1. Home
  2. Cruise Lines
  3. Holland America Line
  4. Holland America Line Cruise Reviews

5 Holland America Istanbul Cruise Reviews

Overall, it was a very nice 11 night cruise from Istanbul to Athens. There were some disappointments due to changing ports of call from when we booked the cruise, but that was just due to political unrest vs. the cruise line. So HAL should ... Read More
Overall, it was a very nice 11 night cruise from Istanbul to Athens. There were some disappointments due to changing ports of call from when we booked the cruise, but that was just due to political unrest vs. the cruise line. So HAL should get some credit for ensuring guest safety comes first. Stateroom It was always clean, big enough for us and the balcony was nice. It was very similar to the room we had on the ms Zeiderdam. The one downside of our cabin, instead of looking down directly into the water, it overlooked the life boats. Not that it was bad, but I would recommend booking two room forward 5054 or lower to ensure you have a better view. Staff The staff was always friendly, always helpful and it was another great experience on HAL. I always think they try to make you feel at home when you are on the cruise and I have felt that way with all my HAL cruises. When I get back on-board, it feels like the crew is welcoming you home. Dining The food was excellent as always, but there were a few issues I had with the staff in the main dining room. They served us butter that had gone bad one night, and once we asked for new butter it was replaced quickly. Second, our water glasses were never refilled without us asking for a refill. A minor complaint maybe but HAL does claim 5 star service, but within the dining room, it was a negative in my mind. Ports We loved all the ports and the ports due to the political unrest were great. I am happy that HAL showed us places we wouldn't have normally gone. Read Less
Sail Date August 2013
My wife and I decided to celebrate our 25th anniversary on the Noordam last month. We had looked at the Holland America website and joined up with the HAL community forum, but were still not prepared for the high standard of service and ... Read More
My wife and I decided to celebrate our 25th anniversary on the Noordam last month. We had looked at the Holland America website and joined up with the HAL community forum, but were still not prepared for the high standard of service and luxury we were exposed to on the ship. Our stateroom was large enough despite being a standard one and the portholw was larger than we expected providing a good view whenever we needed one - not often as we hardly spent any time in our stateroom. The organisation of the excursions, onboard activities and shows was outstanding and we were made to feel like royalty. We did not use the gym or the spa and we didn't spend much time watching the many shows that were available - we were exhausted from the excursions, but those we did see were very well done and the variety was good. The few negatives: Lack of friendliness of a few of the older dining staff (in the minority) & the prices of the sodas and alcoholic drinks and of most of the goods for sale in the Signature shops which were over the top. Also, because the beverage staff earn 15% on each drink they sell, they only showed interest if you ordered sodas or alcohol regularly and ignored you if they got to know that you only ordered water on the pool decks.Nafplion and Antalya were added due to our not being able to get to Israel due to the Syrian crisis. Nafplion was really a stunning town and the Palamidi castle above it was well worth the 971 steps! We also visited ancient Corinth and the Corinth canal from there as part of an official excursion arranged by Holland America at the last minute. It was extremely enjoyable. Antalya is intersting, but we did not have enough time to explore what it offers. Read Less
Sail Date August 2013
For the last 7 years or so the trend has been for the cruise lines to position their ships around the world, and visiting more international ports than ever before. Which can only be great for the traveler. Part of that trend, especially ... Read More
For the last 7 years or so the trend has been for the cruise lines to position their ships around the world, and visiting more international ports than ever before. Which can only be great for the traveler. Part of that trend, especially in the last 2 or 3 years is to also create multiple itineraries as part of one big trip! I think Holland America is leading the way.THE ITINERARYThe embarkation was painless.I embarked on an 11-day "Ancient Mysteries" cruise on May 17th, 2013 out of Istanbul. That day there were also people who were beginning a 22 days or 33 days cruise! You could have booked each 11 day segment by itself. The itinerary took us from Istanbul, along the Dardanelles pasageway, to Mykonos, to Kusadasi, Turkey, to Rhodes, an overnight in Alexandria, Egypt, then to Iraklion, Crete and finally to Athens. After I booked this segment I wondered why I didnt book the 22 days as this would have pretty much covered for me all the places Ive ever needed to visit. Now I need to go back and spent more money for just a few more ports. I do not know people's tolerance to be at sea for 33 days, but that itinerary would have covered all the ports for you might otherwise need 4 mediterrenean cruises. The overnight in Alexandria, Egypt was in lieu of a stop at Port Said that was cancelled by the cruise line for safety reasons.There were really 3 days at sea, going and coming out of Egypt, and the cruising thru the Dardanelles. Another thing I noticed was that on this particular trip I never saw the ship go faster than 14 knots. So it was very leisurely!THE SHIPWhile we are in the era of the Mega Ship, not all of these ancent cities old ports can handle big ships. So most ships traveling the mediterrenean will be mid size ships (approx 2,000 passenger), usually built in the early 2000s. So be careful with your expectations.The Noordam is an elegant, quaint ship. Very European feel to it. Some of its rooms, like the Piano Bar and the Northern Lights (dancing club) are tucked away from the walking halls so you do not have to run into them if you dont want to. And while the Explorations Cafe is a little more open to the hallway, it is probably the most elegant room on the ship. It is the library/computer room with a coffee bar that we would like to have at home. It is only rivaled by the Crow's Nest on the aft portion of deck number 10. At the same time, some of the luxury restaurants do not have am exclusive area, but they are tucked away enough to make the privacy happen.For the working man the staterooms are average; the inside, the oceanview and balcony (veranda). Actually some of the inside rooms are larger than the other two mentioned. I was surprised to have a bathtub in my Veranda room, not that I was planning to take a bath, but for the first time I did not have to deal with water sipping out of my shower and onto the floor.The ship seemed to have plenty of lounging chairs at the main and aft pools and observation areas. The main pool might seem out of chairs at time, but that is just people leaving their towels after they leave the premises. I completely hated the idea of having to cross thru the SPA to go the Fitness Room . And the HydroPool cost makes it a non-issue. I would have paid 10 dollars to go in once, but not $149 for the 11 days. In this itinerary we never had to tender! What a plus of the mid-size ship! The Atrium, and therefore Front Office area was not as big as I have seen in other ships, but really, aside from that intial impression, how much time do you really spend in the area?FOODThe food and service in the dinning room was good. Nothing to complain about, nothing to write home about. Just what it should be. But definitely not a 9 rating. The food quality at the self serve Lido Restaurant was just like in any other ship; big ticket items like steaks, fish, chicken were good, while things like pancakes, omelets, pizza could be hit or miss. If anything I was surprised, and perturbed to find they would not have an item, say mashed potatoes, Corn Flakes or OJ, on one side, but yet you could walk around to the other side and find it. And their after hours snacks were the same and not that great. My friends did eat at Le Cirque at the Pinnacle Grill and thought it was excellent! The Cannaletto" restaurant was pretty much a made up section of the Lido and you could see the food being prepared and delivered, but other than that I have no idea of wheter it deserve paying the premium fee.Room service seemed to be a disappointmnet as I spoke with a few people who ordered food and never got it on time. I also left my room after waiting over 20 mins past the high range delivery time (50 minutes in total).THE STAFFIt seemed that the cruise staff was just 4 people; the cruise director and three others who were pretty busy taking care of other things on the ship (games, location expert, etc). They are really busy and you never see them out where you can 'mingle' with them. I could have easily stayed 33 days onboard with the cruise staff in my previous cruise.The Ships staff employed a policy where in the first 48 hours they would handle everything a passenger could touch in order to avoid any outbreaks once we were at sea. Two to three days before we stopped in Athens, it seemed an outbreak of GIS was prevalent, and the crew took immediate action to prevent the spreading of it. ** Editorial note** If you are reading this and are getting ready to go on a cruise, you are most likely to be the cause. Wash your hands everytime you leave your room, and use the sanitizing lotions available all over the ship, at all times. Sneeze onto the inside of your elbow, dont put your hands inside the covers of the food to show or touch what is it that you want, dont touch tongs all over and then lay then on top of the food you were picking up, touch elevator buttons with other than the tip of your fingers (fist, knuckles, elbows). Walking around the Lido Restaurant geting my food I saw behavior everyday that has no other repercussions but outbreaks of these diseases on enclosed quarters.Having said that, the Lido servers were excellent; better than at the main dining rooms. The room stewards, at least the ones I had, the best of any cruise line.THE ENTERTAINMENT While I have never sailed with Holland before, it seems that they are making some changes to the shows created by the line. On this Ship we were treated to the shows Classique, Aces High and Droom. And in ascendent order that is how I like them! DROOM was probably the best PRODUCTION I have seen on board any ship! The customes and stage arrangements are amazing! ON Aces High an interactive projection is happening for the audience to see as the entertainers do their thing on stage.Their partnering with Dancing with the Stars to run the Dancing with the Stars at Sea competition, might proof succesful! It involves the passengers by having available three dance lessons during the cruise days, and at the end it gives the audience something else other than another show. I was one of the particpants, and it gave me something to look forward (although very nervously) and it is one of the biggest memories I took with me. I am sure that then people that participated along with me feel the same.Yet, some of the entertaining was below average. A guitarist especialist was boring, maybe better suited for a smaller stage, the local Greek group that came to dance was good, but for how long can you do a local dance for, an entire hour? The magician was good, but, there is one in every cruise. He was actually better in the small setting teaching people magic tricks. And finally impersonators, especially those that can bring music and "nostalgia" to a stage will always catch people's attention.OTHERThe TV in the rooms had the best channels I have ever seen; CNN and ESPN! Woo hoo! Last year it took me three days to figure who had won a NBA finals game. And there were up todate movies. The abiltiy to rent CDs to watch in your room was awesome!THE PORTSISTANBUL -- Ok, it might seem remote, but it is as cosmopolitan as any city in the world! What a great city! And easy to "navigate"! And yes it is a Muslim city; lets respect each others differences and embrace our similarities! Most likely the majority of the restaurant servers and stateroom stewards are from Muslim countries, and yet, theyre the ones to give you a big smile everyday and treat you with respect! And in these countries where the economic system has not progressed as much as in other developed countries, someone will try to make a buck off of you; know that and deal with it from a business transaction point of view, not with a personal air of disdain for someone who has less. The Taxi might run you 50 Euros to the port from the airport.There is a train or tram just outside the port and for less than 4 Euros you can ride it into town ( a few stops away). After that you can walk to the main attractions. There is a HOP ON HOP OFF (HOHO) for approximately $25 worthly dollars. GO check out Istanbul! MYKONOS -- The ship provided a van from the port to town for $5.00. From there you can walk to town. You can do it from the ship, but there are no sidewalks on these very narrow, cliffy roads. We chose to rent an ATV for 15 Euros, and explored 3/4 of the Island. We were lucky to sail out late so that gave us the chance to return our ATV by four and walk around the town after it was not longer crowded. The town is maybe a tat bigger than Catalina Island, but get walking between any alleyway you can find to see its treasures!KUSSADASI -- Beautiful modern port, no offense to neighboring Izmir, and much closer to Ephesus and the Virgin Mary's last home. We found a taxi van outside the port which took us to both places for 12 Euros each. These taxi drivers have been doing this for years, so while obviously they will ask you for a higher price initially, they know their bread and butter lives with their responsibility. I have done this trip twice, the first time with the cruise tour and paid $89.00. So it is your choice. Still with either one, we had to stop by a carpet and leather factory, watch their demos and deal with the sales pitch. These are turks, the older sellers in history!RHODES -- No need to get a tour if you dont want to; Outside the port there is a HOHO that after 1230pm charges you 9 Euros instead of 12. The main gate to town is less than a mile from the ship, so you can walk around town all day long.ALEXANDRIA, EGYPT -- You would not know there is unrest in this country from stepping out of the ship onto this port. The Pyramids are 3 hours away, in a rather chaotic "highway". This is Egypt, it is, what it is. It is hot and sadly chaotic and dirty. The temperature reached 100 degrees in Cairo on May 24th, so be prepared. This temperature is way different from the one in port. The tours companies that you find in a place like Trip Advisor are reputable! They want your money, but also their reputation. Still they are way cheaper than the cruise tours. We used EMO Tours. Their guides are great at dealing with the pestering sellers. Dont commit to any transaction without their help. We heard of people being charge $10 USD for just a picture next to a Camel (which a nice Egyptian local will smiling bring to you, but wont let you go until you pay him), and up to $40 for a ride. With our guide's help we got a camel ride along the Pyramids, plenty of pictures and all for $10.00. We also went to a local Cairo Restaurant, and the food was EXCELLENT (and cheap)! We tend to think that it would be otherwise in these underdeveloped cities, but we dont think that these are people too with desire for good food. The best meals that I have had in the last two years have been in Turkey and this one in Egypt. I also talked to a few people that were brave enough to do the overnight, and they were very sattisfied.IRAKLION, CRETE -- Like in Rhodes the city center is within walking distance. The HOHO is right before you exit the port and is 20 Euros for the full day and 15 for half a day (till 1230pm). You can get off at the Knossos Palace (6 Euros), but acquaint yourself with its history first.ATHENS -- The HOHO is right at the exit of the port. Is about 17 Euros, and it will take you to all the places you need to see in Athens. You might want to wait until the afternoon to go up to the Acropolis, that way you let everyone on a cruiseship tour do their thing first. It gets crowded up there.The Marriot, Hitlon and Crowne Plaza are very good choice hotels. A taxi from the port to the Airport will run you close to 50 Euros with tip. Read Less
Sail Date May 2013
The boarding of the ship in Istanbul went smoothly no long lines. Our cabin was ready as soon as we boarded we met our friendly cabin stewards and then headed to the Lido for lunch. On returning to our cabin after lunch to our surprise our ... Read More
The boarding of the ship in Istanbul went smoothly no long lines. Our cabin was ready as soon as we boarded we met our friendly cabin stewards and then headed to the Lido for lunch. On returning to our cabin after lunch to our surprise our luggage was already there so we unpacked an settled into ship board life. Our cabin was what we expected clean and comfortable. We had booked a VE gty and had an upgrade to VA (when we booked 9 months before we could not book any verandah category only gty on all levels) our cabin was on deck 8 towards the aft under the Sea View Deck. It was under the designated smoking area. This created a lot of chairs noise on our ceiling it was even louder if you were sitting out on the balcony. The noise could be from 5:30 am to anywhere after midnight. After not being able to get to sleep the first night my husband went down to find out what could be done as he could not put up with the situation for 32 more nights. The front office staff were excellent advised us that the cruise was fully booked but they will contact Seattle to see what could be done. 24hours later were advised we could have a cabin change at the end of the first. 11 day sector in Athens. The cabin was on the other side of the ship about 6 cabins further forward. We took the change of cabins it was still under Sea View Pool deck but it was much quieter we could sit out on the balcony without any noise as well. We were on a full day tour the day of change over we left our bags packed and clothes hanging in the wardrobe when we arrived back everything was moved across for us. We had breakfastat at the Lido, Main Dining room and Room Service. The Lido was good we loved the fresh orange juice. Our dining room experience was just ok we went a few times just to make sure we were not being biased. The service was not great my husband asked 4 times for a cup of tea. The orange juice was not fresh just a mix. Room service seemed a bit hit and miss a couple of things we ordered did not arrive one time, then another time it arrived at least 1/2 hour earlier than the requested time frame. Lunches were had in the Lido and a few burgers from the grill at all times found the food very good and the deserts just far to tempting. The selections of ice cream each day was wonderful. We had early assigned dinner had a great table for 6 looking out the aft window. The meals on the first 11days were just wonderful every night all at our table would say how good everything was. Unfortunately there was a notable difference in the quality, taste and tenderness in the meals for the rest of the cruise. This was a great disappointment to us. Some of the menus were repeated which we expected and were very happy about. I know food can be very subjective but I am comparing food choices from same menus over the 33 days. The entertainment was enjoyable the musical shows by the ship entertainers was excellent we particularly liked Droom. The guest entertainers were varied and tried to meet most people's needs. Some we thought we great some just ok but the ones we did not enjoy was probably due more to our own likes and dislikes than the quality of the performers. The captain and crew had to deal with a GI Virus for 15 of the 33 days we were aboard. The crew worked tirelessly sanitising everywhere for the cabin and cleaning crews it must have been exhausting. I can not praise everyone of the ships crew for the work they did during that time to try and get the Virus under control. Fortunately we did not get the bug. We took a 33 day Thermal Suite package but because of the GI Virus we could not use it for 15 days we were reimbursed pro rata days of non use. We really loved the Thermal Suite it was so relaxing after a long day in port. We had 2 port changes because of unrest. Port Said and Tunis we were pleased that HAL was thinking of passenger safety. We enjoyed every port we went to although we were shocked at how dirty and rubbish bound Egypt was. We did one ship tour in Egypt not brave enough to to a private tour. The tour we did was good. At all other ports did private tours with other CC members, shared taxis or used hop on hop off buses as well as using Rick Steve's Ports of call Mediterranean book. What we noticed was that the private tours were at least 1/2 the price of ships tours. We had a wonderful wonderful cruise and the small things that annoyed us will not stop us from cruising with Holland again What we will do different next booking is not take a cabin Gty we will only make a booking if we can pick a particular cabin. Read Less
Sail Date May 2013
We were happy to see that we could do a two-week "arc" of a Holland America "Grand Voyage" aboard their smallest ship, the Prinsendam. We spent 3 full days on our own in our embarkation city, Istanbul, before meeting an ... Read More
We were happy to see that we could do a two-week "arc" of a Holland America "Grand Voyage" aboard their smallest ship, the Prinsendam. We spent 3 full days on our own in our embarkation city, Istanbul, before meeting an already-travelling group in the Port. We stayed at the Ambassador Hotel in the old city and were pleased with our selection. We were glad we were on our own: those who booked with HAL were made to be there very early in the cold and drafty Port bldg. on a cold and rainy day. We cabbed it from our hotel and cut 2 hours off the wait. Once the process began, it was smooth (after all, there weren't that many of us.) We had gleaned beforehand that the sailing was not filled to capacity - I believe it was as much as 100 - 200 passengers shy of capacity. Thus, we were upgraded to a Veranda Suite at no extra charge. We enjoyed the room immensely. We encountered none of the issues I had been reading about: failed AC, odors, plumbing issues, elevator issues. No issues with our room. The Prinsendam is not a sparkly, sexy ship; no rock-climbing wall, no spectacular atrium, not the art collection that you see on other HAL ships. However, at around 600 passengers (including fewer than 6 children), it was worth the tradeoff to us. We don't cruise for the ship activities per se, and our 2 weeks included only two sea days. We wondered whether it would be difficult to join an already-established voyage, but encountered no problems in that regard. In fact, HAL (or fate) had us join a table of 8 with only one couple on for the entire voyage. The other 6 of us got on in Istanbul and off in Rome. Because of the small population, "anytime dining" was not an option (we usually do this.) Our group was magically matched, similar in age and activity level. Our wonderful table group was one of the pleasures of the trip. Other than that, other passengers were quite warm and welcoming. This loyaLpassenger group includes many who have been sailing on the Prinsendam since it was owned by another cruise line. As a group they are quite well-travelled, older, and seemingly affluent, but in a quiet non-flashy way. Company-wise, it was a most pleasant experience. State RoomWe were in Veranda Suite 216 (it wasn't really a suite, don't know why it has that name). It was similar to the other 2 cabins we have had on HAL, except for the veranda, which we enjoyed even though not all the weather was fabulous. Comfortable bed, quiet, with more than adequate storage. I do wish there was storage in the bathroom on both walls. I have sailed enough with HAL that I know to bring clothespins for hand laundry, and my own makeup mirror. Our only problem was, when the ship slowed down coming into port, that the valance (exterior) over the sliding door on the veranda rattled fiercely. One time it crashed off - could have been dangerous had someone been out there. They crew attached it in a timely manner but it still rattled at every port.Dining: We were very pleased with the food, including the lido buffet, high tea, breakfast (3X) in the dining room, the regular dining room dinners, a special Greek dinner in the Lido, and 2 room service breakfasts. We have no complaints about the food, and we are quite picky. We chose not to dine in either the Pinnacle Grill (have done so many times before) or Cannaletto's (have been disappointed there in the past.) One of the reasons we sail on HAL is that we can bring our own wine and pay corkage ($18). We are avid wine collectors and drinkers and enjoy this feature. We were able to buy wine in every port to enjoy at our meals and the sommelier (Roy) was quite charming about the whole thing. Activities: We do a little Trivia, my spouse plays poker, and we do a little working out and walking. We attended a few of the shows. We heard a comedian who was quite good and a comedienne/singer who we enjoyed. I get very weary of the song-and-dance troupes, but that is just a personal bias. I don't think they were any worse than any other. I cannot speak to cooking classes, spa or lectures. We listened to some port information lectures from our room. We also never did dancing to live music that was offered - we were too tuckered after all our port visits. We did listen to piano bar music, particularly the music trivia. There were two "sail aways" that we enjoyed: a rainy one in the Crows Nest from Istanbul and a sunny deck one from Venice that was festive and fun. We also attended a Mariner Society event that was nicely done. My husband used the internet café (service) some, but as little as possible as it is horribly slow and very expensive. Some day some cruise line will offer this for free and they will have more passengers than they can handle!Service & DisembarkationService was great from all the "little people": Cabin attendants, food service folks, etc. No complaints. However, when we needed some help with those in management positions, we were disappointed. This had to do mostly with our disembarkation. Again, quite a small number of people were leaving in Rome, and most were either going to the airport or to HAL post-stays in the city. We had booked HAL transportation to downtown Rome, where we had booked our own hotel. I believe we paid $100 apiece for the transport. Getting our questions answered about the when and where of our dropoff was like pulling teeth. Calls back to us were promised and never made. They were going to drop us off at someone else' hotel (really? for $200?) but our driver (of a 7 person van) kindly drove us to our hotel, for which we tipped him another 20E. It would have been so difficult to find a cab in that part of Rome schlepping all that luggage had he dropped us at another place. We stayed at the Londra & Cargill Hotel in Rome, and were very happy with our choice, in fact highly recommend it.My only other complaint was the way the disembarkation information session was handled, specifically the guest survey info. The cruise director (who was a little too "Hollywood" for me and, I think, for the crowd) made it very clear that it is a "black mark" of some kind for a crew member to be rated any less than a "10" or "excellent". He went on and on about it, to the point that we just didn't fill the forms out at all, as we felt so badgered about the "expected" or "right" way to fill them out. Just because I don't have a specific issue with someone does not translate into "excellent" service. I think this type of presentation needs to be re-thought.Ports: We did not participate in any HAL shore excursions. Our table mates had done many before we got on, and complained about passengers on excursions who did not meet the mobility demands of some excursions, negatively impacting the entire group. (One of the reasons we do Viator excursions). I am sure HAL is reluctant to take on some of their older and more infirm passengers, but some of these folks should not be on some of these excursions. Our ports were : Istanbul (2 days), Athens, Dubrovnik, Kotor (Montenegro), Korcula, Venice (2 days), Taormina (Sicily), Sorrento, Naples, and Rome. Three were tender ports, and that process was handled most efficiently. The second Croatian port was Korcula and we could have done without it. It is kind of a Dubrovnik wannabe, and a waste of time IMHO. We were supposed to have 2 days in Sorrento, but our captain made a judgment call to spend one day in Naples and then one day in Sorrento due to the several other large cruise ships all hitting port at once. As it was, we had Sorrento pretty much to ourselves. We appreciated that, and had a chance to see the famous archeological museum in Naples (and we had been to Sorrento before.) My only other port complaint is that although it LOOKED LIKE we had 2 days in Athens, we got to Piraeus at 4 PM (too late to do much unless you want to take public transportation into Athens at night). We sailed at 4 PM the next day, which left a lot less time than we thought to sight-see in Athens. Big disappointment. Could have done with Naples or certainly Korcula to spend another day in Athens........We enjoyed all other ports and were happy to have 2 days in Venice. With the advent of superlarge cruise ships, Venice is a zoo, and a second day gave us a chance to get off the beaten path in the city and away from the humongous crowds.So for this pair of active, 60-ish cruisers, this was an almost entirely happy, positive experience. If more of our bucket-list cities are on Prinsendam's schedule, we look forward to sailing on her again. Read Less
Sail Date April 2013
Already Booked?

Get to know who you’ll be sailing with

Find a Cruise

Easily compare prices from multiple sites with one click