8 Athens (Piraeus) Holland America Line Noordam Cruise Reviews

Noordam – October 20/13 Mediterranean and Tran-Atlantic cruise We love cruising and we particularly love cruising on Holland America ships. We'd had a lovely long cruise in the spring and did not plan on this holiday but the magic ... Read More
Noordam – October 20/13 Mediterranean and Tran-Atlantic cruise We love cruising and we particularly love cruising on Holland America ships. We'd had a lovely long cruise in the spring and did not plan on this holiday but the magic word 'Sale' appeared and we could not resist. We have taken more than a dozen trans-Atlantic cruises in the past so there had to be new (to us) ports of call to tempt us. This cruise fitted that requirement. One of the biggest expenses for us in the airfare. I spend many hours researching flights on line and finally determined the most economical way for us to get from eastern Canada to Greece was to fly from Halifax on Icelandair to London, spend a night in London and then fly to Athens on BA the following day. Instead of paying out $3500 per person to Air Canada - it cost us $800 per person and we flew in a lot more comfort! We spent our London night in the Premier Inn on the Bath Road at Heathrow. We have stayed there many times and it is always a favourite of ours. Our second night was at the Savoy Hotel in Piraeus. The hotel itself was reasonably comfortable - nothing special. The food in the dining room was very good - huge (far more than one could eat) servings and very reasonable prices. On October 20th we boarded the Noordam. We have previously cruised on the Noordam and find it a nice mid-sized ship. We prefer the smaller ships however this size is still very nice - not one of those behemoths where you get lost, still a size to get to know and recognize staff during your vacation. Embarkation was smooth and we thoroughly enjoyed our Mariner luncheon before re-acquainting ourselves with the ship. HAL ships have wonderful libraries and our first stop was to pick out some books to enjoy. I mentioned 'sale' earlier. Usually we cruise in an inside stateroom as it is more economical and we are really only in our cabin to sleep and change clothing. This time, however, the price of a balcony was so good that we booked it. And then received an upgrade to an even nicer balcony. We were thoroughly spoiled!! Our cabin was large, very comfortable with a nice sitting area inside and another couple of chairs and tables on the balcony. Dave spent many happy hours reading on the balcony. And I thoroughly enjoy being able to step outside and get a breath of fresh sea air whenever I like. The cabin bathroom was a revelation - there was even a bathtub. After cruises where you felt like you should just soap the walls and then turn around in the shower - it was a treat to have so much room. We definitely loved our accommodations - lots of storage room for all our things and lots of comfort for us. This cruise was very port-intensive at the start so other than playing a lot of trivia, we did not get very involved in other ship activities until the sea-days part of the cruise. We opted for traditional dining and had a nice table for two and were thoroughly spoiled by our waiters and wine stewards (two lovely ladies). Meals are always excellent on HAL ships. We feel they have the best meals of any line. We adore spices and look forward to Asian lunches in the Lido, There is always so much variety that no matter how long the cruise - one always has lots of choices. Quite frankly - my idea of heaven would be about 6 months on a HAL ship - however I would doubtless need a whole new wardrobe as it is very difficult to exercise will power all the time. We especially appreciate the fact there there are a variety of safe sugar free desserts for my diabetic husband to enjoy. The Rijsttafel luncheon on longer cruises is a real treat for the both of us. I appreciate the fact that rather than hiding their recipes - HAL has available for sale several wonderful cookbooks with recipes that have become favourites. It is nice to make a particular dish when back home and bring back memories of enjoying it on a cruise. We had the ship as our "hotel' for the night before sailing away from Piraeus. I really enjoy this - usually we have sail away a few hours after boarding. Somehow this seemed so much more relaxed and it was a treat to watch the sail away from our balcony. The weather was perfect - sunny and comfortably warm. Ports of Call Our first port of call was Kusadasi. We had not been here before and most of the folks going on tours headed off to visit Ephesus. We have been to Ephesus twice and chose instead to wander about and explore the city on our own. We had a wonderful time exploring the market, bargaining for our purchases and enjoying the sights and sounds. We walked up to the Caravanserai. It is a beautiful stone building and is now a hotel with some shops around the interior square. One can just picture many years ago and travellers on camels arriving there – the camels sitting down in the square and their owners in the many rooms resting after their travels. So many wonderful streets to stroll and shops to explore and then a stop at a sidewalk cafe for Raki for two and turkish coffee for Dave. Our next port of call was Rhodes. It was lovely getting off the ship and walking around the harbour to enter one of the gates to this ancient walled city. We love history and have read a great deal about the history of the Crusades and Rhodes figured heavily in any mention of that era. We visited the Archaeological museum - as much for the wonderful art treasures on display there as for the building itself. This building was originally the hospital run by the Knights Hospitalers who cared for ill pilgrims and injured and ill knights. It is a marvelous place - bigger than modern day hospitals in small towns - spread out over a large area with a variety of levels. There are wonderful courtyards with flowers and herbs and fishponds to sooth the spirit as well as the physical ills. Next we headed up the Street of the Knights towards the palace - stopping on the way to visit an interesting (and free) costume museum. It was a little gem - do not miss it. The Palace was the Palace of the Grand Master of the Knights Hospitalers. After the Turkish empire attacked and battles the Knights - they earned such respect that they were allowed to leave Rhodes with all their weapons and they left and settled in Malta. There they became the Knights Templar and their focus was on amassing wealth instead of ministering to the ill. We found it very easy to explore Rhodes on foot and thoroughly enjoyed our time there. Our next stop was Haifa. We decided to take advantage of a ship tour and it was excellent. Our guide Sharon was wonderful. She had a degree in History and in English Literature and her knowledge of history really added to the enjoyment of the tour. First we were driven up Mount Carmel to the church of Stella Maris – the church of the Carmelite nuns. Next we visited the Bahai Gardens. They stretch down the mountainside with a beautiful golden shrine half way down and the gardens were absolutely beautiful. Then we were off to Akko which is the modern name of Acre – of fame in the Crusades. The Turks who over-ran the country and drove the Crusaders out of it – wanted no reminders and buried the fortress at Acre under tons of rubble. We visited the excavated buildings and went through one of the Knights escape tunnels from the fortress to the harbour. It was all fascinating. We visited a shop that made beautiful items in copper and silver. This was the 5th generation creating such beautiful items – the family originally from Iran. We brought some wonderful souvenirs back from that shop. We had a walk through a suq and then a lovely drive back to Haifa and the ship. It was an excellent tour and our guide Sharon was a fount of knowledge. We highly recommend that tour. Limasol in Cyprus was our next port of call. We did not book any tours and actually had a rest day as had done so much walking the day before in Haifa. This is not a port that offers a lot to do – it was a port that the ship visited after the Egypt ports were cancelled due to the political situation in Egypt. Our next port of call was Katakolon – which is actually called Katakolo by the local people. We had a most interesting visit there. There are three main streets and walking along the middle one we came to a lovely little Greek Orthodox church that had been destroyed in WWII and had been totally rebuilt by one man (who was there in the church at that time). It was a labour of love that has taken many years – and well worth a visit. We walked along towards a little park and there purchased tickets for €6 each for a ride on the train up in the hills. This was a 30 minute ride that took up up through a little village , to visit a winery, and then to stop at a big hotel that had access to a beach for swimming. If we ever go back there I will get that train first thing in the morning and enjoy some beach time as the train goes back and forth while ships are in port. One can get off at the winery (which we did – to sample and purchase some wine) and at the beach and get later trains back. This is a small town but we noticed lots of signs advertising Guest Houses and Hotels. A lot of tourists visit here because of the lovely climate and peace and quiet. Many visitors head off to Olympus and there are cars and scooters and mopeds and scooters to rent and a bus that goes there regularly. Messina was our next port of call and we were just there for a few hours in the afternoon. We wandered around the streets a bit but because we just arrived there at noon – it was much like a ghost town as everything was closed between noon and four. Sensible in the heat of summer but I would have thought having stores open for a ship load of tourists in the autumn might have benefited the economy a bit. We heard there was a tour bus – not a HOHO but it would have given a bit more insight into the town but could not find a location for it. Tourism does not appear to be a priority there. Naples was next and we had wonderful weather there for our tour of the city. Last time we were here Dave visited Pompeii and Herculaneum while our travelling companions had a tour of the Amalfi coast. This time we wanted to see more of the city so chose a HOHO bus and were delighted with our choice. There is so much to see in the city but be prepared to do is slowly as traffic in Naples is unbelievable. There are two HOHO routes – the red and the blue. We took the red line tour which is advertised as a one hour tour if you are staying on the bus rather than getting off at each stop. It took well over two hours because of the traffic. The tour was enlivened by good commentary, wonderful Neapolitan music and the frequent wailing of ambulances trying to get through traffic. I do not think anyone would ever die of old age in Naples – they would die of traffic – trying to get through the cars and buses to hospital. There are so many lovely churches and interesting museums in Naples – one really needs a week there and all we could spare on this visit was one day. Any before leaving the HOHO we asked about the wonderful music and the guide had CDs available for sale – a lovely souvenir of our day there. Citavecchia was our next port of call. We were in port from 7 in the morning until 4 in the afternoon. This was the end of the first cruise for many, with more people joining the ship for the Trans-Atlantic crossing. Had we been in port longer – we might have taken the train up to Rome for the day. Having been to Rome several times before (even spending a week before embarking on one cruise) we decided that there really would not be enough time to enjoy the city as the train there and back takes a good hour or more each way. We opted for a ship day. Alicante was our next port of call. The last time we visited Alicante there was a huge rainstorm and we did not get to see a lot. We skipped the busy shuttle and walked through the port to the stop for the HOHO bus. This time it was sunny with a marvellous 27 degrees and fortunately a nice breeze while the bus is moving. We were just in port until 2:30 in the afternoon so had to be very selective about what to do. We decided to enjoy the sights of the city but stay on the bus until we reached the castle of Santa Barbara. This was a fortress built by the Moors on the top of a hill. It was renamed after the Spanish drove the Moors out of Spain. It is a wonderful place to visit and the views from the castle over the city and the water are simply magnificent. Thank goodness for digital photography as I would have run out of old fashioned film if I had been using that kind of camera. We only got to scratch the surface – would need a lot more time than we had available to explore all of the castle. There are other lovely spots in the city to explore but time was so limited. We came back to the port stop and then decided to walk about for a half hour – enjoying the lovely streets with the patterned tiles that look like waves, and the many stalls and vendors of local products before we headed back. There is a beautiful old sailing ship in the harbour that has been turned into a restaurant , local markets to explore and a casino for the gamblers. This is a city I want to visit again as so much more to see and not enough time to see it all. Malaga was our next port of call. More sunshine and hot temperatures greeted us and we headed for the HOHO bus here. Because we had been on the HOHO in Naples – our tickets were discounted here! The trip here is an 80 minute route with about 15 different stops – a wonderful way to really get to see Malaga. So many people go from this port to visit Granada. Having visited Granada twice on previous cruises we wanted to see more of Malaga and this bus tour was definitely the way to explore it. There is everything from a Moorish castle to cathedrals, museums, lovely gardens, a roman amphitheatre – so much to see and enjoy. Malaga was the home town of Picasso – so the Picasso Museum is a must for fans of the artist. Cadiz was the last mainland port of call on this cruise. Some folks opted to visit Seville but we love Cadiz. It is one of the easiest cities to walk around as different walking routes are painted on the pavement. . We love strolling the streets – finding new and interesting spots on each visit. This trip we discovered the Church of San Francisco which looks tiny on the outside but is big and amazing inside. There was a lovely little restaurant on that same square where we had lunch. Shrimp tortillas are a speciality of Cadiz and they are delicious! Those along with potatas bravas and some local wine – heaven... We always head over to Cathedral Square and explore the little side streets and visit the market. After all our walking we decided to head up to the Cathedral stop and catch the HoHo back to the ship. The hop-on hop-off bus here is wonderful and despite having taken it on other visits here, we could not resist taking it again here. Two sea days after leaving Cadiz we stopped at our last port of call Ponta Delgada on the island of Sao Miguel in the Azores (or Acores as the locals call it). Ponta is a lovely place to visit and most people opted to go ashore – either to explore the city or take a tour. Because we had been there at least 10 times in the past we decided to take advantage of a quiet day on ship. Having covered the ports of call - which are secondary in my opinion - here is my view of the ship. The ship itself was immaculately clean and that was evidenced by the fact that there were no signs of illness on board other than colds. No gastric problems. That takes a lot of work to avoid on a ship as passengers are not always honest about health issues when boarding - bring Norvo type diseases on and spread them. Not this time though. No matter where one was on the ship - there was staff industriously cleaning and polishing. The entertainment on board ship was very good. The production shows were thoroughly enjoyable and we went to them despite having seen these new shows on the Ryndam in the spring. This ship is larger and has a larger cast so it gave these productions a different look. The guest entertainers were good - something for everyone there. Our favourite performers were Graffiti Classic – billed as 16 strings, 8 dancing feet and 4 voices. And they were a riot – great music and wonderful musical comedy. We actually enjoyed it so much we went to both the early and the late show and purchased their CDs. We enjoyed guest lecturers, and thoroughly enjoyed all our trivia matches hosted by Jeremy Hales of the cruise director staff. The music on ship was excellent, the HAL Cats, and the group in the Ocean Bar played wonderful music for ballroom dancing. There was a wide variety of music from guitar to piano bar to classical to dance groups. I enjoyed a few trips to the spa for the wonderful massages. It is the Holland America crew that make the cruise for us. The service is outstanding – far superior to any on shore. Our waiters and wine stewards quickly learn our likes and dislikes, our cabin stewards manage to restore order to chaos several times a day and everyone we meet on ship is pleasant and helpful. We thoroughly enjoyed the Rijsttafel luncheons, the afternoon teas and all of the lovely meals. We had fun at the Black and White Officers Ball, and all the crew was always adept at making us feel welcome and wanted in their home (as we are guests in the crew's home). Because we have sailed with HAL ships several times (we were awarded our bronze Mariner medals on this cruise) we often run into crew members that we have met on other sailings. Once again we renewed acquaintances as well as making new friends. The only downside of our whole cruise was the arrival in Fort Lauderdale. This was in no way the fault of the ship. We were delayed in leaving by almost an hour and as we moved off the ship found we were in long hot and uncomfortable lines because the authorities at Fort Lauderdale had insufficient staff to promptly process the passengers leaving the ship. They certainly would have been aware of the size of the ship and the number of passengers likely to be disembarking as well as any crew heading home on holiday. We were totally disgusted by the lack of preparation and organization by the emigration staff. We finally arrived at the airport an hour and a half later than the proper check-in time and were just lucky not to miss our flight. We thoroughly enjoyed this cruise, enjoyed the ports of call, loved the crew and the ship and just wish we could be back on the Noordam when it heads back to Europe in March. Read Less
Sail Date October 2013
Just got back yesterday from my 26 day med/transatlantic cruise. Overall it was great cruise except for a few rough nights coming across the Atlantic. Was disappointed with the activities onboard during days at sea. Can see why some name ... Read More
Just got back yesterday from my 26 day med/transatlantic cruise. Overall it was great cruise except for a few rough nights coming across the Atlantic. Was disappointed with the activities onboard during days at sea. Can see why some name this ship the BoringDam. The food was just average. Did eat several times at the Pinnacle grill and it was well worth the extra money that it costs. Highly recommend it to future passengers. The ship was in excellent condition, the staff was friendly. The entertainment was below par and did improve once we departed for the transatlantic crossing. Embarkation and transfers from the Marriott Ledra, in Athens went well. The entire embarkation process went quickly and baggage was delivered to the room I think in record time. The itinerary and ports were interesting though I limited my excursion travels due to the costs involved. Even with the 10% discount that HAL offered the excursion prices were on the high side. Ephesus the first port of call was beautiful and was able to book my own tour off the ship at a much cheaper rate with another couple. In town Kusadasi, the atmosphere was lets rip off the tourists with all the counterfeit merchandise and overpriced carpets. Definitely need to know your prices before you go on rugs and leather products. The next stop was Haifa, Israel. A wonderful place to go, just wish HAL would overnight there as there is so much to see and so little time. Shore excursion prices were pricey. If you can plan well ahead, book your own tours. Going to the ports of Limassol Cyprus was a little disappointing as a port of call. Took the bus into town and walk around a bit. Good place to buy linens and buy a cold beer to drink. Nothing really stands out. On to Katakolon, Greece. What can I say, the ancient grounds of Olympia was a great tour. The town of Katakolon is a small quaint town with a little bit of shopping. Highly recommend going to the Greek Art Gallery there if you want a nice piece of art work. Virginia the owner is from the states and will make you a honest deal on a nice piece of art. Not a rip-off like Christos across the street, where I bought something and I am still waiting to see if it gets delivered. If you want cheap internet, go to the back street as there is a great place for internet at a cheap price as well as a nice little café. And the Gelato Yum! Messina, Italy was disappointing. Should have taken a tour to Toramina, but the tour price was too high. In Naples for the day took the hop-on hop-of bus. Great way to see Naples and feel safe in doing it. Recommend taking the both routes that are offered. If you want to do shopping take the red line and get off at stop 3. If you want excellent pizza, take the red line to stop 9 and try Lombardi, or onto stop 10 and go to Toraminos. Excellent Pizza. Once you eat pizza in Naples and you will not be able to stand the crap they serve here in the states. Also, don't forget to get the Gelato. The next stop I wish to mention in my review is the port for Rome. Have a hard time saying it as well as spelling it. Civitavecchia??? In lieu of going to Rome, I decided to explore this little city. I was surprise by it. If you decided to see the port, make sure you take in the open air market and explore some of the back streets. For internet service at very cheap price go to a little hole in the wall place called SeaMen. From the place where the port bus drops you off, you will see McDonalds then go to the right about 2 blocks and cut in towards town on the narrow street. SeaMens is on the right and is a grocery store up front but a has in internet service in the back along with a little café off to the side. Show them your ship card and then get on their computers. It was just a little over 1 euro for about 45 minutes. Beats the ships rates. Besides the internet, the wine and beer prices there are cheap. The crossing of the Atlantic was a long journey especially with the seas being choppy for many days and the port of calls Allicante, Malaga, and Cadiz were just ok to me. Recommend doing the hop-on- Hop-off buses. Nothing really stood out. Nothing like going like going to Barcelona or Lisbon. If I had to do it all over again, I would skip the transatlantic portion, especially in the fall. Read Less
Sail Date October 2013
Being our second cruise and reading the positive reviews of HAM & the Noordam, we were looking forward in anticipation of at least the same standard ( if not better ) as our first cruise ( Dawn Princess 14 days Melbourne- NZ ... Read More
Being our second cruise and reading the positive reviews of HAM & the Noordam, we were looking forward in anticipation of at least the same standard ( if not better ) as our first cruise ( Dawn Princess 14 days Melbourne- NZ -Melbourne). While we did enjoy the cruise, the Noordam/HAM/crew disappointed. On arrival, there was no positive greeting, just formalities and a keycard. Looking forward to quickly unpacking, securing our valuables and heading up top for a drink, our plans fouled almost immediately. Our cabin ( 8114). The safe wouldn't work. After 4 phone calls, 4 crew visits, 24 hours and 3 trips to queue at the 'front desk' for deposit box access, finally someone turned up and replaced the batteries! We also found that there were no robes, no wine glasses and one of the balcony chairs looked like it had been salvaged from a street-side collection. Poor standards and no checking. Dining Second seating in the main dining room, we rarely finished in time to see a 10:00 show. Our wine waiter was (deservedly) 'fired' after 2 weeks (not our doing) . Our favoured wines ( NZ Sauvignon Blanc, French Pinot Noir or Beaujolais were 'out of stock' or ran out early in the cruise. American, Chilean or Argentinian substitutes were the only 'options'. There were so many details where the Noordam dining experience was found to be lacking in comparison to the Dawn Princess. Pinnacle Grill - Unless you are keen to have a big piece of meat ( very nice I will admit ) don't bother. As a 'fine dining' experience, it was very poor. The service and presentation were 'average'. Staff training, oversight and adherence to standards seems to be the issue. After being seated at 8:30, we had the lights turned off/down at 10:30! A polite word from the maitre-de perhaps? Astounding! Entertainment Cheapest they could find? We walked out on most of the shows. Very disappointing. Overall - There were so many areas which didn't measure up to the standard we experienced on the Princess ship. I could elaborate but I think the opinion of a gentleman I met on the bow one morning perhaps says it all. " I've travelled with Holland America many times since 1964. It's not the same any more, they just seem to be nickel & diming us all the time now"   Read Less
Sail Date September 2013
My wife and I generally choose a cruise because of the ports visited and not the ship, however we did find the Noordam was a poor choice compared to other ships we have been on. Our verandah stateroom, 4016, was poorly positioned, jutting ... Read More
My wife and I generally choose a cruise because of the ports visited and not the ship, however we did find the Noordam was a poor choice compared to other ships we have been on. Our verandah stateroom, 4016, was poorly positioned, jutting out from the decks above, resulting in coffee spills,wine spills, cigarette ash, etc from above. At times the verandah was unusable because of smokers above and alongside, (many cruise ships do not allow smoking in staterooms or on verandahs). The stateroom also had problems with the toilet, bath, verandah door, (wind noise). There was no coin operated laundry, which does not help on a 22 day cruise. One major control error was that signatures were never required for on board purchases - in a few cases we were double charged and could not prove they were not ours - to Noordam's credit, they did credit us, but we wonder what would have happened if they refused, or our ship's card was used wrongly! The food was adequate without being great, however the staff in the Vista Dining room were dysfunctional, and often got orders mixed up. On many nights we were more than halfway through our meal before a wine steward turned up. On the credit side, arrival/departure/embarking/disembarking was excellent, as were the shore excursion organisation.   Read Less
Sail Date September 2013
This was our 1st cruise so cannot compare to others - however a few points that may assist future cruisers on this ship & line. On Service: Could only class as average. The cabin and floor staff are Indonesian - nothing racist here, ... Read More
This was our 1st cruise so cannot compare to others - however a few points that may assist future cruisers on this ship & line. On Service: Could only class as average. The cabin and floor staff are Indonesian - nothing racist here, but sometimes requests get lost in translation. ie they never got the room service right [ which they promote you to use] tea & milk - no milk! On reqest for milk, 2 glasses arrive 20 mins later! Cereal for 2 with 1 bowl, or toast for 2 with 1 plate! They are programmed to be very polite and friendly, but 2nd requests for a problem were on some occasions met with surliness. ie they lost our bottle of wine and said "there was not much in it anyway!" On Saving Your $: We bought wine and mineral water ashore for our cabin, there was no problem bringing on board; why should there be! Make sure you bring a corkscrew as Euro wine is still corked. The "Hotel Service charge " as they call it @ US$11.50 per person per day is charged to your room account progressively during the cruise - this is on top of the 15% added to all drink purchases. This $11.50 is deemed to be a 'pooled' gratuity for all staff. Well my definiion of a gratuity is an amount I choose to give to award good service. You can vary this amount by the following:- Go to the ships office 2 nights before disembarkation and explain you wish to vary the gratuity charge to $X per day - they will ask your reasons for their records - fair enough,but they really can't force this payement on you. The following 'last' night they will deliver your final shipboard account and you can check if the adjustment has been credited. On Laundry: There being no self laundry, its wash in your basin or the laundry service; $20 for a 'sleeping bag size' load. If you have a veranda purchase a suction cap with hook [about 3" or 7 mm diameter] and about 3 metres cord with pegs. Fix a line from your window out to the rail! The laundry service use industrial size dryers for all the ships laundry and yours - so beware of items coming back shrunk. On Disembarkation: They ask that all cases are put outside the cabin night before as they are offloaded during the night. We disembarked to the exit/baggage hall ashore next morning to find our luggage locks had been cut off and our cases rifled through. Fortunately no valubles were there to take! I would recommend you refuse this request and take you own cases off in the morning if you are capable - bear in mind depending on which deck you exit that may mean negotiating some stairs. We enjoyed our cruise and the fabulous Meditteranean ports in ideal Autumn weather - I hope my tips add to your enjoyment. Read Less
Sail Date September 2013
Just returned from an 11 night Ancient Mystery tour on MS Noordam (2nd time on board the same ship). Fabulous itinerary made even better by the changes, due to recent disruptions in Egypt, from Port Said & Alexandria to Ashdod & ... Read More
Just returned from an 11 night Ancient Mystery tour on MS Noordam (2nd time on board the same ship). Fabulous itinerary made even better by the changes, due to recent disruptions in Egypt, from Port Said & Alexandria to Ashdod & Haifa in Israel ' even more of a bonus that HAL gave us $100 pp. as compensation. Primarily we always chose a cruise based on itinerary / ports of call & Holland America Line excel in this area. The fact you can chose your length of stay i.e. 11 days, 22 days or even 33 days (for the lucky few), is also good as is the fact that the cruises don't loop ' you start in one port & end in another so can get further (although aware for some that embarking & disembarking in differing ports may be an issue). Secondly it comes down to cruise line ' chose a line as you would when choosing a resort & hotel ' they all differ greatly, even within a line it can depend on the individual ship, time of year travelling & even itinerary. Most cruise lines will be busy in school holiday & have kids on board ' some more than others. There are pros & cons with every cruise line. The MS Noordam is understated but elegant. She isn't the newest ship out there nowadays - 2006 - which is far from old but in ship terms she is showing some small signs of 'wear & tear'. However she is kept it pristine condition (unlike Thomson ships) & constantly cleaned. Compared to numbers of board there is more than enough public space for each individual & the ship never felt over crowded ' even on days at sea. There was never an issue with regard to sun loungers & getting seats at the shows (as I've experienced on other lines). Service is excellent particularly in the Vista dining room (Adhi our waiter went out of his way to create origami animals every evening for our son) & food is very good ' well presented & a good choice. Quality of ingredients is superior on HAL compared to other lines we've previously used, as are basics such as coffee in the main vista lounge & fruit juices (not so great in the Lido). Minimal public announcements - it was a relief not to have constant PA announcements telling us what was going on & flogging over-priced shore excursions, photos & DVD's as some lines do. The daily port of call / event guide was sufficient for this ' you just had to read it. Shows were enjoyable, again as per the whole ship, understated in style' a comedian, a magician & some 'Broadway' style shows performed by the Noordam singers & dancers which were all good '. If full on 'Vegas' style cheesy shows are your thing you possibly won't agree. Stateroom (we were in Veranda stateroom 5158) was good ' always kept immaculately clean & tidy by the stateroom attendant. Bed had good quality sheets & was so comfortable it was hard to get out in the morning! Room was quiete - no noise from any other part of the ship. No complaints about the stateroom ' not sure how it differs to other categories. Balcony bigger than that on other ships ' enough room for 3 to sit on it & watch the world go by. The ship is however reasonable quiet & restrained so if full on fun & partying & pool games are your thing this may not be the line / ship for you. There is enough to do if excursions are you main focus followed by good food & wine, a show & a drink in one of the many bars on board. There is a night club on board & Karaoke on some evenings but we never used these as we were travelling with a 12 year old. Our only disappointment with HAL was with regard to Turkish Visa's as we were disembarking in Istanbul ' we felt HAL used scare tactics & felt pressured into buying over-priced visas they persisted in arranging at $45 pp. for UK residents when it costs $15 pp. ('10) in port? We had looked into this prior to departure & weren't fooled by HAL but they still caused unnecessary stress & wasted too much of our time whilst we checked facts with home & online to make sure & by queuing on several occasions to sort with guest services. We bought ours Turkish Visa (only needed if disembarking here) for '10 in Kusadsi port & could have done the same before disembarking in Istanbul. I fail to see that HAL did not know this? It was even worse for fellow US passengers ' HAL were trying to charge $85 for something that cost $20 in port! It left a bit of a bitter taste after all the good things they'd strived to do.   Read Less
Sail Date August 2013
We have cruised about ten times with various cruise lines before and have always considered HAL, along with Princess, among the better cruise lines for us (we are not exactly the younger generation). We last cruised with Princess in 2011 ... Read More
We have cruised about ten times with various cruise lines before and have always considered HAL, along with Princess, among the better cruise lines for us (we are not exactly the younger generation). We last cruised with Princess in 2011 in Asia. This is our third cruise with HAL on their 11-day Ancient Mystery starting off from Athens. We were very much disappointed. Noordam is a smaller ship and we are fine with that. However, there are smaller ship should not equate to smaller expectations. Room Service: We usually get room service for breakfast because it would be easier for our elderly mother. The delivery is usually on time. However, it was very rarely (in fact, never) that they got our simple order right. As we had three people in our state room, we would clearly mark our order for three and placed orders for at least two pots of coffee and one other hot beverage. They would however, never gave us three cups or three sets of cutlery. The orders were also never properly filled out. Despite of repeated request to the room service delivery staff, we finally gave up. We ended up ordering the hot food and drinks via room service and went up to Lido deck ourselves for items and cutlery/cup that was missing from our order. It worked out pretty good. Entertainment: In their desperate attempt to get good rating on their evaluation form, the Cruise Director reminded us at the beginning of our cruise that they could not please everyone and we should only judge entertainment on their effort. There is little doubt that the efforts made by the entertainers are good, but the type of entertainment effort provided by HAL was only fair. There were three big performances, including the DROOM show towards the end of the cruise which was excellent and full credit to the performing staff. Entertainment on other nights, however, consisted of solo guitarist, local Greek dancing group, and solo comedian/magician. These shows lasted usually for 30 minutes or less and most are more appropriate for smaller stage (eg bar or lounge setting) and not as the main attraction. Smaller ships should not equate to lesser entertainment shows. Organization: We took a private tour from Port Said with over-night stay in Cairo (try not to take shore excursions from any cruise lines because they are usually really expensive compared to the real world). We contacted HAL before sailing, informing them of our itinerary and received a confirmation letter stating that they ‘approved’ our overnight trip and would pass the information onto the ship personnel. When we came back on board at Alexandria, our cruise ship ID cards lit up at the check-in counter. We waited for the cruise line official to come out and gave us a stern talk about not letting them know that we were not returning to the ship at Port Said and that they had to wait for us. She finally let us back onboard. We promptly dropped off the official letter from HAL at the front desk noting that the breakdown in communication was within HAL, but we never heard from the front desk acknowledging their error or apologizing for their previous accusations. Shopping: They claimed price match/guarantee for jewellery. We bought a relatively inexpensive Swarovski Crystal bracelet on board but found exactly the same one in Mykonos for a lesser price. We bought the one in Mykonos with a receipt and pictures of the store and display. The two bracelets were exactly the same with the same colour combination and marking on the claps etc. Even the assistant manager confirmed that it was sterling silver and same make. However, the manager of the store said that we had to produce the lot and code number in order to meet the requirement of their price guarantee claim. I doubt any retailer can or will provide customers with the lot and code number for their products. And it would be impossible to see any diamond with the same cutting and carat weight in the same token. One can expect price to be a little more expensive on the cruise ship, however, if I think if they want to make a ‘price guarantee’ claim to draw in customers, they should make a honest and reasonable effort to honor their claim. So, buyers beware. We would also like to commend on a male Pilipino staff at the gift shop was very helpful. Boarding and Departure process: The boarding process was efficient and quick. The disembarking however was complete chaos. People were lining up on the stairs to disembark all the way up to the Lower Promenade level (exit three levels down) even though we abide to their exit color coded system. Words of advice: take the elevator no matter how long the wait- you can still get down to the lower exit level faster than lining up. Getting out of the Istanbul terminal to catch a private car was also difficult because of the limited space. Make sure you have previous discussion as to the pick-up point and arrive ahead of time (which could be difficult because of the line up). Food: Food in the dining room was acceptable yet unremarkable. Service provided by the staff, on the other hand, was good as expected. Dining room and Lido deck staff were also very good, attentive and friendly (except for one server on Lido deck who we avoided) and should be commended for their hard work. On Lido deck, most of their hot water dispensing machines were either not working or with the dispensing buttons badly worn out. It is always a guessing game as to where to get your hot water. The BBQ they provided at Mykonos was excellent and a nice break from the routine Others: When compared to our most recent Princess cruise in 2011, HAL came across as ‘cheap’. Simple example, on Princess, we got off the cruise just before our birthdays (three birthdays within 10 days of one other). However, on seeing our birthdays being so close to our time on the cruise, Princess made sure we had our birthday cakes etc on the last day of the cruise and decorated the outside of our room with balloons, very simple touch to make our cruise more memorable . This time we spent our birthdays on board HAL and HAL were aware of it. When there were no balloons, I approached the front desk and was told that if I wanted balloons, it would be $1.50 each. Wonder how much it will cost HAL for little balloons. By the way, all other cruisers liked the balloons on our door because they served as landmark to help identify the corridor, directions and cabins. Port-of-Calls: We got lucky and were able to tour all the cities without experiencing any riots and demonstrations; with Cairo and the pyramids being the highlight of the cruise. For the pyramids, don’t pay to go inside the Great pyramid. Instead, go to the smaller one (‘Third’ Pyramid) by the Sphinx. It is just as interesting. Make sure you have someone who can speak Egyptian to negotiate for you for the camel rides and pictures at the pyramid. We heard one lady passenger on our cruise line who just wanted to get on a camel for pictures but got taken out to the middle of the dessert without her permission and her husband had to hop on a second camel on hot pursuit. It was for good intent as the handler wanted her to have a nice view but without knowing what was happening (and you can’t jump off the camel), it was not a pleasant experience. For Istanbul, while one has to visit the Grand Bazaar in Istanbul because it is a tourist attraction, spent your time at the Spice Bazaar instead. We wanted to go back to the Grand Bazaar a second time for more shopping, but our guide recommended us going to the Spice Bazaar instead because it is cheaper, cleaner and sell roughly the same thing. He was right. Go to the Grand Bazaar for the experience but save your shopping at the Spice Bazaar. One thing you have to watch out for. The nice Turkish Delights samples we got at the stores were not the same as those packaged in boxes. They are made with sugar instead of honey (despite what the store owners may tell you) and there is hardly any nuts in them (as on the picture on the box). Also if you want the standard ‘cheap’ Turkish Delights, buy those offered at the cruise port in Kusadasi. The exact ones were sold at fraction of the cost as in Istanbul. Overall, the itinerary was excellent and port-of-calls provided great touring experience. The Noordam, in our opinion, failed to live up to HAL’s ‘Signature of Excellence’ claim.   Read Less
Sail Date May 2013
My husband and I chose this particular cruise for the itinerary. Although we had visited some ports on other voyages, there were a few we wished to see. The ship is imposing and grand looking from its dock and I cannot fault the food; it ... Read More
My husband and I chose this particular cruise for the itinerary. Although we had visited some ports on other voyages, there were a few we wished to see. The ship is imposing and grand looking from its dock and I cannot fault the food; it was very good. From there it goes downhill fast. As we unpacked in our cabin, we opened our bedside tables to find 30+ candies and receipts from the previous traveler. The cabin looked shabby and not well kept; needs either some new upholstery or cleaning. The veranda deck looked as though it had never been cleaned. The public rooms were virtually empty either because most were ill (more about that later) or bcause the rooms are far from inviting. Instead being cold and austere. The dining room wait staff was poorly trained and either had not served aboard a ship or were new and not very knowledgeable. Cleanliness is a big minus on this ship. At breakfast one morning alone we had to have three water glasses and two coffee cups removed because they were dirty. It seems if you are short tableware including glasses or cups they are removed from a vacant table and placed in front of you. This is very unsanitary as one has no way of knowing who has touched this prior to your use. The Lido was an awful place to TRY and eat a meal. On some mornings with an early excursion we were forced to eat there. Without trays, trying to balance juice and coffee for two and then to get an entree. Well, before you even sat down everything was cold. We ate in LeCirque one evening. Small choices on the menu and not worth the price as the food in the dining room surpassed our dinner. The Noordam was a "sick ship". Although we had no knowledge of this, the ship had begun its journey in Egypt and traveled to other ports before our departure from Athens. Who knew that some awful Norwalk virus had made its way on this ship. Every day we were told by the captain that some more cases were reported and yes my husband was one of those. He thankfully recovered after 24 hours and was out of quarentine although others were not so lucky. At every restaurant and many public rooms a crew mamber would stand with his hand sanitizer bottle at the ready. Each passenger was given a bottle to use. When we reached Rome we were told to disembark whether we wanted to or not as a crew was boarding to try and sanitize the ship. None of these measures actually worked as more and more became ill. Some failed to report their sickness as we learned at breakfast one morning. A gentleman informed us he had had the Norwalk but treated himself with Immodium. This cruise probably should have limped into a port and been cancelled. By the end of the trip many were coughing and sneezing and went on their way with a virus. The cabin stewards were the friendliest and seemed to be the most efficient. The officers and other crew members seemed very cold, aloof especially those at the main desk. The shows were amateurish at best. The art auction was fun and the young ladies who assisted the auctioneer, Tanya and Michelle were outstanding in their friendliness. This ship, in my opinion lacks attention to detail that others of our experience have displayed. It also seems to operate on the premise that all is done for its convenience and not that of the passenger. Now, granted most lines may operate that way; economically sound. But, none in my experience has shown such a blatant disregard for the passengers well being. Read Less
Sail Date May 2013
Noordam Ratings
Category Editor Member
Cabin 4.0 N/A
Dining 4.0 4.0
Entertainment 4.0 3.5
Public Rooms 4.0 4.3
Fitness & Recreation 3.0 N/A
Family 2.0 3.8
Shore Excursions 3.0 N/A
Enrichment Activities 4.0 N/A
Service 4.0 4.3
Value for Money 3.0 N/A

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