My wife and I booked this cruise due to its itinerary. However, it appears to us that HAL is relying on its past reputation with older cruise passengers and not putting much effort into providing a new shipboard experience. For example, the Canaletto and Pinnacle restaurant menus have not changed in at least 10 years. 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.

50 day Caribbean, Brazil, Rio Carnaval and Amazon cruise

Veendam Cruise Review by survey54

4 people found this helpful
Trip Details
  • Sail Date: February 2019
  • Destination: South America
  • Cabin Type: Vista Suite with Verandah
My wife and I booked this cruise due to its itinerary. However, it appears to us that HAL is relying on its past reputation with older cruise passengers and not putting much effort into providing a new shipboard experience. For example, the Canaletto and Pinnacle restaurant menus have not changed in at least 10 years.

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.
survey54’s Full Rating Summary
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Cabin Review

Vista Suite with Verandah
Cabin B 208
The size of our verandah suite was adequate and the drawer and cupboard space was good. There was one (US) powerpoint. The cabin came equipped with a fridge, a small flat-screen TV and a spa bath (which we did not use) with a shower overhead and all the usual amenities (including binoculars). Cabin 208 is on the port side on Deck 9, about half way between the rear elevators and the back of the ship. The cabin was directly above the rear side thrusters, providing a “gentle??” hum whilst moving into position whilst docking. Other than that it was in a quiet position with no cabins opposite and little passing traffic.
Our “dial” air-conditioning control was replaced by a digital one early in the cruise. Apparently they do this as people complain.
Navigation Deck Inside Cabins, Balcony Cabins, Suite Cabins

Port & Shore Excursion Reviews

  • Aruba
    We had a wow of a time on another independent tour “Sonny’s Tours” for US$35 each. Great value and an excellent tour. After the tour, we went to Iguana Joe’s Bar & Grill for some dessert and 500ml cocktails (‘Aruba Ariba’ and ‘Blue Caribbean’). As we let off our lines, someone let off some fireworks – it seemed very appropriate for such a lovely day in port.
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  • Barbados
    We were warned not to wear any “camouflage” design clothing off the ship due to guerrilla activity a few years ago. There is free internet at the port providing a lot of people aren’t trying to use it at the same time. Easy flat walk into town. The town had a lovely, broad white sand beach. There was a strong smell of molasses (which they use to make rum) at the port.
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  • Bonaire
    We tied up at the more central North Pier instead of the advertised South Pier, which was occupied by an Aida ship. We booked an independent tour but at over twice the price of the Curacao tour and not quite as good. The island caters mainly to divers, with some of the best sites in the Caribbean.
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  • Curacao
    On the dock, we chose an independent $25 each tour with Irie Tours – beer and water included – which was fantastic. Willemstad is a very interesting port.
    View All 1,242 Curacao Cruise Port Reviews
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  • Ilhabela
    This port is renowned for its large mosquitoes but we didn’t see any. It was a tender port. A pleasant enough stop, but a poor man’s Buzios (where we had stopped earlier - a beautiful place.
    View All 9 Ilhabela Cruise Port Reviews
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  • Key West
    Easy, level walking in this town. Beware the cosmetic shops, especially those with the people on the footpath holding “Rip-Off Shop” signs – one passenger we met fell for their sales-pitch and was bullied into spending $4500 on their obscure no-name products! we had a very reasonably priced lunch (with complimentary pina coladas) at Two Friends Patio Restaurant, a short walk from the dock.
    View All 1,776 Key West Cruise Port Reviews
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  • Port of Spain (Trinidad)
    The ship docked next to the Hyatt Regency, which has a free 12 hour internet package for visitors (like cruise ship passengers). We did an independent tour but it wasn’t very good. Port-of-Spain is an untidy city with lots of traffic. One passenger did his knee in falling off the uneven kerb onto the road (and had to leave the cruise at Barbados for surgery in the US). Port-of-Spain was basically not worth the stop.
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  • City Tour
    Free wifi at the port exists but is not reliable. You either come to Rio in Carnaval time to see Carnaval, our outside carnival time to see Rio. During Carnaval it is very crowded, major buildings are closed and streets can close due to block parties. Rio is a dirty, overcrowded city with major traffic problems. There is a light rail, at the dock, which is easy to use but some passengers had to walk back from the airport as a block party had closed the line. We did an independent "DoBrazilRight" tour which in spite of its complications turned out to be excellent. There are long lines to attractions such as Sugarloaf and Christ the Redeemer - waiting three hours in a line is about usual, especially when there are a number of cruise ships in port. Once we got up to Christ the Redeemer, we had about 7 seconds seeing the statue (or any view at all) out of our 45 minutes at the top, due to the cloud. At the cruise ship terminal, transport to and from the Sambodroma (for Carnaval) was being offered for US$45, a lot less than what we paid in advance. Carnaval is worth it for the bucket list tick box, but you’d only do it once.
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  • Santarem
    Docked at a small industrial port with a free shuttle to the Fisherman’s Square. The stall holders at the dock were selling mounted dried pirahnas, and Amazon t-shirts for R$40. The riverside promenade is pleasant, but there isn't much to do in Santarem.
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  • St. Lucia
    We did an independent "Barefoot Tours" trip to Soufriere and the Pitons which was quite enjoyable, especially the Botanical Gardens and Diamond Falls. One bar at the dock had 275ml bottles of Piton beer at 3 for US$5.
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  • Island Tour
    We enjoyed a very enjoyable independent "Amigo Tours" trip which incorporated both Dutch and French sides of the island and included a one hour stop at Maho Bay to see the planes land over the beach. Others walked into Philipsburg and caught the local bus to Maho Bay for $2 each.
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  • Bequia
    This was the inaugural visit of the Veendam to St Vincent's. We booked a ship’s tour – 6.5 hour sail to Bequia, the gem of the Grenadines, and Port Elizabeth. It was an excellent tour on the catamaran ‘Temptation’ by “Wind & Sea”, with nice sailing, good snorkeling and plenty of rum punch (after the snorkeling!). It was a wonderful day.
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