Embarkation: Arrived at the San Diego Pier at around 11AM - the Statendam had arrived that morning from a 28 day South Pacific itinerary so we didnt know if it would take any longer than usual to get the ship off loaded and ready to board - happily we board at 11:30AM although our stateroom was not ready we were able to drop off our carry ons and go to the Mariners lunch.
The beautiful and elegant Statendam:
As we toured the ship (knowing she is one of the "older" ships in the fleet) we noticed how well maintained the ship was. Deck 8 contained the main throughfare of shops, casino, bars and all was clean, polished and very nicely decorated. Up on Lido Deck 11, the steel band was going, drinks were flowing and people were milling about exploring this very nice ship. The deck chair cushions were the only things that we really noticed needed some attention (we also knew the ship was headed to dry dock after our cruise so this may be moot now). Tasteful Holiday decorations around the ship, not over bearing or tacky.
We had a balcony stateroom on deck 9 aft - very roomy, lots of storage space. Again a few scraps on the wall here and there, but nicely maintained and CLEAN. Our stewards were awesome, I need extra pillows and they were brought up promptly upon the request. Throughout the cruise, our great cabin stewards remained so friendly, happy and quickly learned our "routine" so that they were in and out of our cabin when we were out to breakfast or dinner.
The dining room:
We had main seating on Deck 8 table requested for 2 and received! The dining room very nice and open although the tables seemed kind of close together and getting in and out of our chairs required some contorsions (our chairs would hit the backs of tables behind). Menus quite varied with special menus for the holidays. Food mostly very good and well presented somewhat lacking in spices but for the generic crowd, understandable so that most could enjoy. Our Waiter and his assistant worked flawlessly together, a great team and again very chatty with us and happy with big smiles always. They had time to come back after meals served to make sure we had everything we needed and ready to get anything desired - these guys were great.
Puerto Vallarta was our first stop - got to stay all day with plenty of time to go into town on our own and enjoy this beautiful city. We had our first tour in Guatamala to the city of Antigua. When I pre-reserved this tour the departure time was 8:30AM from the ship. When we got on the ship, we noticed a time change in this port - ship arriving at 5:00AM! This made our tour departure time move to 5:30AM YIKES. We had to leave Guatamala at 2PM instead of the original 5PM time. We decided not to get out of bed so early and just enjoyed the port. We also couldnt dock next to the big shopping area at the port (the Celebrity Summit grabbed that spot) so we had to take some un-airconditioned school buses from the ship to shopping luckily only about a 10minute bumpy ride. We arrived Panama at 6PM and thought we'd take a tender out to explore the area. The tendor operation was very problematic and our tendor ticket number was called at about 8:45PM which wouldnt give us much time at all on shore so we skipped that too. Izapa Mayan ruins tour in Pt Quitzal was great. Huatalco very restful and lots of shops around the dock area. Panama canal transit was flawless and beautiful - perfect weather, great expert brought on board and very informative as we crossed through the canal. Last stop was Cartagena Columbia. With only a 5 hour layover we took a cab to "the dungeons" shopping area (we've been to this port before) and spend a good amount of time there. We also had some time to climb the dungeon walls to the top to view the beautiful beach line. 15 minute cab rides was $20 each way which seemed pricey for the distance.
Thus one of my "less than perfect" comments on the survey was length of time and the actual times the ship was in port. I know alot of this depends on other ships and port schedules but I thought it was worth a comment.
About 2 days out of Puerto Vallarta a Noro-Virus outbreak on the ship causing a code red to be called. I dont know how many people were affected (luckily we stayed healthy) but the ship literally took action and we were back to being served food by crew at Lido. This meant no taco bar and serve yourself Pizza during this time. No silver wear on tables (had to get yours from a crew member) and a thorough cleaning of table-chairs after each table vacated. For Dinner, no rolls in a basket on your table, but served to you by your wait staff. No Hot Tub usage (and drained) and No Self Service Laundry during this code red period which lasted about 6 days. Code red was lifted on our last port stop so we had that afternoon and 2 sea days of "freedom" before the end of the cruise.
We chose Luggage Direct service so we were almost the first group off the ship -very smooth, Immigration line kind of long due to only a few officers on duty for us but we werent in a rush. Flight out of Miami at 4:30 with a $75 cab ride - Luggage Direct worked great set them out of cabin nite before and didnt see them again until we arrived our final destination (all for $20 a piece)
The ship and crew awesome! The crew seemed happy to be there and to have us on board - very friendly all around. The future cruise team (Tina and Thom) were so friendly and knowledgeable. Many talks on ports and the history of Panama Canal were frequently going on. We've been on ships before that were going into a dry dock situation after our cruise and had some negative experiences with work starting before our cruise was over causing some areas to be inaccessible to us - This trip, the only prework I saw was some bubble wrapping of the back guardrails and deck (on deck 9) on the last afternoon of the cruise which made this common area inaccessible, no big deal. I would say this trip was a very restful one, calm seas, beautiful weather - the ship can only look better now than when we were on her since she went in for a beauty treatment as the Capt said right after our itinerary. Nice being on a smaller ship as the crew gets to know you better and you also get to know other guests better as you see them more often. We loved the ship, the crew and our overall experience on the beautiful and elegant Statendam.