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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
2 Helpful Votes
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
1 Helpful Vote
Sail Date: December 2017
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
6 Helpful Votes
Sail Date: November 2017
We have cruised HAL before. previously Trans Atlantic and Med with Noordam and Baltics , Scandnavia on Konningsdam, WE loved all before and were prepared to travel long distance from Oz but now figured a cruise close to home would ease ... Read More
We have cruised HAL before. previously Trans Atlantic and Med with Noordam and Baltics , Scandnavia on Konningsdam, WE loved all before and were prepared to travel long distance from Oz but now figured a cruise close to home would ease the travel strain. We took the cruise for the ship/cruise not the destination. Another reason for the cruise was to compare HAL and Princess who we sailed the new Majestic in June. Maybe this review may seem like a comparison of the two....if you want a comparison read on. Firstly the ships are diferent sizes Majestic being almost twice that of Noordam. So embarkation was slower with Majestic but that may have been the fault of immigration/customs as we boarded in Singapore with Noordam boarding in Sydney. Of the 1900 guests on Noordam we were told there were over 1000 from USA , couple of hundred from Canada and only 200-300 from Australia and New Zealand. that really surprised us. With the Noordam being mid to small and Majestic being large there is no real comparisons to be made. you either like big or you like small. Personally we prefer small. Statistics show that both ships are rated 5 stars. Majestic is brand new whereas Noordam is kept in emaculate condition...everything works , everything looks brand new even though she is 11 years old. Maybe some of the chairs show some wear but with people in them all day everyday id be surprised if a chair lasted 12 months. The biggest difference I noted was the attention to detail displayed by the staff. Noordam staff took ownership of any problem whereas Majestic seemed to pass the problem back to the customer. The customer service desk on Noordam was frequently absent of customers whereas on Majestic there were constant lineups of customers wanting something attended to. I would say that on Noordam if there was a problem it was fixed whereas on Majestic it kept re-occurring...that would explain the disparity between the 2 ships. Cleanliness seemed better on Noordam, staff always polishing cleaning etc. I found that for writing this review Majestic has 2.6customer per one staff while Noordam has 2.39. Noordam is better staffed by number and probably better staffed by attitude and training. On the plus side for Noordam Ill also list the food court or buffet...lots better but we used it rarely and then generally breakfast...Noordam has the greatest selection of poached eggs anywhere in the world even on land. Princess has the best bread rolls at sea bar none. Dining room was on a par but Princess deserts win hands down. We did anytime dining both cruises and on both we were able to secure the same table (for two) after the second day and talking with the maitre di. Same good service. bar staff were comparable both great but Noordam drink stewards seem to have more incentive to chase you down....you rarely have to look for someone to get you a drink. Drink packages- I don't get them...cant drink like I did 30 years ago. But I do get the wine packages. Noordam was good value with wine averageing about $27 USD per bottle. If one purchased the bottle separately they were about $35 each. May seem expensive but at $9 per glass and 5 glasses per bottle this saves $10 on a bottle. On our 15 day cruise we purchased about 20 bottles all up so packages can be worthwhile. I remember princess was similar. Entertainment or lack is what let Noordam down. We ate at 7.45pm and there was generally no Band playing for the hour or so before we ate. From 6.30 pm the ship was dead until things started up about 8.00. We attended the late shows (both ships) and entertainment was similar...both good with the same mix of magicions comedians etc etc. Tours excursions were abundant on each ship...my suggestion to others is to do plenty of research before the cruise ....you can sometimes get the same thing for less off the ship. Finally the clientel age was similar with age mainly 55 and above. there seemed less walkers/wheelchairs/walking sticks on Noordam and people seemed to dress up a bit more. I noticed that on most evenings many many ladies wore outfits that would generally be acceptable on a formal night. I like this although I only wear a jacket and bow tie at Gala night. Most men were dressed smart casual. Here is an interesting observation though. On the second night I approached the Maitri di at the door to the dining room at 5.30 pm asking for table reservation. He obliged informing me not to come back with my shorts on...which I would not even consider knowing dining room rules. Maybe he was lifting the dress standard from the gutter where it is on some cruises. Finally...which ship? Noordam wins I think because it appears the cleanest healthiest ship. People appeared to be in better health with no coughing spluttering etc. But Majestic was more fun around dinner times. Its the smaller ship for me especially with what I think was better staff training and attentiveness. I believe Noordam does care . majestic gave me the impression of Oh Well. Next cruise....neither. We have 2 sets of cruises booked. the first back to back for 14 days. The second BTB 21 days.....both different from the Majestic and the Noordam...both sets of cruises are on 3.5 to 4 stars. It will be interesting to see the difference. Read Less
2 Helpful Votes
Sail Date: November 2017
Friend had recommended. A last minute decision to take a holiday following long wet winter. Purchased just a month ahead of sailing, online, and overall very pleased with cruise. Very good value. Prices were discounted at this time. Calm ... Read More
Friend had recommended. A last minute decision to take a holiday following long wet winter. Purchased just a month ahead of sailing, online, and overall very pleased with cruise. Very good value. Prices were discounted at this time. Calm seas all the way from Sydney, Tasmania, NZ ports, disembarking Auckland. No rain, all sunshine. Met some lovely interesting passengers, mainly from Canada and USA. Met quite a few repeat HAm repeat cruisers. A few did say they had noticed cutbacks in some areas, particularly theatre entertainment. Excursions are expensive compared to same land prices as is wifi. But, if your tour is late back the ship will wait which did happen once I believe. Do take some of your own coathangers! Major shortage for some reason. Good cabin steward, a very happy crew, good atmosphere. We had a lovely time and would be a repeat passenger but not on main deck because of night noise from carpenters shop? so beware. Saw only less than 10 children during voyage. Read Less
1 Helpful Vote
Sail Date: November 2017
We scored a great price on a 15-day HAL cruise from Sydney, Australia to Auckland, New Zealand. Perhaps the price was so affordable because a) November is a less popular travel window (our itinerary included Thanksgiving); and b) the ... Read More
We scored a great price on a 15-day HAL cruise from Sydney, Australia to Auckland, New Zealand. Perhaps the price was so affordable because a) November is a less popular travel window (our itinerary included Thanksgiving); and b) the Noordam is due for a significant refurb very soon, which is much needed because her passenger spaces are outdated and worn. The AC failed in our cabin the last four days of the cruise; they never could fix it though they brought us a fan which make the ventilation almost bearable. Itinerary: The Australia/New Zealand itinerary did not disappoint. Between Sydney and Auckland, we stopped at eight lovely ports, each with its unique charm and scenic/cultural offerings: Melbourne, Hobart, Dunedin, Akaroa, Picton, Wellington, Napier and Tauranga. We would definitely recommend a vacation Down Under. On-Board: As with all cruises, there is no shortage of on-board activities. The Maori cultural ambassadors were great, as were several of the other evening entertainers. Kelly, our on-board EXC tour consultant, was a real asset. She prepped us for upcoming ports of call, giving historical context and tour options to match diverse interests. Her commentary as we sailed into Milford Sound and thru Fiordland Nat'l Park made that part of the cruise all the more interesting. Dining: We dined mostly on the Lido Deck for its convenience and wide variety of choices. We did notice there seemed to be more servers peddling alcohol than clearing tables and bringing water/lemonade. Burgers and Mexican choices at Dive-In by the pool were always good. We ate at only one of the specialty (extra charge) restaurants -- the Italian Canaletto. It was our least favorite meal of the cruise, the food too unusual/bizarre for our taste. I order lasagna (what can go wrong?) and didn't care for it at all. The food and choices in the main dining room were good (we ate there about 5 times), but it takes TWO HOURS to be served dinner. That's just too long for our American lifestyle. Cabin attendants: Our room stewards were okay. We never saw them, and on the rare occasion we made a request, "Green apples in the fruit bowl, please" we got bananas, red apples and unripe pears instead. "Please don't close the curtains unless we are in port", but they always did anyway. I understand they have a heavy workload, which probably grows heavier every year as HAL tries to reduce the number of staff. What is missing: Having cruised with Holland American for a decade, we've seen a number of old "traditions" disappear. The beautiful ice sculptures, chocolate night extravaganzas, and any-time ice cream/dessert bars are gone. I'm sympathetic to the competitive nature of the cruise/hospitality industry and the need to cut corners wherever possible. I enjoy a good cruise experience for a bargain price, so some of these niceties are inevitably trimmed in the process. We will sail with Holland America again! Read Less
2 Helpful Votes
Sail Date: November 2017
Heard good things about Holland America and we agree. Food and service was exceptional. Our room with a balcony was very comfortable. Only negatives were that the excursions were pricey, charging for water when going on excursions, and ... Read More
Heard good things about Holland America and we agree. Food and service was exceptional. Our room with a balcony was very comfortable. Only negatives were that the excursions were pricey, charging for water when going on excursions, and charging for very poor internet. The excursions were expensive and thought they could have had a better selection. However, most the stops were very accessible on your own. The major cities were very crowded and involved a lot of waiting. Also, thought their ship announcements were very hard to hear. The ship offered a Windows 10 class which was excellent and was filled most of the time. The instructor was very good and they just needed more space. The ship was exceptionally clean and there was certainly no lack of food at any time. The exceptional service on the ship really made a difference as everyone smiled and made you feel special. Would definitely recommend Holland America. Read Less
1 Helpful Vote
Sail Date: November 2017
If you are taking a cruise that takes over 20 hours to get to you should maximize your stay. We made sure we allowed for a couple of days in Auckland before the cruise and Sydney at the end of the cruise. Holland cruises are known for ... Read More
If you are taking a cruise that takes over 20 hours to get to you should maximize your stay. We made sure we allowed for a couple of days in Auckland before the cruise and Sydney at the end of the cruise. Holland cruises are known for catering to an older crowd and this cruise was no different. Being in our sixties puts is in the mean demographic of most of our fellow passengers. It was a diverse group that included passengers from all over the world. We always chose anytime dining and enjoy sitting with different passengers at every dinner. It makes for very interesting conversations. The Noordam has a large percentage of their cabins with balconies so the price to upgrade to a balcony is not very much and well worth it. The weather and the views make it a excellent place to enjoy the wonderful scenery. New Zealand is a magical place and one of the most beautiful places on earth. Tasmania and big brother Australia are also both wonderful places to visit. Not only are they beautiful but the people are some of the nicest you will ever encounter. You will never get lost in these places as somebody will always come up to you and ask if they can help. The ship was in great condition and as with all the Holland cruises we have experienced, the staff was wonderful. The Noordam carries only around 2000 passengers which these days is considered a smaller ship. The room was adequately sized with a very comfortable bed and our room steward took very good care of us. We never had to wait in lines for anything on this ship. The food was the consistent high quality I have always enjoyed on Holland both in the dining room and at the Lido Buffet. The Pinnacle Steak house if very much worth the up-charge for a intimate evening with your spouse. Selection was also excellent and should satisfy many different peoples requirements. Although onboard activities were limited due to the aggressive port schedule, Holland's association with Americas Test Kitchen was very popular and enjoyable. I would have enjoyed a bit more seminars on other activities like nature, finance etc. Entertainment in the main Vista Lounge I felt was a bit lacking although there were some decent one off comedians and musicians. The ships singers and dancers provided shows that in my eyes were just not contemporary and were boring. Holland has the B.B. King Blues Lounge which has three shows a night with a live R&B band. The house blues band on this ship and all the other Holland Cruises I have been on were excellent. Clearly, the most popular place in the evening for music and dancing. Holland offers port and shore excursions through it's EXC excursion product however we chose other operators Viator and AAA because we felt they offer better bank for our buck. All of our excursion were in smaller vans and were a bit more personal. We also prebooked some bike excursions that we enjoyed especially our tour with Bike Tour Melbourne in Melbourne, Australia. Steve Connor, the owner, gives you an excellent tour of his city. We were fortunate to have perfect weather for the majority of our cruise. This from what I have heard is unusual; however, we must have been blessed. We sailed into Fjordlands National Park in New Zealand without a cloud in the sky! Most of the cruise was in calm waters. If you like cruising, this is a cruise you should look into. Read Less
2 Helpful Votes
Sail Date: November 2017
Great itinerary but lack of on board activities, minimal cruise staff after cutbacks, and lack of live musical entertainment. Many of the activities in the program were actually revenue advertisements such as art auctions and spa ... Read More
Great itinerary but lack of on board activities, minimal cruise staff after cutbacks, and lack of live musical entertainment. Many of the activities in the program were actually revenue advertisements such as art auctions and spa promotions. The jazz trio (formerly known as "The Neptunes") and the solo guitarist/singer were sorely missed. Piano bar musician Stryker did a great job of keeping the Piano Bar packed out. There was no fitness instructor or location guide for half the cruise. The price of tours seems to have risen with the new tour company. The little niceties seem to be disappearing such as a daily quiz in the library, the pillow cards with good night wishes and time change reminders and also no Captain's Cruise Log any longer. Despite these disappointments the beauty of the ports and the passing scenery made up for some of what was lacking and the service of the staff was outstanding. Read Less
2 Helpful Votes
Sail Date: November 2017
The ship is not up to the standards one expects from a modern cruise liner, the ship is old at 10years & tired. It is the only cruise line where you have to submit credit card details per passenger in order to get a boarding card they ... Read More
The ship is not up to the standards one expects from a modern cruise liner, the ship is old at 10years & tired. It is the only cruise line where you have to submit credit card details per passenger in order to get a boarding card they took the equivalent of 900$ from each of our accounts & that was before we had even stepped a foot outside the UK, Boarding was a farce, queuing up in an old warehouse with no seating no toilets that I could see . The cabin was barely adequate, very cramped you couldn't get out of the bathroom if someone wanted either to come in to the cabin or wanted to get at the wardrobe. The balcony or veranda as HA put it had furniture that looked as if it came from the 20s cushions that could not be removed so were continually wet. The public rooms were OK just, but there was no library as such just a collection of books in book shelves spread across two of the public rooms without rhyme or reason & very few at that. We always opt for fine dining, in this case it was anything but that, the menus looked impressive full of culinary terms no one understood, when the food came it was either cold or burnt or both, the staff soon learnt not to serve the table with cold food, The majority of the food was just about edible, as if the chef really didn't know the meaning of fine dining, a good example was one night we had roast beef & Yorkshire pudding, the beef was ok, not the best cut but the yorkshire pudding was terrible, it was so bad & tough that I could have used it to sole my boots, we later discovered that the chef was Indian, we asked him for an indian meal he said ok but it never materialised, throughout the ship the food seemed to be of an equally poor standard. No where on the ship could you get a half decent cup of coffee, apart from the coffee stall in the explorers lounge, else where it was stewed with in an inch of its life. For the most part the staff, Indonesian, were helpful & friendly, it was when you came to the american staff that the trouble started, the impression they gave was that they couldn't be bothered with you, an example was our cabin air conditioning seemed to be permanently stuck on very cold, even in New Zealand in November the weather is chilly, we reported the fault & eventually a young girl came to check it out, "nothing wrong with it" she said "it is meant to be cold" I pointed out that if that were the case why it the dial have red numbers on it. As nothing further was done I went back to the front desk & complained, after 2 days an engineer arrived, " your quite right, the thermostat is us" & promptly fitted a new one. I wont even talk about the entertainment, one or two good acts the rest rubbish. Shore excursions we chose not to take the ships advertised shore excursions but used an online agency who's prices were 60% cheaper than the ships & didn't include the 15% surcharge the ship puts on every thing. My wife & I are both over 70, we have been cruising every year for over 10 years, so we have had a lot of experience of what to expect from a cruise line, we have always wanted to visit this part of the world & due to other commitments we had to go at this time of the year. Holland America will I'm sure be pleased to know that we will never step foot on one of their ships ever again. Read Less
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