We've just returned from a pleasant cruise on the Maasdam from Montreal to Boston. This seven day itinerary included stops in Quebec City, Charlottetown, Sydney, Halifax and Bar Harbor. This was quite a busy journey with only one day at sea.
We started our vacation one day early taking a Greyhound Bus from Boston to Montreal. This was a 7 1/2 hour trip with two stops. While this was not a highlight of our trip it was a lot cheaper than a flight. That money saving trip afforded us a very pleasant stay in the scenic Old Port at the beautiful and quaint Auberge Les Passants du Sans Soucy. This eight room B&B was in the heart of the Old Port and a short walk to some of the best restaurants in the city. After a half hour carriage ride we headed to Les Pyrenees for a wonderful meal. In the morning we were treated to an amazing breakfast replete with delicious croissants. The owners hailed us a cab for our five minute ride to the pier.
Ship Board Experience:
We boarded the Maasdam around 11:30 am with no problems and headed to our room, which was ready. We stayed on A Deck in room 802. This was an outside stateroom with a large window. In order to maximize the space in the room we had the king bed separated into two twins. The room had plenty of drawers and closets. The bathroom included a tub shower and was large enough to move around comfortably. We had two issues with the room. One of the night stand drawers was off its track and the climate control system was blowing mostly cold air. Calls to the front desk had these corrected in a timely fashion.
The ship carries about 1250 passengers and we did not feel crowded at any time. Waits for elevators were short. The ship is very clean and has an understated beauty. Getting from point A to point B was always easy. Amazingly, the casino was posted as non smoking on this cruise. The main dining room was well laid out and did not seem noisy to us. The Lido dining area adjacent to the main pool was easy to navigate. There were stations at breakfast for cereal, hot meals, fruit, and other types of food. There were similar stations for a variety of food choices for lunch. We never had to wait too long to fill our plates. You could eat in the Lido or out by the pool.
Even though we only had one day at sea whenever we were on board there was plenty to do. My wife went to a cooking demonstration and a spa talk. I attended several extremely helpful computer workshops. The ship's crew were exceptional; always smiling, always friendly and polite, always offering help to carry trays. When people are limited in where they can go, like on a ship, having a consistently positive human interaction between guests and crew is vital. This was clearly evident on this cruise.
We felt the food on the ship was excellent bearing in mind that this is a banquet setting. The menu variety was adequate. Our experience in the Pinnacle Dining Room was also excellent. Here, personal attention is paid to the food preparation and presentation. It was worth the extra $25 per person.
The entertainment was spotty. We only got to two of the main shows. One was good the other was not that polished. Our favorite entertainer was Barry from Boston in the Mix lounge. He is a very talented lounge singer/pianist.
All in all our shipboard experience was excellent. It was more than we expected based on recent Cruise Critic reviews.
The pre-cruise stay in Montreal was great as described earlier. It made embarkation less stressful.
Quebec City was remarkable. We took a walking tour and carriage ride that included an explanation of the history of the city. Our tour guide Sandrine was personable and very informative. Our next stop was Charlottetown. We took a bus tour of the countryside with a stop at the Confederation Bridge. In Sydney we were treated to a wonderful concert featuring traditional Acadian music. The performers were fantastic. Later we walked around part of Sydney's historic district. We chose to use the hop-on hop-off buses to tour Halifax. Our guides were great. We stopped for a tasty lunch at the Red Stag in the same building as Keith's Brewery. Bar Harbor was, by far, the prettiest port to enter. No commercial high rise buildings or barges here just a pleasant bay where we moored and tendered into the town. Since we are regular visitors to Bar Harbor our main goal was to have our usual excellent breakfast at Two Cats. However, I can assure you there are wonderful excursion experiences including Acadia National Park tours and a trip to the top of Cadillac Mountain. Disembarking was very organized and a breeze. Many guests were extending their vacation with a post-cruise stay in Boston.
We were so impressed with our cruising experience and the itinerary that we are seriously considering a return trip on the Maasdam. Despite recent less than flattering comments in reviews, we found nothing to merit such reactions. We find it difficult to imagine such a wide range of reactions to the consistently fine service we received and the overall excellent condition of the ship.