Frequently Asked Questions
Select a topic from the list below:
- Travel To/From the Cruise
- Tips for Traveling Abroad
- Life Aboard Ship
- Contact Us
Here you will find answers to the more common questions we have been asked about our cruises.
Before sailing with us you must read and sign our Terms and Conditions, which spell out important and contractually binding guidelines for our cruises. They contain important basic information about our cruise.
YOU MUST HAVE A CURRENT PASSPORT TO SAIL ON THIS CRUISE.
We strongly recommend that you visit Holland America's website. You will find extensive and detailed information about sailing on their ships. They have been in the cruise business much longer than us–please make use of their expertise.
Executive Meetings and Incentives, Inc. (EMI) is your partner in travel. They are your first stop for any help you may need with travel arrangements or any question you may have. See EMI's website for more information.
Who are we?
Prairie Home Productions (PHP, APHC) is an independent company licensed by American Public Media Group to produce Garrison Keillor's "A Prairie Home Companion" and its related ventures. With them, we chartered the ms Maasdam and will produce the cruise. Prairie Home is responsible for all the changes and additions that have been made to the regularly scheduled HAL cruise. We will provide the APHC performers, entertainers, lecturers, and hosts sailing with you.
Holland America Lines (HAL) operates and manages the Maasdam; provides for passenger safety and comfort; and is responsible for your cabin accommodations, food, beverages, recreation, and shopping while on board. Go to HAL's website for information about life aboard ship.
Executive Meetings and Incentives (EMI) is our agent in charge of selling our cruise and booking your accommodations. They will provide you with the highest levels of professional travel-related services. They will book your passage on the ship. EMI will, at your choosing, assist you in booking a hotel before and after the cruise; book air travel; arrange transfers between the airport, hotel, and ship; and assign table seating. They will help us manage your activities while on board. See EMI's website for information about cabins, hotel rooms, transfers and dinner seating.
How much does the cruise cost?
For pricing information, visit EMI's pricing page. We have cabins in a wide range of prices.
What types of cabins are on the ship? Where are they located?
We have a variety of cabins from inside rooms to Verandah suites. New to APHC cruisers will be the Maasdam's Lanai cabins, featuring sliding glass doors opening on to the Lower Promenade Deck. See HAL's Maasdam Info for pictures, descriptions, and deck plans.
How do I book a cabin? What types are currently available?
For booking information, visit EMI's pricing page. You will see a list of the currently available cabins. Just click on the one you are interested in and follow the instructions.
Are wheelchair accessible rooms available on board?
Of course. Holland America, APHC and EMI do not discriminate against persons on the basis of disability. We seek, to the fullest extent feasible, to accommodate guests with special needs. Holland America offers a limited number of staterooms designed to be wheelchair and scooter accessible. Most public areas of the ship are wheelchair accessible. To learn more about HAL's options for guests with special needs see the HAL Cruise Planning and Advice section. You can explore the deck plans in HAL's Maasdam Info to see where the wheelchair accessible rooms are located. Please contact EMI directly at 800-225-5364 x 2179 to discuss any special needs you may have.
Is travel insurance necessary?
While this is solely your decision, we strongly recommend purchasing travel insurance. Insurance is your only recourse for reimbursement in the event of changes, delays, or crisis. For more information, see EMI's pricing page.
What is included in the payment and what will cost extra?
Please see our terms and conditions page. While on-board you can spend a minimal amount or incur significant charges by the end of the cruise. Alcoholic beverages, soda, spa services, the casino, and other on-board services are not included in your fare. You will certainly be able to have an enjoyable time no matter how little or how much you spend. We do not include airfare, ground transportation, shore excursions, or other off-ship expenses.
I'm a Holland America Stockholder. Can I get a discount on my cruise?
No. This cruise is private and chartered.
I've booked my cabin. What's next?
EMI will confirm your reservation with you electronically and provide an EMI confirmation number they will use to track your reservation. Closer to the cruise EMI will provide your HAL booking number and cabin number, which you will use to prepare for your trip and book shore excursions.
Check-in and preparation for your cruise is an online process that HAL calls Express Docs. All passengers will be required to check-in using this system in advance of the cruise. You will need your HAL booking number to do this, which you will receive after returning the signed terms and conditions for the cruise. All documents necessary for your cruise will be provided online through Express Docs, including your cruise contract and your boarding pass. You will need to print these documents yourself and bring them with you. We will not send you "hard copies" of these documents. See EMI's website for step-by-step instructions on how to use Express Docs.
It is essential that you review all documents thoroughly and that you bring everything with you.
May I cancel my reservation?
You may cancel, but in fairness we have a strict refund policy. One week after registering your deposit becomes non-refundable. On or after April 5, 2011 your full cruise fare will be collected and is not refundable. Please see our terms and conditions page.
How do I pay for extras while on board?
While on board HAL maintains a "cashless society." All additional purchases made will be charged to passengers' on-board accounts. These accounts must be settled before disembarking.
When you board the ship, your account will have already been activated and you may make purchases by simply showing your guest identification card and signing a receipt. On embarkation day, you will need to register your credit or debit card in order to use your onboard account for shipboard purchases. Your card will be pre-authorized for US $60 per person for each day. At the end of your cruise, you will receive a final statement, and your card will be charged only for the actual amount of your purchases. Please inform your credit or debit card issuer in advance that your card will be used on a Holland America Line ship. This will help prevent delays in obtaining pre-authorization on board. Some banks may keep the pre-authorization in place for up to 30 days. If you do not want to use a credit or debit card, the ship will collect a cash deposit from you at time of boarding in the same pre-authorization amount. Any excess deposit will be refunded to you at the end of the cruise. Travelers' checks may be cashed at the front office to make your deposit. Personal checks are not accepted on board.
What about tipping? To whom and how much?
A gratuity of $11 per person per day ($77 for this cruise) is included in your cruise fare. This will be shared among the Maasdam's staff. In addition, an automatic 15% gratuity is added to all bar and beverage service. Any tipping above this is entirely up to you. It is common, but not expected or required, to tip for personal service in your cabin, and at the spa. Tipping for bar, restaurant or the ship's transportation services is not expected. For more info, see HAL Service Charge Info.
In terminals, airports, ports of call, on shore excursions, and at hotels we suggest that you extend gratuities consistent with customary practices.
Are guests from outside the US able to purchase on-line?
Yes. International guests will be able to book their cabins on-line. All credit card charges will take place in USD and be converted to your local currency the day of the transaction.
III. Travel To/From the Cruise
When do we leave? When do we come home?
You must arrive in Boston prior to 12:00 noon on Saturday, July 9, 2011. Boarding will begin at approximately 11:30 am on July 9th. You must be on board no later than 3:00 pm. We sail at 5:00 pm, and cannot wait for delayed passengers. The cruise is seven days long.
Disembarkation in Montreal will begin at 8:00 am on July 16th. Flights booked out of Montreal's Trudeau Airport (YUL) should depart no earlier than 12:00 noon on Saturday, July 16, 2011.
We recommend you purchase airline tickets early. We have found affordable airfares departing major US cities for Boston and returning from Montreal, but fares change quickly. EMI can help you book your flights, see EMI's website for more information.
What if my luggage gets lost by the airline?
In the event your bags are delayed we will make every effort to work with local operators to help your bags catch up with the ship. Please note that some major discount air carriers require that lost or delayed luggage be signed for personally by the owner at the airport. Given our one-way itinerary this could become a challenge. Please check policies carefully before booking your air travel.
Where can I stay in Boston?
EMI has blocked out rooms in a Boston hotel convenient to the cruise terminal. They would be happy to book you a room the night before the cruise, see EMI's website for details.
What are the arrangements for travel from airport to ship?
Regardless of who books your air travel, you must send EMI a copy of your flight itinerary. EMI must provide HAL with travel itineraries for all passengers. You must provide a cell or other phone number that can be used to communicate with you in the event of travel delays.
We recommend that you purchase a transfer package from EMI when you purchase your cruise. EMI will be able to arrange group transfers from Boston Logan Airport and to Montreal's Trudeau Airport. With these packages you and your luggage will be transferred between the airport, to the hotel as needed, and the boat. You may also, of course, take a cab or other means of transport on your own. However you decide to arrive at the ship, your baggage will be collected at the terminal and delivered to your cabin. See EMI's website for more information.
When you first get on and last get off the boat, there will be a period of time when you won't have access to your baggage or to your cabin. Please be prepared with a small carry-on bag to hold the stuff you need, including all of your travel documents, medications and any valuables you may have with you.
Before embarking the ship you will be subject to security screening similar to that in any airport.
Will I need a passport?
All passengers need passports. No exceptions. They must be good for six months beyond the duration of the cruise. These regulations are strictly enforced. For more information, see HAL Passport Info.
I am driving to Boston to embark on the ship. Will parking be available?
Yes. There is parking available at Boston's Black Falcon Terminal. Parking is $16 per day. Keep in mind that you will need to return to Boston from Montreal on your own. Driving in Boston can be a challenge. We recommend that you either book your transfer with EMI or use public transportation from the airport.
May visitors come aboard?
Sorry, no. Due to customer and safety concerns, HAL has established a no visitor policy. As at most airport terminals, only booked passengers will be permitted past the security check-in point.
What about after the cruise, in Montreal?
We arrive early in Montreal and there are many interesting things to see and do in "Canada's Cultural Capital". For suggestions of what you might do before returning home, see the many online resources available including www.tourisme-montreal.org, or Contact us and we'll make some suggestions. EMI has blocked out hotel rooms in Montreal if you'd like to stay overnight. Please book these early.
IV. Traveling Abroad
Will I need a passport?
Yes, all passengers must carry a passport that expires a minimum of 6 months following the cruise.
Will I need a visa?
Most U.S. Citizens will not. Travel from another country or under different citizenship may. This is your responsibility: please consult the appropriate governmental agency if you have any questions about this.
Do I need shots?
Not for purposes of this cruise.
What languages are spoken in Canada?
English will be spoken at all ports we visit on this cruise. Multiple French dialects will be spoken as well, and in some areas French is the primary language.
What about currency?
Most vendors in Canada will accept U.S. currency and major credit cards. Exchange rates vary and may be more favorable at banking institutions. Obtaining local currency is easy, through currency exchanges or ATM machines.
What will we do on-board?
Boredom is not an issue. Never has been, never will be. We will schedule a full slate of musical performances. In the main showroom and in smaller venues throughout the ship, you will have ample opportunity to enjoy your favorite "Prairie Home" performers. There will be sing-a-longs and gatherings and most likely a talent show. We will add lectures, readings, and other events to HAL's regular cruise offerings.
The APHC events are in addition to all of the activities you would expect on a cruise ship: dining, swimming, spa services, eating, relaxing, sports, gambling, shopping, dining, entertainment, other special events, and more eating.
When do we attend the evening performances?
Our main attraction on board is the evening performance in the main showroom. These can be similar to APHC broadcast shows, or they can be music concerts, or even our (in)famous passenger talent show. Regardless, everyone wants to come see them.
The showroom only holds about half of the ship's passengers, which is why we repeat the show each night. The problem comes when people try to see both shows. This can deny your fellow passenger the opportunity to see the show. So we've come up with a plan that we hope you think is fair.
You will receive a sticker to put on your Holland America ID card. This will identify which show you may attend each night. We are going to check this identification for each main evening show, just as we would take tickets for a regular performance. We will clear the auditorium after each show, and we will not allow people to reserve seats in advance.
Will you publish a schedule of activities?
We are always adding new things to do, right up to the day of departure. Once aboard, we adjust the schedule daily. Look for an overview of cruise activities in your cabin the day of departure. HAL and APHC will publish an official daily schedule which will be delivered to your cabin every morning.
Will I actually SEE Garrison? How about the Guy's All-Star Shoe Band? And what about the Royal Academy of Radio Actors?
Prairie Home performers will be guests of Holland America just like you. You'll see them in the elevators, on the Lido deck, at the buffets and bars and, of course, on stage. Don't be afraid to say hi, ask questions, or tell us you loved a particular event. But do understand that we may be running to our next event, or just need some time on our own.
Should I bring a musical instrument?
If it is something that you'd like to play for your pleasure in a casual, sit-around-a-campfire kind of atmosphere, yes. While a few people may end up on stage, this is not the place to look for your big break.
Will any of the shows be broadcast?
No, but they will be recorded for possible later use. We may create a broadcast from the recorded material.
Will there be opportunities for autographs?
While on board, feel free to ask for autographs at your leisure. Check in with a Prairie Home or EMI staff member on board if you have questions about this.
Will there be APHC merchandise for sale?
Yes. Check out the gift shops on board. We'll have clothing, books, and lots of music featuring your Prairie Home favorites.
When do we schedule our dining? Can we sit together at dinner?
When you register for the cruise you will request your seating preferences for dining. EMI will do everything possible to honor seating requests. In most every case you will be able to sit near friends and family, assuming you want to. You may meet new friends at your table as well.
What is the difference between early seating and late seating?
The Dining Room and the Main Show Lounge each hold half of the ship's passengers, so we all need to rotate.
EARLY seating passengers will eat at the first seating of dinner, at 5:30 pm. Then they go to the show, at 8:30 pm.
LATE seating passengers see the Main Lounge Show FIRST, at 6:00 pm. They then go to dinner at the second seating, at 7:45 pm.
While accommodations can often be made, due to the popularity of our evening shows we will use assigned dinner times: the "As-You-Wish" dining program available on regular HAL cruises will not be used.
If I have food allergies or other dietary needs, will the ship be able to accommodate these?
Yes, but you must inform us in advance. You can learn more at HAL Shipboard Life.
What is the Dress Code?
Because we are chartering the ship, APHC has the freedom to set our own dress-code policies. We are considerably more relaxed than the standard cruise. Sunday-go-to-church clothes is about as fancy as we get. If you like to dress up, please feel free and some of us may join you.
The only time there will be an actual dress code is in the dining rooms during the evening meal. On most nights the dress code will be "smart casual". This means long pants and sports shirt or sweater for men, and skirt or long pants and sweater or blouse for women. We prefer you to avoid casual T-shirts, swimsuits, tank tops, shorts, and the like in the dining rooms during the evening hours. We will designate one evening as "semi-formal". This generally means sport coat and maybe a tie for men; and a dress, skirt or pants suit for women. On that night all patrons eating in the main dining room will be expected to dress in semi-formal or formal attire and the crew will pull out their dress uniforms. Many people take this opportunity to dress in their finest clothes and make a fun evening out of it, but you sure don't have to. Be who you are, is what we say.
May we dine elsewhere?
Holland America offers many other options for dining. You are not obligated to join us in the dining room, although you may want to let your seatmates know you won't be joining them. Dining options include a private table at the Pinnacle Grill or the Canaletto Restaurant, informal dining on the Lido Deck, and Room Service available 24/7. The dining room is also a lovely option for lunch.
VII. Life Aboard Ship
How do I contact an EMI or APHC staff person? How will they be identified?
We will staff a question table near the front desk. And we'll all wear an ID badge.
After boarding the ship, how long before I can get into the cabin?
Boarding for the ship begins several hours before we cast off. You'll be able to enter your cabin once your stateroom is prepared. HAL has streamlined this process to a great degree, but please understand that they have to turn around accommodations for over 1,200 people in a very short period of time. Plenty of on-board activities will be available while you wait, including making a few arrangements for your week. And the buffet lines will be open.
What kind of amenities will I find in my cabin?
Cabins on the Maasdam are outfitted much like a good hotel room. You will find them to be comfortable, nicely decorated, efficient, and clean.
All linens and bedding will be supplied. Your bathroom comes complete with towels, toiletries, and your very own bathrobe. You will find ample closet and drawer space, a dressing table, cabin-controlled air conditioning, a variety of cabin lighting, and a television with ship-board programming available.
All staterooms are equipped with standard 110 AC and 220 AC power outlets. Personal care items and electronics will work just as they do at home. Hairdryers are available in all staterooms. You may wish to bring a travel alarm clock as they are not provided–although the hotel desk will arrange a wake-up call for you.
For safety reasons, we respectfully request that you do not iron clothing in your stateroom. Ironing facilities are available in the self-service laundry rooms for your convenience. Full laundry, dry-cleaning and valet services are available on the Maasdam.
Where can I smoke?
In deference to our performers and your fellow passengers, this is a "non-smoking" cruise. You may smoke only in your own cabin and in certain designated areas on the outside decks of the ship. Our cruise does designate some areas (including all lounge and restaurant areas) as non-smoking where it might be permitted on other HAL cruises.
How can I be reached in case of an emergency?
Holland America has procedures in place for situations that require emergency contact with your loved ones. Find more details at HAL Planning and Advice.
What if I need medical attention?
Fully trained medical professionals are on board at all times, and a complete medical facility is available. Aspirin and seasickness pills are on the house, but you may have to pay something for other items or services.
Can I call my friends in their cabin? Can I call home?
Your stateroom comes equipped with telephones that can be used to call your fellow passengers just as in a hotel. They can also be used for ship-to-shore communication, however significant charges apply. Find out more about how this works at HAL Planning and Advice. Passengers may not see our guest roster and we will not give out cabin numbers.
Will my cell phone work?
Probably not for most of the cruise. Call your carrier for details for your plan.
Will I have access to the Internet?
Yes. You may bring your own computer or use ones provided by HAL. You can buy minutes for surfing the Internet at any point throughout the trip. Wireless is available in some locations and is charged under the same system. Please be aware the prices are high and can add up quickly. See HAL Planning and Advice for more details.
Can I get married on board ship?
No. This is a private, chartered cruise. No weddings. No divorces, either.
Will there be stuff for my kids to do?
Holland America provides a range of activities for kids through their Club Hal program, see HAL Onboard Activities for details. The Club HAL room is regularly available with games electronic and otherwise, and has daily special group activities. The schedule of events is determined by the number of kids who sail with us, we promise to include APHC programming in their schedule. The Maasdam also features The Loft, an indoor/outdoor relaxation area specifically reserved for teenagers.
How should I dress for the weather?
While weather can always change, we will be sailing the Maritimes at a popular time of year. Temperatures should be moderate, in the mid-high 60's, cooler at night and at sea.
When on deck it can always be windy and cool, be prepared for that. Of course be prepared for rain. Be sure to bring comfortable shoes for walking on deck or on shore.
Should I bring anything else?
If you are interested in "knowing stuff," you might want to bring along your binoculars and a field guide or three (birds, marine mammals, wildflowers, and geology are just a few). Previous guests have found benefit from bringing a camera, a journal, an instrument, or their most recent knitting project.
What will sea conditions be like?
We could have calm seas. We could have 15-foot waves. The ship may glide placidly along with barely a perceptible murmur. The ship may rock back and forth, making even the stout of heart (and stomach) reach for the Dramamine. We will probably see a bit of everything. While it is extremely unlikely that we will experience severe weather, HAL does an excellent job of tracking and avoiding storms.
You'll find all the information you need at Shore Excursions.
Booked guests may confirm shore excursion requests in advance of sailing. Once you have a booking number, you may use it to view shore excursion information specific to your itinerary. To complete a booking, please proceed through all screens on the HAL booking page until you receive a reference number, which indicates that HAL has received your request.
Guests may pre-book shore excursions online until 5 days prior to sailing. If your departure date is less than 5 days away, please call Shore Excursions at 1-888-425-9376 to book directly with an agent. All shore excursion requests are processed on a first-come, first-serve basis. Waitlisted requests for sold-out shore excursions will be processed prior to requests made on board. Children under 18 must be accompanied by a parent or responsible adult over 25.
Excursion cancellations may incur a cancellation fee and any refund may be issued in the form of credit to your on-board account. Excursions have individual deadlines after which no refund or credit is given. Please refer to Shore Excursions for details.
All excursions are the responsibility of independent tour operators. HAL acts only as an agent to help you book your tours. We have no financial or operational relationship with them. While excursions may be arranged directly with independent operators on shore you will have limited recourse in the event of an un-satisfactory experience.
All of our ports afford the opportunity to explore on foot at no cost or by local transportation. Please feel free to set out as you wish.
Wherever and however you explore, be sure to be back on time. Be sure that your watch is set to ship's time, local time on land can be different. The ship cannot wait past scheduled departure times.
IX. Contact Us
We had a wonderful time on the cruise, and we hope you did too. We've posted a journal of daily updates — notes, photos, and videos — that captured our time at sea and on stage. You can also visit the archive to hear the best of the cruise performances on the July 23, 2011 show.