The enrichment programs were solid, and dedicated areas for kids were available.
Club HAL is Holland America’s kids program, and a collection of dedicated venues is found on Deck 12. They were divided by age group—one for age 3-7 stocked with board games and a decorated in a spilled-paint theme; another is for tweens age 8-12 and had a Foosball table and video games. There was an unsupervised room with Xbox and Wii games available, but equipment could not be removed from the Youth Center.
There was also a teen venue called The Loft, with a DJ booth, stage and couches for hanging out. A hidden stairway lead from The Loft up to a teens-only outdoor space called The Oasis, decked out for a tropical-theme party with a splash pool and waterfall, faux palm trees and sun loungers. There were less than 10 teens on our cruise and we never saw any of them using this space (perhaps in part because the waterfall wasn’t turned on). If there were a few dozen teens aboard, we could see this space perking up.
The basketball and tennis courts are located right outside Club HAL and The Loft.
Classes in Microsoft programs were taught using 15 Sony laptops, each equipped with a mouse. Among the subjects on offer were Transferring Photos, Introductory Photo Editing, Windows 7, Making Movies, PC Security, and PC Buying—all geared to Microsoft products. The ship’s “techspert” was available for questions at set hours daily. The room was locked when not being used for classes.
The Wajang Theater is a multi-purpose venue that is primarily used for the Culinary Arts Center, a show kitchen used for cooking demonstrations that were scheduled several times daily. On our cruise there were opportunities to learn penne a la vodka, lobster salad, smoothies, chilled raspberry soup and crème brûlée (not exactly Rachel Ray, eh?). The best event was called Cooking with the Stripes and featured the ship’s captain preparing pizza at the same time as a freeform Q&A about the ship’s operation. We kept our head down for this one.
The Wajang Theater is also the ship’s screening room, and a different film was shown daily (once at midday and two in the evening). Unfortunately, the screen size is too small for the number of seats—especially for wide-screen presentations, which might better be called short-screen.
Two side-by-side meeting rooms were available for groups, and they were also used for various events during our cruise. Half Moon hosted Morning Mass; the Hudson Room was used for origami demonstrations, journal crafting, and beginner and intermediate Bridge instruction as well as non-hosted Bridge sessions.
A staff of photographers was on hand to capture guests on the ship. These included informal snaps in front of designated backdrops, as well as more formal portrait sessions. The shots were assembled each day and showcased here for us to buy.
The ship’s three-story central atrium is dominated by a glass sculpture, “Jacob’s Ladder” rising from Deck 6. It’s a striking feature, just one piece of Veendam’s $2 million art collection that we enjoyed while onboard.
This is the central axis of the ship, through which passengers pass many times. The large open area around the base of the sculpture (Deck 6) was mostly unused space. On Deck 7 we found the side-by-side Front Office and Shore Excursions desks.