Number of Cruises: 5
Cruise Line: Holland America
Sailing Date: September 12th, 2004
This was our second cruise with HAL – our first was in 1999, also to Alaska, on the Volendam. We were a little concerned that our fabulous memories from that cruise may have “made the heart grow fonder”, and that we might be disappointed second time around. Thankfully, this wasn’t the case. From the moment we checked in, we were made to feel that our welfare actually mattered to the staff in Vancouver. As we had checked in quite early, we were among the first to embark. As is normal, our cabin wasn’t quite ready – however, the Lido buffet restaurant was well and truly open, and the food, décor and friendly staff were fabulous. This really set the tone for the rest of the cruise. When we made our way to our cabin, our cabin attendant introduced himself, and made it clear that if we needed anything, all we had to do was ask.
We’d persuaded some close friends of ours to join us on this cruise, and as they were first-time cruisers, we were anxious for them to have a great time. By the end of the first day, they must have said “Wow!” about 30 times! The food in the Rotterdam dining room was excellent, and the service couldn’t be faulted. We also dined in the one restaurant on board which has a surcharge, the Pinnacle Grill. Once again, the service, food and décor couldn’t be faulted – it really was worth the extra money.
Our itinerary was the usual Inside Passage route – Vancouver, Juneau, Skagway, Glacier Bay, Ketchikan, then back to Vancouver. The second night was quite rough while crossing the one stretch of open water; we had an outside cabin very close to the bow, and it was certainly an “entertaining” few hours. The Captain was good enough to make a reassuring announcement on the P.A. system at about 9pm, to sooth any ruffled nerves. As we’d visited the above ports before, we had the opportunity to see and do thing we’d previously missed. Despite patchy rain, we were lucky enough to see the view from the peak of Mt Roberts – highly recommended, and we saved a couple of bucks by purchasing our tickets once ashore, rather than at the shore tours desk. This often seems to be the case with shore tours. We’d previously done the White Pass RR in Skagway (highly recommended), so this time we opted for a helicopter flight up to one of the glaciers. This included a good 30 mins walking on the glacier with a guide. Expensive, but an amazing experience. Glacier Bay was nothing short of fabulous once again – we’ve been blessed with good weather on both visits there. We went on a very enjoyable floatplane ride to the Misty Fjords in Ketchikan – we’d organized this prior to our arrival, as we wanted a smaller aircraft for the four of us (plus the pilot, of course!). This was quite easily organized via the internet – just look for the Ketchikan Visitor’s Bureau, and you’ll see what I mean. Once again, a fantastic experience. The scenery was every bit as good as we’d hoped.
As for the Statendam herself, there are one or two small signs that she’s worked hard since her launch in 1993, but this is to be expected. Our cabin was extremely comfortable, and was kept spotless by our attentive cabin steward. We don’t necessarily agree with the “automatic tipping” philosophy, which HAL is currently experimenting with – we’re quite happy to reward individual crew members, though I guess some passengers in the past haven’t tipped at all, hence the current scheme.
Overall, we were as happy with Holland-America this time around as we were previously. As far as we’re concerned, their biggest asset are their crews – it was very rare to encounter a crew member who wasn’t happy and/or helpful, and despite their many different nationalities, they seemed to work together quite harmoniously.
Would I recommend Holland-America? Yes, without reservation. I should also add at this point that we weren’t on any kind of special deal, given my line of work, and I don’t have a particular “barrow to push”.
The day we arrived back in Vancouver, we boarded NCL’s Norwegian Star for her repositioning cruise to Los Angeles, and I’m afraid it was a real disappointment after the Statendam. If I get around to submitting a review of that cruise, it sure won’t be as glowing as this review.