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175 Holland America South Pacific Cruise Reviews

Sailed on Holland America four other times. Never on prior cruises was I told we are sorry but we out out of that. On this cruise we were told sorry we are out of diet caffeine free coke White Wines, Beers, Teas, Ice Creams, Limes, wafers ... Read More
Sailed on Holland America four other times. Never on prior cruises was I told we are sorry but we out out of that. On this cruise we were told sorry we are out of diet caffeine free coke White Wines, Beers, Teas, Ice Creams, Limes, wafers for Ice Cream. I didn't pay all my money not to have the ship properly provisioned my table mates had the same problems and felt the same way, this made the overall experience poor. Both showers in our stateroom needed a plumber (three times). TV was broken, bed had no firmness,.Gym had broken equipment. Dining and room staff were good, food was good. Enjoyed Lincoln Center music. Ports and excursions were average. Embarkation went smoothly. interesting talks in the morning, Lido Pool area staff seemed lazy, other staff was good.Over all common rooms were average. Guest Services tried their best to resolve all my issues but they could not resolve the issues involving Noordam being out of so many items, I would not recommend the Noordam as I would the other Holland America ships I have been on. Read Less
Sail Date April 2019
Thoroughly enjoyed Dave Koz and Friends and the entertainment package!! The actual cruise ship, Noordam, is pitiful. It is dated, worn out, and in need of complete remodeling. The furniture is tired, and the bathroom in our suite never ... Read More
Thoroughly enjoyed Dave Koz and Friends and the entertainment package!! The actual cruise ship, Noordam, is pitiful. It is dated, worn out, and in need of complete remodeling. The furniture is tired, and the bathroom in our suite never looked clean. There is plenty of closet space in the suite which we appreciated. On other cruises when we had a suite, we had concierge like service. On this ship, you need to go to the Neptune lounge for concierge service. The staff on the ship are kind. I can’t say enough about the quality of the entertainment and the host of this cruise. Dave Koz is thoughtful and caring for his clients. His cruise is well planned and complete. They have more for one to do than you can even get to in a day! Would definitely recommend a Dave Koz cruise. However, I would not recommend that he utilize Holland America in the future. This ship, the Noordam, is ready for retirement Read Less
Sail Date March 2019
Having cruised with a number of different lines over the years we chose our first Holland America cruise recently because of the destinations it was going to in the South Pacific. After having been on the ‘geriatric express’ that is ... Read More
Having cruised with a number of different lines over the years we chose our first Holland America cruise recently because of the destinations it was going to in the South Pacific. After having been on the ‘geriatric express’ that is Princess Cruises (because it was going o PNG) we were a little apprehensive but told that HAL appealed to the more discerning traveller wishing to ‘experience’ fine cuisine and luxury. Interesting. We quickly noted that quite a number of the patrons did seem to be from that precious, tedious class of human beings. A mix of many races and languages with a fair few Americans. Everything on board was very much geared to American tastes and interests. (We ran a little private contest to spot somebody smiling - it took 3 days.) Example: in the middle of the hot Pacific Islands there was an inordinate number trooping off to the Dining Room all decked out in suits or tuxedos and finery. As a person who has spent his whole life wearing suits I sure don’t want to put one on while on holidays in the steamy Pacific. Despite it being school holidays there was only a sprinkling of children on board and they seemed all quiet and well behaved. Cuisine - dull to bad, repetitive with some really awful/silly concoctions. Every night meat and vegetables. Tricked up cafe level food. Very limited selection and in the buffet no self-serve. Instead a ridiculous system whereby you have to lineup (something akin to Seinfeld’s Soup Nazi), state (very quickly) what you want, (having just seen it), be served and step away. The queues grew long and people became very testy. A stupid, demeaning and inefficient system. HAL seem to be trying too hard. They produced numerous attempts at various cuisines but the result was amateurish and generally overcooked. Interestingly we noticed that only about 50% of diners washed their hands when entering. We had booked a transfer to the ship via HAL. When we arrived at the pickup point for the coach, as per instructions, there was nobody there and no coach. We searched everywhere in case we had missed something. Sometime later, back at the original pickup point, a confused mini van driver arrived and asked who we were. Apparently the coach had been cancelled and we’d somehow fallen through the cracks. No apology. Eventually, days later somebody noted the ‘inconvenience’. Incidentally we could have taken a local transfer coach for a third of HAL’s charge. Which brings us to the prices on HAL. All cruise ships tend to rip you off. You’re a captive audience. HAL have the highest prices we have yet seen. Virtually everything from yoga to meditation classes involved a fee. To add insult they place a 15% service charge on their prices at purchase. We also had a few cases of wrong items appearing on our account. Then of course there’s the gratuities where the ships adds $16 per person per day to your account. HAL operates in US dollars so for Australians by the time you add on their service charge and convert to $A and include the card fee we’re paying 50%-60% more for everything. NB Most of the ship’s photos went unsold because of the high prices. In search of a positive about the ship I can quote one that happened by default. The lifts were great and there was no waiting time. This is because there was often nobody about. At times during the evening you could walk through the ship and not see anybody. We are not party animals but what the thousands of passengers were doing I don’t know. Seeking any sort of fun or enjoyment was not for them. The ship had the atmosphere of a well furnished, funeral parlour. There was a venue called BB Kings Blues Club. Probably connected to the BBK franchise in the US. Great I thought. I really like blues. The band looked the part. Their music was tight and slick but in a Michael Jackson sort of way. The music certainly was not blues. No hint of a BBK tribute, Robert Johnson, Muddy Waters et al They played everything but - middle of the road elevator music, motown, rock and roll, some great jazzy r & b instrumentals but over two weeks never any blues. Seemed kind of pointless. The onboard cafe with complimentary coffee, tea and snacks which is such a nice feature of Royal Caribbean ships and somewhere pleasant to sit was in this case a multi-purpose games room, library, internet venue with coffee priced higher than downtown Sydney. The shows in the main theatre were mostly lifeless. With a very basic ship’s orchestra struggling along. The daily fair consisted of things like flower arranging or scrabble tournaments. There was string quartet playing Vivaldi, Brahms, Schumann etc. Being familiar with most of their repertoire I can only say that their standard of playing was not particularly good. I stayed away. We met people who were HAL groupies. They all seemed to be nouveau riche types who felt life should be quiet, erudite and dignified. A lot of it appeared a charade on their part. All cruise lines have there good and bad points. It’s just that with HAL it was 60% negative. At least the ship’s decor was in general pleasing to the eye (with some weird exceptions). Not the God-awful hideous stuff you find on say Carnival ships. The staff were all obsequiously pleasant. The crew not so much. HAL with its dubious quest for genteel travel may suit some people but we will continue to seek a happy medium between loud and vulgar and the HAL ‘experience’. Final Note: HAL sent out a questionnaire after the cruise to ascertain passengers degree of satisfaction or otherwise with the HAL ‘experience’. (Why do we have ‘experience’ everything now. You eat meals you don’t experience them, you sleep on a bed you don’t experience it ….. ) Anyway, I thought okay, I’ll give them a fair hearing, as they were keen to get feedback. The online questionnaire crashed twice. That’s when I gave up. Read Less
Sail Date January 2019
I have read some of the reviews about this cruise and couldn't disagree more with some. We are 3 star mariners with Holland America - not that this means anything - other than we wouldn't cruise Holland America if we didn't ... Read More
I have read some of the reviews about this cruise and couldn't disagree more with some. We are 3 star mariners with Holland America - not that this means anything - other than we wouldn't cruise Holland America if we didn't appreciate what they do; but we have also taken other cruises. I would agree that the ship could use some updating - but our suite was very acceptable. The food was very very good - yes, the meal choices were harder on this cruise but the staff was obviously trying to meet the dietary needs of all diners - which means you must provide vegetarian, gluten-free, restrictions based on religious beliefs, diabetic restrictions, and on and on. And they also tried to feature the many places we visited. The servers, wine stewards, dining room supervisors, etc. were all very focused on making sure the experience was exceptional ... on a number of occasions I asked for a modification to the standard dinner and always received what I requested. There wasn't a meal that we had where we weren't asked if our meal was satisfactory. And our order was taken and our first course delivered within 10 minutes of sitting down at the table. Our glasses were kept full as well. The shows were very good for what you'd expect for ship entertainment; throughout the entire cruise (we got off in Aukland) people seemed to really enjoy them - the showroom was packed every night and the applause was loud. We ended our evening with coffee and reading in a number of the lounge areas and the music was great in every one we sat in. Keeping in mind that we had a number of "sea" days, they tried to provide a variety of things to do - cooking classes, digital classes, a movie every afternoon in the showroom, health related classes, massages, talks on the cultures we encountered by people of the region and the history of those areas, talks on the various animals of the region, a library full of books to read, updates on the coming excursions, puzzles to work on, card games to participate in, board games to play, etc. BUT, we took this cruise knowing that we'd have to be able to entertain ourselves as well and we came prepared. We also told our children not to expect a lot of communication from us because we anticipated that wifi and internet could be sketchy. We went on a shore excursion at every stop but one (this is not typical for us) because we wanted to meet the people and experience the culture of the area and we were not disappointed - what an education. I really couldn't pick my favorite - they were all wonderful. Every member of the staff that we encountered was absolutely phenomenal - from the dining room to the ship maintenance people to the room stewards. Wonderful wonderful people - always smiling and always making you feel important. These people work hard and sometimes at very unappreciated positions. It was amazing being with them for 32 days and really getting to know them - all of them with a story to tell about their life journey. This was one of those trips where you get home and wonder how you're going to explain the trip to someone so that they can get a feel for what you experienced. Would we go on a Holland America cruise again - absolutely. Read Less
Sail Date October 2018
We booked a signature suite on this cruise which showed on the HAL website as being a newly refurbished suite with new couch and chairs,marble top counters ,big screen TV on the wall and bright fresh interior but what we actually got when ... Read More
We booked a signature suite on this cruise which showed on the HAL website as being a newly refurbished suite with new couch and chairs,marble top counters ,big screen TV on the wall and bright fresh interior but what we actually got when we came onboard is a tired old suite with marks all over the walls,an old bathroom with old grubby shower curtains, an old TV that you couldn’t make out what was on the screen due to the fuzziness on it. boy were we disappointed! They have since replaced the TV but have stuck paper serviettes under it for whatever reason which looks terrible but at least we have a clearer picture, . We have complained to the customer relations desk onboard who were really disinterested and said we should have read the fine print that says the photos of the cabin are not necessarily representing the actual cabin!!!! That is false advertising as ok the layout may vary or the colour scheme but not when the photos are actually under the Noordam and showing a new cabin and not a dinghy old cabin that is desperate to be refurbished. A number of suite passengers have complained as it is all suites and cabins that have not been fefurbished, The Noordam overall throughout the vessel is very worn with old grubby carpets throughout the dining rooms,stairwells and quite a bit of the public rooms. Around the covered pool area they have set up long trestle tables with plastic chairs which has made the whole area overcrowded and very tacky looking. The room service has delivered us cold toast and cold water for tea so now on day 4 we have despaired with room service and will have to tackle the throngs of people in the Lido. We are 4 star mariners and are very dissatisfied with what is happening with HAL and the standard of the ship as it once was a fantastic line to sail with. On a positive note the Staff are always a pleasure but with the cutbacks on staff they are working twice as hard and consequently the tables in the pool area are not being cleared and no delivery of water or tea and coffee any more but of course you can still purchase a beer because that creates revenue. If you are booking the Noordam for travel before I understand November 2019 just bear in mind you are not getting the cabin as shown in the pictures or on the website As there are a lot of disgruntled passengers onboard. Read Less
Sail Date September 2018
We chose to do this 38 day cruise from Vancouver to Auckland because it we had wanted to cross the Pacific and also visit New Zealand. We have cruised on Noordam about 5 times so we’re aware she is in need of refurbishment and ... Read More
We chose to do this 38 day cruise from Vancouver to Auckland because it we had wanted to cross the Pacific and also visit New Zealand. We have cruised on Noordam about 5 times so we’re aware she is in need of refurbishment and although parts were tired the ambience mostly made up for this. What we didn’t expect was the amount of infections throughout the ship. It was obvious from any of the communal areas that chest infections were rife. My husband caught it 5 days out from Vancouver, then I caught it, folks nearby at dinner had repeated visits to the Medical Centre and found many others there the same, some being confined to their cabins. 6 weeks on my husband is still coughing it is a virulent bug and one wonders what action is taken on board to ensure infection is not spread. On the good side the staff are mostly cheerful, friendly and go above and beyond to give passengers a great cruise. Sadly this time it was marred for us Shore excisions were overpriced and shuttle buses expensive and in the case of Samoa non existent! Entertainment by Ship’s singers and dancers is not nearly as professional as on previous cruises and very loud. We may be seniors but we are not deaf! Disembarkation was well organised. Read Less
Sail Date September 2018
The Noordam is badly needing refurbished in certain areas. Rust on balconies, grubby corridors. It looks a bit tired and dated. The sitting area immediately outside the Lincoln centre really needs attention. The windows are a mess with all ... Read More
The Noordam is badly needing refurbished in certain areas. Rust on balconies, grubby corridors. It looks a bit tired and dated. The sitting area immediately outside the Lincoln centre really needs attention. The windows are a mess with all the botched efforts to patch up seals. The crew is fantastic. Nothing is too much trouble. Certain things niggled with regard to food. They twice ran out of cornflakes and once out of Special K.. There was melon until it was coming out of your ears. I thought that we would have had pineapple or kiwi or mango but that was very seldom. Often the food could have been warmer. The Lido is just a very big and noisy cafeteria but saying that there was plenty of choice. The service in the dining room was superb.Something which we found annoying was the never ending rubbish piped music everywhere on the ship, right from very early morning in the Lido. We were fed up with it. The artistes, musicians and singers in both the BB KINGS and LINCOLN CENTRE were absolutely superb. The BBC earth shown in Vista lounge and accompanied by the ships musicians was fantastic. The rest of the entertainment ranged from very good to average. The cruise director Jai is a real jewel for Holland America. In my opinion he could not be bettered. The EXC excursions were very expensive and many just not worth the money. You can do it much cheaper with the tours at the quayside but bear in mind EXC tours do guarantee to get you back and the ship will wait. I understand that the ship is to be refurbished in October 2019. We enjoyed our cruise and would sail with Holland America again. Read Less
Sail Date September 2018
Of our many cruises, the one we took years ago on the Noordam is the only one we cannot remember. Having sailed her again, we think we understand why. It was a plain vanilla cruise, good vanilla ice cream, just not exciting or ... Read More
Of our many cruises, the one we took years ago on the Noordam is the only one we cannot remember. Having sailed her again, we think we understand why. It was a plain vanilla cruise, good vanilla ice cream, just not exciting or tremendously memorable. Embarkation was reasonably fast and our room was ready, which was appreciated. The first glitch happened when we decided to leave the ship briefly to look around the area. No one mentioned that the US government now requires picture ID to reboard ships in US territory. The port agent, not a HAL staffer, asked our cabin number, checked it against a manifest dating to five hours before we had boarded, and refused us boarding, despite the valid cruise cards around our necks. We instructed her to call the ship, and she reluctantly took their word for it that we were paying cruisers. So, if you are in the US, bring picture ID anytime you leave the ship. Boat drill was mildly bizarre with our officer sounding like someone from Costa Concordia as he said that if we should hear the abandon ship whistle, to stay in our cabin “and not get in the way.” We hope that was a lack of English skills, but that would be eerily “Costa” too. Oh dear. The main dining room gave us a good table, a good meal and reservations for the rest of the cruise. Oddly, they put us at different tables every night for a few nights and then assigned us back to the window table with waiter Rana for the duration. Since that was the best of our various tables, we were pleased. Noordam has a marvellous “walk right around it” walking deck. Only the Westerdam’s, which has drinking fountains, is better. There is no more smoking on the walking deck, which is lovely. It’s too bad that they take away all of the chairs and cushions so early. It wouldn’t cost a cent to let passengers enjoy that deck for another hour every night. Our cabin was the old style with lots of storage, though drawers were mostly at floor level. It wasn’t HAL’s fault that our balcony neighbours talked loudly, non stop, which made conversation or reading, or even listening to headphones, impossible. HAL’s Achilles heel, though, is plumbing. Whether it’s a single bucket catching a leak from the ceiling on Westerdam or what seemed to be sewage being vacuumed up in a corridor on Maasdam years ago, a HAL cruise will always have some plumbing issues. Usually the cruise is good enough that it doesn’t really matter. Our cabin had issues with lukewarm bathwater, a dripping shower head, a tub stopper that neither kept the water completely in nor let it drain completely out, and a troublesome toilet. We finally got one acceptable bath on the last night by turning the water to the hottest possible setting and running the water at half volume. Theoretically, by the way, the tub drain works by turning the coverplate on the overflow, and the shower diverter must be pulled up and also turned. There is no nightlight in the bathroom, but they are often too bright anyway and a phone works well. We did appreciate that the room was set up so that nobody had to have the bright light from the hall that shines in from under the door in their eyes as they lay in bed. When you have experienced this, it is delightful not to experience it. Breakfast in the Lido was always a disappointment. Things were never quite ready, never quite up to scratch. There was no evidence of any management presence. Goodness knows what they were calling whipped cream, but it was a lot like the whipped butter, which was not much like whipped butter. A breakfast in the restaurant was the only way to get a decent waffle, warm and crisp and with something like real whipped cream. Lunch in the Lido was another story. At lunch, management was visibly in action and they ran a tight ship, so to speak. Food was ready, hot, and reasonably tasty. Selection was fine. The Asian and the salad bar were always good. Sugar free ice cream, which is often freezer burnt on cruises, perhaps due to low demand, was so good that we wondered if the amaretto really was sugar free. Those strange little mousse things that always show up in sugar free were actually tasty a couple of times. This is not something that many cruise ships can do. The Dive In and Pinnacle were both as good as they claim. Except for the back deck, the Lido staff are very good about offering drinks but didn’t aggressively push the booze, which was appreciated. There is no hard selling anywhere on this cruise, which is another very large plus. On the negative side, you couldn’t get a good scone at tea, and one day we couldn’t get a table for two. They were “out” of them. We never saw the lava cake, (one of the best desserts at sea) and not once, but twice we had bar staffers banging on our door wanting to exchange items they didn’t want in the bar for items from our mini fridge. We wouldn’t have minded except that they acted more like SWAT teams taking down terrorists than people wanting favours. It was not smooth. On the upside, the macaroons in the Explorer’s Lounge, a.k.a. Library, were wonderful. There were more books than we have seen in a cruise library in many years. We got an okay scone there one day, too. The two rooms are large comfortable, quiet, and much used. Because it is still on the third floor, they haven’t messed with the Crow’s Nest. The ship, itself, is hard to beat. So, with this excellent old ship, why was it just a good cruise? One thing that seriously impaired our comfort was the nearly toxic cleaning product that was lavished on our cabin twice in an eight day cruise, so clearly it wasn’t carpet cleaner. We have no allergies, but it made our cabin very unpleasant for hours even with the balcony door open for ventilation. Anyone with allergies or even sensitivities would be sick. This is another thing that wouldn’t cost a cent to fix and could well keep us from sailing an otherwise great cruise line again. The Noordam is a great ship, but with a few problems and no pizzazz, though the chocolate surprise night was a nice try. It was a good cruise, but not much more memorable than our first cruise on the Noordam. Like the bathwater, it was better than lukewarm but just didn’t quite hit the mark. Read Less
Sail Date April 2018
Embarkation: Since we live in Hawaii, it was just a short drive to Aloha Tower. First of all, as far as Holland was concern, it was great and fast. Very friendly and they were so helpful. Now regarding security at Aloha Tower, that ... Read More
Embarkation: Since we live in Hawaii, it was just a short drive to Aloha Tower. First of all, as far as Holland was concern, it was great and fast. Very friendly and they were so helpful. Now regarding security at Aloha Tower, that was a different story. They told us were to go and when we got there, they told us to go back to another place. Without getting into details, I thought TSA was bad, These guys take the cake. Ship: Been watching YouTube a lot regarding the ship so I was a bit familar with the lay out. I feel that helped with what to expect. Personally, I like the midsize ship. That being said, the disclaimer is that I never been on a mega-ship yet. But it was nicely laid out. The only thing I wished was that the atrium area was bigger and had more activities. They have a bar but it was only open whenever they had a tasting. Ship was very clean. Had a few nice quiet places if you just wanted to read a book. The canopy over the pool was good when it rained a little and when the weather got a little colder. Dining: Since we upgraded to the Neptune Suite, we where able to eat breakfast in the Pinnacle Grille. It was nice and quiet, unlike the MDR and buffet. After all, we just got up! Breakfast had the same menu as the MDR. Did a couple of nights there for dinner. I rarely ever get full of crab legs but the King Crab legs they served......I almost couldn’t eat dessert. And It tasted good. Food in the MDR was excellent too. Buffet was good. I would say it was one of the better buffets we had. Activities: To be honest, there really wasn’t much. However, one of the reasons I wanted to try this cruise was to unwind. With 5 days at sea, I was wondering if I would be bored to death. On the contrary, during those days, I joined my wife at the America Test Kitchen, went to the Windows classes twice a day, did on trivia contest, a meet and greet, and hung out by the pool a little. They had some shows but we only went to 2 out of the 3. It was okay. Honestly, I was okay with all of that since I really just wanted to unwind. Perhaps a few more things would be nice. Shore Actitivies: Since we live in Hawaii, we didn’t sign up for anything. Just took a walk down Front Street in Lahaina and a very small shopping center in Kauai. Service: Excellent. In our case, the Neptune Lounge relationship personal, Stewards, waiters and bartenders knew us and addressed us by name. Felt they went out of their way to make us welcome. Disembarkation: Fast and easy leaving the ship. Terminal was a little confusing in find out transport to the airport but since our flight was in the afternoon, no big deal. One bonus was that Holland lets you stay in your cabin until your group was called. Overall Impression: After talking it over with my wife, YES, I would sail with them again. Concerning what I wanted for this cruise, I got it. Granted, If I was going with a bunch of my friends, I would go on another cruise line with more activities like NCL. But for what I wanted, this was great. Thanks again Holland America!!! Read Less
Sail Date April 2018
I can say without reservation that this was the best service on a cruise ship we have experienced. The staff was very friendly and helpful. The food in the main dining room was just okay. Gone are the days of elegant dining with ... Read More
I can say without reservation that this was the best service on a cruise ship we have experienced. The staff was very friendly and helpful. The food in the main dining room was just okay. Gone are the days of elegant dining with delicious food and large portions. This was our 24th cruise and this was the poorest main dining room food we've experienced. But on the plus side the casual dining on the Lido deck was some of the best we have had experienced. We like the fact that the food is served to you. The choices on the Lido deck were varied. The condition of the ship was and likely is not up to standards we have experienced and observed on other vessels. The carpets are worn in many areas. Many of the doors on the ship are banged up. The paint on the ceiling in the main atrium is deteriorating. The metal around elevator doors is banged up on many floors. When we arrived at our cabin there were several things we noticed right away. The shaver outlet in the bathroom was loose from the wall. A cabinet handle broke upon our first opening. One the handles on the bathroom sink was missing parts. And the coach in our cabin was absolute filthy. On the good side the coach was cleaned and the items were fixed within 24 hours. Last the activities on the ship were pretty limited and the entertainment not very good. Read Less
Sail Date March 2018
We had read the reviews on Noordam prior to travel and a lot were not very complimentary so we went with low expectations. All I can say is that the type of complaint I read previously makes me think those people would not be happy with ... Read More
We had read the reviews on Noordam prior to travel and a lot were not very complimentary so we went with low expectations. All I can say is that the type of complaint I read previously makes me think those people would not be happy with anything. Noordam far exceeded our expectations. We were delighted with practically everything on board. Our stateroom on verandah deck mid ship was roomy, clean, comfortable and well maintained...plenty of storage. Probably the best bed I have ever slept in....so comfortable with fantastic pillows. Loved it. The food in all restaurants, and we tried them all was exceptional. I think for the entire cruise, 13 nights, there was one meal I found not to my taste but that was my choice and I didn’t choose well. But the meal choices were terrific. The ship gives a feel of old world elegance. Some say dated and not modern. I say elegant. The staff on board were amazing. I think if I had to score out of 10 I would give them a 15. The Captains announcements every day became a highlight as we got used to his dry humour and his emphasis on washing hands. The fact his record for the healthiest ship cruising was a testament to his perseverance in keeping us on our toes. It was his final cruise before retirement and the crew gave him a terrific send off......he was obviously well liked and respected. There was plenty to do on board....it was non stop and could keep you occupied 24/7. The entertainment of board was good, in the main especially the Noordam singers and dancers. The ports were OK on this Pacific cruise but wouldn’t rave about them. Arriving into Noumea on a Sunday wasn’t great as nothing open in the town. The three is,ands we visited and accessed by Tender were very scenic. We thoroughly enjoyed our cruise on Noordam and would recommend this ship. Also the embarkation and disembarkation. Is so efficient and quick. Very impressed. Great holiday. Read Less
Sail Date March 2018
Chosen for the itinerary and Holland America excellent service. Embarkation was very well organized and done in a timely manner. Cabin was very clean and comfortable. Lots of storage. Cabin stewards did an excellent job. Always knew they ... Read More
Chosen for the itinerary and Holland America excellent service. Embarkation was very well organized and done in a timely manner. Cabin was very clean and comfortable. Lots of storage. Cabin stewards did an excellent job. Always knew they were close to help , very friendly and very efficient. Lido for breakfast was always crowded and busy. Staff did a good job in helping you find a table. Lido and Dive in for lunch we’re both great food and service. Main dining room open seating worked great always good service and great table mates. Specialty restaurants. Pinnacle wonderful. Amazing service. Canneletto good food but it is really just an extension at night of the lido. Entertainment is mediocre for stage shows. Music venues enjoyable but B.B. Kings volume is loud and louder. Great choices for shore excursions and shore staff very helpful and knowledgeable in getting information about ports. Disembarkation very smooth Read Less
Sail Date March 2018
Noordam. Cruise to Pacific Islands On the 15/03/2018. Thirteen days The cruise was from Sydney at the overseas passenger terminal circular quarry Embarkation very very efficient. We receive a very good deal for a ... Read More
Noordam. Cruise to Pacific Islands On the 15/03/2018. Thirteen days The cruise was from Sydney at the overseas passenger terminal circular quarry Embarkation very very efficient. We receive a very good deal for a balcony guarantee cabin. We were assigned a BB cabin on 10004 deck ten. The Position near the Crows Nest lounge and the lido swimming pool was great. The cabin was in very good condition The balcony was small but accommodated two chairs. I had read in Cruise Critic reviews that the ship was rundown and needed a refit. However I have found the ship to be in good condition. I understand the dry docking and refitting has been postponed. The most used and best place on the boat was the Exploration Lounge with Internet ports and a very good library and a coffee shop. I believe that on the other ships of this class the Exploration lounge has been removed and this is intended for the Noordam refit. This would be ridiculous. The food in the lido and the main dining room was very good as was the Italian restaurant at night where service and food was excellent. Any time dining worked well for us. The main disappointment was the entertainment although it did improve a little towards the end of the cruise. The entertainment director seem to be out of his depth It appears there was a lack of staff with only a deputy director. This is poor cost cutting, The Lincoln group and the blues band were very good. They did not compensate for general lack of entertainment. It was never possible to get into the piano bar. It was too crowded. The was a total lack of live bands in various lounges the Crows Nest lounge only seem to be used for the two for one drinks. It was totally dead at night in fact most of the ship seemed to be totally dead and lacking in entrainment. The port lecturer was good and informative. The cast in the shows were very good however the production was poor. The speciality acts were also poor. The movies were out of date and shown in an venue which was totally inadequate for watching a movie. There were only two cooking demonstrations in the same venue in the 13 day cruise. There were only a few trivia sessions and no game shows. No line bands at sail away. No real sail away parties. The entrainment staff seemed to be asleep at the wheel. In reading the blog on the world cruise Amsterdam and other blogs, Holland America seems to completely lost the plot in providing entrainment on the Noordam in Australia It was a very enjoyable cruise despite the lack of entertainment. The the staff and service was excellent. Read Less
Sail Date March 2018
Firstly, disregard all the negative reviews of this ship. It is a meticulously maintained, modern ship with top quality food and staff. Many people reviewing relatively luxury cruise ships, like the ms Noordam, have silver spoons broken ... Read More
Firstly, disregard all the negative reviews of this ship. It is a meticulously maintained, modern ship with top quality food and staff. Many people reviewing relatively luxury cruise ships, like the ms Noordam, have silver spoons broken off inside them and tend to complain about ridiculous things, like slices of lemon. Holland America Line is by no means a party ship, or even a 'family-fun' cruise line. It is a cruise line designed for unwinding and relaxing with just enough entertainment to make you want to never go home. I am 30 and found this cruise to be fantastic, although I know a few party-animal friends that would be bored to tears on this ship. If you want to party, go on a carnival line. Also, I counted 9 children out of about 1500 people, and these children must have had their voice-boxes removed as they were quiet, obedient and barely noticeable. Ship The ms Noodrem is a modern, luxury ship designed to provide panoramic views without the weather disruptions (these ships were designed with cold-weather cruises in-mind). Expect lots of glass on the lido deck, overlooking the ocean. Expect heated pools and a sauna. The ship is exceptionally well appointed with modern amenities and brand-new trimmings. The ship has no worn carpet or torn furniture - that is a total lie. Cabin We had a balcony cabin just under the lido deck. The balcony was huge with good privacy and amazing views. I should mention we originally booked a balcony room on the 5th floor - I would not recommend this level due to potential obstructions from the tender/lifeboats found midship. The balcony room was large, comfortable, and well maintained. There were a few squeaks from the roof during rough seas but nothing to worry me. In the mornings and evenings, noise from above was heard but did not bother us in the slightest - would definitely book another room under the Lido deck. Dining Food was of very high quality except the odd dish, which didn't have much flavour. The formal dining room produced amazingly high quality food, with exceptional service. Worth noting, it takes about 2 hours from the time you order until the time you finish dessert in this formal setting. The lido market, the buffet, was fantastic. You could find a seat easily, unless you were fussy and wanted to sit near the huge panoramic windows (which we wanted to). Food was great although more variety day-to-day would have been nice. Entertainment This was probably the only issue I had. Entertainment varied from exceptional and hilarious to boring and embarrassing. The comedian was absolutely hilarious and the Noordam dancers were quite good however the guest singer, who did 2 shows, was embarrassing and ridiculous - she tried to be funny and was not. At all. I have seen some pretty amazing shows while at sea so I may not be the best person to judge the entertainment on the Noordam. Things like the BBC presentations were great but bingo was less energetic than what you would find at a retirement home. Again, I have played bingo on P&O, which, hands-down, is the most fun you will ever have blotting numbers. Service Service was the best I have ever experienced. Land or sea. The staff are courteous, friendly and attentive. They will bring you dessert without asking as they have noticed your favourite ones the night before. They were that dedicated and hard working, I often felt guilty. You could not fault any of them. Ports and Shore excursions. Although a little bit more expensive than other cruise lines I have been on, they were not over-the-top. Expect to pay 10-20% more for a similar shore excursion when compared to Royal Caribbean or P&O and about the same as what you would expect from Princess or Celebrity. Very good range and all the benefits of booking through the cruise line - cancellation refunds are instant should the excursion be cancelled, they'll wait for you if delayed and you're covered, somewhat, with their insurance. All in all, an exceptional cruise filled with friendly, traveled people who are happy to have a chat with you. Disregard the other reviews, you will love it, unless you're a teenager looking to party. If you are not sure if you will like it, you will, I promise. Read Less
Sail Date March 2018
The cruise was the type of itinerary that I was Looking for, within in the time period available to me. This was our first time cruising and My Wife and I were really looking forward to our first cruise. I will preface my remarks by ... Read More
The cruise was the type of itinerary that I was Looking for, within in the time period available to me. This was our first time cruising and My Wife and I were really looking forward to our first cruise. I will preface my remarks by saying that I am easy going by nature and not overly fussy. Embarkation was from White Bay Terminal Sydney. This was handled very well and I have no complaints at all. The cabin was of adequate size in need of refurbishment, The cabin was clean and tidy. The TV was a complete joke. Dining was adequate, the better dining areas attracting a fee(surcharge). With the entertainment being very ordinary we read for most of the time. Entertainment was esoteric with charges applicable to many of the activities. Most of the activities were of no interest to myself and after talking to others on board they were of the same opinion Service was good overall except for the ubiquitous tipping. Applying a 15 per cent fee added to the final account at the end of the cruise while applying 15per cent tip on purchases made during the cruise. I would rather they pay the staff a proper wage, include the extra cost in the advertised price of the cruise. Ports of call:- due to inclement weather a number of ports had to be missed. This is out of the control of Holland America however days at sea were boring and tedious. Holland America line excursions were way too expensive, I was able to book my excursions on line before we left home and they were great at fraction of the price wanted for the ship excursions. Disembarkation was handled very well, and we were glad to get off. There were a number people who were of the same opinion as myself. Holland America should take note that most people do not complain they remember. Read Less
Sail Date March 2018
Only our second cruise, had previously sailed from Hawaii to Sydney in 2016. We were so impressed with that cruise, the brand and the ship. So we choose to revisit with HAL and the Noordam again, this time the New Zealand leg of the ... Read More
Only our second cruise, had previously sailed from Hawaii to Sydney in 2016. We were so impressed with that cruise, the brand and the ship. So we choose to revisit with HAL and the Noordam again, this time the New Zealand leg of the Pacific Cruise. We love the size and style of the Noordam, and having sailed before felt really comfortable with layout and facilities. Our cabin was on the main deck 1050, we were 3 males travelling together so the cabin had twin beds and the cabin attendants converted the sofa to a third bed every evening. Bedding,size of cabin were all really comfortable. Both trips I loved the dining facilities on-board, preferring the main dining area for most meals, breakfast and dinner. The quality, portions, presentation & service were outstanding. Don't like the Lido deck much at all, but that's just my preference. The Dive In by the pool makes the best burger, hot-dog and fries ever for a lunch time snack! The entertainment was quite boring this trip, liked the Noordam singers & dances but only performed irregularly. Piano bar was excellent, BB King's is good, the disco was appalling and the rest of the entertainment revolved trivia and an odd dance class. The cooking classes were good on the last trip but this time around a "new" commercial partnering left us bored. I felt this trip there had been a significant cultural shift in service, staff and management, and this was collective impression by us. Our "impression" was there seemed to be less people doing more work, staff seemed to be pushed harder, slightly stressed and less friendly. Found the entertainment director and his associates somewhat condescending and patronising at time and management generally the same. The service standouts were without doubt the dining & drink servers in the main dining room plus the bar staff in the Crows Nest. Ports visited were all interesting with Milford Sound first day outstanding! Due to the size and nature of the ports it was difficult to dock and weather reliant. We booked 2 excursions with the ship both outrageously expensive. The first was Wellington and the tour was very good, the second was Auckland and was cancelled due to weather conditions. The cruise was plagued by difficult weather conditions and can understand it comes with the territory. On the way up the coast we missed Napier due to bad weather, we missed Auckland and Bay of Islands due to weather, the captain retraced our steps and came back to Napier which was nice. Overall made us question if we would travel HAL again, and would certainly look at a fly drive option as a better way of seeing NZ Read Less
Sail Date March 2018
I was on a 12 night cruise from New Zealand via Tasmania finishing up at Sydney Australia. The cruise was to include New Zealand North Island, New Zealand South Island, Tasmania, Melbourne and Sydney Australia. Embarkation in ... Read More
I was on a 12 night cruise from New Zealand via Tasmania finishing up at Sydney Australia. The cruise was to include New Zealand North Island, New Zealand South Island, Tasmania, Melbourne and Sydney Australia. Embarkation in Auckland was bad. Their boarding ramp broke and this added a few hours to the ordeal. Not a great start. The room (see below for cabin description) was very poor, dated and with quite a few issues. The ship itself was quite dated and in need of a lot of attention. Hit and miss on reception staff. I took pictures and videos which I presented to the reception staff who did a lot of nodding, agreed to do things and then didn't do anything. Needed constant chasing. That said, eventually one reception person did sort me out and was very good. (they are on shifts so quite hit and miss). I had also had a problem where my door didn't close at all. This was quickly sorted out. The other staff on the boat were very good (restaurant etc) and very friendly. I approached Holland America head office with these issues, offered to show them the evidence in the form of pictures and videos I took of the knocking noises, and of the poor customer service on the ship regarding this. They were not interested and all I got from them was a dismissive "Sorry you feel that way" type response, to quote them "extend our apologies if you feel their response was unacceptable". Very poor response. 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 February 2018
We would like to share our greatest disappointment about cruising with Holland America with Maasdam from New Zealand to San Diego, on the 1st of February, 2018 Our holiday turned out into a disaster due to problems with accommodation on ... Read More
We would like to share our greatest disappointment about cruising with Holland America with Maasdam from New Zealand to San Diego, on the 1st of February, 2018 Our holiday turned out into a disaster due to problems with accommodation on board. We have booked two cabins - a suite and an ocean view cabin. Throughout the whole cruise we had a lot of issues with our suite resulting in our lack of sleep and sickness. As a result our holiday was completely spoiled and the value of money invested absolutely did not match the promised pleasant experience. We had issues with A/C in our suite throughout the whole cruise and the friendly crew after numerous attempts could not solve the problem. Either the A/C did not work and we had to face the heat or it was impossible to turn it down letting the coldest air possible in the suite, so that we had to put on layers of clothes and still got sick. In addition to the numerous sleepless nights, we were exposed to the toxic smell of the paint through A/C during the sea days, which was coming from the frequent repairs on different decks. However, the worst part began when we smelled unexpected toxic carbon monoxide that was penetrating through the A/C for a couple of days. As it turned out a lot of passengers made complaints about that toxic smell, but the problem was again not solved quickly. The staff reacted with the reply that this smell depends on the direction of the wind and it is an ordinary matter. It is crucial to emphasize that carbon monoxide may result in fatal end, especially, when a person is in a deep sleep and breathing it in. In our case, children had been having a headache for three days and the adults for almost four days with the signs of nausea and inability to live a proper life. This experience may lead to health problems in the future. Highly disappointed and with the fear that the toxic smell of carbon monoxide would appear again, we started to discuss the option for disembarkation in Honolulu. Our only request was reimbursement for the rest of the trip. We even did not even ask for compensation for all the sleepless previous nights on cruise. To our greatest surprise, we were declined the refund for the rest of the cruise. The only gesture was an offer of $2000 for our whole company - 6 people! Considering the fact that we have invested in our holiday almost C$50,000 we are completely unsatisfied with the value of money we have spent on this cruise. Yet, the most important part from this cruise experience was the issue with the toxic carbon monoxide. It is absolutely irresponsible from the side of the cruise company that passengers might get exposed to any toxic smells and gases. Read Less
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
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
Sail Date January 2018
For the itinerary of southern Australia, which was great. However, we felt Holland is not as good as in past cruises. The main complaint is Dining Room (We used anytime) menu which is so limited and quit frankly other then the beef not ... Read More
For the itinerary of southern Australia, which was great. However, we felt Holland is not as good as in past cruises. The main complaint is Dining Room (We used anytime) menu which is so limited and quit frankly other then the beef not really good. Vegetables all cooked to death and hardly any green ones, like broccoli, green beans, etc. and you didn't even get more then 5 string beans or 3 halves of brusell sprouts. I know it is not quantity, but vegetables are good for you and go with a meal of meat. Pastas at lunch quite good but not offered each night in dining room. The daily offerings need to have shrimp cocktail back on it , many nights I went without appetizer, as nothing was to my liking. The service has not been as good as in past, like a shortage of help. Wine stewards slow in getting to tables. Room and Cabin Stewards no complaints in fact some of the best we have had. Casino was good and so was most of the entertainment. Holland needs also to get with the Wifi service and offer it at better pricing or as a perk for booking. And work on those menus. Acutally Lido meals were better then dining room offerings. I am a 4 star but will look to become that on another line that offers better food and perks for bookings. Read Less
Sail Date January 2018
We choose HAL because we liked the Itinerary, as it was our first cruise to New Zealand and Australia. It was also our first time on HAL. The food on the Noordam was excellent, with a lot of variety, great presentation. We enjoyed all ... Read More
We choose HAL because we liked the Itinerary, as it was our first cruise to New Zealand and Australia. It was also our first time on HAL. The food on the Noordam was excellent, with a lot of variety, great presentation. We enjoyed all food areas the buffet was great, The Pinnacale was fantastic. The ship is an older ship as other reviewers indicated the staff does a great job keeping it clean and looking good...however, it needs to be refurbished. We enjoyed the captain and felt he Had a great sense of humor, was always reminding cruisers to wash there hands and kept safety at the for front! One of our favorite bartendars was Jude and he works up at The Sea Pool Bar, he always has a smile on his face, remembers everyones name and what they like to drink. We found all the staff on the ship to be happy and ready ro assist. Most of the staff has been with HAL for years, which says a lot about the cruise line. We found the entertainment lacking on the ships in compairson to other cruise lines, the casino was very dissapointing with regards to the variety of slot machines. On other cruise lines, we have found a lot to do and activites that go all day and evening...on HAL we were sometimes bored, maybe it is the average age group on the ship? However, we just didnt find alot of activities that appealed to us...the most excitement was either in The Paino Bar or in the BB King Lounge...however, you odnt want to go there for 15 nights straight. We will try HAL again, but would like to be on a newer ship and with more activities. Shore Excurisons are very expensive on HAL so we used outside companies while in port and can highly recomend Viator and Zealanider Tours. Getting on and off the ship was a breeze. Read Less
Sail Date January 2018
We loved the itinerary and friendly staff. The food overall was excellent. The entertainment overall was weak: the staff shows were OK but most of the (early) individual entertainers were so bad that we stopped going to the shows. ... Read More
We loved the itinerary and friendly staff. The food overall was excellent. The entertainment overall was weak: the staff shows were OK but most of the (early) individual entertainers were so bad that we stopped going to the shows. However, we choose HAL for the more mature environment, smaller ship, and personal service, not the entertainment. We participated in trivia each day and attended several of the Windows 10 classes. We took a few ship tours, which were very good, but mostly took private tours since they were cheaper and offered more options. If you’re a big shopper then Maasdam is not the ship for you. (Shopping is not a priority for me.) Maasdam doesn’t provide exciting amenities but we travel more for the itinerary and general camaraderie with adult travelers. I do wish there were dining options (other than room service) continuously from 6 am to 11:30 pm. I’m already planning a trip on Maasdam for 2019. Read Less
Sail Date December 2017
This is a LONG log-style review. I have included our pre-cruise activities in New Zealand as many of these can be done as shore excursions from Tauranga. If interested in just the summary, scroll down to the bottom. We booked this ... Read More
This is a LONG log-style review. I have included our pre-cruise activities in New Zealand as many of these can be done as shore excursions from Tauranga. If interested in just the summary, scroll down to the bottom. We booked this cruise nearly 11 months ahead as we decided to do the 17 night round-trip Auckland cruise. Departure from our home in the Philadelphia region was on Wednesday, Dec. 13. An Uber driver picked us up at 5:00 and we arrived at the airport for our 8:35 flight at 6:20. There was no wait to check our bags and no wait at the TSA precheck line. We were at Chick-Fil-A at PHL airside by 6:30. Our American flight to Los Angeles was about as good as it gets in coach. DW had seat 10F, the exit row with no seat in front. I was next to her in the middle seat but right after takeoff our neighbor in the aisle seat moved back a row as that aisle and middle was empty. So we had the whole three seats in the exit row for the 6 hour flight. We arrived 45 minutes early (how does that happen?) and were in the shuttle to the LAX Hilton by the time our flight was scheduled to arrive. The LAX Hilton is an older hotel however the bed and pillows were wonderful. It was quiet and very close to the airport. We slept in until after 8:00 and then had a leisurely breakfast in the executive lounge. We repacked our one suitcase and two carry-ons as our next flights are on Fiji Airways and they limit the carry-on weight. If it were not for the weight limit we would just have had one stuffed carry-on but this way we needed to take two. A local friend came by at 1:00 to take us to Santa Monica for the afternoon. He went way “Above and beyond” with his time and friendship. We had never been there and enjoyed the walk all around the pier, seeing (and hearing) the many different musicians selling their CD’s and hoping for donations. We had a light lunch at Bubba Gump’s on the pier. We had discovered that the one thing that did not make it into the suitcases was band aids. Due to some recent skin work we need four fabric ones per day, so we stopped at a CVS to obtain a big box. We were back at the Hilton at 5:20 and picked up our luggage. Our friend dropped us at the international terminal at 5:40. There was a very short wait to check our bags at Fiji Airways and yes, the carry-ons were weighed. Getting through security took quite a while and even though we have Global Entry no precheck line is available. This was the most through and intrusive security screening we’ve ever witnessed. With such a long trip one carry on was largely medications and they insisted on examining these. We met our cruising friends from Florida right after security. We walked the terminal to see what was available and we sat and visited in the food court. Our flight was delayed a little due to “Cargo loading” and we arrived Saturday morning in Nadi Fiji 15 minutes behind schedule. I will say that this 11 hour flight was likely the ‘worst’ flight we have ever had to date. We had seats in row 9, g & h (aisle & window). These seemed like the tightest and most uncomfortable seats. Our friends were behind us and their comments were the same. Many crying babies. Beverage service was very sparse. No need to talk about the food (it was not edible)… The transfer at Nadi airport seemed to use technology that is 30 years old. The line moved very slowly as each connecting passenger was being checked off manual dot-matrix printouts. Our flight to Auckland is at 10:00. Being on Fiji time, the plane arrived late (from Honolulu) and so we left 35 minutes behind schedule. We also arrived 35 minutes behind schedule. This was a much more comfortable flight in a 737-800, with seating assigned but equal in comfort to Southwest back home. Customs in Auckland was a pleasure. Automated kiosks read your passport if you are from certain countries (including the USA). Then obtain your luggage and the only wait is to get through controlled substance checks. They are serious about no meats, animal items, wood, etc! I found an ATM and obtained local currency and then we picked up our Avis rental. We were upgraded to a full size SUV and it is a good thing we were as the luggage barely all fit. We drove the 90 minutes to Hamilton and checked in to our hotel, the Argent Motor Lodge. Lovely rooms and great service at check in. It was time for showers to get out of our nearly two day clothes. After we went to the Saturday evening “Hamilton night market.” We enjoyed dinner from a variety of vendors and it was a fun and very inexpensive way to enjoy ‘dinner.’ On the way back to the Argent, we stopped by a local grocery for a few items. Sunday, Dec. 17 – Hobbiton & Waikite Valley Thermal Resort We were up early and enjoyed the Argent provided breakfast. Then we were off to Hobbiton, where we had tickets for the first tour of the day at 8:30. We arrived at 8:12 and were quickly checked in. The bus pulled up to take the first group of 41 adventurers to the Hobbiton movie set right at 8:30. Our guide was terrific and while I had high expectations for this visit they were all exceeded. We have a marvelous tour, took hundreds of photos, and even had a mug of Hobbit Cider at the conclusion of the tour. The best decision we made many months ago was booking the first tour of the day! We were able to take clean photos without other tour groups getting in the way. This was the way to best see “The Shire.” The gift shop would be well served to have more “Movie set” related items. In fact, we commented on our guide’s hat and he said “You can get one in the gift shop.” This was not the case. They even told us that hat can’t be purchased anywhere. We left the Shire’s Rest at about 11:30 and began the drive to Waikite Valley Thermal Resort. This ended up being a bit longer than we expected but along the way we stopped in Rotorua and found a delightful pedestrian only street with restaurants. We ended up at Mac’s steakhouse and enjoyed a great lunch of fish & chips and a prawn salad. We also visited a local ice cream place and then noticed a street market along the coast of Lake Rotoiti. Then we completed our drive to the Thermal pools. We enjoyed relaxing in the warm waters and spent a few hours there. Next we began the drive back to Hamilton. The GPS said an hour and 45 minutes and that is what it took. We stopped for fuel along the way. As we approached Hamilton we decided to stop at the Hamilton Gardens where a summer Sunday event “Gourmet at the Gardens” was taking place (we learned about this from the Argent folks). This served as our supper stop and then finally back to the Argent at nearly 8:00. A very full day indeed but lots of fun. Monday, Dec. 18 - Waitomo Caves: Glowworm Caves and Ruakuri Cave. Monday was another day full of adventure. We were ready early and were loading up the car at 7:10 AM. We returned the outlet adapter to the office and checked out of the Argent. A combination of TripAdvisor and the Argent’s proprietor led us to the “Coffee and Food Establishment” for breakfast. Everyone thought this was a terrific breakfast. We all had something different and enjoyed it greatly. Service was superb. From there we began the just over an hour drive to the Waitomo Glowworm cave. We were there a half hour early for our 10:00 tour. Kind employees snapped a few group photos for us and then we also posed for the photos they would like to sell you at the conclusion of the tour. We found a huge wooden slab table to sit at (on huge slab benches) while waiting for our tour. When the 9:45 tour was departing they asked if we were on that tour and we said no. What we should have asked was if there was room for us? The Glowworm cave allows no photography of any kind while inside the cave. All the marketing materials concentrate on the ‘boat ride’ through the glowworms but in actuality the tour is 80% walking and going up and down steps, with a short boat ride (the highlight of the tour) at the end. We did enjoy the experience but this was more stair climbing than we expected. We did buy the group photo package at the end including digital downloads of the eight photos. I also asked the gift shop folks and they had a single shirt in my size which was purchased. Next we had a 12:30 appointment at the Ruakuri Cave. This is the amount of time between tours recommended. It is way too long. We arrived at Ruakuri at 11:25 hoping we might get on an earlier tour. This was not to be. The waiting area for Ruakuri is outdoors and as it was raining (a good day for cave tours) we ended up waiting in the car. This tour was 90 minutes and as it is stated to be “Wheelchair accessible” we did not think it would be strenuous. I give the company great credit in that it truly is wheelchair accessible. Ramps everywhere and no stairs. However, there were a number of places we had to crouch-walk due to low clearance and this was very difficult for my DW. On the other hand, over the years we’ve been in a number of caves. This was the most pristine and undamaged cave environment I ever recall seeing. The great room at the furthest point is spectacular and we greatly enjoyed seeing the cave. From here we stopped at a tourist trap info center to use the facilities. They advertised Wi-Fi but wanted $2.00 for 20 minutes. We back-tracked to the nearby town and stopped at a McDonalds for a snack and to use the Wi-Fi to find the best route to Auckland. It was 2 ½ hours driving back, the first 2/3 over mostly curved hilly roads. The traveling went well until we were five miles from our destination, the Crowne Plaza in Auckland when the expressway came to a dead stop. Those last five miles took over an hour. We checked in to the hotel and I parked the car in the adjoining garage. Later this evening we will need to go out and fill up the tank and verify where Avis is for the return. We walked around the area and found the “Federal Street Deli” at Sky City. This real “New York” style deli was great and everyone could have as little or as much as they wanted. Super food and great service. We returned to the hotel and took the car out to fill up the gas. We passed Avis as well. Driving in Auckland is not for the faint hearted and not recommended. I really didn’t mind the driving until we arrived in Auckland. Tuesday, December 19 – Auckland and embarkation No need to be up super early today so we agreed to meet at 8:30 and head to breakfast. We found a place “The Ugly Bagel” on TripAdvisor. We found it, only to find they had a very limited menu, no eggs, and the bagels were rather small. Two of us obtained coffee (not very good) and we agreed to head to Denny’s. Denny’s was okay although we were surprised that at 9:00 on a weekday it was ‘Dead.” A few others came in while we were dining but we’ve never seen a Denny’s so quiet. We returned to the hotel and I made a stop at an ATM to obtain more NZ currency for later in the cruise. We met at 10:30 and packed up the car, checked out, and headed for the Queen’s Wharf and the Maasdam. We arrived at 10:58 and they kindly let us park to unload and get the ladies settled in the terminal. The men went back to Avis to return the car. Avis was busy with no automated return. They said we could just leave the paperwork and keys. It took us 17 minutes to drive back to Avis, and then it took us 12 minutes to walk back to Queen’s Wharf. Check in had opened so we all together went to check in. From arrival to being on board the Maasdam was less than 20 minutes. We dropped off our carry-ons in the impeccably clean cabins (Thank you Dede and Andy) and went to the dining room for lunch. There were few (very few) in the dining room but imagine our surprise when our waiter is Wirawan, the same waiter we had for our dinners last year on the Koningsdam. He immediately remembered us. Lunch was great and we all enjoyed our meal. DW was also able to pre-order dinner for her special needs. After lunch we returned to our cabin to find our luggage was delivered. We also met our cabin steward, Dede and his partner Andy. Dede provided us an oversize laundry bag so we were able to send out all our soiled clothing for wash. We changed into swimwear to spend some pool time only to find the lido pool drained and closed. The aft pool was open but too cool for us, so we opted for a long soak in the hot tub. We got ready for dinner and the 5:00 muster drill. We visited the Ocean bar and spoke with a couple who have been on board for the previous round trip Sydney cruise. They told us all was well with the Maasdam and they have greatly enjoyed their cruise. At about 5:10 the third alarm was sounded so we worked our way down to station #11. With only about half the passengers required to attend, it was not crowded and was quickly completed by 5:25. We went directly to our 5:30 fixed seating table #53 and met our waiter, Agus. Dinner was ‘strained.’ I don’t know a better way to say it. I’m not sure if there was miscommunication or what happened, but DW’s meal arrived with three items she can’t consume, (despite the special order) and it needed to go back. Roast Turkey was on the menu which is normally one of ‘the guys’ favorites but it seemed to be off tonight. Dessert became another challenge as the only item that seemed to work for DW was the crème bruelle but it was totally cold and not appetizing. Despite being the first in the dining room for dinner we were the last to leave from fixed seating. We thought there was a 7:30 port talk but when we reached the showroom it was empty. Turned out it was at 7:00. The Trio in the Ocean bar had just about finished their set, so we walked down to the atrium to inspect the Christmas displays. They have two trains actually running in the evening and a nice presentation including a mountain with a sign ‘Pinnacle desserts made here.’ We listened to Adagio for a while and then found our traveling friend listening as the shore expert spoke to other guests about Christmas in Melbourne. A few options we were not aware of came up. Then we went to the Piano bar for Barry from Boston’s tribute to the Beatles. Barry was terrific. At about 10:15 he said he still had six Beatles tunes so his set would run late. We have an early start tomorrow so we left at about 10:20 to call it a night. Wednesday, Dec. 20 – Bay of Islands, New Zealand. As this is a short and early tender port we ordered breakfast for room service. With a delivery window of 6:30 to 7:00 it arrived about 6:50. Everything was as ordered and hot. We had arranged to meet our friends at 8:00 but we ran into them at 7:40 and as we were all ready we proceeded to the Ocean bar for our tender tickets. We were given #6 but five minutes later “All numbers” were called. It is a long tender ride (20 minutes?) from the ship to shore. So it was about 8:30 that we were on shore. We had a 9:00 overview tour booked with “Total Tours” so we used the time to explore the craft market set up across the main road. Both the ladies purchased some handmade seashell jewelry from one of the crafters. We also noticed a unique shell clock being offered and spoke some with the artist. At 8:55 we went to the Total Tours table and found that just one other person was on our tour. We were off and had a terrific overview tour of the area with the highlights being a scenic lookout from the local golf course and the Haruru Falls. Our timing was incredible as a ship’s tour was just heading to the falls on a Maori watercraft and we were able to witness this. Our tour ended as scheduled at 10:00 and we decided there was enough to see and do there in Pahia that we did not attempt the ferry to Russell. We enjoyed looking over the several craft markets, attempted to negotiate a deal for two of the shell clocks without success, and found a neat shop with shirts in the right size and I also obtained an authentic New Zealand made bush hat. Both the ladies made additional shell jewelry purchases. At about 11:40 we got in line for the return tender. There was quite a wait but we did get on the next tender and made it back to the Maasdam at about 12:30. We went to the dining room for lunch and then enjoyed the hot tub. Still no water in the pool, but later in the afternoon as we sailed away they began to fill the pool. Dinner was in the dining room followed by a few tunes in the Ocean bar and the evening show, Violin Virtuoso Patrick Roberts. He is extremely talented but is the type of show I find it hard to stay awake for. After the show we enjoyed Barry in the Piano Bar for “Piano man night,” the songs of Elton John and Billy Joel. We lasted until about 10:20 and called in a night. We gain an hour tonight with a time change. Thursday, Dec. 21 – Sea Day #1 Time change? It didn’t feel like it as we slept well until at least 7:30. We went to the Lido for breakfast followed by a 9:00 “Coffee chat” with Barry from Boston. This was a very nice session and we learned a lot about Barry’s background. It turned out our traveling friend attended the same music camp at the same time as Barry! After the chat at 10:00 there was a Dutch Shuffleboard Challenge. I came in third and for my efforts earned a Holland America Australia / New Zealand pin. We enjoyed the lido, finding a table near the pool and had lunch followed by some pool time. Being surprised at the pool temperature (cooler than expected) I lost my glasses in the pool. There was a stressful 45 minutes until one of the young boys with goggles found them in the deepest part of the pool. Afterwards it was time to take a nap before our first gala night. It is obvious that gala nights on this cruise will be continuing the trend towards less formality. With the luggage restrictions it just makes sense if there is no need to bring jackets or suits. Dinner was okay with the Asian shrimp being the entrée of choice. After dinner the show was the singers and dancers in “Dance.” Not sure what the point of that show is. We left the show a little early to get seats in the Piano bar. Tonight Barry did an evening of show tunes “Barry’s Broadway.” We enjoyed until his first set ended at 10:40. We gain another hour tonight! Friday, Dec. 22 – Sea Day #2 Again, we had a time change? We slept soundly until 7:00. We decided to dress for the pool and have breakfast at the lido. After breakfast we went out to the pool to find there were two other early risers enjoying the pool before the day really got moving. DW was able to do her water exercises and I kept her company and enjoyed speaking with others leaving Maasdam tomorrow after their 32 day cruise. Our traveling friend found me and said we had mail about Sydney. They are assigning times to leave the ship. That could be a problem as we have a private eight hour tour set up. He was able to get the four of us the first ticket for continuing passengers but we have another party touring with us. I went back to the cabin to both get ready for computer class and to call our third party. I did not reach them but they ended up coming to the same computer class. They managed to also get the same ticket time, with great effort. There was a deck sale this morning. The ladies found t-shirts they liked so we have more t-shirts to take home. We visited a while before getting ready for lunch in the Pinnacle. The Pinnacle lunch was very good despite a few mis-steps. My steak was initially very undercooked (extremely rare). That was corrected. We ordered fries as the Pinnacle fries are the best on the ship but were brought Dive-In fries. I asked about this and was told the Pinnacle fries were only available at dinner, but they would see what they could do. Sure enough, Pinnacle fries appeared nice and hot some minutes later. The men enjoyed some pool and hot tub time before a nap. We made it to the Ocean bar for happy hour today. I worked on my log and uploaded all the photos to date to my PC. Dinner is in the dining room and tonight will be our last night with Agus. The menu seemed somewhat uninspired this evening but after our Pinnacle lunch no one was very hungry anyway. We went to the show, magician Adam Mada. His act engaged the audience and was okay. Afterwards for a change we went to the Crow’s Nest to listen to “The band.” We lasted until about 9:40 and called it a night as we have an early start tomorrow for the sail in to Sydney, Australia. Saturday, December 23, 2017 – Sydney, Australia (no, this is not Nova Scotia!) We set the alarm for 5:30 AM and woke on our own shortly before. The bridge cam showed we had just entered the harbor from the open sea, so we were soon on the bow, along with about two other folks, and stayed there until we had passed under the harbor bridge. We enjoyed the sail in and with the early sun from the east the photos should be special. Returning to our cabin, we finished getting ready for the day. We have pink 1 tickets (the first in-transit group at 8:30) to get off the ship. We never heard them call pink 1, but went to the gangway at 8:25 and they wished us a great day. We quickly passed through passport control and were on the curb at 8:35 for our 9:00 pick up. I texted our guide, Mark, from all around Sydney tours. He responded that he was on his way and he arrived just before the 9:00 scheduled time. As we slowly drove through the port (Mark called it the prison) we discussed our plan for the day. The first spot we stopped at was the Sydney Observatory. The 160 year old fig trees there were nearly as impressive as the views of North Sydney and the harbor bridge. From there we stopped at “The Rocks,” the oldest area where a street market was going on. We obtained a nice hat for DW. Back to the van we headed to Mrs. Macquarie’s chair for fantastic photos of the Opera House and Harbor Bridge. From there we began to head to the beach, passing through each little cove and bay along the way. We saw all the sleek sailing yachts preparing for the Boxing Day regatta to Hobart. We stopped at Watson’s Bay to view the beach and also looked back at the city from the distance. “World Famous Bondi beach” was the next stop. We can see the attraction of this beach, but there is quite a crowd! We drove through Paddington and saw many of the historic row homes built in the 1840’s. We then were dropped off at the Opera House. We walked around, went into the lobby, rode the unique “Roof-less” elevator, and walked to the entrance of the botanical gardens. Then it was time to be picked up! Our next and longest stop was in Chinatown. We visited “Paddy’s market” to do some shopping. Expecting everything in the market to be “Made in China” I was pleasantly surprised to find vendors selling “Made in Australia” at very good prices. A few such polo shirts were purchased and we looked at leather (both cow and kangaroo) hats but did not buy one (but should have). At the appointed time we again met Mike and he whisked us off to Darling Bay to view a few of the ships from the Australian Maritime Museum. This is a very pretty area with all the “Big bank” buildings across the water. At last he returned us to the White Bay cruise terminal at about 4:50 PM. Returning to Maasdam, the muster drill was underway for the 1000 or so guests who joined today. We found we had ‘just missed’ being able to get a dive-in burger or ice cream. However the main pool had sat in the brilliant sunshine all day and had gained about 10 degrees making it delightfully warm. We met the Maori ambassadors (three of them) in the pool. About 6:15 we went to the Lido for dinner. In our 150+ days of HAL cruises, this was our first time to have dinner in the Lido. Why tonight? Well, the menu in the dining room was rather uninspired and we wanted to be able to be out and about for sail away photos. Maasdam left the dock moments before the stated 6:30 departure time. We had backed in and therefore took off like a shot! In less than five minutes we were passing under the harbor bridge. The ship’s horn was sounded liberally. I don’t think it took Maasdam much more than 40 minutes in total to be out of the harbor and in the open Pacific. At 7:30 a tree lighting ceremony took place in the main foyer. This was fun and warm cider or hot chocolate was served, along with Christmas Cookies. There was no show until 9:30 (a ‘welcome aboard’ show) so by about 8:30 or so after our very busy day we called it a night. Sunday, December 24, 2017 – At Sea #3 We woke this morning at 6:00 and could not get back to sleep. We went to the lido at 7:00 for breakfast dressed for the pool. By 7:25 we were in the pool and DW could do her aqua therapy. We moved to the hot tub at 8:00 after watching the pool staff take the covers off. We ran into our traveling friends and went to the 10:00 port talk on Melbourne. We had all been invited to a mariner’s “Welcome back” reception at 11:00 in the crow’s nest. The orange juice was very good although many beverages were available. At the same 11:00 hour the Maori ambassadors were doing a “Learn the Haka” session in the showroom. So at 11:15 we left the reception and headed down to the showroom. We had lunch on the pool deck. With the roof partly opened it certainly chilled off a little from yesterday! After lunch the men enjoyed the hot tub. Tonight is a gala night and also Christmas Eve. Christmas Eve “Gala” dinner was excellent. My end cut of Prime Rib was superb. The ladies had maple glazed fish with shrimp and Canadian bacon rice. We skipped the show due to a time change to 7 & 9, in favor of enjoying the Maori Ambassadors singing Maori Love Songs followed by a Christmas Sing Along with Barry in the Piano Bar. We attended the 11:00 Performance of the three crew choirs. They ended with a combined choir singing Silent Night followed by a processional where the crew lined up at the exits wishing everyone a Merry Christmas as they left. Monday, December 25 – Christmas day in Melbourne Australia We had a nice dining room breakfast before meeting our friends to leave the ship at 9:00 to see what we can see in Melbourne today. I give the city of lot of credit. Many volunteers were at the dock and in town to help guide visitors. Public transit is free as it is Christmas day. The express bus took us right to the center of town, one block from Flanders station. There were many Christmas displays and few folks out and about early this morning, so we had the chance to take some great photos. As 10:00 approached, the bells of the main church were ringing and ringing and we watched the vicar welcoming Christmas worshipers. We hopped on one of the free trams to visit Chinatown hoping to find some open shops. We did find a number of places with cooked goose hanging in the windows. We also found the shop windows of Myers department store with the animated story of the Christmas elf. We found a few open souvenir shops but did not purchase anything. We rode another tram to visit the docklands area. This is distinct and in a different part of town from the cruise ship dock. In the docklands we enjoyed the waterfront and then wandered through an open air mall (with all the stores closed) until we reached the Melbourne Star, their version of the London Eye. We might have ridden the Star except we were there at noon and they didn’t open until 1:00. From there we rode another tram back to Flanders station. While on the tram we discussed options for the rest of the day and decided to head back towards the ship. Back on board we made it in time for lunch from the Lido. We then used the pool and mostly the hot tub. Christmas dinner was “Gala optional.” We opted not to be “Gala” however we greatly enjoyed the best dinner of the cruise thus far. The “Slow roasted turkey” was top-notch. Surf and Turf was also offered. We men had second helpings of the turkey, and also complimented the chef on it. The show was the singers and dancers in “Droom.” “Droom” being a Dutch word for dream. We did not enjoy the show and the writer must have been in a dream state when writing this. Droom made us long to have our own dreams so we called it a night, missing out on Barry’s 50’s night. Tuesday, December 26, 2017 – Burnie, Tasmania, Australia. We had coffee and tea delivered to the room at 6:00 this morning. That helped get our day started as our goal was to be on the first shuttle bus this morning as we had an 8 hour tour planned with Robyn McCarthy of “Play a Round in Tassie” tours. We had reserved the COASTAL DELIGHTS TOUR. We had breakfast in the lido and lined up to depart the ship at about 7:50. Within moments the gangway was open and we were quickly on the shuttle to the Maker’s workshop to meet Robyn. Robyn was ready for us with a sign and a smile and we promptly left to begin our tour. We drove through the main street of Burnie and went to an overlook for photos of the ship and town below. While there, Robyn gave us a brief history of the town and the repurposing of some of the large buildings after the paper mill shut down in 2010. Moving on, we drove out of town to the Guide Falls. Robyn drove us to above the falls and dropped us off. The falls are beautiful and accessible for nice photos from a paved path; they are also accessible right to the base via a rough and rocky path. Just when we were done taking photos Robyn met us and led us back down the path to the parking and restroom area. At the parking area we saw one of the famous Tasmanian birds, the name I can’t recall but I have photos. We drove back towards Burnie and stopped at the Fern Glade reserve. Here we searched for the elusive platypus. Our search was in vain and Robyn reported that severe floods two years ago washed many of the platypuses out to sea. They are recovering but it is slow. However at the reserve we did see and I was able to photograph Wallabies in the wild. We now began to drive along the old coastal highway towards the town of Penguin. Just before the town we turned inland and began a magnificent drive to Wings Wildlife Park. On the way we stopped at the George Woodhouse overlook for photos of the beautiful valley and mountains. Robyn also showed us many fields of poppies. Yes, those kinds of poppies. Tasmania is the producer of over 60% of the world’s legal poppy production. The dried poppies are then processed on the island into the ingredients used for medicinal pain killers. We reached the Wings Wildlife Park and from the parking area it doesn’t look like much. However, once inside, we had a magnificent time. We arrived just in time for the Koala feeding, one of the few times during the day the Koalas are awake! We took many photos of the oh so cute Koalas. Next there was an unscheduled Tasmanian devil feeding. I took a number of photos of the cute and tranquil devils. However, their behavior changed completely when dinner arrived. The three Tasmanian Devils fought over their dinner to no seeming end. Incredible photos and videos were taken and we could certainly understand why they are named as they are! We walked pass some mountain goats to the Kangaroo enclosure. The Kangaroos eat right out of your hand (we were provided food) and like being scratched under their necks as they can’t reach there themselves. A number of the Roos had babies (Joeys) and we were also able to see and feed some of the moms. Again, lots of photos and videos were taken. We had some Roo food left over and Robyn told me to just throw the bag at the mountain goats. The two nearby goats proceeded to fight with their rams over the food. Walking to see the Wallabies I noticed a snake on the ground. Robyn said that was a Tasmanian King snake, a very poisonous snake. She reported it to the staff and we did not continue up that path. It was time for a restroom stop and then a quick look at some baby animals and fish. Soon it was time to wash up and head out. We drove to the town of Penguin and stopped for photos along the beach. Regretfully there are no Penguins on the beach at this time of day. We continued down the coastal road to the city of Devonport. Devonport is a little larger than Burnie and a short drive further brought us to Anver’s Chocolates & Fudge. Samples were complimentary and purchases were made. After Anver’s as we have a longer than typical port call, Robyn was able to take us to a Cherry farm as Cherries are just in season. We enjoyed a number of very tasty cherries as well as samples of two types of Cherry liquor at “The Cherry Shed.” We also visited Speyton Orchard where cider was available. Again, complimentary samples were available as is a paid sampling of six alcoholic ciders. We enjoyed the free samples and bought a few bottles of standard cider for immediate consumption. We then drove back to Burnie. Robyn offered to take us to yet another lookout but we had already been out for eight hours and wanted some time to look around the Maker’s workshop. Small purchases were made and we made sure every last Australian dollar was spent. A shout out is deserved by the many volunteers at Burnie. Both at the ship and at Maker’s workshop, volunteers worked all day to make cruise visitors welcome. This was a major holiday, Boxing Day, so special thanks to the town folk who worked so hard on their holiday to make us feel welcome. We were on the third to last shuttle back to Maasdam after Robyn bid us farewell. Back on board we took quick showers and sent every last piece of clothing worn today out to the laundry. Dinner was not as spectacular as the past two nights but no one went hungry. The show was Mario D’Andrea. He was fantastic and was certainly the best show of the cruise to date (and proved to be the best show of the cruise). He did two encores and we went immediately to the Piano Bar for Barry’s “60’s night.” We managed to stay until 10:15 before calling it a night. The clocks get pushed forward an hour tonight as we leave Australia behind. Wednesday, December 27, 2017 – At Sea #4 Today we began our crossing of the Tasman Sea, well known for some of the roughest waters in regular navigational lanes. We were blessed with mostly sunny skies, a high of about 68 degrees, and a smooth ocean. We went to the dining room for breakfast at about 8:30. Shortly after returning to our cabin at 9:30 or so we heard the announcement that group 3 was ready to head for New Zealand immigration processing. We arrived at just the right time and in a few short minutes were cleared. Kudos to New Zealand for handling this on the ship rather than delaying shore calls with these procedures. We had lunch on the lido and enjoyed the hot tub for a time. The haddock in the lido was very good. I visited the Microsoft workshop where Georgia, the tech-spert helped me find and make a copy of the Windows photo and movie making programs I use which are no longer in Windows 10. She also provided electronic copies of all the digital workshop handouts. Dinner returned to the “Very good” column tonight. Three of us had the featured dinner Cobb salad while one greatly enjoyed the Pot Roast. The chef stopped by and we complimented him and also told him how much we enjoyed the lido lunch. He was greatly appreciative. Internet connectivity continues to be beyond hopeless. We passed on the singers and dancers show of “Atlantic Crossing” in favor of the movie, The Hitman’s Body Guard. Immediately as the movie finished we moved to the Piano bar for Barry’s 70’s night. The last 30 minutes was rather a downer. I never realized how many huge 70’s hits are so sad and depressing, but we did manage to stay up until he took his break at 10:45. We lose a second hour on the clocks tonight to bring us to New Zealand time. Thursday, December 28, 2017 – At Sea #5 The Tasman Sea continues to be placid with mostly sunny skies and a high of about 62 degrees. We slept until well after 9:00, likely a record for us on a cruise. By the time we went to the lido for a light breakfast most of it was closed down at 10:20! We didn’t want a lot anyway as we had a mariner’s reception at 11:00 and the mariner’s lunch at 11:30. We walked around and noticed a deck sale. Would have loved to buy the $10 boomerang but don’t want trouble bringing it into Fiji post-cruise. We enjoyed the mariner’s reception where maybe a dozen folks received their copper medallions and one silver medallion was awarded. We met a nice couple at the mariner’s lunch for which this was only their second HAL cruise. Afterwards we ran into our friends and attended the Indonesian Crew Show at 1:30. Dede, our cabin steward, was the director of the show. Both Wirawan and Gede our dining room team were in the show as well. After the show we enjoyed the hot tub. Late in the afternoon I tried again to use the internet and I was again unable to get my work e-mail. In fact, I could reach hardly any web pages at all. I’ve had enough with this and went to the front desk, showing them my internet usage report and how since Sydney while the minutes disappear the MB remains near zero. I asked for a refund of the package I purchased and they promised to get back to me. Later that evening they did respond with a 75% refund. Dinner was quite enjoyable with great service as usual. The show was the “Interactive comedy of Kim Potter.” Kim (male) is from New Zealand. He lost us in less than 15 minutes. We then went to the piano bar where Barry was setting up so we spoke with him a while. Barry’s theme for the evening was “Ascertain that tune!” It was a lot of fun and we had 13 of the 20 correct. At 10:35 when Barry went for his short break we called it a night as we are up early tomorrow for Scenic Sunrise cruising in Milford Sound. Friday, December 29, 2017 – Scenic Cruising Milford and Dusty Sounds, New Zealand We woke at 5:15 to see a faint outline of mountains of the bridge cam. Our alarm was set for 5:45 but at about 5:40 the bridge cam was clearer and it was apparent we were entering Milford Sound. We still had 40 minutes before sunrise but I threw on the clothes I had laid out the prior evening and joined others on the bow. I took lots of photos and some video as it progressively became lighter. A large pod of dolphins approached and then swam under the ship. We reached the end of the sound with the large waterfall at about 7:00. The ship turned around, I assume those on the $1200/person shore excursion tendered to shore (did not see this though) and we began the trip back down the sound at 7:30. The return trip was much more enjoyable than the entry trip. For one thing, there was now sunlight on some of the mountainsides. We exited the sound by about 8:30 and went to the dining room for breakfast. At 10:00 the Maori gave a talk on Maori designs and their meanings. This was another standing room only event in the explorer’s lounge. We had a light lunch in the lido before the scenic cruising in Dusky sound began at about 12:30. This was a “One way” transit exiting a different way than we entered. I thought Dusky sound was more picturesque and when we were sheltered from the wind and in the sunshine it actually felt warm. We “Turned a corner” and the wind became ferocious. I saw no wildlife but DW did spot a few seals sunning on a rock. After the early start we did take a 2 hour nap during the afternoon. Dinner was enjoyable in the dining room. It’s the singers and dancers tonight with “Heat” so we skipped the show which we have seen before. We saw someone on a cell phone so we got ours and sure enough, we were off the southern coast near the terminus of NZ highway #1 and had a strong signal on deck. I was able to download all my e-mails and send some reports. We enjoyed Barry in the Piano Bar for “Sinatra night.” DW even received a HAL “South Pacific” pin for her participation. Called it a night at 10:15 as tomorrow begins five port days in a row and our plans are uncertain. Saturday, December 30, 2017 – Port Chalmers (Dunedin) New Zealand. Maasdam docked at 7:00 in Port Chalmers. What we really wanted to do here is the Taieri Gorge Railway. Problem is that the Ocean Princess is also in port so the cruise lines have chartered the two available trains. The cruise lines charge more than 400% of the true fare (but you get a free lunch) so we did not do the train. A private tour provider had mistakenly given us hope that there would be last minute seats on sale so we did not prebook an excursion. That was a mistake. Leaving the ship at 7:30 we went to the information center to find many tours available but many others sold out. We ended up buying the hop-on hop-off with Dunedin transfer option though Headfirst Travel NZ. Our transfer was set for 8:45. The cruise terminal did offer free and good internet. It was nearly 9:00 before we left and we arrived in Dunedin at 9:20. The first Ho-Ho route left at 10:00 so we walked part of the shopping district. We took the Ho-Ho route as far as the Dunedin train station. It was nice that we stopped long enough to take photos of the “Worlds steepest street” and the main building at the University. There was a farmers market at the train station but certainly no deals of any kind to be found. We walked to the Cadbury tour and all tours were sold out. However, they did have a “Cruise ship visitors” store set up and after looking at the nearby supermarket we did buy some Cadbury at the cruise ship store. Walking back to the town center we explored the main shopping street and found a modern mall tucked in behind the storefront. We did find one relative ‘bargain’ on an extended Boxing Day sale. We walked the rest of the shopping area and returned to the bus pick up site at about 1:00. We let them know we wanted to return on the 1:30 shuttle and tried to get comfortable while waiting. The return shuttle was in a non-air conditioned 11 passenger van and it was getting warm. We returned to the Maasdam at about 2:10. Overall this port call was disappointing. If I had to do it over again I would have chosen the nature tour to see the Yellow Eyed Penguins and Albatross colony. When we were back on the ship we enjoyed a “Dive-In” burger and ice cream for lunch. I enjoyed the hot tub for quite a while and then relaxed in our cabin before getting ready for dinner. Dinner was fine and we attended the show, “Frozen Planet Live.” Although we had seen this before the photography is worth a second viewing. While the ship’s musicians participated we believe there is also canned music in the soundtrack. After the show we enjoyed Barry in the Piano Bar for ‘U-Pick it Classics’ songs from before 1964. We lasted until about 10:15 and called it a night. Sunday, December 31, 2017 – Akaroa, New Zealand Announcements were made the prior evening that independent tender tickets would be handed out beginning at 9:00 in the Ocean Bar. I will say I like this better than handing out tender tickets at 8:00 and making everyone sit around for an hour or more like we encountered earlier this year. We arrived at the Ocean Bar about 8:55 to find it filled with people. Right about 9:00 they did announce that tender tickets were available and also that four or five star mariners did not need tickets, just show your key card and go at any time. Our traveling friends obtained ticket #3. Five minutes later tickets 1-4 were called so off we went. It is a longer tender ride to the town dock, stated to be about a mile and a half. The tender took about 20 minutes to reach town and we were ashore at 9:30. Right on the pier was information centers and we were directed to our prebooked tour providers. Our first tour is at 11:00 with Pohatu Penguin Tours. They gave us our boarding cards and told us to come back just before 11. We wondered the town and DW found a locally made jewelry piece to add to her collection. We were back at 10:45 and found our van waiting at the designated place. We were allowed to board and soon all were present and we left a few minutes early. Wow, what a tour! This two hour tour took us on the scenic roads on Banks Peninsula to beautiful Pohatu Bay. There, on the family farm, we first fed the sheep, which are very used to visitors providing lunch! Then we were guided into the penguin colony. We viewed the tiny blue penguin chicks in their burrows. We also saw how the family takes care of injured penguins and nurses them back to health and release. They are NZ department of conservation approved operators. Then we drove back to Akaroa over the same roads. Jodi our guide told us a lot of information and this was a superb tour to enjoy unique experiences. We had just less than 90 minutes between tours but walked down towards our second meeting spot. We heard there was a local crafts market operating so we found it at the Presbyterian Church yard. There were only about six vendors and nothing too attractive for us. We stopped at the local supermarket for cold drinks and went to watch our afternoon tour boat, the Ecoseeker, arrive back from their “Swim with the penguins tour.” 10 minutes or so before our appointed 2:30 time Steve, the owner, welcomed us onboard. We went out and enjoyed seeing and photographing “1000 foot cliffs, sea arches, amazing volcanic formations, caves, marine farms, White Flippered Blue Penguins, Albatross and other seabirds, Akaroa Marine Reserve, Nikau Palm Gully, and Occasional Blowholes.” From this list we did not see any Albatross however we also had close interaction with the local Hector Dolphins and came very close to a Cormorant bopping in the waves. The boat was so stable we were very pleased, even at speed. This is an “Ex America’s Cup Chase Boat and previously a Coastguard Marine Rescue vessel with 600HP four stroke outboards” Steve is another long term local and his family farm borders the inlet. This was an outstanding tour and truly rounded off a “10” day in port. We returned to the dock and walked quickly to the tender pier. We were the very last to board a waiting tender and off we went. We were back on board at 5:20 and tonight, New Year’s Eve, is a “Gala night.” We certainly did “Gala light” but we all managed to make it to the dining room by 6:00. Surf and Turf was the featured entrée. The lobster was very good while the filet was just “Okay.” After dinner we returned to our room to take care of the day’s laundry. Then we went to the showroom for Patrick McCullaugh. This had to be nearly the worst entertainer we’ve ever seen on a cruise. His first three jokes were about a Potato. All four of us left within five minutes. It’s hard to believe HAL couldn’t find something better for a major holiday “Gala” evening! Leaving the showroom, we went to the Mix Piano Bar to await Barry from Boston for his “All request” evening. While there, the crew began coming around with Oliebollen and Apple Floppies. They were scrumptious and so much better than sitting in that show! Barry’s show was great with an “Open mike” and a few of the guests helped provide additional entertainment. We left the Mix at about 10:30 to get seats in the showroom for the main New Year’s Eve Party beginning at 11:00. This was a nice event and we noticed food stations being set up in the main lobby on decks 7 and 8. We had a nice time and watched the New Year come in together. After we wandered around taking a few photos and stopped at the Mix to wish Barry a Happy New Year. We stayed for one (extended) number and called it a night. Monday, January 1, 2018 – Wellington, New Zealand Being New Year ’s Day we were alerted that many shops and restaurants would be closed. Those giving that warning were not kidding. At least 80% seemed closed, including the shopping malls. We left the ship before 9:00 and rode the port provided shuttle bus into downtown. It was less than a two block walk to the Cable Car. There were volunteers to guide visitors at many spots, thank you Wellington! We rode the Cable Car to the top of the mountain and took photos. We enjoyed the free cable car museum and took many photos. We walked the downhill, ‘Back to town’ path through the Botanical Gardens. The gardens are very nice, clean, and well maintained. At the bottom a few other volunteers encouraged us to not miss the rose garden and begonia house. We heeded their advice and checked those venues out as well. Wanting to visit the “Te Papa” museum (National museum of New Zealand) we called an Uber which quickly transported the four of us for the princely sum of $10.95. We can’t believe the museum is “Free.” This is an extremely well done museum and we enjoyed it very much indeed. After the museum we walked back towards the shuttle bus stop, visiting a few vendors along the waterfront while searching for a cold drink. We ended up at a McDonald’s where we ran into Dede, our cabin steward. After being unable to connect to McDonald’s Wi-Fi we headed back to the shuttle bus and returned to Maasdam at about 1:10. We had lunch on the lido and used the somewhat warmer pool and relaxed in the hot tub. I hooked up to the local cell service to check and send e-mails. We enjoyed dinner in the dining room and called it a night. After staying up for New Year’s and a rather early start, we needed to catch up on sleep. Plus, we have an early 7:00 AM tour departure tomorrow in Napier. Tuesday, January 2, 2018 – Napier, NZ We arrived on time in Napier and the gangway was open at about 7:05. Our group of nine met at 7:00 in the crow’s nest (meaning an earlier room service breakfast) and we were all on the first shuttle bus. In fact, there were 10 on the shuttle. They kindly left before ‘filling up the bus’ as we told them we had a tour to catch. Our driver with Hawke’s Bay Scenic tours was Jim. This tour took us through the countryside showing us various farms, orchards, and vineyards. We visited Te Mata Peak, the highest in the region, watching all the mountain bikes & hikers enjoy the trails. Regretfully in the morning it was not clear and we could not see more than a few miles from the peak. We stopped for a break and found that January 2 is nearly as large a holiday in NZ as January 1. Many shops and pharmacies were closed. We drove on through the town of Hastings where Jim told us that there are over 40 empty storefronts. Many folks are buying things on line from outside NZ rather than in shops. Driving back to Napier Jim showed us the main street of art deco buildings and then took us to the Bluff Hill Domain, from where we could observe the entire port and the Maasdam. Driving back he dropped four of us off at Main Street while the other five were returned to the cruise ship bus stop. We enjoyed walking the main shopping street and found about half the shops were open. A few small purchases were made. We really enjoyed watching the antique cars, many of which were for hire for short local tours. If we had more time we would have likely taken advantage of this, as it would be a treat to ride in many of these. Taking the shuttle bus back to the ship we found a swing band playing on the pier and a collection of 1920’s and early 1930’s cars there with their proud owners. We lingered a while enjoying the ambiance before reboarding the ship. Back on board, we had lunch in the lido, sitting outdoors by the pool. The captain made a long announcement that tomorrow’s in port times were being adjusted to a 9:00 arrival and 8:30 departure (still a very long day in port) and that due to a strong weather system moving in our scenic cruising was being canceled for Thursday. Rather we will arrive in Auckland at 8:00 Thursday morning, spend the day and overnight in Auckland, followed by disembarkation on Friday as scheduled. I hooked the computer to the cell phone to find that sure enough the forecast for Auckland is for rain from Thursday until next Monday. Tomorrow in Tauranga is 50% chance of rain. Well, the weather thus far has been incredible. 23 of the top 25 things to do in Auckland are outdoors according to TripAdvisor. The other two are museums. We quickly found that the Queen Street Cinema is showing “The Last Jedi” in IMAX 3D at 11:00 on Thursday. That is certainly a good possibility. We spent some time in the hot tub and then showered up. Dinner was as always a pleasant time. The show tonight is “Classique” with the singers and dancers. We twice before have walked out of this show. We watched a movie in the cabin and called it a night. Wednesday, January 3, 2018 – Tauranga, New Zealand We did not arrive at 9:00 as scheduled. It was actually after 10:30 before the gangway was in place and open. We are docked next to the Ovation of the seas. It was down pouring when the gangway was open so we instead headed for the very pleasant hot tubs. We watched the armies of folks getting of the Ovation. That is some huge ship. We had an early lido lunch and headed out at about 12:30 as the rain had essentially stopped. We took the $10 round trip bus shuttle into Tauranga, about a 20 minute ride. We walked the town, enjoyed a coffee break and used the free Wi-Fi to make a call back home, and then headed back to the shuttle bus. When we got off the shuttle rather than head back to the ship we headed into town here on the island. We should have just stayed here in the first place. The island is buzzing and we found a few items at shops, including neat Maori made New Zealand shirts in correct sizes. We walked and walked and returned to the ship at about 3:45. I used the time to connect to my e-mail by phone and the sun broke through the clouds for the first time today. Dinner was nice with a menu featuring items from each of the “Culinary council” chefs. I enjoyed the crusted Prime Rib and it was cooked perfectly. We told Wirawan we wanted to attend the “One time” 7:15 show of ‘authentic Maori cultural folklore’ called “Mana: The Prestige.” The dining room was lightly attended and we were finished by 6:45. We attended and enjoyed the show. I like it when the cruise line brings local culture onboard. After the show we hung out at the Piano Bar waiting for Barry to start. We stayed until about 10:15 and called it a night. The shops had their final blowout sale during the evening and the ladies took a look and made no purchases. Thursday, January 4, 2018 – Auckland, New Zealand Today’s storm dumped more rain on Auckland then they received in November and December combined. We had a perfectly nice day. We enjoyed a later breakfast in the dining room and left the ship between rain bands at about 10:00. After talking with a few folks at the information center, we decided the best option to get to the airport the next day was “Super Shuttle” at a cost of $64.48 for the four of us so I made the booking using my phone. We took a taxi ($20) to the Queen Street cinema and enjoyed the “Only IMAX screen in New Zealand” and watched Star Wars, the Last Jedi. The movie was great. When the movie was over it was totally down pouring so I called an Uber who picked us up promptly and dropped us off right at the cruise terminal. We hardly got wet at all, and the cost was all of $8.51. We enjoyed lunch on board and then got to the task of packing. We made one suitcase full of “Won’t need this in Fiji” and that was 49.8 lbs. The other suitcase we maxed out also, but we did manage to keep both carry-ons under the Fiji airlines 15 lb. limit. Dinner was nice and we said farewell to our great staff in the dining room and our room stewards. The show tonight is the “Dancing Keys” of Pianist Adam Johnson. He was very good and also was called back for an encore. Afterwards we enjoyed the Piano Bar one last time. The last two nights Barry had chosen many all-time favorites and it truly has been a lot of fun. We lasted until nearly 10:30 and called it a night. Friday, January 5 – Auckland – Fiji The alarm went off at 6:30 and we headed to the dining room for our last breakfast on board at 7:20. Breakfast was good as we watched the wind-swept rain out the windows. Luggage tag numbers were being called early so after gathering our remaining belongings we headed off the ship about 8:15. We quickly found our luggage and a helpful porter gave us a luggage carrier to load it up. We saw a super shuttle in the lot and inquired of the driver. He made a phone call and confirmed he was not our driver but said they let our driver know we were ready. At about 8:45 we noticed two shuttles in the drive and one of those was for us. There was another couple from the ship on board. Our luggage was loaded and we waited in the van. The driver had one other reservation and that person never showed, so we waited 20 minutes for someone who never showed. Half-way to the airport the other party’s cell phone rang and they apparently had picked up the wrong piece of luggage. Between there and the airport they and the driver were trying to work out how they were going to fix that situation. We were dropped off immediately in front of the international terminal and walked in the doors to find the Fiji airways luggage drop. As this is a cruise review I am not including our less than incredible visit to Fiji in the review. Cruise Summary: We had a really nice cruise on the Maasdam. Honestly, the fact that we spent the three days in Fiji post-cruise gave us a greater appreciation for the cruise. We had generally superb dining, with selections always available and super service from Wirawan and Gede. Our stateroom was kept clean as a whistle and our laundry attended to often returned the same day or the next morning when we were at breakfast. We would have preferred the stateroom a little cooler but it wasn’t so warm that we needed to request a fan, and honestly this is something I never brought to the office’s attention. The front office folks, while usually very polite, and often terrific, do drop the ball from time to time. Early in the cruise we sent DW’s Red jacket out for dry-cleaning. When she went to put it on for Christmas Eve she discovered a missing button. Yes, they looked for the button but did not find it, and never offered even to credit the dry cleaning charge. The missing button due to the design of the jacket made it unwearable and we just left it at the end of the cruise. We were disappointed in the stop in Port Dunedin. Not the town’s fault, but what we had wanted to do we couldn’t do as Holland and Princess had chartered out the two trains to the Taleri gorge. I understand the cruise lines making a profit on shore excursions. I have CCL stock, and want them to be successful, but to charge passengers $270 US for a train ride that is available on any day that two ships are not in town for NZ$99 is just wrong. Simply on principle, charging 400% the normal price is not right. The “EXC” excursion price guarantee is a joke as never would every single aspect of a tour be exactly identical. Most of the ports were great and that is the #1 reason we do a cruise. Entertainment is a weak point on the Maasdam except in the Piano Bar as Barry from Boston is great. I know there will be some changes in the future on Maasdam with more of a port focus and they will lose the singers and dancers. I see that as no great loss. Hopefully local talent will be brought on board, we find that is often the best. We do hope they keep the piano bar in the mix! We greatly enjoyed the Maori ambassadors who were on board for about 6 days and the Maori group that performed in Tauranga. Maasdam gets a solid 4 stars out of 5. As I’ve mentioned in prior reviews, I don’t see HAL getting five stars any longer due to the many things cut from their cruises. Christmas Eve, for example, was very nice. But, there was no “Christmas around the world” food event like we enjoyed a few years ago on Zaandam. Deck barbeques are history. And many other little things that new cruisers wouldn’t even know about. 4 stars is not at all “Bad,” it’s just not quite what it was when we started cruising in earnest in 2009. I hope we have another chance to sail on Maasdam, they sure have some interesting itineraries in late 2018 and 2019. Read Less
Sail Date December 2017
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