We had the pleasure to sail on the Maasdam on the 11 day Southern Caribbean itinerary from Norfolk on the November 8th sailing. As I have not sailed with Holland America since 1995, I was looking forward to this cruise and to experience their Signature of Excellence upgrades. In a few words, I really enjoyed the upgrades, the Maasdam and the Holland America experience.
The Maasdam though a smaller ship, just under 56,000 tons and came into service in 1993 is looking fabulous. This ship and it's staff was wonderful. The public rooms are classy and the expanded Explorer's lounge and library was a wonderful place to mingle, play board games (scrabble in particular), to jigsaw puzzles, check emails, etc. They also have a specialty coffee shop in that same vicinity. By the way, you still can get cappuccino's and espresso in the dining room free.
It's been a long while since I booked an inside cabin, but was very pleased with the spaciousness. We had four in our cabin and had plenty of cabin and drawer space. The stateroom had two lower beds, a couch which made into a bed and a bed that recessed out of the ceiling. The bathroom was typical size and during the ships refurbishment must have been re-tiled. It was clean and actually two people could use the mirror area at the same time. We were on Deck 5 main deck. The cabin had a 20-in flat screen TV and DVD player which they had an entire library of DVD rentals or you could play the one's you may have brought with you. Cost on the DVD rentals was $3.00 and I believe you could keep them two days, we were too busy to rent DVD's, but a nice offering. The upgraded bed, linens and bath linens and amenities were welcomed. It was one of the most comfortable beds I have slept in on a cruise ship ever. My cruise on the Diamond Princess, (Princess - considered a mass market line) in January will really have a lot to lived up to in this area. Our cabin steward and staff was very efficient. We never left the cabin not to have the cabin made up or turned down for the evening completed.
As this cruise was booked about a month before sailing, we were confirmed for late seating dining. The Maasdam has staggered dining times, 5:45p, 6:15p, 8:00p and 8:30p. Yes, you guessed it we had 8:30p. We tried to change it without luck. In talking with other passengers, there were folks who had booked over 6 months out and couldn't clear an early seating. We dined only once in the evening at 8:30p as my 9 and 13 year old was missing here nightly program. The next few days we ate in the Lido. After missing 3 nights in our dining room, we received a phone call from the Ass't Maitre 'D, Kuz asking why we weren't coming to the dining room. After explaining to him that it was too late for the children, he said to come at 5:45p the next day and he would tried to fit us in and indeed he did. We were able to eat early on a rotating table situation which was better than eating every night in the Lido as the dining room experience was very good. Though we didn't get to have the comradery you would have with the same wait staff, we did find good service with the various tables. We had very good wait service and Kuz check on us several times every evening. He really took care of us and I am glad that we didn't miss out on the dining room experience. The meals were presented nicely on the plate and in average to smaller portion sizes. The food overall was very good. I found the desserts to be average and often had ice cream. The fresh ice cream and soft serve along with sundae fixings in the Lido was great and also complimentary. We also enjoyed the complimentary pop-corn in the movie theatre. Nice touches and most appreciated. They often had live music during dinner which was very nice. We typically ate on the 2nd floor of the Rotterdam dining room, which I preferred over the main floor. On the 5th night out we ate at the grill. We really enjoyed it but found it to be one of the more expensive optional dining at $30.00 pp. Service was attentive and the decor in the Grill was modern/clean. The menu was Pacific Northwest themed. As I had been on a fish marathon, I had the Filet Mignon which was excellent. If you are celebrating a special occasion, it is worth the cost and the intimate atmosphere.
The crew/staff on this ship was excellent. We had many crew members in various positions that we conversed with daily. We gave many tips to folks we normally wouldn't have given to due to their friendliness and attentiveness. We got to know all of the Cruise Director/Staff quite well and had lots of fun with them also. There is much to be said in sailing on this size ship. You have a better opportunity to meet fellow passengers and crew daily. We got to know the bathroom attendant another nice touch with cloth towels to dry your hands. It's the little things that make a great cruise, though small, but nice. Again, we found the crew very happy to comply to your requests, for example the first night out was pretty choppy and my 9 year old was it the top bunk and rolling all over her bed. I asked it there was a bar of some sort for the bed so she wouldn't roll out of the bed onto the floor. They had the maintenance department come to the room and look and listen to my request. They made a padded upholstered bar and it was in the room for use the next day. I was impressed with their need to please. It worked great.
The stage productions shows and cabaret entertainment were typical of cruise line's fare. The lounge acts were typical evening entertainment on cruise lines. We went to the Crow's Nest disco late in the cruise and had fun. We probably would have gone more had we gone sooner. The younger cruisers seemed to congregate here in the evenings. Yes, I would say the average age was 68 or so, but this did not really bother us being younger ones on the ship. You make your good times. We participated frequently with shipboard events such as Volleyball, trivia games, etc and collected "Dam Dollars" which we turned in at the end of the cruise for "Dam Sweatshirts" and nice "Dam Water Bottles. The gave away nice prices for the events that didn't give "Dam Dollars". We came home with key chains, hats, mugs, luggage tags, "Dam Dark" mini-mag lights, etc. I will say that there was plenty of stuff to do onboard the ship when in port. I really liked this as often most Cruise Director's plan nothing on the ship while in port. Other lines could take a lesson here. When you have been on the islands before, the ship really becomes your destination. We really enjoy our days at sea which were crammed pack with things to do or not to do. The culinary program which is help in the theatre was very enjoyable and samples of the items prepared were giving to all in attendance. They also had a towel animal demo which was fun. When we asked it they had the instructions on paper, they were only too happy to have picture instructions delivery to the cabin for those who requested them. The casino was one of the smaller ones I have experienced on the ship, but was a good size considering the size of the ship. The casino personnel was excellent, one of the best I have encountered. We never made it to the Greenhouse Spa which I heard good things about and normally a place that I visit and get a treatment at least once.
The ports were: Half Moon Cay, St. Thomas, Dominica, Barbados, St. Kitts, San Juan, Puerto Rico. I had never been to Dominica and really enjoyed the island and the people were very friendly. We took a tour to the Emerald Pool which was a nice tour. You really appreciate the drivers in Dominica as the roads are often narrow. In Half Moon Cay we swam with the Stingrays. They are much smaller than the ones in Grand Cayman and they come to this area daily and are netted in and released at the end of the day, thus you don't have to worry about other predators in the water with you. In Barbados, we snorkeled at Carlisle Bay. Nice dive sites with a couple of sunken ships. The boat staff was excellent, the water was really clear and warm. On the way back the skies open up and we were drenched. No worries, as we were already wet from snorkeling. LOL
Embarkation and Debarkation were a breeze, though they are still working on the pier area in Norfolk, still a lot of temporary structures. We asked for a later departure of the ship, they allow you to stay in your cabins. We were off the ship and at the airport by 9:15a. We took a cab to and from the airport. The cost was $24 -$26 dollars each way for 4 vs. $28.00 pp to use the Holland America bus transfers. We stood-by for earlier flights and got home a few hours earlier than our ticketed times.