We took the 11-day South Caribbean Wayfarer Cruise on Holland America Noordam from November 5 to 16. This was our eighth cruise on Holland America, and we enjoy the size of the ships, the friendliness and attention, and the wonderful cuisine and service.
We flew nonstop from Kansas City to Ft. Lauderdale via SW Airlines, arriving the day before the cruise. We took a taxi to the Hyatt Regency Pier Sixty-Six Hotel. I would highly recommend the Hyatt for a pre-cruise hotel. They were very friendly and the room was quite large with a wonderful bathroom. We had a first floor room with a small patio overlooking the garden and pool area.
The weather was beautiful and we had a late lunch at the Orchid's Pool Bar and Grill. I had the Pier Shrimp Salad and my husband had the Cheese Burger. Both were excellent!
We ate dinner on the hotel property by the pier -- Grille 66 & Bar. Luckily, the weather was warm and mild, so we could eat outside once again. We had the special which was the Mixed Sea Grill -- absolutely fantastic. My husband also had the Key Lime Pie. We experienced great service and highly recommend it.
The next morning, after an excellent breakfast buffet in the Mariner's Cafe, we took a cab to the pier, arriving around 10:15 a.m. Check-in went very smoothly and we were soon on the Noordam.
Our rooms were ready and our luggage arrived around 4:45 p.m., so we were able to change for dinner held in the Main Dining Room. Meantime, we ate at the Mariner's Luncheon; reserved our table for the 5:15 p.m. seating in the Vista Dining Room; signed up for Internet minutes in the Exploration's Cafe; signed up for the Navigator's Wine Package; attended the emergency drill; and then read.
After dinner, we listened to the Adagio Strings in the Explorer's Lounge. This was part of our daily routine as we enjoy their music immensely. The young group of two women and two men was from Moldova. I cannot say enough about this quartet -- they were absolutely outstanding. The members were Vadim Buinovski -- leader and violin; Daria Buinovski -- violin; Serghei Racenco -- viola; and Irina Solpan -- cello.
Our day-to-day schedule was very routine. My husband and I do not do many excursions as the cruise ship is our destination. We cruise to enjoy the relaxation, cuisine, and entertainment. We like to read, attend the lectures and demonstrations, walk on the deck, go to wine tastings, play trivia, meet new people, dine, go to the shows, and watch the ocean.
A short review of the ship follows:
EMBARKATION: Went very smoothly.
STATEROOM: We were in a large outside partially-obstructed-view room on upper promenade deck 4. Luckily, we had a good view of the ocean between the lifeboats. We are seldom in the cabin, so just having a window was nice. There was plenty of closet space and two small cabinets, with locks, beside the bed. There was also a safe in the closet. The small bathroom had a shower-tub combination. The beds were very comfortable with nice linens and the towels were nice and large. We did not experience any plumbing problems and the a/c worked perfectly.
We very seldom saw our cabin stewards -- Mohammad and Rul, and they did a fantastic job. They had 30 rooms to clean each day (twice a day), plus their other duties. Cannot say enough good things about them.
DINING: When we boarded the ship, we went directly to the Explorer's Lounge to make reservations for the same table each night in the MDR (open seating). This allows us to sit at the same table each evening and get to know our waiters and wine steward. It is very comparable to fixed seating which always seems to be closed when we make our reservations. Our excellent dining room stewards were Daeno and Arie and the wine steward was George.
Every meal in the MDR was wonderful. We so enjoy trying different items and my husband always looks forward to the chilled soups. Contrary to many comments on Cruise Critic our service was beyond outstanding.
As noted on the Cruise Critic boards, the passengers seem to be "dressing down" more and more. My opinion is that they should eat in the Lido if they prefer casual wear. It doesn't bother me a lot, and I am assuming these passengers would dress the same way if they were going out to an upscale restaurant in a large city. A pleasant surprise was that on formal nights, there were at least 40% of the men in tuxedos -- something we did not see on our last cruise (Alaska).
We ate two lunches in the Pinnacle Grill which were very enjoyable. The food was wonderful and the service very good.
We chose to eat breakfast in The Lido since we are early risers and the MDR did not open until 7:30 a.m. Personally, I do not care for The Lido, but the food was good, so I can tolerate breakfasts.
ENTERTAINMENT: As I stated before, the Adagio Strings were outstanding. They also performed two concerts in the Queen's Lounge playing "From Bach to the Beatles" which drew standing ovations.
We also enjoyed several shows in the Vista Lounge. Jeff Burghart, an impressionist-comedian; Barnaby -- a juggler, singer, and comedian; and Frank King, a comedian, were all outstanding. David Schofield, a British concert pianist was very talented; the Divas of Motown were talented; and the Noordam singers and dancers were very good.
EXCURSIONS: Ports visited were: Philipsburg, St. Maarten; Castries, St. Lucia; Bridgetown, Barbados; Fort-de-France, Martinque; Roseau, Dominica; St. Thomas; and Half Moon Cay, Bahamas. Other passengers reported the tours on the islands were very beautiful and fun, but since we did not do any excursions, we just enjoyed the quiet, peaceful Noordam.
STAFF: The captain of the Noordam was Captain Robert Jan Kan, who did an excellent job keeping us informed of the weather conditions, etc. He was also easy to understand.
Shane Michaels was the Cruise Director and he was the best we have had on our eight cruises. We played Team Trivia each day with him as the host, and he did an excellent job.
Party Planner Sydney also did an excellent job coordinating the many Food & Entertaining Programs throughout the week which I attended.
We also attended the Navigator's Wine Tasting and had a most enjoyable time.
DISEMBARKATION: We were the second group to leave the ship as we used the Signature Express Baggage Service, so we didn't see our luggage until we arrived back in Kansas City. It was very convenient not to lug suitcases around at the airport as we had quite a long wait for our non-stop SW flight.
We had a wonderful cruise on the Noordam and are looking forward to many more with Holland America.