After reading another passenger's review of the cruise I just left, I was shocked, as my feelings were almost exactly opposite. So, here's another opinion.
We just returned from the December 12, 2011 sailing of the Maasdam to the Southern Caribbean for 11 days. This was our fourteenth cruise and for sure was the BEST. First, we love Holland America. I believe their staff are unsurpassed. The Dutch officers are gentlemen and the crew (mostly Fillipino and Indonesian) are the most courteous, cheerful and eager to please.
We booked a verandah cabin. About a week before sailing, HAL emailed to offer an upgrade to a deluxe verandah suite. We accepted. We are a retired couple living on modest income, so this is not something we could normally afford, but I thought it would be a once-in-a-lifetime spoil, and so it was. On newer ships most of the suites are just a few feet wider than standard cabins but on the Maasdam, they are huge. Our cabin was lovely in every respect including comfort, decor and cleanliness. Our stewards were wonderful and the convenience of having a concierge and using the Neptune Lounge was invaluable.
Seas were calm during our trip but winds were very high some of the time. My only disappointment was that the route the ship took was not the same as advertised in the brochure which showed the ship in the Caribbean most of the time, going from island to island between our seven ports. It seemed that the officers rather opted to bring the ship out into the Atlantic at every opportunity where we had no protection from the winds. This made our boat rock too much from side to side as the winds hit us broadside during the entire voyage.
The most outstanding facet of the cruise was the food. Never have I had such fantastic meals on a ship. I was on a Carnival ship in March where they tried to pass off beef shoulder as "Chateaubriand". Well, none of that trickery on HAL. It was lots of lobster, fillet mignon, strip steaks and every other type of vegetarian, mediterranean, italian, french, seafood and you name it food, perfectly prepared and beautifully presented. In addition, the cooking demonstrations by Cesar were wonderful.
I enjoyed the craft classes which were offered on days in port in case you were not going ashore.
There were lots of options for passengers interested in playing bridge, learning computer/internet/digital camera use or fitness buffs. Other than that, I wished there were more lectures or a variety of enrichment opportunities.
The Maasdam's singers and dancers were wonderful. Some of the individual entertainers brought onboard - like Paul Pappas - were wonderful and others - like improv guy Brian Bradley - were awful. In smaller lounges the Neptunes and Adagio Strings were great.
On most cruise lines, you either eat in the dining room or from the less appetizing Lido buffet, or you can order room service from a limited menu with choices like club sandwiches or burgers. On HAL, you can order room service on any item(s) on the dining room menu, provided you order during dining room hours. We love eating in our cabin but want to avail ourselves of the best food on the ship, so we love this feature.