This trip was our 25th cruise, our fifth on Holland American Lines. We knew from previous experience that this is a wonderful cruise line and were looking forward to a GREAT cruise! We were not disappointed.|
My dear 91 year old Aunt Ruth joined us and our daughter Andréa for this cruise, along with her friend Suzy and also her friends Joy and Bill. We had two adjacent suites on the Navigation Deck, just a few doors down from the Neptune Lounge. This was not a cruise in which the weather gave us much opportunity to use the balcony, but now and then we were able to enjoy it, such as at the sailaway.
The Maasdam is a beautiful ship. It is one of the older of the HAL line, and is beginning to show its age in small things like cracks in the bathroom sink and some worn chrome here and there. But we loved its elegance and beautiful decor, and found the smaller size to have a lot of advantages.
|We had traveled to Montreal the day before, so we got to the ship in plenty of time. The boarding process in the Montreal Ivberville terminal was horrendous! There is a huge cruise terminal, but all the arriving passengers were shoved into a small cold hallway with insufficient seating to await security screening, which was understaffed and inefficient. We arrived at the pier about noon but were not on board the ship for more than an hour later. However, once through that terrible embarkation, everything began to be wonderful!
We sailed away from Montreal in overcast weather, which was to follow us throughout the trip. This is a very busy itinerary with lots of port calls, but there were still plenty of activities on board too. We found the service on this ship to be outstanding, even for the always attentive HAL line. Our cabin steward and dining room team could not do enough for us and catered to our every need. A wonderful introductory dinner followed by the Welcome Aboard show ended our first day on the ship.
The suites were almost exactly like the ones we had on the Zuiderdam last year, a bit roomier and more elegant if that is possible. Here are some suite pictures. They are a very nice place to entertain if you are with a small group such as ours.
One of the privileges of suite passengers is the use of the Neptune Lounge on the Navigation Deck, and the services of the wonderful concierge. Janice from the Phillipines was our concierge and she took great care of us all week! Aunt Ruth liked to go over to the Lounge every morning for her breakfast, and Janice made sure she had her cereal, bananas and brown sugar just as she likes it. The concierge also takes care of all front office functions, such as seeing that your credit card is properly arranged and booking all shore excursions. It is a very nice little perk for the suite passengers. We all loved Janice, and she was always smiling for us! Suite passengers also get complimentary laundry. Since it is often asked, here is a laundry price list.
|Our first port of call was in Quebec. We chose the City Tour on the ship's buses. Aunt Ruth was sporting her new HAL "dam ships" hat that she received as a gift from her Travel Agent (my DW) and got a big kick out of it. It was a terribly windy day, so windy that the bus actually rocked back and forth. But we had a nice tour, seeing the Citidel, the city walls, the new City and ending up in the old city at the Chateau Frontenac, an elegant old hotel. Andréa , Renée and Suzy chose the Walking Tour of Old Quebec, and reported that it was very enjoyable but the wind almost froze them before they got to the Chateau Frontenac for an elegant tea.
Since we were in port all day, the half day tours gave us plenty of opportunity to enjoy this beautiful ship. The Solarium dome was on, and the pool was warm so quite a few people were trying that out, but we opted for the daily quiz in the Library and a Trivia game instead!
|We all enjoyed the Captain and Hotel Manager's brunch for suite passengers up in the Crow's Nest Lounge on the 11th deck. It is a beautiful place and served for many events during the cruise.
As he did throughout the cruise, the Captain made a brief appearance and then went back up to the Bridge to see his ship through the weather. The Captain was very careful of the ship's safety all the time, and made frequent announcements to let us know what precautions he was taking. But we made it to every port on time and, while the Captain was worrying on the Bridge, the passengers were very well taken care of and very little inconvenienced.
|We did miss out on the scenic cruising in Saguenay Fjord due to the high winds, but we enjoyed a great day at sea that day and then dressed up for the first formal night. The elegant decorations of the suite made a good backdrop for a formal picture of the family. Here are our elegant ladies: Aunt Ruth, Andréa, Renée, and Suzy.|
|The dining room was wonderful every night. The food was great and extremely varied, with red meat, seafood, vegetarian and other interesting options every night. The amazing attention to detail showed even in the careful arrangement of the slices of pate on the plates.
Our Indonesian service team, Kris and Norman (well, they told us we wouldn't be able to pronounce their real names) were extremely professional but friendly, and never missed a beat in seeing that we had everything we needed. Since we have a tendency to be extra demanding, ordering extra appetizers, changing around the potatoes or veggies on the menu, and never any two of us ordering the same combination, we gave them a merry time but they were unfailingly pleasant and efficient in taking care of everything we needed.
|Here is the whole group on formal night. Standing are Bill, Renée,Suzy, Joy and yours truly Mike. Seated are Andréa and Aunt Ruth. Those beautiful windows made for great views during dinner, but unfortunately not such a good background for this photo. You can see that we had thoroughly demolished the food before this picture was taken!|
|The weather cleared just enough to produce a beautiful sunset that evening. As far North as we were, the days were already beginning to get long so we had time after dinner to appreciate the sunset. The weather this night was a bit rough and some people missed dinner but everyone in our party was fortunate enough to make it through without trouble the entire cruise.|
|The next morning we got up early to watch the ship sail under the Confederation Bridge, one of the world's longest, into the harbor at Charlottetown, PEI. The name celebrates the fact that the Confederation of Canada was signed on Prince Edward Island. The island was joined to the mainland only by ferries until the bridge opened about 20 years ago.|
|Anne of Green Gables is one of Prince Edward Island's principal claims to fame, as the well known books were set here and the perky red haired heroine Anne Shirley grew up on this island. Sure enough, right there on the pier was the famous girl waiting to meet us!
||We had booked a private van here from Prince Edward Tours because Aunt Ruth is a big fan of Anne of Green Gables and we wanted to tour at our leisure. The driver gave us a great tour and we saw all the sights of the Island.
The Green Gables house has been faithfully preserved and forms the centerpiece of Cavendish National Park. It is very interesting to fans of the Anne books. (If you are not, you can do as I did and rent the video before you come!)
|Touring the house, we saw Marilla's parlor, Anne's room under the gables, the period style kitchen, and Aunt Ruth spotted the notorious bottle of raspberry cordial sitting on a shelf! Do you think that she was as tempted as Anne and Diana were by that beautiful liquid?
||Back on the ship Renée visited the Neptune Lounge for hors d'oeuvres before dinner. This is another of the perks of the suite passengers. The concierge keeps that magical little dome filled up with juices and tasties all the time.
However, I wish the Neptune Lounge offered internet access! That would be a nice perk. The ship offers two alternatives for internet access. The library has basically been made over into an internet cafe, at 75 cents a minute, less if you buy a package. There is also wireless access in the same area and you can use your own laptop. The biggest package is 250 minutes for $100. Sadly we found the connection to be very slow and unstable. At that price it should be better.
|The next morning we arrived in Sydney, Nova Scotia. This is a busy cruise, and I did miss the days at sea. But we took full advantage of the many interesting ports. Aunt Ruth and I donned our Clan Hall tartans for Nova Scotia, and were met on the dock by this beautiful piper. Because none of the ship's excursions did exactly what we wanted we rented a car for this port call.
||A beautiful drive along the scenic Bras D'Or Lakes brought us to the hillside Highland Village. It features reproductions of 10 period houses from the Scottish history of the area, along with an interpretive center and Gaelic language center.
||The "Black House" is a replica of the type of stone shanty with sod roof that many of the Scots left behind when they emigrated to Nova Scotia.
||What better definition of hospitality is there than "A seat by the fire"? In the "Centre Chimney House" we were greeted by a costumed hostess who offered us the hospitality of the home, and also provided demonstrations of carding wool and spinning on the wheel. It was all very interesting and well worth the trip, about an hour's drive from Sydney. We returned along a seaside route and saw more beautiful scenery.