Our review starts with an overall assessment for the first day for this 30 day round trip cruise aboard the Holland America Statendam -- San Diego to San Diego.
San Diego Harbor Embarkation was in San Diego which has a good pier for cruise ships and the best part is the pier is in downtown, not far from the airport or city attractions. We stayed at the Marriott Gaslamp Hotel which is a short cab ride from the pier. Expect to pay around $12 for a short trip in the downtown area.
At the pier was a Carnival ship and the Statendam. Our cab was permitted to cross security and pull along the ship terminal. Unloading was a snap as many porters were present. Holland America never mailed us baggage tags thus we had to ask a porter and then take the time to complete filling them out. When I offered $10 for the two baggage tags and the porter service, I was rudely told I would have to pay $20.
Inside the building we went through security and got in line to get our cabin assignment. The lines moved very quickly. There is a separate line for handicapped and the wait was even shorter. Suggest if you are handicapped, look for that line. Once documents are given to you, the walk to the ship is short. There is an elevator for the handicapped. You may wonder why I am often mentioning the handicapped. There were many handicapped aboard this ship including many in wheelchairs.
We were in our cabin within minutes. This was a very quick embarkation. It could not have gone easier.
Dining Let's start with the one subject that is most often heard in a conversation aboard a ship. Eating! We were greeted with a new dining concept aboard the Statendam, called "As You Wish Dining." The Main Statendam Dining Room as many will recall who have sailed on this ship earlier, is two decks. The top deck (Deck 8) is reserved for early and late fixed dining time seating. The bottom dining room (Deck 7) is for "As You Wish Dining." You can make a reservation the day of dining for seating at various times. Unfortunately we never found open times available other the 5:30PM and 8:00PM. Perhaps you can have better luck. You can also "walk in" and ask for seating, however from the long lines we saw and the unhappy passengers who were turned away while we were dining at 5:30, it is difficult to see how this is going to work to everyone's satisfaction. We were told it was better to ask for late seating as late times were plentiful. For "walk in" dining you will be seated at the next vacant seat, thus you may sit at a table for 2, 4, 6 or 8. After a few days it appeared this system begin to break down as many people including ourselves sat at a specific table. We noticed many people doing this and less and less dining reservations were noted in cabin mailboxes.
The Rotterdam Dining Room: It's day number four and I need to update the "As You Wish Dining" process. A call for reservations this morning was not successful. I was told that all reservations were taken except for 8PM. I checked with a fellow passenger and she was told the same, nothing available until 8PM. It may be a coincidence, on being told there was no reservations available and then seconds later getting a call from the front desk wanting to know if there were any problems and was there anything the front desk could help with. I declined any help and decided we will try the "walk in" approach this evening. If that doesn't work we will head for the Lido Deck dining area.
You also have the option of eating at the Lido, which has just been renovated with a new serving area and new seating. It is very nice. You may not be able to serve yourself as almost all the food is behind glass window dividers and you ask the server for the item. Perhaps some of this separation was brought about due to health concerns. Now the passengers cannot get directly to the food. No more touching food with your fingers, coughing or sneezing over the food. The serving area is broken down into theme type foods (Asia, beef, Italian, fish, etc.) This makes it rather easy to go directly to the items you desire. Breakfast, lunch and dinner are all served in this manner. Remember the times you have had to wait for a passenger who could not decide what slice of bacon they wanted and the line backed up and backed up? Now they get the next two pieces of bacon. If that is not your thing then you may not like this expedited serving process. We also noticed that portions offered are smaller. In fact everything that is served seems to be in smaller portions. Juice glass, coffee cups, etc are all smaller than we found in the past.
The Pinnacle Grill: The Pinnacle Grill is open for both lunch and dinner. There is an additional charge of $10 for lunch and dinner $20. We never saw many passengers dining in this restaurant. The food at dinner is steak and seafood. It is excellent. Lunch includes a hamburger -- remember you are paying $10 to $20 extra per person to dine in this restaurant. Several passengers we found out had been given complimentary seating from their travel agents.
Terrace Grill:If you like hamburgers, hot dogs, pizza or tacos, the Terrace Grill is on the same deck as the Lido Restaurant. Service is slow as each item is cooked after you order. We tried this snack bar several times and the slow service never changed. Your burger is not cooked until you place your order and cooking will take several minutes. The process never seemed rushed so expect ordering to take several minutes. If you drink cokes, then a drink card is available for $25 for 20 cokes. HOWEVER we learned that the card does have limits. For example my wife asked for a diet Sprite. Sorry but diet drinks are not available from the auto dispenser, only in cans and guess what? Cans are not included with the card. We went to three bars one afternoon before we found a bartender willing to let us have two glasses of Diet Sprite poured from a can. There is no refill and the drinks show up in a small glass. You can also purchase from the bar cans of drinks. There is also a coffee card available for $20 for 10 coffees. Look at the prices as you will probably be better off purchasing individual coffees as you desire rather than buying the coffee card. In fact the bartender told us we might rather purchase individually than purchase the card. There is free coffee in the Lido Restaurant. Specialty coffees are available at several places on the ship at an additional cost.
Ice Cream and Desert Bar -- Lido Deck: Contrary to other ships we have recently sailed, this ship has an ice cream bar where you can get soft serve and hard frozen ice cream until 5:00 PM without charge. You can make your own sundaes, get the ice cream in a dish or in a waffle cone. Several toppings were also available.
Cabin Location This is a small ship, thus cabin location does matter. We've had cabins, on other Statendam cruises, in several places throughout the ship. Trust me -- don't get too close to the front and aft ends of the ship as you will feel the ship's motion all night long and even more so if you are in rough seas. Some travel agents assist you and you decide which cabin suits you best. If you have a long cruise don't settle for anything less than what you want.
Photo Shop We continue to believe the cost of snapshots on cruise ships is way too much and this ship we found no different. The quality of the snapshots left a lot to be desired. Purchase your own quality digital camera and either print them off your computer or have a quality shop print them when you return home. The quality will be much better, plus you can have all the photos you want to print. TIP: Notice where the ship photographers go with their equipment, both on the ship and off the ship. Then take photos of your traveling companions at those locations, just like being at Disneyworld where there are many signs that read "photo spot." You will be dollars ahead. Photos sold as portraits aboard ships are just snapshots made with a medium price digital camera. Don't let anyone tell you otherwise. Prices on photo supplies are high aboard cruise chips, so make your purchases at a discount store before you leave home.
Sports Activities There is a basketball court on the top deck and ping pong on deck 11. Traveling on the Holland America Statendam will usually provide you ample opportunity to play. There is also golf putting, golf chipping, shuffleboard, basketball and volleyball aboard the ship. You can earn "Dam Dollars" if you win and later exchange those dollars for prizes.
Ping Pong is located on Deck 11.
There's a neat Hideaway on Deck 12.
Who Are My Fellow Passengers? Traveling on the Holland America Statendam is certainly a far cry from traveling on a Carnival or Princess cruise ship. There were a large number of handicapped passengers and a great number that are social security age. We only saw one grade school child on board and two small 1 year old children. We would strongly urge young passengers, honeymooners, and families with children to consider a cruise other than this one. While the destinations are great, you should expect to sit at a table with seniors rather than people who are younger. Do you really know what to expect for table talk? You'll hear about the stock market, global travels, social security, Medicare, grandchildren and politics. Unless my observations are all wrong 90-95% of the passengers would easily fall in the 70-85 year old range.
Want a Great View? The Crow's Nest is great for relaxing and seeing the world go by. The days we visited it was obvious a lot of smokers had "camped out" in the area. We found the smell of smoke too much to stay a long time plus on many days they kept the area very cool. Wear a sweater just in case you go there on one of those days. There was free coffee, tea and cookies on some days. There are many bars throughout he ship, however we never found any of them very busy. Each morning the cruise director has a coffee chat with an entertainer. We found the chats interesting and informative. Some of the entertainers also participate in lectures aboard the ship. Time and locations vary.
Art Auctions As with most cruise ships there is an art auction. If you want to buy a print or painting wouldn't you really be better off going to the local art dealer and discussing such a purchase? It's difficult to believe quality art work, in such scarce quantities, could be found aboard a cruise ship a thousand miles out in the sea. Think about it.
Future Cruise Purchase We are always amazed to see large numbers of passengers talking with an onboard Holland America future cruise person. There is the offer of $100 ship board credit or a room upgrade if you just put a down payment today for that cruise next year. The cruise industry is like so many other businesses in this day and time. There are good buys and even great buys to be made on future cruises. Are they aboard a cruise ship? You be your own judge. We get so many e-mails advertising discounted cruises that we have always been hesitant to purchase a cruise while at sea.
Internet Access OK, I am an internet junkie and this is most often the way I stay in touch with family and friends. The service aboard this ship was equivalent to the old dial up service that I ditched 10 years ago. There was one big difference as the cost was $100 for 250 minutes. I could even live with that however just getting onto the internet sometimes took a full 10 minutes with each minute costing 40 cents. I updated this review on day four. The internet is said to be working so I head for the internet area. After 15 minutes I finally log onto the ship's system, however it will not let me go to the internet. I ask the attendant for assistance and she told me I didn't know my name and the password needed to log onto the internet and that I should call my provider (sbcglobal) when I get to Hawaii. This is strange since I have been using this service and have maintained my "login name" and "password" for many years. I ask the person next to me if he has been able to log in and he advises that he is on the ship's hookup but can't get to his bank account to pay a bill. Almost thirty minutes have passed and I started to try to reach various providers and sites. Finally by going to Google and them to SBCGlobal I am able to at least get to my provider's web site. A few minutes later I am on my site and I get into my e-mail. The fellow next to me is still trying. One thing I noticed, once you log onto the ship's system you will find various Holland America links. DON'T GO THERE AS IT IS DIFFICULT TO GET OUT WITHOUT LOGGING OFF. That will mean having to go back and try the process all over again thus wasting many, many minutes. I figured sending a simple e-mail was costing me many dollars each time. I have experienced far faster connection time aboard the Princess line. The person on duty was friendly and helpful, and it was not her fault.
Library and Internet Rooms I plan to rethink my internet experiences aboard cruise ships. I will no longer sign up for the ship's internet service unless the ship is reasonably close to land. No more open sea "lack of internet service" for me. The quality of the service is poor even in the best of times. You have a far better chance of getting a reasonably good quality hookup when docked. Another tip -- take a minute to meet the person in charge of the ship's service. If she/he does not appear proficient or willing to help you, then pass up the high internet fees and wait until you are on shore. Thus far I have been unable to use my own laptop on this cruise as I hook up one minute while being disconnected the very next minute. Asking for help on this cruise was certainly not even close to the excellent service we received on a recent Princess cruise.
I have been unable to use my laptop in my cabin. I asked some other passengers if they can get on the internet in their cabin and neither have they. I was able to use my iPhone even in the cabin to connect to AT&T and download my emails. The phone worked great in all ports in Hawaii.
Retail Stores If you can find poorer retail stores in the cruise industry please send me an e-mail as the stores on the Holland America Statendam have some of the poorest quality merchandise we have ever seen. In addition some stores had very little merchandise. One store advertised everything in the store at a $10 price. We thought we were at the local dollar store. My wife had always purchased perfume aboard cruise ships, but not this one. The selection and quality was extremely poor. Holland America needs to address this immediately.
Van Gough Lounge This is the entertainment area for the onboard singers and dancers as well as other invited entertainment. It is worth a visit to the area during the day time just to view this very nice theater area reminiscent of eras gone by. Looks a lot like the movie theater I attended in the 1940s. Seating is comfortable and the theater is small, compared to the big mega ships. The entertainment is one star level therefore don't expect much and therefore you won't be disappointed. Movies are sometimes shown on a small screen. Sound is not the best. Limited amounts of popcorn may be available for free on days movies are shown. Movies were also shown in the Wajang Theater.
Casino One of the smallest casinos we have ever seen on a ship. One roulette wheel, five or 6 tables for various card games, one craps table and one table for poker. There are a limited number of older slot machines. The staff is far more friendly than we have experienced on recent cruises. This is certainly not a place where you go to win money. It is just entertainment. Don't worry, they will take your money just as quickly on the older slots as the newer electronic machines. One of the best gambling bargains is the Texas Holdem Poker Tournament. Buy in for $30 and the winner of the tournament gets $200 with the runner up getting $50. A great hour of fun and play and not too expensive. On our ship the first time players seemed always to beat out those who thought they were pros. Be patient with the players and dealers as this is not a professional tournament.
Sports Activities On most days there is some type of competitive sport activity taking place. Shoot basketball and golf putting are two such activities where you can win cruise dollars that, if you accumulate enough, you can win a prize. Kind of like going to the fair or carnival.
Shore Excursions As with many other items you may purchase, you may find shore excursion prices beyond your budget. Shore excursions can cost you far more than the price of the cruise, therefore I suggest you be very selective. Costs range from $59 to $599 for such excursions. If you are not the adventurous type, don't like to go off on your own and don't much like driving in an unfamiliar area, then the ship's shore excursions may be your only choice if you want to get off the ship and see the sights, so let me suggest some alternatives. In Kauai there is a helicopter ride of 1-1/2 hours that sells for $265. By doing a little research on the internet we found an equivalent helicopter tour priced at $350.40 for two passengers, thus we saved almost $180.00. We were fortunate in that our son is a pilot and he had flown on the helicopter we booked, thus we got a great recommendation. The price of the ship's helicopter could have been purchased for around $200 on shore on the identical helicopter, thus there was a mark up of approximately $65 per passenger for the ship's tour.
In Hilo the ship's tour office has a variety of tours costing $51 to $219 per person. Find another couple and rent a car for around $50 and head for some of the same tourist spots at a fraction of the cost from the tour office. By splitting the cost of the rental car and gas, you can see the exact same sights on your own time and save a bundle. All it takes a little internet research and a few reservations before you arrive.
One couple at our dining table made reservations with a tour company that will meet them at the dock and take them to the same places as the ship offers with the really big difference being the price, which was less than 50% off the ship cruise prices, plus don't forget the freedom that goes with such a tour -- stop when you want to and stop where you want to.
Tenders Like many passengers we are not always excited when we have to "tender in" at a port. The tenders on this ship ran quite well when it came to passenger pickups, transportation and drop offs.
Car Rental Tips We rented cars at Hilo, Kailua, Lahaina & Honolulu. Check and double check that you understand where the cars are located and how you will get there. For example we were told by Alamo Rental that we could walk to their office in Honolulu. Upon arrival we found the office to be about 6 miles away or a $30 taxi ride. Most rental car companies will pick you up at the dock at no additional charge. Make certain that you know what the closing hour is for that location and if you can turn a car in after closing hours. In Honolulu the Hertz office was close to the cruise terminal, however they did not permit car turn ins after 4PM. Parking in Honolulu was $30 to $50 for overnight. Plan your traveling route well before you arrive at the port. We found that even though we were at Honolulu for two days, a one day rental was plenty as the traffic was a nightmare. Also determine the kind of vehicle you really need. Unless you are going "four wheeling" don't opt for a Jeep Wrangler on the islands. These are not the most comfortable vehicles to drive or ride in (I own one and thus I write from experience) and they will cost an arm and a leg at most locations. Going down the highway in Hawaii in a convertible is a picture of fun. Maybe and maybe not, as we hit rain quite often, thus time after time we lowered the top only to have to raise it an hour later. Otherwise the convertible was quite fun. Leave all your "stuff" in the cruise ship cabin as it will be exposed for the easy heist at your next unattended stop. Do you really need that extra insurance for collision and theft? You need to review the terms of your credit card AND your personal insurance policy and then make your own decision. Many articles and guide books stated that car reservations should be made before leaving home. While that is a good suggestion, we found prices to be the same or in some cases lower at the location than prices quoted before leaving home.
Library A very good at sea library offers many books and DVDs (cost $3 to rent) that can be viewed in your cabin. All need to be checked out at the desk and returned by the due date. There is a section for paperback exchanges which is free. Just leave the book that you have read for another passenger and pick up a paperback of your choice. Some of these books were in French with most being in English.
Spa and Salon Located on deck 11 there is a very nice Spa and Hair Salon. Depending on what part of the country you live in, expect to pay highly inflated prices.
Wajang Theater The movie theater has been renovated and is now a theater with movies being shown several times a day. It also serves as the location for the Culinary Arts Center where cooking and food demonstrations are given. Seating is in comfortable theater chairs. Popcorn is available for free at the movies. Get there early if you want free popcorn as it goes fast and there was never enough for the entire crowd.
Queens Room and Explorations Cafe Lots of internet locations in this area and several good areas to relax and read a book.
Explorers Lounge A great place to relax and watch the world go by, have a drink and read a book. Comfortable seating throughout the room.
Ocean Bar One of the places we found to be the busiest aboard ship. Good seating where passengers can have a drink and chat with friends.
Half Moon Room and Hudson Room These rooms are next to one another on the Promenade deck. They were being used by private groups much of the time and were also used by some of the ship's lecturers.
Pool Areas Located on the Lido Deck is the Lido Pool which can be covered by a sliding glass dome when weather is adverse outside. The area is very nice and there are new lounges, chairs and tables throughout the area. Plenty of towels are available for those who want to take a swim or get into one of the hot tubs. Just one deck below is a small outdoor pool. We did not find many passengers using that pool as the weather was windy and cool. There are a couple of ping pong tables located close to the indoor pool.
Deck 6 This deck offers a walking area completely around the ship and there are plenty of lounge chairs along the way. On the days "at sea" this area was heavily used by the passengers.
Bars and Lounges If you are one of those that don't mind expensive drinks aboard ship, then head for one of the six lounges or bars on this ship. There are four on deck 8, one on 11 and one on 12. We never once found a bar or lounge full and could always find a seat. Service is sometimes slow as there were few attendants during some hours.
Ports I will not try to list all the ports. The reason we found most passengers taking this cruise is for the unusual ports in the South Pacific, the cost of which to go to individually by air would be astronomical. We found that a few hours at each port only whets one's appetite for future visits.
Raiatea, French Polynesia: A most interesting port with modern port facilities. Rent a car and take a tour of the island. It can be covered in about an hour, thus a four hour car rental would be sufficient. There is a Eurocar Rental office not far from town and we found a representative at the docks offering a ride to the office. Roads are decent and not a lot of traffic. You can stop often and take in the sights. Check your travel book for those places the author feels are a "must to see." There are vanilla plantations on the island. Take a tour. Rentals will be about $100 for four hours.
Bora Bora: Here we rented a car at the city docks (Avis). Takes about two hours to circle the island. Suggest you take a slow leisurely trip and use the four hours you are paying for the rental car. About $100 for 4 hours. There is only one road around the island and it is a good road for most of the way. Don't hesitate on a car rental as there is little traffic and driving is easy. Bloody Mary's is located on the southwest side of the island. It is a great tourist destination.
Moorea: "Le Truck" is the common form of transportation in Moorea. We suggest you pick up a rental car and travel at your own pace.
Papeete, Tahiti: The central market is located downtown. You can walk to a lot of the downtown sites. Traffic is as bad as bad can be. We were discouraged from renting a car here.
Traveling on a cruise to the South Pacific can be an adventure of a lifetime. Island stops were too short as we would have liked to have stayed longer at some of those islands that are not on the regular tourist beat. The opinions and observations expressed in this review are those of this traveler and we recognize that with 1200 passengers on the same trip there will be different opinions and observations, and we respect that. We are in no way connected with the cruise line industry. I would be pleased to try to answer any questions anyone may have concerning this review. Just send me an e-mail at email@example.com. Would we travel again on this same ship? Yeah, we would. Would we want to take this same destination cruise? Yes, we would.
Have a great cruise no matter where you travel!