We were looking forward to this 31-day Inca Empire cruise south of the equator to see 7 new ports and revisit 5. On all of our previous cruises with other lines we would schlep our luggage up to the terminal entrance where a port employee would take the luggage put it on a wagon to be taken to the ship. Next would be the long lines of passengers waiting to check in. After boarding the ship was the usual offer of drinks to start the celebration. In San Diego we schlepped our luggage to the terminal entrance to be told that we had to carry the luggage from the terminal entrance across the parking lot to the taxi stand or lug it on to the ship. As it was an equal distance to schlep the luggage we chose to continue on to the ship. Much to our surprise we were the only passengers in the terminal and received our cards without fanfare. We received no assistance with the luggage from the gawking staff until we reached the gangway were Bagun of the dining staff was applying hand sanitizer cheerfully took the larger bags to our cabin. We had made the mistake of following HAL’s boarding time information and found that we now had to choose between tracking down a waiter for a drink or seeing the ship while it was open to explore. Those that have cruised HAL before knew to show up when it was convenient for them and were onboard hours before their recommended boarding time.
It is clear to see the Statendam is a grand vessel with luxury to be enjoyed. The teak wood decks are far superior to the bare or tiled metal decks of the newer ships. The deck chairs are wood instead of plastic. All of the furniture on board was superior to that of the other ships. The fitness center was well above average and with the forward view made it a great place to exercise. The indoor swimming pool is magnificent to see and a pleasure to use.
We are any time diners, which permits us to dine when we want and gives us the opportunity to meet new and different people. The person assigned to show us our main dinning room table for the evening could not find it without asking the waiters. The table was next to an air conditioning vent that blew directly onto the table making it very uncomfortable. Bangun asked how we were and arranged for a different table. Our appetizers and soup were served and 45 minutes later the waiter asked if we wanted desert. As the Lido restaurant closed at 8 pm we had no choice but to wait for the kitchen to find our order. This made us long for the ships that actually have at least one restaurant open all the time.
Fortunately the fellow passengers really make this cruise enjoyable. While agreeing this mishap is avoidable, our fellow diners continued sharing stories and expectations of ports to come.
The Lido restaurant offers 5 different eggs benedict for breakfast and I do love eggs benedict when prepared properly. I found that the Swiss style mussel was my best option for breakfast and sitting on the starboard side so Ira could smile as she repeated each passengers name as she served them fresh juice or picked up their plates. Many of the wives could not decide if they wanted to mother the cute sweet little Ira or despise her squeaky little girl voice.
One of the great expectations about this cruise was having Thanks Giving at sea on a luxury cruise. Our Traditional Thanksgiving Turkey dinner consisted of processed turkey roll and vegetables. No mashed potatoes, no gravy, no stuffing and no cranberry sauce. Couple that with the Brits at our table having beef and mashed potatoes with their usual gravy and we all wondered about the cook’s sanity. As for the Pumpkin pie, even the Brits agreed it was from some place other than North America.
When we sailed into one port it was like riding a Navy escort, as we heeled to starboard and then rocked to port, then back and forth a few times. Not sure if the crew was effect more than the passengers or just enjoying the ride like me. The captain did come on the PA when we docked to let us all know that due to the shallow waters the stabilizer fins had been retracted for safety.
Schedules were dutifully posted in the pretty four page daily bulletin that is far better than any of 2 page photo copied bulletins on our previous cruises. Just do not believe the schedule, as it is not followed. Time and again posted events did not happen at the appointed time and sometimes did not happen at all. This lack of following their own schedule only resulted in many of us missing some sights because the captain chose to arrive late at the port.
As this was our first crossing of the equator the wife was looking forward to seeing if the line was real or another one of those imaginary male lines. So I asked the front desk what time where we scheduled to cross the equator, as it was not posted anywhere. She informed me we had already crossed it per her 3 pm staff meeting. I asked her if she understood what the 3 degrees north latitude meant in our current location? She called the bridge and allegedly was told they were to busy and she would send the information to our cabin as soon as she got it. Surprised the information was never forth coming. We watched the local position on the TV and I calculated it my self so the wife could see there was no line on the water. There was no Neptune Party for the southbound cruise but they did have a good one for the crew on the northbound cruise.
Upon our docking at Lima we learned the crew had no real ideal of how the passengers were to get from the ship to the terminal. The only information they had was, vans were supposed to come, and it was not their job. This was repeated at two more ports to prove it was not a fluke.
On other cruise lines we were constantly asked if we would like to purchase a drink. Partly because the tips are the only pay the waiters allegedly receive. This is clearly not the case with HAL as the best way to get a drink was to become friends with the staff so they know your name or track down the staff and ask for a drink. At the beautiful inside pool I watched the mimosa cart go around and learned that I was not part of the usual group so I was not asked if I wanted one. And this was the waiter I had to track down the day before, go figure.
Our fellow passengers on this Statendam were the best we have seen on a cruise. We have been on cruises were we knew no one on embarking and new no one except the staff when disembarking. On this Statendam cruise the passengers were extremely friendly and looking to make new friends to the point that just sitting any where on the ship for five minutes and someone would sit down next to us and start a cheerful conversation. These casual meetings resulted in more people wanting to join us on private shore excursions or us joining them because our plans for a previously visited port were open. I was amazed at how many people had no real plan for when they get off the ship at the next port and was just going to see what, if any, local tours were available.
The Statendam did have a Catholic priest (Father Vincent) for daily mass, a Protestant preacher for daily services and a self-led Jewish congregation. We met Father Vincent at dinner and learned of his position on the ship and according to him is the only cruise line with a Catholic priest.
The casino was very open to players of all levels. Beginners’ tables were often set up and the players played for half price, which kept more than a few passengers returning. For the whales, they make whatever reasonable request they can. One gentleman brought a new game to the casino the some enjoyed and seemed to provide sufficient returns for the house. The Texas Hold’em table was beginners at least twice a day and an evening of open play.
The Statendam also offers computer classes in a wonderfully set up computer lab with professional instructor and cooking classes from one of the chefs in a beautifully arranged theater with its own fully functional kitchen. Sewing classes were offered for those that still sew. Lectures on the cultures and ports were twice a day at sea.
For the music lovers there is live music from classical to pop, top 40, jazz, etc. at several locations including the indoor pool. For the dancers there is an excellent floor in the ocean bar great for the before dinner twirl.
The show room entertainment on the Statendam was a soprano, a violinist, 2 pianists, a flutiest, a saxophonist, ballroom dancing couples, 2 comedians and a gymnast. On the other cruise lines the crew performs their artistic talents on the last night. For this cruise the Filipino crew show was only performed while most of the passengers where in Machu Picchu. The Indonesian show was only done on the return leg and was extremely good. Ira led the 40 hands dance and when the others made a mistake the dragon lady (Ira) yelled at them to stay with the music. Bangun was the assistant director and helped the performers with their props. In the finally Bangun was the life of the show. The last night of the cruise the entertainment was fellow passengers doing the Dancing with the Stars.
We chose to leave the ship at our own convenience and even then it was a long line at the security station with people standing in the stairways and the elevators bringing even more down to the point they could not get out of the elevators. So we used this as an opportunity to say goodbye one more time to our fellow passengers.
Probably the most important thing we learned from this cruise and from our fellow passengers is, book an HAL cruise when the port of calls, the price per day and the time of year is good for you.