Ms Statendam April 15, 2014 South Pacific itinerary Lee Wurschmidt
I enjoy reading the reviews of other travelers and often find them very helpful; therefore, I will try to give an honest review of this cruise. Overall, it was one of the most enjoyable cruises that I have taken. I had thought that 29 days might get boring, but that was not the case.
Pros: 1. The best part of the trip was the general friendliness and positive attitude of my fellow travelers. 2. Also excellent was the "On Location" team that was aboard to add to the Hawaiian experience. There were two dancer/teachers one ukulele and Hawaiian steel guitar player, one very knowledgeable lecturer, plus a person to oversee and coordinate their efforts. They added much insight to our understanding of the Hawaiian and Tahitian culture, geography, and history. Some of the other lecturers were also interesting. 3. The food in the main dining room was excellent. 4. The attitude and general helpfulness of the entire staff was wonderful. I encountered few rude or indifferent staff or crew persons after the embarkation day. 4. The library was well stocked and comfortable with a helpful librarian. 5. The ship's Halcats band that played with the entertainers in the main showroom was excellent. I have been on many ships where the drummer played so loudly that I could not hear the featured entertainer. The classical duet in the Explorer's Lounge after dinner was also very accomplished.
Cons: 1. Embarkation day was a nightmare for me as I am not supposed to walk while carrying luggage, but did a lot of it as there were no porters. The wheelchair coordination was very bad. Debarkation the last day was much better. 2. The medical center was quite greedy, requiring unnecessary services in order to get the blood test that the doctor from home had requested. 3. My key card had to be swiped many times before the light turned green so that I could open the door to my cabin, then it was so hard to push the handle down that I had a bruise on my hand all month. (If the room stewards were in the hall they opened it for me.) 4. Internet was very expensive and very slow and/or unpredictable. 5. The toilet had to be flushed two or more times in order to function properly. At least mine did eventually flush, some had worse problems. 6. I did not receive my final bill showing total amount and payment received. I have been home over a week, and have not received it here either. I had checked an interim bill a few days before so I am not expecting a surprise. 7. Excessive smoke in the casino made it a most unpleasant place to be. I was disappointed, but it probably saved me a lot of money. 8. The worst "seat saving" in the lectures and shows that I have ever encountered on a ship.
The following paragraphs give more detail to the above topics where it might be helpful.
This embarkation was probably not typical of most Holland America cruises. There had been an illness epidemic on the previous cruise so the whole ship was being very thoroughly cleaned; therefore, embarkation was delayed. Unfortunately, I had made my transfer arrangements without that knowledge. The van company driver was not willing to change my prearranged transfer ($5.00) to a later time as he had lost his place in the van line when he was called over for me. That seemed reasonable so I let him take me and some other passengers to the pier where I planned to find a place to sit for the hour that I had to wait since I am familiar with the area. Unfortunately, I needed to use the restroom, and there were no porters available to help with the luggage so I had to control my cases myself and find a restroom. This was very inconvenient although one terminal employee was helpful and did allow me into the room to use the facilities and agreed to watch my large luggage while I was gone for a few minutes. By the time I came back I was in a lot of chest pain from dealing with my carryon and purse which I am sure colored my impression of the rest of the embarkation procedures. Sitting for the hour helped with that. I have a large blood clot in my lungs, and am supposed to minimize walking uphill or carrying anything heavy as my lung capacity is quite impaired. I do not look disabled to the casual observer, and I travel solo so I had difficulty arranging for a wheelchair to get me onto the ship; some people were even rude when I tried to find out where to go. It was well after 1:00 pm before we were allowed onto the ship. Since I had not eaten since 5:00 AM I was looking for the dining room in order to have the Mariner's lunch about which I had been informed. Several staff told me it was over at 1:00, but we were not even on the ship by then so I continued looking for the dining room. When I found it the lunch was delicious. After lunch and a short nap I was in a much better frame of mind for the emergency drill. I am glad that HAL still had the passengers go to their muster station on deck, but we were not required to take the life jackets with us in order to avoid a tripping hazard from the straps.
My cabin was #115 on deck 9. It was a large, well appointed, typical inside cabin. There were three closets and six large drawers plus two smaller ones in each bedside table. There was no mini-bar so the beverages which should have been in one were taking up space on the counter for the full month. The bed was comfortable with reading lights that gave a nice soft light to the cabin for watching TV. There was a minimum amount of complementary amenities. Three gym-like dispensers on the wall of the shower held shower gel, shampoo, and conditioner. There was a bottle of body lotion and a bar of hand soap on the ample bathroom counter. A hair dryer in the bedroom vanity drawer and a safe in the closet completed the amenities. The hot water was plentiful and came quickly in the bathroom, but the shower went from cold to hot too often without any control by the user. Since I travel solo it was not caused by someone else in the cabin flushing the toilet. There was also a comfortable sofa and a coffee table plus a vanity chair which I used as a dining chair for my room service breakfast.
On the first day it was after 5:00 and my luggage had not been delivered. I went looking for it and found it in a collection on deck 5. I started to take my case and was told that security had to remove something. I have taken over 50 cruises (over 100 days with HAL alone) and have never had a problem with my luggage before so I was mystified. They were confiscating all extension cords and power strips. My Belkin was a top quality UL listed power strip that I always take because there is usually only one outlet in the cabin; like this time. I was told that I could get an approved loaner at the front desk. The loaner was of a much lower quality that the one they took, but it served the purpose for charging electronics. There was a whole counter full of confiscated cords, strips, and other similar use gadgets with many more suitcases still to be taken from. I usually bring a night light too, but forgot it this time. I wonder if it would have gone too. It would have been helpful if HAL had told us about this new wrinkle while we were still at home, and let us know what type of item would be acceptable, if anything.
The food in the main dining room and in the Pinnacle Grill was excellent with good ingredients, well prepared. There was plenty of variety with selections for vegetarians, dieters, and gourmets. I elected to eat at the traditional seating at 8:00 PM every night. Dinner was made even better by a very congenial group of dining companions at a table for eight.
The Lido Café had good variety, but lacked trays so that getting food from the counter to the tables was quite difficult and the food was often lukewarm by the time you found a vacant place at a table. Although the décor was bright and cheerful I did not enjoy eating there, and only did so when the dining room was closed at lunchtime.
The cooks at the terrace grill were friendly and the hot dogs and hamburgers were good with plenty of condiments; however, there was no Nacho cheese sauce for the chips. I did not like the pizza, but several people thought it was very good.
Room service for breakfast was excellent. The food arrived hot and on time. I do not like pasteurized eggs from a carton so I ordered fried over easy every morning. The "hash browns" were a deep fried bunch of frozen potato mush; luckily for my health they were not good enough to eat, unluckily the pork links were very good. There was lots of choice on the room service menu card plus I wrote in oatmeal most mornings; it was delicious and always on the tray. I completed the meal with a selection from the fruit basket delivered by the room steward the third day which was replenished almost every day.
There were special theme buffets on the lido deck a few times. I cannot stand very long and the lines were long so I did not partake. Afternoon tea was served every day at 3:00 in the main dining room with small sandwiches and sweet treats.
There were more ways for me to have a good time than on most cruises that I have taken. All of the usual Holland America offerings: good library, communal jigsaw puzzle on an adequately large table, bridge, mah jong, well equipped gym, deck chairs on the wrap around promenade, dancing in the evening, ball room dancing lessons, evening entertainment in the lounges, daily puzzles from the librarian, trivia contests, hundreds of free classic movies to borrow from the front desk and play on the TV in your cabin, and the nice lido deck pools with activities there.
In addition the "On Location” team provided many activities especially geared to the area in which we were traveling. Two young ladies provided entertainment doing hulas while the Hal cats and Henry Kaleialoha Allen played Hawaiian music on many afternoons during "happy hour" in the Crows Nest lounge. Kainoa was an excellent lecturer who gave well attended talks about many aspects of Hawaii and the other islands that we visited. He was also often available about the ship to answer questions. The ladies, Kapua and Kolea, also taught many Hawaiian oriented crafts and other aspects of Hawaiian culture. I did not participate, but enjoyed watching the dancing and Tahitian drum lessons. On the last full day at sea many of the students participated in a show of what they had learned in the Ukulele, drum, and dancing lessons. Although it was quite informal, I enjoyed it as much as many of the other shows. Their shows and classes were very well attended. In fact this was a problem in the Show Lounge because of an epidemic of "seat saving". It was the worst that I have ever encountered. At one lecture, 10 minutes after it started I counted 23 empty seats with a large crowd standing in the back. This was just on the lower deck, I am sure there were more empty seats in the balcony. On most ships with a similar problem the cruise director or show host asks the people to relinquish their empty seats just before the lecture starts. This did not happen here and most of the seats stayed empty. The talks were shown on cabin TVs the next day. I did not figure out when or where, but many who could not get a seat watched them.
Having three shows instead of the usual two helped a lot with the main evening entertainment. By going to the early 6:30 show I was able to get a seat whenever I particularly wanted to see a show. The shows were repeated at 8:00 and 10:30. I found most of the shows to be OK, but not great. Exceptions were the McDonald Brothers from Scotland and the crew shows put on by the Filipino and Indonesian crew and staff members; they were great fun. A group of Tahitian dancers were brought in for a show while we were in French Polynesia. Although they were very proficient; I would have enjoyed them more if there had been some explanatory commentary instead of just dance after dance. I missed a similar Hawaiian show, but heard that it was very good.
I found the shows in the lounges to be more entertaining than the main show in the show room because the singers in the main show were over amplified so that the singing often sounded more like screeching. I especially enjoyed the violin, piano duo that played classical music in the Explorer Lounge during and after the dinner hour.
The shore excursions were either greatly overpriced or things that I cannot do because of physical limitations placed upon me by my lung and heart problem. I did take the catamaran excursion one day during our time in Hawaii and enjoyed it greatly, even though it was expensive. The lagoonarium on Bora Bora was also fun and interesting.
The internet on the Statendam was very expensive as it is on most ships. I was in the process of selling my house so I had to be reachable by my realtor. Therefore, I bought 550 minutes of internet time for $175. Some documents I signed electronically and returned by email; and some I printed ($.25 per page), signed, and faxed from the front desk. I was really surprised that the entire transaction could be done from a ship far from home to sell a house in California. The technical adviser, librarian, and the front desk personnel were most helpful with many aspects of this as I am not a tech savvy person. Even though I had 153 minutes of unused time left over, this was less expensive than the $.75 per minute if I had paid for minutes as I used them.
One of my favorite activities on most cruises is playing craps in the casino most evenings. The table was very seldom open, and the casino was so smoky I could not have stayed more than a few minutes if it had been available.
Debarkation went very smoothly and securing the needed wheelchair was easy.
I would love to do this same trip again when I can afford it, especially if they would reduce the single supplement or have some cabins available at a solo rate.