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Maasdam's new EXC-InDepth cruise program - at sea


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Maasdam's Kontiki Voyager cruise left Sept 10, 2018 and started the new " EXC In Depth" cruise program offering more of local immersion, enrichment cruise experience to lesser visited ports. We think it has been a great success so far, and the options will be further refined as they get more passenger feedback as well as suggestions from the panels of enrichment speakers.

 

We started in Fort Lauderdale, through the Panama Canal, up to Costa Rica and down to Ecuador and Peru. We now start the four day at-sea run to Easter Island. As our Easter Island specialist said last night he particularly likes experiencing the four days at sea it takes to get to Easter Islands from Peru since it highlights how remote these islands actually are. It only takes 5 hours to fly from Peru which he thinks makes people think they are a lot closer to land than they actually are.

 

EXC-InDepth enrichment offerings are provided onboard in the following interest areas, in the form of show room lectures, small seminars, informal travel story chats and various culinary and craft demonstrations.

1. Science and Nature

2. History and Perspective

3. Food, Wine and Spirits

4. Photography

5. Arts and Culture

6 Active Exploration

 

Friday - Sept 28, 2018 offerings - pick and choose - any or all or none - each is color-coded in the daily program as to the above interest areas.

 

9am: Port Perspectives - Peru - speakers panel share their insights about ports we just visited

10am: Port tour presentation - regular EXC staff presentation

10:30am; Bird Club meets with onboard expert

11am: History of Polynesian Foods - Guest Chef - historic and gastronomic overview

1pm: Tahitian Dance Class - Polynesian Cultural Ambassadors

2:30pm: Easter Island Maoi talk- Rocking or Rolling?

3:30pm: Sea Birds of Polynesia = Pacific Ocean migrations

7:15pm: Small Things-Big Impacts -Mosquitos and Disease in the Pacific Islands

9pm: sharing personal travel stories from the presenters

 

There are still the more traditional onboard offerings today as well - movies, digital workshops, trivia, pub crawls, drinks classes, bridge, kitchen tour, sip and savor, religious services, casino specials, happy hours, gemstone talks, fitness classes, Friends of Bill, Tea at Three, EXC desk hours. There will also be an evening ensemble show in the ShowRoom - based on Frankie Valli and the Four Seasons

 

No use of Zodiacs on this initial cruise but they have been installed. Once the ship leaves French Polynesia, they will be offering these for excursion options - no specific details known at this time.

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How exciting it must be on this cruise. I am booked on the Auckland to San Diego Maasdam sailing in 2020 and am hoping they will continue the program. They haven't committed to continuing it beyond this season yet. Please keep posting your experiences.

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Thanks so much for the information - everything sounds wonderful! We'll be on the Alaskan trip at the end of May 2019, for 21 days, and are looking forward to more in-depth information. We've been to Alaska 4 times already, but hope that we can learn more about the land, people, wildlife and food on this exciting adventure!

 

Laura

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First port - Santa Marta, Columbia - not a typical cruise stop at all, not a lot of prior information to be found and only a few tour options from the ship. Two options would be rugged hiking in their rain forest preserve or a city bus tour that did not get such great prior reviews when visited on past non-InDepth port stops. But it was also a very easy port to do on your own, so that was our choice.

 

We ended up very charmed by this historic, Spanish colonial port - over all observation was it was like Antigua, Guatamala or Cartegena, Columbia but with one huge difference - this was a living city; not a tourist destination. Hurrah, Maasdam InDepth for giving us a real city to visit, yet with much of the historic charm of the more frequent port stops. It was very walkable, had interesting crafts, an excellent gold museum, lovely plazas, trees, balconied colonial buildings, along with lively everyday modern life.

 

A typical local surprise we found in our city wanderings - a chain of Juan Valdez coffee cafes - Juan Valdez was the original stock character marketing for Columbian coffee in the US at one time. We assumed this would be hokey and commercial, but in fact this is where all the young Columbians hung out and it had fantastic coffee - the one we chose to visit had a open air patio under huge spreading trees - a total oasis in this hot city where families and "young professionals" enjoyed their own national drink.

 

Modern and traditional life all coming together for the residents; not just for foreign tourists. The city is destination for Columbian tourists so there is an infrastructure, but it just felt so different from other more typical cruise port stops.

 

This same more local experience was repeated in both Golfito and Quepos, Costa Rica. San Blas Islands are touristed more frequently but by much smaller ships than the Maasdam, but the setting is so unique it was a chance to see how both modern life and older traditions are being locally protected and encouraged.

 

So this constant travel dilemma - enjoying a place because it has not yet been over-touristed but recognizing one is being a tourist themselves, and a day tripper tourist at that. Just glad the Maasdam is offering these new itineraries and lucky to be on the very first one - will they change the places after a few more visits or will other new destinations be sought out or will the infrequency of the small cruise ship encounter not change life too much after all. Will we be the creator and preserver of local culture or ultimately the destroyer of what we demand to keep them in a sterile time capsule?

 

We certainly were welcomed and even before we arrived they were building local tour infrastructure because they look to their own economic development too. Which we found yesterday in San Martin Peru - a new port facility being built and a very nice new airport that serviced the Nazca Lines flyovers. Yet also surrounded by a protected the Paracas Nature Preserve.

 

Golfito, Costa Rica welcomed us with a flotilla of local boats and a floating band and sent us off with some fireworks set off on both sides of the narrow channel. The former headquarters of the long departed United Fruit Company is seeking ways to now keep their declining economy going while protected their ancient growth rain forests too. There we silently kayaked around the lush mangrove forests and enjoyed a stop for fresh local pineapple and coconut. Kept it natural, even if the fireworks probably scared the monkeys for a while too.

 

It has been a dazzling feast so far. We got so immersed in Central and South American history up to this point, we are glad we now have this four sea day interlude to ease into the entirely different Polynesian triangle culture.

 

Thor Hyerdahl was not correct after all even though he proved his Kontiki could sail this direction - there was in fact now determined by genetic studies there was no primary westward migration across Polynesia after all - Taiwan is now speculated to be the original source. Later contact and trading still went on even in these remotely situated islands as food and other items show multiple cross-cultural origins over time.

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Hear is an example of the zodiac excursions offered on the Papeete to Auckland cruise. This is 2 hours long and costs $US149. Aged 12 and above.

 

EXC In-Depth offers innovative, expert-led, themed adventures. You are invited to dig deep into one or more theme on each tour -- nature and science, arts and culture, food and wine, history and perspective, or photography and active exploration.

The Explorations team takes you by Zodiac for a cruise along the convoluted coastline of the Vava'u island group. In the shadow of green hillsides, you'll pass tiny villages and wild forests, and make your way to a small island with a picturesque beach. Here you can relax, swim and enjoy this quiet corner of serene Polynesia.

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OlsSalt; thanks for taking the time and effort to do this and giving us a look into HAL's first "semi-expedition ship" ;) Any knowledge how the eight zodiacs are stored on the bow? In racks? Fully inflated with outboards attached? Deflated with outboards removed?

Any chance you can take a gander to Deck 9 forward during your current sea days and shoot some pics of the bow?

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Maasdam's Kontiki Voyager cruise left Sept 10, 2018 and started the new " EXC In Depth" cruise program offering more of local immersion, enrichment cruise experience to lesser visited ports. We think it has been a great success so far, and the options will be further refined as they get more passenger feedback as well as suggestions from the panels of enrichment speakers.

 

We started in Fort Lauderdale, through the Panama Canal, up to Costa Rica and down to Ecuador and Peru. We now start the four day at-sea run to Easter Island. As our Easter Island specialist said last night he particularly likes experiencing the four days at sea it takes to get to Easter Islands from Peru since it highlights how remote these islands actually are. It only takes 5 hours to fly from Peru which he thinks makes people think they are a lot closer to land than they actually are.

 

EXC-InDepth enrichment offerings are provided onboard in the following interest areas, in the form of show room lectures, small seminars, informal travel story chats and various culinary and craft demonstrations.

1. Science and Nature

2. History and Perspective

3. Food, Wine and Spirits

4. Photography

5. Arts and Culture

6 Active Exploration

 

Friday - Sept 28, 2018 offerings - pick and choose - any or all or none - each is color-coded in the daily program as to the above interest areas.

 

9am: Port Perspectives - Peru - speakers panel share their insights about ports we just visited

10am: Port tour presentation - regular EXC staff presentation

10:30am; Bird Club meets with onboard expert

11am: History of Polynesian Foods - Guest Chef - historic and gastronomic overview

1pm: Tahitian Dance Class - Polynesian Cultural Ambassadors

2:30pm: Easter Island Maoi talk- Rocking or Rolling?

3:30pm: Sea Birds of Polynesia = Pacific Ocean migrations

7:15pm: Small Things-Big Impacts -Mosquitos and Disease in the Pacific Islands

9pm: sharing personal travel stories from the presenters

 

There are still the more traditional onboard offerings today as well - movies, digital workshops, trivia, pub crawls, drinks classes, bridge, kitchen tour, sip and savor, religious services, casino specials, happy hours, gemstone talks, fitness classes, Friends of Bill, Tea at Three, EXC desk hours. There will also be an evening ensemble show in the ShowRoom - based on Frankie Valli and the Four Seasons

 

No use of Zodiacs on this initial cruise but they have been installed. Once the ship leaves French Polynesia, they will be offering these for excursion options - no specific details known at this time.

 

Thank you for this positive insight, looking forward to board her in NZ!

 

Is the Frankie Valli show, one called the "Unexpected Boys", by any chance?

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Thank you for this positive insight, looking forward to board her in NZ!

 

Is the Frankie Valli show, one called the "Unexpected Boys", by any chance?

 

I already noticed the answer on my question on Btimmers Blog, indeed it was the "Unexpected Boys", same show we saw on Noordam back in 2010, it was really good!

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Going to Easter Island was the obvious draw for this Maasdam itinerary - we signed up for that and only later learned it was also this first new InDepth cruise offering as well. The curious thing will be sorting out those who wanted this more in-depth experience and those who might find themselves surprised by it - good or bad.

 

The only real difference from the standard cruise offerings that would be most noticeable would be the elimination of the ship's cast entertainment shows. And then finding lectures from time to time in their place. There are some smaller general entertainment options still offered, as well as topical films in the show room at night.

 

And adding back the high enrichment offerings one used to find on HAL theme cruises like Tales of the South Pacific or the long at-sea day Trans Atlantics that also offered a daily array of speakers and follow up seminars. This group of speakers are far more specific and topical to the locations, whereas the transatlantic ones would be more general topics.

 

The other major difference is the almost zero use of the casino and looks like they are now allowing smoking there most night as that seemed to be the only things that brought in a few more people. Sign of the times - more gambling options at home, online, no Club21 offers, or a different demographics attracted to these specialized itinerary InDepth cruises instead of the more traditional cruise onboard entertainment options.

 

Formal night menu changed dramatically last night to a whole new array of options. Many still enjoy dressing up so that is still similar to the standard cruises. We do late fixed dining so that still may be more formal than other dining times.

 

One serious, but wonderful, drawback was the over-flow crowd for yesterday's first Easter Island lecture in the Showroom. No one venue on board can hold all the passengers at one time, and it looks like everyone showed up for this first lecture in a series. Speaker lives on Easter Island and is very good.

 

Proving also Easter Island was the primary draw for this cruise - not just the new the InDepth offerings -those crowds are good sized but do not overwhelm the showroom depending on the speaker. And some talks are offered at two times in the Showroom if they are evening offerings which eases the pressure to grab a seat early too.

 

The InDepth staff is pretty flexible and accommodating as these issues arise and one would hope the next Easter Island lectures can be offered on closed-circuit in the Wajang theater or Crows Nest - or even on the in cabin TV. Best to break them into two offerings, but that may not have been what the speaker planned to do when he signed up.

 

All the talks have been well presented with good visuals and each has a follow-up Q and A in the Atrium. Some have stronger interests than others - and a very enthusiastic Bird Group has formed who also meet on deck.

 

The last speaker panel thanked us for being the first InDepth "guinea pigs" until someone noted we just left a country where they still eat guinea pigs and even had one on the table in a sliver platter in the very large painting of the Last Supper painting found in the main Lima Peru San Francisco Convent.

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First port - Santa Marta, Columbia - not a typical cruise stop at all, not a lot of prior information to be found and only a few tour options from the ship. Two options would be rugged hiking in their rain forest preserve or a city bus tour that did not get such great prior reviews when visited on past non-InDepth port stops. But it was also a very easy port to do on your own, so that was our choice.

 

We ended up very charmed by this historic, Spanish colonial port - over all observation was it was like Antigua, Guatamala or Cartegena, Columbia but with one huge difference - this was a living city; not a tourist destination. Hurrah, Maasdam InDepth for giving us a real city to visit, yet with much of the historic charm of the more frequent port stops. It was very walkable, had interesting crafts, an excellent gold museum, lovely plazas, trees, balconied colonial buildings, along with lively everyday modern life.

 

A typical local surprise we found in our city wanderings - a chain of Juan Valdez coffee cafes - Juan Valdez was the original stock character marketing for Columbian coffee in the US at one time. We assumed this would be hokey and commercial, but in fact this is where all the young Columbians hung out and it had fantastic coffee - the one we chose to visit had a open air patio under huge spreading trees - a total oasis in this hot city where families and "young professionals" enjoyed their own national drink.

 

Modern and traditional life all coming together for the residents; not just for foreign tourists. The city is destination for Columbian tourists so there is an infrastructure, but it just felt so different from other more typical cruise port stops.

 

This same more local experience was repeated in both Golfito and Quepos, Costa Rica. San Blas Islands are touristed more frequently but by much smaller ships than the Maasdam, but the setting is so unique it was a chance to see how both modern life and older traditions are being locally protected and encouraged.

 

So this constant travel dilemma - enjoying a place because it has not yet been over-touristed but recognizing one is being a tourist themselves, and a day tripper tourist at that. Just glad the Maasdam is offering these new itineraries and lucky to be on the very first one - will they change the places after a few more visits or will other new destinations be sought out or will the infrequency of the small cruise ship encounter not change life too much after all. Will we be the creator and preserver of local culture or ultimately the destroyer of what we demand to keep them in a sterile time capsule?

 

We certainly were welcomed and even before we arrived they were building local tour infrastructure because they look to their own economic development too. Which we found yesterday in San Martin Peru - a new port facility being built and a very nice new airport that serviced the Nazca Lines flyovers. Yet also surrounded by a protected the Paracas Nature Preserve.

 

Golfito, Costa Rica welcomed us with a flotilla of local boats and a floating band and sent us off with some fireworks set off on both sides of the narrow channel. The former headquarters of the long departed United Fruit Company is seeking ways to now keep their declining economy going while protected their ancient growth rain forests too. There we silently kayaked around the lush mangrove forests and enjoyed a stop for fresh local pineapple and coconut. Kept it natural, even if the fireworks probably scared the monkeys for a while too.

 

It has been a dazzling feast so far. We got so immersed in Central and South American history up to this point, we are glad we now have this four sea day interlude to ease into the entirely different Polynesian triangle culture.

 

Thor Hyerdahl was not correct after all even though he proved his Kontiki could sail this direction - there was in fact now determined by genetic studies there was no primary westward migration across Polynesia after all - Taiwan is now speculated to be the original source. Later contact and trading still went on even in these remotely situated islands as food and other items show multiple cross-cultural origins over time.

 

OlsSalt;

 

In a few weeks we will be on a cruise to Santa Marta, Columbia.

How were you able to get from the port to town? Was there a shuttle?

How did you find getting around town?

 

Charles

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Charles, I'll jump in here in case he's not on for a few days. Town is basically "right there" at the end of the dock. The dock is long so they had a shuttle that only ran on the dock from the ship to the exit at the end of the dock. From there, just walk out to the waterfront/town. Our first time there we found a street that was basically a market and closed to traffic. We like wandering local markets but the last time we were there it was gone. Looks like they had made some street changes and it wasn't there anymore. There are some crafts along the waterfront though, so you shouldn't lack for souvenirs/local craft items.

 

 

Linda R.

 

 

OlsSalt;

 

In a few weeks we will be on a cruise to Santa Marta, Columbia.

How were you able to get from the port to town? Was there a shuttle?

How did you find getting around town?

 

Charles

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--SANTA MARTA Linda, your report about getting into Santa Marta is spot on - just get off the ship, out of the port and walk into the town - about a quarter mile? There is again a tree shaded pedestrian way into town with local crafts - woven items, colorful bags and regular (Chinese?) tourist items.

 

It is mainly a town for wandering, having coffee and lunch, shopping, visiting local sites and people watching. But without all the hassles of a tourist destination - just its own little town in a country that is getting back on its feet after too many decades of drug war strife. High snow capped mountains, ocean, rainforest - all encircle Santa Marta.

 

There is a seaside promenade too. Very low key - don't expect much other than it being still a faded historic Spanish colonial city that continues to thrive today as a domestic tourist destination for Columbians. The port info booklet has a good enough local map and suggested locations and restaurants to try.

 

--ZODIACS CopperJohn - found only three inflated Zodiacs on the forward deck but a lot of activity sanding the deck down. So I imagine the rest of them that allegedly were being loaded in Lima are still stored and deflated. Because Life Boat #12 had to sit on this deck until Lima, any refinishing work had to wait so it looks like the forward deck with be Bristol shape when it comes time to finally launch this part of InDepth EXC in a few more weeks.

 

--EASTER ISLAND LECTURES Overflow capacity for lectures on Easter Island - today, they did provide a second lecture so the InDepth team responded immediately to this unplanned "problem". Speaker had not expected to give two lectures each but did respond to the occasion so now we won't need to show up 45 minutes ahead of time - we showed up 30 minutes ahead and it was practically full because most had not gotten word there would be second offering. Tomorrow will be a lot saner.

 

--MARINERS Mariners Awards - two Platinum - 750 day awardees. The numbers of Mariners onboard fully filled the lower Show Room. The new tile is part of what looks like the new historic travel poster series.

 

-- DELFT BREAD PLATES New bread plates in the MDR - hidden in the lovely blue Delft design is a circle with the new HAL logo - took a few days to notice it as it appears part of the over all design.

 

--HUMBOLDT CURRENT - STRONG AND COLD - One feature that has been a surprise to us since we had not known or planned for it was the heavy ship movement and temperature drop caused by the Humboldt current off this part of South America - very cold and wobbly - not like a high wave rough sea, but a lot of motion, shuddering or mild vibration until it appears we have finally crossed it . We are also having to cruise at 20 knots and I think that might be a stretch for the Maasdam but we have a lot of sea to cover to get to the Easter Islands - 4 at sea days from SanMartin-Pisco Peru.

 

Sun came out this afternoon and the Lido glass dome finally opened again for a few hours today. I was heading to the Equator and the South Pacific when I planned my packing and only threw in a few cold weather items at the very last minute when I read it could be cold and windy on Easter Island - but have needed them now ever since getting to Lima - which was colder and overcast too - by cold we mean only in the 60's but that feels a lot colder when on deck. I packed for 80 degree temperature so out came the layers upon layers. Didn't do my temperature homework this time.

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Copper a question for you: we had an all-ship announcement this evening "MRT #### Fire Zone" ( or something like this. And then a later request for a named person in the same #### to report immediately to the front desk. Any hints as to what this code .....in general ..... meant? Thanks. Does a "fire zone" mean a fire, a general location or a health related EMT call.

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Copper a question for you: we had an all-ship announcement this evening "MRT #### Fire Zone" ( or something like this. And then a later request for a named person in the same #### to report immediately to the front desk. Any hints as to what this code .....in general ..... meant? Thanks. Does a "fire zone" mean a fire, a general location or a health related EMT call.

 

"MRT" or "Medical Response Team" or Just "Medical Response" has taken the place of the "Bright Star" P/A announcement on HAL which was a similar medical emergency response call (It's a Princess Cruises term since Princess has taken over the medical - doctors and nurses - side on HAL). The P/A announcement always includes a precise location description of the patient, so the team of first responders know exactly where to go (could be a guest or crew cabin #, a precise location like the Ocean Bar, Lido Restaurant, etc.) plus a designation of either port or starboard.

An "S"-class ship like Maasdam is divided into five (5) fire zones, with FZ5 being all the way up front at the bow (Fire Zone 1 is at the stern). The fire zone designation is used in all fire-related emergency responses but, depending on the location and circumstances, can be added to a MRT also.

Here's hoping the patient of that MRT is now in stable condition since you still have two more sea days ahead of you and I'm not sure about the quality of medical care on Easter Island

Edited by Copper10-8
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OlsSalt, thank you very much for your detailed report of the new EXC In Depth program. I'm really looking forward to how this will play out on our Alaskan cruise next year and i'm very glad to hear that it's been enriching and largely without major issues thus far. Looking forward to reading more of your reports on this.

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