Sadly, we’ve just returned from an 11-night cruise aboard the ms Noordam. We booked the cruise about 10 days before departure as a last minute getaway from busy life in Turkey. My wife and I are in our early thirties and this is our 7th cruise. We're not loyal to any particular cruise line, but this is our second with Holland America.
Before the July 1st embarkation date, we spent 2 wonderful nights in Barcelona. Our hotel was near the main Ramblas drag. We ate wonderful local food, drank cheap and delicious beer and walked…a lot! Post cruise, we spent 3 days in Rome.
Embarkation was easy. Taxis in Barcelona were striking on July 1st leaving many without transport to the ship. Our hotel was within walking distance to the cruise shuttle near the port. It also helped that we packed extremely light for this trip as we planned on purchasing the laundry package on board. We arrived a bit early so we had to sit in the terminal for a while. I think we were in our stateroom by about 12:30.
We had an inside stateroom (7026) on deck 7. The room was nice and roomy and we had more than enough storage for everything we brought on board. The AC/Heating worked perfectly well the entire trip. Our room attendant Kay and her partner Sam were absolutely incredible! Our ice bucket was always full, the room was always clean and we had different towel animals in our room every night.
We ordered room service twice after hours and the services was pretty slow. That being said, food was always tasty and of high quality.
The ship itself is looking a bit aged. It was spotless as the crew was always cleaning, but she is looking a bit tired.
We spent a lot of time on the Lido deck for breakfast, lunch and dinner. We tried the anytime dinning in the main dinning room 3 times, but we found the service to be slow and didn’t get much attention from the servers. I heard the opposite from friends we met on board about the scheduled dinners. Our food was always hot and presentation was great, too.
The itinerary was quite port intensive with only 2 sea days. I’ve visited some of these ports last may aboard the MSC Splendida. All the ports were great except for Livorno, Italy. The highlights were Calvi, France and Naples—surprisingly enough! We were scheduled to visit Marseille but the captain informed us of some unrest at the port so we called on Toulon instead.
We pretty much did every single port on our own. We found the Holland America tours to be extremely overpriced. For example, they were charging 19 USD for a chartered (?) a ferry to take passengers to Toulon. When we exited the ship, we walked about 10 minutes and found a similar ferry going to the same place for 2 euros.
Entertainment on board was ok. All the musicians, signers and dancers are highly talented. The absolute highlight of the entertainment was the BB King Blues Band. They were incredible and the talk of the ship! We had the chance to chat with some of the band members and they were very down to earth and friendly. The magician, guitarist and others brought on bored were good, too.
I do want to mention that before leaving for the trip, I contacted HA customer service twice to ask about the cost of the unlimited laundry (which we used every day and found well worth the price) and the use of the steam room. Customer service quoted 77 USD for the unlimited laundry package and said use of the steam room was free. Upon boarding the ship, we found the laundry package was 99 USD and the steam room was in face not free. I brought this up to the front desk and the guy was less than helpful. I mentioned this to some other guests on board and they suggested I write the guest relations manager. After writing a message expressing my disappointment, she credited my account the difference of the laundry cost and gave us a 1-day guest pass to use the steam room in the spa. She apologized and said she would be contacting guest services to correct them on the information they gave me.
With regards to the crew, almost all of them were helpful, smiley and nice. Many of the Indonesian crew were fasting due to Ramadan, but they seemed not to be affected by the lack of liquids or food. Once in a while you would come across someone that seemed to be having a bad day, but that was pretty rare. I prefer the likes of Celebrity and MSC as they employ crew from around the globe. It’s always nice meeting different people from different places and chatting with them.
Disembarkation went very smooth, too. We carried our small luggage off the ship around 9 AM and were very sad to leave. This was my second cruise with HA and I would most certainly cruise with them again.
All and all, it was a great trip. We met some really great people, we saw some beautiful places, we ate a lot of food and have memories that will last a lifetime.