Getting on board was easy as can be. We were really happy with that. No queues and in we went. Our room was in the open way between the stairs to Lido food and the lifts. I thought from a previous review this area was a balcony problem and also not sure I would be happy with the room being where it was. Turned out I had nothing to worry about. Room was great and the water being washed in the evenings over the side up top did come into our balcony every evening. But no complaints. It was a great spot to be in and considering my husband catching a flu bug only a few days out it turned out for the better. I didn't find the bed very comfortable at all but my husband thought it was just ok. The bed in Rome was hard as a board so I guess anything was better.
There was a gastro thing going around the ship and I think they handled it just wonderfully. The crew had the added task of serving out the portions but gave me piece of mind.
Our first night we tried eating in the Vista dining and it wasn't too good. I was seated in the back and right on top of the engine shafts?? So the food I ate turned in my stomach. Never was so glad to leave that table. We tried one more night and then with hubby sick we ended up eating quiet meals in a corner in the Lido. Kind of sad cause the food was kind of sad too. Very repetitive. Both sides of the Lido served food but not the same thing. So I never even knew there was an egg benedict area till the last day! I did however enjoy an italian night where the food was really enjoyable. There was seating outside but if you went all the way to the back your food was cold in a heartbeat. And if you were up close well then you had to eat cigarette smoke with your food.
We did however have a couple meals towards the second cruise which was Pinnacle and then Le Cirque. They were of course just lovely. Our first night was on a formal night though. So we had to change it after we showed up not dressed for it. Quite disappointing. I can understand Vista dining formal but not Pinnacle as well. The steward who came to us was quite uppity and that didn't set to well.
I suppose if I had one complaint it would be the smoking. Cigarettes and cigars everywhere. We couldn't even get away from it on our own balcony. Not one time could I sit outside and just enjoy the air without smoke. After being in Rome for a couple days before we boarded and sucking all the cigarette smoke there it was rather disappointing to have to constantly walk into it on the ship.
The information you get each night about what goes on the next day in port was pretty good. However, it really could be just a tad more open about the difficulties of queues and maybe they could also remind people of how you queue. As in go to the end and not jump in. There was a never ending problem with this and it was everywhere!
We didn't get to see Tunisia which was a huge disappointment for me. I was a bit over Italy and Greece and really wanted to touch down in North Africa. Because of the Utube video and violence that port was cancelled. However, Holland gave us a free cookbook for the change and the gastro with the super clean they needed to do. It was an awesome book and I thought that was pretty cool of them to do.
we would also get bags to take on shore to put things in. Great quality and again so unexpected but wow...pretty cool.
I learned a lot about Italy and Greece. The ancient and the old. And yes you must have comfortable walking shoes cause you do so much walking on constantly changing surfaces and very rarely are they foot friendly! I thought the shuttles were great as we did not book any excursions due to cost. We can always find our own way of seeing things and the hop on hop off buses are really pretty good. Sometimes it was even information overload and I'd have to pull out the earplugs. But we thought it was really an excellent way to see more of an area then you could possibly do walking it.
As for the crew I found them tired. Surprised to learn they work 7 days a week explained that one. Should passengers be aware of that though...I don't think so. We had a great room steward though due to so few staff we didn't get to see him much. Would we sail with Hal again, I think so. We have a couple more cruises coming up and one is another different cruise line. All cruise lines have their good side and their not so good side. But then that does depend on what you are wanting or expecting I suppose. For me, quality of food and things to do on board and the shops I like. I am beginning to find that the programs offered on ships is pretty much the same which is a little bit sad. Also, if there are not enough restaurants to choose from even though you might have to pay extra that can be frustrating. What was available on the Noordam for shopping from the beginning was like all the larger sizes were gone. It was low on stock which was really disappointing. Or stock that didn't even pertain to our double cruise. Kind of weird but again I have seen on other ship lines too.
She is a beautiful ship. We have done the Alaska cruise with HAL and it was great. Food was better.
All in all...it was pretty good. Nothing is like home is it. But it was pretty good. We also used the laundry bags as they don't provide washers and dryers. Now it cost us $192 which yeah for 17 days is a lot. But let me tell you I used it EVERY day and was happy to pay for it I must admit. Having to wash clothes on a cruise is not to my liking. I don't want to cook, clean, laundry or anything like home. And our clothes returned quickly and nicely done I might add.
My only negative for this cruise would be food quality in the buffet area and smoking. Other than that it was ok. It's a very physical cruise and strongly recommend if you are not young and fit...pick the spring or fall. But definitely not summer.