Our cruise on Holland America Line’s ms Veendam was enjoyable and more-or-less went off without a hitch. This was not quite what we expected. When we boarded the ship we were aware of recurring guest complaints, specific to Veendam—particularly cabin air conditioning and plumbing problems. We did not experience either issue in our cabin. Additionally, shortly after our cruise the Center for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) performed an inspection, as part of its Vessel Sanitation Program. Veendam did not receive a passing score, a fairly rare occurrence. Again, although our ship reviews do not cover most of the CDC turf (most of which is behind the scenes and inaccessible to the public), we did not experience any sanitation issues.
This is not to say that Veendam is the belle of the ball. Some areas of the ship felt neglected and unloved—upkeep was not always at its prime. In the main dining room where we had most of our meals, a net was suspended underneath the ceiling, just below the venue’s lighting fixtures, presumably because there have been issues with fixtures falling.
There were a few features on Veendam not found on most Holland America ships, including an outdoor movie screen at the Retreat, on the top aft deck. But we didn’t see much on screen here during our entire voyage, making the screen seem to be an afterthought. And the Retreat itself is also a bit of a misfire: During a 2009 remodel, the aft pool was removed and replaced with a couple elevated wading pools. This allowed Holland America to add 31 cabins, but despite good weather we barely saw anyone dipping their toes in the wading pools (though the adjoining hot tubs did get some traffic).
Our cabin, an Ocean-View located far forward, was not typical—its position on the ship allowed for an elongated layout, which gave us more elbowroom (no complaints here!). Otherwise it had the standard amenities for this category, with a full bathtub in the bathroom, a feature that is not common to most cruise lines. Again, we experienced no plumbing or air conditioning issues in our cabin, and our cabin stewards were sweetly efficient in taking care of our room. We did receive a barrage of marketing materials in our cabin—specials on spa treatments, specials on photo packages, specials on merchandize. It got tiresome after a few days.
For the most part, our meals were very satisfying, with few dishes that seemed like outright clunkers. Only the Terrace Grill seemed unimpressive, but we don’t usually expect much from a pool grill. Meal service was okay, but we had a few bumps in the road, mostly with timing: The waits on two evenings for a table at the main dining room were longer than they should have been, while our dinner at Pinnacle Grill seemed a unnecessarily rushed (the lunch here was spot on).
While most of our cruise went smoothly, there seemed to be a number of ongoing maintenance problems to address, an issue confirmed by frustrated crewmembers we spoke with (as well as passenger complaints we heard). Veendam does not appear to be scheduled for dry dock overhaul at any point in 2013. Knowing this, if we were offered identical itineraries and pricing to choose from on other vessels, we would probably opt for a Holland America ship with a more recent renovation under its belt.
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