Wife and I and our usual cruising companions drove to the port from North Carolina. We parked our car at Park and Go and were promptly delivered to the pier in a clean van with a very helpful driver.
Our check in was efficient and we were on the ship within 30 minutes of arrival at the pier. Our cabins were accessible upon boarding (before noon). We visited the Lido Deck luncheon and our luggage was on our bed when we returned to our statement at 2 pm.
We choose the ship on the basis of its size. We were not disappointed. With approximately 1200 passengers, there are no lines and embarkation and disembarkation processes went very smoothly. The pathways on the most heavily used decks were never crowded. We are just tired of the waves of humanity and crowds that are becoming common on so many ships. The entertainment venue is undersized. One is well advised to arrive early for a seat. Late arrivals and not so late arrivals often endured a long search for seats. We were very pleased with the professionalism of the entertainers and the diversity of the entertainment. The "ship show band" was excellent as well as the dancers. Several of the voices were very good. The "Broadway productions" were very well executed. The comedians delivered entertainment without resorting to four letter words and humor at someone's expense.
Deck 8 contains most of the retail and entertainment venues. We loved the numerous alcoves for pre or post dinner drinks. The photographers were not aggressive unlike those on our last 6 celebrity cruises. This was a welcomed respite. Beverage service also met the same standard of available when needed but not "harassing" to push your onboard expenses higher. We could always find one location before dinner that was offering "buy one drink, second drink for $1". The drinks are more reasonable on the Maasdam than on our recent Celebrity cruises.
We choose open seating and obtained a reservation for the entire cruise on the first night for table 129. Our foursome joined a lovely couple from Canada to complete the table of six. The table is placed against the rear window of the dining room right amidships. Great company and a great location. Our wait staff duo and wine steward were outstanding. No request was unreasonable. Once the wait staff knew your beverage or special requests, you need not ask again! We were very appreciative of their efforts especially given the serious cutbacks in staffing and the introduction of a new food service system by HAL. One must be concerned that the enthusiasm of the wait staff may eventually be eroded by HAL's reductions in staff. The menu itself is not up to Celebrity standards. Presentation was fine, tableware very acceptable. We were repeatedly told by HAL regulars that the diversity and quality of the food has become a casualty of corporate's cost control efforts.
On a cruise one of course walks the hallways of several decks. All too often we observed electricians and plumbers working at their trades. These were not upgrading but solving problems activities. We were told by many fellow cruisers that at times entire decks were without hot water and at times electricity. Fellow cruise mates on deck 3 endured most of the 10 days without hot water showers and/or hot water for shaving. Several of the public bathrooms were not functioning even as we boarded the ship. This voyage was the first cruise of the ship after a dry dock in the Bahamas. The infrastructure of the ship appears to be failing. The interior of the ship in the public areas is well maintained and attractive. The pool areas, both indoor and outdoor are well appointed and nicely maintained. But, the mechanics appear to be becoming problematic.
The pool area with the retractable roof was a center of activity but not at a deafening decibel so common on many ships. There was a "Mexican" self service bar that was very good and a hot dog, hamburg, French fry venue within three feet of the Mexican bar. The retractable roof was used once or twice during adverse weather and much appreciated. The number of lounge chairs was adequate and always clean. Tables surrounded the area and many cruisers choose to eat breakfast and or lunch in this area.
The front desk staff was always responsive and courteous. However, mechanical issues needing systemic analysis and alterations can't be overcome by the greatest of front desk staff. I felt sorry for the staff at times as passengers voiced their disappointments with plumbing and electrical issues.
In summary, the size of the ship and the wonderful and helpful staff are the greatest assets of the Maasdam. Our concern is that the aging of the ship is compromising the quality of the cruise experience. Similarly, the downsizing of personnel in the dining room and stateroom arenas will eventually compromise the quality of the interpersonal experiences with the ship's staff.