This was our second Alaska cruise and our second cruise on the Statendam. Our first Alaska cruise with Holland America was in 2009 when we cruised one way north to Seward followed by a land tour. This time, we did the same glacier discovery cruise northbound but stayed on the ship for the glacier cruise southbound. Our previous cruise on the Statendam was a 28 day south pacific cruise last November. This was our fourth Holland America cruise, but this is our first cruise review on Cruise critic. We are a retired couple in our late 50s who enjoy traveling, walking, hiking and seeing the world.
Hotel in Vancouver
The night before the cruise we stayed at the Delta Airport Hotel in Vancouver. We had researched hotels that offered park and stay packages and found this hotel offered the best deal. We were not disappointed. The cost to stay overnight and park our car for two weeks was much cheaper than parking at the cruise terminal. The cost of a cab to the terminal was about $30 plus tip.
We arrived at the cruise terminal at about 11:30 and by noon we were on the ship. Our cabin was ready so we dropped our carry-on bags off and headed straight to the main dining room for lunch. Mariner Society members can have an embarkation lunch in the main dining room but first time cruisers with Holland America have to have lunch in the Lido.
This was the first cruise we have done in which we booked an inside cabin. Our experience has been that cabin choice is a very personal thing. On previous cruises we booked either a veranda suite or an Oceanview cabin but found that we actually spend very little time there. We are very active people that get out and about on the ship, doing activities, going to events etc. and only go to the cabin if we need to change or grab a jacket for walking on the deck. On the other hand we have friends who really value the veranda suite, as they enjoy sitting on the balcony, sitting in the cabin to read and to have meals. We didn't have a meal in the suite during the whole cruise, so for us the inside cabin worked out very well. The location of our particular cabin was midship so we didn't have too far to walk to anywhere. We particularly enjoyed the walk-in shower that comes with the inside cabin as opposed to the "step into a bath with a shower over the top" which comes with the Oceanview cabins. Not having a tub also means that you have more workspace around the washbasin.
The Statendam Experience
Capt. Albert van Schonderbeek is the most informative and seemingly competent captain that we have traveled with on Holland America. Cruise Director Anthony Choice was the same director as on our previous cruise back in November. Anthony and all of the Entertainment staff did a wonderful job. Our overall experience was positive and that's why we will keep coming back to Holland America.
However in the four years that we have been cruising with Holland America we have noticed some degradation in the service, which we would describe as "nickel and diming":
- Free after-dinner cappuccinos now cost $1:75 in the main dining room.
- Happy Hour used to be two-for-one drinks in the crow's nest lounge at 4pm; now you pay a dollar for the second drink.
- Prizes for winning the team trivia each day have been downgraded to Holland America pins.
- At the daily "sip and savour" event we used to get a taster glass of wine and an option to pay four dollars for a full glass of wine if we liked it. The taster glasses have now been eliminated.
If anyone with influence at Holland America is reading this review, or anyone with influence in the cruise industry in general is reading this, I beg of you please do not follow the practices of the airline industry in a "race to the bottom" when it comes to service.
Unless we are pressed for time, we try to eat all of our meals in the main dining room. Like the choice of cabin, we find that the choice of dining is a personal subjective thing. We prefer to have a leisurely waiter service meal, rather than the rush around do-it-yourself style of dining that you get in the Lido. During sea days we would eat in the main dining room at lunch, but would often have to forego dessert so we could get to the team trivia in the Crow's Nest bar on time. This was not necessarily a bad thing!
Some reviewers have made negative comments about the blandness of the food served on board. However in our experience the food on Holland America has always been tasty but not overly spiced. Since Mrs. V. suffers from GERD, this is a good thing!
We chose the early sitting for dinner which means arriving at the table at about 5:45pm. We sat at a table for four with another couple and usually we were finished eating between 7pm and 7:30pm in plenty of time to see the show starting at 8pm. The benefit of having a set time and table is that by the second or third night the Steward knows your preferences and the service quality jumps from good to excellent. We have observed other guests onboard shouting at the waiters or commenting loudly about the poor service but we think this is more a reflection of those guests than the staff.
When reading reviews on Cruise critic we have cringed at the rudeness of some of the reviewers towards the quality of entertainment. We would like to set the record straight. We have found the quality of entertainment to be on a par with regional theatre. If you are used to paying $200 for a seat at a Broadway or London production then you may look down your nose at what you will see on the cruise ship. However if you are used to paying $30-$50 at a show in a medium-size city anywhere in North America, and enjoy what you see, then you will probably enjoy the performances on board. To look at it another way, if you paid $100 for dinner theater in the city, then the experience that you would have had would be similar to what you will get on the ship.
A new experience for us on this cruise was the "dancing with the stars" competition. Neither of us can dance but we are willing to have a go at anything. As a result of our enthusiasm, we both ended up in the final of the competition. Getting to know our dancing partners and seeing what goes on behind-the-scenes during the competition was a wonderful experience, which we shall always treasure. Thank you Holland America.
Ports of Call
We never tire of going to the Rocky Mountains. And that was our thinking when we decided to do the Alaska cruise for a second time. The scenery is so spectacular that we will never grow tired of it. We won't do a detailed review of the ports as this has been done many times by other cruise critic reviewers. We like to walk and hike, and again this was the highlight of our trip, especially the hike up Mount Roberts in Juneau. We took the tramway up and then hiked up from there. Once you get past the interpretive trail the crowds thin out and you just bump into the occasional hiker. We had a beautiful sunny day, spectacular views, and who could ask for more?
To those reviewers who complain about the lack of information that Holland America provides about the ports of call, we say: do your own research and you will not be disappointed! By far the most time that we spend in planning our cruise is spent researching what we will do in each port of call. If you don't want or don't have the time to do this then just sign up for a Holland America tour.
We always take the self embarkation option. We have an early breakfast and then wheel our bags off at about 7:30 AM.
In summary, we thoroughly enjoyed our 14 day cruise with Holland America from Vancouver to Seward and back, and we would do it again in a heartbeat. In fact we are thinking of making this an annual event, perhaps trying out different cruise lines to spice things up a bit.