BACKGROUND INFORMATION: This was our 15th cruise and our 2nd cruise on HAL. We have cruised on RCI, Princess, Celebrity, and HAL. Our favorite cruise line is Princess because we love anytime dining. We prefer not being on a schedule when we are on vacation. Our other cruise on HAL was on the Westerdam, but we were very disappointed in the food and the entertainment on that ship. We booked the Maasdam to Canada/New England because HAL began their AYW dining and we really wanted to go on this itinerary in early August. This itinerary was very port intensive with only 1 sea day all week, so the entertainment wasn't that important to us.
TRAVEL & HOTEL: We flew to Boston on Air Tran the day before the cruise. We found the Air Tran flight to be very uncomfortable & the seats felt like you were sitting on a cardboard box. Luckily, the flight was a short one and we landed in Boston. We booked a 4 star hotel through Priceline and we got The Westin at Copley Place. The Westin was very nice and in a great location near many restaurants, the Boston Public Library, and a great wine store called Best Cellars where many of the wines were under $15.00 per bottle. At this wine store they categorize the wines for you (fruity, fresh, etc) so you know what you're buying before your purchase.
EMBARKATION: We took a taxi from the Westin to the Black Falcon Pier and arrived at around 10:30 AM. Our taxi driver dropped us off with our bags and there was much confusion as to where to go. It turned out that we were dropped off about 1 1/2 blocks from where we should line up with our bags. My husband & I had to move our bags to the line and finally the bags were collected and put on carts. We got in a line but we noticed that there was another line forming on the other side. People were very confused as to where to line up. We looked around for HAL people, but they weren't around. Finally, a woman in a HAL jacket came around and passed out the Noro-Virus form and our number one to board. The line began to move inside and we had to go to a few different lines to check in because the staff seemed to be very confused about what to do and the computers weren't working properly. We always do the online check-in so this was even more annoying. We finally found someone who we thought could help us check-in, but when we scanned our cruise cards we found out that my picture was on my husband's card and his picture was on my card. By that time we realized that this was probably the worst embarkation we have ever experienced. We were told to go to Guest Relations to get our pictures on the correct cruise cards. This would take more of our time to correct HAL's mistake. We went to Guest Relations and they corrected the problem and they were very nice.
DINING: The food in the Rotterdam Dining Room was wonderful. We were concerned about the dining because we were disappointed in the food on the Westerdam. Every meal in the Rotterdam was delicious & the service was excellent and up to par with Princess. Our only criticism is that HAL doesn't open the dining room for lunch except on sea days or short port days. We don't enjoy eating our meals at the buffet, but we had no other choice. HAL is classified as a 5 star cruise line & they need to open their dining room for lunch. We ate some of our breakfasts in the dining room, but again, the hours were very restricted so it was difficult to get there. We ate one night in the Pinnacle and unfortunately our service was better in the regular dining room. On disembarkation day, we looked forward to eating breakfast in the dining room, but there was much confusion about the hours there. Guest Relations told us it was open until 8 AM. The cruise director on the disembarkation video also said it was open until 8 AM. We arrived at 7:35 AM and the head waiter told us that it closed at 7:30 AM. We asked if he could let us in because it was just a few minutes after, but he told us the kitchen was closed. We told him we were directed there, but he still insisted it was closed. We saw some angry passengers who were also trying to have their breakfast in the dining room, but they too were turned away.
CABIN: We booked a guarantee and were placed in an inside on deck 4. When we got to our cabin we noticed that the air conditioning wasn't working and immediately called for a technician. We read on Cruise Critic about problems with the air conditioning & prior to the cruise sent a letter to ship's services requesting that we be placed in a room with proper working air conditioning. Unfortunately, our letter was never received on the Maasdam. Fortunately, the Guest Relations staff was wonderful and was able to switch our cabin to one that had air conditioning. Unfortunately, it was the first cabin on deck 4, right next door to the crew area and every morning we were awakened to what sounded like an earthquake. Our cabin vibrated and glasses literally fell off the table. This was quite an experience for us. Apparently, the noise was due to the bow thrusters. Luckily for us, we were in a port almost every day & needed to be up early. Guest Relations tried to offer us 2 other cabins (where guests had left in the middle of the week) but, they too, were very hot. Guest Relations did everything they could to make our stay more enjoyable, but because the ship was fully booked it was difficult. They contacted HAL headquarters and we received compensation towards the end of our cruise.
PORTS OF CALL: In Portland, we took a HAL excursion to Kennebunkport. Our guide was very informative and we had enough time to walk around town & shop. In St. John, we visited the marketplace and shopped. In Halifax, we took a taxi to the cemetery to see the Titanic graves & then we took the FRED (free bus) to the Citadel. We ate lunch at Salty's and it was terrific. In Sydney, we rented a car from Budget and drove the Bras D'or Lakes Scenic Drive & visited the Alexander Graham Bell Museum. In Bar Harbor, we took Olli's Trolley (2 1/2 hrs) to Acadia National Park & then ate lunch at the West End Cafe. Olli's Trolley was well worth the money & the scenery was beautiful. In Boston, we visited the JFK Library/Museum before we flew home. The JFK Library was very enjoyable.
ENTERTAINMENT: We were pleasantly surprised by the level of entertainment. The HAL singers and dancers were probably one of the best groups we have seen on a cruise. The lounge entertainment was also top notch. We enjoyed comedian Danny Storts and singer Annie Francis.
SUMMARY: Even though we had problems with the chaotic embarkation and the air conditioning, the HAL staff (especially Guest Relations), made up for the difficulties. They continuously tried to make everything better. The staff on this ship was so friendly and they made you feel as if you were their guest. The ship is showing signs of wear and tear, especially in the elevators, but it is still charming. It was very nice cruising on a smaller ship because you were able to get seats at all the shows & lounges. The Maasdam deserves high marks for its wonderful food and service. Hopefully, the Maasdam will have the air conditioning problem fixed when it goes into drydock.