This is a very well-run ship that does almost everything right. It caters mostly to families and older couples, though there were several honeymooners and young couples that seemed to enjoy themselves.
We have been on well over 20 cruises with all the well-known cruise lines, all on different ships.
Embarkation and Ship Design: This is an older ship, 20 years old in fact, but has been very well-maintained. Unlike the newer, larger ships, it has wonderful outdoor promenades and many spaces to enjoy or get away from it all. The public space to passenger ration is very high and it never felt crowded. Lines are rare. Many areas had been tastefully remodeled and the ship has impressive art, including some wonderful antique maps and large 18th century Dutch Masters paintings.
Rooms: The rooms have been upgraded with good mattresses and bedding. Free robes are included with the room. Closet space is excellent for a couple with large hanging areas and lots of drawers and shelves. As on many ships, the closet is in the entrance hallway conflicting with the front door and bathroom door. The bathroom is of nice size and includes a slippery bathtub (I personally prefer a shower), but with a good shower curtain, Grohe shower fixtures (not quite high enough for very tall people) and high-quality Elemis soaps and shampoos. There are some small shelves, but no cabinets in the bathroom.
There is only one outlet in the room, so bring a power strip. The attractive flat screen TV was too small to be well seen from the bed, but a DVD player and a large library of free DVD's was a welcome feature. Good wireless internet is available in all of the rooms.
Lighting was very good and switches for all lights were repeated at the bedside. A small sofa was present and very comfortable, though its abundance of extra display pillows made it almost unusable.
Service: The head of hotel has done an excellent job in training every staff member to attain Ritz-Carlton level quality of service. The majority of the staff was Indonesian and many had been appropriately promoted to management positions. The room stewards were friendly and efficient. The dining staff was almost too formal; for example, they would not bring a soup course until everyone was done with a salad course, even if many at our table did not order salad. The Pursur's desk staff was very available, friendly, multi-lingual and were more like concierges. No request seemed to be too difficult for them to handle and they knew the answers to every question. The positive attitude seemed to filter down from the captain and his officers, who were often present mingling with the guests. The captain gave interesting and informative announcements once or twice daily.
Food: Food was of very high and consistent quality, both in the dining room and the Lido. Choices were excellent, and every night, two dishes from the recipes of Michelin-starred chefs were offered. Steak and lobster were frequently served and free champagne was offered several times on this Christmas cruise. Free cappuccino was available at all meals. Free ice cream, pizza and burgers were available nearly round the clock. My only complaint was that no food was available at all (except room service) from 10:30am to 11:30 am. I often liked to get up at 8:30 and exercise in the gym for 2 hours before heading to "brunch", but this schedule was impossible on this ship.
Entertainment: The entertainment was world class on the Maasdam. They were trying out a new concept for the shows which involved having 6 singers who were also excellent dancers and actors with only 2 additional dancers. This casting allowed for more ensemble-oriented theatrical shows, which made one feel like they were attending a Broadway (or at least off-Broadway quality) musical play. All of the performers had been on Broadway or were lead singers for the Chicago Lyric Opera.
In the piano bar, Barry from Boston, a legend on the cabaret circuits of New York, Boston, and the Caribbean, held forth. Like a combination of Michael Feinstein and Billy Joel, he deservedly drew large crowds every night.
The solo guitarist was also excellent with amazingly fast finger work.
DJ Marty, a former Broadway dancer, had wonderful skills at the disco turntable.
The Eastern European string quartet, though not terribly great entertainers were wonderful classical musicians.
And the ventriloquist, Ronn Lucas, is ranked among the best in the world and had folks rolling in the aisles.
An excellent professional comedian rounded out the Christmas cruise entertainment.
All were anchored by a charming cruise director, who kept things humming all day.
The ship also offered excellent computer classes, all free of charge.
Ports of Call: The ship could have used a 2nd line for exiting, but generally it was very efficient.
St. Bart's was a wonderful surprise. It is a beautiful and wealthy island. Our 9 person group hired J.C., a well-known local taxi driver, who gave us a wonderful 1-Â½ tour for only $130, an excellent deal on this expensive island. We spent the rest of the day at beautiful St. Jean Beach.
San Juan is a great city for a self-guided walking tour available online.
In Nassau we hired, Carolyn to give us a 4-hour bike ride around the island. She changed it to a wonderful and informative van tour when it rained and we also spent a wonderful hour sharing refreshments at her lovely home (right next door to where Anna Nicole Smith lived!). We highly recommend her nature tours, especially if you like history, caves or birds.
Domenica (pronounced Doe-me-knee-cah with accent on "knee") is one of the most beautiful and unspoiled islands in the Caribbean for an eco-tour. We hired the services of Antours which took us on the most amazing river tubing run that we have ever done.
In Antigua, we had a wonderful tour on two wheeled Segways and this is a great and very safe and inexpensive place to ride on these wonderful machines. All 20 participants quickly became experts at riding under the watchful eyes of the wonderful tour guides and the tour ended at a pretty beach.
In St. Thomas, USVI, we were moderately disappointed by the changes at Megan's Bay, once ranked by National Geographic as one of the 10 best beaches in the world. We had been coming here for over 25 years and it is now full of parking lots and a government run fast food restaurant. It is no longer the beautiful funky beach with hammock-strewn restaurants that it once was.
The Half Moon Cay "private island" is truly best in its class: much nicer and more interesting than the Disney, Carnival or Princess "private islands". Book a tour to see the beautiful back side of the island. Be sure to arrange these tours (or even sailboat rentals) well in advance, as they are small and fill up quickly.