We always wanted to visit Tahiti and Bora Bora, but air travel from the East Coast is prohibitive in terms of cost as well as time in the air. Also, once you arrive in French Polynesia food, lodging and transportation can be very expensive. Really what we wanted was just a nice taste of these exotic places, and that is what we received.
The price we paid for a guaranteed ocean view stateroom on Holland America's Statendam was a bargain, and luckily we were upgraded 6 categories, from HH (obstructed porthole) to C (large oceanview). Our cabin was very nicely appointed with a tasteful color scheme, comfortable bed, plenty of closet space, flatscreen TV with DVD player, a nice deep soaking tub, granite bathroom counter, and Grohe faucet. It was kept immaculate by our cabin stewards.
Unlike many cruise lines, Holland America takes a very civilized approach to liquor : they allow you to bring your own wine aboard. And you can order a bottle of spirits from Room Service for approximately the cost you would pay at a liquor store.
Another feature that makes Holland America stand out is educational programs : informative lectures, cooking classes, even a book club. Reading "South Pacific" on the way to that very destination with a group of interesting, well-traveled friends did a lot to enrich my wife's experience.
The food was very good, nice selection, excellent dining staff, both in the restaurants and the Lido buffet. The only thing that wasn't good was the coffee, so we did patronize the Espresso bar every morning.
Captain Jan Schoonderbeek was a pleasure to sail with. We had to miss three ports due to rough seas (Christmas Island Kiribati, Raiatea, and Rangiroa) but I believe he did his best, so no hard feelings. His daily weather report was always fun to listen to ("the Vind and the Vaves are very strong today!") and his lectures on the history of cruise lines were first-rate.
The staff onboard the ship were uniformly hardworking and friendly, and I felt a sense of camaderie among them that was refreshing. The public areas of the ship were very nice and well-maintained, and I appreciated little touches such as fresh flowers in public areas and individual cloth towels in common area restrooms.
The entertainment was good. The cruise director, Anthony Choice, was a real asset to the cruise: the kind of guy who never allows there to be a dull moment, even on a cruise filled with seniors!
Suggestions for improvement :
(1) arrange for people who have mobility issues (walkers/scooters/wheelchairs) to be directed to a specific area for disembarcation where they would receive the assistance they need from the crew in an orderly fashion, rather than just jumping in line with everyone else and hope 2 (or 3 or 4) strong guys will appear at the right moment and knock people over attempting to assist them.
(2) give us more time in the good ports! In Hilo, Hawaii we should have been able to spend the entire day and have dinner ashore, which a 5 pm departure did not allow. In Moorea, there was a Polynesian dinner show at Tiki Village which no one could attend because of the very early 5 pm departure time. I could not believe you scheduled 21 hours in an inferior port like Papeete but just 10 hours in a fascinating place like Hilo, 9 hours in a once-in-a-lifetime paradise like Moorea, and a measly 6 hours in an extremely interesting place like Nuku Hiva.
(3) make sure the Port Consultant actually has detailed knowledge about each port : this is her JOB. She ought to be able to convey the magic and history of each destination, not just the local weather and currency exchange rate and how to say "hello" in the local language.
(4) Enrichment suggestions : It was great that the librarian has us reading "Tales of the South Pacific" as a book club. For even more pertinent and informative lectures, why not have retired English professors lecture on important works of literature that have a direct bearing on the ports to be visited? James Michener's "Hawaii", Herman Melville's "Typee" (about Nuku Hiva), and The "Bounty" Trilogy add so much to the appreciation of the various ports we visited. The movie "Hawaii" was shown on board...why not "South Pacific", the original "Mutiny on the Bounty", and "Hawaii Part II, The Hawaiians" as well?
Here I will comment on Port #7, Nuku Hiva in the Marquesas Islands, which is a very rare place to be able to visit and does not even appear among ports listed in the pulldown menu. It was just incredible! Not a tourist place, no sandy beaches or luxury hotels, but a land that time forgot, with truly amazing landforms and ancient ruins where many natives are able to live largely off the land and sea. My wife was reading Herman Melville's "Typee" detailing the 3 months Melville spent here among the natives in the 1840s. Imagine how interesting it was for us and another couple to receive a private tour of the island by a local guide, Richard Deane, who is a descendant of those very natives.