Berlitz Cruising & Cruise Ships 2017 (Berlitz Cruise Guide) (2016)
Ship: 347 out of 500
Accommodation: 142 out of 200
Food: 251 out of 400
Service: 282 out of 400
Entertainment: 68 out of 100
Cruise: 265 out of 400
Overall Score: 1355 out of 2000
Size: Mid-size Ship
Cruise Line: Holland America Line
Former Names: none
IMO Number: 9102992
Builder: Fincantieri (Italy)
Original Cost: $215 million
Entered Service: May 1996
Length (ft/m): 719.3/219.3
Beam (ft/m): 101.0/30.8
Draft (ft/m): 24.6/7.5
Propulsion/Propellers: diesel-electric (34,560kW)/2
Passenger Decks: 10
Total Crew: 561
Passengers (lower beds): 1,348
Passenger Space Ratio (lower beds): 42.4
Passenger/Crew Ratio (lower beds): 2.2
Cabins (total): 674
Size Range (sq ft/m): 186.2-1,124.8/17.3-104.5
Cabins (for one person): 0
Cabins (with private balcony): 182
Cabins (wheelchair accessible): 8
Wheelchair accessibility: Fair
Cabin Current: 110 and 220 volts
Casino (gaming tables): Yes
Slot Machines: Yes
Swimming Pools: 2 (1 w/ sliding glass dome)
Hot Tubs (on deck): 2
Self-Service Launderette: Yes
Dedicated Cinema/Seats: Yes/249
Onboard currency: US$
Dutch heritage and decor for mature-age travelers
Overview. Holland America Line (HAL) is constantly fine-tuning its performance, and its regular passengers, almost all North American, find its ships very comfortable and well run. The company continues its strong maritime traditions, although the present food and service components still let down the rest of the cruise experience.
The Ship. Veendam is one of four almost identical ships, the others being Maasdam, Statendam, and Ryndam. The exterior styling is rather angular (some would say boxy - the funnel certainly is), although it is softened and balanced somewhat by the hull being painted black. A ducktail sponson stern was added in 2009 for better stability and ride characteristics. There is a full walk-around teakwood promenade deck outdoors - excellent for strolling, and there’s no sign of synthetic turf anywhere. The sunloungers on the exterior Promenade Deck are wood, with comfortable cushioned pads, while those at the swimming pool on Lido Deck are white plastic.
In the interiors of this S-class ship, an asymmetrical layout helps to reduce bottlenecks and congestion. Most public rooms are concentrated on two decks, Promenade Deck, and Upper Promenade Deck, which creates a spacious feel to the interiors. In general, there’s a restrained approach to interior styling, using a mixture of contemporary materials combined with traditional woods and ceramics. There’s little glitz anywhere.
A $2 million artwork collection was assembled and displayed to represent HAL’s fine Dutch heritage; it presents a balance between standard itineraries and onboard creature comforts. Also noticeable are the live flower arrangements, used to good effect to brighten up the otherwise dull decor.
Atop the ship is the Crow’s Nest Lounge. By day it is an observation lounge, with large ocean-view windows; in the evening it is a nightclub with extremely variable lighting.
A three-deck-high atrium foyer is quite appealing, although its sculpted centerpiece makes it look a little crowded, and leaves little room in front of the reception office. A hydraulic glass roof covers the reasonably sized swimming pool/whirlpools and central Lido area so that it can be used in good or bad weather. The focal point here is a large dolphin sculpture.
There is a large, relaxing reference library. The company keeps its ships clean and tidy, and there is good passenger flow throughout. As part of its Signature of Excellence program, the ships have received a new ‘Mix’ lifestyle area. This is a trendy, upbeat space combining three specialty theme bars in one central area: Champagne (serving Champagne and sparkling wines), Martinis (in individual shakers), and Spirits & Ales (a sports bar with beer and baseball/basketball). Microsoft Surface touch-screen technology is available for playing checkers and chess, air hockey, and other sports games.
A casino features gaming tables and slot machines. However, note that part of the Casino is open, and can be full of cigarette smoke (yes, smoking is still permitted here), so passers-by should hold their breath.
The service staff is Indonesian; although they are mostly quite charming, communication often proves frustrating, and service can be spotty and inconsistent.
An escalator travels between two of the lower decks, one of which was originally planned to be the embarkation point, but it is almost pointless. The charge to use the washing machines and dryers in the self-service launderette is petty, particularly for suite occupants who pay high prices for their cruises. The men’s urinals in public restrooms are unusually high.
Accommodation. The accommodation ranges from small interior cabins to a large Penthouse Suite, in 17 price categories. All cabin TV sets normally carry CNN.
The interior and outside-view standard cabins have twin beds that convert to a queen-size bed, and there is a separate living space with sofa and coffee table. Although the drawer space is generally good, the closet space is very tight, particularly for long cruises - although more than adequate for seven nights. The tiled bathrooms are compact but practical. Bathrobes, hairdryers and a small range of toiletries are provided for all suites/cabins. The bathrooms are quite well laid out, but the tubs are small units better described as shower tubs. Some cabins have interconnecting doors.
On Navigation Deck, 28 suites have accommodation for up to four and offer in-suite dining as an alternative to the dining room, for private meals. They are very spacious, tastefully decorated, and well laid-out, with a separate living room, bedroom with two lower beds that convert to a king-size bed, a good-size living area, dressing room, plenty of closet and drawer space, and marble bathroom with a Jacuzzi tub.
The largest accommodation is the single Penthouse Suite, located on the starboard side of Navigation Deck at the forward staircase. It has a king-size bed and vanity desk; large walk-in closet with superb drawer space; TV and video player; an oversize whirlpool bath that could seat four; separate shower enclosure; separate washroom with toilet, bidet, and washbasin; a living room with writing desk, large TV, and full set of audio equipment; dressing room; large private balcony with teak lounge chairs and drinks tables, dining table, and four chairs; a pantry with large refrigerator, toaster unit, full coffee/tea-making facilities, food preparation area, and a separate entrance from the hallway; a minibar/refrigerator; a guest toilet; and floor-to-ceiling windows.
Dining. The Rotterdam Dining Room spans two decks at the stern of the ship, and has two grand staircases to connect the two levels, panoramic views on three sides, and a music balcony. Both open seating and assigned-table seating are available, while breakfast and lunch are open-seating, though you’ll be seated by restaurant staff when you enter. There are tables for two, four, six, or eight, and Rosenthal china and good-quality cutlery are provided. The waiter stations are very noisy for anyone seated near them.
Other dining options. The intimate Pinnacle Grill is located just forward of the balcony level of the main dining room on the starboard side. The 66-seat dining spot has Pacific Northwest cuisine such as fresh Alaskan salmon and halibut, and other regional specialties, plus a selection of premium steaks such as filet mignon from Black Angus beef. Reservations are needed, and a service charge applies. A Bulgari show plate, Rosenthal china, Riedel wine glasses, and Frette table linen are used. The Pinnacle Grill is a better dining experience than the main dining room and worth it for that special celebration.
For more casual evening eating, the dual-line, self-serve Lido Buffet is open for casual dinners on all except the last night of each cruise, in an open-seating arrangement. Tables are set with crisp linens, flatware, and stemware. A set menu is featured, and this includes a choice of four entreés. It is also the place for casual breakfasts and lunches. At night, a section is transformed into Canaletto for casual Italian meals. It is open 5.30-9pm, and reservations are requested.
There is much use of canned fruits and packeted items, and several commercial low-calorie salad dressings. The choice of cheeses and crackers is poor.
You may need to eat in the Lido Buffet on days when the dining room is closed for lunch - typically once or twice per cruise, depending on the itinerary.
Also, a Lido Deck poolside ‘Dive-In at the Terrace Grill’ features signature burgers, hot dogs and fries, and, on certain days, barbecues and other culinary treats may be featured.
Entertainment. The Showroom at Sea, at the forward part of the ship, spans two decks, with banquette seating on both main and upper levels. It is basically a well-designed room, but the ceiling is low and sight lines from the balcony level are quite poor.
Spa/Fitness. The Ocean Spa is one deck below the navigation bridge at the very forward part of the ship. It includes a gymnasium with all the latest muscle-pumping exercise machines, including an abundance of treadmills. It has ocean views, an aerobics exercise area, a large beauty salon with ocean-view windows to the port side, several treatment rooms, a sauna, steam room, and changing areas.