Number of Cruises: 58
Cruise Line: Holland America
Sailing Date: March 2nd, 2004
Itinerary: Southern Caribbean
March 2nd was a warm day and very windy.
The Maasdam arrived into Norfolk Harbor very late, passengers were disembarking when we reported to the dock at 2pm., and the ship had not been provisioned. What serves as a "cruise ship terminal" is a air controlled tent, the kind often used for outdoor antiques shows or covering for tennis courts. It was an "adequate" arrangement. I was told by a longshoremen that indeed a new terminal will be built. Rumors on the ship bore that up. It has been made public, however.
We moved to Hampton Roads from Vermont, hoping to drive to Ft. Lauderdale for our cruises, rather than fly, and we did so last year. Not in my wildest dreams did I imagine that Holland America would homeport the Maasdam at Norfolk! Forty minutes away from Gloucester where we live. Four friends drove down from Vermont, and the six of use took a limo/van to the ship.
We all booked an inside stateroom, with a guaranteed upgrade to an outside, which we all received. Our cabin was 728 on A deck.
When we boarded we were escorted to our cabins and were greeted by Emador, Andy, as he preferred, our steward. He addressed us by our sir names, and welcomed us aboard the Maaasdam.
The stateroom, as is the case of most newer ships staterooms, is pretty much the same, twin beds convert to a queen, the usual closets (very adequate), the dresser/desk and so on. The TV was old, a clunker, and the remote barely worked. There are refridgerators ONLY in the Verandah Suites. Our travel agent checked that out, and we agreed to rent one for $2.00 per day, and a brand new one was atop our desk. We had anticipated buying liquor in the duty free shop on board, thus, the use of a fridge. NO WAY. Not any longer. As of the start of our cruise, HAL forbade the purchase of liquor for state room use, and forbade bringing on board from shore, with all purchases held until the last day. This really ticked off a lot of passengers, complaints were loud and clear. On the other hand, we met some wonderful passengers in a suite, and THEY could have liquor, and availed themselves with the use of the new Neptune Lounge.
The bath was tiled, floor as well as tub/shower surround. Water was hot, pressure was excellent. Concealed in the hair dryer is one power outlet. Storage space in the bath was not ample. There is a clothes line in the tub for drying bathing suits. There are two lauderettes on board, our friends used them. We chose, as we always do, to send our laundry out. $12.00 per bag, the bag holds a lot of laundry, which is returned with shirts etc on hangers, and foldables in a tissue lined basket, closed with a gold HAL seal. Very nice touch. Both bath and stateroom had excellent lighting. The sofa was a cozy spot for reading.
Lower Promenade Deck offers the full wrap around teak promenade deck, replete with steamer chairs, and chair pads. This made up for the fact that we did not have a balcony, and spent hours there reading, napping and people watching. This is also the lowest or first, of the three decks that feature the Atrium. There is a bank of shinning brass escaltors here.
Next up, Promenade Deck, forward, the lower level of the two deck high Rembrandt Lounge, the main show lounge, with canteleivered ceiling, thousands of Delft tiles, Bavarian stage curtain, half round stage, and tapestry lined walls. This is a mammoth sized room, however, with the selection of small sofas, chairs and and cocktail tables, it apears to be more intimate than it appears. Moving aft, is the photo gallery, shore excursion office and Pursers Ofice, which are off to the side of the Atrium. Also on this deck are the Wajang (Whyang) Theater, for movies and free popcorn, a room in a sea of Granny Apple green and black. There are two meeting meeting rooms, the Hudson and the Half Moon, neither of which were overly used during our cruise. A popular spot proved to be the Java Cafe, serving lattes, espressos and the like, with pricing betwee $2.75 to $4.75, and the place was always packed with passengers. Aft is the lower level of the two deck high Rotterdam Restaurant. This is a very regal room, with two sweeping grand stairways, which connect the two levels. One may enter from this deck or Upper Promenade, one is not made to use these stairs, and elevators unload at each level outside the entry doors.
The grand room is highlighted by four huge coach-type lanterns at the celing of the upper level, with hundreds of frosted glass flower globes suspended from the ceiling. On the upper level one port, the other starboard, are a screens, hand painted, and forward, a balcony juts out into the open space above a three tiered fountain (filled with plants), which is used during dinner as a bandstand, with a trio playing. It must be noted: I have seen many reviews where upon passengers complain about tables being way too close together on some ships, that is not the case on the Maasdam. I found the tables to be so close on the uiderdam, our table for two was really a table for four! We had a table for six, number 109, first seating on his cruise. We were next to a large table which served an officer and passengers.
Our wait staff was superb, our wine steward, Virgil, excellent. He had my Absolute Citrone waiting each night for me. By the way, Wine Enthusiast Magazine rates the wine cellar on all HAL ships as excellent.
Next deck up, Upper Promenade, home to the upper levels of the Rotterdam Restaurant, and Rembrandt Lounge, the NEW PINNACLE GRILL, Piano Bar, Explorers, Lounge Ocean Bar, Casino and Shops. This is one lively deck. The Piano Bar is most interesting. The bar is merely a service bar, behind the cinnabar painted baby grand. The piano is surrounded by a bar with stools, above is a gold flecked mirrored ceiling, in front of which are two rroms, one smoking, the other non, which face the piano. Both rooms have tented ceilings, black mirrored walls with "stars" imbedded in the mirrors, and cinnabar and navy leather sofas and chairs. Further enhancing this unique room is a flattering picture of June Allyson, the Maasdam's Godmother, as well as three beautiful glass sculptures by Bernard Heeson, each encased in gold mosaic tiled niches, and other Heeson works of art are enclosed on shelves by the piano. The Ocean Bar, a hallmark on HAL ships, is a true clubbish comfy bar, with live music each night. There are smoking and non areas. The room offers exceptional ocean views. On the Vista Class ships, Zuiderdam et al, the Ocean Bar sits at the bottom of the Atrium, open to one and all, with no ocean view. I liked the decor of the room on the Zuiderdam, and never once ventured into the room, it is too open and not at all welcoming, which the OB certainly is on the Maasdam. The Casino has perhaps a tongue in cheek sense of humor, with the main entrance hjighlighted by a real canon and bucket of cannon balls. The "better shops" are located within the casino, the other shops around the Atrium. HAL has one of the finest logo shops of any ship I have sailed. The "DAM" logo items are quality items, and collectable, such as shirts, hats, aprons, mugs and the like. By "DAM", a mug reads: M dam - for Maasdam. The new Pinnacle Grill is on this deck, and will be reviewed later on. Plunging three decks down, is the crown jewel of the ship, the emerald glass sculpture - it is awesome, day and night, and is centered in t
he Atrium. It cost $250,000.00, and was made in Italy.
Next up is the Navigation Deck, housing the Verandah and the aft Navigation Deck pool, which is wonderfully open the sea and sky, and teak decked. In fact, there is no smelly, soggy astro turf used on any HAL ship. The passenger capacity has been reduced on the Maasdam, to 1258, and for the cenvenience of the Verandah Suite passengers, the NEW Neptune Lounge was built last fall, nearly mid-ship, for the those passengers. The lounge has floor to ceiling windows, and anyone may look in, and see it is a handsome room, with gold and navy touches.
Up to Lido Deck, the Lido pool is midships, with a retractable Magradome, the nice Holt dolphins cast in bronze at the pool, and the Dolphin Bar, which serves the pool area. A small bandstand is permanent for the ships excellent steel band. The taco and burger stands are here as well. Also on Lido Deck are the Ocean Spa, which looked to be quite adequate, the Beauty Salon, Video Arcade (new) and Lido Restaurant, which will be covered later on.
Sports Deck finds the Crows Nest Bar, another hallmark for any HAL ship, and the NEW Wave Runners/Club HAL for kids. The crows Nest serves as a late disco, howver, the DJ walked out and never returned on occasion, and this is the only spot on the ship where a "lack" of interest in serving the passenger was noted. The bar girls stayed in a corner looking at their nails and ignored the passengers, and the bar tender made it quite clear he would take his time doing what he was supposed to do. This of course, sent passengers down to the other public rooms.
The Pinnacle Grill was made from the old Kings Lounge and video area, ripped out last fall, and built anew. You would think it had always been there, the job was that good. The ceiling is suspended, with frosted "waves" of glass, suggesting ice flows. There are no draperies, just picture windows looking out to sea. Dark paneling lines the walls, and between the windows are beautiful glass sculptures, by an artist that was unknown on board - could they have been Heeson's? The menu is good, could be expanded in my opinion. Thick staks, chops, beautiful racks of lamb are displayed each night by the entrance, under a dome of glass. Other selections are ciopino, which I had, and enjoyed to the fullest, as well as huge lobster tails. Service was exceptional, the wine steward did a very unobtrusive job perfectly. The fee here is $20.00 per person, includes the tip. One item that I was impressed with was the potatoes boulanger, which I have made for years, and have never had outside my own home, which was served in the Pinnacle Grill. For all intents and purposes, however, the qality, and presentation and menu selection in the Rotterdam Restaurant is on a par with the Pinnacle Grill. The Grill seats 64. If one does not care to dine here, take a peak, the room is really nice.
Another fabulous place to eat is the Lido, which serves breakfast, "brunch", lunch and casual light dinner (for those refusing to adhere to the evenings dress code), as well as the replaced midnight buffet, the late snack. Breakfast is spectacular, a true morning feast, with omelets cooked to order, eggs cooked to order, bacon, sausages, turkey bacon, incredible breads, pancakes, waffles, hot and cold cereals, fresh melons, pineapple, papaya, bananas, fresh squeezed orange juice, guava, cranberry, tomato and apple juices, a selection of sliced cheese, and the piece de resistance, the awesome smoked salmon section. Freshly sliced, nicely plated smoked salmon, in abudance, kept comming, along with hard on the outside, soft on the inside, fresh bagels, tons of cream cheese, sliced onions, capers and cubed tomatoes. Unreal. This is a class act, and far superior to any smoked salmon offering I have seen on any other ship, except, it is always superior an a HAL ship. I must also mention, you may have a shrimp omelet. Lunch, oh, goodness! There is a deli, with sandwich of your choice, made to order, a pasta station, featuring two different pastas and sauces each day, a carving station, featuring roast beef, turkey breast, rotisserie chickens, roast lamb, with at least three veggies, a variety of potaot dishes, two soups, plus an enormous salad bar, huge bowls of various slaws, potato and pasta salads, an Asian stir fry area it goes on and on....AND, for dessert, Oh, my gawd! Cookies and decadent, delicious cakes, bars, pies, a featured pudding, be it rice or a varied bread pudding, and the ice cream parlor. Unlike other ships, the ice cream parlor offerings are free. Here is how I spent my dessert time after lunch. There are two standard flavors of hand packed ice cream, two frozen yogurts, soft serve, one sherbert, and one sorbet, served either in large waffle cone, or as many scoops as you wish in a dish, to which you may add, spriknkles, crushed pineapple, bananas foster, butterscotch sauce, real hot fudge, marsmallow, green creme de menth, cherry brandy, whipped cream, or fresh strawberrys, ripe red raspberries or fresh blueberries. That was such a treat. In addition, there are no sugar added desserts as well. We ate all lunches at the Lido, and tried the Rotterdam Restaurant once for breakfast, and we were not impressed with the Eggs Benedict, nor the omelet served there.
We did dine each night in the Rotterdam Dining Room, with the exception of the dinner at the Pinnacle Grill. One could easily order a seven course meal in the Rotterdam Restaurant. From apaetiser to cheese board. I enjoy duckling, and it was offered on three occasions, each prepared using different recipes, the Peking style duck was more than satisfying. Unlike ducks from cruises past, the ducks were plump, and not scrawny. Cracked crab legs were offered, farm raaised venison, an excellent veal noisette, rack of lamb, mussels, oysters, lobster, and so many other top-notch menu items. One quibble, HAL is noted for the "Wedge", a salad of heart of iceberg lettuce, topped with a chunk of blue cheese. Thats the whole salad. On this cruise, the blue cheese was a thin cloudy dressing, served in a ramekin. Oh, well.
The other venues for stuffing oneself, 24 room service, fast and very extensive, including shrimp cocktail and a small steak, special menu for those under the weather, and even fresh squeezed orange juise in the morning, all room service trays are covered with a frette linen cloth, hotel silver is used, and everywhere on the ship, china, no plastic, melamine or paper plates are used, nor is plastic eating utensils used. There are tywo featured pizza's each day, and they may also be ordered through room service.
The ports were fine, except for Point au Pitre, Guadleoupe, which is a typical French outpost, filthy, open sewer stench, even a dead rat in the gutter in front of a brasserie. Our friends from Vermont were petrified. I have been here before, and I have even eaten on the island, I THINK never again.
Dominica is a real gem, a treaure of a place. There are NO BEACHES HERE. None, nada, zip. You may book an excursion from the ship, or you may do as we did, higher a van and see the island. We hired Lennox, also known as Chawly, from his soccer days, for $20.00 per person, for five hours. We enjoyed his good humor, and If you go, due ask for him. We saw the falls, and the climb is not for everyone, there is a resting place, while others go along, and will meet up with you on the return. I did half of the trek, my legs ached for days!! I am in good shape, and garden, yet, this was a grind even for me.
Tortola, again, a beauty, with good beaches. Again, if you wish, hire a taxi/van, set your price, go to the beach, and pay the driver WHEN HE RETURNS TO PICK YOU UP at the beach.
Barbados, one of our favorites, seems to be home to more KFC's than any place I have sen. We hired a van, and went to a resort. Our driver told us outright not to waste our money buying anything on the island, as there is a mark up, PLUS 15% VAT added. He says he shops in St. Thomas at Tommy Hilfigger and K Mart there. Indeed, he had on a Tommy shirt, Tommy jeans and Tommy sneakers and a Tommy belt! One safely dine in Barbados, at a beach resort, but not at vendors street side.
The Maasdam was one of six ships in Barbados. Another one, anchored out in the harbor was the arrested European Visions, seized and in bankrupsy, of First European/Festival Cruises.
There were seven cruise ships at St. Thomas. The joke of the morning was "what is St. Thomas like with 30,00 people belched ashore?" Well, typically St. Thomas, bubbly, crowded, and not very much different as it usually is. It took forever to get passengers off the ship, we were docked in the outer harbor, beyond Frenchmens Reef. The Radisson Diamond was out there with us. The seas were outrageous, and getting into/out of the tenders was horrific. Topping that off, we had to be back on board by 2:15pm for a 3:00pm sailing. The big girls tied up the Havensight Pier, Golden Princess, Explorer of the Seas and Costa Atlantica. The Disney Magic was in the inner harbor, and what an attractive ship she is.
Our captain canceled Half Moon Cay, due to rough seas. To compensate, all passengers had their ships account credited $13.22 for unused port fees, and both first and second seating passengers were treated to a one hour, complimentary, cocktail party, whereby, the passenger ordered what they wished, as much as they wished. No pre-mades here. Another nice touch, was the Mariners Party, for repeaters, held in the afternoon, with hot and cold appertizers, Bloddy Marys, Mimosas, or plain orange juice, and some people oreded what they wished, and they got what they ordered. The Bloodys were perfect. Over half of the ship were repeaters. We were aacknowledged for having over 25 days with HAL. There were dozens receiving their medal for 100 days, there were 200, 300, 600 day passengers.
We have looked far and wide for a replacement for our dearly loved Royal Viking Line and Home Lines. We feel we have found it with HAL. There is a familiar feel among all HAL ship, even in the New Vista Class ships. Be it the crew, a general theme that pervails in the overall decor, it certainly is moticed in the overall crew - whatever it is, it is alive and well on the Maasdam. Many reviews note the "nickel and diming" found on other lines ships. I did not find it so last year on Zuiderdam, nor on the Maasdam. Sure, the photos are now priced way out of line, BUT people do buy them myself included. $34.00 for "your cruise" video, well, after reviewing it, and seeing our little group and our new friends featured throughout, it was worth the price. I think "nickel and dimed" passengers are the complainers, and I have seen my share, yet very few on this cruise, with the exception of changing the in-stateroom liquor policy.
Lets get ready for another MAJOR CHANGE.
Starting in May, HAL's tradition, "no tipping required" is to BE DROPPED. Yup, $10.00 per person, per day, will be automatically added to your ships account, before you even you board the ship. We tip, generously, above the no tipping rule. But! we saw what this policy did to Princess, a why give service, if its pre done attitude, by most of the crew. I hope and pray this is not the case on HAL. That a pretty bitter pill to swallow.
Many reviews mention the "cut backs" in food, service and the like. Each evening, in each bar and lounge, pre-dinner hors' de ouverves are served, live music fills the lounges, an extensive room service menu is provided, each night in the Rotterdam Restaurant a featured flambed dessert is offered, I watched the head waiter prepare them each night, the Baked Alaska on Parade is still done, a true sea tradition (a sparkler is used, not an open flame). If one thinks HAL is cutting back or skimping, one needs only sail with them. It is what cruising was like twenty years ago. Ocean and Cruise News has again awarded Holland America Line the first for value and excellence, and 10 of HAL's ship are in the top 15 ranked world-wide by Ocean and Cruise News, and ranked number one cruise line by Conde Nast for its distinction for the large ship class. You don't marks like these for nothing. It takes dedication and a lot of hard work.
Incidently, Holland America has made a commitment to further enhance its fleet, by spending $250,000.00 to upgrade the Statendam Class ships, the Statendam, Maasdam, Ryndan and Veendam. While we were on our cruise, we got a new ice bucket, new coffee makers at the Lido were installed and the promise of Eurpean linens in on the way. What a wonderful product HAL is. Now, maybe we can have a fridge in the staterooms? Ours was a new Haier, a brand from China - we have a wine fridge, a Haier, at home. I found the same little fridge we rented on the Maasdam, at Target.
We hate leaving our ship, ports to us are a pleasant diversion. I mean it when we say we cano not wait to get back on board the Maasdam, espcially from Norfolk. We met so many wonderful people, and had such a great crew, we were all in tears at the Dolphin Lounge when we finally got called to clear the ship.