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1 Osaka to Alaska Cruise Reviews

This cruise was a repositioning of the Statendam from Asia back to Alaska for the upcoming season. It began in Osaka/Kobe, ended in Vancouver and immediately departed to Alaska on its subsequent voyage. We selected the cruise because of ... Read More
This cruise was a repositioning of the Statendam from Asia back to Alaska for the upcoming season. It began in Osaka/Kobe, ended in Vancouver and immediately departed to Alaska on its subsequent voyage. We selected the cruise because of the diverse ports offered and to give HAL a "sea trial". We're not veteran cruisers and, having been on Royal Olympic (now defunct), Oceania, Crystal, and "X", are trying to discover our favorites. In summary, we were pleasantly surprised by the experience and will sail HAL again. I had some pre-cruise questions, and polled Cruise Critic in an attempt to clarify two issues so as to avoid potential disappointments or problems. The members were helpful with their information. The issues: 1. AYWD: We prefer open seating, chose this in favor of fixed seating, and were pleased at how well it has been implemented. The burden of open seating fell upon the capable shoulders of Robert, the Maitre d'. This billet has to be one of the most difficult on the ship but he handled it with great skill and grace. We just walked down each evening after the early show (along with everyone else exiting the show) and were seated with charming and interesting folks within two minutes. Robert knows how to pair people and it will be difficult to replace him when he gets promoted. 2. Formal Dress: The dress code for men is published as Tuxedo or dark suit. Results of the poll I submitted to CC predicted that less than 1/3 of the men would wear Tuxes ... the prediction turned out to be quite accurate. The interesting point is, probably to the consternation of the "traditionalists", is that our SUPERB cruise director Mike wore a Tux on stage for only two of the five formal nights ... he wore a dark suit the other three. The Statendam There have been 55 other reviews of the Statendam, resulting in a (CC) 4-ribbon rating. This appears accurate because it is a very nice ship in very good condition. Statendam, for a "teenager", did have some problems but nothing that the crew did not handle very quickly. The greatest surprise, for us, was the quality of the cuisine. To our palate(s), it was very good, varied, and only surpassed in quality by that of Oceania and Crystal. Table service, with few exceptions, was excellent and cheerfully rendered. We went to the Pinnacle Grill and came-away with mixed feelings. The service was superior as well as the table settings but, because the cuisine was excellent in the main dining room, we felt the primary difference was the venue, which was quite elegant. Our second visit was to experience the menu paired with special wines, which we very much enjoyed and which is not available in the main dining room. The Voyage: Weather was the major issue, but not unexpected when considering the time of year. In general, it was cold and wet while at sea but we lucked-out because it was clear at all ports with the exception of Kodiak. Osaka/Kobe: We had been to Osaka before and were aware of the logistics of self-arranged air, hotel, and transport that is possible but somewhat complex. We elected to use HAL for this ... the cost differential was minor, and it turned out to be a good decision. Disembarking our flight at KIX, we where promptly whisked-off to the Imperial in Osaka where the HAL agents there made the arrangements for embarkation the next day. The hotel provides a free shuttle to central Osaka, which we utilized in the morning for a little sightseeing prior to transfer to the ship in the afternoon. Embarkation was a snap ... very well organized and fast. After boarding, everyone is directed to the pool deck where hand-carries are checked prior to lunch at the Lido Buffet. When the rooms were announced as ready, we retrieved our hand carries and headed to our cabin where we met Touki, our room steward ... the most attentive, resourceful, and cheerful steward we have ever had. It was an excellent start to a voyage that actually began when we set-sail that evening. Tokyo: The cruise itinerary listed the first port as Yokohama, 25 miles south of Tokyo. A rumor arose that the docking would actually be in Tokyo, and it turned out to be true. We docked at the Harumi pier where HAL provided free shuttles for the mile or so to Ginza in the city ... very convenient and a short walk to the Imperial Palace, Tsukiji fish market, the Kabuki theater, and the main shopping areas. Hakodate: Again, free shuttles were provided from the pier to downtown Hakodate where we explored on our own. The highlight was the open market where many critters from the sea not often seen by common man were available for inspection and sale. Some mild excitement occurred when we went up to the Crows Nest for the sail-away. The wind had risen and, after pushing-off, we found ourselves back at the dock about 20 minutes of thrashing around. One tug and the thrusters were not enough and a second tug was summoned to aid our departure from the harbor. Petropavlovsk: We had wondered about the Russian bureau of tourism on an earlier visit to St. Petersburg, and we are still wondering. It took six hours from docking before the inspectors cleared the ship and passengers for their visit to this pearl of the Kamchatka peninsula. Each disembarking passenger was scrutinized and recorded on a list by a glowering steely-eyed soldier in utilities wearing one of those Russian bearskin hats ... it seemed like word had not reached Kamchatka that the cold war is over. It is humorous when thinking about how much protection Petropavlovsk needs from a shipload of "HAL-demographic" passengers. As for Petropavlovsk, it can best be described as rusting steel and crumbling concrete, but we were glad to have had the experience of the visit. At the re-boarding list check off we found "steel-eye" replaced by a cute soldierette (in bearskin hat) who, at times, would breakout with a (very) slight smile. Kodiak: At sea with a few days of miserable weather, we docked at Kodiak in weather only wild animals might enjoy. Again, free shuttles were provided into town ... this time in school buses, which we were grateful to ride. We got off at the "downtown" stop, which had the appearance of a 1950's strip mall. It seems downtown has suffered since the opening of a Wal Mart 2 miles down the road. The highlight was a visit to the supermarket (to get out of the weather), which sold food, furniture, camping and fishing equipment, tools, and - get this - ATVs. Homer: The weather cleared for our visit to Homer, which was one of the highlights of the trip. The ship docked at the end of the picturesque Homer Spit, which extended four miles from the town. We utilized the HAL all-day ho-ho bus ($5) from the ship to various stops in the town. We visited the excellent National Park Service Center a second time for a presentation, after returning to the ship for lunch. Glacier Bay: We were glad we paid our dues with bad weather because the reward was a perfectly clear and sunny day for the cruise through Glacier Bay. On our only other Alaska cruise we visited the Hubbard Glacier, which was disappointing, and were hoping for a better experience. Again, with "dues paid", we were rewarded when Statendam sidled up close to the Marjorie Glacier and sat there for an hour while we observed and heard frequent calving. The sail-by also included two other glaciers. Two "Smokey the Bears" boarded the ship and provided informative and educational commentary and lectures throughout the day ... e.g., tidewater glaciers (like Marjorie) do not provide any good information about global warming, and only glaciers that terminate on land do. Behavioral side notes: I had read that folks stake out viewing territory in the forward lounge during Panama Canal cruises. I spent my time running around the deck but my wife stayed in the Crows Nest to keep warm and reported that things got a little dicey there at times. I had also read reports but never observed pool chair hogs ... still no observation in this area, especially since there was occasional ice on the decks around the outdoor pool and one could probably have stored open bottles of mayonnaise in the area around the indoor pool without problems. Sitka: Another clear day at this very picturesque and interesting port ... a good wind-down for a long voyage. We walked the totem park, visited a salmon hatchery, and the raptor recovery center. Disembarkation was very civilized and a snap. Our flight did not leave until 6:00 PM, so we left our luggage in storage and walked around Vancouver. For future cruisers: on our return to the docks, we discovered that there was an airport shuttle that left from the Fairmont Hotel at the docks ... $11 per person. Prior to this voyage we had made deposits on cruises to the North Cape and Spitzbergen on both the Crystal Symphony and HAL Prinsendam whose voyage includes an additional week to Iceland and Scotland. The intent was, depending upon the HAL experience, to cancel one of them ... after Statendam, we elected for the Prinsendam. Read Less
Sail Date April 2008

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