Age: Over 70
Number of Cruises: 6 to 10
Cruise Line: Holland America
Sailing Date: September 20, 2000
Itinerary: Canada-New England
We had heard of the 3-level atrium with a soaring Venetian glass sculpture being the focal point. Compared to the atriums of Royal Caribbean ships this was not impressive.
OK! I have been very negative. The first night in the dining room we warmed up to the Maasdam. Marie and I were seated at a table for four instead of the table for eight we had requested and had confirmed. We were joined by a lovely couple from the Vancouver area. Gradually our minds were changed from negative to positive. We had outstanding waiters and wine steward. The dinners without exception were gourmet. THE BEST DINNERS WE HAVE EVER HAD ON A CRUISE SHIP. The Maasdam has an excellent Vienna-born chef. The presentations bordered on the exotic. Truly gourmet all the way! Actually we were delighted to be at a table for four instead of eight as there was considerable background noise which would have made conversation difficult at a larger table. We did enjoy our new-found friends from British Columbia. Breakfasts in the dining room were a different story. “Open Seating” was the mode for breakfast as well as lunch. I love eggs benedict and became excited when I spotted them on the menu. Alas, the eggs arrived hard as nails, atop a rubbery muffin. They were hot --like out of a microwave.. I drew this to the waiter’s attention and he explained that the eggs sometimes come hard and sometimes “runny”. The next morning I thought I would give them a second chance and ordered Eggs Benedict with the eggs “runny” . Within seconds runny, cold eggs on a muffin and bacon were served. It appears that the eggs are poached in advance and warmed up, unless you order “ runny” eggs.
On the third morning we decided to go to the Lido Deck for breakfast. We generally don’t like buffets (except a very good one on Grand Princess). What an awakening we were in for. Fresh squeezed orange juice; porridge or your choice of eight kinds of cereal; all kinds of fruits and pastries. Marie was delighted to get Decaf Tea. Eggs were done to order before your eyes. Toast was prepared to order. Attendants poured your coffee or tea. All this and an ocean-view table. Paradise!!!
Again pessimism was clouding my brain as we entered the beautiful two level Rembrandt Show Lounge. Susan Wood, HAL’s only female cruise director introduced the show. Ten young (early 20’s) guys and girls sang and danced with great enthusiasm. They were backed by the very professional Maasdam 7-piece orchestra. This ensemble put on outstanding production shows on all but a couple of nights. Also appearing was a fine young Australian singer, a very humorous comedian, a comedian-juggler, a top-notch ventriloquist and a magician. These were all acts that have been appearing in Las Vegas and on other cruise ships and were very professional. A nice night-cap after a wonderful dinner. Susan Wood was always working whether it was in the show lounge, making announcements over the PA system, organizing tours and even giving a talk on ship-board life. She is the best cruise director we have come across. We were impressed with her lovely English accent and sense of humor.
This is a weak area. And, it is probably due to the fact that the exercise program is run by a franchised company named “Steiner” from London and not by HAL. They have a “Walk a Mile” program each morning at 7 am. You get a stamp in an Exercise Passport for each activity you complete. We went the first morning at five minutes to seven. Passengers were already gathered on the promenade deck for the beginning of the walk but no one from the exercise staff was there. After 20 minutes of waiting we walked our mile with everyone else. We went to the Exercise Room to get our Passport stamped. Marie is heavily into Low-impact aerobics and on other ships has participated in their programs. She enquired as to when they would have their aerobic classes and was told by the head instructor that because of the age of the passengers aerobic classes were not popular so they just had stretch classes. It was possible to hire a private Steiner instructor if you wanted to pay for it. Marie was very disappointed as she always looks forward to a group class with music to exercise to.
We did not take the tours except in Boston. We paid $118.00 for a tour that was booked to leave at 9:30 am after we disembarked. The plan was to ride around Boston and then be dropped off at Logan Airport in time for our 3:30 pm flight. Because of the length of time for disembarking and general confusion around the buses (no HAL employees around to direct traffic), we finally got underway on the bus at 10:30 with a local guide providing the commentary. We drove around downtown Boston and Beacon Hill for an hour then were dropped at Faneuil Square to buy our lunch if we wanted any. We had to be back on the bus at noon. It was then off to the airport and dropped off there. We sat in the airport for 2 1/2 hours waiting for our flight. Had we known what we would have got for $118.00 we would have taken a taxi to the airport.
As you know, HAL has a “Tipping Not Required” policy. Employees are allowed to accept tips, but not request them. This leads to some confusion as there are no guidelines We are accustomed to tipping at the rate of $3 to $4 per day per person to our waiter and room steward and half that rate to the bus boy. We usually give $5 or $10 to the head waiter and wine steward if they give us extra service. Our dinner companions had only been on HAL cruises and were not aware of any tipping guidelines so gave $20 to each person that served them whereas we were giving up to $80 to our servers and room steward. I like the attitude the Indonesian and Philippine crew on HAL. Perhaps they have the best system. But I do think their should be some outlines given to passengers who do wish to tip.
I know I have sounded negative. On the second day Marie said, “Don’t tell me you are enjoying the cruise?” I had to admit that I was not. By the end of the 10th day we both felt it was one of the best cruises we had been on. We met a lot of nice people (most were older, like us, average age probably 65 to 70. We had the best food we have ever had on a cruise. The service was relaxed yet very efficient. We had excellent entertainment. We got to like our cabin and after a while the masonite-colored doors really didn’t matter.
Overall a relaxed, pleasant, first-class cruise experience. This cruise had an older clientele on board. One young couple in their early 30’s had a 1 1/2 year old child with them. I understand that there was a reception for repeat passengers and this young couple had been on more HAL cruises than any other couple. In her talk Susan Wood said that HAL is aiming for a younger clientele through their new 5 day “Starter Cruises” in the Caribbean. They need to, as their older group is going to be dying off over the next few years. Marie and I are glad we tried Holland-America. We will probably return someday!