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; it really 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.