We had been looking for a Canada/New England cruise and liked the itinerary of this cruise. We were also able to get a great price and upgraded to a Neptune Suite for the first time. Unfortunately, both the itinerary and the ship were far less than we had hoped to find.
We flew into Montreal two days early and booked our hotel, the Fairmont Queen Elizabeth through Holland America. After quite a bit of confusion and delay, we were transferred to the hotel. The hotel is beautiful with a great location, the rooms were a standard size, very clean, great beds, and beautiful view of the church across the street. It was very pricey, however, especially in the restaurant. We ate in the casual dining room and were disappointed. The food was okay, service terrible, and prices very high.
The greatest thing about Montreal is its underground city, which was assessible from our hotel. It is a huge underground mall that goes forever. It is also the access to the subway and train systems, other hotels, etc. We did take a tour on the hop on/hop off bus, which was a nice way to see the city.
Our transfer to the ship was well organized and embarkation was easy. When we arrived in our rooms, we were very pleasantly surprised by their huge size, especially the balcony which was enormous. The only part of the room that was showing the ship's age was the bathtub, which was chipped and scratched, and definitely not inviting for a whirlpool bath.
Across the hall from our room was the Suite lounge which was the best part of the ship. Karla, the conceirge, was amazing. She was so helpful and always friendly and cheerful. They provided continental breakfast and wonderful snacks throughout the day. We also had the option of eating in the steakhouse for breakfast as another suite perk.
Everything seemed set for a fabulous cruise, but things changed. I thought that early September would still be warm, but our cruise was quite cold, windy, some rainy days, and one terrible foggy and rainy day. We had the best balcony we ever had, but could rarely sit out there comfortably.
We were also disappointed in some of the ports. Quebec City was wonderful, but Prince Edward Island was rather boring unless you enjoy seeing cows and potatoes growing. Their only claim to fame seems to be Anne of Green Gables. We had hired a local tour guide, so maybe he was the reason for our disappointment. Our next port was Sydney, Nova Scotia, and no once could seem to understand why they stopped there.
We then went on to Halifax, which we really enjoyed. I had arranged for a private tour with Paul McNeil of Halifax Titanic Historical Tours. He knew his city so well and took us on a memorable tour with the history and interesting stories you rarely hear on a large group tour. The highlight was lunch in an authentic fishing village, not the tourist spot at Peggy's Cove. My fish was so fresh! He had escorted the group, Kiss, on the same tour, and they loved the restaurant, too.
Our final stop was Bar Harbor, which I was very excited about visiting. Unfortunately, the fog was so thick you couldn't see anything, and the rain just added to the problem. They tender in to this port, and even the tenders were having difficulty is finding their way.
The Maasdam is scheduled for dry dock this winter, which is a very good thing. She has some serious problems, such as public toliets that are constantly clogging. Often, while at the restaurant, you need to go up a floor to find a stall that wasn't out of order. It is showing its age, but everything was very clean.
Meals on the Maasdam were not the best I have experienced. Our private lounge and the specialty breakfast was very good, so we didn't really visit the buffet for that meal. Lunch in the buffet was okay. They had a grill by the pool that had very good burgers, but their pizza was terrible. Dinner in the main dining room was usually very slow with a menu that was hard to really understand and didn't offer many choices that appealed to us. The food was good, but far from great. We did eat in both of the specialty restaurants. The Italian one is nothing special, but the steak house was the best. Great steaks!
We prefer to spend most of our evenings in the casino, but did try a couple of shows. The first comedian was okay, but the second night we walked out of the broadway show presentation. The strangest entertainment was the piano bar singer who was very off key for most of his songs. I would rate the entertainment as the worst I have experienced on any cruise.
We finally arrived in Boston to beautiful weather as we disembarked. We had booked the Fairmont, again, with Holland, and our transfer went well. The location was great, the hotel was gorgeous, and except for the prices, we couldn't complain about anything. They had a black laborador who is their hotel mascot who was the best greeter I have ever seen. She lifted everyone's spirits.
We had friends in Boston who showed us around and took us to some wonderful restaurants. The fancy night was at Del Frisco, which had the best steak I have ever eaten. Pricey, but very worth it. We also had lunch in little Italy at Al Dente, which is a charming and had fantastic pasta.
We did have a good time overall, but between the weather, some of the ports, and the shortcomings of the Maasdam, I don't know if I will travel on Holland America, again. I think I prefer more tropical cruises on a younger and larger ship.