We had heard that the Maasdam was an older ship and this had its pros and cons. We really appreciated the smaller size which is getting harder to find nowadays, although admittedly it does not have the glitz that many cruisers want. For us, between 50-65 years old, it was just fine. Our main concern was the itinerary and going round trip from Montreal. Most of the larger ships cannot go further than Quebec down the St. Lawrence.
We boarded about 1 pm and I was surprised at how few people were there. No crush and we were on the ship very promptly. We immediately went to the main dining room for lunch, even though the staff won't tell you it is open.
One of the older, and smaller ships, the Maasdam still was serviceable and we never noticed anything that was dirty. We had trouble flushing the toilet one day but that was fixed before we got back to our room. The staff everywhere were very friendly and always had a "Good Morning". And there were plenty of staff on hand whenever needed.
Glad to see the Maasdam and HAL were respectful of the endangered whales and slowed the ship to 10 knots through those restricted areas. This made for excellent whale and dolphin viewing and was so restful it was one of our favourite parts of the cruise. It meant leaving one or two ports a hour earlier, but was well worth it.
The shops onboard were pitiful, as was the selection of things to buy. Unless one was looking for diamonds, I guess. I was looking for great HAL t-shirts to remind me of this cruise but the ones they had were only for the ship, not our itinerary. They did have some "local" t-shirt options on one of the blowout sales events but all the t-shirts were size S or M. I don't think anyone on our cruise would have fit those, especially if they were eating the food provided. We had OBC to spend and didn't want drinks so it made it difficult.
We mostly ate in the main dining room. We were on a waitlist for, and managed to get, early traditional dining upon boarding. The wait staff were great and the food, on the whole, was very good. We did not go to specialty dining options: Canaletto's (the Italian speciality restaurant) was a joke. To me, food and atmosphere are the most important in speciality dining. Canaletto's is a segregated section inside the Lido cafeteria. Other than the $15 charge you would think you were still eating in with the noisy masses. You could be at a table and just over the railing behind you could be the Lido. It really should be its own room. We went to 3 of our 4 Gala/Formal nights but really didn't dress up too fancy; A few people do but I didn't find the norm.
Breakfast we had in the Lido (loved the mini croissants) and one or two lunches. Really liked the omelette and pasta bars where they made-to-order. For the first time we had burgers and fries out by the pool. The vegetarian Portobello mushroom burger was to die for! And, their fries were probably the best I've ever had. We returned to the ship for lunch a few times on port days just to indulge in these. Interestingly, I talked to a couple of people eating in the Lido cafeteria who weren't award that they were allowed to go to the main dining room for free. And, they thought they had to dress fancy every night.
Not only did we find it hard to get a decent seat in the show theatre, unless one got there an hour before, but there always seemed to be heads in front of us making it difficult to see. I don't think the showroom is laid out all that well. The entertainment in the main theatre was hit and miss. There didn't seem to be as many shows as I've seen on other cruise lines, and I would give what they did have about a 6/10.
We listened occasionally to very good music in the three bars.
We did enjoy the Microsoft sponsored classes they had on board. Since we couldn't dock in Sydney on our way down due to high winds, we had an extra sea day. These classes were informative and helpful.
We purchased the 7 day option for the hot stone benches and thermal pool. While they were nice I don't think it's worth the money. $249 per couple. Most days after we returned from a port intensive day and had a filling dinner, we were too tired to make the effort to go. While the thermal pool was interesting, I would have preferred a Jacuzzi for the sore muscles after busy excursions.
One beef we had was that many of the interesting activity options were scheduled right at the time of the early dining seating. We missed a number of things we would have liked to go to because they were scheduled at dinner time and not repeated.
We mostly did HAL shore excursions and liked all the ones we did, though most were overviews of the areas. As Canadians from provinces other than Quebec, we were a little bummed out when our tour guide in Quebec for the UNESCO sites tour, thought she had a busload of Americans and proceeded to complain that French Canadians were still considered second class citizens. Not true. Talk about a huge chip on her shoulder! Otherwise, she was very knowledgeable.
In Charlottetown we had a wonderful walking tour guide who dropped us off at the play "Anne & Gilbert" which was fantastic - and then guided us back to the ship with more history. Loved Bar Harbor, Maine and Acadian National Park. In Boston we did a local (non-ship) Hop-On-Hop-Off Bus that stops about a block from the cruise terminal.
Most ports had Wi-Fi areas right at the pier, along with shops, which was very convenient for both passengers and crew. Also, pretty well all of the ports and cities we visited were very clean. Oh, and we used the self serve laundry on board. Very easy and something I especially like about HAL.
We found the idea of doing the 14 day cruise very convenient. There was the chance to see each port twice and do different things each time. But, we sure were tired after 14 days of mostly hot weather and glad to be heading home.
Upon returning to Montreal, disembarkation was handled smoothly and we left our suitcases at the port. We'd been told there was a charge for this but we found there was no cost. We walked along the waterfront and visited the excellent museum across the street from the pier and then (later) headed to our evening flight.
We choose an interior cabin on deck 5 midship and were very pleased with it. It was much quieter at night, and darker which made sleeping easy. No sense of claustrophobia whatsoever. We had two twin beds and a couch as well as closets and a convenient shower/bathroom. Been on deck five we were close to the main exit for port days. It was unfortunate however that there was not an elevator midship.
This was a good overview of Quebec which did not involve much walking. It included the Plains of Abraham and a bit of the city. The tour guide was knowledgeable about the history but thinking she had all Americans onboard, when really there were Canadians from other provinces, overstressed her opinion that French Canadians were still considered second class citizens. Left a sour taste.View All undefined undefined Reviews
Had a wonderful tour guide who guided us on foot through the streets of Charlottetown and provided history on our way to the play Anne & Gilbert (a continuation of the end of Green Gables story). The play was great!View All undefined undefined Reviews
I drive through the beautiful countryside to Baddeck to the Alexander Graham Bell museum. We had a long visit at the museum and it was fascinating ( The homemade cookies at their snack bar were great ). Only had about 20 minutes in the town which really wasn't long enough to see anything.View All 27 The Bell Museum Reviews
This bus tour included visits to Peggy's Cove, Lunenburg, and Mahone Bay. It really was a lot to cram into one day I gave an excellent overview. Just enough time at Peggy's Cove but really only a short visit to Lunenburg and less than 15 minutes in Mahone Bay. Just made us want to return to Nova Scotia.View All undefined undefined Reviews
We did the Internet tour of Acadia National Park which was in a smaller minivan of only 14 people. I would definitely suggest this as some of the areas are a little tricky to drive through. It was just the right length and the scenery was beautiful. The tour guide was very good and gave suggestions for things to do in town as well.View All 236 Acadia National Park Reviews
This trip was good although we did not see any whales. We saw plenty of dolphins frolicking and that was quite a thrill. Personally I found the trip a little too long.View All 12 Whale Watching Cruise Reviews
We chose to purchase the old town trolly hop on hop off bus tour directly from their website. The bus stops about a block from the crew ship terminal and then connects with the main route. You might want to notify them of the day of your arrival just to guarantee that the trolly is stopping there that day. we found this an excellent way to give Boston with limited time as we were returning on the ship that day. We stayed on the bus for the full tour ( about two hours I think) and then did the included harbour tour. Could have done without the harbour portion.View All 40 Old Town Trolley Tour Reviews