821 Holland America Noordam Cruise Reviews

This is the first cruise that we've taken that embarked in NY and, being located in NJ, it was a pleasure for us. The embarkation for this maiden voyage was quick and painless, helped along by the fact that we were in a suite that got ... Read More
This is the first cruise that we've taken that embarked in NY and, being located in NJ, it was a pleasure for us. The embarkation for this maiden voyage was quick and painless, helped along by the fact that we were in a suite that got us to the head of the line. The rest of the family that were in inside cabins didn't have any complaints on the embarkation even though it took them a little longer. We were pleased that the ship did have that "new ship" smell even though we found out later that it had been used somewhat before our "maiden" voyage. It was very clean and sparkly, tastefully decorated. While the ship is somewhat larger than the Veendam we had sailed to Alaska on, our suite was a lot smaller (46 sq feet) as was the balcony. This was a small disappointment to us since we tend to spend a good deal of time in the room or on the balcony relaxing. We all agreed that the beds were very comfortable and my DH loved the pillows, soft yet firm enough. Being a maiden voyage, we expected some screw-ups and got a few but not anything of consequence that disrupted the cruise. There were minor things like the TV had not been formatted so we didn't find the bridge cam until 4 days into the trip and two boutonnieres were delivered for formal night but no corsage. If there was anything else, I can't remember it so it must not have been a problem. The staff were very friendly and helpful, especially our cabin steward and the dining steward. They discovered our tastes and made sure we had what we liked. The food was plentiful, varied and tasty for the most part. The Lido buffet has a sandwich bar and stations for hot entrees, Asian with fresh sushi, salad and pasta making lines less. If I could complain at all, it would be that the beef served in the dining room was less flavorful than I would have liked and it was difficult to get it as rare as I would like but my traveling companions thought all the food was delicious. We never made it to the Pinnacle Grill. Breakfast in the room always came on time or early. The demographics of the passengers was as expected, mostly early baby boomers and seniors. Our children are grown so we prefer the older, quieter crowd that we have found on HAL cruises but some children were also seen enjoying the pools and activities. The family members that went to the shows thought they were wonderful as well as the entertainment and activities in the various lounges. No one got bored or had trouble finding something of interest to do on board. There was something to do for any age traveler. The ports of call were Grand Turk, Tortolla, St. Maarten, St. Thomas and San Juan. Grand Turk, what the comedian called "dinky Turk" due to its very small size, is a new port and one without a lot of interesting places to see. We went for the dune buggy drive and enjoyed ourselves but we didn't see much but a lighthouse that we are not convinced was originally there. The Jimmy Buffet shops and bar were good but very expensive. If we did that stop again, we would just get off the ship and go to the beach at the end of the pier for the day. We enjoyed the "touristy" stuff on the other islands. In San Juan there wasn't much time to do anything. There is a little shopping to be had within walking distance of the ship. The worst part of the trip was the disembarkation and I believe that had more to do with the NY Port Authority (PA) than HAL. It was planned to go as other disembarkations where you get color/number coded luggage tags and when they call your color and number you go to the gangway. Unfortunately, after the crew called two groups of colors/numbers, the PA told them that they had to hold the passengers until all the luggage was unloaded. This meant standing by the door in the cold waiting for the PA to get finished. Unfortunately, we were in the first group that got held. Once HAL found out how the PA was going to handle the disembarkation, I am sure it was easier for the rest of the groups. One lost piece of luggage was found in blue 1 instead of blue 2 where it belonged. All in all, another excellent HAL cruise we would recommend to all. This is our favorite line. Read Less
Sail Date February 2006
Review of the Noordam Maiden Voyage: February 22 -- March 4, 2006 A Vista Beyond the Others Introduction It goes without saying that many Holland America Line Mariners have been more than just a bit unhappy with the cruise-industrys ... Read More
Review of the Noordam Maiden Voyage: February 22 -- March 4, 2006 A Vista Beyond the Others Introduction It goes without saying that many Holland America Line Mariners have been more than just a bit unhappy with the cruise-industrys trend toward larger vessels. Those who much-prefer the S and R class ships (like the Statendam and the Rotterdam VI) tend to look upon the Vistas as being big, garish, and unwelcome. The Zuiderdam solidified this expectation, and some have been unwilling to look beyond this ship to see what others of the class have to offer. Having cruised on the Oosterdam and the Westerdam, however, I have become well aware that the Vista ships, even though large, do indeed maintain a strong continuity with the historic HAL and the traditions which have made this Line a favorite of so many for so long. The last of the Vistas, the ms Noordam, truly goes beyond the other Vistas in establishing a powerful bond to the traditions of excellence and the atmosphere of understated elegance and luxury which has typified the Holland America Fleet for so long. From the instant one boards this lovely ship one has no doubt about the fleet to which she belongs -- no Carnival, RCI, or Princess tub, this is HAL. The impression is confirmed at every turn, in every public room, in the staterooms, and in the traditions of her gracious staff. The Vistas have, truly, come home with the ms Noordam. Her interiors are replete with the artistry and elegance of superb nautical engineering and refined european style accented with the warmth of wood and earth-tones. I was at home the moment I entered the Ocean bar and saw the hard woods, the oval-shaped dance floor, and the curve of the bar. The Explorers Lounge literally cradles one in comfortable luxury and the refined tones of a string quartet, while the Crows Nest provides expansive views of the open ocean during the day, and an enjoyable place to sit and chat, or dance with a partner, during the evening. The main dining room is both open and intimate, and the Pinnacle Grill is an inviting venue in which to share a leisurely meal with friends. Truly, the Noordam is a credit to the Holland America Fleet ... a true Vista Beyond the Others. Differences from the Other Vistas: From first glance it is obvious that this vessel has incorporated several major upgrades and improvements that are not currently present in the other Vista Ships. Of particular note is the inclusion of the Explorations Cafe in place of the Internet Center. This major improvement, which is part of the Signature of Excellence upgrades being introduced on the S and R class ships, finds an excellent expression as implemented on the Noordam. Part of the Library complex, yet also independent of it, this area is an excellent place to come and make use of the multimedia, print, and internet resources available here and elsewhere aboard the ship. There is also a coffee bar where specialty coffees can be purchased for a nominal fee. Another upgrade which is of particular note is the introduction of the Pinnacle Bar in place of the Windstar Cafe. This comfortable, useful lounge is perfectly situated not only to help relieve the congestion at the entrance to the Pinnacle Grill, it also is a bar and lounge in its own right and a pleasant place to sit and enjoy pre or post dinner drinks. Another major improvement is the redesign of the Ocean Bar and Lounge. On the other Vistas the Bar and smoking area is located in a narrow section on the starboard side of the ship. This cramped area has been a serious problem for the full and efficient use of the Bar; on the Noordam, however, the bar has been moved to the Port side where it sits in the open. The starboard side has been opened up, with several conversation areas maintained for people who want to sit and chat while not being bothered by the hustle and bustle, the music and dancing found on the port side. The redesign more effectively opens the Lounge all across the open atrium, making the space feel larger and less congested, even though the square footage has not been increased. Yet another significant improvement can be found on the aft Lido deck, where the deck space abaft the aft pool has been expanded. There is far more deck space here than on the other Vistas. Likewise, a canvas awning has been added on both the port and starboard sides, providing more shaded areas for people to sit and eat outdoors. This expansion on the aft lido deck has been enabled by an extension of the decks below, resulting in additional cabin space for 70+ more passengers. The aft verandahs have been narrowed as a result, and while this might be seen as a disadvantage to some, the overall result is an improvement in the outdoor public spaces. General Impressions on the Ships Decor: As I have already stated, the interior spaces of this ship will be truly pleasing to the tastes of the average traditional HAL Mariner. The use of woods, carpet, paneling, wall paper, and art work is truly elegant, stylish, and conservative. The color choices are very pleasing, with earth tones and primary colors predominating. The Atrium art piece -- a huge gyroscope that changes color as it rotates -- is quite appealing. The use of art pieces and other related items from the prior Noordams (as well as other HAL ships) provides a lovely tie to the Lines history. Captain Cards paintings are truly lovely and amazing -- dont miss them in the forward stair well. The color scheme in the Piano bar is, in my opinion, superior to that found on either the Oosterdam or the Westerdam, and the Vista show lounge is more warm and inviting that the Westerdams dull white scheme. Overall, the crew of the Noordam appears to be off to a good start in maintaining the traditions of the spotless fleet, for constant cleaning was in evidence wherever one turned. And particularly if one were to roam the corridors late at night, as I do. The Maiden Voyage: The Noordams maiden voyage left New York City on February 22, 2006, a 10 day cruise to the Eastern Caribbean. It was a very nice itinerary, involving 2 days at sea from New York to the Caribbean, 5 ports-of-call, and then 2 days at sea returning to New York. I was aboard with a large group of friends from Cruise Critics, and much of my fun orbited around activities with them. In large part, this cruise was more about the ship and the people and less about the islands, hence I shall not spend much time detailing the ports of call other than to say that they provided the average cross-section of cultural, natural, and economic attraction. My stateroom was my favorite J-category Inside: 1037, which was nearly identical to the same cabin which I have had twice on the Oosterdam. Entering it was like coming home. The only major difference was the flat-screen TV and the DVD player, which was a nice improvement over the CRT display found in this category on the Oosterdam. For more on this cabin, see my review of the Oosterdam. Being a maiden voyage there were a few bugs to be worked out, and this is true both of my cabin of the rest of the ship. As a result, engineering staff could be seen moving around the ship on a regular basis, repairing this and that and adjusting various controls. The AC in my cabin failed to work properly during our second sea-day, but engineering quickly adjusted it until it worked perfectly. The internet kept going down, and we lost all ship-to-shore communications for our two-day return trip to New York. Special gifts for maiden voyage passengers included an inaugural cruise commemorate plate, a book about the Noordam, and photo montage of the cruise. Additionally, this cruise was also the voyage on which I was awarded my 100-day Mariner Pin and Hardware. Service: Being a Maiden voyage I anticipated problems with the quality of service in the dining room and cabins: a crew takes a bit of settling in until they work well together, and I was willing to be patient. To my pleasant surprise the problems which we did encounter were far more limited than I would have expected, though there were times when they were quite annoying. My cabin steward was exceedingly efficient; indeed, after several days of conversing with him I became convinced that he had served me before and he confirmed it, admitting to have been my cabin steward aboard the Volendam in 2003! What a pleasant surprise! I enjoyed prompt service from bar staff ... several of whom remembered me from the Oosterdam, the Westerdam, and the Volendam. One wine steward in the Pinnacle recognized me right off my Panama Canal cruise on the Zaandam, and even remembered my favorite wine. The service in all these areas was exemplary, to say the least, though our wine steward in the main dining room was sometimes difficult to flag down. Service in the Lido was excellent, and prompt, although there are times when two attendants are needed at the sandwich station. Additionally, I would prefer not to have to direct the attendant at the Omelet station to cook the ingredients of my Omelet before adding the egg batter. In the main dining room our service stewards were pleasant, and they did their job to the best of their ability, nevertheless it was a continual problem that our evening meals dragged out to 2 or more hours. In the past I've usually been done with dinner by 10 pm, but on this cruise we were lucky to be eating our entree by that time ... and then, sometimes, what was offered was not even close to what was ordered. Service began slow, and improved a bit, but by the time we left St. Maarten it had taken a severe nose dive, with several members of our group experiencing unacceptable fiascos. For the most part I can chalk these problems up to miscommunications on the part of the staff, as well as to a difficult time some had in understanding english, however many of these errors were simply beyond what patience should be expected to accept. We experienced similar problems in the Pinnacle Grill. Peter was an excellent waiter, and had a good sense of humor, but meals in the Pinnacle on 3 occasions dragged far too long ... one evening extending to a full three hours! This is simply unacceptable. Given time to settle in to a new crew, I would hope that many of these problems would work themselves out. And, I am aware that many who were seated in other areas of the main dining room did not encounter these kinds of problems. However, in talking with other passengers it became clear that we were not alone in some of the service problems we experienced. They should be corrected. Food: I would have to judge the quality of the food on the Noordam as being, by-and-large, quite good to excellent. I've always enjoyed the food on Holland America; even when I thought it a bit bland, I nevertheless enjoyed it and was always able to find something I liked. On the Oosterdam in January 2006 I was pleased with the quality of the dishes and felt it would be hard to surpass my experience there. The Food on the Noordam, however, managed to do precisely that. Yes, many of the selections are quite similar to what can be found on other ships of the fleet, but by-and-large the quality of the preparation and presentation was superior to any on other HAL ships. This is true in the main dining room and in the Lido. Yes, there were occasional errors and problems with what was delivered, but when the correct item came its quality was usually outstanding. At least, this was my experience. Dress Code: Sometimes the failure of ones fellow passengers to observe the dress code can be a bit distressing -- it is sad when one feels conspicuous on formal night simply because one is wearing a Tuxedo! Such was not the case on the maiden voyage of the Noordam. This 10-day cruise from New York to the Caribbean was among the most formal cruises I've ever been on. Formal Nights saw an overwhelming number of men in Tuxedoes or, in the very least, dark suits. Yes, some were in slacks and sports jackets, but MOST (overwhelmingly most) were in Tuxedoes on all three formal nights. White dinner jackets abounded, especially, on the middle formal night, when we were still in the Caribbean. I saw very few men (I could count them on the fingers of one hand) who failed to abide by the minimum the Dress Code outlines. Informal night saw most men in suits or slacks and sports jackets, and many men elected to wear a tie on those evening. Indeed, even on Casual nights the number of men wearing jackets to dinner (with or without ties) was amazing to behold. As for women: gowns, dresses, fancy pantsuits, furs, hats ... the ladies were dressed VERY well most evenings, and rarely did I see any women who were not at least nicely attired. Conclusion: The Maiden voyage of the Noordam was a wonderful cruise, and the Noordam herself is a fantastic ship ... a true credit to the Holland America Line and an excellent final installment of the Vista series. The first of the new Signature ships will have a difficult time meeting the standard of excellence the Noordam IV has set. Read Less
Sail Date February 2006
We are seasoned cruisers, my husband has cruised over 30 times and I have cruised approximately 20. We were on the inaugural cruise 2/22/06 from NYC. Embarkation was long & tedious, very unorganized. The ship was beautiful, our ... Read More
We are seasoned cruisers, my husband has cruised over 30 times and I have cruised approximately 20. We were on the inaugural cruise 2/22/06 from NYC. Embarkation was long & tedious, very unorganized. The ship was beautiful, our stateroom was on Deck 8; large room (over 350 sq. ft). Our balcony was spacious and have lovely comfortable furniture. Bathroom was gorgeous! Loved the dual sinks, separate shower and jacuzzi tub. Tommy, the cabin steward did a fantastic job keeping the room clean. Wonderful service throughout the cruise..everyone was polite, friendly and helpful. Now, for the bad news!..........the food was HORRIBLE. Breakfast and lunch were ok, but dinner in the dining room was awful. Out of our 10-night cruise, we only had 2 good meals. Never saw such small, mushy lobster tails in my life, and who wants meat loaf? The quality of the food was poor and didn't have any flavor or taste. We thought the food on the maiden voyage would be wonderful but it wasn't. Disembarkation was probably the worst part! People were trying to enter the terminal while passengers were exiting through the same door! Luggage, passengers and porters were everywhere! It was a nightmare...Holland America needs to have a separate entrance and exit. It was confusing and chaotic. Overall, it was a good cruise. 10 night cruise is the way to go, very relaxing and unhurried but if they don't improve the quality of the food and their disembarking process they're going to lose customers. We probably won't sail with Holland America again. We prefer the QM2. Read Less
Sail Date February 2006
I was on the inaugural cruise with holland americas newest ship The Noordam. The embarkation went very smoothly for a New York port. I found the room beautifully decorated, with an outstanding balcony which was larger than most suites. ... Read More
I was on the inaugural cruise with holland americas newest ship The Noordam. The embarkation went very smoothly for a New York port. I found the room beautifully decorated, with an outstanding balcony which was larger than most suites. The food was fantastic and the service at the dining room table 141, was superb. The lunch in dining room was ok nothing fantastic as dinner. The Lido was noisy and crowded. You had to wait on lines to get your food. The ocean bar was too small, and people kept on bunking into each other. It wasnt like the other ships where the ocean bar is next to the casino. They served appetizers but not on a plate like they use to but by a server. There was no music by the pool until the fifth day when my husband complain to one of the staff. No pool games until the last day. The smoking accomodations were terrible. Instead of having one side for smoking and one side for not smoking they used a small area, and people who did not smoked complained. Even though you were sitting in the correct area and the top was open, they said they were getting smoke in their faces which wasnt true. The overall picture of the ship is outstanding. The shows in the lounge were one of the best i have ever seen on a ship. Since this was my 36 cruise with Holland, I feel I can judge the ship's qualities, in comparison with their other ships. I feel that since Carnival took over this line is has gone downhill. I will not take another Holland america cruise again. Its dull dull and dull. Read Less
Sail Date February 2006
My name is Justin and ... All right, I'm new to Cruise Critic, but this was my second cruise. It was the Feb 22, 2006 Maiden Voyage of Holland America Line's new ms Noordam IV. My first cruise was also with HAL on their new ... Read More
My name is Justin and ... All right, I'm new to Cruise Critic, but this was my second cruise. It was the Feb 22, 2006 Maiden Voyage of Holland America Line's new ms Noordam IV. My first cruise was also with HAL on their new Zuiderdam in May of 2005. The cruise on the Noordam was spectacular. I'll begin with embarkation, which was a bit questionable. Though this was the first cruise out of New York's port in a while, so I wasn't surprised by this. It seemed like they threw that pier together in a few hours and said wait here and get on later. Besides being a bit uncomfortable, the embarkation was very fast and the people were accommodating. Next I have to talk about the ship itself. The ms Noordam was beautiful and a behemoth compared to many liners on the seas right now. It was beautifully decorated as well. Some of my favorite art was a set of paintings of Holland America Line and other Dutch ships by Stephen J. Card. These were located between each floor on the Forward Staircase. Their was a number of great sculptures including a set of dolphins next to the pool. The set-up of the Noordam made sense and was efficient. Everything was easy to find and get to. The Show lounges were great. The Vista Lounge was very open and there was a great view whether you sat in the front row on the floor or the back row of the balcony. The queen's lounge was slightly smaller and was also easy to get comfortable in. The Explorer's Cafe or EC as it's known onboard was perfect for getting a coffee and browsing through some books, or just relaxing on a very comfortable couch. Personally one of my favorite parts of the ship. You could also rent movies here and I met a good amount of friends here. Now it is time to describe my favorite part of the ship --> The Loft. The Loft is a fairly new brainchild of HAL. It is a teens only version of their Club Hal program. I, being a teen (age 16), thought this was the greatest thing they could have put on a cruise line that is usually geared more towards the older more sophisticated side of cruising... (Our joke in the Loft was that we were on the "Floating Nursing Home"). There was about 10 kids my age on this cruise, and we all became very good friends by the end of the cruise. We spent almost all of our time at sea together in the Loft, which was equipped with a great set of A/V equipment: 6 small and 2 giant plasma screen TVs, a jukebox loaded with songs and music videos, and a DVD player. They also had PS2's. As for seats we had couches, giant bean bags, and our favorite things ever --> Giant Memory Foam Balls. The activities were great and if you are yourself or are travelling with a teen make sure they check out the Loft. The rooms were spacious even though we were only in an standard sized room (it was obstructed view too, but we had booked late) and our room steward was great. He made us a number of little "towel-buddies" shaped like various animals. I guess it is just like any service on Holland, it's great.. The room didn't really matter to me anyway, I want to be out around the ship, not in my room. But they were still clean, comfortable, and fairly spacious. Food, the reason cruising lives today... The food on Holland is spectacular... I'll start with the Lido Buffet: It was great. They had great food from sandwiches to sushi to pizza to chicken and of course desserts... and it was all delicious. The great thing about people in the Lido Deck is that you can always make friends here. I met a number of very nice people just from siting down next to or near them at lunch. You also make a number of friends with the people that work in the Lido deck. One man that worked at the dessert counter knew by the second day that I would want a chocolate soft-serve in a dish and he would have that ready for me. My waiter from dinner in the Vista Dinning Room also was in the Lido a lot. His name was Manhattan. Him and Joko were excellent waiters for dinner. The Vista Dinning Room was great. It was elegant and the food was sometimes a leap of faith, but always tasted great. I think in 10 days of trying a number of different dishes i only didn't like 1 soup. This food is excellent... and a word of advice is just to try something new... Entertainment was great as always. The shows were well put together and the singers/dancers were extremely talented. There was also the Northern Lights Dance Club that changed its theme each night and was a good hangout for anyone from my age to the age of 80. You'd be amazed who you'll find dancing to some techno in the Northern Lights. The Queen's Lounge also played a number of movies and other venues throughout the cruise. I guess this is the end of my review... I just want to say that there was some bad talk about this cruise, but it was a maiden voyage, some mistakes were going to be made, but HAL made this my favorite and most memorable cruise. The Noordam is beautiful, the service is great, and the name Noordam is drenched in History. If you have a chance to get on the Noordam, GO!!!! Your Cruising Friend, Justin Read Less
Sail Date February 2006
I was one of the first lucky ones to be on the NEW Noordam. I am a travel agent for one of the top agencies in the US so was lucky to be selected for a 1 night inaugural cruise in New York. I came back so inspired and rested. From first ... Read More
I was one of the first lucky ones to be on the NEW Noordam. I am a travel agent for one of the top agencies in the US so was lucky to be selected for a 1 night inaugural cruise in New York. I came back so inspired and rested. From first glance, the ship is extremely handsome and sleek. Check in went smoothly and we were on our way! This ship does not have a spectacular atrium like other new ships. However, it has a lovely staircase which is illuminated with soft yellow lights. We spent a lot of time at workshops, learning more about the HAL brand but in between, I had time to enjoy the ship. Our stateroom was #6064. It was lovely! The beds were so comfortable. The bathroom had ample space and we received Elemis products as our amenities. The verandah was quite large and could have fit my family of 5 on it!!!! We visited the Green house spa for a tour of this calm and beautiful facility. We ate lunch at the Lido Restaurant. Very good food and pleasant service. We had an excellent dinner in the dining room and our surf and turf was outstanding. After dinner, we went to the Crow's Nest bar, which offered a stunning view of New York. The gift shops and casino were closed since we were in port, so I did not get to visit them. Were things 100% perfect? Not yet! The servers were very pleasant but you could tell that they had a few small things to perfect first. Would I sail on this ship? Absolutely! Will I recommend this to my valued client's? Of course!!!! I was actually depressed to leave the ship. All my best! Read Less
Sail Date February 2006
Holland America -- Noordam Cruise Review March 25 - April 5, 2006 My husband and I were first time cruisers. We spent our time researching the top three cruise lines, destinations, prices and chose HAL as our first cruise line. The ... Read More
Holland America -- Noordam Cruise Review March 25 - April 5, 2006 My husband and I were first time cruisers. We spent our time researching the top three cruise lines, destinations, prices and chose HAL as our first cruise line. The Noordam was still receiving its finishing touches as we eagerly went through the floor plans, pictures and cruise reviews -- we would not be disappointed. In fact, we can honestly say that this cruise was the best vacation we have ever taken. We let HAL make all the arrangements and safely arrived at the ship almost 3 hours before departure. When we stepped aboard it was into another world. The first stop -- our room. Our room was designed with the ultimate use of space. We were fortunate to be upgraded to an outside state room, level 4 almost midship. Beautiful, contemporary with many hidden luxuries would best describe the room dEcor. The bed must receive a special mention as it was the most comfortable bed we have ever had the pleasure of using. Fluffy white Egyptian cotton towels awaited you in the bathroom which was compact but efficient. I wished the countertop was a little bigger and the hangers in the closet did not move when the ship rocked but you get used to this quickly. The side tables had locking drawers and there was a safe in the closet for your valuables programmable with your own code. Each evening when you return to your room after dinner and a show you would be greeted by a chocolate on your pillow and an expertly crafted towel creature. The ship was only a few months old and beautiful. The signage made it very easy to get around and the crew never tired of pointing passengers in the right direction. The only thing which surprised us -- smoking was allowed around the indoor pool on the Lido deck. We quickly found a detour up to level 10 to avoid this area -- just a note to non-smokers. There were 3 restaurants on board the Noordam: " Lido Restaurant " Vista Dining Room " Pinnacle Grill Breakfast, lunch and dinner were available in the Vista Dining Room and Lido Restaurant. The Pinnacle served only lunch and dinner . The Vista We personally did not have breakfast in the Vista but did enjoy lunch and many dinners. This dining room was a more formal atmosphere with required attire on certain evening and a selected, more limited menu. The food was always inspired, portions were controlled but you were always full and could order as many dishes as you wished. Most selections were fish and red meat, however, they always had at least one chicken and one vegetarian selection. There were four dinner seating which you arrange at time of booking. You had the same table and the same dining steward for the entire voyage. They quickly get to know your tastes, especially your drink selections which would often arrive at your table shortly after you were seated. The Lido -- The Lido restaurant was a favorite amongst many of the passengers on the ship. Breakfast and lunch were both served buffet style. Dinner had the same menu as the dining room but in a more casual atmosphere without the appetizers and desserts. Surround windows and the ability to sit where and with whom you desired for all 3 meals made this an appealing selection. The amount of good and choices available were almost ridiculous, beautifully prepared and presented. Entertainment -- There was a list of entertainment every night including piano bar, string quartet, dance clubs, Karaoke, casino, movies and the showtime at the Vista Lounge. I ventured to the early show at the Vista Lounge the first full day of the cruise and I was pretty much hooked. The quality was more than I had expected for onboard entertainment. The Noordam was in its inaugural year, there was a lot of talent on the stage and I found myself wondering if these entertainers had done or would soon do time on the stages of New York or Toronto. After the show let out you cold move onto the casino, piano bar, string quartet or into one of the many bars for a drink. Day Life -- Every morning the days schedule would be waiting outside your door. You could scan it over breakfast and decide what you were doing that day OR you could lay out in the sun and find out what it felt like to do nothing. On the shore excursion days, ship activities would be reduced since most passengers would be off enjoying the island activities. Things to try if they are offered&the chicken toss, the galley tour, the cooking shows and ice carving demonstrations. Things learned by a first time cruiser -- "Make your own fun. "Participate in as many or as few things as you can or want. "Try new things. "Talk to everyone you see, everyone is on vacation so the mood level is phenomenal. "Don't get a table for just you and your family at the formal dinner seatings. Try a table for 6 or 8 -- if things don't work out you can have you seating changed or go the the casual dinner instead. "Get up early and stay up late when you are in port -- you can sleep when you're at sea. "Try to see the ship dock and leave port as many times as possible. "Go with the intentions of making new and lasting friends. "If you are a 1st time cruiser tell people, you get a lot of good advice and it's a good ice breaker. "You may get sea sick but don't worry, they have pills for that and they really work. "Keep a journal -- even point form to trigger good memories. "Take pictures and more pictures, you can never have too many. "Get familiar with the ship as soon as possible. "Bring small bills to tip your cabin steward, most times it is covered in your daily charges but trust me, you will want to tip over and above. "Join Cruise Critic. "If it's your first time to an island go on a shore excursion. "Warning! You will be hooked. "Happy traveling.  P.S. it will be a long way down your first day back in the real world so brace yourself -- this may possibly be your best vacation ever! Read Less
Sail Date March 2006
The Noordam is a gorgeous ship. It was, all in all, a favorable experience. We knew it was not the greatest itinerary but leaving from NYC where we live was a major factor. The accommodations were spacious and beautifully decorated. We ... Read More
The Noordam is a gorgeous ship. It was, all in all, a favorable experience. We knew it was not the greatest itinerary but leaving from NYC where we live was a major factor. The accommodations were spacious and beautifully decorated. We had two junior suites. I did think that a suite meant two rooms but this was one large room--plenty of closets and drawers and a very large balcony. Entertainment was not great although they did have some lectures and piano and bands going until late in the evening. Now for the few negatives which I hope have been ironed out. We were told that the ship would start loading at 11:30 with buffet lunch at noon. We had to stand and wait for almost two hours and the ship did not even start loading until nearly 1 PM. Very inefficient boarding procedures and not enough staff. We were exhausted when we finally boarded. They will take complaints but do nothing to address them or even appease you. Medical care is terrible. The doctor is there two hours a day--for 2,000 passengers. When she misdiagnosed a very bad soft tissue injury (our son is still in a cast and she said she saw nothing wrong), we had to seek a doctor on our own in St. Martin. I will say that when someone had a heart attack, they had a special code and medical team arrived with a defribrilator immediately. They have a doctor 24 hours a day for staff and crew and two hours a day for passengers? If you are not verifiably dying, do not count on medical care on this ship. The food was good--not excellent but certainly adequate. the dining room staff and our room steward were outstanding and, in general, I would rate the service excellent, even down to the laundry and dry cleaning. A major inconvenienceis that passengers gobble up deck chairs for the day and never use them.When the ship is at sea, it is almost impossible to get a chair because they are all reserved and most unoccupied. The moment someone gets up to leave, there is a mad rush for their deck chair. If people did not reserve chairs at both pool areas and not use them, there would be ample seating for all. My assessment of this cruise is that Holland America runs a spotlessly clean and efficient ship. The value is outstanding and you get a lot for your money. However, I do prefer the smaller ships such as Silversea. But you do get what you pay for on HAL. Read Less
Sail Date March 2006
This was our first cruise with Holland America. Our perspective is from a history of 6 cruises including Holland, Royal Caribbean, & Carnival, no children, husband & I are near forty years old, we like to snorkel. The average age ... Read More
This was our first cruise with Holland America. Our perspective is from a history of 6 cruises including Holland, Royal Caribbean, & Carnival, no children, husband & I are near forty years old, we like to snorkel. The average age on this ship seemed about 65 or so, but we didn't mind one bit. Embarkation: the real only negative we experienced. It was unusually long, but, being a new ship we figured there may be kinks to work out. During that time however, we met some really nice people, some we went on islands with later on. Ship: The ship was stunning, beautiful, abundant with bouquets of fresh flowers, orchids on all the tables of the Lido buffet. Some lounges were a little small to hold everyone. The fitness center had plasma tv screens on each treadmill & stepper you could listen to with earphones. This was the first time we saw a movie theatre on a ship. The retractable roof over the pool came in handy. Service was outstanding. Experienced calmer seas than we had expected out of N.Y. Sea days were enjoyed as an opportunity to relax amongst those busy port days. Stateroom: Having booked an inside guarantee cabin, we were pleasantly surprised at an upgrade to a obstructed ocean view which offered so much natural light. the daily fresh fruit basket, use of Holland robes, flat screen tv/DVD player in the room were nice. Dining: The dining room food was excellent, the best food we've eaten on any ship prior. Our dining room friends were some of the nicest people on the ship. Before you stepped into the dining room, a staff member in uniform rang a dinner bell (more like a small harp) throughout the dining room area, so sweet. One night they had a barbecue buffet out by the pool served drinks out of pineapples, almost like a luau which was unique & fun. Entertainment: We enjoyed most of the shows, but especially the Noordam singers & dancers shows. They sang wonderfully, the stage moved all around, pyrotechnics, a lot of fun. We also enjoyed the piano bar very much. They had an Elvis night, Sinatra night, etc. and you could sing along with the piano player/singer. Ports-of-call: Grand Turk: Shore excursion feeding stingrays on Gibb's Cay, then relaxed on the beach by the pier. When questioned while we were attempting to make plans, the ship excursion staff didn't seem to realize all that was available (car rentals, taxi's, etc.) at the pier. We would've done more on our own. We booked this excursion because the ship told us they were only about 6 taxi's at this new pier. Tortola: shore excursion to The Baths. Amazingly beautiful, especially the trail to devil's bay. St. Maarten: rented a taxi, snorkeled at Little Bay (saw starfish for the first time), Drove & boated to let Pinel. Beautiful place. Has 2 sides, one more beachy/populated, can order food, the other, less populated, more snorkeling, no services. Went to Orient Beach (some nudists there) and saw a barracuda, but not really a place to snorkel. St. Thomas: Coki beach--our favorite, great snorkeling, pretty beach, then taxied to Secret Harbour, saw a turtle snorkeling. Puerto Rico: took a taxi to Isla Verde beach, nice, but we wished we did the rainforest tour instead from what we heard and saw on the ship tv. Overall: a beautiful time, no real complaints, We definitely would cruise again on this ship. Read Less
Sail Date March 2006
My wife and I are in our mid-fifties and this was our second cruise. Our first was 18 months ago on the Millennium by Celebrity in the Mediterranean. The Noordam is very similar to the Millennium in all aspects. All in all this was a ... Read More
My wife and I are in our mid-fifties and this was our second cruise. Our first was 18 months ago on the Millennium by Celebrity in the Mediterranean. The Noordam is very similar to the Millennium in all aspects. All in all this was a very satisfying cruise. Following are some of the negative issues we experienced. First, the embarkation in New York was a disaster. Everyone seemed to arrive at the same time (11.30 AM). There were agents allocated to US citizens and separate agents for non-US passengers. The process was unusually long. It took us almost one hour to board the ship. The service ( one-half the crew was Indonesian and the other Filipino) was uneven, excellent in the staterooms and very ordinary in the dining room. The dining room staff did not explain the menus properly and there were numerous errors made on orders (10 people at our table). Another beef was the spa swimming pool which was an additional charge of $20/day or $50/cruise. This should be included in the cruise price. As a result, this pool was empty. The only other major problem was the breakdown of the satellite which controlled both the phone and the internet. It was actually out of order for over 48 hours in a row. and when operating, it was very erratic with significant interruptions. This left a sense of insecurity if you were relying on the internet to keep in touch with home. Finally, the crew was continuously "hawking" various activities, products and drinks. I guess this is the price to pay for ownership by Carnival. Here are some of the positive aspects of the cruise and most were. The staterooms are outstanding. In the verandah suites, there is both a whirlpool bath and a shower, and a two sink counter. Lot's of room. The food was very consistently good. There was significant variation every day, and a large choice on each menu. We enjoyed the Pinnacle Restaurant (surcharge of $20/person). It was worth the extra. The ship was always very clean and the service in the buffet restaurant (Lido) was excellent. The age profile was quite old, with many disabled passengers. I assumed that this was due to a New York port of departure and arrival. Disembarkation was extremely well organised. It made up for the unruly embarkation. The daily entertainment show was consistently of high quality. We were at the last sitting in the dining room at night and everyone made their way to the nightly show. The ports of call were very nice. Dominica was especially different and unusual. I would recommend Holland America to others. I still prefer nightly seating arrangements to open seating. With the right people, this is an enjoyable experience. Read Less
Sail Date March 2006
EMBARKATION. I flew down to Bermuda for a few days and flew to JFK the morning of embarkation. the flight was delayed an hour which worried me a bit especially after the taxi from the hotel did not turn up. I got a bus from JFK to ... Read More
EMBARKATION. I flew down to Bermuda for a few days and flew to JFK the morning of embarkation. the flight was delayed an hour which worried me a bit especially after the taxi from the hotel did not turn up. I got a bus from JFK to Grand Central Stn then hopped on a taxi to the pier. Did not find the driver very friendly having I had to drag the case into the boot myself and he never spoke. On arrival at the pier my case was taken from me which was great. I went inside to find I had to sit on a seat until the line moved a bit, people kept going to the front thinking they would be first in line but they were asked to sit down. After about 20 mins we were finally let in to join the line. I understand the express line did not happen at all which is not good! There were several different queues, online bookings, different countries apart from U.S and Canada. As I am a U.K citizen I was unsure which queue to join. I stayed where i was and was given the cruise card and the photograph of me going onboard. HOTEL INFO. I flew from London to New York the week before on Kuwait Airline who were ok apart from the fact I could not get a window seat as requested and there was no alcohol served onboard, which was not an issue as I was on tablets for my teeth and could not drink any anyway. I stayed 3 nights in New York at a recommended hotel, The Broadway Inn, off Times Square. I did not think it was worth the price $167 a night as the room was small, no lifts and had to carry the luggage down 3 floors without assistance. The room backed onto a backstreet. I stayed in a guest house in Bermuda called the Granaway in Warwick County, a lovely place to stay. STATEROOM. I shared my cabin with another male I met on the internet. He suggested a balcony cabin. We had 4136 but 2 weeks before we went we were offered an upgrade for $299 each. Miles, my cabinmate took it at once without even asking me first! 6111 was starboard midship. It was a lovely big cabin a superior verandah cabin. A bathroom with a shower, a full bath with jets, 2 sinks and a toilet. 2 single beds, a leather sofa, and a balcony much larger than the usual. with 2 chairs and a table, 2 cushioned chairs with a pouffe. I was a bit surprised there were no sun loungers out there. It was 529 sq feet I think. I did not have accesses to the Neptune Lounge but had a large flat screen tv, a DVD player too. DINING. I had main sitting which is actually late sitting at 8pm on deck 3, the Vista dining room at the aft end of the ship. Table 45 a long table for 8 by the window. The first night Miles was with 4 others 2 of which wanted 1st sitting. Unfortunately Miles found friends from another table that had a free space so he went there the rest of the cruise. I had 7 others on my table which were not the greatest I have had but they were ok. The food was really great. There was also the Pinnacle Grill which was $20 cover charge, which was worth doing it at least once. The choice of meats were good and the creme brulee was the 2nd best I have ever had here. 2nd to a French restaurant in the Gastown area of Vancouver. There was also the buffet in the Lido which was nice for a change. ACTIVITIES. There were lots of different things to do, but mostly the same as I'd had before; bingo, culinary demonstrations, wine tasting, dancing, bridge. but not really the things I was interested in, lectures on ships or something like I would have rather had. ENTERTAINMENT. This was first rate. There was singer Lorna Luft, String Fever from Australia, an English comedian,a Tommy Tune musical, a mime artist just so much variety. Interesting thing to note is nothing was mentioned about videoing or flashes taken during the shows. So many cruise lines tell you no videos, audio taping or even flash pictures but others do not. SHORE EXCURSIONS. Quite a lot of choice of these but quite expensive, I booked one of the Formula 1 circuit but as not many were interested it was cancelled a day before and the other in Valencia was sold out. DISEMBARKATION. This was done very quick. We asked to get off around 8am as the limo was due then, but was called around 7.30am very quick. Read Less
Sail Date April 2006
Just a reference point, this is was the 13th cruise I have been on since January of 2005. I have traveled on Princess, Holland America, RCCL, Celebrity, Norwegian Caribbean & Oceania Lines. Embarkation: Arrived around 3pm and there ... Read More
Just a reference point, this is was the 13th cruise I have been on since January of 2005. I have traveled on Princess, Holland America, RCCL, Celebrity, Norwegian Caribbean & Oceania Lines. Embarkation: Arrived around 3pm and there were no lines. Was on board ship within 30 minutes. Went very smoothly even though I didn't have cruise documents with me since I booked late. They were very accommodating & helpful. Public Rooms: All public rooms were tastefully decorated & flow of ship was excellent. There was some traffic flow issues but generally things went very smoothly. Queen's Lounge could have been better utilized but was fine. Dining Rooms were lovely & staff great. Cabin: Cabin location was great. Near elevators & centrally located between dining deck & gangway. They need more lighting at vanity & more drawer space in cabins. Beds were very comfortable & had whole cabin to myself. If I was sharing it would have been a bit cramped but still OK. Cabin steward was great. Fitness & Recreation: Found the Fitness Center to be adequate but would have liked more variety of equipment. With space available was able to do my workouts. Pools were good & free classes were OK. Too much was made of spa treatments instead of passenger services. Dining: Was at 8pm seating at table for 8. Wonderful group of people. Vista Dining Room is very nice. Food & service were excellent. Lido Cafe (buffet) was also good. Would have liked to see more variety but quality was very good & staff very accommodating. Really like RCCL's station concept better than cafeteria line but there wasn't too much waiting on this ship. Would love to see HAL consider open seating section for dining room in evenings. Did enjoy my dinner companions but would like flexibility to eat when I want. Princess is using this concept & I think it is excellent. Entertainment: The production shows were really great. Singers & dancers were excellent & very energetic. The other acts were also varied & well done. We even had Lorna Luff (Judy Garland's daughter) as a performer. She was great. Cruise Director, Jason Venner, was one of best I experienced on any cruse. He was entertaining & accommodating with all the guests. Program was well balanced & professionally done. Service: The staff on this ship is exceptional. They were always friendly & willing to go that extra bit to make our trip special. The dining room staff & cabin stewards were also some of the best I've experienced. Shore Excursions: This was the weakest point on this cruise. I only did 1 shore excursion since they cancelled one of them on me. There were a few problems such as shuttles that were not handled well. One they refunded us the full price. Generally shore excursions are overpriced but tend to be well executed. Disembarkation: Took much longer than expected. Originally had better time but changed it. This was a mistake. Didn't get off til about 10:30am. Was planning to be off at 9am since I was staying in Rome. Value for Price: Excellent value to price ratio. Overall Cruise: This was wonderful experience & might do it again next year. Ship, staff, food, entertainment tops. Highly recommend. Read Less
Sail Date April 2006
This was a change for us since our last 5 cruises were on Radisson Seven Seas Cruises. So weve been used to smaller ships with all inclusive policy. We have, however been on larger ships many years ago. But we chose the Noordam because ... Read More
This was a change for us since our last 5 cruises were on Radisson Seven Seas Cruises. So weve been used to smaller ships with all inclusive policy. We have, however been on larger ships many years ago. But we chose the Noordam because the itinerary was good and the ship was brand new. Also it wasnt as large as many of the other cruise lines. We were pleasantly surprised. The size of the ship was very comfortable, carrying about 1900 passengers. And the ships style and dEcor was positively beautiful. It is beautifully done with lots of leather in different colors and textures, all in excellent taste. The designers and decorators are to be commended! The service was good in most areas. The buffet for breakfast and lunch had good selections, but this is the only place I have criticism of the service. It seemed to me that if the dining room captains were not visible the servers were not as attentive as they should have been. There were a small few who really went the extra step to be of service, but they should have been a little busier. They needed to clean off tables faster, etc. Maybe they still needed some training since the ship was only on its 13th voyage. The food in the main dining room was okay but not fabulous. But our dining room section manager was great. The stateroom we had was fabulous. In the category we were in we enjoyed some extra benefits such as laundry service, and a private lounge which had complimentary snacks and coffee almost all of the time. This was nice because otherwise you had to pay for cappuccino elsewhere on the ship. And the bed was extremely comfortable. Also the bathroom was spacious and the closet space was terrific. And lastly the entertainment, I thought, was wonderful. We rehearsed, well performed and fun. We attended the shows almost every night. All in all we had a very nice cruise. I think Holland America is trying to improve their status to luxury cruise line. They have a little further to go, but they are on their way. Read Less
Sail Date May 2006
The itinerary is the star of this cruise. The brand-new Noordam was just the sideshow. About us: I am 39 and my husband, Rich, is 44. Ive been on one cruise and Ive been to Europe several times (although never to any of these ports). ... Read More
The itinerary is the star of this cruise. The brand-new Noordam was just the sideshow. About us: I am 39 and my husband, Rich, is 44. Ive been on one cruise and Ive been to Europe several times (although never to any of these ports). Rich was new to both cruising and Europe. We tend to like higher-end travel such as Ritz-Carlton hotels and finer restaurants, but we are as apt to be munching a cheeseburger and gulping a beer as the next guy (or gal). First I will give you my impressions of the ports and what we did at each one. After that Ill give you my thoughts on the cruise itself. General info: Everyone talks about safety issues in Europe but we never once felt threatened. I recommend women carry a small knapsack that fits across your body instead of a purse. Men should leave their wallets on the ship and just carry cash in their front pockets. Put your hands in your pockets when you are in crowds, and hold your bag to your chest. Also, try not to take full-day tours every day or you will be exhausted. We enjoyed afternoons on the ship at Mallorca, Tunisia and Palermo. And remember that most stores are closed in these ports from 1-4 every day -- use that time for lunch and visiting sites. The Ports Monte Carlo: Unless something changes, ships tender at this port. From the dock you can then walk into town or take a taxi. Monte Carlo and Monaco are built on rocks, so the walking can be treacherous and taxing, even with the elevators. When we were there, they were setting up for the Grand Prix, so the streets were even more chaotic than usual. We pre-booked a four-hour tour with Dream Tours. Guy was there to pick us up, and he swept us off to St Paul de Vence, a village about 45 minutes from the port. This village has historical significance but it has been turned in to a rather Disney-ish type of place. Still, the views are wonderful and the shops are fun. From there we drove back to Monte Carlo, where he drove by the highlights. Then he drove us up to Monaco so we could go in the cathedral where Prince Rainier and Princess Grace are buried, see the palace where Prince Albert lives and get some magnificent pictures of Monte Carlo and the anchored Noordam. We were back in time for dinner! I didnt hear much from people who took the HAL tours at this port. I think many people were still jet-lagging. Livorno: There is not much to do here unless you book an excursion. This is a huge commercial port, so walking around is not desirable. We again booked a private tour, this time with Claudio from Limo in Rome. He picked us up at 8 and we were off first to Pisa (just 15 miles). Not many people were there yet so we got to walk around without crowds. The cathedral wasnt open yet, but the tower was. From there we continued on about 45 minutes to Florence. He took us to all the major sites, including the Accademia to see David. If you want to visit the Accademia or the Uffizi Gallery (we didnt get to the Uffizi due to time), be sure to pre-book a reservation because the lines can be hours long. Claudio did this for us. After our day in Florence, it was about 70 miles back to the ship. Be forewarned that the ships tours to Florence are on buses that have to park about a mile outside town, so you will need to walk a good distance before you even start touring. Dont expect them to have pre-booked tickets for you to anything. I heard good things about the Lucca excursion, if youve been to Florence and want to do something different. Sea Day 1: This first day at sea is significant because it involves scenic cruising around the Calenques on Corsica. View times are around 6 am and 11 am. The cliffs are pink and orange in color. The cruise director narrates for some time. Unfortunately the Med was uncharacteristically choppy that day with waves of 7-12 feet. Barcelona: We met a friend here who flew down from Amsterdam, so we did this city on our own. The port time is long so you have plenty of time to wander. We grabbed a taxi just outside the very nice Barcelona terminal and took it to the Drassnes Metro station. There you can buy a card (click on the machines British flag to get English) for the whole day. I think it was about 7 Euro for the full-day ticket. We took the Metro to the Sagrada Familia station. We spent about two hours exploring this amazing church, which has been under construction for 100 years. This is a must see! There is an elevator up the tower, and you can climb farther on stairs. After the church we took the Metro to the station nearest Gaudis apartment building. We had lunch at an outdoor cafe and then walked over to look at the apartment building. There was a Starbucks across the street  the only one I saw during this trip and it seemed to be a trendy place for the locals. After that we started at the top of La Rambla and walked down, stopping to poke around some shops. About halfway down, we took a left and walked through the Gothic district. Then we popped back out to La Rambla and continued down to the Columbus statue. From there we bid good-bye to our friend and hopped a taxi (amazingly, the same driver we had earlier from the ship!) back to the ship. I heard good things about the HAL tours. The tapas tour involves several bottles of wine, much to the pleasure (and, later, demise!) of those on that tour. I dont think you can go wrong in Barcelona -- it is a fun, warm city with lots to see and do. Palma de Mallorca: This is a beautiful place but dont expect much to do. The port is a walk-off with plenty of taxis available, or you can walk into town in about 30 minutes. We took a taxi up the Castell de Bellver and looked around there. Amazing views from the top level! Then we took a taxi back to town (consider negotiating for the taxi to wait on you while you are at the Castell because there arent a lot of taxis up there). We visited the cathedral and walked around town a bit, then taxied back to the ship. It was nice to see Mallorca but it is one of those places that you can cross off your list once youve been there (unlike Florence or Barcelona!). Sea Day 2: Even though our cruise still had three more ports and four more days, this was the day of the disembarkation talk and the farewell dinner, which was awkward and felt odd. All four couples at our dinner table ate at the Pinnacle in our formalwear, which was fun. Tunisia: This port is the most challenging. It appears that Tunisia is new to cruise ships, so the infrastructure isnt yet in place to handle tours well. I heard many, many complaints about the tours: guides who did not speak clear English, uncomfortable transportation, scary food, etc. So be prepared for a day of new experiences. We chose the transfer, which actually turned in to a tour because the guide on the bus offered to lead us through the souk. We decided to head out on our own and explore the souk ourselves. They accept Euros and American Dollars. You should haggle at a starting price of about 30 percent of what the merchant originally tells you, then end up somewhere in the middle. Lots of fun stuff to buy such as jewelry, perfume, shoes, leathers, T-shirts and so on. I recommend this transfer if you just want to shop. I heard horror stories about the taxis so avoid those. If you know French, this port will be easier for you as most Tunisians speak French and/or Arabic. I speak French and found that I got a different level of respect when I used it with the merchants. Palermo: This port was a disappointment to me. We did not book a tour and I thought I had done enough research to get us around. Perhaps we were just too tired by this point. Also, it was a hot day. The ship ports right in the city so you can walk off and start wandering. We walked around the old town and saw the cathedral and did some shopping, then walked over to the Teatro Massimo. This is where they shot the final seen of Godfather 3. It was closed, which I knew beforehand, but we took a picture anyway. Then we wandered back to the ship. Id advise a tour at this port, probably one that goes away from Palermo because it is a crowded and loud city like Rome. I heard pretty good things about the ships tour, but I heard that the Panoramic Palermo tour did not allow any stops except at the beach, which some said was a waste of time. Consider a tour that goes into the smaller villages of Sicily where there is more charm. Naples: We booked another private tour here with Claudio, who contracted with Mariano to take us to the Amalfi Coast and Pompeii. He picked us up at 8 and said wed be leaving Pompeii for last (most people go first) so we would be closer to the port at the end of the day and not have to worry about traffic (smart!). Mariano is from near Sorrento so he knew many people along the Amalfi Coast. For example, he pulled over at a small market, hopped out and came back with a sample of fresh mozzarella for each of us. We did the entire Amalfi Coast, including Sorrento, Positano and Ravello. I think the ships tours only get to Sorrento due to time. We went through towns and along roads that buses wouldnt have been able to navigate. Then he drove us to the gate at Pompeii and dropped us for two hours. We had the choice of a live guide, an audio guide or a free written guide and map at the Info desk (you have to ask, but its free!). I heard later that live guides were really helpful. We only saw about one-fourth of the whole place on our own. Note: Pompeii is definitely not suitable for disabled people. It can be challenging even for able-bodied folks! The Cruise This is a fantastic ship. We felt that we got good overall value from our VF category cabin. But I heard differently from someone in an SA category and from the couple in the penthouse (which I visited -- the balcony and walk-in closet are fantastic!). Then again, they paid a lot more than we did for the same of everything (food, entertainment, etc.) except a larger cabin! If I were doing more than a 10-day cruise, Id want to upgrade to a suite just for space, I think. However, our cabin, 5053, had great storage. We had four suitcases and I was able to fit everything in the closets and bins and store the suitcases under the bed with room to spare for purchases. By the way, do get a balcony cabin. The balcony was such a wonderful spot for sailaways and for Sea Day 1 when we sailed the Calenques. You will enjoy it. The food was fine. It seemed to deteriorate in the last few days of the cruise, or maybe that was just because I was tired of eating! The only bad meal I had was lunch in the dining room on a sea day -- it was inedible. Our two visits to the Pinnacle were great (try the tasting menu with the wines for $49!). The Lido was good for a step up from cafeteria-style food. We only had breakfast and lunch there so I dont know how the dinners are. People were raving about the pasta with meat sauce. I also heard really good things about the hamburger at lunch in the Pinnacle ($10). But to be honest, we werent here for the food so we were happy to just get a meal after a day of touring. There was an interesting mix of people on this cruise (I dont think it was near capacity). There were many seniors, of course, but just a handful of little kids. I saw glimpses of twentysomething types but Id say the majority of us were 35 and older. We were blessed with a wonderful table of 8 -- four couples -- who were all around our age. We had such a great time together that we had our picture made (we all bought one!) and we met together for dinner two more nights in Rome after the cruise. I think we just got lucky. We were the last ones to leave the dining room every night, and that was after meeting for cocktails before dinner, and before we all hit the casino or showroom. I only saw two shows. The one I saw seemed to have canned music. Some of the dancers were lip-synching and some werent. The singing was mediocre at best. The dancing was not always in sync. But many people seemed to be entertained, so thats fine. Again, I wasnt there for the entertainment. Another night I saw the Filipino staff show, which was a delight. They shared their cultural dances and songs, and I think they were better than the professionals in the show crew. Certainly more emotional and moving! Other than the shows and the casino, nightlife is lacking on the Noordam. Perhaps the bars are rocking more on Caribbean cruises where people are less concerned about being up early and fresh for intensive ports? Or maybe it was the lack of younger people on the ship? All I know is we had a hard time finding a drink past 12:30. Our best bet was the Oak Room (the cigar room), which has its own cocktail server. By the way, the officers and the Pinnacle chef gather here late, too. There is an air system in the room that diffuses the smoke. We used the ships laundry service twice at $19 a bag. I noticed when I got home that I have someone elses white socks! Its just one pair, but if anyone is reading this who is missing a pair of socks... I recommend pre-purchasing some liquor and champagne/wine for your cabin, saving the 15 percent. Then buy wine/soda/water in ports so you can try other wines and save money. You have a fridge in your cabin. Also, every day in the schedule you can see what the special drinks of the day are. They are discounted, and its fun to try drinks you might not order normally. Another great every-day special is the bucket of beer at the Lido pool bar for $10. Overall, though, we found the drink prices to be very reasonable. I do have a couple of complaints and they all relate to the end of the cruise. First off, as I said earlier, they did the disembarkation talk on the second sea day, which I understand is more conducive to that talk, but there were still four more days in our cruise. They also distributed the review forms that day and asked that they be returned that evening to win prizes. Of course, many people did that, but some of those wished they hadnt because their bad tours in Tunisia and Palermo -- and other things that happened the next four days -- were not reflected in the reviews. From that point on, it felt like they were not-so-subtly kicking us off. They ran out of limes in the bars. Our fruit basket disappeared. Our fridge was locked and the contents (including milk in a friends cabin) were deposited on the counter. The amenity holder in the bathroom was removed and the bottles set on the bathroom counter. Is all of this really necessary two days before the end of the cruise? And the kicker: Rich and I went to get something to eat from the Lido at 8:30 on disembarkation day and everything was closed up. I expected they would leave out some rolls or something, but everything including beverages was closed up. So we didnt get anything to eat until we got to Rome at noon. After a great cruise, these ending moments caused a bad taste in my mouth. And one other thing. While we were cruising, the earthquake hit Indonesia. I asked a few different Indonesian staff members if they had word on their families. To a person, they said almost the same thing, and with a pasted-on smile -- but I could see differently in their eyes. They clearly were instructed on what to say, and not to discuss their personal feelings with passengers. This really bothered me and made me wonder what the staff must think of us passengers when they are instructed not to tell us how they feel. I think they should be allowed to share their feelings if they are asked directly. Do I love cruising? Not really. But what I do love is the ability to get to so many fascinating ports while I am sleeping. If I cruise again, it will be because of the ports and not the actual cruise. Overall, though, I think HAL does a good job for the money. If you are looking for great food and an upscale experience, try Crystal or Seabourn. If you want nighttime excitement, try Carnival or RCCL. But if you just want a comfortable, classy environment at a reasonable price, HAL is a great choice. Read Less
Sail Date May 2006
I have not had a chance to write a review on out Western Mediterranean cruise last April/May 06 on the Noordam. First I will give you my general overview of HAL and the Noordam. My overall impression was just OK compared to the last ... Read More
I have not had a chance to write a review on out Western Mediterranean cruise last April/May 06 on the Noordam. First I will give you my general overview of HAL and the Noordam. My overall impression was just OK compared to the last cruise we took on Celebrity, which I feel excelled in overall service and quality. Embarkation in Civitavecchia was excellent and smooth! On Board Holland America was a little lacking in the service department. The first 2 days the staff seemed very cold, unhelpful and distant. With the exception of our Stateroom attendant Sonny. They seemed to loosen up after the 2nd day. Overall the food was just ok in both dining rooms and room service. Desserts were not very good anywhere on this ship! I do have to say the Pinnacle grill was the highlight of our dining experience. Cruise Value Center had given us complimentary passes to the Pinnacle along with 2 bottles of Wine in our Stateroom since we have booked with them several times. Now for the good stuff! The ports of call! Of course we embarked in Civitavecchia. We arrived a day early so we could see the sites in Rome and just in case there was a luggage issue, which there was. We missed our connecting flight in Frankfurt by 6 min. So, they put us on the next flight 1 hour later. No problem. So when we got to Rome 2 bags got left for the 5 pm flight. The baggage handling company at the airport in Rome was helpful and they delivered our 2 missing bags to our hotel by midnight. The transfer company wanted us to catch the bus across the street from the Vatican at 10am! We did not have to be to Civitavecchia until 3pm. So we passed and took a limousine instead so we could go to the Colliseum and Forum for a few hours. Worked out great! We got back to our Hotel and our Limo was there to take us to Civitavecchia. So, embarkation was smooth. We were escorted to our Verandah Stateroom 6016 where are luggage had been waiting for us! Nice. Our itinerary for the evening said to join the Bon Voyage celebration on deck.....we went and there only a few people. -Monte Carlo, Monaco - Nice excursion to the Palace, the Cathedral then up to Beausoleil, then to the Casino and back. Very enjoyable. Would have liked to walk around town a little more. - Livorno, Italy - We chose the Lucca and Pisa excursion. Lucca was very nice. We had plenty of time to walk around and enjoy the shops. I would/will definitely visit this place again. Pisa - Well, the excursion did not give us a whole lot of time here. We only had about 40 minutes with a 10 min walk from the bus. Once we got there it looked like a big flea market with vendors everywhere. It was cool to see the leaning tower and the Baptistry. But, no time to see the town. So, this tour was OK. - Corsica cruise/sightseeing -The next morning we were treated to beautiful scenery during breakfast as we cruised around Corsica. And Day at Sea to Barcelona. - Barcelona, Spain - I wish we had 2 days here!! Alot to see!! The good thing is we got to port at 7am and had until 10pm. We took an excursion in the AM that took us to Montjuic, the Cathedral de la Santa Creu. This was very nice to see and I enjoyed it. Next a drive through the gothic quarter to La Sagrada Familia. What a beautiful Cathedral. A must see in Barcelona!! Once again about 40 minutes here to visit and shop. Then, back to the ship since it was time for Siesta and most shops close. So we had our own siesta and lunch onboard. After siesta we took a taxi to see the Arch de Triumf and walk back down to La Citadella. Nice park with zoo etc. We the walked up Passeig de Gracia and shopped. Back down to the Port for Tapas etc. What a beautiful city!! Cant wait to go back!!! - Palma de Mallorca, Spain - We decide to go on our own since we thought it would be small and everything close by. As we disembarked we decided to take a tour with a local taxista (Guillermo from Petra) WOW! This was an excellent choice!! $150 Euro for 3 people for 5 hours!! He had a whole itinerary that would take us to place that tour busses cannot get to and timed it so when we got to the tourist spots we would have to deal with crowds. He took us to lovely villages. Fornalutx, Soller (puerto de soller), deaia, Valldemossa (must see) then to Nova Palma and to downtown Palma. We fell in love with Mallorca. There was another review here by Christy that was on this same cruise. Man, she said it was one of those places that you would forget. She missed out is what happened. This place rocks!! Its a keeper. I would live here! - day at sea to relax!! This night we used our comps to the Pinnacle Grill! This was a meal to remember. The best steak I ever had! - La Goulette - Tunis, Tunisia - Not much to say here except... I don't plan to go back. We decide to do a taxi here too. We only wanted to go to Carthage. Our driver suggested we drive through town and then to Carthage. We agreed. Well, he was calling his buddies to let them know he would bring them by his shops in the Medina so they could try to sell us stuff. don't GO HERE!!! Its dirty, ugly, third world and can be scary. We bought some small rugs and some jewelry from the aggressive vendors and made him get us out. Our driver Nassar was a nice guy and promptly got us to Carthage. It was cool to see the ruins. Back to the ship!! Your not missing much here! - Palermo, Sicily, Italy - We decide we would walk here since town was right next to the port. There are quite a few thing to see here. We did some really great cheap shopping too! One downer is its a little dirty here and we did not enjoy seeing the stray dogs. So I could do with or without it. - Naples, Italy - We decided on a 9hr tour to Capri. We took a really rough ride to island. I don't get sea sick, but my wife does and about 70 % of the other passengers!! Once we got there it was an awesome day!!! Our excursion took us to Villa San Michele di Axel Munthe for shopping, Up to Ana Capri on the gondola. Then back to town for lunch and shopping. Our excursion had a lunch included at the nicest Best Western I've ever seen! I had salad, Spada (swordfish), Pasta and wine! We though we were getting a box lunch like we saw some of the other excursions getting. Nice. So more shopping and back to Naples. WE just caught a few streets by the port and back to the ship. Capri was beautiful and a definite must see. -Back to Civitavecchia for our flight home - Disembarkation was quick and efficient. The only hold up was 2 more people that were to be on our bus. But, after 10 min we were on our way back to the airport in Rome. Our trip back to San Francisco on Lufthansa & united was a little miserable since we missed our connecting flight due to the passing storm. We ended up waiting another 5 hours for another flight that ended up taking us through Washington DC. Wait another 2.5 hrs and the 5 hours on a cramped Airbus A319! So in closing it was a wonderful itinerary. The cruise was good, not the best, but would take Holland America again at the right price. I am planning another Western Med. cruise in 2 years on Celebrity. Cheers, I hope this review was informative. Read Less
Sail Date May 2006
My wife and I have cruised several times before (Cunard, NCL, RCL, Celebrity, and Princess) but this was our first HAL experience. The Noordam is also the largest ship we have sailed aboard (prior sailings were on ships ranging from 16,000 ... Read More
My wife and I have cruised several times before (Cunard, NCL, RCL, Celebrity, and Princess) but this was our first HAL experience. The Noordam is also the largest ship we have sailed aboard (prior sailings were on ships ranging from 16,000 to 74,000 tons). As a rule we do not like the larger glitzy ships that are now so prevalent and I was somewhat apprehensive about HALs newest offering. After visiting Rome for several days we were driven to Civitavecchia by a friend and, thus did not have to contend with other travel arrangements. Civitavecchia is a good distance from Rome and if you are not booking connections through the cruise company, careful attention should be paid to arrangements. A train connects to the town (our traveling companions arrived this way from Florence) and a taxi is needed to get to the ship thereafter. We arrived for boarding at about 3 P.M. and experience no delay in checking in, the ship having started boarding about two hours prior. We were told of crowding by those who did arrive earlier. The only drawback boarding was the fact that no one was available to carry our baggage on board. I found this very odd and not in keeping with prior cruise experience. Once we reached our deck a steward took our bags the remaining 50 feet to our stateroom. The stateroom was an outside cabin with a view largely obstructed by a lifeboat (we expected this in order to obtain a lower fare). The cabin was suitably large and very well appointed. The bed was a large double or queen size that was very comfortable and afforded an excellent nights sleep. The pillows and linens were also of a good quality. A minibar is in the cabin and the WC was reasonably sized and well appointed. Our cabin steward was largely invisible to us throughout the cruise but this in no way affected the excellent service. The room was clean and orderly at all times. The nightly turn down service was a surprise with cleverly done towel animals left for us along with the chocolates. We found the ship to be tastefully decorated with ample public spaces. The glitz is held to a minimum and the deck chairs were of the sort that we expected on a premium line (not the cheap plastic sort we have found elsewhere). The two pools were adequate for those who needed them and children under 16 were wisely restricted to only one of the pools). My fears of a larger ship were unwarranted. Despite carrying nearly 2000 passengers we never felt crowded or unnecessarily delayed by queues. Families traveling with children seemed well served by the special services available (playroom and organized activity). We did not travel with children but our observation was that they those aboard were well behaved and tended to and did not constitute an annoyance). Our fellow passengers ran the gamut but reflected what we expected of HAL, mainly 40 and older and not prone to hard partying. We observed none of the more raucous sail away activities or deck parties that were prevent on other lines. Generally, the atmosphere was one of subdued fun. Ship activities were well planned (trivia, games, contests etc.) and well attended. Our dinner table companions from Canada and Australia were very interesting and pleasant. Religious services were available for Catholics (HAL has a priest on each sailing for daily Mass), Protestants and Jews (our Jewish traveling companions observed a decent crowd for Friday night services which were led by a Rabbi). FOOD: We were very contented with all of the food services aboard. We did not sample the Grill (it costs extra) and confined ourselves mostly to the main dining room. The food was of good quality and the selections were interesting. It compared favorably with what we experienced on Celebrity and Princess. The Lido (cafeteria style) restaurant was also of good quality and selection. Room service was very good. The staff service in the dining room was excellent. Our waiter and assistant were courteous, friendly and efficient without being intrusive. Once my drink preferences for dinner and dessert were established, these were brought to me without any need for a reminder. The wine steward was likewise knowledgeable and very pleasant. Entertainment: The entertainment was of the sort we have experience elsewhere. Mostly young singers and dancers who work very hard. It is pleasant and diverting for an hour or so but not Broadway or Las Vegas. Shore excursions: We utilized shore excursions in Corfu, Santorini, Olympian, Kusadasi and Sicily. The average cost was about $100 for the two of us. Most of the sites in the Eastern Med. are some distance from the port and excursions are needed. We did not require one in Dubrovnik, Croatia as the ship leaves you at the historic district. Friends told us that Messina, Sicily is not worth the effort. We took the tour to Taormina which was very good. Disembarkation was handled very efficiently and our luggage was easy to retrieve. Summary: We were very happy with all that HAL offered aboard the Noordam. This new ship was very accommodating and we thought every staff person we met was friendly and helpful. We will certainly cruise with them again Read Less
Sail Date July 2006
This was my first cruise with HOLLAND AMERICA. Embarkation/Disembarkation was quick an OK and the stateroom was the best I ever see ( it was my 9th cruise). But there is a lot of improvements that HOLLAND need to make to reach the level of ... Read More
This was my first cruise with HOLLAND AMERICA. Embarkation/Disembarkation was quick an OK and the stateroom was the best I ever see ( it was my 9th cruise). But there is a lot of improvements that HOLLAND need to make to reach the level of PRINCESS or CELEBRITY : CHILDREN CONTROL: No control, they disturb passengers without crew reactions ACTIVITIES: VERY BAD MANAGEMENT OF THE DISCO, which is one of the attractions after dinner. (Children 9-10 years are allowed to stay there.) One day the disco closed because it was a crew party (incredible?). ROOM SERVICE: Bad, they forget frequently to replace soap and shampoo. DINNING SERVICE: Bad, they don't serve the meal at the same time to the guests of the same deck. FOOD: Low quality. The only fruit you can find is melon or watermelon. TRANSFERS: Usually other companies offer free transfer from the  ship to the  cities. With Holland you have to pay. FRONT OFFICE: Not very helpful FITNESS: Very small SAUNAS. Read Less
Sail Date July 2006
Background This was my eighth cruise with Holland America, and my fourth HAL big band cruise. I chose it specifically for the big band theme and am glad I did, since it does not appear that HAL has any big band cruises scheduled or 2007. ... Read More
Background This was my eighth cruise with Holland America, and my fourth HAL big band cruise. I chose it specifically for the big band theme and am glad I did, since it does not appear that HAL has any big band cruises scheduled or 2007. This was my first experience with one of HAL's Vista Class ships, and frankly I had some misgivings about its size, as I usually choose ships ranging from 35,000 to 55,000 tons, such as HAL's Prinsendam and S-Class ships, Crystal's two ships, and Cunard's now-departed Vistafjord/Caronia. However, the Noordam easily accommodates its 1800 passengers and never seems crowded. This was also my first experience with a ship built to the new "Signature of Excellence" standard, my last HAL cruise having been in December 2005 on the Maasdam, which had not yet undergone her Signature re-fit. So, I have no basis for comparison with the rest of the fleet, all of which I understand has now undergone the Signature of Excellence upgrading. However, I do have some reservations about some of the new features - some are excellent but others are, I feel, a step backward in the HAL experience. More about this later. And whose bright idea was it to name both the show lounge and the restaurant "Vista"? Pre Cruise and Embarkation I booked the cruise through my regular travel agent and selected a Category H outside, obstructed-view cabin (no. 4067) on the Upper Promenade Deck. This is my usual cabin type selection; as a solo traveler about the only time I spend in the cabin is sleeping and preparing for the next on-board or shore activity. Since I was traveling to Rome independently two days early, I reserved a room at the Visconti Palace hotel, one of several hotels HAL was using, and booked, or thought I had booked, a city-to-port transfer through HAL. However, when I received my documents, I found that HAL had me scheduled for an airport-to-port transfer on sailing day, which made no sense at all, especially since HAL was well aware of my air arrangements. My travel agent immediately contacted HAL and was informed that their city-to-port transfer was only available to passengers who had booked HAL's hotel package! This came as a surprise, as I have in the past used both HAL's and Cunard's city-to-port transfers when traveling independently. Perhaps I am overly cynical, but can't help think this might just have something to do with the fact that I was able to book the hotel independently for about one third of what HAL was asking for their 2-day package at the same hotel. You can buy a lot of transfers for the difference between $375 and $1,075! Anyway, the problem was easily solved - my travel agent simply booked the transfer independently using the same shore service as HAL. When I got to the hotel, I handed my voucher to the HAL representative, who then added me to the transfer list. HAL did have the nerve to charge me $4 for canceling the original incorrect transfer, probably knowing that I would not go to the trouble of fighting this. My flights on Lufthansa. from Boston to Rome via Munich, were uneventful. Transatlantic was a bit choppy for several hours, The price we paid for a 180 knot tailwind, making for a very short flight. Baggage claim at Rome FCO was at its usual slow pace, but once I had my bags I took the FCO - Rome express train and a taxi to the hotel, so I was checked in by early afternoon. I had no problem using the train, but I have the advantage of knowing Rome very well, having lived there in the '70s. Wouldn't recommend the train, however, to travelers unfamiliar with the city and/or with more baggage than they can handle themselves. HAL was offering a "Rome by Night" package the night before embarkation; I decided to take it, as I had a free night after dining with old Rome friends the previous night. The package included dinner at a popular restaurant in Trastevere - very touristy. but fun. Probably overpriced, but a good opportunity to get acquainted with some of my fellow cruisers. Tour guide not very good - we gave up trying to count the number of times he told us that the Vatican is an independent country. Bus trip from Rome to the Port of Civitavecchia went smoothly, as did embarkation. I received my luggage quite quickly, so was almost completely unpacked before the usual lifeboat drill. The Ship Strong points: * Beautifully maintained and spotlessly clean as is normal for HAL * Attractive dEcor, with extensive use of teak and other woods * Nice wide promenade deck, with plenty of room for both deck chairs and strolling - 3 laps = 1 mile * Good layouts of Lower Promenade and Promenade decks, where most of the public rooms are located, avoiding long, boring corridors * Lido layout best I have seen on a ship, with individual "stations" for various types of food, i.e. Asian, pizza/pasta, sandwiches, salad bar, etc. Cunard: take note and copy this on the Queen Victoria and to replace the non functional Kings' Court on QM2. * Fewer annoying public address announcements than I remember on previous HAL cruises * Efficient tendering operation at our tender ports * Real, live plants throughout the ship, unlike sister company Cunard's plastic plants on QM2 * Exploration Cafe, a combination of library and internet cafe, seems to work well, and manager Tisa, a helpful, delightful young lady. Weak points: * Totally inadequate dance floor area for a ship of this size - mitigated to some extent by clearing floor areas in Crow's Nest and Vista Lounge for big band sets (which may or may not have resulted from a petition circulated the first day on board). * Postage-stamp size dance floor in Ocean Bar, the very popular pre-dinner venue, almost useless if more than a few couples tried to dance * Perhaps because passengers on this cruise tended to be older than those on a typical 7-day Mediterranean or Caribbean cruise, the disco dance floor was hardly used - the couple of times I looked in it was almost empty and the recorded music loud enough that OSHA would require ear protection if it were a workplace! * Multi-purpose Queen's Lounge replaces HAL's traditional dedicated movie theatres; like most multi-purpose venues, it doesn't work very well (which is why so-called multi-purpose stadiums have disappeared in the USA). It may be ok as culinary arts center but impractical for movies or audio-visual presentations because the flat floor results in poor or non existent sight lines. The traditional popcorn machines are gone. * Demise of HAL's popular Java Cafes. Specialty coffees are available in the Exploration Cafe at prices considerably more than HAL's standard terminology, "nominal charge" * Although I seldom do laundry on board, the lack of launderettes annoyed many passengers, especially since use of travel irons in cabins is, for good reason, forbidden. Probably not a problem on Noordam's usual 7 to 10 day itineraries, but definitely a problem on a longer cruise like this one, especially with the international airlines' limits of two bags per person, not to exceed 50 pounds each. Ship's laundry does offer a fixed-price package - $25 for all you can stuff into the HAL laundry bag. Pretty expensive, but more economical than by-the-piece laundry prices. * Also missed is the traditional string ensemble playing for dinner - the mezzanine area they use on other HAL ships occupied by additional tables on the Noordam, undoubtedly to accommodate the increase in the number of cabins and passengers over the other Vista Class ships. This has also resulted in increasing a number of dining room tables from eight to 10 places, making it hard to carry on a conversation except with the people seated next to you. * Upper level of the dining room, port side aft, where I was seated, is very noisy due to the low ceiling, also making conversation difficult. And, finally, could we please get rid of those hoaky Baked Alaska parades? Cabins My Upper Promenade cabin was nicely laid out with pleasant dEcor, but it felt a bit crowded with the beds made up as a king-size bed. View blocked by a lifeboat, but this is what I expected. I book an outside cabin just to have some daylight, not for a view. Closet hanging space appears to be adequate, even for a couple, on a longer cruise. What is seriously lacking, however, is drawer space, with just two small drawers in each night stand; not even a shallow drawer in the desk/dressing table in which to keep small items. Yes, there is a larger drawer at the foot of each bed, but it is hard to get to and used partially by steward to store spare bed linens. Bathrooms are very basic, with only a small corner cabinet. Adequate for a single male traveler like me, but inadequate for the toiletries my late wife always carried. A small annoyance: toilet paper holder mounted on face of sink cabinet, so any splashing at sink ends up on the toilet paper roll. Very nice shower head and constant water temperature control, however. I would have gladly traded the tub/shower for a stall shower, but that's personal opinion. Dining The Vista Dining Room, the ship's main restaurant, a two-level room as on all HAL ships except the smaller Prinsendam, has open seating for breakfast and lunch, and two dinner seatings. According to HAL's website and brochures and my past experience, there are normally four seatings - staggered upper level and lower level times for early and late seatings, probably to spread the load on the kitchen. However, the Noordam was using an alternative system called "leisure dining" with early seating passengers invited to arrive "at their leisure" between 5:30 and 6:00 PM, and late seating between 8:00 and 9:00 PM. I did hear some concerns that this could result in some passengers at a table being half way through their meals while others were just ordering. This turned out not to be a problem, at least at our table, with an unspoken agreement developing by the second night wherein we all arrived within 10 minutes of each other between 8:15 and 8:30. I had become aware of leisure dining before the cruise from the CruiseCritic website, as it apparently has been tried previously on Vista Class ships. However, when a fellow passenger attempted to get more pre-trip information from HAL's Seattle office, they denied all knowledge of leisure dining, and it certainly isn't mentioned in the latest brochures or the HAL website. Table service was excellent throughout the cruise, except that it was occasionally difficult for me to get the attention of the wine steward to order a single glass of wine. It appears that both the waiters and the wine stewards are now responsible for more tables than in the past, so they are quite rushed. My only complaints about the dining room are the previously mentioned noise level and the demise of live dinner music. Oh, and the Baked Alaska parades which effectively brings conversation and dining room service to a halt! I had most of my breakfasts and lunches in the Vista Dining Room, and the service was always excellent, which has not always been my experience with open seating on some other non HAL ships. I also had occasional breakfasts and lunches in the Lido and found that the previously mentioned Lido layout worked very well, particularly when I only wanted a salad, sandwich, or a slice of pizza. I only went to one poolside barbecue, the "Waroeng Indonesia" lunch, an impressive spread of specialties from the various regions of Indonesia. It was a bit blander than authentic Indonesian cooking, but of course the ship has to adjust seasonings to suit North American and European tastes for less spicy foods than the rest of the world. I didn't eat in the Pinnacle Grill, so can't comment on it. Program and Entertainment One of HAL's strongest points has always been the cruise director and staff, and this was no exception. Nice touches include staff members greeting passengers entering the Vista Lounge for shows and frequent solo travelers events hosted by Assistant Cruise Director Becky and several gentlemen hosts. I only attended one of the productions of the Noordam Cast, "If Walls Could Rock", well done, but not really my type of music. I skipped other productions in preference for big band sets at the same time. The four lead singers from the cast also performed Broadway show tunes in concert one evening. The male singers were excellent, but I found the females' voices more suitable for stage productions than concert. Lorna Luft was a featured performer and was entertaining, although I have never felt she was on the level of her mother (Judy Garland) or sister Liza Minnelli. One of my favorite entertainers, on this and previous HAL cruises, is piano man Randall Powell, who performs nightly in the Piano Bar. This room is a bit larger than on the S- Class ships, but still intimate enough to encourage lots of give-and-take between Randall and guests. His themed "Name That Tune" and sing-along sets were particularly popular. The featured big band was the Nick Ross Orchestra from England, which played two sets most evenings in the Crow's nest, plus two concerts in the Vista Lounge. This is a serviceable, dance band which leans toward the Glen Miller sound but also plays the standards of many other of the well known big bands. As with the old-time big bands, the program featured lots of foxtrots and swing and the occasional waltz. They did throw in an occasional rumba, but of course the Latin steps didn't really take hold until near the end of the big band era. The "boy" singer is excellent, with a Sinatra-type style; the "girl" singer was not impressive. All in all a good band, but not up to the level of the Harry James and Tommy Dorsey bands I have cruised with previously. The orchestra also played for HAL's traditional officers' black and white ball. The ball was held in the Crow's Nest, a mistake because even with most tables and chairs cleared out, the room is much too small, making dancing almost impossible, e.g. a "ball" without dancing! Balls I have attended on the Maasdam and Prinsendam were held in the show lounge, with the band at the back of the stage, making both the stage and the area in front of it available for dancing. Unfortunately, as far as I have been able to learn, HAL has no big band cruises scheduled for 2007. I asked the Future Cruise Consultant about this early in the cruise; she promised to ask Seattle, but I never heard anything further. Probably not her fault, based on my past experience in trying to get information from Seattle. Communication between Seattle and the ships is not one of HAL's strong points. The cynics among us concluded that big band cruises were being dropped because the band draws customers away from the casinos and bars! The combo "HAL Cats" played in the Crow's Nest for dancing when the big band wasn't playing there. A second combo, "Porto Fino", played nightly for before-dinner dancing in the Ocean Bar. See my earlier comments on the total inadequacy of the dance floor in this very popular room. Both groups played a good variety of dance music, including quite a bit of Latin. The Explorations Speaker Series featured Dr. Michael Mendelsohn, Professor of Literature. I particularly enjoyed the two lectures devoted largely to Hemmingway. The second Explorations Speaker was "Mister Ocean Liner" Bill Miller, who is well known to most frequent cruisers. His three lectures were very well attended; although I had heard them before, they are always entertaining, as Bill continually updates them. An extra treat was Bill's running commentary during our early-morning passage up NY Harbor to our Hudson River pier. I was disappointed that for the first time in my six big band cruises, there were no lectures on the big band era. Conclusion All in all, an enjoyable cruise with a good program, a pleasant group of fellow passengers, and lots of music. HAL's staff and ship's maintenance and housekeeping are second to none. On the other hand, limited dance floor space is discouraging for the many passengers who cruise mainly to dance. Also, elimination of launderettes and the limited cabin drawer space make this ship somewhat unsatisfactory for cruises of more than seven days So, will I cruise with HAL again in the near future? Probably not unless they reinstate big band cruises, or if one of the smaller ships, such as the Prinsendam, offers a particularly attractive itinerary. I do know for sure that in the absence of any big band cruises, I won't be cruising with HAL in 2007. Too late for this now, as I'm fully booked for four cruises with other cruise lines - Crystal's two ships, Cunard's QE2, and Norwegian Coastal Voyage. Read Less
Sail Date September 2006
This is my 4th cruise and also a 4th cruiseline. (I cruised with Carnival, Royal Caribbean and Norwegian before this). Travelling with my parents, in-laws, DW and my 3 year old. Booked a VF Balcony and got upgraded to a VC. From seeing ... Read More
This is my 4th cruise and also a 4th cruiseline. (I cruised with Carnival, Royal Caribbean and Norwegian before this). Travelling with my parents, in-laws, DW and my 3 year old. Booked a VF Balcony and got upgraded to a VC. From seeing the ship 3000 feet above as we are coming in for landing at La Guardia to actually boarding it some 3 and a half hours later, the ms Noordam is just as beautiful as I had anticipated. On the other end, the embarkation process was worse than I had hope for, which is really the only negative thing I want to write about. We got to the pier around 11:50 and was given a number and was told to sit and wait until the number was called (some 2 hours later). Finally got to the check in line (yes, they call your number and then you go line up to check-in!!). Didn't get on the ship until 2:30PM. So much for early boarding. Once on board, our frustration at the embarkation process just vaporized as we were mesmerized by the beauty of the ship and the warm welcome of her staff. Headed straight for the Lido for a bite. Not sure if it's late in the day or the fact that we were eating left over food from the previous trans-Atlantic cruise, the food at the Lido tasted like stale microwave dinner. Our cabin was on the 5th deck forward on the starboard side. Cabin size is more than adequate. Plenty of closet spaces. Would love to see more drawer spaces. There are 2 drawers underneath the bed but they are hard to get to. The next 11 nights was just amazing. Food was great, service was excellent. Only joined 1 excursion in Dominica. Would have loved to take a tour in Tortola but ran out of daylight. Most tours depart around 3:15 and by 5:00 the sun began to set. In St Thomas, Barbados and St. Maarten, just took a cab and hit the beach (cause that's what my son wanted anyways. Much cheaper than taking any excursions from the ship) Didn't get off the boat in San Juan (just signed my son up with Club HAL and went top side for some sun.) For St Thomas and San Juan, you have to wake up early to go through US Immigration before you are allowed off the ship. One huge advantage on the way back since San Juan was the last port before arriving back in NYC, there is no need to go through immigration. As a result, the entire disembarkation process for us was 30 minutes. We just got off, picked up our bags and left the pier. Names worth mentioning (all went above and beyond and I was extremely pleased with their services): Head Steward  Presty (Always remember our name, also is the organizer of the Indonesian Crew Show  DO NOT MISS THIS SHOW. IT'S BETTER THAN MOST DONE BY PROFESSIONALS) Assistant Dinning Room Steward  Edy (by second night, without even asking, brought the right combination coffee/cappuccino/tea/milk for our family of 7 and a second entrEe for my rather enlarged stomach) Our Cabin Steward  Adrian (I hardy see him but our room is always kept spotless. By the 2nd day he seems to have figured out our schedules and make our bed/provide the turn down service almost as soon as we leave the cabin). My son loved the towel animals and he actually gave us a lesson one day. He took away the hanging ape the last night. My son started to cry but he came around the corner out of no where and did one up for us on the spot. Kids Program: Well, for those of you who are skeptical about HAL catering to mostly seniors, I was pleasantly surprised as my 3 year old had the most wonderful time on board for the entire cruise. Dropped him off in the morning from 9AM to 12PM and then 8PM to 10PM (on shore days, they can even take him the entire day with no extra charge). From 10PM to midnight they do offer babysitting for $5 per hour. Christina and Trisher both did an excellent job of entertaining the kids (Ship was full but only 15 kids on board). Overall, I am extremely impressed with HAL and their service. Noordam is just as elegant as they have advertised, if not more. I will definitely cruise with them again. Read Less
Sail Date October 2006
We were first time cruisers and didn't know what to expect other than the multitude of information gleaned from Cruise Critic! Firstly having just returned I have to say that I am now amazed at some of the little things that people ... Read More
We were first time cruisers and didn't know what to expect other than the multitude of information gleaned from Cruise Critic! Firstly having just returned I have to say that I am now amazed at some of the little things that people whine about! We had stayed in New York for three days before our cruise and also for one night after the cruise. This meant we had no timing issues. We left our Hotel, just off Times Square at just about 1 p.m.. I must admit my heart sank when I saw the hall full of people at the Terminal. However it has to be remembered that there are almost 2000 people to register and board the ship. In actual fact things moved along reasonably fast. As we are UK citizens we had a different check in desk, which probably meant we effectively jumped the queue! Once on board we were greeted everywhere we went by happy friendly staff. The immediate impression of the ships was one of high quality - indeed a luxury floating hotel! We were directed to our stateroom where we left our carry on bags and went to find the Lido buffet for some lunch. On returning to our stateroom our luggage had been delivered and we set about unpacking and setting up our new home!! We found plenty of storage space and the shelves in the closets that folded down. Indeed as the cruise went on we found more nooks and crannies! Our Steward called by to introduce himself and left his card. That is about the only time we saw him. Our stateroom was however always spotless and kept really nicely. Clean towels twice a day and a constant replenishment of toiletries. Our chocolates arrived every evening and on most nights delightful towel animals; absolutely no complaints. I had booked a VD balcony cabin and was right in my guess that the balcony was slightly larger than most of the other balcony cabin categories. OK there was only the two of us and I can imagine you would struggle with space if there was a third person. But for two the space was ideal. No complaints about the bathroom either. Compact yes but a very effective use of space and more than enough storage space. So off to Dinner  would we have a table to ourselves or would we be sharing? It turned out that we were on a table of six. Whilst prior to our first time cruise experience we would have preferred a table for two we were really fortunate and shared Dinner every evening with two other delightful couples, one from New York and another from Houston who had both cruised before. It was great to be able to share our experiences of each day and also to pick up some tips from those who had cruised before! The choice on each evening's Menu was amazing and whatever we chose was always delightfully presented, very tasty, with some of the most tender meat I have ever eaten, and always hot. Our waiter was a joy and almost became part of the group. Indeed he would recognize us in other parts of the ship and always give us a cheerful greeting. On the first day we went to Breakfast in the Vista Dining room. As this was a sea day it didn't matter that the service was a little on the slow side. However after that we went to the Lido Buffet where the choice was absolutely huge. Whatever you wanted for breakfast was available. Again the crew provided amazing service and although this was strictly speaking a self-service buffet, the crew would assist in whatever way was required. Our only minor complaint was that the coffee in the Lido was a bit weak for us. One of our dining companions suggested that this might be because we were used to European coffee! We also discovered, unfortunately somewhat late in our cruise, that fruit juice was available all day but you had to ask for it at the ice cream bar! The facilities provided on the ship were plentiful and one could join in as much or as little as you wished. There were plenty of quiet places on the ship to go and read and unwind. I must admit that we avoided the holiday camp type activities as they were not for us but understood that the Cruise Director did have to provide activities to please as many as possible. I did attend the lectures which on this cruise were given by a retired US Colonel who had held a senior post in NATO. He gave three lectures on the European Union and NATO. That may seem a bit dry for passing the time on holiday but I have to admit that I found it most interesting to hear an American perspective on major issues that are affecting our daily lives as British citizens, you note I say British not European!! The shows in the evening were most enjoyable and whilst of a Variety nature, were varied! I particularly enjoyed the Filipino Crew show. There were only about 12 or so of them involved but they were clearly very proud of their culture. The formal nights were great and it was good to see everybody, including the waiters, looking really smart. Before dinner there were so many bars to choose from and yet again there was friendly and efficient service from the crew. Dry roasted peanuts were delivered to the table and Hors d'oeuvres came round quite regularly and were very tasty. We did book HAL's excursions for all but one port of call as this was all new to us. On future occasions I think I will be bolder and look to make our own arrangements. Not that there was anything wrong with the excursions we took,it is more down to our personal preference for being independent! In San Juan we joined a walking tour organized by the organizer of our CC Roll Call. This was definitely an improvement on our other excursions as it was a smaller group of 10 and of course we already knew one another. In summary, this was a wonderful first time cruiser experience. I cannot fault HAL and my only reservation is that a second cruise might be a disappointment! The other snag is that cruises from the UK, and particularly with UK cruise lines seem to be so much more expensive than US based cruises. Very much looking forward to our next cruise and determined to sail again with HAL at some time!! Read Less
Sail Date October 2006
Noordam Review About Us  3 single well- traveled ladies all over 50 from NYC who arrived by private car. Secured VF veranda cabin as mid ship as humanly possible! Embarkation --10/14/06 sailing slightly delayed by 3 different ... Read More
Noordam Review About Us  3 single well- traveled ladies all over 50 from NYC who arrived by private car. Secured VF veranda cabin as mid ship as humanly possible! Embarkation --10/14/06 sailing slightly delayed by 3 different inspections conducted in NYC prior to clearing the ship for boarding. Ship arrived in NYC after being in Europe since February. We were handed numbers and told to take a seat until called. Once our number was called, the process went a little slow for our taste with handling the hand luggage over and over again until we started kicking it! Luggage was delivered to our cabin piece by piece (6 pieces in all). As luck would have it, the bags containing our clothing were the last to arrive! Our bags with the toiletries and accessories arrived first. So we really could not unpack and get settled in as quickly as we would have liked. We were also a tad delayed leaving NYC. We headed up to the Lido deck for buffet and enjoyed it before heading off to the life boat drill which was held out on deck. Cabin numbers were called until a response was received. An Immigration Office kept walking back and forth on deck throughout the drill. Cabin  While the over all space was adequate, the cabin layout left much to be desired. It was an L shape which meant that the widest part of the cabin was by the veranda. With 3 in our cabin, there was a sofa that pulled out to a bed. Once this was down, all access to the dresser and the balcony was cut off. While you could climb over the bed to get to the balcony reaching into the refrigerator required a lot of twisting and turning! The beds had a draw in the front that pulled out for storage. However, once the drawer was out, you had no way to pass from the balcony area to the bathroom! Most passengers never found these hidden drawers. There was a set of overhead drawers above the sofa with flaps that opened towards you but you had to stand on the sofa to access them! The 2 night tables held 2 small drawers each and the dresser had 2 narrow drawers on one side. The 3 closets had some shelves that could be used for folded items. The middle closet had a full length mirror and an overhead light but was very dark. Between the cabin door, the bathroom door and the 3 closet doors there barely was a 1/8" clearance. You had to give a warning before leaving the bathroom or when in the closet. I almost took our the cabin steward before we left NY! The beds were very comfortable along with the big fluffy pillows. But if you were less than 5'5", your feet did not touch the floor! The 2 beds were made up as singles but had about 1" between them! I had about 12" between the bed and the wall on my side. My sleep companion had about 6" between the bed and the sofa on her side! You had to walk around the cabin very carefully once the sofa was opened. Loved the massaging shower head! It really took away all the aches and pains and worked nicely after we asked the Hotel Manager to stop the shower head from sliding down once it was turned on. The bathroom was quite nicely arranged but a few more shelves above the sink would help eliminate traveling back and forth with necessities. A/C in cabin responded well to adjustment but was rather noisy. The telephone was hard to find since it was located on the night table near the sofa. There was no clock in the cabin unless you had the TV turned on. The flat screen TV had very clear reception except when we encountered bad weather and lost the signal. Most of the time we received CNN Europe and not CNN US. Therefore, the news wasn't relevant to what was happening locally. Food  Meats were so tender and moist that they almost fell off the bone! Other than the pasta in the Lido, HAL CANNOT cook pasta! In the main dining room, pasta was very al dente and the sauces and fillings did not work. Foods were seasoned, tasty and with a high amount of salt. More chicken and fish choices at dinner would have been nice. Jell-O was served in Lido for lunch but was not available for dinner in the dining room. Breakfast at the Lido had everything you could imagine! Lunch at the Lido also offered many delicious choices. HAL knows how to make bread! We went to the special High Tea as well as the regular tea and enjoyed them. There was always food available in the Lido  pizza, pasta, ice cream or yogurt (at no extra charge!) along with the tea, coffee and hot chocolate. Overall  not many complaints about the food with the exception of the pasta and the high amount of salt. Service 12 out of 10! Everyone was so polite you wanted to take them home in your suitcase! The cruise staff worked like a well oiled machine and genuinely seemed to like each other. Drew, the CD, spoke just enough and didn't over do it. He had his daily joke and then moved on. The Tour Manager gave about an 8 minute summary on each port and then moved on. He gave you the essentials you needed to know about shopping and the tours in 3 ports and completed his 2 talks in less than 1 hour unlike the Tour Mgr. on the Crown Princess who spent 1-1/2 hrs. on shopping and only 5 minutes on 1 port! Entertainment  Super! The 3 production shows are not to be missed. The staging and the professional performance of the 4 lead singers/dancers was excellent! Costumes and staging were excellent and you had to remind yourself you were on a ship and not in a B way theatre! The Vista theatre has good sight lines no matter where you sit. There is the usual assortment of comedians and solo musicians on the other nights. Throughout the ship in the smaller rooms there are trios for listening and dancing. Also there are movies shown in the Queens Room along with the Culinary Center programs during the day. There is HAL's version of American Idol, the not so newly wed game, etc. along with a number of daily quizzes. Randall and Tisa (from the Library) in the Piano Bar made a good team. She used to work for Disney and has that really perky friendly upbeat personality which complements Randall's quirky unique style. Once you hear them, you will keep coming back again and again. There are sing a longs, quizzes, theme nights and it is fun just to see what Randall is wearing. He has quite an array of outfits. Overall impression While no ship is perfect, the Noordam comes very close. The main problem I have with the ship is the poor use of space in the cabin. Service is excellent. The ship responds very well to rough seas  we encountered up to 18 foot seas with a minimum of creaking and only minor damage to a broken glass door on the Lido deck near the pool area. Yes, there was some bouncing around and the sensation of being on a roller coaster (as the CD described it). Compared to the Crown Princess that I was on in July were the seas were much lower, the Noordam never made me fear we were in any danger. She glides in and out of the port so smoothly you have to check the window to see if you are moving! Definitely a ship I would recommend! Read Less
Sail Date October 2006
Transportation from Long Island opted for railroad rather than pay $260+tip for limo one way from Northport. Faster and cheaper at $40 for seniors return and $10 taxi from Penn Station to pier. Embarkation was held up due to inspections ... Read More
Transportation from Long Island opted for railroad rather than pay $260+tip for limo one way from Northport. Faster and cheaper at $40 for seniors return and $10 taxi from Penn Station to pier. Embarkation was held up due to inspections and ship departed late. Late lunch at Lido and baggage arrived in due course Cabin was outside behind lifeboat, spacious enough, and had floor to ceiling windows. Storage was no problem and closets were adequate. A disruption of the plumbing system in the last day of the voyage is the only negative. Dined in the main restaurant almost exclusively and although the fare was good but not as tasty as other lines e.g. Celebrity. The upside is that meals were served with fine European china and stemware, which was a plus. The service was friendly and efficient but the outfits in which the staff was attired is something else. Their drab dress detracted from the whole atmosphere. Entertainment was the usual but the costumes were superb. A comedian gave a demonstration of a person having a walker which the elderly and afflicted would find hilarious. There were many on this particular cruise. There were two pools, both of which were unattended and kids in diapers were allowed,although rules specifically prohibited this. The first stop on our itinerary was Tortola. The second stop was St. Thomas. In light of having arrived from a foreign port all persons were summoned to appear before U.S. Customs commencing at 7:00 A.M. In arriving at San Juan, Puerto Rico, a similar exercise commencing at 7:00 A. M. took place. This I can do without, particularly as I would have no intention of going ashore at either port. The ship arrived in New York, and disembarkation took approx. 2 hrs. Customs was not a problem, and we breezed right through. Read Less
Sail Date October 2006
I am from the UK, Gay and travelling with my partner and was unsure of what to expect of a cruise departing from New York, with a cruise line that i had read was renowned for its mainly older american crowd (i had only visited the US once ... Read More
I am from the UK, Gay and travelling with my partner and was unsure of what to expect of a cruise departing from New York, with a cruise line that i had read was renowned for its mainly older american crowd (i had only visited the US once before). I had been on several cruises with UK based cruise lines and i have to say that overall the guests and staff on this ship were some of the friendliest i have encountered. Embarkation Very smooth we were put into a separate line for non US nationals so our wait to get on the ship was minimal, sometimes it helps to stand out from the crowd!! The staff were very helpful bright and welcoming. Dining Fantastic, Fantastic, Fantastic what else can you say. Holland America just know how to do food, its great!!!. The main dining room is luxurious calm and enticing. two tier with and elegant sweeping staircase between the levels the seating is allocated and we were allocated on to a table of four with a very nice couple from NJ. The food is five star, 4 courses with top quality restaurant presentation. The choices included pasta, seafood and meats you could personalize your meal, and the waiters always remembered your preferences. Alternative dining included: Lido Restaurant - This was busy and the waits to get served could be a little long, we ate all meals in the main restaurant because the service was impeccable and usually offered more choice. Fitness We didn't use the spa facilities during our cruise, however they looked fantastic, a great spa indoor pool which you paid a small day fee for and various treatment rooms. Also a great looking gym. Entertainment Being a gay couple we didn't know what to expect, however on the first days news guide their was a Friends of Dorothy (gay gathering) advertised in the piano bar. This meeting was arranged by the resident pianist. There were several subsequent meetings arranged including a special gay lunch organized by the cruise line, i have to say we met some great friends and hats off to HAL, they seem to be very gay friendly!! Apart from that their were some great shows in the three tier theatre and of course the usual various bars around the ship. Excursions Great value. We went on the island tour of Dominica what a fantastic experience trekking in the rainforest and a great lunch meeting the carib indians. Also, the jeep safari on Barbados was fun loads of rum punch!!! accommodation We had booked a balcony cabin, beautiful!!. a seating area, huge king size bed with egyptian cotton bedding. lovely soft pastel colors with a great balcony (ours was a cornet balcony and had a great side view of the sea). We had room service on a couple of occasions, this is free and good quality food. The cabin steward was attentive. Overall The ship was only six months old, and wonderful. it had an adult feel if you want to get away from kids (which we do) and have a luxurious calm and relaxing cruise with great food, which is also Gay friendly, then choose HAL Noordam!!! Read Less
Sail Date November 2006
Overview Rating: 4* (Joe) 5* (Joan) What's not to like about a full suite, with the Neptune Lounge, Concierge Service, and breakfast in the Pinnacle Grill? With that, and our membership in the thermal suite and hydrotherapy pool, we ... Read More
Overview Rating: 4* (Joe) 5* (Joan) What's not to like about a full suite, with the Neptune Lounge, Concierge Service, and breakfast in the Pinnacle Grill? With that, and our membership in the thermal suite and hydrotherapy pool, we were surrounded by luxury. The ship itself was rather large for our taste, but there were some nice touches, such as the Explorations Cafe. The dining room was quite good, but not up to the standard of Regent or Windstar. The Lido dining area had some areas that were well laid out, and the food (other than the excellent Asian food) was fairly good for a buffet and stem table type of meal. Entertainment and the ports are described below. Background We're in our early sixties. This is our 10th cruise. We're both professionals (Joe CPA- Attorney, Joan Librarian. Joe has travelled extensively in Europe, but this is only our second trip to the Caribbean. We enjoy museums, foreign films, theater and opera. By and large, we Parking and embarkation Rating 5* We arrived at the pier at around 11 a.m., and quickly found a porter to take our bags. Joe then parked the car ($180, paid with cash, Master Card, or Visa, for 10 + days), and met me outside the boarding area. The car was there, safe, intact, and waiting for us, when we arrived back in New York. After we walked into the terminal, we were given a card marked S for Suite, and were seated at the front of the boarding area. Boarding started at around 11:30, and was so fast that we were in the Neptune Lounge (NL), dropping off our hand luggage and having a nice snack, by 11:35. We were so comfortable in the NL that we made a mistake. We stayed in the lounge for about 20 minutes, meeting the concierges (angels: two wonderful Filipino ladies) and chatting with the other passengers. By the time we hit the Lido for lunch at 11:55, the place was packed with PAX and their belongings. I couldn't get any food the first time through, since the lines were so long. It's a good thing we had a snack in the NL, and that another couple agreed to share a table with us! The place remained packed until rooms were ready, at around 12:45; then it began to empty out. A note on the Lido: it does not seem to be very well laid out. There are two main food lines, and separate areas for salad bar, drinks (2 areas), sandwiches, Italian food, Asian food, and an outdoor grill. The salad bar was always mobbed, and the main lines were often mobbed. It's a good thing we love Asian food: good sushi, seldom a line of more than 3 people. Even when the Lido was mobbed, the staff was always helpful, and always ready to carry a tray if one so desired. Suite (SA) Rating 5*+ We opened the door to our suite, and fell in LOVE. You could get lost in one of those suites. The relaxing color scheme, the space, the chilled champagne, the twin sinks with separate shower and whirlpool bath with shower, all add to the pampered feeling. Our luggage arrived after 4 p.m. (bummer!) but it did arrive. We unpacked and went to dinner. Although the storage space is oddly arranged, with few drawers and lots of shelves in cupboards, it was much more than adequate for two. The space was fantastic, as were the balcony and bathroom. The bed was the best away from home bed ever: huge, with a great mattress and coverings. Each night there were eight pillows, and most nights our steward made a towel animal. He was unobtrusive, but always seemed to meet our needs. Dining Rating 4* (Pinnacle Grill breakfasts 5*+) We requested early seating and a table for two in August, 2005, when we booked the cruise. Instead, we were seated at a table for 10! They were fascinating people, but we prefer to eat at a table for two. Our NL concierge was able to get us a table for two starting with the second night, after our request to the dining manager failed. Lesson: if you're in a suite, ask the ladies to do administrative stuff for you, rather than doing it yourself. The food was excellent for such a large ship. (It's unfair to compare it with our small ship experiences on Windstar and Regent.) Each meal consisted of several courses, each of which was usually a relatively small portion. (Exception: a huge chunk of osso bucco.) Because the menu was arranged as starters, then soups and salads in one grouping, it was easy to do what we usually do: skip a course. Vegetarian dishes were superb. The ordinary food in the dining room was about what you'd expect in a fine, but large, hotel: decent quality, nothing much exciting, but quite serviceable. The only real failures were attempts to get fancy, such as escargot in puff pastry. Stick to the tried and true! We had one dinner at the Pinnacle Grill (PG). We're not big steak eaters, but the steaks seemed quite thick and tasty. The service was excellent, both in the dining room and the PG. A word of warning about PG wines. They have interesting sounding flights of Washington state wines. What you get is four large glasses, each of which has two ounces of wine. It's far better to order a glass of wine, or a full bottle. Unfinished bottles can be saved for the next dinner. Also, beware of the chocolate lemon hockey puck that is a dessert special. It bounced when you tried to stick a fork in it! They offered a replacement, but I was so full from stuffing myself with the cookies and candies that they bring with the coffee that I didn't need another calorie. If you're a steak lover, the PG at dinner is worth the $30 charge. If you're not, one night on an 11 day cruise is sufficient for a change of pace. We went on the night when the dining room had the Master Chef's dinner. Our comments on the Lido are above. It is, as noted, poorly laid out. The food itself is a cut above the buffet areas on Celebrity. Again, it doesn't have the elegance and quality of Windstar or Regent, but it's a fairly good place to eat. At night, the Lido is a causal restaurant. It's also a good place to pick up an extra dessert before 8 p.m., or pizza and ice cream until late at night. Suite people may eat breakfast at the PG, and we did that as often as possible - six times in 11 days. We would have eaten there another two or three times; but we're early birds, and were often up before dining room hours (which are also PG hours). We fell in love with the Spanish frittata (really Mexican, with salsa, guacamole, and sour cream) and the sunshine parfait (fruit, yogurt, and granola), served by a window with a view of the ocean. One of my most pleasant memories of the Noordam is those breakfasts. One of the least pleasant is the eight pounds that I gained during the trip. (Possibly because he's allergic to chocolate, and avoided most desserts, Joe only gained two pounds.) Service Rating 4*(general), 5*+ (related to the suite) Ah, the suite life! Towel animals appear at the edge of your bed each night with the chocolates. You may inhale breakfast in the PG while New York City awakes to the sunrise. Concierges fit you into tours after they have closed to the public. The Neptune Lounge offers chocolates, fruit and cold breakfast or tiny sandwiches or appetizers from 8-8, washed down with your choice of hot or cold drinks. You could have lattes, any variety of tea, coffee, cold drinks, and the best of a cold breakfast in a lovely suite. Comfortable chairs and tables, reading material, and artwork, all combine to enhance your pampering. HAL offered a reception solely for suite residents  champagne, and more. Our clean laundry arrived in a wicker basket, folded in white tissue paper, and sealed with a HAL gold seal. Even those NOT in suites commented on the personal, attentive service everywhere. The librarian was perky and eager to please. The internet manager couldn't do enough to help. Our wonderful travel agent found us a promotional fare which put us into a suite for a mere $200.00 above the cost of a mini-suite cabin. HAL Tours Rating between 2 1/2* Here, I fear, HAL must rethink and improve. Uniformly, the tour conveyances were cramped and hot. Most Americans in HAL's demographic are overweight, yet the conveyances. are scaled for slender people. In Tortuga, we had half a tour. Arriving at 3PM, we were cramped into uncomfortable open air buses (which were also used in St. Thomas) which took us to the sailboat. The sailboat was mobbed, and could only do half the tour because it got dark at 5PM. The tour operators were as nice as they could be, handing out personal instructions and rum punches with equal generosity and skill. BUT it remained only half the scheduled tour at the full price. Other tours were equally crowded, with long stops at tourist traps and no time for fascinating natural wonders. A tour including Coral World spent most of the tour going to and from the scuba shop, with people jammed in severe discomfort. Our tour bus on St. Martin had no air-conditioning. The guides do their best, but they can't change the laws of physics. Because the laws of physics apply, the HAL tour we were most looking forward to, river tubing in Dominica, was cancelled due to high water levels, Another bummer, but one can't blame HAL for this one. Far better were Glory Tours in Barbados, a full day including lunch for a mere $52/pp. I sing their praises in another section, but it was one of the best days ever. Fredos in Dominica was one of the best tours ever: Four of us in a four-bench van, went all over the island in cool comfort. Old San Juan could be a fascinating walking tour, and everyone wanted more time there. Shopping Rating of HAL shopping hints 2* Okay, there's a guarantee for official HAL stores. Okay, you won't be mugged. HAL continues to recommend the most overpriced stores on each island. I walked between two HAL-recommended stores to J.A. Nieff, or some similar name, in Dominica, which was recommended to us by our Fredos tour guide.. Instantly, the prices went down and the merchandise became practical. Shopping where the tour guides shopped, I bought cloth wraps for $3.00 instead of $10.00. True, the cloth was different, BUT if you're giving gifts or merely want a remembrance of the island, why not buy what the natives buy? Don't get me started on people who buy diamonds on vacation and then wonder why it's hard to get customer service & When you shop where the natives shop, nobody takes the booze away from you and puts it into the hold of the ship. You bring back true native delicacies like guava paste instead of lewdly painted shells with the name of the island painted on it. I've given up on those shopping talks. The shopping mall in St. Thomas run by A.J. Cohn or some similar name just a block from the HAL-touted Havensight mall offered cute t-shirts at 3/$10.00, caftans for $7.00, and a ton of wonderful TRUE BARGAINS: dresses you wear after the trip, t-shirts people want to wear, and genuinely tasteful carryalls. We bought a $4.00 bottle of rum we hated so much we later gave it away to another native on another island, and a $5.00 bottle of champagne we liked so much we didn't order wine that night. Entertainment Rating 3 ½* We couldn't get into the Vista Lounge most of the time and there was no alternative entertainment when the show was going on We adored those two performers (Allenby and Williams), but to find any seating in the Vista Lounge you needed to arrive a solid 30 minutes ahead of time, often a physical impossibility for us. If you didn't get into the show at the Vista, you were on your own for entertainment books, DVD's, all OK but nothing wonderful. Why not offer some piano bar music, or other music while the show is in progress? Since the Vista Lounge is full, it can't take away from the main performers to offer alternatives. With the exception of Salina Williams playing the oboe and Will Allenby, most shows were packed before we got there. The piano bar was extremely popular AND crowded, but there was no entertainment during the shows. Perhaps, if the hours for piano bar performances were longer, more people could have enjoyed it. We spent most evenings reading a book or watching a DVD. Daytime lectures were often superb. The lectures on the history of cruise liners and cruise ships were absolutely riveting. Thank you to the World Ocean and Cruise Line Society for its wonderful inclusion of so many of its subscribers. For a donation, we attended the talk and book-signing by the Captain, AND received one of his books signed by him AND toured the bridge, AND participated in the Walk for the Cure AND attended a cocktail party with free drinks AND met some wonderful people. The lectures on the prehistory of the area fascinated us. HAL really tried to offer interesting, educational entertaining activities for those of us who prefer that. Walk for the Cure This took place on the day after we left San Juan. For $15 per person you get a T shirt, a pink lemonade and fruit reception, and a donation to a charity that seeks a cure for breast cancer. Why would you not participate? Joan walked about a mile, Joe the full 3 miles. Fun, and well worth doing. Spa and gym Rating 5* As noted, we signed up for a full membership for two in the hydrotherapy pool and thermal suite, at $250 for 11 days for the two of us. What a wonderful, relaxing way to spend time! The thermal suite has six heated stone couches, and three or four steam rooms. The hydrotherapy pool is large, comfortably hot, and very relaxing. You get a robe, slippers, and a locker, and can change and shower in the appropriate locker room. We never tried the gym, and our only time in the massage rooms was when Joan was used as a demonstration patient on day one Ports Tortola. Arrival at 3 p.m., with departure at 9 p.m., is a sick joke. It's too late to do much before sunset, but you leave too early for dinner and night life onshore. HAL needs to arrive earlier, or go back to leaving at midnight. Our excursion is described above, under excursions. Joan disliked being crammed into the open air safari bas, while Joe hated everything about it: the crowding, the feeling that you could fall out of the bus, etc. St. Thomas. In the morning, we took a HAL excursion to Coral World, including a semi-submersible. Coral World was lovely, the semi-sub even better. On the negative side, the ride in a safari bus was much longer than in Tortola, and (as noted above) we really disliked having to stop each way so that some people could get snorkels and fins. We had planned to go into Charlotte Amalie after doing some shopping near the pier (also described above); but it started pouring as we were walking back to the ship to stash our bargains. We ended up relaxing in the thermal suite. We should mention immigration, which was painless both here and in San Juan. We filled out cards, went to the Queen's Lounge, gave the cards to ship's [personnel, showed our passports to the immigration folks, and were given landing cards. Easy as pie! Dominica. In the morning, we had a fabulous tour with Fredos Tours, with stops at overlooks, Trafalgar Falls, the Botanical Garden, and a few other places. We had planned our first ever river tubing, but it was canceled due to heavy rains the previous day, so we spent the afternoon at the tiny museum, the open air market, and the local store. We loved everything about Dominica except one thing: the weather. By the time we were done with Dominica, our third stop, we realized that the Caribbean isn't for us: we both hate hot weather, and redheaded Joe had to try to keep out of the tropical sun, effectively ruling out beaches. If we go back to the Caribbean (which is unlikely), Dominica would certainly be on our itinerary. Barbados. As noted above, we took a Just BIM tour with Glory Tours. The timing of the tour was messed up due to some passengers who got on our tour instead of the correct tour, causing us to have to start over again. Once we go started, the tour was quite nice, with Sunbury Plantation (a nice 19th century sugar plantation, but we would have preferred something older), overall island tour, botanical garden, lunch (wonderful), and the required, and to us useless, stop at the batik and pottery. We were supposed to go to the Bacardi factory; but, due to the timing problem, we went to the lovely synagogue instead. St. Maarten. The biggest disappointment of the trip. We had wanted a private tour, but the standard tour had too much beach, too much shopping, and too little sightseeing for us. The one provider we found for custom tours was booked, and we found the taxi tours too confusing for us to take one. That's how we ended up on a HAL tour, Delightfully Dutch, Fantastically French. The tour was relatively cheap ($29), but the air conditioning of the bus was working poorly, and there was a smell of sulfur. As for the tour itself, we had nice views of a pretty island, but could have used much more than 30 minutes in Marigot. (The driver nicely offered to put us on another tour with more time in Marigot; but by then we were hot and tired.) Too much time was spent in shopping related matters: a stop at a store selling flavored gin or vodka drinks, including guava berry, and a stop in Phillipsburg, where most people on the bus got off. We went back to the pier, bought some champagne and brandy, and went back to the ship. Not a particularly interesting day. What was interesting was our reaction to the weather. It was 85 degrees and sunny, with winds so high that the water taxi wasn't running. We were both miserably hot and uncomfortable. More proof that the Caribbean is not for us. San Juan As with Tortola, the stop here is too short, ending at 1 p.m. We met Joe's law school roommate and his wife, and they showed us around the town: beaches, business and tourist areas, their lovely house, and fantastic Old San Juan. They wanted to treat us to lunch, but we had to be back to the ship by 12:30. We made it with eight minutes to spare. The weather was drizzly and unusually cool: about 75. Joe has had a bunch of business trips to San Juan, where the weather is usually very hot and humid. We would go back despite the weather, to see the roommate and more of this wonderful place. Conclusion I'd go back to the Noordam in a suite in a minute but maybe not to this area again. With the exception of San Juan, I feel we've seen most of what these islands have to offer. We're not drinkers, gamblers, heat lovers, sun worshipers, shop till you drop people, or beach people. We research the area we travel to thoroughly. Almost any temperate zone place we can think of holds more interest to us than the Caribbean, which simply isn't for us Read Less
Sail Date November 2006
Our cruise on the Noordam was our 5th cruise. We have traveled on Celebrity, Royal Caribbean and Carnival. I must say that this was absolutely the best experience. This was to celebrate my 60th birthday so I was happy. First, embarkation ... Read More
Our cruise on the Noordam was our 5th cruise. We have traveled on Celebrity, Royal Caribbean and Carnival. I must say that this was absolutely the best experience. This was to celebrate my 60th birthday so I was happy. First, embarkation was amazingly easy and began promptly at 11:30. When our group number was called we moved from our seats in the waiting area to a small line and the process went smoothly from there. We went immediately to the Lido for lunch and waited a short time until our staterooms were ready. About a week before the cruise I got the opportunity to upgrade for a few bucks. We went from VA to SS. What a wonderful stateroom! It was about the size of a hotel room with a relatively large verandah (two bamboo lounging chairs and a bistro table and 2 chairs). The bathroom was a pure pleasure with a shower and a whirlpool bath and 2 sinks. Plenty of storage for toiletries was provided in 2 cabinets, one on each side. The steward was excellent: I think the room was straightened up maybe 3 times daily (including turn down). We had breakfast in the room on the verandah at every opportunity. There were some inconsistencies in service which suggested some tightening up is needed, but nothing glaring. Dinner in the Vista was pretty wonderful. I was prepared for a negative comparison to Celebrity; I was wrong. The food was so tasty. The flavors in many cases were so new and different. And oh, the soups! Our service was excellent; our steward was Anton and he is such a professional. The first night we had a terrible table, located practically at the door and with absolutely lackluster service. I complained immediately and we (our party of 5) were reassigned to a wonderful small table by the window. We also had dinner two nights in the Pinnacle, one on Thanksgiving. The service and the food was superb the first night, but on Thanksgiving there were no traditional Thanksgiving choices (I had a terrible rib-eye steak). The service was also slow and spotty that night. The highlight of the cruise for me was the spa. The first day my friend and I purchased unlimited access to the hydrotherapy pool and thermal suites. What an absolute pleasure! I recommend to anybody who needs to concentrate on total relaxation to make this investment. The pool is a heated mineralized ocean water pool about 4 ft deep. On one side is a ledge that is perfectly shaped to allow one to recline - absolute heaven! The thermal suite has heated tiled lounges which are positioned to look out over the sea. There are 2 aromatherapy steam rooms, 2 saunas, and 4 showers. In addition, there is a wonderful well-equipped gym that I actually used 3 times. All guests use a changing room that has lockers and 3 showers for men and women each. My biggest complaint was the timing of our ports of call. We had only half days in both Grand Turk and San Juan. What a wasted opportunity! I suspect they didn't want us to discover the casinos in Puerto Rico (never mentioned on any of the port info) or any of the wonderful things to discover in San Juan. We actually took a tour in St. Thomas which was quite good. The next time I will try to make better use of the stops to explore. A younger couple (around 45) who traveled with us also complained about the music in the clubs. They felt it was geared to 50+ (a lot of Motown). There was also not a great deal of activity after midnight (except in the casino). Also, the seats in theater and some of the bars were terribly uncomfortable, especially for those of us with lower back issues. All in all, I had a great time and I would definitely take Holland America again. Read Less
Sail Date November 2006
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

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