Noordam Cruise Review by Tibetan: First time cruisers
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First time cruisers
My wife & I returned a few weeks ago from an excellent 11 night cruise on the Noordam. Normally I wouldn't submit reviews, but after reading a few of the other Noordam reviews on Cruise Critic I feel I have to add my opinion as I cannot believe that some of the recent reviews are genuine.
We have no other ship to compare the Noordam against being first-timers, but we were blown away by practically everything we experienced on the cruise.
The crew - everybody we dealt with were very pleasant and couldn't do enough to make our trip enjoyable. This includes the cabin attendants(?), our waiter(s) for our fixed seating in the MDR, and also the various bar staff many who became good friends by the end of the second day. A recent reviewer complained about the 'compulsory' tip that is added to your bill saying that they weren't aware that this would be charged, I find this hard to believe as it is made very clear on the Holland America website and also on my More documentation. Also made clear is the option to remove/reduce this element from your invoice right up until the last night - so what's the problem.
The food - we found the food to be prompt (mostly), hot and varied. All the menus had many options and most had something to tempt us. There were always fantastic steaks to fall back on if nothing took our fancy and the cold soups were also gorgeous - I would happily accept any of the meals offered in a formal restaurant. On one occasion we had to wait a long time for our main meal - apparently our order had been mislaid, after a little gentle arm twisting we were given a nice bottle of wine to compensate. Breakfasts were also excellent whether taken in the room, the MDR or the Lido. Tea was free in the Lido and both PG Tips & Typhoo were freely available, the free fruit juice was very refreshing and I must have drunk gallons. The Hotdogs and Burgers on the Lido deck were the best I have tasted with an excellent ordering system. We also tried other options for our meals including the less formal Lido and again found everyone to be both friendly and helpful. The only queue I can remember was for the freshly made omelettes in the Lido at breakfast time.
The ship - we didn't think that the ship was in any way 'tired' and were impressed with the obsessive cleaning and polishing that we witnessed every day. We understand that there may be newer and more glitzy ships available from other cruise lines but we felt that the blend of traditional and modern that the Noordam offers to be perfect. We also found the size of the ship offered plenty of variety without becoming too impersonal. The various pools, bars and decks were all in fantastic condition, clean and always very comfortable. A special mention for the theater which was incredible.
The entertainment - from reading other cruise line reviews I can see that some cruise lines place a greater emphasis (budget) on the on-board entertainment than HAL. However, we went to most of the shows and found them all to be very professional and entertaining - particularly 'Droom' which was well up to the standard of a London Musical. The live entertainment in the various bars were all very enjoyable and relaxing - Michael the piano player played to a packed bar every night and was great fun. A special mention must go to the band that played in BB Kings - they were incredible. I sat in on some of the instructional lectures (Windows and Digital Photography) which were very good and informative. I also loved public rooms like the extensive Library and Explorations (Internet) Cafe. The artwork scattered around the ship added to the overall classiness of the ship.
The itinerary - this was the main reason we picked this cruise. Everywhere we went was brilliant and we had no problems, delays or changes. We started in Venice (spent 2 days there before the cruise), and went on to Katakolon (Olympia), Nafplion (Mycenae), Piraeus (Athens), Mykonos, Kusadasi (Ephasus), Rhodes, Santorini, Naples (Pompeii) and ended in Civitavecchia (Rome - where we stayed 2 days after the cruise). All the ancient locations were incredibly interesting and Mykonos & Santorini were especially beautiful. We also had 2 welcome sea days where we could relax and look around the ship. We booked a few formal excursions off the net before we left home and these were all fine - on the other shore days we made our own way around and never felt lost, threatened or that we would miss the sail-away.
As may have guessed we absolutely loved our 12 days on the Noordam and would recommend HAL & Noordam to everyone. However, I would recommend that cruisers check out sites like Cruise Critic for reviews - but remember that there will always be some people who didn't have a good experience and they are more likely to write a (negative) review. I also realise that some cruisers may prefer a livelier atmosphere and opt for a different cruise line. We did a lot of research (the cruise line, the ships & itinerary) before choosing our cruise and felt that HAL would be a good match. The only surprise was that the whole experience was even better than expected.We also felt that the average cruiser 'age' was lower than expected.
The only (expected) disappointments were the cost of the HAL organised excursions and the hopeless/expensive on-board Internet service. We didn't use HAL for excursions due to the cost - but we were told that they were great. However, nobody had a good word to say about the poor WiFi so I chose to relay upon using free Internet Cafes when we docked to keep in touch.
The ship, the crew, the itinerary, the food and also the good friends we made, all helped make this our best holiday ever. We will cruise again with HAL. Less
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