Arrival Experience: The ms Veendam entered service in 1996 as the fourth ship in its class series although it is a tad larger than its sister ships Maasdam and Statendaam. Boarding at all ports begins in the cruise terminal where experienced staffers cheerfully welcome guests to their vacation. Photographers are on hand to capture the moment of course. Sailings for this ship include Bermuda, New England and Canada and South America including a trip through the Panama Canal. As guests board, they enter through the three-deck atrium, which has a glorious turquoise glass sculpture as its centerpiece. Reception and excursion tour desks can be found on level seven within the atrium, which also leads off to other areas of the ship.
Dining: A highlight of all cruises, dining aboard the Veendam does not disappoint. Most guests are drawn first and foremost to the Lido dining room on deck 11 where buffets unfurl for three meals a day, and an all-day station proffers light munchies and desserts. Formal meals are served at Rotterdam where formally dressed servers ply the restaurant with trays of elegantly presented meals at breakfast, lunch, and dinner. The evening is the true highlight when specialties from lobster to rack of lamb are often on the menu. Recently introduced, the anytime dining section is proving popular with cruisers who prefer not to be on a dinner schedule. They simply arrive at the lower level of the dining room to receive a beeper giving them notice following their short wait time for a table. Or they can make an advance reservation at the time of their choice. Specialty restaurants cater to those with a penchant for something more personalized. In the Pinnacle Grill, steaks are served to perfection with an abundance of sides served Morton’s-style. A service charge of $25 to dine here is imposed, but guests rarely mind due to the upgraded presentation including everything from Caesar Salad to Chateaubriand prepared tableside. Once a week, the Veendam transforms this eatery into the New York-famous Le Cirque restaurant serving meals prepared by its signature culinary team. Canaletto’s serves a bespoke Italian menu off of the Lido dining room for a $10 service charge. The pizza oven located on the back deck by The Retreat and an endless room service menu satisfies hunger pangs that prefer less dining structure.
Accommodations: Updated recently, the cabins on this ship offer fresh fabrics including plump blankets on beds, flat-screen TVs, new light fixtures, and space-maximizing furniture such as chairs that double as desk or side chairs and sofas that fold out into beds. Categories vary from private balconies to interior staterooms with curtains that drape across the wall to cleverly mimic the covering of a window. New to the cruise line is the series of Lanai staterooms on deck six that feature floor-to-ceiling windows that slide open to provide full, public deck access. Their one-way mirrored surface protects outsiders from looking in while preserving the view from inside. Dedicated chaises longues are reserved for these rooms on the deck. All come with classy Elemis Spa scented toiletries in their baths, which feature larger-than-normal towels. Closets house safes, plenty of clothes hangers, and life vests. Minibars, phones, and wireless Internet round out the amenity roster. Not to be missed is the signature housekeeping service by butlers who learn guest names and preferences and produce entertaining turndown pieces like towel statues and stacks of chocolates. Spa staterooms have a countertop water feature for ambient noise and a menu of specialty spa treatments and services for those who want zen living from sunruse to sunset.
Conclusion: Multiple lounges around the ship attract lingering thanks to their live musical performances ranging from a cappella to guitar soloists. The top-floor Crow’s Nest features excellent panorama views, a live DJ in the evening, and clever bar specials. Broadway- and Vegas-style entertainment performs nightly in the showroom, and special acts include comedians, magicians, and dancers. The casino offers a variety of games and an Internet lounge and staffed library provide more balanced entertainment including a caffeinating specialty coffee bar. Kids can play in the arcade or with other young cruisers at the supervised children’s area while a movie theater screens recent releases with freshly popped popcorn. The new Culinary Arts Center offers full kitchen facilities for demonstrations and classes that guests have come to love thanks to specialty performances of everything from chocolate making to stir fry how-tos from the team of chefs on board. A tennis and basketball court supplement the full fitness center and pool and whirlpools under a retractable glass roof. The spa produces total relaxation with saunas, steam rooms, and a relaxation area with heated lounge chairs and aromatherapy rooms. Holland America attracts a distinguished clientele, and the Veendam is able to accomplish more unique sailing itineraries thanks to its more modest size that appeals to travelers who eschew large crowds. Experienced cruisers are in good hands aboard this ship thanks to its excellent services and varied amenities for a wide range of cruisers.
Charlotte travel agents offer excellent deals )thanks to special partnerships with the cruise line), but cruisers can also book directly at Holland America’s website.