Checking off a bucket list trip
Veendam Cruise Review to Panama Canal, Central America
My husband & I have had this trip on our To Do list for several years. Once we narrowed down the dates and itinerary, we invited our families to join us as some had previously indicated they wanted to join us. Ten people total went, including my husband's and my parents as well as our mothers' sisters and their husbands.
I have sailed with HAL many times including +2-week-long trips. I chose this particular cruise due to the size of the ship and the overall itinerary. The only other cruise line that was in contention was Celebrity, with whom I have also sailed before.
This was my first time on the Veendam. The ship is in pretty good shape although some areas are showing their age. All of the staff we encountered were friendly enough, but there was lack of attention to detail throughout the cruise as well as an under-enthusiastic vibe among many crew members. Also, there was an obvious lack of communication among crew members and with passengers at several points during the cruise. Better management could resolve all of these issues.
Otherwise, the cruise was as I've come to expect on HAL. The vast majority of passengers were in their upper 60's, 70's and 80's, and many were disabled in some way. If you can deal with living in a floating retirement home for a couple of weeks, then you'll be fine. Just don't expect any real nightlife and do expect to hear lots of complaining by other passengers. It's just the nature of this experience. We, in our early 40's, choose HAL because the ships are relatively small, many itineraries visit smaller ports, the prices are reasonable, the staterooms are comfortable, the food is always excellent, and the service is good to great.
The actual cruise met all of our expectations. We independently booked excursions in Cartagena, Costa Rica, Nicaragua and Guatemala, all of which were great and I will review them separately on TripAdvisor. At all of the other ports we traveled on our own, taking public transit, renting a car, etc. The Panama Canal was amazing, especially since we took the time to read David McCullough's The Path Between the Seas and Julie Greene's The Canal Builders in advance. The books gave us invaluable insight into the history and construction of the canal and I highly recommend them.
Food and Dining
Service and Staff
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