Number of Cruises: 61
Cruise Line: Holland America
Sailing Date: December 7th, 2005
Itinerary: Eastern Caribbean
500th voyage of the Maasdam. Since this was a milestone cruise, HAL had many special parties and gifts for the passengers, and one fine gift was the Big Band, live, of Sammy Kaye, under the direction of Roger Thorpe. More on Sammy KayeOrchestra in the review to follow.
We sailed on the Maasdam this past March, on the very same itinerary from Norfolk, Va. This being our third cruise on the ship, and a wonderful one.
Our son drove us to the Nauticus Pier, soon home to the $38million passenger terminal due to be completed in 2007. We embarked promptly, and raced to our cabin. We found our dining room assignment, and went to the Rotterdam Dining Room to find our request was not as we wanted, and had it corrected. The maitre d'hotel remembered us, as we remembered him and after a few cordial pleasantries, we were off to re-check the ship out (as though we did not know the ship blindfolded at this point)!..
Our bags arrived, we had time to unpack, and we noticed one more perk from the ongoing enhancements to the ship, a NEW TV, a flat screen, replacing the dreary clunkers of the past. Also, a power strip, the extension cord type, was an added bounus, for cell phone, Sonic Care Elite and digital camera charging.
After life boat dril I photographed Norfolk lit up for Christmas, a nice sight, and one nicely viewed from the Sports Deck of the Maasdam.
First night dinner was wonderful, as good as many mid-cruise dinners. Our table was located at an ideal location for us, and our wait staff and wine steward endeared themselves to us instantly. Not one waiter did we recognize from our first two Maasdam cruises.
The Atlantic was rough the first night out, and there were many passengers absent from dinner, and from the introduction to the staff and first night Sammy Kaye show (half the band was missing)! The Maasdam suffered from a mechanical malfunction, which was corrected, with assurances from the captain,and they were corrected. The ship slowed a bit, and an hour was cut from the visit to Half Moon Cay.
Last time around Half Moon Cay was not exactly pleasant, you can read my findings from the last review. We stayed on board, and went ashore for a drink, and returned after about an hour. Enough Half Moon Cay as far as we are concerned. Due to the ship being delayed, the shore side BBQ was held on board, at the Lido pool. The BBQ was really nice, nothing like the one last year.
After Half Moon Cay, the cruise began in earnest, and the wonderful atmosphere of the Maasdam won most of her passengers over very rapidly. One was not, and I will feature her soon.
The Captains Welcome dinner was awesome. I must note, every evening my Manhattan was waiting for me, the wine steward was at our service and we were oh so happy.
I did find one tiny area to be unhappy about with the Rotterdam Restaurant. Maple syrup, as noted on the breakfast menu, is in fact table syrup. Also, we had several breakfasts there, as well as some lunches, trading off with the Lido breakfast and lunch. I reviewed th offerings of all dining venues on my two other reviews, well as the interior decor of this ship, and will limit them in this review.
Since this was a special cruise, the 500th, as well as a holiday cruise, I would like to note some of the decorations on board. The atrium hosted a nearly three deck Christmas tree, with a sleigh, reindeer, santa, and live poinsettias. There many tastefully decorated trees thoughout the ship. Another large tree was placed in the Rembrandt Lounge. On the hull, forward, port and starboard sides, were stenciled: Happy Holidays, with Happy Holidays, and 500th Voyage.
Crown Bay is new to me. It is new to a lot of people. It is a new docking area.
We docked there with Sea Dream II, form we Sea Goddess 2. Shops are being radied, and it will probably be similar to Haven Sight pier and shops, whenever it gets completed. Now, for the only real complaint(s).
We took a taxi, island for mini van. One woman"ME- a van - I never....." The other woman was not as snobbish. She used the F word a LOT, called the ship a twisted old tin can, and thought her trailer was nicer. And, OH, paying for the ride into town, when she could walk from the other place where ships were!! Give me break, that woman was nuts. The ride from Crown Bay to town is $4.00 each way, and from Havensight, it is now $5.00 each way. Gasoline we saw at $2.87 per gallon.
Across the bay were one of the Grand Class Princess ships, Royal Caribbean Internationals Serenade of the Seas, and Carnival Destiny.
We always enjoy St. Thomas. We have out "haunts" for shopping. Many people as k me where I like to shop, and I simply can not forward that advice, since shopping is very personal. Melanie on the Maasdam gives a wonderful series of port lectures, and she should be consulted.
We finished out Christmas shopping, and while waiting for things to be sized or what ever, we went off to find lunch ashore. We often dine ashore, and we opted this time for Maison Amelia, located in the quiet and lush Palm Passage. Tapas, soups, salads from $4.95 - 14.95 ( seafood salad at that price), with entrees priced from $10.95 - 26.95. Our meal for two, with unlimited iced tea came to $42.00, pre-tip.
I have seen many, oh, so many, ships musical shows, and all I can say about this cast was - boring. Singing to a click-track is so 1980's. Barry Mannilow now has a review of dancers and singers at sea, and this was the first ensemble, I hope the last, I see of his at sea. There were three comedians on board, one, Jason Chase, Branson Mo, as boring as Branson, I hope remains there. Bruce Block, with his live rabbit, was wonderful. Mick Lazinski, another good performer. We also had a superb singer, Eric Bohus, with a proper salute to Broadway, himself a Broadway performer, and pal of Tommy Tune. The Sammy Kaye Orchestra was awesome. I am not of the Big Band era, however, the songs are classics, and the older passengers loved the band. There were also male dance escorts for this special cruise. In addition, we had Seacrest, Mainlla Quartet, the Magic Strings and David the DJ.
Antigua we docked with the Costa Allegra, as ugly a ship as I can remember, the intriging MSC Lirica, Saga Rose ex Sagafjord), Norwegian Spirit and Ocean, ex Ocean Princess, now P&O. Antigua is a lively place. Shopping here we leave to "souvenir" items. RastaPasta, not a place to eat pasta, but a sho[, has some nice shirts.
St. Maarten was a nice as ever. We docked with Disney Magic. We did purchase some more things, and took a trusted shop keepers suggestion for a restaurant for lunch. We went down main street, to the right, walked to the Colleseum Casino, and entered the alley to find Man Bo. A dumpy place on the outside, serving superb, probably very authentic, Chinese food. Heinekens were only $6.00 US each. What a find this place was. No credit cards taken, only cash.
San Juan was all too short. We added to our collection of Hatian paintings, with an oil of black pantheres and yellow tigers in a jungle setting.
I can not praise the crew enough on this ship. We had Putu, our head dining steward, Dendra, his assistant, Zain, our table captain, and Fernando, one of the kindest, nicest wine stewards in a years. The Pinnacle Grill was wonderful, our favorite waiter, Peter, was seeing to a large party there, and we had a different waiter in his place. Our cabin steward, Eddy, kept our state room immaculate, and made towel animals for us each day.
A really nice event occurs each holiday season with the Maasdam staff in charge. They pick a different island each year, and bring toys to needy children This year it was Puerto Rico, and the crew donned elf and Santa costumes for the presentation pf toys.
Captain van der Loo runs a wonderful ship. He referes to the Maasdam as the "beautiful and elegant Maasdam" and he is crrect. Further reconstruction will see an enlarged Crows Nest Lounge, the new Culinary Center (in part of the Wajang Theater) and an expanded Spa. A newly reworked library, cafe and internet center will be made.
As much as we love HAL and the Maasdam, we are booked in February on Oceana Cruise Lines ms Rigatta. But, no to despair, we booked a November 2006 Maasdam cruise from Norfolk while on board.
The four ships hinted about in March for HAL, will be one new ship, due out in 2008.
We had a mystery on board, birthday balloons taped tou our stateroom door. There were no birthdays, non celebrated, and nobody knew why they were at our door. It always made us smile, however.