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Neal A Berkowitz

Age: 48

Occupation:Computer Consultant

Number of Cruises: 1

Cruise Line: Holland America

Ship: Veendam

Sailing Date: November 28th, 2001

Itinerary: Eastern Caribbean

We took our first cruise last year on the Holland America Veendam. Our overall impression? We want to do it again. From the moment we arrived at the Ft. Lauderdale airport until we took back off to Texas, we had the time of our life. The trip was not without a few bumps but overall, all was magnificent.

We opted for our own flight to Ft. Lauderdale rather than take the cruise/flight combination. We saved a few hundred dollars by doing it that way since the cruise was planned with less than thirty days notice. For those who are worried about the trip to the docks from the airport, don't worry. There is enough shuttling back and forth that it seemed every cab driver knew the route. Cost of the cab fare for the two of us was about the same as the shuttle bus.
For as well run as Holland America is, the boarding process left something to be desired. After getting through check in, we had to wait several hours to board the ship. During that time we waited in a lobby similar to that in an airport. Not exactly uncomfortable, but it was a bit boring with little to do until our number was called. Part of the cause of this bottleneck is that everyone is personally escorted to their rooms by a crew member. A nice touch which provided a pleasant preview of the attention we got for the rest of the cruise.

The best description of our Holland America cruise was easy going professionalism with a great deal of pampering. The crowd on the ship was generally an older set but there were some kids (we saw about a dozen kids being herded around by the club HAL crewmembers. They seemed to be having a good time). It seemed that a significant percentage of the passengers were post-retirement but there were enough younger people that we did not feel out of place. The net result was that the crowds were not unduly rowdy although they were fun. Generally the social life on the ship concluded around 11 PM although people did party in the Crows Nest lounge until well after midnight. We only made it to one of the midnight buffets and the crowds were relatively light.

Shipboard activities were fairly relaxed but there was plenty of things to do. There were a few organized activities like a putting competition and exercise classes but most people just relaxed by the pools, enjoyed the music, and took it easy. The ship seemed to empty out when we made landfall so shipboard activities those days must have been quite sparse in participation.

One of the best things about the cruise was the food. The Lido buffet was open for breakfast, lunch, and supper, as well as for the midnight buffets. There was a theme for most of the meals, so there was quite a bit of variety. Quality of the food was decidedly better than most buffets. In addition to the hot lines, there was a large salad bar, dessert tray, and ice cream area. My favorite dessert was by far the bread pudding. On the days when the ship was really pitching and I was not that hungry, I could always be persuaded to go after the bread pudding.

The crown of dining was the Rotterdam dining room. Atmosphere and then some! I was a bit worried that the two formal nights would have the passengers significantly overdressed for the room but that was far from the case. The setting was magnificent, the service was spectacular (although our busboy was actually better than our server at meeting our needs), and the food was both beautifully presented and delicious. One night my wife could not decide between the duck and the lobster- so she had both.

One major complaint. Holland America charges for soft drinks which primarily came in cans. If you asked, you could get bottled soda for a premium but the selection was quite limited. Most of the drinks were Coca Cola products and there was no Dr. Pepper. We ended up going ashore twice to find Dr. Pepper and Pepsi.

Shipboard entertainment in the main lounge was quite good. The revues by the ship's cast rivaled that of the better theme parks. Not quite main room Vegas but still entertaining. The "name" entertainment was not really well known although the comic has appeared on the Tonight show and the juggler was award winning. Both were well worth seeing and were not so well known that they were too "big" to associate with the passengers.

I do not want this review to grow overlong. If interested we have pictures of the ship, the shore excursions, and an assortment of recollections and reflections at our web site www.HollandAmericaVeendam.com

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