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Transatlantic "Voyage of the Vikings" on the ms Maasdam of Holland America


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Overview and Embarkation in Boston
ms Maasdam of Holland America Line in Geiranger, Norway

The Maasdam cruise ship of Holland America Line at anchor in the Norwegian fjord at Geiranger. This was one of four ports in Norway, along with stopovers in Iceland and Newfoundland on our "Voyage of the Vikings" cruise itinerary from Boston to Amsterdam.

Maasdam in Norway (c) Linda Garrison
Sailing across the Atlantic is a dream cruise vacation for most of us who love to travel on cruise ships. There are three basic transatlantic routes--the southern route between the Mediterranean and ports in the southern USA, the Caribbean, or South America; the traditional fastest route between New York City and Southampton or other ports in the British Isles; and the northern route, which traces the route used by the Vikings connecting Norway, Iceland, Greenland, and Newfoundland with mainland North America.

I crossed the Atlantic from Boston to Amsterdam on a memorable "Voyage of the Vikings" on the ms Maasdam of Holland America Line. The 18-day voyage along the northern transatlantic route included the following itinerary:

Voyage of the Vikings - Boston to Amsterdam Transatlantic Cruise on the ms Maasdam of Holland America Line

Although the cruise was in July, we had weather issues that forced the Captain to change our original plans. The published itinerary included stopovers in Labrador, Greenland, and a second port in Iceland. In addition, we were supposed to spend a day cruising the scenic fjords of Greenland, but that day was cancelled also. However, the Captain and his team did an exceptional job of explaining why they were changing our schedule, even including a briefing with the latest weather charts shown on a large screen in the main lounge. During this meeting, they also patiently answered many questions from the guests. By the time the meeting was completed, about 99 percent of the passengers were satisfied with the modified itinerary. (You can't please everyone.)

As a result of these changes, the Maasdam out-ran a mid-summer storm that was blowing from west to east, and we ended up with extra time in Reykjavik, securely tied to the dock overnight in a protected harbor while the worst low pressure July storm in Iceland in over 50 years raged outside. The ship also added another port of call in Molde, Norway, which ended up being a very pleasant surprise for us. It's funny how sometimes things just work out. We were all disappointed to miss Labrador and Greenland, but missing the storm and adding Molde to the itinerary somewhat balanced things out.

The 15 pages of this travel log provide details of our cruise.

Boarding the Maasdam in Boston

My long-time friend Claire and I took a very early morning flight from Atlanta to Boston, grabbed a taxi, and were at the pier by 10:30 am. Check-in took about 5 minutes, but we had to take a number and wait about an hour to board the ship. While waiting (we were in group 3), we got acquainted with some of our fellow cruisers. I was surprised to learn that of the 1,200 passengers onboard, only 200 of us were doing the 18-day crossing; the rest were on the 35-day round trip. Many of the guests had either taken a train or driven to Boston. Although the Maasdam used the northern Atlantic route for both crossings, different ports of call were visited on each voyage, making it attractive to retirees or those who could afford to be away from home for 35 days.

We didn't wait long to board the ship and were in our cabin before noon. Claire and I visited the Lido deck buffet, and had a nice lunch before doing a short tour of parts of the ship. The Maasdam was built in the early 1990's, so this mid-sized ship doesn't have a lot of the amenities or public rooms found on newer/larger ships. However, the crew seems to work extra hard to make sure everyone has a good cruise vacation. The ship also doesn't have as many balcony cabins as newer ships, so Claire and I had a window oceanview cabin on deck 9. It was classified as a spa cabin since we were just two decks down (and directly underneath) the Greenhouse Spa and Salon. We received spa amenities such as Elemis toiletries, had a yoga mat, and even had one of those "waterfall" machines (guess it's supposed to be a soothing sound) in the cabin. We disconnected the gurgling waterfall after our first night since neither of us cared for the sound, but I'm sure some people would enjoy the white noise. Given the generally rainy and windy weather, the cabin and bathroom were just right for us, and our stewards did an excellent job of keeping the place clean.

Our luggage arrived about 2:30 pm, so we were unpacked and even had a short nap before the 4:15 pm life boat drill. We didn't have to take our life jackets to the drill, but we did go outside and stand under our lifeboat. After the drill, Claire and I leisurely walked for about an hour around the Promenade deck while we sailed away from Boston, stopping occasionally to take in the view. It's four laps to the mile and has a covered teak deck, a feature missing from many newer cruise ships.

We went to the Mix Martini bar for a drink before dinner. They had a nice selection of martini-like drinks, so Claire and I both enjoyed one for $9.50 each. (Regular cocktails run about $5-$6). We had purchased a $250 card for $225 that we used for all onboard purchases like drinks, wine, etc. We figured in 17 days we'd probably spend that much together. They also had wine packages, but the wines run at least $30 per bottle. This card seemed a better deal for a long cruise, and they had several wines on the regular wine list for less than $30. We could also use our card to buy a wine package if we get tired of buying the cheaper wines.

Dinner for us was open-seating in the Rotterdam Dining Room, so we could go any time between 5:30 and 9:30. The meal was the first of many good ones. I especially loved the tuna/salmon tartare appetizer and the cold white gazpacho soup made from pureed pear and cucumber, pineapple juice, and jalapeno. Very interesting flavors! Claire had a rich eggplant risotto and I had pan-fried rainbow trout for our main courses. Both were very tasty.

Before bed that night we had to bump our clocks up one hour. The next two days we would be at sea.

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