This was a 16-day Panama Canal cruise from Ft. Lauderdale to San Diego on Holland America's Statendam. Ports of Call included Aruba, Puerto Caldera Costa Rica, Corinto Nicaragua, Puerto Quetzal Guatemala, Puerto Chiapas Mexico, Huatulco Mexico, and Cabo San Lucas Mexico.
I was a little concerned about travelling on an 'older' ship, not for safety reasons, but for the cleanliness and amenities. However, I had nothing to fear. The ship is in great shape and there are plenty of amenities for everyone. I never ran out of things to do on the ship, and had a great time with all of the staff. Captain Albert Schoonderbeek was very engaging and informative (be sure to check out his blog, even if you're not travelling with him!).
We generally took breakfast and lunch in the Lido Restaurant, and dinner in the Main Dining Room. Food was fantastic wherever we went. We hit the MDR for breakfast and lunch once, and did the Pinnacle Grill for dinner on our last night, and all were fantastic (especially the Pinnacle Grill - well worth the upcharge). The waitstaff is great wherever you go. We did As You Wish dining on the lower level of the MDR and always got a table for two around 7pm. The Maitre'd knew EVERYONE's name and room number by about the third night, and as long as you stuck to a predictable pattern, he made sure you got what you wanted. We stuck with the auto-tipping, but decided to give a little extra to the maitre'd, the waiter and normal waiter we normally sat with at dinner, and the wine steward who we interacted with a lot. The last couple of days it was evident we were getting towards the end of the cruise as some items were no longer available (skim milk in my case). But considering that they don't (generally) take on provisions along the way, it's pretty impressive that more stuff doesn't run out.
We brought our own wine onboard, and took a bottle to dinner each formal night ($18 corkage). Other nights we enjoyed a glass (or two or three) in our stateroom before dinner. Our room steward provided us with wine glasses on the first night, and we had clean glasses each night as well as ice in our ice bucket.
The gym was well equipped, but I wish they would remove the TVs off of at least two of the treadmills. It seems such a shame that you have this beautiful vista of the open ocean blocked by the TVs. I know that many people like TVs when they are on the treadmill, so I wouldn't suggest removing them from all, but just a couple so that those of us who like to 'zone out' while on the treadmill can do so.
The Lower Promenade Deck (Deck 6) includes an outdoor walk-around. Four times around the ship is one mile and no running is allowed. You can, however, run around the outside area on Deck 12 - 12 times around is a mile. Deck 12 is also not as popular as Deck 6, so you wouldn't likely have any problems other than dizziness from running around in circles (Hotel Manager tip: switch directions every mile).
Our stateroom was a reasonable size and with two of us in it, we never felt crowded. The room was attended to often, and my only complaint is that it seemed that the laundry room must have run out of bleach, because the linens and towels were consistently dingy. I'm sure it must have bothered some much more than I, however.
The Laundry Rooms were fine. Wash cost $2 and Dry cost $1 (US quarters only, available from the front desk). Soap dispensers are built in to the machines, you only have to push a button on the machine, and it is included in the cost. One note, however, I was never fully convinced that any soap was actually dispensed since my clothes didn't have that 'spring meadow' scent you might normally expect. I had brought my own dryer sheets, so any clean scent left on the clothes was from those, I think.
Entertainment abounds. The library area is quite large on this ship (larger than the Westerdam it seemed). The nightly shows were consistently fun. They are more on par with a small club than a large musical theatre production. The casino is fun if you're so inclined, with lots of penny slots (of which the minimum bet is $0.09...). There are several different bars including the one in the Crow's Nest which is a great spot to just sit, relax, and stare out to sea.
The Panama Canal is what this cruise is all about, and it doesn't disappoint. Be prepared to get up early, though. We got to the pilot station about 5am, and lots of things start happening even from that point, and it's well worth getting up that early to see everything that is happening. As for the other ports of call, Aruba wasn't too exciting (we just walked around the town), Puerto Caldera has nothing to do within walking distance of the port, but we got free wi-fi at the building next to where we docked, Corinto was very poor and sad - we spent about 20 minutes walking around then went back to the ship. Puerto Quetzal was more interesting. The port itself has lots of little shops and stalls as well as a restaurant, so you could occupy yourself there for a while if you wished. We took an excursion to Antigua ($49pp) and had a great time. Puerto Chiapas also had a nice little port area with lots of entertainment (music and dancing). Huatulco was one of my favorite ports as the little port town is right at the foot of the dock and caters to cruise ship passengers. All of the restaurants (and there are many) have free wi-fi. Cabo San Lucas is a great town, but we didn't have much time there as we set sail at 2pm and Cabo San Lucas is a tender service.
All in all, I had a fantastic cruise, and wouldn't hesitate to recommend this cruise or ship to anyone!