Prior to embarkation: We were picked up by an unusually looooooong limo about 5:15 a.m. for our hour-long trip to the airport. We had made our own flight arrangements, so we had control over departure and layover times. Despite a light rain, our flight and the connecting flight in Atlanta took off on time. We arrived in Ft. Lauderdale at about 11:30, checked that our luggage went to the ship instead of the carousel, and jumped in a cab. Ten minutes later we were at the pier and had our first glimpse of the Maasdam.
Embarkation: We were in line about two minutes, got our boarding number (15) and went inside the terminal. While we waited we had a chance to talk to some other passengers and share some of our secrets. Steiner had a table set up with literature on their services, and we had time to talk to the reps and arrange appointments. Our number was called about 1:15 and we were escorted to our cabin, where we found half of our luggage had already been delivered. We grabbed the excursion list and headed to the Lido with our friendsfor the Embarkation Luncheon.
Cabin: Our outside deluxe cabin, category D-581, on the Main deck, amidships, was large and very comfortable. We had the two twin beds set up as a queen with a small nightstand on either side and window over the beds, and the sleeping area was set aside by a decorative curtain. The sofa, chair and adjustable coffee table made a nice sitting area, and the mirror, dressing table, closets and drawers were very generous. Although there was plenty of closet space, we stored the luggage under the beds. The bathroom was large enough for two :-) but we were very disappointed in the storage space. There was no cabinet or shelf under the sink; only one narrow shelf under the mirror which was not enough for the stuff two people need in the bathroom. The bathtub was also a shower with a shower wand that was adjustable in height to accommodate children or ladies who don't want to get their hair wet. Air conditioning was fully adjustable and we could hear nothing from the hall or adjacent cabins.
Ship facilities: The ship is very clean and well-maintained. All public rooms are easily accessible, and beautifully decorated with fine art and fresh flowers. The Lower Promenade offers a wraparound deck for you purists ;-)
Pools: Both pools were spacious and easy to access. The Lido pool and jacuzzis, having tables under roof, was more a place for lounging, eating and visiting, whereas the aft pool (Nav deck) was more for hard-core sunworshippers like me. The only games I saw were at the aft pool.
Spa: Steiner of London maintains the ultimate ocean spa for facial and body therapy. They offer hair and nail rituals, facials, massages, seaweed heat packs, shiatsu, reflexology, reiki healing, aromatherapy, full body exfoliating and my new favorite... Ionithermie anti-cellulite treatment. Fitness rituals include personal training sessions, body composition analysis and Yoga. Enjoy a view of the ocean at the fitness center (no charge for exercise machines, steam and sauna).
Movies: The Wajang Theater (popcorn and Cappuccino available next door at the Java Cafe) showed "Pay it Forward", "Lucky Numbers", "Meet the Parents", "The Sixth Day" and "Space Cowboys". Funny odor in there, though.
Dining Room : The Rotterdam Dining Room is a spacious and attractive bi-level room, offering a variety of seating arrangements. A variety of menus was available; the food was very good, and the main seating service in the non-smoking section was excellent.
Buffet: Lido Restaurant served meals cafeteria-style, which is not as elegant as your classic buffets, but the variety and quality of the food makes up for it. The line was broken up a bit into different sections for the traditional meal and the specialty entrees and desserts. There is so much food on the buffet, you'll certainly find something you like. Since they no longer provide a menu for this buffet, I walked ahead and peeked at the food (they even had prime ribs one day, which was excellent for a buffet item) before I started loading up.
Room Service: We didn't use it this time for either a meal or a snack. We always use the doorknob card you fill out at night that will get you coffee, juices, fruit, yogurt, pastries, eggs, meats or cereals any time from 6:30 to 10:30 the following morning. That gives you time to make yourself presentable for the "real" breakfast in the dining room or Lido.
Rembrandt Lounge Showroom: Seating is more than adequate, with a good view for everyone, even in the balcony. Here there are a few obstructed views, but nothing bad. Overall, the entertainment was quite varied and professional.
Shops: New on this ship was the Ten-Dollar Store, offering a variety of jewelry, writing instruments, sunglasses, watches and pashminas. There was also one for clothing and souvenirs, one for jewelry and perfumes/cosmetics and a duty-free shop offering liquor (they even had a tasting table). Daily specials such as rings, watches, gold and silver by the inch and leather goods were listed in the Daily Program. All were adequately stocked and offered good values.
Casino: This one is rather small by comparison to others on ships this size, but it was never crowded. The only crap table was not only uncrowded (they usually are) but one night it was even closed for lack of interest.
Excursions: In your cabin you will find a Planning/Order Form indicating the details of the available excursions. Warning 1: Some of these have very limited space and sell out very fast and are assigned on a first-come, first-served basis. If there is a trip you absolutely must take, sign up now! You can order it right away by filling out this form and placing it in the drop box at the excursion desk. Warning 2: If you want to go with someone in another cabin, put the request for all tickets on one cabin's order. We split our order and only two of us got to do the Swimming with the Dolphins :-( You can take another form to be filled out later for other requests. A Shore Excursion video played continuously on the stateroom TV regarding available port activities. There were about 40 shore excursions on the list (not including the beach toys available at Half Moon Cay)... plenty from which to choose. American currency is welcome everywhere. Take small bills and change.
Nassau: This was a short stop from 7 a.m. to noon, and nine excursions were offered. We did stop at the straw market where even Jim bought a few things! I have the photo to prove it!
San Juan: This was the longest stop of the cruise, from 9 a.m. to Midnight. There were ten excursions offered, but we chose to visit El Morro on our own. This is a short cab ride from the dock, meandering through Old San Juan to the other side of the island. This is a gorgeous old fort with many levels offering breathtaking views. I was impressed with the series of aerial maps showing the development of the island over the last few hundred years.
St. John/St. Thomas: We stopped here from 8 a.m. to 4 p.m., which is plenty of time to do one or two of the twenty excursions that were offered. We chose the helicopter tour (put the order on one ticket this time). We were in the air for about 20 minutes and had the absolute best views of some of the most beautiful beaches as well as areas that have yet to be rebuilt due to hurricane damage. We also went to the top of the Paradise Point Tramway ($12 each) which also afforded great views of the ships in the harbor and downtown Charlotte Amalie. You can stop and relax with a refreshing snack and watch the tropical bird show. We had been there before, but needed to buy a mate for our Wild Man (who turned out to be a Wild Woman, but that's another story...). Sure enough, in the same store, on the same shelf, was a whole family of Wild Ones.
Half Moon Cay: We tendered to this pristine island about 8 a.m. and stayed until they dragged me out of the ocean (kicking and screaming) at 3 p.m. Although there is a gift shop and small straw market , they're only a convenience. Don't expect what you saw in Nassau. Here you can enjoy a frozen tropical drink at one of the bars, have some refreshing ice cream or have your hair braided. The tram will take you up to the Island Picnic, which is served from 11:30 to 1:30 and is simple but delicious. On the beach, you can enjoy snorkeling, SCUBA, parasailing, banana boat rides, catamarans, sailboats, windsurfing, aqua cycles, glass bottom boat, golf chipping or kayaking. We simply rented floating mattresses and floated for a couple of hours. Paradise. Great tan. If you'd rather sit on the beach, lounge chairs are available and you can sip a cool one served by a beach steward. On the sports courts, you'll find shuffleboard and volleyball, and closer to the beach there are tents set up for private beachside massages. As you wander this little island there are misting stations you can step into for a refreshing shower.
Ship Activities: Each day we received a Daily Program listing all planned activities, meals, movies, etc. This is most helpful when there is so much to do! The Times Fax (from the pages of The New York Times) and CNN brought us up to date on the real world. Production shows, bingo (although pricey), horse racing, volleyball, ping-pong, water games, newlywed game, ice sculpting demos, golf or ping-pong tournaments, dance lessons, gambling, dancing, even daily AA meetings are available to fill your time.
Staff: We were fortunate to have Susan Wood as our Cruise Director. Susan began her career at sea as a dance instructor (which might explain her energy level). She now has the distinction of being the first female Cruise Director in the HAL fleet. She is energetic and very outgoing; knowledgeable, organized, personable and accessible. It seems she was everywhere (except on debarkation day, when I really needed a photo for this review). Susan will be moving to the m.s. Amsterdam in September, 2001.
Toto, our cabin steward, was very good. He brought us breakfast each morning, filled the ice bucket and kept our cabin neat and clean all day.
Hasan, our Rotterdam Dining Room waiter, and Agung, his assistant, were attentive and handled our special requests cheerfully. This is the first time a Dining Room Supervisor (Yusuf) was so attentive. His funny jokes made our dining experience special. Didiet, our wine steward was prompt and his suggestions most helpful.
Passengers: Average age looked to be about 45-50. If there were any children aboard, they were invisible.
Motion: We were lucky to have calm seas all week. The stabilizers made the entire trip smooth and comfortable. The slightly perceptible motion was just enough to rock you to sleep at night.
Disembarkation: Non-U.S. Citizens were required to report to Immigration very early, but we were able to have coffee and pastries in our cabin, then go to the lounge to check in at the airline. Delta and U.S. Air have representatives onboard to check your passports (all travelers in your group must be present) and issue you bar-coded luggage tags in a sealed envelope. We were in this line over an hour, and it was very frustrating. They should have had more airline reps for this to work smoothly. We were off the ship at about 9:00, found our luggage in the "warehouse" (the colored tag system moves passengers in shifts to avoid crowding), had a redcap cart them to the Delta truck where the bar-coded tags were attached to our bags, got in a cab and were at the airport in record time; two hours ahead of flight time. Note: when you debark and find your luggage, you can transfer most of your overnight stuff to your luggage so you won't have to carry so much.
I'm sure I don't need to tell you this was the best cruise ever. We will be HAL cruisers for many more years to come.
Eastern Seaboard, out of Fort Lauderdale to Montréal Canada, early May, 2008.
This was my 15th Holland America cruise I imagine the weather in the fall is quite similar to that in May.
The Maasdam was built 1993 and is one of four in the Statendam class. It can accommodate roughly 1,266 passengers after refitting, and weighs about 55,451 tons. The Atrium consists of a very tasteful 3-story sculpture of cube-shaped glass, designed by Luciano Vistosi. The cabin I was in was 725 Starboard, forward, on the Main deck (A).; the couple I was with were on the Verandah deck (without a verandah!) in cabin 100, Port, as far forward as you can go. The Maasdam has, along with the other S Class ships, been refitted with new bedding, etc. The former Erasmus Library has been annexed to one of the rooms beside it, and another room which was used for the internet, to form a newer and better internet centre and library.
We flew down a day early, from Ottawa, Canada, to Detroit and then Fort Lauderdale, which was uneventful, and did not use the hotel to ship packages, taking a cabfrom Pier 66. Embarkation was the smoothest of all the cruises that I have been on, and only took 25 minutes. Part of this is that if you complete all of the on-line forms ahead of time (bringing printed duplicates to discard later in case of computer failure, etc.), there is no paperwork to fill out at embarkation except a short health questionnaire.
After a day at sea, the first port was Charleston, South Carolina, where we saw some of the old mansions on the Kingdom by the Sea tour. New London, Connecticut after another sea day, was where we took the Essex Steam Train tour, followed the next day by Cliff Walk & the Breakers tour in Newport, Rhode Island, which was slightly altered owing to weather. After a sea day, amid interesting North Atlantic seas, we hit Barr Harbor, Maine, and over the next three days, the ports of Halifax and Sydney, Nova Scotia, and Charlottetown Prince Edward Island. In each of these ports we went to eat lobster, for the last time on the Dalvey-by-the-Sea tour where it is served cold (which allows it to be snapped out of the shell easier), and where the guide showed everyone (spectacularly) how to properly break up a lobster to eat by hand, and, nearby a lobster fisherman explained his trade. After another day at sea, we passed the Saguenay Fjord in the St. Lawrence but were too late to enter it to see much of anything, and docked at Quebec where we wandered around the walled city; the next day we docked at Montréal. In Quebec preparations are under way for the 400th anniversary of Quebec.
This was a repositioning cruise, the first of the season. There are to be future ones in June, but from Boston to Montréal and vice-versa, before the Maasdam sails to Europe in July. Other versions of this cruise may take place in August out of Boston and HAL's latest ship, the Eurodam will be making trips to Quebec City from New York; the Maasdam will make one trip from Montréal to Ft. Lauderdale in the fall.
The couple I was with did not take a verandah because of the time of year. There were many passengers not suitably dressed for May in the North Atlantic. Cruising at this time of year is a little strange, since we are used to warmer Caribbean destinations. I went swimming from Fort Lauderdale until just after Charleston, when the outside temperature was too cool to use the outside aft lido pool. Except at Newport, the skies were clear, but temperatures started to drop, the coldest being in Sydney where it was about 4C I used long underwear twice on this cruise. There were some rough seas as well, for even though we were in the lee of the Gulf of Maine or the South Shore of Nova Scotia for part of the time, winds got to force 9+ on the Beaufort Scale; there were a lot of people sea-sick.
There was a new dinner arrangement on the Maasdam. There was the traditional late-seating arrangement on the upper level of the Rotterdam dining room, but on the lower level, there was a form of free-style seating for which you had to make some type of reservations (I never did figure it out, neither did some of the passengers used to completely free-style dining on some cruise lines). We chose the more traditional setting. Parts of the Lido are also open for dinner. Service was good, but there seem to be issues of timeliness which are not of the waiters' making. For example, when the staff is called off to do the Baked Alaska parade or the Chef's dinner which also involves staff doing other activities, there's a back-up. Our wine steward knew what she was doing and was quite helpful. The Maasdam, like all of the "Statendam" class ships, lacks access to the lower dining room from along the Promenade Deck (owing to the kitchen filling up the entire deck), which can be a minor inconvenience.
The Pinnacle restaurant is a later addition to all of the Statendam class of ships, being constructed by removing several of the public rooms and building it in. The Pinnacle is available for lunch as well as dinner, and the sirloin is as good as the Alberta A beef which used to be served on all the HAL ships. People with verandahs can eat breakfast free in the Pinnacle and there are some other perks relating to the restaurant.
The pools were well maintained. The Lido indoor pool (with the sliding roof) is chlorinated, while the aft outdoor pool has a slight salt content and less chlorine (which I prefer). This is new. The pools are not as warm as they used to be, but that is because of not wanting to help spread disease. The inside pool had to be completely drained for part of the cruise, as the seas were so rough.
In HAL's more recent ships, the Ocean bar is less of a focal point of the ship, but that is not the case with the four S class ones. Unfortunately the art auctioneers take up too much space when running the auctions. Many found the Crow's Nest awkward during rough seas because it so very high up.
There were two wine tastings -- one free which did take place -- and one which had a cost, but which had to be cancelled because of a lack of attendees.
Past Cruises: 1st-(Old) Noordam, 1998 (retired Nov. 2004); 2nd-Statendam, 1999; 3rd-Zaandam, 2000; 4th-Statendam, 2001; 5th/6th-Ryndam, 2002; 7th-Zuiderdam, 2003+ 8th-Veendam, 2003; 9th Volendam, 2004; 10th/11th-Westerdam, 2006-01; 12th-Amsterdam, 2006-11; 13th/14th-Zuiderdam, 2007; 15th Maasdam, 2008-05.
To let you know, I enjoyed the cruise (my first time with Holland America). However, I must complain about the food service, taste and presentation in the dining room.
The food (though basically the same Menu) at the Lido at night was soooo much better. The staff was much friendlier and the food looked good and tasted much fresher.
It was not a pleasure to dine in the dining room. After three times, I decided to eat the rest of my meals in Lido.
Easy and fast check-in and boarding. This ship is elegant and spacious.
The service is exquisite. There was no part of the cruise that did not rate as excellent.
The food in the restaurant was wonderful, and our dining steward was just as great. He knew what we liked and made us feel special every evening.
The ship is immaculate. The crew all spoke to us whether we were in a hallway, elevator, etc. The captain had a lovely Mariner's brunch.
My husband and I were impressed with everything about this cruise.
We most definitely will book another cruise aboard this ship. Holland America is the best line and the Maasdam exemplifies the elegance, service, and cuisine that makes this cruise line stand above the rest.
This was my 29th cruise and the first one on Holland America. I would like to say that this was my best cruise ever.
Holland America's service is excellent.
The Maasdam is an older ship but you can not tell. It was the cleanest ship at sea.
The food was great.
Cabins are large and the beds are very comfortable.
It is very easy to get around the ship.
I would recommend the Maasdam to everyone.
This was our ninth cruise, second with Holland America. We were disappointed with the Maasdam. We had no hot water for most of the cruise, and rusty water after they attempted to fix the problem. Many cabins were without air conditioning. We were very surprised at the condition of the ship as it is rated 4.5 stars. Although the interior design on the ship is good and comfortable, the plumbing and air conditioning are in need of replacement.
On the bright side, the food was good and the service was excellent. The buffets were better than Princess. Due to the condition of the ship, we will not cruise on the Maasdam again.
After a dozen cruises on several different lines, my wife and I took our first HAL cruise.
Simply put, it was fantastic. From the minute we stepped on board and the room steward knew our names, to the staff carrying trays at the poolside display, to the wine steward at dinner who knew everyone's favorite drink, the service was extrodanaire!
The food, in both the buffet and the main dining room was top notch. Ice cream (several flavors), no sugar desserts, and a variety of fresh burgers were available all afternoon.
I won't repeat each port's excursion, but I would note there was a very nice variety ranging from sea kayaking to individualized tours of the Fortress of Louisberg. In spite of HAL's demographics, the cruise should actually appeal to parents (or grandparents) of children between 8 and 16 who would enjoy something other than a caribbean beach.
One final first for us: This is the first cruise that so impressed us that we've already reserved next summer's vacation!
Where to begin ? - This cruise was aimed at anyone over the age of 75 - so being in my early 40's this came as a massive shock (disembarkation in Montreal there were 75 wheelchairs) The food, entertainment, library, drinks etc - all aimed at the retirement market.
The ship was tatty and in need of painting, refurnishing and a really good clean.
The staff (mainly Indonesian) should be taught a conversational command of English (that way they could understand dietry requirements a little better - try explaining to someone who doesn't speak English why a Jew cannot eat pork and expect to receive a meal not containing any pork products -not easy).
Our cabin steward was very poor - cabin dirty from previous occupants (hair in the bath and empty soda cans under the bed!!) and in the two weeks we were on board, the room was not dusted - we complained to the front desk without success.
The food, in general, was appalling - poor choice, poor quality and always lukewarm.
Never again ....
We had the pleasure to sail on the Maasdam on the 11 day Southern Caribbean itinerary from Norfolk on the November 8th sailing. As I have not sailed with Holland America since 1995, I was looking forward to this cruise and to experience their Signature of Excellence upgrades. In a few words, I really enjoyed the upgrades, the Maasdam and the Holland America experience.
The Maasdam though a smaller ship, just under 56,000 tons and came into service in 1993 is looking fabulous. This ship and it's staff was wonderful. The public rooms are classy and the expanded Explorer's lounge and library was a wonderful place to mingle, play board games (scrabble in particular), to jigsaw puzzles, check emails, etc. They also have a specialty coffee shop in that same vicinity. By the way, you still can get cappuccino's and espresso in the dining room free.
It's been a long while since I booked an inside cabin, but was very pleased with the spaciousness. We had four in our cabin and had plenty of cabin and drawer space. The stateroom had two lower beds, a couch which made into a bed anda bed that recessed out of the ceiling. The bathroom was typical size and during the ships refurbishment must have been re-tiled. It was clean and actually two people could use the mirror area at the same time. We were on Deck 5 main deck. The cabin had a 20-in flat screen TV and DVD player which they had an entire library of DVD rentals or you could play the one's you may have brought with you. Cost on the DVD rentals was $3.00 and I believe you could keep them two days, we were too busy to rent DVD's, but a nice offering. The upgraded bed, linens and bath linens and amenities were welcomed. It was one of the most comfortable beds I have slept in on a cruise ship ever. My cruise on the Diamond Princess, (Princess - considered a mass market line) in January will really have a lot to lived up to in this area. Our cabin steward and staff was very efficient. We never left the cabin not to have the cabin made up or turned down for the evening completed.
As this cruise was booked about a month before sailing, we were confirmed for late seating dining. The Maasdam has staggered dining times, 5:45p, 6:15p, 8:00p and 8:30p. Yes, you guessed it we had 8:30p. We tried to change it without luck. In talking with other passengers, there were folks who had booked over 6 months out and couldn't clear an early seating. We dined only once in the evening at 8:30p as my 9 and 13 year old was missing here nightly program. The next few days we ate in the Lido. After missing 3 nights in our dining room, we received a phone call from the Ass't Maitre 'D, Kuz asking why we weren't coming to the dining room. After explaining to him that it was too late for the children, he said to come at 5:45p the next day and he would tried to fit us in and indeed he did. We were able to eat early on a rotating table situation which was better than eating every night in the Lido as the dining room experience was very good. Though we didn't get to have the comradery you would have with the same wait staff, we did find good service with the various tables. We had very good wait service and Kuz check on us several times every evening. He really took care of us and I am glad that we didn't miss out on the dining room experience. The meals were presented nicely on the plate and in average to smaller portion sizes. The food overall was very good. I found the desserts to be average and often had ice cream. The fresh ice cream and soft serve along with sundae fixings in the Lido was great and also complimentary. We also enjoyed the complimentary pop-corn in the movie theatre. Nice touches and most appreciated. They often had live music during dinner which was very nice. We typically ate on the 2nd floor of the Rotterdam dining room, which I preferred over the main floor. On the 5th night out we ate at the grill. We really enjoyed it but found it to be one of the more expensive optional dining at $30.00 pp. Service was attentive and the decor in the Grill was modern/clean. The menu was Pacific Northwest themed. As I had been on a fish marathon, I had the Filet Mignon which was excellent. If you are celebrating a special occasion, it is worth the cost and the intimate atmosphere.
The crew/staff on this ship was excellent. We had many crew members in various positions that we conversed with daily. We gave many tips to folks we normally wouldn't have given to due to their friendliness and attentiveness. We got to know all of the Cruise Director/Staff quite well and had lots of fun with them also. There is much to be said in sailing on this size ship. You have a better opportunity to meet fellow passengers and crew daily. We got to know the bathroom attendant another nice touch with cloth towels to dry your hands. It's the little things that make a great cruise, though small, but nice. Again, we found the crew very happy to comply to your requests, for example the first night out was pretty choppy and my 9 year old was it the top bunk and rolling all over her bed. I asked it there was a bar of some sort for the bed so she wouldn't roll out of the bed onto the floor. They had the maintenance department come to the room and look and listen to my request. They made a padded upholstered bar and it was in the room for use the next day. I was impressed with their need to please. It worked great.
The stage productions shows and cabaret entertainment were typical of cruise line's fare. The lounge acts were typical evening entertainment on cruise lines. We went to the Crow's Nest disco late in the cruise and had fun. We probably would have gone more had we gone sooner. The younger cruisers seemed to congregate here in the evenings. Yes, I would say the average age was 68 or so, but this did not really bother us being younger ones on the ship. You make your good times. We participated frequently with shipboard events such as Volleyball, trivia games, etc and collected "Dam Dollars" which we turned in at the end of the cruise for "Dam Sweatshirts" and nice "Dam Water Bottles. The gave away nice prices for the events that didn't give "Dam Dollars". We came home with key chains, hats, mugs, luggage tags, "Dam Dark" mini-mag lights, etc. I will say that there was plenty of stuff to do onboard the ship when in port. I really liked this as often most Cruise Director's plan nothing on the ship while in port. Other lines could take a lesson here. When you have been on the islands before, the ship really becomes your destination. We really enjoy our days at sea which were crammed pack with things to do or not to do. The culinary program which is help in the theatre was very enjoyable and samples of the items prepared were giving to all in attendance. They also had a towel animal demo which was fun. When we asked it they had the instructions on paper, they were only too happy to have picture instructions delivery to the cabin for those who requested them. The casino was one of the smaller ones I have experienced on the ship, but was a good size considering the size of the ship. The casino personnel was excellent, one of the best I have encountered. We never made it to the Greenhouse Spa which I heard good things about and normally a place that I visit and get a treatment at least once.
The ports were: Half Moon Cay, St. Thomas, Dominica, Barbados, St. Kitts, San Juan, Puerto Rico. I had never been to Dominica and really enjoyed the island and the people were very friendly. We took a tour to the Emerald Pool which was a nice tour. You really appreciate the drivers in Dominica as the roads are often narrow. In Half Moon Cay we swam with the Stingrays. They are much smaller than the ones in Grand Cayman and they come to this area daily and are netted in and released at the end of the day, thus you don't have to worry about other predators in the water with you. In Barbados, we snorkeled at Carlisle Bay. Nice dive sites with a couple of sunken ships. The boat staff was excellent, the water was really clear and warm. On the way back the skies open up and we were drenched. No worries, as we were already wet from snorkeling. LOL
Embarkation and Debarkation were a breeze, though they are still working on the pier area in Norfolk, still a lot of temporary structures. We asked for a later departure of the ship, they allow you to stay in your cabins. We were off the ship and at the airport by 9:15a. We took a cab to and from the airport. The cost was $24 -$26 dollars each way for 4 vs. $28.00 pp to use the Holland America bus transfers. We stood-by for earlier flights and got home a few hours earlier than our ticketed times.
Between October 28 and November 3, 2006 my wife and cruised out of Norfolk on Holland Americas "Maasdam" This was our first cruise on Holland and on the Maasdam. We chose the ship because it was very near to our home and travel distance was 3 ½ hours to the port vs. 13 to Bayonne or Fort Lauderdale or even Tampa.
The Maasdam is an old ship constructed in 1993 and apparently never renovated. Major systems such as air conditioning, plumbing, toilets, whirl pools and pools, electrical systems, stabilizers and even engines appear to have suffered profound neglect. Facilities for children appear very Spartan, although some limited activities are done poolside. Room amenities such as an umbrella or shopping tot do not exist. The cooking staff and management are arrogant and non-responsive to the many problems that exist. No real flexibility exists in dining menus, the food is just fair, the baked goods are dry and tasteless and their "Pinnacle Grill" has poor fare, is no value, a waste of time and certainly money. Honestly the "Golden Corral" family restaurant has better overall food, selections and buffet. Daily activities and music areextremely limited. Evening entertainment ranges from good to hokey. The nightclubs are out of touch with the clientele whose average age is about 68+. That also is the general age of all the ship's cruising populous. The DJ is not sensitive to this fact and plays "the hustle and 80s and 90s rock consistently. In the Crows Nest Bar, it seems that 5 or 6 of the activities staff are forever present and their only function appears to be drinking, flirting and dancing among themselves. This includes the DJ. These activities do not look professional and perceptions are realities. This ship and line seems to be on a cost cutting binge. For example smoking is allowed aboard the ship, but it is impossible to find a match. The staff and bartenders say "It's because of 9/11!", but they DO sell $3.00 propane lighters and propane lighters can also be more problematic. Perhaps not giving out matches cuts costs. The Holland standardized tipping policy is hideous. Many travelers refuse to abide by it and opt out. Deserving individuals given tips are forced to forfeit them to the general "pool" under threat of firing. A disgusting policy!
I have read the Maasdam reviews and I will tell you here and now they were done by management. We have been cruising twice a year since 1996. Generally we have traveled on Celebrity and Royal Caribbean ships. This journey on the Holland line and the Maasdam was an experiment. As it turned out, one NEVER to be repeated. This was the worst cruise we ever had without exception. There wasn't a single item or event that we could reference that would sway our opinion. Our cruise was not pleasant nor fun nor comfortable and a very poor overall value. We would never recommend this line or ship to anyone.
Dining The Liddo Café is located on the 11th floor adjacent to the "covered" pool. This is the buffet restaurant. It is organized somewhat oddly. The serving lines, starboard and port are each arranged in sections (i.e. Breads, starters, Asian, Italian, entrees, sandwiches and finally soups and salads.) This is an indication of the similar fare served each day. The arrangement is not at all conducive to speedy service. As people wait for certain items and the server is busy somewhere else (this is the rule rather than the exception), the lines back up and the wait time to be served increases proportionately. This situation is painfully evident during the breakfast hours. At breakfast a section is setup that just does fried and boiled eggs, another just pancakes and French toast, another just omelets. This poises real logistic problems for passengers in the line trying to get toast, scrambled eggs, bacon or sausages and then move on and out, but CAN NOT since the line is constantly backed up with people wanting eggs done their way. Passengers do not move past the holdups for fear of "skipping in line". Perhaps a REAL egg station would correct the traffic jams. Incidentally on most days, at 9:20AM or so, the servers run out of French toast, scrambled eggs, bacon and turkey sausage. Then the lines really back up until more is made. The server staff behind the buffet is always one short and that creates the problem that you just can't get served. So you wait and wait.
If you desire waffles or baked goods, there is a separate line that also serves iced creams. The waffles are tasteless, often served broken, there are no fresh or frozen berries only terribly sweet jams (two types). The pastries are terrible. They are dry! When I asked why, I was told it was because of the high humidity, a ludicrous excuse. Another person said it was because much of the baked goods were made off the ship. Breads and rolls were just as bad. Overall a very unsatisfying, confusing and frustrating way to start the day.
Incidentally there was no corned beef hash and people complained, the steam tables and heat lamps used to keep the food warm, did a terrible job! You can't pour your own juices and, although they serve five or six types and guess at what is in those glasses. Even the ice machines in the Liddo Café are so difficult to operate that a bus boy needs to get you the ice. The ice machines use an infra red sensor that only delivers ice if you wave you hand behind the glass to be filled. The "Late Night Liddo Buffets" start at 11:00PM and generally run out of food at 11:25 or so.
Each evening one line of the Liddo Café is closed to the public. That line is reserved for the officers and upper level staff. Apparently they have no food service of their own although a food service, of far lower quality is provided for the lower level staff on the lowest deck. Elitism rides again and at the expense of the passengers.
The 11th floor pool outside the Liddo Café is the "indoor" pool and two overheated whirlpools, one of which only partially worked. There are lounge chairs adjacent to the pool and sitting areas with small table along the outside walls. A selling point for this pool is that it has a retractable dome cover, 98% of the time the "cover" was open and because of that and a lack of cross ventilation, and non-opening windows, this area becomes unbearably hot. The pool and whirl pools have no shade whatsoever. If you are out in the open, you will literally fry!
Shade should be provided in some form, perhaps a cabana over the whirlpools and part of the pool. Or close the retractable cover partially. They refused to do this. Ventilation is very poor and side windows should installed that can be opened. Incidentally they DID close these pools down on day 10 and 11 for "maintenance. This should be done in Dry Dock. The passengers were not happy campers.
For avid sun worshipers there is another outdoor pool with sitting areas, tables and a bar. There is very little of any shade here.
The Pool hamburger, pizza, and taco bar. The pizza is cold, the taco bar appears filled in the morning and the food seldom refreshed or exchanged any time during the following 10 hours. One day I asked for some French Fries only to be told they were out. I was offered "Taiter Tots". I demanded French Fries since this WAS a hamburger bar but I was told that the cook would have to ask permission of his supervisor. Ten minutes later I did get my French Fries. Is this another cost cutting measure or just more evidence of a stogy and intractable management mentality?
Health Conscious Fare is not a priority with Holland. People who may be "Health Conscious" will have no real alternative aboard the Maasdam. Celebrity provides excellent alternate healthy choices but Holland does not.
Fitness and Recreation. A Spa is located on the 11th floor and it appears nice. The exercise areas, adjacent to the Spa are fairly well equipped but the weights on the equipment are not marked and the "trainers" don't know if it is pounds or kilograms and neither did I. There is a jogging short track around the upper lever and on the 6th level is a larger walking track completely around the ship. Four times around equals a mile.
There is a fairly well stocked library that contains news papers, books, for rent DVD movies and a large section to communicate via the Internet.
The main "Rotterdam" dining room is an attractive two level hall with a staircase to the upper level. Our wait staff, Peter and Harry were excellent although somewhat forgetful. On the first night, for an appetizer, both my dinner partner and I requested a shrimp cocktail. It was not notable but ok. The breads and rolls served were again dry. Four pads of butter were served. Throughout the cruise we had to request, time and again, a few more pads. We do like coffee before and during our meals and we requested that from our waiter. Sad to say he never could remember to serve coffee as requested. In general the entrees were limited and not at all memorable. The desserts were very sugary, the cakes from Duncan Heinz and the occasional "NEW YORK Cheese Cake" was horrible. We are food judges and days prior to this cruise judged cook-offs for "Red Star Yeast", "The Beef producers of North Carolina", "Pillsbury Piecrusts" (38 entries) and "The North Carolina Egg Producers" (28 Cheese cakes). The cheese cake on the Maasdam was a pathetic! Speaking with the haed waiter who communicated with a chef, who was very defensive and arrogant, and who claimed he made changes, NEVER improved the product. The chef DOES NOT know a cheese cake from and apple and he is supposed to be from Germany!
Incidentally we only had one shrimp cocktail on the 11 days of menus. I personally like shrimp cocktails and made a special request, which could not be honored until the next day. After it was served I requested one for the following day but was told that the chef said that he did not have any more full sized shrimp on board. I was upset, as were may other passengers making similar requests. Other, better supplied, cruise lines do allow special requests.
The Pinnacle Grill is supposedly the "high class" eatery. They charge $30.00 per person to dine there. The definition of "Pinnacle" is a lofty peak perhaps the top and that is how it is promoted. My wife and I decided to give it a try. It was our 4th day out. . The restaurant is attractive but not overly done and basically empty. It is hard to believe that one must setup reservation days in advance.
The Pinnacle Grill boasts its "Silver Award" beef. (Silver… that's second place right?) They also have specialties that include entrees of "Cedar Planked Halibut with Alaskan King Crab" or "Cedar Planked Shrimp Scampi" and various beef fillets. I decided on the large beef fillet and my wife chose the "Cedar Planked Halibut with Alaskan King Crab" only to be told that "They were out of Cedar planks." We could not believe it! When I inquired about the number of patrons they have had in the past days I was told that on day 1 they had 8, day 2 was unknown and day 3 was 18. Well I am sure that this 28 to 40 patrons had not all ordered Cedar planed dishes. I was told that the ship had supply problems at Norfolk, however Holland America has been doing this cruise run for 4 or so years.
Disappointed we ordered the "Monk Fish". What was served was a thin, slightly burnt. piece of halibut. Monk fish are "skinned, boneless and shaped like a small beef or pork loin. We again protested since we eat Monk fish often and this WAS NOT Monk fish. We were repeatedly "assured" it was. Monk fish is sometimes called "poor mans lobster" because when broiled has the firm texture of a lobster. This "fish" flaked and had a tail. My wife was insulted by this deception. On the desert menu was a glorious chocolate desert called a "Warm Grand Marnier Chocolate Volcano Cake". We each ordered that. When it arrived, it was burnt, bitter and inedible. We left it and on our way out, I added my name to the guest list with this comment… "Horrific", but they probably changed that to "Terrific". This was one of our absolute worse dining experiences. A solution for Holland may be to replace the chef. If you have $60.00 throw away, toss it over board or give the "Pinnacle Grill" a try.
Accommodations on the Maasdam appear fairly nice but believe me, looks are very deceiving. The service from my cabin steward, Wayan, was outstanding. I could not have asked for better service. I'm sure that true with most all cabin stewards. They were just fabulous!
The absolute biggest complaint I heard about accommodations was that a very large number of guests had NO air conditioning throughout the cruise Some were given table fans, some nothing and some even got $150.00 in cash credit. People were moving luggage from room to room almost every day. This was by far the number 1 complaint. This was a major problem throughout the ship. The piano bar, which was the best entertainment on board, was an oven. The entertainer Barry Blyth, who was spectacular, had his own personal fan. People would came in sit a moment and have to leave because of the heat.
The second biggest complaint was the sanitation system. Sinks and tubs that mysteriously and ominously gurgle and toilets that DO NOT work nor consistently flush. I spoke with disgruntled passengers that said their toilet facilities did not work for 6 days or more and no one on board would fix them! Usually, the toilet in my room would not flush until after 9:00 AM and then it took 10 or 12 pushes on the flush button. A terrible combination of situations.
The third largest complaint was the roughness of our cruise. We really had no rough weather and the published "Cruise Log" will verify this, yet this ship rocked like no other I had ever been on. I later learned that the stabilizers were not "entirely" working and neither were the engines. The captain, in order not to "overtax the engines, ordered the stabilizers shut down. In 20 cruises made on Celebrity and Royal Caribbean this was the most rocky. The crew, too, was often seasick. The next group of passengers have my sincere sympathies since repairs do not seem to be forthcoming.
Adding insult to injury, on the last night of this cruise, at 1:30AM, the ship lost ALL electric power for over 20 minutes and actual propulsion for well over an hour. There absolutely no lights on the ship on deck or below deck. It was pitch black. The baggage handlers were trying to load baggage for disembarkation and when those lights went out people and baggage and handlers came tumbling down those stairways. We were about 120 miles from shore and shore lights could be seen but the ship was dead in the water and it began to significantly list. At about 2:40AM the engines started and thankfully we were under way. After disembarking and on the shuttle back to the parking areas, beople on the shuttle said that the list had been so great that the water in the Liddo decks large pool poured out and down the stairs to several lower levels. Again my sincerest sympathies to the next group of passengers. Help IS NOT on the way!
Entertainment in the "Rembrant" lounge is comprised of singers and dancers, comedians, a juggler, a woman ventriloquist and a musical performed by the Indonesian or Philippine crew staff. The production numbers are good especially "Romance on Broadway", but the ship rocked so much that we feared someone on stage would be hurt. The native music and dance performance by the Indonesian or Philippine labor was interesting. The rest was rather hokey. There is a Casino offering "Black Jack", Roulette", "Craps" and a large number of slot machines vary from $.05 to $1.00 contributions.
Shopping on board is available although because the ship is smaller in size, the number and size of shops is limited. They do run contests and drawings just about daily but you must be present to win.
On board there is a movie theatre that actually shows recent movies. We thought that a movie could not be screwed up to badly but we were wrong. We were viewing the Da Vinci Code, but half way through it the captain broke in, the sound turned off so we could only here him. He proceeded to tell us weather conditions, location etc. Many people, jeering and disgruntled, left in protest and went to Customer Relations. Then, just as the captain shut up, the entertainment director cut in to read us the events for the day. 15 minutes later the movie resumed. Then it stopped entirely, was rolled far back and restarted. 20 minutes later it was stopped again to very large and vocal protests and then started again. Someone should have the awareness to coordinate captain interruptions and stop and start movies in a coordinated fashion.
The Piano Bar, although often an oven, is one of the best bits of entertainment on board. The pianist, Barry Blyth, is spectacular. He sings well, gains audience participation via sing alongs and plays very well. People who came and survived the heat loved him.
The Crows Nest Bar located on the 12th Floor is the major dance area. The room is surrounded by large windows and is a very nice for viewing arriving or departing ports. The Crows Nest Bar features a DJ and recorded music and occasionally, early evening, there is also a pianist who is fairly good. The wait staff in the Crows Nest was extraordinary, In particular a waitress named "Daye" who served us, was extremely nice, super accommodating and just fabulous. Congratulationd to "Daye" for a job well done!
As stated early on, the passenger population appears to have an average of about 68+. This being the case, the Crows Nest musical selections are out of touch with the clientele. The DJ is not sensitive to this fact and plays "the hustle and 80s and 90s rock consistently. She said that is what the people have requested. If so, then why are the passengers not dancing. This demographic grew up in the 40s, 50s, and early 60s. Their music was not the Hustle, not Disco but Rock and Roll.
Also it seems that 5 or 6 of the activities staff are forever present. They arrive early and leave late. Their only function appears to be drinking, flirting and dancing among themselves. This includes the DJ. They sometime try to "teach" dances but the Crows Nest at 10:00PM is not a dance class and once again, they dance among themselves. Dance classes should occur during scheduled afternoon activities so that passengers can practice what they learned later in the evening. I got the perception that each night they were there to entertain themselves while the real crew was working diligently elsewhere on the ship. The actions of these staff people do not look professional and perceptions are realities.
The Holland Tipping Policy. The Holland standardized tipping policy states that a gratuity of $10.00 per day per guest will automatically be added to your shipboard account. They assure everyone that all gratuities will go to the staff and absolutely none goes to Holland. It is said that $3.50 goes to the cabin boy, $3.50 to your waiter and the remaining $3.00 will be distributed among the cooks, bakers, servers, assistant waiter, cleaning personnel and whomever else I‘ve missed. If you want to then give a larger tip to whomever, you can.
It is further stated that if, at the end of your cruise you, you want to modify this deduction you can at the Customer Relations Office. Many people do this. They want to tip those who served them best. They do not want their tips "pooled" and "distributed". Therefore, at the end of the cruise many passengers line up to fill out forms to cancel their automatic gratuity deduction. They then personally give tips to the people who serviced them best.
There is a real problem in this practice. If you cancel your auto gratuity deduction fully, any tips you give personally may more than likely end up in the "pool" anyway. Why you ask? Because they will run a report showing all those that cancelled their automatic deduction FULLY. Management will then use this list and query the people who personally served you and, with threats of firing, require any tips you gave that person to turn it into the "pool".
A solution may be to reduce the automatic gratuity deduction to $1.00 a day per guest. Then when they run their report, your name will not be on it and, in theory, you may reward fully those you believe are most deserving.
Holland America's automatic daily gratuity deduction is hideous. This is a disgusting policy! Personally I will never follow it but it is a moot point since I will never travel on this line again. If they tell me that if I do not follow their policy, there will be repercussions on the people that have served me best, then for this publication, I say I do not tip more than $1.00 a day.