My wife and I booked these back to back to back cruises aboard the Maasdam to avoid flying home from an extended trip to SE Asia and Australia. It was also meant to give us an opportunity to visit numerous ports in the South Pacific that we were anxious to visit for the first time. This was our 20th cruise, our only previous HAL (Holland America) experience was an Alaskan cruisetour we thoroughly enjoyed that left us with a desire to try HAL again. We chose the Maasdam because of it's itinerary, schedule, modest size and the EXC program.
We boarded in Sydney and spent a wonderful two weeks visiting ports in Tasmania and then New Zealand. The two day crossing from Tasmania to New Zealand was a bit rocky but not bad enough to actually make either of us ill. Tasmania and New Zealand were both beautiful and fascinating places that we'd encourage anyone with the slightest interest to visit. The EXC program was wonderful. It was hosted by 5 Naturalists and a professional photographer each of whom gave several fascinating and informative presentations with humor and great presentation skills. It definitely sold us on the EXC program.
Be forewarned - if enjoying big stage productions is one of your cruising needs you probably will not enjoy this itinerary or ship - there are none. The EXC presentations are the focus. The entertainment also include several comedians, a sort of one man variety act and several musicians or musical groups. The acts ranged from fair to extraordinary with an English pianist (whose name I've of course forgotten) putting on some of the most enjoyable displays of talent I've seen at sea.
I won't bore you with all the sordid details but after departing Auckland on March 1st things started to go sideways. The COVID-19 outbreak was hitting full stride and subsequently the ship was denied entry to numerous ports. The long and short of it was we actually disembarked in San Diego on 3/27 rather than the originally planned 4/3.
We both felt HAL did a remarkable job handling a challenging and dynamic situation. The captain PJ was great. He hosted several coffee talks and fielded some heated passenger exchanges with grace and diplomacy. We really appreciated his honesty and candor. We also both agreed that the Cruise Director, Thomas, was probably the best we've ever encountered at sea. He handled himself and the situation with great aplomb and just an occasional hint of sarcastic humor. His style and personality suited us to a tee. The crew were all fantastic; we still stay in touch with several of them via social media. HAL really stepped up the onboard hygiene program and there was no incidence of the virus aboard the ship.
The bottom line is the cruise did not end up being the one we signed up for but we still enjoyed ourselves and will not hesitate rebooking with HAL in the future.
Cabin was comfortable with small sofa and plenty of storage space. The bathroom had a tub with included shower. A balcony would have been nice but the large window does allow for sunshine and at least a view of the outside world.