Back To Line

Holland America Line: Statendam

Fodorite Reviews

Average Rating
  • New

Jun 19, 2014

Vancouver - Seward

This was our 7th cruise but first with HAL. Many operational issues from reservations not knowing things about the ship and cabins to on board customer service that was poor to say the least. Seems understaffed and crew was not a happy one. Our cabin steward was by far the nicest person we encountered. As one guys at the Lido put it when I asked him how long he had been working on the ship. His response without any smile was " a really long

time". Many staff who come in contact with guests did not understand English well. We had many times where drinks orders were delivered incorrect or a few times they never brought them at all. Terrible customer service on this ship but again the staff seemed understaffed and in desperate need of supervision and training. The food was just OK. Food was as good, if not better, in Lido than the dining room. Fish dishes were barely OK but meat was really just on par with a sizzler. Desserts were the best part of the courses at meals. We did not go hungry but the food was nothing special. You are better off just keeping it basic and expectations low unless you pay at the Pinnacle for a good meal. Stateroom (window spa room) was OK and clean. Our window was so dirty on the outside it was not a clear view. It had not been cleaned in a long time as there were streaks of rust dried on the window. We had been upgraded (paid upgrade) to a verandah suite a few days before the cruise but because of some organizational problems with the reservation department, they could not honor the offer they made but the on board staff will be able to take care of it. They said they would contact in our room one way or another on the reservation problem. We waited in our room and did not unpack. No one ever called as promised. Again, this is a company with really operational management problems. Our stateroom filled with toxic fumes while in port in Juneau which made us ill. I talked to guest relations and was told it happens quite often and also in the crew cabins. She said it should clear out after leaving port (10:00pm) Since we did not go back in our cabin until 10:00pm and I was not well from the fumes, we ordered room service. After a 60 minutes I called to see about our order. They said they did not have the staff to fill all the orders and to try back a little later. I did call in another order and we finally got some food delivered near midnight. By the way, no one ever called back to see if I was felling better from the fumes in our room. Low key and limited but that should be expected from a smaller ship like this one. If you are looking for lots of activity and are traveling with kids, this would not be the ship for you. We booked off the ship in ports since we could find the same things for a greatly reduced price than booking from the cruise line. The day in Glacier Bay was the highlight of the cruise. Lucky to have perfect weather that day (and all week) which was a bonus. The scenery while cruising is great. The ports are fine and a fun walk around. Everything close to the ship so no big deal to get off, walk around, go back to ship and go back out to town again if you want. Shopping was good and prices good for a tourist environment. Trip was good but cruise line and ship are not good. Again, our 7th cruise but first with Holland America. You only get one chance to make a first impression and HAL failed. They do not compare to other lines we have taken. (Princess and Celebrity) Highly recommend cruises and an Alaska cruise but most definitely not Holland America. Find another cruise line to travel on.

Read More
  • New

Apr 23, 2014

South America

An interesting and somewhat unique itinerary on a dated, but well run ship. The high ratio of sea days to port days was an aspect we liked. Average food for a cruise line. The Pinnacle Grill is nice, but the charge is fairly steep. Fortunately, we were "guests" both times we went there. Reasonably spacious cabin for a standard verandah. Two good enrichment lecturers - a nice "good music" duo, but otherwise pretty routine Two

pretty good ships' offerings in Huatulco and Panama. Three excellent private tours; Monica Tours Peru and Peru Inca Wonders in Lima and [email protected] in Trujillo. We did not hear any complaints about any ship provided excursions Statendam Peru Cruise – March 2014 Why This Cruise? The principal appeal of this cruise was the itinerary. Except for Cabo San Lucas, we had never visited any of the ports of call offered. We had sailed on Veendam, Zaandam and Eurodam among our 32 prior cruises, and thought that Holland America provided a decent, if not exciting, on board experience. The previously unknown ports were Huatulco and Puerto Chiapas, Mexico; Fuerto Amador, Panama; Salaverry/Trujillo, Peru and Lima, Peru. So we boarded at San Diego on March 16, and were on our way. Embarkation This was a very bad start. As we told HAL in our survey response, the embarkation was the worst we had ever experienced. Part of this was undoubtedly due to the poor facilities provided by the Port of San Diego, and the difficulty of its location; but a good deal was attributable to the lack of planning and disregard of the passengers’ legitimate needs and expectations by Holland America. We were forced to stand in a line which took well over an hour, without seats, and for part of the time without shade. HAL used only half of the ticket counter stations available. They easily could have rented chairs and a tent to provide seating and shade, in addition to halving the time simply by using all the available stations to check people in. Many of us were, as would be expected, in the “senior citizen” class, and standing for a lengthy period was tiring and stressful. On Board_- Our Accommodations Once checked in we proceeded to our stateroom. It was on Verandah Stateroom Number 174 on Deck 9. The accommodations on all HAL ships are reasonably spacious, and Statendam is no exception. The closets were noticeably larger than on many ships. The couch was full sized and comfortable. There was one side chair which fit under the desk and a coffee table, which apparently has a height adjustment we were never tempted to use. The walls were a light cream color with light brown wood trim, matching the drawers; which were more than adequate for our needs. The bathroom was a little small, but had a tub/shower. The towel racks were minimal, but adequate, and while there was limited shelving for toiletries, a shelf below the sink enabled us to stow everything we needed for regular use. The verandah had teak decking, two wicker arm chairs and a small table. The thermostat may or may not have been connected, and the room was fairly cool, perhaps as an acknowledgement of the southern climes we were to visit. The light switch arrangement, which switch operated which lights, was weird, illogical, and required constant manipulation. The portable hair dryer provided plugged in beneath the desk! The TV setup was only fair. The screen was small, fixed for location, and the programs rather limited. There was a lighted, magnifying cosmetic/shaving mirror which swung out from the wall over the desk, and enabled me to shave sitting down. Cool. HAL’s corridors are decorated with an extensive array of photographs of old ships, passengers, crews etc. There is plenty of public space, and most of it is fairly accessible. The general layout of Statendam is somewhat different from most ships this size. The gross displacement is 55,800 tons, making it slightly smaller than Oceania’s Marina and Riviera. The lower three decks, 4,5 and 6 are largely cabin decks; Decks 7 and 8 contain much of the activities, Deck 9 is almost all verandah staterooms, Deck 10 is mostly devoted to larger suites, but also contains the bridge and an aft outside pool area with deck chairs. Deck 11 is the typical Lido Deck with the buffet aft, the main pool amidships and the spa and gym forward. Deck 12 has the Crow’s Nest, the forward looking lounge, and Hal’s Club for children aft. There is a small “Oasis” aft on 13 with a hot tub, which we never visited. Since our stateroom, No. 174, was on Deck 9, we could reach the Lido deck by walking up only two flights, and most of the activities by walking one or two flights down. This was a very convenient arrangement. The only slight annoyance involved the main dining room. It is a two story affair, located on Decks 7 and 8 aft. The upper level was reserved for the fixed seating dinners, with meals at 5:45 and 8:00. The lower level was for open seating. However, one cannot walk to or from the dining room on Deck 7 because the kitchen facilities block the way. One has to go up to 8 or down to 6 to get through. Not a big deal if you remember it. Deck 8 has the Pinnacle Grill, a number of drinking and casual music venues, and the Explorer’s Lounge where the classical “Adagio” duo played nightly. It also has the Explorer’s Café which, in addition to a small coffee bar, holds the fairly extensive library with very comfortable seating and the computer/internet center. The upper level of the Showroom at Sea is forward. Deck 7 has the Wajang Theatre and Culinary Arts center, featuring movies and cooking demonstrations. It also has the Hudson and Half Moon rooms for meetings, card playing and religious services. The main and shore excursion desks as well as the art and photo galleries are on this deck, as is the main entrance to the showroom. Access to the gangway and tender service is on Deck 3. The space ratio on Statendam is 44.3, which makes it among the better ships at sea for this measure of passenger comfort and service. Food Experience On a scale of 1 – 100; where Crystal scores 98 and Oceania’s Marina 96; Statendam would come in at 84. The main Rotterdam Dining room is not bad for dinner, with a fairly decent selection, and with some lapses, mostly well prepared. They did a superior job with a duck dish, always a bit tricky, but the leg of lamb was tough. Edith was pleased with most of her vegetarian selections, but a couple of them were failures, over salted and not good generally. The Pinnacle grill, which we visited twice, [but did not have to pay for] was excellent, both with respect to the food and the service. We enjoyed our conversation with the maître d’, and the fact that he told us we could leave to make a show and come back for dessert. The Lido breakfast menu was somewhat limited, and uninspiring. Edith missed the miso soup which she had enjoyed on prior HAL cruises, and there were was only a very standard fruit selection. I missed the authentic Vermont maple syrup provided by Oceania and Crystal for the pancakes and French toast. The coffee was not bad for shipboard. Lunch at the Lido occasionally had some interesting items. I enjoyed the sushi, which was always available. Edith was usually able to put together a satisfactory salad. We both enjoyed the pastry selection which was quite good and imaginative. The “Mexican” lunch offered on the pool deck one day was not really Mexican, but a weak California imitation. But then, since we are from Arizona, we have high standards for this particular brand of ethnic food. We had been told originally that only fixed seating was available, and our TA had put us down for early seating. We then found out about the dining room division into fixed seating in the upper level on Deck 8. When we showed up at the maître d’s station on Deck 8 the first night and asked to change, he said he would try later. However, when we were led to our fixed seating assignment, the able was already full. We were then seated with one other person, and the maître d’ came over and placed an “open” tag on our room card so we could use open seating thereafter. We never had to wait very long for seating, and always enjoyed the varied company (mostly new, always enjoyable) each night. After the first few nights, we arranged our seating to conform to the showroom times. HAL decided to offer three shorter shows (35 minutes) each night rather than two longer ones. The show times were 6:30, 8:00 and 10:00. This meant that we could attend the 6:30 show and then proceed to dinner shortly after 7:00. Since we finished dinner at about 9:15 under this arrangement, we could then go to the Explorer Lounge and enjoy the Adagio duo until about 9:45 and then retire for the night. Entertainment As noted above, Hal went to a three show per night format; although one entertainer I spoke to was not thrilled with this plan. The shows ran 35 minutes instead of the normal 45-50 minutes. I think this worked out better for the passengers, giving us more flexibility in planning our evenings. And, to be frank, a shorter show was just fine. The Showroom at Sea is not a great venue. The “orchestra” floor has four levels, with two rows of seating at each level. The seating is either on couches or chairs, with tables for drinks. The rear portion of the lower level has scattered seats and couches with tables also. Visibility is limited to some extent, but our principal problems were the cold temperature and the over amplification. This latter was particularly evident with one solo male singer who had an operatic voice, and did not need amplification at all, but none the less was amplified until it hurt ones ears. The actual offerings were the usual mixture of fair to middling talent. The “production” group was an different mixture, four male singers, two female singers and two female dancers. There was a lady pianist who we had seen on another cruise, and who was continuing to beat her instrument into submission, a ventriloquist, a comedian we did not see and a female harpist, playing an electric amplified small harp, who sounded best when playing solo and not competing with the dance band back up. The “Johnny Cash” guitar act was amusing and fun. The other entertainers around the ship were a piano bar lady pianist/singer who was pretty good, and a nice sounding guitarist. Unfortunately, the timing of their sessions did not work out too well for us. The group we saw most was the Adagio Duo, two young Hungarian men playing piano and violin. Their shows ran from 7:00 P.M. to 11:00 P.M. in the Explorer’s Lounge, which seats about 60 people on comfortable chairs and couches, with bar service at a table in the rear. The music ran from classical, most of the light variety, to show tunes and some pop songs, with a little jazz thrown in. We were there most nights for about an hour, and while there was some repetition of the numbers, it was always a very pleasant and relaxing time; and well attended. The Crow’s Nest on Deck 12 also had a disc jockey at night, and we had fun attending one session devoted to ABBA music. Crew As with all HAL ships, a substantial number of the crew, especially the cabin servers and wait staff, were Indonesian. Because Indonesians are Muslim and technically forbidden to use liquor, the bar crews and other alcohol servers were mostly Filipino. This caused some language problems, but, as other HAL travelers have noted, the staff is uniformly smiling and friendly. The Captain was normally seen having lunch in the Lido buffet, often joined by the young Staff Captain, and other officers. The cruise Director joined the ship after it was about six days under way. We were told that HAL had held an in-service meeting for all its cruise directors in Seattle, the site of their home office. His place was taken by Jeremy, who was described as the Entertainment Director. Apparently this is a new position on HAL ships, and I have read, some other cruise lines, who want to take some of the administrative pressure off the Cruise Director so that this individual can have more interaction with the passengers. The Flood At 4:00 A.M. on our fourth night out we were awakened by noise in the hall, and saw water running under our cabin door. We hastened to remove our luggage from under the bed to the balcony. We went outside and saw crew members attempting to deal with water running down the hallway walls and out of the overhead lights sockets. After a few minutes the water stopped, but our carpet was soaked. Fortunately the water did not rise high enough to enter either the bathroom or the closets and drawers. But the floor resembled a wet sponge. We were also fortunate in that we had enough shoes with rubber or otherwise waterproof soles to get around. It took three days with a fan placed on the floor of our cabin to dry it out, and we could not use the cabin for much with the fan on because of the noise. We had to call each night to have someone remove the fan so we could lock the door. About seven other cabins were affected, and it seemed that at least two of them required the fans for a much longer period. HAL at first sent us a bottle of (cheap) wine and a dinner invitation to the Pinnacle Grill. (Our first meal there had been courtesy of our Travel Agent as a birthday present to Edith). Later we received a $150.00 shipboard credit. This was fairly decent, but could have been more without breaking the HAL bank! In any event, we survived with only some minor inconvenience and annoyance; and a story to tell to gain our fellow passengers’ sympathies. Ports of Call Cabo San Lucas. This was a stop from noon to 11:00 P.M. I had contacted a local company which had afternoon snorkeling. The cost was very reasonable, but it was a short excursion. They sent a satellite photo of their location in the large “Mercado” located at the tender pier, but it took a considerable effort to find it, not helped by the many people who cheerfully offered advice and directions which turned out to be wrong. We had been worried about the time since the tenders were an hour late getting started in the harbor which had three other cruise ships anchored; but everything worked out. My companions were a family of three from Missouri staying at a local hotel. The 13 year old son was a PADI certified scuba diver, while his parents snorkeled with me. We were transported to a beach and dropped off while the boat took the son to deeper waters, all near the Arch and swimming beaches. The water was cool, and the fishes somewhat limited in variety, but it is always good to get in the water. Edith simply went back to the ship. The area around the pier is basically a tourist trap with overpriced restaurants, the views enhanced primarily by young ladies on spring break wearing minimalist bikinis. Huatulco. This area has been developed by the Mexican government since the 1980s as a tourist destination. Its major attraction seems to be a string of 7 bays off the ocean. Our stop was for two days. The first day we took a bay cruise on which I had hoped to snorkel. Unfortunately the night before I had scraped my arm badly and did not want to take a chance in the water. The boat, which I had arranged for in advance, was quite large and our fellow passengers, about 80 or so, were, with the exception of four Americans from a local hotel, all Mexican, and mostly family groups complete with grandparents and children. They were cheerful companions, but the music on board was very loud. The bays were attractive, and it was cool and pleasant. We stopped at one so people could both snorkel and swim off the beach. We stayed on board and chatted with the fellow I would call the ‘Cruise Director” since he seemed to be in charge of everything except sailing the boat. He had spent time in Atlanta, and spoke fairly good English. On the way back the boat stopped in another bay where there was a large restaurant, since it was now about 2:00 P.M. This proposed stop did not appeal to us, but our cruise director led us up a hill where we caught a short taxi ride back to the pier for $7.00. This was an interesting if not exciting day, and quite inexpensive. The next day we took a ship’s cruise to what was described as a “Tropical Flowers and Fruit Extravaganza”. This most interesting trip involved a comfortable, air-conditioned 8 passenger van trip about 50 miles into the hills. There we entered the “Hagia Sophia” project, a development founded with the idea of providing local farmers with better, environmentally friendly crops to reduce their reliance on corn. The entrance had some ramadas, and one was laid out with a delicious selection of fresh fruits grown on the site. We then went on an extended, but mostly shady walk through botanical gardens as well as fruit growing areas. The selection and variety was delightful, and our guides quite knowledgeable, with pretty decent English. On the way out we met the owner of this wonderful place. He is Middle Eastern in origin (hence the “Hagia Sophia” –Sacred Wisdom - name); although he actually moved to Mexico from Italy. The farm has been legally conveyed to his children, and he explained his goals to us. This was an inspiring and delightful excursion. Puerto Chiapas. This is the southernmost port city on the Mexican Pacific cost, just a few miles from the Guatemala border. The port is not much. But there was a shuttle to Tapachula, about 18 miles away. There is not much in Tapachula either, although we could get a partially cloud shrouded view of the Tacana volcano about 25 miles beyond Tapachula. However, we had contacted a fellow passenger, Tom, who had been here a year prior, and he said he was taking a taxi from Tapachula to a small town called Santo Domingo about 25 miles north. We decided to join Tom and his wife Peggy, and our shuttle driver located a taxi for us, although not the same one he had used the year before. None the less we made our way through the country side and small towns, stopping briefly at some ruins, where a ship’s tour had conveyed others from on board, to our destination. Tom had been told that German settlers had gone to our destination area and built houses in European style. Our goal was a hotel which purportedly had been started by the Braun family, of Eva Braun notoriety. In any event, we found it and it was delightful, with gabled roofs, a small museum, and a covered porch outside where we had a small post-breakfast snack and enjoyed the view, the cool breeze, and the thoroughly relaxed atmosphere. It was about 1600 feet in altitude. We really hated to leave, it was so pleasant and contrasted most favorably to tourist sites. After the drive back to the ship we shopped at a pier side bazaar and bought some coffee from a German lady who ran a coffee plantation with her German husband. Her teen-aged daughter, who could have walked in from the streets of Heidelberg, handled the cash. This is considered a good coffee growing area and a very expensive ship’s tour took people to a large combination resort hotel and coffee farm. All in all it was a good, and inexpensive day and we greatly enjoyed our private tour and “Alpine” stop. Fuerte Amador. This is the Pacific Ocean gateway to the Panama Canal. It once consisted of a small group of islands occupied by military forts. It is now a long causeway and pier, (although we were required to tender ashore). To the left (actually northwest), is the Bridge of the Americas, which is part of the Pan American Highway, and the first major bridge over the canal. To the right, northeast, is Panama City, a very modern city with at least 100 high rise buildings, many of over 40 stories. The entrances to the canal are always busy, but since we had made the transit in 2002, we did not have much interest in seeing canal operations. So we opted for the “Monkey Watch and Nature Canal Cruise” provided by HAL. This was a good choice. We travelled by a small air conditioned bus, seeing some of the construction of the new enlarged canal locks on the way. They have been delayed but should open next year. We arrived at our “debarkation pier” immediately after crossing the Chagres River which flows west and slightly south from the hills to the east. The bridge is at the junction of the river and the beginning of Gatun Lake after it leaves the channel called the Culebra Cut. We boarded a small boat, (actually two boats for our tour) seating people four wide, with a shade roof overhead. We went out under the bridge we had just crossed and were in Gatun Lake, which at that point runs due east and west, with the Pacific to the south and the Caribbean to the north. After some chugging along, we were able to turn into some bay like portions of the lake, pretty far away from the main transit route, and pull up to the shore. We saw howler monkeys, who stayed in the trees, and white faced capuchin monkeys who climbed on board for their expected mid-day snack. We also had a pretty good view of a river crocodile, and some bird and turtle sightings. On the way back we were passed by several large freight vessels and had a head-on view of a Princess cruise ship making the transit. On the way back to the ship we were advised that we were passing the prison where the former dictator, Manuel Noriega, has been imprisoned since being returned from a French jail in 2011. This was a pleasant and worthwhile day. Salaverry. This is the port for the metropolitan area of Trujillo, which has close to a million population in its extended area. The main reasons to go here are that two ancient ruins are found; the Temples (Huacas) of the Sun and the Moon of the Moche culture which flourished from about 1 A.D. to 800 A.D, and the Palace of Chan Chan of the Chimu culture, which succeeded the Moche culture and lasted until the Incas took over in about 1450 A.D. We wanted to do a small group tour, and located a provider through the recommendations of a guide book. This firm was found at www.xanga.com, and the e-mail address is [email protected] Michael White is an English accountant,, but we never found out his actual role. In any event, they offer a wide range of services and vehicles at $60.00 per person for a small group and $100.00 for one person. We had worked out arrangements for one other couple on the Cruise Critic roll call, but they cancelled their cruise due to illness a few days prior to sail date. We were approached by another couple at the Meet and Greet, and the four of us joined together. We met Clara, our guide at the pier, and drove off in a small, newer van. Clara had been studying and visiting these two archeological sites since their early discovery days in the 1970s, and was immensely well informed. The Palaces of the Sun and the Moon were indeed amazing with regard to the preservation of their tile murals and rooms. The architecture was incredible for people working basically with small hand tools, without iron or steel. Our companions faded out after a while, but Edith and I managed to see and go just about everywhere. We then visited the Chan Chan ruins, which were very extensive, although not as dramatic. We also went into Trujillo proper and visited the main square, which has been described, I am sure with accuracy, as one of the cleanest and most attractive central squares in Latin America. We also visited a small and attractive museum there. On the way back the husband who was with us pulled a muscle in his leg, and could not walk. Fortunately the dock supervisors allowed our van driver to drive directly up to the gangway, where he was put in a ship’s wheel chair and pushed back on board. Except for this problem, we thought that the tour was an extremely good value; and we highly recommend it. Lima. This was our final port, although it was only the halfway point for most of our fellow cruisers, who were returning to San Diego after several different port stops on the way back. And some were squeezing in a trip to Machu Picchu in the three days Statendam would be in port in Callao. We thought the round trip to be too long, and did not feel up to Machu Picchu. Our return to Phoenix would be after two days here, and we had the consideration of filling in the final day where our flight did not leave until 11:55 P.M. The first day we decided to join a group put together on Cruise Critic, since the number would be limited to eight. This was with a firm called Peru Inca Wonders; found at www.peruincawonders.com. The tour was to begin at 10:00 A.M. and return at 4:00. Through no fault of the tour company, things got off to a delayed and aggravating start. The Port of Callao is very large and quite busy. Even though our pier location was as close to the exit as it could have been, private tours were not allowed past the exit, so a shuttle was necessary. While large buses for the ships tours could pick up their passengers, shuttles to the gate were limited to two or three small vans. Some of those passengers catching these vans were carrying luggage because they were doing Machu Picchu on their own, rather than paying the very high price charged by HAL for its Machu Picchu trip. In addition, there were a large number of people like us, doing private tours. And, to add to the problem, the ship was late getting port clearance. The result was mass confusion where the shuttles were being filled, and even further delay. It was almost noon before we got to the gate and found our tour. We believe HAL could have done a much better job in both providing shuttle service, and organizing the boarding process. Our tour actually had a small bus which was only partly filed with the eight of us, the tour guide, the owner/operator’s sister and the driver. Our first stop was the Pachacama Ruins, a series of structures and a major pyramid constructed by the Huari people between 800 and 1200 A.D. Eventually, they were conquered by the Incas. We climbed a sloping road up a few hundred feet to a vantage point where we could see the Pacific Ocean to the West. The ruins are about 20-30 miles south of Lima proper. We were not allowed inside these ruins, and I am not sure what rooms there really are. The size is impressive, but lacking the marvelous tile mosaics of the Moche ruins in Trujillo. Perhaps the most intriguing aspect of these ruins is that they have withstood all the earthquakes common to this area, and they are of adobe brick construction. We then drove down the oceanside near the Municipality of Miraflores, one of several cities that really are part of Lima. There are several public beaches here. Above the beaches there is a city park, running almost a mile, with trees, statuary and benches. This is a first class area, and contains many handsome high rise apartments and condos with balconies providing ocean views. Since this was a Sunday, the beaches were busy with a number of surfers. We then went back into Lima proper, past areas which were truly slums to the center of town. The Lima metropolitan area has about 10,000,000 – yes that’s ten million – people. In the center of town we visited one of many old churches, the St. Francis Monastery, which still is active and is the residence for some Franciscan monks. Beneath the church we visited the catacombs, whose construction began in 1540. There are at the bones of at least 25,000 people here. Our guide explained that within the catacombs are several circular “wells”, although dry, which held bones. It is thought that the circular nature of these wells allowed the catacombs to absorb the many earthquakes which have struck Peru and this area. Our guide told us, as we looked up at the low ceilings and rough walls that “we were in the safest place in Lima.” Afterwards we walked around the main square, and then went to a restaurant because one of our number was very hungry. Most of us did not eat, but merely had good coffee. I took a bite of one dish a baked mixture of beans and rice, and it was quite good, although our friend who ordered it, and who was from Santa Cruz County in southern Arizona, agreed with me that it needed some good Mexican hot sauce. We then returned to the ship, arriving at 6:00 due to the delay in starting. This was a pretty good tour for $115.00 per person. We had been asked, prior to sailing, to pay with “new” $100.00 bills. As noted, we were scheduled to fly out of Lima at 11:55 P.M. on our second day in port. This meant that we would be disembarked, with the luggage, from the ship sometime prior to noon so that our cabin could be prepared for a new arrival sailing to San Diego. We were concerned about how we could deal with our luggage for that extended period of time, especially if we wanted to see more of Lima. Fortunately we located a company on the net that promised high flexibility and coordination with our needs. This was “Monica Tours Peru”, and they are worthy of the highest praise. Their website is: www.monicatoursperu.com and e-mail is [email protected] . We found another couple who had the same flight as us, so we hooked up with Monica, who agreed to carry our bags and to drop us off at the airport. She met us at the port exit gate at 10:00 A.M. Since this was the second day in port, and all the tour buses had left much earlier, we had no trouble getting to the port gate, although the turnstiles made baggage handling a slight problem. Monica provided a nice van which easily held all our luggage, and we were on our way. There actually was another guide whose English was better than Monica’s, although she was with us, running things with a nice smile, the whole day. We made our tour choices from a “menu” provided to us on line before we arrived. This was a detailed, thorough and knowledgeable tour. We stopped again at the upper park in Miraflores for a better look at its features; we went to the beautiful Saint Dominic Priory, and the Aliagra Virreynal House in central Lima. Only part of this house is a museum, the rest of it is the home of the Aliaga family which has lived there since the founding of the city in 1535. Truly amazing! We had lunch at a local restaurant in Miraflores. Its other patrons seemed to be all young, nicely dressed office workers, and the feature was chicken roasted over an open spit. It was pretty good, and when I got my credit card bill it was only about $20.00 for both of us. We also spent time shopping in an Indian artifacts bazaar nearby, and Edith bought some stuff for her daughters for very little money. They accepted U.S. dollars, but did not want to take one of our $20.00 bills because it was slightly torn. We spent a good deal of time at the marvelous Larco Herrera Museum, which we had been told by the archeological enrichment speak on board was an absolute must when visiting Lima. How right she was! It has a wonderfully complete collection of pre-colonial artifacts going back 3000 years, including literally thousands of Moche pottery pieces, mostly dating from 800 to 1200 A.D., and in superb condition. The pictorial representations on the pottery is extremely sophisticated and still has pretty good coloration. The fabrics are very colorful, and while I loved our local Navajo weaving many of these Peruvian textiles are quite admirable. The museum also has an attractive garden and a very nice looking restaurant, but we could not stay for dinner We also visited several of Lima’s Plazas. Our tour cost was $110.00 per person, which for an almost nine hour excursion with delivery to the airport is most reasonable. We were required to pay separately for each museum, but Monica had sent us a price list by e-mail, so there were no surprises. Our trip to the airport, which is actually in Callao, took some time as it was during rush hour. All the local buses we saw were completely full, and the bus stops had long lines. We did not think that we wanted to live in Lima due its crowding, poor transportation and overall third world economy. Miraflores is an upper class area, but the city is still too big for us. Peruvians are uniformly friendly and prices seemed reasonable, and this is true of South America generally. We arrived at the airport between 7:00 and 8:0 P.M., but took the time to rearrange our luggage and get a small bite to eat. Overall we were very grateful for Monica’s transportation of our luggage in the van all day and then to the airport. It gave us a full and very delightful second day in Lima. Fellow Passengers. Our companions on board were typical of a HAL ship; mostly American and largely senior. There were only a very few children along for this journey which lasted 31 days for about 80% of the passenger complement. As noted, some were using HAL to provide the Machu Picchu tour, some went on their own and planned to re-board, some opted to end their cruise in Lima as spend as much time as they wished exploring Machu Picchu. The HAL cost was $3000.00 per person, far more than one would pay using one’s own resources and the wide range of available tour companies; but those choosing HAL wanted (a) comfort and (b) security for the return to the ship. Cruise Notes PA announcements were fairly well limited. The internet charges were $60.00 for 115 minutes – fairly good. Daily news sheets were available in American, English, Canadian Australian German and Dutch editions, although only the American version was available in the Lido buffet. There was a lot of ship announcements and handouts about sanitation and health issues, but we never heard of anyone being sick, and none of the many people we talked to had either. Despite what was reported on the Cruise Critic Roll Call that there would be 8 formal nights, we only had two on our half, and I can’t believe there were any more than that sailing home. At the most, 10% of the men were in tuxes. The interpretation of “smart casual” for dining on other nights was heavily oriented to “casual” with polo shirts and short sleeve shirts being very common. A little too “casual” and not “smart” enough I thought. Conclusion Despite some glitches, a poor embarkation, a flooded cabin, the shuttle foul-up in Callao, and some cuisine lapses; it was a cruise we greatly enjoyed, primarily for the places we visited and the people we travelled with. We often mused about whether or not we should have done the whole 31 days, but now, agree that it was too long. As I am typing this, Statendam is still en route from Puerto Vallarta to San Diego! Maybe next year we will fly to Lima and sail home. Bon Voyage!

Read More
  • New

Apr 25, 2013

Panama Canal

The Canal is the real point of this 2 week itinerary. It is one day but well worth the wait to see one of the wonders of the world. Ship had been updated so was looking very nice. It is a smaller and older ship but if you do not like crowded conditions, this was fine. There was only one time we had a problem finding a table on the Lido deck and that was when all the tours returned at lunch time in Cartagena. I think almost everyone had been off

the ship and so wanted lunch at the same time. The food was exceptional in all regards. Had an interior room which was fine but relatives had a partial view room and it was larger--resulting in an extra closet for hangups. On a two week cruise with 4 formal nights that would be helpful but no real problem as there was still lots of storage. We just layered some hangars and folded some things in drawers or on the shelves. Note: the window view rooms have a tub--a very high sided tub so my relatives had a time getting in and out of it. The interior rooms have a very modern updated shower--much better for us. The exercise options were only early am--would have liked some options later in the morning. Water aerobics was always full--needed more sessions of that. They had random games which were actually fun and different every day. We got a full tour of the kitchen--they actually added one on during the cruise because we and others missed the one offered the first day. If you want a tour of the kitchen, check your pre departure schedule. It was very interesting. Movies were first rate--new releases. Captain's presentation on the history of HAL was very interesting with lots of pics and a history of cruising in general. They gave two pre-canal presentations on the canal history and operation which were excellent and a pre stop overview of ports. We did the Puerto Vallarta tour and visit to the Ranchito where tequila is made, folkloric dancing and lunch. it was excellent. Well worth the reasonable price. We also did a scenic tour of Huatulco--also good value. You could also just take a taxi to the nearby town of La Crucesita which has an old Town Square--really lovely. Good shopping. The other stops in Chiapas and Quetzal were really nothing unless you wanted to spend alot of time and money traveling to the interior of Mexico/Guatemala so they became ship days in addition to the sea days. The best port beyond the canal itself was Cartagena, Colombia after the canal trip. We took the horse drawn carriage and it was great way to see the walled city. Otherwise you have to walk and since it is so hot, the open carriage was great. It did not really cost much more than the vans that take you to the walled city for a walking tour. None of the stops in the good locations: Puerto Vallarta, Huatulco, Cartagena were long enough to explore much. The other stops were only to allow passengers to travel inland. I heard passengers commenting that going to and from Quetzal to Antigua was on really winding roads and one bus broke down so they lost the time they would have had in Antigua.

Read More

By Gigi_CR

  • New

Sep 27, 2011

Angrage to Vancouver

If you are not 75 years old, it is better take another cruise. The ship is very organized to board and leave the ship, but the entertainment is fit most seniors test. Most I want to let every one know do not buy last 3 period cruise. I had Sept 18, it was strong storm. The ship top in Seward 36 hours, we only stop in Juneau and direct back to Vancouver. It not happen often, but it happened this year. The ship is too small to go

through the storm. The food is great and there was a lot. Nothing to say about the stateroom. My stateroom was not done properly. I have to ask the manager toredo it. And they give me $50 credit. The hallway looks so old. Activities most fit Seniors. Not enough choice. Could you believe one class for MSN photo edit for whole week. If you're not taking your grandma to the cruise, it is better to take another cruise ship.

Read More

By Bob_CR

  • New

Sep 6, 2011

Alaska

Major issue with misrepresentation of offering. Major pricing deception on boat. 16 oz draft beers were advertized, but sold in 12 oz glasses. There were no 12 oz glasses available. Brought up issue with staff with no response. Would like to know if this is an issue with just this ship or does it involve other boats in the fleet. Wrote up my concerns in my evaluation and other issues were addressed ,but no response about pricing deception,

asked a second time with still no response. Food was average Stateroom was what we signed up for, clean , etc. Trip was what we expected.. Most of our issues were in regards to the one week land touring before the cruise. False promotions of beer offerings must stop.

Read More
  • New

Jul 3, 2011

Inside passage Vanvouver to Seaward

Very disappointed with ship and status of ship as it was reputed to have been refurbished i 2004-2005. It must have been budget/cost affected greatly as I saw more deficiencies than I could count.. HAL often boasts 130 yers of nautical experiance/luxury, well in my 5 voyages (wife 6) we certainly did not see it or experiance it. FOOD? This is the first cruise I have been hungry on. Food is suppose to be the highlight of any cruise and

on this one it was the biggest disappointment. The lido deck had hrs. of their own and were closed more than open. The portions served were consistantly small and whenever I asked for an extra slice of meat or whatever suddenly there was "I dont understand from the staff." I found all the food to taste the same no mater where we ate. As for seating capacity, very undersized and limited as we often ended up at the pool area to eat and found the area cold. This is with the retractible roof closed. Then someone in charge decided it would be OK to OPEN the roof and cool the area more. After that we ordered room service (breakfast in our room). Not what I had in mind when booking trip, eating in room. As for the organization at the LIdo buffet, there was none as several times I walked away in disgust after standing there and seeing others get waitheir requestted infront of me, AND several times after finally getting served and then getting a table realized no silverware/napkins, so off I go to get some to comeback to my table and either my plate was gone and/ or someoned else was sitting at this table because it appeared to be vacant as not plate was there, it was removed. How frustrating is this. No trays to carry meal to table. Large seating area segregated from staff and officers and often empty. Room was hot, ac did not work, bathroom even hotter. Bathroom smelled like public toilet, strong smell of urine. This was enhanced by the temperature (80-90F). Plumbing issues with stateroom next door causing our sink and shower drains to gurgle. Limited veiw turned out to be NO view. We were on the lower promenade deck so we could hear the workers washing the perimeter deck and skidding around deck chairs at anytime after 3:00am. This was not an issue as were up most of the night listening to the floor above us (turned out to be the (kitchen) footsteps, carts rollong back and fourth, chopping sounds, hammering/pounding sounds voices, the constant dropping of who knows what. Very little quality sleeps per night resulting in my wife and I being more tired as the cruise went on. Low budget and boring. After going to two evening performances we decided to skip the rest. By 9-10 each night we were both tired as our stateroom noise prevented a restful sleep. After awhile I got tired of always being asked to buy something, I was vey much aware of what I wanted and did not want and found the constant "in your face" sales people irritating. Whale watching in Junno great, White Pass train ride great, both had good weather. Ketchikan, rain dissappointing. Overall visabilithy poor as often fog and low laying clouds. I realize this is nothing HAL can control but compounded with all the issues they are in control of this contributed to a poor cruise. Over all found to be disappointing after weighing all the goods and bads. I waited a week to write this review to reflect and judge honestly but overall we have had much better quality cruises with Carnival, Royal Carribean and NCL x2. My wife was on this same criuse 3 years ago (Rhyndamm) and could not believe how things had gone downhill. The Statendam may have been a grand ship one day but today is just a tub on the ocean. There was that constant stale cigarette smell and musty damp odors present. I could not help but notice the stained carpets, torn carpets, flaws and visable signs of wear and tear. This made me ask myself, if this is what I see what cant I see as far as maintainance. When I look at advertisements for this cruiseline and what I experianced, there is a very big difference. Of all the cruise lines we have been with NCL was the lowest rated.

Read More
  • New

Apr 6, 2011

Panama Canal

Having been on other cruises and cruise lines and traveled the world extensively we find our attitude has as much to do with our experience as any single service we might use on board. We like to stay below the top decks and more in the middle of the ship since this position has the least movement in rough seas, although having dove for 22 years we aren't not usually bothered by rough seas. The Panama Canal cruise is good value. For the staff

to produce in excess of 6000 meals a day(you read that right) and to do it with a smile every single day for the length of time the staff are on contract (as much as 10 months at a time) is remarkable to say the least. We were never disappointed with the food or the preparation and I had a food allergy that they catered to every single meal. We thought the variety and quality was great. We stayed in room 771 on the 4th floor. I could have sworn that the cabin staff slept across the hall from us since it didn't matter when we left our room was always made up when we got back. It was amazing to say the least. The on board itinerary was as long and varied as most other ships and we never heard anyone complain about a lack of things to do. There were a wide variety of shore excursions available and most were a reasonable value - most but not all. The tour of Panama City by night was a disaster! Anyone we talked to about it after were very disappointed. The bus didn't stop for pictures and let you out (a stated goal of the tour), if you wanted pictures they had to be taken by opening a small window and they had to be taken from your seat - and if you were at the back of the bus - you didn't get to take any pictures - (no windows). The windows were totally blacked out so you could barely see any of the landmarks. But the worst was the tour guide. He was either ignorant of his surroundings or in such a rush to get us to his favorite shopping store we missed half the city. While I could go on and on. I would strongly suggest you stay away from this tour. Even the tour staff on board the ship had an insert about dark windows but little else and to say the windows were dark was misleading - they were virtually solid black - especially at night. Rating - Save your money! While we enjoyed our cruise thoroughly, the thing we noticed most on the ship was the on board shopping and the number of presentation and free give away items made to encourage you to shop. Champagne flowed freely almost anytime were were there. The staff were very attentive and very knowledgeable. If you bought on board there were deals to be had - BUT - we saw people paying full price for their jewelery, pearls watches and gold. Either they didn't attend the shopping presentations or they ignored them. You will be told that when you go ashore you are to bargain for items you buy. You are told how to do that and what discounts to expect. But except for Citizens Eco Drive watches - which Holland America has the best price on by far, people forgot to bargain on board as well. As an example I bought a emerald and diamond bangle for my wife as an anniversary present. Other who were buying similar pieces simply looked at the retail price marked as being the 'standard US price' and if they got 10% off thought they had a good deal. The on board price listed is far too high and if you buy PLEASE, just multiply the price listed by .40 to .50 and you will be close to what the item will be appraised for when you get home. We saw an individual pay almost $8000 for a designer watch bought on shore that was available on the Internet from a dealer for $5175 to $5775. Also PLEASE read the warranty on the price guarantee - it says the ship will have the lowest "AUTHORIZED" price but they won't include Internet authorized dealers. And BTW - buyers remorse is out - you buy it you own it! We bought at the discounts above so I know it can be done. Of course if you like to throw your money away . . .

Read More
  • New

Feb 2, 2011

PANAMA CANAL

This was the first cruise for me and i had a wonderful time. I lost my husband suddenly in oct/09 and needed a break , at first i thought i had made a mistake going by myself but this was not so the staff were just wounderful and i felt as if i was very speacil. It was so nice to be called Brenda or miss Brenda by the staff when they have so many names to remember. Also the single solo meeting was such a help to me and i met 4 nice ladies. The food

was lovely and i sat each night with 5 nice people every thing was wonderful. I went on every tour there was this was an experience . I would go to the piano bar every night and it was a lovely way to finish the day, the piano player Adrian King was excellent and i hope when i go on another Holland America Cruise he will be there to entertain us all again. wonderful very nice and kept very clean and the stewards were wonderful they seem to have been good i only partipated in the trivia, i just relaxed My first cruise and i will do it again. I loved the tours, also the piano bar with Adrian King at the piano, every one thought he was great and i for one hope he will be on the next holland america cruise i take. Very relaxing.

Read More
  • New

Dec 29, 2010

Ft Lauderdale to San Diego

Very unhappy about the quality of this cruise compared to other Hal cruises. Cabin was well used with floor buckling and pounding noise when stepped on. Very noisy from people running above ceiling along with crew dragging chairs across deck at 5-5:30AM and at night. Room 574 after upgrade from 615. Stink in heads, dirty and no soap to wash your hands. Number of times vomit in urinals. Smoking terrible and smoke in front of door ways.

N designated area. Pinnacle Grill first night where we could not eat the great looking fillet, lobster was very small raw and so salty couldn't eat, shrimp cocktail tasted like wax shrimp was sticky and had white stuff coated on them. Sal the manager invited us back after complaining of quality. Rottendam dining room was average and at times could not eat. Portions very small and most of the time food was was over cooked and dried out especially the seafood. Lido some was OK and normally seemed as if they were using the left over food from the dining room the night before. We had some very strange combinations of food. Room service was OK but you never knew what you would get when you ordered. Shrimp cocktails would have 5-6 pieces of small bay shrimp. Service takes about 45 minutes or never showed up. As stated above very noisy, floor buckled and would make a loud popping sound when stepped on. Head door warped and broken couldn't close. Window leaks and rust stained along with having silicone seal smeared all over the inside trying to seal it. Listened to people running above cabin along with crew moving loungers at 5:30AM and in the evenings. One night we listened to the crew hammering something. Didn't participate seemed funky. Very poor stop in Puerta Caldera in ocean cargo yard way out of town. Chicken bus to take us to town that was dumpy, dirty and waste of time and money. Hal could have docked in town but for some reason took us to a cargo container yard. Hualtalco shore excursion to snorkel turned out a waste. Spent an hour to board a panga that took us around the other side of the ship to a cove with thousands of Mexican locals that had the water so stirred up you couldn't see and had to step over people to get in the water. I could only imagine how much human waste we are swimming in. My wife's vest had leaks and would not hold air. We were taken out of the water to a table that the guide wanted us to purchase food and drinks. All of us complained about this poor excursion and received a letter that the boat priest thought the dive was OK so Hal gave us 25% refund. We complained about this at the desk but was informed we needed to contact shore excursion desk but they never responded. Not pleased with the quality, service of Holland America during this cruise.

Read More
  • New

Oct 23, 2010

Alaska

The cruise was a 10 package, three days on land trips and seven days on the Statendam. From the time we arrived in Anchorage the trip was wonderful. It is the best overall experience my wife and I have experienced. Holland American had every minor detail down pat. The tour bus was always waiting, the Mckinley Explorer was on time and the ship experience was very good. The overall cruise experience I would rate as A+ The food on the ship was

the only disappointment during our ten day adventure. On the plane home a lady across the aisle asked my opinion of the food on the ship and I told her. She then said every person in their large group said the food was terrible. I had a few good meals but I'm not hard to please. The food I would rate as a c- on this ship. We also ate on the Mckinley Explorer and found the food to be nothing special, but they really don't have the facilities to cook on the train - it is prepared. On the first day from Anchorage to Denali National Park my wife had a fish sandwich and I had a salad. We split a desert. The cost with tip was $40. The second day was more expensive. We're not on a budget so the cost was not a concern, but some people may need to pass on the experience. The McKinley Explorer experience I would rate as A + because the seats were comfortable and the view was heavenly. The stateroom was fantastic. We booked this cruise late and couldn't get a balcony room. Our agent was able to get us a room at the rear of the ship and when our drapes were open we had a panaramic view of the Alaskan scenery. The beds were great, bathroom the same as we've had on other ships, and lots of space for our clothing. I would rate the stateroom as an A+ For a smaller ship (1246 passengers on our cruise) they had outstanding activities. The passengers were mostly mid-age or older and many took advantage of the activities on board. The library area has hundreds of books and DVDs, game tables, puzzles, etc. A lot of music or nightly entertainment was provided. I'd rate the onboard activities A- Another area was the entertainment on this ship. Compared to other larger ships I'd said this was as good as you will see on any ship. Their main two vocalist, Jordan Miller and Julie Bell, have great voices. On the Friday night show only the two of them performed - it was hands down the best show we've seen on any ship. A+ Do not miss the opportunity to travel on the McKinley Explorer. And the White Pass Rail Road experience is a must. There are too many excursions to list, but my wife and I used Juneau as a down day and took the tram to the top of the mountain - the view was breath taking. At the top they have a Raptor Center Bald Eagle display, very nice restaurant, two gift shops, and a theater with a very nice free movie about Alaska. During our ten days we saw bears, moose, eagles, seals, whales, Dall sheep, to name only a few. Take all the excursions you can afford. Rate these A+ The experience was the best trip we've had on any vacation. We are scheduled for an October 25th trip on the Queen Mary 2 from New York to Nova Scotia and back to NY. We've heard so much about that trip I can't wait to judge it versus our Alaskan trip. We have a Christmas crusie planed for the Caribbean, but I've already started making plans to return to Alaska. It is a trip of a lifetime. A+ all the way.

Read More
  • New

Jun 16, 2010

Alaska

We combined the 7 day north bound cruise with a 6 day land tour (tour 21). The cruise was relaxing and less pushy than the land portion. The land was push-push-push for activities. Many nights on the land tour we got in around 11pm, and had to have bags out at 6am. We would do just land or land-then water next time. The food was great, we tried breakfast in the Pinnacle grill, lido deck & Rotterdam dining rooms. Service could be slow in the

dining room & grill but food presentation was the difference between all. Good variaety of food. Our table of 6 usually ended up with 4-5 different dishes each night. We passed things around for tasting. We had a last minute upgrade to a 'Deluxe Verand' and highly enjoyed it. Lots of room, and the Neptune lounge concierge came in handy. He helped us alot with problems. Lots of activities to choose from. Did bingo three times, several members went to the digital photo clases, and we participated in a cooking class. Highly recommend the cooking classes & demonstrations. The shore excursion talks were more pushing the (cruise company) owned shops than anything. Most cruises are not on board to shop for jewelry on the stops. Had the seaweed massage after my 4-mile hike and was not sore that night. Ketchikan - saw our group go 3 different directions. Bera Creek zip line (very good), Lumberjack show (entertaining), and a fishing excursion (only caught rockfish). Juneua - group split 2 directions. Guides Choice Hike (4 mile to mendenhall glacier - take mosquito repelent - highly recommended), and Helicopter glacier/dog sledding (another great choice). Skagway - we just walked around relaxing. Land tours excursions - Toe dip in the artic ocean at Prudhoe Bay, 2-days by bus coming down the gravel Dalton Hiughway (lots of animals and stops at the Artci Cricle), Fairbanks - went to Chena Hot Springs & Ice Museum (don't miss), and Denali - Tundra wilderness tour (guide told us she had never seen this many animals on a single tour) - extra's at Denali included (flight over Denali) & white water rafting **both recommended. The overall trip was great, and I plan to go back to Alaska in 4 years hitting places missed on this trip.

Read More
  • New

Jun 12, 2005

Alaska

When my daughter graduated from high school she was given the opportunity to choose the yearly vacation. She decided on the Inside passage. She also asked if we would bring our two sons and their wives, since this trip was the lifelong dream of one of her brothers. We budgeted for a year and it was worth every penny. We were glad that we paid the extra for verandas with balconies. They came in very handy when we looked down to see Orca’s

gliding past us, and when we were near Hubbard glacier looking directly into the eyes of seals floating by us on large chunks of ice. They say the staff on Holland America is the friendliest in the world. This must be true. We became genuinely attached to our servers and cabin steward. These people are sincere and caring. The food was extremely outstanding. They had a great variety of selections. Everything was beautiful and delicious. We booked early and sat by the large picture window where our meals were often interrupted with pauses to watch whales jumping. I was concerned bringing young people on Holland America because it was presented in most information as a cruise for older people. We always had activities available which we were interested in. There was so much to do, that we were unable to do everything that we wanted to do. The gym was very good, having a large selection of equipment. And since there were many older individuals on board, it was available when we wanted to use it. We loved the ship traveling at night and arriving in port early. We are usually independent travelers; this schedule gave us all the time we needed to go out on our own. We fully visited the sites I had researched ahead of time. The shows were okay, although some in our party thought they were very good. Internet access for your own lap top does not work at a high speed or with cloudy skies (satellite access)…so don’t spend the money for that. The ‘chocolate extravaganza’ night is a ‘died and gone to heaven’ event for chocolate lovers. I had given up on cruises and switched to independent travel after a negative experience. After this trip, I will return to cruising and I will stay with Holland America.     

Read More
  • New

Feb 4, 2005

round trip San Diego-Hawaii

Embarkation day (every cruiser’s least favorite time) in San Diego was well-handled by friendly, competent staff. If you have internet access, save time by filling out all the immigration and information forms online; take hard copies with you in case your internet forms go astray (ours didn’t) or they want personally signed forms (they did). Also, select your onshore excursions online to avoid disappointment because the tours you

wanted were already booked when you got aboard. This procedure is very efficient. All our excursion tickets were in our cabin upon arrival (already charged to our credit card before sailing date), and the one excursion where we were waitlisted was cleared on the second day at sea, tickets delivered and billed to our onboard account. The Statendam had one more Hawaiian cruise after ours, and was then slated to go to Vancouver for an 18-day refit and renovation. Some hints from the ship’s first officer, in charge of coordinating plans for the refit, indicated this will be a major task, replacing carpet and repainting and re-plastering almost everywhere, with complete rebuilds of such areas as The Crowsnest and the WahJang Theatre. Since she’s been in service for 13 years, Statendam was showing signs of needing the work – some minor scars on the walls in our cabin; occasional stains on carpeting in the corridors that no amount of cleaning could remove; a few rust stains on the metalwork of our balcony; a heating/cooling/ventilating system that kept some cabins (and the Rotterdam dining room) too cool for comfort (we heard many complaints about this one). Don’t get me wrong – the housekeeping staff were doing their usual excellent job, but it was becoming an uphill battle. There was also an always noticeable but not objectionable vibration in our cabin whenever we were under way. That vibration did get annoying near the Front Desk, where the atrium railing shook noticeably. I hope the refit solves that problem, too. Last year (due to a surprise cabin up-grade on Coral Princess) we were introduced to balcony staterooms, and we fell in love with them – if we can’t have a balcony, we would give serious consideration to not going. We had a verandah suite (Holland America’s term) on Statendam for this cruise, and are more convinced that’s the only way to go. Yes, they’re more expensive, but, with careful timing and prudent shopping, they can be had for not too much more – worth it, in our estimation. We are beginning to prefer smaller ships. Our cabin on Statendam (1200 passengers) was quite central – one deck below the Lido deck (pools and cafeteria), two decks above the Rotterdam dining room, and almost exactly midships. The result was we seldom used the elevators and getting from point A to B was fairly quick. On Coral Princess last year (2000 passengers, a Panamax ship), we seemed to spend half our time riding elevators and walking endless corridors. The cruise itself was 4 days at sea from San Diego to the Hawaiian Islands, several ports of call in the islands, then 4 days at sea back to San Diego. We wondered how we would pass the time going and coming, but it was fine. The days at sea give you time to unwind and relax and enjoy the many activities the ship offers. There is plenty to do if that’s your thing – we tend toward the lazy end of the spectrum, and that was fine, too. We also wondered about the open sea, since (in our opinion) we had never really cruised the open ocean yet – the Caribbean and the Alaskan inside passage don’t really qualify. No problem – the stabilizers took care of the rolling and the pitching on the long Pacific swells caused us no queasy stomachs. We’re starting to feel like ‘old salts.’ I have a bone to pick with Holland America, and every other cruise line we’ve travelled on. Passengers are not allowed to bring their own liquor on board. What they buy ashore, as well as any purchased at onboard duty-free stores, is impounded and returned to them on their last night aboard. The sole purpose that I can see for this practice is the cruise line’s desire to fleece the passengers for over-priced drinks (+ 15% gratuity). I resent this! Making a profit is one thing; taking advantage of a captive clientele is quite another. Something we do like is the increasingly common practice of charging $10/day to each shipboard account for tips to service staff. One can always go to the Purser and have that amount modified, or removed completely, but we like it. We trust the cruise line to fairly apportion the money amongst its staff, and we can (and do) add an extra tip where we feel it is deserved. We do wonder if this practice might be used by cruise lines to keep service staff salaries low instead of rewarding good service – but we wonder about that wherever tipping has become the custom, whether afloat or ashore. On Holland America ships they are sloooowly letting go of some traditions that should be long gone. The idea of having 2 or 3 formal nights per 7-day cruise is passé, in my opinion, but I have to add that my wife still loves them. Options are finally becoming available to the assigned seating for dinner. Meals. The selection at the cafeteria on the Lido deck was tremendous – anyone should be able to find plenty of food to his/her liking, and it’s all fresh and tasty. I’m a steak-and-potatoes kind of guy, and the Rotterdam dining room seemed fine to me (except for the temp – see elsewhere). The service was very good, though there wasn’t the personality and detailed knowledge of the menu that I’ve seen from staff on other ships. My wife was disappointed that the food selection was not broader and the presentation lacked imagination, and we heard more than a few others make the same comment. Our wine steward was a wine server – if you want some wine, ask me and I’ll get it, otherwise I’ll ignore you. On other Holland America ships, your wine steward was attentive, knew his wines, got to know your tastes, and could offer suggestions and alternatives (O, Djati, where are you?). My wife took me to the Pinnacle Grill for Valentine’s Day ($20 surcharge). Outstanding personal service and we had the tenderness filet mignons (I had the 10 oz. Pinnacle cut) we ever tasted! There was plenty to do aboard ship, but we are not big on staying busy all day long. With a verandah stateroom, ‘staying home’ can also be pleasant. The stage shows and entertainment acts were all good. The shows were definitely off-Broadway, but we enjoyed them all and were endlessly impressed by the enthusiasm and endurance of the cast. It would have been nice to have some shows slanted more toward our age (early 70’s), and we certainly were far from being the oldest onboard. Because it was February and school was in, children and young families in general were not very numerous. There was some sickness (respiratory infection) on board during the cruise (I suspect the recent American variation of flu that has been spreading quickly from California eastward and northward), and hand-washing stations were readily available everywhere that food was served. We learned that a visit to the ship’s doctor costs US$78.65, billed to your onboad account (a bit of a shock to Canadians), and that all Holland America ship’s doctors and nurses are Canadian or American. Crew doctors are usually Philippino or Indonesian, because most of the crew are one or the other. I had checked out Statendam’s sanitation record online before booking the cruise, and found that, except for some less-than-stellar reports when she first went into service in 1992, she has had an impressive record for cleanliness and compliance with regulations, with particular mention about meticulous record-keeping. She now consistently scores at least 95 (usually 98 – 99) out of 100 on sanitation inspections. Our onshore excursions were generally worth the money, and interesting. One glaring exception, was the luau at Paradise Cove while we were in Honolulu -- in our opinion it was strictly a money-grab, with no good food and little authentic Hawaiian culture – don’t waste your time and money. The 4WD off-road adventure from Nawiliwili Harbour on Kaua’i was well worth the cost – we saw some unusual back-country that can be appreciated in no other way, and our driver/guide was most interesting and knowledgeable. We did not go on the submarine underwater adventure, but heard good reports. On Maui, the Maui Ocean Center was excellent (a photographer’s paradise if you like colorful fish and sharks and manta rays and tortoises), and the included plantation tour was also very good. Would we sail Statendam again? Yes. Hawaii? This was our second time there; that’s enough. Holland America may be getting a little stodgy, but over the years they’ve learned how to provide excellent hospitality and service. We wanted to try to smuggle our cabin steward, “Edy”, off the ship in our luggage, but figured the captain would object. We’d be especially interested in changes the renovations have brought about in the grand old lady.  

Read More
  • New

Sep 12, 2004

Alaska

This was our second cruise with HAL – our first was in 1999, also to Alaska, on the Volendam. We were a little concerned that our fabulous memories from that cruise may have “made the heart grow fonder”, and that we might be disappointed second time around. Thankfully, this wasn’t the case. From the moment we checked in, we were made to feel that our welfare actually mattered to the staff in Vancouver. As we had checked in quite

early, we were among the first to embark. As is normal, our cabin wasn’t quite ready – however, the Lido buffet restaurant was well and truly open, and the food, décor and friendly staff were fabulous. This really set the tone for the rest of the cruise. When we made our way to our cabin, our cabin attendant introduced himself, and made it clear that if we needed anything, all we had to do was ask. We’d persuaded some close friends of ours to join us on this cruise, and as they were first-time cruisers, we were anxious for them to have a great time. By the end of the first day, they must have said “Wow!” about 30 times! The food in the Rotterdam dining room was excellent, and the service couldn’t be faulted. We also dined in the one restaurant on board which has a surcharge, the Pinnacle Grill. Once again, the service, food and décor couldn’t be faulted – it really was worth the extra money. Our itinerary was the usual Inside Passage route – Vancouver, Juneau, Skagway, Glacier Bay, Ketchikan, then back to Vancouver. The second night was quite rough while crossing the one stretch of open water; we had an outside cabin very close to the bow, and it was certainly an “entertaining” few hours. The Captain was good enough to make a reassuring announcement on the P.A. system at about 9pm, to sooth any ruffled nerves. As we’d visited the above ports before, we had the opportunity to see and do thing we’d previously missed. Despite patchy rain, we were lucky enough to see the view from the peak of Mt Roberts – highly recommended, and we saved a couple of bucks by purchasing our tickets once ashore, rather than at the shore tours desk. This often seems to be the case with shore tours. We’d previously done the White Pass RR in Skagway (highly recommended), so this time we opted for a helicopter flight up to one of the glaciers. This included a good 30 mins walking on the glacier with a guide. Expensive, but an amazing experience. Glacier Bay was nothing short of fabulous once again – we’ve been blessed with good weather on both visits there. We went on a very enjoyable floatplane ride to the Misty Fjords in Ketchikan – we’d organized this prior to our arrival, as we wanted a smaller aircraft for the four of us (plus the pilot, of course!). This was quite easily organized via the internet – just look for the Ketchikan Visitor’s Bureau, and you’ll see what I mean. Once again, a fantastic experience. The scenery was every bit as good as we’d hoped. As for the Statendam herself, there are one or two small signs that she’s worked hard since her launch in 1993, but this is to be expected. Our cabin was extremely comfortable, and was kept spotless by our attentive cabin steward. We don’t necessarily agree with the “automatic tipping” philosophy, which HAL is currently experimenting with – we’re quite happy to reward individual crew members, though I guess some passengers in the past haven’t tipped at all, hence the current scheme. Overall, we were as happy with Holland-America this time around as we were previously. As far as we’re concerned, their biggest asset are their crews – it was very rare to encounter a crew member who wasn’t happy and/or helpful, and despite their many different nationalities, they seemed to work together quite harmoniously. Would I recommend Holland-America? Yes, without reservation. I should also add at this point that we weren’t on any kind of special deal, given my line of work, and I don’t have a particular “barrow to push”. The day we arrived back in Vancouver, we boarded NCL’s Norwegian Star for her repositioning cruise to Los Angeles, and I’m afraid it was a real disappointment after the Statendam. If I get around to submitting a review of that cruise, it sure won’t be as glowing as this review.  

Read More
  • New

Aug 29, 2004

Alaska

My husband and I were very please with our cruise. Although we were somewhat disappointed in the Misty Fjords shore excursion, this was probably due more to the time of year than any fault of the tour. We were very pleased with the Best of Juneau and the Best of Skagway shore excursions and loved the gorgous views in Glacier Bay and College Fjord. The service was outstanding, in fact we stopped by the main desk and increased out tips from

10% to 15% per day as we felt that the staff were extremely hard working. We were somewhat disppointed in the dining room luncheons though the dinners were generally very good. My husband did feel that the alcoholic beverage which he had tasted terrible and was very overpriced for very little alcohol. Also, I would not recommend the train trip between Seward and Anchorage as it was a disappointment. Overall though, the cruise was a wonderful experience. In fact we have change our next booking to Hawaii from Norwegian to Holland America.     

Read More
  • New

Oct 26, 2003

Mexican Riviera

We have now had a week to digest our wonderful cruise. I would like to share some impressions of our time in San Diego and our week away from reality on the ms Statendam. We arrived in San Diego just before sunset on Thursday October 23. Our flights across the country had been flawless. We met our friends from Minneapolis, who had arrived before us. We stayed at the Hotel Del Coronado on Coronado Beach. The hotel is well known as a

playground for the rich and famous. We enjoyed our stay there, but it is safe to say that we all agreed that the hotel is past its prime. It is very expensive, but we found the hotel to be ordinary and noisy. We were able to enjoy the Zoo on Friday and the Wild Animal Park on Saturday. Sunday we awoke to a disaster. Looking out across the beach early in the morning we saw smoke across the horizon. I left early to return our rental car. I was appalled to find the car covered in ash. As I drove across the Coronado Bay Bridge the scope of the disaster was evident. The smoke over the city was a fierce back, looking like a terrible storm was about to erupt. To the east was another plume coming off the backside of a distant mountain. By the time I reached the rental car return ash was falling like snow. I found a cab and returned to the hotel to meet my wife and our friends. We watched TV in horror. The fire had closed the highways we had driven just the day before to visit the Wild Animal Park. The images of the fire ravaging the countryside and neighborhoods were unforgettable. It was incomprehensible, less than 24 hours before there had been no fires at all. We left the hotel around noon. By that time the smoke had reached the ground in an acrid cloud. The odor and taste of the smoke will always be seared in my memory. It was impossible to avoid breathing the miserable smoke. We arrived at the pier without any problem. There was little traffic as people were being asked to stay off the roads. Check in was a breeze. A porter took our bags in seconds. There were no lines. We had pre registered on the Internet, but it really did not matter. San Diego is the easiest check in of any of our cruises. We found our way on board. We were not escorted to our cabin as on previous Holland American cruises. We were led, with several other couples, to the Lido. No one noticed that we were in a suite, so we made our way down to our cabin on our own. Our suite was ready. We stayed in suite 020, directly across from the new Neptune Lounge. Our cabin attendant Ansari introduced himself and told us he would bring our bags shortly. We settled in, found our friends, and went up to the Lido for lunch. The scene outside was surreal. The pier in San Diego is directly across from downtown. By the time we finished lunch the smoke obscured most of downtown. It was so dark streetlights were on and cars had their headlights on. We returned to our cabin and stood on the veranda. The view was across the harbor to the airport. We could just see the airport, and to my amazement flights were coming and going. I watched one jet on final for landing, and to my astonishment it went around, disappearing into the smoke. Later we saw a second flight do the same thing. It was scary to watch, and I could not imagine how people must have felt who were on those flights. Most people are pretty nervous these days while flying, and can you imagine smelling smoke then your pilot taking you around for a second try? It was not comfortable to stay outside for long. The air inside was fine, so visits to the veranda were brief. By the time the Life Boat Drill was scheduled the ash had changed from white to black. Touching anything exposed to the smoke left my hands black with soot. It was obvious that the crew had some tough days ahead cleaning up the mess. The Life Boat Drill was uneventful. Our Captain Peter J. Van Maurik announced that we would leave an hour late to accommodate late flights. Later we were told that over 40 people missed the ship due to flight problems. I did not envy them, and we were especially glad we had arrived a few days early. We met our friends and headed to dinner. We had reserved the first seating and were seated at table 20. Table 20 is located on the upper level of the Rotterdam restaurant along the windows. We laughed when we realized it was the same table we had been assigned to on the Veendam last January. Our waiter Rahmat met us and soon his assistant Wibowo and the Head Steward Bram introduced themselves. We also met our sommelier for the week, Romeo. It is safe to say that we were immediately impressed with the food. After a few meals we all agreed that the food was more flavorful than we enjoyed on the Veendam last January. The dining room selections were varied and flavorful. The service was typical Holland America, uniformly superb! Not long after we finished dinner we ventured outside. To our great relief the smoke was gone. The crew went to work immediately to clean up the mess. It took them two days. Every outdoor surface had to be cleaned, including all the verandas. They did a great job! We explored the Neptune Lounge and met our concierge, Monet. Monet is a beautiful young woman, and proved to be a great help to us throughout the cruise. The lounge is nicely done in dark wood, and was always supplied with goodies including a continental breakfast. We enjoyed spending time in the lounge relaxing and chatting. It was now time to pick a bar. We walked around and settled on the Ocean Bar. A young lady was singing and Jhomar welcomed us. He proved to be a classically wonderful Holland America waiter, immediately learning our names and remembering our favorite drinks. Just how do they do that, anyway? We ending up spending each evening there, and it was always great fun. Monday was a sea day. We had a one-hour later time change. We attended a party for the suite guests in the Neptune, and met the hotel manager Frits Gehner, Guest Relations Manager Paula De Man and the Cruise Director Jack Jones. Otherwise we did absolutely nothing. Isn’t that wonderful? I did check out the Internet Café, and signed up for the wireless service. The manager Paul helped me setup my notebook computer. The speed was considerably improved from my experience on Veendam. It was much better using my own computer, as managing my e-mail is much easier than going directly to the mail server as I have to do from the terminals. The price was unchanged from the Veendam; I paid $100 for 250 minutes. Bring your own wireless card, they charge $10.00 a day or $50.00 a week to rent one. The service was erratic as wireless so often is. It was only available on the 7th deck near the Internet Café. I became a bit of a celebrity because of my cool little Lifebook notebook computer. Many people were amazed at the small size and weight. Interestingly the wireless and terminal accounts are not interchangeable. If you have a wireless account you cannot use it on the terminals. Monday evening we reserved a table at the new Pinnacle restaurant. It was a formal night. We arrived promptly at 7:00 PM. Monet had made the reservation for us. The restaurant was perhaps ½ full. The meal and service were absolutely divine! The steaks were simply superb, on a par with steaks served at fine steak houses like Morton’s or Ruth Cris. The service was incredibly attentive, even better than the excellent service in the Rotterdam. We did note the menu was fixed for the entire cruise. If you sail on the Statendam and want a treat be sure to enjoy dinner in the Pinnacle! Tuesday was another sea day. Again we had a one-hour later time change. The captain sailed us along the Baja California coast. Our cabin is on the port side, and we enjoyed a fantastic view as we headed south. The weather was perfect, sunny and warm. We saw a structure on the beach, and the Captain told us it was a movie set. We decided to have room service on the veranda, and our friends joined us for lunch. We passed by Cabo San Lucas, and some jet skis came out to ride in our wake. All of a sudden one of the guys leaned over and dropped his bathing suit. He was, well you know! We laughed and wondered just how much the guy had to drink. I suspect the captain was no so amused. We soon passed out of the sight of land as we headed southeast. It was a good time for a nap, and the breeze on the veranda and the comfortable chaise lounge made it a nap to remember. We returned to the Rotterdam Tuesday evening. We enjoyed another fine meal. We did notice that the dining room in our area was quite warm. It was a minor problem that bothered us through the cruise. We arrived in Puerto Vallarta on time Wednesday morning. We looked out from our veranda and had to laugh. Directly across from the cruise ship pier is a Wal Mart and Sam’s Club. No joke! So much for an exotic port, but it did make for a good photo op. The day was perfect, sunny and warm. Our shore excursion for the day was the Sierra Madre Expedition. The tour operator met us at the pier. We were soon whisked away on a bus to their headquarters building. We were encouraged to buy bug repellent and to use the bathroom. We were separated into two groups of two, and boarded our vehicle for the rest of the tour. It was unique, to say the least! It was a 4-wheel drive truck, with a modified bed that includes two long benches with seat belts and a canopy top. Our guide sat at the end, warned us about our crazy driver, and off we went. The seat belts were essential. The trucks were built for off roading, and the ride was tough even on pavement. Everyone was in a great mood and we headed towards the mountains, bouncing along as we went. Our first stop was at a Mexican village. Our tour guide was from Holland and his English was excellent. We explained about life in Mexico and gave us a tour of a church. The poverty was everywhere. Almost no buildings were finished. We were taken to a taco stand, where the source of the meat was only from the head of a cow. Needless to say everyone passed! We were again encouraged to use the bathroom, and then we headed into the forest. The ride was a blast! We went off roading along a riverbed. The truck was amazingly agile, and we roared up and down the riverbank. The poor folks in the front got wet as we raced along the riverbed. We stopped and everyone laughed about the ride we just enjoyed, or endured, depending upon your point of view! We next took a beautiful hour-long walk through the subtropical forest. Our guide explained the plants, birds and insects we found along the way. The bug repellent proved invaluable, as there were loads of ticks. We saw woodpeckers, parrots, termites, butterflies and huge spiders. The shade was welcome and the forest quite beautiful. We headed back out to civilization. We stopped at a second village, and were given a tour of the garden maintained by one of the families. We were all famished by this time, so we all enjoyed the tacos and local fruit served by the family. Our final stop was at San Francisco beach. We arrived late at about 3:00 PM. Lunch was prepared for us, but we ate little as we knew dinner was at 6:00. We were warned by the guide not to buy any jewelry from the “vendors” waiting for us, as the silver was not real. We were regularly approached, but they did go away when we said no. Eventually 2 police officers arrived, and most of the “vendors” disappeared. Their fake silver is apparently well known. Our ride back to the ship took an hour, I think. Our guide had a bottle of tequila and other spirits. He had us play a question and answer game, where the winner got a shot of tequila. We had a blast, and we all had a buzz by the time we reached the ship. We might have been upset that we were two hours late, but I doubt anyone cared! Dinner was pleasant that evening as we regaled our friends with stories of our fun excursion. We departed about 9:00 PM and left to the cheers of people on the Carnival Pride, which was docked next to us. Thursday morning we docked in Mazatlan. Again the weather was perfect. We had a one-hour forward time change. The view was quite different than Puerto Vallarta. The dock is part of an industrial port. There were countless small cars and trucks lined up in the port. We learned later they were imports by Hyundai. We left on our excursion around 9:30. Our friends joined us on the Stone Island tour. We took a cab ride to the dock where our catamaran awaited us. We then were given a tour of the harbor, including the point of land at the entrance of the harbor. We had a perfect view of the Statendam and the Pride, which was docked next to us. Stone Island was across the harbor from the ships. We docked the catamaran and were escorted to what our guide called “Mexican limousines”. They were carts with benches towed by tractors! Our ride to the beach was through a village. There were many horses and countless coconut palms. We stopped at an outdoor restaurant, which would be our home for the day. We grabbed a table close to the beautiful beach. It had a palm frond roof that gave us protection from the sun. Once again we had been warned about the “vendors.” They soon arrived in droves, selling everything from hammocks to carvings to tattoos to hair braiding to carvings and tee shirts. They were an annoyance, but never harassed us when we said no. Our friends went horseback riding while we went on a horse drawn sleigh. The island’s economy is tourism and coconuts. The poverty was much the same as we saw the day before. The beach was lovely and safe for swimming. We enjoyed an open bar and a delicious lunch cooked by local people. The service was excellent. Our guide Dorita spent some time with us and told us about her family. The conversation was personal and real and was a highlight of the trip. Later a piñata was broken by some of the children, who enjoyed the candy. We were a little bored by mid afternoon, and were ready to return to the ship. There was a shopping bizarre at the terminal. We looked around before returning to the ship. Most interestingly were the prescription drugs being sold by “pharmacies”. I was amazed at how brazen they were! Dinner that evening was in the Rotterdam. To our astonishment, as we were leaving after dinner, the Maitre D called us over and invited us to dinner the next evening with the Chief Officer. We were flabbergasted, as we had received the same invitation on the Veendam. The odds of this two cruises in a row are unbelievable! Friday we arrived in Cabo San Lucas. For a pleasant change there was no time change. The weather was again magnificent. We had not seen a cloud in 3 days! Cabo is a tender port, and we set anchor south of the Pride. Our excursion in Cabo was Half-Day Sport Fishing Adventure. The tender ride was uneventful once we got on. Swells made it difficult to board. We docked near a US Coast Guard Cutter and were escorted to our fishing boat. We headed to sea past the famous arch at the entry of the harbor. They say a bad day of fishing is better than a good day at work. That was our solace, as we caught no fish. We did see one magnificent marlin make a classic jump. The views were beautiful as we trolled along with many other fishing boats. Oh well, that’s how it goes sometimes. The tender ride back was hot and rough. They had a great deal of difficulty getting everyone off in the swells. I fell as I got off the tender, but no harm was done. I don’t like tendering, and this experience did nothing to make me like it any better. Dinner at the Chief Officer’s table was a pleasure. Chief Officer Robert-Jan Kan met us before dinner and escorted us to the table. The couples were split up, and we enjoyed a wide-ranging and most interesting conversation. The special menu was outstanding. The entrée choices were filet minion or lobster tail. Excellent wine was served and the food was terrific. Chief Officer Kan told us about his career and his future assignment, and answered many questions about the vessel. Don’t you dare call the Statendam a ship. It’s a vessel! Saturday was sea day. Our time changed again by one hour forward. The day started uneventful. About 10:00 AM the Captain announced that there was a serious engine problem. A turbocharger on one of the generators that drive the engines had malfunctioned. There was no danger, but we would arrive in San Diego about 6 hours late. Many of had blank looks as we realized we would miss our flights. Monet offered us free use of the satellite phones, but all the circuits were busy. What were we to do? Our friends went to the Internet café. Incredibly their secretary was on line, and using instant messenger we were able to convey our problem to her. She was able to reach their travel agent at home, and she contacted the airlines and got us new flights. She also made us hotel reservations. It was incredible, all done without a telephone! It was pure luck she was on line. Needless to say this good fortune saved us a great deal of heartburn! The front desk handled the many people affected with their usual grace. I was amazed to see so many people with a big problem, yet I never heard a voice in anger. We later learned many of the staff was affected as well. They had plans to meet friends and family on shore, and now they had to deal with an almost instant turn around. Saturday night we enjoyed our last meal in the Rotterdam. It is always a little sad to goodbye to the wonderful dining room staff. Sunday arrived with another one-hour time change. Considering that the time had changed from daylight savings to standard time the day we departed we had experienced 5 time changes in 7 days! We enjoyed one benefit from the engine problem. The sail into San Diego was in daylight and the view was incredible. The smoke was gone, replaced by cold air and a clear sky. I took lots of photos as I savored the view. Disembarkation was slow. One incredibly inconsiderate non-American couple did not report to customs. We waited about an hour listening to repeated announcements for them. They must have eventually found them. Once we were let off all went well. I would like to add a few comments about our experience on the Statendam. We did not attend any of the entertainment. We enjoyed our evenings with our friends. If you reserve a suite and are sensitive to noise avoid the cabins near the Neptune. There was lots of socializing outside the lounge in the morning, which awoke us almost every day. It wasn’t a big deal for us, but might be for others. The air conditioning on the ship is poorly balanced. The public areas varied from hot to cold. We kept our cabin set at the warmest setting while our friend next door kept theirs at full cold. I don’t know it was so irregular, but it was annoying at times. We are not fans of Holland America’s “Tipping not required” policy, but during the disembarkation talk you are informed, “tipping is the international gesture of thanks”. It would be far easier and fairer to the staff to adopt a clear tipping policy. The dining room was half empty the last night, and you don’t need to be a rocket scientist to know why. We’ve been on another cruise line with a clear policy, and the service was also excellent. The staff pays the bill for this outmoded policy, not the passengers. I have no doubt that the service would not suffer if the policy were changed. Holland America does a superb job in selecting and training their staff, and that is far more important to ensure good service than are tips. The staff would only work harder if they were assured consistent tips. These were minor flaws in an otherwise excellent experience. The ship was spotlessly clean and the service exceptional. The itinerary was excellent. I highly recommend the ms Statendam!

Read More
  • New

May 8, 2003

Coastal Repositioning

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 to watch in the movie theater - HAL offers free popcorn and cookies. The food 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. Brian Lashchuk [email protected]

Read More
  • New

Mar 31, 2003

Mexican Riviera

We are absolutely sold on Holland America. This is our 4th cruise aboard HAL, and we have been very satisfied each time. This was a week-long cruise, round trip from beautiful San Diego, California. The cruise was full, but we never felt crowded. The check-in process was smooth and efficient; and soon we were headed for our cabin on A-deck. This is the lowest passenger deck, but the rooms are still delightful. We have had a Verandah

cabin on a previous sail; and we were apprehensive if we'd be disappointed in "something less" - but our ocean view cabin was great! It had a queen size bed, a nice living area with a couch and coffee table, a television, wonderful closet and drawer space, and a bathroom with shower/tub combo. The only thing we missed was the little refrigerator that had been in our previous Verandah cabin. But there's an ice bucket that the steward fills every day, without being asked. We loved kneeling on the bed at the window, and watching the sea go by. Who needs a television? We saw a few whales, and enjoyed tremendous sunsets from our ample window. Actually, being "lower" on the ship meant being closer to the ocean view. Nice. Our cabin steward and dining servers were gracious and efficient. Holland crew are Indonesian, and very helpful and courteous. They always put on a "crew show" on one of the evenings, after the "regular" entertainment in the lounge. It's fun to see. They work hard. We have found that we don't really care where we're headed, since we love the cruise experience itself. Just the thought of being able to order chocolate cake at 3 AM is a luxury! Holland America has a unique "no tipping" policy - of course you should tip, but it's totally up to the passengers as to how much and when. Generally, passengers offer their financial thanks to the crew on the last night of the cruise. Port stops on this Mexico cruise included the famous Cabo San Lucas, as well as smaller places such as Lareto. We disembarked at each stop; but only to say "we visited" - the ports were not the highlights. It was fun cruising in the boat "tenders" - the vessels used to transport passengers ashore when the ship could not dock pierside, due to its size. We really enjoyed the amazing amounts of large pelicans who lounged around the piers. The meals aboard the Statendam were wonderful, and attractive. There are always at least 6 entrees from which to choose; and also at least 2 soups, 4 appetizers, and 2 salads. After the meal, a dessert menu is given. Desserts were top notch, too. We did not eat aboard the specialty (Italian) restaurant - there is an extra charge for this, and we were very happy with the food in the elegant dining room. We often had lunch on the lido deck, which was buffet style and great. HAL always has an ice cream bar and offers pizza, hot dogs and burgers poolside. For breakfast, we split the days between room service and eating in the full service dining room. The shows were mediocre, but still entertaining. Lots of song and dance revues, but they all sort of resembled each other. The entertainment had been better on our previous HAL cruises. The cruise director seemed nice. We love catching a movie in the theatre - HAL offers free popcorn and cookies. We had nice dinner guests, and enjoyed our nightly conversations. We walked the promenade deck every other day - they have a walking track that's great exercise, and you can't beat the view! HAL offers full exercise equipment, but we preferred the walking. On our 7-night cruise, there were 2 formal dinners, 2 informal dinners, and 3 casual dinners. A nice mix. It was fun to browse the "on ship" stores - some things were reasonably priced, while others were pretty expensive. Something for everyone, I guess. HAL has a "no cash" policy while on board - everything is charged to your cabin (they probably do this on all cruise lines?). It works pretty well. Be sure to pay your tab before the morning you disembark - they'll end up calling your name on the loudspeaker if you still owe them $$. One of the best things about cruising is the ability to "take the time" to relax and rest. It's great to get away from the phone and regular appointments. There is a false stigma about cruising - those who have not gone think it's for the rich and famous, only. This is untrue. If you consider that the trip includes all meals, all transportation, your hotel, and your entertainment, it's an incredible bargain. If you shop the internet, etc. you can get great prices (sometimes cheaper than camping!!). HAL has several activities happening each day, ranging from games of skill to crafts to lectures to ship tours. You can participate in as many or as little as you like - ahh! We are so grateful to have discovered cruising - it's a wonderful venue for us, and we dream of future sailings as soon as we hit port!

Read More
  • New

Dec 20, 2002

Hawaii

Embarkation – 9 (scale of 1-10, 10 being best) My wife, 2 year old son, and I arrived by taxi at the cruise terminal in San Diego. There were porters at the curb to take our luggage. We then stood in line to enter the terminal and register. Within an hour we were in our cabin, as a Holland America representative noticed that we had a small child, and he gave us a boarding number that allowed is to get on the ship as soon as we registered.

The Cabin – 7.5 Our cabin was roomy, with two twin beds that converted to a queen, a sofa that converted to a bed, and a hard backed chair for use at the desk area. A medium sized window was behind the bed. The bathroom was adequate, with a tub and shower combination. The clothes cabinets were adequate or better, with lots of space that converted from shelves to a hanging closet. I am downgrading the cabin slightly because it was aft and the thrusters were very noisy when in use. There was also a bad odor coming from the drains at times, although this is common on ships. The curtain that hung between the bed and sofa area was for decoration only, and would not close to offer privacy or shield light while our toddler was sleeping and we were reading. Cabins located forward or aft were conveniently located near stairs and elevators. Service – 6.5 Holland America seems rigid to me when it comes to accommodating something a little out of the ordinary. For example, my son never received his meal (from the children’s menu) until we were already having our entrées. His boredom presented us with the challenge of keeping him occupied and quiet for the hour and a half that it took for us to eat. In addition, the plate and food was often so hot that we could not place it in front of him; rather, we would wait another ten minutes for it to cool. We ended up ordering for him from the adult menu to make things easier for everyone. Another example of Holland America’s inflexibility is the length of time it took to get the tenders started when going into Lahina, Maui. We waited over an hour, and were lucky to get away that soon. Finally, at disembarkation, we were unnecessarily detained in the terminal when we were not permitted to get our luggage, as there were forklifts still unloading in the area. We had communicated to the Purser’s desk that our flight was early, but were still not given the priority that we needed because we did not make our air travel arrangements through Holland America. Instead of helping me get a porter to assist me with the luggage, a Holland America representative lectured me about why I should have booked my flight later in the day. My relentless complaining finally paid off when the terminal manager cleared the area briefly for me to retrieve our luggage. We barely made our flight. Dining – 7.5 The Lido cafeteria was maybe the best I have ever seen on any ship, except Seaborne Pride (this is my 7th cruise). The food was very good, for the most part. The best foods were the breads, cheeses. salads, pizzas, and pastries. There was a wok station (good) and a sandwich bar (didn’t try it). The French fries were also very good. Fish items seemed to have a fishy taste, as would be expected when they are prepared ahead and left out as with a cafeteria style restaurant. The iced tea was fresh brewed and good, and the coffee came from a machine, but was fair to good. There was an ice cream bar and a dessert station, both of which were very good. The grill area by the pool offered hamburgers, hot dogs, and tacos/fajitas. I was disappointed to see that the hamburgers were cooked ahead and were soaking in water until ordered, and then pressed on the hot, steel grill to warm up. The Dining room was good. I thought that the room itself was beautiful, and the atmosphere excellent, but our waiter was not very good at all, and the food sometimes gave the impression that it was just a well prepared frozen dinner. All in all, the food was fine; however, it was not the five star dining experience that Holland America promotes it to be. Since we have sailed Holland America before (Noordam), our dining expectations were very low. We were pleasantly surprised to find that the Statendam does a better job. The best items came from the grill section of the menu---steaks, veal chops, etc. None of the “pan fried” fish entrée’s that I ordered were fit to eat. And the flambe’s were not up to the standards of other ships on which I have sailed. I had one or two meals that were excellent, but the others were only good. The room service menu looked adequate, but not tempting enough for me to want to try it. Unfortunately, if you are assigned to first seating dinner, and miss it, room service is the only alternative. The Lido closes too early, in my opinion. Public Areas and the Ship in General – 9 The Statendam is a very pretty and well-kept ship. One of the best features was the central (indoor) pool area, adjacent to the Lido restaurant, which had windows all around, and a retractable glass ceiling. I was told that the pool was fresh water and heated, although the water was too cold for swimming. There was a movie theater, coffee café, alternative dining restaurant (extra charge, but very good), internet café (extra charge), gym with adequate workout facilities (except maximum dumbbell weight was only 25 pounds), promenade deck (very nice), observation lounge, shopping area, show lounge, and casino. Throughout the ship, there were other drinking areas, and numerous nooks with seating. Despite the fact that we were at sea for 4 days straight both to and from Hawaii, I was never bored; although, it would have been nice to have access to a VCR and movie rentals, as the movie selections via closed circuit television were only fair. None of the fountains were in operation; although, there were Christmas decorations in some of them. There were lots of children (all ages) on this particular cruise (Holiday 2002), and the ship was completely full. There were also a lot of senior citizens aboard, as expected. We never got sick, even though there was a lot of motion. We were taking medication as a precaution, which I would recommend. There were many people who suffered unnecessary sea sickness because they did not plan ahead. Disembarkation – 7 I already commented about our difficulty retrieving our luggage in San Diego. Aside from that, disembarkation was fine, I guess. The ship was not cleared by the Coast Guard right away, which may or may not have to do with increased security, so I cannot assign blame with Holland America. The shuttle from the cruise terminal to the airport was overpriced, as we paid much less to ride in a Mercedes sedan from the Marriott to the cruise terminal (longer drive) when we embarked. This was one of the best overall vacation experiences I have ever had. I only wish that Holland America could offer vacations priced more commensurate with their quality. We were attracted to this cruise because of the itinerary and date, despite it being overpriced.

Read More
  • New

Aug 4, 2002

Alaska

Had the unfortunate experience of being on the Statendam when a generator blew, and we were towed back to Vancouver. Some crew members worked yeoman hours and were super. Others, including my cabin attendant, took the time off. Never saw my cabin attendant after the first night of the two and room was not made up for the second day. Also no room service, carried our own bags from the dock to the busses and very poor food service.

The major concern that I have is the company seems to be ignoring customers, as I sent a certified letter to the CEO on August 8th and have not had a reply. Also requested money back on August 7th without a response. Again, some of the crew were outstanding, but company seems not to care about passengers.

Read More
  • New

Mar 23, 2002

San Diego to Hawaii

  Our flight from NY arrived in San Diego the morning of the cruise and HAL personnel at the airport directed us to their shuttle to the pier. We arrived at about noon and boarding began at about 1PM and we were boarding #6 and got aboard before 2PM. We went to our cabin 118 on Verandah deck where we found our early seating dining assignment. I immediately initiated my usual boarding routine, going to the front desk to register my credit

card and then going to the dining where a large chart of the table arrangements was provided and I could confirm we had been assigned to the table for two near the musicians which we had requested. I then joined my wife for an excellent buffet at the Lido restaurant. When we returned to our cabin, our luggage had already arrived and we unpacked until the mandatory lifeboat drill. As the shipped sailed at 5PM to the music of the Station Band, we went to the Crow's Nest where we met a couple from Canada whom we had met on the internet previously and exchanged views about this cruise. At 6PM we entered the dining room and were taken to our table on the upper level. We were delighted with the location on the railing with an excellent view of the lower dining room. We were served throughout the cruise by an excellent Indonesian staff consisting of our waiter Ningrat, his assistant Hermawan and their supervisor Ketut. They anticipated our every request and combined with the high quality of the food, we were to enjoy the best dining experience of all our cruises. We were serenaded nightly by the superb dinner music of the Champagne Strings. When the Maitre D’ Arie Nieuwdorp stopped by our table, we thanked him profusely for our excellent table location. Among the highlights of our dining experience were superb pasta appetizers and an excellent variety of entrees with many seafood delights we always enjoy. The desserts were exceptionally varied and delicious. After dinner we went to our favorite dance lounge- the Ocean Bar where a trio called City Lights performed nightly. This very talented group featuring Rebecca on piano, Edgar on guitar and Billy on drums were not only fine musicians but good vocalists as well. We asked them if they knew our song, "Love Letters" and they performed it nightly in a unique bolero tempo whenever they saw us on the dance floor. Needless to say, we danced there nightly to a dazzling variety of old favorites appreciated by many passengers. Another Filipino group was performing in the Crow's Nest nightly- the Station Band quartet. We couldn't believe that we would be doubly blessed by two fine dance bands. Our favorite was their rarely heard vocal rendition Glenn Miller's immortal "Moonlight Serenade." We spent many evenings dancing in those two lounges. The Champagne Strings performing nightly in the Explorer Lounge completed our feast of riches and confirmed that one of the main reasons we keep returning to HAL is the quality of their musicians. We had been alerted to the possibility of rough seas on the four day cruise to Hawaii and the five cruise back to San Diego. There were some choppy seas during the first day at sea causing some pitching of the ship and confirming the announcement of our Captain upon sailing that, "The ocean is always in motion." Some passengers were ill the first day but the seas calmed on the second day and we were blessed with smooth sailing for the rest of the cruise with surprisingly calm seas the entire return cruise to San Diego. We especially appreciated our verandah cabin as we slept nightly while at sea with the door wide open and enjoying the cool sea air and the sounds of the wake just below our cabin. The sea days were full of many activities provided be an excellent staff. My wife is an aerobic instructor and she attended every class given by Helen of South Africa. She was the best instructor my wife had ever had on any cruise with a variety of classes including yoga, boxing, strength training, step, low impact etc. Her classes were very popular and well attended as was the twice daily walk a mile around the lower promenade deck. I swam every morning at 7AM in the Lido pool prior to breakfast and the pool attendant always had everything in readiness for me each morning. I also spent much time biking in the spa in front of the convenient TV. We managed to rake up quite a few stamps in our Passport to Fitness. We hope that HAL does not terminate this very popular program as is widely rumored. We also enjoyed the almost daily social dance sessions supervised by Ray and June, dance instructors extraordinaire. We were happy to see Mark again conducting the daily team trivia contests and numerous other activities as well as demonstrating his expertise on the dance floor. We had enjoyed Mark on a previous HAL cruise. The excellent staff assured the nine sea days were never boring. Upon arrival in Hilo we were greeted with flower leis and Hawaiian dancers. We took the excursion to the colorful Botanical Gardens. In Honolulu we took the city, Punchbowl and moving Arizona Memorial tour. We had long lines due to many children being out of school for Easter. We enjoyed entertaining and informative bus drivers on these tours. On Kauai, we went on our own to the fine beach in front of the Marriott Hotel. The ship provided a free shuttle to the beach. On Maui, I took the catamaran snorkeling excursion which is run by the Pacific Whale Foundation. We snorkeled off the coast of neighboring Lanai under ideal conditions with many fish and turtles. We had breakfast going over and barbecue lunch returning while we observed as many as fifty whales. A great excursion. My wife enjoyed shopping along the main street of Lahaina. That night we went to the Old Lahaina Luau which we had previously booked on the internet. We enjoyed the beautiful sunset on the beach and the Hawaiian buffet and entertainment. This is probably Hawaii's most popular Luau. At our final port of Kona, we took the Kona Highlights bus tour which was overlong and featured a bus driver who never stopped talking. We enjoyed the ports and scenery of Hawaii and cruising past the Na Pali coast of Kauai. Spectacular views from our verandah. I must comment on the improvements I noted in the Lido buffet restaurant. Since our last HAL cruise, they have added a luncheon sandwich bar where you order any ingredients on any bread and have it grilled. They have also added a variety of pizzas available throughout the afternoon that would rival those on any other cruise line. We had breakfast and lunch daily at the Lido and were well pleased. A large variety of desserts at lunch and at the final lunch, a table of cold jumbo shrimps, Alaska king crab legs savored by many. A great Lido luncheon finale. We enjoyed the shows in the Van Gogh theatre especially the full cast performance titled "Sentimental Journey" and a hilarious ventriloquist. We found our 7th HAL cruise to be our most enjoyable. We always appreciate the little things that HAL does so well- the free post cards, those nice ceramic tiles and when the truck bringing the HAL canvas bags was late and arrived after we sailed from San Diego, the staff distributed them to the passengers as they left the ship at the end of the cruise. The icing on the cake was being invited to the Chief Officer's table on the final formal night. We were so pleased that while aboard, we booked a future cruise on HAL's new Zuiderdam with the cruise consultant on board. A delightful cruise.

Read More
  • New

Jan 7, 2002

Mexican Riviera

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 which was 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 programming. 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. Collateral facilities 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 Café where you can get a free coffee, espresso, or cappuccino. The only problem with the Java Café is that the person operating the café 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. Food 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 omelet 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. Service 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 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. Entertainment 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. Mazatlan 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. Acapulco 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. Zihuatanejo 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. Puerto Vallarta 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. Conclusion 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. We would be happy to answer any questions. Just drop us an E-mail. Bill & Lu Schwartz [email protected]

Read More
  • New

Dec 13, 2001

10 day Mexico

After having been on 11 cruises previously, 5 of which were with "Celebrity", we decided to try "HAL". The timing, itinerary and price were perfect. We have taken the 7 day Mex. cruise twice with "Carnival". My wife Dinah & I enjoyed both cruises because of the number of days at sea and the 3 ports. Best of all, no airport hassles since we live in L.A. This cruise also offered Acapulco & Zihuantenejo, neither of which we have been to. It took no effort

to recruit Dinah's twin sister Roz & her husband Bob to join us. They are our usual cruise companions. We met them in San Diego since they had to fly from NY and we drove from L.A. The boarding process was simple and easy. There was no time for the arrival buffet since we arrived shortly before the lifeboat drill. The baggage was delivered into the cabins which is much nicer than having them left in the hallway. The cabin (basic oceanview) was large, 197 sq. ft. It was very nicely appointed and very comfortable. After the! drill, as the ship left San Diego, we walked around the ship and were very pleasantly surprised by the beauty of this ship and the artworks aboard. We actually started at the top and work our way down. 1st stop was the Crow's Nest. It sits over the bridge with a panoramic 180 degree view. Great place to relax and watch the ocean during the day. It is also a wonderful place for a pre or post dinner drink with FREE hot hors d’oeuvres. They have great dance music there till midnight and then it becomes a disco. Next we went to the Lido Deck which has the spa & gym, pool and Lido buffet rest. The pool area has a glass roof which is opened or closed depending on the weather. During the cruise it was a very relaxing area without all the noise and dumb activities usually associated with this area on most other ships. The Lido Rest. is large and comfortable with a great view to the sides and rear and has outside eating areas as well. You can also get burgers & hot dogs as well as Mexican food by the pool. Further down are also the shopping arcade, several different lounges where you can listen to different types of music and they are all very comfortable and nice. If you want to enjoy a drink that's fine, and if you don't, they leave you alone and do not hound you. The main dining room is just beautiful. It has two levels and very nicely laid out. The service and the food in both dining rooms were excellent. Both compared very favorably with "Celebrity". The food was as good as it looked, if not better. The deserts were killers. Very tempting, delicious and plentiful. Ice cream is free and served several times a day. They also served HUGE Alaskan King Crab legs several times during the cruise. Chilled at the Lido Rest. and hot in the main rest. The steaks were juicy and tender and fish were very good as well. The food presentation was wonderful. We were very pleasantly surprised. On the negative side, there are smoking sections in the dining rooms which is very annoying if your table is near them. We had to change tables because of that. The main showroom is big (2 levels) and very impressive. Some of the shows were very good while others were so-so. Some of the singers and dancers were just great. The ports of call were very good. We enjoyed every one of them. We never take the ship's excursions, we take our own. We always hire a cab, van & driver or car wherever we go. It costs a LOT less and we go where we want to and see more of the sights and less of the stores. In Cabo we went to the glass factory and later we split up. The girls went shopping and Bob & I went to town, walked around and stopped for a beer at a sidewalk bar. In Mazatlan we took a "pulmonia" cab to the El-Cid where we vegged out by the pool, ate and had a couple of drinks. In Acapulco we went to see the divers, walked thru the old part of town and then hired a van to take us sightseeing. Ziuatanejo was a walk around town for Bob & I and then we sat at a beachside bar for beer. On the sand by the water with a beautiful view of the ship. On the way back to the tender we walked past the fresh fish market right on the beach. The next day, in Pto. Vallarta, we spent the morning walking around town and in the afternoon we went to Mismaloya Beach where we sat at a bar right on the beach and had.....another beer. We then spent 2 more days at sea on the way back to S.D. which was a perfect way to end this cruise. We are now looking forward to our next cruise which will be determined by price, ship and itinerary. We fell in love with HAL & the Statendam. We could not have asked for a better cruise. Rick

Read More
  • New

Jul 8, 2001

Southbound Seward - Vancouver

If any of you have read my review of the Ryndam , you may remember that I said I would probably not take the same Alaskan cruise again, even though we were very happy with it. However, cruising someplace without heat and humidity in July were our primary drivers, so we headed for Alaska again (Europe was just too expensive). This year we flew to Anchorage a few days early and visited Hatcher Pass, a pretty area near Wasilla (60

miles N of Anchorage). Beautiful views and really good food is available from the Hatcher Pass Lodge restaurant. We were on our way to Denali, so we did not pan for gold. Maybe next time. Wildlife viewing is always better in Denali in the early and late hours, so we got on the bus for the 5:30 am tour to the Eielson visitor center. The mountain hid behind clouds, almost cleared, then disappeared again while we were at Eielson. It's not an easy thing to see this beast, though I've done it on a few occasions. During the trip we spotted 4 or 5 grizzlies, some caribou, and some wolves. One of them was a rare black wolf. Moose were taking the day off, but the scenery was beautiful as always. Denali is what keeps me coming back to Alaska year after year, but I really believe that fall is the best time. Moose are plentiful around the road then, and the colors are unbelievable. A couple of years ago I was fortunate to be picked in the annual road lottery, where for 1 day you are allowed to drive your car the length of the road. It was the best day I ever spent in the park. Last year I entered but wasn't picked, but the weather was so bad then even the winners weren't allowed in. We left Denali, heading for Seward. This year instead of riding the Holland America bus, we rented a car and dropped it in Seward. It's not cheap, but it does add some flexibility. We spent the day before the cruise taking a tour of breathtaking Kenai Fjords National Park. Orca and humpback whales were romping, and plenty of puffins were flying (bowling balls with wings), swimming, and sitting in their nests. They never spend enough time with the puffins, but we did have time to stop on Fox Island for lunch, which was good. They did rush us though, allowing only 45 minutes to eat and sightsee. Holgate glacier was very impressive, though it is rapidly receding. We enjoyed a couple of excellent meals at Ray's in Seward (blackened salmon, halibut & chips, etc), and decided to eat at the Crab Pot after our Kenai Fjords cruise. They were pushing whole Alaskan King Crabs, which we tried. Skip the chowder at the Crab Pot, but they do a great job with crab, even bringing the live crab to our table before cooking it. It was excellent, but expensive. I've been visiting Alaska every year since 1992, and I've watched a lot of ships dock there. I used to see the Noordam and the Nieuw Amsterdam, and wonder why anyone would get on those boats. Several years ago I saw a Holland America ship that I wanted to sail, a beautiful ship called Statendam. This year we sailed her. The Statendam is the oldest ship of her class, the third oldest in the HAL fleet and it shows a bit. We had a hard time getting our cabin door to open. I reported it, and it worked a little better, but still was a pain. Elevators were slow or sometimes out of service. Once I got in an elevator with absolutely no lights, but they came on after stopping at 3 floors. While sailing out of Glacier Bay, the ship listed to the port side for several hours, so I asked someone at the front desk what was going on. They said "we must be making a turn". I laughed and walked away. About an hour later the ship righted itself. The Statendam crew was quite a bit more standoffish than the Ryndam, though this was not true in the dining room, where the food was better than the Ryndam, and service was excellent. Leading the way was our old Dining Supervisor Ketut Sumatra, who was on the Ryndam last year. Ketut, a 20 year HAL veteran, makes you feel like a King, and fills in to make sure the service stays at a very high level when the waiters and assistant waiters get busy. We were delighted to see him and highly recommend him. He also makes wonderful flambé. Our waiter Alih, and wine steward Dante were also top professionals. Food on the Statendam was even better than the Ryndam, and even their salads were quite good. Soups still could use some improvement. Our favorite entrees included pan-fried sole and halibut, potato crusted salmon, and steaks. The only complaints we had was the Dutch lunch in the Lido, which was dreadful, and some of the breakfast foods in the Rotterdam dining room. One other thing to avoid is their pizza - I don't want green peas and cauliflower on my pizza! We tried room service for breakfast one day, and it worked well. Just leave your breakfast selections on your front door the night before, and it's delivered on schedule the next morning. The weather this year was almost exactly opposite of last year, but the only really rainy place was Ketchikan. College fjord and Glacier Bay were marvelous days. In Sitka, I took a semi-submarine tour that was pretty good. You are seated in the bottom of a boat where you are below the water level. You get a good view of some spectacular starfish, jellyfish, kelp and crabs. On the way back to the dock, we all went upstairs and got to see a little more of Sitka. We signed up for the trolley in Juneau, which turned out to be a rip-off - $12.50 each to go a few miles, but it did take us to the local museum, which was well worth the $5 admission. Since it was raining, we didn't do too much else there but shop. Some of those Russian lacquer boxes are really nice, but I'm not paying $900 or more for a little box! Heavy rain greeted us in Ketchikan, so I spent some time in Soapy's on the internet for 10 cents a minute (on board it's 75 cents). We then went to the local lumberjack show that was pretty good. They have bleachers that are heated and covered, which is necessary for Ketchikan. The show was padded with fluff, but there were still some good moments. During the show the rain stopped, but they were still unable to do the pole-climbing event, because the poles were too wet. I did enjoy the log rolling contests and some of the other stunts. I thought $29 was a bit high, but that's what it cost. We felt short changed on our shore excursions. We had our excellent travel agent Christina (AAA Houston - Copperfield) request the late seating for dinner, and it showed up as confirmed on our tickets, but we received the early seating assignment on board. We saw Ketut on the first evening when seating is open, and found out we were booked in his section, so we didn't fight it. We were thrilled to have him, but we still wish we could have had the late seating. Since the stay in Ketchikan is only from 11-6, it sure is tough to do much, and still be ready for formal night at 5:45. We participated a bit more in Passport to Fitness this year. This part of the cruise needs work. The leaders of some of the events, like miniature golf and ring toss were disorganized, and in some cases indifferent. It's true these are somewhat mindless activities, but the Ryndam crew made everything seem special. Not so here. The Captain kept his distance, though he was quite pleasant at the Mariner reception. We did prefer the cruise director on the Statendam to the Ryndam's, but the rest of the staff (except for dining room and cabin stewards) was disappointing. Evening entertainment was also lacking, much below what it was on the Ryndam. A comedian who emulated television preachers was fair, and some of the Statendam cast numbers were ok, but HAL clearly needs to improve in this area. The selection of movies in the theatre was decent, and we attended one. 20 minutes before the end of the movie, the projector light burned out, and the movie was stopped since they did not have any replacements. In Sitka they bought a new 36” television and loaded it on the tender with me. Clearly maintenance on the Statendam could be improved. I visited with a number of our fellow passengers about their previous cruising experiences. They were very strong advocates of Holland America. One had recently completed a cruise on Royal Caribbean's Voyager of the Seas, then the largest ship, and said the food was awful, but it was a really cool ship. I like smaller ships and quality food, so I'm sticking with HAL for my next cruise!

Read More
  • New

Jul 1, 2001

Vancouver to Seward

Vancouver’s airport is huge and most airline passengers you’ll encounter in it don’t speak English. Chinese seems to be the predominant language. After claiming my bags (traveling with 2 suitcases is such a hassle!), I found my shuttle and took a short ride to the Delta Resort Hotel. At the hotel, the shuttle driver took my bags and gave them to the bellhop and directed me to the HAL desk. Two very friendly, patient, and informative cruise

line representatives explained everything that would happen over the next 24 hours. I never had to go to the front desk, except to turn in my key the next day. The cruise reps processed my immigration papers and told me to have my bags ready at 8 AM the next day. A Gray Line tour bus would take us on a 3-hour tour of Vancouver before we boarded the MS Statendam. The hotel was first class and the service was excellent. I felt very relaxed and was impressed with how easy things were going. I admit to being a bit apprehensive at first about the idea of traveling a long distance by myself and having to figure out how to make the various connections and transfers. HAL simplified all that and I would recommend booking through them, especially if you’re a first timer. I could have wasted a lot of time, money, and energy making arrangements on my own. Embarkation Finally, the day I’ve been dreaming about for over a year. I awoke to discover it was Canada Day. What a nice surprise! I had my bags ready at 8 AM and was told I wouldn’t see them again until they appeared in my cabin on the ship. Those of us on the sightseeing tour (another unexpected, but much appreciated “extra” from HAL) were each given a small Canadian flag to wave as we drove by Canada Day celebrations. Vancouver is a beautiful, cosmopolitan city. Among other sights, we visited Stanley Park, Queen Elizabeth Park, and Chinatown. The bus pulled up to the pier in downtown Vancouver and got our first glimpse of the MS Statendam. We walked down a corridor past a room full of hundreds of hot, sweaty people waiting to embark. Because we had already processed, we were able to bypass this steamy throng and go directly onto the ship and to our cabins. Within minutes my bags arrived, followed by my roommate Leslie. She and my girlfriend Holly had spent a few days in Seattle and took a shuttle up to Vancouver. Chris (Holly’s fiancé) and his 3 children drove up from California and met us on the ship about an hour later. In the words of Johnny Horton’s 1961 hit song, it was “North, to Alaska”. Cabin I was prepared for a cabin about the size of a broom closet so I was pleasantly surprised at how big the room was, especially the bathroom. As it turned out, Leslie and I only used the cabin to shower, get dressed, and sleep. It was an inside cabin (K class) which didn’t bother us in the least, especially when our friend Holly told us that the 20+ hours of sunlight in Alaska kept her awake in her outside cabin. I know the cabin is a big deal to some people but in my opinion, unless I was going on a cruise for an extended period of time, a bigger cabin or suite isn’t worth the extra vacation dollars. I’d rather spend my money on a shore excursion. Made, our cabin steward, introduced himself. We rarely, if ever, saw him after that but somehow he figured out our schedule and came in unobtrusively twice a day. Our beds were made in the morning, bathroom cleaned, and the fruit bowl refilled. At night our sheets and bedspreads were pulled down and a foil wrapped chocolate placed on our pillows. I can get used to this! Weather I may as well get this out of the way early on. The weather was crappy, pure and simple. July 1 was the last day we saw clear skies. It was followed by 7 days and 7 nights of rain, fog, mist and drizzle. The Statendam became our proverbial Ark. My Land’s End rain slicker became a permanent fixture on my body. It never got above 57 degrees, but that didn’t stop us from walking in each port and taking in the sights. We still had a great vacation and would do it again. The fact that we enjoyed ourselves so much speaks to our ability to roll with the punches (and waves) and remain flexible, as well as an overall good cruising experience with HAL. I mention the weather because if your idea of a cruise is dancing on the deck while wearing a fruit filled hat (a la Carmen Miranda), an Alaskan cruise isn’t for you. What we experienced is typical for southeast Alaska in the summertime, so be prepared. I was warned to be sure to wear sunscreen to protect myself from the sun reflecting off the ice and water. Nothing reflected off of anything and we were always covered from head to toe and carrying an umbrella. We also didn’t have any problems whatsoever with bugs or mosquitoes. Due to the weather and the resulting large ice floats, we were unable to do our scenic cruising in Glacier Bay but College Fjord more than made up for it. Dining After the mandatory lifeboat drill, there was a sail away party on the sports deck and then our first of many fabulous dinners in the formal Rotterdam dining room. The food, presentation, and service were outstanding. Our waiter’s name was Yayan and his assistant was Astra. Every dinner was a 5-course affair. The seafood selections were outstanding and so were the desserts. My favorite dessert was the HAL signature chocolate cake I had at our first dinner. It was made with that incredible dark Dutch chocolate. No Hershey’s spoken here. The cake’s only competition was the chocolate mousse on the second night. HAL has a reputation of catering to the Social Security set and some well meaning, but misinformed, cruisers told me to expect rather bland offerings. Nothing could have been further from the truth. Some memorable main dishes included Baked Stuffed Prawns Del Rey, a spicy dish made with chili flakes; Filet Mignon Oscar, topped with asparagus, béarnaise sauce and crabmeat; Seafood Mixed Grill (tuna, halibut, giant prawn and scallop); and Bami Goreng, spicy Indonesian noodles served as an appetizer or a main course. You could have breakfast and lunch in the Rotterdam but we gravitated toward the Lido Restaurant. It was easier and quicker than the dining room, offered a good selection, and the 5-year old in our party could eat with us. I especially liked the omelet station at breakfast and fresh squeezed orange juice was available every morning. Favorites at lunch included the salad bar, homemade soup, and pizza. One day an outstanding cold seafood bar was available which included chilled crab claws, marinated calamari salad, and fresh shrimp salad. Ports We visited four ports – Ketchikan, Juneau, Sitka, and Valdez. Due to the fact that we did a 6-mile walk in each port city, our involvement with shore excursions was extremely limited. I did sign up beforehand for the helicopter ride to the Mendenhall Glacier in Juneau. It, like many other shore excursions, was canceled due to the bad weather and poor visibility.  As a consolation prize, I took the tram to the top of Mt. Roberts. You’re supposed to be able to see the capital city of Juneau when you reach the observation deck. With the fog having the consistency of the Dutch green pea soup we ate for lunch, we saw zilch. We did enjoy the nature center and the movie on the history and culture of the Tlingit Indians. Sitka was my favorite port and I can’t imagine an Alaskan cruise without it. The Russian landmarks and history are fascinating. Make sure you visit the Sitka National Historic Park. The park ranger gave us an extremely interesting tour and lecture on the battle between Governor Baranov’s troops and the Tlingit Indians. Mal de Mer We experienced 24 hours of rough weather and seas once we left the Inside Passage on our way to Valdez. That night our ship rescued a fishing vessel that had taken on too much water. The Coast Guard came by the next day to pick up the two men who were onboard. Prior to going on this cruise, I was told I wouldn’t have any trouble with seasickness due to the size of the ship and the stabilizers. I packed some ginger tablets anyway and was glad I had them when we experienced turbulent weather. A combination of the rich food and the motion of the ship left me feeling rather green around the gills. The morning after the big storm the ship was really rockin’ and rollin’. I’d suggest packing motion sickness medicine just in case. On-Board Activities and Facilities Don’t miss Dutch High Tea. It adds a nice, classy European touch to the cruise. We attended all of the after dinner shows and found them to be entertaining. If you’re expecting Broadway or Las Vegas caliber performances, you’ll be disappointed. I live in Nashville and would compare them to the type of shows you see on the General Jackson Showboat. My favorite was the classical banjo player, which sounds corny, but he was really good. He started off with some Stephen Foster songs and finished with a medley of songs from “Fiddler on the Roof”. There was a naturalist onboard and one rainy afternoon I attended his whale lecture. His slides were the only whales I saw during the entire trip! The lecture was very interesting, and I can now tell the difference between a dorsal fin and a pectoral fin. Holland America does something that I think is very thoughtful. They try to have a Catholic priest onboard each cruise to say daily Mass. I attended three times and found it be a good way to focus yourself and start the day. We tried Snowball Bingo one day and had a lot of fun but didn’t win any money. If someone doesn’t win the jackpot, it “snowballs” to the next day. I thought the Dutch Dessert Extravaganza was more hype than substance but I know some people don’t think a HAL cruise is complete without it. It’s held at 10:30 PM, it’s crowded, and the servings are too big. I would have preferred a dessert sampler and dispensed with the ogling and the picture taking. Miscellaneous I know that HAL caters to an older crowd, but I was surprised, especially on an Alaskan cruise, to see so many people 65 and over. I thought that given the time of year and the destination, there would be more families and young people. I’m only mentioning the age of the passengers because I know that’s important to some people. We met lots of interesting people of all ages, including a 90-year-old man who was there with 20 other family members. Everyone we encountered was pleasant and enjoyable. After hearing horror stories from friends about other cruise lines and their roaming gangs of out-of-control teenagers and around the clock drinking, I was glad to not have a bunch of 20 year olds vomiting in the hallway outside my cabin at 3 AM. I’m very weight conscious and am proud to report that when I weighed myself when I got home, I hadn’t gained an ounce. I ate well, but moderately, and stayed active. No 5-10 lb. cruise gain for me! I pretty much stuck to 3 meals a day and took advantage of offerings like skim milk and fresh fruit and vegetables at breakfast and lunch. While the food at dinner was richly prepared, I thought the portion sizes were very reasonable. And no, I didn’t order 2 entrees, even on lobster night. Disembarkation We docked in Seward and were some of the first passengers off the ship at 6 AM. On the first day of the cruise we upgraded from the shuttle bus to the Alaskan Railroad. Well worth the extra $39. I highly recommend it. The train took us through some of the most breathtaking, up close scenery we saw on the entire trip. Lots of glaciers and waterfalls in heavily wooded areas, as well as “braided” streams formed by the glaciers. We saw two moose grazing in a meadow. The train goes around an “S” curve into a beautiful valley. College students served as waiters and tour guides in the train cars. There’s a dining car but they’ll serve you right at your seat if you want. Since it was so early in the morning, it was nice being able to sip a cup of hot coffee while we took in the sights. At the Anchorage train station, I parted ways with my friends. Because my flight was later and I was flying Northwest, the bus took me to the downtown Egan Center for a very unique, but practical, airline check-in. At the Egan Center, Northwest and TWA have temporary computer terminals set up in an exhibition hall filled with luggage. You claim your bags from the RR and then re-check them with the airline. I never saw them again until I got to Nashville the next day. So that you can enjoy your time in downtown Anchorage, there’s a bag sitting service. For $1 per bag, someone watches your carry-on luggage so you don’t have to lug it around with you. What a great idea! There are shuttles leaving at 3:30 and 5:30 for the airport. Since my flight didn’t take off until 11:30 PM, I opted for the later shuttle. Anchorage is a city of 260,000 people. The downtown smells like freshly ground coffee beans and grilled fish. There’s a plethora of coffee houses and seafood restaurants. You don’t see any chain restaurants or stores, so it’s basically a “Starbucks free” zone. Everything is very clean and relatively new. After lunch I went sightseeing and shopped until my shuttle arrived. My luggage and I arrived safe and sound in Nashville the next day. The long flight back at odd hours is the only drawback to this trip, so make sure you give yourself at least one whole day to rest up before going back to your dull, pre-cruise routine. Summary To sum it up, I did my share of eating on this cruise, but it was much more than that! So much so that on my 31-hour trip back home, my sleep-deprived brain was already plotting my next cruise. I’m hooked! I found the whole experience to be totally physically and emotionally relaxing. On my next cruise, I’ll probably try another cruise line just so I have something to compare with HAL, but I would recommend HAL and the Statendam to my family and friends without hesitation.

Read More
  • New

May 6, 2001

Back to back Alaska

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 and6th 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 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 see with 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 promptly 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 amidships. 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 bathtub 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 anything 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 awkward. Food was set up in a buffet line where you picked you items and the tables were set with tablecloths 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 tablecloths. 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 omelet 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. Ketchikan 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 flight-seeing 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 flight-seeing tour as it would 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 approx. 1 1/4 miles from the visitor center. This would be a 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 everyone 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 very impressive. 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 approx. 150. Visibility 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, mountain goats and bears. While stopped at a glacier 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 been many more in the 100+ group. Not sure if it was the itinerary 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 Ketchikan 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 Ketchikan, 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 recommend 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. Doug Hembroff Confirmed Cruise-Addict

Read More
  • New

Jan 12, 2001

Vancouver to Seward

I have cruised regularly since the early 80's, on various different lines and  believe that this was cruise# 27.   HAL is my favorite cruise line and the NORWAY is my favorite ship.  I am 44, married and my cabin mate is 48 and married.  Our husbands because of business and other hobbies don't cruise that much, so Deb and I cruise together, usually 3-4 times per year.   It works out very well! I left Memphis on Tuesday January

9th, flying directly into San Diego.  We stayed at the Embassy Suites downtown and had a rental car.  For what it is worth, the Embassy Suites is a nice hotel but for the price I expected a whole lot more.  The hot made to order breakfast was very nice, but the afternoon manager's reception consisted of chips and drinks, nothing more.  They did shuttle us to return the rental car and shuttled us to the pier.  On Wednesday we drove down to Tijuana and spent the morning combing the different shops and pharmacies.  Please note that if you are going there to purchase medications, there are some good buys, but you really have to know what you are purchasing.  There were many items that were cheaper to purchase using my co-pay through the insurance company.  If you need narcotics or injectibles you will need a prescription.  In the afternoon it started to rain so we headed over to the Barona Casino.  What a nice place and very well run.  We had lunch there and spent the afternoon.  I  walked out with about $500.00!  They do run a shuttle and will pick you up at your hotel and drop you back off.  It was much nicer than the casino's down in Tunica, MS along with some of the ones in Las Vegas.  On Thursday it was still raining so we drove over to the Seyquan Casino.  Although not as nice as the Barona, it was still very good to us.  Because of the rain, we just went back to the hotel and ate in. Friday morning is now here, the big day and it is still raining. Two whole weeks aboard the beautiful MS Statendam.  I am so excited as I have never been to Hawaii before.  Deb lived in Oahu for 7 years, so I had a built in tour guide.  Each day in Hawaii had been carefully mapped out to get the most out of our 5 days.  Finally the time comes to head over to the pier.  The shuttle dropped us off at 11:00 and there was a porter there to take our baggage away.  There were some folks already inside waiting  for the check in to start. There is a sign that states check in at 12:30, embarkation at 1:30.     If you arrive earlier you will need to find the person that hands out the embarkation numbers.  Otherwise you will receive one at the door.   We were fortunate and received number 2.  Embarkation started at 1:15 with the wheelchairs first and then the suite passengers.  We were called within 5 minutes of that and were on board at 1:25.  They did not escort us to the cabin as had been done in the past, but that was O.K. as we knew exactly where we were going.  We dropped off our carry-ons and headed off to the front desk to set up our sign-n-sail card.  Then off to the Lido for lunch.  Wow, we are finally here!  The embarkation lunch started out what was to be the best meals I have had on any cruise.  The food was consistently well done.  I cannot remember any item that I did not care for.    After lunch we set off to explore the ship.  I pretty well knew the layout since I had previously been on the Veendam.  It was still raining so we busied ourselves exploring and then back to the cabin to unpack.  Our luggage was waiting there for us when we returned at 3:00.  The lifeboat drill was held at 4:15 and remember with HAL it is MANDATORY to be there.  Once that was over an announcement was made that we will depart at 6:30pm since some passengers flights were delayed.  Sail away came but it was still raining so we did not go out on deck.  We went into the casino for awhile and then went off to dinner.  We were in second seating in the smoking section and had the  pleasure of sitting with Ermalee and Bill  and Eileen and Howard .  All I can say is "FANTASTIC".  Never had I ever been made to feel so comfortable with folks I had never met before.  Each meal was a pleasure!! The next four days were spent at sea.  Unfortunately for us it was cold, rainy and windy therefore no sunning.  We made do attending the different lectures, the daily movies, playing in the casino,  the various game shows, playing trivia and doing the daily quiz.  Debbie won a prize for the daily quiz on Hawaii.   We would have much preferred the sun, oh well!.  The seas were pretty rough the first three days and nights,  and more than half of the dining room was absent.   What I still can't figure out is why people do not take the necessary precautions.  To be sick and stuck in your room is no way for me to start out a vacation.. There were two informal nights and 1 formal night along with the first night casual.   We also had our usual visit to the hair salon.  Debbie got me hooked on having my haircut on board.  I live in a very rural part of West TN and the best haircuts I have had in the last two years have been on ship by the Steiner girls.  We usually ask one of the crew who does their hair and then make our appointments accordingly.  I don't mind paying a little more money, since they always do a far better job than my local beauty shop. As we were waiting to dock in Hilo, we were outside on the lower promenade deck walking and waiting and watching the scenery when a man approached us and told us that whales had been spotted toward the rear of the ship, we ran back there and then after scanning the horizon for about 10 minutes we finally spotted them jumping and splashing in the sea.  There were out there the whole time we were docking.  Waiting for us at the pier was a group of women dressed in the traditional hula skirts and men in aloha shirts, bidding us welcome with song and dance.  We had our only shore excursion arranged for Hilo.  It was the Volcano National Park and Hilo city tour and was well worth the price.  We started off at a beautiful waterfall ( I can't remember the name) and then headed up to Volcano National Park and stopped for lunch at the Volcano house.  What breathtaking views of the Kilauea caldera and the horrible smell of sulfur.  We then drove all over the Chain of Crater's road area, looking at the crater from different views and the old lava flow patterns and then headed over to the Thomas A. Jaggar museum.  Please don't try and take a piece of lava or rock that you will see on the ground.  The legend of Pele (Goddess of Fire) considers them her children and bad luck will come upon you if you take one of her children.  The post office there receives the largest amount of packages in the whole United States and these contain rock or lava which people have returned hoping that their string of bad luck will change.  After driving through the park, we stopped at the lava tube and had the opportunity to walk through it.  It is very cool and damp in there.  We then drove over to Kalapana, this is the town that was lost to the lava flow in the 80's.  187 homes were lost and 800 acres added to the Big Island.  You can walk all the way out to the ocean on the lava.  It has a strange texture to it almost like peanut brittle.  We then drove on and stopped at the Macadamia Nut Factory where you can purchase all kinds of nuts in various different flavors and chocolate covered combinations.  There is also a self guided tour which go through all the various steps to produce the nuts.  We then headed back to the ship for dinner.  It was our first Hawaiian night.  Wear your best and brightest!! The casino is closed the 5 days you are in Hawaii.  Each evening they have some kind of fun things to do.  A slot tournament, you be the dealer clinic, poker tournament, etc.  There is no money exchanged for these,  just fun! Our next port is Oahu.  Upon arrival we were greeted by a fire ship and a helicopter that dropped flowers. Honolulu is just like any other big city.  Lots of all buildings and very very crowded.  We made our way by taxi to pick up our rental car at the airport.  Then we were off to explore Pearl Harbor, the north shore and then the Polynesian Cultural Center. We drove all over the island stopping to marvel at the 25 foot waves on the north shore and then headed down to the Poly center  This was the highlight of the day. Everything and anything  you wanted to know about the Polynesian's you can learn about here.  It is run by the Mormons and is affiliated with Brigham Young University.  The students are your tour guides and run the different exhibits.  Each of the students that work there work for 18 hours a week and in exchange they receive an almost complete scholarship to attend BYU.  We opted for the Ambassador package which gave us a private tour guide, front row seats at each exhibit, our luau and 2nd row seats at the night show which was awesome!!!  We made our way back to the airport and dropped off the car and then back to the ship where we showered and fell into bed. The next day is Maui. You have to tender into Lahaina.   The playground of the rich and famous.  Our day was spent on the road to Hana, driving through the rain forest.  What a most awesome experience.  Deb knew of a place where you purchase a cassette or c.d. which gives you a guided tour of the road to Hana.  It tells you all the points of interest, the places where you should stop and take pictures or hikes back in the woods to see a remote waterfall, or where to stop to see one of the last black sand beaches.  It took us 3 hours to get up to Hana and for those that have been on that road before, it is now paved and is mostly 2 lane.  There are still 600 curves and 54 bridges to go over.   Awesome beauty! Our next port is Kauai.  This was an easy day as we just shopped in town and then went over to the Islander Hotel and spent the rest of the day at the beach. Our last day is on Kona.  We tender in to the beach where they do the Iron Man contest swims.  We walked around town and did some last minute shopping and then on to or whale watch excursion.  We booked this independently through Dan McSweeny's whale watch.  He is one of the whale researchers who has been instrumental in identifying over 5000 humpback whales in both the Hawaiian Islands and also Alaska.  He really knows where they are.  We were able to get up close and almost personal with about 30 or so of these massive creatures.  I have attached some pictures that Deb was able to get with her video/still camera.  We also were able to see some pilot whales, and bottlenose and spinner dolphins.  To see them out free in the ocean without a tank is simply breathtaking.  We also were able to hear the males "singing" through a microphone that was placed in the water.  Truly awesome.  After we had dinner back on the ship, at around 10:00pm we sailed by the active lava flow.  This was a totally awesome experience..  You could actually feel the heat and smell the sulfur.  Fortunately the weather was clear so we really got a good look at it.   Our next 5 days are spent heading back home.  The first two days we had great weather, but then the skies got cloudy again and the winds and the waves picked up.  We spent the days again playing Bingo, cards games, enjoying the shows and just relaxing.  Our Statendam experience was wonderful. In conclusion, we had a most enjoyable 15 days.  The food and service were excellent. This is a very happy ship.  All staff, crew and officers that we encountered were very friendly and seemed genuinely happy .   We did run into some minor problems that were addressed to the hotel manager.  These problems were acknowledged by the hotel manager and a very nice French wine was sent to our table one evening for dinner.  If you have any questions, please feel free to send me an email.                        Judi Carpenter

Read More
  • New

Oct 19, 2000

Hawaii from/to San Diego

        We have sailed on a variety of ships on oceans, rivers, lakes and canals and continue to enjoy such travel to this day because for us it's the only way to go for relaxation, variety and, best of all, pack and unpack the bags just once!  It also affords several opportunities, dependent on the length of the cruise, to ‘dress up' for dinner a few times, meet new and interesting people,  hear informative lectures, enjoy many

varieties of music and see some energetic stage productions while sitting in a comfortable theater just a few steps or decks away from our cabin. We were hooked for life on travel by sea when we took our first ocean voyage with our then 2 and 3 year old daughters in 1953 on the Holland-America Lines' ship, the Nieuw Amsterdam. when we sailed from New York to Europe for graduate studies abroad.  Though we had an inside tourist or 3rd. class cabin without a bathroom, we enjoyed it so much that it remains our vacation of choice to this day.         Our most recent cruise was also on a Holland-American Line ship, the Statendam, 15 days around Hawaii from/to San Diego.  It was just what we were looking for. This was our third time aboard this particular vessel and selected it again because of the nearly10 days at sea with five days for stops at as many different ports.  Though we have occupied almost every type of accommodation on board a ship from bunk beds to suites, we find we are more comfortable on a lower passenger deck.  In addition to it being less expensive it also requires more wlking and stair climbing (shun the elevators if possible) to the dining room and public facilities.  The additional exercise is also great to fend off extra calories!         Learning from many experiences on a variety of ships, we requested a cabin on A-deck - the lowest passenger deck - approximately amidships on the port side (it's usually the starboard side that ties up at a dock). This should be the most stable area on the ship if we encountered a rough sea (we did).  Identical cabins and furnishings are also located on both the Main and Lower Promenade decks at a somewhat higher cost but we prefer the lower deck for its added quietness and insulation from public decks and lounges either below or above.  We also selected a cabin that cannot be used as an adjoining cabin.  These often have a sliding door or partition between them and do not usually prevent unwanted sounds from filtering through. As expected the cabin, number 752,  was very quiet with a great view of the sea from a large window.  The twin beds which can also be made into a queen size for two weren't quite long enough for me as usual.  In this cabin I simply pulled the mattress down from the head of the bed, stuffed a rolled up blanket in the space and then had ample room. The furnishings included a comfortable sofa, the usual closet space and bathroom with both shower and tub, the latter being quite short but usable.         It's the days at sea with no port calls that test the overall service and deck activities offered by a ship.  On this cruise the staff gets generally high marks in every category.  Our cabin steward and dining room waiter and helper were all very good.  And on the four formal nights at sea our table of six was expanded to seven to include one of the ship's officers who not only added to lively conversation but also offered, compliments of the ship, both white and red wine for dinner.  The cruise director, a seasoned veteran, was one of the best we've seen and heard.  He supplied lively banter and information each evening in just the right proportion at the conclusion of the evening entertainment.  The ship's colorful theater has a revolving stage, occasional fireworks and a fine 7-piece orchestra which plays for a energetic group of ten 20-something singers and dancers.  Among the other acts, we particularly enjoyed the three tenors (called These Three Tenors) who gave two fine concerts and a pianist who had played her instrument of choice in nearly 250 Hollywood movies, a gifted and talented musician.  In addition to the theater presentations there were dozens of activities of every sort from very active (deck sports of all kinds) to sitting in a comfortable lounge chair punching out bingo tabs or on a casino stool trying to beat the odds at a huge variety of one-armed/buttoned bandits.  One of the ladies at our evening dining table lost quite a pile of money by trip's end.  She said the casinos in Atlanta City were much more generous in their pay outs.  Since neither of these activities have any appeal to us, we used the large and well lighted library on board, walked at least four times around the promenade deck (a mile) each day or two, enjoyed the lovely blue sea from a comfortable deck lounge chair with fresh lemonade served in the morning/tea in the afternoon,  read a good bit about Hawaii from a fine selection of books, listened to live music of all sorts and on more blustery days went up to the Crow's Nest forward lounge on the top deck to enjoy panoramic views of sea.           This time around the overall quality of food service seemed to have improved though with somewhat fewer varieties of salads, soups and entrees (including fish and/or shellfish) for dinner; even so, there were always from three to five of each one with a chef's suggestion for a low cal choice for every course.  Going with the chef's selection, one could then splurge on one or more of several tempting desserts including the flambee of the evening and, if you liked, topped with ice cream, a sorbet or a dip of sherbert.         Breakfast and lunch (open seating) was served in the two-level sit-down dining room or cafeteria-style in the Lido with many choices from a do-it-yourself salad bar, sandwiches, hot and cold entrees,  hamburger/hot dog offerings and all the trimmings near the main indoor/outdoor swimming pool.  There was an ethnic hot bar nearby also, usually with varieties of Philippine or Indonesian food.  Especially did we enjoy the spicy peanut hot chop on a mound of steaming rice for lunch.      Having gone to many midnight buffets in the past aboard ship, we tend to skip them all now; in fact, there was only one offering on this 15-day cruise, a dessert fiesta at 11:30 p.m. featuring chocolate in almost every form one could think of.  Earlier night snacks were offered at 10:30 p.m. and if one was still hungry, pizza was always available.  Though room service is obtainable 24 hours a day, we seldom use it although breakfast trays could be seen here and there atop the hands of stewards in  the cabin passageways from 6 to 10 a.m. each morning.         This particular cruise from October 18 to November 3 was largely made up of mature passengers with a sprinkling of honeymooners.  I saw no more than 4 or 5 school-age children out of the nearly 1,250 passengers.  A number of people in wheel chairs or using crutches or walkers were aboard.  Knowing the ship has only 6 wheel chair-accessible cabins, I asked the Purser how they arranged the accommodation for so many.  He replied that most of them could actually walk a few steps and could get in and out of their cabins and bathrooms without too much difficulty.  I thought of a cruise we had been on in recent years during a school holiday period when physically challenged passengers might have found it quite difficult with scads of running and happy youngsters racing up and down the passageways, elevators and monopolizing the swimming pools and hot tubs.  While we at one time sailed with our own children and enjoyed every moment of it, our feeling these days is that we've been there, done that - and prefer leaving it behind now.  If you feel somewhat the same, select a sailing date that avoids such hilarity; on the other hand should you have children and want them to be almost totally occupied during every waking moment in shipboard activities for and with other kids - then have at it.  No need to worry about them at all - they can't be any more than a few hundred yards away any time of the day or night on a ship. Usually, the longer the cruise, even during school holidays, the fewer the children, especially those of ten days or more.         We usually do not purchase the land tours offered by the ship at ports of call, preferring to arrange our own, sometimes with a small rented car or a taxi, sometimes with another couple we have met on the ship.  This is frequently both cheaper and much more convenient, enabling us to stay as long or brief a period of time at any given stop along the way, avoiding usually much slower 50-passenger tour buses, loading/off loading procedures and, sometimes most aggravating, waiting for the inevitable one or two persons who seem to lose all track of time and cause unnecessary delays.  For this particular cruise, however, we used the ship's tours, mainly because the rental of a car or use of a taxi seemed expensive by initial comparison.  In hindsight, had we had the information we have now, we could have done it ourselves without much difficulty, but Hawaii's taxis are not cheap.         We had five ports of call, three alongside a dock and two from anchorage by lighter - several of the ship's large seaworthy, all-weather lifeboats.  The helicopter tour over the lava flows and smoke-spouting volcanos near Hilo were our favorite.  The ship's charge of $199 per person included transportation to the Hilo airport and return - could have arranged a similar flight on our own for about half that amount plus taxi.         Being a Navy vet from the Pacific area (aircraft carrier), I especially wanted to see the USS Arizona Memorial at Oahu where two of my neighborhood friends (brothers) died that tragic day in 1941. Since January, 1999, the USS Missouri has been moored at Ford Island nearby and is slowly being turned into a most interesting museum.  So here one can see both where the war in the Pacific began and where it ended on the deck of this famous battleship.  It was a very moving experience for me, especially as I read the names of my friends on the white marble wall on the USS Arizona memorial.         Three more port calls were made at Nawiliwili, Kuai; Lahaina, Maui; and Kona, Hawaii. At Nawiliwili, we traveled to see the Grand Canyon of the Pacific - a great sight - and the Spouting Horn Park where crashing waves on the coral shore spouts a large geyser of water into the air through a blowhole.  And range chickens under shaded hedges nearby really know how to work the tourists for crumbs.         The tour on Maui from the ship was not only reasonably priced but, for us, an outstanding event.  We went to the local theater to see the production of  ‘Myths and Legends of Hawaii.'  The music (mainly drums of various types) and staging of this drama of the origins of the islands and its people was an exceptional treat. Don't miss it should you be in Maui.  At Kona, our final port of call, we selected a bus tour to an old ranch, the largest one in the world we were told,  miles away from the port.  This tour was an almost all day experience which was really much too long for what we saw.  Of course, at every port of call one could find a Hilo Hatties for virtually any combination of colors for shirts, skirts and souvenirs.         Sometimes embarkation/debarkation procedures can be frustrating.  We almost always arrange our own travel to/from the port of the ship.  By so doing we both flew for just a bit more than the cost of one person on the inclusive rate.  To get such a good price, however, we had to change planes once both ways - fine with us for it gave us a chance to stretch our legs a bit as well as get a meal in an airport, a meal which these days is often much superior to the usual dry turkey slices on a bun and maybe a small apple on the plane. We also know that although boarding time is often posted from 2 to 5 p.m., those who arrive earlier can usually board from about 12:30.  Many who have arranged their own travel arrive at the port city the night before to avoid the rush.  The advantage of boarding shortly after midday is to find a very good lunch waiting for you on deck with an opportunity to check out your table reservation in the dining room.  We always ask for the first sitting, usually at 6 p.m., not wanting to wait until 8:30 in the evening for dinner.  As sometimes happens (and it did this sailing also) we were on the second seating though we had been confirmed on the earlier one.  Arriving when we did I was able to change it and get seats at a table for six on the upper level of the dining room.         We are already looking forward to our next cruise in the spring which will again be from the west coast but this time travel to the Mexican Rivera and through the Panama Canal to Fort Lauderdale, another two week experience.  In the meantime, we've arranged a mini-cruise from Florida over the Thanksgiving holidays for our entire family (19 at the moment) to introduce several of them to cruising and to have our first Thanksgiving in most of their memories where none of us will be cooking or washing dishes!

Read More
  • New

Sep 3, 2000

Alaska

DISCLAIMER (The following views and opinions are those solely of this writer and pertain solely to this cruise. There are hundreds or room, hundreds of passengers and too many deviations to even try to list thus even the same cruise may be viewed differently for another passenger on the very same cruise---enough said). We had completed a cruise on this very same ship in May of this year and when a last minute cruise became available

we once again headed for a Holland America cruise--same ship--same itinerary. On this cruise we were on the A Deck--the bottom of the ship--with an outside room located almost at the end of the ship. It was not the same amenities as on our previous cruise since we did not have the refrigerator, the outside veranda, etc however the room was large , had fresh fruit each day and was more than adequate. We did find the service somewhat less than the previous cruise and soma days our room was not made up until almost noon, towels were not always completely replenished, tissue was missing for a couple of days, and the cabin steward seemed to be available more in the evening than in the morning. We would have to rate the room very adequate but certainly not of the superior level we had on the previous cruise and the service was somewhat less as well The food and dining portion of this cruise was very good. Food was about the same as the previous cruise however there always seemed--and this may be just the perception from our vantage point--not enough staff. Service was a little slow and close attention to the service was just not the same as the previous cruise although we would still rate the service as acceptable. We were assigned to the late sitting and ask to be changed to the early sitting. We were advised there were over 200 request for such changes and that we would not likely get our request however about four hours later a note delivered to our cabin reflected the requested change.  "Cashless Society"---We never had one problem or issue with our stateroom charges however a number of other passengers we found were complaining. "A TIP"--On the very first day go to the Front Desk and give them your credit card number so an account can be established. Then on every charge present your cruise card which reflects the correct cabin number. It was not unusual to see passengers wanting to charge something and not knowing their stateroom number. The entertainment on this cruise was as good as the entertainment on the previous cruise. In fact some of the acts were identical--right down to the same jokes or songs. Don't expect Broadway productions and you won't be disappointed with the entertainment. In the last review I wrote about "Those The Casino was  a low spot on the first cruise and it was delightful to see new faces in the casino. I saw the staff even taking time to explain to passengers how a particular game was to be played. This was far more patience than we saw on the first cruise. All in all we found the casino staff very pleasant this time. The photographers were out in number as usual on a cruise ship and sometimes a little too much. On one formal night you had to cross three different photographers at three different locations to get to the dining room. We have found that a polite "no thanks" and just move along is the best way to handle a situation like the three different locations on the same evening. We did purchase several photos and some were great. Caution---if your photo is not exactly like it should be--dust spots, etc.--ask that it be redone and then check carefully to make certain it was reprinted and not just "touched up" with a crayon or ink marker. The Coffee Cafe , the Library, and the card room are all great little places to get away from the crowds for a little quite time on your own. They  are really very nice parts of the ship. Several of the lounges on this cruise were rather crowded at times as some people chose not to go to the outer decks. The Internet site is now fully operational and I chose the $49.95 unlimited plan and that was a great deal since I used over 300 minutes. Email was a little hard to send and receive at first but with Nicole's help it became a breeze throughout the week. Some internet providers, including mine, wanted to "drop" me from the server at times and then would not let me reconnect until three minutes had passed. Nicole provided the name of another email searcher/connector that worked fine. Connections were excellent and speed is better than a modem but not up to DSL, etc. On the last evening the subject of "tipping" on a cruise line that has a "no tipping required policy" could be heard being discussed just about anywhere you went on ship. Tips are expected by certain members of the crew and without tips they would not have a lot in wages. Once again we tried to tip according to the level of service for the cabin steward, the waiter and bus boys. Others were tipped at the time of service or it was added as a service charge to your bill. Bad weather prevented us from stopping at the port in Sitka and this was a great disappointment to a lot of the passengers and I can understand that especially when there are only 3 ports to be visited and one of them get cancelled. The cruise line gave each passenger a $25 credit for the port charges and a glass of champange.At least it was a positive gesture. The overall cruise in September cannot come close to matching the cruise in May where one finds the snow and ice still in place. We almost didn't recognize some of the glaciers which had lost both the snow on top of them as well as the snow in the surrounding area. The views are much more magnificent in the spring than in the fall. One final thought and that is the dress on the ship. We were most disappointed in the very casual dress that seems to prevail throughout the travel industry. It was hard to tell the difference between a formal night, an informal dress night and a casual dress night. A tux was rarely seen and even business suits were in short supply. The ladies seemed to dress more for the evening than the men. For us this was a last minute cruise decision. We purchased the cruise on Friday, caught a flight to Anchorage on Saturday and was aboard the ship on Sunday afternoon. This type of travel is not for everyone but the price was right and we just went for it. In summary we were well pleased with the cruise and look forward to another cruise on Holland America.

Read More
  • New

Jun 1, 1999

Alaska

We would do it again. (We will do it again! How about tomorrow, honey?) Here are the details as best as I can remember: SEATTLE  AIRPORT & GETTING TO THE SHIP    We booked our own air to Seattle, arriving a few days early to enjoy the sights.  Early Sunday morning, we dropped off our rental car and headed towards the international luggage carousel at the Seattle (SEATAC) airport.  All the cruise lines have a set up here

and we waited to board our Gray Line bus, which would take us to our ship in Vancouver.  We were given a rather nice "box lunch" and left our luggage with the Holland America representative right there in baggage claim.  We did NOT have to schlepp our luggage to the ship.  The next time we saw our luggage was in our stateroom.  We did not make these arrangements in advance.  It's just the way Holland America (HAL) does things.  The bus trip was about 3 hours, and customs at the US/CANADA border was a snap.  The driver went inside the building and came out with an agent and we were whisked on our way!  I've never been through customs that quickly! GETTING ON THE SHIP   "Embarkation" was a breeze.  Our ship was anchored in Canada Place. What a beautiful facility.  On our cruise last year, we left from the Ballantyne Pier, down the street, so this was realy a special treat.  There are many booths set up by the ground staff to check you in by cabin number.  We waited only a few minutes to check in.  We were given a bar-coded plastic card with our name and cabin number on it, and proceeded to the gangway.  We "scanned" ourselves on board, the entryway was decorated with festive balloons, and were escorted to our cabin by a smiling staff member.  Our luggage was waiting for us in our stateroom when we arrived.  We left port on time. There was a sailaway party on the Navigation deck, aka Nav deck, with music, appetizers and cocktails.  Lots of folks at the dock waving good-bye...just like the movies.  HAL is much more organized and did the drill before sailaway hence we could truly enjoy ourselves. THE STATEROOM     Our stateroom, #029, was a large inside stateroom located on the Navigation (NAV) deck, which is located on level 10, right in the middle of the ship. We opted for an inside cabin this year, because it doesn't get dark until well after midnight in Alaska, and sunrise is about 4am.   The bed is two twins joined, which is bigger than a queen size.  There was ample storage space for everything.  The suitcases fit under the beds.  The bathroom had a temperature-controlled shower and vacuum-style toilet and that crazy looking hair dryer that reminds me of those dust busters with the long hose.  The room steward kept everything immaculate throughout our stay.  Once again our expectations were exceeded.  Our beds were always made, even after an afternoon nap.  At bedtime, they were turned down in quite a unique pattern with the good-night note, extra pillows and Dutch chocolate.  Our every wish was anticipated.  We always had fresh fruit in our stateroom as well as plenty of ice. THE SHIP    The Statendam is beautifully designed with delights for the eyes throughout.  I could go on and on, but suffice it to say that we found delightful touches built in to the interior design everywhere.   We enjoyed that Statendam is a smaller ship, compared to those "cities afloat" and the ambiance was charming.  The Rotterdam dining room was magnificent, offering views of the water at every turn!  The china , crystal and silver sparkled!  The food was excellent, offering something for everyone!   We often ate breakfast and lunch in the Lido restaurant.  These buffets are efficient, and the food is very good!  It was an especially good choice for breakfast on those mornings when we were in a hurry to get going to shore. There are 8 elevators, two buffet food displays, two dinner seatings in the Rotterdam dining room, two stage shows, and ample room everywhere.  "TIPPING NOT REQUIRED POLICY"    Holland America leaves the option of tipping to the traveler, however, when deciding whether to tip or not, I think we should all put ourselves in the position of our attendants.  If YOU had their job, and sometimes worked over 12 hours a day, don't you think that at least $3.50 per person per day would be called for?  I would hope that anyone who has ever gone to a nice restaurant would give at least 15%, and $3.50 per day is certainly not excessive.  Okay, I'm off my soap box.  THE PEOPLE It wasn't the "Newly Wed and the Nearly Dead" like we thought.  I'd say about 20% were 35-55, 50% were  "retirement" age, and the remaining 30% was a mix of kids, teens, and Singles.  No one delayed anyone else in line or anywhere else for that matter because the ship wasn't crowded with only 1200 people aboard.  THE MONEY ON BOARD  We gave the front desk our credit card and signed for everything purchased on board.  This made buying "extras" like drinks, gifts, and shore excursions very easy.  We didn't even have to settle up upon departure because we got a preliminary statement to review before disembarkation. SHORE EXCURSIONS     Many shore excursions are offered and everybody wants to be on the "best" one at the best price.  We didn't hear any complaints from other cruise passengers regarding the shore excursions.   I would say to follow your interests, in selecting your shore activities.  Everything was easy.  Nothing was crowded or "stressed." After one night and one day at sea, which were filled with onboard activities, we landed at Ketchikan.  Since we had been here last year, we decided not to take any of the arranged tours and simply shopped.  All of Ketchikan's shops and points of interest are walkable from the ship as I remember.  This is truly a shopping mecca, geared for the cruise line clientel. Since we had taken a shore excursion last year to Juneau, we decided not to plan one this year.  Instead, we got on the express bus to Mendenhall glacier.  This particular operation is very efficiently run by MGT Tours.  The Express bus leaves the dock every hour on the hour and from Mendenhall every hour on the half hour.  The glacier had receeded  30 feet since last year, and we could tell the difference.  The new Visitor's Center is now open, and the models, films and demonstrations are excellent!  I would strongly recommend visiting Mendenhall if you're ever in Juneau.  The unique thing about this glacier is that you can get within a quarter of a mile from the glacier--the closest that we've ever been! Our next stop was Sitka.  This is the main reason why we booked this particular cruise, as we wanted to see the "Russian Capital of Alaska" and visit the Russian Orthodox Church.  It was beautiful.  Prior to Sitka, we had beautifully clear skies, but in Sitka, we were blessed with a little "liquid sunshine" as the Alaskans call it.  The drizzle wasn't bad at all.  We had on our jackets, and were neither soaking nor cold.  It was really quite beautiful since it was in such contrast  to what we had experienced in Ketchikan and Juneau.  The average temperatures throughout our trip was in the mid 40-50 range. We booked a tour here of "historical Sitka and the Raptor Center".  This is a good tour, and well worth the price.  Our only wish was to have had more time at the raptor center.  If any of you are looking for a non-profit  organization to donate a few dollars to, this is the center.  We saw many raptors (carnivorous birds with strong talons and sharp beaks) but the grandest of all, of course, was the American Bald Eagle.  We were introduced to Volta, the resident and traveling eagle.  He was quite beautiful.  He came to the raptor center after he ran into a power line (thus the name, Volta) and had to have a portion of his wing amputated.  He has lived at the center for 7 years, and is used extensively as an ambassador of good will and wonderful example of the things that the center accomplishes.  He has traveled all over Alaska, making presentations at schools, and even at some schools outside Alaska.  I guess you can tell that we really enjoyed this place. Another GREAT place was a little restaurant called The Mad Greek Bistro.  We decided to have one of the local gyros.  It was offered on either pita or "Greek bread", and we opted for the bread.  What a treat!  The sandwich was huge, and we really should have shared one!  The meat mixture was seasoned perfectly and was a little crisp on the outside. For all you Pepsi-holics like Don and me, you will be interested to know that Pepsi and not Coke is the drink of choice in most of the restaurants and vending machines in Alaska! All towns were very walkable from the ship, except Valdez, where there was a free shuttle into town.  Short stay, great place to stretch your legs.  Not  touristy.  We took a historic boat tour of historic Valdez, and saw many more glaciers as well as the Alyeska Pipe Line and Refinery, which brings the crude oil from Fairbanks to the ships in Valdez, where they head out for comsumption.  Remember the Exxon Valdez fiasco in 1989?  Well, contrary to what Exxon would have you believe, the area is still undergoing problems with their natural resources as a result of that tanker running aground.  They are still cleaning oil spillage in the area.  On the positive side, they have increased security for the tankers and now each one is escorted into the Valdez area by two tugboats, which act as security not only for the tankers, but also help to protect another incident like the Exxon one happening again. ACTIVITIES ON BOARD    Each night we got a newsletter on our bed outlining the special programs, daily activities, dinner dress code, showtime headliners, sunrise and sunset times, locations of other HAL vessels, and shop specials.  It was easy to plan the next day.  We mostly carried the daily sheet with us and did whatever crossed our fancy at any given moment. WHAT DID WE FORGET?    The sun shined on all the snow-covered mountains at every stop.  The scenery was picture-postcard perfect.  Alaska is truly a beautiful state, and all the fiords and glaciers are breath-taking.  You can't believe the quiet on deck as people stared out in awe of this magnificent experience!  Holland America Line is an excellent cruise line, and our ship, the Statendam, exceeded our every expectation!  From the staterooms to the food to the friendly people--we can't say enough.  I couldn't help but think this would have been so much fun if you and your family could have joined us!

Read More
  • New

Nov 30, -0001

Mexican Riviera

My first cruise in many years and it was great. The Statendam was very upscale and the passengers were more mature than in many lines. I was impressed at the number of wheel chair passengers and their ability to navigate aboard ship and to participate in shore excursions. Holland America prides itself in a no tipping required policy and that was evident among the crew. I took a digital camera with me and you can find images of the ship

and all ports at the url below. Bill http://americahurrah.com/Cruises/Statendam/ShipLog.html

Read More
  • New

Nov 30, -0001

Seward to Vancouver

This was out fourth cruise on four different cruise lines and this was by far the best. We had with us another couple on their first cruise. We were in Anchorage and wanted to drive to Seward and ask Hollard if they would take our luggage on the bus to the ship. This was our first indication that we were traveling with a first class cruise line. We left our luggage at the cruise check in in Anchorage and the next time we saw it was in our stateroom.

GREAT SERVICE !! Our stateroom was 105 with a veranda which even in spite of some very cool weather was a pleasant surprise. There was fresh fruit in our room every day,a refrigerator and bottled water. The room was really excellant. Very clean, plenty of room and the bath was more than adequate. Plenty of storage. The room was nicely decorated. Candy evrey night on our pillows and nice fluffy robes in the room. Even cable TV in the posts. We got a very nice newsletter each day that let us know about all the activities and ports for the following day. My wife liked the "sales specials" advertised for the ship's store each day. Food & Eating- --Anyone that is going for five star dining on a cruise ship that is trying to feed 500 to a 1000 at a single sitting needs to wake up. They must be dreaming. We found the food to be very good, the service to be good and the presentations always very good. Even when there was a minor problem at our table the waitstaff was always ready and willing to get a second entree or whatever it took. The wine list was very good and the prices much better than our local resturants. There was alternative dining which we found to also be good.The eating areas were always very clean and the staff was very friendly. "Cashless Society" ---The Statendam uses the "credit card" system that many ships use today. Just present a credit card at check in and sign for everything you purchase on the ship. This cruise we signed and we signed and we signed and would you believe at the end of the cruise the invoice was 100% correct. We really appreciate that as our last cruise had long lines at the purser's office trying to get corrections made on their bills. The entertainment was very good and on a scale of 1 to 10 this ship just has to rate close to a 10. Now we don't expect Broadway productions but do expect something better than the local bar. We got everything we expected and more. "Those The Casino ---the casino was one of our "down sides" even though we walked away almost $200 winner for the week. The staff is very young and we noticed several seniors that would ask questions, maybe talk a little too much, and sometimes a little slow in "reading" their cards. The casino staff seemed to "talk down" to some of these people rather than having a little patient. Photographers are everywhere but isn't that the case on most crusie ships. Let them snap the picture, I'll look and buy what I want and the rest they can toss. Not worth the effort to get upset about just a picture. Coffee shop ---the best little coffee shop on a ship anywhere---puts Starbucks to shame. Nice staff, very good service and you could order what ever your little heart desired. And no additional cost. GREAT !!!And that ice cram bar with 5 or 6 different flavors each day---how about that Baskin Robbins ??? And once again –no charge. Reading room, card room, games room, beauty shop, fitness center---we took advantage of all of it. Just first class all the way. Everyone of the areas I mentioned was spotless. The Statendam has a "roll back" top on the deck for the large swimming pool and this was great. A little rain, a little cold, --not a problem as you were in a warm covered area for the large pool and the spas. TIPPING ---Lot's of discussions about this aboard ship and I found some folks who work in the travel industry are confused. The official policy seemed to be "Holland has a no tipping policy". This does not mean that one does not necessarily tip as one does on most of the other cruise lines. After all these crew member, outside the officers, are not the most highly paid employees in the world. When service is good --tips are in order and that was the route that we and everyone around us took. If good service is provided then tips should be that added reward for that good service. Expect to tip as you would on any cruise of this price level. The ports were excellent but the most breathtaking was the cruise  time spent close to the glaciers. Everyone in their lifetime should experience such event at least once. Would we go back--you better believe. I've been on the internet and reading all the brochures to see where Holland can take us next. Were there any problems--sure--but if one let's these little issues prevail then you'll get out of a crusie only what you want to get out it---but isn't that the way life is--you make of it what you want to--Have a Great Cruise !!!!!! We most certainly will.....

Read More
  • New

Nov 30, -0001

Alaska

Background We are experienced cruisers having sailed on HAL, NCCL, and Princess (over 20 cruises on HAL).  We are fifty-ish and cruise with another couple of similar age.  The four of us are truely "addicted" to cruising and enjoy the whole cruise experience.  The only way we get to see/tour anything is by taking a cruise.  If the cruise ship doesn't stop there, we'll never get to see it.  Normally, we take warm weather

cruises but my wife set a goal to see Alaska for her Fiftieth birthday.  We decided to do it a year early because it fit with our schedules this summer.  We don't like cruising less than 10 days so we booked two 7-day cruises back to back.  No land tour for us -- as I said, "if a cruise ship doesn't stop there, we'll never get to see it". The Cruise To see Alaska, we decided on the HAL Alaska Glacier Discovery 2000 It was another great cruise.  Certainly different than cruising the Carribean but, variety is the spice of life!!  Despite the minor annoyances, Holland America delivers a first rate cruising experience and I'll certainly go back again -- in February in fact!

Read More
  • New

Nov 30, -0001

3 day Coastal Vancouver to San Diego

Cruise Line: Holland America Sailing Date: October 3rd, 2002 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. I'm 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 a lounge into an alternative dinning room so they were working on that all night and was sometime noisy. And a few rooms down they were making a room into a handy cap room so they were working on that until 11 at night. And some of the Elevators weren't working so it was hard on the older passengers. And Ice was not working in lido deck. Also, panels were down from the ceiling when the ship got hit. They did not put them back up just left them on the ground. Enough of the bad things. 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. Don't get the ice cream its like eating freezer burn 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 their 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. Overall 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, Brian Lashchuk Any questions E-mail me [email protected]

Read More
  • New

Nov 30, -0001

Mexican Riviera

Cruise Line: Holland America Sailing Date: December 10th, 2002 1. General Comments: A great cruise, and my wife and I will gladly cruise again with Holland-America (HAL). This was our third cruise with HAL. The main reason for choosing this trip was to visit the various Mexican ports for possible future trips. We booked a category B mini-suite with private verandah. Early reservations also got us a table for two at the second seating.

We chose the cruise-fly package offered, and we further chose the one day stopover in San Diego before the day of the ship’s departure. As this was right after the various virus incidents on cruise ships, we were given a sheet of paper at embarkation listing all the things that would not be done, including: no self-service at the buffets, no magazines or pocket books in the library, paper hand towels in the public bathrooms, no salt/pepper shakers on tables, etc, etc. Around the 5th or 6th day, the medical staff determined that we had no virus problem on this cruise, and everything returned to ‘normal.’ The cruise had three sea days - excellent for writing Christmas cards. I don’t know if it is specific to any one type of ship, but there seem to be problems in maintaining an even temperature on board. At some times a room - or public area - can feel quite cold, and other times a room or area can be rather warm. It struck me as the same problems in a city office building. Taking a light sweater along would not go amiss. 2. Travel to San Diego and Embarking: Our flights to San Diego were uneventful and on time. We were met at the airport by a HAL representative and were shuttled to the nearby Sheraton. The Sheraton was very comfortable and was well-equipped to deal with cruise passengers. When I tried to tip the hotel bell boys, I was informed that ‘HAL took care of that.’ What was left of the day was free. Bags were collected in the morning and we had a general tour hitting the San Diego highlights for a couple hours before returning to the pier. San Diego can only handle one cruise ship at a time; check-in was a breeze, and there were no lines. 3. The Statendam: The ship was very attractive, and our cabin was comfortable for the two of us. There was plenty room for putting away clothes and suitcases. Suitcases fit under bed, nicely out of the way. There was even good shelf space in the bathroom. The cabin had a small safe in the closet, and a small refrigerator. The TV is set up for VCR (large ship library), and besides movies, also receives CNN. ESPN and other sports stations are received at the bar by the casino. We also received a daily 8 page NY Times Fax newspaper. The ship has an internet cafe arrangement where you can log on to your favorite ISP and check your e-mail or whatever. Cost was 75 cents a minute with a one-time registration fee. The crew and staff were tops. Officers were Dutch, cabin and dining room stewards were Indonesian, and bar personnel were Filipino. Deck crew was also Indonesian. I think at least one of the kiosk salesmen was Russian. On our cruise we were around 1,100 passengers. This cruise fit more the reputation of HAL of being for older folks. Our previous Christmas cruises had many more families with children - probably a function of school holidays. 4. Meals: We join other travellers who say that HAL food is excellent. We each gained about three pounds on this cruise. Breakfast and lunch are open seating in the dining room or cafeteria style in the Lido restaurant. The Lido was quite popular for these two meals, probably because one could pick and choose more easily. We did not try the ‘alternative’ Pinnacle restaurant, and it appeared to be moderately busy. There is a surcharge of $15 per person when eating in this ‘fancier’ restaurant. Dinner is the only meal with specified sittings in the dining room. The wine list is respectable; one can now order 4, 5, or 6 bottles at a time and obtain a further discount instead of just ordering one bottle at a time. Food portions are of respectable size, and if you don’t try to eat all the courses everyday, you should not do bad weight-wise. The kitchen is quite prepared to handle special dietary requests. The Lido Deck at poolside also runs a hamburger/pizza line for those who can’t survive from lunch to dinner. 5. Dressing for Meals: For this ten day trip it was three formal, two informal, and five casual meals. The ladies on board were all dressed well for the formal evening meals. Over 90 percent of the men were in tuxedos or suits; some who did not want to dress up just did not appear for these meals. Considering how the ladies dress up for these meals, I suggest more men who served in the military obtain miniatures of the medals they were awarded and attach them to their tuxes. It’s permissable to do so, and the medals do add some color to our basic black tuxedos. 6. Shore Excursions: HAL sent a booklet listing all their shore tours with details and prices, so you have a good idea what you want to do before ever arriving at the ship. You can now make your shore excursion reservations on-line. The billing goes direct on your credit card and not on your shipboard account. This on-line service was a welcome improvement in making reservations. There were some glitches when I made them, and it took me over an hour to make four reservations. I hope I complained enough to Seattle that they have corrected the technical problems on that site. If you know the ports of call and want to travel by yourself, then, of course, you don’t need the ship’s tour office. HAL’s tour prices are not cheap; you are paying for the convenience of having the ship organize the tour rather than you doing it after you get ashore. Also, if you obtain your tour through the ship’s staff, you have support when there is a problem. As for the stops on this cruise, we were only unimpressed with the first one, Cabo San Lucas. It is a dusty, new, town, under construction, trying to cope with its reputation as a tourist attraction. Maybe some year in the future it will settle down to be like Mazatlan or Puerto Vallarta, but in the meantime, been there, done that. A sign of the times was the Mexican Navy patrol boat that stayed around the three cruise ships in port. The boat chased away a couple private boats that may have gotten too close to our ship. The other stops (including Acapulco, of course) were equally pleasant and would be well-worth a future, longer, visit. Sightseeing, hotels, restaurants, beaches, were all attractive. I cannot speak for the people who were on the cruise for fishing, snorkeling, or the like, as to which places they preferred. The only ship crowding was at Cabo, where the Ryndam and Star Princess were also anchored. They left earlier than us, so the crowds were not bad. We only met the Star Princess again in Puerto Vallarta, and there was some crowding. The harbor is very narrow and it was interesting to watch the behemoth Star maneuver around us when she left. I saw that our captain was also watching intently. The last two days of the trip were in rather rough seas. While the ship’s stabilizers can control the rolling from side to side, there is no control on the rocking forward and back. We had sunny weather, but the sea was impacted by the various Pacific storms hitting California. More than a few passengers were missing from meals on these days. 7. Shipboard entertainment: The ship has a daily schedule full of activities for all tastes: sports, cards, bridge, bingo (for serious players!), etc, etc. The evening shows were pleasant and worth seeing, even if all of them were not of Las Vegas caliber. Something clicked on this cruise and the Statendam dancers and singers were outstanding. They had good material to work with, and they were good dancers and had good voices. The casino was of good size and the payoffs did not seem to be much worse than Las Vegas. Duty-free liquor on board was reasonable as there is no duty-free liquor in these Mexican ports. Kahlua and tequila may have been cheaper on shore, but not the scotch. To us there was another new policy: You could buy a bottle of liquor and consume it in your room... after paying a 20 percent service charge. Otherwise, you order your liquor and pick it up the day before disembarking. You’ll have plenty of pictures taken of yourselves by the ship’s photographers--pricey, but a good souvenir. The library is well-stocked; there are plenty of nooks around for quiet reading. Those into the disco scene will enjoy the Crow’s Nest on the 12th deck which runs into the ‘wee hours.’ 8. Tipping: Tipping is truly not required on HAL ships, but after reading the various views on the subject on the Net we made our own decisions: We tipped the cabin steward and the dining room steward. The ‘area’ maitre d’ and the assistant dining room steward received about half of what we gave the dining room steward. The wine steward received a rounded off 10-15% of the total wine bill. The bar waiters and waitresses received ca 10-15% of the bar bill. We handed out tips the last night on board as you really don’t see these people when disembarking. We would also say that the tips were received with a true ‘thank you.’ There was no hanging around looking for something. 9. Settling of Accounts: During your cruise anything you purchase on board (drinks, souvenirs, tours, duty free items, photos) is punched into a computer; you sign one copy of the ticket and you receive a copy. The day before the end of the cruise you receive a preliminary statement of your account. This gives you time to clear up any problems. At the beginning of the cruise you give the ship’s front office an imprint of your credit card. In the morning before disembarking you receive a final statement. Very painless. The only cash you need on board is for the casino and for some of their ‘gambling games’ like bingo. You will also need cash for any tips you want to disburse. 10. Disembarking: One reviewer described this procedure as hurry-up and wait . Very true. Your bags have to be out by 1AM, breakfast is early, and you had to be out of your cabin by 8. Your bags are color coded by the type and time of your onward transportation. Disembarking started around 8:30. Around 8:45 we were called to disembark, found our bags in the color coded area in the terminal, had our bags carried to the bus and were on our way to the airport. We were checked in and through airport security by 9:45 (for a 12:30 flight). Again, being the only cruise ship in port eased any potential traffic or crowd problems. The weather, however, was uncooperative, and it poured all morning. 11. Conclusion: The cruise was nearly flawless. HAL’s experience shows. HAL has a ‘frequent flier’ program; over 700 passengers were repeat HAL cruisers. The record holders on this cruise was a couple with around 640 days on HAL. We’ll be back. If anyone has questions, send me an e-mail at [email protected] Fred Groth San Antonio, TX

Read More
  • New

Nov 30, -0001

Mexican Riviera

Although she is aging, the Statendam is still one of my favorite ships.  The reason--service, service, service!  The food is excellent--as good on the Lido deck as it is in the dining room.  And on what other ship does the Lido offer a seafood buffet, a sandwich bar, a salad bar, regular buffet, and dessert buffet, as well as the usual outdoor food offerings, i.e. hamburgers, tacos, etc. The entertainment could be improved upon. 

The guest performers were very good, but the cast shows are old hat.  Thank goodness there is a movie theater, with free popcorn no less. There is also the Java Cafe which offers free espresso, cappuccino, etc. during the daytime along with cookies. At night, free espresso is served in the Explorer's Lounge along with a mouth-watering chocolate buffet nightly. There are ample public rooms for lounging aboard ship and a wonderful wrap-around deck for strolling or stretching out in a deck chair away from the noisy Lido pool area.  Incidentally, there is a quiet pool aft where you can get away from the crowds. The itinerary for this cruise was excellent, covering Cabo San Lucas, Mazatlan, Acapulco, Zihuatanejo, and Puerto Vallarta.  In general the shore excursions were good, with one notable exception as far as we were concerned.  We thought the Puerto Vallarta Discovery Tour was a rip off.  We did not see what we expected and wasted a lot of time in a tequila factory.  The best tour was a ride in a catamaran at Cabo San Lucos. We shall continue our relationship with HAL when we sail 11/17/01 on the Rotterdam VI.

Read More
  • New

Nov 30, -0001

Alaska

The Ride of the Ancient Mariners We rode the m.s. Statendam on a seven-day northbound Alaska cruise. It was our first cruise. It was definitely our last HAL cruise and probably our last cruise period (at least for the next 30 years). If you are traveling with a family (we had our 9 year old and our 13 year old along) recognize that HAL is a floating retirement community. The facility, the programs, the shore excursions, the food,

the onboard schedule, just about everything is designed to appeal to the 60-80 crowd. And clearly it does. My best guess on the average age of our mid-summer cruise was around 70. So do not come here looking for a family friendly vacation or if you are under the age of sixty. Facilities The Statendam had just come out of dry dock a month before our cruise – having been “upgraded” to HAL’s Signature of Excellence program. I shudder to imagine what it looked like before the upgrade. But after the upgrade, the ship is still dated and run-down. Broken tiles, worn carpets, scratched paint, etc. all screaming out “please repair me.” The carpeting and fixtures look like something off the set of the Brady Bunch (and I am not referring to the sometimes quirky Nordic design style – which I ordinarily like – the boat’s interior decor looks left-over from the 1970s and it probably is). The staterooms are, in a word, terrible. We opted for two mid-priced (ocean view) cabins side-by-side (one for us and one for the kids) on the Lower Promenade. The bathrooms are very dated and if you are over 6ft tall plan to shower on your knees. The rooms are extremely small. One cannot open any two doors simultaneously (front door, closet, bathroom) because there is not space. There is 16 inches of floor space on each side of the bed. My wife and I took turns getting dressed. The new Library is nice but otherwise the public spaces are average Holiday Inn-grade places. The rigid eating and showtime schedule (you are scheduled for one of four seatings at dinner and one of two seatings for the shows) appears designed to overcome the insufficient space in the main dining room and theater. There are a number of stores on board which could and should be ripped out to expand the public space. There is a movie theater on board which seems more than a bit pointless when the same movies are showing on the televisions in the room. The handful of lounges are fine but be forewarned that at some point your head may explode as you listen to a Bill Murray grade lounge singer belt out golden oldies. We could not summon up the courage to go to the Crows Nest for the Octogenarian disco night. Onboard Program If the facility is a weakness, it is exacerbated by a poorly coordinated onboard program and lousy communication. I’ll let the basic daily schedule speak for itself: 1) Assemble for shore excursion ~7:30 - 8:00 am 2) All aboard ~5:00 pm 3) Younger children’s program (ages 7-12) 7:30 pm – 10 pm 4) Teen program (13-17) 9pm – midnight 5) Dinner - 8:15 seating 6) Showtime - 10:15 – 11:15 7) Late Show - 11:30 start I know that any parent will immediately realize how absolutely idiotic this schedule really is. Your older child sits in the cabin waiting for the teen program to start while the younger child is gone. The younger child returns, all wound up, at 10pm while you try to get her into bed in time to get some sleep for a 6:30 am wakeup. Neither can attend the family dinner unless you “make them” miss the children’s activities. The teen does not want to return until midnight – because that is what everyone else is doing. You get the idea. The staggered start times mean you never eat as a family, the kids are constantly tired, and you never get to see a show. So if you must take a HAL cruise with kids (and I really, really recommend against it) then be absolutely certain you get an early seating for dinner and you set expectations that the kids will not be able to participate in the late-night activities on shore excursion days. Shore Excursions And speaking of shore excursions, this is one area where the HAL staff was particularly unhelpful. We struggled throughout to get any decent information much less any helpful service. This held from the time we started pre-booking before the cruise until the several times we queried the Shore Excursions desk on board. Maybe we expect too much, but we thought the Excursions group would act like a concierge at a decent hotel – making recommendations, trying to assist in making the schedule work, etc. The HAL excursions folks acted instead like sales agents. Excursion information is sparse on the web site, even more sparse on the ship. We got to enjoy our excursions but no thanks to HAL. And if we had been a bit better informed we would have been able to enjoy our port visits much more (and we’d have paid less). So if you decide to go with HAL, do your own research before you leave, book with whatever tour company is offering the best tours to serve your interests, and do not expect very much of the excursion staff. Food The food is ok. The main dining room dinner equates to a decent hotel restaurant. It ain’t Spagos at the Maui Four Seasons, but it equals the average Hilton Resort. The Lido restaurant is a Denny’s grade cafeteria – tolerable junk food, usually hot, generally pretty quick. But people do not seem to care in any case. There is a quantity equals value mentality that permeates the menus and the selection and seems to suite the clientele just fine. I lost my appetite after watching one of the many extremely obese people on the ship order – I am not making this up – “cherry pie, chocolate cake, two cookies, and ice cream” for desert. Extras A number of people have commented on the extras on your cruise. For us, these amounted to around $700 excluding any purchases from the gift shop, shore excursions, etc. Among the hidden fees are a $10 per day per cabin tip, soft drinks, bar drinks, wine, coffee (if purchased from the coffee bar), and meals if you eat in the Pinnacle dining room. We bought a drink card for ourselves and the kids ($65 each cabin) which covered the fountain soft drinks only. The wine prices on board are roughly 4-6 times the typical grocery store price. Expect to pay $30 for a $7 below average pinot and $150+ for a $25 cabernet with a Spectator rating above 90. Bar drinks run $5 - $7 each. Laundry service runs around $60 for the week. Internet service is $0.40 per minute and the phone costs $16 per minute so bring your cell phone to use in port! The one bright spot was the Indonesian and Philippino staff on the ship. They were always very courteous and very attentive. One other thing, since my wife had spent time in Alaska we knew what to pack. But the HAL packing checklist is just appalling (since they sell fleeces on board by the box load, I wonder if this was deliberate…). Be sure you bring a wool fleece (not a cotton sweatshirt), a rain coat with a hood, long-sleeve shirts for underneath, and a pair of rain pants and hiking boots if you are going on an excursion. It is cold and wet there in the Alaskan rain forest and we saw lots of shivering passengers – helpfully buying HAL fleeces – because they packed the wrong stuff. By way of disclosure, we are more accustomed to vacations at the Four Seasons, Ritz Carlton, or JW Marriott. In comparison to one of these high-end hotels, a HAL cruise is expensive, the accommodations are lousy, and the much of the service vastly inferior.    

Read More
  • New

Nov 30, -0001

Asia

As most trips seem to transpire, this trip was initiated by my daughter who thought this cruise would be ‘too wonderful to pass up’. So, once the seed was planted, and the cabins bought, we started gathering as much information as possible on the 7 ports, and 3 countries we were to were visit with approximately 30 days before sailing from Hong Kong. Woefully, there wasn’t much written in Cruise Reviews for these countries, however, I would

like to kindly thank Nancy Zupancic, with her detailed Sapphire Princess April, 2005 sailing review. She gave us a beginning, and also the confidence to consider self-excursions, which we always achieve on other cruises, but were somewhat hesitant being this cruise/countries were so unknown to us. Of course, before any cruise to China could be started, a Chinese Visa must be obtained. There are several regional Chinese Embassies around the U.S., which declare which states are in their jurisdiction, and with no exception can you go to another Consulate. This was a hardship since some of our party needed to go to New York City, and the other to Houston. I would have been glad to get everyone’s Visa in Houston, but nay, it can’t be done. However, any person and not just the applicant can submit another’s visa application, at the correct embassy. So I could have gone to NY, to apply for their Visas, and to Houston to get ours. Find your correct Embassy, and note that each Consulate has different rules, so be aware. The ‘Tourist Visa’ cost $50/single entry, $75/double entry, with 4 days processing time. For an extra $30 Express fee, we could submit our visa by 11a, and return the same day by 2:30p to pick up our complete passport with China visa. We opted for a Double-Visa Express which can be an Important detail which I will describe later. Our Visa cost us $105 per person, which could have be less expensive if we did not choose the Express option. I personally found the Chinese Visa application, a much easier process than the Russian Visa I applied for last year. HONG KONG After weighing the pros and cons of which of us 4 will be arriving to Hong Kong, by different airlines, by different transit cities, due to airfare prices, extra time at cities of interest, etc., we took 2 different routes, with the hope of arriving in Hong Kong 2 days before the cruise departed. It is always with a little trepidation, of ‘what if’ something happens…and although we thought we covered all our bases with internet & phone coverage, stuff still happens. Thankfully, we all arrived as planned. Daughter and friend flew from Pittsburgh, Chicago, to Shanghai, spent several days, and then flew China Eastern on to our destination of Hong Kong with the Grand Hyatt, our chosen hotel thanks to daughter #1 and ‘points’. We choose our overseas journey from Dallas to Narita, Japan, to Hong Kong in one day, arriving at the Grand Hyatt about 10pm local time. The Grand Hyatt was a great beginning after long flights, and we were very comfortable there. Their beds were comfortable, and the constantly hot pot of water for tea and such was pleasant. (Remember, don’t drink the water, anywhere, unless it is boiled, or processed) We enjoyed their Dim Sum on Easter Sunday, our first full day there, at the No 1 Harbor Road Restaurant. We toured the normal Hong Kong sites, starting with Peak Tram, double-decker buses, harbor ferries, and a visit with a HK tailor to make a fine suit for the young man in our party. Our weather was good, except for the overcast that was presumably pollution. We found many opportunities to pop into a small store to buy cold drinks. Cokes, Starbucks, and many ‘green teas’ drinks were refreshing. The next day we took the plentiful and inexpensive taxis to Aberdeen, the southern part of Hong Kong Island. Taxis….they are very abundant, but be sure to have your hotel or destination written in Chinese, or on a Chinese map to eliminate any mix-up. We only had 1 problem with a taxi driver and it was in Hong Kong, he flat cheated us. I thought I had his taxi number, to report him but realized the number I had was not his cab number, alas he got away. I was prepared with the phone number to report taxi abuse, and I couldn’t get even with him. The Hotel could have been a great help, even to the extent of asking when we were delivered, I was thinking they could review cameras, but our driver was too savvy, he dropped us off down the block near the convention center. In Aberdeen we stopped and took a junk boat ride…after astute negotiations, starting from 60HK per person to 100HK dollars for 4 people, we were on our way bobbing along in our own Junk boat in that floating city. Enjoyed seeing the Jumbo restaurants, but these appeared standing just for the nostalgic and tourist aspect of old Hong Kong. Next we went to Stanley Market, and had a great time scouting for trinkets to bring home. I’m glad I bought some silk pillowcases, girl’s dresses and other finds here and not had to search for them later in Shanghai, or Beijing. Buy when you find something…and even if you find others cheaper or prettier…buy those also. We decided ‘hind sight’ we should have brought home more, and I’m not a big shopper. But when you can find some cute items $2-$4, get them while you’re standing there. I traveled light, and brought back a designated nylon bag with just our treasures. They took US. Dollars at Stanley and we all had a great time there, even the guys got into the swing of things. Embarkment – Hong Kong Well our departure morning arrived and since we had more people and luggage for one taxi, we planned to take two taxis to arrive at the Statendam pier which is very near the Star Ferry Kowloon/TST side. Our driver brought us directly to the check-in tarmac, whereas the other taxi driver dumped the ‘kids’ on the street, and had them drag their many bags down the quay. We were very encouraged that the luggage dispersal was very efficient, and they had a separate line for those passengers that registered by Internet. Photo taking and ID cards were promptly dispatched, all under a large canvas tent that kept the sun from our heads. This is when the juggernaut began. They had many passengers ready to embark, but no one was able to board the ship. These many people herded to the ship’s gate, with nowhere to go, and nowhere to sit down. As we were standing there we were given papers with: Notice to Passengers boarding the Statendam Monday April 17, 2006 The Statendam is experiencing cases of gastrointestinal illnesses among passengers and crew, etc, etc, etc…… Oh, Oh!! We now knew what the delay was for…the extra measures needed to disinfect such a ‘sick’ ship. We were happy that this was an extra measure taken before we boarded. However, the length of standing in the heat, without drinks, became irritating, and some more vocal passengers tried to voice their discontent. If they could have staged several hundred chairs that when 50 were call onboard, the remaining passengers could have moved up in an orderly method, and sat down. This would have eased the crowding and jockeying into places when some were release. Then once we did get thru the ‘gate’ to the ship, we were literally snaked in and around inside the Shopping Mall for another hour. We sent the kids on forages for drinks & fries while we held our places, to sustain us until the time we could truly board. I don’t usually get too upset with getting onto a ship with 2 thousand other people, but this was the worse I’ve experienced. Here is the qualifier for Single or Double entry Visa!! If you called Holland American or Zierer Visa Service, like I did, asking for clarification if a Double Visa was necessary if…..such and such a situation was present…the stock answer was…’Only a Single Visa’ is necessary. And if one was traveling to Hong Kong direct from any other country (except China) that would be correct. I had to speak to 3 people, and finally got them to understand that some of us would be entering HK from Shanghai…so this does account for a Double Visa, however, this wasn’t readily recognizable by those people who should have known best. This is when I decided to go directly the Chinese Embassy. Somehow, once you’re on the ship in HK…and traveling to 3 Chinese ports, all 3 ports can be covered under a Single Visa. We heard-tell that some people in HK, were denied boarding because of this predicament, and although they pulled out documentation from HAL showing that they only needed a Single Visa, their qualification for Single Visa was not sufficient. These people were then denied boarding, and since our ship was sailing on the Monday after Easter, apparently a Holiday for China/US embassies, they would have to be at the Consulates office Tuesday morning…to straighten up the problem. We then had two sea days, before Shanghai on Thursday. I’m not sure if they caught up, and continued on with our cruise or not. Concerning the gastrointestinal problem - There were several announcements from the Captain, conveying his earnestness in taking extraordinary measures to ensure the comfort of his guests, and the implementing of several cleaning and sanitizing protocols. Also if any guest be adversely affected by illness, contact the ship’s medical center. There will be NO CHARGE for assistance rendered. If you are asked to be in isolation, they ask that you remain in your stateroom. We did see some cabins down our hall which were carefully attended because of this isolation. We spoke to a woman who declared themselves in isolation for 3 days because of her husband’s ‘discomforts’. As for ourselves, we were healthy as horses, ate as much, but also took care when in port to not drink the water, or those Starbuck’s frappa-somethings, made with ice from who-knows-where-local tap water? The ships water and ice is OK. Plus, we all got immunization for Hep A, Typhoid, & Tetanus before we left home. We also carried multiple supplies of Cipro, just in case. I do believe the Statendam did everything they could to keep this virus from spreading, and we surely did our part in using the hand sanitizers at every opportunity. I also have a quirk, and thoroughly clean my cabin with a small amount of bleach which I bring from home. ‘Can’t be too germ free’, is my Motto. OUR ROOM / OUR TABLE Our ‘Home away from Home’ cabin was indeed an oasis from the rest of the world. The beds were very comfortable, and with my satin pillow from home, every night was restful…along with a few Tylenol PM’s perhaps. The Statendam in a smaller ship with 1,266 passenger, which is probably why we were able to port in some smaller areas closer to the city. The room had beside the two beds, a small couch, and dressing area. The nicest touch for the DH, was a flat screen TV, with DVD player! We knew about the DVD player in our research, and he had a whole selection of movies. We also had a room safe, which I really like to have in our staterooms, but the ‘Key’ was a long perforated plastic strip, which didn’t fit conveniently in a pocket or wallet. Our Cabin attendant was great…which I can honestly say about all the service employees on this ship. It is HAL greatest investment, the young people on the ship, who work so hard, so we can have an enjoyable time. Our Table was the 8:30P/Lower dining, at a table for 10. We thoroughly enjoyed our table mates, a trio of young travelers, and a couple from Florida. Our meals were well presented by our two waiters…and we took the five wines program for approx. $100…Twice during this 14 day cruise. This gave us a bottle of wine to enjoy each night with dinner, beside the ones we ordered at the ($20 up-charge restaurant), Pinnacle Grill. We did enjoy the Pinnacle Grill, but maybe we even enjoyed their lunches more ($10 up-charge). We always were satisfied with dinner…sometime one or the other of us felt we out-ordered the next. But all in all, it was good, and a relief not to have to hunt for meals if we were in a foreign city somewhere. We found that we could supplement our drink cupboard with 45 cent beers and/or cokes with some Lays chips and bring them onboard for convenience. SHANGHAI “Ni hao!” (Knee How) Hello in Chinese, was our first word to learn, and like in any other foreign country it proves to move locals with a slight head bow, and a returned ‘ni hao’. We awoke at our first port…Shanghai…and anchored in view of the famed ‘Oriental Pearl Tower’. We were unsure of where exactly our ship would put-in at Shanghai, and were very pleased to be berthed very close to the city center, on the Huangpu River to the north of the Bund, in what some maps call the International Passenger Terminal. I’ve read that this is where they want to develop a modern terminal to accommodate the growing tourist cruise travel. However, it is just a concrete quay to accommodate the 20-30 excursion buses that arrive for tours, yet we did not enter/depart through a building, just a paved alley to the closest road, Daming Road. This is where most taxis picked-up and dropped-off. My daughter got a great 2006 Shanghai Tourist Map from the hotel when they were there the days before the cruise and this map had both Chinese and English for every road and site. I truly believe having a good map is very important for anywhere, but I felt it was especially necessary for China and this trip. I was extremely surprised to find so much written in English. Most highway and street signs were in English, but most taxi drivers did not speak English, so having a destination or map written in Chinese was necessary. Sometimes the ship had note slips with both languages for some high tourist sights, but most times not. Shanghai is indeed a city of hundreds of tall buildings, and building new ones every day, quite amazing. However, I found the air pollution astounding! We were alerted by the captain and cruise staff, that our official Chinese Immigration at this port was being delayed and for some reason difficult, and that we would probably be delayed in departing the ship. This cause us some consternation because our young man with us had a business meeting this morning to meet with some Chinese suppliers his company has used for several years, and a face to face meeting was planned at a local hotel for this morning. We would sure hate to be hour/s late, miss our appointed time, and ‘lose face’ by being so thoughtless. However, a quick e-mail alerted his party of our delay, and a successful meeting occurred. Our new Chinese hosts took us to lunch at an amazing ‘Seafood’ restaurant on the fourth floor of some shopping building. I have a card with a name, phone/fax numbers and map, but it is in Chinese only. The rough translation from our hosts to the name of this restaurant is ‘Shu You’. We had a private dining room with beautiful yellow silk and wood chairs, large round traditional Chinese table, with a middle turn-table where dishes are placed and with a spin of the inner table, every dish is accessible to everyone. The menu was conferred upon by the host and our young man, but a trip to the ‘fish tanks’ ultimately resulted our lunch choices. There were many, many, in fact, too many dishes, all very good, but that was probably the result in our young guests wanting to try some famous local dishes, along with suggested plates from our host. It was probably a $200 lunch for 6 people, and quite an experience we would not have had if we had been on our own. After lunch we strolled thru the old Shanghai area, and enjoyed this touristy area. We decided to retreat to the ship for a rest, and return to sample the nightlife after a dinner break. However, we couldn’t drag ourselves off the ship that night. The next morning regrets spurred us to get up early in search for dumplings for breakfast, before our 1 p.m. Shanghai departure. Nanxiang Dumpling House, 85 Yuyuan Lu, adjacent to the lake and the Bridge of Nine Turning was our dumpling store of choice. As we walked in the Nanxiang Dumpling House, we were pleased to get there before it was crowded. The hostesses kept trying to shoo us upstairs, until I told my people, that it is more expensive upstairs because it is supposedly nicer décor and higher service and a ‘tourist trap’ for the unknowing. We found an empty table among the many open tables, and plopped ourselves down and made ourselves comfortable. Daughter Number One went to the hot table and ordered about 6 different choices using the ‘point and nod’ method. Since we were successful with this portion, Maybe-Son Number One went to the cooler, and pointed to several cold beverages, and we were in business. We would have liked to have the traditional hot tea with these dishes, but we make other choices so to ‘not drink’ the water. Several steamed baskets of Dumplings, cokes & beer, with a couple of chopsticks…the breakfast of champions! Everything was delicious, however, one pork dumpling dish seemed undercooked by my assessment, and we passed on this. We then bought tickets, 30 yuan, to enter the nearby Yuyuan Gardens, and we were glad we didn’t miss this very pretty Shanghai tourist spot. (Bathroom note: Yuyuan Gardens, Ladies Toilets has one western toilet. Squat toilets are the norm, although western styles are becoming more and more common. (There was a whole ‘Toilet Conference’ recently in Beijing addressing this detail in preparation for the 2008 Olympics) Taxis are plentiful, and inexpensive with the going rate of approximately 10 yuan for the first 3 km, and another 2 yuan for each additional km. Drivers are nicely dressed, in neat later model vehicles, and use the meters instead of arbitrary quoting an inflated price. Some taxis had a TV on the passenger side sun-visor! However, the local driving method is to squeeze into any 6 inch opportunity, yet it works for them. We shopped again before leaving for the ship, and again at the street where taxi dropped us off near the ship, we bought several watches…Rolex no less, for $2! I always avoided these ‘salesmen’ until our table mates shown us their new Rolexes, and told us they always buy a couple, and they seem to run for a year…and when they return to China, they buy others. This prompted us to buy our own Rolexes. I can say that we only have 1 out of 4 still running…but this bargaining was part of the fun. Bargaining is the game for shopping, which for us becomes tiring very quickly. Sail-Away was to be precisely at 1 p.m, because of the significant river traffic, and something about the time slot allotments per vessel. As we wait for the untying of ropes, and side thrusters pushing us from the pier, it became obvious by PA announcements that we are waiting for maybe 6-8 people. Although we saw some passengers finally board, we don’t think all of the prodigal passengers made it back to the ship before we finally shoved off. The Statendam then had to make a delicate 180 degree pivot in this highly congested river, to turn around and return to the sea. This was an awesome turn-around with nothing scrapped or bumped. But even more impressive was the Captain’s narration of our 2 hour, plus, passage along this river with such a mind-boggling amount of river traffic. His insight gave us a true understanding of how much growth, and the impact of so many millions and millions of people in this area. One sea day to rest, and on to Beijing. BEIJING It seems again the Immigration required everyone’s passport recorded in the ship’s office again, but we weren’t too delayed and off-loaded near 8:30 a.m. This part of our trip was considerably easy, because we had the great privilege of being hosted by our neighbor daughter Cathleen. She has been living in Beijing for nearly four years, and once we email her our intentions of cruising to China with a stop in Xingang (Beijing) China, Cathleen had the most difficult part for us, transportation, resolved by having a private car and driver at our disposal for the two days we were. We were very, very thankful for such a great worrisome detail totally removed. Not only did she make these arrangements for us, the cost 2,000rbm ($250.usd) was for 4 people, 2 days of driving…from the ‘Port’ which is very far, maybe 3 hrs, to the ‘Wall’, to the Hotel, and then again the next day to the Summer Palace, and back to the Port, including tolls. This was such an extraordinary price, considering the prices offered for 1 or 2 day excursion from the ship, or other private tour companies were $200-$800 pp. The Port is a considerable distance about 2-l/2 hour drive, either near or a part of the city Tianjin. There is a gigantic jumbo of buildings, cranes, bridges, and roads, where most people would not be able to determine a feasible way from this port to Beijing. We understood there might be a train station nearby, but we are so grateful we didn’t have to look for it. There were Taxi/drivers waiting at the guarded gate, but we felt such relief to have our own reputable driver waiting for us. I have no idea what these Taxis offered off-loading passengers. Our driver, Mr. Wang did not speak English, but he did have a cell phone, and was in constant communication with our Cathleen. Several times we’d have to pass his phone back and forth for us to convey to Cathleen what we wished, whereby she would translate to our driver, and vice-versa. This was sure easy. Mr. Wang was a very professional driver, courteous, and patient, while he waited for us while we climbed the Great China Wall, and the next day, we took 4 hours at the Summer Palace, enjoying each without being rushed. Our tablemates told tales of woe of their ship’s l-day excursion to the Wall, nearly 7 hours of driving both ways…and they, who were the youngest and fittest of this bus tour, barely topped the Wall since there was no cable car to the upper level. This was most everyone’s greatest dream, the opportunity to see and be ON the Great Wall of China, and for some it did not happen. There are several locations along the wall that have tourist access, and the site our driver was directed to was ‘Mutianyu’. Mutianyu is about 70 km northeast of Beijing, in definitely Chinese countryside. The road was good, and being we were still in April the weather was not too hot, yet a little bit cool up on the Wall. There is a developed tourist area below, with parking and restrooms near by, and lots of kiosks for drink, food and souvenirs, with even more opportunity for souvenirs on the way down from the Cable Car platform to the parking area. We’ll never forget the national chant…’Lady, lady, You buy, One dollar!!’ Of course, it was not a dollar, but I should have bought some and not try to ‘run the gauntlet’ of sellers. Next time I’ll buy some, but I could hardly decide how to get it down the mountain with me unless they’d let me rent the camel staked to the ground there. The cable car was 50 rbm or a little over $6.00…and worth every penny. It was difficult for us seniors just to get to the cable car platform, and beyond…but we took our time and lingered where we must and once we got to the top, stood on the amazing Wall, soaking in such a sight, and to let our heartbeats even out. What an amazing sight. I’m convince, that the ‘mist’ in the hills…is pollution, such a shame. On the Tourist Map of Mutianyu near the parking lot, shows another way to come down from the mountain, they call it ‘sliding way’, and it looks like sleds, hopefully with brakes, or I believe in Germany, they call them Rodelbahn. This was the way our youngster wanted to come down, but I was uneasy of being in 2 groups, and not knowing how to find them. Maybe next time we’ll take the slide down. Mr. Wang drove us into Beijing that Sunday night, and we met Cathleen at the Starbucks near Beihai Park, a pretty urban lake with many restaurants in this area. We had a delightful multi-coursed dinner and a night-time wander of old Beijing, Forbidden Palace, and Tiananmen Square. We spent the night at The Courtyard-Beijing, on some of the hardest mattress I’ve ever experienced, and no A/C…but no time to whine, we had a new day to explore. Explore we did. Mr. Wang came at the appointed morning time, and after a quick coffee and muffin, we were off, to the Summer Palace. What an enjoyable few hours we had in perfect springtime weather, showing off the spring flowers of this lovely public park. There was a nominal entrance fee, and also a dollar fee for the pretty lake tour boat on Kunming Lake. We later even decided to rent an electric motor boat to putt-about on our own, to further enjoy this peaceful place. I enjoyed the Long Gallery, of covered walkways, beautifully painted. I found it interesting to see so many people here with their elderly mothers and/or fathers, taking their parents for an outing at this beautiful national treasure. Note the restrooms here were some of the most ‘over-used’ and definitely not 5-stars facilities. I did find a ‘pay phone’ and with my sheet of ‘access codes’ for my ATT prepaid phone card, I was able to call home and wake my daughter about ll:00pm to tell her we were all OK…and to find out they were well, also. We found our trusty driver and headed for the ship, and after a conference call with our dear host we asked if a quick stop could be added to grab a quick late lunch before getting to the ship…we were taken to a KFC, and had a very delicious Chinese version of chicken wraps. Back to the ship to enjoy another dinner and bottle of wine, and toast to a great Beijing experience. DALIAN Again our Ship **Statendam** seemed to have problems with Chinese Immigration wanting all of our documents for their inspection. We heard that this was contrary to past arrivals where the first Chinese Port validated the ship and all other ports were included. I can surely understand each city wanting to check documents, though. This port was the near the city, but since we berthed in a nearly deserted warehouse wharf district the only activity was the tour buses lining up to whisk passengers off for their excursion. However, there were buses waiting to exclusively take and return any/all passengers who were interested in going to the ‘Friendship Store’ for I believe $5pp. We decided to do this, instead of walking out into the unknown. It was really a very short bus ride, and there was nothing there that interested us because it seemed the prices were inflated significantly. We felt taken advantaged of for such a short ride, to their tourist trap. We selected a vulture-ous taxi driver to take us somewhere else, and the picture I shown him was one I found from the internet of ‘Russian Street’. He understood our sign language, and off we went. However, he wouldn’t put his meter flag down, even after several of us tried to ‘tell’ him we wanted a metered ride. Taxis here are again very inexpensive, i.e. 8 yuan for the first 3 km, and then l.2 yuan per km. Blue over-head lights on a taxi is a State-run Taxi. White over-head lights are Collective or Joint Venture and Yellow lighted Taxi’s are Private. We selected a blue lighted taxi…hoping it would have more controls. He was a good man and only charged us 10 Yuan for 4 persons, without using his meter., which is about a normal fare. We wandered Russian Street, and found it less than slightly appealing, for again it was a tourist mecca, with each Russian style house, building or church a tourist store. From here we walked to Zhongshan Square. We did receive a map from HAL as we left the ship and it was helpful for us to orient ourselves, plus I asked the girl tour-guide on the ‘Friendship’ bus to write in Chinese ‘ship port’ and ‘friendship store’, as an aid to any taxi driver to get us back to the correct part of town. One of the most fascinating adventures happened when we were walking to the Square. We found a cross street that was pedestrian only, and turned up this way to zig zag our way to the Square. Here we found a store front with many bottle of wine and liquor. The entrance was not like a normal door, but many 2-inch slats hanging vertical, like at a meat plant to keep the coolness from escaping. After watching several locals go in and out these slats, I told my crew, lets go though this ‘rabbit hole’ and see what’s inside. I offered to go first, and as I pushed thru…Zip- we were in a different world. It was like the equivalent of a Macy’s food court, but Chinese style. All kind of foods, but mostly sweets, dumplings of every description, crepe-type burrito made as you watched with your choice of fillings, noodle bowls cooked to your specification…and as we studied the pricing on paper sheets, most averaged l/2 yuan or 6 cents!! We gather up our bravery and ordered by the ‘point and nod’ method again, they took our yuans, and in 3 minutes we had a lunch to remember. Most of the locals stood off in a corner eating their purchases, and so did we, sharing bites of this and that. Mostly we nodded and smiled to our surrounding lunch-mates…and if I remember correctly only one items was a little too strange for me. We stumbled into a department store food court, and we were actually rubbing elbows with locals, enjoying a quick lunch. Too fun. Once outside, we found a kiosk selling drinks, and bought ourselves some water, green tea drinks and beer. When Dave tried to pay for his various purchases, there seem to be a polite disagreement with the woman shop keeper about the money she needed. We made it a practice for shopkeeper to write down the purchase amount…yet this shopkeeper didn’t like the money amount Dave was paying her. I stepped over to see what the problem was and realized that he was using a Wu (5) Jiao bill instead of a Wu (5)Yuan bill. A 5 Jiao is l/2 of a Yuan. Once we got that straighten ‘Lady of the Kiosk’ was very happy, almost relieved. I was explaining the nuances of the partial Yuans in bill-form to my party, when Dave realize that this Jiao was given to him earlier at Russian Street after a purchase…and passed off as a 5 Yuan. He was very much angered. Of course the smallness of the amount was inconsequential, but the thought of them ‘ripping him off’ was an insult. Tourist beware!! (Note: I was surprised and amazed that I was able to decipher the Jiao/Yuan dilemma only because I studied and even made copies of the Chinese Currency RMB/Renminbi at an internet site http://www.china.org.cn/english/travel/40380.htm . I also sent any/many website of interest to everyone in our party…but some might ‘not have got the memo’!) We continued on to Zhongshan Square took pictures crossed the crazy traffic circle to the Dalian Hotel, hoping we could use the restroom, (yes successful) and seek information in English (not successful). Hotels are the best places when wanting to find a taxi, and we took this opportunity to catch a taxi back to the ship for a rest. Later the ‘Kids’ took off on their own while we rested. I finally decided I wanted to find the Victory Shopping Plaza for trinkets to take home, so I took my maps in Chinese and had a driver take me to the Shangri-la Hotel. From there I could find the underground shopping area. I was traveling alone and found a driver who again would not use his meter, but once we got near to the Hotel tried to price me 4X the normal amount. **I find a pattern of drivers stopping short of the hotels we ask to be delivered to, so they can pull a ‘fast-one’, and not have the Hotel Bellman come to our aid.** I literally threw him his proper fare, and jumped out of the cab to the refuge of the Hotel. He didn’t make a scene. Again beware. I did enjoy my time wandering around by myself, and found a few items…but the best was walking into a “Dollar/Yuan-type store” on street level and picked up many 25 cent trinkets like Chinese good luck figurines, tied and knotted with red rope, hair clips, chopstick hair pins, beaded coin purses, etc. I had a bag full, for about $5. I found a department store, and looked in the shoe department for possible shoes for myself, but was surprised how expensive these were. Found a tea set for Daughter #2, and a wine shop with local brews. My canvas bag was full so I had the Hotel Bellman (my new friend) find a taxi for me and had no problems getting back to the ship. Daughter and Dave enjoyed a Bar experience on top of one of the tall downtown Dalian buildings. All in all not one of most exciting ports, but we sure had stories to tell at the dinner table. On to South Korea. BUSAN Another nice day, neither too hot nor cold. April/May is a good time to travel weather-wise. Today’s self tour is a quick visit to the Jagalchi Fish Market then taking the Subway to the Marriott near Haeundae/Jung-dong area to discover the beach…then to find by taxi the Haedong Yonggung Temple 6 km further along the northern coast. We arrived at the Busan dock again near the middle of town and in fact we could see the “Busan Station” over the highway not to far from where we anchor, however, it was not quite in the right direction where we wanted to go. We walked out of the dock compound and sought a taxi to take us south to the Jagalchi Metro stop and the International Fish Market. What a sight. Fish and creatures not known to common man, yet all very clean and orderly. Inside the building was an interesting series of rubber hoses and water falls feeding fresh water to the highest tubs, to trickle down to the next level and the next. We saw the Metro signs along the main road that took us to the fish market, so we backtracked to there, grabbing a drink and a package of gum. Wandered down stairs into the Metro ticket machines area and between 4 sharp minds, tried to determine our ticket purchase. Gave up and ask an elderly attendant to help us. For about a $1/900 Won we had a ticket to ride. We even changed from the Orange line to the Green line like pros on our way to the beach areas and the Marriott Busan. Very pretty beach. Hotel was rather pricy…but their restrooms were great. We had an interesting cultural reprimand. As we were walking from the Jung-dong Station to the Hotel/Beach it was getting warm and my Blond and Buxomly Daughter removed her sweater and reduced to her summery camisole top. Within 3 minutes an elderly man taps her on the shoulder and makes sign language that she should cover herself. She did, and it was an insight to this different culture. We also noted that there were no one really at the beach in an unclothed state. We’re glad he clued us in, for we would not want to offend. Done with the beach area we took a taxi to the Buddhist Temple ‘Haedong Yonggung’ on the rocky cliff overlooking the Southeast Sea. It was being decorated with many colorful lanterns for a festival to come and we enjoyed this pretty site with many local people milling about and taking pictures like we were of this pretty ocean site. There were many rock steps up and down, and my poorly knees were in great need of Motrin. Our young man was very sweet, and lent me his arm to aid my step progress. Reverse the Taxi/Metro modes of transportation back to the ship. Interesting day. www.yongkungsa.or.kr NAGASAKI AND OSAKA We did have 5 Sea Days interspersed with the Port Days and our last two ports were in Japan. We enjoyed Japan more than we thought we would. Even though it is an Eastern Country and we could not speak nor read Japanese, it is so Westernized, we felt very comfortable, especially after coming from China. Nagasaki demanded that we visit the Atomic Bomb Museum. Although, I wasn’t looking forward to a depressing visit, it surprisingly was more informative than depressing. I’m glad we went and it was a part of History that our children know very little about. Since we bought a one day Streetcar pass 3,000 yen at the Nagasaki View Hotel across from where we docked, we used this for most of our travel. I don’t think the bus accepted this pass, when we went to Mt.Inasa-yama, but we had small change for bus fare. Enjoyed lunch at the restaurant at the top of the observation tower, and the Ropeway was 1,200 Yen to go up and down. Then we searched for the Bridges (Spectacles Bridge) along the River, found some ice cream and had a pleasant walk to Chinatown, then Home Sweet Statendam. Loved the hot coffee/cold coke dispensers all over the city on the street. As we were told...there is no thief, and most Japanese would not even think of jay-walking across streets, they patiently wait for the walk sign. Osaka – We docked at the Tempozan Park & Pier near the Osaka Aquarium Kaiyukan almost directly under the gigantic Ferris Wheel. It was a two-day Port with the next morning departure. We were not sure how we were going to get to KIX airport but hoped the Kansai Airport Transportation bus would pick-up near by…and they sure did, right directly in front of our ship. For 1,300 Yen per person we were able to get to Kansai Airport and their schedule was nearly every hour on the :23 minute. Flew American Airlines from KIX direct to DFW. The Osakako Metro stop was just a couple blocks from the ship and we spent our one full day in Osaka, at Kyoto. We took the Metro to the Bentencho station (2 stops) where we picked up the JR (Japanese Railroad)Osaka train to Osaka Station where we switched to the Kyoto train. Kyoto was a larger city than I expected. Here we bought the all day Bus pass and went to the Nijo Castle, Rokuon-Ji Temple (Golden Pavilion) and the Higashiyama area. All very cool. One note, we were leaving Kyoto, and missed buses because they were so full going to Kyoto Station where we wanted to catch the train back to Osaka. Once we squeezed on, and I mean squeeeezed on, and middle aged man and his wife gave up their seat to us. I heard quietly--‘americans’, and with lots of head bowing, and insisting we take their seats we squeezed over and plopped into the sweetest seats I can remember. Wow, that was amazing and we were so tired. These Americans thank you, again. We are thoroughly tired, but what a trip. Thought 14 days on a ship would be ‘too much’, but I was pleasantly surprised. We saw so much and it was a great trip. There was no place better to come home to than the Statendam. They fed us, wined us, rested us then brought us back safely from a trip you could not imagine.

Read More
  • New

Nov 30, -0001

Alaska

We sailed on the Statendam on June 30, 2006. This was our third cruise to Alaska; the second with Holland America. We are recently retired high school teachers, so this cruise was our retirement celebration! We fell in love with Alaska on our first cruise in 2002, went again in 2003, and had to repeat the experience in 2006! There is nothing to compete with the rugged natural beauty of Alaska! And nothing to compare with sailing on one

of Holland’s smaller ships, like the Statendam and her sister ships! Don’t go on one of the monster-size ships (2,000-3,000). Less people means getting on and off with ease, enjoying the ship without crowds, basically much less stress. Isn’t that what a cruise is supposed to be? The transition from flight to ship was smooth and very traveler-friendly. They whisked us from the airplane to a “cruise” room, so we bypassed much of the usual airport headache. Very nice! They transported us immediately from there by bus to the ship. We found the Statendam a lovely ship. The upgraded bedding and room amenities were much appreciated. Both of us wished that we could take the beds and bedding home with us! We never slept so well as we did on this cruise! The staff (room steward and dining room staff) were friendly and very attentive. The ship was beautiful. We were disappointed in our initial dining room placement (a table in a corner with no view and in the traffic pattern of all the servers), but eventually the maitre d’ gave us a different table and all was well. I noticed that the poor table was not used for the rest of the trip. Since we were returning guests who booked the June cruise in September, we expected a good table in the dining room. Obviously early booking is not a criteria in their seating. We were impressed that the staff learned our names immediately, and were so social and interactive. One dining room officer developed quite a rapport with us: teasing us and interacting with us all week. The food, by the way, was fantastic! We were lucky enough to be sailing in fresh salmon season, so we chose fresh wild king salmon almost daily. The choices are varied, well presented, and excellently prepared. Yum! We appreciated Captain Peter Bos and his diligent efforts to keep us healthy. The ship before us had some illness, and he was constant in his efforts to keep a healthy ship. The entire staff went all out in this effort. A couple of ill guests did not cooperate when the Captain quarantined them for 24 hours, and they were put off the ship. And since we remained healthy and happy on our trip, we were glad he was strict in his efforts to maintain a healthy ship. We were lucky to travel in fair weather, so the Hubbard glacier viewing was spectacular! The glacier was active in calving, so the sights and sounds were incredible. We enjoyed all the ports and our shore excursions. We did a floatplane flight seeing to the Misty Fjords in Ketchikan, a whale watching marine mammal tour in Icy Strait, the gold mine tour and a photo tour in Juneau, and a sea life discovery tour in Sitka. Icy Strait Point is quite small, but beautiful. Take a tour and walk around as well. I know some will say there is nothing to do there, but we liked it a lot. It’s a new port and much smaller and less “touristy” than the others. We were in Juneau on the fourth of July and got to see their fourth of July parade from our balcony. Oh, book a veranda room. One must have a deck on the port side of the ship. Some of our best sights were enjoyed on the veranda deck of our room! The only sad part of the cruise was when it was over. We met some folks who were sailing the return trip as well, and we were jealous. It was a wonderful adventure, and we’d love to repeat it again sometime. Go, see Alaska, and sail Holland America!   

Read More
  • New

Nov 30, -0001

Alaska

This was our second cruise on Holland America. The first was on the Veendam in August 2003 as our honeymoon cruise. Like another reviewer on here, I was afraid those special circumstances made the memories better than they really were. Nope. If anything, the Statendam was even better run than the Veendam, and we had a wonderful trip. We stayed at the Terminal City Club Tower in Vancouver the night before the cruise. Beautiful hotel,

spectacular view, decent price, and the bellboys took all our giant suitcases from the hotel room to the ship terminal for us. Couldn’t have been easier. With a very good arm you could almost thrown a baseball to the cruise terminal. The embarkation was a terrible ordeal, like running a gauntlet before you reached the palace. First the security screening line, metal detectors, X-ray machines, taking off my shoes and belt, all the time juggling all the carry-ons and paperwork and passport stuff. Then there’s the customs line, passport, paperwork, forms. Then there’s the actual Holland America check-in line, forms, ID photo, more forms and paperwork. The whole thing took probably an hour, but it seemed much worse. A good part of the hassle wasn’t Holland America’s fault really – a Celebrity Cruise was leaving at about the same time, so about 3000 people were trying to move through that terminal at the same time. Once we got on the ship, the entire hassle instantly melted away. As we’ve come to expect with Holland America, the service, food, and décor are all outstanding. Yes, the average age of HAL passengers might be 105, but it’s such an elegant cruise, like we imagine cruises used to be decades ago. Roving violins in the hallways, our room steward Paimun prepared our rooms each night with towels folded into a different animal, like towel origami. A uniformed steward calls you to dinner with a dinner chime. Formal night is really formal, bring your tux. According to the cruise director there were 100 “junior mariners” (kids) on board, but we barely noticed the kids, they were all very well behaved. Suparman and Wawan, our dining stewards were just great. Funny, amusing, elegant, impeccable service. Orlando the wine steward really did know what he was talking about. He even let me substitute a bottle that was not one of the wines in the package we bought when the bottle I initially wanted was sold out. Finally, Nana, the head steward for our section, could not have been more elegant. He’s been working for Holland America for 20 years, and set the perfect tone in the dining room. In the last couple years Holland America changed to an automatic tip policy where each passenger’s account is charged $10 per day, and drinks are charged an automatic 15% gratuity. You can reduce the tip if you want, but the staff more than earns it. Like some of the other reviewers, we preferred the previous system of direct tipping, but I assume too many passengers were cheapskates. We came right out and asked the Nana, the head steward, what the crew thought of the new system, and he very diplomatically said they liked it, that it was generally better than the old system. Still, we gave all of them an extra $10 directly on top of the automatic gratuity charged each day. Others increased the tip through the front office on board. We probably should have given more. We also tipped one of the Crows Nest drink attendants (Sigrid) and the steward who called us to dinner and handed out mints as we left the dining room each night. Nice touch. As for shore excursions, they’re badly overpriced on board. We found the shore excursion staff really unhelpful. They knew almost nothing about the details of the excursions, and even said that they’ve never been on any of them and only knew what the brochures said. A couple weeks before the cruise, hop on the Internet and book your own. You’ll save hundreds of dollars. (For example, a flightseeing trip in Juneau was almost $200 per person through Holland America, but $148 direct.) Oh, one last compliment – the nightly dance production shows were unbelievable. The Veendam shows made such a little impression that we don’t even remember them. The Statendam shows were so good that we made an effort to see each one. They had a troupe of about 8 college age singers and dancers. I have no idea where they got all the energy. They did a fantastic job, great shows. We’ll be sailing Holland America again next year. Fantastic cruise.   

Read More
  • New

Nov 30, -0001

Austrilia and New Zealand

My junior year of high school my Mother and I went on a cruise around New Zealand and Australia on the Statendam. I loved every minute of it! Holland America gets the wrap of being just for older folks; however, I highly enjoyed the Kids Club Hal onboard during all six of my Holland America cruises over the past eight years that I traveled with Holland America. The food was amazing during the entire trip. There are several places on the ship

to choose from, ranging from new exotic foods to classic dishes and more. One of my favorites was the Chocolate Night. Everything and anything one could imagine formed out of chocolate in all flavors. I definitely recommend that to any chocolate lover! I personally like the lower staterooms better. These rooms are located on the lower decks for a more affordable price. They may not be the fanciest rooms on the ship, but the only time I spent in the room was to sleep, there are way too many other exciting things to do onboard. Also I found that the lower staterooms are much calmer when it comes to rough waters. The onboard activities are endless. There is always something going on and something to do. I actually didn't have enough time to do everything I wanted. I enjoyed the shows after dinner each night, and the Crow's Nest Night Club. There are numerous sport activities: basketball courts, a pool, mini golf, and a track. I completely say don't miss out on the excursions. They are incredible! You have the freedom to explore why being in a safe setting at all times. Many of the excursions are only offered to Holland American customers, meaning that if you would not have had the opportunity to do a certain excursion if you were simply investigating on shore by yourself. My trip and cruise experience was the ultimate. I would not have changed a single aspect of my stay on the Statendam. As a young traveler I greatly appreciate all that Holland America has to offer, and would recommend it to anyone looking for a fun, relaxing, yet adventurous vacation. Upon boarding the ship and being escorted to the stateroom, all the staff is out and about to meet and greet. The staff was so friendly and helpful the entire cruise. The sailing was smooth and we arrived on time to all of the locations of destination. We went on a handful of excursions including, kayaking, four wheeling, going to an animal reserve full of native Australian creatures, relaxing on the famous Bondi Beach, and climbing the Sydney Bridge. In Melbourne we did travel into the city on our own to discover shops and stores. We also planned an extended excursion into the Outback for four days at the cruises end through Holland America.

Read More

Cruise Forums

Have a cruising question? Ask our Fodorite community.

Cruise News

Read our latest news about cruises.

Store

Shop our travel guides on European, Caribbean, and Alaskan cruises.

Back To Top