This was my second cruise with HAL and my first in the mediterranean, although we are frequent visitors of the region. I travelled with my husband, for him it was his first cruise ever. Arriving at the ship terminal by taxi (€ 140, 1,5 hrs ride from Rome center), our luggage was swiftly taken out of our hands. Embarkation went smoothly, we arrived between 11:00 and noon and there weren no lines at all. Within 10 minutes of arrival we were on the ship and in our stateroom! Amazing...even our suitcases arrived within the hour.
Our Superior Verandah suite (category SS) was surprisingly big with plenty of closet space. We didn't use all of it. Everything was clean and it must be said, although we never actually saw our steward, whenever we entered our stateroom during the entire trip, towels were replaced and everything was clean. The bathroom had a double sink, one whirlpool and a separate shower. The shower is rather small.
One thing we found odd: although we always locked our balcony door whenever we left our stateroom, we always found it was open after cleaning. I would have preferred to keep the balcony door locked at all times when we're not in our cabins. Our stateroom was right below the Lido pool. This meant we had some noise from children running above us and chairs being moved. It was not obtrusive and it certainly didn't wake us up or gave us trouble sleeping, but still, if you're spending a lot of time on the veranda or if you love a daytime nap it can be disturbing. Also, this stateroom is across from a little galley. We didn't find it disturbing, although some mornings you could hear some noise from it.
We opted for main seating in the Vista dining room. Service was great, with special thanks to Danah and Sammy. Food was great too, with ample of choice. But with a seating at 8pm it might you're running late for the late shows (10pm). I do think, in future we'll opt for open seating. The Lido food was always good, either at breakfast or lunch. The Asian counter (lunch) had some trouble keeping up sometimes. People were often waiting in long lines till the noodles were ready, or the sauce and than only giving out small (really small) portions. The bread & butter pudding -served between 1pm and 3 pm - is a classic I quite enjoyed! We ate in the Pinnacle one night and unfortunately we were not impressed. Service was really slow and we didn't feel the quality outclassed the Vista Lounge.
The Noordam is a beautiful ship, resembling her sister Oosterdam, with one difference: the Exploration cafe is situated on third deck instead of in the Crow's Nest on deck 10. We purchased the Internet package of $55 (100 minutes). Although internet connection is really slow, sometimes infuriatingly so, the 110 minutes (we received 10 free minutes with the package) proved to be enough for checking email and the latest news. One day the internet connection really wouldn't come through at all, but the internet manager refunded us for the full 15 minutes we used. I forgot his name, but he was really helpful in setting up the wifi connection with laptops and iPhones.
Of all the wonderful people working on board, Denny especially made an impression on me. He served in the Lido restaurant and was always ready with a smile and a joke, making you feel special. The lines waiting for coffee can be long, especially during breakfast and with one machine constantly being out of service. So it was quite an improvement during this cruise, that coffee, tea and lemonade and jus d'orange was also served at the table in the Lido. I loved the fact that you were welcomed back on board after each shore excursion with fresh lemonade and cold towels. We had our laundry done 1 time (full bag $20) and it came back the next day, within 24 hours, pressed and clean. No problems there.
Since this is only my second cruise, and again with HAL, I can't compare to other cruiselines. Like the Oosterdam last year, the Noordam didn't dissappoint. My husband enjoyed his first as much as I enjoyed the recognition. I know we certainly will return to HAL! We didn't book any shore excursions (except for Tunis). This was mostly because we were familiar with the countries and the towns we visited. It was a complete trip, with us revisiting a lot of places we already visited by car one time or the other. Just in a more relaxing pace. If you want to see as much as is possible around the western MED in 10 days, I certainly would recommend this cruise.