Editor's Note: Beginning December 2015, the automatic tip for passengers staying in interior, oceanview and verandah cabins will be $12.50 (up from $11.50) per person per day. Passengers in suites will be charged $13.50 (up from $12) per person per day.
Holland America Line aims to strike a balance between classic and contemporary, and Noordam, christened in 2006, manages this well. It harbors lots of nooks for conversation and quiet diversions like backgammon. Dinners in the main dining rooms and two specialty restaurants are leisurely. Pre-dinner entertainment includes listening to a violin-piano duo perform and dancing to ballroom and show-tune classics. Afternoon tea is served daily.
The best of Noordam's onboard programming skews toward the educational, such as cooking presentations and Microsoft-sponsored computer workshops. On our Alaska sailing, the late-night scene in the piano bar was about as rowdy as things got. By day, the Explorations Cafe, with its clubby, coffeehouse vibe and free online access to the daily New York Times, plus a nice selection of books and games, hosted a steady hub of activity.
Compared to some HAL vessels, Noordam's decor is downright glitzy. A three-story atrium midship sports a curvy green glass stairway crowned by a colossal Waterford crystal compass. Gold-hued tiles mirror the surrounding walls. In the elevator lobbies, oversized urns sprout artificial foliage. Ornate metal settees (some shaped like clamshells and not particularly inviting) mix it up with busts of the Dutch royal family. And, as in other HAL vessels, some impressive -- and eclectic -- artwork provides lovely visual surprises throughout the ship.
The youngest of HAL's four early-2000s-vintage Vista-class ships, Noordam shows some signs of wear (separating wallpaper seams, worn carpet in areas). But the overall ambiance makes the ship a good choice for those who don't need waterslides, zip lines or climbing walls to find their bliss at sea.