Deborah Shore Ruge
Number of Cruises: 2
Cruise Line: Holland America
Sailing Date: August 12th, 2001
Itinerary: Eastern Caribbean
Twelve of us signed up to take Holland America's cruise to the Eastern Caribbean from August 12th to August 19th. This is because we were invited by a good friend and mentor (Monsignor Cannon) who had been invited to be the ship's priest. At the time, Monsignor was undergoing dialysis and we were surprised to learn that Holland America had the facility to provide dialysis treatment.
We were all looking forward to the cruise with Monsignor when the travel agent called to tell us he passed away (two weeks before we were to set sail). After much soul searching, we decided to go anyway, believing this is what he would want us to do and intending to celebrate his life by wishing him Bon Voyage aboard the Maasdam.
Most of us flew in the night before the cruise was set to sail. This was to assure we didn't "miss the boat". We selected the Hampton Inn & Suites in Ft. Lauderdale. We were all very impressed with this affordable hotel which was only 2 miles from Port Everglades. It was clean and definitely a good value. Further, they provided transportation to Port Everglades (where the ship took off from) at NO CHARGE.
When we arrived at the dock, check in was a breeze. This is because Holland America was extremely organized. My husband, niece and I were fortunate to have priority boarding because we had secured a mini-suite. The rest of our group boarded later but told us that their experience was also pleasurable.
Our suite was located on the Navigation Deck (right underneath the pool deck). Unfortunately, there was a pipe that burst on our floor, causing a water problem in some of the suites. Although it did not affect our room, the smell from the water problem was noticeable for a few days.
Our mini-suite was great. It had a refrigerator, jacuzzi (with great jets), lots of storage space, a large TV and VCR, a mini-bar and, BEST OF ALL, a balcony. I only wish the TV or VCR had Video/audio in plugs. This is because I have a digital video camera and took my DVC to record our trip. It would have been nice to review the film on our TV.
The first day we spent at sea (on our way to Nassau, Bahamas). This gave us an opportunity to explore the ship. I loved the lay-out. Our room was strategically located at the stern of the boat, only one floor below the BUFFET DECK (the Lido Lounge!) and only two floors above the sit down dining room (ROTTERDAM DINING ROOM).
In a nutshell, and to make a long story short, I loved our cruise. This was made possible by the quality of the people who worked for the Holland American Line. They were not just cleaners, and waiters, and hair dressers, etc. They were REAL people. They went out of their way to make us feel special. They all had names (not just faces). Suantara, Andi, Gde and Ferry took care of our two tables of six in the sit down dining room. Although we had three children under the age of 8, this didn't phase them a bit. They treated the children with as much respect and deference as the adults.
We also met great people in the Piano Bar and Ocean Bar. In fact, the piano player in the piano bar (Manum) was an incredible talent. You couldn't help but get into the mood of things after hearing her sing and play the piano. We were waited upon by Edgar and Nestor. They ingratiated themselves by making us a special Holland America hat complete with their own free- form artwork and our calligraphied names. In the Ocean Bar we found Rey. He was truly one of my favorites. He also made my husband and I a Holland America Hat, complete with art-work and our calligraphied names. The crew in the Ocean Bar also specialized in making Orgami. I was lucky enough to get a rose.
The ship's "announcer", Eric, was a real plus. He provided some continuity to this experience. Although I suspect that some on board may have tuned him out, I derived a certain pleasure out of his daily messages. I also enjoyed the bingo director, Shane. He was pure comic relief at bingo.
The ship also gets a plus for their Internet Cafe. This Cafe boasted several computer terminals which allow you to send and receive e-mail. This was definitely a far more affordable method of communicating at sea then using a ship-to-shore phone at a minimum cost of $15.00 per call plus .75 per minute. In contrast, you can sign up for an unlimited Internet Cafe account for a flat $99.00 (good for the entire week).
I also enjoyed many of the shipboard activities. In fact, if you take a Holland American Cruise I strongly suggest that you attend the "Life Aboard Ship" presentation. At our presentation we learned that Holland America caters to an older crowd. On an average they have 200 children per trip (although our particular cruise had 300 children). In contrast, Carnival Lines apparently averages 1100 children per ship. Although I love children, this cruise was intended to be a vacation and with the limited number of kids we had aboard (including the three in our group) it remained a vacation.
I definitely preferred the sit down meals to the buffet meals. Service is what this cruise was all about.
I was amazed that we never saw the person who cleaned our room (Dai) until the last day. It was almost as if he knew when we wouldn't be in our cabin. After breakfast, our room was always restored to normalcy (bed made, bathroom cleaned, etc.) and after dinner we returned to find our beds turned down, with chocolates on our pillows.
The gang in the salon was a real riot. My favorite was Len, although Martin was a close second. Len specializes in Reflexology. Martin specializes in just about everything else!
One of the other highlights of the trip was the new ship's priest (Father Frank) who was assigned to sit at our table as a result of Monsignor Cannon's untimely demise. Suffice it to say that Father Frank's presence was truly a God send and I am sure there is a message in there somewhere.
Although we enjoyed San Juan and St. Thomas as ports-of-call, my favorite place was Holland America's private beach, Half Moon Cay (pronounced "key").
I could go on, but feel it's time to summarize. The Maasdam was just "big" enough for our group. I prefer it to the bigger ships (particularly the last cruise we took on the Carnival line).
The Holland America was an incredibly CLEAN SHIP. More importantly, I can't say enough about the wonderful people Holland America employed to make our vacation such a memorable experience. I was also impressed by the special services and consideration Holland America Line extends to the old and disabled.
But for Monsignor Cannon, our group would not have taken this cruise. If not, we would have never met the wonderful people we did meet. As such, a special thanks to the Holland America Lines, the crew of the Maasdam, and especially Father Frank for helping us cope with the death of a dear friend and mentor whose spirit will always be a part of our lives.