We chose this cruise because of the itinerary, particularly Sri Lanka. We had a wonderful time. The Maasdam is a beautiful, elegant ship. My husband and I like the size, even though the ship doesn't offer all of the variety of a larger one. We stayed in a Neptune suite, which was very nice with exceptional cabin stewards. We did develop a periodic leak close to the door. The staff was very concerned, but never could seem to solve the problem. Eunice in the Neptune Lounge was excellent. As always, the food on the cruise was very good; my husband and I could always fine a delicious choice. We chose the later fixed seating as always, in part because we enjoy going to a bar before dinner to listen to music but also because we enjoy getting to know the dining room and wine stewards. Speaking of music, we mainly went to the Ocean Bar where the ship had an excellent band from South America that performed a wide range of music. Otherwise for entertainment, we didn't mind the shift from entertainers to informative lectures. We did attend a few of the 10 o'clock performances in the showroom, but mainly we caught many of the historical/scientific/cultural presentations as part of the EXC program. They were very interesting and helped us better appreciate the cultures and environment of the stops along the cruise. The gym had a great variety (and good numbers) of equipment and programs, and the spa is always wonderful!
We only went on three shore excursion from the ship, but they were great. We typically find our own local guides, but since several of the sites we wanted to see were some distance from the ship, I elected to stick to the safe side and go with the ship. The excursion to see elephants in the national park was exceptional. We saw scores of elephants, water buffalo, crocodiles, birds in the wild. The lunch spots were excellent too. On two of the excursions we stopped at gorgeous resorts with 5 star buffets for lunch. I do think that the information about the ports that is posted on the website could be improved. In many of the ports, there was nothing to see or do immediately off the ship; it would be disappointing if you planned to get off the ship and just walk around. There were stops at industrial ports, where it was a bit of a trick to even find the street with all of the taxis. These were minor problems for experienced travelers, but it would be nice to be forewarned.
Overall the service, the food, the ship, and the activities were terrific. We are already looking at our next cruise on HAL.
Singapore is a fabulous city. It's impossible to write a review in a short space, except to say the outdoor sites such as Gardens By the Bay and Night Safari, the shopping (everywhere!) and phenomenal food (also everywhere) will keep you entertained. Buy a good guidebook and plan your time wisely.
We planned to do Malacca by ourselves, and it was a bit of a disappointment. If I had it to do over again, we would have hired one of the tuk tuk drivers to take us on a tour. They are very plentiful right off the ship, and they will take you to the historic section as well as other parts of the city. There are interesting places to explore. You just need to be prepared to know what you are seeing and to know where you want to go.
We arranged a private tour with a Tours By Local guide. Poh was excellent. We elected to do the historical tour, and she was very organized, enthusiastic, and knowledgeable. There are some very interesting places to see in Georgetown. The Clan houses, the Peranakan museum, the temples, and the clan jetties were very memorable. Over several trips we have found that Tours By Local guides are great for private tours, and in most cases they are pretty reasonable in price.
We took the ship excursion which was a speedboat ride to Phi Phi and Bamboo islands for swimming and snorkeling. This was an enjoyable excursion; the islands are very beautiful and it was fun to jump in the water to swim or snorkel. The boat was very, very nice--truly a speedboat. My only complaint was that the boat ride took a considerable time. I realize that this is the only way to get to the beautiful spots, but it would have been nice to know ahead of time that you were going to be riding in a boat for 1 1/2-2 hours before you arrived at your spot. Lunch was good. The stop on Bamboo island included a stop at a beautiful beach.
We booked a private tour with Blue Lanka tours and spent several hours touring the city. Although larger than other stops, Colombo is not as interesting a city. Of course we went to temples(!). Our first stop was at the Red Mosque, a magnificent building where we clearly were not welcome. The Gangararma Temple is fascinating, beautiful, but be forewarned. There are multiple buildings, and if you're not careful you will find yourself touring every building that stores the countless gifts given to the temple, including machine guns and rocket shells. In driving around Colombo you will be limited in what you can see, in that most of the larger, older houses and buildings are behind walls. All in all, I would say that your Colombo stop might be better enjoyed if you go out of the city or have a very targeted location or theme (shopping, food, culture).