This was our third cruise and our second with HAL. We are in our late forties and are totally hooked on cruising and love the experience. We are also totally hooked on HAL, the ship size and number of passengers is just perfect and their service is unbelievable. After seeing some of the new Mega ships on this trip and the numbers of people waiting for tenders etc, we applaud HAL for not doing the money grab and going the mega ship direction. I know they are building some bigger ships but they are working on keeping the person the space ration as large as possible.
This trip was as usual excellent, we spent 4 days in Ft Lauderdale prior to the cruise attending another function, this enabled us to relax before we got on board, and so we really got the most out of the 7 days being pampered by HAL.
The embarkation we a breeze with us arriving around 12:30pm and being on board by 1:30pm, this was the first time we sailed with a verandah and wow what a difference. I am afraid we are now hooked; itreally gave us that extra room in the cabin. I will not go into the normal meal details, we normally eat breakfast and lunch at the buffet and always eat in the dining room for diner. We find a great variety of food and plenty of it. We had asked for a table for 6 at the late sitting but received a table for 4; this was ok as our table mates were a very nice couple from St Louis with whom we got along very well.
This was one of the roughest cruises I have been on with regard to the weather; the first night produced a large amount of rocking and rolling. For those planning a cruise this is not normal from what I have seen and read, it did not cause my wife or my self any problems however there were a few missing people that night for diner. The seas did settle down a little and we did not notice the motion after that.
This was our second visit to Cozumel and found the prices had gone up quite a lot in the 4 years since our last visit. We did not take any shore excursions here as there was not a lot of time in port, however we did take a stroll around the town and bought some of the typical touristy things such as blankets. (Great for the cottage).
We found Grand Cayman expensive however it is a very attractive island and a pleasure to walk around. My wife took the turtle farm tour and had a great time, the farm was pleasant and the tour of the rum cake factory was enjoyable with all the samples available. I took the Intro to Scuba lesson and found it to be a waste of money. You are only given 2 and half hours and that is not long enough to feel comfortable with the instruction provided. They also require a good level of fitness, the requirement was the ability to walk one mile in 12 mins, this I do every day and am very active for my age, but I found the 50 meter swim from the beach to the reef, in full gear, a lot and even the other 5 (younger) trainees were puffing when we reached the reef. Don't waste your money.
We both really enjoyed Ocho Rios and love the Jamaican's ability to laugh and play with the tourists, some cruisers did not like this and felt nervous, but we had a lot of fun.
We took the Dunn's river falls tour on the San San and had a great time, we did not climb the falls but did enjoy our time watch the others and resting on the beach.
After the falls visit we were taken to a reef for some very good snorkeling, a very good trip.
As usual Half Moon Key was excellent and a great last day, full of relaxation and sun.
The Maasdam is not the newest member of the fleet, however you would not know it, she gleams from many years of care and cleaning. Our cabin steward Ansari was excellent, as were the dining room staff. I would recommend the verandah experience to all cruisers. We greatly enjoyed the experience of sitting in our own space reading and listening to the ocean.
The disembarkation was also very painless and we were off the boat by 9:30am. The one thing that does bug us is the passengers that do not follow the instructions with regard to paying their bill and immigration. The numerous announcements looking for individuals is very annoying and not the fault of the cruise line, I say post their picture on the TV's and let the other passengers find them.
I did find that there was very very long line up's at the airport with all the cruise ships disembarking at the same time. Next time we are planning to stay over one extra night to ensure you do not have to go through this process.
A great trip, a great ship and a great cruise line.
visited with my younger son and his wife in boca raton and thats always a great way to start a vacation
the drive to ft. laud was in the rain as was the remainder of the day. got to the terminal a bit early so we had to sit around a little longer then necessary. a good opportunity to meet fellow cruisers.
we were in an a mini so we got early board.
went to our cabin, dropped off our carry on and off to the lido for lunch
back at the cabin our luggage was waiting so we unpacked and waited for the lifeboat drill. went off without a hitch like all other drills.
the food, service, staff in general is what we have come to expect from hal (our 4th cruise) so we were not dissapointed. the staff and crew consistanty exceed our exections.
first stop was the bahamas - we booked the dolphin encounter. had to walk from the ship abut 3/4 mile to where the boat picked us up. some transportation would have been nice.
the enoucounter is awesome. the downside is that you only spend about 2 min. perperson hands on with the dolphin. and thats with 4 separate encounters. would not do it again, under those circumstances the amount of money spent does not = the time you have with the dolphin
next stop was san juan-- talked into a tour ride for 15.00 per person and it was not worth it. we were taken to a hotel to see their lobby and we were there for about 30 min-- would not do this again and advise against anyone taking this tour.
there is a free trolly car ride that will take you to old san juan and morro castle. you can get on and off at each stop.
next was st thomas. we took the atlantis submarine tour and this was great. about a 50 passenger sub--goes doe=wn about 90 feet and you get up close with the various species of fish and you also get to see some great coral formations-- this is imho a must do tour.
half moon cay- good buffet lunch- my bw had 3 braids put in her hair and then decided to go parasailing-- she loved it -- was up about 7 minutes. she wanted to go faster higher and to be up longer. she is, by the way the youngest 63 yr old you will ever see.
she won 330.00 at bingo and i lost xxx.xx at the casino
smooth seas, weather could have been less cloudy. weather broke when we went ashore.
had the greatest dinner mates and this is what help makes a great cruise. we were all anxious to meet every nite and share the events of the day. or maybe it was just the wonderful food. lol
since according to hal there is always room for improvement and thats why their evaluation forms only go as high a 9. i have no problem giving this cruise a 9.
Holland America Line Maasdam by Patrick E. Robinson Western Caribbean January 6, 2002
This was Susan and my first cruise.But after we have tried Carnival and RCCL.I have read other reveiws and thought it was time to tell our thoughts on the Maasdam.On the whole the experience was great.The Maasdam staff was awesome group of people who all bend over backwards to please the guests.My wife being a filipina was glad to see so many of her country mates on the Maasdam.
The food in both the Lido and the formal dinning room was very good,and wait staff was excellent.Shows were good but the elderly age of the guests was, on looking back ,a little boring at times.Things to do are less on HAL ships,later in the evening.We meet a few younger couples and had fun with them,on board and off.
The best thing about cruising is meeting new people and food,we belive.
After comparing the other ships to the Maasdam,some problems need the attention of HAL.I have read in other reveiws about the biggest problem aboard Maasdam,atleast with us.We were literally frozen alive in our stateroom.The entire section around #706,was the same.No heat onlyAC air.We ended up getting a roll of duct tape and blocked all but a small section of vents to stay comfortable.This was the way it was the whole week.And the free bottle of wine(Turnig Leaf)was a far cry short of compensation for this hugely negative situation.Many other reveiws have mentioned the same problems with the room AC/ heat.
The HAL private island was great and food was the same good quality as on the ship.We missed Grand Caymen due to the captain feeling it was to bad of weather,even thou five other cruise ship guests said ,it was no problem.We talked to Zaandam guests on the HAL island,the last port of call on the Western Caribbean trip.This was a big disappointment to us.
The Maasdam needs to be dry docked and upgraded and refurbished after eleven years now, of wonderful service.Untill that has been done I would never take this ship ,again.I hope other vessels in HALs fleet this old do not have similar problems.But we are not going to ride the older ships in any fleet,if dry dock refitting has not been done.The price is not worth the risk.HAL is a great vacation at a descent cost,but the older ships need work.We are planning to take the HAL Panama cruise this year.We prey the ship is better than the Maasdam experience,MAINTANENCE wise.Still on the whole we prefer HAL over Carnival on any ship.To many lower crust drinkers on the "FUN SHIPS",for our interests.If you are middle aged(48,me)or prefer the slower paced cruise ,you can not loose with HAL.If you prefer the party animal mind set ,difinately try Carnival or NCL,they cater to the youth crowd.
Have fun and keep sailing!
On day three we're headed back to the Florida Straits, having gone northeast from Fort Lauderdale to evade Hurricane Michelle. It's windy with swells to 18 feet. The ship is rocking. People are seasick. I feel fine, though, and that's the important thing.
The door to our veranda didn't quite close last night and our cabin sort of flooded. Who cares?
This is the first cruise for my wife and me. We are overwhelmed by how great it is.
The captain, known by the passengers as "the genius," came on the PA system a little while ago announcing his second change of plans. First we had intended to escape Hurrican Michelle by sailing in its intended path, to the Bahamas.
It didn't work. The hurricane caught up with us.
We reversed course for the straits of Florida, passing Fort Lauderdale last night. Now in sunny weather on day 3, we head for Cozumel, our original destination.
I had told my wife I thought we should head right INTO the hurricane as it crossed Cuba, since we would get past it fastest that way and would have clear sailing afterwards, on to Cozumel. Since Iknew George Clooney wasn't on the boat, I didn't have a chance of getting anyone to carry this plan to the captain.
So off we went to the Bahamas, and then back to Florida, with a fair number of passengers playing "Show me what you had for breakfast" on day two.
I should tell you my wife was one of those getting sick, and SHE said this was the best vacation she has ever had.
This is a great ship if you can have fun while you're throwing up.
Since leaving on Sunday: We've taken a nap every day. We've been working on making another baby. We've been eating. We've been drinking black russians on the verandah. I've been reading those little synopses of the Times every day. We've seen two movies on tv.
Our tablemates are more adventurous. They've told us about the shows and the casino and this and that.
This morning I woke up to the sound of someone banging his key on our door. That's about the only thing that gets me out of bed. It happens about five times a day. People are always coming over to fix this or announce that or whatever. I don't mind. I get some exercise, walking to the door, and after all, they're taking care of us. So there I am in my underwear (not a pretty sight), and in walks this waiter with breakfast.
He puts it on the verandah and leaves. I go out there and sit down and have coffee. My wife is sleeping.
The ship moves as if on one of those motorized walkways at the airport. The sea slips by. It is quiet except for the steady splash below. The sky is blue. There is a warm languorous breeze.
I sit there drinking coffee and don't know what to think. I have never been anywhere or seen anything like this. It is peaceful and beautiful.
In the early hours a burly man at the bow shouted "In the name of the Saints, man -- LAND!" We woke, rushed from our cabins sobbing, hugs all around.
It should have been like that. What a long ride to Cozumel.
I woke Wednesday morning and there it was. We were parked between two Carnival ships which looked whiter and bigger and more impressive than ours does. I wanted to start a shouting match across the pier, but I assume that is not done here.
You're not going to believe this, but it's true: It was raining. I mean, coming down. This stopped no one. We hit the dock like it was Ellis Island. Who cares. We're outta here. Let's go buy some blankets!
We did. My wife and I rode some horses led by a sweet 10 year old boy named Poncho. We rented a car and drove and drove. I wondered if the mosquitos have malaria. We walked on the earth and it was good.
Oh yes: The beach. Warm breeze. Skies cleared at last. The water came up to the beach, blue or azure or something.
We met and fell in love. That's it. You know. Just the sound of the ocean, the long view of the water, whitecaps laughing, and sun.
Those things envelope and protect you. It is effortless to stand. It is an invitation: give up the stress and anxiety; you don't need it here.
Back at the ship, trouble in paradise:
First, the captain informed us that the Grand Cayman Islands were, for practical purposes, washed away by Michelle. So we won't be stopping there, either.
That left Cozumel and Ocho Rios. That's it.
This did not sit well with a lot of people, who wanted some money back for the inconvenience.
We booked a cruise in November. That's hurricane season. I know it's at the end of the season.
But it's still hurricane season. It says so anywhere you look for that kind of information.
One way I know this is true is that our cruise was discounted. So we got a discount for taking the chance that we'd get screwed. Which we did.
You can't have it both ways, taking the discount and then shouting no fair when the event that inspired it occurs. That's unreasonable.
Also: I left out part of my Cozumel story. Because we rented a car, and because we were in a strange place, and because I was driving, we got completely lost and I never once asked for directions, because of course I don't need directions. I know where I'm going. Just give me a second. I'm sure about this. No wait. I think I recognize that thing over there...
We drove a lot.
We wound up in the nontourist section of the city. These consist of streets filled with water lined by shacks. There were some regular type homes, made of cement or whatever. But mostly they were that weird kind of corrugated metal on four sides with some kind of roof. Shacks.
We drove slowly through these streets because I didn't want to drive into a puddle that would turn out to be a six foot pothole. Some people rode by on bicycles. I remember one guy riding a bicycle with his girlfriend sitting on the bar, there. She wore a dress and simple beige pumps. I remember this because her dress and her shoes were clean and dry. I was surprised they could ride through all that water and he could keep her dry that way. It looked like they were riding to work.
A lot of people stood on corners, talking or smoking. Dogs wandered everywhere.
But what I wanted to tell you about is one girl. We drove past a shack on a corner. She was sitting on the ground in front of her house. She was, I guess, two years old. She wore a little dress. She had short black hair.
I have a little girl at home, seventeen months. So this girl caught my eye. And we looked at each other briefly as we drove by. I don't know if my wife saw her. But we stopped talking for a minute, and we never said anything about it.
I know we work hard. I work hard. I'll bet the other people here work hard. I think most people do. But there is not a passenger on this boat who is not simply lucky to be here.
We left last night. On to Ocho Rios. My wife's sleeping in. I have to play ping pong.
En route to Ocho Rios, we have a lull in the action. Let me bring you up to date on a few details I've overlooked, like our cabin, the passengers, the service, the entertainment and the food.
We booked the penthouse suite. Not that we could afford to do that, but we did.
So here's the deal. It's basically a hotel room type of suite with some exceptions: there are little halogen lights in the ceiling. There are dimmer switches everywhere. There is a foyer and a guest bathroom which I use while my wife hovers forever in the main bathroom.
There is a statue in the dining room of a young woman dressed in robes suggesting she's from ancient Greece or that she's just someone who enjoys wearing robes. I notice in passing that she has nicely shaped breasts. If you think that's an odd thing to notice, believe me: your husband notices that too.
There is a verandah which is great to have as you know.
The bathroom has a big tub with whirlpool jets that we have not yet used. Above the tub is a fresco of an angry looking man with a crab crawling up his face. I assume this is a Greek God of some kind because I understand that they got upset a lot. Maybe it's just the crab that's annoying him. Anyway, there's a faucet coming out of his mouth. That could be pissing him off too. Who knows.
Adjoining the bath are two sinks.
Adjoining the sinks is a hallway bordered by closets -- a walk-in closet. This is the one thing that, of all the things in the suite that I didn't think a person needs, I've really come to enjoy having. It's really nice to put all your clothes in a walk-in closet, and then to just walk in there and pick and choose what you want. I don't know if it's convenience or luxury or what. But I notice I like going into the walk-in closet to get some clothes.
There is a separate shower, and the shower has all these hidden jets that, with a twist of the knob, will shoot out a painful stream of water at your genitals. Maybe this a rich person thing, I don't know.
There is a separate bathroom in the main bathroom which houses the toilet, a sink, and what I think is a bidet. The bidet, of course, is designed to provide you with an unusually clean anus. And I think if you would like your anus to be sparkly clean, well damn it, I'm for that, too.
So that's the bath room. There's a dining room and a living room and a bed room, all nice.
The astonishing thing about this suite, though, is not the accoutrements. It's the service. Our steward, Yusnar, is the most endearing attentive person you could hope for on a cruise. On our first night my wife was cold. We added to our blanket two of those small "throw-blankets" from the living room.
We left those on the bed the next day and left our cabin. When we came back that night, the bed was made with two blankets, and the throw blankets were back in the living room. This week has been like that. He takes care of us.
The service on the ship has mirrored that kind of attention. Kind, thoughtful people work here.
We like them. Some of the people in the elevators seem to be in a bad mood. That puts me in a better mood because I'm shallow.
I do notice one thing I should have noticed sooner but which became apparent to me only on the first sunny day, two days ago as I walked by the pool where a lot of people sat sun bathing.
We are fat.
I don't exclude myself. I will put on swim shorts and go to the pool this afternoon and it is not going to be pretty. "Natural disaster" comes to mind. I just think that on a cruise it is our duty to get fat. And what we have here is a boatload of incredibly responsible people.
There were clues to our general condition. On the first day our captain said we should grab our life jackets for the drill but that if we didn't have them available, "don't worry about it."
It's good. I shovel it in.
We've seen some movies on tv. At our dinner table the other night we were talking about Castaway, with Tom Hanks and the volleyball. The question was, was the girl engaged to Tom Hanks when his plane went down right to give up on him so she could marry the other guy, thinking Tom Hanks was dead? Or should she have waited for him?
Lucy said she should have waited for him, but I said no, she was right to give up on him because women only have so long to make babies, so she had to make her move.
This did not go over well with Lucy. Apparently I wasn't supposed to say that.
The next night, kaboom: Lucy was said lawyers want to hurt people and doctors want to help people.
We're sitting with her boyfriend, who is a doctor. And I'm a doctor. But the truth is, I don't think much of doctors, in general. And I like lawyers, who are often funny and open minded.
Sometimes there's a moment in a conversation where you know you have two completely different choices. Make one choice and everything will be all right. Make the other, and look out.And you have to decide, then and there, which road you and your table will do down. As I considered this, I expected that my wife and I would be eating in our suite for the rest of the cruise. I thought that would be ok.
So we went at it: Lucy, her boyfriend and me, with Paul and Carla and my wife looking on -- I was so engaged in the battle that I couldn't look over at them to see what they were thinking.
It was fast and furious. And to make matters worse, I dropped a bomb.
I told them I thought Bill Clinton was a great president.
Oh no! Michelle was a soothing sauna next to this!
Through it all I told myself, keep it on the issues. Don't let it get personal. This was not easy. Lucy's boyfriend kept telling me how naive I am, and that when I'm older I'll understand things as he does. I'm FORTY TWO. How old do you have to get? In Mozart's day I'd have been dead for seven years by now.
I see Cuba passing by. An hour ago a lady in the Lido cafe said We should sink it. Because of Castro. Sink the island? I said. Well, she said.
It's Saturday. Last full day.
I'm ready to go. We need to start cleaning up after ourselves again.
But what a ride.
I told you the captain told us we had had to skip the Grand Caymans because we couldn't dock there. But in the Lido lounge we run into our dinner companions who say another ship docked in the Caymans yesterday. No problem at all! Only thing closed was the turtle farm! Everything else was ok! No! Yes!
I don't think there's a bunch of passengers our captain will be happier to see get off his boat. Everybody wants their port charges back, and why did he do the foxtrot around the hurricane and how come the toilet didn't flush and -- HE needs a cruise.
We get to Ocho Rios yesterday and dock three hours later than scheduled, and we'd have to leave at 4 p.m. that day, yesterday, to make it back to Fort Lauderdale tomorrow morning. Strong headwinds, or tailwinds. The guy CAN'T get a break!
The boat docks. From the verandah I watch everyone get off. My wife is sleeping. (We sleep a lot.) I see this tour director type of girl on the dock holding a bunch of tickets. Suddenly half the tickets blow into the bay. We watch them flutter into the water and sink. The tour girl turns to the other tour girl and says, I want to go home.
I finish my coffee and wash up and go down to the dock. It's 1:30 pm.
I walk through Ocho Rios. A billion signs and shops and cars and people selling everything. Trinkets hash girls insurance drinks trinkets bags food hash jewelry bags food hair products cab rides tours hey look over here...
What a headache.
I get to a neighborhood, meet Sonia and David, pay them for a walking tour and we walk and talk. The neighborhood looks like what you think it looks like.
David, 35, wears a rastafarian hat. Sonia, missing her front left upper incisor, takes care of babies -- child care -- nearby. I ask David, why aren't you working now? He has a gauze dressing on his forehead where he banged his head diving for something. So he can't dive for now. So how do you live now? He gives tours.
I learn about three numbers:10 -- number of US dollars you earn working one day in the pineapple factory. 15 -- percentage of high school graduates who can get a job with a living wage. 40 -- the age of David's father when he died of heart disease.
I meet Sonia's child care kids, 8 or 9 little girls. They're washing clothes in a basin with a scrub board. One of them draws a picture of the sun with a smiley face for my daughter. I tell her what a beautiful picture that is; she smiles.
A guy comes over and we shake hands. He asks for money for food. He has tar on his hands. He fixes roofs. I give him five dollars.
He says, "All one colour, man." We say goodbye, I thank Sonia and David and go back to the ship. A friend of Sonia's walks with me, asks for money for food, I say no, she walks away..............
Back on the ship, more trouble in paradise.
At dinner Lucy's boyfriend interrupts her to say something. I don't remember what he said. Lucy turns around to him, and says, "Do you mind?" Very slowly. Looking him right in the eye.
He is stunned and embarrassed, doesn't say a word. Lucy turns slowly back around to me. We continue talking and as we do, I realize this will be our last dinner together. If this is the cost of talking with these people, I'd rather eat with my wife who's good company by herself.
The night after Ocho Rios we saw this movie in the movie theater so we could have some popcorn.
The movie, Green Fingers. was about this guy who goes to prison after killing his brother when he finds his brother in bed with his beloved. The guy feels terrible about this, but that's the way it goes.
He becomes an amazing gardener. On a work release program years later he and his fellow inmates begin a garden in this woman's home where he meets Primrose, the lovely daughter of Miss Wodehouse, a lunatic wealthy woman who loves flowers above all else.
Released from prison, he falls in love with Primrose and becomes their gardener.
Back at the prison, the inmates have entered into a contest at Buckingham Palace for best garden. But without whatshisname, they have no chance! So he commits a petty theft so he can go back to prison to lead their gardening effort!
He leaves Primrose a note before he commits the crime. The note says, Hey, sorry, but I'm a gardener.
Then we went to the Rembrandt Lounge to watch a car crash in the form of a song and dance revue. I made it through four songs, and then they wanted the audience to join in, singing Wasting Away Again in Margaritaville, and I told my wife, I'm outta here, and we went to the Lido Lounge for food, because it had been THREE HOURS since we'd eaten, and then we rolled ourselves down the stairs, had a black russian and went to bed.
Our cruise is almost over. I have two reactions:
Cruising is a lovely experience: a stunning vacation imbued with leisure and tasteful luxury (except for the floor shows).
I'm glad we did it and hope to do it again.
My second reaction emanates from the disturbing clash presented by wealth and poverty placed next to each other.
What I thought about Ocho Rios was: these people have nothing to lose, and that is dangerous for us.
As a practical matter, in terms of protecting my family, I wonder about the wisdom of ignoring the disparity between my life and the lives of the people I met this week. I think ignoring this disparity, or rationalizing it by saying it is inevitable or it is their fault or we should just sink Cuba or whatever, may be a dumb move for our country.
Also, I have been thinking about a line from the Bible that I read 20 years ago, which astonished me then. I should tell you I am not a religious person, although I was raised Catholic. For instance, I don't believe in God. And if I did believe in God, I think the church would go to hell for the way it treats gays.
When I finally read the Bible, in college, it was only because I thought it might be a good book which as you know better than I do it was.
Anyway, in one part of the new testament, Christ says with brutal logic: Where your wealth is, there will your heart be also.
As we approach Fort Lauderdale on this lovely ship, carrying with me a little girl's drawing of the sun, having made a glancing acquaintance with the circumstances of her life, I wonder what I should invest in, next time around.
What We Liked About the Cruise:
Plenty of room to roam without shipboard congestion
Friendly, interactive staff
Ship was easy to board and exit
Nice movie-theater with free popcorn
Plenty of deck chairs and tables
Food and beverages available all afternoon
Afternoon tea with appropriate snacks and music
Afternoon coffee/tea bar with cappuccino, snacks, and other options
Easy to understand overhead announcement sound system
Very nice captain's reception
Knowledgeable, affable, personable cruise director
Fast, readily available elevators
Good on-board direction-markers
Orderly, thoughtfully planned, embark and disembark procedures
Negatives about the Maasdam that are worth noting:
We'd read about the stench that greets newcomers when first traversing the hallways. You eventually get used to the septic system-like odor, but it does get things underway on a negative track. There should be some way of deodorizing these areas.
Food is served in a very attractive, upscale setting. We were warned that Maasdam food is heavily salted, and it was just that. Despite our requesting unsalted, non-spiced food, certain dishes were still very spicy and salty. After sending back several entrees, we settled for plain vegetables accompanied by a baked potato.
We felt that we were being pushed or rushed through our evening meal. Staffersappeared to be eager to get us served and get us out of the dining room. Succeeding courses were served in a rapid, staccato-like manner. Rather than being able to enjoy a leisurely dinner, we felt that the service was more like that of a fast-food eatery.
Table service during breakfast and lunch was varied and unpredictable. Some guests didn't get their eggs without seeking out a server and inquiring about their order. Dishes were served that weren't as ordered, or they were really intended for someone else. Pastries and rolls are baked on board and are very good. Bagels were served slightly charred, more often than not.
Maasdam's servers (other than for the baked Alaska) didn't do the typical entertainment antics that we'd come to expect on other ships. They serve up the food and smile a lot, but that's about it. Alex, our dining room steward was concerned, accommodating and eager to right the wrongs of the kitchen staff. He was fighting a losing battle. To be totally fair, several tablemates praised the taste and appearance of some items that were served. Our evaluation of the dining department is that it did not measure up to that which we'd experienced on other cruise lines. Even the veggie burgers were highly seasoned and salty.
Some other comments as respects our adventures in the dining room: We found it quite incredible that guests who preferred soft drinks to tea or coffee had to pay about $1.75 for the privilege of drinking Coke at the dining room table. It is possible to purchase a one-week soft drink ticket, but alternate, non-alcoholic beverages at the dinner table would appear to be a part of the meal and should be complimentary. This is something we'd never experienced on other cruise lines. Then too, if someone at our table were celebrating a birthday or anniversary, the staff would serve the cake as dessert, not asking guests if they'd also like to order from the dessert menu. The flyer that is handed out for the kitchen tour is riddled with spelling, punctuation and grammatical errors. For a ship that aims for perfection, this is not really acceptable.
The Maasdam's movie theater is easily accessed in the atrium area. The seats were typical theater style, though somewhat on the hard side. The selection of films was excellent but guests complained that the sound track was often too soft and unintelligible. We expressed our complaint to the front desk and the next film we viewed was definitely louder. However, when we returned to watch a movie the next day, the sound track had defaulted to its lower-volume status. Trudy went to the front desk and requested that they contact the projection booth and ask the operator to turn up the volume once again. Several minutes later the volume was turned up and we were able to enjoy the movie. Unless the default is changed, or projectionists are told to crank up the gain control, this would appear to be an ongoing problem. The theater seemed to be liberally sprinkled with speaker systems, but the sound quality did not measure up to the equipment that was in the room.
Our cabin had a large view window, ample storage space, a bathtub-equipped bathroom, limited TV selections, remote control, and a very ingenious switching system that enabled us to control almost all the room's lights from our bed, fresh fruit and ice were supplied by the room attendant. Classical music could be turned on by a control built into the bed's headboard. We were advised to bring a clock-radio, but there wasn't an outlet at bedside to plug it in. There isn't an electric-shaver outlet in the bathroom.
There were numerous complaints about the ship's air-conditioning system. Several guests complained to us that their rooms were uncomfortably warm, and nothing was done to resolve the problem. On Sunday morning, we observed several floor fans being taken out of cabins that were down the hall from us. Their usage confirms that these rooms were indeed uncomfortable and not adequately air-conditioned. Since the ship was filled to capacity, room changes were not an option. Various public areas seemed to be uncomfortably warm too. The ship was immediately going out on a Western Caribbean cruise, so it's doubtful that the apparent shortcomings in the air-conditioning system were resolved prior to embarkation. Indications were that this was an ongoing, unresolved problem.
Then there was the "toilet problem." Towards the mid-point of the cruise we noticed that our toilet wasn't flushing on command. If we waited a while-sometimes quite a while-the toilet would ultimately flush. But on the final morning of the cruise it refused to flush at all. Trudy reported the problem to our cabin steward while I sought out public restroom facilities. Then, quite suddenly, without human intervention, the toilet started flushing on its own. I'm glad I wasn't sitting on it when it decided to do the self-flushing routine! Our cabin steward advised that a group of toilets in this area of the ship were having similar problems. As was the case with the air-conditioning, we doubt that repairs were made to assure that ensuing guests wouldn't have to endure this inconvenience.
Finally, there were wide cracks in our bathroom sink. This, by itself, is not a big deal. However, guests could interpret it as a sign that maintenance crews are either unable or unwilling to make needed cabin repairs.
The Maasdam's activities and entertainment menu was not up to the level of professionalism and intensity that we'd experienced on other ships. Vegas-style reviews were not in evidence, although a small dance group did an excellent job on the few occasions that they performed for us. The handbill that provides biographical sketches of cast members is in dire need of a healthy re-write. The ship's evening entertainment was anchored by a comedian and a ventriloquist---fine performers but hardly a match for the extravaganzas we'd enjoyed on previous cruises. The Maasdam's house band was slick and professional, but some of the other musicians aboard the ship lacked similar skills. The poolside steel drum band was on the loud side, making conversation in the area almost impossible.
The Maasdam is a gorgeous ship, but obviously in need of a routine overhaul. Friendly, courteous staffers from Indonesia and the Philippines applied their skills to help make our excursion pleasant and memorable. There was much to commend, but based on our observations and the experiences of other passengers, there is much that can be improved. We would've preferred to have softer, more-comfortable seats in the public areas too.
Would we return for an encore? Possibly. But we'd check things out much more thoroughly before embarking on another Holland America Line cruise.
We are both over 60 and went on first cruise several weeks ago. We chose HAL because it was said to have a more sedate crowd with few children. Embarkation was done well (we arrived early). It turned out that this cruise of 1200 passengers had 500 children. Although they were well-behaved, that is too many for us.
We had asked for a table for 6 or 8, and the first night when the Maitre-D' saw us sitting by ourselves at a table set for 6, he asked if we wanted a table for 2. Fine, except we did not talk to anyone on the ship all week. Any older people were with their families and ate in large groups or casually in the Lido restaurant. In fact, casual was the name of the game: it seems the current young adults do not dress up or teach their kids to, either. I enjoy that aspect of cruising-the dressing for dinner, but each night I felt overdressed. Even if they did wear nicer clothes for dinner, they changed immediately afterward, instead of keeping with the ambience of the evening. Actually, therewas a middle-aged man who wore a t-shirt and an open sport shirt over it on both formal nights.
The pools were filled with kids the entire day, and at night there was LOUD music and dancing contests at the main pool. This older person found it difficult to sit quietly at the pool and read, so I had to go elsewhere. All the activities and music were geared to this group of young adults and their children.
Is this atypical for HAL ??? Is it because it was summer ??? If this is HAL, I hate to think what we would find on Disney or Carnival !!!!!!!!!!
All-in-all, the cruise was very nice: I found the food preparation and taste to be excellent. So was the service.
This is a combined review for three cruises:
HAL's, Maasdam (3/25/01, 7 days, K579, Western Caribbean); stats are 1993, 55,000 tons, 1266 capacity, 600 crew
Celebrity's Millennium (4/21/02, 8 days, Penthouse 6018, Eastern Caribbean); stats are 2000, 91,000 tons, 1950 capacity, 999 crew
RCCL's Radiance of the Seas (5/24/02, 3 days, 8602, Pacific Northwest); stats are 2001, 88,000 tons, 2100 capacity,
Where possible, I will try to provide facts for all three ships. We are big band, ballroom dancers; thus, our cruising experiences are geared toward dancing. Port information is not provided in this review. We cruise to dance; and sometimes will even overlook eating to enjoy good dancing. We bypass the port activities in order to rest up for the evening's activities and other onboard events.
Topic Headings are as follows:
Who We Are; Prior Cruises; Future Cruises; Travel Agent; PreCruise Activities; Embarkation; Ship's Captains; Cruise Directors; Cabins; Room Service; Mini-Bar; Luggage Storage; Room Safes; Bathrooms; Ship's Newsletters; Noise On The Ships; Service, Cleanliness, Etc.; Breakfast; Lunch; Dinner; Desserts; Specialty Restaurants; Ice Cream; Theater; Dancing; Pools & Whirlpools; Photography & Videos; Fire Drills; Medical Facility; Non Sea Days; Sea Days; Ports; People We Met; Sun, Rain,Wind; Improvements That Could Be Made; and Disembarkation
Who We Are: I am a woman over 60, semi retired, and my traveling partner, life-companion, is a "few years older." We both lost spouses, mine to emphysema (smokers out there should try to quit smoking) and his to cancer. We both met during senior dance activities and feel that God brought us together. We are enjoying a tremendously happy life filled with love for each other, dancing and traveling together. He has been dancing since he was 16 in high school and throughout his life. I, too, loved dancing in high school, but stopped after marriage. Why do we cruise to dance when we can dance at home (approximately five times a week)? Well, at home you do have to pay fees, travel to and from the location and find a parking place, etc. And, if you have a drink or two, you need to worry about driving home. Not so on a ship with dance activities; just a few steps here and a few steps there. And the ambiance of dancing on a beautiful ship with dinner included and wine, if desired, is a great deciding factor.
Prior Cruises: He, a former major in the US Army, was stationed in China for two years and has traveled the world, first cruising on the Mariposa (actually a pleasure cruise ship taken over by the Merchant Marines), and then traveling throughout Northern Burma, India and South China. Since then he has been on eight cruises and introduced me to cruising last year. The Radiance was my third cruise; I just love this way of life.
Future Cruises: We currently have booked a 10-day cruise to the Southern Caribbean on HAL's Amsterdam, set to sail November 11, 2002. And the big band Tommy Dorsey Orchestra is scheduled for this cruise. Also, we are planning a trip to China next year, most likely by air and land travel because we cannot find a cruise just in the areas in which we wish to travel.
Travel Agent: We have been using AAA in Bellevue for the last couple of years and have been very satisfied with their service. We also take advantage of the maps and tour books for the various trips, both cruises and other air/land trips, that we have taken over the years. We usually do the research first on the Internet, and find fares, etc. And our agent adds in the AAA rate and the senior rate, etc. and ends up getting us the best fares. So, we are pleased. She is such a sweet person and has provided us with a welcoming bottle of champagne in our stateroom on each of our Caribbean cruises.
PreCruise Activities: We usually elect to stay overnight in Fort Lauderdale. Last year, it was the Hilton and this year we stayed at the Best Western Inn, 1221 State Road 84. Both rooms were OK and served its purpose. Last year we had a late dinner at the Hilton. Since we arrived earlier this year and since the Best Western had no place to eat (they have continental breakfast), we went across the State Road 84 to a German restaurant. It was an excellent place to eat, drink wine and dance. Yes, they had dancing and we took advantage of it. We just wished that they stayed open later. They closed at 11:00 p.m. (Saturday night). Both places have vans to take you to the ships at Port Everglades.
Embarkation: Last year, getting on the Maasdam took a little longer. It may be better now. This year, while at the Best Western we discovered that I forgot to pack my beloved's medication. Thus, we were frantically calling the Millennium at midnight. We had a ship to shore call which cost us $95. But we were very much relieved when the ship's nurse was reached and informed us that they had the medications on board and would be able to assist us. We were told to arrive at 10:30 am the following morning and let them know that we had an appointment with the ship's doctor. Once on board, we saw the doctor and got prescriptions for the medications, which the ship filled for us. Everyone was very nice to us and thus our embarkation process on the Millennium was very good. Later that day, we joined the Captain's Club to gain the special departure privileges.
On the Radiance, since we live in the Bellevue area, we drove our car to Seattle's Pier 66 and entered the parking garage for the Bell Street Pier. Once inside, they took our luggage and told us where to park. We parked on the 4th floor level where the sky bridge is and walked across the sky bridge. We headed up the escalator to where check in is. There was a large line, but for some reason, someone stopped us and said "This is your lucky day" and she escorted us to the check in counter. The check-in process had not started yet and everyone was getting their computer to log on to the company's network. They had difficulty and we waited in front of the counter for about ten minutes before the lady got logged on. Then it was a short ten-minute wait to go up the "gangway" and take a picture and then board the ship.
Ship Captains: All three ships' captains were very nice, congenial hosts who genuinely seemed pleased that we were aboard. All three ships had no vacancies.
Captain Peter Jan van Maurik, HAL's Maasdam; attended the Champagne Welcome Party and a Mariner's Reception.
Captain Antonio Manaras, Celebrity's Millennium; met him at the Captain's Welcome Aboard Cocktail Party and at the Captain's Club Receptions.
Captain Kent Ringborn, RCCI's Radiance of the Seas, has a great singing voice; he sang during the Captain's Welcome Aboard Reception, greeted everyone personally and also took pictures with all guests who requested it. I have a very nice picture of the three of us.
Cruise Directors: We believe the best cruise director on all three ships is a toss up between Susan Wood on the Maasdam and Jim Cannon on the Millennium. These two were the most enthusiastic persons on their respective ships, always greeting us with a smile and talking to us and conducting classes we took part in. The Radiance's Ken Rush, although he too was a nice personable friendly person, did not provide the dance entertainment that the other two did.
Cabins: The cabins on all three ships were approximately the same size: 179 square feet on the Radiance, 170 square feet on the Millennium and 182 square feet on the Maasdam. General layout of the rooms and storage space were all excellent. One nice touch on the Radiance was a drape room divider between the bed and the sitting area. All you needed to do was unhook the clasp and pull the drape across the upper rod. This was very much appreciated when one wanted to nap and the other did not, etc. And if one had difficulty sleeping, then one could read without disturbing the other. Another feature of the Radiance was that each of the bed lamps had two switches, one to control the lamp and the other to control a night light built into the lamp, which could be directed in various directions. The sofa on the Maasdam was larger than the ones on the other two ships. And the storage space was larger for the vanity/desk area. The hangers on the Radiance, however, were better than the other two. The Millennium closet and storage was the largest. A fruit basket was provided daily on the Maasdam. Ice bucket and water were provided on all three ships, although the Millennium was the nicest arrangement.
One thing that bugged me was to have the bedspread on the bed with the top folded enveloping our pillows. This way of bed making is also done in some hotels. This, to me, is not the proper way to make the bed. One should pull the top sheet over the pillows to keep the pillows clean and then put the bedspread on the bed. Everyone knows that the bedspread is not washed daily or even weekly. Who knows how often the bedspread is washed and where it has been lying around or what has happened to it? When we travel, we always request that the bed spread be kept folded up in a drawer somewhere. One usually cannot sleep with it on the bed; it is too heavy.
Room Service: We did not order room service on any of the ships; thus we have nothing to report on this.
Mini-Bar: There was no mini-bar on the Maasdam, nor the Radiance, although the Radiance had a refrigerator, which may have been useful on a longer trip. The Millennium had a mini-bar and we requested that everything be removed and thereafter we used it for our own use.
Luggage Storage: The suitcases can fit under the beds of all three ships. If you have one that is too large, then leave it open and slide it under. The best thing to do is to unpack everything and then store your suitcases below the beds.
Room Safes: The Radiance and the Millennium had room safes that use a number code, four digits on the Radiance and six on the Millennium. These are easy to use and easy to check to see if the safe is locked shut. The Maasdam did not have a room safe. However, each of the bedside tables had a locking top drawer with key.
While on the Radiance, our room safe at one time would not open. We discovered that perhaps when pressing the digit it did not register. Anyway, a call to our Cabin attendant, Fannie, quickly brought a young man from maintenance. It only took him a minute to make some kind of adjustment and we then could access our safe. What a relief!
Bathrooms: We had showers in all three bath areas. The nicest bath area was on the Millennium. The Radiance had a built in cabinet with mirror. We thought that if they had installed it the reverse, then one would be able to see the back of one's hair in the mirror. But, they did not have this foresight. There was probably no woman involved in the planning. The Millennium has a nice area with curved horizontal bars on a three level shelf area to hold toiletries, etc. What we did was bring a sock holder, not a shoe holder, but a 12 pair plastic see-through sock holder with a hanger and hung it on the bathroom door. This made it very convenient to see everything and have it all in one handy place.
Ship's Newsletters: All ships have a daily newsletter. However, the Radiance of the Seas has the most attractive (yellow, blue, ivory and shading throughout). The Compass provides a very nice newsletter headlined with Day One, Day Two, etc., which lists all the daily activities and other events in topic paragraphs. Accompanying the newsletter is a down sized 4.25" x 11" 4 page Compass Planner. This single letter-size page, which has been folded in half, mirrors to a smaller degree the larger sized Compass newsletter. The Planner lists everything in chronological order and is just the right size to fit in a man's shirt pocket or woman's purse. We packed a yellow highlighter to highlight the activities of interest to us.
A disappointment was that the Millennium Daily was never delivered prior to 11 or 12 p.m. every evening. A complaint to the front desk indicated that they were having difficulty with the printer. However, it was every night, except perhaps once or twice that no delivery was made and we had to retrieve it from outside the door every morning. The Daily did have a single page pull out listing all the daily activities.
The Maasdam's Newsletter provides a perforated section that you can tear out and fold up listing all the daily activities, along with service hours, dining hours and bar and lounge hours. And this section can then be folded and carried in your shirt pocket or purse.
All ships printed other newsletters, in different languages, depicting what was happening in other cities and countries around the world. You can usually obtain these from the reception desk area.
Noise On The Ships: All three ships were quiet and restful. We only recall one event that drove us crazy. One evening while on the Millennium, when we were trying to get to sleep, we could hear a cracking or noise that seemed like it was coming from the movement of the ship. We discovered, however, and much to our delight, that it was the sliding door to the balcony. We opened and closed it again and the noise disappeared.
Service, Cleanliness, Etc.: We just heard that the Maasdam received a 98 inspection score from the Coast Guard. If you will notice the stats above, the Maasdam has 600 crew members to a capacity passenger number of 1266. She almost has a 2 to 1 ratio of passengers to crew members. Thus, this will indicate why we feel that the best service is on HAL's Maasdam. Yes, the service was the best. Why is that? Well, we believe that the crew tries harder; they know that tips are not automatic and that if they want any, they will have to earn them. Holland America advocates that tips are not mandatory, while the Millennium and the Radiance provide you with envelopes and guidelines on what to tip and who to tip. And they expect you to follow the guidelines. They also attach an automatic 15% tip to all bar bills. There is something to be said about feeling good and being able to add a tip to a bar bill depending on whether or not you received good service. And to provide all other persons with a tip at the end of a cruise, also depending on whether you received the expected service, is HAL's way.
Breakfast: We enjoyed breakfast at the "buffets". Actually the Lido (Maasdam) and the Ocean Cafe (Millennium) are really cafeteria style. What was nice on both ships is that there is someone to help you with your tray or assist in finding you a table and bring you coffee, tea, etc. On the Radiance, it was truly a buffet. You could help yourself to whatever you wanted. However, finding a place to sit was difficult and most of the time we found ourselves outside. One did not have a tray to use, but a big huge plastic platter. So, you filled up your platter, found a seat and then got your drinks, etc. We saw no grapefruit or oatmeal on the Radiance. We enjoyed both of these items on the Maasdam and the Millennium. We tried breakfast in the Maasdam's Rotterdam Dining Room on two mornings and enjoyed this too. Each time we got a table for two. One morning we opted for this on the Millennium, but did not like it as well because they seated us with several persons at a large table who were already in different phases of eating. And they only had half the dining room or a small section open. We went to the omelet bar on the Maasdam and had a very nice omelet. On the Millennium, we had an omelet, but could not eat it because the inside was not cooked. We noticed, however, that later on they had someone else making them and he was making sure that they were cooked. One other time we ordered eggs over easy and they were good. You can also get toast or toasted bagels on the Maasdam and the Millennium, but not the Radiance.
Lunch: All three ships had great lunch selections, although we would rate the Radiance last. They had less selections. One good item I had, however, was a tuna salad sandwich on a bun on the Radiance. They had tuna wraps and I provided a bun to the server and asked him to make me a tuna sandwich. And it was delicious, so much so, that I went back and got another.
Dinner: We had early seating on the Maasdam and the Millennium and we opted for late seating on the Radiance. After having done it either way, we believe the early seating is better, especially if you do not spend a long day in port. We thought we would try the late seating so as to accommodate an afternoon tea or late night buffet. However, none was to be had on the Radiance. Both the Maasdam and the Millennium had high teas in the afternoon, and late night buffets but we did not try them. We did view some of them, however, and thought they were very elegant and spectacular. Why did we not try them? The 4 p.m. high tea time was just too close to a 6 p.m. dinner time and the late night buffets were just too much - after eating three meals already in a day of anything and everything that we wanted or craved. We had to draw the line somewhere.
Oh yes, we did purchase a Royal Cocktails card on the Radiance of the Seas; cost is $39 + 15% gratuity for 12 drinks of choice, most house brands. And, we used it up. I am unaware if the Maasdam or the Millennium had such a program.
Desserts: Desserts on both the Maasdam and the Millennium were outstanding, both in the Lido Buffet (Maasdam) and the Ocean Cafe (Millennium). And the dining room desserts were top notch. Not so with the Radiance. The Windjammer selections were OK, but not many to choose from. The desserts in the dining room were only rated OK by us, not outstanding or excellent at all. There was one angel food cake dessert with strawberries served one evening. You can get better angel food cake at the supermarket.
Bread pudding on HAL and Baked Alaska, Cherries Jubilee, Chocolate Souffle, Crème Brulee on both HAL and Millennium are desserts that you should not miss.
Specialty Restaurants: We did not try any of the specialty restaurants on any of the ships. In actuality, the cost or fee imposed is not limited to the set service fee, but it also includes the amount of money already spent for the dinner that you will be missing in the dining room or in the buffet if you choose to eat there instead. Also, the specialty restaurants take a longer time to eat; and this would take time away from our dancing.
On the Radiance is a little known restaurant called the Seaside Cafe. Although this restaurant caters to the younger crowd, we enjoyed a hot dog and strawberry milkshake one evening. It was the last night of our cruise, after we were all packed, that we decided to go up to Deck 12 and find the place. We had some feedback on it through the Cruise Critic Boards. Up we went and ordered two hot dogs, one for each of us and a strawberry milkshake to be split between the two of us.. Our order came with the grilled hot dog in a toasted bun, smothered with onions, and with French fries, too. It was delicious. The milkshake was the only item we had to pay for. It was $3.25 and we had to get it from the bar area.
The hamburgers and hotdogs on the Millennium and the Maasdam were also great. The hot dogs on all these ships are much better than the ones that you get at a sports game or even at Costco. Costco used to toast their buns - some years ago, but no more.
Ice Cream: All three ships served ice cream. The best, however, was on the Maasdam. There was a soft serve selection, plus sorbets and other items that you could request of the server. Then you could help yourself to various toppings, including fresh strawberries and whipped cream. The Millennium had a similar setup, but with only a few toppings and the server added those items as requested. We had vanilla ice cream with toasted coconut and milk chocolate sauce. Very good. And the Radiance had soft serve machines that you could fill chocolate or vanilla ice cream cones or bowls with. But, they only had a bowl of chocolate syrup available. However, you could get whip cream from a huge bowl on the dessert table. The Radiance had very good cookies. We had an oatmeal raisin cookie and we dipped it in whip cream prior to every bite. It was delicious. Another item I enjoyed was the 2 x 3 inch apple rolled tart. These were available daily on the Radiance near the sweet rolls in the Windjammer Cafe.
On the other side of the Millennium's ice cream section, was a similar section, serving non sugar selections.
Theater: The Maasdam had the best on stage performances. The production numbers were outstanding. Next was the Millennium and then the Radiance. We made the decision not to see the last day's show on the Radiance because we did not think that the other two days were that good. The Millennium had the best theater, with wonderful plush seating with little tables for cocktails. The Maasdam was next with similar seating and then the Radiance was last. The Radiance has cup or glass holders to hold your drinks on the right arm of each seat. Sightlines on all three ships were good. We never had a bad seat watching any of the shows.
The Maasdam was also the only ship that provided an artistic covered program for each of their production numbers. It was nice to follow along and know what was going to be next, etc., and also have the names of the people performing.
Dancing: First, let me say that you cannot dance on a ship's deck, at least not ballroom dancing. Our style of dance requires a nice dance floor, and one needs to wear a shoe that will slide. Sport shoes, running shoes and tennis shoes, etc. cannot be worn for this type of dancing. Thus, any kind of shoe with a smooth bottom, usually a leather soled shoe is the best kind outside of a shoe made specifically for dancing.
The best dance floor on all three ships was at the Colony Club on the Radiance of the Seas. It has a nice large, rectangular shaped, smooth wood floor. However, we only got to dance on the floor during the Captain's Reception. We were the first to take the step and get out on the dance floor even though the band had been playing for at least 10 minutes. On Day One, they scheduled a Quest activity. And the late night 11:00 to 12:30 am Rock n' Roll party was devoted to twist. Nothing was scheduled on Day Two other than the Captain's Reception from 7:30 to 8:30 p.m. And on Day Three, they scheduled Karaoke in the Colony Club.
We would have loved a variety of music, i.e., music for the Rhumba, Cha Cha, Tango, Salsa, Swing, Jive, Hustle, Fox Trot, Waltz, California Polka, etc.
The second best dance floor is in the Ocean's Bar on HAL's Maasdam. We enjoyed dancing every evening both before dinner and after (prior to going to the evening show) and then again after the show. The Nevada Quartet were a great group and played requests, such as New York, New York and Pretty Woman. Such requests were made of the Radiance group and were turned down with them saying that they did not know the songs. We got the whole spectrum of the dances we liked with the Nevada Quartet.
And next is the the Rendevous Lounge on the Millennium. We enjoyed dancing to Howard & Rose's music. However, we felt sorry for them after awhile because they lost power to their instruments several times during the evening and on several evenings.
The Millennium's Cosmos Nightclub, Deck 11, has a beautiful dance floor, but it is not conducive to ball room dancing as one's shoe can get hung up on the ridges throughout the floor. However, we did enjoy dancing and partaking of the lessons provided by the staff. The Cruise Director, Jim Cannon, scheduled dancing one evening there with the Celebrity Orchestra and this was great. They took requests and did a good job. There should have been more activities with the Orchestra.
Oh yes, I should mention the Vibz group on the Millie that usually played on the deck by the pool. They were there during the sail aways, Tex Mex Night (line dancing) and another swing night. One night they were in the Cosmos Lounge and they were very good. And they took requests and played Pretty Woman several times during the cruise.
Cruise directors need to realize that many persons who do not dance enjoy drinking, big band music and watching those who do dance. Therefore, they not only need a big dance floor, but a large lounge or area for those who prefer to drink and watch. And those who dance also drink too. So, they are not losing the audience nor the big bucks spent on drinks when they provide dance activities.
Pools & Whirlpools: The best ship was HAL's Maasdam. The hot tubs were hot. I did not like the T pool on the Millennium. There was no place to sit. One had to slide one's body over the metal railings and lie on them. And they were always sticky, probably from everyone's sun tan lotion. The hot tubs on the Millie were OK; however, they were not hot. The temperature was pretty mild. We enjoyed getting the kinks out in the hot tub on the Maasdam. The hot temperature really did make our bodies feel better. In all fairness, we did not try the Radiance pools. We did not have good weather on our three-day trip and thus did not feel like taking a dip.
Photography & Videos: The best photography department and photographers were on the Radiance. Each one of the pictures was very good and we ended up purchasing all of the photos. We only got one on the Millennium because we did not like the others. On the Maasdam, these too, were very good and we ended buying all of them.
A cruise lasting at least seven days will usually create a video of the trip at a cost of approximately $20.
Fire Drills: All three ships conducted the mandatory fire drill. The Maasdam and the Millennium passed with flying colors, getting everyone to their muster stations, which were located on deck where they would be boarding the lifeboats. The Radiance, in my opinion, did not pass the test because all they did was get everyone to the muster station. We did not go outside to the deck, but simply stayed in the lounge area that was assigned to us. They did, however, call on the loudspeaker, all the persons who were missing. It is very important that you take part in the fire drills and not be the one to keep everyone waiting. On one ship, people were standing in the hot sun and they had to wait for others to arrive. And everyone should know that they should not be carrying anything with them for the fire drill. In the case of a real fire drill, you would not bring anything with you. Anything other than your body and life vest would take up more room and make the life boat weigh more. Thus, what you need to do, is pack your ID, Ship's Card and money, in a small wallet that will fit in your pocket.
Medical Facility: The Millennium had the best medical facility (see embarkation above), but of course, we did not have to use the ones on the other two ships, so we really have no comment on them.
We did, however, see three or four children during our cruises who were injured in some way, usually from having a door slammed on a hand. We felt sorry for these children as they had to spend the rest of the cruise with some degree of pain. If anyone needs to see the doctor, they should call first and make an appointment as the doctor will not see any one without an appointment. Of course, if it is an emergency, go directly to the facility and have someone else call and say that you are on your way. Do not sit and wait outside a closed door. Phone the number on the door as they keep the door locked and they do not know that you are waiting outside.
Non Sea Days: As mentioned above, we are not enthusiastic about non sea days or visiting the ports. There seems to be a lockdown on non sea days. Everything was closed. We wanted to use the golfing features of the Millennium, but could never find anyone there. And messages left with the pro were always returned, but we could never connect to make an appointment or just to take advantage of what they had to offer. And, of course, you cannot shop on the ships while the ships are in port. So, when can one shop? They seem to be open only from 6 to midnight. And one cannot go at 6 because of dinner. And the show follows dinner and then thereafter, if one wants to go dancing, there is no time to shop. They should have the shops open all night.
Sea Days: We love sea days because you can go out on your balcony and lounge around while the ship is moving. We had a very nice balcony on the Millennium with two lounge chairs.
Ports: We did get off the ship in St. Thomas. It was only on the island that we found out that there was a holiday that weekend and that certain streets were closed. We took a van (carries 12) into town. The driver could not get close enough due to traffic jams, so we all got out and walked about 6 blocks. We looked around a bit and then decided to return to the ship. We should have started walking right where we were. But instead we hailed another van (almost full) and he tried to get down to the water area and make a left turn back to the ships, but was turned around by traffic personnel. He then thought he would try to outsmart everyone and went in a round about way to get back down and ended up in a huge traffic jam, so huge, that he requested everyone to get out and walk back to the ship. We ended up walking 3.5 miles that day. We suggest that you take an umbrella with you. Try to find one with a fringe or ruffle, more like a parasol. I had one and was very glad that I did.
On the way back, we discovered that there were three cruise ships in port. And, of course, this added to the cause of the traffic jams throughout the city.
When we visited St. Maarten, the Adventure of the Seas was docked along side the Celebrity's Millennium. The Millie really looked small next to the AOS.
In St. Maarten, there is a water boat that takes you over to the shopping area. They wanted us to get off at the first stop and walk over to the other shopping area. That way, we would visit some of the shops along the way. However, after walking 3.5 miles the previous day, we were in no mood to do a lot of walking again. So, we insisted that we wanted to go over directly and they took us there.
It was Sunday when we visited Nassau; thus, we did nothing much but had a milkshake at the Haagen Dazs and perused a few shops that were open.
All ships provided shopping and port information, including maps and coupons.
People We Met: One of the fun reasons for cruising is meeting all the wonderful people. We had Table 503 on the Millennium, very nice table for 8, at the back of the ship on Deck 5. We enjoyed meeting and talking with you Bob, Joyce, Frank, Adele, Peter, etc. On the Radiance, we had table 418, again a very nice table, for 10 this time and it was not filled. We enjoyed talking with Arnelle, Susan, David, Shirley, Charmaine, Beth and others . We also met an upcoming author, Elaine Zale. Her first novel, Wing's of Love, was at the publisher's; and after she described it to me, I knew that I wanted to read it.
Sun, Rain, Wind: You should be aware that you may get sunburned, even while not in any direct sun. Be careful as you may receive indirect sunshine through reflections off the water, glass or in other ways. Prior to the cruise, get a good hair cut, one that will not be bothered with the wind because it will be windy while on the ship. Pack an umbrella for use when it rains and when the sun is shining. You will be glad you did as the sun gets very hot when walking around the various islands. And, if you are in the Pacific Northwest or even going to Alaska, you may need it for rainy weather.
Improvements That Could Be Made: (1) One thing that really bugged us was the lack of toilet seat covers in all public restrooms on the RCL ship. We were used to having use of them on the Millennium and the Maasdam.
(2) Why have a beautiful dance floor like the one on the Radiance and not use it? One evening it was devoted to Karaoke. Activities like this, along with Bingo, could function very well in the theater.
(3) The ship's director should make sure that the events take place as scheduled; i.e., line dancing was scheduled for 2:30 p.m. and Trivia was scheduled for 3:00 p.m. in the same area. The person conducting the Trivia arrived 10 minutes early and had to take on a quick line dance class to pacify the persons who arrived and had been waiting for the last 20 minutes. The line dance teacher never did show up. This happened on the Radiance (5/25/02).
Disembarkation: The last morning on any ship and subsequent travel to the airport always takes time. Leaving the Maasdam took the longest and the line at the airport was the worst. Imagine more than 2000 people (from several ships) arriving at the airport back in March of 2001. Waiting around the ship took hours going through customs and then disembarking. The Millennium was better because we had Captain's Club privileges and got off the ship fairly fast. It was waiting outside trying to hail a taxi cab. There were no orderly lines and everyone was trying to grab, grab, grab. And of course, it takes all day to fly home.
The Radiance was OK. However, we had to fill out disembarkation information indicating that we did not have an airplane to catch. Consequently, we had to wait until nearly 10:00 to get off the ship, until they called our Lavendar color. One does not mind waiting if one has an idea of how long, but of course, no one could tell us this. And the waiting had to be in the public areas, no waiting in the cabins, which had to be vacated by 8:00 a.m. So, we sat around for 2 hours. Once off the ship, however, it went fairly fast.
We did call the evening before with the question of how we were going to get our luggage to the car parked in the parking garage. The person at the reception said that all you have to do it get a porter and he will take you with your luggage to your car. The porter that we got informed us that he could not cross the street, but he did say that he would take us to the elevator that will get us to the sky bridge. So, once we got on the elevator, we had to maneuver our luggage across the sky bridge and to our car, which fortunately was on the same level, Level 4.
We are addicted to cruising. This is our 15th cruise in less than four years and we have the Caronia booked for August 31st We hope to make many more.
This is a lengthy review. We tried to be as thorough as possible so that the reader would have a very good idea of what it would be like to cruise on the Maasdam. This was our first cruise on the Maasdam and we came away with some mixed feelings for Holland American Line.
AN UNEXPECTED CRUISE: Our cruise agent sent us a special they had just received from HAL. It seems they needed to fill some cabins on the Maasdam for their July cruise to the Baltic and they called their top agencies with a very special discounted price. It didn't take us very long to decide it was to good an offer to turn down. We have just returned from that cruise and we will share our experience with you.
As we have said in past reviews, we all look at things from a different perspective. When you read this review please remember it is only our opinion and youhave to discern for yourself if our tastes are similar to yours. We will give you an honest, straight forward opinion of what we feel were the highlights and the negatives of our cruise.
Maasdam: Holland America Line; 55,000 tons; 1,266 passengers; crew of 618; launched 1994 , 720 feet long; 101 feet at beam; Dutch Officers and Indonesian-Filipino crew; 9 passenger decks.
PACKING FOR THE CRUISE: It seems our society is becoming more casual each day. We enjoy getting dressed up. To us it's one of the nicest features of cruising and it is very appealing to us. That is one of the reasons we look forward to the formal nights. There is something very elegant about being among a group of people who are all dressed for the occasion. But the dress code on this cruise seemed to have gone down hill. Nobody. seemed to pay to much attention to the suggested attire of the day. We could only spot a few tuxedoes among the passengers on formal nights and there was even a few who entered the dining room in jeans or cut offs We hope that the casual trend doesn't become the norm for the cruise lines. If it does, cruising will have lost a lot of its appeal.
EMBARKATION: We flew to a rainy Stockholm from a sunny day in Oslo. We had a Limo pick-up at the Airport, and arrived at the terminal at 14:20. Very smooth, The check in process was NOT as efficient. Even though we arrived somewhat late (Embarkation started at noon) there were HUGE lines. A major problem we immediately encountered was a lack of information. Both on the part of employees conducting the process who seemed untrained, and the fact that they had no true help desk (just an individual who could explain what to do if your bags were lost). Person number 1 had to ask person number 2 who could answer our question etc…
The Terminal was an old warehouse were they had put up a line of tables and had representatives from HAL with portable computers who tried to checked you in. What probably made this a chaos was that NOBODY had gotten their cruise documents in advance so when we finally got to the end of the line we were given forms to fill out and had to go out of the line and start the process all over again. There was NO places to sit and NO places to fill out the forms so people were scattered all over the place NOT A GOOD START.
At 4:25 we boarded but then it seemed like all the cabin stewards had gone to other duties and we had to wait 15 minutes before we were escorted to our cabin.
CABIN: We had an outside cabin #755, on A Deck. It was a good sized cabin, with a queen sized bed, full pull out sofa, with adequate closet and drawer space. We are both bath persons and love having a tub. All of HAL's outside cabins have tubs but you can NEVER stretch out fully in them. The shelf space in the bathroom was very limited. On the shelf they had a very nice assortment of creams, lotions and shampoo. It was more than adequate.
There was a basket of fruit on the desk area, which was replenished each day. The Television channels were very limited. CCN, two Movie channels and the rest were various HAL related programs. Our cabin steward Lewi kept the cabin immaculate. He lived up to our judgement of what is a good steward. We rarely saw him but everything that needed to be done was taken care of. But that was first after two days. What met us when we opened the door was far from pleasant. Dirty carpet, half eaten fruit, papers and information from previous guests. It seemed to us that they did NOT have enough time from disembarkation in the morning until they started Embarking. At the end of the cruise we found out why.
SAIL AWAY PARTY: The sail away party was held on the aft pool deck. A steel band supplied the rhythms and we hoped this would get the cruise off to a better start.
CHECKING TABLE ARRANGEMENTS: We make a habit of checking our table arrangements as soon as it is possible and we suggest you do so. If it turns out they aren't what you requested, you have a better chance of getting them changed if you see the Maitre`di as soon as you can. Because of our late booking we weren't confirmed for the late seating.
We were originally seated in the middle of the lower level of the dining room, but managed to change and were seated at the back at the lower level with perfect sea view.
DINING ROOM: The Maasdam dining room is unique among some of the dining rooms we have seen on our cruises. We were originally seated in the middle of the lower level of the dining room, but managed to change and were seated at the back at the lower level with perfect sea view. The ceiling above the open area is certainly a work of art. It consists of 600 to 700 individual Venetian glass shades that look like inverted petunia blossoms. They are about 18 inches at the opening and are set at four different levels but all placed closely together. Instead of a light bulb in each one, they have a filament that is imbedded in the fluted glass approximately five inches from the base. The lighted ceiling is breath taking and is truly a work of Art. The dining room walls are mostly glass, giving the diner the ability to look out at the ocean when having breakfast and lunch. The openness to the sea gives the dining room a very bright, cheerful, pleasant atmosphere. We were sorry we didn't have breakfast there more often.. What could have been another very appealing feature of the dining room was a large sunken music area on the upper balcony level, where the String Quartet played during dinner. But being on the lover level you can barely hear the music and if you can it is mostly annoying. We were VERY disappointed to find that they kept the dining room closed for lunch most of the cruise because if you don't make it for breakfast its so nice to go down to a quiet lunch in the dining room (after all you are on vacation) but NOT so on this cruise WHY??
It is now HAL's policy that on the second formal night of the cruise they reset the tables with off white damask table clothes and napkins and then they do something we have never seen done before. They completely covered the chairs with off white coverings, that were form fitting and hung to the floor. It gave a most unusual but very rich appearance. It created an elegant look that added immeasurably to the formal night atmosphere. It gave you the feeling you were going to experience something very special. But the way people dressed it was NOT so special.
FOOD, MAIN DINING ROOM: The food varies a great deal from dish to dish, ranging from flavorless to divinely prepared and cooked we've had meat and fish that was over-cooked.
The evening we were served Lobster Tails, they were of good size and broiled to perfection.. Each evening they gave us a choice of salad and either one was excellent. We found the desserts and pastries to be much better. They had a very good assortment and they were very tasty.
Although the food was NOT ALWAYS as good as we expected the dining room service at dinner was better than the food. Actually, for us (and we think for many) the service is at least 40% of the meal. We had a wonderful group of servers, starting with Emy, our waiter, the assistant waiter, and Willy Ocuisin, the wine steward. They couldn't do enough for us. They catered to us and pampered us as if we were the only guests in their dining area. I don't think we have ever seen a group of people that were as warm, friendly and sincere as our servers.
Unfortunately this was NOT the case at other occasions. There is something very appealing about the Indonesian and Filipino people. There is almost a naivete, innocence about them. Angus, a very handsome young man, was an outstanding assistant Maitre`di. On many ships the Maitre`di comes around to each table each night to say a few words so you will remember to tip him on the last night, Not. Poured water helped serve, helped clean off tables, helped serve dessert, did everything. I told him if we were in the restaurant business, we would steal him away from HAL. I think he was very pleased with that comment.
THE OCEAN BAR WHERE THEY PLAYED OUR KIND OF MUSIC: The Ocean Bar is a delightful lounge where we had cocktails before and after dinner. Just as I said about the dining room crew, the lounge servers went out of their way to take care of our every need. I can't think of any other ship that serves hot hors d`oeuvres while your waiting for your cocktail order. They do on the Maasdam. One man stood out in this. His name was Edgar and he seemed to be everywhere. Whenever they had a special function he was there. But whenever we were in the Ocean Bar and he was working, he knew our names, our drinks and what we liked. A very good man. They did this every evening. And just before we would leave, Roderick would show us the dining room menu for that night so we could have an advanced look at what they were serving.
In the Ocean Bar, they feature a very accomplished trio that played the kind of music we like. That good old forties & fifties music. That romantic music of that period that makes you want to hold your spouse just a little closer and just little tighter. I can't think of a nicer way to start an evening than to have a table in a intimate lounge and to be served hors d`oeuvres and cocktails We saw many of the same people in the lounge each evening and got to spend time with some of them. One couple we met, they, had cruised 26 times and have traveled extensively. We found we had a lot in common with them and intend to keep in touch through E-Mail.
The piano player and leader of the group, was an exceptional piano player. He had a very small keyboard on top of the piano, with which he could create all the different sounds of an orchestra. He played one of a Jack Jones hit songs, ‘Here's That Rainy Day,' that was as good a rendition as we have ever heard. If you like to dance, or if you just like to listen to some good music, spend some time in the Ocean Bar. If you would like to hear something special, ask the group to play, ‘Here's That Rainy Day.'
We never went to the Crows Nest, a disco lounge, at the top of the ship. We understand it was very nice but it's not our choice of music. We understand they also served hot and cold hors d`oeuvres.
PIANO BAR: There is also a piano bar on the upper promenade deck. Keith Kerslake keeps things lively by getting the group to sing along with him. We didn't participate but we passed the entrance two or three times a night and he always had a good crowd and everyone seemed to be enjoying themselves. If you sail the Maasdam, you will be impressed by the two magnificent huge bouquets of flowers on each side of the entrance. This might be the time to tell you that we have never seen as many beautiful floral bouquets as we saw on the Maasdam. But there is more to a cruise than nice flowers
EXPLORERS LOUNGE: The Explorers lounge has a very unusual setting. What normally would be a wall facing the deck area, is instead the back of the lounges that have very comfortable seating for two's and four's and sixes. It gives the lounge a very open feeling. On the right hand side is a slightly raised area, again with lounges but with higher backs which gives you the impression you are in a separate room. In this area is a small bandstand that is the home of the String Quartet. They play there every night but unfortunately this is badly placed as this is a highly trafficked area and it is often difficult to hear It would have created a more intimate space if there had been a divider between the lounge and the walkway.
HIGH TEA: This was a disaster and one of our saddest experiences It is served in the Rotterdam dining room from 3:30 to 4:00.??? Which is too short for ANYONE to get served. It is supposed to be white glove service and was NOT done very well but what can you do in half an hour with 500 passengers present.??
They served tea and an assortment of finger sandwiches, Petit Fours and pastries, but it seemed they worked on the principle of estimating how many would show and making an exact number of items. They ran out of everything except tea. And there were two tables that never got served at all.
Once again we had a dirty cup, but this time it was ON THE TABLE.
Roger was exasperated to see that the entire tray of cream cakes went to one table near us (they hadn't been served any sandwiches earlier), Right after the waiter had given Mike more tea. He ignored MY empty cup and didn't notice that Mike was using cream (although the tea in the cup clearly had cream in it and he had served us both earlier).
Note: We blame Management in this entirely. Staff needs to be trained better if they are to use such a tight timetable and as a matter of fact better training would ensure the staff uses a more thorough method of keeping track of who has and has not been served. It might also be that the staff is NOT familiar with the "Theme" of "high tea" but then again this goes back to the training of personnel.
Recommendations: MOVE the tea to the explorer lounge. This room creates a much more intimate feeling. ALSO PLEASE give people just a little more time for serving tea in the future. At least 2 hours is required. half an hour is a joke if you should provide any quality service for such an event.
JAVA CAFE: The Java Cafe is a place that serves Coffee, Cappuccino, Coffee Latte, and chocolate chip cookies from 9:00 in the morning till 4:00 in the afternoon, ALL FOR FREE. It's right across from the Wajang Theater. The cute little girl that takes care of this venue is Evangeline. She is as sweet and fresh as the morning dew. When we cruise we usually have two cups of Cappuccino or Coffee Latte each day, at a cost of $2.50 a cup or $10.00 dollars a day. Because of the recent wave of cruise lines charging extra for many items, it's even more impressive that Hal includes this in their ticket price, ALL FOR FREE!
THE LIDO LUNCH AND ALTERNATE DINNING ROOM: The food was good. For breakfast they made eggs to order. At lunch time they had 4 or 5 hot meat dishes each day and a very good variety of lunch items. They also have a very nice salad bar. There is also an area where they display assorted pastry with an attendant standing by to serve you. Toward the later part of lunch they put the pastries and assorted sandwiches in a cylindrical refrigerated display case that rotates. When you decide what you want you wait till it comes around and when you open the door it stops rotating and you can take out your selection.
If you would like to hear a little piano music while your having lunch, go to the port side of the Lido in the aft section, and you will find it makes for a very pleasant lunch.
Part of the Lido is used for alternate dinning. The tables are plain and they have a limited menu. Its popular for families that have been ashore and don't feel like getting dressed up for dinner and for those who are looking for a more relaxed atmosphere.
Note: the first day we ate Lunch here and Roger had a rude awakening. Although he liked the prime beef and thought it great they had bread pudding for lunch, he found an entire tray of Dirty Cups setting to be used as clean. MAKE NO MISTAKE ABOUT THIS: Roger didn't misunderstand, these cups were inverted sitting on a tray and had been through a dishwasher. But they get really grimy when hot chocolate or many coffees are served in them. These should have been hand scrubbed they were so bad, but it didn't get done. It sets a bad tone when you see this…and the steward said the guests do that (believe me these came out of the kitchen this way).
LIDO ICE CREAM BAR: One of the most popular places on the ship is the Lido ice cream bar. You can get four different flavors of ice cream and they change every day. You can also get Yogurt in a waffle cone..After you get your ice cream they have an area that you can get all the fixings to make a sundae, fresh whipped cream, chocolate, butterscotch, raspberry syrup, every kind of nuts, shaved chocolate, sprinkles or just about anything else you can use with ice cream. IT'S ALL FOR FREE. A day never went by that we didn't at least make one visit to the ice cream bar, and we have the weight to show for it.
THE POOL AREA: The Maasdam has a very nice pool area. The first thing that catches your eye is a bronze sculpture by the steps of the pool featuring five leaping dolphins. It's a very beautiful piece of art. The pool has a five foot area extending from the coping that is flooded with 6-8 inches of water. It's very enjoyable to lay down with your back against bench, surrounding the pool, and have the water slosh back and forth across your body, with the movement of the ship.
There are two Jacuzzi's adjoining the pool. The pool has a sliding glass paneled roof enclosure that can be closed when it rains or partially closed to block out the wind for evening deck parties.
At one end of the pool is the Pool bar with a charming seating area with tables & wicker chairs. On the opposite end of the pool is a Frank & Hamburger grill. Adjoining this area is a another cooking station where you can get various kinds of Semi-Mexican food. In truth it isn't all that much as it also produces various pasta and barbequed chicken (or grilled fish at times). The problem for us is that we lived in States of Arizona/New Mexico, and for us Mexican Food means Taco's, Burritos, Enchaladas, Chimi's etc. What they have tasted good, but it wasn't all that Mexican. A chef stands by to assist you in making a choice. There is another very nice pool with abundant lounges on the lower deck at the aft end of the ship. This area is a nice quiet hide away from everything and offers Great views.
Note: the first 24 hours both pools were very cold, but by the beginning of day three, they were very warm and in fact too warm just before returning to Stockholm.
What could have been another very nice touch by Holland American is that at 11:0'clock in the morning they serve lemonade to everyone on the open decks but if you are a minute late they are out, and at 3:0'clock in the afternoon they serve ice tea to everyone with the same result at 3.05 they don't have it anymore. STOP TEASING if you are offering a treat to your guest at least give them a chance to get what you offer.
ENTERTAINMENT: This is not a strong point with HAL. I think they cater to a clientele that doesn't consider entertainment that important.
I think they concentrate on other amenities that are much more appealing to their cruisers. The best that can be said for the production shows is that they were nice.
CAPTAINS PARTY: Started out nicely but where was the captain or staff from the bridge?? We think they missed a great opportunity to add additional enjoyment to the occasion. They had the Maasdam show orchestra on stage. They played the great standards and everyone was tapping their feet to the rhythm but no one ever made a announcement inviting the guests onto the stage to dance, which is done on most ships. We all sat in our seats for 50 minutes waiting for the Captain to be introduced but no one from the bride or the captain ever showed as a matter of fact we were kindly asked to leave to give room for first seating evening entertainment. And this was done by the Cruise Director, not a ship's officer.
CASINO: Quite small. Very little action. I think this is another example of Holland American knowing their clientele. They put their money and efforts into the areas they know their guests prefer.
STAFF: Most of Ships Officers are Dutch or from former Dutch possessions. Although Roger believes one of the Officers said they were from Sierra Leone. The Entertainment and Shore Excursion Staff seem to be from the USA, primarily. Those working in the Casino, Shops and Spa are from England. The rest of the crew seems to be from Indonesia, the Philipines, or a few scattered locatins in SE Asia. But all were able to understand English fine.
The only real problem it seemed to us, was that they need to train some of their staff better, and in fact it did appear many were new and had just been assign on the ship.
SHORE EXCURSIONS: We took three shore excursions. Living partly in Scandinavia we knew the Scandinavian countries well and did NOT go ashore in Helsinki, Visby and participated in the City-tour of Stockholm
ESTONIA TOUR 57003 - Panoramic Tallinn- what can we say - the weather was bad and our Guide spent half the trip telling us how poor she was and that she needed money as their economy is so bad. The highlight of the tour was the GOOD LAUGH we all had when she told us her husband built their house from the tip money they got in the past. We had expected a level of professionalism, and not just a long request for money…we are not heartless, and we do know all too well what the Nazi's, the Russians and others did to this country. We do care that people have had problems, but they need to be trained not to solicit like this.
ST: PETERSBURG TOUR 24815- Peterhof & Pushkin Palace, Full Day Tour- We think our Guides name was Ina. At any rate the weather was far better and this guide was professional, candid and good at expressing herself. We think this was quite a contrast and we recommend this tour highly.
TOUR 24814- Hermitage Museum & Peter and Paul Fortress, Full Day Tour- Again good weather and a professional guide. She was honest and good at expressing herself. She had a sense of humor and told us more about their history and culture than you'd expect to have time for. Again we recommend this tour highly.
As expected both days in St. Petersburg were the high point of the cruise.
FRONT DESK AND DISEMBARKATION: THIS WAS DIFFICULT FOR US TO WRITE. Neither of us likes to have confrontations and both think the epitome of good service is to give reasoned and appropriate responses to REASONABLE requests.
We received and "DISEMBARKATION FORM" laying on the bed the first day on the ship. It was associated with an old ships news letter. As these were together, Roger thought the previous passengers left it there. Note that the "DISEMBARKATION FORM" was dated for 23 July 2000. As we came aboard on the 23rd and knew that some passengers had taken a city tour that day, we thought they just left the thing there.
Now, we were to receive another copy of the "DISEMBARKATION FORM" this time showing our correct date of disembarkation (30 July 2000). It had an ominous statement that those who had not turned in "the previous form and failed to submit this form by 0900 28 July 2000, would be placed in an independent group. " This was essentially what they said.
One part of the form required information as to how we would leave.
We reported we had Air arrangements already and that we had no prearranged ground transport.
The form asked if HAL could offer us a trip to the Airport via a buss for $ 85 each. It also offered a city tour for $ 115 each that ended at the Airport.
We already knew that we could get a Taxi to the Airport for $ 94 (both of us together that is, not $ 94 each).
We were on another line that allowed us to tag our bags so that they were placed in a room until we claimed them. After disembarkation we claimed them and went our way. We asked the Front Desk Staff about the possibility of remaining on board till 10:30 or 11:00 and then claiming our bags. We decided to ask if later disembarkation were allowed, BEFORE filling in the form.
This is when things fell apart.
Roger mentioned that we would have turned the form in sooner if only it had been dated correctly. They admitted the form was dated wrong and it was a mistake but not to worry, it was OK.
Meaning what we wondered, we certainly hadn't done anything wrong. But we asked what an independent group was. They couldn't explain.
OK...The Ships Policy is that everyone has to get off the ship a.s.a.p. But this isn't stated…. Instead we got the run around and excuses. They said we had to be out of the room no later than 9 am. Fine. Roger has been a manager and supervisor and understands that sometimes a rule is inflexible and unalterable. He also knows that it is still true that you can't find out if you don't ask! So, we asked about the bags going off first and if we could stay on board till 11:00 thus making our delay at the Airport shorter. We were told there was no where to keep our bags. Also, that the bags HAD to go off immediately. As no one could be responsible for our bags, they might just disappear. Nice. It was also ironic to hear this as HAL lost seven peoples bags before they boarded.
We said just to tell us it wasn't allowed and be done with it. But we were referred to another Officer (in charge we were told) who repeated the whole charade about baggage and customs, etc.
As no one left us any other option save a Taxi, we decided to try the city tour and we completed the form and turned it in.
Tempers on our part had not flared yet. But now we were told that we had to tell the Shore Excursions Desk so we could arrange the tour.
We asked why the people forcing us to make our decision that night couldn't relay our request to the Shore Excursions Desk. This was closed already, as they well knew. AND we were ashore on a tour during the time the forms were distributed and didn't have time to sprint up there after arriving back at the ship at 4:45pm (they close the Shore Excursions Desk at 5 PM!) So we left for dinner.
The next morning in Visby we talked with a member of the Shore Excursions Staff and were told there would be no tour in Stockholm as they wouldn't have made any money on it…less than ten passengers had signed up…OK…So the bus to the Airport was all we could have…but why isn't there an information exchange between the Front Desk and Shore Excursions…how about a call to your room tell you….?
If we had not gone down to speak to the Shore Excursions Staff as they were leaving to take people into Visby …well we'd have found out the next day we suppose, but, this isn't good service. If HAL has had 125 years of such good experience why does something like this happen? We believe it could have been easily prevented.
Note: We watched the bags go off the next day and there was no customs off the boat. Our bags were not protected from the weather at all and were put over next to the busses!!!! YET, we were held on the ship while many others got off and all the ones going ON the busses (we think) went under a tent. Double nice!!!
There was no rain, we got off the ship and picked up our bags. We got a Taxi and were at the Airport in 20 minutes. So, it turned out alright after a fashion. But the run around at the desk was just a waste of time and the buss was just a money maker. Not a service.
Over all we had an enjoyable HAL cruise besides what is mentioned but for HAL to live up to their standard of "excellence"
They have to do a considerable change in certain areas.
We keep notes on our previous cruises since we have our reviews posted on several web sites, we have received a huge amount of mail, asking all kids of questions and asking for our suggestions on various aspects of cruising. We have learned that many of the readers rely heavily on reviews for making critical decisions about when and where and with what line they will make their next cruise. We feel a deepened responsibility to review readers and also to the Cruise lines, that the information that we convey is truthful and honest and as thorough and as unbiased as possible. Because of that realization, we kept a small notebook with us at all times during this cruise and jotted down the things we thought would be of interest. The results of which is this review.
A Note about the survey: We feel that it is NOT right to request a survey to be turned in BEFORE the cruise has ended because the Disembarkation is part of a cruise as well, and because it ALWAYS takes time to digest what you have experienced. By forcing the guest to fill out a survey during the last part of the cruise, it diminishes the ability to accurately rate the cruise in an objective way.