When the Vista-class ships were first conceptualized, passengers were clamoring for balconies. On Holland America's Statendam-class and Rotterdam-class ships, the only verandahs available are in what the line calls "verandah suites," but those accommodations (with the exception of the small whirlpool tub they each have) are now closer to most modern cruise ship standard balcony cabins, and they are the first to sell out on any given itinerary.
Noordam (as in all of the Vista-class ships) has plenty of balconied cabins in many configurations, ranging from the Deluxe Verandah Outside (200 square ft. with 54-square-ft. balcony) to uber-elegant Penthouse Verandah Suites (1,000 square ft. with 318-square-ft. balcony). In between, there are Superior Verandah Suites, which measure 298 square ft. (100-square-ft. balcony) and feature dressing rooms, sofa beds, full-size whirlpool baths with additional shower stalls and dual-sink vanities, and Deluxe Verandah Suites, which increase to 380 square ft. (130-square-ft. balcony) and add king beds (rather than queens) to the mix.
In fact, of the six passenger cabin decks, only one, Main Deck, has no balconies at all, and there are some staterooms obstructed by the lifeboats on Upper Promenade that are balcony-free as well.
Holland America used to boast the largest standard staterooms at sea. Alas, that boast has gone the way of the free cappuccinos previously offered ... in other words, the rooms are not as spacious on the Vistas as they are on the other classes. Judi and I were in a Deluxe Verandah Outside and found the size adequate if not exactly roomy, but the layout and configuration was awkward and uncomfortable. Although there is plenty of hanging space and shelving in the closet, the only drawers in the cabins are in the low nightstands and an oddly placed drawer under the foot of the bed. I'm too old and arthritic to use that large drawer comfortably, but Judi, younger, slim and fit, found it equally awkward. The best we could do was use it as laundry receptacle during the course of the cruise.
The desk/vanity area was the most surprising to me. Holland America was a virtual pioneer in the "connectivity at sea" arena, so the line is fully aware that people travel with all manner of electronic "stuff." Kids will bring their iPods and docks, parents bring their video recorders, all ages are likely to have a PDA or laptop, digital camera, cell phone charger and so on. The desk, though, is an afterthought of a slab, perched at one end over the mini-bar and a teeny cupboard at the other. It's meant to be used as a grooming station since the hair dryer is housed in the little cupboard, but there's pathetically little space for anything on the desk at all. Judi and I were constantly jockeying for laptop space. On Noordam, the LCD televisions have been hung in the corner above the desk, freeing up some of the space that's used on other ships which still have CRT televisions.
The Eurotop beds are fabulously comfortable. The ribbon-cut cotton sheets are pretty and elegant. Suite guests get duvets; standard-room guests get a double-sheeted blanket. All guests get the use of the cotton waffle-weave robe with terry-cloth inside, and many were seen walking around with them on the Lido Deck because they are so comfy.
Hint: If you're zaftig, like me, ask your steward to bring you a larger robe. They have them, and it was wonderful for me to be able to wear a robe that actually closed without that embarrassing gap ... even if the sleeves nearly touched the ground.
Even in the Deluxe Verandah Outside cabins, the balconies are huge, much bigger than on other ships. They are furnished with faux-rattan chairs, an ottoman, and a small teak table for drinks.
It saddened me to see the pre-molded bathrooms in the standard cabins; I missed the coral-pink tile of the line's older ships. The future is now, though, so I just have to adapt. Standard cabins still have Holland America's signature bathtub/shower combo, which many people said were easier to get into than the older ones. The bathroom size is adequate, with a small sink/vanity area. Lighting is murky.
Suite passengers get more perks not afforded to those in regular cabins; those in Deluxe Verandah Suites and above get a butler and use of the Neptune Lounge, a private concierge club with all-day munchies and complimentary cappuccinos and lattes. Suite passengers can also take their breakfast in the Pinnacle Grill if they desire, although we saw few in there in the mornings.
The two Penthouse Verandah Suites, 1,000 square ft. (318-square-ft. balcony) each, have gorgeous teak-lined balconies and private hot tubs.
DVD rentals are available for $3, with a fairly large library of offerings.
Next: Noordam Dining
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