A surprisingly lively vibe characterized the atmosphere on Holland America’s MS Maasdam during my recent sail on the week long Canada-New England itinerary. The venerable cruise line (part of Carnival since 1989,) is known for a stately ambiance and mature clientele, but such modernizations as culinary arts centers, multi-media libraries, specialty bars, and celebrity chef restaurants throughout the fleet have broadened its appeal to a multigenerational clientele. That said, it was the traditional HAL hallmark of beautiful fresh flowers everywhere, including delicate sprigs of orchids, that made the ship’s ambiance feel special. Add attentive service, immaculate five-star accommodations, very good food, and a dedicated charter and incentives team, and Holland America is well positioned for meeting and incentive groups.
With 1,258 passengers, the Maasdam is considered a mid-sized ship. While it lacks such trendy amenities as surfing wave simulators and climbing walls, and has fewer balcony cabins than on newer vessels, it feels more elegant—and in some ways, more spacious—compared to the behemoth ships. Outdoor lounges aren’t jammed together with no space between them, and there’s ample space to stroll the decks. Fewer passengers also enable the staff to procure special treats from ports of call—on my cruise, delicious Prince Edward Island mussels, for example, which are considered among the world’s tastiest.
With the smallest ship accommodating 835 guests and the largest 2,650, Holland America Line’s fleet of 15 sails to 415 ports in 98 destinations on all seven continents. A 16th ship—the first in a new Pinnacle Class of vessel—is slated for delivery in February 2016.
HAL ships are available for exclusive group charters, and smaller groups are welcomed on scheduled itineraries. A variety of well-equipped meeting space on all the ships is available for no additional charge to groups with 15 participants or more. Launched in July, HAL’s Incentive Choice program offers planners a choice of three complimentary group amenities in addition to a free beverage program that includes wine and non-alcoholic drinks for incentive attendees. Options include stateroom amenities such as chocolate dipped strawberries and deluxe canapés; an internet café package; and a group cocktail party.