This was our second cruise on HAL. The moms liked our first cruise so much (Alaska Inside Passage) so much that I decided to try something a little more adventurous for our second cruise. So after 5 nights touring Rome on our own, we continued our adventure around the Western Med. I apologize for the lateness of this review; hopefully it will help anyone who is planning a similar itinerary for this coming October!
Ship: Noordam was a lovely ship; gracious and genteel staff as always (a plus for me because anything that the moms, who are in their 80's, needed were quickly attended to by HAL's wonderful attendants. We had access to the Concierge Lounge -- another plus if you think you might need a bit of extra assistance. For us, booking the larger cabin was well worth the extra $.
Cabin: The moms and I travel very well together so we all got along splendidly even though the idea of 3 women in one cabin might terrify some...! I slept on the sofa bed and found it very comfortable. The moms love HAL's great beds/linens. The only time the cabin was "tight" was when the sofa bed was open. I brought along a night-light in case anyone had to get up in the middle of the night, there would be no stubbed toes... When you book a Deluxe Verandah Suite, not only do you get the balcony (a great place to drink wine, play cards and watch the ever-changing scenery) but you also get both a shower and a tub. This was also a great safety feature for the moms -- showering on a slightly moving ship when you are any age, but especially when you are 80+, can be a neat trick. We had no mishaps and the moms felt perfectly steady the entire cruise.
Ship Features: We had "late dining" so we didn't have to rush when getting back from a day in port. Worked out fine. Dinner companions were great; fun meeting people from all over. Food was consistently good; and typical of the professional and congenial HAL dining room staff -- ask them once for something and they have it waiting for you every night thereafter (Mom likes cranberry & tonic water with a lemon & lime; only had to ask for it the first night!) We usually ate breakfast in the Lido and had a light supper in the Lido one night when we'd had a late lunch in port and just weren't hungry enough to appreciate a dining room experience. Even though the offerings were mainly pasta and pizza that night, the cook happily fixed a sandwich for Mom just the way she liked it. We enjoyed cocktails (and BINGO!) in the Crow's Nest (ah, those recliners!), and also enjoyed the tour of the Noordam kitchen --I love watching how they create art from watermelon, pineapples, etc.! We had manicures, pedicures and hair appointments in the Greenhouse Spa one night before one of the "formal" dinners -- a little overpriced but a nice treat. Had our photos taken all over the ship at any time they were being taken -- and bought 'em all. Like I said, my goal was to create a memory for the moms that would last for the rest of their lives! Had lunch in the Pinnacle one day while we were "at sea." This was a lovely, relaxing experience -- so quiet and so special! Well worth the upcharge. Loved the coffee bar because no one makes coffee like a real Starbucks barrista and I would occasionally crave a Decaf Vanilla Latte...! The shows were fun; we did not see all of them but liked the singing/dancing "variety show" -- also took the tour backstage and met the kids who work so hard to entertain the guests. They were all great. Before you read my Port reviews, note that this Review format only allows me to review 6 ports but we actually stopped at 7 -- so i will tell you about our last port, Naples, here:
Through my contact at Customized Italy (who helped me with the Rome part of our trip -- www.customizeditaly.com), I booked a car/driver who met us at the port and drove us to Sorrento for breakfast -- the best italian pastries and coffee ever, with a spectacular view of the sea -- and Vesuvius in the background! After touring the back roads and narrow streets of Sorrento, we boarded a hydrofoil for a quick trip to the Isle of Capri (the moms had always wanted to see Capri!) We were met in Capri by a taxi driver who was a friend of our limo driver/guide. He showed us all of Capri and Anacapri (while the moms channeled Jackie Kennedy...), including some amazing Roman ruins and gardens. And of course, the famous Faragolini rock formation. We ate lunch overlooking the harbor, and then caught the hydrofoil back to Naples. It was a long day and the moms were tired, but we had a great time!