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Sail Date: August 2009
Our grandson actually asked me to write a review because he had such a great time cruising. I think he will be a future cruiser on his own one day. Our DGS especially enjoyed the staff in Club HAL. He totally enjoyed all the time he ... Read More
Our grandson actually asked me to write a review because he had such a great time cruising. I think he will be a future cruiser on his own one day. Our DGS especially enjoyed the staff in Club HAL. He totally enjoyed all the time he spent with them. He also thought our cabin steward was great (Maury) as well as our waiter and assistant waiter, at least on our trip back from Seward. Tawan was our waiter and Yohanes AKA Joe. They remember he liked chocolate milk and always had it at the table when we arrived. They were exceptionally nice to him. Some other wait staff around the ship were also great with him and one (Bawa) even referred to him as his "little brother". Joe and a second Joe (the ice cream men) were also favorites. We also thought the staff was great. Maury kept our cabin in great shape, always clean and always all the supplies we needed. He also brought us extra ice for the small ice chest we brought on board for our soda and other drinks. Nothing was too much for him. He was great!!! We have the same thoughts as our DGS about the wait staff!! Could not have been better. Our cabin (stern cabin) was wonderful. We enjoyed our veranda so much even if it was a bit cold out there at times. We did have a problem one day with the drain on the floor of the bathroom backing up. It was handled quickly and professionally. In fact, the manager from the front desk came to our cabin four times that day to make sure things were being taken care of. The next day, the Hotel Manager came up to check with us. It could not have been handled better. I had occasion to have to visit the medical office after a fall on Lido deck where there was water on the deck. The nurses and the doctor were great. They called several times to see how I was doing. Of course, no charge for these visits. We were not happy with our first waiter and didn't go to the MDR three days. We got a call from dining room staff asking if anything was wrong and would we like a window table for our trip back to Vancouver. That is when we got the waiters that we were so happy with. We loved the trip and the ship. Our embarkation was quick as was when we were forced to leave the ship. However, the lines at the Vancouver airport to get through customs and security were ridiculous!!! We would certainly sail with HAL again and the Veendam. Read Less
2 Helpful Votes
Sail Date: August 2009
This is my 5th cruise; 1st on HAL. Previous cruises were with Norwegian and Princess. 2nd cruise to Alaska DW had a conference in Vancouver and as such, flew in on Wednesday. Stayed at the Pan Pacific by the waterfront. Wonderful hotel - ... Read More
This is my 5th cruise; 1st on HAL. Previous cruises were with Norwegian and Princess. 2nd cruise to Alaska DW had a conference in Vancouver and as such, flew in on Wednesday. Stayed at the Pan Pacific by the waterfront. Wonderful hotel - beautifully maintained and the rooms were very comfortable. Downtown Vancouver is very walk able and is a must do. Gastown is very pretty with the steam clock and all the souvenir stores. From there, it's a hop, skip and a jump to Chinatown. Try the Chinese classical gardens (Dr. Sun Yat Sen). Granville Island is a day trip by itself; they have buskers performing on the hour in the main square, a farmers market, wonderful bakeries, and small take out joints...very enjoyable. You can also walk along the water to Stanley Park (though it's a long walk), but picturesque. There are too many attractions around Vancouver to list. On to the ship! Embarkation: - The Veendam is a smaller ship and as such, I didn't expect embarkation to take too long. It didn't. The entire process was fairly smooth and about 30 mins later we were in our cabins. There are souvenirs brochures at the dock and my recommendation to get a couple if you are into kick knack souvenirs from Alaska. Cabin: - The cabin size was excellent. We chose an inside cabin and didn't expect it to be of a decent size, but it was. 2 beds joined to make a queen; a single bed, dresser, couple of chairs and ample space to store clothing. The bathroom was also a good size; only shower stall for inside cabins, but adequate. The dEcor was mildly dated, but adequate nonetheless. Our room stewards were Filipino; they introduced themselves and made sure we were comfortable. We noticed there was no mini bar and were told that inside cabins didn't come with it. I was somewhat surprised, but it was not a big deal. We brought a couple of bottles of wine with us and were hoping to chill the white, but figured dunking the bottle in the ice bucket would do the trick. The ship: - The ship was relatively small (under 60,000 tons) and had only about 1000 passengers on board. The demographic is a mostly older crowd and we (in our early 30's) were among the youngest on board. The ship has some very elegant art and overall has very good ambiance. There are many quite reading places both indoor and outdoor. We particularly enjoyed the window facing lounge chairs. The ship is over 10 years old and it does show in some places (e.g. the bannisters), but it didnt mar the experiance. The decks offer many viewing opportunities, especially from the front of the ship. Didnt try out the fitness center or the spa. The fitness center seemed on the smaller size, but to be honest, not sure if it was crowded or not. The food: - Overall very good. We ate mainly in the Rotterdam dining room and chose the 'anytime' dining option. There were some wait times (up to 20 minutes), but this was not a problem. The food per say was well executed, good choice, good temperature of food and good taste. The service was lacking as a general rule. Perhaps this was because of the change over to the automatically added gratuity system (which I personally think is a joke). There were no stand out terrible service issues, but then again, I am not very picky about it. Overall, the food was above standard, the service below. Breakfast was generally at the buffet and it was more than adequate. The omelet station was good. Coffee was drinkable. Lunch (on the days we were on the ship) was either at the Rotterdam or at the buffet. No complaints. You could 'junk out' with nacho's, burgers and pizza's. Ate at the Pinnacle grill once and the food was excellent - worth the surcharge. This is a definite must try. Once again though, the service was not top notch. Better than the Rotterdam, but that's about it. Tried the Canaletto as well. Wonderful Italian food! Service was probably the best among the restaurants. Entertainment: - This is not Princess or Norwegian. The activities were sparse, but again, this is not a must have for an Alaska cruise. The evening shows were very good. HAL has its own production crew and they did a very good job. The ports: - Alaska is beautiful! • Ketchikan: - Do the walking tour. If you do all of it, will take about 4 - 5 hours. The middle of the tour is a salmon hatchery and the native guide as very informative. There are also a couple of bald eagles on site and that was quite the sight. We also spent time around the main part of town with the souvenir stores, etc • Juneau: - Probably the best place for whale watching - try Harv and Marv. We didn't try it as we wanted to spend more time at Mendenhall this time around. I continue to be amazed by the rate of retreat at Mendenhall. There are many trails that can be taken depending on your fitness level. There is also a ton of salmon viewing at this time of the year and also bear if you are lucky. You can take the express tour bus which costs about $7 each way. We took a cab to the salmon hatchery (which I didn't do the last time around); it's worth it. They also have a touch aquarium where they allow you to touch starfish, sea cucumbers, etc. Didn't have time to do the glacier gardens as we wanted to walk around Juneau to get a feel for it, but heard that was good. There isn't a ton of stuff to see in Juneau, so perhaps its not the best use of time to walk around. A bit of a bonus was finding a library with free internet (15 mins each) which was more than enough to send some quick 'hello, wish you were here' emails. • Skagway: - Rented a car and drove to Whitehorse (more for the journey than the destination). There is a mile by mile description of the sights along the way (and there are many!). Some of the highlights were the waterfalls, emerald lake and the 'desert'. The entire drive was very picturesque. Many passengers did the rail experience and I am sure that would be equally good. The only difference with the car was you could stop when you wanted. The little town of Skagway is a collection of souvenir stores, but pretty ones. Walking the town should take no more than an hour. The scenic cruising: - Spectacular • Glacier Bay: - I was scared the 8GB memory card would run out of space! Access to Glacier Bay was a big reason for taking the cruise to begin with, but this beat all expectations. Words simply cannot describe the sheer untouched beauty of this place. Rangers are also on board to provide some commentary. This is an absolute 'must do before you die'. A couple of the major glaciers are actually advancing and for those that are retreating, the path of retreat is really clear. We didn't see any wildlife on land, but some in the water. • College Fjord: - While nothing could possibly compare to Glacier Bay, this was also very picturesque. Total bonus! Disembarkation: - Very smooth, so issues. We left our bags out the previous night and had no problems with getting breakfast and walking off the ship and picking up our bags. Rented a car at Seward to get to Anchorage. This is another very scenic drive...read up on some of the mile by mile websites if you are planning to do this. There are many stops possible including Exit Glacier, wildlife 'zoo' and a spot to watch tidal waves and beluga whales. The size of the tidal wave depends on the various phases of the moon, so you might get lucky or not so much. There is also a marsh you can stop at to view birdlife that we thought was worth it. All in all, the trip was fantastic and I plan to do it again (but not too soon). Alaska will not disappoint you and the Veendam was adequate. Would I sail HAL again? I am sure I would as there was no single bad experience, but HAL would want to consider ramping Read Less
Sail Date: July 2009
DW and I took the 14 day Glacier Discovery cruise on the Veendam,  July 12-26, 2009. We flew into Vancouver on United (Baltimore to Chicago to Vancouver) on Saturday, July 11th.   DW had frequent flyer mileage points on United.   ... Read More
DW and I took the 14 day Glacier Discovery cruise on the Veendam,  July 12-26, 2009. We flew into Vancouver on United (Baltimore to Chicago to Vancouver) on Saturday, July 11th.   DW had frequent flyer mileage points on United.   We never had our carry-on luggage challenged before, but the gate agents in Baltimore questioned our two bags. DW was able to fit her carry-on into the test form at the gate.   I didn't even try it since my bag was carrying my suit for formal nights.  Reluctantly,   I had the bag tagged thru to Vancouver.   So much for my spare change of clothes!  When we were on the Boeing 757 we discovered two things:  one was that my wife's carry-on easily fit into the overhead bin, and second, the plane was only one-third full which would have allowed me to easily fit the bag under an empty seat!  Besides, the bag would have fit the overhead bin too.   It wasn't a good beginning for our vacation, me wondering if my cases would arrive in Vancouver.   It was a mystery why the gate agents were so obstinate in denying us space on the plane for our carry-ons,  beyond my conspiracy theory that United only wanted to charge me additional fees for checking in another bag! We arrived in Vancouver after 10:30 pm, cleared Customs, claimed our luggage (everything arrived ok),  and picked up the shuttle to the Holiday Inn Express near the Airport.   Room was clean and comfortable.   A nice hot breakfast was included in the Room charge.   We picked up a City tour after 8:00 am, took in the sights of Vancouver, and were deposited at Canada Place at 12:30 pm.   Checked-in our luggage on arrival with the porters.  We had to fill out luggage tags at the porter station since our cruise documents never arrived before we left home.  No long lines at check-in,  secured our ID cards,  and were on the ship before 1:30 pm.   Our cabin (679 Main Deck) was ready, So we dropped off our backpacks and headed for the Lido Restaurant for lunch.   Cabin:  Outside cabin, Main Deck 679,   clean and nicely laid out.  Only problem was that the left window pane was dirty.    It appeared to be an oily residue that a water hose could not wash off.  Our room steward never introduced himself or his coworker to us.  No business card was left on the desk.  A bottle of wine and chocolate covered strawberries were already delivered (a Welcome aboard gift from our Internet travel agency.)   During the cruise, DW had to request ice for the room and some days, no ice was delivered at all.   Dining:  We requested early seating when we booked the cruise in February 2009, but we were given Open Seating.   We were disappointed with this concept of constantly making reservations for a dining time.   There was no way that this was 'anytime dining' as HAL keeps calling it.   We found out that our requested  dining times  were mysteriously unavailable even when we phoned just after 8 am.   It seemed that the anytime dining was setup  to suit  various time intervals.   You could not expect to show up at your convenience, without a reservation, and expect to be seated.  Many passengers were turned away and given pagers if they were lucky.   We never experienced this treatement when we tried NCL open seating in the dining rooms.  I also believe that the Veendam is too small for HAL's concept of open seating.    Food quality in the dining room was good to very good.  We took our breakfasts in the Lido Restaurant.  We had no complaints.   Fresh squeezed orange juice was a welcomed surprise.   Coffee was to my taste.  DW bought a travel mug for large servings of hot tea (in order to keep warm!).  Lunch in the Lido was good.   The one evening we had a late afternoon hiking excursion in Haines,  we tried the Lido for dinner and promptly left.  EntrEe selections were few and appeared dried out.  Half of the Lido was reserved for Staff and Officer dining.  I never saw that arrangement before.   We ate dinner one night at the Italian section. We were not impressed with it.    We didn't try the Pinnacle dining room experience.   Excursions:   We booked all our excursions through HAL.  Except for the Kanai Fjord's Cruise in Seward (heavy seas and rain),   we enjoyed the excursions.    Spa:  DW enjoys her massages and treatments.   She said that the Staff was professional. I had one full body massage after my "Bike and Brew" excursion in Juneau.  I was not impressed with the massage. Ship environment:   Our cabin thermostat had a difficult time maintaing a set temperature.  I suspected that when the ship was in  port,   air circulators were turned off to save energy and cost.   Public rooms, like the showroom and Deck 8 lounges were very cold and drafty.  Entertainment:  We saw all the production shows except for a comedian/juggler on our Northbound leg.   Very good productions considering the size of the showroom and HAL's concept of lounge entertainment.   We noticed empty seats for the 10 pm shows. The String ensemble sounded fine at their venue.   Overheard the pianist and guitar player while moving about the ship.   We never ran into the HAL Cats. Crew staffing in general:   Staff was always pleasant when we met them in hallways. Room stewards did an adequate job maintaining our cabin (except for the ice situation).  Lido wait staff was efficient.  Now the dining room staff was another story:  very uneven service even during dinner time.  We had one lunch seating during the cruise where the wait staff completely fell apart with our table order and timing.  This was despite a request that we order everything including dessert at the beginning of the meal.   I just wonder if the ship had new employees in training because I can not explain the uneven levels of dining room service. Formal nights:  An observation,   in main dining room, staff didn't enforce the dress code.  Again, I believe it is due to 'open seating' and trying to keep passengers happy. We had 4 formal nights in total. Travel Guide:   We were fortunate to have a native Alaskan on the Northbound leg. We attended her Powerpoint lectures, and she added personal information about her Clan, even wearing traditional clothing outfits and going barefoot since it was her Clan's custom.   Our Sounthbound leg had a Fairbanks based journalist, repeating the same lectures, but dressed in casual cruise wear and high heels! Park Ranger guides:   All rangers who boarded the ship for the Glacier Bay visits were excellent. Very personalized commentary was given by the rangers. Disembarkation:  We were not allowed to take US Direct service with the reason given that our 11:15 am flight departure was too early.   The minimum flight departure was listed as 11:30 am.   HAL actually did us a favor since we did Express departure at around 7:30 am, cleared Canadian Customs and walked right into a shuttle desk in the terminal.  The $16 per passenger  ride got us into a small walk-in shuttle, leaving the port by 7:55 am, and arriving at the Airport by 8:25 am.   DW and I checked in with United, checked our luggage thru to Baltimore (including the carry-ons),   passed thru Customs and Security and were sitting at our departure gate by 9:30 am. General Comments:  This was our second cruise with HAL, and most likely won't be our last.   Until I read that the Veendam's service level has improved dramatically, I won't sail on her again.  Despite the interior temperature problems, the ship was clean and well maintained.   I think the Retreat make-over on Lido deck was a mistake.   It will be crowded on warm weather cruises, and I believe the shallow pool will be taken over by families with small children.   The Mix lounge area on deck 8 was nice and cozy.  The draft beer selections were welcomed and  priced reasonably.  Read Less
Sail Date: June 2009
This was my annual cruise to Alaska and my 3rd on HAL (Oosterdam, Volendam and now Veendam). Things started off in port security where I left my jacket since I had to take it off and put it in a tray. The front desk on the ship ... Read More
This was my annual cruise to Alaska and my 3rd on HAL (Oosterdam, Volendam and now Veendam). Things started off in port security where I left my jacket since I had to take it off and put it in a tray. The front desk on the ship wouldn't or didn't send someone to retrieve it for me when I came to them immediately after boarding with plenty of time to get it.   Then in my cabin everything appeared fine, until the first full day on the ship.  I found the drinking glasses had not been replace with clean glasses as I had used them and could still see a trace of my lipstick on one.  The floor had not been vacuumed.  I had spilled some powder on the floor in front of the "desk" and it was still there.  Of course, it was taken care of when I called housekeeping, but that should have not been necessary.  The pillows smelled like stale body oil ( pillowcases not changed often enough can build up body oil smell which won't wash out).  Don't know what their schedule is on changing bedding, but I will ask next time.  Had the feeling the room stewards were way too overworked and just couldn't do all they were supposed to in the time available. I was invited to a Q & A session in the Hudson room with the Hotel Manager and Cruise Director on the last day of the cruise.  The air was so dead/still in that area of the ship I couldn't breathe, so left the area since I was early, but returned a few minutes later and the air was still close or still.  I told someone who was directing people into the room that I had been invited, but was sorry I could stay since the air was bad and I couldn't breathe.  (I do have COPD, but I could breathe in the rest of the ship where the air was circulating better).  They didn't seem concerned. I ate all my meals in the Pinnace Grill which is my favorite place. It's enjoyable to come in each night and have the staff welcome you and seat you at your table.  The only meal I ate in the dining room was the brunch for Mariners and it was OK. I had a good time in the casino - they had some good penny slots.   Didn't take in any of the evening shows - I usually don't Did go to a couple of movies in the Wajang Theater which is always a pleasant experience. Went into all three ports but not on excursions since I have taken excursions on my previous cruises. I took the train into Seward and that was a nice experience.  There were some nice HAL/Princess employees at the Anchorage airport where the train stops, who were very helpful in finding me a place to stay since my plane left in the middle of the night and I had the whole day to fill up. HAL is my favorite cruise line - still have friends who work on HAL ships from previous cruises who I try to meet up with when I am cruising.  I do prefer their smaller ships.   Read Less
Sail Date: June 2009
Pre-cruise - This is our 17th cruise and our first one on Holland America.  We did a back to back (B2B) going northbound and Southbound on the Veendam with 3 days in Vancouver at the start of the cruise. All went well on our trip to ... Read More
Pre-cruise - This is our 17th cruise and our first one on Holland America.  We did a back to back (B2B) going northbound and Southbound on the Veendam with 3 days in Vancouver at the start of the cruise. All went well on our trip to Vancouver, B.C. from Ft. Lauderdale.  It was smooth getting out of the airport in Vancouver, but a nightmare coming back through upon return (more later).  We took a taxi downtown  C$30.00 - made a deal or it would run a bit more as it was rush hour.  The airport is about 30 minutes from downtown. There is also the "Airporter" bus which runs approximately C$15 per person;  if you are two or more people - go for the taxi.  We stayed at the Cascadia Hotel (formerly Marriott Extended Stay) and it was very nice with a pool, exercise facilities and a full buffet breakfast daily included in the rate.  It is a bit more on the eclectic side of downtown (Davie area), but it was very nice and staff was extremely helpful.  It ran about US$105 per night which is very inexpensive for Vancouver considering the amenities.  We stayed 3 nights. Vancouver was a lovely city but they need to pass a panhandling law, as there were a minimum of two or more people asking for money, cigarettes, etc.. on every block, which is a little annoying in this lovely city.  People were very friendly and helpful.  They have a wonderful bus system which we utilized (have exact change (coin only) and they have Senior rates too. We went to Gastown and went to the Lookout Tower at Harbour Center overlooking the city; had a Dim Sim lunch in Chinatown at the Jade Dynasty (very nice and very authentic, as we were the only anglos).  Food can be expensive in Vancouver, so we tried to economize a couple times on dinners and were not impressed at all.  The one wonderful dinner we had was at The Fish House in Stanley Park  and it was superb .  We came to the conclusion that as tourists, it will run you approximately C$100 for a nice dinner for two. The C$15 -C$25 dinners were not worth the money...Stanley Park is a must see (a 1,000 acre park in the middle of the city) and don't miss the Aquarium as it was wonderful.  The Cruise We caught a taxi to Canada Place where HAL ships leave from and embarkation was a breeze. We went to see our room which was a lovely ocean view, quite large and even had a bathtub which was a pleasant surprise after our last cruise on Princess, in which you could not turn around in the shower (Princess take note).  We had plenty of storage space as we are not light packers.  The Veendam had been in drydock about 6 weeks before our cruise and we read the horror stories before our cruise was to begin, but they got the bugs out by the time of our cruise. Service The  service was very good to excellent though there were some lapses.  The staff is primarily of either Indonesian or Philippine descent and they were extremely focused on their work, but some encounters lacked the softness and caring of their European counterparts on other cruise lines.  There were some wonderful standouts on the ship and they were rewarded accordingly.  Our Cabin Steward and assistant were fine with a few exceptions - one night they failed to turn down our bed and then on the turn-around day, we left the cabin at 7:30 AM and when we returned at 2:00 PM,  our cabin had yet to be made-up.  Our Cabin Steward was not around so we called housekeeping.   Within two - four minutes our cabin was attended to by our unhappy Cabin Steward.  By the next day all hard feelings were gone.  We had another issue with excursion area (see below). Dining Room/Buffet The Dining room was excellent, but we had asked for a table for eight, as we were going to be on the ship for two weeks.  We were seated at a table for four the first night, but we explained to the other couple the situation and we were moved the next night to a table for eight with a wonderful Waiter Atayra and his Assistant Yogi.  We are generally late eaters and do not like to rush, so we had the late seating.  It was a little disturbing when after the first week they moved us to another table with a different Waiter and Assistant. The servers were adequate, but not as experienced as Atayra and Yogi.  If you are on a B2B cruise and people are happy at their table, do not change them for the second week.  The food in the dining room was very good to excellent. They had Prime Rib, Filet Mignon, Lobster Tails, Rack of lamb, etc...  If you are going to make a reservation for Pinnacle - the specialty restaurant  - do  it on Tuesday or Wednesday as those were my personal least favorite nights in the dining room with somewhat like home cooking night i.e. meatloaf, etc...   Pinnacle service and food were excellent and is very nice for a special evening or occasion.  Also, a nice feature is the wine card we used in the dining room instead of purchasing bottles.  We bought one "20 pour" wine card and we used it for the two weeks. They had Merlot, Cabernet, Chardonnay, etc.. It runs about $75.  Also we bought  2 of the "10 drink" cards to use for our Martinis before dinner and that was great too.  If you drink the regular drinks, just buy them and don't use the card, as they are cheaper to buy individually; use it on the more expensive drinks, but check on premium surcharges (usually  $.50 - $1.00). The buffet was generally good though it lacked a bit of originality, as on other lines.  I never went away hungry mind you it would be nice to see some themed lunches Mexican, Italian, Asian, though on a daily basis there was a little of everything. For example, the Asian food on the lunch buffet was very good, though in the Italian section it was the same pasta and sauces for the entire cruise.  It would be nice to see some eggplant, stuffed shells, etc.. a bit of originality.     Entertainment HAL has decided to utilize fewer but better quality performers and not hire outside acts for the newly designed Show Room.  The ensemble included six Broadway actors/singers, and two female dancers.  There were several shows during the week: "Bob Mackie's Broadway," which featured Broadway show tunes and Bob Mackie gowns and costumes for the cast; "Street Singing" featuring the four male cast members and popular songs from the 50's, 60's and 70's (Blake Ginther and Joseph Porkorski  were outstanding); and "Encore" with wonderful vocalists Tobi Foster and Joseph Porkorski.  Franco did a great job with lighting, sound and production.  We ran into the singing/production staff members several times and enjoyed cocktails with them and even Blake's mom and dad who were on the ship.  The Veendam was much more personal than the larger ships (see comment below). Note: The shows on Holland were scheduled too early for late diners.  We were late several times because shows started at 10 P.M. and we were just finishing dinner at that time. Showtime needs to be adjusted to 10:15 - 10:30PM  as on other ships to allow people to finish dinner.  The show on the first night was at 9:30 PM which we never saw over both weeks, due to the time schedule of the shows. Bars/Disco/Casino There were several other venues for entertainment the Ocean Bar featured a combo and dance floor;  The Mix, had a guitarist at cocktail hour (William and Sonny are great bartenders/waiters); also a pianist plays at the Martini Bar at other times. Mikee is the fantastic bartender at the Martini bar try the fresh grapefruit cosmopolitan martini - excellent.  A string ensemble in the Explorers Lounge (try bartender Jeffrey's Flaming Spanish Coffee you will love it);  the disco in the Crow's Nest featured an excellent mix of music supplied by DJ Brad. Casino staff was very nice and personable.  I was impressed they knew my first name after a couple of days and were very social.  I enjoyed Black Jack and Three Card Poker (made the straight flush); my partner enjoyed the slots, but payouts were minimal.  Excursions We decided to do 3 ship coordinated excursions and one on our own.  The Alaskan excursions tend to be rather expensive, but there are several less expensive excursions that are equally exciting.  We had been to Alaska 4 years ago, so we decided to do some things we didn't do on the last trip. We chose to do the Mendenhall Glacier and Salmon Bake in Juneau (1/2 day) and just by chance my partner checked on things in the morning and it had been cancelled, but the excursion desk failed to notify us prior to his random checking.  We ended up booking the Mendenhall Glacier and Salmon Hatchery.  We really wanted to go to the Glacier, but the hatchery was interesting, although the salmon had not started to run at this point (June) so they showed us where the salmon would be if they were there.  Don't miss the Mendenhall Glacier. We also did the Seavey's Ididaride Mushing excursion (2 1/2 hours) in Seward and it was very nice and interesting.  We saw how the musher dogs live and went on the ride on land (no snow), but we found out that this is how they train the dogs during the summer.  The best part was the puppies.  Braxton was our guide and was  wonderful. The  third excursion we did was Kayaking on a glacier lake in Haines (3 hours).  Though my partner was a bit apprehensive (actually scared to death) this was my favorite.  Though the Kayak is a bit confining for safety reasons, it was absolutely beautiful and a wonderful experience. Note that weight restrictions apply. On our own in Juneau, we went on the Mt. Roberts Tramway which was a very nice light hiking/walking experience.  There was snow on the mountains and beautiful trails and views.  You can easily walk to it from the dock.  Miscellaneous It was sad to leave after being on the Veendam for 2 weeks, as a ship this size provides  for the personalization that the larger ships of 4,000 - 6,000 people have lost.  We were made to be welcome and like family.  For the B2B passengers (300 out of 1,500), they made two special luncheons and a separate cocktail party with the Captain and many of the senior staffers in attendance.  We were lucky to have the Captain at our table for one of the luncheons and we had a fabulous time.  The Captain and his staff were very visible and personable the entire cruise.   Overall it was a wonderful trip and I would recommend HAL.  People should be aware it is a bit older group of cruisers, though on this cruise there were several families with children.     Trip Home Though debarkation was a bit long, as we waited for the bus to the airport, we still recommend it.  We had put our luggage out the night before and HAL coordinated it to be picked up at the airport which was a wonderful perk. The Vancouver airport could use some management.  We were on the Delta check-in line for 45 minutes before seeing an agent but this was just the beginning of our discontent.  We then walked to the back of a line that was two blocks long to go through U.S. customs and security.  This line took about 30 - 45 minutes. We walked into customs and many agents were available and the area was empty, which was strange after waiting all this time on this line.  But the fun was yet to begin.  We sailed through customs and upon our exit to the security area I thought I was in Disneyland.  There were  12 lines with ropes and people going back and forth waiting to reach one of the six lines open to go through security.  It took approximately 1 - 1 1/4 hours to get through.  Six security lines for 2-4 thousand people I would say this needs to be reviewed.  Vancouver is getting ready for the Winter Olympics. They need to get their act together. We had left the ship 8:15 AM and arrived at our gate for the plane at Noon.  My suggestion do not book an early flight out of Vancouver as you will not make it.  Luckily our plane was leaving at 12:30 PM.  The rest of the trip home was fine and we had all of our wonderful memories of Alaska and our trip on the Veendam. Read Less
Sail Date: May 2009
We consider ourselves experienced cruisers as we have been on more than 30 cruises.  This was our second cruise with HAL and our expectations were high after an excellent cruise in the Mediteranean on the Noordam in the summer of ... Read More
We consider ourselves experienced cruisers as we have been on more than 30 cruises.  This was our second cruise with HAL and our expectations were high after an excellent cruise in the Mediteranean on the Noordam in the summer of 2006.  We also thought that sailing on a "new ship" after dry dock would be great...we were wrong.The Boarding time was pushed to 5pm and when we arrived at the port, we were given chairs to sit for more than 1 hour because they were not done cleaning the ship from the prior sailing Norovirus.  However, it was really hot in the port holding area and the port staff was not informed as to an estimated time for embarkation.  It would have been nice for the ship to provide some entertainment or complimentary cocktails (they provided a $15 credit for the lunch we were not able to have on the ship).The biggest issue we had was with the service.  It seemed that everything we requested came with an automatic "no" and no alternatives solutions presented.  I do not suggest you choose the as you wish dining because the majority of the time they are trying to push you into dining at the Lido.  The Maitre D' and Asst Maitre D' were not helpful at all.  On the first day at Sea, the breakfast in the dining room was from 8-9:30am and we showed up at 9:15am to be told that we would need to go to the Lido...after insisting that we had arrived within the designated time they finally seated us.  We waited 45 minutes to receive a breakfast of pancakes (which were hard) and eggs benedict (that were cold and stale).  The service at the Pinnacle Grill (the paid premium restaurant) was not much better.  There were several issues on the ship such as: the air conditioning in the Crow's Nest did not cool and it felt like you were in a sauna.  The windows in the entire ship (cabins as well as the common areas) were filthy and we were in Alaska so you know people spend a lot of time looking out at the scenery.  I went to the front desk to tell them about the windows and they said they would leave a message for housekeeping (not sure that is the department that cleans the exterior windows of the ship).  The sauna in the fitness center was broken for a few days. Now for the positives:The entertainers (singers, dancers, and piano lounge) were excellent.  However, the DJ did not have a good variety of music to keep the small crowd engaged.  I loved the open setup of the Mix Bar, Casino, and shops (it would have been great to have the Disco close to that entertainment area as well).  I was really disappointed with our HAL experience and not sure if I will sail that line again...I saw another reviewer comment that it felt as if you were on a Carnival cruist and I think I agree with that assessment...the premium service was not their compared to the premium price.  I regret not having chosen Princess or Celebrity instead of Holland America.      Read Less
Sail Date: May 2009
Boy, where do I start?  Upon arrival to Vancouver we discovered that the HAL Transfer Direct gate was closed..  We then found some Holland America reps at the airport who informed us that boarding the ship had been delayed and that we ... Read More
Boy, where do I start?  Upon arrival to Vancouver we discovered that the HAL Transfer Direct gate was closed..  We then found some Holland America reps at the airport who informed us that boarding the ship had been delayed and that we needed to go through Canadian Customs and prepare for a tour of Vancouver by bus..??..  This was the last thing I wanted to hear after spending the day flying to get to Vancouver.  We later learned that the ship was being disinfected due to some illness/virus on the ship.  So we then spend the next 45 minutes clearing customs.  One would generally expect to go through customs, but the HAL Transfer Direct was suppose to keep us from having to go through this.After clearing customs we then started the process of getting on buses.  This was a challenge since we had a large group of people that wanted to stay together and nobody with HAL or the bus drivers seemed to know if all of the buses were going to the same place.  Nobody knew for sure when we would make it to the ship or exactly what we were going to take a tour of.   We were then taken to some place that I don't even remember the name of.  The bus driver pointed out various sites around Vancouver and several hours later we finally made it to the cruise ship port.  We quickly made it through the check-in process and thought we were about to board the ship, only to be herded into a large room that was occupied by the majority of all the other passengers that were waiting to board.  The room was very hot and stuffy.  We waited for about an hour and a half which really seemed like an eternity.  Please keep in mind, we had just been on various airplanes all day, then put on a bus to tour Vancouver for several more hours, then worked through the extensive check-in process and just when we thought we were getting on the ship,  another roadblock, stuck in a hot stuffy room with a thousand other people..We finally were allowed to board the ship, only to discover that EVERYTHING on the ship was coated with a film of whatever was used to disinfect the ship.  The ENTIRE ship had been sprayed down.  All windows, doors, mirrors, walls, floors, tables, I mean everything had a film on it.  Apparently the delay was so that everything could be sprayed down and dry, but there wasn't enough time to clean it all up.  The crew spent the two weeks we were on the boat cleaning up the mess around the entire ship.Once on the ship and underway we made several trips to the front desk.  We tried to inquire about getting out money back for the HAL Transfer Direct that we didn't get.  The girls at the front desk seemed put out and claimed they didn't know anything about the HAL Transfer Direct being closed down.  We made numerous trips to the front desk to take care of this problem before the money was finally credited back to our account.  It was very frustrating to say the least.Okay lets talk food!  I've cruised on other cruise lines and the food has always been the highlight of the cruise!  I'm not a picky eater by any stretch of the imagination, but the Veendam food was without a doubt a let down.  The Rotterdam Dining Room food seemed to have issues each night we ate there.  Almost every time the soup was luke warm at best.  The steak came out raw (dripping blood) after requesting Medium Well.  The lobster that was served one night was EXCELLENT!  The last night the crew did their little song and dance routine which was very cheesy.  A bunch of waiters marching around with light sticks??  Various waiters marching in with various parts of a salad while singing and dancing?  The whole deal was just a waste of time after 14 frustrating days on the ship..  Why can't HAL buy some salt and pepper mills that really work?  During the 14 days I would estimate that I picked up at least 10-15 individual salt or pepper mills that didn't work!  By the end of the cruise I was ready to start throwing them in the trash,  Water glasses and coffee cups ran empty almost every night in the dining room.  I can remember cruises on both RC and Carnival where the waiters almost jumped over each other in attempts to keep the drinks 3/4 full at all times.  Most of the food served in the dining room was always cold or luke warm, but NEVER hot.When I didn't eat in the dining room, I ate at the Lido Buffet.  WOW, I only THOUGHT the dining room had problems with organization!  I started off in the Lido with wanting to eat breakfast.  There was no direction on how things were suppose to work.  Many times there was a cruise employee asking what room number we were from at the beginning of the line.  I never did figure out why he had to have our room number..  At each meal there were continually arguments between passengers over cutting in line.  I *think* that one was suppose to walk straight to the portion of the buffet line that had the food that you wanted to eat.  For instance, there was no reason to wait behind everyone waiting in line for fruit, if you didn't' want fruit and wanted a fried egg.   Unfortunately nothing was clearly marked and when going around other passengers waiting, that always caused hard feelings.  There should have been employees or signs that explained how the whole deal was suppose to work.  Now lets talk about freaking TRAYS!  The only people that had trays were the bus boys that were cleaning tables.  So try to imagine this...  The LIDO dining room is a very busy place.  Finding a table is a challenge on most days.  You just got your plate of food and maybe you also picked up a second plate or bowl that contains fruit or oatmeal.  Your hands are full, so you start walking around trying to find a table to drop off your plate and bowl of food.  Dang, you can't find a table and your food is getting cold, if it was ever really hot to begin with.  Sweet success, you just found a vacant table that is covered with left over dishes from the previous passenger.  You then bus the table yourself and set aside the dirty dishes and put down your food.  Now you need eating utensils, so off you go looking for a napkin and utensils.  Also this is the time to go to the drink station and stand in another line for water, coffee or tea.  This wait could easily last 1-3 minutes each morning.  Often times they were looking for cups because they had run out.  If they had coffee cups, the coffee was out and everyone was waiting on coffee.  On some mornings everything was in place, but the server was just running behind.  Everyone had to wait on the server to make someone a cup of tea, even though the coffee spicket was open and available, if only a person would be allowed to self-service!  Okay so you now got your cold coffee and made it back to your table.  WHAT THE HECK!  Now your food is gone and some other passenger is sitting at the table??!!??  YES THIS DID HAPPEN!  I can't blame the passenger, I was gone for several minutes looking for utensils and coffee..  A HUGE part of this constant frustration could be solved by providing trays!  Now that I'm back home I did some GOOGLE searches and see that TRAYLESS buffet lines is something that is being tried by several ships and or cruise lines.  I've read they are trying to cut down on waste by doing this.  I don't know the answer, but I do know that if they are going to go TRAYLESS some things need to be seriously tweaked so that the process of getting food and drinks to a table is a little easier.  Right now on the VEENDAM, the system is BROKE!  Generally speaking, the food at the Lido was better than the food in the dining room.  Most of the time the food a little warmer, than it was in the dining room.  Notice, I said "most of the time."  The pancakes were ALWAYS cold.  The waffles were ALWAYS cold.  The entire buffet line continually came to a standstill when someone ordered toast.  Nobody toasted bread, until someone ordered toast.  The entire buffet line continually came to a standstill when someone wanted a fried egg.. They were cooked to order, just like the toast.  As mentioned before, someone on VEENDAM needs to make it clear how the buffet line is suppose to work.  Do you wait in the buffet line behind someone waiting on toast or fried eggs or not??  If the line is backing up, someone needs to direct others waiting to go around!  Passengers are capable to dispensing coffee or hot water!  Why make everyone wait in the coffee line for minutes, while the luke warm food is getting cold?The casino and employees were nice.  Some of the dealers could use more practice dealing poker, but not bad overall.The cabin and room stewards were nice and no real complaints, other than the aforementioned film of disinfectant that remained on most widows and mirrors for several days.  The closet door mirrors never were cleaned during the 14 day cruise.  Oh yeah, on the first day we found lots of hair 10-15 strands from the previous passengers on the bathroom floor.  Also, we had a cabin with an outside window view.  Half of the window was completely clouded over and one could only look out of the left side of the window.  The window needs to be replaced or HAL should give a discount for obscured view window room.Overall, I wouldn't risk going on another HAL cruise, even though I spoke with many people who claim that my experience was a fluke and not the norm on HAL ships.  The ports of call were fine and what I expected.  I saved some money and booked my excursions direct, rather than using HAL. 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Sail Date: September 2008
I was soooooo disappointed in the HAL. Because of all the publicity of HAL I expected a great cruising adventure. Instead what I received was extreme rudeness from the front office. We experienced air conditioning problems on the 5th day ... Read More
I was soooooo disappointed in the HAL. Because of all the publicity of HAL I expected a great cruising adventure. Instead what I received was extreme rudeness from the front office. We experienced air conditioning problems on the 5th day of a 36 day cruise. Our room was extremely hot and it took the staff almost a week, in spite of our many phone calls to the front desk as well as in person visits, before they attempted to fix the problem. We went the whole cruise with this problem. In order to appease us we were given a fan, with wires held together with rubber bands. The ship was nothing extraordinary. I have cruised with Carnival, Royal Caribbean, Norweigian, Disney, Commodore, Delta Queen and have been more impressed and had much better cruising experiences than on Holland America. I do not think I will ever book another Holland America cruise again. This experience has left a bitter taste in my mouth. The entertainment was excellent for this length cruise. The food had great appearance and was tasty, however we were on a 36 day cruise and were offered steak and lobster only 2 times. On a 7 day cruise on the other above mentioned cruise lines you get steak and lobster at least once. Our cabin stewards were very good. Hard worked and understaffed but we had no problems in getting our room cleaned. The Front Office Staff were very uncooperative and rude. They did not try to help us in any way with the problems we were having with our air conditioning problems and it was not until we asked for a Manager and wrote unfavorable reviews on comment cards that we had any satisfaction at all. This ship is old and in need of a lot of repairs (all over). It should not be taking 36 day cruises. The shore excursions that we took, with the exception of one because we arrived in port late and it turned dark before we finished the tour and we were in Brazil with no lights, were all very good to exceptional. ALL IN ALL the fact remains that I would not cruise Holland America again. Read Less
Sail Date: September 2008
This is the longest cruise we have taken and frankly I don't think we could have picked a better itinerary. We cruised from Vancouver to Tampa via the Panama Canal, the Caribbean and the Amazon River! I could write 50 pages covering ... Read More
This is the longest cruise we have taken and frankly I don't think we could have picked a better itinerary. We cruised from Vancouver to Tampa via the Panama Canal, the Caribbean and the Amazon River! I could write 50 pages covering this cruise, in fact I have on a blog we wrote onboard as we cruised, but it would be too lengthy. Instead I will give the pertinent details and a general overview. US...I'm retired...61 years old. My wife is 45 and works full-time at a job that allows her five weeks of vacation. We are experienced cruisers, but this is the longest cruise we have taken, and frankly it was like starting all over again. EMBARKATION. We live in Vancouver so it was a matter of grabbing a cab to canada Place and getting on the ship. This is our second boarding experience at Canada Place and this one was just as quick and pain free as the first. Half hour after arrival we were sitting on the Lido! THE SHIP. Holland America's Veendam is a nice sized ship. We prefer the smaller ships, and while Veendam is hardly small, it carries only 1200 passengers. The ship was launched in 1996 and is in need of the refurbishing it is scheduled to receive in April '09. It's showing the wear and tear that age delivers, but, it is by no means shabby. The crew keeps everything spotless and as shiny as they can. We had a comfortable Verandah B cabin on deck nine. Just under 300 sq. ft. with a good size bathroom with jacuzzi tub/shower, ample closet space, a flat screen TV/DVD player, a sofa and queen bed. The verandah is a comfortable size with one chaise and one chair, (but a second chaise could be easily accommodated). The public rooms are all in good shape, although we found the seating in the show lounge very uncomfortable when sitting through a show. The library/computer area is very nice as in the Exploration lounge and Crow's Nest Lounge. There are enough quiet spots to tuck one's self away with a book or to just sit and watch the world go by. The only serious problem the ship had on this cruise was its A/C! (Not the thing you want to have go wrong when headed for the Panama and the Amazon.) Veendam has had a chronic problem with its A/C units for years, and even though we were assured by the HAL head office, before we booked this cruise, that the problem had been fixed it hadn't. They simply lied to those who asked! The A/C started to come apart south of San Diego and HAL final put a technician on board to fix it...but he/she was never quite successful and for many on the cruise the heat became a real issue.(Had this been a 7 day cruise it might have been tolerable, but all but eight days of this 36 day cruise was in tropical heat and humidity conditions.) FOOD. With exception of a couple of meals we found the food on this cruise was good to very good in all venues. If there was an issue for us it was that the cooks got a little, (in some cases a lot), heavy handed with the salt shaker! The desserts were weak, except of course for the Bread Pudding and Ice Cream, which were always wonderful! The Chefs were excellent in their determination to keep the meals new and different and we had very few repeats, except for the standards like roast beef,steaks,and chicken. There was always pasta, but variations throughout the weeks. CREW. There is no doubt that the crew made this cruise! We have experienced excellent service on virtually every cruise we have taken but the consistently high level of service in all parts of the ship for five weeks was really something! That said, some important departments were seriously under-staffed.The two of note are the dining room where our waiter had no assistant which meant dinner was taking two hours to complete, and, the assistants to the Cruise Director who spent their time staffing the library and DVD place instead of providing programming for the passengers. Some passengers had an issue with the room stewards, but again, the two person teams were cleaning 30 rooms every day as well as providing the other services they are expected to provide. ENRICHMENT PROGRAMS AND ACTIVITIES. One of the reasons we felt comfortable with taking such a long cruise was that HAL has a reputation of providing "enrichment programs' for passengers. It is sadly a reputation that is not deserved! The cooking classes never happened. The culinary demonstrations were poorly planned and poorly delivered, when they happened at all. Seminars on folding napkins, arranging flowers,and making martinis (5 times) just didn't make it! If you did not like Trivia or building a boat from nothing to float in the hot tubs at the end of the cruise you were pretty much out of luck. They did offer the odd bingo game and some contests based on TV game shows...but that was about it. The lecture series were boring, delivered by boring people! How anyone could make a lecture on the construction of the Panama Canal boring is beyond me, but the guy on the Veendam worked hard at making it so. His partner gave lecturers about the stars...which I suppose might be interesting to some...but not alot of people. Nothing about the Amazon or what to expect...culture...flora and fauna...stuff that would be of interest to a boat load of people headed for the Amazon rain forest! If we hadn't been able to generate our own interesting things to do some of the stretches of three and four sea days would have been very boring! EXCURSIONS. We have learned to look at ship excursions with a jaundiced eye, and nothing on the Veendam did a lot to change our opinion on that score. This is not to say we did not have some great ship excursions..we did...but the ones we booked ourselves or picked up at the pier...were far better and cheaper. At Manaus on the Amazon we saved $600US over what HAL charged for the identical excursions, (in fact one of them was superior)!! The worst excursion was on Aruba. If you have the opportunity to go to this island avoid De Palm tours like the plague. We spent three hours on an old beat up VOLVO highway bus, that broke down half way through the tour, with two foot square dirty windows. Only one of the three stops was worth getting off the bus for! The best excursions were at Cabo San Lucas where we visited a glass factory and spent time in a small town called Cabo San Jose where we found some great local art. Chiapas was excellent also...we visited a small Mayan ruin and archeological site. Costa Rica we took a tour to the Tarcoles river and had lunch at a hotel in one of the nature reserves. Other than Aruba...the tour of Grenada with Mandoo is more than worth the price, and the same goes for the Photography Tour with Ronnie Harrington on Barbados...both were highlights. OVERALL. This was a great cruise. Yes, there were some problems, but nothing that ruined the cruise for us. Certainly there were some on the cruise who were extremely unhappy, especially with the lack of A/C which for some of the older folks was a real issue. But other than that there was nothing that a little understanding and effort wouldn't get you over! Not sure that we would cruise HAL again unless they came up with another itinerary like the Amazon Explorer which we could not get from any other line. Five weeks on a cruise ship is a long time, and while my wife had no problem getting through it, I found it a little too long. That said....the Amazon is absolutely amazing!! If you have the opportunity take a cruise there. If you want a personal daily journal look at all the details of this cruise just go to Travelpod.com and track down tomtravel...that is our blog. Read Less
Sail Date: July 2008
The food on this ship was the worst. No worries about gaining weight on vacation for 14 days. Some of the food was bland or way to salty. Some of the food seemed to be recycled from day to day. I stayed with the food items they ... Read More
The food on this ship was the worst. No worries about gaining weight on vacation for 14 days. Some of the food was bland or way to salty. Some of the food seemed to be recycled from day to day. I stayed with the food items they couldn't mess up, such as boxed cereal, fruit, yogurt, salads and deli sandwiches. My boys said the hamburgers were yummy and they liked the pizza and ice-cream. Many of the passengers I talked to also complained about the poor quality of food, so it wasn't just me being way too critical. Some cruise lines charge for hot chocolate, but the Veendam does not. You can buy a soda card for $20.00 (good for 20 sodas). The entertainment was lacking. The only good entertainment was an illusionist, David DaVinci, and the movies shown in their movie theatre (new release movies). They really need to have more activities to entertain especially on the days out to sea. Ketchikan: We went on the Bear Creek zip line adventures. It was a lot of fun. Since we did the 14 day cruise, we visited some ports twice. The second time we went to the Lumberjack show and did last minute souvenir shopping. The Lumberjack Show was just okay. Haines: We toured the little town and did the Wild Eagle Preserve Float excursion. The boys had a great time and bought a shirt from the tour guide (some of the proceeds go to the bald eagle foundation). It was the only shirt they wanted in Alaska. A lot of people complain there's not much to do in this town and the ship is there for a long time. Definitely book a long excursion through the ship. Juneau: We climbed up Mt. Roberts both times. The start of the trail head is at the end of 6th street. I think it's about 1 mile from the dock to the start of the trail and the trail is about 2 miles to the tram. We rode the tram down both times. They charge hikers $5.00 to take the tram down or it is free if you purchase at least $5.00 in the gift shop. We also went to the Mendenhall Glacier. The boys were able to pick up pieces of the ice and hold them in their hands. Sitka: We booked a kayaking tour through the cruise ship. This was my 12 year old's favorite excursion. Very peaceful and the scenery was spectacular. We also walked to the Raptor Center, which was the highlight of my trip. We got to see a bald eagle close up. We hiked the trails in the National Park and walked to McDonalds to get yummier food than what was offered on the ship. Seward: We booked the Ididarod dog sledding on our own. They sent a shuttle to pick us up at the dock. We thoroughly enjoyed the adventure. We also went to the Sea Life Center. We have been to many aquariums before, so we were not impressed. The only thing I saw that I've never seen before was puffins. Skagway: My favorite port. We walked around the quaint little town and went on the White Pass Railroad. Well worth the money. Hubbard Glacier: outstanding an wonderful. We actually got really close to the glacier and saw the calving. HAL prides itself for offering great service. They did not meet my expectations. Maybe my expectations were too high. I did enjoy only having approximately 1300 passengers on board. I never felt like there were crowds of people around. I've been on ships with over 3,000 passengers and you feel every one of the 3,000 people (long lines, people constantly in your way, can't find a chair to sit in by the pool, etc.) This was not an issue on The Veendam. We loved our vacation. Next time we will do a different cruise line, one with yummy food. Read Less
Sail Date: June 2008
My wife and I are in our mid 40's and this was our 4th Holland America cruise. Our second trip to Alaska on HAL. 6-11 We live in Florida and drove to Orlando to catch our flight. We rented a car (it was cheaper than paying to park ... Read More
My wife and I are in our mid 40's and this was our 4th Holland America cruise. Our second trip to Alaska on HAL. 6-11 We live in Florida and drove to Orlando to catch our flight. We rented a car (it was cheaper than paying to park our for 16 days) we stayed at the Wyndam in Orlando. The hotel was very clean and we took the free shuttle to the Orlando airport in the morning. They also picked us up after we dropped the rental car off. I agonized going to the airlines counter. I had measure my suitcase and weighed all the bags and was hoping there was no problems. The bags were just under and I breathed a sigh of relief. We flew to Chicago then connected to Vancouver. 6-12 We were staying at the Accent Inn close to the Vancouver hotel. They also came have a courtesy shuttle bus that picks you up at the airport. The hotel was nothing elaborate but was fine for one night. 6-13 We took the Hotel shuttle for $13 each to Canada Place to board the ship. We arrived at 10:30 am. Boarding was a breeze and we were on the ship at 11:30am. We instantly felt at home when we boarded, the ship is beautiful and just the right size for us. We had lunch in the Lido and rooms were ready at about 1:00pm. We unpacked and met our cabin steward Karman. The sailaway was gorgeous and life is good! 6-14 Sea day- rented the thermal suite and just relaxed in the mineral pool and tile loungers yes life is good! 6-15- Ketchikan We went halibut fishing with True Alaskan Charters. I booked this independtly. We met captain Hermie at the dock and out we went. We saw about 20 orcas on the way out. I had always wanted to catch a halibut. Capt Hermie tried real hard (another words we went fishing and not for a boat ride) we had non-stop action catching numerous rockfish and 3 halibut. Capt Hermie was friendly knowledgeable and a great fishing guide. The trip ended after 6 hours we walked around the town for an hour and then the ship pulled out on the way to Haines. 6-16 Haines Alaska- What a great place,NO tacky tee shirt shops looks like a town from Northern exposure. We rented a car from Captains Choice motel,and drove about 100 miles. The scenery was absolutely breathtaking we drove as far as million dollar falls. We drove thru the Chillikat eagle preserve and saw several eagles in the trees We probably saw 6 cars all day.Like I say this place was gorgeous. We got a great hamburger at mile marker 33 this is the only place to get anything to eat. Got back to the ship and hit the bread pudding. Haines really made an impression on us. I overheard people saying there was "Nothing To Do" there????? 6-17 Juneau- This is totally different than Haines. On this day there were 4 ships in port and 8 gazillion people shlepping the streets in search of the elusive "Tee Shirt" we took the tram up to the top of the mountain,and walked around. It was very nice but most of the trails are closed. We went back to the ship for luch and then headed out to Mendenhall Glacier. It was $7 each way for each of us. The bus only had about 6 people on it. We walked all over, there's a waterfall there variious trails etc. It really is worth going out there. 6-18 Sitka - beautiful- make sure you go out on the bow as you're pulling in (tendering area) it's an amazing place. We were one of the first ones on the tender and off we went. We went to the Raptor center and walked various trails and went to a college aquarium and we even saw two deer in the woods. The raptor sent is really a great palce. We then walked all over town visited the Russsian churches,and just had a great day exploring this beautiful place. 6-19 Hubbard Glacier Dragnet theme- My wife has just come down with the noro virus. We called the nurse and she gave my wife a shot. It was a rainy lousy day so I just popped out on the bow a few times to see Hubbard and take a few pictures. I figured I'd see it on the return trip anyway. My wife fell asleep and I was hungry so I went to the mariners brunch. I sat at a table with 7 strangers and I had to laugh.when I tell them my "Wife Isn't Feeling Well" all 7 people gasped in unison. I came back to the cabin and received a notice that I was being offered a FREE excursion the next day in Seward. They wanted everyone off the ship for they were flying in a crew to sanitize the ship. Wow it must be bad. The Noro story- The Captain had warned us as we were leaving, that there were reports of noro on land but not on the ship,and to be very careful,and to wash your hands constantly. The first 3 days of the cruise were normal, jacuzzis were open,salt and pepper shakers on the table and self service at the buffet. The 3rd day of the trip everything changed. Jacuzzis closed no salt and pepper shakers and the crew serving you at the Lido buffet. I'm really surprised my wife caught the noro- She brings her own wipes on board and wipes down everything before we settle into our cabin,and I mean everything! She has purell in her backpack on her keychain,we don't touch handrails,or elevator buttons but unfortunately it got her. 6-20 SEWARD My wife is still sick and can't leave the cabin and I have booked a 9 hour Northwestern Fjords tour independently. The nurse has called to check on my wife and urges me to take advantage of the free excursion the ship is offering me and let my wife rest. I have already missed my 9 hour paid for trip, so now I'm heading to the exact same tour company for a 5 hour trip. When I got to the office I told them my story and can you believe,THEY GAVE ME ALL OF MY MONEY BACK!! Wow that was really nice and I know they weren"t obligated. I turned around to join my group on the free 5 hour trip and realized the boat had already left seconds ago. The proverbial "I Missed The Boat" I was happy I got my money back and just headed back to the ship. When I got back to the ship I saw all of the people waiting to board from Seward,I'm sure they figured they'd be in the lido eating lunch by noon. I heard they didn't get to board till about 7pm. Start of quarantine- Anybody who was on the 14 day trip was told they must be quarantined till 5pm the next day this meant 24 hours. They gave us a bottle of wine,free dvd rentals for the 24 hours and a convenience shipboard credit for staying in our cabin. They wanted everyone in their cabin who were on the 14 day trip whether you were sick or not. You also had the choice of being reimbursed for the next 7 days of your cruise and flying home (you're on your own with the airlines) 6-21 Hubbard Glacier 5pm "Yaba Daba Doo" We're free and able to leave the cabin. I've been locked up for 29 hours I've watched 14 chick flicks and have eaten myself out of quarantine. My wife is back to normal and we run up to catch a last minute look at Hubbard as we sail away. It was another lousy day raining and visibility was poor. I guess Hubbard just wasn't in the cards for us this trip. Noro Wrap up- It's unfortunate that my wife and many other passengers caught the noro but that's life. We were on code red and the crew had to work triple time. They had spa workers serving coffee,casino workers working the buffet lines,the disc jockey was making pancakes,and even the captains wife was serving ice cream one day. The nurse called my wife numerous times to check on her. All of the room service guys asked how my wife was feeling and hoped she was feeling better. What else can one ask? I think HaL handled it very well under the conditions. 6-21 New Trip, new table, new waitstaff The fist 7 days of our trip the waitstaff service was lousy. It seemed like they couldn't get their act together,one night no rolls,one night rolls but no butter,water glasses rarely refilled. I didn't even bother asking for an ice tee. The waiter only sid 2 word the whole 7 days and they were "Um Hmm" This was the same story prior to the ship getting noro. me- "Ill Have The Caesar salad" waiter- "Um Hmm" me- I'll Have the french onion soup" waiter- "Um Hmm" me - I'll Have The beef wellington" waiter "Um Hmm" That's all he said for 7 full days, My wife attempted to engage him in conversation but he really couldn't be bothered? We always have a great time with our waitstaff take pictures exchange emails etc. Not these two. I had read on these board how great the waitstaff was so I was a little surprised. The maitre'd had asked us before the first 7 days had ended if we wanted to switch tables for the return trip. We told him we would love to sit at the table for 2 by the window. 2nd leg of trip- I guess I'm on a whole different cruise this time. We had Stephen and Mr. T as our waitstaff. Stephen was such a warm,kind man,and we found ourselves talking to him long after dinner was over. This was the Holland America waitstaff I grew to love. We had table #27 upstairs traditional dining for 2. This table is by the window and the views while eating are incredible. If there's two of you try to get this table. The first 7 day waitstaff, I observed could never keep anybody at their table,everynight there were 2 different people sitting there and I'd see the people that sat there the night before at a different table. 6-22 SEWARD We tendered in and walked all over town found some neat trails and then went with Capt Davey on the Esther G for a 3 hour wildlife tour. This was a great tour. I have to laugh. The ships tour has 100 people all jammed on the top deck of a boat with a noisy diesel engine. For $20 or $30 more you can go with Davey and he only takes 6 people. He is a super host,great guy,and very passionate about his beautiful Sitka and all it has to offer. Oh yea his wife bakes that best cookies (I knew that would get ya) We were the last 2 people on the tender. We were on time for I was worrying about being scolded by Captain Albert 6-23 Skagway- We rented a car and drove to Emerald Lake (75 miles) the scenery is incredible and the sun came out on the way back so it was even better. Lots of picture taking. 6-24 Juneau- This time there were 6 ships in port and there were 14 trillion people in search of tee shirts. We took the 1130:am Whale watching trip with Capt Larry on the Orca. We only had 12 people on the boat. How sad is that 6 ships in port and only 12 people on the boat? Good for us I guess. We had gone with Larry 6 years ago. This trip was even better. What a nature show we got. We had whales breaching,eagles next to the boat,seals on a buoy. This was the best excursion of this trip. 6-25 Ketchikan- Sorry folks we went fishing the first time we were here last week. You need to get away from this town,it's tacky and dirty with the same ole tourist stuff. Go fishing or take a floatplane or something this town really is lacking IMO. We walked around and weren't impressed. 6-26 sea day- The trip is nearly over and I'm starting to get that sick feeling in my stomach (no not noro) just depression that the trip is over. We head down to the future cruise consultant and book another cruise (yea that eases the pain) 6-27 Ship Arrives in Vancouver.. we eat breakfast in the dining room and see our waiter Stephen for the last time. We carry our own bags off and shuttle bus it back to the Accent inn by the Vancouver airport. We arrive and our room isn't ready (which is to be expected it's only 9am in the morning) we leave our bags in the lobby and take a bus over to Stevetson. It's a little fishing village with outdoor restaurants and shops. WE have lunch then head back to the hotel. 6-28 we take the courtesy shuttle to the airport and we're Florida bound. I really have all the luck we took 2 planes back to Florida and on BOTH planes we got the seats in the last row that DON"T recline while the people in front of you have their heads in your lap. There's only 2 reasons one should sit in these seats all the way in the back. 1. You have diarrhea 2. You want to talk to people that have it Tid bits- The ship was beautiful and just the right size for us. Captain Albert is Hilarious. I found myself waiting for his announcements everyday. I'm kicking myself for not bringing a small tape recorder and taping his 'Voice From The Bridge" comments everyday. When you're in between cruises it would be fun to listen to him. The internet on the ship is slow and expensive- We bought 1 hour of internet time in Juneau for $6 dollars. This card can also be used in Skagway and Ketchikan . Holland America- If you read these boards. The disc jockey in the crows nest need to be a cruise director,he has endless energy and is always smiling. We had a wonderful time and the Noro was just a bump in the road. I will try to answer any questions you might have about the Veendam or this trip. I hope I have added something to the boards other than my usual silly pictures and jokes Pipedreams62 Read Less
Sail Date: June 2008
We are a couple in our mid 50's from Central California. This was our eighth cruise and our fourth one to Alaska. We flew to Seattle a day ahead of time to see our daughter and son-in-law and then took Amtrak from Everett to Vancouver ... Read More
We are a couple in our mid 50's from Central California. This was our eighth cruise and our fourth one to Alaska. We flew to Seattle a day ahead of time to see our daughter and son-in-law and then took Amtrak from Everett to Vancouver which was a great way to go. We left Everett about 8:30 am and arrived in Vancouver at 11:30 am. Amazingly we were on the ship by 12:30! Embarkation was the fastest and easiest we have ever experienced. We changed from an inside cabin to an outside a few months back during a three day sale and saved $300. In order to do this we had to cancel our original booking and rebook. In the process we were assigned to the new As You Wish dining. We weren't pleased with that change but decided to give it a try for the first week and then try to change to traditional, assigned, seating for week two. We found that the AYW dining worked out very well with the show times and the Alaska itinerary so we decided not to change. While we miss having the same table mates and waiter each night the AYW dining works well for an Alaska cruise. We have asked for a table for two a few evenings and joined others a couple of times. The Veendam is a beautiful ship. It is a bit smaller than others ships we have sailed and we could feel the sea a bit more, but that is not an issue with us. Our stateroom was an obstructed view outside cabin, but we could see the ocean. It was located on the promenade deck so we were only steps away from an outside deck where we could enjoy the ocean up close. Our stateroom was a bit noisier than others we have had. We could hear people in the cabins next to us and we could hear the music form the theater which was above us, but that wasn't a huge issue. A couple of mornings the crewman who was cleaning to promenade deck woke us up quite early when he hosed down our window which was only a foot or so from our heads. The shows on the Veendam were quite good and the singers and dancers did an excellent job. We were quite pleased since we had been a bit disappointed in the show quality on a previous HAL cruise. The non-cast shows were also quite entertaining and we were pleased that only three of the seven shows were repeated the second week. The food was good. Two nights wee ate in the Lido and I felt that the quality there was even better than the restaurant. We also ate at the Pinnacle Grill twice which had amazing food and amazing service. I was especially impressed with how well the maitre'd handled a diner at the table next to us who complained about almost everything. He was quite professional. (If I were in his place I think I would have paid to guy to leave!) Debarkation in Vancouver was also quite smooth with everyone off the ship by 9:00 am. THE GOOD, THE BAD AND THE UGLY The GOOD The first day was sailing up the INSIDE PASSAGE on BC. It was a beautiful day and we were quite happy to be sailing back to Alaska. The ports were all wonderful. It was drizzling in KETCHIKAN when we arrived but that soon ended. We rented a car and had a great time exploring. One of our missions (which was successful) was to locate a totem pole we saw being carved three years ago at Saxman Village. We knew it was to remain locally and finally located someone at Saxman who knew where it was. We were able to find it and take pictures when we returned to town. I recognized it from pictures I had taken when it was being carved. HAINES was a new port for us so we wandered around, took a self-guided historical walking tour and visited a couple of museums. Toward the end of the day we found an active eagle nest on a tip from a local resident. One of the adult eagles was perched on the net and we were able to get a couple of nice pictures. Our whale watch in JUNEAU was successful. We were on a small boat (Scania) with Captain Jack of Adventures in Alaska. There were two other couples and Jack's son-in-law aboard. We spotted only a few whales and spent most of the time watching a mother and calf which was quite entertaining. The calf put on quite a good show. I was amazed at the communication between the mother and calf. The mother went off to feed and we spotted her quite a distance away, but the calf remained in the same spot. He spy-hopped, slapped his fins and flipped his tail, just having fun for about a half hour. The mom surfaced quite a ways away and we could see and hear her spout. The calf dove and we didn't see him again until he surfaced with his mother. SITKA was a relaxing day where we walked around, hiked through the Totem Park, visited the Raptor Center and went to a Tinglet Dance Show. It was overcast at the HUBBARD GLACIER, but we did get quite close and had a great time there. Our turnover port was SEWARD. We took a 9 hour boat tour of the Kenai Fjords courtesy of Holland America. It was a spectacular tour to the Northwestern Glacier. We saw sea otters, puffins and many other birds, sea lions, seals, orcas and humpback whales. There were four boats watching the humpbacks, but they seemed to like ours the best and surfaced just feet away from the bow on one side and then the other. It was an amazing day. Southbound we visited the HUBBARD GLACIER on a rainy day. We spent that day in our cabin. I'll explain that later in the review. SITKA was a wonderful experience. We took a Marine Wildlife Boat Excursion through Puffins and Whales with Davey Lubin on the Esther G. We had amazing time. It was to be a four hour tour, but the Veendam was late in arriving in Sitka and Davey had an afternoon tour so it became a three hour, but Davey was quite generous in only charging the three hour tour price. There were two others couples from the Veendam on the Esther G with us. Sitka Sound is beautiful and Davey is quite passionate about life in Sitka. We saw wonderful scenery, more otters, sea lions, seals and birds than we could count and two grey whales that came right up to the boat. One of them was quite large. It is unusual to see greys in Sitka this time of the year, but the Sound is colder than usual this June and these two stuck around. It was an amazing experience. We've visited SKAGWAY several times so wee didn't plan any excursions this year. We did walk around town. I took my favorite hike up to Lower Dewey Lake (2-3 miles r/t) and we hiked out to the Gold Rush Cemetery (4 miles r/t). We also went to the "Days of '98" show which was an hour long musical comedy based on Soapy Smith. It was quite enjoyable and a fun way to spend a shopping-free hour. In JUNEAU we rented a car from Rent-a-Wreck and visited some of our favorite spots like Amalga Harbor, the Shrine of Saint Therese and the Mendenhall Glacier. Overall it was a quiet, relaxing day in port for us. On our return to KETCHIKAN we did last port shopping, walked around town in the drizzle and went to the Lumberjack Show which we really enjoyed. The INSIDE PASSAGE was cold and wet, but we still enjoyed our day sailing back to Vancouver. THE BAD The reason for the courtesy Kenai Fjords tour in Seward from Holland America was to get the 207 passengers who were staying on the ship off for the day. We had a nasty outbreak of Noro Virus during the first week with many passengers and crew affected. We were fine, but it did change life onboard. For the remainder of our cruise the buffets and beverages were no longer self service. Flowers, condiments, bread and butter were all removed from the dining room tables. The hot tubs were closed and only a few of the shops were open at a time. The crew was amazing and worked extra long hours so the cruise was still quite enjoyable even though the thought of catching Noro Virus was always in the back of one's mind. We weren't affected much until we got "the letter" and we did manage to avoid the virus ourselves. Many others were not so fortunate. THE UGLY The staterooms on Holland America are quite nice until you are quarantined for 24 hours! Then they are not quite as pleasant! (Although not really ugly I guess.) The final step in the fight against the Noro outbreak was to confine the 207 passengers who were staying on the ship for a second week in their cabins for the first 24 hours of week 2 which was the information in "the letter" we received the day before arriving in Seward. As I mentioned, we had a lovely tour in Seward compliments of HAL. When we returned and boarded the ship we went to our stateroom where we stayed until 5 pm the next day. We missed our return visit to the Hubbard Glacier, but we did not miss any ports. We ordered our meals from room service and had free access to the DVD library. To compensate for this inconvenience we were given a generous ship board credit and a bottle of wine. While this confinement was not totally pleasant, it did seem to help stem the spread of Noro and I believe that HAL was quite generous to those of us who were confined. The only thing we really missed was a rainy day at the Hubbard Glacier. Read Less
Sail Date: May 2008
We sailed on the Veendam on May 16th out of Vancouver. We have done this trip several time before (but not on Holland America), and it is always a good experience. We love Vancouver, and always spend a few days there on our own before the ... Read More
We sailed on the Veendam on May 16th out of Vancouver. We have done this trip several time before (but not on Holland America), and it is always a good experience. We love Vancouver, and always spend a few days there on our own before the ship departs. Embarkation: This was a breeze. No lines at all, and we walked right onto the ship. Once on the ship, however, we had to wait quite a while on the Lido deck before we could go to our room. Cabin: An inside cabin. Very plain, but roomy enough, and adequate. Our room steward was very good. Plain, but adequate, is a good description of the Veendam. Ship: The ship was clean and well-maintained, but rather on the plain side. There was simply not a wow factor anywhere on the ship. This was somewhat of a disappointment. We did enjoy having a wonderful teak deck to walk on on the promenade deck that went completely around the ship. Food: The food was good. We enjoyed almost every meal. The fresh strawberries in the Lido in the morning were wonderful! The Lido ran out of coffee everyday, though. This was irritating. Service: Fine, but no better than other ships we have been on. We were seated at Open Seating in the dining room. Service was okay, sometimes slow. The waiters really made no effort to make the service special, except for the special show they put on two night. Entertainment: Sub-standard, in general. We went to most of the shows. Some of the most average entertainment we have seen on any ship This was our 17th cruise. Shore Excursions: We enjoyed all of them, especially the Canopy Zipline at Ketchikan. More will be noted on this topic below. Disembarkation: Easy, not crowded, and not rushed. But, here is where our problem began. We had purchased a transfer from Holland America prior to the cruise, a bus from Seward to Anchorage. We purchased an add-on of a boat tour of the Portage Glacier. No problem with the bus transfer from Seward to Anchorage. But, the Portage Glacier cruise was canceled by the tour operator. Many buses arrived at Portage to board the boat. We waited around at the terminal for about an hour, while the operator tried to clear ice in the lake. In the end, the tour was canceled because the boat was iced in. We all boarded our buses and went on to Anchorage. We were told by the bus driver that a Holland America rep would meet us at the airport to deal with refunds. This did not happen. I have been calling Holland America, and sending emails ever since we returned from Anchorage, and have been stonewalled by everyone I have talked to about this. Holland America does not return my calls, nor do they answer my emails. So far, they have refused to issue a credit for the Portage Glacier tour that was canceled. I have never been treated this bad by any cruise line. On the whole, the cruise was pleasant. Alaska is always wonderful. But, there was nothing particularly wonderful about the Veendam, and Holland America's behavior post-cruise has been appalling. For that reason, I can not recommend this ship, or Holland America to other cruisers. Read Less
Sail Date: August 2006
Just returned from the 8/20 sailing of the HAL Veendam. There were 6 of us (2 adults, 2 seniors, 2 kids). Service is fantastic!! Kids absolutely loved Club Hal. The Playstation room was great and so were the counselors. Make sure your ... Read More
Just returned from the 8/20 sailing of the HAL Veendam. There were 6 of us (2 adults, 2 seniors, 2 kids). Service is fantastic!! Kids absolutely loved Club Hal. The Playstation room was great and so were the counselors. Make sure your cruise does Glacier Bay and College Fjord. The latter was unbelievable. Food was very good. But the Lido deck daily buffet could have used more of a variety each day. Also, you can skip the Asian station (not worth it). Meals in the Rotterdam dining room were very good to excellent. The naturalist talks were very nice. Bruce did a good job. And as whales were seen, they made announcements over the PA. Recommendations: Seawind Aviation in Ketchikan for a floatplane trip to Misty Fjords. Steve and Leslie are fantastic hosts. Orca Enterprises (Captain Larry) offers the best whale watching tours in Juneau. Humpbacks came within 15 feet of the boat. Then we even saw Porpoise, Sea Lions and Sea Otters. In Skagway, we rented a car with Avis. They normally don't have vans. But for 6 of us, we requested one. $100 for the day. Not bad. They found a van for us and we drove up to the Yukon and Emerald Lake. Don't miss this trip. You'll see everything the train does, but you can stop. They train doesn't make it to Emerald Lake. A quick stop in Carcross is worth it also. Stay in Seward for a night or two. This is not a tourist town like the others. We fished outside of our room at the Whistle Stop Lodging. Our 6 year old snagged a salmon (no bait) in minutes. Boy did it taste good. Someone fillet it for us ($2) and then we ran it down to Apollo Restaurant to be cooked up. Tanya at the Whistle Stop Lodging (907-224-5050) has converted a train car into 2 great rooms. $125/night per room. The cars are from WW II with nice amenities. The website is www.sewardak/was. It's walking distance to the cruise dock. But Tanya may be able to pick you up if you have a lot of luggage. What a view from the rooms !! IdidaRide runs Sled Dog Tours (800-478-3139 www.ididaride.com) in the summer. The Seavey's, especially Danny, give a great tour. You can hold the little pups, play with others and go on a 2 mile trek in the woods. It's a blast for everyone. Buck from the movie "8 Below" is there also. He's actually not a racer. But you can pet him. I think his real name is Flap Jack. $49 for adults and $24 for kids. A great value and they have free shuttle service from downtown. To get to Anchorage when your stay is over in Anchorage, I would suggest no one else than Renee at PJ's taxi service (907-491-1500). She's the best !!! For one very fair price, Renee made as many stops as we wished. We even took a detour to the Alaska Wildlife Conservation Center. They take in bear, caribou, bison, fox and many other animals who have been injured in the wild. You can get up close and take photos of the animals. During the journey to Anchorage, Renee points out many sites of interest and will allow you to stop and take photos along the way. What a great way to end a fantastic trip. Thanks Renee. Take the Veendam, visit with some of these tour companies, see Alaska. It's a trip of a lifetime. Enjoy. Read Less
Sail Date: September 2005
South America/Amazon River Sailing Background. My wife and I have cruised on a variety of cruise line ships including Commodore (now extinct) Princess, HAL (Amsterdam) NCl and Celebrity. Most of these cruises were for over 2 weeks so we ... Read More
South America/Amazon River Sailing Background. My wife and I have cruised on a variety of cruise line ships including Commodore (now extinct) Princess, HAL (Amsterdam) NCl and Celebrity. Most of these cruises were for over 2 weeks so we have a good background for a ship review. Itinerary. The Veendam left Vancouver on Sept 25 going down the west coast of USA and Central America, through the Panama Canal to Brazil. It went up the Amazon River for nearly 1000 miles to Manaus then returned to the Caribbean to disembark at Tampa on Oct 29. '05. Embarkation. This took about 3 hours but was understandable for not only did Passports have to be checked but also Yellow fever and Brazil visa documents. Disembarkation was also held up but through no fault of the ship. The Ship. In general we found the ship to be well maintained with ample public rooms and nice furniture and decor. Our cabin was small but there was ample room for storage. Our main complaint about the cabin was that the toilet did not function properly for over half of the time we were on the ship. Sometimes it could not be repaired for hours and other times it would not flush for 15 to 20 minutes after the button was pushed. This was a nuisance for we had to seek out the public toilets on the ship. Numerous phone calls to the head office were made and we were told, more than once, that many cabins on the main deck had toilets that were not working also, as No. 2 holding tank had a problem. One time I spoke to the guest relations officer and was told they had other cabins I could be moved to but that it would cost me a few hundred dollars, as only free upgrades could be made by the head office in Seattle. The Captain. It was appreciated by the passengers that the captain updated us every day on the ship's position, course and any problems he might encounter. Hurricane Otis was directly in our path if we had gone to Cabo San Lucas, as planned, so we skirted it by going out further into the Pacific. There was also hurricane Wilma in the Caribbean that might have affected us had we gone to the Bahamas as scheduled so we went to St. Kitt's instead which was great. There was a 3 hour delay in docking at Acapulco due to the ship's thrusters not working but this was managed by lines used to pull the ship to the dock. Entertainment. In general the entertainment provided by the Veendam singers and dancers was excellent. The guest lecturers and the one-night-stand performers i.e. singers, musicians, magician and ventriloquist were better than average. For two nights instead of live entertainment they offered a movie. Both were 3rd rate with many in the audience leaving. The cruise director's attempt for passenger participation did not work too well. The talent show, which on most ships is very good, was a flop as one good Violinist who was prepared to play was cancelled. Instead a group of randomly picked singers insulted our ears. With a little more advertising of the event I am sure there was talent not revealed. The Lip Sync show was just a bunch of poorly performing hams who wanted to be on the stage. The "Newly wed and not so newly wed" gig is "old hat" but better accepted We played duplicate bridge most days and this was better attended than we had experienced on other ships. The directors were excellent. The big failing was the movies shown in the movie theatre. They were awful for the two that we attended we could not sit through. Many others we spoke to felt the same way. The cabin TV offered several channels: CNN. a few channels about ship activities, shopping, shore excursions, lectures and entertainment films. The latter consisted of two devoted to cartoons suitable for children (none on board) and the others were movies which were decades old so were a wash-out. The Theatre. This needs an overhaul for the chairs and sofas are not too comfortable because the backs are too low. Sitting at the rear of the lower deck one could not see the screen, for the lectures. In the balcony, visibility is poor because of a brass railing on the front row that blocks the view of the rows behind. Dining. I believe the dinners served in the dining room and the food served everywhere on the ship was first class. The dining room sittings were: two early sittings at 5.30 and 6.p.m and two late sittings 7.45 and 8.15 p.m. We felt that the early sittings were two early and the late sittings were two late. We were given the 7.45 sitting and with great difficulty were finally moved to a 6 p.m. sitting. Many many passengers wanted the early sittings but could not get them, though we did see vacancies at those sittings. I am a great fan of open sitting as on the Princess and time NCL. Not only can you pick your time to dine but also are not stuck with one or two couples,for the length of the cruise,with whom you would rather not sit. Matching times and table companions is an insurmountable chore for the Maitre d' It can also spoil the entire cruise for the passenger. If other lines can do it why cannot HAL! Internet. All I can say about this is that I did not use the internet on the ship as they were charging 75 cents per minute and in Acapulco I sent and received Emails at an internet cafe for 90 cents an hour. If they can get away with those charges, so be it. Service. Most of the cabin crew and waiters were Indonesians and the bar staff were mostly Philippines. They were well trained courteous and efficient. There could be no complaints about their service. Value. This is hard to determine for value is what you get for what you pay. It was one of the most expensive cruises (cost per day) that I have taken and cost me more than the cruise I took on the Amsterdam last year. Everyone on the ship seemed to have paid a different price. Many paid a lot less than did I because of discounts for teachers, firefighters and policemen and other specials, also they were given better free upgrades. This is the same on all cruises so that you should compare prices before you buy your cruise. The internet is a great help in this. Summary. It was a great cruise. The itinerary was what we wanted and had expected. The ship was 5 star (apart from the toilet problem) and the crew and service were in this category. I will look forward to traveling on the Veendam again. Read Less
Sail Date: May 2005
MAY 22-6/5/05 - 14 DAY ALASKA ROUNDTRIP VANCOUVER Flew into Seattle the evening before and stayed at the SeaTac Hilton which is a better than average Hilton property. HAL Rep at Hotel named Charlotte was both excellent and pleasant at ... Read More
MAY 22-6/5/05 - 14 DAY ALASKA ROUNDTRIP VANCOUVER Flew into Seattle the evening before and stayed at the SeaTac Hilton which is a better than average Hilton property. HAL Rep at Hotel named Charlotte was both excellent and pleasant at the same time in coordinating people and luggage for the various buses to Vancouver pierside and Seattle pierside. The 3-1/2 bus transfer to Vancouver was safe and pleasant with a great driver whose name I forget. We made a 15 minute pit stop at a roadside park. I was onboard by Veendam by 1:45 p.m. The cabins were ready to occupy and I was enjoying a Lido Lunch by 2:15 p.m. It was raining when I arrived in Seattle, and when I left Seattle 15 days later. The weather in those two weeks covered everything from cold and very,very chilly and windy to bright and sunny and hot. That is Alaska in May and early June. Pack accordingly and bring a little of everything. Layers work best and remember it can still be very humid even when it is cool to cold. HAL has that laundry special $12 bucks a bag for ALL you can fit in the bag. Skip doing laundry, it is a waste of valuable time. Enjoy the beautiful geography. The Ship was in good repair as far as I could tell. Saw very little obvious rust or other glaring problems. Each time I was in a public area or out and about on deck, everything was clean or in the process of being cleaned. The sanitizing bubble stands for your hands were everywhere, even when coming back on board after being ashore. Everything worked in the cabin which was always kept in top order by Bimi. It took him a couple of days to get the drift oy my personal schedule but after that, everything was smooth, efficient and timely. This was my 7th journey to Alaska with no land portion this time. I slept in most days, had a very decent cabin breakfast, and was meandering ashore when the first wave was flooding back for lunch. I was up late every night catching the sunsets, wildlife and general beauty of things and usually closed the Ocean Bar and the Casino. The Ocean Bar was is just a great place to relax and listen to good light easy jazz music. This bar plus the Crow's Nest and the Lido offer great venues for people watching, scenery watching with comfortable furniture and pleasant service. There was also a very fine string quartet. These musical ensembles were some of the very best I have heard onboard a cruise ship in a quite awhile. The food was good to very good with nothing bad or over the top or gourmand. It was very typical and quite tasty HAL cuisine which has moved on a great deal from the meat and potato days to include very good fish, lamb, venison, game hen but they still do a pot roast and mashed potatoes that rivals my Mom's. I personally think this was some of the best food I have ever had on HAL, and it certainly was as good as that served onboard the Celebrity's Mercury in Jan 2005 during a cruise to the Mexican Riviera. However, if you are very into Fine Dining with accompanying levels of personal service, then the Pinnacle Restaurant should be your focus. The dining experience in this venue is very good and well worth the surcharge. Quite surprisingly, it was not the busy on most nights and reservations were not a problem at any time. I found the food in the Lido to be of really good quality for an ongoing buffet set-up. The Pizza was good, the Deli did great tortilla wraps and sandwiches. Hamburgers and Hot dogs were good. The casual dining dining in the Lido from 6:00-7:30 p.m. was very good that included a filet mignon that just melted in your mouth. Overall, service levels were good but it is very obvious that Staffing in the dining room and housekeeping departments has been reduced. I had the same dining room team for the two weeks but seldom was there time to chat with them as they never stopped moving. They were always very pleasant but permanently busy. The barman were generally good but there was way too many cocktail servers as far as I was concerned who were not a happy lot most of the time because most of the pax drank moderately if at all, God forbid if you had a soda sticker on your ship's card. Over the years, I have generally found the HAL pax drink less than the pax on most any other cruise line, even when the pax complement has an average age around 40-45 as opposed 55+. The Java Cafe had great coffees and pastries but were a bit pricey and the mostly female staff seem more interested in gossiping that serving. The internet set up was OK and pricing was better with a 100 minutes for $40 or so with a very nice young lady who around from during "normal hours" like 8-4 or 9-5. When is Alaskan water, internet service can be spotty at times because of the mountains. The Juneau Public Library has free internet service. They do ask for a donation but I must have been the first one in a long while to offer. There about 8 terminals, 4 limited to 15 minutes and 4 to 30 minutes and they are timed. The best time to use this service is between 1 and 3 p.m. There are other internet places in Ketchikan, Juneau, Sitka and Seward, but Skagway was lacking as the place had gone bankrupt. The best people to ask about shoreside internet service and other things as well are the young college folks working the excursions for the summer. Slip them $5 and you'll know who what where, when, why and how. Remember those days ? I do. I found the entertainment average and skipped 90% of it. The crew shows were the highlights as usual. Cannot comment on the SPA as anything Steiner's of London has their claws in is a ripoff as far as I am concerned. Did not take any of the ship's excursions. Took the $5 bus each way to Mendenhall Glacier and had a picnic watching the calving, booked an independent bear watch trip out of Ketchikan, went kayaking in Sitka which was unbelievable -- watched Orcas and Humpbacks both, and the Kenai Fjord all day cruise in Seward which was very good as always. Still had time to some shopping before we sailed Southbound. This was a great trip, very relaxing and rejuvenating-being in College Fjord and Glacier Bay twice within days was icing on the cake. This type of cruise is for those who have Alaska in their blood and love coming to just sit, hike, walk, wade, listen, smell, feel and absorb the sounds, sights, spirits and scenery and aerate their minds, bodies, souls and spirits. The Veendam provided a solid 4 star floating base environment to do this from. I would not recommend this 14 day R/T cruise for first time visitors to Alaska nor the party hearty type, singles looking to mingle and mate or those with high disposable incomes seeking the very best in all things at all times. Read Less
6 Helpful Votes
Sail Date: September 2004
This was to be a very special cruise for us ...not our first on Holland America, or to Alaska ...and having for the most part enjoyed balcony cabins in the past years felt it was time to move up to the top ...literally the best available ... Read More
This was to be a very special cruise for us ...not our first on Holland America, or to Alaska ...and having for the most part enjoyed balcony cabins in the past years felt it was time to move up to the top ...literally the best available and we saved for a whole year to afford the Penthouse Suite, again for this very special cruise. We certainly didn't get what we paid for or more importantly what we expected. Apart from a very large cabin (over 1,000 sq ft) we could have been on any "budget cruise" in the smallest, least expensive cabin offered. The cabin was not ready when we boarded at 12:45 PM. We were pointed towards the Neptune lounge (for suite passengers) and told to wait there ...no escort, no offer to take our hand luggage or assist us in any way. We waited in the lounge until just before 2 pm and I discovered that the cabin ...the Penthouse, still had not been serviced from the previous guests. It took some very "assertive" words to the lounge hostess and we got into the cabin just before 3pm. The steward had changed the linen and vacuumed and remarked he would return later to complete the cabin ...he did not and we found ourselves at the front desk at 10PM getting soap, towels, room service menus, etc., and other standard cabin items. There was no "orientation" to the suite or the function of the lighting system (27 light switches) the whirlpool tub (more on that later) or any of the other suite services. More on the suite ...er cabin: the whirlpool tub in the bathroom was out of order for the entire 7 days. An attempt to repair it was made twice with up to 9 people in an out of the cabin over a 2 day period attempting to repair it. We feel as if we lost 2 days of privacy ...or use of the suite due to the constant coming and going of the repair people. The separate shower stall with multiple jets had no pressure until the filters were changed on day 3 of the cruise and there was some improvement. For the first 2 days we were told we could use the showers in the spa, one floor up. The steam room and sauna (one floor up) and directly above our suite was being remodeled. for 3 days we were woken at 8:00 am daily with the hammering needed to remove the ceramic tiles ...this went on all day for 3 days. Remember this is the Penthouse suite ...no tub or shower, no privacy, and constant noise from the remodeling. The microwave in the pantry did not work and the coffee machine had no supplies of coffee or filters until I purchased some in Juneau. The cabin steward stated that they were out of the filters and coffee to fit this "Mr Coffee" machine. We left dirty breakfast trays in the pantry for removal despite calling room service to collect them and they stacked up for 3 days before rough weather caused most of the dishes to break when they "lurched off the counter". I contacted the Guest Service Manager onboard and I might have been talking to the walls. Our complaints fell on deaf ears. He did send a bottle of very cheap wine ($26.00) to the cabin with a letter stating he was sorry we were not enjoying the cruise, but made no effort to expedite any of our requests to improve service. I returned the wine to his office and that was the last we heard of him despite our request to meet with him. Despite there being a huge dining room table in the suite we could never get room service to serve meals there. Breakfast arrived on a tray left on the buffet in the dining room and all requests for menu items from the dining room menu during meal times were declined. Waiters who delivered room service stated they did not set the table, their job was to deliver the tray ...and then wait for their tip. Only after our meeting with the Hotel manager on day 5 of the cruise did room service improve slightly. We were able to get one or two items from then dining room menu but there was no attempt or offer to set up the service at the dining table except the last morning of the cruise. Food and service in the main dining room was unremarkable except for the smaller than average portions (1/2 a lobster tail). Service was usually slow and our requested and assigned table for 2 was given to other passengers because we "didn't show up for dinner on the first night" ..we ate in the Grill Room and found the food and service to be more to our liking there. They were unable to accommodate us except for the first third and last night of the cruise. For breakfast and lunch we were at the mercy of the dining room. On day 3 while cruising Glacier Bay we went to the dining room for lunch and it would seem a large number of people did the same ...far more than was expected and service was painfully slow. Since we had no where to go (remember the crew was in our suite trying to repair the bath tub and the hammering was still going on above us in the steam room) we waited it out. We were treated to a sight that turned us off the dining room for the remainder of the cruise as the "section Captain" reset a table for 8 recently vacated by some unhappy guest who would not or could not wait, with the same napkins water glasses and silverware from the previous guests. He carefully refolded the napkins, topped up the water glasses and straightened the silverware. This was more than I could take and I confronted him. It seems a number of other passengers were watching him as well and he had no choice but to "fess up to his actions" and he called the busboy over to have him "strip" the table. I then asked our waiter for new napkins, water glasses and silverware as did several other tables who had witnessed this breach of service. Someone had called the dining room manager and he arrived on the scene to assure everyone that this was an isolated incident and that the other tables did not have to be reset. We left the dining room returning only one other time and before being seated at our assigned table requested that it be reset while we waited. I shudder to think what was being done with and to our meals inside the kitchen because of our assertiveness ...perhaps it is best not to dwell on that. The "Do Not Disturb" door sign was frequently ignored. The staff that check the mini bar arrived daily at 8:30 am and despite the sign, knocked and came in to check the mini bar usage ....The hostess in the Neptune lounge, phoned on 3 separate occasions with something to be delivered - room service menus (there were none in the suite), the wine from the Guest relations manager and one other time despite the door sign being in place. "I'm calling because you have the do not disturb sign up and I have something to be delivered." She did not see that the phone call was the same as knocking on the door - a disturbance. Especially at 7:45 am and once at 11:30 PM. As noted earlier the steam room and sauna were out of order for the whole cruise. The spa services were unremarkable but I felt over priced. We took only one shore tour offered by HAL - the train trip in Skagway. HAL's only responsibility here was to let us off the ship as the train pulls up along side. All in all it was the worst cruise I have ever had, probably because my expectations were not met in any way and staff seemed very uninterested in meeting them. We would have been better off saving our money and paying for a lower priced cabin although the level of service we received was unacceptable for any cabin category. There has been a constant decline in the service offered by HAL over the past 3 years and I note that many others have said the same thing about HAL. I do wonder how bad it will get before something is done. You can be sure I will not be onboard to find out. Read Less
Sail Date: September 2004
This was our second time on the Veendam (last time: November, 2002 to western Caribbean), and this experience was so different (and not just because of the destination:Alaska!), I felt I needed to say something. The good: there are great ... Read More
This was our second time on the Veendam (last time: November, 2002 to western Caribbean), and this experience was so different (and not just because of the destination:Alaska!), I felt I needed to say something. The good: there are great new beds: thick, comfortable mattresses, the best we've seen on any ship in 20 cruises. The same: friendly, happy crew especially in the dining room. Mediocre shows and activities; this is never HAL's strength, and this cruise was no different or maybe a little worse than usual. In several ports, local talent who just came on board for the evening was used...I don't think most of them will be sought after for engagements in the lower 48 anytime soon; enough said... Great breads and stirfry in the Lido. We didn't go to the Pinnacle (alternative dining room, $20 a person charge), but others who did go said it was quite good. The bad: This was where the real difference was; and we talked to others with similar complaints, so it wasn't just us. To begin with, this ship WASN'T shipshape! Three elevators out of eight were out of order all week, and we never saw anyone working on any of them. The laundry room on our floor was also out of order all week. A chair in the Crow's Nest not only had split upholstery, but the stuffing was hanging out! Not at all the way this ship used to be. We were given one small bottle of shampoo that ran out on Tuesday and was never replaced; since we heard others whose cabins were on other floors say the same thing, we know it wasn't just our steward...Food portions were small; on formal night, we got HALF a lobster tail (that's actually what the menu said: "HALF a lobster tail"...) One man at our table complained that portions were so small, he automatically ordered two to start with at each meal...We couldn't help but wonder: Is this cruise line in financial trouble? Why the poor maintenance and stinginess? The Veendam certainly wasn't this way two years ago when we were on it...My husband commented that it seemed like they were trying to compete with Motel 6... We are enthusiastic cruisers and have always enjoyed HAL before (this was our fourth Holland America cruise), but this one was not among our favorites. Alaska was still beautiful; we had wonderful sunny weather the whole trip; and saw good calving at the glaciers (we had chosen this particular cruise because it went to Glacier Bay and College Fjord which only a few ships do now, and that part of the trip was great) We always say there's no bad cruise; just good, better and best. Despite the itinerary and scenery which ranked in the "best" category, we can only rate the cruise overall as "good"; what happened to our old Veendam???? Read Less
Sail Date: August 2004
We just returned from our Cruise last night and I can say we had a wonderful trip! This was our first cruise and we had our two sons with us (21 and 24).The Veendam was everything I hoped and expected it to be. Service was excellent. The ... Read More
We just returned from our Cruise last night and I can say we had a wonderful trip! This was our first cruise and we had our two sons with us (21 and 24).The Veendam was everything I hoped and expected it to be. Service was excellent. The food in the Rotterdam dining room was superb. We never felt the need to dine in the "Pinnacle " restaurant which is an additional $20 per person. I felt the Rotterdam was a 4-5 star dining experience. Our dining stewards and room steward were excellent. Shows and entertainment were very good, but not necessarily Broadway caliber. The ship was always impeccably clean and well laid out. The dining in the Lido restaurant was fair to good. It is cafeteria style dining. At dinner time, you could eat in the elegant Rotterdam dining room or the Lido cafeteria, the food was almost identical, but you don't have the elegance of the more formal and better service of the Rotterdam. The staff of mainly Filipino and Indonesian were always friendly (genuine) and were there to assist in any way. This ship seems to attract the more mature clientele, but we had parents with young and teenage children, but the predominance was 40+. I enjoyed the quiet nature of the ship. As for the adventure of cruising the "Inside Passage" it was an amazing experience that can only be fully appreciated if you do it yourself. I highly recommend this cruise line and ship and taking advantage of this beautiful experience of seeing the natural beauty of British Columbia and Alaska! When off the ship and out in the "country" on you tours/excursions make sure you put on insect repellent, as the mosquitoes will eat you alive! I failed to do this even after reading others postings on the subject. We had over a hundred bites between the four of us. We had perfect weather our entire trip. Not one day of rain, even in Kechtikan. The temperature was in the high 60's and 70's. One of the highlights of our trip was renting a car in Skagway and driving up the Chilkoot Pass up into alpine country and into the Yukon. You start in Alaska, enter British Columbia and end up in Whitehorse, Yukon. The drive takes about four hours round trip with a few stops but it was incredibly beautiful. We also drove to Dyea and saw about a dozen Bald eagles, one was only 30 feet away! We caught spawing salmon in a creek in Dyea by the dog kennels with our bare hands! There are also some interesting historical points in Dyea which is only a 20 minute drive from Skagway. On the flight home, my wife and sons were already talking about our next trip to Alaska. Read Less
Sail Date: June 2004
We had planned this trip for 2 years with friends. We had cruised with Carnival 3 times before, and really thought this would be a step up in quality. We were wrong! We booked cruise tour 13 and used HAL's air. We flew into Vancouver ... Read More
We had planned this trip for 2 years with friends. We had cruised with Carnival 3 times before, and really thought this would be a step up in quality. We were wrong! We booked cruise tour 13 and used HAL's air. We flew into Vancouver on Sunday morning, and HAL's people were there to direct us and take care of our luggage. We got to the port about 12:30 and got through the lines pretty quickly. We were in our rooms by 1:30 and our luggage arrived right away. Our steward, Warman, was the best we've ever had. He always called us by name and took good care of us. Our verandah suite was wonderful, and has spoiled me for future cruises. There was lots of room and I loved the jetted bathtub. That was pretty much it for the good things. While waiting for our rooms, we were approached several times to buy wine packages, and not just the 1st day, but for several days! We did buy one, but the wine steward showed his disdain when we used it. Our dining room stewards were good, although not terribly fast or attentive. We often got our coffee after our dessert, or the coffee long before dessert and then no refills. The food was not exciting at all. It was just ok. Carnival blew HAL away when it came to variety, taste and presentation. We ate one night in the Pinnacle Grill and it was excellent-worth the extra money we paid. The breakfast and lunch in both the Rotterdam and Lido were not very good in quality, or variety, and I was amazed at how limited the hours were! The service at those meals was incredibly slow and no one seemed to care much about what they were doing. There wasn't a big showy midnight buffet, and if you wanted to eat at midnight, you were out of luck. On Carnival, you could get something 24 hours, but on this ship, the food availability was very limited and unimpressive. One night in the dining room we had lobster and filet. The lobster tail was so small, I don't know how it could be legal, and the filet was 3 small slices. Very disappointing! To make matters worse, there were several cases of illness on board, so the last 2 or 3 days everything had to be served to us. We couldn't even put our own salt on our food. That slowed things down even more, if that was possible! The entertainment was good, and the seating for the shows was better than on the Carnival ships we've been on. We usually went up to the Crow's Nest for late night drinks. The view was great, but the band was not the best. The fitness center and spa were a bit of a disappointment. One day there were no clean towels there, but there were 4 employees standing around socializing! While I was changing behind a curtain for a massage, a man from housekeeping started to walk in. To get out to that deck, people walked through the massage and changing area-not a very secure or pampered feeling! I felt the spa staff was a bit inexperienced, and the spa facility was lacking. Just a note about the tour portion. If I had known the kind of schedule we'd have, I wouldn't have booked their tour-I'd have done it on my own. We had to be off the ship at 6:30 am for our train to Anchorage. We arrived about noon, but couldn't get into our hotel rooms until 3 pm. We were exhausted! The next morning we had to have our luggage out by 6 am, and be on a bus to the train by 7:15 am. The train to Denali and to Fairbanks, was comfortable and fun. We had all the next day in Denali, but the representative that was supposed to tell us what we could do there didn't get to us until about 5 minutes before we arrived, so we weren't well prepared with what our options were for the free day. The next morning we had to have our luggage out and be on a bus at 5:50 am for our Tundra Wilderness tour. It was good, although we didn't see a lot of wildlife or Mt. McKinley. We had about 2 hours when we got back to the lodge before we got onto a bus to the train and headed to Fairbanks. We got to our rooms at about 9 pm and had to be on the bus the next morning at 7:45 for our Riverboat and Gold Dredge tour. They were both very good! Our luggage had to be out by 10 pm, and the next morning we had to be on the bus to the airport at 6 am to fly home. One couple in our group had to be on their bus at 3:45 am! So you can see it was a harrowing schedule, and now we need a vacation from our vacation! Overall, it was fun, primarily because we were with people we loved. We saw things we'd never seen, and enjoyed most of what we did, even though we were tired most of the time! I don't think I'd cruise with HAL again, although their land employees were, for the most part very good. 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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