The entire Noordam staff were graduates of smile school, and were very accommodating to any need that we expressed.
- The Maitre 'd made a point of soliciting our comments about the Vista Dining Room ("tepid soup, slower service between courses than expected"- which he remedied). Portions seemed smaller than I remember from previous cruises, so we often visited the Lido deck later to get a bite.
- The Excursion Director, KK, provided an informative overview of the destinations and had scheduled hours at her Main Deck desk to respond to individual questions; she had unlimited patience in dealing with people who did absolutely nothing on their own to become informed (and who also wasted everyone else's time). We took one HAL excursion and explored other destinations on our own- I find that privately arranged tours are about half the charge of HAL's and you can alter them as you'd like. Hop On-Hop Off buses are also a fairly quick and inexpensive way to get the lay of the land.
- The crew was especially attentive to passenger safety during tendering operations at ports where the ship couldn't dock.
Our single significant disappointment was that complimentary wifi wasn't available- not in the cabins nor in a central location such as the library. Cruisers get pumped about their activities and increasingly want to share their excitement through email and facebook (generating some buzz for potential HAL cruisers?).
While Motel 6 provides it free, HAL gouges passengers 75c a minute, or lesser amounts if you shell out for a package of minutes, starting at $55 for 100 minutes ($.55 a minute). If capacity was a significant factor, I'd suggest providing some basic minutes free and charging for usage over that amount.
Fair price for a city-wide tour- this was a good way to take in a lot in a minimum amount of time so you can stop at just those spots that interest you.
We booked reservations through Julia Travel for a dinner & flamenco show, but discovered that Julia dropped the ball (reserve seats directly with the restaurant, http://www.tablaocordobes.com).
Agree with everyone else- Gaudet's architecture is a sight to behold.
Took the shuttle into the old port area. All the cathedrals look the same to me; we walked, took photos, and ate a leisurely outdoor lunch at a port side restaurant. Beautiful day, enjoyable experience.
Followed the excursion director's advice and walked from the tender point to the palace. Took the palace tour (8 euros) through a about 6-8 rooms that looked very palace like (gaudy?), then walked to the Jardin Exotica. Be sure to use the elevators, as it's hundreds of feet above sea level.
While there, we stumbled across an included guided tour of a cave that goes down a couple of hundred feet into a couple of Luray Cavern like chambers.
Hopped on a local bus for a scenic return to the downtown area, a relaxing drink, and walk to the tender point.
Second time we've used this outfit for a private tour
As before, they were exceptional: right outside the building when we arrived, recent vintage 8-passenger Mercedes van, friendly, well-dressed English speaking driver/tour guide for 400 euros. He asked what we wanted to see/do and accommodated every request. Even recommended a sea food restaurant on the water in Amalfi that was tourist free (even though there were 8 tour buses parked at the small port.
Also stopped in Positano- beautiful as ever!
Walked extensively to points & routes recommended by the Excursion Director. Could also get free wifi at a restaurant very near the dock.
Took a cab to the Hotel Grand, about a mile from the city center. Very nice setting for lunch, but expensive (24 euros for a club sandwich & fries).
The Verdi Opera House was impressive, but couldn't get in for a tour (an employee said "Tomorrow").
Olbio replaced Tunis as a stop. We did another self-guided walking tour of the central city and had a leisurely lunch ashore.