We cruise at least two to four times a year and escort groups. This sailing we chose for just my husband and myself as a Vacation to celebrate ring in the New year 2014. Our departure date was December 30, 2013 and we chose this cruise for the date and the reasonable price and also the $50 per person drink cards and the complimentary gift to the Pinnacle restaurant; which made this a well priced Holiday sailing.
We are in our mid 60's and very young at heart. We enjoy hiking, fitness activities, water sports and dancing to energetic music. We have sailed Holland America before on the Vista Class ships and love the Greenhouse Spa which we like the best of all Cruise line Spas.
In reviewing this particular sailing on the Noordam, I will point out the things that were positive and special as well as the points that need improvement. And I will simply point out the experiences we had in order.
Embarkation was excellent, and perhaps the best we have ever experienced in 40 years of cruising. We took the Cruise Connection bus transportation and upon arrival baggage handling was quick and efficient. After completing the health survey, I would say check in was not more than 10 minutes wait before boarding the ship. Our cabin was ready upon boarding, and luggage arrived before the muster drill.
Our Cabin Steward David and his assistant Harry introduced themselves upon arrival and asked if we had any special requests. I enjoy having bottled water brought to the cabin daily which he did.
After dropping off our carry on luggage we went directly to the spa to purchase the one week package for the thermal suites and hydrotherapy pool. The cost is $249.00 per couple for the week which is the price it always is. We enjoy this as our day time relaxation activity and know that the usage is limited for space, so we book it upon arrival on the ship. We also had a 10 minute neck and shoulder sample massage. We did not need a tour of the spa facilities since we have sailed Vista Class ships before. One disappointment is that two of the three steam rooms were not working for the entire trip and there was no compensation credit or apologies for the faulty equipment that we were unable to use.
We planned to book treatments later, rather than the first day as they run specials in the daily news letters as the voyage progresses. Later in the week I had a massage and hair treatment from Ana who was very professional, pleasant and although her job was to offer the sale of products, she did so in an informative and low key way, and was not pushy.
Our next stop was lunch on the Lido Deck. On the first day for lunch I don't expect much. The food was adequate but the service was poor from the beginning and did not improve until the last two days of the voyage. Food was served without trays on plates by the staff. There was no self serve due to health reasons, which seemed ok. But the problems were as follows: 1. If you asked for an extra slice of meat, or an extra scoop of pasta sauce, we were given an attitude. 2. Without trays it was impossible to carry a plate with a soup bowl or a drink so two trips needed to be made. We had to ask for silverware because none was available le to simply pick up and by the time a staff member came with silver ware or a soup spoon, the food was cold. No help existed in assisting with finding a table and many tables that were empty were not cleaned off. By the second day the food variety was worse and if you arrived after 1:00 pm for lunch the choices were cold pasta with an attitude if you wanted extra sauce, cold pizza or a few salads. There was one dish called tarragon chicken and another that said something else. I was unsure which dish was wish so I asked the server, but unfortunately he did not know either. Needless to say we ate lunch at some nice restaurants in Ports Of Call at our expense. With everything closed down by 1:30 pm and most shore excursions lasting after that, lunch onboard was very limited at best. Needless to say the Lido deck needs major improvements to keep up with cruise industry standards. There was a lot of chatter and complaining about this issue.
We chose the anytime dining and liked the flexibility. The host that seated is in the Vista Dining room was always very friendly and knew our names every evening. We had the pleasure of sharing dining tables with others and met some great people. On a couple of evenings there was a bit of a wait but to be expected when we are in Port longer. The service was good to very good in the main dining room. Friendly and professional throughout. The main dining room food was also good. We are not real picky and always found something to enjoy. I do wish the lobster would have been regular grilled lobster tail because the thermador was not enjoyed by many that ordered it, so I passed and decided on another selection. The man named Roni that passed out mints outside the dining room was delightful. I have no idea how he remembers everyone's name but I was impressed. The extra touches do make a difference.
The most enjoyable part of this cruise bar none was the B.B. King Blues Club Band. I love old Motown and old Disco and the lively and talented band made the entire cruise for me and made it one of the most enjoyable New Years Eve parties ever. 10 Stars for this band!!! Loved the New Years Eve Party and the count down. The cruise director was also delightful.
The shows were good. The Hal Cats were good but average. Good for on deck music or in Half Moon Cay but not great for dancing. The violin and piano music on the way to the dining room was almost depressing. They reminded me of the violin players on the Titanic movie, but each to their own.
The Comedian and also the Matilda show was hilarious and kept us laughing. The dancers and stage performance was good. Beautiful stage and choreography but the singing seemed piped in and lip synced which made it less that excellent.
Bar service was poor for the most part. In the Vista Lounge and Queens lounge and even on New Years Eve, we had to go to the bar and ask for a drink or keep waving for a cocktail waiter. We are not big drinkers but honestly for those that are, this would have been a huge disappointment. They acted like asking for a drink was an inconvenience.
The shore excursion desk was efficient and we took the Coast to Coast tour in Grand Turk which was Excellent. And we did the Rain Forest Drive and hike and that was also great. Beautiful views and friendly tour guides. We met up with friends and went to lunch in St Thomas. Half Moon Cay we rented a clam shell and the service was quick and efficient upon arrival.
One thing I did like was that on this sailing the Christmas decorations were still up. It kept things festive throughout the entire Holiday. Some Lines take them down immediately after their Christmas sailings so this was a welcome surprise.
The Pinnacle Grill experience was excellent food and service and top notch. Very pleased. Much more food portions than we could eat, and honestly not sure we would have paid a $30 per person surcharge had it not been included in the cost of the cruise as a special gift. We remember the days when food and service was excellent on the entire voyage in every dining room at no added charge.
Debarkation was very slow due to problems with customs we were told. It was not a big deal to us since our transportation home was later.
All in all it was not the best Cruise we have been on but not the worst either. Lido service definitely needs serious improvement, and if they charge to use the spa then all of the facilities should be functioning and usable.
It was a great New Years party and great band, so I can say we would do it again.
For a small Island, this tour was excellent, and the tour guide pointed out many highlights and made stops to interesting points of interest. The tour guide did not waste sightseeing time for needless shopping that some do. Very pleased with the tout.
HMC is by far the most beautiful of Cruise Ship private Islands. We rented a clam shell and just enjoy the beach. The Hal Cats played in a long bar that looked like a ship wreck. The music was great. I removed one star from the rating because the buffet served on the Island was horrible. The food came from the Lido deck. I don't know how anyone can mess up a burger or hot dog but you can get better at a greasy spoon or low end fast food place. The only major complaint of this cruise was the lack of good food or service on the buffets.
Rain forest drive and hike was perhaps the best Caribbean tour we have ever been on. Very informative professional guides. The views were spectacular. If you want to see the Beauty Of Puerto Rico, this is a must do. Not recommended for elderly or people with mobility problems but it's a moderate tour and easy walk so you do not need to be a fitness enthusiast to participate. The walking trail is well paved and stairs have railings.
We have been to St Thomas many times and know the area and met up with friends that live there for lunch. We went to a restaurant called Hook Line and Sinker and many locals or people that stay on the Island longer than a cruise stop eat there. Best Grouper lunch ever (and we live in Florida where grouper is an easy find). Other fabulous things on the menu from burgers to salad and full meals. Plenty of places with over looks for scenery and photo opportunities. And of course the shopping is great too.