We are avid cruisers and typically spend at least six weeks per year on board. HAl used to be our favorite cruise line, but it is highly unlikely that we will sail with them again. The problems on the Maasdam seemed to be systemic, and most of our complaints came to roost with Douglas Hernandez as hotel manager. We registered verbal suggestions which were essentially ignored. I then wrote a lengthy explanation of our problems. We did get much better service after that, but other passengers weren't as lucky. I won't list the shortcomings - it would take more time than I am willing to spend. Some of them (like the bland food) may be a matter of taste. Others may have been our bad luck, although conversations with other passengers imply they were rife. Linens that looked revoltingly grubby seemed standard until we complained. One passenger commented that you could tell how old they were by the shade of beige. A sad comment on supposedly white towels! The ship may have been renovated, but non functioning washing machines, cabin plumbing and wiring made us feel that the effort had been put into the public areas.
What saved the cruise for us was three outstanding members of cruise staff. The cruise director, Anthony Choice was truly excellent. We have met dozens of them over the years and he is the best. He is all over the ship, unfailingly cheerful, and highly entertaining. He makes a personal connection with the passengers that is unique. His sidekick, Armen the DJ, was also personable and fun to be around. On a different level, Ian the librarian is also a gem. He is highly educated and knowledgeable about books. He is able to recommend books out of their library and was spot on when he gave me a new author to read. In addition to this, he has a quiet sense of humour that I really enjoyed. I don't suppose he will be on ships for long - he is much too bright, but if you are lucky enough to cruise with him, do go and get to know him.
So it was the worst and the best of times. We will stick to Princess in the future. Their frequent cruiser rewards are hard to beat, and they are much more consistent in their hotel management.