By and large, we enjoyed our voyage aboard Statendam, a ship that caters nicely to both experienced cruisers and first-timers alike.
By today’s standards the Statendam is modestly sized, even compared to most of Holland America’s vessels, carrying just 1258 passengers (at double occupancy). It’s also an older ship, launched in 1993. In fact, within Holland America’s family, only Prinsendam is smaller and older. A renovation in 2010 brought Statendam in line with the rest of the fleet, décor-wise, revitalizing the showroom, adding new lounges, and spiffing up cabin bathrooms. For the most part, the ship doesn’t feel dated.
The size of the ship didn’t compromise our cabin’s comfort, and we appreciated several extras not typical of the major cruise lines—a DVD player, shoe shine service, and our ocean-view cabin had a bathtub. The one omission was a fridge, but an ice bucket was kept full by our cheerful cabin attendant. The soothing room décor was dominated by chocolate and earth tones, with a few persimmon accents. We didn’t pony up for a cabin with a verandah—owing to their relative scarcity, these can be expensive.
Although our cabin was on Deck 6, mid-ship, a section of Statendam that should be among the calmest, we experienced engine vibration that was incessant at times. The vibration put us on edge—at first we thought we’d had too much coffee. There was also disturbing sound leakage from the hallway—we heard clattering dishes, banging, flushing toilets, and could make out the details of conversations by passersby conducted at a moderate level. Some of this was a function of our cabin being close to a service area, but as these are found throughout the hallways we have no reason to think ours was much noisier than others. Most announcements by the cruise director and captain were made in the halls, not the cabins, but they were loud enough that every word was audible inside our cabin. At night there was no problem with noise in our cabin, but from about 8 a.m. till 10 p.m., all bets were off.
Holland America plays up its environmental commitment, and we were happy that our cabin attendant did not need to replace our towels daily. But every night we received a printed card on our bed with the same message: “The ship’s captain and crew wish you a restful sleep tonight as we look to tomorrow’s horizons.” How transparent (and wasteful) this same message rings by the third night, especially when accompanied by a flood of promotional material from the spa, the shops and the art dealer. We prefer our horizons defined by something other than platitudes and cash registers.
Holland America makes an effort at assembling a comprehensive kids program, but with barely a dozen kids on our cruise it was difficult to evaluate. We did note that the waterfall at the teens-only Oasis was not functional during our entire cruise. But Statendam’s adult enrichment program was noteworthy, if mostly geared to entry-level knowledge. These activities were dominated by cooking seminars and computer classes—yet anyone with moderate cooking or computer skills might find the classes a bit too, well, basic. We appreciated the daily New York Times digest that kept us in touch with goings-on in the world.
Our dining experience was more inconsistent than we would have liked on Statendam. Most of our steak at Pinnacle Grill, the ship’s one surcharge venue, was good, but a portion of the cut was undercooked; our entrée at Canaletto was sugary. But the bulk of what we ate at the main dining room and at Statendam’s buffet, the Lido Restaurant, was just fine. Freshly squeezed orange juice at breakfast along with a variety of other juices—at no surcharge—was noteworthy.
Despite a few caveats with our particular journey, we think most cruisers will find Holland America offers a good compromise between the budget mass-market cruise companies and the pricy premium brands. The meals on Statendam were more ambitious than what we’ve experienced on most of the big cruise lines and offered more variety; the common areas of the ship had attractive, interesting artwork. Explorations Café is a highly appealing epicenter for the ship—we loved snuggling into the comfy leather furniture, when we could find an empty seat.
Boasting a diverse range of interesting itineraries on the schedule, a cruise aboard Statendam could be just the ticket.
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