First time cruisers and first time to Alaska, so nothing to compare it with but generally a very positive experience. We were reluctant cruisers, seeng it as more of an older persons activity, yet while there are lots of -very friendly - senior citizens on the statendam we thoroughly enjoyed the cruise, being three teenagers and their increasingly decrepit parents. We chose the statendam despite rather than because of the reviews and while its fair to say that the ship is by other ships standards relatively old at 20 years it is perfectly acceptable and I believe offers relatively good value for money with one caveat, which is detailed below.
Two major factors in choosing the statendam were that it included Glacier Bay, which many other ships at this time didn't and that we were allowed to fit 5 of us into two cabins. Many other lines don't allow this which basically puts roughly 50 percent extra on the bill if u have to take three cabins. The service was excellent, could not have been better. Food was generally good, especially the Asian option. The passengers were roughly 70 percent American and 70 percent over 65 so obviously the catering is going to reflect their wishes but there were in the main enough to put it politely "less American " food options for our younger European tastes. We didn't participate in any ship activities or eat in any of the formal restaurants as this filled our teenagers with horror but they did enjoy swimming and the tennis court. Frankly, we didn't come to Alaska for that but for the wildlife which u cant miss it keeps appearing right under your nose, the scenery and the port activities. We loved Juneau and Ketchikan and you can see our reviews under "marshall mania" on trip advisor. In short we recommend highly Ketchikan outdoors for zodiac rides and Harv and Marv for whale watching. Skagway was ok but very touristy and overrun with cruise ships. The railway up the white horse pass was perfectly ok but not as memorable as the previous two ports. But the highlight was Glacier Bay. It's simply amazing. We had unbelievable weather there, sun bathing in front of the calving glaciers and in fact didn't see a cloud from Vancouver until we reached not far from Seward! We all have tans. To add to the drama we had to pick up 110 passengers from a smaller cruise ship which had broken down right in front of John Hopkins glacier. I believe larger ships are not allowed there normally but we spent a couple of hours picking up the passengers in our lifeboats.
So overall generally positive. Yes HAL is an older crowd but just wait - it will be us soon enough! Statendam is an older smaller ship but size means we always seemed to get the best berth, some other much larger ships were miles away. Service first rate. Route chosen by HAL is absolutely brilliant and Glacier Bay is a must. only two boats allowed per day and in fact when we were there we were the only large ship.
Some minor niggles. Fitness room was good but our younger teenager old wasnt allowed to use it. nowhere to jog. WIFi is a complete rip off, 75 cents a minute, even allowing for satellite is daylight robbery. In all the ports except Skagway we found free wifi in coffee shops. Ketchikan is salmon landing, far right end of pier.
So in summary thanks to HAL but most of all thanks to the Almighty - how many other Alaskan cruises get 95 percent sun, 25 degrees plus most days and not a drop of rain?