Just off the Veendam (Feb. 5-12)

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#1
15 Posts
Joined Jan 2005
This board was extremely beneficial to me before we went on our cruise recently since we were first time HAL cruisers (as on Princess 10 years ago), so I thought I'd share our experience here now.

Our cruise was Feb. 5-12 to the Western Caribbean with ports of call in Key West, Belize City, Santo Tomas deCastilla (Guatemala) and Cozumel, Mexico with 2 days at sea. Embarkation (and disembarkation) went like clockwork and we were one of the first to get on (by noon). There's a place set up in the terminal that you can buy your soda cards if you want ($35). Some of our group of 10 bought them but I stuck to iced tea and water primarily that week. The soda card is not good for using in your stateroom, however; but it's good for anywhere else on the ship. There are cans of soda in your room and if you open any, you've bought them. We were led to the Lido deck after boarding and the buffets (taco/pizza or burgers and dogs outside or the regular buffet inside were all available)were waiting for us! We were able to get into our staterooms by 1 pm and our luggage arrived by 3. One of the couples in our group boarded around 3 pm and by the time they got to their cabin and unpacked and upstairs to the Lido deck to get something to eat, it was closed down because there was a sailing party starting at 4:30. Both are diabetic and needed something before then but they weren't able to find anything. When they asked the staff in the Lido and out on the deck, they were told by 4 different people that either they'd have to wait until 4:30 or they didn't know where they could find anything "right now." One of them became very shaky and felt like she was going to pass out and the husband became quite irate so one of the staff ran and got some crackers and juice. There wasn't any fruit in their room yet at this point. They just thought they'd be able to get something to eat once they were on board but the time factor played against them. They were more upset, however that the staff seemed to be ignorant of the fact of getting some little thing for them to eat.

I found there were more than enough public bathrooms available and with this being a smaller ship, I was never waiting in line (it was a full ship this cruise as well).

We liked where our cabin (center on Main Deck) and enjoyed the spaciousness of it. We're retired and don't have alot of monthly income coming in so we booked an inside cabin and was in K576. We liked the fact that we were only 5 doors down from the main lobby area of that deck and near the elevators and escaltor. Also, we didn't have a cabin behind us or to the right of us - only to the left of us (as we entered the room). The cabin steward's storage area were in the "blank spaces" so we didn't have noise surrounding us from other cabins. The bathroom was large enough for both my husband and I to be in at the same time if we had to be. Plenty of closet space. The beds had the new pillowtops and very comfortable. HINT:We didn't discover this until the last day as we were leaving, but inside the closets there are shelves that can be laid down to give extra storage space. The only negative thing I have to say about our cabin was that our air conditioning wasn't working properly and even though it was a bit cooler during the daytime in there, at night when we'd go to bed, we never needed covers because it was warmer than it should've been. Apparently our thermostat didn't work properly to correct this and we noticed condensation from the overhead vent. Others in our group said their cabins were either just right or were too cool. We asked the front desk to correct this and someone was there and left a card to say they fixed it but we couldn't notice any change. We told the front desk three times and our cabin steward reported it twice for us but we still didn't get any satisfaction with this particular problem. It wasn't unbearable, just annoying.

My husband used the sports gym and walking track and said both were excellent. He enjoyed them alot.

The Dining assignment was the main glitch in our cruise. While the food was excellent and the staff in both the dining room and Lido deck were excellent in their service and friendliness, we had major problems with our seating. My husband and I were the only ones out of our group of 5 cabins to have a seating assignment in our room when we boarded. However, we noticed that it was for a table for 2. After getting settled (we should've taken care of this problem first before unpacking) my husband went upstairs to get this straightened out only to find a long (very!) line of hundreds of other passengers waiting to resolve their dining room problems (pretty much the same situations with them as well) with the Maitre 'D and his assistants. What a mess this turned out to be for those of us who had a screw-up with our dining assignments or who didn't even have an assigned table yet! My husband isn't a patient man if he has to wait in line for something so he left and said he'd go back later when the lines thinned out. Big mistake! The lines were still there later and by waiting, we weren't able to get a table for all of us to set at that evening. The Maitre 'D tried to pass this problem off onto our TA by saying we weren't showing as a group but as individuals on his print out sheet (and yet he did have 4 from our group at one table and when this was pointed out to him he claimed it was just a coincidence but I told him I didn't believe that) I let him know how VERY dissatisfied and disappointed we were about this. He then said that they had a group of 134 who had been placed at the larger sized tables and he was having to make other arrangements for the smaller groups. I told him our money was as good as theirs and since it was such a large group and they wouldn't be able to all set at the same table to begin with, it made more sense to give the smaller groups the larger tables and set the larger groups throughout the dining areas at the smaller tables but it was too late by this time of the day. I was with my TA on several occasions when she called HAL to find out if the seating assignments had been released yet (she was told right up until the day before we flew to Tampa that our assignments hadn't been released yet and THAT made me nervous!) and then she'd verify that they had us as a group (yes, they said they did) and that they realized we had to have one of the 2 early seatings due to diabetics in our group (yes, they had that notation, too). So, what did they do? They assigned 2 of the diabetics to an 8 pm seating! So, my DH and I ended up having to agree to take the 8 pm seating so our friends could eat earlier. However, everyone was scattered at different tables and by the time I left the room from talking to the Maitre 'D, everyone else behind me knew how I felt about him and his staff and the group of 134 (and I wasn't the only one that voiced my displeasure over this entire foul-up for alot of the passengers there in groups)! The Maitre 'D told me he'd "try" to work out something by the next evening and would notify us, and I said, "no, I'll come and see you because I don't trust your word!" The next day everyone in our group had been reassigned and we were all at the 5:45 seating but was still at 3 different tables but at least they were in a row. It still didn't make for easy conversation between us all and that was the only time of the day that we all came together usually, to talk with each other because we were all pretty much doing our own thing during the daytime.

Having read past reviews on HAL's entertainment area, we weren't expecting much but was pleasantly surprised. There was only 1 night when the entertainment was so-so and I got up and left and did something else. Otherwise, the HAL performers were excellent and the costumes were colorful and fun to watch as they performed. Their shows were very entertaining. The outside performers brought in were quite good as well, especially Stu Moss who did the funniest stand up comedy I've ever heard in my life! One night was a husband/wife magicician/comedy act from Vegas that was really good. Overall, we enjoyed the evening performances. I really like how Ruben's Lounge is laid out with the sofas in addition to the chairs along with the elevated areas. On a different cruise line, the lounge is set up in tiers and was somewhat dangerous to maneuver. My DH and I were one of 4 couples chosen to play the Not So New Newly Wed Game and we ended up winning! That was alot of fun if not embarrassing at times!

I also had to visit the Infirmary one evening (hearing problem) and I have to say they were just over the top in treating me and even though it was 5:40 when we entered the Infirmary (all dressed in our formal wear no less!) and we had the 5:45 seating, the nurse and doctor worked quickly to check me over and flush out my ear to restore my hearing and we were at our table by 5:55!

Speaking of the Infirmary, I'll address the NoroVirus situation during our time on the ship. The captain was very good about keeping us posted on this. There were 2 quarantines 24 hours after leaving Tampa on Saturday so starting Sunday afternoon we were being served rather than to serve ourselves. On Friday, the Captain announced that because the passengers did an excellent job of cooperating and doing what we were asked to do, the NoroVirus was held at a low minimum with one case per day being reported. We did have someone with the virus across the corridor from us and down 3 doors. The reason we know that is because there was a special cleaning crew (dressed in blue who wore face masks) using special disinfectants who cleaned this room twice a day (morning and evening). The door was open as I walked past one evening and the lady was in bed. When I asked the cleaning crew why they were wearing different colored garb and the masks, they said it was to protect themselves from the twice a day cleaning of the "infected rooms." There wasn't much hand shaking going on or holding onto the railings (it was a very smooth sailing all week long except for the last day which was at sea and it was rolling pretty good) and everyone cooperated with the sanitizing stations set up throughout the ship.

We only took one shore excursion through the cruise line and that was the city/airboat tour in Belize City. We had a good bus tour guide and the airboat ride out into Almond Hill Lagoon was fun. However, all of our group thought it was overpriced ($79 pp). It was advertised that we'd see manatee and we didn't. Supposedly they were "sleeping at the bottom" when we were there but that the last tour group did see them. I have my doubts. But the tropical birds and other things we saw were nice. I still think it's overpriced, though. We did our own thing at the other ports. I have to say that the first port of call in Key West was horrendous for those getting off that were taking one of the ship's shore excursions. There was no methodical disembarking at all and even though it was announced to meet in Ruben's Lounge to begin the process by getting numbers and waiting until your number was called, there didn't seem to be anyone in charge of this procedure and it ended up that everyone got their number and then headed straight for the corridors. That jammed everything up, including the stairways and elevators and made it impossible to move or get through to go elsewhere if you weren't getting off the ship then. People in wheelchairs weren't given any type of special consideration in the beginning for disembarkation and it was just a disaster! You can bet there was 100% orderly disembarkation at the next port of call!

I would travel with HAL again, however, (but would try a different ship simply for variety) because I like the smaller size of the ships and the layout and the lower number of passengers and the age average and the fact that there weren't many kids at all (only 5). I'm a grandma and love kids but when I go on a vacation, I want to be around adults more than kids. This was our second trip to the Western Caribbean but first with HAL. We had different ports of call from the first one with the exception of Cozumel, and luckily we enjoyed this port the first time around as well.

I also wanted to add that the Cruise Director and his staff on this cruise were above excellent! Also, I really enjoyed the selection of shops on this ship and what they had inside the shops. There were great sales going on daily. My husband picked up a really nice pair of khaki walking shorts marked down from $24.95 at the beginning of the cruise to $9.95 a couple days before the end of the cruise. I enjoyed browsing them even if I didn't buy anything at that particular time. I did buy from the shops throughout the week, though.
We also took a Galley Tour and found that very interesting. The head chef for the entire ship talked to us for about 10 minutes before taking us through and he answered any and all questions we had.

We also had an excellent Shore Excursion Director whose talks were very informative, often times humorous and he answered all questions honestly. He even recommended some places to shop that weren't working with the cruise line that he knew personally and wasn't hesitant about recommending if it carried something specific that he knew someone was looking for.

The casino was very tight with their winnings - VERY tight! I stopped going after the 3rd night of winning absolutely nothing! I stuck with bingo but didn't do any good with that either but at least I was coming close which is more than I did with the casino! One of the bingo players that one a free cruise on this trip happened to be on a free cruise that he'd won from the last cruise he was on and he won it from one of the asst. cruise directors that was now on the Veendam. How odd is that?!

Disembarkation went as smooth as embarkation and we had no problems getting our luggage. The bus transportation to the airport was right there and ready for us.

Overall, we had a good experience with this cruise in spite of the things that happened that we'd not planned for. We did go to our TA upon our return home and told her about the dining seating problem and she was very upset with HAL that this happened and said that even though she highly recommends HAL to her clients, and that the staff and crew on board work very well and hard for the passengers, the HAL staff in the main offices that take care of reservations and plans are notorious for mishandling dining reservations. When I was talking to the Maitre 'D about our dinner seating problem, I asked to see his print out sheet. When he showed me, I saw our 5 cabins and the couples' names listed, one after the other in one area but he still maintained that he wasn't told we were a group. When my TA showed me her confirmations and paperwork from the HAL offices, it showed our group name and number under each name, so I do believe it was the fault of HAL and not my TA.
#2
Seattle, WA
1,773 Posts
Joined May 2000
Originally posted by duchessdtr
When my TA showed me her confirmations and paperwork from the HAL offices, it showed our group name and number under each name, so I do believe it was the fault of HAL and not my TA.
Sometimes there may be a number of actual group confirmations for one departure and there is a variety of ways to mark a group from what I've seen when working on board. There is also what's called a "Group Dining Request Form" where you or your TA actually specifies which tables everyone in the group wants to be seated. Was one of these completed and pre-faxed?
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#3
Point of Rocks, MD
9,521 Posts
Joined Jul 2004
It's too bad your diabetic friends weren't aware of the 24-hour room service when they boarded, and that no one here had mentioned the occasional need to head right for the maitre d' on boarding to verify your dining arrangements. Still, they did (more or less) accomodate you eventually, and the rest of your cruise seems to have gone very well! Except, of course, that it's now over - but that only means it's time to start planning the next one!
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- dave
#4
150 Posts
Joined Mar 2004
We were on the Veendam Jan 14 and the lineup for dining changes were long as well. I was third in line.. had been told by my TA that we were confirmed early dining only to find ourselves waiting till 8:30 for dinner. On the 4th night the Queen's dining room (3 tables + 1 large one) was opened for people who had showed up every day for changes...I think all 1200 passengers wanted early dining and the maitre'd ignored all requests for change.


Nice review by the way.
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email Jason
#5
15 Posts
Joined Jan 2005
[quote=shipcafe]Sometimes there may be a number of actual group confirmations for one departure and there is a variety of ways to mark a group from what I've seen when working on board. There is also what's called a "Group Dining Request Form" where you or your TA actually specifies which tables everyone in the group wants to be seated. Was one of these completed and pre-faxed?[/QUOTE]

My TA mentioned that she'd sent in the proper dining request form just to cover all bases (because she told me afterwards that HAL has been known to foul up paper work on her before) and wasn't happy when I told her what happened, so yes, I believe all the ducks were in a row from our end. I don't know what more we could've done beforehand. And I yammered at my DH on Day 2 of our cruise for not standing in line the first afternoon and being patient, but it's all a moot point now and I'm enjoying our pictures and memories.
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#6
MA
576 Posts
Joined Feb 2003
thank you for taking the time to post your review. Glad to read you enjoyed the cruise, despite a few glitches along the way. Sorry to hear dining seating was such a pain. Too bad, as this is one the highlights of the day, when everyone can come together, share some great food and exchange the days events .. HAL if your reading this ... perhaps more attention to detail recieved from T/A's is in order!

Last November on the Volendam we had to go though the hassle of switching dining times, tables etc. it worked out, but it was annoying, as our TA had also sent in our request and followed up via phone before our cruise. We also found our cabin to be too warm at night .. and maintenance was called in several times..but nothing really improved. We survived, but it was annoying.

Thanks again for sharing your experiences .. enjoyed reading your report.

Peggy Sue
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#7
83,116 Posts
Joined Aug 2000
Thank you for posting your review.


Sorry to hear that your dining requests were not handled better. Dinner is important to cruisers and when traveling with a group, IMO it really matters that all effort be made to accomodate as many requests as possible. It truly can make or break a cruise for some people IMO

Welcome Back.
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#8
Seattle, WA
1,773 Posts
Joined May 2000
[quote=duchessdtr]
Originally posted by shipcafe
Sometimes there may be a number of actual group confirmations for one departure and there is a variety of ways to mark a group from what I've seen when working on board. There is also what's called a "Group Dining Request Form" where you or your TA actually specifies which tables everyone in the group wants to be seated. Was one of these completed and pre-faxed?[/QUOTE]

My TA mentioned that she'd sent in the proper dining request form just to cover all bases (because she told me afterwards that HAL has been known to foul up paper work on her before) and wasn't happy when I told her what happened, so yes, I believe all the ducks were in a row from our end. I don't know what more we could've done beforehand. And I yammered at my DH on Day 2 of our cruise for not standing in line the first afternoon and being patient, but it's all a moot point now and I'm enjoying our pictures and memories.
That's great! .. Thanks for sharing your photos as well
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#9
Southlake, Texas
1,177 Posts
Joined Sep 2004
Thanks for the review. It sounds like you enjoyed your cruise for the most part. I must say I am surprised that the diabetics in your group were traveling without food supplies in their carryons. I am hypoglycemic and what with airline delays, lack of on board airplane food, etc., I never leave home without a few "little somethings" packed in my bag.

I would suggest this for your friends in the future. Even though HAL came through with something for them in the end, it would be better to avoid that stress altogether by carrying food with them.

Beth
#10
15 Posts
Joined Jan 2005
Originally posted by Pudgesmom
Thanks for the review. It sounds like you enjoyed your cruise for the most part. I must say I am surprised that the diabetics in your group were traveling without food supplies in their carryons. I am hypoglycemic and what with airline delays, lack of on board airplane food, etc., I never leave home without a few "little somethings" packed in my bag.

I would suggest this for your friends in the future. Even though HAL came through with something for them in the end, it would be better to avoid that stress altogether by carrying food with them.

Beth
(Eventually I'm going to learn how to put just the part of the quote that I want and not the entire paragraph - sorry about that). Anyway, our friends did have snacks with them when they left their home in The Villages, FL to drive to Tampa to board. However, they got held up in traffic in 2 places going down and ended up eating what they had since they didn't want to get off to eat and worry about being any later than they were already going to be(3 hours later than they'd anticipated) . As it was, they didn't get on board until after 3 pm and then went ahead and unpacked their suitcases and just figured they'd be able to get something to eat easily enough. The first couple of days were a "live and learn" type of thing for us but after Day 2 we all settled into a very enjoyable routine.
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#11
Warwick, R.I. , USA
38,439 Posts
Joined Mar 2001
Originally posted by duchessdtr
(Eventually I'm going to learn how to put just the part of the quote that I want and not the entire paragraph - sorry about that).
Here's how ya do it:
Hit the quote button just like you've already learned. Then with the left click button down run your cursor over the part you don't want. Release cursor and hit the "delete" button.
The only warning: be careful not to delete the bracket at the "[/quote]" end; it's real easy to do.
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It fixes everything.
#12
London, UK
637 Posts
Joined Mar 2001
Originally posted by RuthC
Here's how ya do it:
Hit the quote button just like you've already learned. Then with the left click button down run your cursor over the part you don't want. Release cursor and hit the "delete" button.
The only warning: be careful not to delete the bracket at the "
" end; it's real easy to do. [/quote]
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