History: We are a family of four. Our children are ages 8 and 5. This our 3rd cruise with our children. DH and myself have been on a total of 7 cruises together. We have been on NCL, Carnival and Princess. This was our first Holland America cruise.
Embarkation: We arrived around 11:30am, received our number and sat in the waiting area approximately 15 min. The Express check-in line moved at the same pace as the non-express line. Total embarkation process took under 1 hour. Upon entering the Noordam, our key cards were scanned, our children were given child size life jackets, and then we were prompted to a waiting elevator that would take us to the Lido Buffet.
Stateroom: We had an OV Quad (Rm1087) on Main Deck Midship. The accommodations were adequate. The fruit basket and robes were a nice touch. We thought that storage space was adequate as well. The refrigerator was fully stocked with a pay as you consume plan. We opted to have the contents removed as we had our own beverages to fill the refrigerator with. Although our room steward was pleasant, he was unfortunately not as efficient. We typically have a predictable schedule - out of the stateroom by 9am back to change for pool by 10:30am and again around 2pm to prepare for the evening. Our stateroom was seldom cleaned until 2pm and we frequently interrupted our Room Steward during the evening because he seldom had the room finished before 8:30pm. We had first seating and would return to the room to obtain items for our kids to entertain themselves prior to the show. The only irritant with regards to the room was a mysterious noise that occurred almost every evening. We would call the Front Desk to see if they could remedy the situation. Once the calls were made each evening, the noise would stop within an hour or so.
Ship: Absolutely beautiful! The wood grains, leather seats, art, and decorations throughout the ship were quite exquisite. We found maneuvering throughout the ship to be a bit difficult. It took us much longer than usual to get our bearings down on the locations. Our 8 year old son was able to get directions down the quickest. Maybe its just an age thing on our part....
The Lido Buffet - WOW! We have never experienced a buffet quite like the one on the Noordam. We really like the idea of different stations. We also like the idea that the staff serves the patrons - keeps the germ transfers at bay IMO. You get through the stations that you've selected only to be greeted by yet another amazing member of the Noordam's wait-staff who asks if they can carry your tray to a table for you and get you a beverage as well. That's service with 5 stars!!!
Main Dining Room: The food was of good quality. The menu seemed to lack a 5 star selection. Somehow meatloaf, spaghetti & meatballs and turkey dinners do not seem to make the high-end culinary ranks. I am a finicky eater, so I was not surprised to find myself at a loss when looking over the menu on more nights than not. I was surprised, however, to see my DH and DS (who should have been named Mikey because he likes everything) not enjoy a few meals over the course of our cruise.
Wait-staff: We have never had such amazing service! I have no words to truly explain how phenomenal the wait-staff was! Sigit, Budi, Ramone and Augus took care of us in the Main Dining Room. Absolutely fantastic! They were especially wonderful to our children. It actually saddened me to say good-bye. Everyone was so approachable and caring. Our children will definitely remember them.
CC Meet & Greet: We scheduled the event through ship's services for the 1st full day at sea. We arrived at the Crow's nest to find a nice station with beverages and cookies. We had a smaller turnout than anticipated - about 35-40 people. Unfortunately none of the cruise staff showed. We later saw DJ Jazzy and asked him if we should have contacted a cruise staff member on the ship to notify them of the meeting. He stated that it comes from Ship's Services and we had done our part correctly. Jason Venner later approached us to apologize for the oversight and stated that they would put another CC meeting together and advertise it in the daily - which they did. We had a very small turnout on that day with Hotel Manager Ron Bontenbal and Jason Venner in attendance. Our thanks go out to all those who came to either of the meetings.
Shows: The production shows were very nice and professionally done. We especially enjoyed the Magician and John Davidson was an absolute hoot. I laughed so much that I cried. We did not see the Banjo player nor the oboe player.
HAL Kids' Club: Our children are 8(DS) and 5(DD) which placed them in different categories. The 3-7 group was very good. Unfortunately, there were too many children on this cruise (297 - which averaged out to about 100 children per group) for the spaces to accommodate. We really liked how attentive Bekka was to our daughter. Our daughter did enjoy the club on the few occasions that she took part in except that she felt overwhelmed by all the children. The 8-12 group(Tweens) is a very different story. We were not at all pleased with the staff within this group. The first statement that a tweens counselor stated to us was that their curriculum was written to accommodate 30 children. The children had too much free reign and not enough activities to take part in. During orientation, the Club HAL staff stated that the children should not run through the halls unattended but the 8-12 group sent the children out on ship-wide scavenger hunts on sea days. Because we did not want our son to partake in this event, we would have to remove him from the kids club because participation in the scavenger hunt was mandatory.
Activities: Props go out to DJ Jazzy and Jason Venner for all their hard work. They do a nice job with the manpower that they have. We would have liked to see more hosted events, but we realize that Jazzy and Jason are only two individuals. We did not take part in the culinary shows. We did take the tour of A & B level which was very interesting. Steve did a great job.
Tours: We booked our own tours so we cannot elaborate on the Ship's tours except that the Tour Manager seemed very knowledgeable and kind.
Ports of Call: All were nice for their own distinct reasons. We would have liked more time in either Tortola or San Juan. Four or so hours is just not enough time in any one place. Misc: Soda cards that are pre-paid do not warrant an insulated cup. Only soda cards purchased on board receive the cups. Semi-formal nights did not occur on our cruise and HAL is thinking of doing away with semi-formals all together.
Disembarkation: We chose a Mid range departure. We were called around 9:45am to report to the gangway for disembarkation. We were in our car departing NY City pier by 10:30am.
Overall this was a wonderful cruise experience with wonderful ports of call. The Indonesian staff definitely makes the cruise. We will sail HAL again.