Maasdam Cruise Review by tomc
My review of the cruise, by Tom Carten (tomc)Maasdam, June 11 - 25; Boston, Montreal, BostonBACKGROUND: This was the HAL NE/C "Discovery Cruise," where you discover you are seeing the same ports on the second week that you saw on the first week. Formerly, if you wanted to do this, you would book two b2b 7-day cruises, but now it's marketed as a single 14-day cruise. In the early "Discovery" days, for whatever reason, the two b2b's were more expensive than the single Discovery, even though it was the same ship, same cabin, same itinerary. LUNCH: I arrived at the ship in time to attend the Special Lunch For The Mariners in the MDR. The great unwashed went to the Lido where food was slopped on their plates just like the Beetle Bailey cartoons. Dancing girls waving long silks entertained us while strolling violinists went from table to table. I asked my waiter, "What are the poor people doing?" and he replied, "They are all taking time-share cruises on a re-conditioned barge to some snake-infested island in the Caribbean."WW2 IN THE PACIFIC:As we left Boston, backwards (you think it's hard leaving a parking lot in reverse?) until we reached what they call the "turning basin" at the end of the Black Falcon dock, we encountered a steady rain of what appeared to be Japanese kamikazes headed right for the ship. One of the pax, a veteran, informed me we were at the end of Logan Airport's two runways and not to panic (I was cowering under something on the deck at the time).The weather: Overcast, but we're looking forward to sunny days.BAR HARBOR: The most annoying part of the trip: We continued on to Bar Harbor, where it seemed almost everyone on board thought it was (a) original, (b) funny and (c) worth repeating time after time to say "Bah Hahbah." I don't get seasick, but this was as pukeable as I've ever been. The tendering here was just awful. Without exaggeration, I'd say we waited in line for over a half-hour and maybe longer. It was the worst I've seen. They (whoever "they" might be amongst the door crew) said four tenders were working, but I only saw two. I can see why the loss of life on the Titanic was so large; they used the same procedure as we did. On the way back from town, I did see four tenders and there was no waiting at all.The weather: Overcast, but we're looking forward to sunny days.HALIFAX: Bad tomc; as we were approaching it the night before, I casually asked my tablemates if this was the place where they buried the Titanic survivors. Most of them agreed, but one guy almost spit out his soup. "Oh, you got that?" I asked. "Immediately," he replied, wiping his mouth with a napkin.A little rough from waking up until we entered the harbor. Well, rough for some people (inland), but not for this duck. Barf bags near the elevators.The FRED bus (Free Ride Everywhere Downtown) apparently does not run anymore, or will not be running in the future. There is a city bus, discount for seniors, which stops at the terminal, and goes around in basically the same areas as FRED.Merchants are the terminal are pretty much the same; all friendly and knowledgeable. One spot, which I thought was new, is The Tea Brewery. No Lipton's there; no indeed. They have small tasting cups and I opted to buy "Sugar Shack" tea. I'm not sure exactly how to prepare it, and am waiting for a reply from them as I write this. The sample was very good.As I have taken several shorex in Halifax over the years, I opted just to walk around on my own. There was a fellow there in kilts and I just had to ask the question. He said, "No, I don't wear any, but here's a hint: My name is Jock."The weather: Overcast, but we're looking forward to sunny days.SYDNEY: My favorite spot for buying authentic Cape Breton music from people who know what they are talking about. I'm sure you can get some of this from Amazon, and perhaps cheaper, but there is absolutely no substituting for a local who might know most, if not all, of the artists. If you need any directions or help, check out the local Scotsman, Bruce Meloney. He stands out on three points: He's quite visible on the sidewalk outside his store, is tall, and wears full Scots regalia. No, I don't know if he "does" or "does not."We had to skip our call there on the way back due to high winds; the Captain said it made landing too dangerous.The weather: Overcast, but we're looking forward to sunny days.CHARLOTTETOWN: My idea of the States in 1920, and that's not a slap. It's slow, easy-going and polite. One of the dock security guards recognizes me each trip and I don't know how he does it. I approach the terminal and he shouts out, "You again!" The building, for those who are not aware, used to be a potato storage barn. There is a small stage where locals can perform for a set amount of time, instrument cases open, and quite well. I think next time I will take the Harbor Hippo land/sea ride. The condos, at harborside, are just about done, after several years. I asked the local guide about them; she said it's been a long haul and the city has been upset about that. Only one unit is rented, with two other commercial businesses at the other end.The weather: Overcast, but we're looking forward to sunny days.SAILING THE ST LAWRENCE: Frustrating as [place of eternal fire & brimstone] for some of the more avid "buy everything I can find onshore" people. I thought some of them were going to swim over to Tadoussac as we passed the lighthouse. I'm surprised the ship wasn't selling "St Lawrence River" sweatshirts; maybe I should mention that to them.OTOH: The casino is open and people are throwing money into this huge gaping maw which returneth naught for much. "Maybe this is my night to get lucky," he says. I says, "You couldn't get lucky with a pocketful of hundred dollar bills walking down South Main Street at One in the morning."The weather: Overcast, but we're looking forward to sunny days.QUEBEC CITY: There's not much I can say here; the place has not changed much in the past 400 years. If you've been here, you are familiar with it and I can't add much more. I did visit my family across the river in St-Jean Chrysostome. My brother met me at the dock and, eventually, dumped me at the ferry landing on the other side. It was an unusually warm and sunny day AND we went under the bridge to Montreal.Actually, we went under the bridge and over the bridge at the same time. It's a cantilever bridge and when the suspended span (in the middle) was being put into place during construction, it fell. For whatever reason, the company let it stay and brought in another span. When you pass under the bridge, you are also passing over the bridge. Just a bit of trivia.We made it under and over the bridge and sailed to Montreal. This is one of my favorite parts of the cruise, as the river is smooth, fairly wide, and as we continue along it narrows and people often flash their porch lights at us. At about four hours out, on the port side, the gentleman with the huge loudspeakers pipes up with the Dutch national anthem, followed by the "Star Spangled Banner." Generally, as on this day, the Captain responds with a couple of toots on the whistle. Although the river is fairly wide, the channel is not and ships pass us with barely a belaying pin between us ("Arrrrr, matey, we're lookin' for fair maidens, eh? Been months at sea lootin' and burnin' now it's arrrr turn at the girls.") It's quite a sight if you are in the dining room and suddenly a freighter passes by. It more of a sight if you are undressing in your cabin with the drapes open.MONTREAL: Turn-around day. I never left the dock area, so there is no real review. I did my traditional barking from the Lido deck; I am neither debarking nor embarking -- just barking. The weather was beautiful.QUEBEC, ST LAWRENCE, CHARLOTTETOWN: The weather: Overcast, but we're looking forward to sunny days.SYDNEY: Missed the port call due to sea conditions. They were (a) Wet, (b) Incapable of supporting anyone in the past 2,000 years, (c) Rough. I keep the bridge camera on in my cabin through the night; it makes a gentle night light and it provides soft classical music. When I woke up in the morning and saw we were still at sea, I figured something was up: Sydney had been blown to Kingdom Come or it was too rough to dock. Fortunately for the residents, it was still in one piece, but unfortunately they lost lots of revenue from The Big Boat and its souvenir-hungry "Not the one in Australia" passengers.The weather: Overcast, but we're looking forward to sunny days.BAR HARBOR: Immigration. Several people make a break for it and jump overboard, but the cops are waiting for them in their launches. The pax claim they were just going in for a swim before their deck was called, but the Immies aren't buying it. We get little colored dots on our ship cards to show we made it through the friendly security people. (1939 European movie: "Ah, sir, I see your papers are in order.") Next year I might take that sailboat excursion; it looks fun. It's the craft with the four tall masts and flags on top. You get a discount if it gets becalmed and enough of you go below and row.The weather: Overcast, but we're looking forward to sunny days.BOSTON: Expedited debarkation for this guy and his one gym bag. You fools with your five suitcases can just wait for "Red, number 5, your bus is ready." I'm already at the train station boarding the 8:40 to New York City. And to the lady who said, "It's time to get back home," I say, "You are crazy out of your mind, lady. Make your own bed, prepare your own meals, stop being waited on hand and foot. I'd stay here until they take me out feet first."The weather: Raining like there's no tomorrow.SHIP COMMENTS: As I mentioned in the "Live From" posts, there are elements on the ship that missed being Signatured with Excellence. I'm surprised at that. Perhaps the drydockers ran out of time and plan on finishing the Excellent Signature at a future date. I mentioned (if I have this right) elevator 8, forward, as looking pre-Sig; obviously never touched. It works ok; that's not a problem -- for which I am grateful.As you sit at a window table in the Lido, the outside sill seems to have been scraped but not painted. Someone forgot? Or a rush to get the Grande Dame back into revenue service?Speaking of the Lido, the chairs had what I can only describe as an inlay (not sure of the right word) in the arm rest. Sort of a gold-colored stripe running down the middle. Many of these are partially or totally worn off. It almost seems as if the Sig of Ex is like the place on "A Prairie Home Companion" -- Ralph's Pretty Good Grocery. Yes, the improvement on the Maasdam are very good and well-thought out (except for the bright-bright-bright lights in the jewelry store), but there are several instances which seem to have been missed.I mentioned, in passing, the Great White Way. No, not Broadway and not an exploding Supernova. It was the jewelry store, opposite of which is the piano bar with the excellent Jimmy Maddox, a lively guy who entertains nightly from 9:00 to close. He's great, really works the crowd well. Before he goes on, just a little bit away in the same area is guitarist David Cain, from 5:00 to 9:00. I never saw much of him, due to the timing, and can't comment on his performance.The Ocean Bar has dancing to the music of the Neptunes. If this is the group I'm thinking of, they are quite good and I recommend them.The Explorer's Lounge has the Adagio Strings, this group from the Ukraine. They perform with an orchestra over there and do three gigs per night here: one classical, one mixed and one popular (adult popular). For people who do not know the music, they do very well. By "do not know the music," I mean the works of Leroy Anderson, some ragtime and my favorite piece, the "Java Jive": "I love coffee, I love tea, I love the java jive and it loves me. Waiter, waiter, percolator." Of course, they don't sing the lyrics. The Crow's Nest seemed (seemed) not to be that active. At least, when I happened by.The main showroom acts were just great, a wonderful improvement from the "oh, that's nice" shows HAL was known for. Naturally, it's not the style of the Broadway-type stuff you see on some of the other ships (at least in their commercials), but it's quite good.
tomc’s Full Rating Summary
125 inside Verandah. Cabin was quite good and I have no complaints at all. I could not think of any if you held a gun to my head. Although I was booked as a "single-share" (willing to room with whoever they tossed in there with me), it still would have been roomy enough for the two of us. As luck would have it, I had the cabin to myself.
Inside Cabins, Balcony Cabins, Suite Cabins
The laundry I sent out was returned quicker than advertised. I don't watch tv onboard, but I do want to mention the bow camera: I leave it on at night for the soft glow which serves as an unobtrusive night light and slowly comes to life as the sun rises. For someone with an inside, I can see what the weather is like and also if we are docked. I leave the sound up just a bit, my favorite classical music, through the night.
The cabin stewards were possibly the best I have experienced since starting to cruise in maybe 1984. I let all their superiors know this, as well as "Andrew Jackson" additionally at the end.
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