Started out looking for an Alaskan trip & saw this 10-dayer out of NYC & booked an outside guarantee as I traveled alone. Signed up for rollcall & volunteered to orchestrate our Meet & Greet of 60 pax. A fellow cruiser developed a tremendous website just for our cruise.
Embarkation: Train to NYC, cab to port, w/on-line pre-registration, lines went smoothly and up to Lido by 12'ish for lunch. Well appointed cabin w/ capable steward on Main deck not far from the very friendly staff at front desk.
The Lido & the food: Grossly mismanaged as others have stated. Staff hands you utensils, hands you drinks but no one is bussing tables. At dinner, the linens are a nice touch but giving your order & cabin number to the maitre d' & waiting for dinner just didn't cut it...preferred it be a true buffet. Good selection of varied items w/some not as palatable.
The Dining Room & Cuisine: Lower level as I had Anytime Dining which I embraced asking for 6 or 8 top to dine w/different folks each nite...Nary a wait doing this. The soups have vastly improved, the entrees were all palatable save for the Surf & Turf which was horrible. Surf was tough, stringy and cold to boot. Another negative is families w/small children at night w/some shrieking from very young ones...not the place when one wishes a relaxed atmosphere. Dined there many days at lunch which was always good. However, no changes can be made to a dish even if one the maitre d' intercedes w/kitchen on your behalf.
Entertainment & Cruise Staff: Drew Murdock and his 4 gals Colby, Heather, Kyle and Aga were the best I've seen of all my HAL cruises. Murdock has a Johnny Carson style w/great timing & wit and the 4 gals work very well together so tremendous kudos go to them. The evening shows save for the first night's comedian (who will not be making any repeat performances) were good with an outstanding French Magic Act and a classical pianist.
The funniest entertainment were those that included audience participation as in the Karaoke singoff, the newly-wed game and the take off on Jeopardy. There was a large contingent from Montreal who interacted well w/the Noordam's panel of judges headed by CD Murdock who let the bon mots fly.
Meet & Greet in Crow's Nest first morning was poorly attended due to landlubbers' mal de mer & since no one from the staff could attend, we had a 2nd Open Bar & Hors d'oeuvres later on in the cruise attended by Drew who spoke to each grouping.
Did not take any excursions as I've been to all save for Grand Turk which I thought was a bust (save for Margaritaville?) & Tortola.
Pinnacle Grill - for lunch - lived up to its reputation & the $29 Culinary course (12 pax Maximum) was taught by Pinnacle Chef and nicely done. Mariners Lunch was well done w/a minimum of speeches & liberal pouring of red & white wines. I sat w/the Chief Officer which enhanced my day & maybe his, since Sulzer diesels is one of our accounts which added to the commonality.
Would do this trip again in a heartbeat - but, like others, wish I didn't have to go out of state.