Maasdam compared with Crown Princess: Maasdam Cruise Review by cbhimself

Maasdam 5
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Maasdam compared with Crown Princess

Sail Date: January 2012
Destination: Eastern Caribbean
Embarkation: Fort Lauderdale (Port Everglades)
We flew into Lauderdale a day early on January 1, 2012, and stayed at the Roadway on State Road 84, as usual. This year the motel was more hectic and expensive than other years, and the service (free airport and port shuttles) not as good. We need to find a better place. Our boarding of the Maasdam on Jan. 2 was delayed until mid-afternoon while they cleaned the ship after an outbreak of norovirus. After this 11-day cruise, we transferred to the Crown Princes for a two week back to back, and I'll make some comparisons. Our HAL stateroom, C325, was a good location, near stairs and atrium, but quiet. It had no minifridge, though we were able to rent one at $2 per day. We were wait listed for early seating and had problems getting seats assigned. This was my 51st cruise (life time total), with over 100 days on HAL ships, but their perks (compared with Princess cruises) are negligible. HAL offers discounts on merchandise and services (jewelry, clothing, spa, cover charges) or extras More (lunches and snacks) we do not need. Princess offers preferred boarding and significant free internet time (based on 50 days) not available on HAL.
This smaller ship (1200 passengers) was easier to find our way around, and we almost never had to wait in lines (except for boarding), though the older clientele means more walkers, canes, and scooters. This is an observation, not a complaint (I'm getting there myself, age 84). Dining room staff and cabin stewards were excellent. The Maasdam, built in 1993, has had more than average problems with infections, which involve various restrictions and constant cleaning. Understandable and necessary, but annoying. We found the food very good, though we had the usual problem with getting small. They insist on large servings, leading to the waste of food and adding to our waists and the epidemic of obesity.
HAL gets a plus for a large, excellent library, with open shelves, a real librarian available most days 10 a.m. to 10 p.m. and magazines. The Princess library is small, with shelves often locked, and a crew member there part time. HAL also has a selection of over 1000 DVDs with a player in every room. It publishes a daily NY Times summary, in various languages, of news of the world, and has both CNN and Fox news channels. Princess has no DVD's and a repetitive CNN.
The HAL evening entertainment included some of the usual too loud Broadway type of song and dance, but also a variety: a wild odd juggler named Barnaby, a crew show, a non-raunchy family comedian, other odd acts, and the incomparable Adagio string quartet. A bonus on this cruise was the presence of over four hundred musicians and dancers celebrating an annual Jazz at Sea convention. Every day from 10 a.m. to 10 p.m. there was wonderful New Orleans jazz, with some talented dancing. We could hear the "Saints go marching in," and this was a saintly cruise: St. Croix, St. Kitts, St. Vincent, St. Lucia, St. Maarten, plus Barbados.
We usually find our own activities in the ports. The maps provided by HAL focus on the fancy expensive stores found almost everywhere, the International Diamonds, Emeralds, Tanzanite, and such (employing cheap local labor and exporting profits). These maps are not much help in finding interesting local places. The decor here is OK, but inferior to that of the newer HAL ships.
The disembarkation (we travel with carry-on only, and can do an early walk-off) was fast and easy. The next day, Jan. 13, we boarded the Crown Princess for a two-week back to back sailing, described in a separate review. All things considered, I probably prefer HAL, though I rate both lines above most of the others in that price level, and especially appreciate the perks of Princess. Less

Published 02/27/12

Cabin review: EEC325 Large Ocean-View Stateroom

Adequate, but lacked mini fridge. Rented one for $2 per day. Good location, near atrium, elevators, stairs, but not noisy. Window looked out on promenade. OK during day, since we could look out but walkers could not see in. At night, with our lights on, it was possible to see in, so we had to be careful to keep curtains closed. Comfortable and adequate, but nothing special.

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Port and Shore Excursions

Jan. 8 Sun. Bridgetown, Barbados. City almost completely locked up, except for churches, taxis, and one bookie. HAL didn't tell us that. After much inquiry, we found a local $1bus to a beach at Payne's Bay with good swimming, so-so snorkeling. A local boat went out to feed turtles and fish. I swam out, too late to see either. Then bus back through deserted town to ship.
Read 1223 Barbados Reviews

Jan. 5 Thu. Our first port is Frederiksted, St. Croix. Drive on the left. English speaking. Had been a colony of England and Denmark before it was purchased by the USA. Spanish required in school. Walked to a nice beach near port. I forgot to take my snorkel, but had good swim. Strong winds had stirred up a lot of sand, so could not have seen much anyway. Local Spanish teacher from Puerto Rico just stopped and offered us a ride back to the ship. for which we were grateful. Many locals, however, are brusque and not helpful or friendly; too many tourists. Port was avoided by cruise ships for some years because of crime; still not safe at night but OK during day.

Jan. 6 Fri. Basseterre, St. Kitts. Very touristy. We took one for an hour ride to the end of the island. Beautiful mountain scenery, but nothing much to see or do in Dieppe bay at the end of the island. Then took a water taxi $10 each way to a place w/poor snorkeling, but had a good swim on a rough beach.
Read 1319 St. Kitts Reviews

9 Mon. Castries, St. Lucia. This was the birth place of Derek Walcott, the person called the "greatest of the Caribbean poets" by the Norton Anthology. I had taught him in my "Poetry, Black and White" course. We visited the Walcott Library on Walcott Square. He was born here, lived on Jamaica and other islands, then NYC, and eventually became a college prof, I believe at Harvard. He writes of his African heritage, the beauty and mixed life on the islands, with quite a bit about the anger and hurt of a black man in a white world who identifies also with the English language. Later spent $7 for a water taxi to a nearby beach for a good swim but, as usual here, so-so snorkeling. Someone told me they had unusually warm ocean water in the summer of 2005 that spoiled a lot of the coral reefs.
Read 1134 St. Lucia Reviews

Jan. 10 Tue. Phillipsburg, St. Maarten (Dutch; the other half French St. Martin). I had been here before and knew where I wanted to go, so we broke down and rented a car. Quoted price was $40 for a day, but by the time they added in taxes and insurance ("you wouldn't want to risk having to pay for damage someone else did, so better get the extra complete coverage"), it came to $85. Drove narrow hilly roads to the French side. But the wide open easily accessible beaches of twenty years ago are now surrounded and enclosed by fancy hotels. Technically, the beach itself is free, but there is pressure to rent a chair ($15) and buy a drink ($5), esp. if you wish to use the toilet. So it was with Oyster Pond and the Baie Orientale which I had remembered. The latter has a Nude Beach; we got a picture of the sign. Then took a short boat road to the Ilet Pinel, a little island with, supposedly, the best snorkeling. "See Isabel," people said when I asked. So I set off, barefoot, snorkel in hand, to find her little hut, though the beach led to a pebbly path with shards of glass. Isabel told me to snorkel to a little boat, a good swim out. There I found long "No Trespassing" cables along what looked like a good rocky snorkeling area. Yes, she said, to give the reefs time to recover after the hot summer. She could guide me to a good place, for a fee, but my money was way back that pebbly path, and she would not disclose her "business" secrets. Back the pebbly path to a beach where I saw other snorkelers and more fish than anywhere so far, but not really good. A typical misadventure.

Jan. 7 Sat. Kingston, St. Vincent. Joined another couple and talked with the first taxi driver who suggested a trip to the botanical garden plus a Pirates of the Caribbean film site, $30 per person for an hour garden tour (interesting place) and another wild hour ride up and down and around bends, high speed, to a decrepit movie set w/not much to see, and then an hour back. Not fun. At $120, we got taken for a ride in more than one sense.

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