In a sparkling New York-based ceremony highlighted by a Big Apple-style countdown -- complete with lit-up descending ball, confetti streamers, and even sparklers that flew through the audience -- Holland America's Stein Kruse, along with godmother Marlee Matlin and Captain John Scott, officially welcomed Noordam into the fleet.
The event, taking place on the tulip- and hyacinth-bedecked stage in the Vista Lounge onboard just prior to the ship's sailing off on its inaugural voyage, featured a number of intriguing historic tidbits. Four, it would seem, is the operative number for Noordam. It's the fourth ship to carry the Noordam name and the fourth (and final) vessel in Holland America's Vista class.
Captain Scott, who was the last captain of the last Noordam, will be the first captain for this model.
One of the most moving aspects of the ceremony was the short and sweet speech by Marlee Matlin. The actress, who won an Academy Award for Best Actress for her debut film, "Children of a Lesser God," is hearing impaired. She was chosen, Kruse said during the presentation, because she was beautiful, talented, famous (that helps) and very committed to social advocacy. The diminutive and naturally quite gorgeous actress gave her address in sign language, with an interpreter onboard to read it audibly. She quipped, in a reference to the large audience onhand, "It's nice to have all of my godchildren here today."
But where she really moved folks was during the actual Champagne smash, when she uttered the famous and traditional "May God bless this ship, her crew and all who sail on her" in her own halting voice.
This being February in New York (with temperatures seasonally nippy), the assembled guests -- travel agents, Holland America staffers, past passengers and media types -- watched from inside the Vista Lounge as Marlee Matlin and Stein Kruse pressed a button to release the Veuve Clicquot, and it smacked and broke against the hull quite satisfactorily.
Like its predecessors, the 85,000-ton, 1,848-passenger ship was built in Fincantieri's shipyard near Venice. It will "winter" from its homeport in New York City, where the ship will sail 10- and 11-night Caribbean cruises roundtrip from New York in the spring and fall. The 10-night Eastern Caribbean program visits Grand Turk, Turk and Caicos (a new port of call); Tortola, British Virgin Islands; Philipsburg, St. Maarten; St. Thomas, U.S. Virgin Islands; and San Juan, Puerto Rico. The Noordam's 11-night Southern Caribbean itinerary calls at Tortola, British Virgin Islands; St. Thomas, U.S. Virgin Islands; Roseau, Dominica; Bridgetown, Barbados; Philipsburg, St. Maarten; and San Juan, Puerto Rico.
Between May and September, the Noordam will offer two alternating 10-night itineraries, exploring the Eastern and Western Mediterranean roundtrip from Rome, Italy.