This was my 44th cruise and number 25 on HAL (although they give me credit for 26 cruises one being a back to back booked as a single cruise). We now live in south Florida so we drove to Port Everglades. We booked a bargain parking lot, Premier Parking. While the price was great, the lot we were directed to was difficult to find -- evening for the GPS device. I suggest that you get precise directions if you use this lot, which I will do in the future, since I now can find it!
The Friday departure was fast. Port Everglades, which can be very crowded on the weekends was quite sleepy with only three ships leaving. Checked in with one party ahead of us. We were in our cabin in 10 minutes. My major complaint by far is the need for HAL to give its cabins a thorough cleaning on a periodic schedule. There are two teams of two stewards each to take care of 60 cabins. Our stewards were responsive and great, but is is obvious that they cannot perform a thorough cleaning of each cabin on a reasonable schedule. Perhaps the Hotel Mgr., ought to lend a hand!
Otherwise Maasdam was in fine shape. The S class ships get better with time. Alas not so for the writer!
The Crows Nest was a little chaotic as we left. We were perched at the bar, got our drinks promptly (several in fact) but the staff (and there was lots of staff) appeared bewildered. Some folks waited 15 minutes for a drink. No way to get a buzz on! Also HAL's famous snacks were not offered, but when I mentioned this as we left the bar, I was told that they were indeed there, perhaps in hiding.
The food -- The main dining room was very nice. HAL food in my opinion is like better than okay banquet food, and this cruise proved no exception. The waiters and wine steward were responsive, and the dining room manager responsible for our area was always present and walking the room. Only complaint was with the kitchen which was having obvious periodic slow-downs. This could have been due to a large group of guest who required Passover/kosher food. This might have put a strain on the kitchen.
The Pinnacle Grill was disappointing. Fifteen minutes passed before anyone came to take out order. We had to request the wine steward to refrain from pouring or else the wine could have been exhausted before the waiter came to get our order. In my obviously not-so-humble opinion, this restaurant is the most overrated eatery at sea.
Canaletto, which I have always enjoyed, fell a bit flat. The usually wonderful fish soup had great flavor, but lacked the usually abundant fish. My friend's pasta was over seasoned with red pepper flakes. The subtle vodka sauce ended with a vicious kick.
The Lido was very good. On the S ships there is room for all. Tables were always available inside and out. Often the outside tables don't get a cleaned quickly enough. On this voyage the staff was very attentive.
The Ocean Bar was pleasant, if mostly vacant. Not mainly sailors pulling their weight. However, we helped pay the HAL's fuel bill with a couple of $250 drink cards -- can't pass up a bargain.
The ports were pleasantly varied. I was surprised to see that HAL included St. Barts on this cruise. Didn't think HAL ships were "tony" enough to meet the standards of this isle. Pleasant but expensive, make that a capital E!
The shows in the Showroom at Sea were the best that I have seen in a while. I usually don't go after the first one. Not this time, the singers and dancers are first rate as is Benny from Boston in the piano bar.
I have rambled too long. I obviously enjoyed the good and tolerated the not so perfect. If you like a smaller (by today's standards) intimate ship, Maasdam will not disappoint.