30 day Hawaii & Tahiti Cruise----Feb. 14, 2014, 16 sea days and 14 port days.
Although we are four star mariners on HAL it has been almost three years since we cruised with them. The following is a summary of the ship and my cruise experience, beginning with the positive followed by concerns.
Generally speaking—I find no significant degeneration in HAL's service or facilities. This was a very good cruise and I highly recommend it. Excellent weather and relatively calm seas all the way except Moorea, the port we had to miss due high winds.
* I recently read a review from a lady regarding the maintenance and upkeep of the Statendam in which she condemned the ship and company for allowing the ship to deteriorate. I find that not to be accurate at all, conversely, this ship is well taken care. The Statendam entered service in 1993 and, with the possible exception of the Prinsendam, I find it better maintained than most of the HAL fleet we have previously sailed on, most of which were newer ships. HAL has always enjoyed a reputation of taking good care of their ships; I find they still do so.
*The meals were better in general than I recall on most previous voyages, the only exception being the “Pinnacle” which is still good but has slipped slightly, we used it 6 times. The Lido buffet seemed to have a larger food variety this trip and HAL does a great job of making certain everything is sanitized. I love the fresh squeezed orange juice in the morning there. The Canoletto was very good and made for an intimate dinner, last time we were on the Ryndam they didn’t charge the $10.00 per that they do now in the Canoletto. However, on the Ryndam things were so crowded, probably because no charge for the Canoletto, that the tables, even for two, were so packed together that it was like joining a "6 conversations going at once club".
*Shore excursions were all pretty well put together and of quality. All escorts were tour knowledgeable and easy to understand. HAL did not overload the coaches and managed to keep most of the passenger loads to around 50% max. We also sail a lot on Regent which equally has excellent excursions, but their price is included in the cruise package which I greatly prefer.
*During our last 200 days or so at sea we have elected to take open dining. No more traditional for us. We experienced excellent service in the main dining room by HAL personnel and always got a table for two, seldom we had to wait, maybe twice for a minute or two. This is our second voyage on HAL using their “Any time you wish dining”, or, almost 60 days at sea with HAL using that service. It is my opinion that HAL critics of this procedure are flat wrong.
*The gym on this ship was excellent in that it had lots of modern workout equipment, was located up high with good views of the ocean and not overcrowded like so many of them are.
*The Statendam is one of HAL's "S" class ships. So is the Ryndam which we have also sailed on. It occurred to me that this class ship has more open deck public area per passenger than any ship we have been on. This proves to be a major plus for guests on cruises where a lot of scenic cruise days are involved, like along the coast of Alaska, glacier viewing, Antarctica, fiords of Norway and so on. All open decks on this ship are planked with Teak, and there is two 360 degree complete walk around decks, the promenade and the uppermost outdoor deck which runs around the top perimeter. Also there are many decks where public can gather to sightsee. On so many ships when approaching spectacular points of interest, like Hubbard Glacier at Yakutat, everybody is on deck trying to find nook for good viewing. Decks are so crammed that it is ludicrous.
One frequent criticism of the newer megaships is that they have little open deck space for observation, sunbathing or cozy quiet places to read, which used to be considered of value for traditional ocean travel of yesteryear. Instead, the ships are designed like shopping malls and amusement parks where guests are pretty much confined to interior areas. Even though these ships might have excellent space to passenger ratios, getting out and enjoying an open sea breeze is not a number one priority for ship designers anymore.
*Prior to boarding someone told me that HAL still had the same old selection of news service on cabin TVs. I dread being relegated to watching only FOX and CNN, so I simply leave the TV off. Imagine my surprise then, when I find MSNBC (My favorite), BBC, and FOX. HAL got smart and got rid of program duplicity leaving CNN out and giving their guests a “fair and balanced” selection of news choices and reviews.
*As always, HAL has provided a good selection of theme lecturers for a voyage. Three in particular I liked so much on this one I didn’t miss a single one of their presentations. On this voyage they have something new, a Polynesian, Kanioa, who works full time describing ports and history of the Pacific, he even does some Alaska and South America. He has an artful sense of humor that really cracked folk up occasionally. Quite a change from the old travel agent style delivery by someone speaking about everything in general with a delivery similar to reading from a text book. Both HAL, Regent and Princess are excellent in providing experts for areas being traveled, such as naturalists, biologists, anthropologists and historians. HAL is one of the few lines anymore that provides a protestant cleric for Sunday services and daily devotionals.
*We had a normal balcony stateroom located on deck 9 slightly forward of midship. Enjoyed it although would like a larger bathroom without the tub, but only a shower. Great balcony, larger than most. Even though this voyage has been very smooth, one time during the day when we couldn't get into Moorea I felt the ship take on a big one, I looked outside, through our patio windows, to see a wall of white water completely obscure the view for a few seconds. Being on deck 9, or 7 decks or stories above the water line, the spray must have reached 10 stories up.
*We had seven formal nights, which we like.
*I really like their hot tubs on the Lido deck, used them every day.
*Entertainment was pretty much on par for most ships this size. They had some great singers and performers and have pretty much done away with the bore comedians with their corny political jokes that leaves half the audience mad and the other cackling (although they do have a comic now and then that is very good they are now wise enough to stay away from ignorant politics or religious issues).
*Most unique port visited: Fanning Island.
*Best deals and quality on local made items: Fanning Island.
*Most exciting: Port: Rangiroa--Due to dicey departure through channel in order to enter ocean again. Also, best demonstration of Black Pearl farming found here.
*Most educational shore excursion: All day tour around Island of Tahiti which looked good in the shore excursion description but expensive. Later, when I checked it out on the ship it was closed out. But later yet they expanded it. Sure glad they did, besides being an excellent tour it included lunch at a restaurant that was out of this world, du Musee Gauguin. If we ever get back to Tahiti again we are definitely going to try to get there for dinner.
Regarding the down sides:
*HAL has definitely reduced staff levels. Surprisingly, it doesn’t have that many apparent negative ramifications, although the reductions do have an impact. For instance, the laundry equipment was down more often than should be and all around staff effort isn't near as coordinated as it used to be so there is a lot of reacting and not enough anticipation of potential problem areas.
*I am not enamored with HAL's new wine policy. I do miss the old one where one could bring a modest amount of wine on board at any port without charge or restrictions, it was an unique feature of their sailing experience. Since they are determined to go the mediocre route in order to fit in with most of the other big cruise lines, the least they could do is provide a red wine selection that is more reasonably priced. For instance, a $12.00 bottle of Cab. from COSTCO sells for about $55.00 on board. If you buy at COSTCO and pay the $18.00 corkage to bring it on board, you pay about $30,00. I would gladly pay HAL $35.00 for this wine and eliminate the hassle.
*The price of Internet is horrible due to the slow speeds. I wish HAL would give free Internet perks like Regent does. I would greatly appreciate that over some of the other Mariner perks provided.