Posted July 3rd, 2004, 11:31 AM
We had a wonderful time on our cruisetour to Alaska and on the Veendam. Despite earlier propulsion problems, everything seemed to operate fine and our trip was surprisingly smooth and vibration free. The Veendam is a lovely ship and very well maintained and the crew, for the most part, very friendly. Our cabin steward, Ceang, was a joy and we managed to slip him a little extra money (we decided not to opt out of the automatic gratuity) and told him it was for him alone. We gave our waiter, Adi, a little extra too....he really deserved it. He had absolutely no help. He told us that the new HAL policies had resulted in the ship losing 5 of its 7 dining room wine stewards and some of the waiters. The drop in service was apparent. We also found the quality of food to be a bit less than what we experienced on the Rotterdam last Fall. However, the new Pinnacle was excellent. We had only two complaints...the wine service (the wine steward was apparently sent in from the dining room...after pouring our wine the first time we never saw him again) and the coffee service (when I asked for a refill on coffee I had to wait and wait...was finally told they had to go to the dining room to get a new cup of coffee...apparently the Pinnacle doesn't have its own coffee urn.) Was very glad to see that HAL hadn't removed the Java Cafe (one of my favorite places...the cookies are still really yummy!) but never saw the after dinner chocolates in the Explorer's Lounge (don't know if it is because they don't offer them any more, or they were all gone by the time we finished dinner...we were 8:30) Entertainment was middling to good...personally I don't see the attraction in listening to a banjo player, but a lot of fellow pax said they enjoyed the show. Production shows were fine as usual. Fritzie was new to the piano bar...her first cruise gig and it showed a bit. But by the end of the week she had a small group of devotees and I think, with a little more experience, she'll be a real asset. Alaska itself was awe-inspiring! That's it in a nutshell...if anyone wants more info on the land portion or excursions we took, let me know.