My CC review has been published.
Here it is. More will follow. Please ask questions if there is any information you think I can help you with. I have edited this version to qualify or explain things a little better, also obvious grammar and spelling mistakes I may have missed.
My cruising backgound since 2012. Celebrity 6, HAL 4, RCI 3, Carnival 1, Princess 1, MSC 1.
I titled this review "A New Winner" because HAL is my new favourite cruise line, previously it was Celebrity. It was a close call and up until now HAL was my 2nd favourite. So why the new winner?
I have found, in the past, the two lines to be comparable, the defining point was the food on this cruise - I could not fault it. And to a lesser extent, entertainment. Anyway, here's how my 5th NZ cruise went.
Why 5 NZ cruises? This one was because my travelling companion had not previously cruised NZ. She had preciously visited the south island but not the north. We organised a 7 day, pre-cruise tour, of the north island by rental car and staying at pre-booked motels.
The itinerary for this cruise was fairly standard NZ except for the inclusion of Oban on Stewart Island off the southern point of the south island. As it turned out, weather prevented anyone going ashore.
We boarded in Auckland at about 1pm after doing a morning Segway tour of Devonport. We breezed through boarding procedure, no delays or hassles. Our cabin was ready so we dumped our carry-on stuff and went to meet up with a couple who had joined us for the cruise.
My initial impression of Maasdam was that it was, obviously, an older ship but in excellent condition. It has been very well maintained and no excessive wear and tear evident. Decor was tasteful but a little dated, no problems there the same for our cabin. More on that below. You will find rust without looking too hard.
We, my companion and two friends, chose anytime dining, which turned out to be about 7.30 each night. Later than I prefer but suited us better as earlier dining clashed with happy hour and trivia. We tried the main dining room breakfast one day only but preferred the Lido. Lunch was always in Lido. The Lido was great, plenty to choose from with a different roast each day and plenty of variety of other foods and desserts, including ice cream. There was plenty of fresh fruit daily, apples, oranges, bananas, plums, peaches, cherries and strawberries! There was also a lido special seafood lunch with king prawns, lobster, small crayfish, mussels etc. There was plenty to go around. We only had one dinner in the Lido and were quite happy with that too but the offerings in the MDR were so good. We never had a problem finding somewhere for the four of us to eat in the Lido. It was often very busy but seating was not a problem. Another plus, for some, is that most of the food was served to you. Less chance of guests needlessly handling stuff. No problems or delays ordering drinks, staff were quick to offer tea, coffee etc.
MDR. This was the deal breaker. Maasdam was truely excellent in service, quality and variety. Up until now Celebrity (IMHO) pipped HAL by offering a little more variety. Celebrity have, of late, cut back an variety to the same level as HAL so it came down to the food itself. I can say, for the first time, I did not have one dish I could not say I was unhappy with. There was usually more than one dish in each course I would have liked. All dished I ordered were done pretty much to perfection. Presentation, quality ingredients, serving temperature were all great. A couple of the steaks served up to us were a touch overdone to what was ordered but not enough to spoil their enjoyment. Serving of courses was not rushed nor dragged out. The seemed to come out when we were ready. Only one of our group returned a meal in the 12 days and that was only because it was not what she thought it was, nothing to do with the cooking.
We had an excellent meal in Sel de Mer. No complaints there.
Entertainment. If anyone has read previous Maasdam reviews they will already know that there are no production shows. And we didn't miss them. There were entertainers and the ones were saw (we didn't see them all) were all good to great. A professional dance couple (G), impressionist (VG) and a special mention for singer/guitarist Patrick McMahon who I have seen on two previous cruises and he never fails to impress with his energetic (understatement) and very entertaining performing. Renditions of Neil Diamond, Johnny Horton, Willie Nelson, songs, among others. I think "Copperhead Road, has become his signature song.
My days were filled in with (excellent) Microsoft workshops, I have done these on previous cruises and always learn something new, trivia (usually two a day in the Crows Nest which seemed to coincide with Happy Hour - buy one drink and get another the same for an extra $2. There was a slight American bias in the questions but there were also New Zealand and Australian ones thrown in as well. We did reasonably well. Spent time playing 500 too. We didn't have a deck of cards with us but on enquiring at guest services if we could by some, we were given a deck. Cool.
Weather. Blessed, as they say, with good weather almost every day. Goldilocks weather, not too hot, not too cold, just right. Had a little rockin' and rollin' between Oban and Fiordland with a few bumps in the night but it lulled us off to sleep. Only moderate swell across the Tasman and Bass Strait. We were able to enter Fiordland and had great weather with a little wind. My fourth time here and it never fails to impress.
Tours. We didn't do any ship tours. We did one pre booked, one booked on arrival in port and another self guided. I also spent a little time geocaching in port.
Disembarking. Due to the Coronavirus the NSW government required that we do a self assessment and complete a form to describe any respiratory issues. It struck us as odd that this was done in Sydney but we could wander around Eden the day before without it.
We had a total immigration check, guests and crew, before getting off in Hobart. This all went very smoothly causing little delay, unlike US immigration last November in Puerto Rico that was a debacle going overtime by two hours or more and ending in fist fights among people wanting to reboard.
Other stuff. Well stocked games room and library. A room for bridge players. Comfy bars that never seemed too crowded. Two promenade decks. Deck tennis and ping pong available. Plenty of loungers around main pool and no lounger hogging. Cruise Director was great as was the Captain who was visible around the ship at times. Friendly crew, always a smile and hello in passing. There's probably other stuff I've forgotten but nothing of any consequence.