This was my 6th cruise with Holland America and my second Canada/New England trip aboard the ms. Maasdam. I've never had an unpleasant experience with HAL and every cruise has been a relaxing, enjoyable experience. I travel alone and my needs are pretty basic. I enjoy simple luxury, good food and minimal staff service. The ship embarked in Montreal, visiting Quebec City, Prince Edward Island, Sydney and Halifax, Nova Scotia and Bar Harbor, Maine, ending in Boston.
After a 2011 renovation, the ship is maintained extremely well. The crew was occupied with exterior painting while the ship was in the various ports-of-call. Inside the ship, the cleaning staff worked very hard to keep things spotless. Yes, there are a few "stained" carpets in a few areas but does this really matter? It shouldn't! A lifeboat drill was held at 4:15 before departure. Despite the basics of the drill being broadcast on the in-room televisions, despite the printed instructions on the daily activity handouts,indicating that life vest were NOT NEEDED there were still those who trudged to the muster stations carrying life vests with nylon straps dragging on the decks.
I had an interior cabin which was very quiet when the ship was moving. Previous reviewers have indicated there were problems with the heating/air-conditioning and it seems that the system operates on two factors: the outside temperature and whether the ship is moving or docked. I didn't have any issues with this. My stateroom steward, Erwan, kept the room immaculate!
I found all the staff to be quite friendly and, upon entering the ship on embarkation, one crew member said "Welcome Home!" which was a nice touch. Even when things were a bit stressed, for example, during the lifeboat drill or when people were leaving the ship in ports, the staff was very professional and pleasant.
Food reviews are pretty much to the likes and dislikes of the writer. Some complain that the meal took overly long or that the food was "cold." The food in the main dining room was quite good and the wait staff brought out the meals in a reasonable amount of time (about 90 minutes for the whole meal from being seated to leaving the MDR). The temperature of the food was just right--not steaming hot so that one might have to wait a few minutes before commencing the meal. One morning my in-room breakfast arrived about 20 minutes earlier than ordered. I was still in bed but this was no major problem. I had an early shore excursion anyway. Another time when the breakfast tray was going to be a bit late, I received a call from room service, advising me of this. A tiny vase of fresh flowers made an attractive tray! I had one meal in the Canaletto restaurant which was excellent--the freshly made sauce was full of flavor!
I took only two: the first to St. Anne de Beaupre Shrine and Montmorency Falls in Quebec. Both places were very nice but the time spent at each place was very short. This could be improved by spending less time observing Canadian building styles and farms with more time at St. Anne and Montmorency Falls. The second excursion was to "Spirit of the Fiddle" in Sydney, N.S. which was a great way to spend a very rainy afternoon! The music was lively and the performers related well to the audience.
As a high-school tech director, MOST of the shows were well-done, musically and technically. I wasn't as enthusiastic about the first night's show which featured the DJ, encouraging the audience to sing-along with the music and making arm gestures to "YMCA." The writer of this show, for some odd reason, selected an older male cast member (who, by the way, sings and moves very well) to be a sort of "comic foil" which artistically doesn't work. The jokes fell flat during that first show! The "comic foil" characterization was not repeated in the remaining shows through the week. However that show gave a taste of the upcoming performances during the cruise. Perhaps the best show was "Encore" featuring two of the principal singers backed by a live band and the Adagio Strings--the standing ovation at the end was well-deserved. There were also two dancers in the show--really minimal. My suggestion is to have more dancer/singers or eliminate the dancers entirely. While very good, two dancers don't add much to the shows. Costumes were designed by Bob Mackie.
HAL works very hard to prevent Norovirus outbreaks: cleaning every day and having the staff serve food in the Lido for the first 48 hours certainly helps. Some complain about this but if it helps the guests to enjoy the cruise without getting ill, I'm for it! I do wish that HAL would put back the trays formerly used in the Lido. For a single traveler like myself, it reduces the number of trips to and from the buffet line, The age range of the passengers were varied--most of them over 50 but there were children and younger families on board too. Early morning announcements tend to be a little annoying if one plans to sleep later. But it was an enjoyable time and I feel very comfortable on HAL ships! I hope to return to Bermuda next year!