Veendam Cruise Review by survey54
- Sail Date: February 2019
- Destination: South America
- Cabin Type: Vista Suite with Verandah
Boarding in Fort Lauderdale was quick and easy. A dedicated ‘Mariner 4 and 5 Star’ line combined with a priority boarding card meant we were on board by midday. Our verandah suite towards the rear of deck 9 was not quite ready but we were able to leave our carry-on luggage in it while we went for lunch. At 12.45 pm they conducted a 3, 4 & 5 star Mariners welcome drinks in the Crows Nest. The compulsory lifeboat drill was on the open deck 6 at 3.15 pm on time for our departure at 4.15 pm.
The young captain was very visible throughout the ship and was very approachable, spending time talking to passengers. He and the officers ate mainly in the Lido. The captain was also compassionate – he had no hesitation in turning the ship around and heading full-speed for Rio as a passenger required immediate medical attention not available on the ship. Well done.
Two of the four front elevators were out-of-action for most of the 50 days, which meant a slow ride when the gangway and tender platforms were forward.
On the second day of the cruise we noticed that HAL had garnashied (a “credit hold”) our Mastercard to the amount of US3k (=$30 each x 50 days). The front desk explained that the “may” in the fine print actually meant “will”. This was an unnecessary intrusion.
The ship’s internet was fast and reliable. We purchased it for the second half of the trip, at $199.99 for 21 days.
On this trip, talks in the auditorium mainly centred around World War II sea battles, which were irrelevant. However, an excellent idea was a “Beginner’s Guide to Portuguese” (the language of Brazil) session in the showroom on the day after Devils Island.
The HAL shops are a waste of space. They need to visit Princess and Royal Caribbean to learn how to sell goods to cruise ship passengers. The only ones we saw liberally using the perfumes were the staff as they came into work each day. Yves St Laurent men’s eau de toilette was $122 on the ship, $79 at Key West. My wife went to the poorly advertised “Shops Farewell Party” on the last night – 12 people turned up and they had to draw the raffle 8 times before a winner was found. The prize consisted of two t-shirts from a previous cruise to places we had not been plus a hat (11 people were glad they hadn’t won!).
Daily ‘Trivia’ on the ship was basically a mess. Initially they concentrated on American sports and after complaints decided that “trivia” actually meant “obscure” (like ‘how many stomachs does a cockroach have’) and their fact sheets were out-of-date, to the extent that some of their answers were categorically wrong. Daily ‘Trivia’ was really a frustrating and annoying waste of time, which was a pity as we have enjoyed it on every one of our previous cruises.
After leaving Key West, the last American port, they announced there would be no currency exchange with Brazilian Real on board and suggested trying to exchange at upcoming Ports’ banks. They also stated that all currency exchanges in Rio would be closed during carnival. This should have been advised well prior to the cruise starting. After some complaints, they later announced that on board currency exchange would be available in Salvador, our third Brazilian port.
The ‘Captain’s Toast’ on the evening of the third day was held in the auditorium on decks 7 and 8, but drinks to toast by were only available on Deck 7.
The Port talks by the “Exc” person and Port expert were excellent – well worth attending. Also excellent were the constant reminders in the ‘Where & When’ daily newssheet to be very careful when in port in regard to personal safety. We learned from taking to tourists on shore that other cruise ships did not provide this advice. There were warnings about not to wear any jewellery whatsoever, keep cameras and phones hidden and only to take off cash or cards you would need for the day. As it was, we heard of one fellow losing, from a Velcro flapped pants pocket, his credit card, drivers licence and $200 cash (in Rio), a lady and a man who each had a necklace ripped off from around their necks (in Recife) and a lady on a walker who was pushed over and her purse stolen (in Manaus). No doubt there were others.
Food on the ship was “the usual”, except for the very good Pizza Bar manned by James and Ronald. They remembered our order from the first night, even though we did not eat there very often.
At Port-of-Spain the captain announced he was cancelling Vitoria and replacing it with Buzios, due to a low bridge and tides. As it happened this was an excellent decision!
We had one fellow on the first half of the trip who only wore his HAL-logoed bathrobe and flip-flops – on the ship, to meals, walking around the ports and into the towns. HAL said they could not prevent it as how he dressed was his decision. This should save me a lot of packing for our next cruise!
Passports and Brazil visas were collected a few days out from Brazil and were returned after we had left Brazil. At Recife, our first major Brazil port, passengers from 3 cabins were not allowed off the ship due to not having correct documentation (presumable the Brazilian Visa).
There were rumours that the laundry service would be cut in the Amazon due to the brown muddy water but a response by the passengers to the captain’s plea to save water meant that this did not eventuate and the service continued as normal.
Disembarkation at Fort Lauderdale was quick and efficient, although we were glad we were not in the “US citizens” line which snaked around like waiting for a ride at Disneyland.
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Our “dial” air-conditioning control was replaced by a digital one early in the cruise. Apparently they do this as people complain.
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