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LisaP 07-19-2011 07:48 PM

Back from Maasdam
We actually returned last week... just got tied up with other duties.

Our Canada/New England cruise on Maasdam was wonderful! We started in Montreal, and visited Quebec City, Charlottetown (Prince Edward Island), Sydney, Halifax (both Nova Scotia), and Bar Harbor. This is our favorite itinerary, and we have done it several times, including one prior voyage on this same ship.

Some quick highlights:
  • The ship looks beautiful. She finally had the Signature of Excellence refurbishments in May, among which was the reconfiguration of the piano bar/casino areas. I liked this new area, called MIX. The piano bar is no longer a separate room; it is part of an area that houses several bars. We spent most evenings here as the piano player was fabulous!
  • We had flexible time dining, the first we've ever done so on a ship that also offers traditional dining times. It worked out well for us. We made reservations only twice...the other times, we pretty much walked right in at 6:30-ish as we were fine sharing a table with others.
  • Dinners were amazing, especially the fish dishes I tried. I had sea bass the first night that was so wonderful that I took small bites to make it last longer!
  • Surprisingly, service was a bit spotty, atypical of HAL. The negatives were pretty much confined to the Pinnacle Grill. We had dinner there one night, and breakfast there a few others. During breakfast, I had to repeatedly ask for a cup of tea. During dinner, the waitress neglected to tell us that one of the desserts needed to be ordered ahead of time as it takes 20 minutes to prepare. Yet -- service shone in other areas, particularly in MIX, where the bartender offered to substitute soda water for Sprite in one of my beverages (when I told him there was a particular non-alcoholic mixed drink that appealed to me, but I was watching my sugar intake) and then remembered so the next night and every night thereafter.
  • Ports -- phenomenal! We did something different in Quebec City this time, a shore excursion to the Isle of Orleans. Spectacular. We learned that roughly 80% of the world's maple syrup comes from Quebec, and saw one of the sugar shacks in which it is produced. We also visited the Anne of Green Gables house in PEI. Other than that, we knew the ports well enough to go out on our own, including my obligatory visit to the Maritime Museum in Halifax.
  • We met some wonderful people, including a couple on their honeymoon. Both man and wife were 90 years old!
Happy to answer any questions about the ship or itinerary. This was, without a doubt, among the top cruises we've taken. Even our 17-year-old had a wonderful time, and is asking when we will go again.

penny3333 07-22-2011 08:09 AM

Sounds wonderful, Lisa! Sorry I didn't see this earlier. I have been wanting to try HAL again, it's been a long time. Since my cruise was on the Nieuw Amsterdam, I'd like to go on the new one. I had no idea that 80% of the maple syrup came from there. Here all this time, I thought it was Vermont:)

I know you'll be going again soon, which itinerary are you going on next?

susanmaz 07-22-2011 11:26 AM

Great Review Lisa. It's a dream itinerary for me - but living on the West Coast makes it a long "save for" . . . Do you remember the name of the piano bar pianist? The pianist on our Zaandam cruise was mentioning that he would like to be on the Maasdam's New England/Canada run after it's drydock.... I'm wondering if it's him.

LisaP 07-22-2011 01:37 PM

Thank you both. Susan, the piano bar pianist was Buddy. We LOVED him. I'll have to look up his last name and PM it to you when I find it.

This really is a marvelous itinerary. I often advise those who wish to take a Canada/New England cruise to select an itinerary that includes Quebec to get the full feel for it.

Next up, Penny, is a 14-nighter on HAL's Amsterdam...round trip from Seattle, visiting Ketchikan, Tracy Arm, Juneau, Icy Strait Point, Anchorage, Homer, Kodiak, Hubbard Glacier, Sitka, and Victoria. It's a full year away, sadly. We've been to just two of these spots previously (Ketchikan, Juneau). We were thinking of going on a cruise to nowhere in October, but it doesn't look like that will happen due to schedules.

I was surprised by the maple syrup statistic, also. I verified it when I got home... got ranges between 70% and 80%. Then again, Quebec province is huge.

penny3333 07-25-2011 09:58 AM

Somehow, I have a sneaky feeling that you'll manage to squeeze one in before then:) It seems like forever since I was last on board and it's only been 5 months, well almost 6 now.

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