This was our 3rd HAL cruise and our 13th altogether. The Maasdam interior was almost identical to the Zaandam and the Statendam - pleasing and not over-glitzy like on Carnival. She is a small ship with approximately 1250 passengers. As on our other 2 HAL cruises most of the passengers were over 55, but there were more younger people than on our other 2.
The itinerary was mostly what appealed to us: Fort Lauderdale, Charleston, Newport, Bar Harbor, Halifax, Sydney, Charlottetown, Gaspe, Sept Isles, Saguenay, Quebec and Montreal. Late April and early May are perhaps not the best months for such an itinerary -- it was very chilly, windy and often overcast with some rain once we sailed into Canadian waters; temps in the 40's with mostly wintry landscape. Repositioning 2 weeks later would have been better, but so be it. We nonetheless enjoyed the cruise very much; we just didn't get off at every location, as we had intended. Lobster in Bar Harbor and Halifax was wonderful. More
The seas were extremely calm, so one hardly felt that one was on a ship, except for the engines and the vibration. You couldn't get seasick if you wanted to.
Our 4th deck mid-ship cabin had a full window so we could enjoy the outdoors in the warmth of our room. The river portion from Quebec to Montreal was especially pretty and interesting. On this particular cruise a lanai type or balcony accommodation would have been a waste of money. The room stewards kept our space clean and tidied up, with refreshed linens and towels every day. We had no special needs fortunately. There were two bouts of Noro-type virus on board which kept the special stewards extra busy. HAL took many extra precautions to keep the non-sick passengers healthy.
The dining room service was always good at breakfast and lunch. At supper it was really excellent because we had the same two skilled waiters at every meal. We chose open dining at 5:30 each evening, always at our favorite window table. The food was generally very tasty and always well presented on the plate and well served. As with most cruisers, our only complaint is that there is just too much food on the plates, so instead of leaving the table sated one is apt to be stuffed.
There were shows every evening at 8 and 10 PM. We did not attend any of them because we were both tired and enjoyed reading in our room.
There were also all the usual on board daily activities, probably something for almost everybody. We enjoyed the library, except because of the virus the books were kept locked up, over half of the voyage.
This cruise was especially meaningful to me personally. My Norwegian ancestors in 1854 sailed from Bergen through the St Lawrence estuary past the St Magdalena Islands into the St Laurence River to Quebec. A great, great aunt was born on ship and was named Mary Magdalena after the islands. They were in steerage, I was on a luxury cruise ship.
I would not recommend going on the early spring repositioning cruise if you really want to enjoy the Canadian ports, unless, of course, you are a very hardy soul; but I believe the fall cruise with all the fabulous fall colors would be spectacular. Less
Bar Harbor is a lovely Maine town, which I believe makes its money off of fishing and tourism. It is the gateway to the lovely Acadia National Park, which is well worth a visit. The lobster is excellent and should not be missed.
Halifax is an attractive town in Nova Scotia. There are several interesting museums and cemeteries. We spent the whole day at the Maritime Museum which presented the history of the city of Halifax and the port. Halifax is famous for sending out ships to the area where the Titanic went down, retrieving bodies and a few artifacts. Also interesting was the gigantic harbor explosion in Dec 1917 which destroyed much of the town and killed over 2,000 people. We dined again on lobster tail and lobster roll--both excellent.
Montreal was our disembarkation port, but we spent a day there on our own. The weather finally became pleasant, with sunshine and clear skies. In Montreal, after taking a taxi to our hotel, we took public transportation into downtown and did a lot of walking around just enjoying the sites. The folks in Montreal were very friendly, helpful, accommodating and did not overcharge us on the exchange rate, as in Quebec. We had too little time to do much, but there were many things to see and do. We had visited Montreal before, so we just enjoyed the warm weather, the best since Charleston, South Carolina! The public transportation system is very well organized, fast, efficient and reasonable if you buy a 24 hour ticket which can be used on the city buses, train etc anywhere, all the time.
Charleston is a charming city, old by American standards. Interesting, historical, clean, pretty.
Newport is the home of many, many exquisite mansions of the very, very rich. It is interesting to view them, but the upkeep of such luxury would run into the millions each year. Very pretty area. We had a daughter living in the area so she drove us around the whole area.
Quebec is gorgeous, but what a tourist trap! Prices way too high; poor exchange rates and not particularly friendly people. The city is a photographer's urban dream. We had very chilly (45 degree) weather with a cold wind, which forced us back to the ship earlier than we had planned on. We had had an enjoyable previous visit 25 years before in the middle of June and had only pleasant memories of the place. We are Floridians and feel the cold which clouded (no pun intended) our experience.