First - we are a family in our mid forties with two teen sons. This was our 14th or 15th cruise and our 2nd extended cruise with HAL. Our first was on the glorious Rotterdam in the Baltic a 3 years ago.
The good -
Service is, for the most part, impeccable. The staff is trained in client service. They are friendly, personable and professional. Te room stewards are great. Dining room staff fantastic. A special "shout out" to the staff in the casino. They made the trip a real pleasure.
The staterooms are clean, spacious and well appointed. We had 2 cabins on the Main Deck and one mini-suite. Happy with all. The air conditioning on the Main Deck did not work, but HAL did its best to repair the situation. When they realized it could not be repaired to our satisfaction, they provided me with an accommodation without my having to ask.
Pinnacle Grill and Canneletto are both really wonderful. Service, food and atmosphere really top notch.
Itinerary was spectacular. Nothing more to say.
The bad -
As you wish dining - The first 3 night we waited on line for 30- 45 minutes for a table. Given this is a port intensive cruise, most people wanted to eat at the same time. Could that be such a surprised? If guests are required to be back on the ship most night between 5 and 6 pm, is it odd that most want to eat between 7 and 8? I was told that out of 1900 (approx) passengers, only 350 chose the first seating. This created chaos. Given that I was on the ship for 17 nights, I insisted that I be placed in the late seating guaranteed table (which request was accommodated), but the situation was outrageous.
Dining Room - Our cruise was marketed as a 17 night cruise. As such, I would have expected that some thought would have gone into the fact that we would be on both legs of the cruise (more on the in the "entertainment" section). The menus in the dining room on both legs were identical as was the one night of "Dessert Spectacular". I found this to be extremely disappointing and thoughtless. Is it really that difficult to have a 20 day menu rotation when you market cruises ranging for these periods? I found the quality of the food to have decreased dramatically over the past 3 years. On our Rotterdam Cruise (14 nights), each menu was wonderful and the food was pretty spectacular. On the Noordam, the food was fine, nothing more. Breakfast on the Lido Deck was identical (save for different flavors of pancakes) for 17 days straight!
Entertainment - ?!?!?! I have been cruising for 20 years. This cruise was, by far, the worst in terms of entertainment. On the first leg of the cruise (10 days), two of the nights entertainment were movies ranging from 3 to 5 years old. There was a nice Las Vegas Show (that was repeated on the 2nd leg of the cruise), a mediocre Broadway show (no scenery or dancers) that was repeated on the (2nd leg of the cruise), a singer from Texas who not good and a quick change artist and her husband (french mime) that were so bad it was uncomfortable. 2 of the 17 nights consisted of staff shows (quite a bargin). The piano bar was the only refuge for a bit of entertainment. What was even more appalling was the fact that many of the bars during prime time had no music. The sea view pool never had music. The Crow's Nest had music for very limited periods as did the Ocean Bar. No music in the dining room. The lack of entertainment options on the Noordam was really shocking. We did spend most nights in the casino since there was nothing else to do.
Sea view pool - Most days we went out to sun, there were no towels. When the towels arrived, they were stained and threadbare every time. The lounges were broken, faded and just so cheap. No music. Difficult to hear the information about the scenery. Just disappointing and really low quality.
Overall, I wouldn't travel with HAL again. Given the price of the cruise, I expected a lot more. Nothing on the ship felt anything but adequate, and a good portion felt very cheap. Quality and overall experience declined dramatically. It is a shame as the Rotterdam remains one of my favorite cruises.