We took a seven day alaska cruise on holland America's statendam. This was my third cruise, and my first with Holland America. Both of my previous cruises were with Carnival. I found myself constantly comparing the two over the course of the week and I wanted to include that aspect in the review as well.
We flew into Vancouver on Saturday morning, a day early, so there would be no chance of us missing the ship. This also gave us plenty of time to explore a little around Vancouver and the surrounding area. Flights to and from the United States fly into their own concourse at YVR and customs was a breeze. We decided to rent a car since it was very cheap, less than 30 dollars for a days rental including taxes. You pick the car up right at the airport, which makes things very easy. We stayed at the La Quinta inn in Richmond. It was nice and well maintained. If you have some extra time in Vancouver and want to get out of the city for a while, take the Sea to Sky highway that goes up to Whistler. It is a beautiful drive with many scenic places to stop. (Especially check out Shannon Falls)
Getting to the terminal & embarkation: We took the Canada Line train from the airport to waterfront station. This was extremely easy and worked well. From waterfront station we had to walk a little over a block to the Canada Place cruise terminal. The cruise terminal was clean and well organized. For the most part there was very little wait time. The one exception was US customs where they scan everyone's passport before you go to Alaska. From there you go upstairs to check-in which was also quick. The whole process took probably 45 minutes.
The Ship: The Statendam is definitely an older, smaller ship, but it doesn't feel too small inside. The atrium is definitely underwhelming if you're used to the soaring 10 deck high atriums of the larger ships such as those in carnival's fleet. The theater on this ship has decent views, depending on where you sit. Since it's fairly small, most of the seats on the main floor offer good or at least decent views. The view from the balcony is universally terrible no matter where you sit, so get there early. The dining room is nice and well decorated. The only thing we noticed was a constant vibration at our table from the engines I suppose, in spite of the fact we were seated in the balcony level. Some tables appeared better than others so I guess it's hit or miss, depending on your table's location. Our favorite room on the ship for just relaxing or enjoying the scenery was the crow's nest. It's a lounge located on deck 12 all the way forward and offers a nearly 360 degree view. Many of the passengers didn't seem to discover this room until later in the cruise, so it can be a nice retreat from the crowded library/lounge on deck 8. My only complaint about this room was that it is in desperate need of some new furniture.
Cabin: We had an outside cabin located on deck 4. It was the standard cabin design and was plenty spacious considering we spent little time there. One thing to note about the cabin's bathroom is that it features a combination bathtub and shower. This is nice because it's almost three times larger than a standard cruise ship shower. However it has a very high step-in, which could be very difficult for someone who is older or who has mobility issues.
Cabin- HAL vs Carnival: Virtually a tie. I have to give the edge to HAL in this category. This cabin featured better decor and a more upscale feel. The big shower was also a huge plus.
Food: this is one area in which there is definitely room for improvement. The dining room food was generally good, although some of the menu items and combinations left us scratching our heads sometimes. However, I realize that things like this are subjective and it all depends on your personal taste. The lido buffet was a different story. The first two days there is no self-service in the buffet to try to limit the spread of any possible infections, an admirable goal to be sure. However, the staff seemed very unprepared to handle the task of serving every item to passengers. We found many stations running out of items or simply unmanned. The night we departed Juneau, we ate in the buffet after missing our assigned dining time due to a shore excursion. What an epic disaster. Food was constantly running out, long lines of tired and angry passengers, and the staff was totally unprepared. Another is issue with the buffet was that the lunch menu seemed to offer lots of repeats from day to day with little variation.
Food- HAL vs Carnival: Slight edge to Carnival. I am a simple person who doesnt care much for odd menu items and weird combinations of flavors. I find Carnivas menu more accessible with more items that suit my tastes. In terms of desserts, Carnival wins by a landslide.
Service: This is another area in which I found myself slightly underwhelmed. Our cabin stewards were great. They kept the room very clean and were very friendly. The only minor issue was that the ice bucket was forgotten a couple times, but nobodys perfect. Service in the lido buffet was very hit or miss. Stations were often left unmanned; however they did a great job of keeping tables cleared. Service in the dining room was good, but not great. I have only been on two previous cruises, and maybe I just happen to hit the crew member jackpot on those, but we found the service not up to the same quality as we had previously experienced. At breakfast, items were forgotten or incorrect on multiple occasions. At dinner the service was much better, but still not amazing. It was mainly just little things like water glasses would stay empty for extended periods of time, dishes stayed on the table for 10 minutes or more before being picked up, and other little things. Our waiter and his assistant were doing the best they could, but still seemed overwhelmed. Also, the waiters while very polite were definitely not as friendly as were used to.
Service- HAL vs Carnival: Based on my experiences, Carnival is the winner here. Carnivals crew members seem more approachable, relatable, and friendly; especially the dining room waiters. On my previous 2 cruises, our waiters would always engage us in a real conversation (things beyond smoehow was your day? and would even spend more time at the table than just that which was required to serve food and drinks. We just found that to be lacking with HAL, the waiters seemed more buttoned-up and stiff. Carnival just seems to have more of an easy-going, friendly atmosphere.
Entertainment: Daytime activities seemed to mostly be comprised of trivia and other similar games. Evening entertainment was pretty good with musicians, production shows, a comedian, and a reality show type dance competition. The music show featuring the ships band and a guy on piano was good; he was definitely talented. One of the production shows was cancelled due to rough seas; the other was pretty good but the cheese factor was high. The comedian was average; some funny jokes, some not. The dancing with the stars style show was fun, but it gets a little old by the end. Overall, pretty good.
Entertainment- HAL vs Carnival: HAL wins this one. Carnivals entertainment is often crass and tawdry which does not appeal to me at all.
Since this review is already long, I reviewed the ports and shore excursions separately.