Loc: Tucson, Arizona
We recently returned from a fifteen day Hawaii cruise on board the Statendam sailing round trip from San Diego. We booked the first voyage of the season departing on October 4 and returning October 19. This was a long anticipated voyage with our eldest son and my Father. The reservations were made shortly following my Mother's death last year and accommodated a long desire of mine to sail with Dad!
Having sailed on the Rotterdam VI the previous summer, I was familiar with the Statendam's deck layout since both vessels are very similar. The Statendam Class vessel is very easy to navigate and, with few exceptions, all public areas are contained on the Promonade and Upper Promenade Decks. The only "bottleneck" in navigating this class of vessel is in attempting to go forward on the main level of the dining room that is located aft. The ship's design includes the galley and forces exiting the lower level of the dining room and going up then down a deck to proceed forward.
Boarding and Disembarkation: We booked our air independently from San Antonio to San Diego. Holland America's air add-on was a whoping $469pp. I patiently waited for reduced air and late summer managed to get air for $217. Holland will provide transfers from/to the airport at $15pp each way. The San Diego airport can literally be seen from the ship's pier and is only a ten minute, $10 cab ride (including tip). The San Diego port facility is very nice, not large as it does not accommodate the passenger ship traffic of other major ports. Following check in, groups of passengers were called on board by number. Our luggage actually beat us to the cabin, a first! Disembarkation was equally as painless. As with all cruises, you are called off in an organized fashion and in check with the disembarkation tags provided.
Sea Days: This particular itinerary includes four days crossing the Pacific and five days returning. There is a half hour call in Ensenada to accommodate the Jones Act. The ship does not dock, only takes on officials very briefly. The Pacific is known to be generally calmer than the Atlantic and for this voyage, the sea was very gentle. Only on a couple of days were there gentle swells with the remainder of the time the sea being flat. Water temps got increasingly warmer as we neared the Islands. On some days, sea temperatures were in consort with air temps. Anyone who really just enjoys the ship and lazy days at sea will truly love nine days on the ocean. Activities on board were typical cruise fare. I happened to enjoy using several hours each afternoon playing bridge. A passtime I rarely have time for at home.
The ship, food and Cabin: We were berthed in category F oceanview cabins, nos. 801 and 803 starboard side aft and located on Deck 2. There is a definite vibration that can be detected aft on Statendam class vessels. However, shortly into the cruise, it became barely noticeable and lulled me to sleep. Typically Holland, the cabins are generous at approximately 195 sq. feet with two twins that will convert to a queen (really between a queen and king), a dressing table and stool, a leather upholstered loveseat, side chair and small cocktail table. The bath is also roomy with a tub/shower combination. I must add that there is only limited bath storage space. The storage in the cabin is such that, even for me on a fifteen day voyage with four formal nights, I could not completely fill. The dressing table has six generous and deep drawers, two night stands have two small drawers each. There are four long closets. The first accommodates the life preservers and safe with a "half" hanging closet at the bottom. The next is a double hanging perfect for shirts/blouses and skirts/slacks. The third and fourth are full hanging, however there are two shelves in each that can be folded down to add to folded clothing space rather than hanging. One closet door has a full length mirror inside and another a tie rack.
The Statendam, slightly more than eight years old, does not show the age at all. Typically Holland, everything is spotless! Fresh flowers everywhere one looks. Staff could not be more accommodating. I still find the Holland tipping policy difficult for many passengers to understand and frequently generates questions. Being in the business, I understand the "no tipping policy" means that Holland will not solicit tips or recommend amounts but that it DOES NOT mean no tip required or accepted. I, as I am certain many others do, simply apply general tipping guidelines in the industry when sailing Holland.
The food was not great nor was it bad. Some meals were exceptional, as always, I find their chilled soups to be spectacular. After fifteen days, it all begins to get a little tiresome being prepared in the same kitchen by the same chefs. We selected early dining and our table was located just at the window on the lower level of the dining room. Early dining afforded us many beautiful sunsets. This was a completely full sailing and there were ocassions where dining room service was slow.
The Itinerary: Five days around the Islands was a "very busy" schedule and it made the five days returning to San Diego very welcomed. The itinerary it a very easy one to arrange your own activities or even rent a car for the day to avoid sometimes extravagant shore excursion costs.
The first port of Hilo we did just that, rented a vehicle. (All vehicle rentals were arranged for prior to sailing.) We found that in most, if not all ports, the rental car companies had transfer vans waiting at the pier to take you to pick up your vehicle. We chose to visit the National Volcano Park, a beautiful waterfall and traveled to the black sand beach area and stopping at a wide spot in the road for one of the best pastrami sandwiches I've ever had!
Next port was Honolulu. A beautiful entry. Since this was Hollands first entry into the Port, we were welcomed with fire boats and heliocopters dropping flower petals. Quite a sight! Again, here, we pre-arranged for our own rental car. I can only urge that if you wish to see the Arizona Memorial, to make a "beeline" there to get a ticket for a tour prior to them closing off new tickets for the day. I will tell you that Holland will delay your disembarkation as an independent until after all their paid shore excursion passengers have disembarked for their appointed tours. This was a "tad" annoying. After getting our Arizona tickets (which are free), we were three hours away from the scheduled start of the tour. Since our eldest son is a Major in the Air Force, we toured Hickam AFB and ate lunch in the Officer's Club overlooking Ford Island. There are also tours to the Missouri sold across the parking lot from the Memorial. Following our tour, we went to Waikaki Beach, checked out the Military Hotel, Hali Koa, and had dinner on Waikaki.
Next Port, Nawiliwili, Kauai the Garden Island. Here we split up, our son taking a kayaking trip and the rest taking a Holland tour to the Grand Canyon of the Pacific.
Next Port, Lahaina, Maui. Again, we split up, my husband and son on a snorkeling trip and Day and I to an acquarium. It was also in Maui that Holland offered a Hawaiian Luau at $99 per person. Were I to have gone alone, we would have chosen the Luau in Honolulu at Germaine's, known throughout the Islands for their Luau. However, traveling with my Father, we felt that doing the Luau there would have made the day too long and tiring.
Final port, Kona. Here we were all pretty much tired and just walked around town. In many of the ports you will find Hilo Hattie's will provide free transportation to their store from the ship. Obviously that tactic has proven very successful for them, however, one could just use the transportation. The day we were in Kona was the day prior to the Ironman Marathon. No rental cars were to be had and it was uncomfortably crowded.
Summary: This was a long anticipated trip and enjoyed more for our traveling companions and lazy sea days as anything else. Some observations. While the ship, service and cuisine were typically Holland and up to their normal standards, I was significantly taken back by the passenger compliment. As many know, Holland Alumni/Mariners tend to be an average older age group, however the average age on this itinerary I would estimate to have been between sixty and sixty-five (or higher). There were only four children on the entire sailing. I learned from staff that additional wheelchairs had to be acquired in San Diego prior to departure. This is my third Holland cruise and I have never seen the number of wheelchairs, walkers and canes that I saw on this voyage. After careful thought, the only explanation I could arrive at was; one, the itinerary affords many who WILL NOT fly an opportunity to see Hawaii, and two, many who are significantly infirm and otherwise would have navigate airports and planes at greater difficulty, can venture on this trip eliminating the airport hassle. I talked with one passenger who drove from New York for the cruise. I can only add that I would very cautiously explain to would be passengers what they will likely encounter on this itinerary.
This has grown much longer than I had intended. If there are any specific questions, I would be happy to answer them individually. I will post my review of the QEII shortly.
Bonnie Buchanan, MCC
San Antonio, Texas
Master Cruise Counselor
CruiseOne Tucson Arizona