We really wanted to do an Alaskan cruise this year, but several circumstances led to booking a cruise before the Alaskan market opened for the season. After checking out a promotion for Holland America's repositioning cruise on the Maasdam, we decided we really liked the itinerary for the Ft. Lauderdale to Montreal cruise departing April 28, 2006. It would be the first cruise since the Maasdam came out of "drydock" and would take the ship to Canada for its summer season. Having never done the east coast/New England/Canadian Maritimes, it was to be the cruise in leu of Alaska. Living in Florida gives us easy access to many Caribbean cruise itineraries, but not many that would do so many ports new to me.
We had to rent a car to drive one way to Ft. Lauderdale which worked out well. The shuttle bus from the car rental to Port Everglades had three couples all going on the Maasdam. One proudly exclaimed they were looking forward not to the cruise, but to the bread pudding at lunch that day for lunch. I thought how strange, until sampling it a few hours later! It was my third HAL cruise and I had never tried the bread pudding before as it is not one of my favorites at home. Don't forget the vanilla creme sauce.
We were disappointed not to be upgraded on this my third HAL cruise as a Mariner with three weeks to my credit, only to later find the majority had not only sailed before, but many with 100+ days on HAL. The average age was probably in the 70s, with no children and very few under 40. It was a 15 day cruise which draws mostly retirees.
There was no hot water the first two days in our room and there were several minor flaws probably from having just completed the signature upgrade, but overall the Maasdam was a delight and was beautiful. The crew was very good, the service good to excellent, the ambiance fine. Our inside room was very nice size and the new bedding and linens were top grade.
The Rotterdam dining room was just great with a very outgoing waiter who took delight in serving us and talking with us. We were always among the last to leave...we did have late seating...and had extras often without asking like blue cheese crumbles for the salad.
The Lido buffet was good, too, but we appreciated the dining room and ate there most all the time. I do bring a "to go" coffee mug from home so I can get all my coffee before sitting down for breakfast. We like to walk before breakfast and the promenade deck (6) was good for that.
The entertainment in the Rembrandt was good with one or two exceptions. We were very lucky to have Lorna Luft the first week. She not only put on a wonderful show, but took time to actually sit with us in the lounge and share stories and her life. And yes, if you know her mom's voice (Judy Garland), you will feel her there with you.
We had some rough seas going up the Atlantic, but the captain was able to slow and head into most of it to minimize the action. A wonderful cruise as we left Florida in the 80's and cooled as we went north. Charleston,SC is a great port of call; Norfolk, VA pretty good. New York City, pier 88, walking distance to Times Square, was terrific! New London CT very nice: Newport RI a real treat; Bar Harbor ME beautiful. All ports so far were clear and comfortable...not too hot like summertime and not too cold like early spring. Then Halifax and Sydney were cold and damp/rainy followed by Quebec City, beautiful but also cold/damp. Arrived late into Montreal in the rain on May 13. Nervously waited to disembark to catch the Adirondack Amtrak train that morning for our train trip home, making the train with just a few minutes to spare as it left on time.
We took Amtrak all the way home to St. Petersburg (bus from Tampa) with stops in New York City and Washington. Not like cruising on HAL, but it was enjoyable, too.
In closing, the Maasdam with the spring itinerary cruise up the east coast to Montreal was as nice a cruise as I've done in 20 years of cruising! We liked the size of the ship, the crew, the food, and the service very much. We were able to see every port without doing expensive tours...not always possible I know...and traveled by car, ship, bus, taxi and train, but not air!