Last Updated: 10-JAN-2017
14 Night Southern Caribbean Cruise with Holland America - MS Veendam departing from Fort Lauderdale, Florida, on December 8, 2017.
We booked this cruise with Vacations-to-go on the web in late April 2017 for approx. $2700.00 per person with $1,000 in ship credit and free gratuities as well as free 250 minutes of internet. This would be our third major vacation in 2017. We figure that 2017 could be the last full year we both work and we both wanted to be at work "less". This was cruise #12 (I counted) and the fourth time with a balcony. We were upgraded to mid-ship balcony. The cabin # was 151 and we liked it. Quiet and A/C worked well.
We debated canceling this cruise in SEP and I (Ken) was mad that we did not and was still mad up to getting on the ship and then realizing that many people had. The itinerary changed a few times as we were going to St. Marteen but that was changed to Antigua. Unlike most of the news, we did not see the damage that was shown in the media so the storms did not hinder the cruise from our perspective.
As always we fly to Fort Lauderdale on Southwest Airlines the day before the cruise departs. We stayed again at Marriott Courtyard Fort Lauderdale Beach. They made you pre-pay which I did not like but it all worked out. They don't honor the Government rate anymore but using rewards lowered the price a bit. We like this location as it's across from the seafood restaurant we like and we walked the beach in the afternoon and Friday morning. We took a hotel provided shuttle to port and arrived about 11:15.
We really had no issues on the entire cruise except for the fact that they close down the pools / hot-tub at 9:15 which to us is early but from a Holland America average cruiser is late. One night the maintenance guy waited for us to get out. Probably the biggest small issue we had was the people in the room next to us would leave the very bright balcony light on most evenings. I will say that I think he / she was reading and they have the right to do it but when we would look at the entire side of the ship they were the only cabin doing this. It did take some of the fun away from us sitting out and looking at the stars and drinking our illegal booze.
The weather was perfect. No issues with food, sickness, water, room stewards, were able to generally do what we wanted. The fact that the ship was around 60% of capacity really helped in the enjoyment of this cruise.
Like our other two vacations that I have yet to write up, we used Mason Dixon Dog Walking. They came every other day to check on our three inside and one outside cats. As like before, we had no issues at all with the service and they sent us a report and photos of each visit. We will continue to use and recommend the great trustworthy service that they provide. Dave and Monika came over one weekend to play with the kitty's too.
Between Mary and I, it takes 60-80 hours of work to process the photos, do the research and write this all up so I hope you enjoy it. We look back at these pages over the years so we do it for ourselves too. And someday in the near future we hope that these will be turned into a tax deductible travel blog.
SHIP LAYOUT: The ship was in good condition. Our cabin was on the 9th (upper Veranda) as such we were centrally located. I never had any issue finding a free place to sit. Holland like other cruises would tie up the chairs but it was easy to untie and they did not ever say anything to me for doing that. The front area on deck 13 was an excellent place to look at the stars as it was the darkest place on the ship. But, having 750- 850 people on the ship it never seemed that crowded.
HOLLAND ALCOHOL POLICY: They allowed BEER / WINE (TWO - glass wine bottles) to be brought on. They were not that good at checking your bags and I was able to get harder stuff on easily. Also, if you buy the plastic bottles with a plastic cap and keep it on your person you can just walk thru the metal detector. Soda was not an issue as we brought some on board at a few ports. I think this is another demographic aspect. With the average age so high they are not worried about wild booze parties ! Our bar tab TOTAL was $2.59 for a diet coke. we were really surprised at how little pressure to buy drinks they had on this ship. We would have taken advantage of the happy hour 'two for one deal' but they did not come around to ask you.
DRESS: We had three or four formal nights and it was really not enforced at all. I brought a bunch of long sleeve shirts and I really did not need them. No shorts but they did not seem to care about tee-shirts with no words on them. I won't make this mistake again.
CASINO: I played $10 on a penny machine one day and quickly lost. That was my only adventure. Others were not doing well either.
INTERNET: As usual because of pets at home we took advantage of the free included internet plans. It was the 250 minutes for $100. Other people said it was slow but I must say that I was very impressed with the speed. I was checking web cameras and accessing email and the speed was excellent. I would queue my mail then pop on for a few minutes to push email out and get new mail. I could easily move 8-12 meg in less than 7-9 minutes so I am not sure what others were doing. Also, it seemed to work everywhere that I tried (cabin, lido food area, main dining room, out sitting by the pool). I used my phone and a old android tablet. I will pick up a WIN-10 'two in one' for the next cruise as I had lots of downtime and I could have been working on the photos.
We were able to use our ATT cell phones on the USA networks in both San Juan, PR and St. Thomas, USVI. They worked like they were home with no gaps in coverage. The people that had Verizon were not as lucky. Oh well as that seems to happen everywhere.
SECURITY: No issues in bringing on plug strips / outlet expanders that I had hid across the bags. On the cruise groups, I have seen issues with these items being taken. Like I said in the port write-ups security is a joke but it looks secure so that's all that counts I guess. I picked up a USB powered fan that we used every night. They had no issue with it and it moved the air and provided some white-noise to help with sleeping.
ARRIVAL / DEPARTURE TIME: No problems at all at any port. Like I said it was easy on/off. In Ft. Lauderdale when we departed the ship, we used our Global Entry cards and were able to bypass a line that probably had 100-200 people in it. This is the only way to go. They did not ask us anything about where we were. Also, no more customs forms as we did not have to fill them out on this trip. I guess customs wised up as nobody ever told the truth on them anyway. Between TAS PRE-CHECK and Global Entry travel is much easier... Because we went thru customs so fast we actually got to the airport over 4 hours before the flight so we had to wait to check our bags. But, being early is a good thing.
FOOD: Ken does not worry about this as he could eat hot dogs and mac-cheese every night. Mary asked for a mango because we had seen it on the breakfast plates but only a single slice along with melon. The waiter said he would look and then he told me they were out. This was towards the end but I said maybe they will get some in Grenada or San Juan. Well we saw no more mango.
We often ordered several main dishes since we liked 2 things on the menu. They always obliged. This happened with appetizers and dessert as well.
They did seem to have lots of shrimp and we enjoyed shrimp cocktail most nights. They had butterflied shrimp grilled in the Pinnacle Grill very good. We had king crabs legs one night and they were good and we were given a double portion. Same as the lobster. They had sushi several times at the Lido, but we didn't try it. But, it was popular.
They had pizza, cookies & ice cream available most of the time and it was good and varied. Food was quite good. Can't compare it to the 1990s cruises because the cruise industry has cut costs and food quality has suffered. They do try to make you happy however.
DEMOGRAPHICS: Interesting and as usual on Holland America... The 70+ crowd ! A few kids but generally we did not see them.
PHOTOS: It's sad that I used my cell phone (Samsung Galaxy S7) for most of the photos with a 128gig card I had no issues with space. I continue to be amazed at the quality of the photos that the cell phone takes. I brought the Canon EOS-70D 20.2mp camera with three lenses with me (400mm, 55-255mm, EF-S17-55/2.8 IS USM) and used that where size & security was not an issue. I did not change the camera / phone times on this trip (most places were +1 hour) as it makes it a pain to put all the photos into the correct order when I get home and process. I used the go-pro from our balcony railing most days / nights and have yet to process those photos. The total for photos on this trip were 14,471 files using 61 gig of data. Again the high count is from the go-pro.
For now I have it broken up into two pages. Hopefully it won't be too slow to load on the web. "Page 1 - 550 photos" & "Page 2 - 470 photos"
DAY DATE PORT DEC 07 T Cruise - Fly to Ft. Lauderdale DEC 08 F Cruise - Ft. Lauderdale DEC 09 S Cruise - Half Moon Cay, Bahamas DEC 10 S Cruise - At sea DEC 11 M Cruise - At sea DEC 12 T Cruise - St. Thomas, USVI DEC 13 W Cruise - St. Kitts DEC 14 T Cruise - St. Lucia DEC 15 F Cruise - Barbados DEC 16 S Cruise - Grenada Part 2 ------------------------------------- DEC 17 S Cruise - Guadeloupe DEC 18 M Cruise - Antigua DEC 19 T Cruise - San Juan Puerto Rico DEC 20 W Cruise - At sea DEC 21 T Cruise - At sea DEC 22 F Cruise - Ft. Lauderdale - FLY HOME
Available Shore Excursions
DAILY SHIP GUIDES
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