We have been back from the Maasdam 3rd July Boston - Montreal Sailing for almost 2 weeks. My husband, myself, and our two teenagers aged 16 and 18 took the cruise as a graduation trip for my son, and we all had a really nice time.
Ship. Loved the Maasdam. Had sailed on Vista class ships before but preferred the Maasdam. She is much more intimate and classy looking. Despite her heading for refurbishment next year I believe, I didn't feel she was in any way "shabby" looking. I much preferred the library and coffee bar as it is set up on the Maasdam, than having it share the Crows Nest as on the Oosterdam.
Cabin. We had an oceanview cabin on the Maasdam, compared to a VA aft cabin previously on the Oosterdam and Westerdam. It was perfectly adequate for this cruise, and I think I would have been disappointed with a balcony on this itinerary as it would have cost twice the price of an oceanview and wouldn't have been good value for money. There was plenty of storage space and our 2 cabin stewards unobtrusively kept the room clean and tidy and iced our champagne for us.
Food. We try to keep our weight under control by having just 2 main meals a day, breakfast, lunch or brunch, and an evening meal.
We ate most breakfasts in the buffet, and liked the omelette and fried egg stations, and also the tableside tea and coffee service. Had one breakfast in the dining room. Waited forever for the hot cooked breakfast, which finally arrived cold. Didn't do that again. Pastries, hot tea and fruit on the room service breakfast arrived on time and as ordered.
We had the embarkation lunch and also the Mariner Brunch in the dining room and both were delicious, offering limited but tasty menus.
Tried both the regular afternoon tea and the Indonesian tea. Both were very nice.
Room service shrimp cocktail made a nice pre-dinner snack early in the evening.
We had 5 dinners in the dining room, one in the Pinnacle and one in Canaletto.
We had 8pm late fixed seating in the dining room at a table for four on the upper level by the railing. It was very nice. We had 4 great meals there, with excellent food and excellent service. On the second formal night when we arrived our table had not been set up, it just had a table cloth on it. We joked a little with the waiter about us perhaps having shown up a little early, although we hadn't, and expected him to immediately set up the table. He said to sit down and bought the menus. The assistant waiter brought us water and took glasses from the next table, which was set up but had no one sitting at it. The bread came and we asked the assistant waiter to set up the table. He said he'd be back in a minute. In the end we had to get bread plates and knives from the next table ourselves. The wine steward came and when we had finished ordering from him we asked if he would send the waiter over to set up the table. I suggested to my husband that I go and find the Maitre'd, but he didn't want to cause a fuss (our English background showing through!) or get the waiter in trouble. Then the waiter showed up to take our order and I said to him very firmly that I would be delighted to order, but only once he had set the table up properly, which he did. He did say that they had been very busy with early seating as service got behind because everyone wanted lobster. Not really an acceptable excuse. We didn't get any food until 9pm, and what did arrive was cold. This was the worst experience I have ever had in a ships dining room and the maitre'd was unfortunately invisible that night.
Canaletto. After the formal night fiasco in the dining room we decided that we couldn't face the hullabaloo of the Master Chefs Dinner on the final night and that we would eat in the buffet instead. That afternoon we discovered a Canaletto menu and called to see if we could eat there at 7:30pm. They offered us a 7:30pm reservation at a shared table or an 8pm reservation at a table for 2, which we took. The meal was very nice, not really authentic Italian, but nice non the less. The food arrived hot and in a timely manner, and the service was very good.
Pinnacle Grill. We had a nice experience at the Pinnacle grill, although I think some of the "touches" were a little over the top. Three different types of organic salt, which while looking different, all tasted the same... of salt, LOL! I had fish, my husband had steak and we were very satisfied with both the quality and presentation of the food and the service.
On this cruise the show for late seating diners was a pre-dinner show. I didn't like this, as after dinner there is very little to do.
I enjoyed the late night comedienne Julie Barr and also the comedy magician. The production shows were OK, but not great and we never felt inspired enough to stay for the entire length of any of them.
Evening entertainment choices after dinner were limited to either a string quartet or jazz combo, both excellent, but a bit boring after 7 days. The piano bar was next to the casino and always smelt smoky so we never went in there, and the disco was just way too loud.
Trivia. Daily trivia was fun, but a tad too hard for us, although we always had a go! We played name that tune in the Crows Nest and although we won, we ended up with 33/34 when we should have aced the quiz, but one of the HAL answers was incorrect. The tune played was Los Lobos version of La Bamba, but the answer incorrectly given by the DJ was Richie Valens. We accepted that the HAL answer is always considered correct, but my husband couldn't resist taking the DJ aside privately and playing him both versions of the song from his ipod!
We appreciated the fact that the World Cup was shown on a big screen TV in the Crows Nest.
Spa. We had 2 very nice massages in the spa.
Teen Club Although my son is 18, the counselors very graciously allowed him and a couple of other recent high school graduates to join in with their activities, even though technically they were too old. Both my teens enjoyed meeting and hanging out with other teens through Club Hal.
The ports were all pretty low key.
Saint John - We did the jetboat ride here. It was cold and very wet!
Halifax - Took a HAL tour to Peggys Cove (not a patch on Cornwall), drove by the Swissair Memorial (perhaps a short 10 minute stop could have been arranged here for those interested in a photo op), and spent a very interesting hour in the cemetery where some of the Titanic victims are buried. Our guide was very knowledgeable and entertaining.
Sydney - Not much more to see here than the big fiddle on the dock.
Charlottetown - We had planned to take the HAL 7 hour tour, but decided to have a chill out day and wandered around the town and treated ourselves to an excellent haddock and chips lunch instead.
Scenic cruising on the St Lawrence - Unfortunately there was a pea souper outside and we didn't get to see much, but the foghorn worked overtime!
Vieux Quebec - A stunning UNESCO World Heritage Site. Lots of old buildings, shops, restaurants and cobbled streets to explore. My favourite port on this trip.
Last but not least ...smoking! We are non-smokers. We never got information on where smoking was / wasn't allowed, however, the majority of the public rooms seemed smoke free. I am not sure if smoking was allowed in the Piano bar, but it's proximity to the casino and casino bar, where smoking was allowed, meant that it was pretty smelly so we avoided it. I wish that HAL would stop people smoking in their staterooms and in the hallways. There were two cabins near ours with smokers in them, and the adjacent hallways stank of cigarette smoke, to the point where I held my breath walking by them. HAL did issue the same smoking questionnaire at the end of the cruise that they have been using for the past 3 or 4 years, but so far they don't seem to have changed their smoking policy.