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Canada might stamp your passport when you arrive in Montreal, but with your first glimpse of the city's cobblestone streets, sunny sidewalk cafes and wrought-iron balcony railings, you'll feel as though you've been whisked off to Europe. With French street signs, upscale boutiques and joyful elan of its people, Montreal feels more like Paris than a major North American metropolis. Canada's second-largest city is home not only to a French-speaking majority but also to native English speakers and immigrants from all over the world.

Montreal balances opposing forces gracefully, maintaining its historic old town area just across the St. Lawrence River from the innovative geometric architecture of Habitat 67, a modern housing development. The towering office buildings in Montreal's downtown core reach for the sky alongside Mount Royal, the gentle mountain whose acres of parkland provide quiet respite just a few blocks from the city's energetic commercial district.

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  • Day 1

Sidewalk cafes by the dozen, baguettes in bicycle baskets, the classic French shoulder shrug, charming pedestrian-friendly plazas and squares, and residents with a special Gallic grace and beauty. Am I in Avignon? Lyon? St. Tropez? Non, mon ami, just a bit north of the U.S.

Quebec City offers a savory taste of Europe right here in North America. Think of it as France without the attitude. Friendly locals convey that sense of romance and Old World charm found across the Atlantic, making Quebec City a wonderfully distinctive port of call on Canada/New England cruises.

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  • Day 3

The Canadian province of Prince Edward Island (PEI) promotes itself as the "Gentle Island," but its popular claim to fame lies in its ties to the famous fictional character of the 1908 children's classic, "Anne of Green Gables." One hundred years ago, PEI author Lucy Maud Montgomery drew inspiration for the setting of her classic novel from the island where she grew up during the late Victorian Era. The story has been translated into 15 languages and adapted for film, stage and television. When venturing around the island, you can easily see where her inspiration came from: quiet agricultural communities, lush green landscapes, fishing villages, lighthouses that dot the coastline, red sandstone cliffs and, of course, green-gabled houses.

Prince Edward Island is located north of the province of Nova Scotia and is connected to the province of New Brunswick on the west by the 13-kilometer (9-mile) Confederation Bridge. The island's largest urban area, with 35,000 residents, is Charlottetown, situated centrally on PEI's southern shore and on the Northumberland Strait. On the north side of the island is PEI's National Park and the Cavendish area, which is home to many Anne-related attractions.

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Sydney is a city in transition. For a long time it was known mainly as an industrial center, one of Canada's major coal and steel suppliers. In the past, cruise passengers typically left the town for nearby excursions, like the beautiful Bras d'Or Lakes area and town of Baddeck, where Alexander Graham Bell lived and worked. The Fortress of Louisbourg, the largest historic reconstruction in North America, lures many visitors, and the Cabot Trail is one of Canada's most scenic drives.

But today's Sydney is an increasingly interesting place to visit. When the mills and mines closed for good in 2001, the city turned its eyes to the harbor and the 70,000 cruise-ship passengers who arrive each season. By concentrating on tourism, Sydney is making the most of its rich history and its position as the major city on beautiful Cape Breton Island.

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Halifax, Nova Scotia's capital city and the gateway to Atlantic Canada, has numerous identities. Home to the second-largest natural harbor in the world, it draws a major share of Canada's container trade and oodles of cruise ship visits in the late summer and early fall (although more recently, ships are beginning to visit in the early summer months). A few streets inland, there are many sights to take in, and while gorgeous coastal scenery begins just outside the city limits, especially during the spectacular autumn foliage displays, the waterfront is also a delight to explore.

Halifax also has a strong connection to the sinking of the Titanic since it played a key role during the aftermath of the tragedy. Three of the city's ships were sent out to recover bodies, and so it is the final resting place for many unclaimed victims. In fact, three cemeteries throughout Halifax feature rows of black granite headstones, each inscribed with the same date: April 15, 1912.

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Acadia National Park -- one of the smallest National Parks in the country -- is the biggest draw in Bar Harbor, Maine. The 41,000-acre park is also one of the most heavily visited, drawing more than two million travelers per year.

The park offers stunning mountain, sea and lake vistas and craggy cliffs that plunge to the surf, as well as an estimated 125 miles of trails for hiking and biking. Additional highlights include the 1,532-foot-high Cadillac Mountain and the Thunder Hole waterspout. Beyond the park, Bar Harbor (or as locals say: "Bah Hahbuh") has the charm of a quaint New England fishing village with all the attractions of a major port, and its touristy downtown area is hard to resist. Watch the lobstermen work, browse the souvenir shops, explore a museum and, of course, enjoy a Maine lobster bake.

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Boston is a big city, but it doesn't feel that way when you're walking around -- and make no mistake, this is one of those cities perfect to explore on foot. (If you're not a walker, join a trolley or amphibious vehicle tour.) In 20 minutes, you can stroll from the Common (Boston's Central Park) down to the waterfront and pass major historical attractions, shops and food purveyors along the way.

Boston is, perhaps, America's most glamorous historic city, dating back more than 350 years. The city was founded in 1630 by colonists led by John Winthrop, and it gets its name from an English village. The events that led to the American Revolution, including the infamous arguments over the tax on tea that led to the Boston Tea Party in 1773, started there. During the protest, three British ships were raided by colonists dressed as Native Americans who dumped tea into the harbor. In 1775, Paul Revere helped spread the word that the British were coming. The next day, the "shot heard round the world" was fired, signaling the start of the American Revolution.

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Cruise Critic Editor Rating:
510 reviews
Why Choose Maasdam?


Intimate atmosphere pairs well with unique itineraries


Shows signs of age in some areas

Bottom Line

Excellent value for those who prefer a mid-sized ship

Maasdam Overview

With its mid-sized capacity and classic styling, Holland America's stately Maasdam is a manageable and pleasant ship. After eighteen years in service, it has succeeded in retaining its youth -- with a major sweep of contemporary updates in both 2006 and the spring of 2011 -- but has resisted the impulse to act like a teenager. As such, the 1,258-passenger Maasdam has retained some of the traditional sensibilities that appeal to its older audience base -- high tea, formal nights, ballroom dancing and displays of antiques -- while adding elements to appeal to younger audiences. Such newer features include two contemporary alternative restaurants, wireless hotspots, three new hip specialty bars and an iPod tour of the aforementioned antiques.

Indeed, there are some who say hats off to Maasdam for resisting some of the more radical trends of the behemoth ships (no surfing wave simulators or rock-climbing walls here), while stepping ahead on other fronts. Case in point is the ship's state-of-the-art, New York Times-branded Explorations Cafe, a combination library and digital fun room for the over 50 set (think touch-screen interactive maps, over-sized crossword puzzles).

Its latest refurbishment, in April 2011, was part of HAL's $560 million Signature of Excellence initiative focused on modernizing its oldest ships. Along with new carpets, upholstery and soft goods, Maasdam gained three major features: a dinner-only Italian restaurant, two new kinds of cabins, and the Mix Lounge, a three-in-one bar central with each venue offering a specific type of drink and each flowing into the others. The new additions -- especially the alternative restaurant and bar area -- help up Maasdam's "hip factor" without detracting from any of the ship's classic charm.

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Cruise Reviews

Sail Date: February 2018
Very comfortable with lots to do. The meals were particularly outstanding with quality stressed and not quantity. There were so many places to eat that you could choose any time that you liked. There were always plenty of lounge chairs ... Read More
Very comfortable with lots to do. The meals were particularly outstanding with quality stressed and not quantity. There were so many places to eat that you could choose any time that you liked. There were always plenty of lounge chairs available. The staff were wonderfully trained, always smiling even for the difficult passengers. Many of them picked up your name after just a couple of meetings. I also noted that if you had a query you could ask any of the staff and they would help you even if was not their prime responsibility. Most, but not all the lectures were well done. The less satisfactory ones might have been personal preference. Most of the entertainment was fine but music was often too loud for my taste and geared to a younger crowd than those around me. You are very pampered. We had cabin 044 on deck ten aft. It had a reasonable balcony. It was a very good location; near elevators, convenient for restaurants, and just a step from the secondary pool. It was an interesting enjoyable trip and we are frequent travelers. We were a little surprised to realize February is the rainy season in the South Pacific and it was almost always overcast. Beaches are quite modest. If you are looking for sun and sand try the Caribbean. We prefer cruises where you pay one price in advance and everything else is 'free'. Read Less
Sail Date: February 2018
On Feb. 1, 2018 my wife and I boarded the Maasdam, a Holland America Line (HAL) ship for a 25-day cruise from Auckland to San Diego via various Polynesian islands. Our son, who had been in charge of medical centres on various Disney ... Read More
On Feb. 1, 2018 my wife and I boarded the Maasdam, a Holland America Line (HAL) ship for a 25-day cruise from Auckland to San Diego via various Polynesian islands. Our son, who had been in charge of medical centres on various Disney Cruise Line ships for about five years, warned us that Carnival ships were notorious for creating 50 to 100 sick people on every cruise. Since HAL ceased to be a Dutch line in 1989 and is now just a brand of Carnival, we might encounter issues. We did. Here is the story: THREE PHASES From a food handling perspective the cruise can be broken into three phases, each about eight days long. In the first phase, food handling was unsafe, and about 200 people on the ship caught various gastro-intestinal and respiratory infections. Countless people complained. In the second phase, staff grudgingly acknowledged the problem, and issued a bulletin that tried to shift blame onto guests. They altered some of their own processes so that fewer unsafe food handling processes were followed and the rate of infection decreased. In the third phase, staff decided that there were not enough sick people on the ship (yes, they actually said that to me), and that any sick ones would be getting off the ship soon because the cruise was nearly over, so they reverted to unsafe food handling procedures again. STAFF RESPONSE At the start of the third phase, at breakfast on the first morning that the unsafe food handling processes were resumed, I complained to our server. He referred me to the person in charge of the dining area who referred me to the front desk who referred me to the person in charge of the front desk staff who referred me to the very senior person in charge of operations for the whole ship. - He said he was from Toronto (where I am from) and acknowledged that a restaurant in Toronto that followed the ship’s food handling procedures would be shut down by health officials - He said that the health centre on the ship had said there are no sick people on the ship and acknowledged that this was ridiculous. By the way, this statement was easily countered by three people hacking violently at a meeting barely an hour later, and was further countered by a person warning others away from his table in the dining room because he had strep throat. - He said that the decision to revert to normal, unsafe, food handling procedures was made by shore-side people, that he could not change it, and he was only there to try to make me feel better and deal with my complaint. A few days later, a nurse from the health centre said that too few health measures were taken too late once the spread of disease became obvious in the first phase, and also that unhealthy processes were resumed too soon in the third phase after the number of sick people declined, but that the decision to return to unhealthy operating procedures was outside of the hands of the health centre. UNSAFE PRACTICES Here are some of the unsafe food handling issues we encountered: - Tables were cleaned using cloths rinsed in buckets of sometimes filthy water sitting on the floor. The water did not smell of any cleaning chemical or bleach but we were told that there was something in it. We usually saw staff take a swipe at a table and only very rarely clear and wipe it properly. Towards the end of the cruise, as this issue became better known, we saw increasing numbers of people spreading napkins on tables before putting down their cutlery. - Glasses and cups were placed on tables in advance of the arrival of guests, and then left on tables after guests had used the tables. Servers would only clear glasses and cups that they thought had been used. I saw one used water glass left on a table for the next person to use because it is not obvious that a water glass has been used. Even glasses that were not obviously used should be removed since someone dining at the table could have touched or coughed on them. For awhile we countered this problem by always getting clean glasses, not off tables, until we saw servers taking glasses off tables and putting them onto trays of supposedly clean glasses. - We saw servers blow and wipe their noses then continue working without washing their hands. There were no hand washing stations for servers so they would have had to go back to the kitchen, which they considered too time consuming. - Servers cleared dirty dishes then handled clean ones, without cleaning their hands between these two tasks. - Guest took drinks and food from serving stations then returned them, sometimes after taking the food to their tables. We even saw a guest give poured juices back to a server who returned them to a serving station to be taken by a subsequent guest. - Even in areas where servers were putting the food on the plates, which should be a safe way to serve, guests were able to reach in and touch the food. - Guests had access to servers’ water jugs and used them to fill personal water bottles, touching the spout of the water jug to the rim of their used water bottles. The contaminated water jug would continue to be used by the server and other guests. - At breakfast, juice was served in pre-poured glasses. Because of how the glasses were presented at the serving station, it was difficult to pick up a glass without touching the rim of adjacent glasses. - At the entrances to food areas, there were no staff posted to encourage guests to wash their hands. This is something that people who have not been on cruises may be unaware of but it is an important health measure. Appreciate that studies invariably show that only one third of people wash their hands after using washrooms, so a typical person carries a lot of bacteria on their hands. Then realize that you are using serving spoons used by others, to put food on your plate, and you will see the importance of having everyone sanitize their hands on entry to the food areas of the ship. - Interestingly, we saw staff sitting at tables in restaurants re-washing and drying cutlery before using it, which made us wonder what they know about the dish washing process that we didn’t. What we did know was that supposedly clean cutlery often had bits of food stuck to it. One plate on which I was served a dessert had a large black thumb print on it, right beside the dessert. CONCLUSION Since both the medical people and the head of operations stated that the decision to follow unsafe food handling procedures was made by shore-side people, one must conclude that the decision was based on economics. Safe food handling procedures take a bit more time and hence a few more staff. Creating 100 sick people who then leave the ship makes economic sense as long as this consistent practice is not widely known and does not affect the rate of bookings. Read Less
Sail Date: January 2018
My wife and I, plus two friends, chose this cruise on the recommendations of several friends who had sailed Holland America many years ago. Then itinerary appeared to be very interesting and since we cruise often we decided to go on this ... Read More
My wife and I, plus two friends, chose this cruise on the recommendations of several friends who had sailed Holland America many years ago. Then itinerary appeared to be very interesting and since we cruise often we decided to go on this 39 day (Sydney to San Diego) cruise. The flight from S.F. to Sydney was comfortable by Quantas and embarkation was well managed by Holland America. Once we set sail the problems started to occur. The Madam is an old ship with many problems. Many days we, and our neighboring cabins, were without hot water. Calls to the desk did not seem to resolve the ongoing problem. The ship dining services are quite understaffed. While the staff is very courteous, there is just not enough of them to attend to the passengers. The four of us boarded the ship in fine health but within a few days we, and it seemed like half the ship, was coughing continually. A trip to the ship's clinic to purchase a bottle of cough syrup resulted in a small four ounce bottle for $24 US. The ship then went into a quarantine mode. Everyone was coughing and wheezing! I bet they sold a bunch of those $24 cough syrup bottles. Several ports were severely delayed in disembarkation due to tender boat issues. They never did get that resolved! Half the washers and dryers in the laundry rooms did not function. This caused a lot of wasted time and frustration on the ship.The ships leaks badly: it leaked often in the showroom ( on us and others) and it leaked in the buffet, on our food, while we were eating.The staff was unable to do anything other than place buckets to catch the water! The topper, to some of us, was the televised channels listed and promoted the Winter Olympics, to begin on a certain day. That day arrived and the Olympics were not televised!!! I called the desk and was told the HAL will not televise the Olympics, even though ESPN had that capability. Now that is really cutting corners!!! In conclusion, I found the crew and staff to be very accommodating and friendly, but they can only do so much? HAL has got to be less concerned about ROI Return On Investment and more quality of experience focused. Read Less