I have to preface this review by saying I've never really had a bad time on my 15 previous cruises even though many times things have been far from perfect. The cruise experience to me has always been more than the sum of its parts. Cruising has a rhythm, and texture. It's about stepping outside of your normal life. It's about slowing down time, savoring the moment and creating memories. The ability to overlook problems and shortcomings while a useful coping tool in life, may not impart information to readers trying to decide if a certain ship is right for them. Therefore, prior to boarding I decided I would write a bare-knuckle review. Yes, the gloves were going to come off, and I'm not talking about the latex gloves the food servers wear in the buffet lines!
Pre-Stay: San Diego, CA. The Holiday Inn at the Bay. Across the street from the Cruise Ship Terminal the location could not have been more convenient. The rooms although on the small side (especially the bathroom), are clean and comfortable. The only negative comment I have were the tacky plastic wall edge protectors held onwith peeling duck tape in the entrance hall. I can only surmise their purpose was to protect the decidedly not upscale wallpaper from being ripped by guest's bags. My room was next to the elevator and mere inches from the ice machine so everything I need was within easy crawling distance. The restaurants on the property include a British Pub/Restaurant knockoff and the venerable Ruth Chris Steak House. I will definitely stay here again, for the express purpose of arriving a day early not to miss the ship.
Embarkation: I awoke to find the sky eerily dark. Ash was falling from the sky as the wildfires around San Diego raged. The Airport was closed off and on, and it was definitely not a good day for outside breathing. It reminded me of when Mt. St. Helens erupted. We arrived at the Ship at 12:00pm, (coughing and wheezing) and were onboard by 12:15pm. My first attempt to "rough up" Holland America Line (HAL) were thwarted by a flawless check-in. The Pier Staff was efficient, professional and pleasant. They requested that we use the public rooms of the ship until 1:00pm as they were still cleaning some of the cabins, a very reasonable request. As we walked the open decks black soot was falling everywhere. I heard people complain about that, and I had to wonder didn't they realize that the soot was someone's home? Because of the airport closures the ship was delayed one hour in departing.
The Cabin: #100 Outside cabin located forward on the Verandah Deck. This is my first non-balcony cabin in several cruises and I was prepared to pick it apart. Alas, it was generous in size, had a full sofa, tub, was spotlessly clean and had tons of closet and drawer storage space. Curse you HAL for not giving me a chance to use clever insults other than the color of the bedspread wasn't to my liking! The cabin attendant was stealthy and figured out our routine the first day, no complaints here.
The Ship: The Statendam was launched in 1993, and was the first of fours identical sisters (Massdam, Ryndam, Veendam). I've sailed the Veendam before so I knew what to expect, other than few interior-decorating differences. At 55,400 tons by today's size standards she is a "compact." It doesn't have a rock-climbing wall, skating rink, 10-story atrium, glass elevators, hermetically sealed disco, or water slide. What she does have is vast open decks, comfortable lounges, and classy inviting interiors. Having read a few comments of late that the she was showing her age I decided to judge for myself and let the insults fly. As we toured the ship from the top (Sky) deck to the lowest public deck (Lower Promenade) the list of defects grew. I found a shocking total of 4! The most obvious of which was the carpet on the Upper Promenade that leads past the Lounges (Ocean Bar, Piano Bar and Explorers Lounge) to the Rotterdam Dinning Room, is a bit faded and worn in spots. Also I discovered the scourge of every ship, rust, by the aft pool on the Navigation Deck, above the Ping-Pong table, where an exterior metal speaker attaches to the ceiling. There it was, a quarter inch diameter patch! Of course since I'm 6'5" and live my life at ceiling level so I was probably the only person that could see it. I'm sure Leona Hemsley could have found a few more things wrong (being in prison sharpens ones perceptions I've heard), but I was forced to concede that another literary opportunity was lost. The ship is lovingly cared for, and in great shape.
We were sharing the ports with the behemoth Carnivore (I mean Carnival) Pride. At 88,000 plus tons and carrying a 1,000 more guests then we were, she had a lot of flash and dash, not to mention balconies everywhere. While I stared at the water slide somewhat enviously, I also noticed how little open deck space she had. One of the Prides passengers mentioned how tight the lounge chairs were placed, that was if a person could even find one. Such was not the case on the Statendam.
The Food: The Statendam doesn't have 10 or 15 alternate eating venues, or open seating for dinner. It has a "traditional" two seating dinner (6pm and 8:15pm) with assigned tables. There is a large buffet type restaurant, The Lido, located on of all places the Lido deck (go figure), along with a smaller pool side food area on the same deck. There is one alternate reservation only establishment, The Pinnacle for an extra charge of $20 per person. Although the dining room serves breakfast and lunch via open seating, we opted to eat those meals at The Lido. Nor did we eat at The Pinnacle, although the comments from those that did were extremely positive.
The Lido: Two long buffets lines were set up on both sides of the ship. Even in peak dining times, tables were always available, either in the restaurant or outside by the retractable domed pool. There is also a salad bar and two specialty stations for omelets for breakfast or stir-fry for lunch. While I prefer the configuration of multiple buffet stations on the newer ships, the "one long line" configuration gets the job done well unless you get behind the "buffet as art" (they use the tongs like they're painting a masterpiece, one tiny tomato at a time) or "I just can't decide" sort of person. Bus People are available to assist those who need help carrying their trays to the table, which is very considerate for the elderly or those with mobility issues. The quality and variety of the food exceeded my expectations. If I was forced to find fault it was that the lettuce in the salad bar was always wet (we know what Leona Hemsley would do with that) and the condiments were limited (no shredded cheese or bacon bits).
Rotterdam Dining Room: A two story, beautifully decorated room. With assigned seating, conversation nightmares can and do happen. I always go to the first dinner with a combination of anticipation and dread, hoping for the best (sparkling conversation) but prepared for the worst (asking to be moved after dinner). There were 5 of us at a table for 6 and the cruising fates smiled on us. We were also fortunate enough to have a "hosted table" by the same exceedingly charming ship Officer for both formal nights. This gives you an insight into the life the crew leads, not to mention free wine.
HAL is not known for gourmet cuisine, and I prepared myself accordingly. When I was on the Veendam several years ago the food was decidedly ordinary. On this cruise every night I would leave the table trying to figure out how they fed us so well, for how little we paid. The food was great! The portions aren't huge but with 5 courses who needs a 12oz steak? A word of advice, choose carefully, the more exotic the dish the greater the risk that it isn't conducive to mass preparation. You're safe with the steaks, chicken, pork chops, lobster and fish generally. The paella tasted like dry fried rice with chucks of sausage and seafood. Fortunately on that one, we had asked the Waiter for a sample and he brought us an entrée that the entire table shared. Which brings me to the service. Our Waiter and Assistant Waiter were attentive yet unobtrusive. My two most recent cruises on Celebrity and Norwegian the Waiters were trying to double as entertainers. Here they just focused on service. Personally, I prefer that.
Entertainment: Here HAL misses the mark, sometimes in a big way. Evening entertainment consists of three things on a ship, headliners, lounge acts, and shows/reviews. There is no such thing as a "Vegas caliber show" on any cruise ship and to be honest I usually avoid most of the headliners and shows/reviews while aboard. The headliners are usually on their way up (if you're lucky) or on the way down (usually the case) the slippery slope of third tier entertainment mediocrity. The shows/reviews usually have an energetic cast of young singers and dancers in not so dazzling costumes doing their best with 10-year-old choreography that would work even if the ship were in the process of capsizing. Normally, I keep to the lounges after dinner, however this time I did go to most of the shows.
Shows/reviews: I had to admire the singer/dancers not so much for their talent or stage presence but for their sheer physical endurance. The singing and dancing numbers were staged at a death defying frenzied pace. Because they use canned (recorded) music even though some wear microphone headpieces you're never sure if it's all lip-synced. When we asked the Cruise Director he said, yes they were singing but additional voices were pre-recorded. Therein lies the problem. When you have two singers wearing headpieces and you're hearing about 20 voices, what conclusion is there other than it's all pre-recorded? Better just to have the dancers dance than pretend they're all singing. Those "kids" have talent, but the choreography, costumes and staging never gave them a chance to present or showcase it.
Headliners: An illusionist, comic and Elton John impersonator (or is that impressionist?) performed during the week. I walked out on the comic (standard observational cruise ship humor---cabin size, food, vacuum toilet system, etc) right before he used his best material to rip apart the Cruise Director. Oh well. The Elton John impressionist, looked like Elton, in a limited range could sound like Elton but he sure has heck couldn't play the piano like Elton. Still he was very funny, and it was an enjoyable show. I didn't see the illusionist, but those that did enjoyed the show.
Lounge Acts: For me the best entertainment on the ship is conversation, usually in one of the lounges. The Statendam has four distinct venues, Ocean Bar, Explorer's Lounge, Piano Bar and The Crows Nest. Of these for live music the only standout act was Blue Fondue in the Ocean Bar. On the decidedly negative side, the D.J. at the Crow's Nest never really read the crowd well and picked songs that kept the audience in their seats with the exception of "oldies night" on the first formal night, and the Halloween party, which was the second formal night.
Activities: If a person can be bored on a ship, they need to go on anti-depressants. HAL offered a variety of daily activities, from bingo to pool games. The Cruise Staff performed their functions without being psychotically peppy.
The Ports: Puerto Vallerta, Mazatlan and Cabo San Lucas: The ship offers a variety of tours none of which we took. As a general rule, you can find a much better deal on shore, but booking through the ship offers convenience, certainty and priority disembarkation. In Puerto Vallarta we headed to the beach in the old section of town. In Mazatlan we did a bit of shopping in the "Golden Zone". At Cabo due to the exceptionally slow tendering (from 7:30am to 12pm before they went to open tenders due to heavy swells) and short stay we didn't get off the ship. If you are interested in the available activities and beaches in the ports you should do your research prior to leaving either by buying one of the Mexico guides or doing research on the Internet. The Port Guides given on the ship really only offer information on the few shops that pay royalties to HAL.
The final leg, Little Ship of Horrors: At 10am on Saturday the Captain announced that due to a leaky turbo charger in one of the generators our speed was reduced and we would be arriving as late as 1:00pm on Sunday (our scheduled time was 8:00am). Long lines formed at the front desk and the ship to shore phone lines were jammed as people scrambled to re-book flights and notify their families. As the Cruise Director said, there are worse things in life then having your cruise vacation extended by half a day. I was surprised and impressed that most of the guests remained as composed as they did. Much of that credit goes to the calm and concerted effort of the Front Office staff. We were informed that the calls to re-book flights would be free of charge. I'm going to take their word for that because due to the delay in closing the accounts we never did receive a final shipboard account statement. I guess I find out when I get my credit card statement. It took me about two hours to get an outside line and arrange the flight changes and I also had to pay a "deviation fee" of $50 to book on a later flight.
We were able to sleep in, and did not have to vacate our room until 11:00am, which was a very pleasant experience. We arrived in San Diego at 11:30am, however clearing customs took longer than anticipated when a foreign couple took their sweet time (despite repeated requests) in meeting with custom officials. General disembarkation began at approximately 1:00pm and we were off the ship by 1:30pm. I couldn't help but feel sorry for the passengers who were just beginning their trips. While we had breezed onboard at 12:00am they would have to wait for several more hours. The waiting room that for us was empty was now packed. There was also the uncertainty that the repairs could even be accomplished. If they could not, the itinerary would have to be modified.
Tipping Not Required Policy: The tipping not required policy punishes the staff members who rely on tips (room attendants, bar serves, waiters/assistant waiters). I heard some guest say that they thought tips were not permitted, others thought it was already included. It's time for HAL to be up front with the guests and at least publish suggested guidelines. I'd also like to see HAL include a 15% gratitude for bar service, or add a tip section to each bar slip. Hunting down the various beverage servers the last night of the cruise is frustrating and time consuming.
And In The End: Why did I take a HAL cruise? Part of it is to take a ship that is a ship, not floating mega Club Med resort. They are classy, spacious and vastly comfortable. Part of it was for the great value, but mostly it is about service. Here HAL shines, and the service is second to none in the premium cruise category. It is seemingly effortless, genuine, gracious and remarkably consistent. The Front Office staff, so often a source of frustration on other lines, handled guest requests, complaints and general ranting with professionalism, patience and respect. The Officers don't breeze past you as if you don't exist while they make their rounds. The bar servers are exceptional; they'll remember your name and your drink preference after your first order. Throughout the ship the staff always seemed to anticipate your needs. For as much as HAL advertises it's high level of service, it is remarkable that they deliver even more. The Statendam far exceeded my expectations and on a scale of 0 (the ship sinks with all hands) to 10 (the perfect cruise and you win the bingo jackpot while onboard) I'd rate the cruise an 8+.
As I used HAL's Air Plan, I'll start there. The flight from Cincinnati to Salt Lake was nice. We were served drinks and pretzels. Conditions were a little cramped as there were two sets of three seats with an aisle in the middle. The flight from Salt Lake to Anchorage was much better. We had bigger jet and theCaptain gave geographical infomration and we were served q box lunch. No one was at the airport to meet us and we only discovered, after spending $2.00 for luggage cart rental, that there were porters from HAL standing by to help you with your luggage. We found this out by overhearing another passenger complain. We barely made the last bus to the Statendam. It was a two and one half hour trip across the peninsula to Seward from Anchorage Airport. We get a tour lecture on the bus and stopped to see Belucia whales in Cook Inlet and made a potty stop. When we arrived at the Statendam dock building, we were too late for the Embarcation Photo. Also, I was listed as a handicapped passenger (I can't walk over 200 feet withoutpain) and was supposed to be met with a wheelchair. They had to send for the chair and it took 15 minutes to get it from the ship. As a handicapped passenger and also being a full suite passenger I was supposed to have priority boarding. I mentioned this to the security woman who told me to "shut up and get to the back of the line".
Upon arriving on board things looked up. Waiting in my cabin as promised was the 3-wheeled scooter and extra wide regular wheelchair I rented from Care Vacations. We dropped off our carry on luggage and went to the crow's nest for the Sail Away drink in the souvineer glass. Regarding the carry on luggage both the airport security and the HAL secuirty were very rude when I asked for hand checking of my camera equipment. I stood my ground and finally got that service. Life on board was quite nice. The suite came with a bottle of Champaigne from the Captain. Our cabin steward was very nice and picked up on the fact that my husband was a "news hound" and had a copy of the USA Today for him every morning.
As Suite passengers we had free laundry and dry cleaning services. The dry cleaning machine was broken and so they checked with the Amsterdam to see if they could do our dry cleaning when we were in port with them in Sitka. They were already backed up on thier own dry cleaning and couldn't assist us. I had followed the suggestions of others and only brought enough clothes for 4 days on a 7 day cruise and told the consiger I was not having them wash my knits in with their laundry as they used hot water and bleach. The consiger and my room steward arranged cold water washes for my knits but it took two days to get the laundry back..
We had wonderful table companions in the Rotterdam Dining room and our waiters were the best. We had such fun with the assistant waiter that we left him a bigger tip than the head waiter. The wine steward always brought us our soft drinks, the right ones to the right passenger, after only one night. We had purchased the soft drink cards and they were the best buy of the cruise. I had discovered that you could order them as a Bon Voyage gift and have them waiting in the stateroom so I did that and saved hunting up a bar tender to get one from. I preferred breakfast in the room but my husband almost always had his on the Lido. The portions in the Rotterdam Dining Room looked small but after ALL those courses you definately were not hungry. The food was very tastety, well spiced and presented with flair. The highligh of the trip in the dining room was the Running of the Moose the second night out. A person dressed as a moose went through the dining room followed by the waiters carrying the mouse dessert. This was accompanied by music from the Rocky and Bullwinkle show.
The ship was beautifully appointed and there were many quiet places to sit and read or watch the scenery go by. My husband spent a lot of his time in the Explorers lounge when we had liquid sunshine (which was only about half the time).
We went on four cruise sponsered shore excursions and two that I booked myself. We found out that when it says "on the dock" as a place to meet, they mean infront of your ship. The docks were long and there were many shore excursions heading out and we didn't know at first where on the dock they meant. We almost missed our first shore excursion because of this lack of information.
The shows in the Van Gogh lounge were quite nice. Somewhere between a well presented college effort and a broadway show. We even had a magic show one night. The hit of the shows was the Indonesean Crew show and they had a special drink that went with it. The movies were not to our taste and we only went to one of them "How to lose a guy in 10 days" the free popcorn was alright but nothing to write home about. The movies were not "first run" but what you would have found in your $2.00 cinemas back home.
The ships photograhphers were not as pushy as I have read and if you bought the pictures or not was not a big deal. However, there was always something on sale in front of the shops on special tables that made going past the shops almost impossible for through traffic as people congregated around the tables. It was the only time I felt nickled and dimed to death.
The dj that had the bingo was a real fruit cake. Jazzy Jeff always appearred in weird attire to do whatever his activing was for the day. The best presentation was by the naturalist on board and he was very available for questions.
One night we were at sea trying to make time to the next port and it got so rough that the pool on the Lido deck which is only about 4 feet deep sloshed from a 1 foot depth at one end to a 5 foot depth on the other end and spilled over its boundries. You could stand there and watch the wave curl. Dispite this I had no trouble with seasickness as I was wearing the Transdermal patch behind my ear. Vibration was not felt in most of the ship but in the bathrooms you could feelthe vibration of the engines and the slight sway fo the ship. It did sway more on the one night of the "Surfs up in the Lido". All ships employees were most helpful and we were pampered to an unbelieveable extent.
The plane trips back were again in the more crowded jets but the plane staff were helpful and courteous.
On the whole, the cruise meet and exceeded our expectations. We both can't wait to cruise again.
We took a combination land/cruise package with Holland America, and it was worth the added days and sights.'
We flew from Kansas City to Fairbanks on Northwest--5 hours on a plane from MSP without music or a movie is a bit much!! They don't get any points from me for their service.
We had 2 days in Fairbanks, and then took the train south to Denali, which was fabulous! From Denali we went to Anchorage, where we took a bus south to Seward where we picked up the Statendam.
We had cabins with verahda's for sitting, and it was definately worth the added expense. You could sit in your own private world and watch everything from humpback whales to huge cliffs of ice.
The ship was immaculate. Our cabin was quite spacious, and there's enough closet space for 2 people. There was a real bathtub in our room, which was great. The thermostat takes a little getting used to but we had fantastic weather throughout the week, and didn't need the a/c side of it alot.
The food was quite good--not excellent, but pleantiful. Our waiter and busboy did a very good job--after3 days at our table, they finally figured out that we liked ice tea with our dinner.
The entertainment was basically OK--no name acts, but the review of the crew show was, in my opinion, the best one of all. They put on a great show for the guests.
I can't begin to describe the beauty of the state. We saw a lot of ground, and H/A moves people and luggage better then anyone. The train trip was wonderful, and the food there was as good if not better then on ship! A hot breakfast, with fresh OJ and coffee that was worth a third cup!
If you can afford the time, please do the land and sea package. It's a once in a life time trip, and to miss Denali is sinful--9.000,000 acres of land! We saw brown/black bears, moose, elk, killer whales and allligators (just kidding about the last item....!) You'll find you have too many choices to make as far as what you want to do, but it's there to enjoy.
I was on a boat whalewatching, and there was a guest on his cell phone on some call. I had an urge to take the phone and sacrifice it to Neptune. He missed seeing whales sounding because of his call, and I suppose it was his choice. For my needs, that's not why we went vacation (even though we did have cell phones that worked fine in all the ports).
It was a great change for us, and if we had a chance to go back, I would.
I went on the Statendam on May 8 the three day transition cruise from San Diego to Vancouver. This was my 2nd time on the Statendam and 3rd time on Holland America.
I really enjoyed myself more this time than the last. At least this time we did not hit a barge. The Statendam is a very clean ship for it's age. Well, kept up. The crew were very friendly. Even the maintenance workers that work painting the ship were very nice and always had a big smile on there face. The Statendam was an awesome ship. There were many places to stand and hide from people. I loved how you could stand in the front of the ship as you left port and sometimes was open during the cruise. The ship had nice flowers all over the place. The ship was a nice size not to big not to small. I don't like the new big ships that the other cruise lines have now.The Statendam had free espresso, Cafe Latte and Cappuccino many times during the day at the Java Cafe with Awesome cookies.
They had many movies towatch in the movie theater - HAL offers free popcorn and cookies.
The food was good. The Buffet was good, but needs just a few more items to pick from. The Dinning room food was a definite decline from the last time I went on her. The food was good what I got, though it seems that all their good food you use to get is going in their new pay restaurant that cost $20. You just had the basic steaks for dinner Prime Rib twice. If im going to pay $20 to eat at a restaurant I want like a hugh 50 ounce steak. You pay so much for a cruise the food should be all free. Like I said the food was good but not like it use to be. The potions of the food is starting to shrink. Holland America is not a five star cruise line anymore. I say its with princess and Royal Caribbean now.
Over all its a great ship with great hard workers, but it's not like it use to be. If you go on this ship you will have a great time. I did.
Statendam Circle Hawaii Cruise 11/25/02 to 12/10/02 - San Diego/San Diego
A bit about us. The three of us, Mom, my sister Gail and I, try to cruise together at least once a year. We sailed on the Zaandam last year and made many wonderful friends among the crew, including an officer and his wife (Bob and Jan). We kept in touch through email and when I wrote to let them know we were sailing on the Statendam to Hawaii and how disappointed we were that we weren't sailing with them on the Zaandam again, I received a reply that they were on the Statendam, and couldn't wait to see us!
Precruise We flew to San Diego a couple of days early and stayed at the U.S. Grant for a great rate we got on- line. It was a wonderful place to stay, and the service was beyond belief. As Wyndham by Request members we were upgraded to a Petite Suite. What a way to start a vacation! We had a so-so dinner the first night in the Gaslamp area; our favorite restaurant had changed in the three years since we'deaten there. The next night the hotel was gracious enough to provide transportation for us to The Old Town Mexican Cafe - what a great dinner. They have the best handmade tortillas I've ever eaten!! On advice from a CruiseCritic board member who lives in San Diego we sought out the Bistro St. Tropez for breakfast on Sunday and it was so good we dashed over Monday morning for croissants to go with our coffee as we re-packed and got ready to head to the ship. (Thanks Cauvet!)
Embarkation/First Night Aboard I think we left for the ship around 12:00 - 12:30 and once again the hotel provided a van to take us to the pier. Embarkation was fairly quick and easy. There was a guy in front of us berating the desk agent because he hadn't been told they had to fill out the embarkation form that came in his HAL packet, arguing that "someone should have called us and told us." Unfortunately we would run into this "delightful" person several times during our cruise. When it was our turn to check in we were informed that we had been moved from Suite 30 (which we had specifically selected) to 28. Strange (but an explanation is forthcoming). We didn't have to wait long before they started boarding and we were escorted to our cabin. We had upgraded from a mini-suite to a suite several months earlier as a surprise for mom, and keeping that secret had been next to unbearable. She was thrilled when the attendant opened the door to our suite. The complimentary bottle of champagne was there on ice, along with a large basket of fruit and an invitation to a cocktail reception that evening in the Neptune Lounge. We found our table seating card and noted that we were at a table for 10 instead of a table for 8 as we'd requested. We thought maybe our TA had made a mistake, but we were in for fun-filled surprise.
We went up to the Lido for a bite of lunch, checked out our new home for the next 15 days and went back to the room to find that part of our luggage had already arrived. Our room steward met us in the hallway and introduced himself as "Jay - as in Toronto Blue" (it took me a couple of minutes to make the connection - Toronto Blue Jays - got it). We attended the lifeboat drill, where Mr. "delightful" arrived smoking a cigar with drink in hand. We then went to find Jan and went to the Navigation deck for sailaway. We immediately recognized our wine steward, Maverick, from the Zaandam, and he informed us that there were quite a few crew members on board the Statendam who had been on the Zaandam with us, including one of our favorite lounge servers, Jimmy. We were to discover later that word went out among the crew quickly that we were anxious to find out where Jimmy was working and for several days they were checking with us to make sure we'd connected. It got rather chilly on deck so we returned to our cabin shortly after the ship pulled away from the pier and freshened up for the reception in the Neptune Lounge.
The new Neptune Lounge is a very comfortable room staffed by two of the nicest Concierges, Wenney and Sheryll. The hotel manager, Frits Gehner, introduced himself and explained that we had been moved from Suite 30 to Suite 28 as they had discovered that the pull out sofa in 30 was not in very good condition, and with three of us in the suite they knew the sofa bed would be used (mystery explained). One of those HAL touches that are unique and very much appreciated. If anyone has any suite/Neptune Lounge questions, I'll be happy to try and answer them.
Went to dinner the first night and there were two couples and a single guy at the table. The couples were really nice, but the single guy . . . . Gail had the misfortune of sitting beside him and she said she figured he last bathed and changed clothes sometime in 1999. During dinner, he would blow his nose in his napkin and then set it on the table at the top of his plate!!! I'm not sure how we made it through dinner, but as soon as we were done we made an appointment to see the headwaiter the next day, a first for us - we've never even thought of changing tables before. (During dinner the Captain announced that we had turned around and were returning to San Diego for a medical emergency.)
The Surprise When we went to change our table assignment we were informed that it would stay the same and that they would simply move our "special" dinner table companion. When we said that didn't seem fair and that we didn't mind moving, the headwaiter told us we "MUST remain at that table." Totally confused by now we said ok, and went to meet our friend Jan for lunch. When we relayed the story she burst out laughing and said they couldn't keep "the surprise" a secret any longer. When they found out we were going to be on board, they had gotten permission to have dinner at our table with us on formal nights (the only night officers can eat in the dining room). That's why the larger table and why we "must remain" at that table. So what started out to be a really crummy experience turned into a great time - the remaining tablemates were so much fun (hi, Jill, Ave, Pam and Frank) and we got to spend even more time with Bob and Jan.
Ok, at this rate this will turn into a novel so, rather than do a day-by day dissertation for fifteen days here's the short version. This was one of those de-stress and unwind vacations, so we really didn't do a whole lot. We had mostly cloudy skies for all but two of our 15 days which made it feel a little cooler than it actually was.
The Norwalk Virus precautions taken did make this cruise a little different; no shaking hands (at least not till the last couple of days), no salt/pepper shakers, no bread baskets, no taco bar (my favorite lunch) and everything, everywhere, was served to you.
We usually sign up for the slot tournaments on board (lots of fun and excitement) and this year Gail won one of the two slot tournaments. Watching her get handed $500 in cash was really fun, and the casino staff, especially Wayne, were great.
We snorkeled in Hilo and Lahina, and the Sea Adventure Snorkel tour we booked through the ship in Lahina was incredible. If anyone has ever wanted to learn to snorkel this is the place to do it. My mom had never snorkeled before and had the best experience ever. They took great care in selecting the proper equipment for everyone and/or making sure your equipment was ok. Once at the snorkel site they took a float board out and put your fins on you while you floated holding on to the board. Then, the novice snorkelers could hang on to it, till they were comfortable or for the duration of the snorkel if they wanted. One of the guides would point out the sea life and even dove down and brought a sea urchin up so those "sticking close" had a great experience. It was a two location snorkel and they told us that the second area, where the sea turtles were, was deeper and rougher and not to feel pressured to do it if you weren't comfortable. There were several who opted not to do the second snorkel, but snorkeling with the sea turtles was a once in a lifetime experience. I lost count of the number of turtles we saw.
Cruising down the Napali coastline was incredibly beautiful; we spent the afternoon on the veranda taking in the magnificent scenery and snapping pictures like crazy.
One of the highlights of the cruise was sailing past the lava flow at night. I expected it to be something to see but I really wasn't prepared for the sights that awaited us. The lava flow was truly spectacular as it poured into the ocean, causing huge clouds of steam and occasional firework-type lava showers. In fact, listening to the other passengers "ohh" and "ahhh" reminded me of being at Disneyland during their firework displays.
I don't remember what night it was, (perhaps the night we left Kona?) but we heard this very loud clanking/hammering noise that lasted for about 5 minutes. The next day we found out that the port side stabilizer had gone out. We had fairly calm seas on the return to San Diego so we really didn't feel any effects from it being out.
The Crew/Staff This had to be one of the greatest crews we've sailed with. With few exceptions (i.e., the tour desk, the cruise director, and our waiter) everyone went out of their way to make sure people were having a good time and were taken care of. The servers in the Lido on the port side were an absolute delight. They somehow found out our names and when all three of us didn't show up at the same time they'd ask "where's ***?" Or, if we were trying to eat light and didn't want any of the entrees the server would offer to fix us an egg, simply trying to find something he thought we'd like. The coffee server, Buddy, realized that Gail and I take a "little coffee with our cream" and had our coffee ready and fixed perfectly by the time we reached the end of the line every morning. We laughed that we hated missing breakfast because of the greetings and smiles (not to mention perfect coffee) that we'd miss.
I have to relay a couple of stories here that, to me, typify the HAL crew. We ordered appetizers delivered to our cabin one evening for a small get together. After the waiter delivered and set up our order he turned to Gail and I and said "Excuse me. I hope I do not offend you, but could you please tell me where you got your dresses? (It was Hawaiian casual night). I would love to get ones just like them for my mother." After being assured we weren't offended, he took out a pad and pen and wrote down all the details we could give him. Then, when a different waiter came to pick up the trays he looked at the remaining chicken wings, turned to Gail and said "Oh my, I thought you were a vegetarian." What makes this so amazing is that we had never seen this waiter before - we still can't figure out how he knew Gail was a vegetarian.
Our dining room waiter, however, was probably one of the worst we've had on a cruise. Our tablemates were so much fun that most of his ineptness (for lack of a better word) wasn't a problem.
Food/Misc. Lobster night was really the only major disappointment I had food-wise. Everyone who ordered lobster at our table got lobster that was very underdone. By the time our waiter returned no one was in the mood to try and return it, nor did he ever ask why no one had eaten more than one bite. All the other seafood I had was very good to excellent.
The separate vegetarian menu was not as large or varied as Gail remembered from the Zaandam and it contained very few pasta dishes. Gail really liked the spring rolls and ordered them almost nightly as her appetizer. There were several nights, however, that her appetizer wasn't delivered until entrees were served or the spring rolls included meat/seafood (despite ordering from the vegetarian menu the evening prior).
I still love the bread, cold soups, and fettuccini puntenesca (sp?) (although it now contains meat). If you love HAL's famous bread pudding try the chocolate bread pudding, it's even better! We missed having iced tea/lemonade served on the lido deck. I'm not sure if this wasn't done as part of the virus precautions or if HAL has discontinued this practice (sure hope it's the former not the latter, as that was always such a special treat).
We called down and ordered coffee (and sometimes croissants) from room service every morning, and it was always delivered within a few minutes (except for the last morning when room service took about 45 minutes) by a smiling, polite steward. The gentleman who took our order every morning was usually fun to talk with as he made suggestions on what he thought we should have with our coffee.
I love sailing on a ship where I'm not begged for excellent ratings (I absolutely hate that), or told who and how much to tip. With such great service everywhere tipping was a pleasure (but boy does it add up when you cruise for 15 days and there are so many who gave great service LOL). We did find out that tips in the various lounges are pooled between all the stewards. (As an aside, HAL is NOT a "no tipping" cruise line. Tips are not REQUIRED, i.e. automatically added to your bill, even for bar drinks, but they are certainly welcomed and should be extended for good service.) The HAL ambiance works well for us and we can't wait to book our next cruise (I'm hoping I see Half Moon Cay in our future). I'll be glad to try and answer any questions anyone may have. Happy sailing!
I went on the Statendam 10-3-02 from Vancouver to San Diego. This is my 15th cruise and 2nd with Holland America. Not all old people go on Holland America. Im 23 yeas old and I went on it and enjoyed my self. This was the most interesting time. As the ship left dry dock it was stuck by a barge which damage the stern of the ship which we were late leaving 13 hrs because they were fixing the problem. It was really cool watching them fix the problem. Holland America never really said sorry for the delay and did not really tell us what was going on. Then during the cruise we lost one Generator so that cut our speed in half. We came in a day late into San Diego, but I didn't mind because we got an extra day for free. It's just Holland America did not tell you what was going on and never said sorry. I felt bad because the next cruise was going to Hawaii and missed two ports because of us being so late. One bad thing was they were making alounge into an alternative dinning room so they were working on that all night.
The Statendam was a very clean ship and the crew were very nice. You will never see your cabin Stewart's. Most of the crew are very shy and quite, but will give you great service. The food is ok. It depends on what you like. For me I like pastas, but my brother and my dad like steaks which they have more of. Their food is a bigger quantity compared to other cruise lines. You don't need two meals at dinner time. The thing that I do not like is that at the Lido deck buffet they serve you. I like getting my own things because I may want more of this and less of that. Also, sometimes they don't under stand you. You may ask for potatoes and you will get vegetables. Also, they need to have more items for breakfast seems like they have the same food every day. The omelets are very good, so I would get that. At lunch you can have any sandwich made. The chicken with cheese was really good. The ice cream use to be very good, but they change it and now its terrible. I was so mad that they change their ice cream.
One of the problems for this cruise was that most of the crew were new and were still learning. For room service you could not under stand them and I asked for a cesser salad and they asked me what kind of salad dressing do I want on it. So the service was kinda bad, but they were very nice.
Holland America is more like the old style cruising so you will see more woods around the ship and lots of flowers. The entertainment was better this time for us you won't have great entertainment like Royal Caribbean. Traveling on Holland America is very different. You may like it or you may not. I like princess more over Holland America just because they have more pastas and you can serve your self at Lido deck. But I like the crew better on Holland America and the ships are much smaller than other cruise lines. Their cabins seem to be a lot bigger than other cruise lines.
One more thing. You don't need to tip because Holland America pays thier employees very well. Unlike other cruise lines depends on your tips to pay their employees. But, for us if we got awesome serves we would give some extra money. Its all up to you if you want to tip. We gave our waiter $20 for the 3 of us. Just a little extra.
Over all you will like it. Any cruise is nice. Just relax and enjoy the cruise. Look out for some whales. We saw 4 whales breach.
The Statendam is a great ship, but I don't think Holland America is a 5 star cruise line like they say. But, I would continue to sail on them.
Have a great time cruising.
This was our sixth cruise with Holland America and our second cruise aboard the Statendam & first cruise to the Mexican Riviera. The cruise director, Susan Wood, was outstanding and the entertainment excellent. Our accommodations, category "D" (outside cabin with full bath/shower) were midship and also excellent.
I do have some observations to offer. The printed port information handed out really only focuses on shopping and the recommended shops. Information about places to walk to from the pier or sights to see isn't provided. The only way to attempt to find out what is worth seeing is by looking at the shore excursions sign-up flyers. The shore excursions are very pricey and from past experience one can do far better by getting off the ship & going with a local driver. The ship spent two long days at Acapulco & Puerto Vallarta, two of the worst ports to visit, in my opinion. We only had three hours in Zihuatenjo, one of the most delightful ports of call. Sailing past Cabo San Lucas was memorable, but the windows in the public rooms were so dirty that one had difficulty seeing through them. Theship had just returned from a 15-day cruise to Hawaii and the seas, I understand, were quite rough - no doubt contributing to the salt spray on the windows.
The food was very good and the menus generally featured a variety of appealing dishes. Dinner service is very efficient, but breakfast service during the open seating in the Rotterdam Dining Room is a frustrating experience. Most mornings, breakfast orders didn't arrive as requested, items were forgotten and the servers who were supposed to pour coffee were very inattentive.
Ice cream is available, but never immediately after the show for the first sitting. If your show ends at 9:30 p.m., be prepared to wait until 11:15 p.m. for the ice cream bar to open. On prior cruises, the ice cream bar featured some excellent fresh berries to garnish one's ice cream. Now the toppings are all the standard syrups, etc., but the fresh berries were no where to be found.
The cost of wine is very high ($5 bottles of wine sold at a substantial triple cost mark-up. A six-bottle package for a 10-day cruise costs $115, with more expensive wines available for a higher package amount -- $159. Beverages, both alcoholic & mocktails, are at least $3.75 per drink.
On prior cruises with Holland America, we were able to get espresso by ourselves 24-hours a day. Now a member of the bar staff (still not charge) operates the espresso/Cappuccino machines but only available during limited daytime hours in the Java Cafe near the movie theater.
The ship's photographers were not as intrusive as on prior cruises and graciously took "no" for an answer. The price of photos has escalated to outrageous prices - e.g., $19.95 for one photo. Now they even sell a video of "your" cruise for $34.95.
We went to several movies shown at varying times and some were very poor choices indeed (including a Kung Foo type film, "The One," & "Zoolander" selected for showing on days at sea). Whoever plans the films and selects when they will be shown is clueless about what mature audiences enjoy seeing. There were fewer than 10 children on this cruise, which was fully booked.
On a scale of 1-10, I would rate this cruise an 8!
My wife and I decided that January and February are ideal months to get out of the Midwest weather. Since we were visiting kids in California in January, we decided to take a Mexican Riviera cruise and try a new cruise line, Holland America.. The Statendam was leaving from San Diego on January 7, 2002, and returning to San Diego on January 17. As long as we were trying out new things, we decided to book a guaranteed inside and see what happened. This was our sixth cruise. The others have been on Royal Caribbean and Princess. We have cruised the Caribbean, been to Alaska and sailed through the Panama Canal. We booked our own airline reservations.
In San Diego the cruise terminal is in close proximity to the airport making transfer very easy. No cabin had been assigned when our cruise documents arrived so we eagerly anticipated our cabin assignment. Before checking our baggage at the ship, we learned that we were assigned Cabin 303, a six category upgrade from inside to outside albeit with an obstructed view cabin.
In fairness to Holland America, we arrived at the beginning of embarkation whichwas part of the reason for the long lines waiting to check in. However, the embarkation process for Holland America was not nearly as smooth, organized or efficient as either Princess or Royal Caribbean. First there was the line to check-in. This was to check paper work and identification. They do not deal with the opening of onboard accounts at the check-in. Then you have to wait to be processed through security. Then there was a small wait for photographs to be taken. Then you have to wait to have someone take you to your cabin. It seems to me that are too many steps with all too much waiting.
Apparently, it was the cabin steward's responsibility to collect luggage from some location and take it to the passengers' cabins. The plan does not work very well. The cabin steward was attempting to meet the passengers and to handle their immediate requests while attempting to locate luggage and distribute it to the cabins. As you can imagine this was a lengthy process. Much longer than it takes on other cruise lines.
The ship and our room
The ship was quite nice. The Rotterdam dining room is at the rear of the ship. It is on two levels with an open middle area having two curving staircases linking the floors. It is very nice! There are plenty of quiet hide away places for relaxing, reading or conversing throughout the ship. The Van Gogh show lounge is lovely! It has a balcony and is designed for performances. The Lido dining room and the main pool are on the same level. The arrangement is good. The Statendam has a retractable roof over the pool which was particularly useful on this cruise as the temperature on the northern portion of the cruise was a bit cool for swimming outside but perfect with the roof closed. Many folks rave about the Crow's Nest lounge. It is located at the uppermost reaches of the ship with a panoramic view. The view was great but the furnishings just do not go with the rest of the ship. Service was terrible. This was not one of my favorite areas.
To the credit of Holland America, the lovely art was subtly highlighted throughout the ship. Princess has art that is hidden by the second rate auction art on easels and leaned against it. There is a small amount of art auction merchandise displayed on the Statendam but it does not overwhelm the resident art.
Our room was located on the Lower Promenade deck, Cabin 303. The room had a window which looked out on the main outside deck. The view beyond was fully obstructed by support beams for the upper levels. Another problem with 303 is that it is located in proximity to forward areas where storage and equipment is located. Consequently, there was quite a bit of residual noise and there was no sleeping when anchors where dropped or holding lines where drawn up.
The room has the standard bedding arrangement (modified queen when put together or twin beds). It also has a small couch with a table and a desk with chair. As advertised, Holland America has the largest (but by no means large) standard rooms in the industry. The suitcases fit under the bed and there was ample closet and drawer space for clothing. Each room has a television with limited programing. There was a safe in the closet. There was no refrigerator. The bathroom has a small bathtub/shower combination. The commode is poorly located at an angle toward the tub making it uncomfortable for a large person. A hair dryer is located in the bathroom that probably would not do the job for a person with lots of hair. There are loads of shelves in the bathroom.
The room was clean but well worn. It fact, it was so worn that it bordered on shabby. The track holding the shower curtain had been damaged and it allowed one or two curtain holders to repeatedly fall out. A leak developed behind a wall in the bathroom and two of the wall tiles fell off and were not repaired. One of the plastic trays in the shelf unit in the bathroom was missing. There was a curtain which screens the sleeping area from the rest of the cabin. The ends of the curtains could no longer be hooked and were hanging loose. There are two wing curtains which partially come out into the room for decorative purposes. The ends no longer could be hooked and they were hanging. The bed skirt had been torn loose from one side of the bed and was hanging ready to trip the unwary. We repeatedly tucked it under the mattress (as did the cabin steward) but it kept coming out. Not exactly what you would expect from the Holland America line.
There is a laundry room on each floor and they are not identical. Some are larger than others. They are really nice. They are clean and user friendly. Two dollars gets you a load of wash, the use of a dryer and the laundry detergent. There is an ironing board and an iron. There facilities were a whole lot better than those on the Princess!
A final word on the overall condition of the ship. Any one of the problems that I observed could be written off to wear and tear. My concern is the number of these problems. There was a window that was broken in an exterior door on the Lower Promenade deck. It was broken when we boarded the ship and it remained broken throughout the cruise. My question is when will it be fixed? There certainly was more than enough opportunity to fix it during the 10 days we were on board. Two of our dinner companions, Marv and Edy were sitting on deck chairs on the Lower Promenade deck when black oily liquid came down from above covering them and their belongings. No one came to their assistance and they had to go to the front desk to get any assistance. The staff offered to clean their clothing but what about the ruined book and other belongings? In one port I observed the exterior of the ship being maintained. It was obvious to anyone looking that the exterior of the ship badly needed it. This is totally unlike Princess which has the crew working on the exterior at every port. There seemed to be a lack of pride or investment by the crew in keeping the ship in the best condition possible. Rather when they were performing maintenance it was in a half-hearted manner.
The ship has a regular movie theatre with theatre type seating. Free popcorn is offered for the movies and there was a pretty good variety of movies available. Drinks will cost you. Located across from the theatre is the Java Cafe where you can get a free coffee, expresso, or cappucino. The only problem with the Java Cafe is that the person operating the cafe also must pop the popcorn, bag the popcorn, serve the popcorn, and sell the drinks in addition to making the coffee. Furthermore, it is likely that you are going to have to wait behind one to three staff members of the ship waiting to order coffee.
The casino is small but adequate. In is interesting that you can have chits placed on your shipboard account for chips each day without a surcharge as is taken by other cruise lines. Blackjack, craps, roulette, Caribbean stud and slots are available.
There is a nice variety of shops with some good prices.
The Rotterdam dining room is open for breakfast, lunch and dinner. I was of the impression that the staff was not thrilled that anyone showed up for breakfast or lunch. The breakfast menu can best be described as ordinary. It never changed during the ten days of our cruise. The lunch menu was only marginally better than the breakfast menu. I would describe it as uninspired. The service was only slightly better than non-existent. It did not take me long to decide that cold, heavy pancakes where not my idea of an attractive breakfast. Even though my wife likes to be waited on when at a restaurant, we had the majority of our lunches and breakfasts in the Lido dining area. There was a better variety of food, it was warmer, and, since you serve yourself, the service was much better. As compared to the Horizon Court on Princess, I found the Lido much better. However, the hours of the Lido where quite limited unlike the hours of the Horizon Court.
Dinner in the Rotterdam, as far as the food is concerned, was quite good except for two courses which were consistently disappointing: the salads and the desserts. I wasn't very fond of the beef courses but that may be my taste. Each night the supervisor prepared a dessert. And each night he would begin the preparation and then leave it cook. As you might imagine, such inattention does not make for haute cuisine. Let me say that the ice cream was very good.
Somewhere in the hierarchy of Holland America (or the Carnival Corporation) there is a budding accountant who thought that a good way of cutting costs was to reduce the dining room staff. This brilliant move probably looked good on the books but the person who developed the policy never had to sit through 10 nights of excruciatingly slow dinners! Now I ask you, isn't eating dinner one of the events that makes cruising special? Why would you tamper with one of the foundations for your business? Well, they have done it! One table steward for way too many tables. There are assistant table stewards but I'll be damned if I could figure out what they were doing. We saw ours maybe 5 times during the entire cruise that is not 5 nights but 5 times. During our 10 day cruise our table was unable to make a single after dinner show on time. The dinner always took more than two hours and often times it took two and half hours because of the limited number of table stewards and assistant table stewards. Our table steward had virtually no help. The help which the supervisor offered was just slightly more than nothing. One couple sitting at our table has been on 13 HAL cruises and they were shocked by the service.
Speaking of table companions, we could not have done better. There were two other couples at our table and they were wonderful. If it were not for them, I am afraid that the dinner debacle might have soured our entire cruise. It did not and we have Bernie and Ruth and Marv and Edy to thank for that!
An alternative to the Rotterdam dining room is the Lido. An observation or two is in order concerning the Lido. It was a rare occasion to observe any steward carrying a pitcher to refill coffee or iced tea in the Lido area. This was not for a lack of stewards as they were regularly huddled in groups of two and three chattering away. During these chats they were totally oblivious to the needs of the passengers and I never once saw them reprimanded by a superior. I watched one elderly woman spill her drink on the table and become very upset as she tried to contain the liquid. The three stewards close to her stopped talking to watch the event. Not one offered to help while the surrounding passengers took their napkins and assisted her.
The clustering of stewards was not an isolated incident. They frequently left tables unbused. Passengers had to mill around looking for a clean, open table. It was painful to watch senior citizens trying to walk with a tray on a moving ship looking for an open table while the stewards watched. This simply does not happen on other lines. The stewards would assist those having difficulty but I never saw them help anyone on the Statendam.
The Lido is apparently the dining room for the staff of the ship. One of the reasons the passengers mill around for tables at lunch is that many of the tables are occupied by the staff. It is one thing to wait in line with the rest of the passengers. It is quite another thing to wait in line behind several staff members.
There are some really good things in the Lido. For breakfast they have freshly squeezed orange juice (yes, you can watch them squeeze the oranges) and an omelette station. There is a continental breakfast line if you are not looking for something hot. At lunch there is a sandwich station, a dessert station, and an ice cream station. The pizza in the Lido was really quite good. Just outside of the Lido there is a hamburger, hotdog, sausage grill and a taco/nacho station.
There is no alternative dining room on the Statendam.
Ar Nes, our cabin steward was great. He was attentive and always ready to be of assistance. I mention the problems with the room but they seemed to be coming from higher up rather than from a lack of attention by Ar Nes.
Frequently overlooked are the front desk personnel. They were as good as any I have encountered. They were always pleasant, efficient, and thorough. Rarely was there ever a line at the front desk.
We felt sorry for our table steward Dibia. Our poor dining experience had little to do with him and a lot to do with terrible corporate decisions. He worked very hard but was unable to keep up with the demands placed on him. I have never seen a single person responsible for tables on any of my five previous cruises.
Excursions seem to be an after thought on the Statendam. You could book excursions by dropping a form in a box. However, if you wanted assistance then you had to be present for the limited time the excursion window was open. We only booked one excursion and dropped the form in the box. I did want to speak with the excursion staff about one or two of the ports but the window was never open when I thought of a question. As an alternative to the excursion desk, passengers can often get their questions answered by the shopping and excursions guide. Unfortunately, this service seems to have been contracted out by Holland America. The shopping and excursions guide was totally worthless for anything other than information about the recommended stores. In fact, she knew nothing about the sites in the area other than what was included on her preprinted form.
Many cruisers talk about booking excursions independently. If you are considering a tour of a town or a tourist site that carries no risk and can be easily reached by taxi, you may want to consider touring independently. Alternatively, if the tour is unusual or runs the risk of delay or physical injury, you should consider booking with the cruise line. If something goes wrong, and you are on a cruise line excursion, the cruise line is responsible for working it out. If you are on an independent tour and something goes wrong you are on your own. However, when the risk is minimal or non-existent, the cruise line excursion will cost you more; it will be less personal; and, the delays will be exasperating. We learned that when the situation is right we can see more of what we want to see in less time with a lot less aggravation at a much better price by touring independently. I will go through our excursions as I cover each port.
Rusty Martin was the Cruise Director. His jokes were either extremely lame or quite dated. The activities were not well advertised and I would rank him at the bottom of the Cruise Directors I have experienced.
I do not think the entertainment on Holland America changes nearly as frequently as on other lines. Our table companions told us how many times the various programs had been presented on their 13 cruises. Unfortunately, the service at dinner was so bad that we did not make a single after dinner show on time. From what we saw the entertainment appeared to be okay. Some nights were better than others but that is to be expected.
Cabo San Lucas
Prior to the cruise, we booked a fishing trip with George and Mary Landrum of Fly Hooker Sportfishing (www.flyhooker.com). They were great. We were met at the end of the tender pier. The boat was ready to go. We had arranged for lunch and bait to be on board to maximize our fishing time. The boat crew was knowledgeable and helpful. Best of all, they located dorado and we landed 8 ranging from thirty to forty pounds. At the end of the trip, George and Mary were there to help us back on the tender. They run a good business and I would recommend them.
Cabo San Lucas is a place I had heard much about but I was not that impressed with the place. From what I saw, if you have seen the picture of the rocks at Cabo you have seen Cabo.
We were met by friends in Mazatlan who gave us a private tour of the city. The terminal is located in a commercial port and, consequently, is not very attractive. There is an extensive mercado which we found to be very interesting especially with a person to explain and communicate for us. We are forever indebted to Isaac and Bibi for showing us their home.
We had been to Acapulco previously and knew that we could tour on our own. You should always determine the rate up front and be sure you do not let them side track you for special deals at merchants that are family or friends. We caught a cab in downtown traffic and it was not a location to negotiate rates. We let him take us to some shops which we actually enjoyed. However, at the end of the "tour" he wanted $40.00 which was at least double what he should have been paid for the ride. After arguing for a short time, I paid and took it as a lesson to follow my own advice. Out of 5 cabs we used, he was the only one to rip us off.
We did some shopping. Jewelry bargains can be found in Acapulco. You have to bargain hard for them. You have to be able to walk away. But if you can bargain as hard as the merchants, there are some great deals available.
We arranged the Shotover Boat Adventure on our own. Even at our age we enjoyed the daredevil antics with the jet propelled boat. The Shotover Boat Adventure is located quite a way out of town. It was an interesting ride and would have been more pleasant had the company used a respectable vehicle to get us from town to the river and back. They used a vehicle which had been used as the Popemobile when the Pope visited Mexico City. I swear it could not go over 30 mph! The tour guide who informed me of the origins of the vehicle said that the owners never realized that the Popemobile was specially geared for going very, very slow as there is no need for the Pope to speed along. The vehicle lost speed going up hill (and there were a lot of hills) to the point that it was doing well under 5 mph as it approached the crest of the hill! I told the tour guide that the owners seriously needed to replace the vehicle. Do not let the Popemobile dissuade you from experiencing this adventure. Everyone who went on it, enjoyed it. You do get wet so dress accordingly.
We got back to Acapulco in time for the first of the three nightly exhibitions by the cliff divers. We viewed the afternoon performance on our last visit. I thought the night exhibition might involve torches but it does not. The area is completely illuminated and I do not think the night exhibition was nearly as good as the afternoon exhibition. My speculation is that the afternoon exhibition is for the cruise ship passengers and they really put on a show for the tips from the vacationers. The night show was primarily attended by Mexican citizens and I suspect the tips are not as munificent.
Acapulco is very nice and it is an interesting city. It is a big city with big city amenities including big time night life. It has a beautiful view; gorgeous resorts; plenty of activities; and, is tourist friendly.
The only bad weather we had occurred during our visit to Zihuatanejo. The skies opened and it poured. Zihuatanejo is located six miles down the coast from Ixtapa. It is a tender port. Whether is was the rain or the fact that it was Sunday or a combination of both, there was not much activity. As it rained the police closed the streets to traffic because there was 6 to 8 inches of rain overflowing them. Nevertheless, my wife and I together with Edy and Marv braved the elements and had a really good time walking around the market area. Marv decided there was really only one supplier since every stall had the same variety of the various items.
It appears that the majority of the shore excursions in Puerto Vallarta are contracted by Holland America through Vallarta-Adventures. These excursions can all be booked directly with Vallarta-Adventures without paying the toke for Holland-America's excursion office. However, we wanted to do the San Sebastian flight seeing adventure and we followed our own rule (small plane flying into mountain country - possibility of problems and the consequences of those problems was high enough to warrant booking through the excursion office). There were 13 on the tour but only four from the Statendam. What a great tour! We flew out of Puerto for 25 minutes into the Sierra Madre mountains. The plane landed on a gravel landing strip outside of San Sebastian. A truck with benches in the back took us a short distance to the La Quinta coffee plantation where we had a tour of a cottage operation of coffee production. The coffee beans are grown organically, then roasted on the premises. It has only been in the last couple of years that they have acquired an automatic roaster. Prior to that the beans were roasted over a fire pit and hand turned during the roasting process. They are then placed in plastic bags and sealed over a burning candle. Amazing! The coffee was quite good.
From La Quinta we walked over cobblestone streets into town. Our guide was outstanding and very informative not only with respect to the history of the town but its customs as well. San Sebastian has been in existence since the 1600s and has served as a mining community. Now most of the working age adults work outside of town returning either in the evening or on weekends. The church is magnificent. We ate a native lunch at the hacienda. It was very good. After lunch we toured the buildings surrounding the square and loaded back up on the vehicle for our return to the landing strip. It was truly a super tour.
Two days at sea and we arrived in San Diego. On the eighth night of our cruise we were awakened by raucous activity somewhere in proximity to our cabin. If you have ever been awakened in a hotel or motel by loud guests that is exactly what was happening to the sound of music. Investigation by me determined that the crew was having a party which was not clandestine since every staff and crew member I spoke to knew about it. The problem was that the party occurred in the passenger area! Specifically, the fire doors to the passenger hallway in the forward lower promenade deck were closed to screen the activities and noise of the party. The party wound up on the forward Lower Promenade deck and the forward Promenade deck both inside and outside. The crew ran up and down the passenger hallways and in the forward areas between decks talking, singing, and playing music. It was great fun except for the fact that passengers were not invited and it occurred at 2:00 a.m.! It took two phones calls to security through the main desk to get things quieted down. I realize that hotels and motels are only somewhat accountable for their guests but these were not guests, these were staff and crew. It is even more aggravating to know that the officers of the ship were aware that the party was planned and permitted it to happen!
The final assault to my sensibilities occurred on the final day at sea. A poor woman passenger suffered a heart attack and had to be transported off the ship. This was done by United States Coast Guard air evacuation using a helicopter and a litter which was lifted from the deck of the ship. Not wanting to waste the opportunity to make another dollar, the photographers from the ship were standing by to memorialize this woman's tragedy. That evening, and for the rest of the cruise, any passenger wanting photographs of this unfortunate woman being lifted off the deck of the ship by helicopter could purchase copies in the photo gallery with the charges added to their ship board account!
Debarkation was delayed an hour by one individual who refused to respond to countless pages to report to immigration. Once that problem was resolved debarkation seemed to move relatively smoothly.
The experience on one ship does not necessarily reflect the quality of the entire cruise line. However, with recent problems on the Rotterdam, the myriad of problems being experienced on the Noordam and my experience on the Statendam, the question has to be asked, what is going on with Holland America? Is the influence of corporate Carnival behind these problems? I will not say that I would never sail Holland America again. I will say that after having read and heard so much about the elegance, the service and the stature of Holland America that I was shocked by what I encountered. When you spend as much money as you do on a cruise and take hard earned vacation time you expect the experience to be something very special. Holland America has forgotten this and it was a major disappointment.
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This was my 34th cruise, 4th with Holland America. I began cruising in 1980 and still think it is a wonderful way to vacation, although as this review indicates, I feel that the cruising experience has deteriorated in recent years probably due to financial considerations.
I purchased the H/A transfer from Los Angeles to San Diego for $25. A large coach picked me up at a shopping center just a few blocks from my home. It stopped at 3 other locations on the way down, and only a total of 11 passengers were transported on this coach. Other coaches served other areas in Southern California. We arrived at the ship¹s terminal just as they began the embarkation process which went rather slowly. I suppose the increased security was partially responsible for this.
I had a standard outside cabin with a large picture window and twin beds that converted into a queen (although my queen at home is larger--there must be a cruise ship queen size that¹s smaller than the standard queen.) The cabin also contained a couch, chair and desk, cocktail table, 2 bedside tables, and a small screen TV. The carpets werewell worn and faded. A bowl of fresh fruit was provided daily. Holland America¹s standard cabins are much roomier than other cruise line¹s that I¹ve experienced. The bathroom contained a full bathtub/shower combination. Bathroom storage shelves were minimal, however. Closet space and drawer storage was adequate. There was a small safe in one closet.
The first lifeboat drill was given before sailing and another one a week later in Hawaii. By the way, a couple from my dining table didn¹t go to either of them and nobody followed up to see where they were or why they didn¹t participate, even though attendance was taken at the drills.
The best thing about this cruise is the itinerary. 4 wonderful days at sea going to Hawaii, 5 days visiting the Islands, then 4 more sea days on the way back to California. (If you¹re counting, the departure day and arrival day make up the 15-day cruise.)
Each port had several shore excursions available for purchase aboard ship and I chose a 1/2 day one at each stop. They were all smoothly operated with good guides. Except at Hilo and Kauai, the ship was close to the local life and you could just walk off the ship and be in the middle of things. One excursion I really enjoyed was the Sugar Plantation Steam Train ride at Lahaina. Surprisingly, it was cheaper to buy the excursion on the ship than to walk up to the ticket office at the train station and pay for it. The ship excursion also included a shuttle ride to the train station. Each port also had free shuttles to shopping areas if they weren¹t close to the ship.
On a couple of the excursions that I took, the coaches had extra rows of seats squeezed into the standard sized coach making leg room next to nothing. I¹m 6¹ 2² and had to sit sideways with my legs in the aisle. When I asked the bus driver about this arrangement, he replied that the coaches were made to accommodate their Asian visitors who are generally smaller. When I asked the shore excursion representative on the ship why they booked these coaches for their passengers, she replied that they just contracted with local providers who chose the transportation. So much for caring about passenger comfort!
The major disappointment with Holland America on this cruise, however, was in the dining room. They have evidently severely cut back on the service staff and have not provided adequate training for those who remain. To cite a few examples: slow service, mixed up orders, courses not delivered at all, slow service, lack of table preparation (no sugar or salt/pepper shakers), slow service, necessary silverware not provided. Did I mention SLOW service? Our 2 waiters were pleasant young men who tried their best, but were overwhelmed by the task of waiting on the several tables they were assigned. Often other tables had finished dessert and were leaving the dining room and our table hadn¹t even received the entree yet. We often had to ask for pepper, or salt, or sugar, etc. They never seemed to see that someone needed a fork for their dessert--it had to be asked for. The dining room Captain was no help other that to occasionally fill up a water glass. If you expect the bread crumbs to be brushed up between courses you better bring your own brush and tray. Our table often looked like a bird feeding station by the end of the meal.
I tried eating breakfast and lunch in the dining room, but the service was slow, slow, slow. It was 10 to 15 minutes before I was handed a menu, then another 10 to 15 minutes before any food arrived, etc. I think they are trying to save money by encouraging people to eat in the Lido Cafe (read cafeteria) where the service staff is minimal.
If you¹re watching your salt intake, you¹d better pre-order a salt free menu as the ship¹s chef seems to love the salt shaker. Nearly everything was too salty. I quit ordering soup as it was always over salted. Many of the roasted meats must have been prepared with a salted crust, as they too were often too salty.
The salads were sometimes served with wilted lettuce.
Anything positive about this ship? YES!
Free freshly popped popcorn served in the movie theater. Yes, the ship has a movie theater showing a selection of movies 3 times a day. Of course, the cabin TV has movie channels as well. But who wants to watch a movie on those tiny TV screens?
The ship has a mid-level full wrap-around teak promenade deck with comfortable wooden deck chairs. It¹s wide enough for the chairs and walkers who enjoy strolling or power walking.
The Java Bar just off the atrium is open all day and offers free coffees, expresso, cappuccino, and cookies. Yes, I said free. Most other cruise lines charge for specialty coffees. There is also a free ice cream bar open all afternoon in the Lido.
The production shows were very good with an outstanding troupe of singers and dancers.
An 8-page cruise ship edition of the New York Times is delivered daily to each stateroom.
As I said at the start, cruising makes for a wonderful vacation. Just not as good as it used to be.
This was a back to back cruise May 6-20,2001 on the HAL Statendam Vancouver-Seward-Vancouver. Overall this was my 14th and 15th cruises, and 5th and 6th to Alaska. This was also my first trip on Holland America. after others on Princess, Celebrity, Norwegian and Royal Caribbean.
Pre Cruise As is my normal policy I flew up to Vancouver from my home in the San Francisco Bay area early, in this case to visit with some Internet friends over in Victoria. I arrived late Friday night and took a free shuttle over to the Travelodge Hotel in Richmond near the Vancouver airport. Standard room but all I was looking for was a place to sleep for the night. In the morning I flew over on the the very short flight to Victoria and met up with my friends for a nice personal tour. After a short stop to drop off the luggage we were off to explore. First stop was the beautiful Butchart Gardens and a nice stroll through the flowers. After this we drove downtown for a nice lunch and a walk around the downtown. This area has lots to seewith the Empress Hotel, numerous museums and Government buildings. After a nice dinner and evening I went to sleep with my my bed turned down and a chocolate on the pillow. Very nice way to get into the cruise life! In the morning we all took the ferry ride across to Vancouver and I was driven directly to Canada Place to meet the Statendam.
Embarkation On all my documents this was listed as 3pm with a sailing time of 5pm. From experience I knew this had to start earlier and we arrived a little after noon. Bags were given to the porters at curbside and I walked directly in with no wait. Check-in line was very short with numerous booths open and after maybe a 5 minute wait it was my turn for processing. This paperwork check lasted another 5 minutes and I was done. Actual boarding started about 1/2 hour later prompty at 1pm and I was aboard. Overall a fairly quick and painless process.
Cabin I was in cabin A760, an outside on the lowest passenger deck, left side midship. Pretty standard cabin layout with one queen size bed and a small couch. Two end tables, a desk and bureau with 6 drawers. 4 closets with one containing shelves and the safe. One thing I did not like was that you had to carry your HAL ID card, the cabin key card and another key card for the safe. Most of the newer ships combine all three into one unit. Bathroom was decent size with a bathub instead of just a shower. Personally I would have preferred just the shower as the sides of the tub were very high and hard to climb over. I'm sure that some people found this very hard to get in and out of. Cabin was adequate but not anyhing huge, and not noticeably larger than other lines.
Food I was assigned to late seating and upon boarding went to the desk set up to handle changes. I made my request and was told they would check into it but that they were full. The next morning I did receive the change to early seating which I had requested. On one of the later nights of the first week I was asked my preference for the second week and was assigned early seating right from the start. Because of tours and my schedule I actually never ate in the main dining room the second week, instead eating at the casual Lido dinner nightly. I found the food overall to be OK but below that on both Celebrity and Princess. No real complaints but nothing exceptional. I did like the convenience of the causal dining but this was only open a relatively short time each night, generally 6:15pm-7:45pm. I also found the setup a little ackward. Food was set up in a buffet line where you picked you items and the tables were set with tableclothes and full silverware/glassware. This looked nice but when you went to your seat with a full tray you could not set it down on the table immediately but had to unload each item onto the table. I like the Princess setup better where you actually order and they serve the different courses just like the dining room, but will admit this way was much faster. Really just a buffer with fancy tableclothes.
There was a hamburger/ hot dog bar setup daily for lunch. along with a taco bar. I did like this but they must not eat many tacos in Holland as the individual items were never set up in the correct order to make your taco easily. Much confusion resulted as you moved back and forth along the items and really slowed down the line. Pizza was available daily but I was not very impressed and skipped it most days. On Princess this is one of my favorite items so I was a little disappointed.
Breakfast was pretty standard fare, I did enjoy the omlet bar and the french toast almost every day. One thing that was very popular was the free Ice Cream bar daily. Several flavors were offered along with different toppings and cookies. I will admit to visiting this more often that I should have. LOL
Ports As this was my 5th time up to Alaska I had a pretty good idea of what I wanted to do in each port. I did not book any tours through HAL but the ones offered were pretty standard for the industry. Pricing was average but can generally be beat on your own. Although I did not do it this trip I highly recommend either a helicopter or floatplane trip somewhere along the line, preferably out of Juneau.
Ketchican On both visits I just wandered around town, taking the walking tour available from the visitor center on then dock. Creek Street is a very nice area to wander around but other than shops there is really not much to do in the downtown area. personally this is not one of my favorite ports.
Juneau Now this is a port that offers numerous things to see and do and usually you have a lot of time to use. First stop we had a pretty rainy day and I'm sure that most flightseeing tours were cancelled. I took a tour to the Mendenhall Glacier for $20 purchased on the dock from Mendehall Glacier Transport. Our driver Stewart was great and we stopped at the Chapel by the Lake along with the Glacier. His commentary along the way was hilarious, he gave opinions on almost every subject. Highly recommended and about 1/2 the price as the same tour aboard the ship. Rest of the day was spent wandering around town trying to stay dry. On the trip back southbound we had much better weather and now wish that I had tried to take a flighseeing tour as it woould have been a great day for it. Instead I took the local bus for $1.25 down to the local shopping area for a nice ride. This can be taken to the Mendenhall but drops you off appox 1 1/4 miles from the visitor center. This would bea cheap option and the way to go on a nice day to see the Glacier at your own pace. In the afternoon I rode the Mt Roberts tram as I wanted to see the snow up top. People that had visited on my northbound stop said they had a full blown blizzard at the top that day. I had a beautiful sunny day and hiked for a short distance through the snow for some nice views. This is a nice short excursion but would not recommend purchasing this thru the ship. Price is the same dockside and you can wait to see if you actually have a sunny day and will be able to see anything before spending the money.
Sitka Both days here I had so-so weather, periods of sun and rain. Heard some good things about the wildlife tours but just walked around myself. Be sure and head down to the Totem Park to the right of the dock area, this is about a 1 1/2 mile walk one-way. There is a nice trail thru the woods with some good views of your ship anchored in the harbor. About another 1/2 mile away is the Raptor center, another nice place to visit. On the way back there is a small grocery store which is a good place to stock up on beverages.
Glacier Bay On both visits I had perfect weather, gorgeous blue skies and no rain. On all my previous visits it had rained here and while still very nice was not nearly as impressive. On the first visit we saw lots of calving with one huge section coming down, VERY impressive, created a nice wave headed towards the ship which really got us rocking. Several Officers said they had never seen such a large piece fall before. This was a very nice day but I was always amazed at how everone would disappear as soon as the ship turned around. Both visits I relaxed on a lounge chair on the stern deck out of the wind and watched us sail back down the bay ALONE on the rear deck. Very nice way to spend some time.
College Fjord This is one of my favorite spots and it was veryimpressive. What was not so nice was that the bay was still clogged with ice and we could not approach the Glacier face closer than about 8 miles. On previous visits I had sailed right up to the face but could see why we could not get closer this time. Even one of the smaller expedition ships only went in a little past where we were. Trip northbound we stopped about 6-9pm and had the sun behind us.On the southbound trip we arrived around 6-9am and were looking directly into the sun which made a very bad photo opportunity. Again still a nice stop.
Seward As I was sailing back to back this was a port day for me not disembarkation as for most of the other passengers. I had booked a tour over the Internet with www.kenaifjords.com and it turned out to be perfect day weather wise. I took the Kenai Fjords Fox Island tour and cost was $119 for an 8/12 tour with a Salmon Bake on Fox Island. This was a fantastic day with about 20 of us on a tour boat that would hold appox 150. Visibilty was almost unlimited as we could see the mountain range on the other side of the Gulf clearly 80+ miles away. We visited many different bays in search of wildlife and saw whales, seals, moutain goats and bears. While stopped at a glaicer to watch calving we heard a rumble behind us and turned around to see an avalanche coming down the mountain side into the bay. Awesome! This is also highly recommended but most people don't get a chance to see any of Seward at all.
Back to Back This was my first time sailing two cruises back to back and was an interesting experience. It sure gives you a feeling of power at the end of the first week to ignore the disembarkation talk and packing and just enjoy the day. Even better was the turnaround day when I just ignored waiting for a group to get called to disembark and just walked off the ship! Also fun was during the second week to get invited to the repeaters party and get some free goodies. The second week was very relaxing and was spend on my schedule, catching up on the shows and movies that I had missed the first week. I was a little surprised at how few passengers there were with lots of time aboard HAL as it was my impression that there would be many more. There were 4 couples that had 300+ days and 8 with 100+ days aboard the second week. While this was my first cruise with HAL I've got almost 150 total, most with Princess. Other cruises I've been on the passengers with the most sea days have been in the thousands and there have ben many more in the 100+ group. Not sure if it ws the itineary or the time of year that caused the, at least to me, low total of repeaters.
Disembarkation This turned out to also be a fairly well organized process. The night before I had requested to move into a lower group from my assigned #22 to get to the airport and try and switch to an earlier flight home. My new group was #12 and of course the next morning they called #22 about 15 minutes before #12! In any case I was off the ship by 9:30am and to the airport by 10:00am. No complaints here.
Weather This turned out about what I had expected. The first couple of days were rainy, the middle week sunny and the last couple rain again. Temps were mostly on the mid 40's with the high about 50 in Seward. Dress in layers if you plan on being on deck as it can get pretty cold with the wind. I bring a ski type cap, gloves and a scarf.
Misc thoughts I thought that the Statendam was a very well laid out ship, with lots of outside viewing areas both in the bow and stern. Numerous lounges to sit quietly and read or just enjoy the scenery. The dining room was very impressive with a great view through large windows from my second floor stern location. Was not real impressed with the entertainment, in this matter I prefer the quality and choice on Princess.
Internet Access On the ship Internet access was .75 cents a minute with the first 5 minutes free, In Ketchican I found a place called Soapy's Stations that offered a 50 minute card for $5. They are located to the far left of the ship dock in Ketchican, past Tongass Trading and at the far side of the next small shop area. In Juneau they are downtown, just past the Alaska Fudge store in the small mall on the second floor. Very easy to use a and a pretty good deal.
Final thoughts Overall a nice cruise, 14 days away from work can be very relaxing. Alaska is one of my favorite places to cruise as 6 trips will attest. I find the scenery just awesome to look at and it looks different each trip depending on weather conditions. Personally I recommed sailing Northbound as the scenery gets more impressive as you go.
I did like Holland America but think I still prefer Princess first followed by Celebrity. In any case make sure to put a trip up here on your list of things to do.