For some background, we are a Canadian couple in our 50’s/60’s who have only previously cruised with Holland America. Our itinerary was the Western Mediterranean - May 18th – 29th. This was our first time on the Noordam.
We flew business class from Toronto to Barcelona via Frankfurt and returned Rome, Frankfurt, Toronto. In Barcelona we stayed one night at the Hilton Diagonal Mar Hotel.We had an Executive Level room which provided access to a nice lounge with non- alcohol beverages as well as beer and wine in the evening after 6:30 pm, a good continental breakfast in the morning and a wonderful patio high above the city. The hotel is across from a large shopping centre that we enjoyed strolling through and is also a block from the beach. We took a taxi from the airport to the hotel for a cost of 35. Euro and a taxi from the hotel to the cruise port for a cost of 25. Euro.
Our cabin was a Deluxe Veranda Suite very close to the Neptune Lounge. We arrived at the cruise port at 11:45 am. Embarkation was very prompt with suite guests having access immediately. Our suite was ready upon arrival. We were invited to the Neptune Lounge for sparkling wine and snacks and shortly thereafter our luggage arrived. We also had a complimentary bottle of sparkling wine in our suite. We did not attend the suite party the first night and we did not attend the Mariners luncheon near the end of the cruise.
The suite was in good condition however the rooms are ready for some updating. While very clean and in good repair, the bathroom was showing its age. We have no complaints about the air conditioning or plumbing. Everything worked very well the entire cruise. Our room attendants were amazing and took very good care of us. As well, Celine, Homer and Kim in the Neptune Lounge were very accommodating and efficient and provided excellent service.
The Neptune Lounge offered the usual cold drink self-serve dispensers, deluxe coffee machine, morning continental breakfast, lunch time sandwiches and desserts and late afternoon hors d'oeuvres. Everything was fresh and perfectly presented. The only thing we missed this time was a toaster on the side board.
We felt that the ship was in excellent condition and very clean. Staff were continuously cleaning in all areas.
We did not eat in the Lido this trip so cannot comment other than when we did pass through it looked very busy. We enjoyed breakfast either in the Pinnacle or in the Neptune Lounge. When on the ship, we had our lunches in the MDR or from the Dive In at the Lido Pool. We really enjoyed the hamburgers and french fries at the Dive In. I don’t usually eat this food at home but for some reason really enjoyed them on this cruise. We found the new menu with fresh meat to be excellent. Service was fast and the introduction of a pager system made it perfect. We could place our order, order a drink and within minutes the pager would alert us to pick up our freshly prepared order.
We enjoyed dinner most nights at the MDR. We did however notice the reduction in staffing and its resulting impact on the wait staff that were run off their feet each evening. They did an incredible job however. We did feel that the taking of orders was rushed and there was little time for interaction. They work so hard to ensure that guests are well served. The food was okay – nothing spectacular. We certainly didn’t starve and always found something enjoyable to order.
We had dinner one night in the Pinnacle and it was very good. Service was excellent and we found the food quality good. Caesar salad was made table side.
Room service was utilized a few times for coffee before the Neptune Lounge opened and one night for dinner. We did not enjoy our room service dinner. Perhaps it was what we ordered.
We had the Signature drink package as we booked our cruise during the Explore 4 program. Explore 4 included the Signature drink package (up to 15 drinks per day which included alcohol up to $7.00 per drink, specialty coffees, water, very limited wine selection and soda), $75.00 per person on board credit and an evening dinner at the Pinnacle. We enjoyed this package. While we didn’t come close to 15 drinks per day, we enjoyed the ease of using the card and not having to worry about receipts and charges to our on board account. I hope that Holland offers this again for future cruises.
Since it was a very port intensive cruise (only two sea days), we were off ship all of the port days and therefore we did not participate in on board activities. However the daily program showed many offerings from trivia contests, bingo, casino tournaments, dance and cooking classes, Windows classes, digital photography etc. The cruise director was very engaging and did a good job.
We booked several HAL shore excursions as well as two private drivers for Rome and the Amalfi coast. The HAL excursions were well done in our view although the Sardinia tour was our least favorite. We really enjoyed the port of Calvi, Corsica. A lovely location. We were extremely disappointed that our visit to Monte Carlo became a tender port and due to rough seas we were not able to tender in Monte Carlo but the Captain made quick arrangements to have us tender in Ville France and offered shore excursions. Ville France was lovely however we booked this itinerary specifically because the ship was to dock in Monte Carlo. We were not made aware of the change to a tender service until the evening before arriving in port. Had we known that this was going to be a tender port for this cruise we would not have booked this itinerary. I won’t go into our reason in this review. Also due to visa issues for some passengers on the ship, we could not visit Tunisia. Instead we made a trip to Sardinia which was not a favorite for us. Our private tours – Lovely Amalfi Coast Tours and our private driver in Rome were excellent.
For entertainment pre dinner we visited the Ocean Bar and after dinner each evening we really enjoyed the BB King Lounge. My husband is a musician and really enjoyed the band each evening. We hope that Holland America continues on this track to offer this music alternative on future cruises.
Disembarkation was very well organized. All in all we had a great cruise with no issues and our only disappointment was the Monte Carlo switch up. I will be writing Holland America about this issue. Otherwise it was excellent and we have no complaints.