I took this cruise with my 18 year old son to celebrate his graduation. He had been begging me for years to take him to Alaska and this was the perfect opportunity to take him. I felt this trip was a bit beyond my 6 year old son, so he stayed with my parents for the week.
We booked our own flights and decided to fly out Saturday morning. We flew on what must have been one of the first flights out that morning. Given that my son's graduation was the night before, such an early departure may not have been the best idea. After only 3 hours of sleep we headed off to the airport to begin our vacation. A layover in Houston allowed us a welcomed break and a chance for some breakfast. We arrived in Vancouver before noon local time. Canadian customs was breeze. I had seen in other reviews and articles that car rentals could be found at reasonable prices, so I rented a small SUV to explore the Vancouver area. We dropped our luggage at our hotel in Richmond, a la Quinta I think....
The Vancouver area is gorgeous. We drove up the sea to sky highway and stopped at many of the provincial parks along the way. Definitely worth the drive if you have the time. We spent our evening exploring downtown Vancouver and ate dinner at a pizza place in Gastown district. The next morning, we returned the car to the rental lot at the airport and took the Canada line train to the cruise terminal. The walk from the train station to the cruise terminal was maybe 2 blocks at the most.
Embarkation was super easy. We arrived at the terminal at about 11am. The lines at security and customs were fairly short. The line to checkin where they give you e key card was short, but moved slowly. The employee that checked us in blamed slow computers. We were told our stateroom would not be available until 1:30. This was slightly inconvenient since it meant we had to lug our carry on bags around until it was finished. Lunch in the buffet bordered on chaos as it always does on the first day. The problem was made worse by the fact that holland America has no self service in the buffet for the first 2 days. Supposedly this is to cut down on the possible spread of disease. I wonder how effective this is given the amount of headache it causes. After lunch, we returned to our room to find it still unfinished in spite of being another 15 minutes past the time we were told it would be ready. Apparently our's was one of the last rooms to be finished. Oh well.
Dining- We found the food to be hit or miss. Some was quite good, some okay, some not that great. The food in the lido was just average. It seemed the lunch selection was very similar from day to day. The burgers out at the grill were tasty, the pizza, not so much...
Food in the main dining room was better. The menu was not exactly what I had expected from my previous cruises on carnival. The food was a bit more fancy than I was expecting. I don't have much experience with "fine dining" and some of the dishes were a bit too unconventional for my tastes. My son began experimenting and would order the most exotic sounding thing on the menu. If he didn't like it, he would get the waiter to bring something else.
Service- We found the service to be just average. We had the late seating dining and ate all of our dinners in the dining room except one. I don't know what was going on in the dining room during our cruise, but things seemed way off. On our previous cruises the waiters were friendly and attentive, always coming by to make sure everything was good or to bring water. This time water glasses would stay empty for 20 minutes at a time. Time between courses was inconsistent. Some days the courses would come 15 minutes apart, the next night we would wait 30 minutes or more. Service in the lido was also inconsistent. Items would be left empty for long periods of time, and on the days where there was no self service, some stations were simply vacant. At breakfast there was this one poor girl manning the omelet station who must have no experience making them. My son referred to her as "the omelet hacker" because she would hack them to pieces lol.
Cabin- our cabin was very nice. I'm guessing holland America must have upgraded them at some point in the last few years. Loved the big bathroom with the oversized shower. The tub is a nice touch too, but neither of us used it. I guess it would be helpful with kids. While the room was nice, we did have some issues. The air conditioning didn't seem to work right. For some reason, the air flow coming out of the vent was almost nothing. Luckily we brought a small fan. Even on the coldest setting the room never cooled off. The color on the tv was weird as well. Even though it looked fairly new, the tint was messed up or something. The bathroom door sticks as well. You have to yank it hard in order for it to close, which is not ideal when the other person is trying to sleep. The water temp in the shower is inconsistent as well. It goes from boiling hot to lukewarm in seconds. Our cabin steward was great. The room was always cleaned, towels replaced, and beds made promptly. My one complaint is that the ice bucket was sometimes forgotten.
The ship overall- The statendam overall is very clean and well maintained. The decor is perhaps a bit dated in some places, but overall the ship did not show it's age. It seems the staff was constantly cleaning or working on something to keep things looking good. Much of the carpet appeared brand new. There did seem to be more of a noticeable cigarette smoke odor than I had noticed on other ships. The casino area is small and even though smoking is allowed only in certain areas, the smoke polluted the entire area. The shops which are next to the casino seemed to trap the odor. The smoke smell also collected at the bottom of the stairs closest to the casino.
Entertainment- The onboard entertainment was for the most part good. There seemed to be lots of trivia going on. We played a few times, but many of the questions were for some much older than me, even more so for my son. The shows were ok. The talent was of good quality, but the shows were your typical cruise ship entertainment, a little over the top. We hit the casino a few times. My son got a kick out being able to gamble for the first time. We didn't spend much time there because there was a decent number of people smoking.
Disembarkation was pretty chaotic. We did the self assist because of an early flight. The ship was late in arriving which made things worse.
Overall- Alaska was beautiful and the itinerary was great. Inconsistencies in food quality, service, and condition of the cabin were the main pitfalls here. Would I recommend an Alaska cruise to a friend? Absolutely! Would I recommend holland America? I'm not sure, perhaps on another ship.