My family of 6 (two adults and four children) took the 18 day Statendam cruise from Brisbane to Auckland. We had a very nice time on the cruise, but were somewhat disappointed that HAL's reputation for service and elegance did not live up to its reputation.
I will not go into great detail about the ports. You can read about them elsewhere, as they have been written about repeatedly. We embarked in Brisbane, traveled to Sydney (two days), Melbourne, Burnie (Tasmania), Dunedin, Christchurch, Wellington, Picton, Bay of Islands, and disembarked in Auckland. All were amazing, but we particularly enjoyed Dunedin. I highly recommend touring with Arthur's Tours in Dunedin. He was a marvelous, gregarious, and informative host who took us to the Albatross Center, the Penguin colony, and Larnach Castle. He also took us on a nice tour of the city, including the railroad station and "steepest street in the world." Don't miss him or Dunedin.
The ship itself had just come out of drydock and was in good shape. Nothing was worn or frayed, giving the ship the look of a much newer vessel. There were some occasional minor plumbing problems - but nothing significant given the length of the cruise. On the Upper Promenade several bathrooms did not function for about half of the cruise and for this half there was a pretty terrible sewage smell on a portion of this deck. In addition, several public bathrooms on the ship reeked of urine and had dirty floors. Given the number of bathroom attendants that I spotted, this surprised me.
The food on the Statendam ranged from good to poor, with the exception of the Pinnacle Grill that was uniformly excellent. The dining room food was satisfactory, with the occasional very good dish. We were disappointed that the bread was almost always served at room temperature, soups were often not hot enough, cold desserts were served at room temperature, and hot desserts were not hot. Service was spotty, depending on your steward and how crowded the dining room was. For example, I would have to often repeatedly ask for ice tea before it was served, and coffee or teas was rarely served at the same time as dessert. In fact, at times dessert was not served at the same time as dessert, i.e., pie a la mode being served pie first and ice cream 10 minutes later.
Food in the Lido was pretty good, but we wished that it would offer menu options different from the dining room at dinner. We liked the white tablecloths in the Lido at dinner time, as well as having the entree brought to your table hot after ordering. Breakfast in the Lido was very good, but those serving you from behind the counter were always unfriendly and occasionally surly. Not the way that you want to start the date. Those servers working to assist in handing you your tray and seating you were always friendly and courteous.
Our room steward Budi was wonderful, and the best that we have ever had on a cruise. He seemed to invisibly clean up the rooms, but was always available when needed. Marvelous.
In addition, the wait staff and casino staff were also top notch, with nobody pushing or selling you anything.
Fritzy at the Piano bar was top notch, and we spent most of our evening entertainment with the friendly passengers who gathered there.
We really enjoyed the Explorer's library area. It was a comfortable, quiet place to play a game or read a book and watch the ocean roll by out of the picture window. The library is huge, with no real need to carry on your own books. In addition, it has the biggest DVD library that I have seen, with only a 3 dollar charge to rent a DVD. They never assessed the late fees either. Very kind.
Club HAL for kids was below par. While the ship had just recently come from drydock, much of the electronics in the kids area was nonfunctional. For example, the juke box in the teens area and the one in the kids area did not function. The movie setup in the kids area did not work, so on movie night the teens lost the use of their area to the younger kids. There was insufficient staffing of the kids area, and often the younger and older kids would have to be mixed together. This resulted in the older kids being naturally bored with the activities that had to be geared toward the younger ones.
Would we cruise HAL again? Yes. We loved the size of the ship and the fewer number of passengers. The good outweighed the bad, but the sad part was the bad was so easy to fix. We had a very nice time, choosing to focus on the positives and ignoring the negatives.