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sail7seas

Veendam.....January 3, 2005 Some Comments

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Given the limitation in the number of words permitted in each post, I shall break this into several sections.

As always, I will make few comments re: the ports as we never do shore excursions anymore. Others can share far more valuable info in that regard.

Our Itinerary was:

Tampa; two sea days; San Juan, Puerto Rico; RoadTown, Tortola, BVI; Basse-Terre, Guadeloupe (switched to Pointe-a-Pitre); Dominica; St. Thomas; sea day; Half Moon Cay; sea; Tampa. (12 days)

For the first time, we flew Jet Blue. It was the most convenient scheduling for us to get to Tampa and we were as pleased with that airline as we are with any these days. Our outbound flight was 43 minutes late but they got us there safely and in reasonable comfort. Our return flight was on time. (We like the tv's at each seat and the leather seats are fairly comfortable).

We stayed three days pre-cruise at Marriott Waterside in Tampa and were very pleased with that property. It is attractive, comfortable, friendly folks, clean and a full service property. They have a nice gym open to guests 24 hours a day; a outdoor pool on the third floor ; and about the best bathroom lighting I have enjoyed in any hotel. I would definitely recommend it and thank those on this board who recommended it to us. (GulfCoaster, TampaMike and Uncialman and others shared some very helpful info and gave very good info). We had a most pleasant stay there and very much enjoyed our time in Tampa. We were on the 21st floor and had a great view of Tampa piers. GREAT weather made for enjoyable walks and full enjoyment of the city.

We arrived at the Pier at about 10:50 and immediately processed our documents. We then sat for something like 30 minutes (I'm not sure how long) embarkation began. Lido was serving lunch and cabins were ready for occupying at about 1:00.

Captain and Hotel Manager sent a gift bottle of Chase -Limogere Brut which we found in our Suite when we boarded.

Our Suite was in excellent condition. Everything worked and we did not require any maintenance/repairs at all.

We enjoyed a nice Welcome Aboard Suite Party in the Neptune Lounge that night.

We were appreciative our table request had been granted and we happily went to Main Seating Upper (8:00 P.M.). We had a fabulous Dining Steward (Imam) and very, very good Assistant (Bruce). They served us very, very well and we could not have asked for anything more. Despite the fact this was Imam's last cruise before he left for vacation and surely was very tired, he always had a beautiful smile and gave us great service.

See Part II (I'll talk about Menu changes etc)

 

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Part II

 

We received copies of the dinner menu each morning and I noticed there was a difference between these menus and those we had seen recently on seven day cruises.

 

There were 7 entrees offered every night in addition to always available "Daily Alternatives" of Caesar Salad, Grilled Salmon, Broiled Chicken Breast and Grilled Sirloin Steak. A baked potato was always available and any entree on the menu could be ordered without sauce (or on the side).

 

There was a comfort food selection offered each evening included the 'infamous' meatloaf.

 

Some of the dishes we saw disappear from other ship's menus appeared on Veendam's and I was happy to see Calf's Liver, Beef Wellington and Bami Goreng offered. ..

 

(Happily) We had Dutch Night complete with the traditional hats we are accustomed to.

 

We thought the food to be very, very good.....some to be excellent.

 

I eat rather simply these days.....far more than in the past and for me to find tasty, low fat, well prepared dinners was great. This was the best food we have had aboard a ship in a long time IMO We were perfectly content with the dining room on our recent Maasdam and Zuiderdam cruises, but this dining room was noticeably better IMO

 

We felt it time some new choices were added to the menus and it is good to see their new Chef Rudi is beginning to do that.

 

There was a nice bread basket each evening which always included a whole wheat choice.......that matters to us. I don't care for (and rarely eat) white bread products.

 

On to other things.......

 

We received a notice on January 4 (the second day of our cruise) that the dry cleaning machine was broken. It did not matter to us but I never heard if it was repaired during the cruise and if it became possible to send out things for dry cleaning.

 

We sent laundry out about 4 times and it always came back within 24 hours, nicely done, folded beautifully (or hung) and presented in the nice baskets they have used in recent years.

 

Our first port was to be San Juan and we were due there at 2:00. Captain made an announcement that there would be several problems regarding our San Juan call. We had extreme winds and rough seas which slowed the ship in addition to the fact there was an engine down that had to be repaired when we reached port. They needed a 'specialist' to oversee the repair. Therefore, our arrival was considerably delayed. Apparently the specialist was at the dock as planned as the repair was successfully completed.

 

Shore Excursion Office was not aware it was 3 King's Day and that because the City of San Juan is named for one, it is a big holiday there. All tours they had sold had to be cancelled and credits were issued to shipboard accounts. Seeing as we did not arrive until about 3 hours late, it did not matter the stores were all closed due to the holiday as they would have closed as normal end of business day anyway. Obviously, no one could do the rain forest tour as it was dark by the time we got to San Juan.

 

We also left San Juan late as there was a medical emergency and they had to wait for an ambulance to reach the ship (through the crowd of people celebrating in the city). It was about 1 A.M. until we sailed.

 

 

 

More to follow in Part III

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S7S, I am flying Jetblue for the first time in March, I am glad you found them to be a good airline. Do they have first class on that airline?????? I know you enjoy first class on airlines, that's the reason I am asking.

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No,Doone. They do not have first class. We flew them because, as I said above, they had the best non-stop flight from Boston to Tampa. Their scheduling was the best.

 

Can't speak for anyone but me, but I would much rather fly non-stop than make a connection.

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Sail-

 

Thank you! I've been watching for this - and it does not disappoint! I can't wait to read on... :)

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S7S, I agree with you on that I would rather have a direct flight vs. stops, but I remember you saying, a while back on a thread to me, that you wouldn't fly Delta because they had no first class, but they had direct flights to Ft. Lauderdale. I guess I was just a bit surprised, but glad you enjoyed your experience on Jetble. I'll look forward to my flight in March.

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To FLL, we had the choice of going AA first class non-stop. There was no non-stop AA flight to Tampa.

 

And....Delta Express (it was not yet Song) was far different than Jet Blue.

 

:) Do not overstate my 'enjoyment' of Jet Blue. ;) These days, I put up with flying. I do not enjoy flying any of the airlines the way they have become.

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Oh I see. Well, I have flown Delta Express and Song, I'll see how different Jetblue is from them. I always had a great experience with Delta Express, Song was a different story.

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Sail, so good to see you writing this review. I've been looking forward to it! And of course it does not disappoint. I'm so happy about the food! It will be interesting how you feel it compares to the Oosterdam when you sail her. Look forward to the rest!

 

Doone, JetBlue and Song are very different. Song has tried to "copy" JetBlue but has not done so in my estimation. For one thing, there is slightly more space between seats on JetBlue. When I flew Song they did not yet have the satilite TVs installed. Perhaps they have now.

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Thanks for your comments S7S.:)

 

I must admit, I too found the food to be more varied on our last cruise and I fet it there was a definite improvement in the food in the dining room on the Rotterdam in December. (Not that it was bad before at all.) We are excited about our cruise on the Veendam in November, nice to see that you found her to be "up to snuff". Look forward to the rest of your review!:cool:

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Your long anticipated review does not disappoint! And it's nice to hear that the Veendam is still the lovely ship that hooked us on cruising - and HAL.

 

But hurry up with the rest, I have to leave Saturday morning! :rolleyes:

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Sail: Sure hope you are feeling better and relaxed after returning home from the Veendam. I am so sorry we did not have the opportunity to meet. We also had the late seating, upper dining room (Table 64) and I agree that the food was wonderful. I even ate the calf's liver and loved the Bami Goreng. This was by far the best food I've had on a cruise.

 

After dinner we usually attended a show and then headed for the casino. We never returned to our stateroom before 1:00 AM. By then, the ship was all but deserted.

 

Can't wait for your continuing story.

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In the past, I have read about pax who very much enjoyed breakfast on their veranda with a white tablecloth and their breakfast set out by the steward who delivered it. We have never enjoyed that until this cruise. We've been in "S" cabins well over a year's worth of days and this was the first time a steward did this for us and it was WONDERFUL!! I felt so spoiled and even if I just had a bowl of cereal, I enjoyed it so much more set out so nicely. It was a pleasure to linger over another cup of coffee and enjoy the quiet, unstressed time with DH.

 

Was it coincidental that our Assistant Waiter in the Dining Room was the same steward who brought our breakfast every morning? If so, it was a wonderful coincidence as he is a delightful fellow and took such good care of us. Thank you, Bruce. :)

 

We had a special treat. It seems there was a photographer aboard the ship who was there to take cabin photos for the new HAL brochures. He needed to have access to an "S" and they were all booked so we said we didn't mind if he used ours for the brief time necessary. As we chatted with him and his assistant (both fantastically interesting people), we learned he has sailed on over 120 ships taking photos for brochures and advertising etc We had alot of fun with him while he waited for just the correct moment to have the best light coming through the windows at sunset.

(He had us set out a personal item on our bureau so when the brochures come out we would be able to indentify that really was our cabin.....of course, it will be teeny tiny in the picture but we will know it is there. :) )

Because the bedding has changed and the cabins have been redecorated, the old photos were no longer representative. There is now a beautiful strip (like a runner) across the foot of the bed over the duvet rather than the full bedspreads that used to be in place. They look very attractive IMO

 

 

I really have to comment about the flowers on the ship. They were so beautiful I really had to pause so often just to 'smell the roses'. I found it impossible to simply pass on by these gorgeous arrangements. I can't guess the thousands of dollars these blossoms cost but they are so well worth it IMO Mid-way through the cruise, fresh flowers were loaded in Barbados and these were really beautiful. We arrived back to our cabin to find a huge bouquet on the table of ginger and daisies and mums and the most interesting greens like I have never seen before. I got so much pleasure from those flowers!! Even the bud vases in the dining room had special blooms....and the larger tables had such beautiful centerpieces. Hard not to notice them all.

 

Captain Schoonderbeek did all he could to give us as smooth a ride as possible. There is no way to control rough seas and we did have some rough weather. He told us on the loud speaker that he chose a longer route to go from Guadaloupe to Barbados as it would be smoother (but longer) to sail inside the chain of islands but the North Atlantic was rough. As he said, he needed to put the pedal to the metal.

 

Local steel drummers played on the dock the afternoon we were in Barbados and it was great. We liked hearing the music from our veranda.

 

Weather was a mix. We had some pelting rain and loads of bright, beautiful sun. DH is a sun lover and got more than enough pool time to make him happy and very tanned. :) Lots of humidity when there has been rain.

 

Better end this before it gets too long and cuts off....

 

To be continued.

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Heather, yes, Song does have satellite tv's in their planes now, I still wasn't impressed with them, sounds like Jetblue won't disappoint me.

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Dave....I'm so happy you are into really short countdown. Hope you have a wonderful time. Hopefully, I will have told everything there is to tell by the time you head to O'dam. :)

 

 

 

Dramamama......I so hoped, even by accident, we would meet. I know I would have enjoyed meeting you. After dinner, we often stopped for a few minutes in the Casino and then went to Ocean Bar. We were among those who headed to bed by about 11:15 or so. We don't always do that but we did turn in early this cruise on most (but not all :) ) nights. We were in Ocean Bar every night before dinner except for the few times we had special events. We were always seated at the bar (even though we do not smoke). We like to be at the bar and often get to meet folks there.

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Part IV

 

Odette was the Concierge in the Neptune Lounge and she is jewel. Such a lovely young woman and so eager to assist and keep everyone happy. :)

We found her to be delightful and she quickly and ably handled the few things we requested of her.

The coffee machine was as wonderful as ever but the nibbles were a little less interesting and tasty then we have enjoyed in other Neptune Lounges. Certainly of very little consequence, as we had more food than any reasonable person could possibly need. But, DH sometimes enjoys the little shrimp canapes and the caviar treats he has seen on other ships. I sometimes treat myself to a small slice of the lemon pound cake that is a real treat for me.

STRAWBERRIES Okay.....I'll take the jokes that are sure to follow from this paragraph. :) I have never seen so many beautiful, luscious, sweet strawberries anywhere. They had the best berries we have ever enjoyed in any hotel or on any ship ever and I LOVE berries. Presumably their food storage temperatures and conditions are absolutely perfect as approved by USPH and I can attest their fruit storage is ideal. They kept those berries fresh and tasty for days and days longer than my kitchen frig handles them. Huge, juicy blackberries, blueberries and strawberries.....THANK YOU VEENDAM. I loved the berries. (Captain didn't seem to mind my digging into the supply :) ) and there was no Mutiny.

Our cabin Steward, Dodi, was wonderful. He introduced himself soon after we arrived at our cabin and he took excellent care of us. I like for our room to be made up early in the morning, if possible. When we met him, I asked if that were possible telling him what time we would be out of the cabin each morning. We left each day by the time we told him we would and he ALWAYS had our cabin cleaned early for us. That makes a big difference for me. DH likes to sit at the pool more than I do and I enjoy quietly reading in the cabin while he suns.

As I said, our cabin was in excellent condition and we had no mechanical problems at all. One evening we received a notice saying they would be cleaning carpets the next day. Ours looked fine to me but it was nice to know they keep on top of doing things like that. We were not inconvenienced in the least and I don't even know when they came in to do it. There was a very faint trace of a cleaning solution smell when we returned so I know they were in. That scent was not unpleasant and was gone within an hour or two.

Because our cruise was more than ten days, we had an evening Mariner's Party. It was held on the last formal night and it was a treat for us. We have not had an evening Mariners Party for some time as we have been on cruises of ten days or less. There were about 900 Mariners aboard.

I'll be back with more.....

 

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Sail, you are outdoing yourself!!! Parts III and IV have me so involved I feel I'm there ... especially your description of the flowers.

 

On strawberries, they have to have been our Florida strawberries. I have been so amazed at our strawberries this year. I can't bring enough into the house. DH said he has never experienced such sumptious strawberries so you'll get no comment from me!!!

I love your review because it covers areas often missed in some reviews. Really enjoying it.

Question: (and some may call me stupid) ... Is the Veendam an "S" class? How many passengers on her? Tks.:D

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Hi Sail,

I had forgotten that you were gone and put some messages on my Zaandam review posts for you.

 

We took your advice and booked a suite and were ever so happy. Everything you said was true. Even tho we didn't have the Neptune yet, we had excellent concierge service and follow-up.

 

We also had access to the King's room for breakfast and lunch, and yes, we had an afternoon cocktail party and a Pinnacle Grill suite luncheon.

 

Thanks for all your excelllent advice, it really made our trip.

I also had a short bout with the Norovirus. There were at least 20 cases on board. I used every sanitizer on board as I passed by them, and still got it.

I hope you are feeling better.

Love, GN

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Sail: Thorough and interersting. Thank you so much. Glad you liked Tampa. We always enjoy sailing from there.

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GN....I'm so happy you enjoyed yourselves so much and very sorry that you, too, had a bout with the virus. Thanks for your up to date info re: Zaandam. That is the only ship that does not yet have a Neptune so I'm happy to hear they are still using the Neptune for Suite breakfasts and they have arranged Concierge Service. I was not aware of the accomodations being made until they get the Neptune Lounge added to the ship.

 

You're probably a bit spoiled now :) and will want an "S" the next time. ;) .

 

I'll go look for your Zaandam thread. I'm still catching up on the Board.

 

No one is more aware or more careful than we are about washing and using the sanitizers. I am about the last person one would expect would get it. Thankfully, we were able to keep DH from catching it. I'm finally feeling better but it was unpleasant.

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Yes, Heather.

 

 

Veendam is an "S". She is the fourth in the series. First came Statendam, then Maasdam, Ryndam and finally Veendam in 1996 (I think).

 

She (and her sisters) are 55,451 gross tons and carry 1,258 pax.

 

I love the four of them. They're a great design IMO

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Thanks, Sail. And I do feel foolish because I should have known that. As you may recall, we sailed on the Maasdam in November 2002 and it was one of our most favorite cruises of all time. There is a huge difference in the number of passengers and the cabins are so much larger.

 

I think we're going to have to get ourselves over to Tampa one of these days.

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PART V

 

We dined in Pinnacle at least twice...maybe three times? We thought it excellent. There is a mixture of Indonesian and European stewards and it was wonderful. I had the filet mignon and really enjoyed it. DH had the rib eye and said it was great. The room is comfortable and attractive IMO. I thoroughly enjoyed our evenings there.

Captain made an announcement about day 6 or 7 or something like that saying there was gastro-intestinal illness aboard. It is highly contagious as we all know and he made it clear that pax who contracted it should seek care in the Infirmary and quarantine themselves in their cabin. Even though someone with the virus usually starts to feel better in about 24-36 hours, they are contagious for about 72 hours.

Seems we had some very selfish, inconsiderate folks aboard who once they began to feel better left their cabins and continued to spread the germs around the ship. If they had stayed put, the virus would have been contained early and it would have been well under control. But because they were out and about and in Lido handling 'communal serving pieces' in the buffet line; in the casino using slot machines; pushing elevator buttons; holding on the handrail as they walked down stairs etc etc, many others contracted the virus and it got out of control.

NO ONE IS MORE CAUTIOUS ABOARD A SHIP to always wash my hands often and to use the hand sanitizers VERY often. I never touch the water faucets in the ladies room after washing my hands but use my elbow or a cloth to shut the faucet off. I never open the door with my clean hands. I use the hand sanitizer before I go through the salad bar line and again after before I begin to eat.

I got Norwalk.......I am am the last person one would think would contract it. The point is the only way pax do not spread it to others is to follow the instructions of the medical staff and the Captain on down and STAY IN YOUR CABIN if you get sick.

Because of the virus, they went into 'no one serves themselves mode' which was fine but there were not enough stewards to do all the serving, the cleaning that was required, the additional work that it all involved and Lido became most unpleasant.

They cancelled room service for disembarkation morning and when everyone converged on Lido for breakfast, it was horrible. They had two stewards at the continental breakfast section. I went up to get DH and I coffee (tea) (Neptune Lounge was not yet open) and I wanted a muffin and bowl of cereal for him. It was endless standing there waiting for help and then the steward gave other than what I requested and was testy when I asked him to kindly give me a bran muffin as I had asked for. I don't blame him. He was exhausted. I was annoyed and less than happy with this whole virus thing and got truly irritated over something so stupid as a muffin. Me and alot of other folks. We are used to being able to have room service on the last morning. I realize they wanted us all up and out and off the ship so they could get to the cleaning and the stewards who deliver room service were probably busy doing some other work, but I missed having it delivered.

They had to hurry to get us all off the ship as early as they could as they had the 'super-sanitizing' cleaning company boarding to scrub the ship down before it would leave for the next cruise. I can certainly understand that but it did not make for a pleasant last morning.

One final section to come.

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PART VI

 

The ship pulled into Tampa early, early, early. They started disembarking pax before 8:00 and got us all off quickly.

We went to Wyndam Harbor Island as we could not get a reservation back at Marriott. (The National Dog Show was in town and some other convention). This Wyndam was very disappointing and we were not at all satisified with the hotel. We were only there for one night thankfully.

We thought we were sleeping in a kennel as the hotel permitted all of those attending the Dog Show to bring their dogs to their rooms. All the rooms were 'barking' as we walked down the hall. This was not the cleanest, most meticulous hotel I have ever seen and I shiver to imagine how little cleaning would be done after all of these dogs left.

We were very happy to be on Veendam and enjoyed ourselves but did have a few downsides. That certainly should be expected as not anything is ever perfect. We found the ship in terrific condition and well cared for. We found a very hard working crew but unfortunately a few crew persons disappoined a bit. Most are the usual wonderful HAL that we all know and most of us love. Some have 'changed a bit' IMO I think the new tipping policy is starting to be reflected in some very few stewards. They are the rare exception but there are some. IMO I found myself on a few occassions being sharp and displeased with something that occured. That just didn't happen in the past when we were aboard a wonderful HAL ship. The pressure of trying to please all of the people all of the time has to be immense. Sometimes we expect too much, perhaps.

We felt that on this cruise, being a 12 dayer, we experienced more of the various features we used to enjoy that have disappeared from the shorter cruises. It was nice to have a Suite dinner again, to have a formal night Mariner's Party in the evening instead of the morning parties of late. The expanded menus were excellent.....

 

We would go back to Veendam without hesitation and, actually, we probably will around April before she repositions to Alaska.

If you have any questions, I'll try to answer.

Thanks for reading it all! :)

 

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Thank you Sail, for taking the time and making the effort to give a thorough review of your experience and impressions of the Veendam on that sailing.

 

This info is especially important to me because I hope to be scheduling a cruise for ourselves and two family members in the Fall. They will be taking their first cruise so I want it to be a real showcase of the best HAL offers. Veendam is one of the few ships that has an itinerary they would enjoy in the time frame that fits our needs. Sounds like we would be making a good choice to sail on her.

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