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Copyright © 1995-2001 
Linda Coffman

Holland America Line
January 12, 2001 ~ 15-Day Circle Hawaii

by Eileen Garland

On January 12, we boarded the Statendam in San Diego for a 15-day roundtrip cruise to Hawaii.  It's a pleasure to write a review of such a totally lovely cruise.

To provide a context for this review, I'll tell you that we are a long-married couple in our mid-fifties, and this was our 21st cruise.  We love cruising and have enjoyed every cruise we've been on, though some more than others, of course.  I write very dry reviews, so if you get bored easily, you might want to stop reading now!

We arrived at the terminal about noon.  We stood on line for about 15 minutes, but registration took only a couple of minutes once we got to the desk.  Then we sat around till our number was called for boarding, but that wasn't too bad because we sat with Ermalee, Bill, and Judi Carpenter and her friend Debbie.  We were in our cabin - WITH our luggage - by 1:30.

We thought the Statendam was a lovely ship.  This was something of a relief, because someone in a recent r.t.c. review reported that she thought this the ugliest ship she'd ever seen.  While it wasn't the most beautiful ship we've been on (I think that honor goes to the Splendour), we didn't find anything offensive and we thought it very pretty.  I particularly liked the Van Gogh showroom, thought it was just gorgeous.

We had booked an outside cabin guarantee and were pleased with cabin 664 on Main deck.  Like all the cabins we've seen in this class of ship, it was spacious and very comfortable.  It was a little smaller than our mini-suite on the Veendam, a little larger than our outside cabin on the lower Promenade deck on the Zaandam.  There were 4 closets with adjustable racks and shelves, 6 large drawers, two night tables with 2 drawers each.  We enjoyed the full-length sofa with the height-adjustable coffee table and the tiny but deep bathtub.

The food on this cruise was simply fabulous.  We generally had breakfast in our cabin, lunch sometimes in the Lido buffet or the dining room, dinner invariably in the dining room.  There were other options; Howard enjoyed the lunches out on deck at the pool, and our tablemates sometimes had dinner in the Lido.  Buffet food was very good.  The ice cream bar was wonderful, though I didn't see things like bowls of peeled pistachio nuts as I have on other HAL cruises.  Dining room food was varied and delicious.  We had the best lobster tails we've ever had anywhere, and all the standard cruise yummies like prime rib, escargot, caviar, roast duck, lamb chops.  The desserts were just incredible; if you like chocolate, Holland America is the line for you.  There was chocolate this, that, and the other thing every day.  Their flourless chocolate cake was the best I've ever had, even better than what Royal Caribbean serves up.  Our pleasure in the meals was enhanced by our delightful table companions, the aforementioned Ermalee, Bill, Judi, and Deb.

HAL is known for weak entertainment, but I think they've worked on improving this.  The production shows were terrific.  There was a good variety of other entertainment: comedians, a magician, a concert pianist, a ventriloquist, and more.  In the small lounges, there was a wonderful string group that played sweet mellow music, a singer and pianist, a small combo, and I'm sure I'm forgetting something.  The orchestra was wonderful, and played at a couple of events as well as at shows.

While I don't attend these, there was every variety known to man (and woman): pool games, trivia, name that tune, napkin folding, flower arrangement, horse racing, port and science lectures, crafts-making, to name just a few.  There were several deck parties and of course HAL's popcorn-accompanied movies and bingo. 

The Statendam's casino deserves special mention, as it was the best-run casino I've played in.  All the staff were friendly and helpful; more than once I saw staff patiently spend lots of time teaching people how to play not just table games, but slots as well.  There were a number of tournaments, and there were times when table minimums were very low - 25 cent roulette, $1 blackjack and poker, etc.  There were also a couple of free-drink events. There was a good variety of slots.  Worth mentioning is that some new rule went into effect during our cruise; the  casino had to close for the 5 days and nights we were in Hawaii; I'm not sure if this was a state rule or what, certainly it was not of the ship's doing.  The casino staff put this too good use, spending one night teaching games,
letting passengers act as dealers to the real dealers, holding a free slot tournament.

Service on this cruise was utterly superb.  One got the impression that the crew were a happy and practiced team.  Our room steward was the best we've ever had, and that's saying quite a lot, as we've had wonderful stewards on practically every cruise.  Our waiter, assistant, and head waiter were fabulous, knowing what we usually wanted but never assuming anything.  We were cheerfully given whatever we asked for, from multiple choices of a particular course to variations from what was on the menu. We were truly impressed.

We had five days at sea, followed by stops at the big island (Hilo and Kona), Oahu, Maui, and Kauai, then another five days at sea.  Since we love sea days, we thought this was a fabulous itinerary.  We took no excursions but rather toured on our own, renting cars at three ports and using public transportation at the other two.  If anyone would like info about what we did in the ports, I'd be happy to answer your questions.  We saw numerous whales and dolphins just from the decks of the ship.  Bring your binoculars on this cruise!

A frequent topic of discussion on r.t.c. is whether quality on line X has slipped.  We've only been sailing HAL for 4 years and this was only our third HAL cruise, so I don't have a large basis for comparison, but here are my observations.  Food on Holland America has improved greatly, and it was very good to start with.  Service is still excellent, but has slipped a little; only people obviously needing assistance with trays are now helped in the Lido restaurant.  Public restrooms are still stocked with real towels - but only with a few that are soon used up.  There were no flowers or robes in our cabin.  I was very disappointed at the flowers in public rooms because there were few and they were small - but a day or two after we left Hawaii, the huge gorgeous bouquets I'm used to seeing on HAL ships began to spring up everywhere.  Entertainment has definitely improved.  In general, a HAL cruise is still gracious and luxurious.

IN CONCLUSION -- I wanna go back!

Copyright © 2001 Eileen Garland

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