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. Staffers appeared 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.