- Photo Tours
- Carnival Breeze – Exotic Eastern Caribbean
- Carnival Freedom – Western Caribbean
- Carnival Miracle – Mexican Riviera
- Carnival Paradise – Cuba
- Carnival Pride – Bahamas from Baltimore
- Coral Princess – Ultimate Alaska with Cruise Experts Travel
- Cuba Cruise Louis Cristal – Cuba
- MSC Divina – Eastern Caribbean
- Norwegian Breakaway – Christening
- Norwegian Epic – Eastern Caribbean
- Norwegian Pearl – Alaska RT Seattle
- Quantum of the Seas – Preview Cruise
- Zuiderdam – Alaska Inside Passage
- Hurtigruten FRAM – Antarctica
- Hurtigruten Midnatsol – North Cape
- Passing Cloud – BC’s Gulf Islands
- Passing Cloud – Haida Gwaii
- S.S. Legacy – Columbia & Snake Rivers
- Safari Endeavour – Alaska’s Glacier Country
- Safari Voyager – Mexico’s Sea of Cortes
- Schooner Zodiac – Brew Cruise 2013
- Schooner Zodiac – Wine Cruise
- Silver Discoverer – Australia to Indonesia
- Silver Explorer – Arctic Svalbard
- Silver Explorer – British Isles
- Silver Galapagos – Galapagos Islands
- Wind Spirit – Stockholm to Oslo
- Wind Star – Rome to Nice
- EUROPA 2 – Greece & Turkey
- Queen Mary 2 – Eastbound Transatlantic 2012
- Queen Mary 2 – Westbound Transatlantic 2015
- Seabourn Sojourn – Ultimate Alaskan Sojourn
- Silver Shadow – Exotic Alaska
- Silver Shadow – Southeast Asia & Myanmar
- Silver Spirit – Athens to Barcelona
- Silver Spirit- Eastbound Transatlantic
- Silver Wind – Mediterranean
- Silver Wind – Middle East
- Silver Wind – South Africa
- AmaLotus – Cambodia & Vietnam
- AmaLyra- Danube Christmas Markets
- American Empress on the Columbia
- Avalon Expression – Amsterdam to Nuremberg
- Emerald Waterways Emerald Star – Danube Delights
- G Adventures – India’s Ganges
- S.S. Maria Theresa – Christening
- Tauck ms Inspire – Maiden Voyage
- Tauck Swiss Jewel – Blue Danube
- Viking Baldur – Danube Christmas
- Viking Baldur – Rhine Christmas
- Viking Forseti – Chateaux, Rivers & Wine
- Viking Freya – Danube Christmas
- Viking Longships Christening 2012
- Viking Longships Christening 2013
- Viking Longships Christening 2014
- Viking Longships Christening 2015
- Viking Vidar – Grand European Tour
- Upcoming & Past Cruises
- About FTDC
The Timeless Elegance of Holland America Line
At Sea; Thursday, February 15, 2018
Holland America Line’s Veendam sailed slowly through the night towards Havana, Cuba last evening. The distance we have to cover isn’t that immense; a fact betrayed by our snail-like pace over the water. This morning, calm seas and blue skies greeted us and while not much can be seen except for the odd tanker passing us, our relaxed pace perfectly epitomizes a relaxing day at sea.
I’d forgotten how much I enjoy these S-Class ships. Small and intimate, someone aptly described Veendam last evening as “mature.” I think that’s fair. If you’ve taken Holland America Line’s newest vessels, like Koningsdam, Veendam can, at times, feel less contemporary. To me, however, she also seems more timeless: hers is a décor that has aged remarkably well over two decades, helped along by Holland America’s loving program of refits interspersed throughout.
To me, Holland America has always been about the little details. Over time, some of those details have changed (remember the cool leather travel wallets you used to get, or the actual, honest-to-gosh luggage tags?), but plenty have stayed the same. Correspondence to your stateroom still comes sealed with a little sticker bearing the Holland America Line logo. Onboard stationary, from the printed When & Where daily program to letters delivered from Guest Relations, is thick and high quality. English mints and fresh ginger are still offered to guests as they exit the Dining Room.
Before I started writing about cruises as a career, I’d spent over 30-plus-days sailing with Holland America Line in my twenties. I’ve always appreciated that the shipboard atmosphere is quiet and elegant. There are scheduled activities, but not too many. There’s nothing raucous. Hairy Chest Contests poolside aren’t a thing. Ditto for thudding discos, wild adult games (you won’t find the popular “Quest” gameshow held aboard other ships here) or other distractions. It’s not that I don’t like any of those – they’re a lot of fun to watch – but when I cruise, I tend to prefer quiet to loud, unhurried to rushed.
The other thing I like about Holland America: live music. Tonight, live music is featured in the Ocean Bar from 5:30pm until 10pm; in the Explorer’s Lounge from 2pm through 8pm; in the Piano Bar in Mix from 8:45pm through Midnight; and up in the Crow’s Nest Lounge on Deck 12 from 8:30pm through Midnight.
One of Holland America’s newer innovations – and one that is perfect on this uncommon itinerary to Cuba – are its Explorations Central (EXC) shore excursions and enrichment programs.
To get guests prepared for our arrival into Havana tomorrow, a series of enrichment lectures and presentations are being offered today. These include:
- 9:00am: Cuba Orientation. Showroom at Sea, Decks 7 and 8.
- 10:00am: What to See and Do on our Caribbean Tours. Showroom at Sea, Decks 7 and 8.
- 10:00am: Ask Your EXC Guides. Atrium, Deck 7
- 2:00pm: EXC Talk: Cuba, No Place Like It. Showroom at Sea, Decks 7 and 8.
- 2:30pm: EXC Encounter: Cubanismos (Cuban Slang). Mix, Deck 8.
- 4:00pm: Ask Your EXC Guides. Atrium, Deck 7.
- 9:30pm: EXC Encounter: Catalina Lasa Bedtime Story. Explorer’s Lounge, Deck 8.
Holland America offers these EXC Enrichment Programs to complement it shore excursions offerings, all of which now carry the EXC moniker. Because of current U.S. regulations, our shore excursion program in Cuba works and runs a little differently from other destinations, but Holland America still offers a full complement of tours in Havana, Cienfuegos, and in our only other Caribbean port of call, Georgetown, Grand Cayman.
Onboard, one thing that’s worth taking part in is the Thermal Suite at the Greenhouse Spa. Consisting of heated, tiled ceramic loungers facing floor-to-ceiling windows, the Thermal Suite is an oasis of calm aboard the Veendam. And while it lacks the larger Hydrotherapy Pool found on the Vista, Signature and Pinnacle Class ships, it does have an enlarged hot-tub-style Hydrotherapy Pool that still does the trick.
Passes to this relaxing area can be had for $99 for one for the duration of the voyage, or $199 per couple, as an embarkation special. It’s expensive, but once you book the Thermal Suite on one cruise, you’ll want to do it every time. I know. I’ve put some Holland America Line executive’s kid through school over the years judging by how much I’ve spent on these Thermal Suite passes.
Veendam also has beverage packages that you can purchase, but only during the first two days of the cruise. These make beverages onboard more inclusive, but it is important to look at how much you drink and figure out if it is a good value to you. These are:
- Quench Package: $17.95 per person, per day. This includes non-alcoholic beverages, juices, Coca-Cola products, and bottled water.
- Signature Package: $49.95 per person, per day. This package covers beers, cocktails, spirits and wines up to a value of $9 per beverage, as well as all non-alcoholic drinks.
- Elite Package: $54.95 per person, per day. This package covers alcoholic beverages under $15 per drink, as well as all of the above two packages.
Personally, I don’t buy beverage packages. My total daily spend on drinks, alcoholic or otherwise, rarely exceeds $30 per day. That includes one latte each morning at the Exploration’s Café, and two drinks later on in the day, one of which I usually purchase at Holland America’s designated “Happy Hours”, where the second drink is just $2.
For some, however, these packages will represent a great value. Each package is limited to 15 drinks per day, except for the non-alcoholic Quench Package, which is unlimited. After 15 adult beverages, if you’re still upright, it’s probably time to stop.
Tonight is formal night, which makes reservations at Holland America’s Pinnacle Grill a must. One of the additional-cost specialty restaurants aboard Veendam, the Pinnacle Grill is Holland America’s signature Pacific Northwest-inspired dining experience, curated by longtime Executive Chef Rudi Sodamin.
The Pinnacle Grill is as I remember it: an elegant meal served up in an equally appealing setting. This is particularly true here aboard the Veendam, where the venue takes up a narrow space running along the length of Deck 8. It is smaller and more intimate than the Pinnacle Grill aboard the line’s Vista Class ships, which makes advanced reservations a necessity.
It is well worth it. The problem I have with the Pinnacle Grill is that I tend to gravitate towards the same thing every time: the Lobster Bisque and the Filet Mignon. This time around, I went for the sumptuous Steak Tartare, followed by the Cedar Planked Halibut with Shrimp Scampi, and now have two more favorite dishes.
It’s hard to go wrong at the Pinnacle Grill. But make sure to linger. A good dinner here should take just shy of two hours. It’s time well spent. After all, with a day at sea, where else do you have to be?
Veendam's Cuban-Caribbean Cruise
|February 14, 2018||Fort Lauderdale, FL||Embark||5:00pm|
|February 15||At Sea|
|February 16||Havana, Cuba||8:00am||2:00am Feb 17|
|February 17||At Sea|
|February 18||Cienfuegos, Cuba||8:00am||5:00 pm|
|February 19||Georgetown, Grand Cayman||8:00am||5:00pm|
|February 20||At Sea|
|February 21, 2018||Fort Lauderdale, FL||7:00am||Disembark|
- March 2018
- February 2018
- January 2018
- December 2017
- November 2017
- October 2017
- September 2017
- August 2017
- July 2017
- June 2017
- May 2017
- April 2017
- March 2017
- February 2017
- January 2017
- December 2016
- November 2016
- October 2016
- September 2016
- August 2016
- July 2016
- June 2016
- May 2016
- April 2016
- March 2016
- February 2016
- January 2016
- December 2015
- November 2015
- October 2015
- September 2015
- August 2015
- July 2015
- June 2015
- May 2015
- April 2015
- March 2015
- February 2015
- January 2015
- December 2014
- November 2014
- October 2014
- September 2014
- August 2014
- July 2014
- June 2014
- May 2014
- April 2014
- March 2014
- February 2014
- January 2014
- December 2013
- November 2013
- October 2013
- September 2013
- August 2013
- July 2013
- June 2013
- May 2013
- April 2013
- March 2013
- February 2013
- January 2013
- December 2012
- November 2012
- October 2012
- September 2012
- August 2012
- July 2012
- June 2012
- May 2012
- April 2012
- March 2012
- February 2012
- January 2012
- December 2011
- November 2011
- October 2011
- September 2011
- August 2011
- July 2011
- June 2011
- May 2011
- April 2011
- March 2011
- February 2011
- January 2011
- December 2010
- November 2010
- October 2010
- September 2010
- August 2010
- July 2010
- June 2010
- May 2010
- April 2010
- March 2010
- February 2010
- November 2009
- October 2009
- September 2009