Number of Cruises: 6
Cruise Line: Holland America
Sailing Date: May 29th, 2007
DISEMBARKATION: Venice is the hardest port to arrive in, and leave from. Getting to St Mark's Square or the maritime terminal from the airport involves knowing the Vaporetti system, and having Euros to spend, each of which is difficult for Americans, especially on a Sunday (ATM in the airport doesn't work). So, study before you go.
THE VEENDAM: It's showing its age, but the updates they've done really make the old gal sparkle. I especially liked the culinary addition in the movie theatre (which oddly wasn't used on our cruise, as we had our own culinary programs elsewhere) and the library/internet center. The library is just an extraordinary place to spend an at-sea day. It has books for check-out, magazines, audio tapes, puzzles on display, about 10 computers available (and, yes, it's still outrageously expensive), all in a very pleasant environment. By the way, if you bring your own laptop, the amount you spend for internet is still the same; however, you will at least have a computer when all the others are taken.
FOOD: Much better than I remember, and the food in the formal dining room had been my main gripe about Holland America, born of three other trips. Something has changed, and the menu is much more accessible (meaning: more American, or at least the offerings are recognizable now), and very nicely prepared. The Lido restaurant is still the Lido, and quite satisfactory. The Pinnacle Grill suffers a little in service, even though that's the point, and the price has gone up to $30/person now; I think it's worth trying, at least once. My only real complaint in the main dining room is that the sommelier is not a wine steward at all, but just another steward taking orders. When we would ask him, what wine would go with this meal, he would always reply, what kind of wine do you like?
QUARTERS: We normally go for the veranda (balcony) type, but the only cabin left was one outside with a window. Perfectly satisfactory, except that, because of one large suitcase that just would not stow anywhere, we had too much furniture. But a nice cabin, kept clean. I finally learned how to work the shower on the day we left.
CUSTOMER SERVICE: Just a word about customer service, something I normally don't mention. Bad thing: The steward who wheeled my traveling companion's wheelchair didn't really know where he was going, and dropped her off where the baggage was. She was forced to walk the next 50 yards to get outside. Good thing: We left a bag in the marine terminal by mistake, made a series of emails, and Holland America shipped it to us. We got it yesterday, two weeks after the voyage. Complete with the cell phone we stupidly placed in it. Hurrah!
MEDICAL: We actually had to use the medical clinic. They were very, very nice, and did a wonderful job of tending to the really sick and the hobbling. No scolding, just common sense care. Some were surprised, though, to see that they were billed for the service. Be aware that there is a charge for this service.
EXCURSIONS: This cruise went to four Greek ports, Dubrovnik (Croatia), and Kusadasi (Turkey). We were absolutely bored in Dubrovnik -- our bus ride took us deep in the country to a little mill so that we could eat sandwiches and drink brandy, and I have no idea why. Others who went to the ruins (too much climbing for us) said that it was overcrowded. All the Greek ports were terrific, especially Santorini and Mycenae (which we reached through Piraeus, the port). And we enjoyed the shopping in Turkey, although it may not be for everyone due to the piranha-like behavior of the shopkeepers. Itinerary was Venice - Dubrovnik - Santorini - Rhodes - Mykonos - Kusadasi - Piraeus (Athens) - Venice.
SUMMARY: A fantastic ship, eager crew, satisfactory accommodations. The excursions sometimes were disappointing, especially the ones that put you on a bus for hours with little to see at the end.