I've been on more than 15 cruises and this one on the Maasdam was as good as it gets. Food and entertainment were surprisingly good. My husband and I are in our late 50's. Our daughter turned 18 the day before the cruise. I wondered whether our daughter would enjoy the trip since I had read that Holland America caters to an older crowd. I didn't need to worry. Summer cruisers on our Maasdam voyage were a diverse bunch. Even though my daughter was technically "too old" for the kids' program, she still met many of the 40 kids in the 13-18 age group. She was impressed by how well-travelled, worldly, and intelligent they were. She made friends with kids from Mexico, Scotland, England, and all over the U.S. At 18, she was technically old enough to gamble in the ship's casino but not old enough to drink onboard.
Let me start with some nice (surprising) touches on the Maasdam. The orange juice served at breakfast in the Lido is fresh-squeezed. If you attend a movie in the cinema/theater (which doubles as the culinary arts center), you can pick up free fresh-popped popcorn before the show. The cabins have bathtubs, DVD players, and plenty of storage space. We don't travel light and had room for all of our luggage and purchases in our oceanview cabin on the main deck. The bathroom has one narrow shelfwhich is the only negative that comes to mind. The Maasdam offers daily tea service from 3-4 p.m.which is a nice way to unwind (or warm up) after a busy day in port.
We booked late and were assigned "as you like it dining." Apparently 80% of the cruisers are assigned to "as you like it dining." It was our first time dealing with this concept. I started out making dinner reservations at 8 a.m. each morning for a specific time from the four times usually offered. When I did this, our party of three was seated alone at a table. In the past we had always enjoyed dining with other peopleso it looked like it was going to be a lonely cruise. Then one day I didn't have time to call in our reservation at 8 a.m. because we were off on an early tour. That evening we tried the "walk-in" line at the Rotterdam dining room after concluding that the menu was better there than at the Lido. We were given a pager and told we would be seated within half an hour. We were able to shop on a nearby deck, received the page, and then were seated at a large table with other walk-ins. From then on, we used the "walk-in" line and met a variety of interesting people. Most of the time, we were able to walk right in and get seated at a large table without using a pager. We had one elegant dinner at the Pinnacle Grill.
Entertainment was great. We were able to get good seats for all the shows in the Rembrandt lounge and enjoyed the HAL singers and dancers, spectacular piano player Paul Pappas, magician Jamie Allan (who incorporates A-V technology into his shows), and comedian Jim Labriola. I also participated in a Broadway trivia contesta team event held in the Crow's Nest barwhich was a lot of fun. Drew, the cruise director, was a likeable and entertaining guy with a low-key sense of humor.
The ship features a computerized classroom with a technical expert who teaches groups of about 15-20 students how to edit digital photos. I finally learned how to remove red-eye. I loved being able to view my digital photos on the ship's computer monitor while still on vacation. I attended several of Will's classes and decided that this room would be my home-away-from-home on our lone port day. (My daughter and I also took a class in making "fun and easy towel creatures.")
As for ports, we enjoyed all of themespecially Quebec City and Prince Edward Island. It rained heavily all day in Sydney and Bar Harbor and in the afternoon in Halifax. We took a taxi to Peggy's Cove (outside Halifax) and beat the tour busses and the rain for a spectacular morning in an extremely scenic spot. I also enjoyed shopping in the buildings adjacent to the ports in Sydney and Halifax. We also took a taxi to the Fortress of Louisbourg (outside Sydney). We found that taking taxis to tourist spots usually saved us money over conventional tours and offered more flexibility since we like to spend time in local shops near the tourist attractions.
We spent three nights at the Embassy Suites in Montreal before the cruise. It was a beautiful well-designed hotel with a full kitchen and separate sofabed sleeping area for our daughter. The location (near Notre Dame Cathedral) was close to Chinatown, Old Montreal and downtown/underground shopping. The hotel itself is new and features a huge breakfast with omelette and pancake stations and a nightly manager's reception. The breakfast area is crowded and bustling in the morning. The bathroom was so pretty that I even took some photos of the spa tub! From the hotel, it was just a quick taxi ride (in a van) to the port. Embarkation and disembarkation were routine. We decided to fly right home from Boston and were again able to get a van to transport us right to Logan Airport.