Number of Cruises: seven
Cruise Line: Holland America
Sailing Date: August 28th, 2004
Itinerary: New England/Canada
The travelers: Two women, widowed, one approaching retirement, the other already there. We've both cruised before (HAL, Royal Olympic, Carnival, Celebrity and Princess). The Maasdam was our choice for this cruise because it embarked from Boston where we wanted to spend some pre-cruise days touring the city.
PRE- AND POST-CRUISE ARRANGEMENTS
Because travel was within North America, we made our own travel arrangements. Teresa and I live in different states and flew separately to Boston. Our plan was to meet at the hotel on Wednesday evening, spend Thursday and Friday touring the city and then taxi to the port on Saturday. We did purchase HAL transfers from the port in Montreal to the airport for our flights home.
We wanted accommodations that would be more or less centrally located in the city. Teresa placed a successful bid on Priceline for three nights, and we stayed at the Hyatt Downtown in the financial district. Boston is an easy city to tour by walking and we did a lot of it.
We purchased Go Boston Cards on-line (www.GoBostonCard.com) to take advantage of free or reduced rate admissions to many city attractions. On Thursday, we began touring by first riding the Beantown Trolley to get an overview of Boston. Later, when we were weary from on-foot exploration, we took a Boston Duck Tour using the Card. Most of Friday was spent using the audio guide (available in the Visitor’s Center in Boston Common) to follow the Freedom Trail.
Our transfer to the ship on Saturday was flawless. Following hotel check out 11:30, the bellman loaded our luggage into a taxi and fifteen minutes (and $11 plus tip) later, we were portside. Luggage was turned over to a baggage handler, and we proceeded to check in where there was no line. Less than five minutes later we boarded the ship, had our first photo taken and were standing in line for lunch in the Lido at noon! It just doesn’t get any better or easier!
Many cruise reviews include a description of the ship, public areas, cabin accommodations, general décor and food quality and presentation. These criteria are less important to me than the itinerary and experience in each port of call. To summarize in a few words, the ship is attractive although some wear and tear was evident in the cabin, the crew is attentive, and I didn’t lose any weight.
The dining room dinner schedule has been modified from two to four seatings: Two early (5:45 and 6:15) and two main (8:00 and 8:15). Seatings one and three were in the upper dining area, two and four in the lower. Since our excursions were generally in the morning and our afternoons before sailing were spent shopping or relaxing on the ship, we chose early seating. This made it possible for us to attend shows or other evening activities and still get a good night’s sleep before the next day’s activities began. Since our shore excursions began shortly after docking, we ate breakfasts in the Lido. Lunches on days we had excursions were eaten in the Lido as well. On our one sea day, we ate breakfast and lunch in the dining room.
Our cabin was midship, port side on Veranda Deck (9). Cabin appointments were comparable to those of similar class ships: king bed split into two twins, a settee and coffee table, television with remote control, vanity and stool, a chair, mini-bar and refrigerator. The bathroom is equipped with a hair dryer, Jacuzzi tub/shower, electrical outlet for a razor and retractable clothes line. There is an electrical outlet at the vanity, but I neglected to take an adaptor and my hair dryer’s plug did not fit into the available outlet.
ON-BOARD ACTIVITIES AND ENTERTAINMENT
There were many daytime shipboard activities, but shore excursions and port shopping curtailed our taking part in them.
Beyond the Production and Filipino Crew Shows, evening performances in the Rembrandt Lounge included musician/comedian David Levesque and ventriloquist/comedian Mike Robinson. David also did two afternoon enrichment programs, one on the history of the Atlantic Provinces and another on the “Art and Science of Navigation”.
We have booked private driver/guides for port tours in Europe and now prefer this method to taking ship-sponsored tours. However, we found no interest on the part of other Maasdam passengers who read the cruise message boards to join us for private tours on this cruise. As a result, Teresa and I booked only Bob MacLintock ( http://tourbytaxi.com ) for HALIFAX, willingly “biting the bullet” if we had to split the charge rather than divide it four ways. Fortunately a mother and daughter at our dinner table were interested the day’s itinerary and elected to share the day (and cost) with us. Bob began with a quick tour of Halifax (including the Citadel and the cemetery where many of the Titanic victims are buried) before heading to Peggy’s Cove, around Margaret’s Bay, Mahone Bay (where we stopped for a quick lunch) and Lunenberg, a particularly quaint town with many interesting buildings. Bob shares information about the area, has a quick sense of humor and is willing to stop for picture-taking as often as he’s asked. His “tour by taxi” is a great alternative to taking a ship’s excursion.
Our other tours were ship-sponsored:
BAR HARBOR – Acadia National Park (2.5 hours - $29) A scenic drive with stops along the way to enjoy the views and take pictures.
SYDNEY – We had originally scheduled Scenic Cabot Trail, but the ship’s late departure from Halifax necessitated the cancellation of this tour. We were able to switch to the Bras d’Or Lakes Grand Tour in its place (7.5 hours - $99). It was an enjoyable day which included a stop for a buffet lunch, short ferry ride, and visit to model Scottish village c1790 to 1900’s.
CHARLOTTETOWN – Island Drive and Anne of Green Gables (4 hours - $44) There’s plenty to see without the stop for AGG. It would be my wish that these could be separated into TWO tours, one with AGG and one without.
QUEBEC CITY – City Tour & Montmorency Falls (3.5 hours - $39) If you’ve been to Niagara Falls, there’s no need to visit Montmorency Falls. Spend as much time as possible in Upper and Lower Towns. Both are quaint, interesting areas.
MONTREAL – A City Tour (about 3 hours - $39) is available to passengers who purchase transfer from the ship to the airport and whose flights don’t leave until midafternoon. We drove through the city and some ethnic communities and made stops for photographs at St. Joseph’s Church and a city overlook.
HAL’s cruises have never disappointed me. The ships, even if aging, are always clean. On-board activities for those who like to be busy are abundant. The crew is always courteous. Food is plentiful and appetizing.
Our most recent cruises have been to European ports. While we enjoyed them, this time we wanted to stay closer to home. The New England/Canada itinerary was one that appealed to us for time of year and cost. During the cruise, we enjoyed some ports so much that we would have liked more time to tour, particularly the ports of Halifax, Charlottetown, and Quebec City. Since that probably isn’t possible due to the distance that must be covered between ports, Teresa and I may someday return to tour independently by car at more leisurely pace. But understanding that a cruise like this one to New England and Canada is able to offer only a sample of scenery and local life, the Maasdam cruise met our expectations.