This was our 9th cruise, the second on Holland America, 1 on Royal Caribbean, 1 on Celebrity and 5 on Carnival. We are retired and 73 and 74 years of age (I married an older woman). We drove to Ft. Lauderdale so I can't provide much info on airline connections or lodging.
WEBSITE First, Holland America needs to get up to speed with Carnival and Princess and update their website. It should be easier to navigate and contain more basic info, like directions to the pier, parking and up dated info on your personal booking.
PARKING Holland America provided a coupon for 1 free day of parking at Park n Fly and I called them to find that they were a few miles from the pier, parking was $12.00 per day, and shuttle service was provided. For what I thought was only $12.00 more we opted to park at the pier, only to find out on check out that parking there was $15.00 per day. This is the kind of info the website should include.
EMBARKATION Probably the smoothest boarding we have experienced. We were on the ship minutes after our arrival at the pier. A TIP-Try not to arrive too early as the early boarders make a mad dash to the Lido deck and start shovelling in food like they haven't eaten in a week. If you arrive an hour or two after boarding starts you can go directly to your stateroom and then have a leisurely bite to eat before sailing.
THE NOORDAM Nicely decorated, without the gaudy trim and cavernous atrium of Carnival. Staterooms are a little on the small size, but after a day we got used to it and it was by all means adequate. The Noordam was spotless throughout, especially the staterooms. Towels were plentiful at poolside with no threats of imprisonment if they were't returned. Real towels in the public restrooms was a nice touch. It was also nice to have a live calypso band at poolside instead of a deejay. What a pleasure to not be constantly hounded by photographers and the Blue team, Red team shenanigans at dinner.
THE CREW The crew was friendly and attentive. A good guide is when they treat you the same on debarkation day as they did at embarkation, a credit to their training program.
DINING This was a weak spot. The food was nicely served, however, the menu selection was not near as good as Carnival. One evening when my choices would have been eggplant or stuffed pepper we opted for the Pinnacle Grill which was well worth the $20.00 per person surcharge. Be sure to try it at least once. Also, we asked for early seating, but were relegated to open seating. It seemed to be a bit disorganized and you miss the attentiveness of the wait staff when they get to see you each evening. A big surprise was the past guest luncheon, served with wine. They made you feel as if they really appreciated your loyalty, instead of the cattle call watered down cocktail party we were used to on Carnival. Opportunity to purchase reduced price drink cards was a big plus.
ENTERTAINMENT Standard cruise ship fare with a couple of comedians and a hard working song and dance group.
DEBARKATION Just like embarkation, smooth as glass. We were given an assigned time to leave the ship and could stay in our stateroom instead of being herded into a lounge. We were off the ship within minutes of the appointed time and were on the road shortly after buying my car back.
CONSENSUS All in all a great cruise on a very nice ship. The few little problems didn't distract from our experience and we will definitely be back on Holland America, a real value in tough times.