4 Helpful Votes
Sail Date: January 2018
We choose this ship and the itinerary to see New Zealand and Australia. We enjoy Holland America and the itinerary, plus an aft cabin fit all we wanted in the cruise. We are in our late 50s & early 60s. We made airline reservations ... Read More
We choose this ship and the itinerary to see New Zealand and Australia. We enjoy Holland America and the itinerary, plus an aft cabin fit all we wanted in the cruise. We are in our late 50s & early 60s. We made airline reservations to stay in Auckland 3 days before embarkation. However, when we were just about to go out the door for our flight on American Air, we received a call that our flight was canceled and they would re-book the same flight the next day. They did, but the available seating was not very good. The flight was very, very long St Louis to Los Angeles, then 13 hours from Los Angeles to Auckland. Needless to say that we were worn out when we arrived in Auckland. We left St Louis 5 below zero and were greeted in Auckland with 66 and light rain. Everyone apologized for the bad weather, but we enjoyed the warm moist weather. The rain restricted our ability to do sight see, but gave us a chance to rest up. We took a ferry from our B&B directly to the pier for embarkation on the Maasdam. A very nice way to board the ship. The dining was very nice. We ate in the Rotterdam Main Dining room for a majority of our meals. The menus provided a wide variety to select just the right meal to satisfy any desire. The presentation and quality of the food was out standing. We ate at the 2 alternative dining venues and were pleased with the quality of the food. We had a few meals in the Lido buffet and enjoyed those meals. I made it to the ice cream station at least once a day, but sometimes twice. We had a Dive-in burger once after our shore excursion came in after the lunch time. The burgers were good. Overall the food was great. Shore Excursions: Tauranga - We visited Hobbiton where the outdoor filming of the Shire was done for the Lord of the Ring and Hobbit movies. What a wonderful excursion. Both myself & my wife have watched those movies and read the books to make it a very memorable day with lots of pictures. The scenery along the way was very pleasant. An excellent excursion. Napier - We visited a Maori homeland, Arch of the Ancestors. They explained the history of their ancestors, the customs and their lives today. Again the scenery to & from was very nice. An excellent excursion. Wellington - We had a tour of the city with details of the history. It included a ride on the cable car and a visit to the WETA Cave, the studio where the Lord of the Ring and Hobbit movies were made. Many more photos and memories.The tour guide was an actor in the Lord of the Ring 3rd movie and gave us some in depth details in the making of the movies. An excellent excursion Akaroa - Our excursion was Journey to Middle Earth, you guessed it, it was where the the filming of the Rohan in the Lord o the Rings was done. The tour guide was with the sound crew for the Lord of the Ring movies. He was able to explain many details of the production of the movies. The scenery of the Southern Alps was breath taking. Our favorite shore excursion. Dunedin - We took a ride on the Taieri Gorge railroad. The train went through the gorge and the scenery was great. An excellent excursion. Oban Stewart Island - This island is south of the South Island. We did not have a shore excursion, but chose to walk around the small town and have lunch at the Hill Top Restaurant. When we got there it was closed but we found a hotel in town and had Blue Cod Fish & Chips. The best fish & chips I have had. It was cool and windy in town and we spent about 4 hours visiting shops and a nature center. Very beautiful town. Fjordland - A day cruising with outstanding scenery. They were glacier cut with tops of the mountains 6,000 feet, nearly straight up from the water. It is a day that we will remember. An excellent day. We had two days at sea from New Zealand across the Tasman Sea. The seas were both rough and smooth. All the sea days had two session of Americas Test Kitchen. They were great. The first night crossing the Tasman Sea, the singers and dancers show was canceled because of the rough seas. But it was a very relaxing time at sea. Burnie Tasmania - A trip to Cradle Mountain and Dove Lake. The countryside was very nice. We saw Kookaburra in gum trees, a Wallaby with her Joey, a wombat, and many other animals. We hiked a short distance to Dove Lake and had a wonderful view of Cradle Mountain. The weather was cool and windy. The tour was great. Melbourne - Hopped on a tram and visited St Patrick Cathedral. A Gothic cathedral that was built in the 1800's. It is beautiful. We then walk through Fitzroy's Garden. After about 4 hours we hopped on the tram and made it back to the ship. Melbourne is a large city, a clean city, with excellent public transportation. It was a very nice day. Sydney - We disembarked in Sydney across the harbor from the Opera House and next to the Sydney Harbor Bridge. Very photogenic. We stayed at a hotel one block from the pier and walked over to the Opera House, then to the Botanical Gardens. What caught my attention were the many large tree. Many of the trunks were 10 feet wide and larger. The flowers and the birds were spectacular. We saw Cockatoos, Lorikeets, Magpie and many other birds. There were acres of flowers. After about 5 hours and sore feet we made it back to the hotel for a rest. The next day we strolled around the port area called The Rocks, had lunch and made way to the airport. Trouble again, the flight was late leaving Sydney and late arriving in Dallas. After a 15 hour flight, you guessed it, we missed our connecting flight and American Air booked us on the next flight out. We made it to St Louis 2 hours later than our original flight but our bags did not. But American delivered them the next Day. In summary, the cruise was excellent, the flights were not. We would love to spend more time in New Zealand, an extremely beautiful country, and the people were very friendly. At every port there were volunteers that dressed up, sang, a Scottish band, vintage cars, and so on to entertain us as we sailed away. A great country. Read Less
Sail Date: January 2018
This was a bucket list trip for my husband and I. Always wanted to go to New Zealand and Australia and this cruise was a great way to do it! It was a celebration of our 30th anniversary. We just did one excursion through Holland ... Read More
This was a bucket list trip for my husband and I. Always wanted to go to New Zealand and Australia and this cruise was a great way to do it! It was a celebration of our 30th anniversary. We just did one excursion through Holland America, as we found their prices to be rather high. Booked excursions on our own and with a group of Cruise Critic members. Very happy all around. The Maasdam was a little dated but very well maintained. The crew was constantly cleaning everywhere. Cleanliness was obviously a top priority on the boat. We used the gym daily. Very pleased with their offerings. I went to the morning stretch and abs classes most days, they were great. Entertainment was fair. A few good nights but nothing special. I really liked the Americas Test Kitchen cooking demos. Very interesting and well taught. Overall we had a fabulous time! 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
Sail Date: December 2017
This was our first time cruising at sea and will not be our last. We especially liked the Holland & America style and ambiance, not a chav in sight. Our fellow cruisers seem well mannered, courteous, professional types and retirees. ... Read More
This was our first time cruising at sea and will not be our last. We especially liked the Holland & America style and ambiance, not a chav in sight. Our fellow cruisers seem well mannered, courteous, professional types and retirees. They knew how to behave well in a group ensuring they did not adversely impact on others enjoyment. A rare experience when there are so many self-indulgence idiots out there. Perhaps that is why so many were return cruisers to not only the line but, also this ship. With only 1200 fellow guest we always found a seat at the show’s, in the bar’s and on loungers by the pool. It was just not crowded or packed, plenty of space and amenities for everyone. The food in the main dinning room was superb as was the speciality restaurants but, the main restaurant was so good it was hard to justify using the other ones. Our balcony suite was large in comparison to floor plans on other lines and we found the fittings and service first class. We really liked the entertainment from the evening shows to the different singers and musicians in the various bars. The explorers lounge was also lovely and well used. I was also very impressed by the cooking shows, very professional and much better than the dross on tv. Finally, we loved the Mastddam, the captain called her an regal lady and she was. Lovely looking ship, lovely open spaces on a variety of decks and just the right size for cruising. Read Less
3 Helpful Votes
Sail Date: November 2017
We chose this cruise principally for the itinerary, that of visiting all those “paradisicle” islands. We were not disappointed. Moorea, in Tahiti, was our favourite. It was a place of beautiful geography and given higher ... Read More
We chose this cruise principally for the itinerary, that of visiting all those “paradisicle” islands. We were not disappointed. Moorea, in Tahiti, was our favourite. It was a place of beautiful geography and given higher medical standards (we're getting older), we'd look into spending a couple of months a year as residents. While most destinations offered a splendid experience, a couple could have remained off the list. Though it is easy to nitpick about things and complain, generally, we found Holland America Lines, HAL, provided its usual reliable service, that of a clean cabin, great breakfasts and lunches and decent on board diversions. The island of Dravuni, was an especially wonderful place who's 200 inhabitants put on a lovely show. It was free but most who viewed it made a cash contribution; a surprise given that Kiwis and Aussies are prone to avoid doing such things. Also, outr last stop, Wiatangi, was a great spot. Pity our visit was so short. Most who went ashore were slow to return and all we spoke with agreed that we could have spent much more time there. Their market offered more than the usual platitudes and souvineirs. The only fly in the ointment for us was HAL's handling of tenders for folks not taking HAL's shore excursions. Because of this method, we missed our excursion despite being abundantly early to obtain tender tickets (we were in the waiting area at 07:20 for a 08:30 departure only to be dropped off at 09:10). Fortunately the operator had a PM tour with 2 remaining spots. We were made to feel like second class guests by HAL's tendering policy as it concerned ”private tours”. This must change. Some have found the ship's singers and dancers repeated the shows. Perhaps this was so for those folks who cruise more than us but, not having seen them previously, we found the shows very entertaining and thought the troup as the best we've seen and heard on the three cruise lines we've beeen on (HAL, Princess and Celebrity). May HAL keep these truly midsized ships. Not crowded and elbow room for all, at 1200 guests, it was perfect. These things are very appealing to persons of our age group, 60 and up as there were no drunks or party animals. May we suggest the reintroduction of on board ship games and Lido BBQs. Tahiti would have been a good time for it the Lido bash. This festive occasion, unlike on other HAL voyages, was not offered. We'd certainly recommend this cruise to family and friends. Read Less
5 Helpful Votes
Sail Date: November 2017
We have just completed a 32 day cruise around Australia. On a positive note the staff were fantastic with great service with a smile and always ready to go the extra mile. The food in all restaurants was of a good standard though a ... Read More
We have just completed a 32 day cruise around Australia. On a positive note the staff were fantastic with great service with a smile and always ready to go the extra mile. The food in all restaurants was of a good standard though a little salty for our liking. Excellent choice in the Lido for lunch and great burgers and fries. The entertainment was very lacking with the production shows were well done we have seen the same shows5 times in the last 12 months on HAL it is time they were updated. The movies on the tV were old movies and repeated over and over with a news channels being the only alternative. Most of the activities were aimed at sales with jewellery talks,art auctions,spa seminars,wine tasting and foot analysis. What has happened to deck games,craft lessons,on deck parties and bbqs,we are there to be entertained and it seems everything has been cost cut with lots of activities have been stopped.! The cruise director was never visible except at one trivia and opening the shows, there was definite lack of things to do. We were in the tropical weather for 32 days but nothing organised out on the decks day or party’s at night such a shame. We had a vista suite 201at the aft of the ship which was a good spot except they were doing maintenance on the whole cruise so impossible to use the balcony with paint and varnish fumes and orange paint flakes blowing in on us from the promenade below where they were redoing the lifeboats. Not great considering how much extra we had paid above the ocean view cabin. The ship public areas are quite nice but the suites are very tired with old chipped baths no sun filter curtains replaced since they were taken down so it’s either open or closed curtains when the sun is hot. If it wasn’t for the fantastic staff and the size of the ship the cruise wasn’t a complete disaster. Read Less
1 Helpful Vote
Sail Date: October 2017
HOLLAND AMERICAN CRUISE 11/06/17 A few months prior to our cruise we consulted our Holland American Cruise Consultant, Amy, who kept us up to date on last minute offers and any information that might be helpful to us. Boarding was ... Read More
HOLLAND AMERICAN CRUISE 11/06/17 A few months prior to our cruise we consulted our Holland American Cruise Consultant, Amy, who kept us up to date on last minute offers and any information that might be helpful to us. Boarding was as smooth as I have experienced over many cruises. We had access to our cabin immediately. After reading the many horror stories about the Holland American Line ship Maasdam we kept our reservation with some trepidation. Upon entering our cabin we were pleasantly surprised to find everything spotless and in excellent condition. After our first day on the cruise all was good, No negative issues. Our two cabin Stewarts are great. I used the Wi-Fi in our cabin and it was “cruise ship super slow” as expected. So far so very good! Other reviews will follow. Ten days into the cruise. We have had meals in the dining room, the Camelitto restaurant, the cafeteria style restaurant and room service. The food in all venues was excellent as was the service. We have no complaints about the food selection quality, quantity or service. We have had interaction with many of the staff and all have been professional, helpful and very cheerful. The ship itself is fine, she is a beautiful vessel. We can’t understand the comments that she is ready for the scrap yard. These folks must have been going around with a magnifying glass looking for issues to complain about. The entertainment is fine for a cruise ship; we live in Las Vegas so our idea of live entertainment is skewed to the “over the top” end of the spectrum. Twenty days into the cruise we are still very happy with the ship and crew. The shore stops leave much to be desired but this is not the fault of HAL, the stops after Hawaii – Pago-Pago, Fiji, Vanuatu, New Caledonia are places with some interesting things to do, but primitive. How many native villages do you want to see? Disembarking in Sydney was fast and easy with a very efficient shuttle to the airport. Overall I give this ship five stars. Read Less
2 Helpful Votes
Sail Date: October 2017
The service was excellent, which is more than we can say for the accommodation in a Neptune Suite. HAL want to know what passengers think and appreciate feedback. Well by the time we arrived home the email feedback was out of date! ... Read More
The service was excellent, which is more than we can say for the accommodation in a Neptune Suite. HAL want to know what passengers think and appreciate feedback. Well by the time we arrived home the email feedback was out of date! They obviously think as soon as passengers disembark we all rush home! So we are writing to Seattle giving our feedback. The basin had a hair line fracture, the floor tiles were chipped, the towels were rough most of the 63 days we were on board, the bath had peeling paint. When we complained the maintenance man came and put a sealer on the peeling paintwork! Some of the sheets were torn. This for a Neptune Suite. The noise from above on the sports decks was 63 days of torture. There was a need for relaxation due to surgery and the expense of a Neptune suite we thought we would get relaxation. Sadly the dragging of furniture above us and either side of us stopped that. I have to say the crew were exceptional, from the Cabin stewards to the Chef and everyone in between. This ship needs serious work done to it not just a cosmetic job. The bathrooms need ripping out and replacing and the verandah decks on 10 need insulation asap. Would we return to the Maasdam? probably not. In future when we consider a cruise we will not accept the Travel Agents word for the cabin but check the plan of the ship and the layout of the deck above first. Read Less
3 Helpful Votes
Sail Date: September 2017
I took this cruise because I wanted to see parts of Australia I hadn’t seen previously and this itinerary fit the bill. I thoroughly enjoyed the ports of call and the shore excursions were among the best I’ve ever had. What ... Read More
I took this cruise because I wanted to see parts of Australia I hadn’t seen previously and this itinerary fit the bill. I thoroughly enjoyed the ports of call and the shore excursions were among the best I’ve ever had. What brings down the overall rating of the cruise is the ship itself. The ship has maintenance issues that impacted my cabin in a major way. My cabin is in the back of the ship and it turns out that many cabins in the back of the ship are hot. Thermostats in those staterooms don’t work and in many cases reports of problems with cabin temperature don’t bring relief. The temperature of my cabin did improve after maintenance workers made adjustments. A much bigger problem in my cabin was banging and sawing noise from ongoing maintenance on upper decks. My complaints did not alleviate the problem immediately. It took repeated complaints over three weeks and recording of the noise on my iPad before the noise abated. I talked with other passengers in other parts of the ship with noise complaints. Apparently maintenance noise impacted different regions of the ship at different times throughout the cruise. Food quality was spotty. I was impressed with the quality of breakfast in the dining room and dinner entrees were generally good although the menu tended to be repetitive. The dessert menu at dinner was particularly uninspired with both a fruit plate and a fruit and cheese plate (filler?) on the menu every night. Kudos to the Maasdam on the coffee...it was excellent! Service was very good, as is the standard for HAL. Stateroom attendandts and waiters have been delightful on all HAL cruises I have taken and this ship is no exception. In summary, HAL once again produces a great itinerary with excellent shore excursions. Unfortunately, I was left feeling that I had an enjoyable cruise experience IN SPITE OF THE MAASDAM RATHER THAN BECAUSE OF THE MAASDAM. Read Less
Maasdam Ratings
Category Editor Member
Cabins 4.0 4.2
Dining 3.0 4.1
Entertainment 3.0 3.7
Public Rooms 4.0 4.3
Fitness Recreation 3.0 3.7
Family 3.0 3.7
Shore Excursion 3.0 3.7
Enrichment 4.0 3.6
Service 4.0 4.5
Value For Money 4.0 3.9
Rates 4.0 4.1

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