First the excellent...All crew members--from the cabin stewards to the servers to the officer staff--Holland America presents the friendliest and most helpful crew and officer staff of any cruise line we've ever been on.
The entertainment was also first rate. While we prefer the cabaret style shows offered on the smaller ship cruise lines, the singers and comedians on the Statendam were top notch by any standard. We were particularly taken by the pianist with the one-name of "Stryker" playing every evening in the "Mix" piano bar. Stryker plays entirely by ear and would play virtually any tune anyone wanted to hear with incredible virtuosity. His piano, singing, and interaction with the guests made for many a wonderful night on this 28-day cruise.
The Statendam itself is a ship somewhat in need of a facelift. The staterooms themselves were the exception as they were extremely spacious with considerably more closet and storage space than even the veranda rooms on the smaller ships of Azamara and Oceania--two of our favorite lines. Apparently there were about 40 cabins with little or no air conditioning making sleep almost impossible for a large number of guests. Fans were provided although they ran out of fans at one point but even with a fan, the humidity rendered them somewhat useless. This AC problem has existed for sometime on the Statendam and ought to have been repaired before taking a cruise near the equator. There were signs of age however and the pools were in need of resurfacing. Also, the windows never seemed to be as clean as they ought to have been. It may be that the window cleaning apparatus is of an older design. When in the ports crewmen could be seen working on the windows with long-handled brushes but, once at sea, the salt air seemed to nullify their efforts.
Perhaps our biggest complaints centered on the food dispensing. Although not outstanding the quailty of the food was more than acceptable. The up-charge restaurant, the "Pinnacle", however offered truly exceptional food--primarily steaks and lobster. We found the main dining room service to be inconsistent at best--sometimes very, very slow. We opted for open seating so we cannot comment on the service received by those with specific tables and times.
The biggest food problem was at the Lido restaurant on the upper deck where we had most breakfasts and lunches. Probably for portion control purposes HAL elected to eliminate trays so that you had to carry the individual plates--sometimes more than a little hot--to your table. For most food items we were not allowed to serve ourselves but had to request a portion from a server behind the counter. Thus we usually didn't get the eggs or bacon or whatever exactly as we wanted. Then, to make matters worse, while holding one or two plates of food we would have to stand in a short line to get our coffee or tea. With only two coffee stations for the entire Lido cafe and no servers walking around refilling cups, second trips back to the coffee line were required.
As for the cruise itself, there was a nice balance between sea days and ports of call. We found on previous cruises that showing up in a port every morning was so frenetic that we felt we needed a vacation after our cruise. Our criticism of this particular cruise would be the selection of the ports and the length of time at each. With the exception of Huatulco and Cabo San Lucas, the Mexican ports are worthless. It seemed to us that we would have been better served by HAL concentrating on fewer ports with longer stays in some. Without getting specific, some ports offer the opportunity to enjoy dinners ashore and some night life. This cruise never seemed to stay long enough in any one place to take advantage of the local offerings.
Perhaps we're overly critical. HAL does offer a lot of pleasure at very reasonable prices. And, as in the case of "Stryker" some incredibly wonderful experiences.