Overall, the cruise, and the Maasdam, was great! The ship was clean, the elevators were all operable and the restrooms were all open. Generally I don't even know, or care, who the Cruise Director is but Rick Barnes was not only everywhere, all the time, checking that every guest was happy but was a great lecturer too. If there was a passenger on board who didn't know who the CD was, they must have locked themselves in their bathrooms for the entire cruise.
Rick's enthusiasm was reflected in the crew too. We found that most all the crew members were engaged in providing a positive experience to everyone they encountered. I think the MDR staff did a tremendous job and our meal experiences there were the best overall of all the HAL ships we've sailed. Even though we were moved to the lower dining room because the early fixed upper dining room was over flowed, our waiters adapted quickly to seeing us nightly at our fixed time and provided excellent service while still juggling open dining tables around us. The food and choices were generally good, cooked to order, hot things hot and cold things cold. Our wine steward was just precious and was very knowledgeable about the wines on board. We never had to look for her as she was always there even before we knew we needed her. One thing we heard was that we've heard that the new contracts for crew limit them only to beer and wine consumption and no hard liquor. Some of them seemed perturbed by it; but of course, others didn't.
We have used the unlimited laundry service on our last 3 HAL cruises, paying for it twice, and not once had an issue with missing or substituted clothing or found stains or other damage done. This makes packing for longer cruises so much easier to do as we send laundry out almost daily and it comes back clean, pressed and/or folded within a day's time. Kudos to the laundry services on board HAL ships!
Matt and Megan, the FCCs, were always around and the most helpful we've ever encountered. Matt even convinced my in-laws to book on board, talking them into an inside cabin on Ryndam that he was sure they would love. Upon seeing its counterpart on the Maasdam (courtesy of its occupants) they were ready to relinquish their ocean view cabin immediately. These two really know their 'dam ships!
Our cabin (051), a Vista Suite on the Navigation deck (deck 10) on the starboard side was exactly what we expected having been in a nearby cabin on Ryndam previously. Well maintained, no stains on carpet, furniture or walls, and always impeccably serviced by our Room Steward. The a/c was only adequate, but I like being refrigerated personally. The verandahs are very private. We liked that ours was underneath the overhanging area of the Lido deck above, providing extra protection to skin and room from almost all direct sunlight but if you like direct sun, you probably won't. We expected to hear a few early morning noises from above as it is located underneath the Lido serving area, and did. What we did not expect to hear was the midnight basketball games on the Sports deck above the Lido, but did. These went on sometimes until 3 am. We did find that while the large towels in the bathrooms were always clean, white and fluffy soft, many of our washcloths were stained with a rusty discoloration that was a bit off-putting.
I found the new internet system to be quite usable and generally perceived it to be faster than the old system. I did not attempt to connect on embarkation day but did the very next day and did not a problem doing so. I established my account on one of the ship's computers in the Explorations Cafe and found it easy and intuitive. After doing this, I used my Android tablet exclusively to connect and found the system mostly worked flawlessly. The new system uses Cisco wireless access points/repeaters, which seemed to provide a stronger signal than the old "cone" repeaters. I found I had strong signals in my cabin, the Crows Nest, the Explorations Cafe and the Lido buffet. Gone is the Internet Manager; the Librarian in the Explorations Cafe now helps those having troubles.
I'm not much into the entertainment on board, but we did find ourselves in the Explorer's Lounge most evenings. As we've come to expect, we found the ladies, both Ukrainians, were well schooled in the classics. The violinist struggled some outside of this genre although the pianist was excellent all around. Other members of our party enjoyed the guitarist in Mix but did mention that his repertoire seemed a bit limited for a 14 night cruise. We did attend 1 show in the main show lounge but left early as the sight lines are quite limited in the back of the upper portion.
Our disappointments were limited to 2 areas: the Pinnacle Grill and the Canaletto. We ate 2 meals in the Pinnacle, both dinners, one paid and one on the "Explore4" package. Our first meal, the second sea day of the cruise, took an agonizing 3 hours to complete for a table of 4. The venue was completely full (we had first seating at 5:30 pm) and there seemed to be only 2 waiters and several runners trying to keep up with everything. One of the 4 rib-eye steaks was so full of sinewy gristle that it was inedible. Gone are the selections of different salts and butters. Nearly every dish was served to the wrong guest and had to be jockeyed around the table. We felt that while the waiters and runners were trying, they just were not trained or supervised properly. Our second meal here, very near the end of the cruise, was better only in that it took 1 1/2 hours being that that venue was only half full this time.
For the Canaletto, our complaints were limited to just a couple of things: still the old menu and, the chicken was badly under-cooked. Service here was better and faster. To say the least, the MDR provided a much happier experience than either of these two venues.
Again, the cruise was all we expected and more. The Maasdam, once the issues in the Pinnacle Grill are addressed, is all we expected. We'll book her again, whole-heartedly and without hesitation.