Sail Date: December 2012
My husband and I are in our early 40's and have taken 11 cruises. We took this exact cruise in March 2012 and loved it so much we booked it again in December. We arrived in Ft. Lauderdale the day before the cruise and stayed at the ... Read More
My husband and I are in our early 40's and have taken 11 cruises. We took this exact cruise in March 2012 and loved it so much we booked it again in December. We arrived in Ft. Lauderdale the day before the cruise and stayed at the Comfort Inn airport and cruise. This hotel provided free transportation from the airport and to the pier. This is the only positive thing about this hotel. I wouldn't recommend it. We arrived at the pier around 1030. Our check in took 15 mins but were weren't allowed to actually board the ship until 1130. There was adequate sitting room while we were waiting to board the ship but the waiting area was a bit warm. We booked a balcony room (VH) but were upgraded to a VA room on the 8th floor. The room was well maintained with the exception of the leaky water valve on the deck that caused a steady water trail. The room had adequate storage space and modern decor. Our cabin steward's were great. They were friendly, prompt, and did a great job of maintaining our room. The food was good. The variety seemed a little less than we cruised in December. The fruit in the Lido was not very good. It was over ripe. The desserts were lacking as on all the ships we have cruised on. The staff in the Lido was friendly and helpful if we needed anything. The Lido was never overly crowded. The dining room staff was all friendly but there were areas of the dining room where service was very slow. Disembarkment was easy as we booked a shore excursion before our plane left. We would recommend this ship, cruise line and the ports. The activities on the ship were lacking which made the days at sea long. The entertainment was good. The Vegas style shows were good and the comedian was the best we have ever seen. The Pinnacle grill was fabulous. The food was exceptional with good variety. The staff was very attentive and accurate. This was well worth the extra fee. All the staff on the ship were friendly and helpful. The remembered us by name. Read Less
Sail Date: December 2012
Noordam 21 day Christmas, New Years Caribbean cruise Getting to the ship We flew from San Francisco to Ft Lauderdale on JetBlue nonstop overnight getting into Ft Lauderdale at around 7:30am the day before the cruise. We like the ... Read More
Noordam 21 day Christmas, New Years Caribbean cruise Getting to the ship We flew from San Francisco to Ft Lauderdale on JetBlue nonstop overnight getting into Ft Lauderdale at around 7:30am the day before the cruise. We like the overnight flight because it allows for a full day of hanging out on the beach and getting a good night's sleep the day before the cruise. We usually stay at the Extended Stay hotel on the 17th st. Causeway because they have four things we like, 1. they have free airport pickup, 2. they have a free shuttle to the ships the hotel is 1 block for the port, 3. they have a kitchen in the room, and 4. it's close enough to the beach that we can easily walk there. There are also plenty of stores and restaurants nearby. The Noordam The ship is in great shape! Most everything was clean and shiny. I had an obstructed ocean view cabin on deck 4. The great thing about these cabins on deck 4 is the window is floor to ceiling so you get lots of light and this particular cabin has the backend of a smaller lifeboat in front of the window of which I could see over the top and the back so my view was good, I could see lots of the water as well as any land we were going by. On deck 1 the ocean view cabin are not obstructed and the window is the usual square window which was about a quarter the size of ours. I usually always get an obstructed ocean view cabin in between lifeboats and the view is always good and the price was right, in fact the price was great since this was both a Christmas day and new year's day cruise and it was the regular price. I compared it to the Emerald Princess 20 day cruise that had similar ports and dates and it was $1,000.00 more per person! All the cruise lines usually jack up the price during the holidays so I was surprised to see this one at the regular price! My cabin was always clean and well maintained, one thing that seemed a bit strange was that the room steward wasn't filling up the soap dispenser in the shower. I ended up calling the front desk twice to get some more soap. When I saw him he said he was having a hard time getting soap as they were low on it. If that's the real reason then management isn't doing their job! The other thing that was a bit out of the ordinary was that we had come back from an excursion at 2:30pm and our room hadn't been made up. One thing different about HA and Princess is that HA doesn't have any big carts in the hallways, the room attendants work in pairs and carry around small handheld containers with supplies rather than a whole cart that blocks half of the isle on Princess ships. Throughout the entire ship in all of the passenger hallways there are black and white photos of various HA ships from past to present, along with pictures of the insides of ships, some ports and shipyards, along with lots of paintings of Venice. It was always a pleasure to walk down any of the corridors and view the pictures, I frequently went of different decks to get to my cabin so I could look at all of the photos. You get a great feeling for what HA is all about. The public rooms are great; We saw all of the shows in the main theater and never had a problem finding a great seat. The ship is set up to feel more like a small ship. Compared to either the Coral or the Island Princess which are similar in size the Noordams public rooms are smaller as is the atrium. The promenade deck is nice and wide similar to that of the Queen Mary 2. The Food Since I have food allergies I ate both breakfast and lunch at the Lido buffet every day. For breakfast I usually have fruit and hot cereal of which there is always an abundant supply of. The fruit was always fresh, ripe and delicious. For lunch I made a huge salad of which there was a great salad bar always full of a variety of veggies to choose from. The hot food was plentiful and good. The food in the buffet is as good as Princess. The Lido buffet area gets very crowded at breakfast and lunch time and a line forms that moves quite slowly. Part of the slow line problem is they need to put another staff member on the line to help everyone get their food faster and they need to expand the hot food area, there is a lot of wasted space on the counter. (Princess has remodeled their buffet and they have taken the toast, bread and dessert area and put it in the eating area making it much easier and quicker getting your food). The isle space is too small to handle all the people so there is a lot of bumping going on. I'd like to talk to the designer and find out how they came up with this floor plan. The other problem was the service in the buffet indoor and outdoor seating. The main thing I noticed is the lack of staff. Princess has quite a bit more staff keeping the tables clean at all times and they always make sure I have some lemonade. I usually ate both breakfast and lunch out on the back deck and had to find my own silverware numerous times while staff members were standing around talking to themselves or trying to sell me a "bar" drink. I took a cruise on the Eurodam 3 years ago and found the same problem on that ship as well. I had read about this on cruise critic for the Eurodam 3 years ago and it's still happening on the Noordam as well. I asked one of the "bar" waiters for some lemonade and they said I had to get it myself, on Princess they always got me some lemonade no matter who I asked. It also took a while to clear the tables They are very good about asking you if you want some drinks from the bar, that was never a problem. I think with a bit more training the staff would be able to provide the "Signature of Excellence" service HA boasts about. I would think the management would want the whole ship to shine brightly. For dinner we always ate in the main dining room at the earlier seating. The Rembrandt dining room is nicely done although the isles are a bit cramped. All the dinners were great every night. I order a special salad, sauteed vegetables and a yam for each night, while choosing between the various fish, lamb steak and chicken items. For dessert I either had a bowl of berries, or they made me an Apple Tart Tatin. One of the great things about cruising is that you can get almost anything you want when it comes to food, if you ask they will make it for you. The service in the dining room varied, we started downstairs and found the service was hit or miss. Downstairs is the "as you wish dinning" area. On the third day we went upstairs to the traditional seating and had great service from day one, a much better experience. Downstairs the first waiter we had was very slow in getting the food to the table. The second waiter was better although the times varied as to how long it took to get our food. The waiter said the kitchen was slow at times and that was the reason for the delay. Upstairs was always a pleasure, our head waiter was exceptional at getting us everything we wanted and on time. The terrace grill is great with a nice selection of hamburgers, turkey burgers, lamb burgers, and salmon burgers along with hot dogs and fries. The problem with the Terrace Grill is that the opening to it is too small and they put a huge display of the food in the middle of it so it's hard to see and talk to the servers and cooks making the food. I especially enjoy the lamb burgers and had one every day without the bun. What I noticed was the staff needs some more English lessons and the display needs to removed. Almost no one ever looked at the displays to make their choices, they looked at the sign board or knew what they wanted before making their order. The staff behind the counter would consistently get the order wrong or have to ask again and again what everyone wanted, some passengers were very frustrated with this back and forth confusion. The solution is to get rid of the displays and have the staff take some more English lessons, all very doable at little or no cost to HAL and with a big benefit. I was there every day at lunchtime for 21 days and I saw the same thing going on every day. Entertainment The HAL dancers did a good job with their shows and the, singers, pianists, comedians and magicians were all fabulous! We saw all of the shows. The theater is great from just about any seat. The other entertainment throughout the ship was great as well. Spa and Gym We used the gym about 15 times - We lift weights and there were no real problems waiting for the machines or the dumbells. The equipment was enough for us to do maintenance workouts. We was there at 3-5pm and there was never any waiting for equipment. Everything was clean and worked! The spa area is mostly a "pay for it" item. If you want to use a locker they are in the pay zone and the "complimentary" sauna is tiny! In the mornings we walked the Promenade deck for an hour everyday and never use the elevators. We only gained 1 pounds on this entire trip. Excursions I booked all my tours through HA before getting on the ship for peace of mind regarding schedules and getting back to the ship on time. If it's a HA tour, they'll wait for you if it's late getting back to the ship. We were usually always right on schedule, arriving spot on time at every port. We took snorkel trips at most of the islands and they were always fun. All in all the process was organized and smooth. All the tours were right on time and everyone was very helpful in making sure we all had a great time. The Captain was great at giving a 12:55pm update on our progress. He also informed us as to our course when heading out of each port. The weather was good for most of the trip, calm and warm, mostly sunny, with some rain in Bonaire.. On deck 9 you can get out on the front of the ship and see everything up close and personal, it's a great place for viewing coming into ports as well as leaving. Disembarkation On the mornings of disembarkation I usually get up eat breakfast and find a nice lounge chair either on top deck if it's nice or down on the promenade deck and wait there for my color code to be called thus avoiding the congestion at get off time. HA has a color system of which you get a tag for you bag and when your color and number is called you are able to disembark, ours was brown number 1. The disembarkation was smooth and peaceful with little crowding, we found our bags in the terminal and off we went!. I would hope the management at HA does some more training with their staff to bring the level of service up to "Signature Class". The ship is great and with a little shining up it will be a winner. Read Less
Sail Date: December 2012
This is our first cruise with Holland America, although we have cruised with different cruise lines. We booked this cruise for the itinerary and the super low price. . We drove to Fort Lauderdale,stayed at the Comfort ... Read More
This is our first cruise with Holland America, although we have cruised with different cruise lines. We booked this cruise for the itinerary and the super low price. . We drove to Fort Lauderdale,stayed at the Comfort Inn,Hollywood,the price of one night's stay,included the 10 day parking, drop off and pick up with their shuttle at the cruise port, excellent service, excellent price. We arrived at the cruise port, embarking took no time, we were on the ship and immediately in our room, loved that, no dragging around carry ons, etc. Impressed with this. We liked the size of the ship -- not overly crowded, easy to get around- and although we like kids, nice to see that there were hardly any on the cruise. We have been on ships that parents allow kids to run wild. Not a lot of announcements, or waiters pushing drinks, we liked that. I had read that the Hal cruises were mostly elderly guests, well, there was a cross section of ages, elderly, middle age, and varying ages of younger people, nice mix. I had also read reviews, saying that many of the passengers, were elderly people in wheel chairs,using scooters, canes,walkers...yes, there were plenty, but we only wish both sets of our parents were still alive, that they could be with us, enjoying a cruise using their walkers,if they had to, to see them enjoying life and not in a nursing home. We arrived at the cruise port, embarking took no time, we were on the ship and immediately in our room, loved that, no dragging around carry ons, etc. Impressed with this. We had a veranda stateroom on the Rotterdam deck. Lots of storage, bed and pillows super comfortable, loved the Elemis products provided -- I wish I had bought the conditioner when it was on sale at the spa. Our stewards were super nice guys, great service, lots of ice, we brought one bottle of wine with use and they kept us supplied with ice. We always put the card in the door to haver tohe room make up when we went out in the morning. There are DVD's you can order from a huge selection, if you wish to watch a movie in your stateroom. Food is subjective -- We enjoyed our meals. Waiters were all really nice, and dinner usually took about 1-1/2 hours. The only meal we didn't enjoy was the last evening, the Master Chefs, just wasn't anything on the menu either of us really wanted to order. We aren't food critics, hey,we are on vacation I don't have to cook, clean up, wash dishes. I am not complaining. We ate breakfast every morning in the main dining room, I have no problem eating in the Lido buffet but trying to get coffee,juice, your food, table,etc is a pain, unless you are in port and have to be off the ship early, then that is fine with me. We ate dinner in the Vista Dining Room, almost every night, we had Open Seating and we never waited for a table. We went to 2 formal nights -- men you have to have a jacket on -- we seen one night a passenger was given a jacket to wear. On casual evenings, men, you have to wear long pants. We loved the Explorations Cafe. Lots of books to take out to read, magazines to read while you are there, chess games, checkers, etc. We took advantage of the Tech classes, went to a Windows 8 seminar, very informative. Lots of cooking classes, cake decorating, etc...tons of things to do. We went to a couple of movies in the Queens Lounge. We really liked the Crow's Nest for relaxing. Internet -- the only big complaint I have. I signed up for 100 minutes for $55.00 plus the activations fee, fine, I know it is satellite and super super slow, but we needed to trying check emails and let family member know things were fine. Last day on the ship I had 20 minutes left, used it checking emails, etc, it seemed it was a big longer and hey I didn't have my stop watch with me. To make a long story short, when I got our on board account, we were charged an extra $14.30 for internet. We found out what happens that, when the 100 minutes was used, the system does not sign out, or advise you that you need to purchase more internet time, it will automatically start billing you for the extra minutes. Did not like this, so much like negative billing. It is not the $14.30 that we were charged it is the principal of the matter. I deduct major points for this. Maybe I missed reading the fine print when I initially set up for the internet and next I will be super clear what is involved. Buyer beware. But when we were in Bonaire, there is an internet cafe that had 1 hour internet for $7.00 and in Aruba we found an internet cafe that had 1 hour for $4.00....had I done research before we left I would have gone the internet cafe route and never purchased internet time on the ship. Nightly Shows- There were 2 shows Tony Pace and Rondell Sherridan, both excellent, the rest were most the Noordam Singers and Dancers, after you seen one of their shows, that was enough. They really need better shows at night. Ports- Half Moon Cay -- loved it -- we rented a clam shell, good choice as there wasn't much shade and sun was hot. We went back to the ship early, so we asked some people if they wanted to use the clam shell,as we were leaving and it was paid for, for the day, they were sitting in the hot sun. We enjoyed the bbq lunch, loved the roosters running around. Grand Turk -- We took a private tour which we found on the dock, Hartley Forbes -- mini van, AC, $30.00 each, drove us all around, seen the lighthouse, herds of horses running wild, donkeys...Then we spent the rest of the day at the beach at Margaritaville, lots of loungers, warm water, sandy beach...loved it.. Samana-DR After a few tenders went ashore, the Captain had to cancel the tendering, as the seas were super rough. We had only planned to go into Samana and walk around. We have been to the DR before and not our favourite place. Bonaire -- again, got a private tour with Farid, from Ayubi's Tours and Taxi, the singing driver, great tour $25.00 each lots of fun and very informative. Curacaos -- we decided to just take a walk around, loved the Poontoon Bridge, the floating market, we did some shopping. We were in port until 11pm and after dinner we took a walk down around Fort Fi . Aruba- We took a private tour again, with Fofoti Tours, AC bus, 2 hour tour of Aruba, then the driver dropped us off at Palm Beach for 2 hours and came back and picked us up, all for $20.00 each. Debarking- We opted to take our own luggage off the ship, we were off in no time, through Customs, and the minute we stepped out of the Cruise Port, our shuttle was right there and we were back picking up our car in less than a half hour. We would cruise again with Holland America, if we got another good deal. We would give this cruise a 9 out of 10. Read Less
Sail Date: December 2012
This was our 3rd cruise on Holland, Alaska, Mexican Rivera, and now Caribbean. Two of the cruises I rate as poor and one (Alaska) very good. Pre Cruise Hotel: Arrived in Fort Lauderdale a day ahead of the cruise and stayed at the ... Read More
This was our 3rd cruise on Holland, Alaska, Mexican Rivera, and now Caribbean. Two of the cruises I rate as poor and one (Alaska) very good. Pre Cruise Hotel: Arrived in Fort Lauderdale a day ahead of the cruise and stayed at the Holiday Inn Express near the cruise port. Hotel offered shuttle service to/from the airport at no charge. Room was adequate with free WI FI both in the room and common areas. Upon check in I was presented with a Priority Club Members welcome gift consisting of a snack, newspaper, 2 bottles of water and hotel and information about the surrounding area. Hotel is close to the cruise port and many restaurants, shops, Rx, and a Publix where you can purchase some wine. Highly recommend this hotel and advise one to sign up for the Priority Club for future benefits. In fact recommend you sign up for any hotel chains member programs. Upon arrival and after retrieving our baggage I contacted the hotel via the free phone in the baggage claim area. The shuttle driver arrived in about 20-30 minutes and promptly (excluding traffic congestion) delivered us to the hotel. Check in time is 3:00 PM but we arrived prior to that and were immediately checked in. A morning breakfast is furnished at no charge and is more than a continental breakfast with all you desire to eat an a selection of juices, breads, yogurt, scrambled eggs, bacon, hot and cold cereal and coffee, milk and tea. Shuttle service was available for a fee with 3 departure times. We opted for the 10:30 time, and sped off to the port. Embarkation: Upon arrival at the port our luggage was handed off to a porter with the exception of a small carryon. Check in was swift and then we headed off to the waiting area. We waited about 30-40 minutes before boarding just prior to noon. We immediately went to our stateroom to drop off our carryon tote and headed to the Lido deck for lunch. Stateroom: We normally choose an inboard stateroom and did so this time. Since we only spend time in the cabin to sleep, shower and change clothes an interior is normally adequate, especially when cruising in warm weather as we spend our days outside on the various decks. Our cabin was not assigned to us until about a week prior to the cruise and we were able to print our Holland luggage tags pre cruise, and attach them at the hotel prior to boarding the shuttle. The cabin 6015 was not as depicted on the website and was one of the smallest cabins in our 12 prior cruises. It was adequate but we found ourselves constantly getting in each others way when going to/from the bathroom or to the closets. A plus on the cabin was that it was very easy to find from day one, and close to the forward elevators. Stateroom Service: We met our cabin steward shortly after embarkation and our visit to the Lido restaurant. He introduced himself and provided a business card with his contact information. I requested two wine glasses and a bucket of ice to chill our wine. Neither of these was delivered until the 2nd day. The cabin had a small refrigerator so I emptied it and placed our wine to chill. Bathrobes were not furnished until day 3. Towels were large and adequate as were the bathroom supply of shampoo, conditioner and soap. Negative was how long it took to make up the cabin. This was not accomplished until early afternoon unless we requested by placing a request card in the door entrance lock. Ship: The size of the ship made it easy to find your way around without feeling like being in a maze. Maybe because we had a forward cabin we only had one option (aft) upon exiting an elevator. We would travel to the deck of choice and head aft to find anything and everything we needed (restaurants MDR and Lido) bars, library, purser desk etc. There was always an ample supply of clean beach towels and more than enough deck chairs on all areas except the immediate pool area. The ship was clean and well maintained with a few of the canvas awnings on the aft Lido deck and forward deck 10 that were torn or missing. Service/food: Lido and bars. The service met expectations with the bar servers and food servers in the Lido restaurant being very friendly and not pushing one to buy drinks. The food was for the most part adequate providing numerous selections. Two concerns: Asian food line: We enjoy sushi and it was not always at the Asian line. One day it was and another it was located by the cheese and fruit area. Lack of consistency was an inconvenience. Lido pool area Mexican buffet offered the same selections daily including salsa but no chips. If you wanted chips with the salsa you had to break up taco shells. Service/food: MDR: service and menu in the main dining room 2nd seating was subpar compared to other cruise lines and cruises. On day one our table of six made several requests for the week: A pre dinner plate of cheese and crackers, iced tea with dinner and coffee post dinner. The cheese plate was delivered 4 times and without crackers. Iced tea was sporadic and had to be requested as was the coffee. All table mates made the same comments about the menu selections: "I am having a difficult time finding something or I feel I am choosing the best of the worst items." We never once saw a wine steward during the entire cruise. One evening we experienced a long delay and shortage in food service. Per the matre d' this was due to the captain's reception. One would think that Holland should be better prepared as this was not the inaugural cruise for this ship. Disembarkation: This was very smooth with baggage tags supplied and an adequate number of customs stations to process departing passengers. Shuttle to the airport was again timely delivering us to the airport in plenty of time to catch our flight home. Read Less
Sail Date: December 2012
We just got off the Noordam on Friday, December 7. Wish we were still on it since as I am writing this it is only 8 degrees here! On the trip was myself (64) DW (65)and DD (34). We also traveled with our friends who we have known for ... Read More
We just got off the Noordam on Friday, December 7. Wish we were still on it since as I am writing this it is only 8 degrees here! On the trip was myself (64) DW (65)and DD (34). We also traveled with our friends who we have known for over 40 years and have cruised many times with. We had a very scary start to our vacation. On Saturday morning as I was getting things together I noticed we were missing one passport, my DW's! We pulled the house apart looking for it, I knew we had it because I used it when we did the pre-registration but it was nowhere to be found. I called HAL and they told me since it was a close looped cruise (leaving and returning to the same port) we could use a birth certificate and picture ID as long as the names matched -- that's a problem, we weren't married when she was born! Now I had to locate our marriage certificate too. Finally located all the info we needed and had a nice stiff drink! We left on Sunday morning for Fort Lauderdale. Had a good trip, picked up our car and we were off to Weston. We always stay in Weston, it is a nice relaxing area with great shops and great restaurants. That night we ate in one of our favorites Tarantella. Great little Italian restaurant. After dinner we went to Publix to pick up a few last minute things and then back to the Residence Inn to relax and watch some football. Next morning we got up and ate breakfast -- it was part of the hotel services -- put the tags on the luggage and then took off for the port. Dropped my DW and DD off at the port while I returned the car to Hertz. Got back to the port and went to check in. WOW in our 41 cruises this was the fastest check in we have ever had. We started check in at around 11:30 and was on the ship by 11:45. We had them bring us to our room to drop off our carry-ons. The room was great. It was 6004, a handicapped room on the upper veranda. Of other handicapped rooms we have had, this was one of the best as far as being able to get around with the wheelchair, walker, etc. There was a pole in the middle of the room that we had to keep on maneuvering around but that was ok, we got used to it after a while. Otherwise we could not have asked for more. Our friends were in 6003 which was just like ours except on the other side of the ship. They too thought it was a great room since he uses a power wheelchair which is larger than the normal wheelchair. We then went to the Lido to get the first of many meals. Of course we were in stage orange so everything had to be served to you. Not a problem, we had been on HAL many times before so were used to the procedure. Some people were upset, personally I would rather be safe than sorry. We found a place on the back deck, ate lunch and waited for our friends to arrive. They were driving down from Orlando. While we were sitting in the Lido I saw a couple that looked very familiar. I went over to them and sure enough they were a couple that we had met on two other cruises, Tom and Alice. Strange we never talk inbetween but this is the 3rd cruise in 4 years that we have been on together. We always say we are going to exchange emails and forget. Tom and Alice if you read this send me an email and I will send you the group picture. Our friends arrived, ate and then it was time for the muster drill. Different from the last time we had one, they now call names and wait for answers. I remember back a few years ago this is how they did it and I don't see anything wrong with it. The drill is important and people need to know what to do. We don't need another disaster. After the drill we headed up to the Lido for Sail Away. Before we left the Lido I asked one of the waiters for 6 cans of soda to bring to the room since I had bought 2 soda cards. Before we left I had asked on the boards if the Noordam was service cans or fountain drinks and Candy who was on the Noordam the week before we left graciously answered it was cans. We don't drink fountain drinks and plus we had a couple of bottles of liquor purchased from HAL delivered to our rooms. We were then informed you could only get fountain drinks! We were the first cruise on the Noordam to change over -- are we lucky or what! Went down to the front desk and told them we had no use for these cards. They were very nice and gave us credit for them. I know why they changed to fountain drinks, they make more money which I don't have a problem with. What I do have a problem with is they just changed things without any notice. They could say as of such in such date we will no longer accept the soda card for canned drinks. We would have picked up soda for the room at Publix when we stopped the night before. As it was, we made due until we got to our first Island. It got quite windy after we left port and that seemed to be the theme of the cruise. We had a balcony room but were only able to use it a couple of times in the evenings when we like to sit out and enjoy the sea because of the wind -- this was not a breeze, it was wind. Oh well could have been worse, it could have been raining! We had reservations at the Pinnacle for 8:00 that evening. We met our friends for cocktails at 7:00 at the Pinnacle bar. We usually eat in the Pinnacle the first night and the last night and then usually one night in between. As usual it was wonderful, the service, the food, the drinks, everything. One shock I did have is that they no longer have the French Onion soup on the menu. I always loved their onion soup and was so looking forward to it. Tried one of their other soups, but did not care for it. I had shrimp cocktail, the veal chop which was out of this world, creamed spinach, baked potato, and volcano for dessert. Almost had to roll me out I was so full! The rest of the party had Filets or fish. Everyone was very pleased with their meals. We did not finish dinner until 10:15 but by no means felt the service was slow. We were just enjoying ourselves. We left there and off to the casino. We don't do shows, after 41 cruises they are all about the same to us. Well the casino was only about half full. Had some luck, not much but at least I didn't lose. Around midnight we headed for bed. Couldn't sleep so DD and I headed for the night club. Empty except for 2 other people. Ended up in the sports bar. The next morning we met our friends in the Lido for breakfast at 9:00. We got this server who was just wonderful, Johann. We had him every morning, he even saved a table for us since he knew we would be there at 9:00. He brought us everything we could want and took the best care of us. We tipped him at the end of the cruise which is the first time we have ever tipped anyone in the Lido. If you are on the ship, look for him, he is one of the nicest, happiest people you will ever meet. The next couple of days we were at sea so it was nice and relaxing. I had gone to the restaurant and made reservations for us. Since we had 2 people in wheelchairs we wanted a table close to the door. We ended up at table 141 at 8:00 for all the nights except for the nights we were in the Pinnacle and one night we ate in the Lido. The dining room was never more than half full every night. In fact our waiter only had our table of 5. I don't think the ship was full as nothing really seemed crowded. You could always find a lounger by the pool in the sun no matter what time you went out. The food in the dining room was good, not great but good. The outstanding meal I had was the rack of lamb which they had twice. The second time I asked for a double portion of the lamb, it was really delicious. A couple of notes about the dining room menu. Shrimp cocktail and cheese cake are no longer on the "always available" menu. Big letdown for the my DD as she loves the cheesecake. The sirloin strip steak on the always available was just OK. Really kind of tough. Their fish selection is really limited, once again a downer for my DD as she usually has fish almost every night. Service was good, can't complain, however nothing above normal, not your usual interaction that you have with the waiter. I think there was a language barrier here. On Thursday we arrived in St. Maarten. Beautiful weather. After we arrived, Allure of the Seas pulled in next to us. That is one big ship, too big for me. I don't think I would enjoy sailing with 6,000 of my closest friends! I did talk to some that were on there and they said the service was good and there was rarely any lines. We left St Maarten at 3:00. Really hated that we left so early. They started putting up the Christmas decorations! We are so happy. We thought since we were going a week earlier than usual we would miss them. The next day we were in St Lucia. We really love that Island, it is so pretty. Our DD did the zip lining through the rain forest. I was supposed to go with her but changed my mind the day before. She was very disappointed when she came back. She has done this many time and we did it together in Costa Rica, and she really felt this was a rip off for what they charged. They also never mentioned the major hike up and down to get to the zip lining. The distance between the posts were short and you could not get any speed. They also took you in groups of 6 and everyone had to complete each section together. Different from others where once you reached the platform you could go on. I told her to talk to the excursion desk but she didn't. After hearing this I was glad I cancelled. Once again we left here at 3:00 and cruised past the Pitons. The Captain opened the front of the ship so people could get a great view. They also had a narrator on board. (now if they only served Panama rolls it would have been perfect!) As we anchored in Soufriere to pick up passengers who were on tours, we saw some small boats coming toward the ship. Figured they were locals coming out to say hello as they do in many of these islands. Well they got right next to the ship and then started yelling "will dive for the American dollar". This really evoked mixed emotions. We felt bad that these young people felt they had to risk their lives for a dollar. On the other hand they were within feet of the ship and they all had cans of gas in their converted row boats, a real danger to the ship. The cruise director came on and asked people not to throw anything over board as the divers could get sucked into the engines and get hurt or killed. After that some of them got kind of nasty. I sat there wondering where was the shore police? We never did see one and they were there until we sailed away. That experience tainted our love of this Island. We ate in the Dining room this night and then off to the casino again. Met some other people who were on a cruise with us last year who are from Canada. Can't believe we are meeting so many people from previous cruises. The next day we were in Barbados, another beautiful country. There was a notice on our Explorer that Camouflage clothes and smoking in public were against the law. This must be new as we have been there before and never heard of this. We went off on our own. Wanted to do the caves but waited too long and it was sold out. Had a good time and left here at 5:00. Ate in the Lido because Nebraska was playing in the Big 10 championship game. Went to the sports bar, they were showing the Florida game. Should have taken that as a sign. Seems Nebraska left all their players at home! Wisconsin pounced us. Oh well maybe next year. The next morning we were in Martinique and I guess the question I would have is why? It was Sunday and everything is closed there on Sunday except for this small store by the port. But wait we were there from 8:00 to 5:00 -- once again I ask why? We could have spent more time in the other ports or had a sea day. At 5:00 we set sail for Mount Pelee. Once again the captain opened up the front deck and had a narrator. By the time we got to Mount Pelee it was dark. Hummmm think we could have left earlier and seen it in the light? It was not a totally lost day, we ate in the Pinnacle that night and had their Steak Dianne. All I can say is it was some of the best I have ever had. Once again the service was fantastic. The next morning we were at Dominica. We were there from 7:00 to 3:00. Once again I would ask why? There is really nothing here except for a little straw market by the port. Could have combined Dominica and Martinique into one day and still had time left over and made the extra day a sea day. The following day we were in St. Thomas. We docked at Crown Center along with Oasis of the Seas. Got kind of crowded there once they got there. Crown Center is very nice. Clean and new. The only thing I was disappointed with was there was no internet hot spot even though they have signs for one. I spent a lot of my time on the phone. We have a house for sale and we had gotten an offer on it while we were sailing so spent a lot of the day with offer/counter offer activity. Good news is the house is now sold! If I knew all I had to do was go to St Thomas to sell the house I would have gone there months ago! Ate in the dining room and then to the casino and sports bar. Still keeping ahead of my DW's losses but she is catching up. All the Christmas decorations are up and they are beautiful. The ship is so festive. The following day was a sea day. We love sea days, they are so relaxing. We almost did not take this cruise because it was so port intensive, but we had done the others that have a lot of sea days and didn't want to do a B2B since we lose a day in Florida but still wanted a minimum of a 10 day cruise. Oh no our last day on the ship! We were at Half Moon Cay. Water was kind of rough but the tenders were running. Some people could not understand why it was taking so long even though it was explained that safety was the first priority. Get with it people it is not all about you. After we left the island we ran into a storm with high winds. Our Veranda furniture had slid to the rail and when you looked out the sliding glass door all you saw was water. Our friends on the other side looked out and all they saw was sky! The Captain came on and said we may have notice we were listing on the port side. He was going to fill the ballisters on the starboard side and that would straighten the ship our but would take approximately 30 minutes. It worked! It was a little scary there for a while. The next morning we were in Fort Lauderdale and on our way home. Hated to leave the ship and the crew, they are so wonderful. One good thing about this cruise is it came home on a Friday which gave us the weekend to recover before we had to go back to work. A couple of observations: - It was really annoying to be sitting out on deck and being constantly and I mean like every couple of minutes if you wanted a drink. It reminded me of being on Carnival which is one of the reasons we don't go on them. Are the waiters now on commission? - Drinks -- Drinks are now $8.00 including service charge. I don't mind paying that for a good drink. The problem was we had a very hard time getting a good drink. They were either made wrong or tasted terrible. I finally had to resort to my Absolute Gimlet. I have always enjoyed the special drinks on HAL but not on this ship. We tried all the bars, no two drinks tasted the same. - We got friendly with many of the staff on board and a number of them said that they don't like the automatic tipping as they think it has really affected the service level. They say the employees don't care as much since they will get their share anyway. These comments came from employees that had a number of contracts under their belt and was unsolicited, although I couldn't agree more. - We really like HAL and not sure we can get the kind of service we get on them anyplace else (Princess would be our second choice) however each time we go on them we notice that they are becoming "Carnivalized" more and more. Hope you enjoyed this review, if you have any questions let me know. Read Less
Sail Date: December 2012
This was our second cruise with Holland America. We booked for the destinations and several friends also booked this trip. No problems with getting on or off the ship in Ft. Lauderdale. Many people find critisms with various ships, and ... Read More
This was our second cruise with Holland America. We booked for the destinations and several friends also booked this trip. No problems with getting on or off the ship in Ft. Lauderdale. Many people find critisms with various ships, and cruise lines, however, if your expectations are that you are going to be treated like royalty because of your cabin status, you may be disappointed. My only problem with Holland America is their smoking policy. We had a balcony cabin and could not enjoy it as we were surrounded on both sides by smokers (as early as 7:00 am they started). It would seem prudent for Holland to designate certain cabins for non-smokers away from those who smoke. As a former smoker who now has chronic bronchitis, this was not pleasant for me. There are other areas on the ship where there is smoking and if it bothers one, then you stay away from these areas. The food was good and we had great waiters. We booked the LeCirque dinner in the Pinnacle Grill. The food was very good, but we waited for 30 minutes for our dessert. We were wondering who the 2 ships officers were that came and sat next to our table about 15 minutes after we arrived. As it turned out, several days later we saw them again, and it was the Captain and his first Mate. I found it strange that neither he nor any of the waitstaff introduced themselves to us as we did not know who he was. It would have been a nice friendly gesture. Also their service and food took presidence over ours and being ex-military, understand this. The afternoon teas are great and I met many different people at them. I highly recommend the as there is a different theme every day. Two of the destinations were tendered, Half Moon Cay and Samana. Coming back from Half Moon our lifeboat stopped and we had to be rescued by another one..transfer was quite an experience. I will not elaborate as it may influence future cruisers When we reached Samana the weather was so bad, they stopped the tenders, however several people, including our friends had already been taken ashore and on their return, once again, the lifeboat broke down...this is scary considering if there was an emergency at sea one can't help but wonder what the outcome could be. It is apparent these lifeboats need a lot of maintenance. One note about Samana, we really do not understand why Holland even stops there, nothing really to do, but if you go ashore, only book with the ship at this stop! We went to one show and it was amazing! All broadway tunes and the singers were outstanding!If we ever cruise on Holland again, we will not get a balcony due to their smoking policy. Please also note, Holland has a majority of seniors and disabled on board. Our friends had 2 children, ages 6 and 15 and they both loved Club Hal, however, the night clubs are empty. We chose the cruise for the destinations and enjoyed them. I had the fun of dancing with a native group in Curaco on our tour, great fun. The salt fields in Bonaire are amazing as well. Purchased some great pearls from MG Bonaire as well. We love Grand Turk and if you go, be sure to visit Jack's Shack on the beach. We spent the day there. This was our 7th cruise and only 2nd with Holland. We usually cruise with Celebrity. We love to cruise and approach each one without any grandiose expectations, except cleanliness,good food and service and we were pleased with all of this. Again, the biggest complaint is the smoking. Read Less
Sail Date: November 2012
This was our 17th cruise, 3rd on Holland America(HAL). We chose this cruise because it included 7 ports: St Martin, St Lucia, Barbados, Martinique, Dominica, St Thomas and Half Moon Cay. We've visited Dominica and Martinique only ... Read More
This was our 17th cruise, 3rd on Holland America(HAL). We chose this cruise because it included 7 ports: St Martin, St Lucia, Barbados, Martinique, Dominica, St Thomas and Half Moon Cay. We've visited Dominica and Martinique only once prior but the remainder several times. Our favorites remain St Lucia and Barbados. The people and country side are very different but they have the most to offer in scenery and hospitality. This reinforced our original impression of HAL that it caters to the very senior population. Actually our two previous cruises on HAL were much better. This cruise had a "very" senior population. It felt like a cruising nursing home with a myriad of walkers, canes, motorized chairs, and men in shorts with compression stockings. Embarkation seemed very slow in comparison to other cruises. We boarded early but had to wait in a large warehouse with about 700 other cruisers till our number was called. Lines moved slowly. As always, the rooms weren't ready so you are directed to the Lido for a late lunch where everyone is confused due to the wierd buffet design of HAL. All food is lined on two narrow traffic ways with two cross overs to each side. Can you imagine a bunch of seniors navigating this food arrangement, much less trying to make a decision on what to eat. If you want pasta and salad, you have to walk the length of the ship to obtain each. We mostly ate in the Vista Dining Room. We enjoy meeting other people and were seated with 3 other couples from Georgia, Canada and Florida. The selection was adequate but taste frequently marginal becoming boring as the cruise progressed. The wait staff was good while the matre'd was annoying. The highlite was eating at the Pinnacle Grill. Food was excellent but be prepared to eat at a very slow pace. The ship's decor can best be described as "heavy." My wife described it as somewhat Old World and somewhat modern. Rather eclectic. Large lamp shades, ornate furniture with the colors of rose, bold aquas and royal blue. We were surprised at the amount of excess smoking on this cruise. The smell of cigarette smoke was common in the room hallways, much of the 2nd Deck, Deck 9 and on our verandah at times. Again, we never experienced this on other cruises. To compound this, we frequently experienced fresh paint smells in the hallways. Many railings were being varnished. Most ship excursions are overpriced so we generally hire a local driver as we did in Barbados. Outstanding tour of the West Coast for $20. We did a ship tours in St Lucia and St Thomas. The best value was the World Heritage Tour in St Lucia due to a young tour guide named Mitch. We traveled from Castries to Soufrier where the ship came to pick us up next to the Pitons. In St Thomas we generally go to St Johns. This turned out to be a bummer. After arriving on St Johns by Boat, we boarded our safari truck only to go around the corner for a 35 minute rest room break. Who wants to waste 35 minutes on this beautiful island? Then the driver proceeded to tell us all about Cruz Bay for another 15 minutes all of which we heard on the ferry. Entertainment in the Vista Lounge was just average. Several comedians, a pianist and several ship sponsored variety shows which lacked spark. Exception was the combo called Halcats. The small combos in the various lounges were excellent such as the Neptunes in the Ocean Bar and the Adagio Strings. The bar tenders in the Ocean Bar were great. We met what will be life long friends from England at the Ocean Bar. Overall, the cruise just lacked enthusiasm. Maybe it was due to the population. HAL does seem to be doing some cost cutting and squeezing of the dollar which is showing in service. Very sad! It may take awhile before we again select HAL. Read Less
1 Helpful Vote
Sail Date: November 2012
We are a married couple and have cruised several times before on various cruise lines. We own CCL shares and once the cruise was paid in full, we faxed the required information to HAL and the $250 OBC for a plus 14 day cruise was posted to ... Read More
We are a married couple and have cruised several times before on various cruise lines. We own CCL shares and once the cruise was paid in full, we faxed the required information to HAL and the $250 OBC for a plus 14 day cruise was posted to our OB account. The first leg of our 21 day B2B cruise was the Eastern Caribbean, followed by the Southern Caribbean. We arrived a few days early in Ft Lauderdale before the start of our cruise. We stayed at the Embassy Suites which includes a manager's reception, breakfast and a great pool area. It is centrally located and relatively close to all amenities for some last minute shopping and sightseeing. The evening before our cruise, several cruise ships were scheduled to depart Port Everglades. To get our cruise ship vacation started we walked down to the north jetty of the Port Everglades Inlet to watch all ships pass by. The embarkation process was very easy as the terminal in Ft Lauderdale was well organized. Our room SS Superior Veranda Suite # 8082 was wonderful. A larger balcony, always fresh fruit daily, soft robes, slippers, a LCD monitor with DVD. It was clean, very adequate and quiet. The room stewards always greeted us with a smile and our rooms were always meticulously maintained. We found the service and dining on-board to be 5 stars. Our main dining room stewards were always thorough and attentive. The menu was always tempting. We usually don't enjoy buffets, with the line ups and crowds, so we try to stay away from them as much as possible. With that being said, the food choices were excellent and the overall lay out of the buffet was good. We regularly ordered breakfast in our room which always was on time, hot and to our order, even with the special requests. On two occasions we dined in the Pinnacle. The first with our new CC friends was wonderful, with great service and menu. The second experience was a table for two at the Chefs Dinner with wine pairing which always makes for a wonderful evening. We booked the Thermal Suites and daily enjoyed the use of the steam sauna, dry sauna, ceramic hot beds and hydro pool. We were always in the gym daily and enjoyed some fitness classes. But found the facility small. We also enjoyed the full promenade deck to walk or jog. The few evening shows we attended were at par with what we had experienced in the past on other cruises. The evenings were mostly spent dancing at the various venues or socializing with our new cruise critic friends. We attended two wine tasting events, that seemed hurried and more of a money making event for HAL. The pub crawl event and pool activities we found to be quite entertaining. We enjoyed the couple of open deck BBQ's and the observation deck at the bow being opened for the scenic cruising. Port Excursions St Maartin -- A private excursion with "Capt Alan" to snorkel, which we had the pleasure to swim with many turtles, a stop at Orient beach with a mud bath, and another beach stop at Pinel Island. A wonderful excursion and a Trip Advisor top rated. St Lucia -- We were the only ones from the ship to book a speed boat ride from "Spensor Ambrose" to Jalousie Beach. It was wonderful to have the boat ride, a full cooler and beach mostly to ourselves for a few hours of beach time and snorkeling. Barbados - We walked to the Boatyard Beach Club then enjoyed swimming with some turtles and snorkeling over the ship wrecks. It is a great beach with many amenities. The cruise ship crew love hanging out here. Martinique - Stopping in on a Sunday with most things closed we opted to book a ship's excursion. We headed out with the "Snorkel Martinique tour". It was fun and as expected for a ship's tour. Dominica -- We booked a private tour with Levi from "Bumbling Tours" again. The two of us and Levi's brother hiked up the Pedu Temps Trail. We had a great time hiking in the rain forest and helping ourselves to all the delicious fruit. With just the three of us we made good time on the hike and had time to snorkel at Champagne reef before making it back to the ship. St Thomas -- With several ships in port, and having been to St.Thomas several times we were not really looking forward to this stop. We again booked a ship's excursion "Champagne Sail and Snorkel". It was fun, a nice way to escape the crowds and as expected for a ship's excursion. We then had a quick stop in Charlotte Amalie for some "World Famous Shopping ". Half Moon Cay -- This is a great private island. We swam from one end of the beach to the other with our snorkel gear. It is not great for snorkelling but the water and sand was fantastic. We had a great time on the Aqua Trax Adventure and enjoyed a wonderful BBQ lunch. Grand Turk -- The private snorkel excursion with Blue Water Divers was fun with two snorkel stops. The snorkel stop at "The Wall" would have been wonderful to dive at, but too deep to really enjoy from the surface. The walk to "Jacks Shack" afterwards was a nice escape from the touristy pier area, but not the touristy prices. Dominican Republic -- This was the highlight excursion, "Tour with Terry", Zip Line, Beach and Waterfall. Along with our CC friends, we were very fortunate to make it ashore this day and have such a great tour. Bonaire -- A private excursion with "Woodwind" snorkeling at Klein Bonaire was fantastic. We have snorkeled many places and with many outfits. This is a first class operation. Curacao -- We ventured off the ship with our CC friends without a plan and ended up having a great day. The Dune Buggy Adventure that we booked was a great way to see much of the island. The cafe's, shops, swing bridge, sun set and people watching nicely filled in the day. Aruba -- " Rancho Notorious" ATV Tour with our CC friends got us out on the far side of the island to see many of the natural attractions. It was a fantastic tour with time left over for a little shopping and some free Wi-Fi time on land. Disembarkation -- This was well organized. We walked right off the ship when our luggage color and number was announced, and then walked right into a taxi for a short ride to the airport. Summary - We loved this cruise. We found most of staff very professional and accommodating. HAL's policy of bringing wine on-board is a nice benefit that we certainly took advantage of. HAL good for you. Read Less
Sail Date: November 2012
Just back from a 10 day voyage aboard the ms Noordam. The ship went from Ft. Lauderdale and back. We had stops in Half Moon Cay, Grand Turk, Dominican Republic, and the ABC Islands with 3 sea days. Over all my husband and I were pleased ... Read More
Just back from a 10 day voyage aboard the ms Noordam. The ship went from Ft. Lauderdale and back. We had stops in Half Moon Cay, Grand Turk, Dominican Republic, and the ABC Islands with 3 sea days. Over all my husband and I were pleased with the ship. We think the Holland ships are classy. Not to start off with a negative....BUT, the one negative we found (and we knew this going in) was people smoking. Our next door neighbors were 4 ladies that at all hours of the night and day had someone smoking and coughing on their balcony. We went with a SA just so that we could have a large balcony. Well, in that regard, our money was waisted because all we could do was look out the window. Now, back to the ship. It was kept very clean, a little worn in spots, but clean. It is not a brand new ship, so we were not expecting everything to LOOK brand new. Our Captain was Robert Jan Kan, very nice guy, not a big talker but loves to be ahead of schedule and that's OK with us! We were only late leaving one port and that's because they had a tender problem, otherwise we left port early and arrived early. Food was good and plenty of it. We ate in the Vista dining room on Thanksgiving and was very surprised with our dinner (I heard talk of processed turkey) our turkey tasted like it was cooked at home and we had all the trimming to boot. We ate in the Pinnacle Grill for breakfast for 8 mornings and twice for dinner and once for lunch. Every meal was great, food and service!!! The staff could not have been nicer. Never did we pass someone in the hall without a friendly hello. Can't say much about the entertainment, did not go to any shows but did enjoy the music aboard. The Adagio Strings, Liz and the HAL cats, Bill Forrest at the piano and Guitarist Johnny Champagne. Overall, we enjoyed the cruise but will never go on HAL again as long as they allow balcony smoking. Read Less
Sail Date: November 2012
Travelling from Arkansas, we decided to spend the night at Fort Lauderdale the night before sailing in order to be fresh to begin our cruise. We arrived shortly after President Obama visited the city, so traffic was crazy. However, we ... Read More
Travelling from Arkansas, we decided to spend the night at Fort Lauderdale the night before sailing in order to be fresh to begin our cruise. We arrived shortly after President Obama visited the city, so traffic was crazy. However, we got a taxi to our hotel, the Crowne Plaza Ft. Lauderdale Airport/Cruise, and the driver was very friendly and got us to our destination in no time! We arose early the next morning, grabbed some coffee and arranged a pickup to the ship, where we arrived at approximately 10:00. We were processed very quickly and efficiently, and waited about one to one and a half hours to board. We were in group two, so we were some of the first ones on ship. We had lunch in the main dining room and immediately made arrangements to sign up for a cooking class, as well as made reservations for the Pinnacle Grill and Canelletto restaurants. Upon arriving in our room, my baggage was awaiting me, but my husband did not get his baggage until 5:30 p.m. So we only had a few minutes for him to change clothes before going to our pre-arranged dining time of 5:45 p.m. We had an excellent wait staff in the dining room, with a very attentive head waiter as well as wine steward. We looked forward to visiting with them every night. Food, as well as service, at the Caneletto and Pinnacle Grill was excellent and I would recommend it highly. However, we were disappointed with several dishes served to us in the main dining room. It seemed that it was all about the "presentation" instead of flavor, and left a little to be desired! This, however, should not be construed to be the fault of the staff, as they did an outstanding job servicing our table. The room stewards were vey efficient, and our balcony room was always neat and clean!! We enjoyed the Adagio String quartet very, very much. This is an extremely talented group of young people who should go very far in their career! We also enjoyed the comedian and the juggler. We attended one of the shows that featured the Noordam dancers. While they were not ready for prime time, I am sure that with more experience they will achieve success. The cruise social director was very good about letting everyone know the scheduled activities of the day, and he was also an excellent emcee for various events. We had arranged to have a couples massage in the spa during a sea day, and it was just wonderful! What a way to release stress!! During the stop in St. Thomas, we met a very informative lady from the states who was working at a kiosk, giving any info you might need. She was very friendly and helped us choose and find a local restaurant where we could enjoy food native to the island. We also enjoyed tours in Barbados and Dominica. The ship was very comfortable, with only a little rocking back and forth during the trip. I did notice several people wearing the little patch behind the ear to help with sea sickness. We could always find something to do during the days at sea and we got to meet several people from Canada, Scotland, and England, as well. All in all, it was a great trip! It is always good to get away for a while, and cruising is absolutely the best!!! Read Less
Sail Date: November 2012
We took the 11-day South Caribbean Wayfarer Cruise on Holland America Noordam from November 5 to 16. This was our second cruise on Holland America, and we love the vista-class ships. Not too small, but not so big that you lose the ... Read More
We took the 11-day South Caribbean Wayfarer Cruise on Holland America Noordam from November 5 to 16. This was our second cruise on Holland America, and we love the vista-class ships. Not too small, but not so big that you lose the "personal touch" from the ship staff. We chose this cruise because we wanted to go to Barbados and because, like the Zuiderdam, the Noordam has the hydropool and thermal suite, which we feel is the best kept secret in cruising. No crowded hottub outside, just a large hot pool mostly to yourself, because most people don't know it's there and don't pay for it. Very relaxing!! We did the online pre-boarding, so embarqation went smoothly and quickly. Although we don't need it, our travel agent ended up getting us into a handicapped varandah room instead of the regular verandah. This gave us a slightly larger room and a HUGE verandah that angled toward the front of the ship as well as running straight down the side of the ship. Ronald and Danang, the room stewards were fantastic and friendly, greeting us by name the first time they saw us. We took two ship excursions this trip. First was the Turtle snorkling encounter in Barbados. Awesome!! Saw out first turtle before we were in the water. Had 4-5 turtles total come by to visit. After the snorkeling, they take you to the beach by the Sandy Lane resort hotel, were you can, swim, ride their banana boat, walk the beach or relax. We had great fun collecting beach glass in the shallow water to add to our shell collection. On the way back to the dock, you get rum punch or soft drinks. The second was the waterfall and botanical gardens tour on Dominica. Also a very pleasant tour of this "nature" island (in other words, take a tour because there's little else to do here). Although 4-5 people had planned to possibly go in the waterfall pool to swim, everyone else chickened out. They missed a very refreshing dip and those that didn't walk down to the waterfall pool also missed the 2 fresh water mountain crabs. On St. Thomas we took our own excursion to Coki Beach to swim with the fish. Caught a taxi and payed $20 each round trip, which is cheaper than any ship excursion we could have taken. Unfortunately, HAL doesn't have a beach trip there, so you have to do this one on your own. It is very safe to do so though. Coki is a state park and there are nice facilities and people who will get your cab when you're ready to return to the ship. We were there by about 8:30 and had the beach to ourselves (and the iguanas)for about 35 minutes. Take a couple rolls from the morning breakfast buffet with you. walk to the rocks at the left end of the beach, go out in knee-deep water and break a piece of roll off and drop it in the water. Within 30 seconds, you're surrounded by 6 different kinds of colorful fish that stay as long as you keep feeding them. Don't forget your underwater camera! The shipboard entertainment, 3 comedians, a concert pianist and the ship crew shows were great. We had a table for 8 at dinner we shared with 3 other wonderful couples. They were all "double-digit" cruisers having between 30 plus to 70 plus cruises, so we learned a few things from them as well as enjoying their company and the wonderful food. The only downside to the cruise was that there seems to be some "wear and tear" on the Noordam. Perhaps part of that was that it had just finished it's transatlantic repositioning cruise, so maintenance on the exterior hadn't been done. But part of it is that, the fabric in the Vista Longe and other areas of the ship seems to be faded, worn, fraying and in general need of refreshing. Despite this, I'd still recommend this cruise on the Noordam. Read Less
Sail Date: November 2012
About us -- We're a couple in our early 50's, and this was our 16th cruise, but our first on HAL. Our previous cruises have been on Princess (4), Royal Caribbean (6), and Carnival (5). In addition to being our first HAL cruise, ... Read More
About us -- We're a couple in our early 50's, and this was our 16th cruise, but our first on HAL. Our previous cruises have been on Princess (4), Royal Caribbean (6), and Carnival (5). In addition to being our first HAL cruise, this trip was notable for several reasons...it was our 25th Anniversary, our first cruise longer than 7 nights, and our first time to visit 5 of the 7 ports. So how did we end up on the Noordam? It was actually a long and winding road! Our cruise planning started in December of 2011, when I made the final decision to retire from my job as an elementary school principal after 30 years in education. Lots of travel opportunities opened up for us since I would no longer be tied to a school calendar for travel! We knew we wanted a "smaller" (by our standards) ship, and we wanted to go somewhere we hadn't been. We decided on the Panama Canal (more on that bucket-list item later), determined we wanted a round-trip instead of a trans-canal, and started looking at Holland America and Princess since both had itineraries we were interested in. We almost ended up on Princess, but we hadn't cruised with them since 2007, and when I spoke with my mom she told me how disappointed she and her travel companions were with the food and the passenger load on their first (and only!) Princess cruise. In addition, I thought HAL's itinerary was better. Finally, while I was in the process of researching options I stumbled across IRL_Joanie's fantastic cabin website and I was sold -- nothing was going to keep me from a fantastic aft-wrap SC...on the Zuiderdam...to the Panama Canal! Lo and behold right after we booked reports of plumbing and air conditioning problems on the Zuiderdam surfaced. I've been around Cruise Critic long enough and read enough scathing reviews to know to take what I read with a grain of salt, but I decided to keep a wary eye on things and withhold judgment/not make a rash decision. The reports persisted, and in March when we got back from our last ? Spring Break cruise with 3,700 of our closest friends (1,000 of them children!), I decided it was time to look around. Back to Princess? No, they didn't have the aft-wrap suite I was lusting after. Royal Caribbean? Nope, they didn't have what I wanted either. Carnival? That wouldn't work...remember I'm trying to avoid a crowded ship. Change ships and itineraries on HAL? Possibly. We didn't want to give up the Panama Canal, but looked around for our dates and decided to book the Noordam as a back-up and keep two cruises until the preponderance of evidence was in. In April, the "life-systems" reports from the Zuiderdam trans-canal were not good. Despite the fact that everyone said the food and service were phenomenal, we just couldn't see risking paying for a suite and possibly finding ourselves in the tropics with marginal air conditioning and balky plumbing. While there are no guarantees at sea and mechanical problems can happen anytime/anywhere, we decided the chance of problems was greater on the Zuiderdam than the Noordam. Reluctantly we cancelled the Zuiderdam and from that point forward it was full speed ahead planning for the Southern Caribbean. Pre-Cruise -- We flew from Houston to Fort Lauderdale on Southwest two days before our cruise. SWA was also something new for us, but since we're missing Continental terribly we decided to give Southwest a try. We had a very uneventful flight, and "bags fly free" saved us $120.00 each way. Every penny counts! We stayed at the Hilton Marina, in a Tower Room overlooking the pool, marina, and Intercoastal. I actually preferred this view and requested it as opposed to a view of the port which would have included all the bridge traffic on 17th Street. We enjoyed ogling the HUGE yachts docked right alongside the hotel. We found out later one of the biggest, 7 Seas, is Stephen Spielberg's yacht. Another one, Cakewalk, cost $200,000,000, and is the biggest private yacht ever built. Both of them looked like they could easily accommodate 100 people. Maybe for my next cruise! The night we arrived we had dinner at the China Grill at the hotel. The food was excellent but the service stunk...so much so that these great tippers only left 10%. We loved our drinks and meal, and if the service had been better it would have been a great start to the trip, but I have a hard time with poor service at a pricy restaurant. We got lots of apologies, but I would have gladly traded the apologies for shorter waits and hot food. On Sunday I got up early (as usual), grabbed my camera, paid $4.95 for a cup of coffee, and went out to watch the ships arrive. I decided I didn't want to share space with a homeless guy sleeping in one of the gazebos, and found a cozy, quiet spot away from the snoring to ship watch. It really was quite a treat for a ship-junkie to watch the brilliantly lit ships appear with the sun barely lightening the sky behind them. Later on Sunday we went to lunch at Duffy's, then made a quick trip to Total Wine and Publix before it was time for more ship watching. We walked up to the top of the bridge to watch the ships leave. While we were up there the bridge went up three times. I was perfectly fine sitting out on the viewing platform watching the road rise above my head, but Jim didn't like it one bit! He took exception to thousands of pounds of concrete and metal looming overhead, and each time the announcement was made that the bridge would be opening he retreated to "safety" for the duration. Anyway, back to the ships...one after another they slid out of their berths and disappeared behind the condos on their way out to sea. Ruby Princess left first, followed by the Westerdam, Nieuw Amsterdam, and Carnival Freedom...it was quite a sight. Unfortunately the good people of Fort Lauderdale haven't installed public restrooms at the top of the bridge, and we had to head back to the hotel before the Allure of the Seas left. Sunday evening was spent having dinner at Kelly's Landing with 20 people from our CC Roll Call group. Unfortunately the restaurant is quite small and they weren't able to seat all of us together, so we were scattered all over the place. Still, it was a very enjoyable evening, and it was a treat to put faces and real names to many of the people I had been communicating with for months! It's always nice to get on a ship and already know people. This was a trip where Cruise Critic really paid off, and we had a great time with people from our Roll Call both before and during the cruise. True to form, on Monday I woke up early, paid through the nose for my caffeine fix, and went outside to watch the Noordam arrive. We called for a Bellhop at 9:45, and much to our surprise one arrived right away. You see, we had seen the hotel lobby on Sunday when there were 5 ships in port. It was absolute chaos and wall-to-wall people! The check-out lines were endless and the stacks of luggage occupied almost every square inch of floor space. Since the Noordam was the only ship in Ft. Lauderdale on Monday there was no delay whatsoever at the hotel. We ended up getting to the terminal around 10:30 because we were ready to go and there really wasn't any reason to hang around the hotel. After all, we had a ship to catch! From this point on I'm just going to give you my impressions of different areas and comparisons to the other lines we've cruised with. As you can probably tell by now, I like to write and I tend to be rather wordy. If I posted my entire blow-by-blow account you would probably lose interest quickly, but if by chance you want to know what I ate at each meal, just ask...I have that information too! Embarkation -- Check in and boarding was a breeze. It couldn't have been any easier. As we entered the terminal we were given a clip-on tag with an "S" on it, which entitled us to priority boarding. Everyone sat in one area, where cookies, lemonade, coffee, and water were available while we waited to board. On Royal Caribbean, there is a separate suite lounge to await boarding, and on Carnival you are seated in a side section of the waiting area to board first. My favorite part of embarkation on HAL? Cabins are available as soon as you board! I can't tell you how nice it was to not have to trudge around the ship with heavy carry-ons, tripping over everyone's luggage until 1:00 or 1:30. For cabin availability alone I give HAL's embarkation higher marks than RCL or CCL. My experience on Princess was that cabins were available for passengers to drop off their carry-ons upon boarding, but that the cabin might or might not be ready for occupancy. Since it's been more than 5 years since we were on a PCL ship that might have changed. The Ship -- We had long since forgotten how pleasant it is to be on a ship with only 1,900 people...that hasn't happened since Sea Princess in 2000 and Rhapsody in 2002. Nothing is crowded, there's PLENTY of space, and the days have a nice traditional cruising rhythm to them. We loved the size of the ship and the easy to navigate layout...no annoying deck changes or dead-ends to work around like you find on many Princess and Carnival ships. The smaller size of the Noordam allowed us to meet people and then run into them again and again, which was lots of fun. The funny thing is, to many seasoned HAL cruisers, this ship is too big, but for us, it was a delightful change of pace to not be cruising with 3,700 other people! We found the Noordam to be understatedly elegant, with a lack of glitz and glitter, but many beautiful and appealing spaces. There was ample seating in all the public areas and lounges. We thought the Explorations Cafe/Library area was gorgeous...the prettiest spot we've seen on any ship. Too bad we didn't discover it earlier...but that would have meant prying ourselves off our balcony! The Noordam's wrap-around Promenade deck is lined with cushioned teak recliners, and the whole ship has a notable lack of cheap plastic furniture, even in the pool areas and on balconies. Everything seemed to be spotlessly clean and impeccably maintained...the ONLY thing I noticed was that the outdoor cushions were a bit faded, but that certainly didn't diminish my positive impressions of the ship. It's just my opinion, but after 11 nights on the Noordam I think HAL seems to know who its market is and it doesn't try to be something it's not. I see HAL as a traditional cruiseline that caters to adults with interesting and longer itineraries, good food, and varied forms of entertainment. It's not a particularly family oriented cruise line, and we only saw a handful of children on our sailing. While I'm sure there are more on 7-night cruises, there are no rock walls, slides, ice rinks, or cartoon characters to keep them entertained. The daytime activities lean towards educational/enrichment lectures, card games, food, wine, and cooking offerings, and things such as jigsaw puzzles, trivia, or just curling up in a quiet nook with a good book. I have to mention the Christmas decorations. The transformation started on December 1st, and within two days the Noordam was filled with breathtakingly beautiful trees, garlands, and lights. Our only other holiday season cruise was on the older, smaller Carnival Ecstasy, and the decorations on that ship were sparse and limited to the atrium. On the Noordam, every available space was decorated, including the dining room, the entire Lido Deck, and all the lounges and corridors on the public decks. Our Cabin & HAL's "Suite Life" -- Over the years we've become like the Jeffersons...movin' on up! Our first two cruises were in balcony cabins on Princess and Royal Caribbean, then we moved to Mini-Suites (PCL) and Junior Suites (RCL), and our last few cruises have been in Ocean and Grand Suites on Carnival and an Owner's Suite on Royal Caribbean. From what I could see, the balcony cabins on HAL are quite a bit bigger than those on Princess and slightly bigger than a "D" balcony on RCL. Balcony depth on the Noordam seemed to be fairly comparable to RCL and much greater than CCL. On many Princess ships it's a mixed bag...some of the regular balconies are quite shallow, there's a deck with huge balconies that are half covered, or you can pay for the privilege of a mini-suite with a decent sized balcony...with no covering. Thanks to IRL_Joanie, we were in 5191, an aft corner SC. We found the cabin itself to be of adequate size with more than ample storage, but we thought the finishings in our OS on the Mariner of the Seas were much nicer (all granite counter tops, marble floor, glass shower). I would say our SC was roughly half the size of our RCL Owner's Suite, which weighed in at a whopping 630 square feet of interior space and had a full dining table, sectional sofa, and a curtain to partition off the bedroom from the living area. Nevertheless, 5191 had plenty of room for the two of us. The bathroom had a jetted tub and a separate shower, there was a nice "Princess Area" for hair and make-up, and our very comfortable bed was the size of a Caribbean Island with 9 pillows to choose from! Our suite also had tons of electrical outlets, which I thought was nice since I seem to travel with enough equipment to open a Best Buy! Our balcony was what distinguished this cabin from any other we've had. In addition to the glorious view and the gorgeous sunrises/sunsets, we had space to host a "Scenic Cruising" party for our CC Roll Call, and about 16 people fit comfortably on the balcony. Our balcony had two large chairs with ottomans, a round dining height table with four chairs, and a small occasional table. All the chairs were imitation wicker and had cushions...so much more comfortable than sitting on plastic mesh! My one disappointment was that the chaise lounges I had seen in all the photos were no longer there. We could have requested loungers, but they would have been of the mesh variety without cushions, so we didn't bother. Suite perks are what really differentiate one line's offerings from another. Discounting Carnival, because their suites come with VIP embarkation and disembarkation as the only perk other than some extra real estate, I found there were some things I liked about HAL's perks and some things I prefer on Royal Caribbean. While the Neptune Lounge on the Noordam is nicer and more spacious than the Concierge Lounge on the Mariner, we spent a lot more time in the Mariner's lounge due to the nightly cocktail hour. We enjoyed the camaraderie in the lounge on RCL, and didn't find ourselves visiting the Neptune as often...possibly because it wasn't convenient to our cabin. I thought the variety of food and snacks throughout the day on the Noordam was much better than on Royal Caribbean, and the coffee machine was FABULOUS, but not having it available until 7:00 meant that I drank Lido sludge most of the trip. Additionally, having two concierges (the most delightful ladies on the seas!) staffing the Neptune Lounge meant that suite passengers seldom if ever had to look elsewhere for anything they needed. Funnily enough, we weren't aware of everything they would do for us, and we're pretty self-sufficient and undemanding most of the time. When my husband's room card somehow got deactivated we headed down to Guest Services for a replacement. One of the concierges, Christine, happened to be at the desk, and she accused us of cheating on her! On HAL, I thought the included laundry, pressing, and dry cleaning service was a huge benefit! We hadn't had that available before, and I was severely overpacked when you consider the laundry benefit. On Royal Caribbean, suites get complimentary pressing for the first formal night only...big advantage to HAL. HAL doesn't have the nightly happy hour, but there were a couple suite events that were very nice...a Welcome Aboard cocktail party on the first night, and a wonderful suite luncheon in the Pinnacle on our last sea day. We found the Noordam to be very generous in the food department, and had we wished we could have had appetizers or high tea delivered to our cabin every afternoon. We didn't use that service, and we certainly didn't need any more food, but they did provide hot and cold appetizers for our party, and brought all the glassware and ice buckets we needed to entertain. That is definitely better service than on the Mariner, when we had quite an uphill battle to get some snacks delivered for a Cabin Crawl...even though the hosts were staying in the Royal Suite and an Owner's Suite! Both lines offer suite guests the option of having breakfast in their specialty restaurant. We loved this perk on both cruise lines. The main difference is that in Noordam's Pinnacle Grill you order off the regular breakfast menu -- the Pinnacle and the MDR share galley space. On the Mariner, Chops is independent of the dining room galley and there is no breakfast menu...you just tell them what you want and they prepare it for you. The only other real difference I saw was that on Royal Caribbean there is reserved seating set aside at the main pool, in the theatre, and in Studio B (the ice rink). While this wasn't necessary on the Noordam, it was a big convenience and a help on the Mariner during Spring Break with 3,700 passengers. Food -- Food is certainly subjective, and I know many seasoned HAL cruisers have been disappointed recently with the changes in menus and quality the last few years. However, we loved the food, and thought it ranked up there with the best we've had on a cruise. I guess it's all a matter of what you're accustomed to! We thought the menus had quite a few more choices than we're used to, and we liked almost everything we had during the cruise. The soups were exceptional, and I wanted to bring the Noordam's cookie baker home with me! Something I liked was the choice of a protein salad each night at dinner. I also thought the vegetarian choices were interesting and tasty. Even though I'm a carnivore, I greatly enjoyed some of them! We ate breakfasts (when we had time) in the Pinnacle Grill, and we thought HAL's breakfast menu was also quite a bit more varied than the one that's offered on CCL or RCL. We celebrated our anniversary with dinner in the Pinnacle, and had an exquisite meal with impeccable service. We also enjoyed the food at the Master Chef's Dinner in the Pinnacle, although we thought the event was a bit too drawn out and lacking in special touches. We appreciated having the dining room open for lunch most days with a menu that changed (something RCL and CCL have done away with), and although we're not buffet people, we found even the food in the Lido to be tasty and varied. I liked the hot food choices and didn't find having it plated to order to be a problem at all. Service -- Although it improved during the cruise, our dinner service was just mediocre. We're used to more personal service than we received, where the wait staff addresses us by name and learns our habits on night one. We probably should have tried to remedy the problems after the first meal, but we didn't and it went on for several days. Once we addressed the situation things improved somewhat, but our service was never top-notch. A couple examples...one of our table mates was left handed. Even though the wait staff knew this, they never got her service correct when it came to the handle on her coffee cup or the side she was served from. Her husband liked a certain type of bread in the basket. He had to ask for it every night. A couple times we had to send beef entrees back because we ordered medium rare and we were served pieces that were well done. Any of these minor issues by themselves are easily overlooked, but when the same little things keep happening and aren't corrected it gets a little tiresome. The biggest problem for me was the pacing and very slow speed of the service. We were among the last leaving the dining room every night and were unable to make most of the shows before they started. When we mentioned it to our waiter he said we should have told him if we wanted to be able to make a 10:00 show. I think part of the problem was our location in the back of the dining room, as far from the galley as we could be, but that still doesn't make it acceptable. Even the photographers ignored our section, coming to our table on only one of the three formal nights. We enjoyed our table mates, and it would have been nice to have the option to purchase a table picture, but one was never taken. It just seemed like we were in kind of an overlooked corner of the dining room with MANY empty tables/spots, and we didn't get the same level of service as those in the front/full part of the dining room. As for the wine service, I didn't think there were nearly enough wine stewards to ensure good and prompt service. The wine steward in the Pinnacle told us they've been reduced from 15 stewards to 9, so that's a loss of three on each level of the dining room and it showed. Quite frequently, we ended up having to pour our own wine...if we hadn't, we wouldn't have been able to enjoy our wine with our meal. Again, once we complained the wine service improved somewhat, but my husband and I still often found ourselves reaching for the bottle if we wanted wine with our entree. I know this all probably sounds whiny and petty, but the dining experience on a cruise is a big deal to us. We thought the food was great, and the menus had a nice variety of choices, but the service didn't meet our expectations. That stands out to me, because it was a mis-match for everything else about our cruise. Our cabin steward was wonderful, the concierge service was incredible, and service elsewhere on the ship was top-notch! Fellow Passengers -- We weren't sure what to expect on the Noordam, because to hear some people talk HAL ships are floating nursing homes. That certainly wasn't our experience! I would say the largest group of passengers fell in the 55-75 age group, but there were plenty who appeared to be a lot younger than that, and a good sized contingent of octogenarians. Yes, it was a much older passenger load than any of our previous cruises, but we expected that since it was our first time to be able to cruise when schools were in session. Not once in 11 days did I have to listen to pounding feet funning up and down the hallways, nor did I have to navigate a pack of teenagers who had commandeered the staircase...that's a good thing! We also found the passengers on the Noordam to be quite a bit more diverse in nationality than our cruises from Galveston that tend to be filled with Americans from Texas and the surrounding states. Ports and Excursions -- All the ports on this cruise except St. Maarten and St. Thomas were new to us, and we loved them! The islands were beautiful...very mountainous and lush. We took an excursion on each island because we wanted to make sure we maximized our time and got to see the sights. All the excursions we took were HAL tours with the exception of St. Lucia. I won't go into a lot of detail, but if you have questions about a specific tour, feel free to ask. St. Maarten -- Rhino Riders...a fun way to see the island from the water, with a 30 minute snorkeling stop. St. Lucia -- Spencer Ambrose tour with our CC Roll Call. This was an awesome excursion, and we got to see the whole island. We worked our way down to Soufriere by van, stopping at a banana plantation, 2 fishing villages, the waterfall, and the volcano. We travelled back to Castries by motorboat and saw the coastline as well as many homes of the rich and famous! Barbados -- Barbados in Focus was a photography tour with island photographer Ronnie Carrington. This is a great way to see this stunningly beautiful island even if you don't have a camera in your hand! My husband loved the tour, and he hates taking pictures. We learned a lot about Barbados and photography on this tour. Martinique -- Panoramic Martinique took us to the mini replica of the Sacred Heart Basilica, through the rainforest, and to the town of St. Pierre which was destroyed by the eruption of Mt. Pelee in 1902. Unfortunately, because we were there on a Sunday, almost everything was closed and we couldn't go in the cathedral lest we disturb the worship service. Dominica -- The Whale and Dolphin Safari was a boat ride off the coast looking for wildlife. We saw plenty of dolphins, but alas no whales. This tour departed from a pier right next to the ship. We would like to go back to Dominica and see the interior of the island. St. Thomas -- Champagne Catamaran Sail and Snorkel to St. John. We hadn't been to St. John, and we thought it would be a good idea to get away from St. Thomas since there were 7 ships in port the day we were there. This excursion was good, but it would have been a LOT better if there wasn't a very long (30+ minute) transfer to the marina on an open air bus. The transfer made our four hour excursion last more than 5 hours. Half Moon Cay -- We had scheduled the Aquatrax Adventure, but we cancelled it several days in advance when we realized that 6 ports in 6 days were going to leave us in need of some R&R! Since that was our last day on board, we wanted to relax and treat it more like a sea day. We did visit the island for lunch, and understand why many refer to Half Moon Cay as the best private island in the industry. All Good Things Must Come to an End, a.k.a. Disembarkation -- What an amazing disembarkation! Carnival, Royal Caribbean, and all the Port of Galveston Customs/Immigration folks should be required to visit and study the systems HAL and the port have in place. We left our balcony at 8:00 and were AT THE AIRPORT at 8:30! First of all, HAL actually enforces their disembarkation procedures. They're not nasty, they're not rude, they just politely inform anyone who's trying to get off before their tag is called that it's not their turn and they need to step aside! They also have a system where they have staff stationed inside the ship to funnel people into an orderly line instead of allowing passengers to storm the gangway from every direction. How pleasant! Well, at least as pleasant as getting off a ship can be! We were met by a porter (plentiful!), found our bags immediately, breezed through one of the numerous CBP lines, and were in a taxi so fast it made my head spin. The only problem we had was we were at the airport so quickly we had a three hour wait for our flight! Well, that and a slightly overweight bag, but I moved a couple shoes and the guy let it go! Final thoughts: Things we loved -- - The little touches, like the cold towels/lemonade/water at the gangway when we returned to the ship in port, the mints as we left the dining room, the "note" from the captain with our turn-down chocolates, the dinner bells. The Mariner's luncheon, the suite luncheon, and the suite cocktail party were all very nicely done...I thought the attention to detail was lovely. - Our balcony! The view was incredible. Our cabin was more than big enough, with ample (and then some) storage. We noticed more vibration in the back than we're accustomed to, but I didn't think there was a lot more movement, even when it was windy. - The Neptune lounge and the WONDERFUL concierges, Christine and Charmaine. My only issue with the lounge was that they didn't open until 7:00, and I was ready for coffee about 6:00! - Laundry service -- prompt, and everything was returned in a cute little basket wrapped in tissue paper! ? We came home with far less laundry after this 11-night than any of our shorter cruises. - The Microsoft workshops were wonderful. I finally learned something about editing my photos. Since I took about 2,500, that's a good thing! - Our Cruise Critic Roll Call group was great. It was nice having a dinner the night before we sailed, and having so many familiar faces when we got on the ship. We had fun with everybody whenever we saw them. - Beverage cards -- we loved the convenience! Between the three bottles of wine we purchased, all our corkage fees, and the various drinks, we used $490 of the $500 we had available. It sure made a difference in our final bill, as did bringing six bottles of wine on board with us. I would use these cards again for convenience, even though there is no longer a discount. It was really nice to not have to wade through a mountain of receipts to check our on-board account. Note: the beverage cards can be used for canned soft drinks, while the soda card is only good for fountain drinks. - Announcements were few and far between. I usually tune them out, but I found the captain's daily messages to be interesting and informative. I also liked the layout of the Explorer...it was easy to find what I was interested in, and I didn't have to wade through a bunch of ads to find information. - The casino smiled upon me several times this cruise. There's just something about me, a ship, and a Wheel of Fortune machine! Things we were disappointed with -- - We were very excited for the Master Chef's Dinner, but we were a bit let down by the actual event. We expected more fanfare and personal touches, but in the end the event was a very long dinner with delicious food and wine, but no mementos. I preferred the Chef's Table on Carnival, which had delicious food, wine (but not wine pairings), a trip to the galley, an introduction of each course from the chef (not a waiter reading from a script), place cards, personalized menus, a group photograph, and a cookbook. I did like the wines better at this dinner...they were paired with the food instead of just being a choice of a red or a white, and the food presentation was exquisite on Rosenthal china. - Martinique on a Sunday is probably not a great choice, since nothing is open and there are few tours. Our tour, Panoramic Martinique, was fine, but I would have much preferred the one that we booked first, Martinique by Land and Sea, which was cancelled by the tour operator. This was a beautiful island and I would have enjoyed seeing the coastline and Mt. Pelee from the water. Unfortunately, by the time our "scenic-cruising" reached that end of the island it was dark. - We had booked our tours ahead of time. Nowhere in the description of our Champagne Catamaran Sail & Snorkel to St. John did I see the information that it was a 30+ minute bus ride each way to get to the marina. This made a 4 hour excursion over 5 hours long, and the (lack of) organization getting us back was inexcusable. We stood in the sun for well over 15 minutes while bus after bus passed us by. Once our bus finally arrived, people in the back of the line pushed their way to the front and we barely got on the first bus back to port. - Scheduling of entertainment for late dining needs some improvement. I just don't think shows should start at 10:00 if they can't get late seating diners out of there in time to make the show. The situation wasn't helped by our slow service, and on two nights the dining room opened 15 minutes late which put us even further behind. One of the late opening nights was the last formal night and the Chocolate Extravaganza. We just barely made it to the atrium in time to take pictures of all the food, and making it to a 10:00 show was out of the question. This & That -- - Something unusual happened to me on the last sea day...for the first time in 16 cruises, I felt queasy. I don't take anything for motion sickness, and I've never felt sick at all on any of our cruises, even in heavy seas. I think it was a result of spending 2 hours on the computer with the screen and my body moving around. A ginger capsule and a cat nap took care of the problem, but I had about an hour there where I wondered if I was going to enjoy my last sea day! - Leaving Half Moon Cay we got caught in a squall and the wind hitting the side of the ship was crazy. I was doing some packing, and I felt like I was mountain climbing! Sure enough, the captain came on and apologized for the listing which was caused by the very high winds, and said they were moving water in the ballast tanks to correct the situation. In truth, it was probably only about 10 degrees -- maybe 15 maximum, but it sure was eerie looking at the horizon and the balcony railing which should be parallel and seeing them form an angle!!! The list was corrected by 6:00 -- or corrected enough that I could stand up in the shower and it would drain! - We had great weather for the entire trip...the couple times it rained it was either over very quickly or it was late at night. I just read a review of the Zuiderdam cruise we originally booked, and they had very heavy rains for five days, including the canal where all shore excursions were cancelled. Maybe I was lucky that I developed plumbing and A/C paranoia and changed ships! - I save everything, and I have all the Explorers and dinner menus from our cruise. If you have questions, feel free to ask! Read Less
Sail Date: November 2012
We took the 11-day South Caribbean Wayfarer Cruise on Holland America Noordam from November 5 to 16. This was our eighth cruise on Holland America, and we enjoy the size of the ships, the friendliness and attention, and the wonderful ... Read More
We took the 11-day South Caribbean Wayfarer Cruise on Holland America Noordam from November 5 to 16. This was our eighth cruise on Holland America, and we enjoy the size of the ships, the friendliness and attention, and the wonderful cuisine and service. We flew nonstop from Kansas City to Ft. Lauderdale via SW Airlines, arriving the day before the cruise. We took a taxi to the Hyatt Regency Pier Sixty-Six Hotel. I would highly recommend the Hyatt for a pre-cruise hotel. They were very friendly and the room was quite large with a wonderful bathroom. We had a first floor room with a small patio overlooking the garden and pool area. The weather was beautiful and we had a late lunch at the Orchid's Pool Bar and Grill. I had the Pier Shrimp Salad and my husband had the Cheese Burger. Both were excellent! We ate dinner on the hotel property by the pier -- Grille 66 & Bar. Luckily, the weather was warm and mild, so we could eat outside once again. We had the special which was the Mixed Sea Grill -- absolutely fantastic. My husband also had the Key Lime Pie. We experienced great service and highly recommend it. The next morning, after an excellent breakfast buffet in the Mariner's Cafe, we took a cab to the pier, arriving around 10:15 a.m. Check-in went very smoothly and we were soon on the Noordam. Our rooms were ready and our luggage arrived around 4:45 p.m., so we were able to change for dinner held in the Main Dining Room. Meantime, we ate at the Mariner's Luncheon; reserved our table for the 5:15 p.m. seating in the Vista Dining Room; signed up for Internet minutes in the Exploration's Cafe; signed up for the Navigator's Wine Package; attended the emergency drill; and then read. After dinner, we listened to the Adagio Strings in the Explorer's Lounge. This was part of our daily routine as we enjoy their music immensely. The young group of two women and two men was from Moldova. I cannot say enough about this quartet -- they were absolutely outstanding. The members were Vadim Buinovski -- leader and violin; Daria Buinovski -- violin; Serghei Racenco -- viola; and Irina Solpan -- cello. Our day-to-day schedule was very routine. My husband and I do not do many excursions as the cruise ship is our destination. We cruise to enjoy the relaxation, cuisine, and entertainment. We like to read, attend the lectures and demonstrations, walk on the deck, go to wine tastings, play trivia, meet new people, dine, go to the shows, and watch the ocean. A short review of the ship follows: EMBARKATION: Went very smoothly. STATEROOM: We were in a large outside partially-obstructed-view room on upper promenade deck 4. Luckily, we had a good view of the ocean between the lifeboats. We are seldom in the cabin, so just having a window was nice. There was plenty of closet space and two small cabinets, with locks, beside the bed. There was also a safe in the closet. The small bathroom had a shower-tub combination. The beds were very comfortable with nice linens and the towels were nice and large. We did not experience any plumbing problems and the a/c worked perfectly. We very seldom saw our cabin stewards -- Mohammad and Rul, and they did a fantastic job. They had 30 rooms to clean each day (twice a day), plus their other duties. Cannot say enough good things about them. DINING: When we boarded the ship, we went directly to the Explorer's Lounge to make reservations for the same table each night in the MDR (open seating). This allows us to sit at the same table each evening and get to know our waiters and wine steward. It is very comparable to fixed seating which always seems to be closed when we make our reservations. Our excellent dining room stewards were Daeno and Arie and the wine steward was George. Every meal in the MDR was wonderful. We so enjoy trying different items and my husband always looks forward to the chilled soups. Contrary to many comments on Cruise Critic our service was beyond outstanding. As noted on the Cruise Critic boards, the passengers seem to be "dressing down" more and more. My opinion is that they should eat in the Lido if they prefer casual wear. It doesn't bother me a lot, and I am assuming these passengers would dress the same way if they were going out to an upscale restaurant in a large city. A pleasant surprise was that on formal nights, there were at least 40% of the men in tuxedos -- something we did not see on our last cruise (Alaska). We ate two lunches in the Pinnacle Grill which were very enjoyable. The food was wonderful and the service very good. We chose to eat breakfast in The Lido since we are early risers and the MDR did not open until 7:30 a.m. Personally, I do not care for The Lido, but the food was good, so I can tolerate breakfasts. ENTERTAINMENT: As I stated before, the Adagio Strings were outstanding. They also performed two concerts in the Queen's Lounge playing "From Bach to the Beatles" which drew standing ovations. We also enjoyed several shows in the Vista Lounge. Jeff Burghart, an impressionist-comedian; Barnaby -- a juggler, singer, and comedian; and Frank King, a comedian, were all outstanding. David Schofield, a British concert pianist was very talented; the Divas of Motown were talented; and the Noordam singers and dancers were very good. EXCURSIONS: Ports visited were: Philipsburg, St. Maarten; Castries, St. Lucia; Bridgetown, Barbados; Fort-de-France, Martinque; Roseau, Dominica; St. Thomas; and Half Moon Cay, Bahamas. Other passengers reported the tours on the islands were very beautiful and fun, but since we did not do any excursions, we just enjoyed the quiet, peaceful Noordam. STAFF: The captain of the Noordam was Captain Robert Jan Kan, who did an excellent job keeping us informed of the weather conditions, etc. He was also easy to understand. Shane Michaels was the Cruise Director and he was the best we have had on our eight cruises. We played Team Trivia each day with him as the host, and he did an excellent job. Party Planner Sydney also did an excellent job coordinating the many Food & Entertaining Programs throughout the week which I attended. We also attended the Navigator's Wine Tasting and had a most enjoyable time. DISEMBARKATION: We were the second group to leave the ship as we used the Signature Express Baggage Service, so we didn't see our luggage until we arrived back in Kansas City. It was very convenient not to lug suitcases around at the airport as we had quite a long wait for our non-stop SW flight. We had a wonderful cruise on the Noordam and are looking forward to many more with Holland America. Read Less
Sail Date: November 2012
This was my first cruise with Holland America and in to the Caribbean. We were three females, my friend and my sister who is an experienced Holland America Mariner and came along to assist us and have third occupant discounted holiday. ... Read More
This was my first cruise with Holland America and in to the Caribbean. We were three females, my friend and my sister who is an experienced Holland America Mariner and came along to assist us and have third occupant discounted holiday. My sister ensured we were there at the Spa for the Free Spa Treatment Draw which you must attend to win. We unfortunately were not the lucky winners but got a good deal on the Greenhouse Spa Thermal Suite and Hydro Pool which we used often and my friend and I took a consultation with Dimitri Didaskalou the Acupuncturist, she took one treatment and I took a course of four over the voyage. We were too late to sign up to the Yoga, Pilates, Spin and any other classes but my sister and I did attend the free Morning Stretch and Abs/Body Conditionaing classes from 7am each morning in the Spa Gym every morning and enjoyed those very much. We also attended Tai Chi twice a day with Alison the Lifestylist, and her Chi Gong self massage and other classes taking away a lot of self help techniques for future use. After the morning classes we would meet up with my friend and go to breakfast in the Lido Restaurant where the selection of foods on offer was amazing and the service was above and beyond expectations, especially on the first two days when for health reasons mariners are served from the Buffet just in case of cross infection. We lunched in the Lido also and the choice was just as vast and service great. You could eat within the restaurant or on deck either side, we mainly ate within the restaurant. In the evenings we had an open dining plan at the Vista Restaurant and found this to be good idea as we met and dined with various people, gathering interesting information about our fellow mariners and their views of the cruise and life in general. We dined with a lovely couple and their daughter from Canada several times and an author once but everyone seemed to enjoy the experience.We never made it to the late night snack in the Lido Restaurant as generally after our evening meal we'd play Canasta or Rummikub in rooms just off the Library where we met Liz the Librarian and collected our daily quizzes and puzzles. We also bought an occasional speciality coffee from the library and I wish I'd bought the Crewe Entertainment DVD there also. Often we finished eating when the last show in the Theatre had already started but looked in and enjoyed most especially the one with the tribute Supreme's singers. My friend also loves classical music so we made sure we were on time for David Schofield and my sister made sure we saw the Crewe Show which was wonderful. I had ordered the DVD's of the Voyage and the Destinations and went to the Photo Gallery where they were to be collected at the end of the cruise, to ask if there was a Crewe Show DVD I could buy (before I'd noticed it at the Cafe)and they informed me that the Crewe Shows would be on the DVD's I'd pre ordered but unfortunately they were not. The destinations of St Maarten, St Lucia, Barbados, Martinique, Dominica, St Thomas and Half Moon Cay were very enjoyable too but you should know that I found these days actually intruded on my enjoyment of life on the Noordam. We went shopping on St Maarten and visited a lovely little Rum Bar where we sampled a selection of the local rum's and my friend bought one which was collected upon returning to the ship and returned to her on the last day of the cruise. As well as shopping in St Lucia we went for a paddle in the Caribbean Sea. In Barbados we took a lovely taxi tour of Bridgetown and it's surrounding area with Carson's Taxi Service (http://iriebarbadostours.com) we saw Rihanna's old home, one of the wooden shacks that stand on stones so they can be moved if necessary as the owners do not own the land they are on. We saw the Cricket Ground and Carson and I discussed this and my visits to Lords, the Oval and other cricket grounds. We also saw some very expensive houses with lovely gardens, some new council housing which the renters will own in 20-25 years of paying rent and some lovely beaches. We visited Martinique on a Sunday but I found that the local Tourist Guides were very organised, we were directed to a taxi rank from where we were taken into town and told we'd be picked up in the same area. There was a Guide on the corner who informed us about some local dance exhibition taking place a few streets away, we made our way there passing many more Guides en route. The Dancing and Singing were lovely and I recorded much of it on my camcorder to enjoy again later, On the way back to the taxi we found open shops and passed a lovely church with it's doors open and the lovely hymn singing and music was enchanting to hear in the streets. We walked towards the sea and found a lovely market just across the road from where we'd been dropped in the taxi. When we left the market there was a taxi and driver waiting but I informed them we were just going into one more shop which I pointed out and he waited for us to finish our shopping before taking us back to the ship. At Dominica we had an organised Dolphin and Whale excursion in a small boat, the rain was pouring down and we were pleased to see that the boat had a covered deck. The Dolphins were amazing, one actually jumped up and spun like at the Dolphin shows and I actually caught this on camera. The only disappointment was that the Sperm Whales were not available, possibly delayed in their pilgrimage to spawn by the recent storm. There was a lovely warehouse of market stalls to shop in when we returned to dock, and just to make the day perfect it had stoped raining soon after our sightseeing tour began.At St Thomas my friend stayed in the dock area where there were many shops and Lizards to photograph while my sister and I took a local tour of the island with many interesting stops ending up in the local town for shopping. We didn't need to stop in the town as we'd managed to get all our shopping on the tour which was very interesting and I;ll never forget the Donkey with it's hat and glasses to photograph for a price as usual. I only wanted to video it but ended up having to stand with it to get video'd and the tour driver had to negotiate my video of the Donkey. I wanted the ground to open up and swallow me as everyone else was waiting to continue the tour. Finally we arrived a Half Moon Cay which should perhaps have been renamed Quarter Moon as much of the beach had been wash away by the storm. We did Tai Chi on the beach but it was on a hilly bit as the flat bits were gone or occupied by loungers. We took a Clam Shell which came with two loungers so we ordered a mat which by the time my sister and I collected proved unnecessary as my friend had managed to get a third lounger inside the Clam Shell shade. We used the mat when we went in to swim as my sister is not a confident swimmer. It was lovely to swim in the Caribbean Sea. The Cruise Holiday was wonderful and over all too soon as we docked at Fort Lauderdale and made our way to start our 18.5 hour journey home from Fort Lauderdale Airport to Aberdeen in Scotland via Newark and Frankfurt. If there was anything I'd change it is that I would have flown to Miami direct from Glasgow instead of the roundabout rout I chose. Read Less
1 Helpful Vote
Sail Date: November 2012
But we persisted and gave it another try. This time we did our longest cruise yet---11 nights and had almost perfect weather the whole time! Cruise day finally came ( Monday, Nov. 5th, 2012). I chose this cruise mainly because it ... Read More
But we persisted and gave it another try. This time we did our longest cruise yet---11 nights and had almost perfect weather the whole time! Cruise day finally came ( Monday, Nov. 5th, 2012). I chose this cruise mainly because it went to St. Lucia. Not many cruises seem to go there and I've always been intrigued with the pictures I've seen of the Pitons. The cruise also included stops in St. Maarten, Barbados, Dominica, Martinique, St. Thomas, and Half Moon Cay. It was very port intensive, which I loved---6 port days in a row, another port later. Hubby is more of a sea day fan, but he held up pretty well. The first 3 days (Nov. 5-7) were sea days. We settled into our SS 8060 superior suite. It was on the port side and enjoyed the sunrises and port views the first 6 days, then sunsets the last 5. Not quite as big and didn't have the added benefits of the deluxe suite we had last year, but still pretty nice. Loved that the verandah even had a table and 2 chairs as well as 2 other chairs with ottomans. We were mid ship and on the 8th floor. Made it easy to just take the steps up to the Lido buffet for the many meals we ate there. We took advantage of these sea days to check out the ship and some of the programs offered ---such as the digital workshop; the culinary demonstration; even a flower arranging presentation. Enjoyed a sunset from the 10th level observation deck. Also enjoyed views of the ocean from our verandah. Had dinner one night at the now $10 upcharge italian Canelletto restaurant. Last year it was free. Service was great, although Ken wasn't as impressed with the food this time. On our 3rd full day, we were in St. Maarten. I had been here once before and had done the island tour then. Although it was an interesting tour, I was ready to hit the water. We're not ones to book many excursions through the ship, so I researched and came upon Dawn beach as the best place to snorkel here. I'd read snorkeling isn't the greatest on St. Maarten, so wasn't expecting much more then a beatiful beach and warm water. I wasn't disappointed! We walked off the ship and to the well organized taxi area of the port to the sign that said Dawn beach. There we paid $7@, but I don't remember if that was rt or each way. Regardless, it was much better then the ship excursion prices. To get back, all we had to do was tell him when to come back. There was also a dispatcher there that called him when we were ready to come back a little earlier then we originally planned. There were people there offering to rent chairs and umbrellas for a few dollars, but we knew we'd be in the water most of the time and declined. One vender came by when we were getting ready to leave, but he was pleasant even though we didn't buy anything. The water was a bit cloudy near the shore, but cleared up out past the water break. Snorkeling wasn't great but still entertaining. We went to the darker area to the right of the above picture and saw a few interesting critters. Back at the port, there's a pretty nice little area of shops and restaurants. Next day we woke up in the port of Castries, St. Lucia. The view from our verandah of the port was beautiful. We headed off the ship to the taxi area again and were directed to one going to Pigeon Island (no longer an island, it was artificially joined to the mainland in 1972). Again we made arrangements for the driver to come back and get us. Our $20@ fare included the $6@ entrance fee into Pigeon Island National Landmark. The island is a historic site with numerous forts such as an 18th century British fort and Fort Rodney both used by the British to spy on French Ships from neighboring Martinique.It had a nice secluded beach here. We had it basically to ourselves for a couple hours before the tours started to arrive (except for the nice lady offering beach chairs for a small fee). Snorkeling here was pretty good. I even swam out to the far point where the Atlantic ocean meets the Caribbean. It was rougher by the ocean, but the Caribbean bay was really smooth. We spent a couple hours snorkeling here. I also spent some time wandering around the ruins of the old fort here. All too soon it was time to go back to the ship. I would have liked to have taken a land tour, but being in port only 6 or 7 hours just doesn't leave enough time to do more then one thing. Our cruise ship did do a scenic narrated tour of the coastline to Soufriere where the Pitons are. The ship stopped here to pick up passengers who did a couple of the excursions that ended here. I enjoyed watching the sunset and seeing the clouds changing colors over the Pitons. The next day we were in Barbados. I had thought we would take the mass transit bus to Folkstone to a marine preserve there, but was told the reserve was pretty far off shore. So I actually did a ship excursion here. As a photographer, the "in-focus" tour sounded good. I figured a photographer would know where the best views of the island were. I was right---this tour was fantastic and possibly worth the $80 I had to pay for it. Ken elected to stay at the port and wander around there. I really fell for this lush little island! Sugar cane was a big producer for them. In recent years, though, sale of sugar has fallen off, but there are still many beautiful plantation houses around the island. We also saw the historic Chattel houses. These houses were built without nails and could be quickly and easily disassembled and moved. Now they own their land and many additions can be seen on the remaining Chattel houses. We spent most of the tour in the Scotland District--a half bowl containing the hilly highlands of Barbados, with a dense, in parts jungle-like vegetation, quite unlike the rest of the island, which is rather flat, deforested, and commonly used for agriculture. Another area we spent a bit of time in was Bethesda. The picturesque coastline reminds me somewhat of the Oregon coastline with palm trees. The next day we were at the port of Martinique. It was much more commecialized then the other islands we went to. They aren't dependant on tourism and it shows. This port was more difficult to do a self excursion on. We had hoped to take a taxi to a beach about 30 minutes away and do some snorkeling. Unfortunately, the taxi drivers here wanted 60 euro/hour and wouldn't just leave and come back. They wanted to be paid for the whole time we snorkeled. We had talked about doing just an hour long taxi ride, then be dropped off at a ferry port to ride over the bay and walk to a beach on the other side since. But the driver then said we had to book him for at least 2 hours. At that point, we took off on foot to the ferry. Along the way, we passed this fort that we saw from our verandah-Fort St. Louis. It is a fortress on a peninsula at Fort-de-France. Today the fort is both an active naval base and a listed historic site of France. We came upon a ferry port and waited in line only to find out that port was for ferries to other islands. The ferry we wanted was another 1/2 mile or so down the road. Another person walking near us had a pedometer on and said the walk was 1.4 miles. We waited about 30 minutes of the ferry which was suppose to run every hour. While waiting, I thought it would be nice to grab a drink from McDonald's across the street. I was surprised to find it closed, along with everything else in the area because it was Sunday. After our 15 minute of so ferry ride which we paid $10/person rt for, we had another walk to the beach. I figure that walk was about another mile. Finally reach the beach. It was pretty. No venders, but lots of little restaurants along the beach. I knew the snorkeling wouldn't be any good, but I was surprised to see there were some critters there. The water was probably about 82 degrees and very calm. We spent a couple hours here. On the way back to the ferry dock, we tried to shop a couple of the shops there that happened to be open. Found out a lot of people there don't speak English or take the US dollar. We did find an ice cream shop that did and I got a Light (not diet) Coke and a soft serve pistachio and mango cone for $7. Don't know what happened with the return ferry, but we waited over an hour for it. Back on the other side, we were walking back when a taxi drove up and said he take us back to the cruise ship for $2. Once we got in, along with a few other people, he made that 2 Euro@. Next day we were in the port of Dominica. We had absolutely no idea what we were doing that day. I had heard of Champagne Reef, but thought it was mainly an area where bubbles were in the water and wasn't sure it would live up to all the hype. The port wasn't much to look at. The info I had said it was the nature island so I figured we'd head off the ship and see if we could find a tour. We headed to the info booth and asked about tours. As an afterthought, I asked about Champagne Reef. She said it was a quick taxi ride and accessible from the beach and was an excellent place to snorkel. So back to the ship we went to change into swimsuits and grab our snorkel gear and head to the taxis. Fortunately there was another couple there waiting, too, so we got to share the taxi cost---which was then $30@ rt. At the destination, we paid a $2@ admittance fee and were led down a boardwalk to the "beach"--made up of rounded rocks. At first I was little concerned, all I saw was a rocky shoreline. Then a tiny sandy opening appeared. Just to the left of the entrance starts the large area where lots of bubbles come up from the bottom of the ocean giving the area it's name. We noticed a tour group was there pretty far out. So we ventured out there, too. That's where we found a fabulous reef! We snorkeled for well over 2 hours. I could have stayed there much longer, but the other 3 were getting anxious to leave. After tipping the taxi driver another $10 and tipping the young man at the entrance to the reef who actually swam out there with us, we ended up spending about $45@, much better then the $80@ fee the ship excursion was and we got to spend more time there. For a day that started out shakey (couldn't find my ship card and went to get another one; I also mistook contac cleaning solution for soaking solution and my eyes didn't like that much) , this turned out to be a fantastic day! The next day we were in port at St. Thomas. Having been here before, we knew the snorkeling was good and had an idea where we wanted to go. We also had rented a car here before and did so again. Pick up was easy----just made our way to the windmill on the port and called Budget for our courtesy pick up. Rental for the day was $45, plus we paid $10 for a supplemental insurance. They do drive on the wrong side of the street there, but my driver didn't do too badly! We had planned to go to Coki beach first, but with the poor road signage, we ended up at Saphire first. I had read Saphire was the place to go for snorkeling, but because of weather had never made it anywhere but to a beach in Cowpet Bay before. Although Saphire was beautiful, we found the snorkeling to be only so-so. After less than an hour at Saphire, we headed to the place our daughter told us about last year at Cowpet Bay. Snorkeling here was excellent again. Even saw some creatures I hadn't seen before. The last beach we had time to go to was Coki Beach. It was gorgeous, but got quite crowded with the cruise ship excursions going here. Also had lots of "waitresses" and venders trying to drum up business. We brought a sandwich and drink from Subway there for a pic nic before we snorkeled and didn't have an problem. We enjoyed snorkeling there for about another hour. The snorkel area really isn't very big, but it was much better then Saphire. By then it was time to head back to the port. Traffic through town took about 30-40 minutes to get through. After 6 port days in a row, the next day was a welcomed sea day! Even though I'm not a big fan of sea days, the day of rest was nice. Althought my plans for sleeping in didn't go so well. Somewhere in the Caribbean waters I encountered what I assume was sea lice---invisible to the eye, larvae or jellyfish or other stinging swimmers---and ended up with an extremely itchy rash. I had this happen before on a couple of our trips to Hawaii (out of about 20 trips to Hawaii), so I wasn't surprised. Apparently they don't bother everyone---like Ken---but they sure like me. Took about 5 days for the itching to subside. At least it happened near the end of our cruise. After our sea day, we had one last port---the HAL private island, Halfmoon cay. We have been here twice before, too, so were looking forward to a restful day at the beach there. We were not disappointed. This was the only port we had to tender to, but that didn't take too much time. We threw our towels and bag on a couple chairs and donned our snorkel gear and headed into the water. There's a little snorkel area by the kids area which we'ld snorkeled before and knew it didn't have much, but we didn't care. We knew the water would feel great. Much to my surprise, the snorkeling this time was considerably better then the last 2 times we were there. We were even able to get all the way to the rock wall to the far left of the bay. Saw a couple cute Caribbean groupers, a rather large gray triggerfish, large octopus, and a school of baracuda! It was another beautiful day on Halfmoon Cay! Even the free bar b q lunch on the beach was good. There were a bunch of birds cleaning up after us, including cute little yellow bellied ones. When we weren't eating or swimming in the water, we wandered around the beach a bit. This was Ken's 4th cruise, my 10th. Other than my first cruise, I haven't had a bad one yet (other than weather). I really enjoyed seeing the new places and revisiting the ones we've been too. we enjoyed it so much, we even did the onboard booking for the ship board credit for the next one. The $200 ship board credit for booking onboard last year and the $100 OBC for having CCL stock came in really handy this year. After gratuities of $12/day@ , the Canelleto dinner, and a couple other items we bought onboard, we only owed $56 when we debarked. Now to start dreaming about where to go next! For basically the same review, but with lots and lots of pictures, check out my blog at: http://travelingwithsue.blogspot.com/2012/11/2012-hal-11-night-caribbean-cruise.html Read Less
Sail Date: October 2012
This was a 21-day cruise that started in Civitavecchia, Italy and ended in Fort Lauderdale, FL. It combined two HAL cruises: a 7-day cruise with stops in Livorno (Florence, Pisa), Monaco, Barcelona, Caligari (Sardinia), Sicily (Palermo), ... Read More
This was a 21-day cruise that started in Civitavecchia, Italy and ended in Fort Lauderdale, FL. It combined two HAL cruises: a 7-day cruise with stops in Livorno (Florence, Pisa), Monaco, Barcelona, Caligari (Sardinia), Sicily (Palermo), and then back to Civitavecchia followed by a 14-day cruise that stopped at Alicante, Malaga, Cadiz, and Madeira before heading on a 7-day voyage across the Atlantic Ocean. What attracted us were (1) the cost savings -- HAL gives you a discount when you combine two cruises together like that; in addition, the 2nd part of it was a repositioning cruise, which also saves money; (2) the itinerary; and (3) the mix of interesting ports with lots of at sea days. We flew out early so that we could spend three nights in Rome before our cruise. We booked our airline and hotel (Visconti Palace in Rome) through HAL. This worked out extremely well. I don't think that we could have gotten a better deal on airfare, and the Visconti Palace turned out to be an excellent choice: great location (you can walk from there to the Vatican or to the Spanish Steps or the Pantheon, etc.) and a surprisingly fine buffet breakfast each morning. There was a HAL rep onsite at the hotel. The transfers from airport to hotel and from hotel to the Noordam went very smoothly. It made schlepping luggage much less of a problem than it would have been if we had made our own arrangements. For most of the ports, we wandered about on our own and enjoyed ourselves and found something interesting in all of them. Owing to a US State Department advisory, HAL cancelled the stop in Tunisia. That was a big disappointment, since I had been looking forward to seeing Carthage. (Those of you who studied Latin in school and remember their Cicero will understand my desire to see what all the fuss was about.) HAL substituted Sardinia. We did use HAL tours for the following ports: 1. Livorno: Transfer to Florence HAL has a somewhat pricey bus trip that takes you from the ship to Florence. The guide on board did a great job of pointing out sights to us, though it was primarily a way to get from the ship to Florence and back. Before we left, we had ordered tickets online for the Uffizi Gallery in Florence. That turns out to have been a wise move: it is virtually impossible to get in if you don't have an advanced reservation. We spent most of our time in the Uffizi. 2. Malaga: Excursion to Granada and The Alhambra This is a region that boasts 320 days of sunny weather per year. We, however, managed to arrive on one of the 45 rainy days. And, boy, was it rainy! It was a cold and constant rain all day long, which complicated the Alhambra tour, since much of it is outdoors. That said, the Alhambra was still spectacular and well worth the very l-o-n-g journey (2+ hours travel each way). It was one of the most visually exciting places I saw on this cruise. 3. Cadiz: Panoramic Cadiz & Jerez with Sherry Tasting Not bad. We had a good tour guide on the bus, and the sherry tasting was instructive -- and fun! 4. Funchal (Madeira): Panoramic Island Landscapes Great tour guide on the bus. She was knowledgeable and clearly enjoyed what she was doing. Unfortunately, the day became progressively cloudier and foggier, and that affected the views from the tops of those very steep mountains. I will add that enjoying this tour does require that you have a high tolerance for being on a bus that wends its way through narrow, winding, mountain roads with some hairpin curves. Kudos to the intrepid bus driver! As for the cruise: the Noordam is a beautiful ship with interesting artwork and sculpture throughout the ship. Although we spent three weeks onboard, I was still discovering artwork up to the last day of the cruise. As we noticed on previous HAL cruises, staff are constantly cleaning it, and the result is that it was spotless. We were in a Deluxe Veranda Suite. On balance, we have always felt that it is worth the extra cost, but it's a close call, and certainly the folks we met who were in other veranda rooms seems very pleased with the accommodations. Some comments and observations: The friendliness, cheerfulness, and helpfulness of the staff are a BIG plus. This was true everywhere we went on board from stateroom to dining venues to lounges. Even the crew who were vacuuming the stairwells when I walked down to the Explorations Cafe (aka "library") at 6:30 a.m. always gave me a cheerful "good morning." While I realize that HAL's customer service training has something to do with this, I don't think it can explain it entirely. You can fake enthusiasm, at least not day in and day out. The sense you get everywhere is that there is a high level of staff morale on board this ship -- this despite the fact that most of the crew are either Filipino or Indonesian, work long hours, and are on long contracts that keep them away from their homes and families for many months of the year. Our stewards (Andi and RaH) were always quick to service our stateroom, and knew us by name after the first day. Christine and Maryann in the Neptune Lounge were terrific. The Neptune is one of the perks of booking a Deluxe Veranda Suite, and they are the quintessentially helpful concierges who can handle just about any problem or issue that might arise. We had the same good service in the Vista Dining Room. We got to know our servers (Putu and Eke) and wine steward well, and we have nothing but high praise for the three of them, as well as for Muji, who was made the table assignments. Since we are not buffet fans, we rarely ate in the Lido, though the few times we did use it we were happy with it. Except for three nights at the Pinnacle Grill (one of which was the special Cirque meal), we dined in the Vista. We also had several lunches there. We took some meals in our room -- breakfast always arrived on time, and if you order during the lunch hour, you can order your lunch off of the Vista Dining Room menu, which is generally a much more interesting selection than the standard room service menu. We liked the food! We found it imaginative and well-presented. We especially liked the soups. The cold fruit-soups were among the most delicious I've tasted, and HAL chefs know how to create a great stock for their hot soups that was never greasy nor overly salty. There were nights where I skipped an appetizer or salad and settled for two different soups, instead, before I headed onto the main course. Desserts were well-presented, but I am such an ice cream enthusiast, that I am probably not the best judge of these: most nights, I settled for some variant of ice cream and chocolate syrup. That said, I've noticed that no matter whether it is a luxury, premium, or mass market cruise ship, the Cruise Critic reviews seem to show the widest divergence on the subject of food. Yes, there were people we met on board who complained about the food, though it was hard to pin down why they disliked something that we found so enjoyable. I think it is fair to say that HAL dinner menus try to be more international than many Americans are used to, and they try to include a few items that are aimed at "foodies" along with items that are more mainstream if not downright comfort food. Vista Dining Room menus, therefore, included everything from duck pate with caviar to meatloaf with gravy. I think that most can generally find what they want, but, of course, it will never compete with a five-star restaurant in a major world city nor will it ever satisfy the folks who are frustrated with the international focus of many of their menus. I mentioned dining at the Pinnacle. The steaks we had were excellent -- exactly what you'd expect at a fine steakhouse. Their onion soup was big disappointment to me, but I suppose that's not primarily why one dines at a steakhouse. The Cirque was also very good and probably worth the extra money we paid for it. We are not a good source of information concerning the entertainment on board. The few times we went to the Vista Lounge showroom what we saw was fair-to-OK, but since didn't see all that many shows, it is probably unfair to pass judgments. The Adagio String Quartet, however, is another matter. Noordam's version of it included classical musicians from Moldova, and they were wonderful. They held forth each night in the Explorer's Lounge (where they offer free chocolates and the encouragement to buy a cognac or a liqueur). They developed quite a following, and the attendance kept growing each night to the point where it started to get a bit crowded. They also did a few special performances in the Queen's Lounge. What a deliciously civilized experience! I hope that this group appears on future HAL cruises. The days included lectures (on subjects such as astronomy and the explorations of the New World), and the card room and game rooms and the Explorer's Cafe were well attended. I would have liked more lecture options. In short, this is a cruise that would appeal to people who enjoy reading, good conversation, meeting interesting people (most retirees), dancing, eating good food, and the magic of watching the ocean as one crosses the Atlantic. Those who want lots of physical activity and lots of parties will be disappointed. The passengers were mostly people 60 and over, but there were some younger couples. Very few children, but then you don't expect to see school-aged children on a cruise in October. A few final observations: HAL ships all have a wonderful teak promenade deck. Three laps around the deck equals one mile. Lots of us took advantage of this. The ship's business office was willing to exchange dollars for euros at the day's official rate of exchange. That is much cheaper than using the ATM machines in port to get euros, where there is always an additional transaction fee. One big question before we cruised was what the weather and the sea would be like on a transatlantic crossing in late October. The weather was typically in the 70's and occasionally low 80's -- very comfortable, in other words, though rather breezy. On most days, we were able to sit on our veranda. I'm told, however, that sometimes the temperature can get colder than that. On two of the days, there were significant waves (20-foot high, I believe), mainly due to some distant remnants of Hurricane Sandy. We never felt queasy, but we did have to be careful walking around the ship since things were rather rocky. On several occasions they closed off access to the outside decks as a safety measure. When we booked this cruise, we opted for a port-side stateroom. Since we were heading west across the Atlantic, our veranda faced south/southeast, which meant that it had more exposure to the sun. When we were in port, it made very little difference. In some cases, the view from the port-side was actually better than the starboard view. In others, it made no difference because the cruise terminal was in an industrialized area where the only "view" was of cargo containers. I appreciate the fact that HAL is a cruise line that doesn't keep bombarding you with intrusive public address announcements. It's nice to be treated like an adult. Every day, they put a bulletin of events and notices in every stateroom. Once a day the captain and cruise directors would come on to update us on the progress of the cruise and to highlight a few things. Even then, the announcements were in the public areas and hallways. One's stateroom was generally a sanctuary free from public address announcements. Several websites warned folks about being on the lookout for pickpockets at some of the ports we were visiting. For the first time, I tried using a money belt (I wound up getting Rick Steeves' Money Belt from Amazon), and I found it very convenient for safely holding euros and credit cards. Complaints? 1. The folks at the Spa did not seem to exude the same level of friendliness and warmth that we felt from others on board. They Spa is run as a concession, and that may have something to do with this perception. Still, we enjoyed using it. I used the thermal suite, and my wife and I both had messages. 2. Since many new people were boarding the ship after the first 7 days, we had to go through a second lifeboat drill, even though we had been through one just a week earlier. That's not the end of the world, and to HAL's credit, they do take attendance, but it seemed odd that they couldn't find a way to require it only of those who were new to the ship. 3. Like many others who have posted reviews on Cruise Critic, we, too, were put off by the stench of cigarette smoke as one walked through the Casino. Since it is midship on Deck 2, it is hard to avoid walking through there when you are on Deck 2. There were some non-smoking tables in the Casino, by the way, but I don't think that helps much. HAL bans smoking in the staterooms, but allows it on one's veranda. That, too, can be unpleasant. I wish that HAL would ban smoking on the verandas. In sum, this was a wonderful, professionally run cruise on a beautiful ship. While we were on board, we booked another cruise on the Noordam. I supposed that's probably the most ringing endorsement one can offer . . . . Read Less
Sail Date: October 2012
This was our second trans Atlantic cruise and third cruise on Holland America. We enjoy repositioning cruises because of the number of sea days and avoiding the long flight home. We had spent 17 days in Italy, 7 in Florence and 10 in ... Read More
This was our second trans Atlantic cruise and third cruise on Holland America. We enjoy repositioning cruises because of the number of sea days and avoiding the long flight home. We had spent 17 days in Italy, 7 in Florence and 10 in Rome. We decided to use the HAL transfer from Rome to Civitvecchia. We took a cab from our apartment near Trevi Fountain to the Visconti Place because it was raining. The transfer was seamless. Once we left our bags at the bus pickup we did not see them until later in the afternoon in our room. Since we arrived early we had a chance to walk in the neighborhood and have a coffee and sweet roll at a nearby cafe. Embarkation was smooth. We left Rome at 11:30 AM and were at the port at about 1:00 PM. Within 15 minutes of arrival we had dropped our carryon in our cabin, and were having lunch in the Lido. We have sailed on the Zaandam to Alaska and Neuiw Amsterdam on the transatlantic crossing last year. The Noordam is comparable to the Zaandam; slightly larger and a little bit older. I had absolutely no issues with cleanliness or upkeep. The staff was gracious and helpful, and our room stewards did a great job. We were doing a collectors voyage, 7 days in the eastern Med and 14 transatlantic. We did stops in Livorno, Monaco, Barcelona, Sardinia and Palermo, Sicily. We were supposed to stop in Tunisia, but this stop was cancelled due to political unrest. We stopped in Sardinia instead. I was disappointed, because one of reasons we choose the seven day cruise was the chance to stop in Tunisia. Since we had just spent 7 days in Florence we opted for a DIY trip to Pisa. We followed the directions in Rick Steves' Cruise Guide book. We took a shuttle to the center of Livorno and the bus to Pisa. It was an interesting bus ride. We were let off in the center of Pisa. We ate lunch and took a cab to the Tower. It was cool and rainy, but we spent some time exploring the area. We found a cafe with internet and had a coffee while we caught up on the e-mail. We took a bus back to the center of Pisa, took the train back to Livorno, bus to city center and shuttle back to the ship. We took no organized tours of any of the ports. Our plan was to explore the city. We went to the Picasso Museum in Barcelona and Malaga. We enjoyed Alicante, Malaga, Cadiz, Funchal. We did not enjoy Palermo, but other people on ship said they enjoyed Palermo. Maybe it was because we were there on a Sunday, and we did no organized tours. We ate almost all our meals in the Lido. We ate one lunch and one dinner in the Main dining room. After 21 days the food was getting a little repetitive. On the whole it was good food. I learned that you could have steak or lamb grilled to order, so I was able to get the meat medium rare. However, we were amazed to talk to someone who did not realize until day 10 that there was a poached egg station for breakfast and Asian food station on the right hand side of the Lido. The Canneletto Restaurant now has a $10 up charge. Since we had been eating good Italian food for 17 days, we skipped it. We also did not eat at the Pinnacle. The entertainment was average. However, we enjoyed the trivia contests. There was social bridge and instruction in the morning and duplicate in the afternoon. We played social bridge and skipped the duplicate. The passenger mix was about half Americans, 1/4 Canadian and the remainder various European. There about 1750 passengers and 15 children who sometimes were seen and seldom heard. The crossing was smooth for the most part. We had two rough days, but nothing compared to the near hurricane force winds and high seas we had the previous year. We are planning a South American repositioning cruise next with HAL Read Less
Sail Date: October 2012
As opposed to some of the other reviews I read on this cruise there's only one or two negative comments I can say about this boat. I read how the food was terrible (these people clearly don't know food) I read the entertainment ... Read More
As opposed to some of the other reviews I read on this cruise there's only one or two negative comments I can say about this boat. I read how the food was terrible (these people clearly don't know food) I read the entertainment was terrible (these people clearly don't know entertainment). Its clear to me, that the British look for small minuscule things to complain about rather then take in the beauty of something great. This cruise was perfect. I went with my parents and we had a great time. I would definitely recommend getting the deluxe veranda suite for the most pleasurable experience. The extra room definitely helps especially for a longer cruise like this one. The food was wonderful, we sat in the vista lounge all but one night for dinner. The food in the Lido deck was always well put together however it seems like every time we went (breakfast lunch or dinner) there was always lines! This, like many other cruises was great because there is more food then you can imagine! The other aspect that was great is that I got to see allot of different places in the world without flying from country to country. There was only two days at sea but plenty of time for relaxation. It wasn't an obnoxious loud boat with screaming children it was quiet and well, perfect! The other part of the cruise which we did NOT like was that allot of what the website says does contradict the actual polices on board. For example, it says on the website if you buy a 250$ beverage card there are no service charges or taxes to pay. Quite the opposite, the deal may look good buying a 250$ beverage card for 200$ is saving 50$ however you pay 15% tax every time you use the card! This alone is one MAJOR defect of this cruise line (not the ship) The staff were all wonderful except some of the cooks on the Lido deck who allot of times seemed quite miserable. However the manager in our section in the Vista lounge took extra special care of us the entire time! Another disappointing part of the room was that despite the massive size of our balcony, the front desk would NOT give us lounge chairs! Why have all that space and not be allowed to have a lounger? We loved the people, we loved the ports, and we will definitely be using Holland America again! I can go on and on about many other great things about this ship but all in all, there is not much to complain about! We had an amazing time. Read Less
Sail Date: October 2012
First i must say we have never cruised before and didn't really know what to expect. We choose the cruise primarily for the itinerary and style/size of ship. The pick-up at the airport was a little disorganised in that the ... Read More
First i must say we have never cruised before and didn't really know what to expect. We choose the cruise primarily for the itinerary and style/size of ship. The pick-up at the airport was a little disorganised in that the representatives walked very fast losing people along the way with no instructions given for where to pick-up the coach. The luggage was gathered together and left unattended in the terminal - worrying. However when we boarded the ship there were no delays and we were made to feel welcome - although a welcome drink would have been nice. The overall impression of the ship (approx. 2000 passengers)was stylishly classic and our cabin was fine with a good sized balcony. The food and drink - another priority for us - was generally very good with far too much available and there was lots of choice. The main Vista restaurant served very good four course meals in a semi-formal setting; we had opted for anytime dining which meant pot-luck with size of table and we met lots of nice new people. The Lido - the only other restaurant with no cover charge - was an informal buffet, again with lots of choice. The crew were generally friendly and helpful and cabin stewards were very good. Some of the waiters/servers were obviously lacking training and were not up to hospitality standards and a few in the Lido were very off-hand. We did not bother with any excursions- we prefer to do our own thing and the excursion prices were extortionate.The ship provided extremely good info/maps about each port.The drinks were not too expensive and we were allowed to bring wine on-board to consume in the cabin. The Pool areas were good with plenty of loungers available and all the bars were very attractive and relaxing. We only managed to get to one show as the times always seemed to clash with evening meal times for us - the 'Los Vegas' show was good if a little dated. So overall we enjoyed our cruise very much with a few minor irritations. If and when we cruise again we will definitely try a different cruise line - probably an all inclusive as the tips, drinks and service charges soon add up. Read Less
Sail Date: October 2012
Getting on board was easy as can be. We were really happy with that. No queues and in we went. Our room was in the open way between the stairs to Lido food and the lifts. I thought from a previous review this area was a balcony problem and ... Read More
Getting on board was easy as can be. We were really happy with that. No queues and in we went. Our room was in the open way between the stairs to Lido food and the lifts. I thought from a previous review this area was a balcony problem and also not sure I would be happy with the room being where it was. Turned out I had nothing to worry about. Room was great and the water being washed in the evenings over the side up top did come into our balcony every evening. But no complaints. It was a great spot to be in and considering my husband catching a flu bug only a few days out it turned out for the better. I didn't find the bed very comfortable at all but my husband thought it was just ok. The bed in Rome was hard as a board so I guess anything was better. There was a gastro thing going around the ship and I think they handled it just wonderfully. The crew had the added task of serving out the portions but gave me piece of mind. Our first night we tried eating in the Vista dining and it wasn't too good. I was seated in the back and right on top of the engine shafts?? So the food I ate turned in my stomach. Never was so glad to leave that table. We tried one more night and then with hubby sick we ended up eating quiet meals in a corner in the Lido. Kind of sad cause the food was kind of sad too. Very repetitive. Both sides of the Lido served food but not the same thing. So I never even knew there was an egg benedict area till the last day! I did however enjoy an italian night where the food was really enjoyable. There was seating outside but if you went all the way to the back your food was cold in a heartbeat. And if you were up close well then you had to eat cigarette smoke with your food. We did however have a couple meals towards the second cruise which was Pinnacle and then Le Cirque. They were of course just lovely. Our first night was on a formal night though. So we had to change it after we showed up not dressed for it. Quite disappointing. I can understand Vista dining formal but not Pinnacle as well. The steward who came to us was quite uppity and that didn't set to well. I suppose if I had one complaint it would be the smoking. Cigarettes and cigars everywhere. We couldn't even get away from it on our own balcony. Not one time could I sit outside and just enjoy the air without smoke. After being in Rome for a couple days before we boarded and sucking all the cigarette smoke there it was rather disappointing to have to constantly walk into it on the ship. The information you get each night about what goes on the next day in port was pretty good. However, it really could be just a tad more open about the difficulties of queues and maybe they could also remind people of how you queue. As in go to the end and not jump in. There was a never ending problem with this and it was everywhere! We didn't get to see Tunisia which was a huge disappointment for me. I was a bit over Italy and Greece and really wanted to touch down in North Africa. Because of the Utube video and violence that port was cancelled. However, Holland gave us a free cookbook for the change and the gastro with the super clean they needed to do. It was an awesome book and I thought that was pretty cool of them to do. we would also get bags to take on shore to put things in. Great quality and again so unexpected but wow...pretty cool. I learned a lot about Italy and Greece. The ancient and the old. And yes you must have comfortable walking shoes cause you do so much walking on constantly changing surfaces and very rarely are they foot friendly! I thought the shuttles were great as we did not book any excursions due to cost. We can always find our own way of seeing things and the hop on hop off buses are really pretty good. Sometimes it was even information overload and I'd have to pull out the earplugs. But we thought it was really an excellent way to see more of an area then you could possibly do walking it. As for the crew I found them tired. Surprised to learn they work 7 days a week explained that one. Should passengers be aware of that though...I don't think so. We had a great room steward though due to so few staff we didn't get to see him much. Would we sail with Hal again, I think so. We have a couple more cruises coming up and one is another different cruise line. All cruise lines have their good side and their not so good side. But then that does depend on what you are wanting or expecting I suppose. For me, quality of food and things to do on board and the shops I like. I am beginning to find that the programs offered on ships is pretty much the same which is a little bit sad. Also, if there are not enough restaurants to choose from even though you might have to pay extra that can be frustrating. What was available on the Noordam for shopping from the beginning was like all the larger sizes were gone. It was low on stock which was really disappointing. Or stock that didn't even pertain to our double cruise. Kind of weird but again I have seen on other ship lines too. She is a beautiful ship. We have done the Alaska cruise with HAL and it was great. Food was better. All in all...it was pretty good. Nothing is like home is it. But it was pretty good. We also used the laundry bags as they don't provide washers and dryers. Now it cost us $192 which yeah for 17 days is a lot. But let me tell you I used it EVERY day and was happy to pay for it I must admit. Having to wash clothes on a cruise is not to my liking. I don't want to cook, clean, laundry or anything like home. And our clothes returned quickly and nicely done I might add. My only negative for this cruise would be food quality in the buffet area and smoking. Other than that it was ok. It's a very physical cruise and strongly recommend if you are not young and fit...pick the spring or fall. But definitely not summer. Happy sailing...Carrie Read Less
Sail Date: September 2012
It may be somewhat of a shock for readers to read a less than perfect review of this ship following other glowing reports listed on this site so I will try to be totally honest and fair regarding our recent trip on the Noordam. Our ... Read More
It may be somewhat of a shock for readers to read a less than perfect review of this ship following other glowing reports listed on this site so I will try to be totally honest and fair regarding our recent trip on the Noordam. Our arrival at Leonardo Di Vinci airport was less than inspiring we dragged our cases out and had to follow someone in and out of the crowds in the terminal, dragging our cases a considerable distance over uneven and cobbled pavement to a rather large and scruffy lorry with two burly and menacing loader/drivers. after which we were led back to a rather busy and very dirty sweaty cafeteria and told to wait for the next shuttle bus (we chose to wait outside the terminal) arrival at the terminal was quick and efficient and we were on board within and estimated 20 minutes or less. The ship to be fair is fitted out to a Very High standard and oozes class at every turn and is maintained to a very high & comfortable standard both in furniture and cleanliness. The cabin we occupied was spacious and contained a small bath which was very pleasing, but one word of warning - if the description is that the view may be wholly or partially obscured by life boat - it pretty much means that you will get a fair amount of natural light but not much else, the only way my wife could look out was if she stood on the (very comfortable) bed and braced herself against my shoulders. The staff for the most part are attentive, friendly, and mostly helpful (unless you have only just missed the breakfast line deadline in the Lido). The only other issue we had in the Lido was the slowness at times of removal of dirty plates when supervisory staff were absent in addition to the usual less than good natured "Scrum" at busy times of the day. The problem we experienced after having traveled with many other cruise lines was the generally poor quality & level of entertainment on this particular cruise. With the exception of an opera singer on one night, and an excellent Guitarist another the entertainment was something that you would have expected to have experienced maybe 15 to 20 years ago on one of the cheaper middle range ships, on occasions it was very obvious that some of the performers where miming during the performance which could go someway to explain why this beautiful auditorium was at best only about a 3rd full every night for the duration of the cruise. The poor experience in the Theatre was compounded by the total absence of any atmosphere around the ship later in the evening that just cannot be explained by age and gender. Every other cruise I have been on without exception has had a lively and friendly atmosphere through to the early morning but the Noordam was like a ghost ship from 10.30pm onwards. We commented on this on a customer feedback form half way through the cruise and duly received a telephone call the following day from the Cruise Director Shane who, after we had expressed our concerns, more or less told us that we were entitled to our opinions and left us with a closing statement to "try and enjoy the rest of our cruise as much as you are able to"! The food generally was of a good quality with the exception of a few nights and the waiting staff were found to be quick and attentive in the main Vista Restaurant(even if the wine waiter was less than attentive to my wife's needs as she was unable to consume alcohol for the most part). We had one waiter that made the extra effort and entertained the table with card tricks and meal end towards the end of the cruise which was much appreciated and significantly more entertaining than most of the shows on offer. The trips where found to be expensive in the extreme and my advice would be to arrange your own(a number of people cancelled theirs after one and rather poor experience which cost them a handling charge of 10% on all the trips booked which rather added insult to injury). Our overall experience was not great - I enjoyed the comfort provided by the ship - met some great people and never (apart from the Lido at times) felt cramped but the ship just did not have anywhere near the level of atmosphere compared to previous many cruises taken with other much cheaper cruise lines. There is much more I could say but feel that enough is enough - needless to say that it is very unlikely that we will book with Holland America again based on our recent experience as we believe that we just didn't get the experience we were expecting or value for money. Read Less
Sail Date: August 2012
Professional and a Wonderful Cruise on MS Noordam My wife and I were looking for a European vacation / holiday and I wanted to go to Santorini, and booked through AMEX Travel, luckily we got the Perfect Trip, 9.8 out of 10, on our ... Read More
Professional and a Wonderful Cruise on MS Noordam My wife and I were looking for a European vacation / holiday and I wanted to go to Santorini, and booked through AMEX Travel, luckily we got the Perfect Trip, 9.8 out of 10, on our 16th Cruise, and we definitely found that excellence, service and quality on the MS Noordam Roman Empire Cruise. This was the sixteenth time cruising for the both of us, all I can say is nice job, professional, top drawer, comfortable, first class but fun fun fun, lots to do, a very highly trained staff, that were always very polite and courteous, and could not do enough for you. Pinnacle Grill: Perfect and Great Food and Presentation: Staff: Sebastiaan Van Elk Manager, and Homor Mario Waiter: were wonderful polished, I mean wonderful and one of the nicest restaurants that I have ever enjoyed, and we ate at the Pinnacle Grill 8 nights on our cruise. The cost is additional, for the Pinnacle Grill is $25.00 per person 5 star ***** but well worth it don't miss this. The waiters, servers, and all staff in the Pinnacle Grill are very polished and attentive. They do it right, every moment of your dinner is an excellent experience and believe me it was. If you have the chance I would check out the Pinnacle Grill, if you have the budget it is worth it !! Marc the Bartender at Lido Pool Bar was truly professional and great person. My observations about the Noordam: The crew on the Noordam was highly trained, and they are continually are having Safety Drills when docked. Cleanliness, and Health & Safety is Priority One they are unbelievable. I can not express how attentive they are and how quickly they attempt to assist you. I am a good tipper,they are very nice polite about Tipping there is a Standard Tipping fee that each person pays over the course of the cruise, I was sure to add to that because of the totally amazing service. We rented local Taxi's and did our own tours, Dubrovnik: first time there shocked how beautiful it is, Corfu: was there twice 35 years ago Pelekas Beach wonderful even after 35 years, gorgeous, Katakolon: wonderful, Santorini: Amazing the highlight of the trip the reason we booked this cruise, Kusadasi (Ephesus): Take a ship tour, the Turks are very aggressive leaves women and shoppers uncomfortable, beautiful place, need to tune it down: Athens: been there 3 times wonderful but the first place in Greece the economy is showing Graffiti every where except Tourist Areas; I loved Athens, but the economy and it is hurting and the graffiti need a clean up, Messina: All excellent. The Captain I believe is Dutch, the crew is very professional, although I did not meet the Captain, although invited twice. Wanted a quiet relaxing holiday, hot sunshine, tan and enjoy all the sites. The staff is great, never had any issues, little water leak in room, taken care of without incident, the Noordam of Holland America was recommended by AMEX, and was and is a great ship with a great crew I wouldn't hesitate to vacation again with the MS Noordam Word of Mouth. Read Less
Sail Date: August 2012
What an experience. We flew from New Zealand to Rome with a one day stop over in Hong Kong to break the flight. Because we had been to Rome before we just explored on foot (very tourist unfriendly place). We decided to rough it and get ... Read More
What an experience. We flew from New Zealand to Rome with a one day stop over in Hong Kong to break the flight. Because we had been to Rome before we just explored on foot (very tourist unfriendly place). We decided to rough it and get the metro out to Civitavecchia which was a big mistake, but after 4 train changes (dragging luggage behind us) and one instance of being stuck in a small lift, we finally made it four hours later. The moment we stepped onto the Noordam, all the stress was gone, she was BEAUTIFUL! The itinerary was fabulous, we visited some amazing ports and did 5 ship excursions, otherwise we wandered around near the port or went swimming at a beach(it was extremely hot). The food was simply magnificent. We dined in both the formal restaurant and the lido (buffet), and twice went to the Pinnacle grill which just blew our socks off!! Lunch at lido was very good especially the tasty little deserts and king prawn and crab leg days. Entertainment was average, but on a port intensive cruise like this, it didn't really matter, because we had fairly early nights for early starts the next day. However, Diane in the Piano bar was fabulous. Best bar on the ship! We subscribed for the thermal room and hydro pool extra, which was well and truly worth it, and great to relax after a hot, busy day sightseeing. We had a free upgrade from outside cabin to veranda state room, which was ideal and spent many hours drinking bourbon in the evening on our own veranda and reflecting on the day we had just had. All the staff were lovely, friendly and very attentive. The only thing I could criticise is that on a 20 night cruise they had 6 formal nights which we thought was absolute overkill. We would have made the effort twice, but really couldn't be bothered getting glammed up 6 times and we noticed many others didn't bother either. It was a pity because formal night could have been very special, but it was watered down with too many. HAL is certainly my cruise line of choice now, and I will be seeking out HAL cruises in the future. Read Less
Sail Date: August 2012
This was our first cruise. We went with our two young children (boys: 7 and 4) and their grandparents, who are seasoned cruisers. I have never considered myself a cruiser; in fact, I was probably somewhat opposed to it prior to this ... Read More
This was our first cruise. We went with our two young children (boys: 7 and 4) and their grandparents, who are seasoned cruisers. I have never considered myself a cruiser; in fact, I was probably somewhat opposed to it prior to this cruise. We are experienced travelers and understand the challenges that come with traveling with kids, especially on a multiple-leg journey. Going on this Noordam cruise was great, first and foremost, because of the ports and sites we visited, allowing us to sample a bunch of locations in a two week period. Some ports we loved and will plan on going back to (Dubrovnik, for example) and others we consider one and done. I was also pleasantly surprised at the ease with which we were able to see so many places without the hassle of checking in and out of hotels and the associated transit and packing/unpacking. It is now safe to say that we are cruise converts. The HAL ship was in great shape, the staff was superb, and the food was good. The demographics leaned older, as is expected, but there were enough kids to make it fun--especially at one of the pools. All in all a big thumbs up (flying from SFO to Rome and back with a 4 year old is a whole other story. Ouch!:-) Read Less
Sail Date: August 2012
We booked a Deluxe Veranda Suite through HAL and arrived at Civitavecchia around 2:00 PM for embarkation. We opted to take Italian rail from Rome at a little over 5 Euros each rather than the exhorbitant rates charged for transfer by HAL. ... Read More
We booked a Deluxe Veranda Suite through HAL and arrived at Civitavecchia around 2:00 PM for embarkation. We opted to take Italian rail from Rome at a little over 5 Euros each rather than the exhorbitant rates charged for transfer by HAL. The Civitavecchia train station is about a five minute walk from the port entrance, and there is a free shuttle from the port entrance to the ship. Absolutely no wait at embarkation, so we walked right onboard. Our stateroom was immaculate and was kept that way for the entire ship, our stewards were superb. The condition of the ship was excellent and was spotless and well maintained throughout. The staff at the Neptune Lounge were always helpful, especially after my cruise partner had her luggage lost courtesy of US Airways. US Airways, BTW, made almost no effort to reunite her with her luggage until Athens when the cruise was almost finished. The girls in the Neptune Lounge however were great and loaned her clothing and personal items from spares they had in stock and kept on US Air in an attempt to get her luggage to the ship ASAP. The ports of call were all very good, except Katakolon. We opted not to go to Olympia since the time devoted to it and it's size and condition seemed to not be worth the trip. Dubrovinik was extremely crowded with two ships in port, but was ok otherwise. Corfu was nice, Santorini nice but Oia I found to be kitschy. Ephesus is magnificent and a must see. For $240 we had a private tour guide, private vehicle and received a personal tour of Ephesus, Mary's house, Terrace Houses,the Ephesus museum, ruins of the Cathedral of St. John and Temple of Artemis, Mosque and lunch topped off by coffee at the home of our tour guide, Bulent Orkus. This was about the same price as the HAL tour. The private tour was worth every cent. Athens is all about the Akropolis. The Plaka is mostly a tourist trap, but has some nice areas off the pedestrian zones. Messina was an afterthought. It was a feast day in Messina and we left just as it was staring, Palermo would be a better stop. Time would not be an issue if they eliminated Katakolon and Olympia. Local transportation between the ship and towns/attractions were at least one tenth of the price of the HAL shuttles at the port. I cannot see why anyone would use the HAL shuttles when the local transportation at all ports of call were adequate. The ship's staff were all extremely courteous and helpful, which is one of the reasons we have been faithful HAL customers. The food on the other hand, has steadily deteriorated over the past few years and is now simply unacceptable. Some items that are braised are excellent, such as the osso bucco. The lobster served with the surf and turf was inedible. The filet was tasteless and poorly cooked. The food at the Lido trough was mediocre at best and atrocious at worst. I am not overly picky, but I do expect good quality food. Pinnacle Grill food was quite good except for the steak Diane which was doused with way too much brandy and not "cooked out". The dining room staff worked hard, but it appeared that not enough staff were serving too many tables. IMHO HAL has tried to keep costs down by cutting back on food quality, quantity and the amount of wait staff. The celebrity chefs who attach their names to the HAL menu really need to make an inspection tour and see what is coming out of the kitchen. Disembarkation went smoothly without any problem. We will not be sailing with HAL in the future. This is entirely due to the poor quality of the food. This is unfortunate as the staff and maintenance of the ship are outstanding. We have noticed the quality of the food deteriorating over a period of several years, so we believe that it was not an aberration, but more indicative of cost saving measures by HAL. We would not be averse to modest increases in prices if food quality was not sacrificed. It is time we checked out Seabourne Read Less
Noordam Ratings
Category Editor Member
Cabins 4.0 4.3
Dining 4.0 4.0
Entertainment 4.0 3.5
Public Rooms 4.0 4.4
Fitness Recreation 3.0 3.8
Family 2.0 3.8
Shore Excursion 3.0 3.6
Enrichment 4.0 3.6
Service 4.0 4.3
Value For Money 3.0 3.9
Rates 4.0 4.3

Find a Noordam Cruise

Easily compare prices from multiple sites with one click
Compare and book excursions for your next cruise