If your primary interest in cruising is to make short visits to a variety of sites without having to unpack or worry about checking in/out, arrange transport between cities, etc. , then the Nieuw Statendam is the ship for you. If you also see cruising to foreign lands as an opportunity to learn through onboard lectures and enjoy yourself, then this is not the ship for you. We did a 14-day cruise to Norway that included five sea days. I anticipated having presentations by speakers who might discuss the local traditions, legends, politics, or other potential Nordic topics. Not so on this ship. The EXC guide presented memorized generic lectures with photos on each port and very few other topics. Most lectures were 30 - 40 minutes in length and usually covered two ports at a time. The EXC guide arrived and started promptly on time and as soon as she finished went into hiding in the crew spaces, i.e., no deviation from the script, no questions, etc. Other than the three music venues, HAL has done away with all entertainment other than a few guest artists (singers, comics, etc.). In the first seven days, we had a great opera singer who performed two evenings, one comedian who performed once, one adequate guitarist who performed once and one evening when the guitarist and comedian shared the stage. The first night, there was an EXC lecture and one night there was no entertainment, not even a movie in the mainstage. There were movies each evening poolside.
We were fortunate to obtain a reasonably priced upgrade to a Neptune Suite which made the cruise much more comfortable. The room, although not as large as on older HAL ships was very well laid out with a great bathroom. There were at least six electrical outlets with North American 110 and USB jacks in each. The Neptune Lounge concierges, Paulo and Kirsten, provided great service when requested.
Club Orange is HAL’s effort to catch up with the completion in providing a distinctive suite experience. It is a somewhat feeble attempt in that the menu is identical to the MDR with an additional item on some days. Our original excellent chef was moved to Sel de Mer near the end of the cruise and his loss was obvious to the tenor of the restaurant. Not only was he a wonderful and meticulous chef, he also took time to come out and talk with the clientele when time permitted. The new chef maintained a low profile.
Service by the staff onboard was typical of HAL and other lines - excellent with a smiling and helpful team. Navigation officers must have been present since we travelled safely between ports, but were invisible, only to be seen when tendering. With the exception of the friendly and visible chief security officer, hotel officers remained behind the scenes unless they were hurriedly going from one place to another trying to avoid interaction with guests.
Rust. I mention this since some reviewers believe it is an indication of ship condition. We noted rust in several places on our veranda and other locations, so those who don’t like rust should avoid this eight month old ship. To us, the ship was quite well maintained with many subtle front-facing and behind the scenes improvements from the Koningsdam on which we cruised eight months ago.
We will likely return to HAL for a great itinerary, but can’t imagine any other reason.
Cabin was great and well laid out. 6+ outlets - one on each bedside, one on each end of couch, one on desk and one on small table. Most had Euro/American/USB options. Bathroom was great with large walk in shower that had a seat at one end.
Traveled along dike on the IJsselmeer to Durgerdam. After touring the countryside, we stopped in Monnickendam, a traditional small fishing village. Great apple pie and coffee included. Dairy farm. Schermerhorn to visit the 400 year old Museum Mill.View All undefined undefined Reviews
Waterfalls and Nature HAL tour. Our tour started with a drive up (about 2,700 feet in elevation) through the Mabodalen Valley. There are five tunnels enroute, including one with a 360 turn while climbing in elevation. Our first stop was at the Voringsfossen waterfall, which cascades about 600 feet. There was a very impressive metal and concrete pathway which gave one a variety of views of the valley and waterfall. Carolyn found a little troll outside the gift shop. We then proceeded to the Hardangervidda National Park and the Sysen Dam, the main reservoir for the Sima Power Station located near Eidfjord. The dam is about 2,600 feet long, 800 feet wide at the base, and constructed from stone, sand and gravel. The water is taken from the bottom of the lake through a series of pipes to the coast where it turns several turbines to produce electricity. Our final stop was at the Hardangervidda Nature and Wildlife Center where we viewed a movie about local animals, waterfalls, and the dam. We had noted many homes with grass roofs, but the nature center had two small goats trimming its roof. When we returned to Eidfjord, we decided to ride the local Troll Tram on a one hour tour of the city. In just a few minutes we were outside town watching farmers mow hay with John Deere equipment before coming to an overlook with a nice view of the ship and fjord. Further down the road were three rock burial mounds with the remains of more than 300 Vikings from around 1000 AD. Our tour ended back in town where we drove by the new church built in the early-1900’s and then stopped at the old stone church built in 1309. Our guide told us that there was a group who knitted sweaters for the trees along the waterfront.
Atlantic Highway and Haholmen Island - HAL Tour We passed several dairy farms on the way that sell milk to the Jarlsberg cheese factory which our guide told us ships all its product to the US. The Atlantic Highway, a major tourist attraction, runs across an archipelago of partially inhabited islands and skerries with eight major bridges. Some of the bridges have multiple turns and switchbacks. It is often used for automobile commercials and is the site for several scenes in Bond 25. The highlight was our visit to Haholmen Island which started with a great ride on a “Viking” ship, accompanied by dolphins, in beautiful weather. Once on the island, we had a piece of cake, some coffee, and a Hansa Beer before watching a video of the Saga Siglar, a reconstructed Viking ship that sailed around the world before being destroyed in a storm off Barcelona. The remnants are built in as part of the theatre. Following the show, we walked around the island which offers accommodations and dining. On our ride back, we saw several quarries for limestone and granite.
We met our guide, Robert, who provided us with great background during the tour, even though he is a native of Chicago. We were impressed with all the flowers throughout the city and their efforts to keep them flourishing. Our first stop was at Stiftsgården, the King’s official residence in Trondheim which was built in the 18th century and is one of the largest wooden buildings in Scandinavia. Later in the day, we saw the Norwegian Air Force band playing here and leading a parade around the highlights of the city. We visited Var Frue Kirke, a medieval church constructed of stone dating from the 1100. It is an open church meaning it serves the poor and few homeless remaining open 24/7. Nearby was a memorial to those killed in the terrorist attacks on July 22, 2011. Today there were several groups of youth in the area. Nidaros Cathedral is a major attraction in the city, particularly the exterior where one saint’s face is based on Bob Dylan. They need to keep replacing the faces as the sandstone does not wear well. Our guide also talked about the European pilgrimage route which includes the Cathedral. The Archbishop’s Palace, containing several museums, is next door. We noticed that the manhole covers contain the city’s official seal which we learned is typical for Norwegian cities. The Kristiansten Fortress is located on a hillside across the Nidelvan River was designed to protect the city from attacks from the east. We watched the bikers use the bike lift to take them up the long hill to the fortress. The view of the multicolored buildings reflecting in the river was impressive. One could see yellow emergency jacks under some of the warehouses where the pilings are failing. Local architects have done an amazing job blending the old wharves with new construction while incorporating old machinery used on the river. There were several groups of children, all with bright reflective jackets. Our guide explained that going outdoors was an important part of school and that color represented the child’s school.View All undefined undefined Reviews
HAL Tour - , Best of Skjolden, which didn’t show us much of the hamlet, but lots of the mountains and surrounding area. We passed the ice-blue Lake Fantesteinsvatnet before climbing about 4,700 feet through the Breheimen National Park to Northern Europe’s highest pass at Sognefjell Mountain. Along the way we saw many stone cairns, called varde, which marked safe trails over the passes. We lost count of the number of sheep grazing at the higher elevations and cattle down lower. We made a few stops along the way for photos, including one at the glacier where Carolyn threatened Bob with a snowball and another at a lake that was still frozen in places. Like in Eidfjord, the water passes through underground piping to an electrical generation station at sea level. The water in the rivers was blueish-green indicating the presence of moraine from the many glaciers. We arrived in Lom, a small city on the other side of the mountains where we visited the Norwegian Mountain Museum which displays many recent archaeological findings and a full sized model of a wooly mammoth based on remains found nearby. We walked across the road to the Lom Stave Church, which was built in the 1150’s. While churches of this period were built with stone in Southern Europe, churches in the Scandic countries were built with wood. Of the hundreds of churches built, only about twenty remain, all in Norway. After the Reformation, the Lom Church was expanded and converted from Catholic to Lutheran in the mid-1600. Our guide explained the basics of stave church construction without any nails and pointed out the more recent (1600’s) additions. This type of construction has allowed several stave churches to be moved to distant locations. Most of the newer buildings have beautiful roofs covered with slate tiles. We had a delicious salmon lunch followed by a dessert of berries and cream at the Fossheim Hotel. As we began our journey back to Skjolden, we stopped at Elevester to see the Saga Column which features decorations depicting Norway’s history from King Harald I (AD 860) to the National Congress of 1814.
One of the first things we learned was that no self-respecting Viking would ever want to look like a cow, i.e., wear a helmet with horns on it. Our first stop was at the Swords in the Rock where three 33 feet tall bronze swords are planted into the rock of a small hill next to the fjord. They commemorate the historic Battle of Hafrsfjord which by tradition took place there in the year 872, when King Harald Fairhair gathered all of Norway under one crown following a major sea battle. The largest sword represents the victorious Harald, and the two smaller swords represent the defeated petty kings. The monument also represents peace, since the swords are planted into solid rock, so they may never be removed. As we were walking back to the bus, we saw several young men swimming in the frigid water. We then went to the site of the Domstones. Here several rocks are arranged in a circle similar to Stonehenge, but like the site in England, there is no certain answer to what the stones mean or why they were important to the Vikings. Our final stop was at the Iron Age Farm, a reconstruction from the period located at the same site. Our guide provided us with a great explanation of these partially buried homes that housed an extended family in grass covered quarters. As we have seen in several locations, sheep and/or goats are used to maintain the lawn. After returning to the city, we visited the Stavanger Cathedral.View All undefined undefined Reviews