My family and I just returned from our 3rd Holland America cruise. My husband and I are in our late 30's and our son is 10. We took the 10 day Southern Wayfarer cruise aboard the Maasdam. Overall we had a very enjoyable and pleasant trip. We arrived in Fort Lauderdale the night before our cruise. We always plan to arrive the day before our ship leaves, since we fly out of the Midwest (Iowa) and one can never predict the weather. We traveled on Midwest airlines which was wonderful! We have flown a few times this year and this was the only time we haven't had a delay! The staff was friendly, and helpful. The seats were leather and extra large. I would recommend this airline to anyone. Once in Fort Lauderdale we stayed at the Marriott Springhill Suites. The hotel was new and very nice. The rooms were spacious, the help friendly, and my son had a great time at the pool/spa area. It's close to staff at the hotel were courteous, friendly, and helpful. The help at the eating places around the hotel were not. Give yourself plenty of time if you decide to eat at any of these places. The hotel also offers a free shuttle from the airport and to the cruise terminal. They have a free breakfast and internet access as well. I would recommend this hotel to all. Now to the cruise. We left our hotel at 1:00 (late check out is available!) We were checked in and on the ship in less than 20 minutes. We completed our registration on line so the process was quick. I would advise everyone to do this for times sake.
Our stateroom was not available for about 30 minutes so we headed to the Lido deck for some lunch! Our stateroom was pretty standard for a cruise ship. We had an outside room with a full window. There was ample closet space and drawers. We did have to ask for additional clothes hangers and still ended up short. The beds were comfortable, but our room tended to be on the warm side even with the air cranked up. Others were complaining their room was too cold so it must depend where you are on the ship and your personal preference. The stateroom was nicely decorated, but the bathroom decor was very outdated!!! There was no mini fridge in the room so storing my sons medication was difficult (we put it in the ice bucket) and storing formula would be tough. The room did have a hairdryer, clothes line and the self-service laundry area down the hall had an iron and board. Our room steward was fair. There never seemed to be enough ice, and our bedding was not changed through the whole trip, even when visibly soiled. Also, the couch which converts to a bed was never returned to the couch position until the end of the cruise. We had to sit on the bed or pull out couch bed to watch TV. Our room was located in the front lower level of the ship. I would not recommend this location to anyone!! We hit some pretty rough waters and there was a lot of movement. There seemed to be more movement than other parts of the ship. You could feel and hear the bow of the ship rise and slap the water as we passed over waves. The water also splashed over our window several times. This part of the ship was very loud and very rocky! The ship decor was typical of the Holland America line. Very classy, no neon or plastic to be found. The ship is older so some of the carpet is worn and some of the decor is dated, but still a very lovely ship. Hopefully it'll go in for a overhaul soon.
The food on the ship was good in my opinion. I heard lots of complaints about the food selection and quality, but to me it was good. The presentation of the food was good. The soups were wonderful but the desserts, once again, lacked the wow factor. Our wait staff was fair. They were friendly, and accurate, but very slow!!! They always seemed to serve my family last and I think they were pretty sure we wouldn't be big tippers. It got frustrating at the end. Our bar server was very good and had our drinks at the table before we arrived! We went to the Pinnacle Grill one evening and it was very good. The Filet Mignon was beyond words-it was sooooo good. The only free drinks accessible 24 hours a day were tea and water. This ship keeps the juice behind the counter so if you want it you have to ask. The taco bar and pizza was fair and needed to be refreshed more often do the food wasn't cold or stale.
The shows on board were pretty typical in quality. The type of shows were geared toward the passenger clientele ( much older, no children). They were all good though (Oboe player, Nat King Cole singer). The ship dancers and singers were the best we've seen on a ship (this is our 6th cruise). The on board activities were not well organized and the activity staff seemed uninterested and were not very helpful. A lot of the time the passengers took charge. The days at sea got a little long! My son did not partake in the Club Hal program and there were very few children on board. I think this varies by ship and sail date. There have never been as many children on our Holland America cruises as there has been on our cruises with other lines. They were expecting over 80 children on the next sailing of this ship. The internet was slow and expensive but would do in a pinch. There was a lot of complaining on this ship but I thought it was a pleasant cruise once we got past the rough waters. Our ports of call. We skipped our first port(St. Maarten)) because of tropical storm Olga who was causing some rough waters! We ended up with 3 days at sea in a row vs 2. We were refunded for our shore excursion tickets and the port charges and taxes. We next stopped at St. Lucia. We took the Queens Route tour which gave a great tour of the island. In the past we have done it by catamaran, which was also nice, but you only see the coast line. This is a very poor island. Our next stop was Martinique. This was not a very nice island. It was raining. We took the Martinique by land and Sea tour which was poorly organized and the tour guide clueless. I wouldn't waste the money (it was $89pp). The highlight of the trip was suppose to be an upclose look at Volcano Pelee but we couldn't see it because of rain and fog. We then went to Barbados which was great and more modernized. We booked a 5 hour lunch catamaran ride through a company called Cool Runnings. This was one of the highlights of the trip. We snorkeled with turtles, over a sunken ship, and coral reef. We had a nice buffet lunch on the catamaran at a secluded beach. It was a wonderful!!!! time. We then went to Tortola. Tortola is one of my most favorite ports because we take the Virgin Gorda Baths excursion. This is a 30 minute ferry ride to Virgin Gorda where you swim at one of the most unique and pristine beaches ever. This excursion is not for those who have difficulty walking as the terrain to get to the beach is pretty rough and uneven. Our last stop was Half Moon Cay, the Holland America, private island. Here you will find the softest, most beautiful sand in the world. Unfortunately, it was cloudy and cold on this stop. It does still remain one of my favorite places though(we've been here 3 times). We snorkeled by boat this time and it was the best snorkeling experience we've had- tons of fish. The water however was VERY cold.
Debarking was ok. It's a lot quicker than it was when we first started cruising. It's nice to be able to wait in your room as well. We used the cruise line ship-shore transfer service. It's somewhat unorganized and you feel like you're cattle being herded. One of our bags was misplaced, but found before we left the airport. The gentleman at the airport drop off was courteous and helpful while trying to locate our missing luggage. Overall this was a great trip. There was a lot of complaining by others, but my family isn't hard to please. The ship was quiet, no loud blaring music, or drunks screaming in the hallway at 2a.m.,and the food and service was satisfactory. This is a much older crowd so if you like to party or look at pretty girls in their bikini's you better stick with the fun ships. I'd recommend this cruise.