Noordam October 2011
Europe - Eastern Mediterranean
Just back from our Noordam cruise, and we enjoyed nearly every bit of it. We have travelled on the Zuiderdam in Alaska, so we felt right at home on the Noordam. The cabin, crew and decor were all first class. Some of the ports and shore excursions were a little bit disappointing, but some of the problems were due to strikes in Greece and that was out of HAL's control.
Our cabin was near the stern on the port side and was above a galley area. Although I was concerned we may have noise or odour issues ( such as a lingering fried food smell) I was happy to find no such issues. Even being worried about the previous occupants being smokers was not an issue. Our cabin was fresh and pleasant smelling when we took it over.
Smoking on the Noordam did not seem to be much of a problem and I am a fervent anti smoker, terribly upset by smoke which gives me headaches and breathing problems. The worst place inside was having to pass by the casino en route to the Vista lounge, More
and I would have liked a flutter on the poker machines, but couldn't find one away from the smokers, so I left the casino after less than 2 minutes. Also we had a veranda cabin and regretfully I never seemed to catch more than 10 or 15 minutes out there before a nearby veranda was used for smoking. It was disappointing because they actually seemed to be the only veranda smokers in our vicinity, as far as I could tell.
As a member of cruise critic we were invited to several special functions by HAL and the Captain, they really went out of their way to make us feel especially welcome. We also enjoyed the special Aussie & NZ night get together the Captain hosted. All these events were well run and highly enjoyable, they certainly added a special shine to our Noordam experience.The food was great in both the MDR and in the Lido buffet. We nearly always found a window table in the Lido, and we did eat quite a few evenings in the Lido instead of the MDR because it was a very port intensive cruise and many days we only wanted to tidy up to go to dinner,not shower and change for the MDR.
Overall, this cruise met and surpassed all our expectations and I can't wait to organise another one with Holland America, maybe Canada and New England next time. Less
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Cabin review: Noordam
Cabin 4162 was a really good cabin. Located towards the stern on the port side. It was a quiet location, but there was a connecting door. We had very quiet neighbours, but a connecting door can give rise to more noise if you are not so lucky. There was a stewards work area opposite, but did not matter. We were very close to the aft elevators which brought you out to the Lido buffet entrance and just down the stairs to the dining rooms. It was a long way to go forward to the lounges and shops, but good exercise. Everything in our cabin was in good working order, and good condition. The bathroom was good, with one wall shaving cabinet a bonus for keeping things tidy. I don't like showers over the bath though, as the shower curtain is a nuisance. The water could have been a bit hotter at maximum temperature. There were lovely shower gels and shampoo etc in dispensers in the shower. Our veranda space was plenty big enough and we were mostly tied up to face the port view, so plenty to see. I would re book this cabin, no problem.
Port and Shore Excursions
There was a strike. The Acropolis had severely reduced hours due to the strike. It was crowded! The whole days worth of visitors were crammed into 4 hours. But still worth the effort. Due to the strike our tour was not quite the usual, but I feel our guide and driver did an exceptional job under difficult circumstances. When we returned to the port of Piraeus we walked around trying to find the main shopping district, but were unsuccessful. I am sure there is one, maybe grab a taxi, plenty to be had at the port, get them to take you to the shops. Allow plenty of time to get through security at the port when returning, huge volumes of passengers to be processed. A shuttle bus to our ship was waiting when we completed security as we were on one of the furthest piers. I am glad I didn't have to walk it.
We also visited Messina in Sicily as our last port. It was really good. We did the slopes of Mt Etna tour. Not so good weather so no real views of Mt Etna. Mostly just enjoyed a beautiful drive through picturesque villages. Refreshments very nicely done in one of them. It was a pleasant finish to our tours.
Our excursion to Achillion, Kanoni and Corfu was only just ok. The palace was very interesting and worth seeing. Kanoni was a waste of time, virtually just a photo stop of the harbour from above. I didn't find Corfu great. It was crowded and I couldn't face finding my way around that day But I was tired, so it was probably me, not Corfu. The shuttle bus to the ship was really well organised and if you wanted to explore for few hours, then make your way back in the afternoon, it would have been no problem.
Beautiful town, but very crowded with a lot of cruise ships in that day. Well worth seeing regardless.
We did Ancient Olympia and Zorba. This was one of the best days. Our tour guide Helen really made Olympia come to life and although we only has about 2 hours there we really got the feel of it all. Lunch was at a restaurant, Zorba, and was basically antipasto and drinks, but plentiful. The staff demonstrated Greek dancing and got everyone up to join in, but were not pushy if you declined. It was fun, but a bit too long I thought. Nice views from the terrace off the restaurant.
Free time browsing in the shopping area near to the port was enjoyable and stress free, the best shopping experience we had on the cruise.
We did the Ephesus tour. It was fantastic. Again a very good guide and we did cover a lot of ground in the time we has, again approx 2 hours. The drive there was interesting too. Before they dropped us off at Kusadasi, we were taken to a Persian carpet showroom, given a lovely drink, your choice including wine and beer. We had an interesting demonstration of the weaving and were shown a huge range of carpets, styles and designs from different regions. It was very interesting and worth seeing. The carpet I liked best was $30,000.00US. They were hoping for a sale, but I don't think any were made from our group.
We had free time to check out the bazaars very handy to the ship. I did not enjoy the bazaars. The shop keepers were very aggressive and even if you politely said "no thanks" and walked away, they continued to harass you, taxi drivers were the same. Consequently we turned around and walked out of the smaller bazaar ( on the right hand side s you leave the port). The main bazaar was not as bad though (straight ahead as you leave the port). Instead we walked across the causeway to the old fort . Nothing to do, but take photos outside there, the fort interior was locked. Worth the walk though and no harassment.
We chose Panoramic Santorini. It is a tender port and the tenders take you to a specific port quite a way from the main area. Tenders were well run and comfortable, although there was one smaller one that didn't look as good. Getting off was alright when we got there, but getting back on after for the return journey was a challenge with very high waves at the dock lifting the tender up at least 6 feet on the swell. I was concerned for the many elderly and not so mobile passengers. I did see someone take a fall as they were assisted on board. At that time extra crew stepped in to make a chain of helping hands, but I would think twice if you have mobility issues when deciding to go ashore.
We were unlucky to be there when it rained. One of only approx 65 rain days per year. It did make it difficult to see out the bus windows. The worst thing was we only had 20 minutes in Oia, the most picturesque location we would be visiting. The bus went to a winery, very time wasting, I think it should just be a scenic drive around and then spend more time in Oia. There wasn't time to even look in the little shop windows, just grab as many photos and run for the bus!