Number of Cruises: 3
Cruise Line: Holland America
Sailing Date: April 10th, 2005
Itinerary: Southern Caribbean
This was certainly a different cruise than the first 2 we did with Holland America. A day before departure we were called and told that the ship would be docking two hours late and would also be leaving that same two hours late. We made the three hour drive two hours later than we had originally planned and found that we were still about three hours earlier than we needed to be. The Maasdam did not arrive at the dock until after 3PM after losing an engine and encountering bad weather on her previous trip.
HAL had arranged a "hospitality room" at the nearby Marriott which was visited by most of the waiting passengers. A steady stream of busses circulated between the Nautica, the hotel, the mall and a couple of other locations. Shore personnel did their best to keep us informed but we seldom got the same story twice in a row as to expected ETD.
About 6:30 we were told to board a bus which then waited at the hotel for 30 minutes prior to heading for the dock. Once at the dock we joined the long line for check-in which moved at a reasonable pace. The weather was good so this was only a minor inconvenience.
We finally boarded the ship at 8:05PM. We were shown the way to our spacious outside cabin on the main deck and our luggage was waiting for us all in good order. A special package of amenities ordered by our children in honor of our 25th anniversary was also found in the room - all in order.
We did a small amount of unpacking and headed to the Lido for a quick late supper. The Lido was almost empty but there was no shortage of tasty food for some now tired travelers.
We returned to our cabin and called the Front Office to request a pair of extension cords and some distilled water for my C-pap machine that regulates ny breathing while I sleep. The electrical cords appeared almost immediately but the concept of "Distilled Water" was a difficult one for both the front office staff and room service. When I finally explained that I was not planning to drink it and that the engineers would certainly have some for their batteries, I finally had a 2 liter bottle brought to our door by a front office rep going off duty.
We sailed sometime around 11PM and I went to bed almost immediately. We debarked the pilot around 1:30AM and turned south.
The Maasdam is indeed a beautiful ship, slightly smaller than the twin flagships we had previously sailed in (Rottersam and Amsterdam).
Due to our late departure, the continuing problem with one of the diesel generators and some adverse sea conditions and currents, we were informed by our Captain that we would have to forego the stop at Half Moon Cay and would be proceeding directly to the USVI. A few groans and mild complaints could be heard but all in all no big deal.
The ship arrived at St Thomas at 5:45AM on Thursday. Everyone was glad to get ashore after three long days at sea. The weather was good but the seas were still up a little for the ferry ride to St. Johns. We toured the park by a slightly cramped open air "coach" and enjoyed the pretty sights while being bounced around by the bad roads that seemed to be everywhere.
We left St Thomas around 6:15 and headed for Dominica, arriving the next morning at 11:30. Took the Aerial Tram ride through the Tropical Rain Forest. Great tour, excellent guide - enjoyed it very much.
Proceeded that night to Barbados - a nice change of pace from the other islands. Everyone seemed to take a different excursion and everyone seemed to enjoy themselves. We took the "Coast to Coast Tour" and got a chance to see most of the island from a modern comfortable bus. A good guide helped make this a real nice experience.
Left Barbados around 5PM and got ready for dinner and the highlight of the trip for us - a Renewal of Vows as part of our 25th anniversary celebration. The Captain presided over a very moving and impressive event for 6 couples like us and an equal number of honeymooners. We received a very nice package commemorating the event with some really good photos.
We arrived in St Kitts a bit late on Sunday morning. The balky diesel generator was still out of service despite a team of specialists for the home office and some replacement parts. The Captain kept us well informed as to the progress (or lack of) throughout and his references to the engineers "rowing" down on B-deck to keep up our speed helped keep everyone's mood on a positive footing.
St Kitts has the only passenger tain in the Eastern Caribbean and many of us took the train tour that goes halfway around the island through some scenic sugar cane plantations and a number of quaint villages with happy villagers waving as we passed each one. The ride was scenic, enjoyable and featured some of the best rum drinks of any of the islands we visited. At the mid-point of the ride, we left the train and reboarded our coaches for a nice tour of the other side of the island. St. Kitts has some progressive leadership and the island seems to be prospering while retaining its charm. I would like to return some time for a longer visit. Really nice folks, good roads, good shopping, overall a great island.
Shortly after our departure Captain van del Loo came on the PA system to announce that one of the parts needed to fix the balky diesel had been inadvertently left out of the shipment of parts and that it could not be gotten to the ship in San Juan as anticipated. He announced to our great disappointment that we would also have to bypass San Juan in order to get back to Norflk on our expected date of return. He told us that a package of refunds and compensation was being arranged by the main office in Seattle and promised to keep us well informed which he did, even scheduling a no-holds-barred Q&A session the next morning by any or all who wished to "grill" him. A fair package (without being overly generous) was offered to all and most felt it was appropriate for the circumstances.
The food on this trip was even better than what we had on our 2 previous HAL cruises. We ate dinner one night in the Pinnacle (on our anniversary) andf the rest of the time in the Rotterdam. Our table steward, "Sumi", was a prince and took sparkling care of all our dinnertime needs. He is a 30 year veteran and seems to truly enjoy his work. His able assistant and the rest of the staff of maitre-de's, doormen, wine stewards and the like did a really super job. We were very pleased with the table we were assigned and our dining companions - all people much like ourselves in age, experience and interests. No one missed dinner as we looked forward to each others company each evening. We were generally the first table seated for the 6:15 service and almost always the last to leave.
I am an early riser and enjoyed a nice, varied breakfast each morning in the Lido. It is well run and the staff were happy, efficient and a pleasure to be around. The food was always well presented and very appetizing.
We normally skipped lunch but did enjoy it a couple of days in the Lido, as well.
Our cabin steward "Joe" was the epitome of efficiency and pleasantness. Another veteran who seemed to really enjoy meeting people and he took obvious pride in keeping "his" rooms as the sharpest on the ship. He gets a double-A-plus.
The Cruise Activity staff was far and above the best we had encountered. "Bingo Boy Troy" was an old friend from a previous trip aboard the Amsterdam and we quickly renewed and old friendship. The rest of Directo DiRoccos staff were talented, fun and always seemed to be mingling. "Lucky" Lindsey seemed to really enjoy socializing with the guests. They organized alot of impromptu activities due to the extra days at sea due to the missed ports and kept us well entertained. We hope to see our friend Troy move up to the ranks of Cruise Director as he will surely make an outstanding one.
Speaking of entertainment. The Cast of the Maasdam (10 truly talented performers) put on 3 really top notch shows. Worth special mention is the lead male singer Peter who has an incredible voice and also the singing and dancing of Katie - the #2 female vocalist. They were all great but these two stood out.
The rest of the performers ranged from very good down to fair. We had one really good male vocalist/humorist who's name escapes me (he was the one with the Uke), one excellent stand-up comic - Lee Bayless (who went on the night the missed port in PR was announced) and single-handedly seemed to turn around the mood of the whole ship.
The Filipino contingent of the crew put on the traditional Crew show which was really a treat. A bartender turned Emcee and some super singers and dancers made this a show not to be missed.
The guests put on another HAL traditional show - the Great Pretenders where guests in some pretty outlandish costumes lip-synched to some favorite oldies, supported by the activity staff.
Our arrival in Norfolk was on-time. Departure was effortless and we were home in North Carolina by early afternoon, already missing our "Beautiful and Elegant Maasdam".
Overall, this trip was one of contrasts: mechanical problems dogged us the whole cruise through but the quality of the ship's company from the Skipper on down made up for it. I'd have to give the Maasdam top marks for food, drink, entertainment and friendliness. Now if those guys on B-deck could only row a little faster...