The ms Maasdam is a mid-sized cruise ship carrying 1,258 guests. Holland America Line launched the ship in December 1993, making it one of the oldest cruise ships in the fleet. Much like people, being old is not necessarily bad when you look at ships that have been lovingly maintained like the Maasdam.
Taking an 18-day "Voyage of the Vikings" transatlantic cruise from Boston to Amsterdam on the Maasdam, the ship had over 300 guests who were "4-star Mariner Society" members, which means they had each sailed over 200 days with Holland America Line. That's a ship-full of experienced cruise travelers, isn't it?
Our cruise was one-half of a 35-day round trip voyage, with different ports being visited on each crossing. Over 1,000 of the guests onboard were doing the entire journey. Sailing for 35 days in one voyage can certainly help you reach that 4-diamond status more quickly!
Being onboard the Maasdam for over two weeks gave me plenty of time to explore the ship, enjoy the many dining venues, pick up a few cooking tips at the Culinary Arts Center, attend lectures on our ports of call, take some photos of the ship, walk around the classic teak promenade deck every day, read a few books, and even nap a little. All in all, it was a marvelous cruise, despite the fact that we missed three ports of call, something that happens often in the North Atlantic.
Let's take a tour of the Maasdam, starting with the cabins.
The biggest drawback on classic ships like the Maasdam is the lack of cabins with balconies. The ship has 632 cabins, and although over 500 have an outside view, only about 150 have a private balcony. Some of the oceanview cabins are classified as "lanai staterooms" and have a door that opens directly onto the Promenade Deck. Although these lanai cabins do not have a private balcony, they do have two reserved teak lounge chairs just outside their door. And, it's nice to be able to step outside your door right onto the deck of the ship. However, even with these additional lanai cabins on the outside, it is important to book a Maasdam cruise early if you like to be able to experience fresh air in your cabin. On our transatlantic cruise via the northern route, we didn't have great weather, so my friend and I didn't miss the balcony too much. However, there were times I would have loved to know the outdoor temperature without having to go up or down a couple of decks.
We were in an outside cabin, #116 on deck 9. This category CQ oceanview cabin is classified as a "spa stateroom", and it included premium toiletries, yoga mats, an iPod® docking station, a fruit snack every afternoon, and a countertop water feature. Although we greatly appreciated the premium toiletries, neither my friend nor I cared for the bubbling water machine in the room, and we turned it off the second day on the cruise. It was nice to be on deck 9, just two decks below the spa, fitness center, and Lido deck pool.
All cabins on the Maasdam have amenities you would expect from a deluxe cruise line. These amenities include very comfortable beds and premium linens, bathrobes, magnifying mirrors, good showers, powerful hair dryers, televisions with DVD players, a generous amount of storage space, safe, fresh fruit, ice, and excellent service from the stewards twice daily. The desk space was adequate, and we had a sofa that could be made out into a bed. The bathroom had a tub/shower combination and shelves for storage. Our only complaint about our cabin was the large window, which would have given us good views of the sea and ports of call had it not been so dirty and scratched on the outside.
Now that we've toured the cabins, let's take a look at the dining venues on the Maasdam.
Dining and Cuisine
The mid-sized cruise ship the Maasdam has four dining venues: 4
- Rotterdam Dining Room
- Pinnacle Grill
- Lido Restaurant
- Terrace Grill
These dining venues are discussed in detail in this accompanying article on dining on the Maasdam.
One of the biggest changes in cruise ship design over the past decade has been the addition of more alternative dining venues. Since the Maasdam is over 20 years old, she doesn't offer the variety of locales seen on newer ships, but management has done an excellent job of utilizing the existing dining space. For example, the Pinnacle Grill has at least three special dining events on most cruises -- "An Evening at Le Cirque", the Cellar Master's Dinner, and the murder mystery dinner theater.
In addition, the ship features special lunches on the pool deck, which is conveniently located between the Terrace Grill and the Lido Restaurant. These lunches include a "Crab Fest" and a "Fish Market", and the dishes are delicious and the atmosphere is festive.
Although the Maasdam doesn't have the diversity of venues seen on newer ships of similar size, I didn't hear any complaints from our fellow cruisers. I think this is primarily because the quality and variety of food served by the friendly and competent servers make the overall dining experience very good.
Now that we've looked at the accommodations and the dining on the Maasdam, let's take a tour of the interior common areas on the ship.
Interior Common Areas and Decks
The interior common areas of the Maasdam are traditional, elegant, and subdued. The ship is filled with interesting, expensive artwork, adding to the classic theme.
The passenger decks are decks 4 through 12, although the tenders embark on deck 3. Decks 4 and 5 are passenger cabin decks, as is deck 6.
The atrium of the ship is dominated by the signature artwork for the Maasdam--a huge green glass tower appropriately named the "Totem". The "Totem" is anchored on deck 6 and stretches up three decks. Deck 6 is surrounded by the wrap-around teak walking promenade.
Deck 7, the Promenade Deck, is filled with common areas. The main Showroom is forward, and the main dining room, the Rotterdam Dining Room, is aft on deck 7. Sandwiched in-between these two large venues are conference rooms, the Culinary Arts Center, the art gallery, and the photo gallery. In the atrium on deck 7 is the reception desk and shore excursion desk.
Deck 8 is the hub of activity on the ship. Like deck 7, the two ends of the ship are dominated by the Showroom and the Rotterdam Dining Room. The rest of the deck is covered with bars, lounges, onboard shops, the library, Explorations Cafe coffee bar, and the Pinnacle Grill. I loved strolling this deck, checking into the different bars and listening to music, watching the dancing, and just sipping a drink with new (or old) friends. It's one of the best things about this mid-sized ship--many of the indoor socializing areas are found on this deck.
Deck 9 is filled with passenger cabins, as is deck 10, although it does feature the outdoor Seaview Pool.
Deck 11 is home to the Lido Restaurant, indoor/outdoor pool, the Greenhouse Spa & Salon, and the fitness center. The spa offers all the treatments found on modern cruise ships, including a thermal suite, and indoor and outdoor relaxation areas. The salon and fitness center have windows with great sea views.
Deck 12 is mostly open deck areas but does feature the Crow's Nest observation lounge forward and the Club HAL kid's area aft. I love the great views and comfortable chairs in the Crow's Nest, but oftentimes the bar smelled very smoky since a section is dedicated to smokers.
Let's move outside the look at the exterior common areas of the Maasdam.
Like most cruise ships, the outdoor decks are mostly on the upper levels of the Maasdam. The ship has two pools, the Seaview Pool on deck 10 aft, and the indoor/outdoor Lido Pool on deck 11. The Lido Pool has a sliding glass roof, making it perfect for all sorts of weather. There's also a convenient pool bar. On deck 12, the top deck of the ship, the Maasdam also has an outdoor basketball court and a paddle ball/tennis court.
My favorite outdoor area on the Maasdam is the wrap-around, covered, the teak walking track that circumnavigates the ship on deck 6, the Lower Promenade Deck. This walking area was used by many passengers on our transatlantic cruise, despite the often-inclement weather. Since you only have to walk four laps to get a mile, the time passes quickly. My friend Claire and I walked almost daily on the promenade deck, using the time to do some whale and bird watching, along with getting some exercise.
Now that we've toured the ship, let's look at some of the onboard activities on the Maasdam.
The onboard activities on a cruise ship are always one of the factors that travelers consider when booking a cruise, especially one with a lot of sea days. The general rule is--the bigger the ship, the more onboard activities. However, even mid-sized ships like the 1,258-guest Maasdam can feature many diverse activities for its passengers. On our 18-day "Voyage of the Vikings" cruise from Boston to Amsterdam, we had 8 sea days, and over 1,000 of the guests onboard were doing back-to-back round trip cruises back to Boston. I was very impressed with the variety of activities on the Maasdam.
Here's a list of a sample of some of the things we could do on the Maasdam. Of course, no one could do them all; it would wear you out! The daily program, called the "Explorer" classified the activities into four different categories:
- Port talks
- Tour of the Maasdam
- Book Club discussion of "Arctic Chill"
- Speaker series on the Viking world (e.g. Greenland, Iceland, Scandinavia)
- Speaker series on famous things and people in history (e.g. Winston Churchill, 1962 World's Fair, Captain Bligh, UNESCO World Heritage Sites, space travel)
- Bird watching, whale watching, and wildlife
Food & Entertaining
- Culinary Arts Center cooking and culinary demonstrations
- Mixology classes on preparing various cocktails
- Creative crafts classes
- Pub trivia
- Hands-on cooking classes
- Wine tastings
- Party planning & entertaining made easy
- Types, preparation, and benefits of various teas
- Flower arranging
- Edible bouquets
- Multiple complimentary Digital Workshops each day on several personal computer topics including photo editing, camera basics, Windows 7, Windows Live Essentials, how to buy a PC, transferring photos, making movies, organizing and sharing information on your computer, simple email, managing your health information, PC security, and introduction to the Cloud
- Spa tour
- Relaxation sessions and lifestyle seminars
- Tai Chi
- Aqua aerobics
- Fitness classes on yoga, spinning, stretching, abs, boot camp, Pilates
- Bocce ball
- Acupuncture seminars
- Wellness seminars
- Introduction to guided meditation
- Dance lessons (cha-cha and salsa)
- Line dancing
- Total body conditioning
- Classic cruise games (e.g. ring toss, ping pong, hula hoop, bingo, golf putting)
- Wii challenge: Bowling
- Healthy vices
- Bridge, cribbage, dominoes, and board games
- Art auctions
- Chess tournament
Now that we've toured the ship and learned something about the onboard activities, let's look at where the Maasdam is sailing in the next year.
Over the next couple of years, the Maasdam will not be sailing the "Voyage of the Vikings" northern transatlantic itinerary that I cruised on in July 2012. However, other Holland America ships sail similar itineraries, and the Maasdam sails a variety of itineraries and visits a series of new ports of call.
The Maasdam may be one of Holland America Line's oldest ships, but she's a perfect size for many cruise travelers who appreciate her classic decor, interesting artwork, and onboard activities that are both educational and fun.
Most Maasdam cabins do not have private balconies, but the accommodations are laid out well and are comfortable. Plus, since the ship is relatively small, you are never too far from the out of doors.
The ship also does not have the number of specialty restaurants found on newer ships (like the Tamarind on the Eurodam, Nieuw Amsterdam, and Koningsdam), but the chefs and management make the dining venues interesting by creatively offering special dining events and consistently good food.
All in all, this is a great ship for those who crave a variety of destinations and appreciate a mid-sized ship that is not too big or too small. No wonder so many 4-diamond Mariner Society members were on our cruise!
As is common in the travel industry, the writer was provided with complimentary cruise accommodation for the purpose of review. While it has not influenced this review, About.com believes in full disclosure of all potential conflicts of interest. For more information, see our Ethics Policy.