We have cruised mostly on smaller ships, SeaDream, WindStar, Regent Seven Sea, and SilverSeas, but after our experience on HAL Eurodam to Quebec City, we decided to Sail on HAL again. Our experience on Eurodam in the SS category cabin did not make us feel like being on 2100 passenger ship with only 60 passengers and not having to wait in any lines.
Statendam had about half as many passengers(30)with access to Neptune Lounge and special breakfast seating in Pennicle Grill made it very comfortable. The cabins are in excess of 540 sq ft, it is the largest of any cruise lines we have been on. The all inclusive luxury ships averages 330 sq ft.
Embarkation port of San Diego was very convenient, since we live in Los Angeles, drove a rented car one way and boarded our ship.
Embarkation was quick, baggage delivery was not quick, but acceptable, case of wine we brought on-board arrived safely. One nice thing about HAL is that they will allow personal supply of wines to be brought on-board, no charge for consumption in your cabin, but $18 corkage for dinning-room consumption. If you prefer your favorite wine on board, it works great.
Two days at sea and first ports of call was Puerto Vallarta, have been there many times, so nothing exciting, except strolling along the Malecon. Our second ports of call was Huatulco which proved to be the best, not many tourists, just the place to appreciate Mexico by mingling with locals. I only wished our ship would have stayed there bit longer? I arranged to have a fishing boat captain pick us up on arrival and take us to see some of the most beautiful bays well known in these part. Next was Puerto Chapas, near Guatemalan boarder, they could have skipped this one completely!
I read some negative reviews regarding age of the ship and problems with AC system, but on our deck, we did not experience any problem, just the AC control dial was not user friendly. But we did hear negative comments from fellow passengers, but did not know what deck area it was. Cabins were very spacious, stewards were great, free laundry service minimized unnecessary packing. Food on-board was consistently good, it does not compare with luxury ships, but not many complaints. Quality of food improved in the Pennicle Grill, for extra fee of $20pp. We were served breakfast in Pennicle Grill which was very comfortable and excellent service, nice perks for suite passengers.
One big complaint is their smoking policy. They allow smoking in Casino, Crow's Nest and open spaces, consequently if you are allergic to smoke, those spaces will be off limit to you. Many cruise-line do not allow smoking, not even on balconies, except in their smoking room. It appears that HAL maybe considering implementing new smoking policy, because we were asked for our feedback during the cruise.
This ship was launched in 1993 and for its age, I did not notice any problem areas, I can't speak for other deck areas. The public area looked fine.
During our stop in Puerto Quezal(Guatemala), we took an excursion to Antigua, Guatemala, what an amazing day! This was the first time cruise-ship tour was allowed to enter the city, during Samana Santa (Good Friday during Holly week)according to our guide. It was wonderful, with all the festivities in amazing colors, not to be missed, if lucky enough in the future!
They had 4 formal nights, 4 too many, but I am sure there are plenty of people who love to participate in this cruise ritual. I have noticed other ships are leaning toward casual elegance as a preferred dress code. One night or maybe 2 is fine, but 4?
Panama Canal crossing was our next event with a brief stop in Porto Amador, Panama. We entered the Canal very early in the morning and transited into the Caribbean by 330pm, a long process, one would explain the experience comparable to watching the paint dry. But you must see is once, it is an engineering marvel, the ship will provide narrative during the crossing. Bring a good book, sit on your balcony with a good glass of wine and watch the activities on the canal. Our last ports of call was Cartajena, Columbia. I would definitely return to spend extra time in this city, it is colorful, historical and loved the Caribbean atmosphere. Our arrival in Fort Lauderdale was uneventful, disembarkation was quick and flew back to Los Angeles without a hitch.
i would summarize my experience on this cruise as met expectation, service on board, quality of food, ports of call, our cabin and will return again.
Good value for the money!