Berlitz Cruising & Cruise Ships 2017 (Berlitz Cruise Guide) (2016)
Ship: 350 out of 500
Accommodation: 142 out of 200
Food: 252 out of 400
Service: 281 out of 400
Entertainment: 68 out of 100
Cruise: 265 out of 400
Overall Score: 1358 out of 2000
Size: Mid-size Ship
Cruise Line: Holland America Line
Former Names: none
IMO Number: 8919269
Builder: Fincantieri (Italy)
Original Cost: $215 million
Entered Service: Nov 1994
Registry: The Netherlands
Length (ft/m): 719.3/219.3
Beam (ft/m): 101.0/30.8
Draft (ft/m): 24.6/7.5
Propulsion/Propellers: diesel-electric (34,560kW)/2
Passenger Decks: 10
Total Crew: 557
Passengers (lower beds): 1,266
Passenger Space Ratio (lower beds): 44.0
Passenger/Crew Ratio (lower beds): 2.2
Cabins (total): 633
Size Range (sq ft/m): 186.2-1,124.8/17.3-104.5
Cabins (for one person): 0
Cabins (with private balcony): 150
Cabins (wheelchair accessible): 6
Wheelchair accessibility: Fair
Cabin Current: 110 and 220 volts
Casino (gaming tables): Yes
Slot Machines: Yes
Swimming Pools: 1 (1 w/sliding glass dome)
Hot Tubs (on deck): 2
Self-Service Launderette: Yes
Dedicated Cinema/Seats: Yes/249
Onboard currency: US$
Dutch decor and artefacts to suit mature-age cruisers
Overview. This ship will change from a North American product to an Australasian one, beginning November 2015, and the ships décor will be lightened to reflect the tastes of southern hemisphere passengers, although some of the original Dutch artefects are expected to survive, for curiosity value. The ship morphs into Pacific Aria in November 2015, to be deployed on Australasian itineraries.
The Ship. Pacific Aria’s sister ship in the Australasian market is Pacific Eden (ex-Statendam). It was originally one of a series of four almost identical ships, the others being Maasdam, and Veendam. The exterior styling is rather angular - some would say boxy - although it is softened and balanced by the black hull. There is a full walk-around teakwood promenade deck outdoors - excellent for strolling. The sunloungers here are wooden, with comfortable cushioned pads, while those at the swimming pool on Lido Deck are of white plastic. The ship is clean and tidy, and there is good passenger flow throughout the public areas, which benefit from high ceilings to provide a sense of spaciousness.
A 2010 refurbishment created ‘Mix,’ which combines library, lounge, Internet center, and coffee bar; and 16 cabins near the spa were transformed into ‘spa cabins’.
In the interiors of this S-class ship, an asymmetrical layout helps to reduce bottlenecks and congestion. Most public rooms are concentrated on two decks, Promenade Deck and Upper Promenade Deck, which creates a spacious feel. In general, a restrained approach to interior styling is taken, using a mixture of contemporary materials combined with traditional woods and ceramics.
The array of artworks throughout the ship, costing about $2 million, is really good, and is nicely displayed to represent the cruise line’s fine Dutch heritage. Also noticeable are the fine flower arrangements throughout the public areas and foyers.
Atop the ship, with forward-facing views that wrap around the sides, is the Crow’s Nest Lounge. By day it is a fine observation lounge with large ocean-view windows, while by night it turns into a nightclub with extremely variable lighting. The three-deck-high atrium foyer is attractive, although its sculptured centerpiece makes it look a little crowded and leaves little room in front of the reception office. A hydraulic glass roof covers the reasonably sized swimming pool/whirlpools and central Lido area (whose focal point is a large dolphin sculpture) so that this can be used in all weathers. There is a large and relaxing reference library.
The casino features gaming tables and slot machines. However, note that part of the casino is open, and passers-by can be subject to cigarette smoke (yes, smoking is still permitted), so non-smokers should hold their breath.
Complimentary cappuccino and espresso coffees, and free ice cream are provided during certain hours of the day, as well as hot hors d’oeuvres in all bars - something other major lines seem to have dropped, or charge extra for. However, the score for this ship ends up a tad under what it could be if the food and service staff were better.
An escalator travels between two of the lower decks (one of which was originally planned to be the embarkation point), but it is about as useful as a glass hammer! The charge to use the washing machines and dryers in the self-service launderette is petty, particularly for suite occupants, as they pay steep prices for their cruises. The men’s urinals in public restrooms are unusually high.
Accommodation. This ranges from small interior cabins to a large penthouse suite, in seven types and a large number of different accommodation price categories. All cabin TV sets carry CNN.
The interior and outside-view standard cabins have twin beds that convert to a queen-size bed, and there is a separate living space with sofa and coffee table. However, although the drawer space is generally good, the closet space is very tight, particularly for long cruises - although more than adequate for a seven-night cruise. Bathrobes are provided for all suites/cabins, as are hairdryers, and a small range of personal amenities. The bathrooms are quite well laid out, but the tubs are small units better described as shower tubs. Some cabins have interconnecting doors.
On Navigation Deck, 28 suites have accommodation for up to four. These suites also have in-suite dining as a change to the dining room. These are very spacious, tastefully decorated and well laid-out, with a separate living room, bedroom with two lower beds (convertible to a king-size bed), a good sized living area, dressing room, plenty of storage space, and a marble bathroom with Jacuzzi tub.
The largest accommodation, a single Penthouse Suite, is on the starboard side of Navigation Deck at the forward staircase. It has a king-size bed, a TV set and video player, and a vanity desk, a large walk-in closet with superb drawer space, oversize whirlpool bath (it could seat four) and separate shower enclosure, and a washroom with toilet, bidet, and basin. The living room has a writing desk, a large TV set, and a full set of audio equipment. There’s a dressing room, a large private balcony (with teak lounge chairs and drinks tables, dining table, and four chairs), a pantry (with large refrigerator, toaster unit, full coffee/tea-making facilities, food preparation area, and a separate entrance from the hallway), minibar/refrigerator, a guest toilet, and floor-to-ceiling windows.
Dining. The Rotterdam Dining Room, at the stern, spans two decks. It is quite dramatic, with two grand staircases to connect the two levels, panoramic views on three sides, and a music balcony. Both open seating and fixed (assigned tables and times) seating are available, while breakfast and lunch are open seating (you’ll be seated by restaurant staff when you enter). There are tables for two, four, six, or eight.
The waiter stations in the dining room are very noisy for anyone seated adjacent to them. Fine Rosenthal china and cutlery are used, although there are no fish knives. Live music is provided for dinner each evening; once each cruise, there’s a Dutch Dinner (hats are provided), as is an Indonesian Lunch.
Other dining options. An intimate restaurant, the Pinnacle Grill, is just forward of the balcony level of the main dining room on the starboard side. The 66-seat dining spot (reservations are necessary, and a cover/service charge applies) serves Pacific Northwest cuisine such as fresh Alaskan salmon and halibut, and other regional specialties, plus a selection of premium steaks such as filet mignon from Black Angus beef. The Pinnacle Grill is a much better dining experience.
For more casual evening eating, the Lido Buffet is open for dinners on all except the last night of each cruise, in an open-seating arrangement; part of it is designated as Canaletto for dinner, featuring Italian fare. Tables have crisp linens, flatware, and stemware, and the set menu includes a choice of four entrées. The self-serve Lido Buffet is the place for casual breakfasts and lunches, but there is much use of canned fruits and packets of items, plus several commercial low-calorie salad dressings. The choice of cheeses (and accompanying crackers) is poor.
Also, a Lido Deck poolside ‘Dive-In at the Terrace Grill’ features signature burgers, hot dogs and fries, and, on certain days, barbecues and other culinary treats may be featured.
You may need to eat in the Lido Buffet on days when the dining room is closed for lunch.
Entertainment. The Showroom at Sea spans two decks, with banquette seating on both levels. It is a well-designed room, but the ceiling is low and the sight lines from the upper level are poor.
While HAL is not known for its fine entertainment, what the line does offer is a consistently good, tried and tested array of cabaret acts that constantly rove the cruise ship circuit. The production shows, however, fall short on storyline, choreography, and performance, with colorful costuming and lighting hiding the weak spots.
A number of bands, a string ensemble, and solo musicians play live music in many lounges and bars. There’s evening dancing in the Crow’s Nest, and serenading string music in the Explorer’s Lounge and dining room.
Spa/Fitness. The Greenhouse Spa is one deck below the navigation bridge at the very forward part of the ship. It includes a gymnasium with ocean views, an aerobics exercise area, large beauty salon with ocean-view windows to the port side, several treatment rooms, men’s and women’s sauna, steam room, and changing areas. The spa is operated by Steiner, a specialist concession.