Saturday, June 30, 2018

An Excellent Eastern Expedition! - Day 1

I recently took a 7-night cruise on the MS Maasdam. It began in Boston, and stopped in...

Bar Harbor, Maine
Halifax, Nova Scotia
Sydney, Nova Scotia
Charlottetown, Prince Edward Island
Quebec City, Quebec

...and ended in Montreal, Quebec.

I had been to Boston and Charlottetown before, but not any of the other places (well, except for the Montreal airport where I once made a flight connection. I'm sure that counts.) Although prices for this cruise were comparable to that of an Alaskan one, and I would be more than happy to visit Alaska again, going "somewhere new" was the deciding factor.

As for the cruise line, Holland America was the only line that traveled to PEI on their summer itineraries, and even comparing different cruise lines, their price for New England was the lowest on the date I booked. I knew HA has a reputation for catering to an older crowd, but I figured I could deal with that.

So I booked the cruise, bought airline tickets, made some plans, and then... it began!

--An Excellent Eastern Expedition--

I took an overnight flight on Alaska Airlines. It left around 11pm Portland time and got me into Boston on Saturday morning around 7:20am their time. Then... we sat on the tarmac for nearly an hour while a gate became available. Ugh. Although I appreciated Alaska Airlines' allowing me to choose a seat -- an exit-row window seat, bliss! -- it was a rough flight for me, as I got only an hour of sleep and then was kept awake by a stomachache.

After escaping the plane, I followed signs through Logan International to their bus/shuttle area, where I caught a free shuttle to one of Boston's Metro stations. There, I bought a ticket ($2-something) which took me into downtown. After getting off at the "Aquarium" stop, I walked a short way to the ticket office for the Hop On/Hop Off bus (Trolley Tours).

I planned to ride the bus from 9am to about 1pm, when I could head to the ship. This meant I didn't have to walk around Boston for four hours with my luggage, but could still see a lot of the town. I could even take a nap if I really wanted to. The cost of the HOHO bus was about $40. It made 16 or 17 stops around the city, driving past many iconic Boston locations such as the Old North Church, the USS Constitution, MIT, and Boston Common.

After riding the circuit once, I rode it again halfway, got off, and walked a few blocks to catch one of the buses at a later-numbered stop, thus cutting the second circuit in half. However, it took three buses going by before there was one with a seat available. Finally, I was able to get back on a bus and continue the journey back to the starting point.

There is an offshoot of the HOHO bus called the "orange line" which you can use with the same ticket and that will take you down to the cruise port. You can transfer to the orange line about two blocks away from the starting point. However, the orange line bus only goes to the cruise ship area on days when a ship is in port. Well, even though I was boarding the ship for the first time that day, a lot of other passengers were only halfway through their own 14-day voyage. So many of them needed to come into downtown, and so, the orange line ran straight to the cruise port that day. Yay for convenience!

I felt some trepidation upon reaching the port, because I wasn't sure how the people there would differentiate between those who were returning from excursions in Boston and those who were boarding that day. Would we have two different entrances? Was I in the right place? In the end, that wasn't an issue. Perhaps the fact that I was carrying luggage was enough to get me sent to the correct line. 

I proceeded to check in, get my key card, get my photo taken. I was told my room number had been changed; I didn't really mind this, as I had a Guarantee Room anyway. Anywhere would be fine.

So I boarded the ship...

Then I proceeded to room 650 to drop off my luggage.

So the first thing was that my key card wouldn't open the door to room 650. Not only that, but hanging off the little clip/hook by that stateroom's door was a "welcome" letter addressed to "Stephen." (Who isn't me, by the way.)

I flagged down a room steward, who I will call Tad. I told him this was the room they'd given me at check-in, but my key didn't work and my name was not Stephen. Tad made a phone call, and, after disconnecting, assured me that everything was fine, this was my room. He let me in with his key, removed the "Stephen" welcome letter, and advised me to go up to Guest Services to have my key card fixed.

Inside room 650, I was surprised to see that it was an oceanview room. I had not requested this. I actually prefer interior rooms o'darkness. But hey, how can you complain about an upgrade?

And... a bathtub! (Interior rooms only have showers.)

Up to Guest Services I went. I explained that my key card didn't work. The lady there did some typing on her computer and then said that, hmmm, no, I wasn't supposed to be in room 650. I was supposed to be in 584, an interior room. (That was the one I'd been GTA-assigned originally.)

Ummm okay... sure. 584. But my luggage was still in 650...! Well, I figured I'd flag down Tad as soon as I checked out my real room.

Room 584: The key card worked. I opened the door... and I saw pink flowery luggage sitting there.

Why was there pink flowery luggage in my stateroom?!?

I quickly backed out, returned to Guest Services, and told them, "I think there's already someone in that room."

"No one is in that room."

"But there's luggage in there!"

"Then it's there by mistake. That's your room. Just move the luggage into the hall and a steward will put it in the right room."

"Uhhhh, okay," I said.

By now it was about 2:30pm, I hadn't eaten, and I was already starting to hear announcements about the upcoming lifeboat drill at 3pm. Which, of course, meant that restaurants and everything would be closing and I was still stuck in Room Limbo.

Back to 584. Unlocked the door. Opened it cautiously. And this time... somebody was holding the handle from the other side of the door. A lady.

"Um..." I stammered. "I'm so sorry, but they said this was my room. Oh gosh. I'm so sorry."

"This has been my room for weeks!" said the lady. "I had hoped for an upgrade though. I told them, I said [yada yada]..."

I was near tears at this point, begging myself not to cry. Not now. "I'm going to go try to figure this out," I said, backing away.

"Is there something I can do to help?" the lady asked.

A desperate flash of inspiration. "Could you tell me your name?" I asked. "So I can tell them, up at Guest Services?" Tell them that YES there IS somebody in the room, you disbelieving a-holes.

She was happy to provide her name. I'll call her Myrtle, though that wasn't her real name. She was a sweet lady, though, so I might as well protect her privacy, not that she'll ever read this.

Before I could face Guest Services again, I decided to retrieve my luggage from 650. If I was going to get kicked off the ship for not having a room, I was at least going to have my stuff when it happened, darnit!

I found Tad, who let me into 650. He probably saw that I was near tears and looked very sorry, unlike those robots at Guest Services. I grabbed my bags and trudged back up to GS. My voice had taken on a definite edge as I explained to them that no matter WHAT their computer told them, THERE WAS AN ACTUAL HUMAN BEING IN THE ROOM ALREADY!!

"A human, you say? Well, was she actually breathing? Because if not, just throw the body out into the hall, okay?"

I'M KIDDING. They totally didn't say that. Instead, they FINALLY sent someone (I'll call him Bill) downstairs to room 584 with me to figure things out.

Bill knocked on 584 and Myrtle answered. Bill told her, "Hey, guess what, you've actually been moved to room 650!" Now, even though Myrtle said she'd been there for weeks, perhaps in the hopes of being upgraded, she HAD packed up all her stuff (flowery pink luggage FTW) and hadn't yet unpacked it, so the move down the hall was fairly painless. I felt bad for her, though, because she was this 80-ish woman being not only barged in on by me (twice!), but by Guest Services going, "Out you go, Myrtle!"

I guess the one consolation for Myrtle was that room 650 was technically the upgrade she'd been hoping for. I really hope she enjoyed that bathtub.

I dropped my things in 584, took a deep breath, and, as the alarm rang for the lifeboat drill to begin, took my bedraggled self up on deck.

I really got spoiled on my last two cruises, where the drill took place in a theater on the first one and a restaurant on the second. In both instances, we got to sit. Here, we (the passengers) had to stand out on one of the decks, absolutely shoulder to shoulder, as if we were a choir about to start singing to the longshoremen. 

Hot. Crowded. Miserable.

So this was a rocky afternoon, to say the least... compounded by the fact that I'd gotten a mere hour of sleep the night before, and hadn't had anything to eat in over 12 hours, save for a granola bar. Still, what a welcome, huh? 

And then even after I had my own room, I became paranoid that someone else might barge in on me. Now that I knew that was possible. Sheesh.

Speaking of my new room...

This was it! Exactly the same as 650, except that's not a window behind the bed (it's a curtain with lights behind it), and -- although I didn't take a photo -- the bathroom here had a shower instead of a tub. Still, I was happy just to have it.

After the lifeboat drill ended, I went in search of food, finally finding some on Deck 11... a nacho bar. I ate ravenously. 

After this meal, and a shower, I went up on Deck 6 to watch us sail away from Boston. I sat in a lounge chair, and, prior to the actual departure, kept dozing off.

Around 6pm, we set sail. 

The cruise port is just across a waterway from the airport, so we saw a lot of planes coming in.

That night I had my first of many meals at "Lido," the pseudo-buffet on Deck 11. Tonight I had baked macaroni & cheese (not the most delicious; undercooked or overbaked? I couldn't tell) and apple pie (which was quite tasty).

Then I explored the ship.

Trying to find my way around the Maasdam was a bit frustrating at first. For one thing, there were these enclosed staircases that I couldn't quite figure out. I finally came to the conclusion they were emergency-exit stairs, only there were no signs saying you couldn't use them. In fact, I saw people using them sometimes, and on one occasion I was able to get from one deck to another using them. Another time, though, I went up two flights, only to find the doors locked and I had to go back down the way I had come in order to escape. After a day or two, I learned to just avoid those stairs.


The Maasdam's size seemed similar to that of the two ships I'd sailed on before (Disney's Magic and Wonder.) The staterooms also felt very similar in size, layout, overall feel, and even (and I know this is weird) smell. So at least that was comforting.

There was definitely more of an adult vibe around this ship, though. This ship has a casino, where smoking is allowed in certain sections. The shops are much more high-end. One shop sold nothing but fancy jewelry; another sold wines and liquor. And there were very few kids aboard... at least, it seemed that way at first. Later I discovered that there were a fair number of teenagers on board... they just seemed to only come out at night.

It had been a long, rough day, but we were finally at sea. And I had a big bed to myself. And so I went to bed early this night.

No comments: