The Good - Despite computers being down, embarkation went pretty well (~an hour) and all of our luggage was already waiting for us in room when we got there.
- Room 546 was fine. Didn't love as much as balcony room we had last time, but room was fine for price.
- On board musicians (not showroom acts) - Jazz Band, Guitar Guy, and Piano Guy - were saving grace for us on this cruise. We changed our dinner seating and table to hear Adagio Strings during dinner, which was lovely (a little too sleep-inducing after dinner! ). Then, every evening, we went to hear the Neptunes. Mike on bass/vocals, Cailynn (not sure I'm spelling that right) on drums, and Nate on piano -- FANTASTIC! The last night, they had a jam session with other musicians, which was truly excellent. Curtis, the steel drum guy was amazing. The classes he taught during the day seemed fun too, but a waste of his talent!
Terry, the Guitar Guy was a lot of fun and good player/singer. We had a GREAT time belting out American Pie with him early in the evening of New Years.
Steven, the Piano Guy, was fun as well. My travel companion enjoyed singing Disney Tunes with him one evening.
- We went to the Showroom for the main singers/dancers one night early in the cruise, couldn't find a seat, heard part of one song, and never went back. Big production numbers can be fun, but not our thing. We heard Mark Newsome, a contract Piano/Comedy guy on another night and stayed for the whole act -- laughed out loud, but wished his ratio of music to jokes had been more balanced -- didn't see like he played many songs at all.
- Drinks -- happy hour was a good deal (Daily 4-5pm -- buy one drink and get 2nd for only one dollar). Since my companion & I were willing to drink the same things each evening, this was a good deal for us. We're not big drinkers. Maybe one cocktail each before dinner, one during, one after. No beer for either of us the whole cruise. One carafe of wine at dinner one night. A couple of Bloody Mary's in the morning two or three days. Drinks for the most part were strong and well-prepared, and I'm super glad we didn't have the HUGE, surprising bill at the end of the cruise!
- The bartenders don't seem to rotate bars -- they seem to 'own' that one bar. Although, the waitstaff seems to rotate. If you have a conflict or issue, seems better to go straight to bartender to resolve, not the waitstaff. We'd also recommend bringing a wad of $1 bills and every time you interact with staff, give $1, rather than waiting for additional gratuity for good service (beyond what's automatically charged every day) at the end of the cruise. We ordered water a lot after dancing to the Neptunes and tipping for this made the waitstaff much less resentful.
- During most of the time, we were in the back of the boat in the Seaview Bar/Pool area. The unintended consequences of not getting a private balcony on this cruise, was that this outside bar was the most comfortable to smoke (one side smoking, one side not). We met way more fellow travelers and developed a core group of friends that we saw every day in this area. Laughed, laughed, laughed the whole time with them! Vic, the bartender, and Jonathan, the Deck Boy took fantastic care of us every day. I feel soooooooo bad because on the last day, I couldn't find Jonathan to give him even more tip -- he earned it. Vic, the bartender, was a complete professional and never exhibited resentment for our constantly ordering water rather than liquor.
- Most of our meals, particularly later in the cruise, were excellent. We steered away from Lido and ate mostly in main dining room. Thanks to Albert Baille for accommodating our table change request. Dining room staff were helpful, engaging, and hard working.
- We used the "Luggage Direct" option and it worked beautifully. Disembarkation for us was flawless. In the airport, however, we did meet some people trying to get to Manchester, England who had missed their flight.
- We had a gastrointestinal/norovirus outbreak on our cruise that apparently caused hundreds of people to sicken. I think, in general, the staff did a great job trying to control the outbreak and reduce the spread. I did have seasickness one morning after some rougher seas, but nothing like what was experienced by the people who did get this virus. In fact, none of the people in our 'core' group got sick. Apparently, many of the crew did, but if so -- the remaining workers did everything they could to ensure good service while understaffed.
- Some of our meals were not up to normal Holland America standards, especially early in the cruise. One evening, my companion ordered prime rib rare and it was grey and unappetizing. One evening, we ordered the same Chocolate Souffle dessert -- one was perfect and the other was not cooked at all. The coffee was consistently horrid. I ended up paying extra at the espresso bar and my companion switched to tea. We were very envious of some fellow passengers who brought their own french press and decent coffee! We will definitely do that next time.
- Due to the gastrointestinal outbreak, for many days, no one could do self service in the Lido dining area. This was the right choice to prevent more people from getting sick, but made lines very long and harder to get exactly what you wanted.
- Due to the gastrointestinal outbreak, the laundry facilities on our floor were closed for several days. The first day they were reopened, there was a long line down the hallway day & night. People were talking in the line into the night and it was noisy. There were some frayed tempers. The following day, hours were posted (7am -- 10pm) and the room was locked outside these hours. This definitely cut down on the noise, so Thank You to whomever made this decision, although it was an inconvenience to those who still needed to do laundry.
- We paid extra for the use of the thermal suite in the spa ($199 for two people / 14 days). Previously, while sailing on the Oosterdam, we used it every day and loved, loved, loved it. Worth every penny, except that the Oosterdam has the big, wonderful, amazing hydrotherapy pool. The Statendam has just a normal hot tub, and this particular one had almost no jets at all. Temp was good, though. We still liked the warming lounge chairs and the saunas, but without the hydrotherapy pool, it's not really worth the extra money to us.
PLUS, because of the gastrointestinal outbreak, the thermal suite was closed for several days. We got a letter from the captain (which we appreciated) stating what steps they were taking to control this virus. This letter mentioned the closing of all hot tubs.
But, I went to the spa every day for 5 days and asked if I could use the Thermal Suite -- the staff said No, the whole thing was closed. So..., at the end of the cruise, we went to the Spa Manager to negotiate a refund or a credit towards our next cruise. I thought it should be ~$70 (199 / 14 days times 5 days closed). But, she argued strenuously that it was only closed 3 days, and then only the hot tub, not the whole thing. She insisted on only $14 and frankly, the conversation was so unpleasant, I gave up and walked away. This was definitely the low point of the whole cruise. While talking with her, several of the staff who had told me I couldn't have a key as the Suite was closed were standing there and seemed afraid to speak up to her. Blech. A bad note to end on for the next to last day. I feel like she lied to my face, but on the other hand, have no idea what pressure she might have been under to reduce refunds by her concession management.
So -- in the future, if we're on a ship like the Oosterdam where they have the full hydrotherapy pool, we'd probably buy again. But not on a ship like the Statendam without that feature. And if the suite is closed for any reason for more than one day, we're likely to ask for a refund for each day as it's closed or for all the remaining days of the cruise upfront, rather than after. Lesson Learned.
- The Statendam was going into dry dock immediately after our cruise and needs it! Lots of little things all over the ship were broken, not up to HAL Standards. Too many to list..... If you can, try to find out before booking a cruise whether the ship is going into dry dock right after your cruise or just immediately coming out of dry dock -- it's clear that both of those factors can seriously impact the quality of your cruise experience.
- We're not big on many excursions -- we like to hang out in the Thermal Suite when everyone else is off the boat and its empty. But on this cruise, we booked one -- the Panama Canal Museum at the Miraflores Locks. Initially, we got a letter in our cabin saying the excursion was cancelled due to a private function being in the museum. Then, several days later, it was back on. Whew! I found it fascinating and well worth the money.
However, we had to tender to port and the tenders had not been aired out in advance. They were ungodly hot and stuffy. Several people were nauseous and lightheaded. My companion was soaked with sweat by the time we got to shore and just miserable. Plus, there was a crack in one of the windows and when we hit a wave, water came pouring in and soaked one side of my shirt, pants, and shoes. So -- the whole time both of us were in the air conditioned bus to the museum and in the museum itself, we were wet! Coming back to the boat at the end of the evening was much better as the tenders had aired out and the temps dropped a little.
As I said, we really enjoyed the museum itself. However, the two upper observation decks, the restaurant, and the gift shop were all closed due to that private event, which was disappointing. I don't feel I can be too upset about that since initially they cancelled the whole thing, but I really wanted on those observation decks! We were on the last bus and toward the back of the pack wandering through the museum and felt uncrowded and unrushed. Some others on earlier buses, however, said they were really rushed through and couldn't see some of the exhibits well due to crowds blocking their view.
- The last two days of the cruise were made somewhat unpleasant with various crew members hitting us up for tips with sob stories. Not to be callous about it, because I know their working conditions may not be great, but we had already decided who we were tipping extra based on the great, great service we got and getting "touched" for extra money for two days was pretty uncomfortable and unpleasant -- especially by people we had not interacted with a lot on the cruise. For this reason, we still feel like it's better to tip a little every time a service is provided, rather than a lump at the end. The crew on this particular ship seemed a lot more discontented and unhappy then on my previous cruises.......