Holland America’s Veendam is certainly not the largest ship, nor the newest ship out there right now, but those just may be its strongest selling features for some clients. With only 629 staterooms and a total capacity of 1,350 guests, Veendam offers its guests a ship with all the necessary bells and whistles that today’s cruisers demand in terms of dining, entertainment and more, but without the crowds. This is a ship where you do actually see the same people again and again, and you can find other people in your traveling party without the use of a walkie talkie.
During a late August 2011 sailing to Bermuda, we made Veendam our home for a week-long voyage and it truly felt like home, starting with the warmth of the staff. It probably didn’t hurt that we sailed out of New York City the day following Hurricane Irene and we were so happy that the sun was shining and all was well at home to leave. The departure was delayed by one day due to the storm and Holland America rose to the occasion during the natural disaster. Phone calls were made to every passenger to alert them of the status of the cruise.
Most of Veendam’s dining and public rooms as well as its staterooms boast contemporary, tasteful and beautiful decor. The style is inviting, with many intimate living areas throughout to find your own spot to snuggle with a good book. Veendam made its debut in 1996 but received “Signature of Excellence” enhancements in 2009 including new fixtures and soft goods and new bathrooms in staterooms, plus numerous new lounge, dining and entertainment venues. The Retreat, a resort-style pool area, was also part of the changes.
A highlight of the ship for us was use of the Neptune Lounge, a special concierge level for guests of the 28 Deluxe Verandah Suites and one Penthouse Verandah Suite. Located just a short stroll from our suite, the Neptune Lounge has a dedicated concierge available to handle all requests, reservations and needs while on board. We were greeted by name with smiles always, and we could go there to grab a cup of coffee or snack and relax in the comfortable seating areas from 7 a.m. to 8:30 p.m. Two computers were set up here as well, if guests wanted to use them instead of in the Explorations Cafe, the main Internet cafe on board.
The Neptune Lounge can easily become an extension of the 556-sq.-ft. Deluxe Verandah Suite. Ideal for families, it offers a double pull out couch that turns into a large sectional sofa by day. The suite even boasts a separate dressing area with sink and vanity as well as a 180-sq.-ft. verandah, complete with two lounge chairs and a table for four.
The ship also features innovative 181- to 256-sq.-ft. Lanai staterooms, added during the enhancement program, in which guests have access to the walk-around Lower Promenade deck via a sliding glass door. Meanwhile, the 244-sq.-ft. Verandah Spa Staterooms are located near the Greenhouse Spa and Salon and offer special spa amenities, such as yoga mats and exclusive treatments, as well as private verandahs.
While the ship is at port—in this case Bermuda—guests are able to dine on island and return to the ship when they want. We, however, took full advantage of the excellent cuisine on board. The two-level elegant Rotterdam Dining Room, with its large windows and dramatic double-side staircase, offers 5-course menus with 10 entree choices of continental cuisine, vegetarian and low-carb options. We often couldn’t decide which entree to get, opting for getting a second as an appetizer—though that list also included at least four choices, plus of course soup and salad options. The kids can order off their own menu of traditional kid-friendly food if nothing appeals to them from the main menu, and there will always be room for dessert.
The Rotterdam offers two traditional seatings, 5:45 p.m. and 8 p.m., or you can opt for open seating from 5:15 p.m. to 9 p.m. We chose open seating, and wherever we sat we were treated to excellent service by the wait staff. We also enjoyed dinner at Canaletto, a complimentary Italian specialty restaurant by reservation, set into a corner with private seating and waiter service in the Lido Restaurant buffet. The food and service there was first-rate, and kids will love the gelato ice cream and the cotton candy that ends each meal. Or, guests can opt for the Lido Restaurant, which offers plenty of choices, good food and quick service; it is also open for dinner.