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Bill Giauque

Age: 70

Occupation:Retired college professor

Number of Cruises: 5

Cruise Line: Holland America

Ship: Maasdam

Sailing Date: 2011-09-17

Itinerary: Montreal to Boston

This is my fifth cruise, each with a different line. Previously I have cruised with Princess, Costa, Orient, Norwegian, and Vantage. Our party consisted of me and my wife, my son and his wife (early 30s) and their 20-month old daughter.

I was pleased with both the selection and quality of the food. We split our time between the Rotterdam Dining room (elegant, but leisurely -- about 90 minutes for dinner) and the Lido cafeteria, which was handier for our child. Veggies were usually overcooked, but the breads, salads, main dishes, appetizers and desserts were quite good. We also had good experience with room service breakfasts -- tasty and delivered hot and on time.

The room was clean, well laid out, and comfortable. All the equipment was attractive and in good repair. The ship was recently rebuilt, and that showed in the physical plant.

The service throughout the ship was exceptional. The crew (mostly Indonesian) were friendly, competent, and seemed genuinely interested in us. Several went out of their way to interact with our baby and provide extra services for us. My wife and I were without our luggage for the first day of the cruise (airline problems) and HAL did everything reasonable to help us -- free laundry, free formal wear rental, and complementary overnight kit. The Front Desk representative took nearly an hour of her time to make sure we had what we needed, and to get all the information I could provide on our lost bags. She promised follow-up work from the HAL shore personnel, and called several times to keep us informed of progress.

We went to two of the shows, and found them quite good by cruise ship standards -- a step below top professional groups, but well scripted, well performed and enjoyable. They were geared towards the old folk crowd, but that matched the passenger demographics.

We did only one excursion through the ship, to Louisbourg Fort on Cape Breton Island. I found the fort very interesting. It is a recreation of an 18th century community fort with locals in costume explaining life at that time. The docents were knowledgeable and very approachable, and I wish only that we had more time there. On the down side, our tour guide clearly had an agenda and was quite vocal about how various governments had mistreated the locals, and the bus interior was very dusty.

We avoided booking excursions through HAL, and I strongly recommend that.

In Quebec City, the ship docks within easy walking distance of the old city, and everything is easily reachable on foot. We took the funicular to the upper city and spend the day walking a beautiful and interesting city.

We rented cars in Charlottetown and Halifax. We had reserved a car in Charlottetown but couldn't find the rental agency. However the tourist information office, a short walk from the ship, was most helpful, and provided information on 7 rental companies. We had no trouble finding a car (from Dollar, as it happened) despite the lack of reservation. All the rental companies are at the airport, about 10 minutes away, but are happy to pick you up near the ship. The company recommended several drives, and we chose to visit the north shore of the island for beaches and the Anne of Green Gables site. An excellent lunch at a little corner restaurant (the Water Prince Shop, highly recommended), right across the street from the tourist information office in Charlottetown ended a delightful day. There are also several other tour options available, some right as you disembark, and others available through the well-staffed and helpful tourist information office.

Sydney, Cape Breton Island, is a small industrial town that has limited tourism options, so a ship's tour here makes sense. There were several available, and the Louisbourg Fort seemed the best for our situation.

We had a reservation for our car in Halifax and were glad we did. Another couple couldn't find cars available at our counter, and I don't know if they managed to find one. The rental counters are about a 10-minute walk from the ship. We drove to Peggy's Cove and managed to get there about a half-hour ahead of several cruise ship buses. It's a lovely place, but much nicer without the crowds. It's only a 30-40 minute drive from Halifax, and I'm glad we had the flexibility to leave and drive along the shore when the tours arrived. We found some beautiful spots further down the shore that were free of crowds.

Bar Harbor offers free shuttles from downtown (near the ship dock) to the national park, and the downtown is also beautiful. I recommend the walk along the shore that starts near the docks and goes past many of the beautiful homes in the area.

Both embarkation in Montreal and disembarkation in Boston were handled smoothly and professionally. We were off the ship by 10:00 am, and at Logan Airport on the shuttle provided by the ship shortly thereafter.

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