We embarked in Boston for an 18-day cruise to San Diego via the Panama Canal. Hurricane Irma was bearing down on Florida at the time while Hurricane Jose was setting sights on Puerto Rico. Captain Jutten navigated between the storms, never ... Read More
We embarked in Boston for an 18-day cruise to San Diego via the Panama Canal. Hurricane Irma was bearing down on Florida at the time while Hurricane Jose was setting sights on Puerto Rico. Captain Jutten navigated between the storms, never getting closer than 500 miles to either. We had 15-foot seas for one full day but the ship handled them well. Our interior cabin on the Lower Promenade Deck, #417, was spacious and comfortable. We loved walking the teak deck at four laps to the mile. Arriving at Fort Lauderdale, we found the city mostly without power and all shore excursions cancelled. We got a taxi to the beach but never made it there due to sand clogging the streets. We found a store running on a generator and got some supplies before re-boarding. Thankfully, the airport had reopened the day before and two dear friends were able to join with us for the remainder of the cruise. This was our longest itinerary to date and the first time cruising with friends.
Maasdam is an older ship (1993) that is aging gracefully. She is well maintained and the perfect size for 1,200 or so passengers and 500 crew. We never felt rushed and didn't have to wait in a line for a single thing. Service from all staff was cheerful and attentive. Dining choices and food quality were very good. We had salads most days for lunch and went to the Rotterdam Dining Room most nights for dinner. We pre-purchased the Cellar Master Package, which afforded us several bottles of wine, two dinners in The Pinnacle Grill and two wine tasting events. The steaks were very good in Pinnacle but the Alaskan King Crab legs were even better; the premium wine tasting event was superior. The ship's entertainment was very good, with talented singers and dancers and an excellent comedian.
About a week in, hotel staff advised that another passenger had designs on our stateroom, asking if we would mind relocating to a Vista Suite. Seems this other passenger was booked in cabin #417 for the next cruise, a 50+ day journey from San Diego to Sydney, and wanted to settle in as soon as possible. We were happy to oblige and super cabin attendant Joe made moving to balcony cabin #151 a breeze. What a great upgrade!
The ten-hour passage through the Panama Canal was memorable. A local narrator came on-board for the 50-mile journey. That, together with excellent lectures and documentaries, really brought home the significance of this engineering marvel.
Shore excursions were likewise excellent. Costa Rica's rivers and jungles, with crocodiles, poison dart frogs and exotic plants, Nicaragua and Guatemala, with smoldering volcanoes, bubbling mud pots and Mayan ruins and Cabo San Lucas, with its famous rock formations and snorkeling. Yet it was unassuming Puerto Chiapas, Mexico where we experienced the highlight of our cruise. On a small tour, we visited the modest but beautiful home of Josefina, a world-class chocolate maker with a wall of awards including #1 world's best chocolate as selected in competition at Perugia in Umbria, Italy. She served us an authentic Mexican breakfast on banana leaves, then demonstrated her art, picking the cocoa fruit, toasting the beans and inviting us to grind them up. She separated out the hulls in a wheat vs. chaff maneuver and packed the remainder tightly together for our tasting. We felt fully immersed in this wonderful culture.
A tropical storm lay in our path on the last leg to San Diego, but the ship handled it with ease. We had a great last day watching sea lions in La Jolla and visiting Cabrillo Point, then on to our red-eye flight home. What a great cruise, made all the more special with the company of very close friends. It opened our eyes to how enjoyable longer itineraries can be, and we look forward to cruising with Holland America again soon. Read Less