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Cruise Ship Review
Holland America Line
by Alan Walker


My wife and I have been on many cruises, but this was the first time we had taken a one day cruise! (Vancouver to Seattle).

Of course, being on a one-day cruise, it is impossible to make any fair comments on the food, service or entertainment. However, some of our comments may still be useful to those about to cruise on the Veendam for the first time, and no doubt any readers of this item will also read other reviews of the Veendam that have been, or will be, written by others after a full-length cruise.

The Veendam is 55,000 tons, making it about half the size of the presently-largest cruise ship in the world, but still larger than many of the older cruise ships. The Veendam, now only a year old, is a sister ship of the Statendam, the Maasdam, and the Ryndam (which is easy to tell from brochures because a common deck layout plan is used). Each of the four ships carries 1266 passengers.

We were impressed as we boarded the ship. Unlike many other ships we have seen, the entry area on the Veendam is attractive, with stained glass panels in the ceiling. An escalator conveniently takes you up to the main deck (few cruise ships have escalators). A steward showed us to our cabin.

We were in cabin C323, which is an outside cabin (category C) on the lower Promenade Deck, with a large picture window. In this cabin like most others, the beds can either be singles, or re-arranged to form a queen-size bed. The cabin was large enough for a small love seat in a sitting area. A small table next to the love seat has an unusual feature: an adjustable column, so you can make the table almost any height you wish. There are double closets, one side of one containing the life jackets, the safe and spare blankets. The safe is one of those ones I hate -- you need to use a credit card or some other kind of card that has a magnetic stripe on it to open it and close it (I prefer the kind that has the combination inside that you can set ahead of time). So you need to remember to bring an unimportant card with a magnetic strip with you, as there is no point locking up your valuables, and then taking your valuable credit card with you around the ship. In our case, it wasn't much of an issue, because the previous passenger in the cabin had left the safe locked, and we never managed to unlock it in our short stay.

The bathroom had a tub and shower, although I would think a 6-foot man in a tub would need to fold himself over at least once to sit in it. There is a hair dryer, which was a surprise to me as the brochure says there are no hair dryers. The bathroom was of a reasonable size, and attractively laid out.

As usual, there is a telephone in the cabin, and you can make direct satellite calls to just about anywhere in the world, at a cost of $15.00 US per minute. Unlike most hotel rooms, there are no clocks in the cabin. You can phone certain numbers to get wake-up calls, but if you are the type that likes to have a rough idea of the time (especially when you need to get up in the morning for that shore excursion), then it's a good idea to bring your own travel clock.

The top drawers in the night stands had keys, so you can lock up your semi-valuables, as well as using the safe.

The cabins are tastefully decorated in muted beige colors, and look very pleasant. The writing desk has three drawers, and there is a power outlet at the writing desk for a hair dryer, tape player, or other electrical equipment. The modern thermostat in the cabin seems to work well.

The in-cabin TV has six channels, CNN, a HAL advertising channel, a movie channel, a weather and port information channel, and several spare channels for local programming when in port. One of the port channels, when at sea, has a picture from the top of the ship looking over the bow, so if you happen to be in an inside cabin, you can flick this channel on and tell whether it's day or night.

Cabin location is obviously very important, and a well-qualified travel agent should analyze that for you, prior to your booking. Our cabin was perfectly located so far as we were concerned, being on the starboard side, midships, on the lower Promenade Deck. It was only a few steps outside our cabin before we could go through a set of doors to an outside deck. The biggest disadvantage of being on this particular deck is that the Promenade walk around the ship is right outside your window, and if you like any privacy at all, you really need to keep your curtains closed in the evenings. If I were on a longer cruise, I would take a cabin on a lower deck where there is no outside Promenade, and you could basically leave your curtains open all the time. There are signs that say there is no jogging at any time on the lower Promenade Deck, in order to "avoid disturbing those with cabins on the lower Promenade Deck and on the Main Deck". Apparently, joggers are supposed to use the Sports Deck.

The "inside" activities on board are primarily on the Promenade Deck and the Upper Promenade Deck. The Rubens lounge, the main show lounge, is at the front of the ship, and is two levels high. Unobstructed views of the stage may be had from every seat on both levels. On the same deck are the movie theater and the lower half of the Rotterdam Dining Room. The Hudson Room and the Half Moon Rooms in the centre of this deck are used as an art gallery and as meeting rooms for large groups traveling together, such as conventions.

The Upper Promenade Deck contains, in addition to the second levels of the show lounge and the Rotterdam Restaurant, the casino, library, card room, shopping arcade and various lounges (bars).

For outdoor activities, you need to go up two decks to the main pool on the Navigation Deck, or one more deck up to the Lido Deck pool. The Lido Deck also has an observation area, the spa and gymnasium, and the Lido Restaurant (buffet-style). A sliding dome cover over the Lido pool makes it possible to enjoy the pool and surrounding areas even in bad weather.

Nighttime activity, such as disco to the "wee hours", takes place on the top deck of the ship in the Crow's Nest. During the day, terrific ocean views may be seen from the Crow's Nest.

Although this was a one day cruise, I thought it might be interesting, for first time cruisers, to set out what the daily schedule looked like, keeping in mind that the early part of the day is not shown in this schedule:

  • 11:30 a.m. Embarkation commences
  • 1:00 p.m. Art Gallery opens
  • 1:00 p.m. Beauty salon opens for appointments
  • 1:30 p.m. All aboard! The gangway will be raised
  • 2:00 p.m. Tour the ocean spa
  • 2:00 p.m. The wine desk is open for wine selection
  • 2:00 p.m. Sail away music
  • 2:45 p.m. Men's golf putting
  • 3:00 p.m. Team Trivia with the cruise staff
  • 3:30 p.m. Ship's tour of the public rooms
  • 3:30 - 4:00 Iced tea is available
  • 3:30 - 4:00 Afternoon tea is served
  • 3:45 Ladies' golf putting
  • 4:00 Scattergories-get-together with the cruise staff
  • 4:00 Friends of Bill W. meeting
  • 4:45 Volleyball
  • 5:00 Cocktail time
  • 6:00 Dinner is served for first sitting
  • 7:15 Cocktail time
  • 8:15 Dinner is served for second sitting
  • 8:30 Welcome aboard show time
  • 10:00 Cigars under the stars
  • 10:15 Welcome aboard show time (for second sitting)
  • 11:00 DJ dance music
In addition to the scheduled dining room times, the Lido Restaurant was open for lunch from 11:30 to 2:00, with hamburgers and hot dogs available right through until 5:00. A late night snack was available in the Lido Restaurant from 11:30 to 12:30 a.m., and an ice cream parlor in the Lido Restaurant was open at various times in the morning and afternoon. Coffee and tea were available 24 hours a day in the Lido Restaurant.

The one major meal we had on board was excellent, and the decor of the two-level dining room is outstanding. Just for fun, I'm setting out the dessert menu for that night, in case any of you readers have a sweet tooth like me:



Passion Fruit Cake Delight
(vanilla sponge cake filled with refreshing passion fruit mousse, garnished with raspberry and mango sauce)

The Cherry Clafouti
(a delightful French country style cherries dessert served a la mode upon request)

Mississippi Mud Pie served with rum sauce

The Pastry Tray

Sundae of the Day
(French Vanilla Ice Cream topped with hot chocolate fudge)


Frozen Fat Free Vanilla Yogurt topped with fresh strawberries


Lemon Cake with whipped cream


Vanilla - Butter Pecan - Pralines & Cream
Lemon Sherbet - Frozen Fat Free Vanilla Yogurt


Edam - Havarti - Blue Cheese
complemented with grapes, apples, celery and an assortment of crackers


A variety of fresh fruit along with dried Calimyrna figs, dates or stem ginger in syrup


Captain's Coffee
Grand Marnier and Tia Maria

The casino is very attractive with blackjack, roulette, Let It Ride, Caribbean stud poker and craps, plus 107 slot machines using dimes, quarters or dollars. It seemed to me that most of the machines that I could see were dollar machines. I hadn't seen the game "Let It Ride" before, but it appeared to be some sort of poker game. The Caribbean stud poker, a five card stud poker game, had a progressive jackpot, and at the time of our mini-cruise, the jackpot was in excess of $10,000. Some of the slot machines were more amusing than usual: one, for example, called the "Stampede", made various animal noises when a player won, instead of the usual "ding, ding, ding".

If you were feeling thirsty, the cocktail of the day was the "Ocean Dream", a blend of vodka, cherry brandy, orange juice and cranberry juice, for $3.00. For a non-alcoholic alternative, the Sea Breeze was available for $1.25, a mixture of grapefruit and cranberry juice.

These were the opening hours of special facilities during our cruise:

  • Casino - 2:30 p.m. until "late"
  • Ocean boutiques - 2:00 p.m. to 10:30 p.m.
  • Photo shop - 4:00 p.m. to 10:00 p.m.
  • Massage and beauty salon - 1:00 p.m. to 8:00 p.m.
  • Sauna and fitness center - 2:00 p.m. to 9:00 p.m.
  • Art Gallery - 1:00 p.m. to 6:00 p.m.
Holland-America is well known for spending huge amounts for artworks on each of its ships. I usually don't pay much attention to the art, being somewhat uneducated in that respect, but I was impressed with some of the art on the Veendam. On the main stairways were giant paintings of former "Veendam" ships, which were very impressive. Much of the artwork was actually antiques, especially seafaring antiques, and these were attractively arranged in glass showcases with explanatory notices next to them.

The crew were mostly Indonesian or Filipino, and we were quite delighted with their service. The cruise staff were North American, but we didn't have a chance to see them in action very much. The officers, although advertised as being "Dutch", also included English officers, including the captain. With all respect to the Dutch, I think the English officers fit in better with the predominantly North American passengers.

Based on this one day cruise, my wife and I would love to try out this ship on a longer cruise in the future.


Alan WalkerOriginally from Australia, Alan has for some time been permanently settled in Vancouver where he is a practicing Attorney. He has been a SeaLetter columnist, reviewer and our resident humorist for some time now.

To find all of Alan's SeaLetter columns, featured and humorous articles, and cruise and port reviews, visit our SeaLetter COLUMNISTS Index.

Alan loves email, and can be reached at: Alan@sealetter.com.

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