The exotic itinerary and smaller port destinations made this voyage our choice. Papua New Guinea, 3 stops including the Trobriand Islands and Conflict Islands; Timor Leste, 2 stops on Borneo. Palawan in the Philippines to see the underground river. Starting from Singapore, a favorite city of ours, allowed us to take a few days before leaving to explore the wonderful Gardens by the Bay and delicious multicultural city, on to the night zoo and Jurong Bird Park. We also enjoyed staying on in Brisbane at the end. Outstanding!
What made this cruise truly exceptional (besides our most excellent large cabin) was that it is on the Maasdam which is now an EXC ship. That means in depth destination lectures and shore excursions. Every sea day there were multiple experts giving interesting lectures on South-East Asia, history, culture, ecology, coral reefs and the danger they are in, sea life, photography, local cooking demonstrations. For once there were more enrichment lectures than I could manage to get to, because sometimes you just want some quiet time to enjoy the sea and the ship. Now I can say I know something about this area and it's extraordinarily diverse marine life, and the ancient cultures that still live a natural life. This is really different and I hope Holland America keeps up EXC cruises! I can't wait to go on another one. There were also more traditional fun events like a St. Patrick's day bar crawl with silly games for those who aren't interested in more in-depth destination knowledge. Also the association of BBC with Holland America had BBC specials shown, such as about Birds of Paradise and those who chase after them, behind the scenes specials and more. Plus a live-orchestra showing of BBC Earth. Very special.
It was rather awe-inspiring to see the 5 tribes of Kitava Island sail away at the end of the day in their hand hewn ships after lining up to sell us carvings and other crafts. We also rode in one of their craft from the beach to a small island, Nuratu, where we snorkeled a bit despite a bit of rain. A view of another life that you don't often see. How often do you get to islands with no banks or hotels? Also the Conflict Islands, owned by an Australian and now a center of research on reefs and marine life. Excellent snorkeling there. A real paradise.
The Vista Suite, the lowest balcony cabin category, really is mini-suite like - largest balcony room I've ever had, except for a true mini-suite that was just a little larger. Loved the space. This would be great for an extended cruise. There's a full sized sofa, extra long desk, good bathroom and enough closet space. The deck is also quite large, with room to stretch out for the two of us on loungers. Being on Deck 9 aft made it convenient to go up to the buffet, and down 2 flights to the dining room. I look forward to being in this cabin category again in future.