|This was supposed to be the "Southern Caribbean Cruise of our dreams" -- least ways, that is how our|
cruise was billed in all the advertisements.
Well, this 11-day voyage with Holland America Line's "Beautiful and Elegant" Maasdam was anything but that.
Oh, the pictures look great, we smiled a lot, but after adding up all the churn, burn, and constant turmoil,
it just became a very slow and long journey to "get back home."
We selected this cruise primarily because we wanted to travel with another couple we had met earlier on
another cruise (with Royal Caribbean Cruise Lines). Against our better judgement, we agreed to go -- and leave
out of Norfolk, VA in the dead of winter. That should have been our first clue to not take this cruise.
Anyway, we agreed to go and drive to Norfolk. We left our car at the hotel and took a limo out to the ship. As
soon as we went into our stateroom, we knew we had made a mistake. It was cold outside and cold in our room.
After we set sail, it got worst. The air in our room never worked right -- poor heating and then they had to give
us two huge fans to try and cool it off after we reached the warm weather in the Caribbean.
Things just went from bad to worst after that.
Barbados was "closed" (nothing to do ashore -- Monday was a bank holiday, everything in Bridgetown was closed).
Thank God our time in St. Thomas had been good and Dominica was basically OK (was Sunday -- all the shops in
port were closed so we hired a cab and took a tour to some waterfall up in the mountains.)
Then there was the port propulsion system on the "Beautiful and Elegant" Maasdam -- it broke down -- and we
limped, rattled, and shook all the way back from Barbados to Norfolk, VA. Our slow speed (5-8 knots tops) made
us not stop in St. Kitts and only spend 4 hours in San Juan. If the ship tried to go faster, the vibration
throughout the ship would make your teeth rattle. The slow speed through the water also made everyone feel
EVERY rock and roll of the ship -- and there was plenty of that the further
north we sailed from the Caribbean.
Tender operations (small crafts to take passengers over to the beach) at Half Moon Cay were DANGEROUS, the
top cover over the Solarium Deck pool broke (half open, half shut), seas so rough at times the pool would almost
empty out (finally closed pool after a kid almost drowned and the pool's "emptying out" motion threw another kid
out of the pool and up onto the deck chairs).
The entertainment was lousy and the pool-side band played once in 11 days. That was just as well -- have you ever
heard an Indonesian 4-piece string quartet trying to play Caribbean Calypso music?
Long story short, the cruise was so BAD that after my letter (and pictures of the pool incidents and tender
operations) to the President of HAL, we got a free cruise in compensation for our "troubles."
Other than that, the food was OK and beer is beer.