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Barry M

Age: 63

Occupation:Retired

Number of Cruises: 4

Cruise Line: Holland America

Ship: Statendam

Sailing Date: 2011-02-18

Itinerary: Panama Canal

Having been on other cruises and cruise lines and traveled the world extensively we find our attitude has as much to do with our experience as any single service we might use on board. We like to stay below the top decks and more in the middle of the ship since this position has the least movement in rough seas, although having dove for 22 years we aren't not usually bothered by rough seas. The Panama Canal cruise is good value.

For the staff to produce in excess of 6000 meals a day(you read that right) and to do it with a smile every single day for the length of time the staff are on contract (as much as 10 months at a time) is remarkable to say the least. We were never disappointed with the food or the preparation and I had a food allergy that they catered to every single meal. We thought the variety and quality was great.

We stayed in room 771 on the 4th floor. I could have sworn that the cabin staff slept across the hall from us since it didn't matter when we left our room was always made up when we got back. It was amazing to say the least.

The on board itinerary was as long and varied as most other ships and we never heard anyone complain about a lack of things to do.

There were a wide variety of shore excursions available and most were a reasonable value - most but not all. The tour of Panama City by night was a disaster! Anyone we talked to about it after were very disappointed. The bus didn't stop for pictures and let you out (a stated goal of the tour), if you wanted pictures they had to be taken by opening a small window and they had to be taken from your seat - and if you were at the back of the bus - you didn't get to take any pictures - (no windows). The windows were totally blacked out so you could barely see any of the landmarks. But the worst was the tour guide. He was either ignorant of his surroundings or in such a rush to get us to his favorite shopping store we missed half the city. While I could go on and on. I would strongly suggest you stay away from this tour. Even the tour staff on board the ship had an insert about dark windows but little else and to say the windows were dark was misleading - they were virtually solid black - especially at night. Rating - Save your money!

While we enjoyed our cruise thoroughly, the thing we noticed most on the ship was the on board shopping and the number of presentation and free give away items made to encourage you to shop. Champagne flowed freely almost anytime were were there. The staff were very attentive and very knowledgeable. If you bought on board there were deals to be had - BUT - we saw people paying full price for their jewelery, pearls watches and gold. Either they didn't attend the shopping presentations or they ignored them. You will be told that when you go ashore you are to bargain for items you buy. You are told how to do that and what discounts to expect. But except for Citizens Eco Drive watches - which Holland America has the best price on by far, people forgot to bargain on board as well. As an example I bought a emerald and diamond bangle for my wife as an anniversary present. Other who were buying similar pieces simply looked at the retail price marked as being the 'standard US price' and if they got 10% off thought they had a good deal. The on board price listed is far too high and if you buy PLEASE, just multiply the price listed by .40 to .50 and you will be close to what the item will be appraised for when you get home. We saw an individual pay almost $8000 for a designer watch bought on shore that was available on the Internet from a dealer for $5175 to $5775. Also PLEASE read the warranty on the price guarantee - it says the ship will have the lowest "AUTHORIZED" price but they won't include Internet authorized dealers. And BTW - buyers remorse is out - you buy it you own it! We bought at the discounts above so I know it can be done. Of course if you like to throw your money away . . .

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