I booked this cruise ON MY OWN. I contacted HAL on several occasions to ask about the cruise, the facilities,the ports and I was ALWAYS met with half answers and fairly nasty attitudes. Their reply to me was to "Contact your travel professional for these answers"...HELLO!
Because of their lack of information, I spent a great deal of additional time researching the ports and actually did quite well. Things about the ship remained a mystery until we actually got there!
The ship was old, but nice enough. Our room was on the end of the ship with an extra large verandah. Our room stewards were wonderful and very attentive. The dinning room waiters were slow, the passengers were not all that friendly and basically kept to themselves. It may be because of the busy schedule and lack of activities on the ship. The front desk people were great but I sent post cards from every port to the grandchildren and paid the going rate for that port, but I see that a lot were mailed from the same port with the same stamps so they must have just held on to them and mailed when they could. They promised the mail went out everyday. I think not.
My BIG pet peeve was the travel desk. They were NEVER there. I needed to ask questions, maybe book a tour but wanted more information, needed info if not taking a tour. NEVER there! The tours were well run and were pretty good. They sent a crew member on each one to check them out.Even when we bought port shuttle tickets, they were sold by a front desk person and they could not tell me anything about that port!
The other problem was the computer GEEK. He was seldom there and I spent a great deal of my paid computer time helping others sign up and get onto the Internet. He was basically worthless. Oh, and forget your 3G, you have to purchase and use their Internet service.
We took what was two different cruises combined. The food was the same old, same old every day. The buffet was very nice except when it was closed, there was no food to be had. On Disney and QM2 there are always places to grab a bite to eat or some ice cream...not on the Noordam! The entertainment was lousy...the casino was dead, and the only bar that had any action was the piano bar BUT they allow people to sit and listen so when someone like us who wanted to have a few drinks go in, there is no room for us. That was just messed up!
You are allowed to bring on all the wine you want and if you buy hard liquor on the pier, you can also bring it on. We left every port on the verandah, having a drink, and a toast, "Been there, Done THAT!".
As for the itinerary, it was full and covered all you would want to see. We visited Asia (Turkey) and Africa (Tunisia) and many ports in Europe. You only have to unpack once and you wake up in a new place every day. We have now seen it all and loved it. It wore us out being so busy but we did not tour long during the days and were able to relax on the ship.
There are no laundry facilities on the ship. You must use their laundry and pay well for it. I am not going to wash my clothes by hand and hang all over the room so I had no choice. I also had to beg for laundry bags, they made it very difficult. I was told larger ships have no self serve laundry rooms but I beg to differ. Disney has on all decks and the QM2 (larger than any HAL ship)has FREE laundry facilities! By the way, I had no problem with the closets or hangers and there is a lot of storage...LOOK UNDER THE COUCH...huge drawers! I read blogs that said there was no storage! Oh, and there were NO CLOCKS in the rooms, bring one!
We are Mariner members also. We were not invited to any brunches with the captain or any cocktail parties as noted on their site. There was a luncheon the day we left, but it was a crazy, crowded mess so we left and went to the buffet. The Mariner club is a crock.
Would we go HAL again? I think not. It was nice to try something new but after Disney and Cunard...it is not worth settling for less. there were good points and bad points..as on all cruises, but this will be the last HAL trip.
**** In Rome, call RomeCabs (Sophia) they took us right to the baggage men on the pier and were right by our bags when we left the ship at the end of the cruise. It was less expensive and MUCH better than the bus HAL has you go on!