Holland America Line's Statendam is the fifth in the company's 130-year history to bear the name, and was the first of a new class of ships when it debuted in 1993. Alternative dining? Updated spa facilities? Great entertainment? Yes, on all counts. Statendam is a winner, truly offering something for everyone.
Lest the ship lose its edge as newer and more innovative lines debut, Holland America treated Statendam to an extensive makeover in early 2010. It came out of dry dock on March 26, 2010, with a dynamic new showroom replacing the traditional Van Gogh room; outstanding changes to Deck 8 (Upper Promenade), with new lounges and new public areas in what the cruise line calls Mix; and some new touches in all cabin categories including new granite sinks, attractive and contemporary-looking soft goods, and the addition of new spa cabins with Zen-like decor, upgraded amenities, and beautiful drapes and bedding. Much of the ship's existing carpeting has been replaced.
In keeping with the Holland America tradition of old-meets-new, Statendam blends Old World tradition with state-of-the-art modern technology. It has always been an elegant vessel, and with its updated new look, Statendam continues to be a great ship on which to enjoy a vacation at sea.
Editor's note: Also new to the ship is a policy of not requiring guests to wear their life vests to boat drills. Drills are still mandatory, but 2010 versions include explanations and policies while avoiding the possibility of guests tripping over dangling belts on their way to and from the drill.
Many of the public rooms are close to the three-story atrium with its elaborate 26-foot-high bronze "Fountain of the Sirens" by sculptor F.W. de Vlaming. The Deck 6 atrium is an open space with some offices. Gone are the one-deck escalators from Decks 6 to 7. The Deck 7 atrium area houses the front desk, shore excursions desk and a brochure rack. Directly opposite is the photo gallery. Heading aft from the atrium, you'll find the art auction desk and two meeting rooms -- the Hudson and Half Moon rooms.
The entertainment area on Deck 8 has been opened wide to create Mix. Walls came tumbling down in dry dock to create this wonderful new free-flowing entertainment venue and an open-plan store selling jewelry (everything from costume pieces to Tanzanite), as well as purses, ties, pashminas and more expensive souvenirs. Next door, the Merabella Luxury Collection Shop was created out of an under-used portion of the Explorer's Lounge. It sells very upscale, designer jewelry pieces and watches.
Also on Deck 8, the Explorations Cafe is Statendam's library/coffee bar/Internet cafe. Wonderfully comfortable leather chairs and couches line the windows, with several tables and chairs for reading, puzzling, chatting over coffee and working on personal laptops. Computer terminals are available to guests, and the ship is also wired for Wi-Fi. Internet pricing is 75 cents per minute, or you can buy packages of 100 minutes for $55 or 250 minutes for $100. A $3.95 activation fee applies on the first login, and printing is available at 25 cents per print job. Explorations Café is one of the cruise industry's greatest creations -- and Holland America deserves kudos.
Self-service launderettes can be found on Decks 5, 6 and 9. Washers and dryers are available for use ($2 per wash, $1 per dry, only quarters accepted), and detergent is provided. Irons and boards are free. The laundry rooms are open 24/7; please be courteous of guests sleeping across the hall, and keep the door closed or voices low if you choose to do laundry after 10 p.m. or before 8 a.m. (I had the room across from the Deck 6 launderette, and quite a party took place there at 6:30 a.m. on sea days.)
The Medical Center is located on Deck 4.
Statendam offers a range of cabin categories: inside staterooms (186 square feet), outside staterooms (196 square feet), mini-suites (230 square feet), suites (385 square feet) and one luxe penthouse suite (946 square feet). Post dry dock, all 629 staterooms on Statendam feature earth-hued soft goods -- drapes, accent pillows and carpeting -- and lovely new redone bathroom vanities. Beds can be configured as two twins or a queen-sized bed. Most cabins also offer couches that sleep one or two extra people, flat-screen television sets, bathrobes and refrigerators.
Mini-suites, suites and the penthouse suite feature verandahs and whirlpool tubs. The penthouse and larger suites feature traditional design and contemporary touches.
Sixteen new Verandah Deck spa cabins also debuted with the dry dock redo. The new spa cabins offer enhanced amenities, such as organic cotton bathrobes and slippers, a yoga mat, a soothing counter-top water feature designed to bring the outdoors in, special room service menus, in-room spa treatments, and more.
The two-level Rotterdam Dining Room, Statendam's main dining venue, is striking. The decor is rich red and gold, with three-dimensional flowers hanging from the ceiling and ornate lanterns on the railings. The dining room has two levels, and there is enough room between tables for private conversation and easy movement. Service in the main dining room is universally good and warmly attentive; the wine steward is knowledgeable and pleasant with both novices and experts. Dinner menus offer appetizers, soups and salads, entrees, seafood options and a few other choices. There's also a selection of menu items offered every night, such as French onion soup, Caesar salad, grilled chicken breast and New York strip steak). One item per course is marked as the healthier Greenhouse Spa option, and one appetizer, soup, salad and entree is always vegetarian.
The Rotterdam also offers a 22-dish, vegetarian-only menu for lunch and dinner; it consists of appetizers, salads, soups and entrees. Options include dishes like portobello mushroom and chipotle quesadillas, Vietnamese vegetable spring rolls or spicy lentil and garbanzo salad.
Holland America's As You Wish dining program is offered on Statendam. Traditional dining is offered on one level of the dining room, and flexible dining on the other. Through As You Wish, passengers can opt for pre-set seating and dining times at dinner (at 5:45 p.m. and 8 p.m.) or choose the open-seating option and arrive at the dining room anytime from 5:15 p.m. to 9 p.m.
Breakfast and lunch are always open-seating (though Rotterdam is sometimes closed for lunch -- on those days, the Pinnacle Grill serves a sit-down lunch). Breakfast specialties include kippered herring, omelets, Belgian waffles and Eggs Benedict. The lunch menu offers a selection of three appetizers; a hot soup, a chilled soup or a salad; and several entrees. (There's no dedicated vegetarian lunch entree, though there's often a pasta dish.) A Royal Dutch Tea and an Indonesian Coffee Service were served on two of the sea days from 3 p.m. to 4 p.m.
The Lido Restaurant serves breakfast from 6 a.m to 11 a.m., lunch from 11:30 a.m. to 2 p.m., snacks from 2 p.m. to 5 p.m., dinner from 5:30 p.m. to 8 p.m. and a late-night snack from 11 p.m. to midnight. Although the restaurant is set up buffet-style, most of the hot food is not self-service. On my cruise, the serving lines never seemed to be fully staffed, which often led to waits.
Breakfast has the typical cereals, fruit, breakfast pastries, eggs (including a made-to-order omelet station), oatmeal, pancakes/French toast and breakfast meats. Tea, coffee and a selection of juices are available. Lunch is set up in multiple stations (salad and soup, cheese, hot entrees, carving dish, Italian, Asian, sandwich bar, dessert). Don't miss the fabulous chocolate-chip cookies. Dinner in the Lido typically features many of the same dishes as are being served in the Rotterdam but with some omissions and additions. Late-night snacks are themed -- All American, Indonesian, Dutch, Italian, etc. The most touted is the Dessert Extravaganza, where bread is made to look like animals, watermelons are carved with faces, and edible mice sit atop a cheesecake.
One section of the Lido is outfitted with a slightly different decor, and at dinner (served from 5:30 p.m. to 9:30 p.m.), this area becomes Canaletto, an alternative Italian dining experience. Reservations are suggested, but walk-ups are accepted on a space-available basis. There is no fee to dine there, and the menu is the same each night. The area can seat 60 people at one time and serves about 90 diners in the course of an evening. Canaletto also offers an interesting and moderately priced wine list.
The menu starts with antipasti -- choose from grilled veggies, balls of mozzarella cheese and Italian deli meats. Next is a choice of appetizers (salad, minestrone soup or seafood soup), and entrees include assorted pasta dishes, Veal Milanese, Chicken Marsala Scaloppini and Cod Putanesca. At the end of the meal, every table receives a dish of cotton candy to share, in addition to a choice of desserts.
The food and experience is quite good for a no-fee onboard eatery, and I definitely felt like I was far away from the hustle and bustle of the Lido's buffet section. The waitstaff, all Asian, good-naturedly wear gondolier-inspired outfits and wish you "buona sera" (good evening in Italian). More oddly, they're given Italian nicknames. One waiter even made origami butterflies out of old menus for the ladies. It was a fun dinner -- partly because the waiters made a point to interact with the diners and partly because it was a low-key atmosphere without the pressure of fine dining for an extra fee.
The Terrace Grill is open from 11:30 a.m. to 6 p.m. and serves up hamburgers, veggie burgers, grilled chicken, hot dogs and sausage. The poolside area just opposite the Grill is also used for stations offering Mexican and Indonesian food and sometimes pasta. Also open from 11:30 a.m. to 6 p.m. is the new Slice pizza counter in the Retreat (though its hours may be extended in warmer cruising regions). When the lines are long in the Lido and I just wanted a quick lunch, the pizzeria was a godsend. The pizza is tasty too!
Hands down, the best food on Statendam can be found at the Pinnacle Grill, Holland America's alternative dining venue with a steakhouse and Pacific Northwest seafood theme. It has a $20 per person surcharge, and dinners routinely take 2.5 hours. It also serves lunch on most days of the cruise for a $10 per person surcharge.
The decor is subtle with lots of brown wood and brown chairs, but the real showstopper is the food. Waiters make a show of presenting cuts of uncooked meat in a wheeled showcase. Appetizers include lobster bisque, Dungeness crab cakes and beefsteak tomato salad. Entrees are split between meats (multiple types of steak, as well as lamb, veal and chicken) and fish (salmon, lobster, cod), with a few crossovers (a surf-n-turf featuring filet mignon and jumbo prawns or lobster macaroni and cheese). Each diner gets a choice of traditional steakhouse sides like creamed spinach and potatoes. All of the food is fabulous -- no complaints at my table of eight -- but the dish that got the best reviews was the lobster macaroni and cheese (and it is flagged as the chef's favorite). And, although the waiters talk up the chocolate and vanilla velvet souffle, the chocolate volcano cake is worth trying, too.
Finally, room service is available 'round the clock. Breakfast options include juices, fruit, yogurt, breads, cereals, eggs and meats. (You can get simple omelets but not pancakes or oatmeal.) The regular menu features sandwiches (tuna melt, club), salads, milk and cookies and everyone's late-night favorite -- the cheeseburger. I was not impressed by room service delivery. The first day, our breakfast arrived without any beverages; the second, it came 15 minutes before our selected time. (I was still in bed.) Ironically, our dinner order was the only one without a hitch, though I did think it odd that they gave two people a plate of three cookies.
Holland America Line automatically adds $11.50 per person, per day, to onboard accounts; this is then shared among waiters, stewards and other service personnel. That amount can be adjusted in either direction by visiting the front desk. A 15 percent gratuity is tacked on to bar bills. Note that gratuities are not automatically included on bills for spa treatments.
|Fitness and Recreation|
The Greenhouse Spa, operated by London-based Steiner Leisure, the ubiquitous cruise spa company, offers a pretty standard range of treatments, such as massages, facials and body wraps. The spa features men's and women's changing rooms, a salon/barber shop and a thermal suite with heated loungers, a Turkish steam room, an aromatherapy room, a hot tub and showers. Passes to the thermal suite are available for an extra charge, and there's no free thermal time when you book a regular treatment.
The spa's beauty salon provides services that include hair cutting and styling, as well as manicures and pedicures.
The fully equipped gym has treadmills, elliptical trainers, stair-steppers and stationary bikes. A variety of weight machines and free weights is available, as are exercise balls and yoga mats. An aerobics area is kitted out with bikes for spin classes; Pilates, step and body-conditioning classes are also held there. Yoga, Tai Chi and aqua aerobics are held elsewhere as part of Holland America's wellness program and are free of charge.
Deck 12 features a jogging track and basketball and tennis courts. Ping-Pong tables are located by the main pool, and the Lower Promenade deck is the favorite place for walkers. (Four laps is a mile.)
The main pool on Deck 11 is covered by a retractable roof, so it can be used in inclement weather. A pool and hot tubs are flanked by lounge chairs, as well as tables and chairs for alfresco dining or card-playing. On the aft end of Deck 11, through the Lido Restaurant, is Lido Terrace with additional loungers. A second, outdoor, swimming pool is located one deck below on Navigation Deck aft.
Statendam actually has some very nice youth lounges tucked away behind the basketball and tennis courts on Deck 12. Four separate rooms include Club HAL for younger kids, ages 3 to 7; a separate play area for tweens, ages 8 to 12; a video arcade; and the Loft for teenagers ages 13 to 17. Steps lead from the Loft to the Deck 13 Oasis, a private sun deck for teens. Parents aren't allowed, although the area is supervised by the ship's youth counselors.
The great thing about Statendam's kids' lounges is that they're situated in out-of-the-way areas of the ship. The kids feel they have their own enclaves, and HAL guests without kids don't feel the presence of so many children. Kids are technically not allowed in the Crow's Nest and Mix at night, unless supervised by an adult, but these rules are relaxed when there aren't very many children onboard.
Counselors meet at the beginning of the cruise with parents and guardians, who must personally drop off and pick up each younger child. Structured programs are scheduled for all age levels. Kids, ages 3 to 7, can participate in activities like kids Olympics, tie-dying T-shirts, candy bar bingo, arts and crafts, pajama parties and storytelling. The 8 to 12 set has a schedule of dodgeball, swim parties and video-game play. Teens can hang out and play video games or take part in Ping-Pong competitions, karaoke and teen discos. Age-appropriate movies are shown in Club HAL, and kid-friendly cooking classes take place in the Culinary Arts Center. After-hours babysitting is available on a limited basis for an extra fee.
A children's menu is available in the Dining Room, Lido Restaurant and Terrace Grill, offering smaller portions of dishes like spaghetti, hamburgers, tacos and chicken fingers. Women who will be 24 or more weeks pregnant by the last day of the cruise are not accepted as passengers. Neither are infants younger than 6 months old. For older babies, passengers can arrange for baby food, diapers and refrigerators for an extra fee; high chairs, booster seats and cribs are available for free. Parents can play with kids younger than 3 in the children's facilities at specific times.
Passengers are primarily aged 60-plus, with more families during holiday and vacation periods. On Alaska cruises, the cruise line offers special shore excursion for children, attracting more families during the summer.
Cruise casual, with a lightweight sweater or jacket. Ships always seem cold, and the Statendam, while warm in decor and friendliness, is kept quite cool. Formal nights require a tuxedo or dark suit for men and all the glitz women can pack into their luggage. Informal nights mean a dress or blouse, skirt or pants for women and jackets but no ties for men.
New to Statendam is HAL's Explorations activities program. This is broken down into Explorations (presentations on destinations -- including culture, shopping, wildlife and history -- led by the Travel Guide), Culinary Arts (such as cooking demos, classes on entertaining and wine tastings, hosted by the Party Planner), Microsoft Digital Workshops (courses on photo editing, blogging and creating Web pages, hosted by the Techspert) and Mind-Body-Spirit (fitness classes, lectures on wellness and trivia, hosted by the Lifestylist). Other daytime activities include bingo and bridge play, as well as the ubiquitous Park West art auctions. The computer classes get rave reviews from technology novices (classes are very basic), and one-on-one coaching is available during "Techspert Time."
The Wajang Theater and Culinary Arts Center is a double-duty venue on Deck 7. It houses a show kitchen where complimentary culinary demonstrations and private cooking classes (for a fee) take place. The space also serves as a movie theater, which offers multiple showings of a different film each day, complete with free popcorn.
Statendam's Showroom at Sea is a new twist on both theater seating and the productions themselves. The theater now offers tiered seating with the front rows by the stage populated with cabaret-style chairs and small tables. While the new room replaces the more traditional Van Gogh showroom, the mosaics representing Van Gogh's "The Starry Night" and his startling "Irises" remain. The new decor and carpeting incorporate the wondrous colors in those paintings and the starry night still covers the ceiling above the attractive show room.
The shows themselves have also changed. Gone are the Vegas-style, large-scale production shows that didn't work on Statendam's small stage. They've been replaced by seven new and more intimate shows, featuring an onstage orchestra, minimalist sets and a cast of singers (all of whom have previously performed on Broadway) and dancers. The idea is to present higher-quality productions that don't need to rely on the wow factor of crazy sets, costumes and technological tricks. Individual performers still do their stuff in the showroom, as well.
Deck 8 is Statendam's entertainment hub. A live band plays old favorites and dance music in the Ocean Bar, which is a fun place to strut your stuff or watch your fancy-footed fellow cruisers. The casino has slot machines and poker, roulette and blackjack tables. In general, nobody had to wait to play. Smoking is allowed in the casino.
Directly opposite the casino, Mix is Statendam's new-in-2010 primary bar area with an updated, contemporary look. The former sports and piano bars have been transformed into the Spirits & Ales bar (where an acoustic guitarist plays), the Martini Bar (where the pianist entertains) and the elegant Champagne Bar. Tables in Mix offer a variety of games -- one even doubles as an electronic keyboard.
Just down the hall, the Explorer's Lounge doubles as a daytime hangout -- for camping out on a couch or comfy chair with a book -- and an evening venue with a classical quartet and drink service. It's perfect for cocktails before dining in the adjacent Pinnacle Grill.
The Crow's Nest is the latest of the late-night venues, hosting interactive events like the Marriage Game, karaoke and Super Star Singing Competition around 9 p.m., as well as D.J. music into the wee hours. The Crow's Nest is shared by drinkers, dancers, chatters and even some late-night card- and game-players.
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