Maasdam Cruise Review by traelee01
- Sail Date: July 2016
- Destination: Alaska
- Cabin Type: Large Interior Stateroom
I know my review will be fairly long, but hopefully it has some good tips for first timers. We were due to arrive into Seattle at 11 am on the day of embarkation, instead we were delayed until 2 pm due to weather. Booking the HAL transfer seemed like it may have been a little pricey when paying for more than 2 people, but it provided great peace of mind as a new cruiser. We were able to easily find representatives at the baggage carousel and everyone was helpful and professional all the way through the embarkation process. Showing up a little bit later meant that we barely had any line to wait in and we breezed through check in. In the future, I'd prefer to arrive a day or 2 ahead of time so flight delays aren't as big of a worry.
The ship itself was very well maintained. We saw them cleaning windows, etc at every port. The decor could use some overhaul. There were some finishes that seemed worn. But, really, that was cosmetic and the crew really worked tirelessly. The Maasdam has all the necessities and then some to be comfortable. Our major concern was the reputation of HAL being for a much older crowd and we were afraid of formal nights. We worried for no reason. Everyone we encountered was friendly. You saw kids around, but you barely noticed them since they were all well behaved. The older guests were fun and lively. I was a little worried when we heard that our sailing would include a number of square dancers. It turned out that they was a lot of fun to watch and were happy to teach anyone and include them. There was no hesitation to strike up a conversation from the time we trudged to the mandatory drill on the 6th deck during the first hours to the pick up line outside the terminal after disembarkation.
As for worries about gala nights? The boys were fine in a button up shirt and tie. They probably would have been fine in khakis and a polo shirt (their uniform most days) if we didn't have suits. The suit jackets weren't necessary, though most men did wear them. There were even some who got dressed up in tuxes. Otherwise, just going to the lido was a fine, casual alternative.
Our inside cabin was moved at the last minute. I wasn't thrilled that we went from a quad to a triple and to the lowest floor. But, it really worked out fine after my first day freak out. Once we had the beds separated into two, got the suitcases under the beds, and had the chair/table removed our room, it felt so much larger and comfort was no longer an issue. We were in the very middle of the ship and felt little movement nor had issues with noise. I had packed sea bands, ginger candy, ear patches, and an econo bottle of dramamine. None were needed. You can ask for meds at the front desk for free, if necessary. The water was pretty calm the entire 14 days.
The good news? Since we couldn't get a paid upgrade to oceanview (we were offered upgrades but for a 3-4 person room, it was far more difficult than for 2), the free inside cabin upgrade turned out to be a great thing. We had only a small shower. No issues with a too tall tub to hurdle over. Plus, I believe this also gave us more space in the main room, which counts when it's 3 people in there for 2 weeks. The other benefit was that without windows, there was no issues with 20 hours of sunlight. We were just as happy watching the midnight sunset from the crow's nest, the back of the lido, or a number of other spaces around the ship. It rarely felt like any space was over crowded other than peak times at the lido, the 8:00 show (the 10pm was up to 90% less crowded), or if you wanted a lounge chair in the crow's nest occasionally. We had to wait in line for open dining in the main dining room twice, but that was fixed by either dining by 5:30 or after 7:30.
I had very little expectation about the caliber of entertainment we'd see on board, but was very pleasantly surprised. The 4 main singers were incredibly talented, as were the 6 dancers. The guest entertainment was even more impressive. I'm only in my late 30s, but knew almost every song from the 60s to present day and had a lot of fun singing along or laughing at the comedy. Most of the comedy was family friendly. The few jokes that weren't still were relatively tame without feeling forced.
I wasn't impressed by some of the activities like bridge lessons, casino lessons, etc but we were never bored. I really enjoyed Jeanette, the location expert's talks about Alaskan life, wildlife, and the ports.
I attended some of the culinary events (with free champagne), a free whisky tasting, and even checked out some of the shopping events. I only ended up purchasing some duty free liquor, makeup, and a bottle of Marc Jacobs perfume. I didn't find the jewelry to my taste and while the tees/sweatshirts were a decent price, I bought a few for about $5 in ports instead. But, it was easy to forget your jackets, etc and pick them up for under $20 on board or at any stop if needed (mid-July temps ranged from 50 to 80 for highs). I was surprised how affordable souvenir shopping was most places, with the exception of Victoria being a little less impressive IMO.
Service is really where the crew of the Maasdam shined. The Indonesian/Filipino crew was extraordinarily hard working and friendly. Sometimes I wished they would take more breaks. Our room was attended to twice a day by Iwan and Eris.They were responsible for about 30 rooms. I was sure to tip them often.
I found it was really smart to come prepared to do laundry ourselves. You can get quarters at the front desk. Wash is $2, dryer is $1. There is powdered soap for free, but we brought our own soap pods and did laundry every other day. Most people just did wash once or twice on sea days. We avoided the crowds by going late around 9 pm.
I thought I was missing out by only booking two excursions ahead of time. But, I found most people came with their own plan or just intended to walk around in most cities. The high speed ocean raft in Sitka turned out to be the best. We went at noon, as one of the last ones out. The weather wasn't great, but that made it more fun and we were able to see many more things than the earlier groups and got to stay out later with a ride back to the ship afterward. I was scared it would be too rough. We got knocked around a lot but never felt out of control or endangered. We also booked a hovercraft ride to the Taku glacier in Juneau. It was pretty awesome (not for mobility challenged), but only worth the expense if it really calls to you. Otherwise, there are cheaper excursions and we missed out on the Mendenhall glacier and other excursions.
We didn't book ahead of time in Anchorage and found Salmon Berry Tours across from the visitor's center. Our guide was amazing and our group of 10 got such personal attention. The wildlife center had 3 buses of HAL excursion guests, but our guide knew every animal by name and really let us experience more. We saw Dall sheep and moose by the side of the road and were able to stop as needed for restrooms, pics, etc. She also took us up the tram at the Alyeska resort where my kids got to play in some ice and threw snowballs at each other for a few minutes while wearing short sleeves in July.
Now the important part, the food! We never had a chance to get hungry. We tried the main dining room for all meals, but found it was easiest to follow the crowd to the lido for breakfast. It was great to have so much variety. Both sides of the lido had most of the same items, but one also had a dedicated Asian section. I tried the rice 'pudding' one morning with tofu, garlic, etc. It tasted like miso, but wasn't for me. That was the cool thing though, you could try anything without much risk or obligation. There was always a full English breakfast available, quick continental items, or made to order fried eggs/omelets.
Even when the meal hours were over, there was always something available. The Dive In opened at 11:30 most days and served really good burgers (or portabello sandwich or even chicken) with fries. My son loved the Dive In sauce. You could bring anything you wanted back to your room, so burgers were always a good choice if we wanted to sit around and watch a movie. In room dining was pretty good too, but usually had a 30 to 40 minute wait.
The meals in the dining room were mostly good. The vegetarian selection wasn't always great (curries were good but I don't like coconut milk, I didn't like bread-y things like veggie pancakes). Stuffed eggplant, mushroom ravioli, and a lunch roasted veggie wrap were my faves. You could also order as many appetizers/entrees as you wanted, eliminate the chicken/fish from a salad or ask for sides of veggies. Sometimes the food wasn't hot or had been cooked in advance. But, overall, it was elegantly presented and well worth the wait. There was a cold fruit soup every night. Some were like smoothies, but not bad. We just preferred the hot soups or the kids enjoyed seafood plates.
We usually drank water with dinner. Many people ordered wine packages, but most people declined the expense. I prefer beer or mixed drinks but I usually just had drinks during the 4-5 pm or 9-10 pm Happy Hour in the Crow's Nest where all drinks were buy 1 get one for $1 (included non alcoholic mocktails). I often carried them down to the dining room or to the show room. I ordered my boys the $50 soda cards before our trip, which cost $25. Each soda came to $2.01 with tip, so they were about to have 24 or 25. We had a lot of balance left over the last day. Unused gift cards can be refunded, but I wasn't sure how it would work with the soda card since it was discounted.
We really enjoyed our trip. The Maasdam was a great introduction to cruising and we look forward to similar trips. The smaller 1,200 passenger capacity seemed just right. We were able to make some wonderful friends we saw often, yet met new people every day. My boys wouldn't go to club HAL since they were at the upper end of the 7-12 Tween age range, but they had no problems with boredom. They caused no problems and navigated the ship with ease. It was truly the trip of a lifetime. With our new knowledge and experience we will know in the future how to par down our luggage and optimize our fun. Cruise Critic was really the best source of info as a first timer.
A couple other issues--we survived with almost no internet! Yes, 14 days. Amazing. We only turned our phones on in ports. There was pretty much no T-Mobile coverage outside of Seattle, but we found some roaming was included with any of their plans so we were happy. I ran close to my limit on data and was able to add more for $15 (which lasts for up to a week). The roaming on GCI and AT&T worked well when we weren't going to waste time sitting at a library or McDonalds for free wifi. Internet access on the ship was 75 cents/minute or could be bought in packages that weren't worth the price IMO. If you do purchase any be sure to log out or the time will not stop counting against your account. They said if you set up an account you could surf the Holland America website (and maybe a couple others) for free, but I couldn't get it to work. The Explorations cafe area had plenty of books, games, magazines, etc to keep you busy and you could always order movies for free from the front desk if the featured movies on the TV didn't work for you (they played on repeat the day after they were played in the ship's theater--stuff like Jungle Book, My Big Fat Greek Wedding 2, etc).
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The fridge took up the space under the desk. Everything functioned fine once we got used to it. The small shower concerned me at first, but it was much easier than having the tub (in oceanview or higher categories). Having no window was great in Alaska when daylight could last 20 hours.
I believe all rooms are equipped with only one electrical outlet. One plug is a higher 220? volt used for the provided hair dryer. The other plug is a standard 3 prong. We bought an extension cord with 2 outlets and 2 or 3 USB hubs. With the fridge, my laptop, camera battery charger and a portable fan (I enjoyed the air movement and white noise) we found having 3+ outlets would have worked better since we had to constantly unplug/replug items in as needed. Our USB items like tablet/phones got little use since we kept them on airplane mode the majority of the time.
Port & Shore Excursion Reviews
Alaska Wildlife Conservation CenterThe conservation center is a wonderful not for profit area that houses native Alaskan animals and has taken strides to bring back animals from extinction as well as rescue those that were abused or injured.View All 7 Alaska Wildlife Conservation Center Reviews
Mt. AlyeskaWe couldn't decide on an excursion ahead of time for Anchorage and found the Denali flight seeing was sold out, which was very expensive and the normal summer cloud cover would have made it less than ideal. We walked around for a while and eventually came upon Salmon Berry Tours behind the visitor's center/Eagan center (which had big, clean public restrooms). They had 2 tours we weren't too late for and we opted for the $149 tour that took us up the tram at the Alyeska resort (where my kids threw snowballs at each other). We weren't there for very long, but it was a great ride there with a group of 10. Our tour guide was amazing and informative. She told us all kinds of interesting tidbits about living in Anchorage along the way, stopped for some photos, took us for restroom breaks and pointed out animals along the way. After Alyeska we stopped for a great lunch at the Bake Shop in Girdwood. Our guide made sure I had a veggie friendly lunch ready since their bottomless soup had meat in it. The giant buttered rolls and sweet roll rounded out our great stop. Our tour guide even served us and sat with us to chat. The small group really got along well and had a great time. After that we went to the wildlife conservation center. When we arrived there were 3 buses full of people on a ship excursion. They definitely didn't have the time and personalized experience that we did. Our guide knew most of the animals by name and made sure we got all the pics we wanted, even though it meant we would not end the tour in the time originally allotted. She didn't rush us and gave us time to explore after she brought us to each area. We even got another bathroom/snack stop of the way back into Anchorage with a bull moose and Dall sheep sighting. We learned so much and it was great even for non cruise tourists, who were picked up and dropped off at their hotels.View All 2 Mt. Alyeska Reviews
HomerI was really looking forward to going to Homer, as I had heard about it's quirky personality and how it draws Alaskans to it for recreation. Unfortunately, there were very long lines to get onto uncomfortable school buses to get to the spit area, which included a walk through a very smelly seagull covered dock. It was unusually warm and sunny so after a quick walk on the beach we decided to skip the shops and went right back to the ship. Many people seemed to enjoy a trip to the saloon and the halibut fishing was supposed to be amazing.View All 45 Homer Cruise Port Reviews
View Cruise Critic's Homer Cruise Port Review
Icy StraitWe didn't plan anything in this port. They have worked hard to make it cruise ship guest friendly but as there was nothing we could find for breakfast and I forgot my camera's SD card, we just enjoyed a quick walk of the cannery, stared into the water for a while (saw some jellyfish) and walked back to the ship after seeing the shops were pricier than other stops. I'm sure if you booked an excursion or picked one up at the tourist center, it would be a lot more interesting. The zip line looked like it would really be a thrill, but it was more than I wanted to spend for something that flew by in a minuteView All 331 Icy Strait Cruise Port Reviews
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Boat TourThe Taku Glacier hovercraft adventure is fairly new and cost a bit more than other excursions, it was professionally run and a lot of fun. We were picked up and taken on a short van ride through Juneau, then dropped off to meet the catamaran that would take us to the hovercraft meetup spot (we realized afterwards that this was extremely close to the ship for a 5 minute walk back). The ride out on the catamaran took just over 20 minutes and was very picturesque. Binoculars were provided for use while on board. There was a restroom, some drinks, donut holes, and plenty of interesting info. We saw several eagles on the way. We met up with a WWII era boat that served as the launching area for the hovercrafts. We had 6 people from our ship who participated and the small group made it feel more special. I thought the hovercraft itself would be more of a thrill ride, but it was still pretty interesting. Our driver was very informative. The Taku glacier is an advancing glacier and that means the surface was a lot of mud. We had to climb up piles of dirt to get much of a view then dig down a bit to touch any ice. It was a bit more physical than I expected, definitely not for the mobility impaired if you want a true experience. The tide was very low (rises 16 to 18 feet at high tide) but there was water flowing everywhere from the melting ice. There were several interesting stones and you could see petrified trees that the glacier had been pushing along for thousands of years. It wasn't a pristine white and blue sculpture, but impressive nonetheless. Next to it you could see a prettier retreating glacier, I believe Norris glacier to view the contrast. The driver took us to see some beautiful falls on the way back where we saw bear tracks, but no bears. There was smoked salmon on crackers with some kind of kelp relish to eat on the catamaran back. My only regret is that the pilot of the hovercraft left so quickly that I didn't get a chance to thank and give him a tip. This wasn't the most visually stunning or adventurous experience, but it was unique and I'll always remember itView All 24 Boat Tour Reviews
KetchikanWe saved a few bucks by buying tickets to the Lumberjack show on our own. We had about an hour to spend before the show exploring and really enjoyed the shops and scenery of Creek Street. We didn't go into Dolly's House, but it was $10 for adults and free for kids. There are lots of low priced souvenir stops and you can walk off the ship to see most of the downtown sights. The lumberjack show was a little cheesy but very fun for my 10 and 12 year old boys. The jokes were lighthearted and it was fun to cheer for either the American or Canadian lumberjacks as they showed off their skills in a quick series of competitionsView All 1,759 Ketchikan Cruise Port Reviews
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KodiakKodiak wasn't the most exciting stop and we were w a little tired, so walking to churches and the crowded wildlife center weren't the highlights for us. The fact that there was a McDonalds we could walk to put a spring in my kids' step. We lived without wifi or decent coffee for long enough, so it was a nice stop for many of the cruise passengers, albeit not exotic in any way other than the Big Mac was called the Denali Mac and cost $6.50.View All 45 Kodiak Cruise Port Reviews
We chose to walk back to the ship, as did dozens of others. It was a really nice walk, just under 1 mile and fairly flat if you took the right path. It sure beat standing in line for the school bus transportation and was probably faster too. It was also a good way to see some of the places the locals worked and shopped.
The sail away from the island was great. We saw so many great animals in the water from the ship without paying for an excursion.
View Cruise Critic's Kodiak Cruise Port Review
SeattleI always find Seattle and it's quirky residents interesting. The cool weather even in July was a treat (especially as a lifelong FL resident). We had a wonderful time at the Pike's Place market sampling food and watching the fish mongers, crafters, artisans, etc. We followed the walk through the crowd with a relaxing ride on the Ferris Wheel followed by a leisurely lunch of fresh seafood after our earlier fill up with amazing macaroni and cheese at Beecher's. If we cruise to Alaska again, I'd definitely book a few extra days in Seattle to explore the interesting and progressive city.View All 820 Seattle Cruise Port Reviews
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SitkaThis was our best excursion and for the lowest price. It did sell out, so book ahead of time or within the first couple of days on the ship. What a thrill! I was actually really scared, but for no reason. The ride was super bumpy, but I never felt like we were in danger or out of control. It was just a little bit of 'beat up the tourists'. They recommended you use your feet to absorb an impact as you went over the waves, which was good advice if you didn't want a sore behind. First we took a really quick van ride across the street, which wasn't really all that necessary. Then we suited up in this flotation suits that went over your clothes. They had a youth size and most adults wore a size small suit, but I'm sure they had even bigger ones if you're over maybe 250 pounds. Anyway, you really bundled up with them, followed by gloves and a fleece headpiece if you felt like you needed it. It wasn't particularly cold, but the wind made it feel cooler once we got moving. We were able to just wear our glasses, but they had some little goggles if you wanted to borrow them (which they sanitized between uses). Then we waddled across the street to meet the raft, which held up to 6 passengers and the driver (who does 2 to 3 tours in a day). We were on the later tour at noon, which worked out great because we got to stay out longer and see way more than the earlier tours (much of it depends on the tide). We floated up to sea otters, saw the most amazing birds and went into a volcanic cave. We even got to see about 30 puffin on the water. On the way back we slowed down to look for whales when a humpback came up about 10 feet away from us within seconds. It was incredible. It was so much fun. We noticed many of the guests getting off the ride before us were likely in their 70s and had a great time too, so don't be intimidated by it sounding strenuous. They were kind enough to drop us off at the ship afterward so we didn't have to wait for a bus back from downtown. The downtown area was easy to navigate and we were about to buy some souvenirs while waiting for our noon departure for the raft ride. The library was next to where you were dropped off and lots of people were out front using the wifi. There were also many tours available downtown for things like the raptor center that others enjoyed visitingView All 329 Sitka Cruise Port Reviews
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VictoriaI didn't book an excursion ahead of time and thought we may go to Butchart Gardens, but figured we'd pick up a tour when we got off the dock. First we saw the pedicab tours, but they wanted $240 for me and my 2 sons for 2 hours. I felt that was a little steep and didn't want to sit in the direct sun in the afternoon for that long. Next we considered the sightseeing buses, but figured I'd talk to someone independent first. We talked to an older man with a van who said he'd do a 90 minute tour for about half the price of the pedicab. Another couple walked up and agreed to go with us and share the cost. Alan was a surprise. He knew a great deal about the city he lived in and was very proud of it. We were about to see places that buses weren't allowed to go. The weather was perfect. The streets were packed with tourists and we just rode around slowly enjoying it all. The highlight for me was in Beacon Hill park where he handed up a little container and told me to shake it out the window. Peacocks came running out! So he parked and told me to hold them about a foot off the ground and the beautiful birds were eating out of my hand. Literally. The city was just so beautiful and people seemed so relaxed and happy. I would love to return there for a longer time.View All 1,282 Victoria Cruise Port Reviews
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