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rex523

My Thoughts On Veendam 11-13

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First, a brief background: I have been on 20 or so cruises beginning at age 10. My parents, sister and I cruised together for years, but stopped 13 years ago when my sister married and began raising children - she now has 4 boys, the oldest is 11 and the youngest is 3. This cruise was an 80th birthday celebration for my father, and was just my parents and me.

 

I took my first Holland America cruise in June, 2003, on the Zuiderdam and loved the ship and the line. I have heard so much about HAL's pre-Vista class ships - on this board and elsewhere - that I have been anxious to try one and see for myself. This was my parent's first HAL cruise. In short, we all loved the Veendam!

 

Unfortunately, the introduction to this cruise was one of the worst embarkation experiences ever. We arrived at about 12:45 and there was already a line out the door of the embarkation hall. I sent my parents to get in line and dealt with the luggage and parking the car. ($10 per day to park; the lot is fenced and adjacent to the pier.) When I got inside I saw some old friends in line about 20 people behind Mom and Dad. They arrived 5 minutes after us, but got on the ship more than an hour after we did. There was an official walking down the line and pulling out those of us who had preregistered on the web site. For some reason, we were the last people he pulled out for at least an hour. The main problems seemed to be that the hall was far too small and there were too few agents checking in passengers. Dad observed that there seemed to be twice as many supervisors as agents. The result was long, slowly moving lines reminiscent of Disney World. As noted elsewhere on this board, the average age was pretty high. My mother is not in the best of health and I was worried about her standing for so long. After we boarded she stayed in bed until dinner as a result.

 

When we finally reached the agent our check in went quickly. We were given a number and told to get in the boarding line when our number was called. We sat down to wait. I watched everyone behind us leave the check in and proceed directly to the boarding line. I stopped one of the many passing supervisors and asked her if we were supposed to wait or go directly to the line. She looked at me in total alarm and asked me to wait right there and she would check. The next thing I know, she and two other supervisors are pulling people out of line, then all three approach me. She quietly tells us to go get in line as they are just about to call our number. Weird. Honestly, I was not complaining or using a harsh tone I was merely asking a question. I thought her reaction far out of proportion, but I did witness others getting loud.

 

We boarded,were quickly relieved of hand luggage and whisked to our cabins on the Veranda Deck. One suitcase of Dad's was sitting on the bed already; the bellman asked Dad to describe the other pieces and he immediately went and retrieved them. I was impressed. Then off to the Lido for lunch. I'm happy to say the embarkation process was the only negative any of us experienced until we returned to the pier. The word on the ship was that all this was the fault of the Port Authority and not HAL. I don't know if that is so, and I'm not interested in pointing fingers anyway, but someone needs to fix it.

 

I visit this board frequently, so I will just try to give my opinion on some of the controversial issues and mention a few things I haven't seen noted elsewhere.

 

1.Compared to my only prior HAL experience I would say the food and service were better. The Pinnacle is a beautiful little room, like a restaurant in a boutique hotel in New York or London. The filets were superb and I tried a tiny bite of the famed Volcano Cake. (I am allergic to chocolate so a tiny bite is all I can safely have!) The Pinnacle was half full or less every time I passed by en route to dinner. The Pinnacle manager bears a striking resemblance to John Cleese, but nothing "Fawlty Towers" -esque happened, thankfully.

 

2. If you are sailing out of Tampa do not miss the passage under the Sunshine Skyway bridge. It is beautiful. We watched from the Sports Deck with only about 50 others. Almost everyone looked up at the mast as we passed under because it looks like it will snap off. (The same effect as on the QE2 passing under the Verrazano.) Everyone cheered and applauded and cars on the bridge were blowing their horns.

 

3. The best cabin steward I have ever had. I would leave the cabin briefly and come back and find fresh ice and clean glasses.

 

4. A very private balcony.

 

5. Rough seas which the ship handled beautifully.

 

6. I really liked the size of the ship. Not too big, not too small. The only time I saw a crowd on board was at the Mariner party - my first! (There were probably 200 people there, about half had 100 days or more.) There were always plenty of chairs on deck and in the Lido. The second night my mother said she felt like the ship was half empty. Lots of elbow room. The ship is also very clean and in good repair. One of the forward elevators was not working the entire time. No A/C or plumbing issues that I heard of.

 

7. Beautiful flowers everywhere. Excellent live music in the Ocean Bar and Explorer's Lounge.

 

8. I would guess less than half the men wore black tie, but most made an effort on the first formal night. I did see some men in jeans and t-shirts in the dining room, but not on formal night. I didn't see any ladies not following the dress code.

 

Bottom line - I loved the ship and the cruise!

 

Next August I am doing a 12 day Barcelona to Venice on Celebrity. I am curious to see whose product I like better. I have been so happy with my two HAL cruises that this may be their only chance to win me over!

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Great to hear that you had a fabulous cruise on the Veendam after a horrible embarkation. We had that happen to us in Rio on the Amsterdam and thankfully, the cruise was fabulous after a disasterous embarkation!:cool:

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I was on the same cruise. Yes, the terminal is a little small and we had to wait about 40 minutes for our number #11 to be called. BUT, if people would get their act together and be ready to go through the x-ray, things would go a bit quicker. People fumbling to take things out of their pockets, and so forth, can't find their boarding card when they we given it just a little while ago, etc. A second x-ray machine would also help. Of course, part of the delay is stopping for the boarding photo. This should totally be done away with and instead be setup on the ship for those who want a boarding picture taken.

 

 

If you think boarding this many people was bad, try getting on one of the mega ships. It just comes down to arriving at the right time. There is just a critical time when it seems everyone shows up. We had filled out our info online so after a short wait in line, we breezed through the registration process only to have to wait for the boarding to begin. I also think if everyone had passports, registration would go faster. The terminal and seating were full BEFORE the boarding even started, so no doubt there will be a line extending outside.

 

People just get bent out of shape having to wait, I take it in stride, after all the ship is not going to leave without me. From my view, after 15 cruises, this embarkation was no better or worse than the 14 others. At least there were places to sit down, boarding other ships we had to stand in line for up to two hours.

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Hello Cruzincurt! I enjoyed your previous posts regarding our cruise. I also witnessed the medical evacuation and saw the ambulances in Grand Cayman and Jamaica.

 

You had better luck than we did. I thought our arrival time was a good one - I hoped we would beat the busses from the airport but we did not.

 

You are right that the line would go more quickly if people were ready - I often wonder what people in line ahead of me are doing that takes so long, and not when just boarding ships - and an additional metal detector would have helped. Regardless, we stood for two hours as most of the seats were only available after we had been through check-in.

 

I cruised on the Norwegian Dawn last May, a far larger ship, and was aboard in minutes, even at that cursed pier in New York. (Never again on NCL, by the way, they do a great job with embarkation but that was all that impressed me.) I think most of the Veendam problems were due to the small size of the terminal. I remember going to a party there years ago when it was the terminal for those Russian cruise ships that used to dock there and the old Veracruz - all much smaller. I wondered why HAL was using that old terminal when that newer, larger one next door was empty.

 

I guess I must have been lucky in the past - this embarkation stands out for me as a bad one, mainly I think due to worrying about my mother having to stand for so long. It didn't help that I had heard so much about HAL's new, streamlined boarding process.

 

I think people get annoyed when a wait is uncomfortable or when there is the appearance of confusion; both conditions were present. Just my opinion.

 

Oh, one things I forgot to mention earlier - every chair on the ship that I sat in was comfortable. That's rare in my experience.

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Thanks for the review.. We were on the Noordam out of Tampa nearly three years ago and will be sailing on the 15th for 14 days...

In ft Laudedale last month Princess had us waiting outside for over an hour and a half before the doors were even opened...

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Thanks for the great review. I will be on Veendam 12/11 and hope to arrive at the terminal at 11:30. I live in Tampa and this will be my 1st HAL cruise. I hope by arriving a little earlier and I have done the immigration forms online, I will have a more efficient embarkation, although I am told ship is at capacity. 15 days......

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Rex,

 

Nice review here... Glad you enjoyed the cruise.

 

I think you will love your Celebrity cruise. Both lines offer similar experiences..(I still prefer X a little bit). Which ship are you sailing on ? Galaxy or Millenium? If it's Millenium(or probably Constellation) they also offer additional dining venue and people rave about it.

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Hello Tatka - it's the Millenium. I'm already looking forward to the restaurant -the RMS Olympic, named after the Titanic's sister. The room is designed around some original paneling from that ship.

 

Everyone says HAL and Celebrity are similar, but most prefer one or the other - I just want to see which one I like better. So far I'm very pleased with HAL.

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Thanks for posting your comments. I appreciated reading them as we will be sailing Veendam in January.

 

 

I am a little confused about when boarding began. Could you clarify if boarding was already underway by the time you had your documents processed? Was everyone waiting for their number to be called but embarkation was underway?

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We arrived at the terminal about 11:45. The seating area was already full. We were able to enter the terminal and get into the line for those who pre-registered online. We had to wait for about 12 couples ahead of us. After processing, we were assigned boarding number #11. This was around 12:20. No one had started to board yet. At about 12:30, they called group #1 to start boarding. People started to really come in after that time.

 

I would estimate our group number was called around 1:00 and we got to our room at 1:15. When our number was called at 1:00 there was a long line snaking to outside the terminal from the registration counter. The problem was that the line did not divide into two until you got to the middle inside of the terminal where they directed those with online registrations to a different line from those who did not. That's probably why they were going through the line pulling out people who had preregistered, but they could only fit so many inside the terminal. The room was not ready yet but the steward let us drop off our carryons then we headed to the Lido. At 1:30 they announced the rooms were now available. The registration counter was fully manned at all positions. The Suite people of course had their express checkin desk area.

 

I think the problem was compounded due to the late start of boarding. Last year we were on by 12:00. I assume the disembarking might have been delayed. When we getting off, the disembarking stopped for about 30 minutes until some bozo they kept paging finally got to immigration.

 

We were off the ship at 8:30, home and unpacked by 9:15.

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Thanks, Cruzin......

 

 

I wonder why Veendam does not do the early embarkation like all the ships are doing in FLL. (of course, your point about there being someone who did not report to Immigration could have held everything up...or someone who didn't pay their bill.)

 

I wonder if there was a Suite check-in line as there is in all the other embarking ports. If there is a Suite check-in, do they direct people from the line to go to the Suite check in?

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We had the early boarding last Feb. when we were on the Veendam. Maybe this was just a one time delay.

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I think they leave it to you to know there is a special desk for suite check-ins. There was a sign over the registrtion desk area indicating suite check-in but you had to already be inside the terminal to see it.

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I may have read this wrong, but it sounds like it's a problem in Tampa ... evidently the terminal is smaller than Fort Lauderdale? I have to say when we embarked the Oosterdam out of Fort Lauderdale we had no such problems. There were long lines and a ton of people, obviously, but it moved along quickly and smoothly and straight onto the ship.

 

So maybe Tampa just isn't as well equipped as Fort Lauderdale.

 

Anyway, sounds like a great cruise that quickly made you forget any embarkation problems!:)

 

Rex, I think you'll really enjoy the Millennium. We sailed on her last December and it was amazing. The differences between Celebrity and HAL are small and I think it just comes down to personal preference.

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Thanks for your report, rex.

I guess if I had a choice between easy check-in w/poor cruise or poor check-in with good cruise I'll take the latter. But the best at both would set a nice tone right off.

I wonder if you were at a different terminal than I was a couple of years ago? Or if there were fewer people to process check-in? When I sailed out of Tampa in '03 there were about 15 lines for check-in, and they were all staffed. I will admit that seating got full, but this was before the early boarding process started.

Could you please comment on the activity in the Piano Bar? Who was playing? Any good? Size of crowds?

Thanks.

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Ruth - I only visited the piano bar one night, but the woman there was fantastic! She plays the piano AND the saxophone (not simultaneously, obviously) and is talented and charming. She drew big crowds is why I only went there once - I poked my head in the door a couple of times and there were no seats. The bar itself is a very pretty room - intimate and comfortable. There is a beautiful illuminated display case of what I assume is Venetian glass (I never made it to the brass plate next to the case) and the usual seats around the piano. It is probably half the size of the one on the Zuiderdam.

 

To all asking about embarkation, we arrived about 12:45 and I think we had number 14. It got really bad immediately after we were got in line. My friends who were there just after us had a much longer ordeal. The terminal we were using is old and small, but there are two or maybe three newer, nicer, larger terminals. (There was a Carnival ship at one the day we embarked.) I have no idea why the Veendam was using that terminal when two of the new ones were empty - maybe that's why people were blaming the port authority.

 

Maybe this was a one time thing - I don't know. The cruise itself was wonderful - the embarkation process certainly didn't "ruin" the cruise for us or anyone else I spoke to, it was just badly managed and disorganized. It happens, unfortunately, and I don't know if this was indicative of the Port of Tampa, but I suspect not.

 

S7S - I wrote about the Skyway bridge with you and other future Veendamers in mind - I had never seen any posts mentioning how beautiful it is and I thought it was not to be missed. I have sailed under the bridge many times in smaller craft, but never at night, and the greater height and the darkness make all the difference.

 

I can also recommend Ernie, a waiter in the Crow's Nest - he is on the Veendam until March. He made a different origami animal out of napkins or bar chits every night for my father which just made Dad so happy. He saved every one to show the grandkids.

 

I've just come from the family Thanksgiving celebration and my parents are still raving about it. It was a terrific cruise!

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Rex Thanks for the review. We will be sailing in January so I am looking for info. Will try to arrive early as my husband cannot stand for long periods. Had no problems when we sailed last Nov from Port Canaveral on the Zaandam.

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Do you know if you were at pier #6. I was on the 11/6 cruise on the Veendam, and we left from this pier. Our embarkation went much smoother. We arrived a little after eleven. We only waited for about two people in front of us to check in. After we were checked in the embarkation began, I believe it was a little after 11:30 and before 12. We were in one of the first groups called and were enjoying lunch a little after noon.

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We also left from terminal #6. As you pointed out, the time you arrive makes a big difference. Since we were delayed to start boarding until 12:30, that many more arrived to cause the back-up.

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Thanks for posting your review. I really enjoyed it - DH loves the Veendam, it is nice to hear she is holding up well.

 

Someone ( I think it was Sail) mentioned there can be problems that cause late embarkation such as pax not reporting to the front desk when their names are called, this is usually relating to immigration or a problem with settlement of the bill.

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Thanks for the reviews Everyone.

Glad you all seem to have a good cruise and enjoyed the Veendam. Thanks for sharing with us! :)

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Thank you for the information on the Piano Bar activities. Yes, I know the place quite well; I've closed the Piano Bar on the Veendam many a night. :D

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Great review, thanks for sharing. I am also glad to hear the Veendam is still a great ship. My entire family sailed her a few years back and have wonderful memories of her. We are now planning another family cruise in February 2006.

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S7S - I wrote about the Skyway bridge with you and other future Veendamers in mind - I had never seen any posts mentioning how beautiful it is and I thought it was not to be missed. I have sailed under the bridge many times in smaller craft, but never at night, and the greater height and the darkness make all the difference[/Quote]

Thank you, Rex. I appreciate your mentioning the Skyway Bridge as we would not have known to make it a special point to be sure not to miss the view. That was very thoughtful of you and it is something additional for us to look forward to.

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