In an industry obsessed with all things
new, a cruise ship like Holland America Line's Statendam is a
breath of old-fashioned air. In today's market, the ship, built in
1993, is practically a classic. At a cozy 55,451 tons, it's
one-third the size of today's biggest vessels.
And there are few
things more appealing on a ship than a sleek, dark hull, tiered aft
decks and a long, sweeping foredeck. The Statendam's is covered in
teak, and it was the perfect spot to view the passing scenery of
New Zealand and Australia on a recent two-week cruise from Auckland
to Sydney. When the captain edged the ship about 50 meters from the
soaring Sterling Falls in New Zealand's Milford Sound, it was as
good as being on a small expedition vessel.
In many ways, the
Statendam is a throwback to a more elegant time, from the
white-gloved high tea to the hot and cold canapes before
The average age
of passengers hovered somewhere between 50 and 70, and there was no
shortage of walkers and wheelchairs. But this was a feisty,
friendly crowd, in part because the ship's intimate size fostered
familiarity. An easy camaraderie formed between passengers and with
But the ship is
still large enough to offer plenty to do and to eat. The benefactor
of HAL's Signature of Excellence upgrades in 2005, Statendam
manages to be both New and Old World. On the new side, Explorations
Cafe, the trendiest spot on the ship, pairs a well-stocked library
and Internet center with a coffee bar with ocean views.
A buzzing hub of
activity, the cafe has 12 computer stations as well as several
plug-ins for those going wireless with their own laptops. Five
leather chaise lounges partnered with CD players and headphone
stations face floor-to-ceiling windows.
In terms of
daytime activities, cruise standards such as bingo, line-dancing
lessons and art auctions were offered as well as an impressive
lecture series. Historian Gavin McLean, a New
Zealand native, gave four in-depth talks about the history and
culture of the two countries.
The ship's new
culinary arts center, built into the Wajang Theater, was the venue
for well-attended cooking demonstrations. The theater also hosted
movies, a seminar on flower arranging, and a behind-the-scenes
video and Q&A on HAL's environmental policies and shipboard
At night, the
typical cruise-ship repertory included Broadway-style song and
dance shows, which were mediocre at best with weak lead vocals.
Better acts included two well-received comedians, Yacov Noy and
performers included a talented violinist and piano player. Two
separate crew shows, one Filipino and one Indonesian version, were
also crowd pleasers. When the ship was in port late in Wellington,
a troupe of Maori performers came onboard to do a traditional war
two-week cruises generally attract an early-to-bed crowd, but an
exception was the Black and White Party in the Crow's Nest lounge,
when officers were on hand to dance with guests. During most
evenings, a dedicated after-dinner crowd, along with two or three
of the ship's gentleman hosts, gathered in the Ocean Bar to take a
turn on the dance floor.
Few families take
children on such long cruises, except on long holidays. Besides my
two 4-year-olds, there were only a handful of children on board.
HAL offers a two-tiered Club HAL program when fewer than 30 kids
are on a sailing, with children ages 3 to 12 in one group and teens
in another, with limited hours.
On cruises with
more children, activities are offered for three or more age groups
and for longer periods. Private, in-cabin baby-sitting is usually
available at an hourly rate.
In the bright and
cheerful, but compact, playroom, activities for the young kids
include arts and crafts projects, board games and story time. An
adjacent video arcade has a foosball table and a third indoor space
for teens has a music system and computers. Most impressive is the
teens-only Oasis club perched up on deck, with chaise lounges, a
wading pool and hammocks.
Overall, the food
was fine, although hardly memorable. The ship's three restaurants
include the new Pinnacle Grill, a 60-seat alternative venue
offering a menu of mostly steaks and seafood. Service there was
like a high-end restaurant compared with the hubbub of the main
dining room, where an appetizer might arrive before the wine
steward gets to the table.
The highlight of
the Rotterdam restaurant was its glamorous, two-level design and
views through full-length windows. With the sun setting as late as
9 p.m., scenery and sea were part of dinner.
itinerary were local fish, meats and wines brought aboard in
various ports, giving diners a context to the cruising region --
which isn't typically the case on most cruises, due to
quality-control issues. The butterfish and John Dory were very
tasty, as were the New Zealand and Australian wines, including a
New Zealand Fernleaf Sauvignon Blanc ($25 a bottle).
Most of the
Statendam's crew hails from Indonesia and the Philippines. On a
ship that carries 1,200 passengers, it's feasible for the staff to
offer a more personalized level of service than the bigger ships
old-timers say the line has changed, from the automatic $10-per-day
tipping policy to the pushing of drink specials, but there is still
a certain gentility about a Holland America cruise.
said Tervor Millar, the Statendam's cruise director, with a smile
on his face. "Ask, and we can add it to the schedule."
To contact the reporter who wrote this article, send e-mail
to [email protected].
For more details on this article, see "Things to do while in port."