We are a professional, active young 50ish couple and wanted to enjoy Canada and visit several cities without repacking every day, and this cruise itinerary filled the bill nicely beginning in Montreal and ending in Boston.
We stayed 2 nights pre-cruise at the lovely Auberge Bonaparte in old Montreal in the shadow of the Notre Dame. Quaint with a wonderful breakfast in a great location for exploring the old city of Montreal. Highly recommend.
Embarkation was a breeze on Holland America. We arrived ~ 11:30 a.m., our room was ready & our luggage was delivered quite promptly without any trouble.
Alcohol: We purchased the $100 beverage card online for $95.00 prior to sailing to use for happy hours. We carried 5 bottles of wine onboard without any issues as HAL allows wine to be brought onboard by guests. This worked just fine for us.
Cabin: We booked an oceanview cabin #323 which is located starboard on the Promenade Deck (6) just 1 door away from the exit to the deck. This proved to be a great location for us, we walked our laps every day & felt the fresh air whenever we wanted with a great view as well. No need to have a verandah cabin on the North Atlantic as the wind was too brisk and too cool most of the time, so this was a great compromise. (I also wanted to avoid balcony smokers.) Our room steward was excellent, I loved the convenience of the Elemis spa products in the BATHTUB and our closets were huge. Luggage fits under the beds & the singlemost important cabin item to pack is a SURGE protector which provided the necessary outlets for iPads, iPhones, etc. I also took a small coffee cup warmer which was nice.
Food & Dining Experience: We only ate in the Lido upon arriving on the ship for lunch and the staff was serving the food during the first 48 hours due to avoiding the spread of hand to hand contact illness, which suited me just fine. I hate buffets and we never went back up there, so I can't comment on the quality or quantity at the Lido.
However, the room service breakfast each morning that was delivered to our cabin was great. Fresh fruit, cereal, yogurt, scrambled eggs, bacon, juice, toast/muffins, and a pot of coffee delivered between 7-7:30 so that we could get ready for our day was GREAT! Loved it. And this is why I call it a vacation! No hopping up to get anything in a line!
We booked reservations for the Pinnacle Grill for the evening at sea and it was by far, the best meal on the trip. The filet mignon was perfect, the wine was lovely, and a special birthday dessert was presented with flair. A lovely dining experience. Definitely book ahead & enjoy this or the Cirque experience.
We were invited for the Mariner's Lunch, which was a nice little touch that we enjoyed.
Rotterdam Dining Room- We thought we had open dining, but discovered we were scheduled to eat at 5:45 at a table for 4. No one else ever showed up to join us at our assigned table, so after 2 nights of dining alone, we went downstairs and joined a lively table of 8 and had a nice evening while meeting and talking with others "willing to share", so I really like the way HAL handles this situation with some flexibility. If you prefer a table for 2, certainly its available, but if you would like to join others, it's an easy option. Food was varied as I tried to order different choices. I did think the soups were very creamy & the desserts very rich (of course) Most meals were very good. Especially since it required no effort on my part!
Entertainment: We really enjoyed the comedian onboard and watched his show both at 8 p.m. and 10 p.m. He was good. The singers were better as the week went on, I thought, as the country show was a little lackluster. I enjoyed their Broadway show and the tenor was the best. We missed 1 evening of showtime, but all in all, we felt entertained.
Around the Ship: The Culinary demonstration was very well done & my husband attended a photography workshop. We saw 2 movies & played bingo twice. We enjoyed the onboard trivia teams & went to the Crows Nest for the Karaoke night. The Ocean Bar had a lively ballroom dance band and I went to the art auction. We loved the personal Black and White Photography Session with Jadine and was really surprised at the level of professional service with the photos. We did not use the thermal suite after touring the spa, which I usually do on cruises, but my concern was that since it was so small, (only 5 heated tables) it might be very crowded and I didn't want to be frustrated or disappointed if not available when I arrived. The only spa appointment that was available when I called was at 6:30 in the evening.
Our Cruise Director, Anthony was excellent.
Shore Excursions: We booked all our day trips independently and had a fabulous time. We shared a taxi in Halifax with a couple from the rollcall here on CruiseCritic.com and went to the Titantic gravesite and Peggy's Cove.
Capt. John's Lulu Lobster Boat in Bar Harbor, Maine was excellent as well. The only issue on the day of the tender, HAL shows a definite preference for guests that are booked on their shore excursions by letting them tender to shore before anyone else. That was a bit frustrating, but it was fine as we ended up with plenty of time to get to the boat.
We rented bikes and rode to Montmorency Falls outside of Quebec City and I think we had a much better day that those stuck on the tour bus from the ship. The old city was fabulous & easy to explore on our own
Sydney was a disappointing port. Really the best thing was free wi-fi in little coffee shop. We strolled the town, went to the park & had lunch on the ship in the dining room.
Unfortunately, we missed the prized port of Charlottetown due to high winds & crazy weather. This was the biggest disappointment of the trip. HAL offered us a glass of champagne & a refund of our 11.00 port charge. NOT ENOUGH.
Overall, the Maasdam is a very quietly refined ship, nothing flashy or showy here. She could probably use a little spruce up in some areas, but I loved the trip, enjoyed the ports and felt very relaxed and well cared for by the staff. Would travel with HAL in the future.