Number of Cruises: 7
Cruise Line: Holland America
Sailing Date: June 19th, 2004
Itinerary: New England/Canada
The Canada/New England cruise aboard the Maasdam is a delightful, relaxing vacation. We arrived at the Boston cruise terminal at 11AM after a short taxi ride from the airport. (The Big Dig is almost finished and it is a big improvement over the old road system.) We were given a number and at 11:30, as advertised, they began early embarkation. We were in the second set of numbers called; there were virtually no lines at check-in and we were in the Lido eating lunch by noon. This was the easiest embarkation by far that we have ever had. At 1:20, they announced that we were free to go to our cabins. We had taken advantage of an email offer and had upgraded to a Veranda suite, which was very spacious.
As we have already sailed on the Maasdam, we refamiliarized ourselves with the ship and made our reservations at the Pinnacle Grill. We had preordered the Pinnacle Grill for the first night ($10 per person instead of the normal $20) and simply had to get a time for dinner. The food, service, and presentation at the Grill were outstanding.
The Maasdam has previously been described very well and we won’t repeat the narrative. One point that we will make is that the space per passenger is very generous and nowhere on the ship did we feel crowded. We prefer the smaller cruise ships to the larger megaships.
The service was truly friendly and outstanding. Almost the entire crew would greet you with Good Morning/Afternoon, How are you?, What did you do today? There has been no drop in service since HAL instituted the automatic tipping policy.
The food in the Rotterdam Dining Room or the Lido was almost as good as the Pinnacle with great variety (my wife loves their stewed apricots and musceli for breakfast and was very disappointed on an earlier Carnival cruise that they were not offered).
The entertainment has improved over the years with HAL. The three production song and dance shows were very well done and had excellent costumes. Other performers included a comedian, and ventriloquist/comedian, and an impersonator/singer. By coincidence, this was the third time we had seen the ventriloquist over the last four years on two different HAL ships so his routine was old-hat to us, but others liked it.
Our teenaged daughter participated in the Club HAL activities (mostly right before dinner and at night) and had a lot of fun. This cruise had fewer children than most Caribbean cruises at this time of year, but the activities were well planned and available. This was her first cruise as a teenager and she appreciated the greater freedom given the older group.
The first sailing day was spent at sea allowing passengers to familiarize themselves with the ship. The first port was a call at Oak Bluffs (Martha’s Vineyard), MA. It is tendered with an early departure. We strolled around the town to see the original Coney Island carousel and the old Methodist revival village with Victorian cottages.
The second port was Portland, ME. We took an independent trolley tour of the city and the Portland Head Lighthouse. Two very nice advantages of this cruise compared to many of the Caribbean cruises are that the docks are all within walking distance of the cities/towns and that in each case, the Maasdam was the only ship in port so the towns are not overwhelmed with passengers.
The next port was Saint John, New Brunswick. The local people go all out to great their guests. Each woman/girl is given a long-stem rose and each man/boy is given a lapel pin. They even have a glee club singing on the pier. We went to the New Brunswick Museum, a short walk from the ship. Among other exhibits are a full whale skeleton and a mastodon skeleton. The only complaint here is that the ship has an early departure so we were rushed to return and could not see all that we would have liked.
Halifax, Nova Scotia, was next. We took a taxi to the Citadel to avoid walking up the significant hill, but walked back down to the ship. The Citadel is definitely worth visiting, as is the waterfront. We had hoped to also see the Victorian Public Gardens, but were told that they had been damaged by a hurricane and would not reopen for a couple of weeks.
The final port was Bar Harbor, ME – another tendered port. We took our only ship excursion – a tour of Acadia National Park with a horse-drawn carriage ride. We would highly recommend this excursion. Our only disappointment was that fog had rolled in and the view from Cadillac Mountain was limited.
Debarkation went very smoothly. Since we were staying over an extra night, we opted for a later time and we were allowed to stay in the room until called. We were able to get a quick taxi to our hotel and were off to explore Boston.
All in all, this was a very relaxing, fun cruise. We would recommend both the itinerary and the Maasdam.