Hello to all who read this! I have just returned from my first cruise, and it was on HAL Veendam to the Western Caribbean this past Nov 1 to the 8th. For all those who have not cruised this ship, or this line, here are my thoughts:
The cruise ship itself was very nice. A little worn here and there...but quite beautiful. I was in cabin 806 which is ocean view on the A deck. The sailing was pretty smooth...but...there was a terrible smell of garbage just about each night for an hour or two. My cabin steward was attentive, but nothing over the top.
The food was generally good. Nothing spectacular, and improvments could have been made in quite a few areas. Don't get me wrong...I certainly was never hungry! BTW- the room service was very good.
I will say that the staff bordered mostly on luke-warm, although there were a few that were very friendly.
The entertainment was fair. The bingo that I played was short and boring. The activities during the day were somewhat dull. I was hoping for more in the way of lectures and such, but to no avail.
One of my biggest gripes was the auction. What a crock of bull!! As an antiques and collectibles dealer for over 15 years I was appalled at the shlock that they were peddling. I was truly looking forward to this portion of the cruise and was sadly disappointed.
Embarkation and disembarkation were smooth. Although they did shoosh us out of our room at 8am, even though we had until 8:30.
All in all a fair vacation at a cheap price. I got a steal on the cabin, so I don't feel badly.
The ports were OK. Cayman Islands was quite nice, Mexico as well. But, Jamaica made me want to cry. Such a beautiful island and such impoverished people....quite sad.
If I never hear the words Diamonds International again, or Kirk Freeport, it will be too soon.
Thanks for the update on Veendam. In the past year I have sailed Amsterdam, Prinsendam and Veendam. I found both the Amsterdam & Prinsendam to be excellent, but I would have to agree with your observations on Veendam. You have reinforced my impression as well. I found the ship worn & weather beyond typical HAL maintenance. I was surprised to find the administrative staff indifferent, even umpleasant. I witnessed the Guest Relations Officer arguing with guests in public spaces...on more than one occaision. I did find the service staff ( the Indo & Filipino) excellent, friendly and charming. The cruise staff was juvenile and acted annoyed with HAL's mature clientel (I am 40).
Yes it was still a great value, but it left me wondering if it was time to cruise other lines again. Fortunately the Amsterdam & Prinsendam renewed my appreciation for HAL.
My quandry is sailing from Tampa, where I live. It leaves me few choices for a winter trip. I love the conveniance of sailing from 'home', but I am not a Carnival Cruise fan. With my hestiations about Veendam, and your recent experience, I suspect I may try the Nordic Empress (RCI) for this winter's cruise.
Variety is the spice of life, and if it is not to my taste, it can only reinforce my appreciation for HAL.
I'm sailing the Veendam 11-22-03. This will be our second trip on this ship.
This summer we sailed the Amsterdam and were somewhat disappointed in the cruise, especially when it came to food.
I'm glad to hear H.A.L. is upping the ante in the Food department. They have been slipping a bit lately I.M.H.O. I've always been a big H.A.L. fan but the new bargain fares seem to be taking their toll when it comes to quality. I hope this trend reverses even if prices go up a bit.
We sailed the Veendam from Seward to Vancouver in August and had a wonderful cruise. The deck space on this vessel and her sister ships is really fantastic. There's nothing like relaxing on a padded teak chaise on a wraparound promenade deck! We also love that the ship is not packed with people, especially not the chair hog crowd.
Captain James Russell-Dunford is a delightful man, and I hope he will be at the helm for your cruise. We had very good service in the dining room and average service in our cabin. As for the food, we felt most of it was very good, but that the salads were boring. On the other hand, we got our best escargot of three cruises taken this year on the Veendam. (The other two ships we sailed so far this year were the Star Princess and the Celebrity Mercury.) I agree about the cruise staff. We didn't care for, and don't even remember the name of, the Cruise Director. He was very young and not well-suited to the job, in our opinion. On the other hand, the photographers were the best of the three cruises we took and the most personable, too. The onboard prices for developing our own film on the Veendam was quite reasonable and we made good use of it, unlike the higher-priced film developing on the Mercury, which we wanted to use, but didn't due to their prices. We had a wonderful waiter on the Veendam, but the best overall dining room service was definitely on the Mercury.
We absolutely hate these art auctions that were on every ship we sailed. What a waste of time and space! None of the ships has quality material from what we saw. We actually laughed out loud at some of the stuff we saw on the Star Princess, a ship where you could not avoid running into it at every turn. At least it was more off-to-the-side on the Veendam and out of our eyesight, for the most part. I would much rather pay a little more in the way of a cruise price than have this junk on the ships. I wonder how much actual profit the ships make on this stuff, real figures, not guesstimates.
Although we enjoyed our Veendam cruise, the sewage smell that "oldstuff" mentioned was present several times in public areas, and I expect HAL to take care of this problem. We noticed it was especially bad one evening after leaving the dining room. Disgusting. And I don't believe the excuse that a passenger had thrown a diaper down the toilet. It wasn't a one-time thing. It must be fixed.
Does anyone know when the Veendam will be going into drydock?
I cruised on the Zaandam last January. This was our second cruise on Holland America and we have a third one planned for January of 2004 on the Veendam to the Western Carribean. We were definitely not disappointed by the food, activities, shore excursions or anything else with the HAL line. Yes, the ships are a bit older and more "refined" than some of the newer, larger ships. But personally, I like being on a ship with only 1400 passengers. People I've talked to who have been on the ships with 3-4000 passengers complain that it's overwhelming. The waitstaff and our cabin steward were all very attentive to our needs. In fact, in only a couple of days, they knew what our drink of preference was with our meals, he remembered that I didn't like mushrooms in my salad, etc. The meals for the most part were very good.
Diamonds International is a place where you can buy diamond jewelry. I think they have shops in St. Thomas and also St. Maarten. If you want to buy a diamond for your wife, you won't have any problem finding a reputable store in which to make a purchase. You may even meet some folks on the cruise ship who can steer you in the right direction. One of our tablemates at dinner recommended a jewlery store in St. Maarten where they had done business previously. He wrote down the name and address. I was able to find it with no problem and was very pleased with the service and quality of my purchases.
If you don't care for drunken partiers and screaming children, I think you will be very pleased with the Zaandam. It tends to be an older, more sedate crowd, but there is also a good mix of young families and younger couples.
My wife & I will be sailing the Veendam January 24, Last January we did the Zuiderdam mini suite, This year full suite. Can't wait. Heard a lot of negative reports on Guatamla as a port, unless we are in a group we should not venture out by ourselves. Any one else hear anything about this.
Diamonds International has shops all over the Caribbean and is pushed by all the cruise lines. I have browsed the shops and think they are over priced although I was not looking for diamonds. I have not had any expierences myself but have read that some people have had problems with this vendor.
As far as buying a diamond in the Caribbean, Buyer Beware. Hope you know what you are doing.