Age: Young Boomer
Number of Cruises: 66
Cruise Line: Holland America
Sailing Date: October 28th, 2006
Itinerary: Southern Caribbean
This was our fourth cruise from Norfolk on
the Maasdam. I reviewed the interiors of this ship on the first Norfolk cruise,
and will only touch upon several "new" interior findings.
Our son drove us to the ship. I was amazed that the $38million cruise terminal is still under construction in Norfolk, and a long way from completion.
Passengers still board through the old "tenting". It is also amazing that Carnival, parent of Holland America since 1989, is taking the Maasdam from this city. Rumors on board were that HAL will bring another ship in, one is due in 2007, or, the Maasdam will return. We heard the Zuiderdam was coming. We'll see.........
We had express boarding, which meant nothing at check in. We were shown to our stateroom by a crew member. I noticed that there are now stateroom number/slot holders at each stateroom. The photo ID is now used as your cabin entry key, retiring the old plastic key system of the past. As usual, the ship gleamed. Our dining assignment was not confirmed before we left home. We sought out the Maitre D' hotel, and he took our request, which was honored on the fourth night of the cruise. Sure, it was a problem, and, it was taken care of with aplomb.
A new TV, a flat screen and a DVD player($3.00 to borrow a DVD) were new additions to our stateroom. Too bad they still do not have a fridge!. Our queen bed was not ready, but was reconfigured the next day. The bed is wonderful, a cocoon of comfort. The bath was spotless, the caulking was new and pure white, and, no cracked tiles. Upgraded bath items are now standard.
We went up to the buffet at the Lido for lunch prior to boat drill. I am squeezing all of the Lido findings in here. It was disappointing in many ways. One example: fajitas - no salsa, no Pico de Gallo, no tortillas, to tacos, nor anything else that seemed Mex-TexMex. Often items at breakfast and lunch were not replaced, you had to make someone get it from the other side of the Lido buffet. On my previous Maasdam cruises a cook sautéed garlic, tomatoes and the like, for fresh pasta sauces, this time, no. The same went for the Asian wok section. The smoked salmon was of a "lesser" quality than in the past, and the platter small, hard to find, the display was tacky. Half Moon Cay day, the BBQ was held on board, rather than ashore. After checking that out, we headed for lunch in the Rotterdam Dining Room. We are not fast food people, never eaten at a buffet joint, so, we gladly stuck with the Rotterdam Dining Room. Also, three hallmarks of HAL are still provided at the Lido: complimentary ice cream, fab desserts full of calories or sugar free, and fresh squeezed orange juice. And, the stewards there are more than eager to secure you a table and carry your tray. We didn't get that on the QM2!
Outside the Lido, at the Lido pool, the pizza was disgusting, and the taco bar a mess, and the burgers thin pathetic frozen little things.
There are new things to enjoy on the ship, and they certainly offset what we found at the Lido. The Crows Nest has been totally rebuilt. It is much larger, and very clubbish, with seating in quiet areas, lowly lit, or bright and lively areas. The bar is a narrow U shape, white marble with alum/stainless touches, and silver velvet high backed bar stools. The dance floor is very large. Colors are magenta, pea green, and eggplant velvets on the sofas and banquettes. Leather recliners are provided near the floor to ceiling windows, that offer a sadly lesser view out to sea. The DJ has a more important area, too bad the selections played were the same old golden oldies. There was a fairly "fun" Halloween party held in the Crows Nest.
Here are some new pricing for things on the ship, much to our surprise. We'll spend over $100.00 for ship-board pictures, BUT new pricing? $20.95 per for pics taken IN/ON the ship. $10.95 for ones taken on the pier in port. Captains Night - there were three photo set ups BEFORE you got to the captain. No "sale" on liquor bought on board the last day, which they should have let you know about in advance. And, no more complimentary tote bag. What is still a good deal? $12.00 for a bag of laundry, which you give to your cabin steward. Drinks fairly well priced, and packing a good "punch". They make a fab Mojito on the Maasdam!
The Rotterdam Dining Room has been refreshed, and new, more comfortable chairs have been added. The menus for breakfast were wonderful, the items at the correct serving temperature. Real maple syrup is provided here, it is not offered at the lido. Real fresh squeezed orange juice has to be asked for, or, you get frozen. A new Rosenthal china pattern has also been introduced here, navy blue scrolls with gold, and the HAL crest in gold. Exquisite.
We lacked for nothing here for lunch. Burgers were really decent, as were the pastas and other entrees. We often were seated with our evening wait stewards, eager to serve us. If not, if they saw us at another table, they came by to say hello and introduced us the the staff waiting to serve us, and treated us with honor. Nice.
Dinner was another great and memorable affair, which I will keep short in this review. Escargots, pates, shellfish, duck, venison, excellent meats, wonderful salads, and highlights from Chef Rudi Sodamin. Gone is Dutch Night, and French Night. In their place are favorites from these themes, available during the cruise. No longer is the room transformed into a sea of white linen with the chairs covered in white, on Captains or Farewell nights. Why? I did not miss it, I did not ask. Live music is still played from the upper level of this grand dining venue.
Our favorite waiter in the Pinnacle has gone over to the Noordam. We were remembered from the past cruises, and had a lovely table for two. The menu has been expanded, and the food, prep and presentation was exceptional.
Another new space is the Explorations Cafe. It is like a Starbucks, wherein one buys fancy or plain coffees and pastries, at Starbucks prices. Price range $1.20 - $2.25, priced by our cruises prices. I for one will not pay for coffee on any ship. Espresso and Cappuccino are complimentary at dinner. The rest of this area, carved out anew, is a library, game area and quiet room, all offering splendid ocean views. The ceiling is coffered, the seating leather recliners, the computer area in satellite "pods" , and the place look as though it has always been there. A great job.
The Green House Spa is mostly new, and while it seems to be chic, for all intents an purposes, it was not the greatest renovation/rehab on this ship. There is no hydro therapy pool for one thing. To go from point A to C there is back tracking, no easy way to go from the changing areas to the waiting area, a tiny changing spot, with people walking in while you change, to get their tour of the spa. The new treatment rooms are nice, the old ones, tired and shabby. The massages, we each had three, were excellent, and then a fourth, on the last day, buy one get one free!
The entertainment on the cruise ran from excellent, to good to ugh. Excellent were Barnaby, we've seen him on several cruises before, Penny Matheson, a soprano, the HAL-Cats, the ships orchestra, and the Black Pearl Strings. Good were the venerable D'Sophisticats, playing pool side, in the Crows Nest, and pre-dinner in the Ocean Bar. Incidentally, the Ocean Bar has a new, larger dance floor. Now, for the ships cast - all I will say is, tiring. I can't can kids that pour their hearts out doing two shows a night. BUT the canned music, torn costumes and such, well....
We attended the Mariners Party, of which 75% of the passengers were attending. We stood for our level of days, applauded a 101 year old man who received his medallion for over 500 days, 40 people with 100 or more days, and four with over 300 days with HAL ships. I wish to give a mention for having sailed with him on other ships, Captain Henk Draper. He is young and shows a great deal of respect to all on his ship.
One very novel night during this cruise, the time it had been done on the Maasdam, was "Master Chefs Dinner", which showcases Rudi Sodamins artistry as a chef. We've known him for years, having enjoyed his talents on the Saga fjord and Vista fjord, during the Cunard/NAC days, as well as on the QE2. Here is how the evening went: First, you wear provided tall paper chef hats, if you wish. Then a parade of waiters promenade through out the room with baskets of fresh linen napkins, and had you yours as they pas. Then a salad parade, with tomatoes, cucumbers and juggled plates, a sort of salad baked Alaska thing (it is not your actual salad, nor your plate), with a finale of all ships personnel in white hats and chefs aprons dancing around the entire dining room. Whew!
The entire production was akin to toga night on Costa, a Greek Bachanal and the entrance to Rome from Aida. Impressive and fun. The food by the way, was wonderful and imaginatively plated up.
Speaking of food, or dinners were complimented each evening with a wonderful wine steward, Rebecca. She made sure we were attended to, and my Manhattan was waiting each night for me. Our wait staff was also superb. Not just superb, excellent.
St. Thomas was its teeming lively self. Norwegian Jewel was there. We had a nice lunch at Cuzzins on back Street. Like most of the Caribbean, service was slow here, the food worth every minute, the drinks, real strong and tropical. Go early, before 1pm for a seat. We did, again, a lot of Christmas shopping here. We were at Crown Bay, being enlarged for the QM2, and other ships at Havensight were from RCCL, Princess and HAL.
We love Dominica, and we were joined there by Caribbean Princess. We shopped the town, not much to buy. This is an island to take a tour. We'd done it before, and let this be a Spa day.
Barbados, we have always enjoyed, but, most of the resorts are being turned into condos, and our driver told us nobody lets cruise shippers come use the beach at the hotels, so, we went to Blue Monkey Beach, pretty, not great. We docked with Norwegian Jewel, a Microsoft yacht, Octopus, and the handsome P&O Cruises ms Arcadia.
In St. Kitts we opted for our place, which will remain anonymous. It is pure unspoiled Caribbean heaven, and waiting for our return in the future. You may take a ferry to Nevis from the dock if you want a peaceful beach.
We stayed on board at Half Moon Cay, and San Juan.
Here are some areas that irritate, pardon the pun. Smoke. Our stateroom reeked of it from passengers smoking on either side of us. The Piano Bar, a room I love, was too filled with smoke to be of any use to me. The smoke from the casino permeates the entire shopping area. This must be addressed.
Overall, this was a great cruise, on a favorite treasure, the Maasdam. We love the ship, and heard no complaints. Will we sail her again - without a doubt yes. Will we sail other HAL ships - we are booked on the Westerdam for next June. Do we sail other ships and cruise lines? We are booked on the Regatta for March, the Amadeus River Cruises Line November, and the Regatta again in 2008.