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Ed Berger

Age: 45

Occupation:Finance Exec

Number of Cruises: 2

Cruise Line: Holland America

Ship: Maasdam

Sailing Date: December 22, 2002

Itinerary: Western Caribbean

My family and I sailed on the Maasdam for the 2002 winter break, and had a highly enjoyable experience. Before going into detail, let me state that this is only my second cruise, and we were reluctant to be "cattle-carred" (as we thought) into a massive boat. With this in mind, we booked the Maasdam, which with 1200 passengers seemed like the perfect size ship.

Boarding was a breeze; we drove the rental car to the Port Everglades port (Ft Lauderdale) at 11 am and completed all the formalities within 30 minutes. Then spent a couple of hours in a coffee house and some last minute shopping, returned the car, and took the Avis bus directly to the ship. Our cabin was 829 on the A level (low and in the rear of the boat; booked late). Had a nice size window, and as Holland America advertises, a cabin larger than any other lines’ standard ones. Honestly, even with four of us (our 14 year old son on the bed lowered from the ceiling and our 8 year old daughter on the sofa bed) it was still very comfortable. When we unpacked, I realized that a wine bottle (fortunately white) had broken when the attendants unloaded the bags in the room. After some tense familial moments, I spoke with the front desk attendant, who immediately agreed to dry clean ALL affected clothes for free (quite a bit). Very professional response, and definitely set the week off on a good footing for all.

The service – impeccable. It is true, the cabin steward is hard to find, yet the room is always spotless. I have never been anywhere where there was so much cleaning going on. The boat is now 10 years old, yet is in pristine condition. The bathroom was perfectly clean, with a nice tub/shower combination. Plenty of closet space (enough for four), and clean linens. Most of the crew is from Indonesia or the Philippines. There were always smiles and a ‘can do’ attitude. The kids club (club HAL), had a friendly crew, and a very relaxed attitude (all activities free; drop in any time). And the dining staff was incomparable. The servers were responsive, friendly and extremely hard-working.

Food – superb. It’s hard to complain about the food in the main dining room at all. A very good selection, reasonably priced wines, seconds no problem, a beautiful Christmas Eve dinner, great sensitivity to special requests, etc. Excellent Lobster tails, escargot, rack of lamb, etc. After the first night, we wanted very much to switch to early seating. The steward accommodated, provided we join another couple. Helen and Bernice were a delight, and we all looked forward to the dinners together. The other food choice was in the Lido restaurant, which had a nice assortment of cold dishes and some so-so hot food. Note: the pizza was from a wood-burning oven and excellent. The only (minor) disappointment was with the midnight buffets, which didn’t seem very elaborate. My only point of comparison was ten years ago, so maybe these aren’t quite what they used to be.

Holiday Cheer – The captain and crew did a beautiful job with a Christmas Eve celebration, including some caroling from the crew, special meal, gifts for the kids, etc. A nice touch.

Entertainment – Holland America needs help here. While the magician was terrific, the comedian was pretty good, and Vinnie (singer) was top notch, the ‘cast’ of the Maasdam, which provided Vegas-style reviews, was woeful. Reminded me of a poor attempt at a Disney celebration or an ‘Up with People’ high school group. I realized how weak they were when we had passenger talent night, which was significantly better and more entertaining! Bingo was standard (save for a major dispute on the jackpot as to who the real winners were), and the cruise director was average at best.

Ports of Call – This cruise had an extra day at Sea due to the Christmas sailing. Cozumel was interesting (I highly recommend the jeep tour for a family) and in Progresso we spent a nice day in Merida (pretty Colonial city). Key West was a waste of time (way too touristic and cold), and the private Bahamian island was an enjoyable beach day. I wouldn’t recommend this one for the ports of call.

Overall Experience – The Maasdam is a great boat. At about 55,000 tons, it’s considered small by today’s standards. We found the size to be a major asset; large enough to explore but not so large as to get lost in the shuffle. The Captain and crew are VERY professional; ship is spotless and the food superb. Entertainment? If this is what you’re looking for, I’d recommend a trip to Vegas or Broadway. Relaxation? YES. Kids activities? OK since it was a holiday cruise, although other lines probably focus more on these programs. We were satisfied. Non-stop activity? Look to Carnival for that. Would we book Holland America again? Definitely, but would look for more interesting itineraries. Hope you found this helpful. Happy to answer any questions.

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