This was our first cruise, apart from a Celebrity New York-Bermuda many years ago, so this is review is the Statendam Seward-to-Vancouver cruise experience as seen by a newbie.
We chose Holland America for the itinerary, which included Glacier Bay and Haines (instead of Skagway) and for the smaller ship. It turned out that Glacier Bay and Haines were the highlights of the trip (along with a glacier trek in Juneau) so we were very happy with our choice. We had spectacular weather on all but the first day when we were fog-bound at sea, but the fog lifted on the morning of the second day just as we entered Glacier Bay.
The ship seemed the right size for us. We had a rear-facing non-balcony cabin on the lower promenade deck 6 (D420). No complaints about the cabin except the thermostat seemed to have no effect on the cabin air, and we were sometimes uncomfortably warm. Access to the walk-around deck was convenient and fun; there were no significant noise or vibration issues, and although smoking is allowed on the rear outside deck we never saw anybody smoking. In hindsight I wish we’d paid for the corresponding balcony cabin BA220 on the verandah deck but we had no idea the weather would be so glorious. There was one area of the hallway leading forward from our cabin on deck 6, nearest Cabin 398, that had a distinct sewage odor. Maybe it was a coincidence, but we saw some work being done near there on the next-to-last day of the cruise, and only on the last day of the cruise the smell was gone.
We paid a lot for excursions but this was our lifetime trip to Alaska and as new cruisers we weren’t bold enough to hire independents. Our best value excursions were two in Haines - - we lake wilderness-kayaked in the morning ($110 per person) and forest adventure-hiked in the afternoon ($115 per person). Both were wonderful experiences and the guides were terrific (although not technically knowledgeable about the plant species on the forest hike). We splurged at $429 each to helicopter flight-see and land on the Mendenhall Glacier, outfitted head to toe for glacier trekking in a small group with a pair of absolutely fantastic guides. Our previous helicopter experience was sightseeing in Kauai, also not cheap, and the glacier trek was an order of magnitude better since we got to walk on the ice and see the amazing blue ice and melt water under our feet. Our final excursion was going out on the boat adapted from the Dangerous Catch TV show and seeing them haul up king crab, box crab and octopus. It’s a crowd-pleasing trip but too theatrical for our taste (but we did enjoy taking our turn to handle the live crabs).
The biggest negative was the food, especially in the Rotterdam dining room (we mostly avoided the Lido because we didn’t like the cafeteria atmosphere). Most of the servers were enthusiastic but the food just wasn’t that good. (Breakfast was the exception, apart from the bad coffee - - the Rotterdam breakfast menu and also cabin service breakfast were very good.) We ate twice in the Pinnacle premium dining room (once courtesy of our travel agent), and again at its Le Cirque format. Le Cirque didn't live up to the hype although the chateaubriand was excellent. The Pinnacle filet mignon was excellent (but the béarnaise sauce was inedible; fortunately they serve it on the side). The lamb chops would have been excellent except that in the portion of three chops it was three little bears—one was overcooked, one was nearly raw, and the third was just right. I regret that we didn’t send it back. We brought our own wine two nights and had no objection to paying $18 for corkage. The wine steward was wonderful and did a lovely job decanting. The wines we brought (which cost $50 in New York a few years ago) were in a class with wines on their wine list for which they were asking over $1,000 a bottle. The second night the wine steward asked if he could taste our wine and we were glad he did (except we were embarrassed that we hadn’t offered and he hadn’t asked the first night), and we appreciated his comments on the nose and taste. (The wine steward I’m speaking of is the Filipino working guy, not the big shot that runs the wine events on the ship.)
If we cruise again it will probably be another small ship, probably on a river cruise. I think we’ll have to save up for one of the higher-end lines though rather than repeat on Holland America.