Selected this cruise because of the itinerary, had best selection of Mediterranean ports at a pretty good price. Arrived in Rome three and a half days prior to cruise. It was warmer than most mid June, didn't do a lot of day time walking. Found a tourist apartment for less than half of what a hotel would have cost. Was located 20 minute walk from Spanish Steps and 15 minute walk from Colosseum. Made arrangements with private tour operator to pick up at airport, provide day long site seeing of Rome and to take us to the pier.
Arrived at the port about 1030, driver suggest we leave early because lots of people from Rome travel to the beaches around Civitavecchia on Sunday. Took us over an hour and a half. Dock of embarkation was well set up. Even though check in hadn't started there was a place in the air conditioning to sit and wait. We were checked in and were on board by about 1130. Staterooms were set up and ready so we could drop our hand carry items before heading to the Lido for lunch and explore the ship.
The room was a good size, don't really think it was that much bigger than a balcony cabin on Princess, other than it had a fold out love seat. Balcony, thought the width of the cabin was only about four feet deep, didn't allow must room to stretch out you legs sitting in one of the two chairs. The cabins on deck six looked like the balconies were about three feet wider. Even though didn't use the tub as a tub it was nice having the extra room in the bathroom. Didn't get mugged by the shower curtain.
For all the hype I've read about Holland Americas dining, I wasn't that impressed. It was just standard cruise line food. Just as every other cruise I've been on we don't know how to cook a baked potato. The menu was not put together well. One night there may be one item I really wanted to try, then the next night would have five out of six items I would have liked. Wait staff was pretty good but did have to complain that they were slow to refill water and remove dirty plates. Some of this was due that even though the seating was suppose to be at 8:00, they were still allowing people to show up at 9:15 and still be seated.
Vista Lounge entertainment was very disappointing. It wasn't until about day eight that I realized the stage had more than just a star cur tin. Seemed like every night started the same way with the same female singer singing some ballad. One night the show was nothing more than the four primary singers sitting on chairs taking turns at singing. Most nights the ship band didn't support the stage production, was a recording. Other than ship provided musical venues, they had no other nightly entertainment. No nightly comedy show or other act.
Their process for shore excursions was one of the better I've seen. They could have staggered the times a bit better to avoid crowding in the Vista Lounge. They would call each tour and as you and your family left the lounge you were given a number assigning you to a bus. Saved having everyone crowd around to swarm on to buses. Nothing against the excursion staff of the Noordam, but Holland America needs to do a better job of screening their tour operators. Tour guides need to have more than just basic English skills. The guide in Palm was so bad everyone was just happy it was over.
Disembarkation was smooth. Preassigned times based on color and number on baggage tag. We were able to either wait in our cabin or anywhere on the ship we pleased. Luggage stations were spread out enough that there was no congestion. We disembarked at a different terminal than the one we left from. It looked like the people getting on didn't have the same space and amenities we had.
Over all I'd say this was just an okay cruise. Nothing really special, don't know if I'd sail Holland America again or not. Itinerary was port heavy, only had one day at sea. I think at most ports they could have offered the ability to take two tours a day. Most times tours were four hours and were back on board by 1:30 to 2:00. Ship could have stayed in port another two hours and we could have made the next port call with no problem. Most days we only averages 11.5 knots on a ship with a max speed of 22 or 24, so he really wasn't pushing it to the next port.