20 night Mediterranean (East and West) 7-27 June 2012
Arrived in Rome 3 days prior to the cruise and stayed at the excellent and well located Rafaello Hotel. Transfer from the airport direct to the Hotel for â‚¬45, was comparible in price to using the train+taxi and far more convenient.
On cruise day we travelled by train from Rome Termini station to Civitavecchia. Trains depart form platforms some 300m from the main station concourse so give yourself time to walk to the platform. Travel was â‚¬5 in second class and â‚¬7.70 in first class. First class gives you a bit more room to store your bags, but not all trains have a first class, some are only second class. Trains arrive at Civitavecchia either on platform 1, 2 or 3. If you arrive on platform 2 or 3 you will need to negotiate 2 sets of stairs with your baggage. The train departing Rome Termini at around 9:45am arrived at platform 1 but the train at 10:12am arrived at platform 2. It is a short easy 10 minute walk to the cruise terminal entrance where you can catch the ships shuttle bus.
Once aboard the ships shuttle bus at the port entrance, it was a short drive to the ship. Our baggage was checked in and we proceeded to the arrivals area. After an exchange of credit card details, ship id photo and passport check, we were assigned a boarding number and were onboard within 15 minutes. Overall, a very smooth and efficient process.
Our room was a VD category balcony room 4136, towards the stern almost adjacent to the elevators/stairs on the port side. The room was of good size, with plenty of storage and a good size verandah. There was some noise from the Kitchen Galley below us and the Room Stewards store across the hall, but it did not bother us.
Our room stewards Ludfi & Ronald did a great job and were on a first name basis with us from day 1.
The ship is in very good condition, you would need to be "nit-picking" to find any fault.
There is always something happening on the ship. Shows are not always everyone's cup of tea, but the Noordam singers and dancers are very accomplished and talented performers, and if that is what you appreciate, then you will very much enjoy the shows.
The special guests were of a very high standard. On our cruise they included ex-Olympic Gymnast Lance Ringnald, entertainer Elliot Finkel, Singing impressionist Karen Grainger, comediam Tom Sutton, the talented MacDonald Brothers, comediam/magician Martin Daniels, singer Fiona Jessica Wilson and Musical Entertainer Duncan Tuck. Google the names, these are very talented performers!
Food is a very subjective area to comment on, depending on ones taste, custom and lifestyle. You will not go hungry on the Noordam. The Dining room menus were very different and varied and the food and service was of a high standard on most nights. Dinner in the Dining Room was better than dinner on the Lido Restaurant. Breakfast and Lunch had plenty of variety, and there are other dining options available as well.
We did early casual dining and were not disappointed. Each night in the dining room we were able to sit with different people on a table of six or eight and share some great yarns. A table of six is best, eight made it a bit harder to really get to know your fellow travelers.
The itinerary is very port intensive, with only 3 sea days, but being able to wake up each morning somewhere new is one of the attractions of this itinerary. We did a mix of our own tours and some HAL tours. The quality of the HAL tours was mixed. If you want to take some of the stress out of port days, then they are the best option, but be prepared to pay a premium. Each port offered something unique and varied and possibly I will do a port/HAL tour review separately.
We had a great time, met some fantastic people mostly from Canada, USA and New Zealand, along with fellow Aussie travelers.