As part of a cruise tour of Alaska, with my son and one grandson, we finished the six day land trip by spending seven days on the Statendam from Seward to Vancouver. The land portion of the trip was fantastic. We had great weather at all the stops and were treated like minor royalty by everyone we met along the way. The biggest problem we had was that after the tour guide letting us know that the reindeer sausage served for breakfast on the train between Fairbanks and Denali were not to be missed, they didn't have any on the train. Got some later on though and although not bad, were nothing to write home about.
The second portion of the trip was a seven day cruise from Seward to Vancouver and I want to concentrate my review on that part of the experience.
I am an experienced cruiser. Been cruising since 1975 and have lost count of the number of cruises, but can remember the names of several lines that are no longer in business. My last trip before this was in February out of Miami on RCCL and my next trip is in August on Carnival. On this trip I had my son, (early 50's) and grandson (early 20's) with me. This was their first cruise. I had booked a balcony for the three of us.
The check-in was easy. Because we had been on the land portion of the trip, they were ready for us at embarkation. We were all traveling with carry-ons so there were no luggage difficulties, but HAL had arrangements for others to allow them to check a bag in Fairbanks for direct delivery to the ship. Their other baggage was taken directly from the last night's hotel to the ship as well.
The Statendam is old, but was renovated just a couple of years ago and has been kept in good shape. There were no complaints about cleanliness in any area. Having sailed most recently on larger ships I had almost forgotten how nice a smaller ship (1250 passengers) could be. No long walks from place to place unless you wanted to walk on the promenade deck (which went completely around the ship). Our cabin had a couch which converted to a single bed as well as twin beds and a tub in the bathroom. The bathroom itself was larger than most of those found on other ships. There was a mini fridgel, DVD player and balcony and suite passengers could check out DVDs from the library for free. A $3 charge for others.
We were assigned the open seating. I had thought about requesting a change, but with three of us and since I was not certain that we would all want to eat at the same time, just left it as assigned. We had no problems with evening meals. We did not make reservations for a certain time, one of the options, but just showed up when we wanted to eat. We were seated within a minute or two every evening. Food and service were generally above average with one exception which I will discuss later. Since we were travelling with only carry-ons we had elected to skip the clothes need for the two formal nights and had dinner on those nights in the Lido buffet. Again no problem with either getting seated, service or food.
Near the end of the cruise, dinner one night included pork medallions. I ordered that for my entree and when the plate was put before me there were two pieces of meat on the place. One was obviously a piece of pork, but the other looked like a piece of beef. It was almost black on the outside and nice and pink on the inside. I tasted it and it also tasted like beef. I called to the waiter and told him that I thought there had been a mistake and that I had accidentily been given a piece of beef. The waiter looked at the meat and told me that there had not been a mistake and that what I thought was beef was pork. Not being satisifed I went to the Maitre'd and told him about the second piece of meat. He accompanied me to the table, took the plate and said he would check with the galley. He came back in about five minutes and told me that there was no mistake, the meat was pork. I told him that if this was indeed pork, it had been poorly cooked.
Two other people at the table also tasted the meat and said it tasted like pork to them, so I wrapped the remainder of the meat on a paper napkin and after dinner took it to the purser's office. I explained what had happened to them and also told them that I was embarrassed and upset that the Maitre'd had returned to the table and in front of seven other people, (five of them strangers to me), told me that I didn't know the difference between a piece of pork and a piece of beef. I suggested to the office staff that the proper way to have handled the situation would have been to just replace the piece of meat I was questioning with an obvious piece of pork and move on, not to return the same piece of meat with a claim that it was pork.
Although the purser's office staff told me they would investigate my complaint, I had to chase them down the next day to see what they had found out. The senior purser told me that the situation had been investigated and that the meat I handed to them was indeed pork. When I questioned why if it was pork it had been served so undercooked I was told that since the quality of HAL pork was so superior there was no need to fully cook the meat.
The next day was the day of the debarkation meeting and at the end of the meeting I had a chance to speak with the Executive Chief. When I asked him about this I was told that there was absolutely no chance that a piece of beef had been sent out of the galley in place of a piece of pork. When I asked him about the fact that the meat was pink, almost red inside, he informed me that HAL had a special free-range pig source for their pork and it was perfectly ok to serve this free-range pork rare or medium rare. I told him that if I saw something that looked like a duck, walked like a duck and squacked like a duck, no one was going to convince me that I was looking at a chicken. Same with the meat.
Since so much else with the cruise was done so well, I was particularly upset with what I consider an unnecessary and unneeded lapse. The attitude up and down the chain was that I had gotten two pieces of pork and that was that.
There was less to do than on other cruise, but the presence of Alaska and Canade right outside the windows was a great substitue. The evening shows were good. The ship's singers and dancers were average and enteraining, and the performers the other nights were very good.
For disembarkation, HAL uses as system which assigns departure times in additon to departure colors, but people were leaving the ship from two decks and there was some confusion as to which deck you could leave the ship from. You had to leave from the correct deck as well as at the correct time.
Overall impression was good and I would certainly go with HAL again if they were going where I wanted, when I wanted and the price was right. Oh, about price. I met several people on the cruise who told me that the 14 day round trip cruise was offered by HAL at less than the price of the flight back to Vancouver from Anchorage after the first seven days. Now that was a deal.