This was our second time through the Panama Canal with Holland America. Last year we did the same cruise(on the Maasdam) but from East to West. The Statendam experience was not quite as good as the Maasdam experience. Many of the reviews I had read before the cruise mentioned the ongoing problem with the air conditioning. They were right. We had the AC unit turned down as low as it would go. While the temperature was adequate during the day, during the night we found it way too warm as we prefer to sleep in a cooler room. We noticed that the people across the hall from us had a fan going in their room, so they too had problems. Neighbours on one side of us told us that they had had to call maintenance to have them look at their system several times as it was too warm. So obviously the Statendam has problems. I would not let it stop me from traveling on this ship again, but if I had a choice of ship, doing the same route, the Statendam would not be my ship of choice!!
On the Maasdam, we had lots of lounge chairs out on deck 12 and there were lounge chairs all the way around the outside of Deck 6. Not on the Statendam!! There were only 5 chairs on each side of the Sports Deck and only one small stretch of the Promenade Deck has chairs. I know of 4 people who independently went to complain at the front desk about the lack of chairs, and who were told that more would be put out, yet the number of deck chairs did not change. Again, this would not be a deal breaker for me, but I did miss the outside loungers!!!
Those two complaints I mentioned were the only things that were not wonderful about the ship. The staff was amazing. The entertainment was fantastic, from the nightly shows, to the piano bar to the guitar lounge to the string quartet. I would have to say that HAL excels at selecting good entertainment. The room stewards were the most attentive we have ever had. The food was great as always. This ship even had fat free french dressing, which I have not seen on a HAL ship before!! We found that a lot of people were like us and preferred to eat on the Lido deck rather than in the formal dining room. Some days it was difficult to get a table. Yet one side of the Lido was closed to guests as it was reserved for officers and staff. Yet we often only saw about 6 people there. On days when the guest side is full, perhaps they should allow people to sit at one end on the staff side.
We LOVED the new HAL policy of allowing you to go directly to your cabin upon embarkation. It was so nice not to have to carry your bags around with you until the call comes to go to your cabin. The disembarkation process went equally smoothly.
We enjoyed the cruise very much. However, our recommendation is that you take the East to West cruise, rather than the West to East cruise through the canal. We just found the ports to be more interesting on the E to W cruise. The two weeks went by really quickly. The libraries on HAL ships are awesome and I read a LOT of books on this trip. The ship's gym was amazing. I found it crowded for the first few days. But after that, it cleared out and it was not difficult to get a machine in the morning. We are planning to travel again next year, and it will likely be on a HAL ship due to the entertainment and food.
A few of our ports are not listed in the Port section, so I'll briefly comment on them here instead.
Since we had toured the city last year, we took a taxi (10 dollars for 4 people) to the resort area. We toured a couple of the all inclusive resorts, then went swimming at the public beach access. It was amazing. Nice waves, clean, warm water. We just took turns guarding our belongings. Beach vendors were very good at accepting no. There was no internet cafe at the dock, but if you had a laptop, there was a cafe that let you use it for as long as you liked as long as you bought something. So that was great!!
Puerto Chiapas, Mexico
We did a city tour of Tapachula and a visit to Izapa ruins. We did not overly enjoy this tour. Neither the city or the ruins is anything special. We found the street vendors to be annoying. Next time we would likely stay at the port where they had a fabulous pool area!!
Peurto Quetzel, Guatemala
We did the Antigua on Your Own tour which was a shuttle to Antigua then 3 hours to wander around. Again, too many persistent vendors who spoiled things for us. Many did not want to accept no!! It was interesting to see the place though. Once you got off the main streets, the number of vendors decreased. But once was enough for us. The drive (1 1/2 hour)each way to Antigua was the best part of the tour. It is fascinating to see the countryside.