Jump to content
Forum Maintenance: Wednesday March 20 @5:00 am ET Read more... ×
Cruise Critic Community


This topic is now archived and is closed to further replies.


Veendam 12/11-18 I've been lied to

Recommended Posts

They say you can’t go back and that things are never like you remembered.


Well they are very wrong.


Our first HAL cruise was on the Veendam to Alaska in June 2002. Since then we have taken four more HAL cruises and our sixth was on the Veendam again to the eastern Caribbean on December 11th.


With all the negative press I had seen on this board together with the changes HAL has made even though I am the perpetual optimist (when I vacation) I didn’t know what to expect.


I booked the Grand Hyatt with Priceline and came down two days early in case there might have been bad weather here in New York. The weather was good; The trip on Southwest since I only paid $39 pp plus tax was even better. The hotel is so-so. Very nice grounds were you can walk through the mangrove forest; good view of the bay but poor service, and every thing else is mediocre, especially the buffet breakfast. I would take one of its four stars away. Spent a day at Busch gardens, which I recommend if you haven’t been there before.


The first problem was getting on board. The line was short but when I asked the clerk about preferred boarding she said we didn’t have a suite! Well my documents said cabin 045, class S is a deluxe suite but she disagreed. Even after looking at the deck plan she was insistent. Finally she got a supervisor who also wasn’t certain but they reluctantly gave me a low boarding number. To add to this they didn’t have our cards and said we would have to get then at the front desk! Were all the bad things I had heard true? HAL is cutting back on its staff and here we had two people who were at best poorly trained.


This was just before noon and immediately our number was called to board. With a card with a large number 7 on it we were passed through security and off to the front desk.


There the staff who I always felt was most helpful and capable got us cards after they checked our passports again. Didn’t even have to take our shoes off.


There was a woman very loudly asking that the tips be taken off here bill. Remember this was noon on the sailing day and they hadn’t even been posted. She said she preferred giving the tips to the staff in person. I helpfully mentioned to her that if she removed the tip from the bill the staff would have to turn in the money she would give them. She responded she liked to see the look on their faces when she tipped them! I thought she was either full of s---, going to stiff the staff or didn’t realize that Indonesia and the PI were no longer colonies and their citizens were not serfs.


Well folks that’s it for the bad news. Sorry to disappoint the HAL bashers but from here on I will tell you how great the cruise was.



Perfection from our room steward, Budi, who immediately learned when we were out and worked around our schedule; leaned we liked grapes and not apples or bananas so they were there daily, took the laundry early so it came back the same day; had time to chat with us and kept the room spotless.


We had an early upper dining table for two where we ate four evenings. Twice we ate in our room on the veranda and once in the Lido. In the dining room there was no long wait between courses; no mistakes in the orders; extras we asked for were delivered without a problem; Imam, the waiter, having spent 10 years on HAL vessels was very professional and made for us to get to know each other. I think he had 22 people to serve and from what I saw everybody nearby had the same positive attitude.


Milo, the concierge in the Neptune was our, pardon the cliché, ray of sunshine. Cheerful, helpful, made good suggestions and even tracked us down when there was a misunderstanding about the delivery time for the diner we had ordered for our room.


In the Lido, lounges, theater and other public areas service was at the high level we had learned to appreciate and expect on a HAL vessel. I never felt anybody was just doing his or her job. They truly wanted to insure that we had a great cruise.


In the Lido there was enough staff that the tables were cleared promptly; there was no wait for somebody to carry a tray if needed; coffee was served at the table and drink orders that I observed were delivered quickly.


The captain, Albert Schoondererbeek, is new to the vessel. He has been on the Statendam and Masterdam. Hotel manager, Nick Berger, was also new to the vessel.




Good or better than I remembered it. The small portions or no extras I had read about must have been on another ship. For example the evening we had lobster tails which were the best I have had on a vessel, the four people at the next table each finished two tails and then ordered two more each!


Oh yes, there was meatloaf on the menu. I ate it and loved it!


The Lido choices were more than adequate. Another wok at the pasta bar could have reduced the wait but it was no big deal. Museli for breakfast and bread pudding for desert were my favorites. Whoever recommended the museli, thank you.




The evening shows were mixed. The ship’s crew entertained twice. Staging and costumes were excellent. I thought the leads weren’t as good as the rest of the cast. The female lead’s voice was artificial and annoying. The ventriloquist, Mike Robinson, was worth the price of the cruise. Outstanding skill and delivery. He takes the art to a new level.


As usual I played the jackpot bingo the last evening and did get to stand when I only needed one number. B11 where were you? It was for $3900. But they would have probably have given me a 1099 and I would have to split with Uncle Sam.


The casino was unusually busy, especially the slots. I didn’t see any big rollers at the 21 or dice tables. There was a man who spent hours at the roulette table with a book in which he recorded what he bet and what came up. He had huge piles of chips and made multiple bets on each wheel spin. The last time I saw him the piles of chips were gone.


Since we had a deluxe suite, our first, we were invited to several extra cocktail parties and even a luncheon in the Crow’s nest. My travel company even had a cocktail party for us. Only eight people attended and two snuck in. I will tell the company they should save the money and give us an extra bottle of wine.


With all the parties my bar bill was low. When I did buy a drink I went to the bar and did get a good pour.




My DW and I both had bad cold so we didn’t book any shore excursions but did a lot of wandering or made arrangements when we docked.


Georgetown is a very sad place. It seems every tree has been knocked down or decapitated by the hurricanes. Many roofs have lost shingles; windows are covered with plywood. There was talk about houses being knocked over but I didn’t see any. We took a tour of the turtle farm and Hell. When I realized the turtles were being raised for their shells and food I was turned off. Hell is a 10 second view of stalagmites and a few crowded shops. Didn’t get to the stingrays. The beaches looked very nice. I would have preferred another sea day.


In Montego Bay it rained heavily until lunch time so afterwards we took a cab to town, bought coffee and looked at the poor quality handicrafts. Stopped in a local grocery store on the way back and found prices there were no lower than in the tourist shops for coffee.


Cozumel was very busy. Nine large vessels were in the harbor. We were lucky and docked downtown. I pity the passengers on some of the Carnival vessels that tendered. They had to use a local tender that carried about 300-400 people. Long time to load and unload. We enjoy visiting local markets when we travel and found a nice one not too far from the ship. Spent the rest of the time wandering in the streets away from the ship. Called home to tell the children they could not read our will yet.




The onboard shops had the usual stuff. Bought the DW a cherry colored amber necklace.


The ship’s décor was as we remembered it- subdued but with wonderful statues, paintings etc.


Speaking of paintings I observed the art auction twice for about 10 minutes each time. In all the time nobody bid on anything. A painting would go up, quick spiel on the painter, its appraised value and starting bid. Each round took about 45 seconds.


Only met one CC’er and recognized him by his footwear. We hadn’t arranged a meeting. He said he met several others.


Enough for now. If I think of anything else you might be interested in I will repost.

Share this post

Link to post
Share on other sites

Thank you so much for taking time to post. It's good to read positives from someone who has HAL experience under their belt. It helps compare apples with apples. While service levels can indeed vary from ship to ship (and even from steward to steward on the same ship) it's reassuring to know things are going well on the Veendam, and that all is not the gloom and doom that some have reported.

Share this post

Link to post
Share on other sites

Great review. Thanks for posting it.



Makes me even more eager to hurry to Veendam for our January cruise.

Share this post

Link to post
Share on other sites

Thanks. Looks like the Veendam is in good hands. Glad you had a great cruise.

Share this post

Link to post
Share on other sites

lipoppop .... Certainly appreciated your time to post with such helpful comments! Makes us look forward to our January 15th cruise on Veendam even more! :)


Any thoughts on the "Pool Area"? Was there a band at the Lido Pool?


Hope you folks a feeling better and over those awful colds!


Happy Sailing! OCruisers :)

Share this post

Link to post
Share on other sites

Glad you made it home safely.


Was on the ship with you. Don't think you could missme with my footwear. Arn't you the gentleman that I met outside the liquor store and talked wit for a while????????????????


Could not agree with you more about the crew on board. The Front Desk Staff and Kelly (GRM) helped me resolve a problem I was havingwith HAL and AAA Travel. It was resolved in our favor and I realy appreciate the extra effort they put into solving it for us.


Look forward to cruising with you inthe future....


Jim & Ruth

Share this post

Link to post
Share on other sites


The pool area under the sliding roof was uncrowded. We were always able to get a cot. Didn't notice a band during the day. There were very few school aged children on the cruise so the pool was very calm albiet a few todlers were in it. We never went tothe aft pool but in passing we saw it also was quite empty.



Yes we met in the liquor store. Please don't call me a gentleman.

I saw your post about your btb being too long and we spoke about your aversion to flying. From Florda it is only a short flight to Brazil and Chile. The 17 cruise around South America on the Amsterdam is not to be missed. Put some Valium in some of the 40 pounds of coffee you bought in Jamaica, pack some of the slippers you bought in Tampa and didn't give to the staff, make room in Ruth's luggage for shopping and go. Alternativerly drive to New York in May, board the Princindam and you only have to fly back from Barcelona. I'll even buy the first round

Share this post

Link to post
Share on other sites

Thanks lipoppop for your reply!!! :) We always enjoy spending time at the pool area (not always in the sun ... just the area) on AtSea Days and after shore excursions on port days.


Happy Sailing! OCruisers :)

Share this post

Link to post
Share on other sites

Like so many others that were on that cruise, we had a fabulous time. I totally agree with the first post in this thread. Not sure if anyone is interested, but I can add to it..some of our observations:

1. the cabin (151) was more than we expected and had a nice little veranda; bedding was exquisite..so soft and luxurious. Big fluffy robes were a nice bonus. Tons of storage space..even had some drawers that werent used. Fridge was a bit of a problem as it wasnt keeping wine cool enough for me. My niece had sent a bottle to our room along with the chocolate covered strawberries to help celebrate my early 50th!

2. Room steward always knew when we were in and out and did his magic during breakfast and dinner hours. Felt bad one day leaving shore excursion clothing dumped on the floor in our haste to get to the last sitting for lunch, and we foundit all nicely folded on the bed when we returned. the bedtime fold down and chocolate was a great treat, tho we never had room after those dinners to eat it.

3. Dinners in the main dining room were everything I had looked forward to. Nothing what so ever to complain about..plenty of food and as stated before, no problem with bringing one or two entrees if requested. We asked for a order of lobster legs to split between us, or a smaller order, and nooooo..we had to get the whole entree..none of which went to waste I might add. I tried to eat something different every day...lobster, crab, escargot, and of course desserts. Our wine steward was pleasant and quick with the pouring for our fellow diners included my mother and my two brothers and their spouses. We also had another couple from Boston with us and a gentleman from Tampa that been decorated on this cruise for having 700 days sailing with HAL...what a marvellous chap he was...and his sense of humour made our meals so pleasant.

4. I did not notice anyone in the main dining room NOT dressed in evening wear..no jeans or sweatshirts. Probably created some confusion prior to the sailing since our conf. docs stated 7 casual nights, so many might not have packed any differently. I was quite pleased to see so many tuxedos and long gowns. ONly one time I was not a happy camper..at Lido buffet line and a young lady came along in her bathing suit...well almost a thong bottom..and only wearing a chiffon coverup. Poor fella handing out the trays didnt know whether to say anything to her or just look the other way. that was almots as bad as seeing a few coming in from the pools or the spa in their robes.

5. Alternate dining and snacking...the hamburgers and hot dogs and pizza were great. As was the stir fry station my two sisters in law visited. The nachos were tasty and so was the pasta bar.

6 My impression of the dining room staff was favourable. Our waiter was a bit quiet, but still had a great sense of humour at times...did the countdown from 10 when my brother was trying to decide what entree to order..and laughed when the order was placed for two entrees!

7. Yes, Georgetown in the Caymans is devastated..so many piles of destroyed vehicles and building materials and plants/trees. We had a remarkable day booked thru Moby Dick Tours...thanks so much to Mark for getting us all together and for giving me a birthday cake! Also great big thanks to the on board shopping guru Geoff...that guy sure knows his stuff!

Led us to all the correct places to shop and get the best deals.

8. Montego Bay was not what I had expected at all and lets just say that after the coffee and rum cream was purchased we hi-tailed it back to the ship. Brief stop in the jewellry store of course.

9. Cozumel was incredible. Our group split up for the day..two went on the dune buggy tour; mother went on the jeep tour; we went on the island tour and the other two took a cab to PalMar Beach club to snorkel. We had Richard at Adventure Tours as our guide and he was wonderful..so informative and a rather bumpy and breezy drive in his topless/backless/windowless VW beetle, but it was fun! Richard and his wife have a bed and breakfast in Cozumel..it was discussed that this might very easily be a place to return to for some more snorkelling. We ended up at the same Beach club as brother and had a bite to eat and then Richard took us into the water to snorkel where he knew schools of parrot fish were. I sure hope our pics turn out.

10. the art auctions...yes the auctioneer Chet went sorta quickly. We sat thru a couple of sessions and there were probably a half dozen paintings sold..one even did get into some bidding competition..surprised Chet enormously. He has a wonderful sense of humour also. I had been drooling over the Kinkade art works and never quite got the nerve to place a bet, until the final auction and my better half talked to Chet and asked if a certain Kinkade was coming up for a further auction, thats when we discovered there was to be no more. He said if i was serious to meet him at the computer and he would say what the painting had for a minimum reserve i think it is called...and lo and behold, price was at least less than half what i have seen in galleries, sooooo..SOLD! there was a raffle after the sale also and my better half had one of the six winning tickets, so now we own two lovely paintings.

11. Last but not least, I had the great honour of meeting up with a fellow CC member, Susan....Thanks so much for letting me know about your baseball cap and pony tail. We had a great gab session and ran across each other a few times during the week. Hope all your future cruises are a dream!

12. PS....the on board raffle for a "free cruise for 2", since there was only a very small number of tickets sold..like 50 by bedtime Thursday, we had purchased three for $20.00. My mother had also passed the desk on her way from one trivia game or card game or the casino..and bought her tickets...so guess who is now the proud winner of the cruiwe for 2 !! Mother...hmmm..I wonder if she would "present" that to me next week for my official 50th??? doubtfull...as she seems hooked on cruising now, as our whole gang is!

Thanks for the lovely boards here...we got some great info and I hope I mentioned all the ppl. that deserve remembering and helping to make my birthday cruise an awesome experience

Share this post

Link to post
Share on other sites
Like so many others that were on that cruise, we had a fabulous time.

A delightful review, thanks for taking the time to post it! And I do hope your mother offers to "share" her prize with you! :)

Share this post

Link to post
Share on other sites
Like so many others that were on that cruise, we had a fabulous time. I totally agree with the first post in this thread. Not sure if anyone is interested, but I can add to it..some of our observations:

1. the cabin (151) was more than we expected and had a nice little veranda; bedding was exquisite..so soft and luxurious. Big fluffy robes were a nice bonus. Tons of storage space..even had some drawers that werent used. Fridge was a bit of a problem as it wasnt keeping wine cool enough for me.


Hey newcruisers04 - I know its been a while since you posted this, but was just cruious if you had any photos of cabin 151? I'm going to be in this cabin in about a week and would love to get a sneak peak!



Share this post

Link to post
Share on other sites

awaflyboy - Instead of resurrecting a TWO-YEAR OLD THREAD, please just start a new one & ask the question you want, which is totally unrelated to the OP's complaint. Thank you.

Share this post

Link to post
Share on other sites

Well you certainly have a knack for telling a good story. Given check in is the passenger's first perception of the cruise and perhaps the cruise line, it's a shame cruiselines choose to outsource to companies that do not care about making a good first impression.


I am happy for you that your vacation met and in some cases exceeded your expectations.

Share this post

Link to post
Share on other sites

  • Forum Jump
    • Categories
      • 2019 Cruisers' Choice Awards
      • NCL Sail-Away Giveaway Sweepstakes - Win a 7-Day Cruise on Norwegian Joy!
      • Forum Assistance
      • New Cruisers
      • Community Contests
      • Cruise Lines “A – O”
      • Cruise Lines “P – Z”
      • River Cruising
      • ROLL CALLS
      • Digital Photography & Cruise Technology
      • Member Cruise Reviews
      • Special Interest Cruising
      • Cruise Discussion Topics
      • UK Cruising
      • Australia & New Zealand Cruisers
      • North American Homeports
      • Ports of Call
      • Cruise Conversations