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We love to travel, explore new places, often visiting friends and family. But with our crazy fall, me sick then working full time (thankfully just temporarily – but it was crazy). I knew I wanted to do a real VACATION over spring break. I wanted to sit in a lounge chair, drink margaritas and relax!
And we knew a cruise would be the PERFECT way to check all those boxes!
Needless to say, we had a fabulous time. Honestly, probably our best trip yet! I have so many great cruise tips to share, but today I am giving you a review of the ms Veednam ship and cruising on the Holland America Cruise line!
Holland America ms Veendam ship Review
When looking to book this trip, I wanted something tropical and all-inclusive. We had a Delta companion ticket to use, so we needed to travel to, or embark from the lower 48 states. Which pretty much narrowed the choices down to a cruise that left from one of the ports in Florida.
Why you should ALWAYS use a travel agent to book a cruise – and luckily you have me!
veendam Deck Plan
The Veendam is one of the “smaller” cruise ships out there. I use the word smaller hesitantly because the Veendam is still a big cruise ship! Especially for our first cruise as a family. I had cruised 4 times prior to meeting my husband, and once with him before we had kids. I had always liked cruising, but we just hadn’t had done one as a family. For these reasons, I figured it was okay to start on a ship that wasn’t as large.
The veendam deck plan consists of guest amenities on floors 4 through 12. Floors 4, 5, 6, 9 and 10 consist solely of staterooms. Around the perimeter of deck 6 there is an awesome walking track, but strange “balcony” rooms where the balcony was actually part of the walking deck.
Deck 7 is where you will find the stage, main dining room (first floor), America’s Test Kitchen, the photo gallery, a small theater and guest services.
Deck 8 is where our main dining room table was located, along with the second level of the stage, several bars, the casino, several shops, the Explorations Cafe and the Pinnacle Grill.
Up on Deck 11 is where we spent most of our time. Here is located the spa, fitness center, pool, game area, buffet restaurant, the Dive-In, Canelletto, the pizzeria and the adults-only pool deck (named The Retreat).
Lastly, up on deck 12 was located the Club HAL kids club, the Crow’s Nest bar, and the sports deck. And that’s it!
Check out the ms Veendam deck plan here
ms Veendam Stateroom Review
Oceanview Stateroom 720
We booked stateroom 720, on Deck 4. This was an oceanview room, which according to Holland America is between 174 – 255 square feet. The room had a king bed (which can be separated to two twins), a couch which flipped into a twin bed and a twin bunk that pulled down from the ceiling. As far as staterooms go, we thought this was very spacious and comfortable for the four of us.
The room also had a TV with a DVD player (you can rent DVDs from the front desk), six drawers, a safe, two large closets and a bathroom with a small tub.
I should also mention that for this sailing we paid less than $2200 for four people. We really felt that the room category was well worth what we paid! Its hard to beat the value of cruising!
What do you need for a cruise? Check out my cruise packing list!
See our tour of ms Veendam Stateroom 720 here:
Holland America ms Veendam Cruise Ship Activities
So as you may know, on a cruise, you really don’t spend much time in the stateroom. On the boat there is so much to do!
We spent most of our at sea time on the Lido Deck. That is where you will find a swimming pool, two hot tubs and an adult area on the back of Deck 11 called “The Retreat.” One morning while the kids were at the Kid’s Club, I sat out in the retreat, but this adults only area was not one we spent much time in!
On the Lido Deck, adjacent to the pool they had two ping-pong tables, a giant connect four and a giant chessboard. Needless to say, the Momma To Go family spent MANY hours playing these games!
Right above the pool deck, there was a sports deck with a basketball/soccer court and a pickle ball court (Like a smaller version of tennis). The kids loved being up here and it was easy enough to send them along to play with their friends!
Additionally on board there is a casino (hubby came in second in TWO different poker tournaments!), a fitness center, a walking track on the sixth floor (I did this each day), and a lounge on the eighth floor with board games, a giant TV and a coffee bar (extra charge for specialty coffees, but PRO-TIP: the snacks at the café are complimentary).
Filmed during my morning walk on the ms Veendam ship. Note the sixth floor rooms with sliding glass doors and deck chairs for their use. A non-private balcony.
Besides going to mass on Easter morning, some line-dancing classes at night and participating in music trivia, we didn’t partake in many other organized activities.
Well, except for Club HAL.
Club Hall is the children’s club, and I do plan to write an entire post on Club HAL. My kids spent a lot of time at Club HAL, it was their favorite part of the cruise (well after swimming with dolphins). Let’s just say Club HAL was equally awesome for the kids and grown ups.
Holland America Veendam dining
Let me start by saying, Holland America lives up to their promise of world class dining. We were super impressed by the food. Everything. The quality, availability, selection and portions. We ate (and drank) so much, and that is a good thing. I plan to write a full post specifically about vegetarian dining on Holland America, but here I want to give you an overview of options on this particular ship.
NOTE: From the Holland America website, they offer all of these options on their entire fleet (and more options on the bigger ships).
Lido Buffet– it seems like every cruise I’ve been on has one large buffet. This was a well-stocked buffet for all meals, but at most of the stations, you DO NOT serve yourself. Servers behind the glass serve the buffet-style offerings to you. I read that this was the case to help curb the spread of germs from many hands touching the same serving utensils.
The only downside to this is sometimes the buffet was not as quick as you would think. You had to wait in line and order from the server. Some were slower than others (I’m looking at you waffle girl, who seriously had to be the slowest moving human I have ever met). But I guess the health trade-off is worth it.
The Lido Buffet is the ms Veendam’s breakfast, lunch, dinner and late night buffet. The buffet was almost always open, seeming to close only from 10:30am – 11 and from 5-6pm. Located off the pool, it was very convenient to grab something whenever.
We ate breakfast here everyday and my kids ate dinner from the Lido buffet a few of the nights. Breakfast offerings were vast, and more or less the same each day. Lunch/dinner seemed to offer daily favorites (pasta station, sandwich station, salad bar) but other offerings that changed (Mexican night, surf and turf night, etc.).
The ice cream station is located inside the buffet, so needless to say the Momma To Go children visited the Lido buffet often. Also inside the Lido buffet is where you will find water, coffee and tea available all day.
Dive-In – the Dive-In is located near the pool and features a hamburger/French fry take out as well as a make-your-own-taco/nacho buffet. The Dive-In was open from 11-5 and was our favorite food spot! Having a Mexican buffet readily available is my version of heaven. The fries were amazing (and unlimited) and hubby ate multiple Dunking Dogs a day. This was a great lunch spot!
NY Pizzeria (I think also named Slice) – on the back of the boat, on Deck 11, there was a NY style pizza place. Here you could get salads or pies. Honestly, I didn’t think the pizza was that great, but the kids had pizza several nights for dinner before heading up to the kids’ club. The pizzeria was open each day until 8pm, so another convenient poolside offering.
Room service – One of the things I love about cruising is the complimentary room service. This is included on Holland America cruises and we ordered in-room dining for the kids’ dinner a few nights during our stay. The first morning I used the little card to pre-order coffee and some cereal for breakfast, but we kept waking up later and later on our stay, so it was hard to predict WHEN I wanted food delivered. I realized it was just easier to walk up to the buffet when I woke up.
The Main Dining Room – Hubby and I ate dinner each night in the main dining room. Although Holland America offers freestyle dining, we opted for a set 8pm time. We eat late at home, and I knew this would work well for us.
We had the same table each night (#85!). I requested a table for four, but the kids chose to eat before heading to Club HAL at 7pm. (They loved it so much they wanted to go each evening right when the activities started!). For us, it was nice to have time to dine together. To enjoy a long meal, with good wine and adult conversation.
We had the same server each night, and very much enjoyed the food. Each night we ordered one or two appetizers, an entrée, and usually a dessert! Randomly, one of my favorite things about the main dining room was the delicious bread and butter waiting for us when we arrived each evening!
On the first night, we purchased a 4 bottle wine package –which was the perfect amount for us and since hubby likes red and I like white, we were able to purchase two bottles of each. You definitely save money this way. One of the bottles was listed for over $60 and the four bottles were only $150.
Caneletto & Pinnacle – these are the upcharge restaurants on the ms Veendam. Caneletto was an extra $15/person and featured “Family-Style Italian” food. Pinnacle was a steakhouse themed restaurant with a charge of $35/person. We enjoyed the food in the main dining room so much, we didn’t feel the need to upgrade. I will say, one night there was a discount offered for Caneletto (25% off) so that might be something to wait for if you are interested in this restaurant.
Explorations Café – the one other place on the ms Veendam ship to get food is at the Explorations café on the eighth floor. Here you can purchase specialty coffees (espressos, cappuccinos, etc) but they also had baked goods that were complimentary. Hubby and little man spent some time down here playing board games and enjoying cookies!
ms Veendam ship Nightlife
The ms Veendam is a smaller ship, and that was reflected in the nightlife choices. On deck 8, there were several lounges that offered live music. One lounge had a string duo, one had a piano player and one had a trio of musicians. Sadly, the offerings did not change throughout the cruise. Honestly, the music wasn’t that impressive and we didn’t spend too much time down here.
We did spend our evenings in the Crow’s Nest, up on the 12th floor. Some nights the Crow’s Nest featured a band, playing modern dance songs. Some nights they had a DJ playing music and on three of the evenings they had line-dancing classes, which were super fun.
The Crow’s Nest was the closest thing to a dance club, although “club” being a serious stretch. I was disappointed there wasn’t a real dancing venue, and I was hoping there would be a karaoke night, but sadly no.
As for the live shows, we never went to any. Its not really our thing and some of the shows sounded a little dull honestly. I did hear that the BBC show was really great, and good for kids as well, but we missed that one.
Cruising a Small Ship
By cruise industry standards, the ms Veendam is a pretty small ship. We went over spring break and the ship was full. I heard there were about 1000 passengers on board. For us, this was a great first family cruise. In Grand Turk, we did pull up to the port alongside a gigantic Carnival ship. My daughter, looking out our stateroom window, was freaking out because the Carnival boat had a waterslide on the roof! We have subsequently also sailed on the Norwegian Getaway (4000+ passengers) which offers a very different experience. So yeah, there was none of that, but here are some pros of cruising on a smaller ship:
- The kids (age 6 & 9) knew their way around and we could trust them to go to the sports deck, or to the Exploration Café with their friends and we were confident they would find their way back to the Lido Deck.
- Embarkation and debarkation were super easy. Compared to other cruises I have been on, getting on and off the ship was a breeze. It was very well organized by Holland America, but the small size of the ship had to contribute to the shorter lines as well.
- No lines or waiting. Aside from our buffet lunch the first day (those are always nuts) the buffet did not have big lines, either did the elevator. In fact, with a stateroom on Deck 4 and most of the activities on Deck 11, we were up and down all day and never had a problem with the elevators.
- No problems getting chairs by the pool. There was always a place to sit by the pool, which on other cruises I have been on, you had to set an alarm to get up early to secure a spot.
Final Thoughts on the ms Veendam ship
Again, this was a great ship for our first family cruise. There was plenty to do, but the ship wasn’t super overwhelming. We also loved our ports Half Moon Cay – the Bahamian private island of Holland America and Carnival, Grand Turk, Amber Cove, DR and San Juan, PR. In the spring, the ms Veendam repositions to Boston to sail to Bermuda and New England, but returns to the Caribbean for the winter months.
Since I like to sit around by the pool, I was super impressed how clean, and well stocked this area was. There were always fresh towels available, with attendants frequently putting out clean towels. On the Lido Deck, there are many table/chairs for eating and there were plenty of staff clearing trash and cleaning tables. There were always plenty of napkins rolled with utensils on the tables.
We found the staff aboard the ms Veendam very helpful. Our one complaint was that some of the staff did not have the command of English I was expecting for stewards working with a mainly American crowd. It was a little tricky to communicate special requests, not due to the willingness to help, but purely because of the language barrier.
We definitely have been bit by the cruise bug. We had such a fabulous time we are already thinking about what cruise(s) we want to do next. Hubby really wants to do the Disney cruise! I know I would definitely consider cruising Holland America again, and I would highly recommend the ms Veendam ship!
Have you ever cruised? Have you been on a smaller ship? What would be your dream cruise vacation?
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