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The Maasdam, Veendam, Ryndam and Statendam are sister ships. This means they all have the same deck layout and staterooms. The only real difference between them is in the decor, colors and artwork. The feeling of luxury and class abounds.

They are called Statendam class ships with the Statendam built in 1992, Maasdam 1993, Ryndam 1994 and Veendam 1996. They are 50,000 gross tons, mid-sized ships, carrying 1,266 passengers. We feel this is a good size ship, one that you won't get lost in the crowds or have to stand in lines, but they are big enough to provide all the options and space we need. They have teakwood decks and are one of the few ships that still have a wraparound promenade deck with traditional loungers on them. Most public areas have large windows providing panoramic views of the sea. In the center of the ship is a 3 story atrium, each ship having a different sculpture soaring to the top. The two story formal dining room and the buffet on the Lido deck have slightly different decor from ship to ship. The art style aboard is traditional with lots of antiques.

The Rotterdam VI is the "flagship" of Holland America. It is very similar to the Statendam class mentioned above but is more elegant and has an alternative restaurant. It carries 1,316 passengers with 62,000 gross tons. Obviously with only 50 more passengers and additional 7,000 gross tons there is more public space.

The Volendam (1999) and Zaandam (2000) will be similar to the Rotterdam and will carry 1,400 passengers with 63,000 gross tons. The Noordam and the Westerdam are older and very different ships, built in the 80's. They are much smaller with close to the same passenger count as the Statendam class.

HAL has many alumni cruisers and tends to attract an older crowd. However we found more people our age (late 40's, early 50's) and younger on the Caribbean itinerary. We generally sail during times when schools are in session to avoid a lot of children so that usually means their parents (the 30-mid 50's crowd) aren't sailing either. We can't comment on how well suited HAL is for children, although we have heard they have a good program for them.

The staff is all Indonesian/Phillipine and the officers are generally Dutch (excluding the Veendam which is English). HAL has a school in Indonesia where they recruit and train the crew in the high standards that we have come to expect. There might be a little language problem but they generally understand the basics. Every ship we've been on has been clean and well-maintained. The wait staff in the cocktail lounges are very friendly and take service one step higher by learning your names and drink preferences if you frequent the same bar more than a few times. The food in the Lido buffet is always good with a large selection and food kept at the proper temperatures. The dining room has never been a disappointment with many entrees to choose from including healthy and vegetarian dishes, sugar free and fat free desserts.

We can honestly say that in all of our HAL cruises we have never had a complaint with the accommodations, quality/quantity/selection of food or quality of service. We highly recommend this line. It is well worth the higher prices when comparing them to their parent company Carnival or other lines such as Royal Caribbean.