Review of Maasdam cruise beginning March 8, 2013
We took a ten day cruise of the Eastern Caribbean on HAL Maasdam out of Fort Lauderdale. We have used HAL twelve times in the past and were quite familiar with the demographics and level of activities on this cruise line so no surprises there. We were surprised and disappointed when we discovered after the fact that Canaletto restaurant is an upcharge venue now. There was no sign there nor were we told when making reservations, that there is a $10 per person charge nor was our key card scanned. When it appeared on our charges I approached the front office and was told the change to an upcharge was made over one and one half years ago. The front desk person said he would speak to the restaurant manager but the charge was not removed. Like customer service everywhere these days the representative never says "no", but proposes an appeal to someone else who just doesn't respond at all. We took this same ship ten months ago and the restaurant was free but regardless of the timing please be aware that passengers will be charged.
We had noticed that Canaletto's was just about deserted most nights with wait staff working in other areas and the reason for this is clear now.
Most evenings half of Lido was open to passengers for dinner with the other side reserved for staff. Lido wasn't crowded though although some of the food items offered for staff, like baked potatoes were not available for passengers when we asked.
As usual for HAL, food in the MDR was very good for dinner but service has become extremely slow and we left before ordering dessert twice so that we could attend the show.
My suitcase had not appeared in my cabin by eight PM the day of departure so I called the front office and was informed that a suitcase matching its description was being held but there was no HAL luggage tag. I went there and it was my suitcase alright and it had been opened. The cheap paper luggage tag provided by HAL was missing but my identification information was on it as airlines require so the detective work by the front office was lax. There was no contraband (booze) in the roller so I don't know why it was opened. I did make the mistake of not tipping the luggage handler at Port Everglades because I just rolled it myself to the pile that was building and the handler did no work. I usually tell people that the tip to these workers is merely a bribe to prevent sabotage and this may have been why my luggage tag was torn off, maybe not though.
The ship had to divert twice to evacuate passengers with life threatening medical conditions and I saw a total of eight people being taken off the ship on gurneys and placed into local ambulances. At Half Moon Cay a seaplane had to land to fly someone to a hospital. The ship's doctor and medical staff did a very professional and compassionate job of caring for these passengers.
The room steward did not clean our room until late in the afternoon the first two days and not at all on day three. I called the front desk and still the room wasn't cleaned. My wife tried to be a peace maker and spoke directly with the steward in the hall and was told that since I was in the room taking a nap between noon and two which was the time he was in the area the room would not be cleaned that day. I couldn't believe my ears and I went to the front office where I expected the issue to be resolved easily but was surprised when the room steward's position was defended. I had to raise the level of the discussion to the borderline unpleasant range before there was a reaction. The room was still cleaned late, about one to three PM each day but at least it was cleaned. This was an uncomfortable situation and very unusual for a cruise line. Remember when the CD would joke about getting up at three AM and returning to bed to find it made already? Not anymore!
HAL is still a very good cruise line but encountering three unpleasant experiences caused by Massdam policy and staff was unwelcome.