To the casual observer, it will be extremely easy for MS Maasdam, the next Holland America Line (HAL) vessel destined for Sydney to blend in, as from the outside, it is identical to P&O Cruises’ two newest ships Pacific Aria and Pacific Eden. In days gone by, the three ships sailed together as a family, all for HAL, prior to the transfer of the latter two to the Aussie brand late last year. So make sure you read the ship’s name on the hull before boarding to make sure you’re in the right place.
Like all HAL ships, a unique soaring centrepiece features as a point of focus in the three-level central Atrium and on Maasdam, guests will be wowed by “Totem”, a glittering arrangement of more than 2,000 pieces of glass designed by Italian artist Luciano Vistosi which is sure to take your breath away at each viewing. Further artworks to be found around the vessel include a collection of seven iron teapots and a charcoal brazier dating back earlier than 1868 to the time of the Edo period of Japanese history.
The ship accommodates a modest 1,258 passengers, however this is a deliberate part of the design in order to enhance the amount of space available to each passenger. Dotted around the ship too are five individual restaurants and a multitude of bars & lounges, including some which we have selected as our favourites.
Culinary Arts Centre
Scheduled at various times over the course of a standard voyage, the Culinary Arts Centre hosts a variety of food and wine themed experiences – often very interactive – for foodies and casual fine dining fans alike to watch some of the ship’s most crafted hands at work. The theatre style experience prevents crowding around the bench by offering a great view for all through television screens showing exactly what is happening in the show kitchen from a comfortable seat. Programs are even broadcast to staterooms to watch from your bed.
Activities held in the Arts Centre include hands-on cooking classes where guests can get their sanitised hands involved and recreating the head chef’s creation themselves. Wine tasting and mixology classes take place from time to time led by the ship’s sommelier or wine expert, while workshops on ingredients inspired by the ship’s location also offered. Younger cruisers are also well looked-after with special programs for kids and teenagers to learn easy cooking techniques, kitchen safety and easy-bake recipes for cruisers as young as three.
What is one bar is actually three bars. While effectively one space, the MIX lounge features three sections, one focusing on Martinis, one on Spirits and Ales and one on Champagne. Colourfully decorated, the venue offers sports on television for those who prefer to sit at the bar, and a pianist is on hand in another corner playing for others.
Sponsored by the New York Times, this quite venue can be particularly popular on sea days, with afternoons in the Exploration’s Lounge often found full of people perusing an extensive literary selection. On offer is everything from fiction to biographies and travel guides for a wide variety of destinations around the world, all the way down to Harry Potter. A DVD library is also available for guests to borrow, free for guests in Deluxe Verandahs staterooms or higher and carrying a small charge for those in lower categories.
This quiet space also features a selection of games including cards and chess for guests to share, while occasionally activities such as trivia, bingo
Priced from $10 per person, fine Italian dining based around share plates forms the basis of Canaletto – a Holland America Line staple found on much of the fleet featuring a menu designed around the share concept. The experience allows diners to sample a wide variety of traditional Italian antipasti, pastas, cured meats, herbs and spices, washed down with some delicious wines (charged separately). Dining at Canaletto can be particularly popular so it’s important to reserve a table either in advance or as soon as you can once onboard.
Check out a sample menu from Canaletto HERE.
Hauntingly exotic, the three-storey Central Atrium on MS Maasdam is effective even if it isn’t sprawling like what some more modern cruise ships offer these days. But often, some good and comfortable seating options can be found in the immediate vicinity of the atrium.
MS Maasdam will cruise into Sydney for the first time on 20 October, at the conclusion of a 16-day South Pacific repositioning from Honolulu. It will be joined a few days later by sister ship MS Noordam for a dual presence by Holland America Line on the Australian cruise market for the season, where it will sail full circumnavigations of Australia and voyages to New Zealand before returning to the United States in late January.