This was our first cruise with Holland America. We sailed out of Norfolk VA to the Southern caribbean in November 2006 on the Maasdam. The night before our cruise we stayed at the Sleep Inn in Norfolk. They provided a park & cruise package that included one nights lodging, free continental breakfast, free parking for duration of the cruise and free shuttle transportation to the pier and back. I am handicapped and they do have a shuttle with a lift for wheelchairs and scooters. The staff at the hotel was very friendly. There was quite a bit of traffic at the pier but everything was handled smoothly. The embarkation was very fast and easy. They do allow the people with physical handicaps priority entry to the embarkation area. I loved the Maasdam ship. With about 1200 passenger capacity, there was plenty of room for me to navigate around the ship with my scooter. Of course the elevators are small but we still could get my scooter and about 4-5 other people in the elevator together. More
I had no problems with anyone making complaints about me taking up room in the elevators like I had when I was on Carnival earlier this year. We had a handicapped cabin 709 and it was VERY spacious. It was like a cabin and a half in size. I had enough room to turn my scooter around and park it inside the cabin. There are only 2 cabins on this ship this size. The others are handicapped rooms with wide doorways but still tight inside with a scooter parked there. The service on this ship was great. The crew is mainly Philippine and Indonesian. They were always pleasant and had a smile. Every time I went to the Lido deck for the buffet, someone would come up to me, take my tray and walk with me down the line and get my food for me, get my drinks and carry my tray to a table. If you happen to meet Chandler on the Lido deck, he is great. He was always there to get us a table, replenish out drinks and he was even in the luggage holding area when we got off the ship and he helped find our luggage for us. He is a great asset to HAL and the Maasdam. Room service was always on time and the food was hot and I always received what I ordered. The cheeseburgers in the terrace grill were very good. I was expecting some small dry patties but was very surprised. The Lido buffet was good but could use more variety. It seemed to have almost the same things everyday with a few exceptions. The ice cream and bread pudding at lunch was excellent, just as the other reviews I read said it was. The entertainment was ok. The ventriloquist was excellent and the crew shows were good. The bingo player and the juggler was ok. We had Jason Venner as a cruise director and he was fantastic. This was his last sailing on this ship for now as was Sante, the DJ in the Crows Nest Lounge. There were several lounges with a wide variety of music. We mainly hung out in the Crows Nest on deck 12 with the wrap around view of the ocean. During the day we would sit there in these nice black recliners and stare out the window and relax. At night the DJ would come in and play music. It varied each night from country, 50-60's to rock. There was alot of line dancing. The only issue I had with the Crows Nest is that there were children in there at midnight and 1am dancing and sitting at the bar. They were with there parents and the kids were about 7-13 yrs old. I did not feel this was the place for them that late at night and in a bar atmosphere. We mentioned that to the cruise director and he said that the kids had to have a place to go too as the other lounges were geared more to the adults. In that case, HAL better improve there kids and teen programs. I was able to get off the ship in each port with my scooter except the private island (had to use my manual wheelchair as this was a tender port). St Thomas was the same...lots of shopping. We did not do any excursions as it is hard with a scooter to find transportation. We just got off the ship and went right around the ship area. In Dominica, you are harassed quite a bit to take a tour and buy souvenirs from the local folk. Just smile and say no thank you. St Kitts was very nice but prices seemed much higher there to me. Barbados was very nice also but the area we docked in was all freighters and loading docks, not very nice scenery. I am sure the excursions were great and it would have been nice to be able to get more inward on the islands to see all of the scenery. I even had my scooter break down on Dominica. Some of the island people tried to lift it down a curb and dropped it and it stopped working. We pushed it back to the ship and right away, a crew member took over and pushed it up the ramp and onto the ship for us. Jerome (2nd Engineer from Holland) came to our cabin twice and fixed it for me at no charge. We even saw him later in the Crows Nest after he got off work and he bought us a drink. THANK YOU JEROME !! I belive HAL and Jerome and Chandler (as well as many others) went above and beyond what I expected from this cruise. I will definitely sail HAL again. Overall, I give this a 9 out of 10. Being handicapped, I have never had such great personal service on a cruise. It is a shame HAL is no longer sailing out of Norfolk after December. Driving there is much more convenient for me than flying. Less
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