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Cruise Ship Information

MS Statendam is a cruise ship of the Holland America Line. She is the fifth ship to carry the name Statendam for NASM/Holland America Line. Although Statendam II was ordered and mostly completed, she never sailed for NASM due to the outbreak of the First World War, and was used by the British as a troopship under the name SS Justicia.

Atmosphere on board

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.

Family with Kids/Teens

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.

Past Passenger Programs

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.

Fitness And Spa

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.

Food & Dining

The Statendam, Statendam's two-level main dining room, is a typical cruise restaurant venue, serving open-seating breakfast daily and lunch occasionally (on sea days only).

In the evenings, As You Wish Dining enables passengers to opt for preset seating and dining time -- or to take advantage of a flexible option. One level of the ship's two-deck-high dining room is dedicated to traditional early or late seating (usually 6 and 8:15 p.m., though times may vary based on itineraries), while the other is open from 5:15 to 9 p.m. daily. Passengers who choose the flexible option can make reservations ahead of time -- or simply walk in.

Two aspects of The Statendam experience were quite striking. One is that it's very colorful, and tables are set with upscale china, flatware and glassware. The other, on the negative side, was that the food was often mediocre and bland. Breakfast, on the three days I visited, was a particularly low mark. The menu was unimaginative, and the cooked entrees were not always served hot. Service tends to be slower than at dinner, but the ambience in The Statendam is certainly more elegant than that of the Lido Cafe.

The Statendam 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.

Kosher, low-sodium and other dietary needs can be easily met with advance notice.

The Lido, the ship's cheerful, pool-deck buffet area, is open for breakfast, lunch and dinner. Asian, Italian and sandwich stations are set within the existing buffet lines. This setup did alleviate traffic jams to some extent, but it seemed that many passengers didn't realize they could jump from place to place and duly waited at the back of the line. One other interesting change (inspired by the challenge of Norovirus, perhaps?): With the exception of some salads and desserts, all food was dished out by servers, and motion-activated hand-sanitizer dispensers are positioned at each end of the buffet lines, at the entrance to The Statendam Dining Room and elsewhere through the ship.

At breakfast, the Lido served the usual morning fare, from cold cuts and cheeses to cereals and hot dishes, such as French toast. There are two eggs-made-to-order stations. Lunches were bountiful and supplemented by separate stations for deli fare, as well as a grill for hamburgers, fries and the like. Each day in the pool area, there was a steam table offering, for the most part, Mexican fare like tacos.

The Lido serves a casual buffet dinner with a similar, but not identical, menu to that of the dining room. The hours have been lengthened -- 5:30 to 8 p.m. Late-night snacks, with options ranging from French to American, are served from 11 p.m. to midnight.

Fairly noticeable in both The Statendam and Lido venues is Holland America's new approach to cooking. With staggered dining times and Lido cook training, it is offering food cooked a la minute, as opposed to banquet-style. At least in the Lido, the foods are more often grill-to-table hot, and the variety of cuisines provides an appreciable difference in taste choices.

The Lido deck addition, Canaletto, has been carved from the Lido with room dividers. Open for dinner only, it has space for 62 diners and offers an unchanging menu of familiar Italian dishes. Standout entrees include penne pasta with a choice of vodka, pomodoro or cream sauce, and cod that has been marinated in lemon juice, olive oil and oregano, then sauteed and coated with herbs, kalamata olives and capers. In true Italian fashion, there's gelato for dessert! It's free to dine there, but reservations are recommended.

Other than oil-and-vinegar cruet sets on each table and waiters wearing the gondoliers' familiar striped T-shirts, there is little to proclaim this is an Italian restaurant. During my brief cruise, the passengers either had not caught on to the existence of Canaletto, or the venue held nothing to lure them from the full buffet a few steps away.

One of Statendam's most pleasant areas is The Pinnacle Grill, its alternative restaurant. This easily became our favorite dining spot onboard; the food was superb, and service was outstanding. It is open every day for lunch and dinner at a cost of $10 and $20, respectively. The restaurant specializes in the fare of the Pacific Northwest and features an excellent representation of regional wines. The Pinnacle has its own kitchen, using a higher grade of beef and separate menus for lunch and dinner. At any time of day, all of the soups are marvelous, and the beef and lamb are definite standouts.

There's always one big afternoon tea event held onboard during a sea day. Ours, which took place in The Statendam and was themed around chocolate, was as much a photo opportunity as it was a chance to snack.

Room service was excellent on Statendam. Breakfasts (including egg dishes) could be pre-ordered the night before and were delivered promptly and correctly. At dinner, you can order off the dining room menu -- our experience doing that was also top-notch. But unless you're a suite-holder, you won't be served course-by-course. The 24-hour menu offers just enough variety.

Entertainment

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.

Fellow Passengers

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.

Tipping

The ms Statendam is the third ship to bear the name of the Dutch capital in Holland America Line's over 135-year history. Built at the Fincantieri shipyard in Marghera, Italy, the ms Statendam blends the very latest in shipbuilding technology with the artistry, personalized touches and superior service that has made Holland America Line one of the highest-rated cruise lines in the world.

Our recommendation

Our crew works very hard to make sure that every aspect of your cruise meets the highest standards. This includes those crew members who serve you directly, such as our dining room wait staff and the stewards who tend to your stateroom each day. There are also many others that tend to your care that you may never meet, such as galley and laundry staff. To ensure that the efforts of all of our crew members are recognized and rewarded, a daily Hotel Service Charge of US$11.50 per passenger for staterooms & US$ 12.00 per person for suite guests is automatically charged to each guest's shipboard account. If our service exceeds or fails to meet your expectations, you are free to adjust this amount at the end of the cruise. The Hotel Service Charge is paid to Holland America Line crew members, and represents an important part of their total compensation package. A 15% service charge is automatically added to bar charges and dining room wine purchases. In terminals, airports, ports of call and on shore excursions, we suggest that you extend gratuities consistent with customary local practices.