on Chiloe Island, Chile. The excursion buses and vans departed and we were left alone on the bus. About 40 minutes later the rep returned to say that there wasn't enough overnight housing for all of us in Castro, and the weather ha improved somewhat, so the captain was going to attempt to board us via small pilot boats. He turned the Veendam parallel to the shore to create a patch of calmer water beside the ship, and out came a narrow stairway and a metal platform. We divided into two groups (we were in the first one) and stepped into the small boat, each person donning a lifejacket. Once the boat cleared the narrow harbor we were rocking and rolling in the bay. But comedian Marty Brill, who was boarding in Puerto Montt to entertain in the showroom, kept us engaged in conversation and we hardly noticed the ride. In fact, it was fun! We bounded up the staircase and we were finally aboard! We dumped our bags in the stateroom and made a beeline for the Lido where we watched anxiously for the next run of the pilot boat. Turned out that minutes after we got onboard, officials closed the port for about 45 minutes because conditions deteriorated again. Finally, the second load of "PMS" came aboard and was quickly followed by a boatful of our luggage. Capt. Bos turned around and high-tailed it out of Purto Montt. We we among the fortunate few who got to see the town. Puerto Montt has many delightful buildings faced with shingles or siding from the native Alerce tree, a now-protected species that is the second-oldest tree in the world, next to California's own Bristlecone pine.Next stop was Castro, Isla Chiloe. We did not take a shore excursion but walked (uphill) to the town square. It was a sunny, warm Sunday and we stepped into the brightly painted Cathedral for a crowded Mass with delightful local singers and guitars. We shopped next door at the parish hall where artisans and their local knitted crafts were displayed. It's all about woolen goods here, and fishing and seafood. We visited a downtown bookstore with books in English, and Steve bought a medium-weight jacket. This long, calm "inside passage" area is lined with salmon an mussel farms. Lazy sea lions perch on the buoys attached to nets and just scoop up a meal whenever they're hungry. On the way to Puerto Chacabuco/Aisen, Chile, fog set in and we were unable to view the preserve for blue whales at the south end of Chiloe Island. There's nothing to Puerto Chacabuco except the actual port facility. A volcano explosion and tsunami some years ago ruined the port at Aisen, so a new port was established about 25 minutes away. We took a taxi into town, skipped the shore excursions, and did a long walk along the main drag, shopping a bit (lots of Chinese-made goods here) and checking out schools, churches and civic buildings. A drunk teetered out of a bar next to where we were standing and announced in a loud voice: "Thank you very much!" In English! Our giggle for the day. Aisen has some charm but it's quite far inland, hot and dusty. This was the least interesting of our ports. Next stop was Punta Arenas, Chile, a beachy city of some size perched below incredibly dry, dusty hills. We were told all of the city's water has to be brought in from 60 miles away. First we took a ride into town and walked around many blocks. There were lots and lots of stores, but we found an internet cafe and spent at least an hour online for just a few dollars. I printed out a star chart of the summer sky in the southern hemisphere -- oddly, none was provided on the ship because the Travel Guide Benjamin felt the sun set so late (around 10:30 p.m) that no one would be interested. Later we returned to the port and took a free bus to a nearby shopping center with a large grocery store, Walmart-type superstore, electronics store and much more. Everybody from town and from the ship was there, it seemed. I bought a bathing suit on sale and some swim goggles that I used later in the ship's pool. Great fun, swimming on a cruise ship. Everyone was looking forward to the stop in Ushuaia, Argentina, the southernmost city on earth, but our stop there was cancelled by bad weather so we steamed immediately for the Antarctic peninsula. We had an easy crossing of the Drake Passage -- it's 500 miles from Cape Horn to Antarctica -- with no bad weather and only medium swells. Antarctica was immediately otherworldly. Truly it's like being on a different planet. The quality of light and air are different, the water is glassy still, the only sound is that of the ship and there's a sense of everpresent danger -- death in the water or on the ice is just minutes away. Wildlife is everywhere -- penguins, seals, whales, orcas and birds -- and plentiful. The occasional scientific outpost or supply ship looks like a brash intruder on this landscape. Images of Antarctica are forever in my mind, but if I ever need reminding I bought the excellent DVD produced by the ship's photo staff. It was exclusive to our trip and contained no stock footage. Everything in Antarctica (and even in all of the south of South America) is dictated by wind, weather, water and ice conditions, so our route along the peninsula was a series of forays and turnarounds. Pack ice scrapped the Lemaire Channel, but it's amazing how the Veendam can rotate on a dime. We passed an iceberg that ship's staff estimated was more than 150 meters high, more than a mile long and so wide you couldn't see across it. We got down to about 64 degrees south latitude, by the way, with the Antarctic Circle at 66.3 degrees. HAL ships can't go that far because they don't have ice-strengthened hulls. We hated to leave Antarctica, but Capt. Bos held out the possibility of a stop in the Falklands. We thought this had been cancelled off the itinerary since last summer because there's less than a 40 percent chance of docking there and tendering in. Sure enough, the weather was impossible as we approached, so it was a very long steam to Puerto Madryn, Argentina. Fortunately our second traverse of the Drake Passage was as uneventful as our first one. Puerto Madryn was a charming town with a teeny shopping mall where a couple danced the tango. We strolled and shopped but the closest internet cafe was jammed and a larger one further in town was closed. Again we skipped shore excursions. The next port, Montevideo, Uruguay, was intriguing. The Rio Plata is so wide here you'd swear you were on the ocean. I did take three-hour bus tour of the city -- a proper shore excursion. There is much wealth here, with highrise condos lining the beachfront as they do in similar European and American cities. It got warmer. On to Buenos Aires, our final port of call and one of South America's largest cities, somewhere between 9 and 12 million. It could be Los Angeles, Toronto or New York. Again we took a three-hour city shore excursion by bus. It was hot and humid. While many passengers took further shore excursions, trips to Iguazu Falls or other adventures after disembarking in Buenos Aires, we headed immediately for home and had no delays this time on American Airlines. Here's my short take on this cruise. We had planned it for two years because the trip in January of 2012 already was full when we wanted to book. This HAL itinerary is the least expensive one you'll find to Antarctica -- expedition cruises that actually land zodiacs on the continent cost at least twice as much per person, starting around $10,000. HAL shore excursions and onboard slow internet continue to be frightfully expensive, yet we found the city highlights bus trips to be well priced, extremely informative and complete. We were put off other shore excursions by their great distance, such as 2.5 hours each way partially on a gravel road to the Punto Tombo penguin reserve. We saw enough penguins in Antarctica; granted they weren't close enough to touch. Also we didn't need a shore excursion to see expert sheep shearing -- we've seen that at the county fair! As an older ship the Veendam has some problems that fortunately didn't affect us -- leaking bathrooms, telephones that didn't work, questionable cleanliness. To boot, almost everyone onboard shared a headcold that put many passengers out of commission for several days. We were dismayed when told by the infirmary staff "this happens on every cruise more than ten days long." Apparently two or more passengers were hospitalized in foreign cities, and one had surgery. We found lectures by Antarctic scientists and naturalists utterly intriguing and infinitely informative, over and above the six months of research we had done on own own before the voyage. It's a touchy subject, but a lecture on the troubled political history of South America would have been welcome. The ship's Signature Shops carried no souvenirs of Antarctica and their response was that they couldn't sell enough of it to be worthwhile because HAL makes so few trips on this itinerary. This was exacerbated by not stopping in Ushuaia, apparently a shopping opportunity for Antarctica souvenirs. We've had to buy some items online after our return home, but who will know? HAL food was typical, with high marks for bread pudding with vanilla sauce and fresh orange juice, and an unusual treat of seared ahi tuna worthy of any fine California restaurant. Good beef tenderloin and filet, too. Lots of salmon. Unripe tomatoes at the top of the cruise. Indonesian specialities instead of local specialities such as barbecued beef from Argentina. Adequate service to HAL standards. Some cruisers are noticing cuts in HAL staff and service -- yes, there are noticeable cuts but they are not yet devastating. Our biggest complaint -- we met some wonderful folks but the ship was full of grumpy passengers who complained about everything. We have no idea how the front desk staff managed. They should get a medal. For us this cruise was expensive, fraught with problems and some disappointments, yet still the trip of a lifetime. Cruisers ought to be more able to roll with the bumps. A word to the wise -- take this trip originating from Buenos Aires and you won't have to pay a $160-per-person Chilean entry fee. Read Less
Veendam Ratings
Category Editor Member
Cabins 4.0 4.1
Dining 4.0 3.9
Entertainment 3.0 3.6
Public Rooms 4.0 4.1
Fitness Recreation 3.0 3.6
Family 3.0 3.6
Shore Excursion 4.0 3.6
Enrichment 3.0 3.5
Service 3.0 4.2
Value For Money 4.0 3.8
Rates 4.0 4.1

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