My parents wanted to take a summer trip with us and we were all interested in the New England cruise. We typically travel Royal but they don’t offer the itinerary during the summer. So we used my parent’s travel agent and booked on Holland. Below is a brief review/comparison from a “Loyal Royal”. I posted the same review on the RCCL board as well (primarily to encourage anyone thinking about this line/ship to do it!)
Cruise: Boston to Montreal – July 5 – July 12
Bar Harbor, Maine
Halifax, Nova Scotia
Sydney, Nova Scotia
Day at Sea
Quebec City, Quebec
We left our Boston hotel (Seaport) at 10:30 and had no traffic getting to the ship. QM2 was supposed to be in port but left the day before due to Hurricane Arthur. We had a beautiful breezy day as the storm had moved northeast by now. We gave our bags to the porter, proceeded upstairs, filled out a Canadian customs card (for entering on Monday) and checked-in. We were in Group 3 to board and were seated quickly. My DD joked "oh we're in the last group to board" (spoiled Diamond member lol....) I thought it was a painless process and equal to RCCL
At exactly 11:30 they started boarding. Groups 1 and 2 were for the wheelchairs and 4/5 star cruisers. About 20 people boarded before they called our group. We were up next. The rooms were ready immediately (WOW!) and we headed there.
We had booked an Ocean-view (524) and an inside (522). Both were excellent and all of us were impressed. Our kids thought the inside was WAY better than the one on Oasis and Independence in terms of size. We had the VERY BEST AC I’ve ever had on a cruise. The room was a meat locker and I loved it (you could adjust, but why?)
We had plenty of storage and 3 dispensers with Elemis products plus a separate bottle of lotion and 2 robes. There are very few balconies on the Maasdam so we were happy with the Ocean-view and really enjoyed the room and location although we found it weird to go UP for dinner/bars. On RCCL's larger ships we usually stay up and travel down to Promenade!
Our room steward was excellent. The only weird thing is he never introduced himself and/or really wanted to chat. He was super efficient and did a great job, but I’m used to chit-chatting with the RCCL ones and this seemed a little different. I felt the same way about our dining waiter, super nice and efficient but didn’t feel like we “knew” him.
We used the laundry room twice to do 3 loads (12 day trip and teenagers, enough said). It was fantastic to be able to do the laundry and leave the ship for our post-cruise weekend trip w/clean clothes! There was an iron I used once as well, but we paid for the Endless Pressing ($28) and sent everything else to be pressed. We sent over 20 items in total (two “orders” sent) so it was well worth it for us. We usually press a few things on RCCL (and the price per item is way cheaper) but liked this option of unlimited for a set price.
Ship Overall layout/size
We then took a tour of the ship top-to-bottom. Our smallest RCCL ship was Radiance (90K tons) and this was 55K. Dh and I had been on Celebrity Century (72K). We both thought the Maasdam seemed as large as the Century and was comparable to the Radiance. It felt like most of the missing space was cabins (and people!). Capacity of Maasdam is listed at about 1300. It was only crowded in the buffet.
The ship is very well laid out and easy to navigate, with the exception of Deck 7 having no way to go forward from the aft. Just seemed weird. All other decks were great. Similar set-up to all ships, dining in back, gym and spa in front, bars everywhere, etc. We loved the back pool which was rarely used and always had seats. I would say the crowd on the ship was significantly older than RCCL but there were a lot of multi-generational groups like ours too.
Food was good to great. We were very pleased. Pinnacle was outstanding and the main dining room had really great choices and everything came as ordered and was tasty. We ate in Lido one night to dress down and it was fairly good but honestly it’s a little small for when a BUNCH of people show up (like breakfast on sea day) and the lines are a little weird – they serve you main dishes and sides all week and you may have to hit a couple stations to get a full meal.
The outside bar by the pool had hamburgers (good) and hotdogs (good per dh and dd) and a “bar” where typically they had Mexican (chips, salsa, chicken, tortillas, toppings) or a potato bar (one day), etc. Per my kids the fries were “meh” all week and the pizza was not that great (my kids missed Sorrentos!)
We brought on 4 bottles of wine and drank 2, mainly because we discovered HAPPY HOUR and loved it. It was daily from 4-5 in the Ocean Bar and then from 6-7 in the Crow’s Nest. First drink regular price ($6.95 for almost all) and $1.00 for second drink. It seemed natural to get ready for dinner w/a drink from one Happy Hour and then wander to Crow’s Nest to hang out for the second one before dinner (late dinner was 7:45 all week). The bartenders were fantastic and we REALLY liked that you never had to sign a receipt for drinks and no one expected an “extra” tip (including in Pinnacle).
We prefer the Diamond Lounge (hello, FREE) but the Happy Hour was fantastic and we had a blast. It probably helped that World Cup was on twice (semi-finals) and there were huge groups of people having a blast
Ports (realizing this isn’t a comparison to RCCL)
The ports were fantastic (so was the weather). The only disappointment was Sydney as we were in port for barely 6 hours and there was so little that you could go “do”. If you do this cruise, expect that to be a down day or find a ship/itinerary that lets you stay longer. Brief overview of what we did:
Bar Harbor – independent rock climbing – FANTASTIC and on-our-own seafood lunch ($18 lobster) – then walked around, had ice-cream and boarded.
Halifax, rented car at Westin, drove to Peggy’s Cove, SwissAir Memorial, lunch at White Sails Bakery and Deli, hit the cemetery to see the Titanic graves and dropped the boys at the Maritime Museum. I then did a 3 mile run along the waterfront, it was great
Sydney – walked into town, visited shoe store, stopped at Tim Horton’s (for teen wifi), ate at Govenor’s Pub, wandered around
Charlottetown, took 4 mile walk about, visited churches and historical places, wandered Victoria Park. At at Lobster on the Wharf (meh) and then I did a run along the waterfront/in town. LOVED this town. It was kind of eerie, almost “too perfect”. Reminded me of “The Truman Show”. Haha
Quebec City – Oh wow, I LOVED it here. We walked and walked and walked! We saw all of the lower town and all the cool sites of the upper walled city. We took the 312 stair walk around promenade thing that took you up even higher. Had a snack at a French café. It was all fantastic!
Our sea day was cold! It was sunny but chilly. We laid out for a while but mainly relaxed and wandered around. I will say with only one sea day I think the ship was perfect sized. With another, you could get bored (or you could enjoy/relax!). We saw ZERO shows. I blame Happy Hour and late dinner, because afterwards we were exhausted. We did get up early every day due to ports too.
The cruise director seemed very nice and cheery. Typically he made an announcement once or twice a day, as did the captain. The captain was very easy to understand and always told us the following day’s course and weather.
We had split plans, my dh and parents were flying back and the kids and I rented a car and went to upstate NY. We picked the "early" departure which was 8:30 I think. We were called promptly and left. Our luggage was right in the section assigned and we walked out. It literally took about 5 minutes in total. A lot probably had to do with the small size ship, but very impressive!
I had looked at this cruise/itinerary for years, but could never make it work on RCCL due to fall/school times. I would LOVE to do this again during peak leave changing time and would highly recommend the itinerary.
Overall I was MORE than pleased with Holland and the Maasdam. I went into the cruise a little fearful and expecting the worst (due to ship size, age of ship and passengers, etc). It ended up greatly exceeding my expectations and I wouldn’t hesitate to sail on Holland again. We probably won’t anytime soon (due to kid’s, Diamond status, etc.) but the time will come when I will take another cruise and try one of their other “bigger” ships!