Sail Date: July 2013
Wanted to see the Med. The Captain, John Scott, was the friendliest and most personable one ever. The staff went out of their way to make us feel special. The ship was brand new, and everything was just pristine. We had a balcony for ... Read More
Wanted to see the Med. The Captain, John Scott, was the friendliest and most personable one ever. The staff went out of their way to make us feel special. The ship was brand new, and everything was just pristine. We had a balcony for the first time, and were kept up to date with the islands and shores we were passing. The entertainment was excellent, and the comedians were really really funny. My husband loved the Captain's coffee hour each day at sea, and got to know him very well. He shared funny stories about his history as a ship's captain, including some really good ones about herding sheep and a shop steward. I will not say more. The cooks let us show them how to make real Cajun gumbo, and meals were very good and I loved the Tuscany excursion to the Wine Country, made me want to move there. I did quite a lot of excursions, and I found you don't have to be on the really expensive ones to have a great excursion. Care has been taken by HAL to have the best excursions available. I recommend highly the back to back eastern and western Med cruises out of Rome. Read Less
Sail Date: July 2013
This was our 5th and last cruise with HAL. From the moment we arrived in Barcelona to be met by a porter with no English (The HAL rep was 20 minutes late) and a taxi driver who could not find his cab in the airport car park we should have ... Read More
This was our 5th and last cruise with HAL. From the moment we arrived in Barcelona to be met by a porter with no English (The HAL rep was 20 minutes late) and a taxi driver who could not find his cab in the airport car park we should have realised this was a sign of things to come!!! The HAL ***** hotel was not conveniently located, had a trainee receptionist who took 20 minutes to check us in and out (rendering some else's bill in the process). The bathroom fittings were hanging off the wall. Our fist night in our Superior Verandah Suite was spoilt by flooding from the pool valve. No plan of action just a blower in our cabin for 5 days. $300 in compensation for living in a jet engine. Service everywhere was lacking and not what we are used to, cabin not made up in a timely manner, 10-15 minutes to get a drink in the bars and by the pool, tables not cleared in the Lido, no coffee or tea trolley on the pool deck and in the Lido. HAL has always been fanatical about hygine, but no longer! The hand wash stations were mostly unsupervised and many times people entered public areas, restaraunts and returned to the ship with out sanitising their hands. Fortunately the ports on the trip were great and we really enjoyed the land experience. Tour guides on HAL organised excursions particularly in Spain, France and Italy left a lot to be desired. English was definitely a second language and in some cases almost a mystery. The insistence on the shopping experience was extremely annoying especially on tours that specified shopping as optional at the tours end. We gave up being polite and simply returned to the ship on our own and we were not alone in doing so. We have always enjoyed the Pinnacle Grille, well no longer. Staff cuts were also evident here, the service was terrible and on one occasion we weren't offered desserts or coffees simply rendered the bill. The night HAL paid for in compensation for some of our experiences was the same and it took 5 days and many requests to have the charge credited. HAL have obviously severely cut staff in all areas and this shows in lack of service and no attention to detail. The crew, what there is of it, worked their butts off but could not match the previous HAL service. The Officers were extremely stand offish and obviously did not want to converse with the passengers. Maybe too many complaints? The show were at best ammeter and poorly presented in most cases. The sound technician in the theatre seemed to have a hearing problem as the volume was set to high even for talks and presentations. Oh well Celebrity for Christmas and Princess for South America in Feb 14, hopefully these will live to expectation and not disappoint as badly as HAL.   Read Less
Sail Date: July 2013
My wife and twin 10 y/o girls had a great time on the Noordam. We started in Barcelona and ended in Rome. Our cabin was a Neptune Suite 7081 which we took as a last minute upgrade. Great room, great service and we enjoyed the services of ... Read More
My wife and twin 10 y/o girls had a great time on the Noordam. We started in Barcelona and ended in Rome. Our cabin was a Neptune Suite 7081 which we took as a last minute upgrade. Great room, great service and we enjoyed the services of the Neptune Lounge. We arrived in Barcelona and spent our first night at the Majestic Hotel which I would recommend for location and service. The next day we got on the ship late in the day and there was no line and no waiting for our bags which showed up in our room about 20 minutes after we did. The ship was staying in port over night. The next day we took a ship tour to Sitges beach about 45 minutes south of the city. Very nice day at the beach. Food - We had room service just about every morning for breakfast which showed up on time and only once did they forget an item. The food in the Lido was good and we I never had a problem with lines or finding a table. But we never had breakfast there and most of our lunches were off the ship. We did have dinner in the Lido one night. In the MDR I found the main dishes most very good and we had a different menu every night of the cruise. I thought the desserts were average at best. No problems with service. Shows - I went to 3-4 shows and thought they were all well done and short - 45 minutes which was perfect for me and the family after a busy day.We had 3 sea days, two planned and one when we could not get into Monaco because of weather. On those days I used they gym which has plenty of bikes, treadmills etc. The weight area is a little small and should be expanded. Also, I don't think they should charge $12 extra for a yoga or spin class. The kids pool was fine but there were some crazy kids pushing each other and running around and Holland America should have someone to police them besides me. My kids were getting knocked around and it made them leave the pool. My kids did love Club Hal and I have to give credit to the staff there b/c they have not always enjoyed Club Hal on other cruises. On the last day we choose to carry our own bags off the ship. They only give you a 15 minute window and the elevators did not go down to the floor we were to get off so everyone had to carry their bags down the last flight of steps. Otherwise, no problem getting off ship. We liked the ship and Holland America and this was a great cruise. Read Less
1 Helpful Vote
Sail Date: June 2013
We were a group of 8 adults and none of us had sailed on Holland America before. We had one couple who had never gone on a cruise in our group. Our experience on HAL was excellent. Although the ship was continuing on a voyage that had ... Read More
We were a group of 8 adults and none of us had sailed on Holland America before. We had one couple who had never gone on a cruise in our group. Our experience on HAL was excellent. Although the ship was continuing on a voyage that had started in Egypt and had had problems with a gastro virus on board, when we boarded in Civitavecchia (Rome)the ship was immaculate and they followed every precaution regarding sanitization and food distribution until they were sure it was safe to return to normal protocol. The weather we had couldn't have been more perfect (no rain - 11 days!) and the itinerary was interesting, too. We were supposed to port in Tunisia, but that was changed to Sardinia and we didn't find out until we boarded. Our cabin was wonderful (VA8134). We were on the 8th level at the back of the ship. The views were stupendous, and, although I heard that the room could be noisy because the pool deck was above us, we were never bothered, even in the afternoon when there were lots of people up there. Our friends had the adjoining stateroom, so we had the steward open the connector on our verandahs so we could walk back and forth. It was a great experience. Our cabin service was top-notch, as were the services in all the food and dining areas. We ate at the Pinnacle Grill when they had Le Cirque night and the food and service were fantastic. We loved the staff celebrations of birthdays in the dining room! The menus were always varied and interesting and not one of our group had any complaints about the food at all. The entertainment onboard was surprisingly good, and the shows were terrific. We especially enjoyed the show put on by the Indonesian service staff, since we had become familiar with many of them, and it was exciting to see them perform rituals from their home country and share their heritage with us. The tour director was very engaging and personable, and the talks about the ports were informative and helpful. We chose to use private tour companies for our shore excursions and we were extremely happy and satisfied with all of them. I will try to review them separately on this site as well: Dark Rome Early Sistine Chapel Tour - we were in the Sistine Chapel with about only 15 other people! Rome Cabs (Roma Cabs)www.romecabs.com www.stefanorometours.com This company was EXCELLENT! We used them for airport/hotel and hotel/ship transfers as well as tours of Pisa/Florence and Amalfi/Ravello/Positano. The tours were geared to what we wanted to do, and we had our own, air-conditioned minivans. The drivers/guides were friendly, informative, and helpful, and they made our excursions exciting and meaningful. Dream Tours infos@dream-tours.com We used this company for Monaco/Monte Carlo/Nice/Eze/St. Paul de Vence (sp?) Another incredible, fact-filled, exciting tour. Definitely would use them again Smart Cruise Tours info@smartcruisetours.com Another exceptional company. We used them for tours in Marseille/Aix en Provence/Cassis and Palermo/Monreale/Mondello. Our tour guides were wonderful! We also booked the Uffizzi Gallery, Borghese Gallery, and Colosseum (with Hypogeum and upper tier) all online and had no problem accessing our tickets or getting into the venues. For Barcelona we used the hop-on hop-off bus and ended the day at Tablao Cordobes (www.tablaocordobes.com) for some tapas and sangria followed by an explosively exciting flamenco show! Getting on and off the ship was a breeze, and we used the ship's transfers to the airport at the end of the cruise with no problem. We had a fabulous time! A few negatives: We weren't happy with the excursion offerings on this cruise, with many of them being a bit on the expensive side and the rental of private vehicles through HAL was extremely prohibitive. We were sort of 'stuck' for our stop in Sardinia (Tunisia alternative) and spent the day on our own there. We also had a problem with our bathroom tub backing up, but HAL was quick to fix it (within two hours). Other cruises we've been on have always had 24-hour food service in the Lido. There were times when we returned from excursions that we would go up to the Lido deck only to find nothing available to eat or minimal offerings, at best, of what was left out by the pool. At night (after midnight) there was nothing available, not even cookies. We are used to sailing on Princess cruises, where food is always available on the Lido deck. That said, I would definitely sail on HAL again! Read Less
Sail Date: June 2013
I had planned this cruise for many months and love the Holland America line. This was my second cruise (first was Niew Amsterdam Caribbean cruise) with this line, and I highly recommend. Their service and excellent cuisine is very good. ... Read More
I had planned this cruise for many months and love the Holland America line. This was my second cruise (first was Niew Amsterdam Caribbean cruise) with this line, and I highly recommend. Their service and excellent cuisine is very good. There were several special GOURMET barbeques on deck where the chefs created Mediterranean cuisine on the grill--it was exceptional! There are daily digital workshops given twice a day, tea service, etc--all at no additional cost. They had a "Dancing with the Stars" competition which was different. Daily movies, behind the scenes tours never left you with a lack of activities. I felt their tours, which I took 3, were well run and worth the price. I did go with a group on a private taxi in Monte Carlo which worked out great, if you meet some others on the cruise who want to go together for the day in a port. My room stewards were always cheerful and very helpful with any requests. There was always fresh fruit and ice each day, which they asked when I arrived if I would like. The wait staff in the dining and other food venues were always quick and efficient. There was a food 'scare' when we first came onto the ship and the other passengers who'd been on the ship (it was a 30 day start to finish cruise)all had to leave while the crew thoroughly cleaned the ship. I don't know how they were able to do it so quickly, but they did. The crew continued to clean into the night. Their health and safety standards are excellent. Read Less
Sail Date: May 2013
The boarding of the ship in Istanbul went smoothly no long lines. Our cabin was ready as soon as we boarded we met our friendly cabin stewards and then headed to the Lido for lunch. On returning to our cabin after lunch to our surprise our ... Read More
The boarding of the ship in Istanbul went smoothly no long lines. Our cabin was ready as soon as we boarded we met our friendly cabin stewards and then headed to the Lido for lunch. On returning to our cabin after lunch to our surprise our luggage was already there so we unpacked an settled into ship board life. Our cabin was what we expected clean and comfortable. We had booked a VE gty and had an upgrade to VA (when we booked 9 months before we could not book any verandah category only gty on all levels) our cabin was on deck 8 towards the aft under the Sea View Deck. It was under the designated smoking area. This created a lot of chairs noise on our ceiling it was even louder if you were sitting out on the balcony. The noise could be from 5:30 am to anywhere after midnight. After not being able to get to sleep the first night my husband went down to find out what could be done as he could not put up with the situation for 32 more nights. The front office staff were excellent advised us that the cruise was fully booked but they will contact Seattle to see what could be done. 24hours later were advised we could have a cabin change at the end of the first. 11 day sector in Athens. The cabin was on the other side of the ship about 6 cabins further forward. We took the change of cabins it was still under Sea View Pool deck but it was much quieter we could sit out on the balcony without any noise as well. We were on a full day tour the day of change over we left our bags packed and clothes hanging in the wardrobe when we arrived back everything was moved across for us. We had breakfastat at the Lido, Main Dining room and Room Service. The Lido was good we loved the fresh orange juice. Our dining room experience was just ok we went a few times just to make sure we were not being biased. The service was not great my husband asked 4 times for a cup of tea. The orange juice was not fresh just a mix. Room service seemed a bit hit and miss a couple of things we ordered did not arrive one time, then another time it arrived at least 1/2 hour earlier than the requested time frame. Lunches were had in the Lido and a few burgers from the grill at all times found the food very good and the deserts just far to tempting. The selections of ice cream each day was wonderful. We had early assigned dinner had a great table for 6 looking out the aft window. The meals on the first 11days were just wonderful every night all at our table would say how good everything was. Unfortunately there was a notable difference in the quality, taste and tenderness in the meals for the rest of the cruise. This was a great disappointment to us. Some of the menus were repeated which we expected and were very happy about. I know food can be very subjective but I am comparing food choices from same menus over the 33 days. The entertainment was enjoyable the musical shows by the ship entertainers was excellent we particularly liked Droom. The guest entertainers were varied and tried to meet most people's needs. Some we thought we great some just ok but the ones we did not enjoy was probably due more to our own likes and dislikes than the quality of the performers. The captain and crew had to deal with a GI Virus for 15 of the 33 days we were aboard. The crew worked tirelessly sanitising everywhere for the cabin and cleaning crews it must have been exhausting. I can not praise everyone of the ships crew for the work they did during that time to try and get the Virus under control. Fortunately we did not get the bug. We took a 33 day Thermal Suite package but because of the GI Virus we could not use it for 15 days we were reimbursed pro rata days of non use. We really loved the Thermal Suite it was so relaxing after a long day in port. We had 2 port changes because of unrest. Port Said and Tunis we were pleased that HAL was thinking of passenger safety. We enjoyed every port we went to although we were shocked at how dirty and rubbish bound Egypt was. We did one ship tour in Egypt not brave enough to to a private tour. The tour we did was good. At all other ports did private tours with other CC members, shared taxis or used hop on hop off buses as well as using Rick Steve's Ports of call Mediterranean book. What we noticed was that the private tours were at least 1/2 the price of ships tours. We had a wonderful wonderful cruise and the small things that annoyed us will not stop us from cruising with Holland again What we will do different next booking is not take a cabin Gty we will only make a booking if we can pick a particular cabin. Read Less
Sail Date: May 2013
It may be un fortunate that this review is on a HAL cruise immediately after we completed one with Azamara - the comparison was not positive for Holland America and our Noordam cruise. Having cruised Panama Canal and South America in ... Read More
It may be un fortunate that this review is on a HAL cruise immediately after we completed one with Azamara - the comparison was not positive for Holland America and our Noordam cruise. Having cruised Panama Canal and South America in Veendam last year we knew basically what to expect with Holland America. Azamara Club Cruises was a new experience. The score? Azamara Journey Spice Route 10, Noordam Ancient Mysteries 6.There is no doubt that those who cruise to enjoy the cruise experience and the cultural aspects of places visited are better suited to a smaller ship rather than the glitz and glamour, all you can eat, on-board entertainment activities of the larger ones. Noordam is larger, it had the spit and polish, bigger showroom, larger casino, more bingo sessions but never the phrase "bigger is not necessarily better' been more apt.The positives? Embarkation at Athens was seamless and painless. Our dining and beverage stewards were wonderful. Excursions were well organised and the ship's overall appearance was as you'd expect. Some negatives: The hard sell. The first thing we were handed as we boarded the Noordam was a flyer on the spa and it's "special" offers along with some raffle tickets, not only for the spa but also the ship's shop (of course you had to attend at particular times to see if you won and when you didn't you were expected to buy something. Then there were the endless announcements and brochures, pamphlets etc about wine tasting (at a price), cocktail mixing (at a price), the art auctions, the cruise photos and DVDs, the tacky souvenir and other "cheapies" at special times in the shop and at others on the pool deck. Even the short but interesting look through the ship's kitchen ended at the specialty restaurant where you were urged to make a booking. It never stopped and became annoying.The Lido buffet: Long lines, constantly running out of food and other items (after lining up to self serve coffee or tea only to find out there were no mugs, the machine had broken down (again) and there was no milk anyhow and no one was around to care or do something about it). We eventually gave up the Lido and ate breakfast in the dining room.Food quality in the Lido not up to what we had experienced on our other cruises. In the main dining room the standard initially was good but seemed to drop in quality as the cruise progressed.Themed shows were good and the guest entertainers, apart from one - a so called comedian who was heckled from the floor before most of the audience left - were good but the cruise director was wooden and lacked personality.Clearly the bottom line is everything and HAL must be hurting . The ship seemed to be understaffed, there were shortages, there were noticeable short cuts and there was the "hard sell". The poor staff whose work loads were heavy were also under pressure and in fear of losing their jobs. It became embarrassing for them to virtually beg to be given a 9 rating and then for the cruise director in his disembarkation talk spend five minutes appealing for survey returns and the importance of 9s.And to top it all off, the morning of disembarkation when we got our on board account there was a note that as we had not specified how we would pay our account our disembarkation would be delayed until this was rectified. Thinking this strange as the account had my masked out credit card number at the top and knowing that we had signed the appropriate forms I went to the front office to "sort it out". After waiting in line for 20 minutes I was told "No sir- everything on your account is OK. That appears on all accounts!!!!" Knowing for a fact it didn't as we had a friend whose account had nothing of the sort my comment to the desk person was "That's another reason why we are very unlikely to ever travel Holland America again". That still stands. Read Less
Sail Date: May 2013
For the last 7 years or so the trend has been for the cruise lines to position their ships around the world, and visiting more international ports than ever before. Which can only be great for the traveler. Part of that trend, especially ... Read More
For the last 7 years or so the trend has been for the cruise lines to position their ships around the world, and visiting more international ports than ever before. Which can only be great for the traveler. Part of that trend, especially in the last 2 or 3 years is to also create multiple itineraries as part of one big trip! I think Holland America is leading the way.THE ITINERARYThe embarkation was painless.I embarked on an 11-day "Ancient Mysteries" cruise on May 17th, 2013 out of Istanbul. That day there were also people who were beginning a 22 days or 33 days cruise! You could have booked each 11 day segment by itself. The itinerary took us from Istanbul, along the Dardanelles pasageway, to Mykonos, to Kusadasi, Turkey, to Rhodes, an overnight in Alexandria, Egypt, then to Iraklion, Crete and finally to Athens. After I booked this segment I wondered why I didnt book the 22 days as this would have pretty much covered for me all the places Ive ever needed to visit. Now I need to go back and spent more money for just a few more ports. I do not know people's tolerance to be at sea for 33 days, but that itinerary would have covered all the ports for you might otherwise need 4 mediterrenean cruises. The overnight in Alexandria, Egypt was in lieu of a stop at Port Said that was cancelled by the cruise line for safety reasons.There were really 3 days at sea, going and coming out of Egypt, and the cruising thru the Dardanelles. Another thing I noticed was that on this particular trip I never saw the ship go faster than 14 knots. So it was very leisurely!THE SHIPWhile we are in the era of the Mega Ship, not all of these ancent cities old ports can handle big ships. So most ships traveling the mediterrenean will be mid size ships (approx 2,000 passenger), usually built in the early 2000s. So be careful with your expectations.The Noordam is an elegant, quaint ship. Very European feel to it. Some of its rooms, like the Piano Bar and the Northern Lights (dancing club) are tucked away from the walking halls so you do not have to run into them if you dont want to. And while the Explorations Cafe is a little more open to the hallway, it is probably the most elegant room on the ship. It is the library/computer room with a coffee bar that we would like to have at home. It is only rivaled by the Crow's Nest on the aft portion of deck number 10. At the same time, some of the luxury restaurants do not have am exclusive area, but they are tucked away enough to make the privacy happen.For the working man the staterooms are average; the inside, the oceanview and balcony (veranda). Actually some of the inside rooms are larger than the other two mentioned. I was surprised to have a bathtub in my Veranda room, not that I was planning to take a bath, but for the first time I did not have to deal with water sipping out of my shower and onto the floor.The ship seemed to have plenty of lounging chairs at the main and aft pools and observation areas. The main pool might seem out of chairs at time, but that is just people leaving their towels after they leave the premises. I completely hated the idea of having to cross thru the SPA to go the Fitness Room . And the HydroPool cost makes it a non-issue. I would have paid 10 dollars to go in once, but not $149 for the 11 days. In this itinerary we never had to tender! What a plus of the mid-size ship! The Atrium, and therefore Front Office area was not as big as I have seen in other ships, but really, aside from that intial impression, how much time do you really spend in the area?FOODThe food and service in the dinning room was good. Nothing to complain about, nothing to write home about. Just what it should be. But definitely not a 9 rating. The food quality at the self serve Lido Restaurant was just like in any other ship; big ticket items like steaks, fish, chicken were good, while things like pancakes, omelets, pizza could be hit or miss. If anything I was surprised, and perturbed to find they would not have an item, say mashed potatoes, Corn Flakes or OJ, on one side, but yet you could walk around to the other side and find it. And their after hours snacks were the same and not that great. My friends did eat at Le Cirque at the Pinnacle Grill and thought it was excellent! The Cannaletto" restaurant was pretty much a made up section of the Lido and you could see the food being prepared and delivered, but other than that I have no idea of wheter it deserve paying the premium fee.Room service seemed to be a disappointmnet as I spoke with a few people who ordered food and never got it on time. I also left my room after waiting over 20 mins past the high range delivery time (50 minutes in total).THE STAFFIt seemed that the cruise staff was just 4 people; the cruise director and three others who were pretty busy taking care of other things on the ship (games, location expert, etc). They are really busy and you never see them out where you can 'mingle' with them. I could have easily stayed 33 days onboard with the cruise staff in my previous cruise.The Ships staff employed a policy where in the first 48 hours they would handle everything a passenger could touch in order to avoid any outbreaks once we were at sea. Two to three days before we stopped in Athens, it seemed an outbreak of GIS was prevalent, and the crew took immediate action to prevent the spreading of it. ** Editorial note** If you are reading this and are getting ready to go on a cruise, you are most likely to be the cause. Wash your hands everytime you leave your room, and use the sanitizing lotions available all over the ship, at all times. Sneeze onto the inside of your elbow, dont put your hands inside the covers of the food to show or touch what is it that you want, dont touch tongs all over and then lay then on top of the food you were picking up, touch elevator buttons with other than the tip of your fingers (fist, knuckles, elbows). Walking around the Lido Restaurant geting my food I saw behavior everyday that has no other repercussions but outbreaks of these diseases on enclosed quarters.Having said that, the Lido servers were excellent; better than at the main dining rooms. The room stewards, at least the ones I had, the best of any cruise line.THE ENTERTAINMENT While I have never sailed with Holland before, it seems that they are making some changes to the shows created by the line. On this Ship we were treated to the shows Classique, Aces High and Droom. And in ascendent order that is how I like them! DROOM was probably the best PRODUCTION I have seen on board any ship! The customes and stage arrangements are amazing! ON Aces High an interactive projection is happening for the audience to see as the entertainers do their thing on stage.Their partnering with Dancing with the Stars to run the Dancing with the Stars at Sea competition, might proof succesful! It involves the passengers by having available three dance lessons during the cruise days, and at the end it gives the audience something else other than another show. I was one of the particpants, and it gave me something to look forward (although very nervously) and it is one of the biggest memories I took with me. I am sure that then people that participated along with me feel the same.Yet, some of the entertaining was below average. A guitarist especialist was boring, maybe better suited for a smaller stage, the local Greek group that came to dance was good, but for how long can you do a local dance for, an entire hour? The magician was good, but, there is one in every cruise. He was actually better in the small setting teaching people magic tricks. And finally impersonators, especially those that can bring music and "nostalgia" to a stage will always catch people's attention.OTHERThe TV in the rooms had the best channels I have ever seen; CNN and ESPN! Woo hoo! Last year it took me three days to figure who had won a NBA finals game. And there were up todate movies. The abiltiy to rent CDs to watch in your room was awesome!THE PORTSISTANBUL -- Ok, it might seem remote, but it is as cosmopolitan as any city in the world! What a great city! And easy to "navigate"! And yes it is a Muslim city; lets respect each others differences and embrace our similarities! Most likely the majority of the restaurant servers and stateroom stewards are from Muslim countries, and yet, theyre the ones to give you a big smile everyday and treat you with respect! And in these countries where the economic system has not progressed as much as in other developed countries, someone will try to make a buck off of you; know that and deal with it from a business transaction point of view, not with a personal air of disdain for someone who has less. The Taxi might run you 50 Euros to the port from the airport.There is a train or tram just outside the port and for less than 4 Euros you can ride it into town ( a few stops away). After that you can walk to the main attractions. There is a HOP ON HOP OFF (HOHO) for approximately $25 worthly dollars. GO check out Istanbul! MYKONOS -- The ship provided a van from the port to town for $5.00. From there you can walk to town. You can do it from the ship, but there are no sidewalks on these very narrow, cliffy roads. We chose to rent an ATV for 15 Euros, and explored 3/4 of the Island. We were lucky to sail out late so that gave us the chance to return our ATV by four and walk around the town after it was not longer crowded. The town is maybe a tat bigger than Catalina Island, but get walking between any alleyway you can find to see its treasures!KUSSADASI -- Beautiful modern port, no offense to neighboring Izmir, and much closer to Ephesus and the Virgin Mary's last home. We found a taxi van outside the port which took us to both places for 12 Euros each. These taxi drivers have been doing this for years, so while obviously they will ask you for a higher price initially, they know their bread and butter lives with their responsibility. I have done this trip twice, the first time with the cruise tour and paid $89.00. So it is your choice. Still with either one, we had to stop by a carpet and leather factory, watch their demos and deal with the sales pitch. These are turks, the older sellers in history!RHODES -- No need to get a tour if you dont want to; Outside the port there is a HOHO that after 1230pm charges you 9 Euros instead of 12. The main gate to town is less than a mile from the ship, so you can walk around town all day long.ALEXANDRIA, EGYPT -- You would not know there is unrest in this country from stepping out of the ship onto this port. The Pyramids are 3 hours away, in a rather chaotic "highway". This is Egypt, it is, what it is. It is hot and sadly chaotic and dirty. The temperature reached 100 degrees in Cairo on May 24th, so be prepared. This temperature is way different from the one in port. The tours companies that you find in a place like Trip Advisor are reputable! They want your money, but also their reputation. Still they are way cheaper than the cruise tours. We used EMO Tours. Their guides are great at dealing with the pestering sellers. Dont commit to any transaction without their help. We heard of people being charge $10 USD for just a picture next to a Camel (which a nice Egyptian local will smiling bring to you, but wont let you go until you pay him), and up to $40 for a ride. With our guide's help we got a camel ride along the Pyramids, plenty of pictures and all for $10.00. We also went to a local Cairo Restaurant, and the food was EXCELLENT (and cheap)! We tend to think that it would be otherwise in these underdeveloped cities, but we dont think that these are people too with desire for good food. The best meals that I have had in the last two years have been in Turkey and this one in Egypt. I also talked to a few people that were brave enough to do the overnight, and they were very sattisfied.IRAKLION, CRETE -- Like in Rhodes the city center is within walking distance. The HOHO is right before you exit the port and is 20 Euros for the full day and 15 for half a day (till 1230pm). You can get off at the Knossos Palace (6 Euros), but acquaint yourself with its history first.ATHENS -- The HOHO is right at the exit of the port. Is about 17 Euros, and it will take you to all the places you need to see in Athens. You might want to wait until the afternoon to go up to the Acropolis, that way you let everyone on a cruiseship tour do their thing first. It gets crowded up there.The Marriot, Hitlon and Crowne Plaza are very good choice hotels. A taxi from the port to the Airport will run you close to 50 Euros with tip. Read Less
Sail Date: May 2013
We have cruised about ten times with various cruise lines before and have always considered HAL, along with Princess, among the better cruise lines for us (we are not exactly the younger generation). We last cruised with Princess in 2011 ... Read More
We have cruised about ten times with various cruise lines before and have always considered HAL, along with Princess, among the better cruise lines for us (we are not exactly the younger generation). We last cruised with Princess in 2011 in Asia. This is our third cruise with HAL on their 11-day Ancient Mystery starting off from Athens. We were very much disappointed. Noordam is a smaller ship and we are fine with that. However, there are smaller ship should not equate to smaller expectations. Room Service: We usually get room service for breakfast because it would be easier for our elderly mother. The delivery is usually on time. However, it was very rarely (in fact, never) that they got our simple order right. As we had three people in our state room, we would clearly mark our order for three and placed orders for at least two pots of coffee and one other hot beverage. They would however, never gave us three cups or three sets of cutlery. The orders were also never properly filled out. Despite of repeated request to the room service delivery staff, we finally gave up. We ended up ordering the hot food and drinks via room service and went up to Lido deck ourselves for items and cutlery/cup that was missing from our order. It worked out pretty good. Entertainment: In their desperate attempt to get good rating on their evaluation form, the Cruise Director reminded us at the beginning of our cruise that they could not please everyone and we should only judge entertainment on their effort. There is little doubt that the efforts made by the entertainers are good, but the type of entertainment effort provided by HAL was only fair. There were three big performances, including the DROOM show towards the end of the cruise which was excellent and full credit to the performing staff. Entertainment on other nights, however, consisted of solo guitarist, local Greek dancing group, and solo comedian/magician. These shows lasted usually for 30 minutes or less and most are more appropriate for smaller stage (eg bar or lounge setting) and not as the main attraction. Smaller ships should not equate to lesser entertainment shows. Organization: We took a private tour from Port Said with over-night stay in Cairo (try not to take shore excursions from any cruise lines because they are usually really expensive compared to the real world). We contacted HAL before sailing, informing them of our itinerary and received a confirmation letter stating that they ‘approved’ our overnight trip and would pass the information onto the ship personnel. When we came back on board at Alexandria, our cruise ship ID cards lit up at the check-in counter. We waited for the cruise line official to come out and gave us a stern talk about not letting them know that we were not returning to the ship at Port Said and that they had to wait for us. She finally let us back onboard. We promptly dropped off the official letter from HAL at the front desk noting that the breakdown in communication was within HAL, but we never heard from the front desk acknowledging their error or apologizing for their previous accusations. Shopping: They claimed price match/guarantee for jewellery. We bought a relatively inexpensive Swarovski Crystal bracelet on board but found exactly the same one in Mykonos for a lesser price. We bought the one in Mykonos with a receipt and pictures of the store and display. The two bracelets were exactly the same with the same colour combination and marking on the claps etc. Even the assistant manager confirmed that it was sterling silver and same make. However, the manager of the store said that we had to produce the lot and code number in order to meet the requirement of their price guarantee claim. I doubt any retailer can or will provide customers with the lot and code number for their products. And it would be impossible to see any diamond with the same cutting and carat weight in the same token. One can expect price to be a little more expensive on the cruise ship, however, if I think if they want to make a ‘price guarantee’ claim to draw in customers, they should make a honest and reasonable effort to honor their claim. So, buyers beware. We would also like to commend on a male Pilipino staff at the gift shop was very helpful. Boarding and Departure process: The boarding process was efficient and quick. The disembarking however was complete chaos. People were lining up on the stairs to disembark all the way up to the Lower Promenade level (exit three levels down) even though we abide to their exit color coded system. Words of advice: take the elevator no matter how long the wait- you can still get down to the lower exit level faster than lining up. Getting out of the Istanbul terminal to catch a private car was also difficult because of the limited space. Make sure you have previous discussion as to the pick-up point and arrive ahead of time (which could be difficult because of the line up). Food: Food in the dining room was acceptable yet unremarkable. Service provided by the staff, on the other hand, was good as expected. Dining room and Lido deck staff were also very good, attentive and friendly (except for one server on Lido deck who we avoided) and should be commended for their hard work. On Lido deck, most of their hot water dispensing machines were either not working or with the dispensing buttons badly worn out. It is always a guessing game as to where to get your hot water. The BBQ they provided at Mykonos was excellent and a nice break from the routine Others: When compared to our most recent Princess cruise in 2011, HAL came across as ‘cheap’. Simple example, on Princess, we got off the cruise just before our birthdays (three birthdays within 10 days of one other). However, on seeing our birthdays being so close to our time on the cruise, Princess made sure we had our birthday cakes etc on the last day of the cruise and decorated the outside of our room with balloons, very simple touch to make our cruise more memorable . This time we spent our birthdays on board HAL and HAL were aware of it. When there were no balloons, I approached the front desk and was told that if I wanted balloons, it would be $1.50 each. Wonder how much it will cost HAL for little balloons. By the way, all other cruisers liked the balloons on our door because they served as landmark to help identify the corridor, directions and cabins. Port-of-Calls: We got lucky and were able to tour all the cities without experiencing any riots and demonstrations; with Cairo and the pyramids being the highlight of the cruise. For the pyramids, don’t pay to go inside the Great pyramid. Instead, go to the smaller one (‘Third’ Pyramid) by the Sphinx. It is just as interesting. Make sure you have someone who can speak Egyptian to negotiate for you for the camel rides and pictures at the pyramid. We heard one lady passenger on our cruise line who just wanted to get on a camel for pictures but got taken out to the middle of the dessert without her permission and her husband had to hop on a second camel on hot pursuit. It was for good intent as the handler wanted her to have a nice view but without knowing what was happening (and you can’t jump off the camel), it was not a pleasant experience. For Istanbul, while one has to visit the Grand Bazaar in Istanbul because it is a tourist attraction, spent your time at the Spice Bazaar instead. We wanted to go back to the Grand Bazaar a second time for more shopping, but our guide recommended us going to the Spice Bazaar instead because it is cheaper, cleaner and sell roughly the same thing. He was right. Go to the Grand Bazaar for the experience but save your shopping at the Spice Bazaar. One thing you have to watch out for. The nice Turkish Delights samples we got at the stores were not the same as those packaged in boxes. They are made with sugar instead of honey (despite what the store owners may tell you) and there is hardly any nuts in them (as on the picture on the box). Also if you want the standard ‘cheap’ Turkish Delights, buy those offered at the cruise port in Kusadasi. The exact ones were sold at fraction of the cost as in Istanbul. Overall, the itinerary was excellent and port-of-calls provided great touring experience. The Noordam, in our opinion, failed to live up to HAL’s ‘Signature of Excellence’ claim.   Read Less
1 Helpful Vote
Sail Date: May 2013
My husband and I chose this particular cruise for the itinerary. Although we had visited some ports on other voyages, there were a few we wished to see. The ship is imposing and grand looking from its dock and I cannot fault the food; it ... Read More
My husband and I chose this particular cruise for the itinerary. Although we had visited some ports on other voyages, there were a few we wished to see. The ship is imposing and grand looking from its dock and I cannot fault the food; it was very good. From there it goes downhill fast. As we unpacked in our cabin, we opened our bedside tables to find 30+ candies and receipts from the previous traveler. The cabin looked shabby and not well kept; needs either some new upholstery or cleaning. The veranda deck looked as though it had never been cleaned. The public rooms were virtually empty either because most were ill (more about that later) or bcause the rooms are far from inviting. Instead being cold and austere. The dining room wait staff was poorly trained and either had not served aboard a ship or were new and not very knowledgeable. Cleanliness is a big minus on this ship. At breakfast one morning alone we had to have three water glasses and two coffee cups removed because they were dirty. It seems if you are short tableware including glasses or cups they are removed from a vacant table and placed in front of you. This is very unsanitary as one has no way of knowing who has touched this prior to your use. The Lido was an awful place to TRY and eat a meal. On some mornings with an early excursion we were forced to eat there. Without trays, trying to balance juice and coffee for two and then to get an entree. Well, before you even sat down everything was cold. We ate in LeCirque one evening. Small choices on the menu and not worth the price as the food in the dining room surpassed our dinner. The Noordam was a "sick ship". Although we had no knowledge of this, the ship had begun its journey in Egypt and traveled to other ports before our departure from Athens. Who knew that some awful Norwalk virus had made its way on this ship. Every day we were told by the captain that some more cases were reported and yes my husband was one of those. He thankfully recovered after 24 hours and was out of quarentine although others were not so lucky. At every restaurant and many public rooms a crew mamber would stand with his hand sanitizer bottle at the ready. Each passenger was given a bottle to use. When we reached Rome we were told to disembark whether we wanted to or not as a crew was boarding to try and sanitize the ship. None of these measures actually worked as more and more became ill. Some failed to report their sickness as we learned at breakfast one morning. A gentleman informed us he had had the Norwalk but treated himself with Immodium. This cruise probably should have limped into a port and been cancelled. By the end of the trip many were coughing and sneezing and went on their way with a virus. The cabin stewards were the friendliest and seemed to be the most efficient. The officers and other crew members seemed very cold, aloof especially those at the main desk. The shows were amateurish at best. The art auction was fun and the young ladies who assisted the auctioneer, Tanya and Michelle were outstanding in their friendliness. This ship, in my opinion lacks attention to detail that others of our experience have displayed. It also seems to operate on the premise that all is done for its convenience and not that of the passenger. Now, granted most lines may operate that way; economically sound. But, none in my experience has shown such a blatant disregard for the passengers well being. Read Less
Noordam Ratings
Category Editor Member
Cabins 4.0 0.0
Dining 4.0 0.0
Entertainment 4.0 0.0
Public Rooms 4.0 0.0
Fitness Recreation 3.0 0.0
Family 2.0 0.0
Shore Excursion 3.0 0.0
Enrichment 4.0 0.0
Service 4.0 0.0
Value For Money 3.0 0.0
Rates 4.0 0.0

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