Veendam Eastern Caribbean Cruise January 1997
Our seven day cruise on the Veendam was our first. Except for St. Thomas, where we own a condo which we hadn't seen for three years, our ports of call were not a prime consideration in our choice of a cruise. In fact, checking on our condo was a big selling point for a husband who was not at all eager to be "confined" on a ship for one week.
Two concerns were frequently mentioned in the CompuServe Cruise Forum where I visited to find out all I could before our cruise: Proper dress and tipping. I suspect Phil, (my husband, the reluctant cruiser). is typical of many retired men. He has given to Goodwill his outgrown suits and whatever ties he has left are almost wide enough to be bedspreads for cots. He does have one navy, double-breasted, gold-buttoned sport jacket. That jacket with gray slacks, gray shirt and borrowed tie was his formal attire. A sport shirt, jacket and no tie were for the informal nights and slacks and sport shirts were fine for the casual nights.We were told there would be one formal, two informal nights. The Captain must have loved the way his passengers looked because we were informed there was to be a second formal evening. No one should be concerned about not having formal clothes....it is not a problem. Many men wore jackets with slacks, others wore suits and a few wore evening clothes. Among the women there was a wide range of choices, including dressy pants, long and short skirts, ....the kind of clothes one might wear to dinner in an expensive restaurant.
Tipping: I found the advice which I read in the forum made good sense tempered with Holland America's own tipping policy. We tipped the room steward who kept our room well supplied and spotless. We tipped the waiter and assistant waiter. I tipped the hair dresser in the beauty shop. I saw people tipping the croupier at roulette when they finished gambling (of course, they had winnings). I am not up on gambling etiquette but I confess as a small but habitual looser I did not feel generous leaving the gaming table. It was at this time that Holland America's "no tipping required" policy made great sense.
Having said the above, I want to add the following. We were part of a group of twelve seated at two tables for six. During the seven nights at dinner, the salads or soups were not served to all those who had ordered them; food was removed from the table before the person had finished eating; ice cream came to the table partially melted; and most times, no one offerred to refill seconds on coffee. In a fine restaurant one might adjust the gratuity accordingly. Considering the totality of the entire cruise experience we did not feel these lapses in service should influence our judgment in deciding the gratuity. Besides, after five nights, we KNEW these young men. We did have an opportunity to rate our experiences in a survey which Holland America gave to each passenger to complete.
ActivitiesI don't know if all Holland America cruises offer the same choices. I wandered about the ship often during the day and those activities I happened upon were not well attended, i.e bingo, horse racing, ways to tie a scarf, how to set an attractive table. I did not find any activity interesting enough to take me away for long from the lounge chairs on the top deck. (If you want a lounge near the pool, get there early.) Perhaps if the weather hadn't been so perfect we would have looked for more indoor activity. Phil is a news junky so he was pleased to find CNN on TV as well as a mini-Times news abstract delivered to our cabin daily.
I found the dissemination of information on activities and shore excursions excellent. It was delivered in lectures, again broadcast over closed circuit TV in the cabin, and daily slipped under the door of our cabin. I would advise people to decide early on which tours, if any, they prefer because I noticed that often the most popular were well-booked and one couldn't leave that to a last minute decision.
In general we did not find the planned activities and entertainment on board exceptional, although the staff certainly tried hard. We are avid movie-goers and found the choices to our liking. The theater was beautiful and comfortable. This same theater was used for Friday evening religious services and Holland America thoughtfully provided appropriate refreshment after the services.
I thoroughly enjoyed being on the Veendam. It is a palatial ship and although it was fully booked, I never had a sense of overcrowding. I was very impressed with the detail and logistics involving hundreds of passengers, staff and crew. It did help having glorious sunshine and flat seas.
In Nassau, we made it a point to see the aquarium on the grounds of the Atlantis Hotel on Paradise Island. We took the water taxi near the dock and a short walk to the hotel. Stop at the activity desk and pick up a map of the grounds which include a huge water park. We walked through grottos and fish-filled ponds until we reached a very long, winding glass enclosed tunnel. It was like walking on the bottom of the sea with schools of tropical fish, large turtles, sharks and rays all swimming around and above. It was wonderful. The restaurants in the park had long waiting lines. We found one located toward the rear of the hotel casino that had immediate seating. Good menu, reasonable prices.
Phil enjoyed himself. He was comfortable, well-fed, met interesting and congenial people, and enjoyed the pace. Would he cruise again? I don't know. Would I? You bet.
If you have any questions, comments or suggestions, please