New York to Bermuda
August 29 2010
by George Hall
Our experience and such. Age group 60 and 55, started cruising 1984,
do minimum two cruise a year often three, this year four. We stopped
really counting at 50 cruises and we cruise any and all lines.
Generally ship is our interest, not itinerary, but Bermuda is
exception. I will not really comment on Bermuda itself other than
great island like no other! Always enjoy our time there, have sailed
there many times in past years though not in recent years except as
one day stop on reposition sailings.
Hurricane Daniel, Earl, and Fiona, what us worry? No problem going
though didn’t tender at St. George’s went direct to Hamilton better
anyway in our opinion. Some rocking on way home but nothing really
bad, Captain left early on Friday and fell in behind Earl.
the years we have sailed numerous times from Manhattan Piers, always
electing to use Long Term Pier Parking. NY Parking is never
inexpensive at $30 a day, paid in advance upon arrival at the lot,
it is almost reasonable, but only by NY City standards.
This year construction activity is evident and continuing. I found
that the parking and departure areas were reversed from what I have
come to know through the years. Now upon driving up the initial
ramps you are greeted with two signs and options. Parking up ramp to
right and Arrival/Departure Drop off to left. The parking ramp used
to be at end of drop off area. This confused me. Would there be
luggage handling in parking, or should I drop off first then will
there be another ramp to access parking? I elected to drop off
luggage first. Technically this is the wrong choice, but in reality
this particular trip proved advantageous. I say this because when we
did park it was about as far away from the ship as you could get and
still be on upper pier. That made getting luggage to your ship’s
pier a bit hard as porters were few and far between in Pier 88
parking area and Veendam was on pier at opposite end. Although we
will be sailing from Manhattan once again on October 6th, I will go
directly to parking and hopefully find the luggage handling better.
This is because if you drop luggage first you must then drop back to
street level and head back to pier entrance from 12th Ave. Easy
enough to do, but traffic only allows 3 cars at a time to make left
into piers for most part. Therefore, returning to pier could take 15
minutes or could take an hour and a half depending on traffic
situation. In this case it took about 30 minutes to make one city
block or so loop around.
After all that, actual embarkation on Veendam was a breeze. Desk
lines moved quickly and there were more than enough staff handling
all. All pier staff were pleasant and helpful. We were onboard
within 20 minutes of actually getting on a line.
CABIN: We had been
assigned an aft verandah suite 085 having booked this cruise late
and having to take a BC Suite Guarantee. This cabin is one of the
cabins added in the last retrofit of the Veendam when aft pool was
removed. It is located on Deck 10, Navigator deck, the same deck as
the "real" suites. Though being labeled a veranda "suite," I would
consider it really a veranda Cabin. The S suites or Deluxe Verandah
Suites on Deck 10 are the "real" suites. As on most ships, this
"suite" category does not receive the benefits offered the Deluxe
Suites such as private concierge lounge, or those lovely chocolate
covered strawberries they were placing in those S Suites. We peeked
inside and they are vey large and nicely appointed suites. We can’t
really complain though since we could have booked one of those, but
at DOUBLE the price we elected to take our chances especially since
this was really a pre-cruise cruise we threw onto our cruising year.
This is an "older" ship by today’s standards, though not all that
old by ship standards, having a verandah was reward enough. The
Veendam does not have almost all verandah cabins like the later mega
ships now do.
The cabin itself, design, space, and verandah, no complaints in any
of those areas, Cabin was clean and well appointed featuring Queen
bed, plenty of closet and drawer space, hair dryer and moveable
cosmetic mirror. Bed and bedding were comfortable, cabin steward
Roke (you can call me Ralphie) did great job. Cabin bathroom
features a Jacuzzi tub but note it is one of those deep ones you
almost need a step stool to get into. Water pressure and hot water
were excellent, no complaints from wife. I know this is important to
the ladies for rinsing the soap from the hair. Also, for the ladies,
the hairdryer located in a drawer at the desk was 1600 watt with a
concentrator nozzle. Linda said it was fine, although she had
brought her own anyway just in case. She could have lived with using
The veranda was good sized and had two chairs and a lounge, there
was room for all. A nice touch was that chairs had comfortable
cushions on them. A touch you no longer see on most ships.
In fact the cabin was exceptional in many ways with one, sadly
MAJOR, exception. No, not AC as some reviewers have noted in their
commentaries, our AC worked flawless, had to keep it set low--it was
that cold. The problem was plumbing! As I said water was great. It
was drainage that proved a problem. The sink almost constantly
GURGLED, blub, blub, blub. Initially some water also could be seen
pushing back out of tub drain. Do not write this off as a minor
issue. Ship noise does not bother me, that creaking and groaning you
sometimes get is welcomed I love it. The retreat area above us, 6:30
am setting out the deck chairs sliding above no problem. This BLUB,
BLUB, BLUB, loud and annoying as well as almost constant. It was
noted almost immediately while still at NY pier and my first call,
fearing sewer blockage and seeing gunk coming from bathtub, was met
with sympathy and assurances. That said, so were all the calls about
the issue during the week. I even spoke to a ships plumber who
assured me he was making a part and would repair it finally in the
morning, that was third day. As we left the cabin the morning of our
arrival back in NY the sink wished us a fond farewell, BLUB, BLUB,
BLUB. I do not know if any other cabins have a similar problem but I
believe at least in this cabin it is a probably unfixable plumbing
design problem. All the attention we were given was probably an
every week response to a problem they can do nothing about.
Location, very aft, not great in rough seas but very convenient to
dining and buffet and pool area.
DINING: HAL has acceded
to the anytime, freestyle, As YOU Wish, whatever dining. It does not
work well in my humble opinion, but I do admit we like are
traditional dining. Since we booked only a month or two before
sailing we were bound to accept anytime dining and be wait listed
for traditional. First night we elected to not do dinner having had
afternoon buffet and hoping that we would better fit into formal
night attire excluding one meal. The next day I spoke to the
Restaurant Manager and requested traditional dining. He told me it
was very full and that I shouldn’t expect it. I thanked him and went
on my way. By dinner time we had received dining change to main
seating table 32. So, second night we had a table for six, we were
alone, empty spaces everywhere. They have the tables for traditional
but not the staff! Second night we were joined by a couple and a
single gentleman who all reported they had been at other tables, the
couple had no one at their table, the single was an add on he felt
at another table. These were our table mates for the rest of the
cruise. There were two empty seats. There were half empty tables all
around us. Table 32 location was great, right by aft windows.
Service was fair at best, though I am sure that the waiter and his
assistant did their best. They seemed to be covering a large section
with ever changing numbers. I do not think it was their problem or
work ethic but nevertheless, service was slow and uneven. NOT their
Despite what lines would try to make you believe, that anytime
dining is a benefit for us, in reality it allows them to use less
staff. So you are left with hard pressed traditional dining waiters,
and anytime dining, which is anytime you want to eat if you have a
reservation and if you eat early. Otherwise, please take this beeper
and it will be thirty minutes to an hour and a half until we can
seat you. I admit some still rave about it but we just don’t get it.
FOOD: In general very
good and we had no complaints. We don’t normally sail HAL, having
done so only once before on the Noordam. Then we found the food
bland and desserts tasteless. On Veendam we found the food to be
well spiced, well presented, and tasty for most part. I won’t dwell
on food simply because it is truly a matter of personal taste. Let’s
leave it that no one should have a problem finding something they
enjoy to eat.
The buffet area I felt was very good. It is set up somewhat
different in that each section, Asian, Salad, and such is really run
as a separate little line. Initially this makes you feel like you
are butting in line going around people but once everyone gets the
way it works it isn’t that bad except when really busy. Then all
these people waiting in line in little service sections block the
main aisle. First two days staff serve you at buffet which slows
everything down a lot, once they are sure we are not going to have a
Noro problem self serve becomes the standard.
Slices, the pizza area aft, I had read that pizza was not good. Okay
NY pizza is best in country so NY passengers are never going to be
happy with ship pizza. I have found really good pizza on ships,
Celebrity comes to mind, but long ago, I don’t know about now. The
Veendam pizza is passable, not as bad as reported in my opinion but
it will not satisfy your pizza cravings while at sea. Makes for a
quick acceptable snack while lounging in retreat area.
While we didn’t bother, a couple of our table mates did finally get
seated one evening at the Canaletto Italian dining area for dinner.
This is a section of the Lido buffet that is turned into a small
Italian dining room each evening. While no extra charge reservations
are needed to get seated for most part. After waiting all week to
get in our tables mates were not happy with the food finding it the
same as Italian dishes offered in regular dining. However, I do
think it is more for the small Italian restaurant atmosphere it
mimics than the food that makes it popular.
We never go to pay additional dining as we firmly believe that this
detracts from the normal dining experience provided on ships.
Simply, we are believers that eventually if the lines find it
possible, virtually all dining will become ala carte, added cost
restaurants, at least this is their dream from the accounts point of
view. We will have no one to blame but ourselves if this ever
happens. So I cannot speak to it.
ENTERTAINMENT: As we
expected on a smaller ship, it was not the gala major shows but was
good nonetheless. It was not the showroom that struck me but the
small lounges, intimate and comfortable. I found myself sitting and
enjoying a string quartet nightly at the Explorers Lounge. This
being remarkable in that I normally do not listen to any music. I
found their playing remarkable and enjoyed having a cocktail there
awaiting dinner time. The only annoyance was those When You Wish
dining beepers announcing your table is ready now making you
suddenly feel like you were at the Outback in the mall.
I heard the doo wop show and the crew show were excellent, we did
not attend either and apparently we should have.
ODDS & ENDS
Having given up cigarette smoking for over two years
now I do still enjoy one cigar a week most weeks. I still try pay
attention for the current smokers and I found the Veendam about as
friendly to smokers as you can expect nowadays. An ashtray was
available in cabin if needed. Smoking is allowed on verandah and in
The aft retreat area starboard side I believe had ashtrays prominent
on most all the tables you didn’t have to hunt for them. Smoking was
allowed in the casino. The Casino is open to a couple lounge areas.
NOTE smokers, a separate questionnaire was incorporated in the end
of cruise survey. They asked one if you were currently a smoker, NO.
They asked if HAL banned smoking in the cabin and the veranda would
I still sail HAL, NO. If smoking was banned completely on ship would
I still sail HAL, NO. My answers are simply because some friends are
smokers and we group cruise and they will not sail on any ship that
bans smoking; hence, neither will I, despite no longer smoking
myself. Second, although I can do without it I do enjoy a couple
cigars during a cruise as do several of my friends that I sail with
many times. Finally, despite giving it up myself I still feel that
smokers have been unfairly set upon by using many made-up excuses.
But, maybe now that obese people and perfume wearers are targeted
more and more with taxes and nose wrinkling ,the righteous wrath
will be spread out more.
We chose Veendam to sail to Bermuda because it was smaller and more
intimate than the latest offerings. Also because she docked in
Hamilton and we wanted to enjoy that again having sailed many times
to Bermuda years ago on smaller ships like Celebrity Zenith. We
experienced what we wanted in the Veendam, more intimacy with
passengers and crew, nicer small gatherings in lounges. With the
exception of dining room experience, all was far more intimate and
enjoyable than today's large ships, which we also love for most
part. Larger offers better amenities usually, smaller offers more of
a previous years cruise experience.
Ice cream lovers will rejoice that it is available in the Lido most
hours of the day by dessert section and features cone or dish, soft
or hard, and fixings--help yourself to all at no extra charge. I am
not a big ice cream eater but had a soft serve cone and it was very
Coffee lovers will rejoice that cappuccino and such is still offered
at dinner and at no extra charge. It is also available at the
Explorations Cafe coffee bar where there is a charge. It also takes
some waiting while each cup is made. They offer a coffee card for, I
think they said $26, but while I normally take it when ship charges
at dinner for brewed real coffees it didn’t make sense here. I
simply paid for it as ordered. They also have a small selection of
cookies and baby sandwiches at coffee bar. I saw a gentlemen ask for
one as he passed by and the coffee guy said sorry only with coffee
purchase. Of course same are available and free upstairs in Lido.
But come on give the guy the cookie, they are free after all no
matter. Coffee bar on quota for how many he can bring down or what?
Was poor call on his part in my opinion. And not reflective of the
fine service we found elsewhere.
Room Service, always early by 15 minutes of night before ordered
times but always good and accurate. Often a follow-up call to
inquire if order was correct and okay. Also larger menu than most
ships now have including omelets and such available from room
service. Do not know if in all cabins or if because of purported
Service was exceptional staff throughout. One
obviously-having-a-bad-day guy handling beverages was the only
notable staff problem. He was approaching level of actually being
nasty to passengers. This as very far from normal service with a
smile we found for most part.
Passenger mix, older than usual and to be expected on an end of
season time frame and HAL. There were certainly some kids on board
and some young family members. Most probably traveling with grand
parents. As one lady at pool area announced to me, "my husband is
91, but I am only 80." Must have been trophy wife. Ha ha! I am 60
and I will admit I felt a lot younger than my years by the second
day. It was like being a kid again. This is not a bad thing. Still,
as I said, we booked Veendam knowing it's a smaller ship and often a
tad older cruisers. We enjoy their perspective and conversation for
most part. My motto has been lately, every 100 years new people.
Knowing my replacement is on order, I can enjoy all ages now for
Also, there were more foreign passengers than I expected, from
Europe and Latin America I suspect from languages heard. Americans
many from Long Island and Manhattan.
Bermuda is still our favorite island and we still do it via moped.
Taxis are as expensive as always, but bus and ferry are reasonable
and not a problem. People are still great but they have their share
of drug crime and such now, as do we all. Not something you really
see as a tourist there, however. It is very safe to go out and about
on your own but as anywhere you should pay attention to your
Expensive island, but always has been. We noted little things like
Bermuda Chowder still maybe $6.50, but bowl much smaller. We enjoy a
small lunch or two on island, but check prices or you may be shocked
at a $4.95 iced tea. Gratuity added on bill even for couple at
lunch, so look at bill before you add tip. Bermuda is a place to
just go and see; forget paid excursions for most part unless looking
to go fishing.
again, it's the little things. Something few lines offer, but that
all should! Day of disembarkation in cabin morning room service,
total room service menu. No running to Lido or dining room while
trying to get ready to be thrown off! Also no bums rush out of
cabin...enjoy cabin until your color code is called.
Veendam is in early--docked by 7am and I would bet everyone pretty
much off by 9:30 am or close to it. But disembark was smooth and
they do offer that 7:30 walk off with your own luggage if you have
it all with you and can carry it yourself. We put ours out and took
late disembark having our own transportation at pier. Still, we were
off by 9:30, found luggage, and got into porter line which wasn’t
long. I apologized up front to porter, but advised him we had a long
walk ahead. I felt bad since these guys obviously make their real
money in tips and the more runs they get in the more they make.
Still, not my fault pier operation parked me two piers away. He was
very pleasant and gracious about it. He did get an extra tip because
of his nice demeanor. Still I wish they would be able to park you
closer and I do hope this is a temporary thing because of continued
construction. Still better than flying now a days! So disembark
early and smooth enough!
I am sure their are many things I didn’t answer about ship and you
can feel free to email at
email@example.com, please note Veendam in subject area. I
dump a lot of mail and this way I won’t think you are spam.
George in NY
Holland America Line
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