The day we arrived in Ft. Lauderdale and arrived at the ship terminal...all went very smoothly and effortlessly. There were absolutely NO problems boarding the ship. One of the easier boardings!!
Upon boarding we went to put our carry on's in our room and see what the room was all about. The rooms were larger than we have had before....and the obstructed view room had a FLOOR TO CEILING window....AWESOME!!!! We could see out a little....and had plenty of sunlight coming into our room. The beds were absolutely THE BEST I have ever had on a cruise ship. I slept better than I do at home!!!! They were soooo comfortable, it almost made you want to stay in bed in the morning (which isn't normally the case on cruises!). And the bathrooms gave you more space to move around also. So, right off the bat, we liked what we saw.
We went to the pool bar to meet our four friends who traveled with us (Marty and Lisa and John and Sandy). They, likewise, liked their rooms. We walked up to the dining room to see our table assignment and to see the dining room. It was very nice and we were more than happy with our table location.
We went to have lunch in the Lido and there some disappointed crept in. It seems they could use a little more organization! If there are some things you don't want at the beginning of any of the food station lines (there are several different stations with different types of foods) you merely cut into the middle of the line where the items you want are located. So, with people cutting in and out of line, it is not only confusing, but frustrating!!!! Then there are tables for two along the path you walk to get to the food stations. What happens there, is that if someone stops to talk to the people at the tables for two.........the walkway to get to the foodstations are blocked by chit chatters!!!! Just doesn't work!!! They also need bigger glasses for lemonade and ice tea. Or at least a choice of large and small glasses!!! You need three or four glasses to have with your meals because of their size. Which either makes it inconvenient to carry so many (since there are no food trays for you to carry) or inconvenient to go back to the beverage station so many times!!! They didnt come around often enough with drinks while you eat. But I have to say the FOOD WAS AWESOME!!! They had Italian (pasta, alfredo, red or meat sauces, lasagna, garlic bread, pizza etc...) they had terrific Asian food with a great variety, Sandwiches, full meals (carved beef or ham, chicken... with potatoes, vegetables, etc...) There were dessert stops and fruit and salad stations, ice cream and sundaes...........IT WAS WONDERFUL!!! And the food was very, very good. They just need to make it a little easier to negotiate. But great food and great variety!!
We cruised the Southern Caribbean and stopped at Aruba, Caracao, Bonaire, Samana, Grand Turks and Half Moom Cay. We thought all the stops were pretty good except for Samana. All the ports had shopping, things to see, decent exursions to take depending on what you wanted to do. Our group likes to hire a van to take us EVERYWHERE that's interesting!!! Samana was very poor, not much to see, not the best shopping and hardly anyone could speak English (if that was the language you happened to speak!!!) Telling you if I liked a port or not seems ludicrous since we all look for different things when we dock. But I CAN give you my opinion if I thought it was a worthwhile stop!!!! I personally thought the best shopping was Aruba and Grand Turks...just my opinion. Half Moon Cay was the nicest private ship beach we have been on!!!!
Now for the ship. Noordam is an absolutely beautiful ship. Clean and shining with great staff. However I was VERY disappointed that the pool band did NOT play Caribbean music!!!! For me, personally, the steel drum music sets the mood and atmosphere on a Caribbean cruise. To not have that type of music to listen to at the main pool, while relaxing, seemed almost a sacralige!!! And to have a band with a SAX and a weak singer added insult to injury. The HAL Cats were a pretty great band...and are great for any of the nightclubs on the ship...but not the pool bar (in my opinion). The lead singer had a very weak voice and was trying to sing songs like Tina Turner and voices she had no chance of ever replicating. So that was a disappointment. When she sang something more suited to her (like Mary Wells) she was much better. Ashley Rose played a guitar and was absolutely wonderful!!! Loved her voice and choice of songs....good job Ashley. She played at the aft pool during the day and at the Crow's Nest later in the day. Speaking of the aft pool...this pool is designated as an ADULT pool, so I really wish someone would enforce this and NOT ALLOW THE CHILDREN TO FROLIC AND SWIM THERE!!!!! Very annoying! I'm sure it's so the parents can smoke.....but they need to watch their children in the appropriate places and smoke some other time!!!!
We had our dinner at the late seating. We chose not to do anytime dining because one of the best parts or our cruises has been getting acquainted with our wait staff in the dining room. When you have the same servers every night you get to know their personalities and can have some real fun with them. We had Peter and Sumer and they were AWESOME!!!! Sumer even did magic tricks for us before we ate and made us origami animals for our table....it was really fun!!! And Peter had a great smile and personality. They both made our dinner time very enjoyable. The food selections were great and the food was excellent. The presentation of the food (especially the desserts) was the best ever. Sometimes I thought the menu sounded a little strange...or the items sounded like something I might not like.........but they always ended up tasting incredibly good!!!! Kudos to the chef!!!
Every night before dinner we met at the Ocean bar where they had Happy Hour from 7-8 p.m....which consisted of buying one drink and getting a second drink of the same for $1!!! Great deal which we took advantage of every night.
As we sat having a cocktail waiting for dinner time, Ismail would come around with his chimes (xylophone) to let us know it was time to eat. He was pleasant and fun and had a million dollar smile. We looked forward to seeing him each evening before we ate and after dinner to get mints or pieces of ginger ..etc ..outside the dining room exit doors.
All six of us (two from Canada....two from Ohio (USA) and two from Tennessee (USA)) enjoyed our time together on HAL!!! The ten days flew buy and as always you have to say goodbye. Not only to the ship and crew but to each other. The good part is that we will all meet again and have another great cruise...........and Holland will now be in the mix of ships we like to travel on.
Bon Voyage to all of you going on the Noordam......I don't think you will be disappointed!!!