377 Holland America Noordam Cruise Reviews

I figured I would try to do a comprehensive review of the Noordam. Let me begin by saying that this is one of the finest cruise ships in the world. Sure, there are better ones but, for the price, HAL delivers an oustanding cruise at very ... Read More
I figured I would try to do a comprehensive review of the Noordam. Let me begin by saying that this is one of the finest cruise ships in the world. Sure, there are better ones but, for the price, HAL delivers an oustanding cruise at very reasonable prices. Cabin: We stayed in a mid-ship SB (Deluxe Verandah Suite) cabin. Most SA ansd SB cabins are the same except that the SAs are on the Rotterdam deck (wher the Neptune lounge is located) and the SBs are on the Upper Verandah deck, one deck below. The SB cabin is very spacious. Plenty of storage space and large bathroon with tub and small shower. The best part is the double balcony with a table for 4 and two chairs with foot rests. Especially great was traveling with another family and having adjacent rooms-- that way you can share the balconies, which the kids loved. We ordered appetizers delivered to our room at a set time each day-- this was a nice treat after getting back from each of the ports. The Neptune lounge was great for coffee but should have had hot appetizers. Food: The Pinnacle Grill was outstanding. We ate there 4 of the 10 ten nights. Menu was sufficiently varied that you did enough of a selection. The filet mignon (both sizes) were excellent. The lamb shops were also great. I do not recommend the ribeye or the lobster macaroni. The colossal shrimp and crab cake appetizers as well as the french onion soup were terrific. I did not like the spicy soup or the lobster bisque. The souffles for dessert were excellent. The Vista Dining room was also great. Do not dine elsewhere on the formal nights. The lobster dinners (2 of them) were great and the staff did not hesitate to bring an additional serving of lobster. HAL has greatly improved their food quality and now rivals or exceeds Celebrity. Far better than NCL's main dining room. Canaletto was also good and a nice change of pace. It is nowhere as nice as the Pinnacle Grill but, then again, it does not cost extra. In the end, Canaletto is not a must-- OK to try it but OK not to try it. I was less than impressed with the Buffet (a/k/a Lido). The offerings are less plentiful than on other cruise lines and the quality of preparation is noticeable. This was good for the kids to eat before going to Club HAL. If you have an SA, SB or SC, you should skip the Lido for breakfast. Breakfast in the Pinncale or room service on the spacious balconies are far better alternatives. Club HAL was good but not great. My kids much preferred the programs offered by NCL and RCCL. The worst part is how they break up the day so that Club HAL is closed during several hours each day while at sea. This did not make any sense. HAL needs to do a better job with their kids program. Entertainment was amateurish. HAL has simply done a horrible job with respect to the quality of their offerings as well as the variety. NCL, on its 9 day cruise, offered significantly better entertainment. There was live music in various venues throughout the ship, which was better than the shows. Pool Area was the best I've seen on any line. Passengers were, by and large, respectful of leaving chairs if they were not using them. Frequently, I found chairs available next to the main pool on sea days, which is a rare occurrence on most lines. The fact that the pool roof could close when it rained is also a big plus. The hamburgers by the pool deck were terrific. The service everywhere was top notch. I had the best cabin stewards I've ever had on any cruise line. The restaurant staff (we had open dining) was good. Fixed dining probable will get you better service but at the cost of a fixed dining time-- it's a tradeoff and I would opt for open dining. Ports: Half Moon Cay is one of the most beautiful beaches anywher in the world, although the water was cold. Don't rent anything. Just walk to tghe far end of the beach where you will find plenty of chairs and plenty of space. In Turks, we went to Pillory Beach, which was also more secluded and niver than the beach next to the port. In Samana, we went to El Rincon. Hired a taxi at the pier at a cost of $90 for the day. Beach was beautiful. I did not like Bonaire. Next time I will try no name beach. Curacao's Mambo beach was good. Aruba beaches were outstanding. Embarkation and disembarkation were good although expect long lines at Customs after disembarking. Average passenger age was older than on other cruises we have taken but there were a lot of middle age and young families during our Easter week cruise. I found the crowd to be fairly upscale, educated and polite. All in all, I was very happy with the Noordam crowd. Overall, this was one of the best vacations my family has taken. The Noordam is one of the best ships available at any price. Read Less
Sail Date March 2010
We flew to Ft. Lauderdale the evening prior to embarkation and stayed at a Sleep Inn that was about 10-15 minutes away from Port Everglades, with free shuttle service. For those of you that are wine enthusiasts and don't already know ... Read More
We flew to Ft. Lauderdale the evening prior to embarkation and stayed at a Sleep Inn that was about 10-15 minutes away from Port Everglades, with free shuttle service. For those of you that are wine enthusiasts and don't already know that you can bring on as much Wine and Champagne on the ship as you wish, we went to Publix (a 3 minutes walk from the hotel) and purchased 6 bottles of wine before making our way to the ship. We did do our online check-in prior to arriving in Florida and although we had only a Guaranteed Balcony, our room information was ready when we entered into the building. The whole process may have taken 15 minutes. The staff is very friendly and efficient. Our Cabin (8143) was ready for us by the time we made it on board (around 2 p.m.). This cabin is located all the way Aft on the ship, which was a great location, with a great view. The only downfall of being right at the back is the slight noise and vibration from the propulsion of the ship's engines. In regards to Food and Beverage Services on the ship, we were both very impressed with the Staff and all that was offered throughout our cruise. I am in the Hospitality business and usually a tough critic, but other than a couple of points that really don't merit a negative comment, I was extremely impressed. I read a recent review complaining about there not being tray service and the staff serving your buffet food to you. I for one think that this is a great service. For sanitary reasons alone, it is a necessity, as lets face it, people are pigs. Furthermore, for portion control. If you want more than what they gave you, just ask, it's quite simple. We selected the "as you wish" dining feature and were quite pleased. As we were on our honeymoon, we wanted to sit by ourselves which required a bit of waiting on 2 occasions, until one of the great hosts insisted that he just make us reservations for the 2 of us for the rest of the cruise in order to avoid waiting. I must say that we were impressed with this action. I recently read a review about the portion size and the lack in quantity on the plates. I would have to strongly disagree with this opinion, as both my wife and I were always full after our 3 course dinner... we didn't even bother having 4 courses, it's just too much food! We also ate in the Pinnacle Grill on one occasion and thought that it was well worth the $20 more per person. Our servers were very attentive and the menu options were even more impressive than that of the Vista Dining Room. There were a lot of things to see and do while on board and although we didn't participate in many activities, we were impressed while reading the daily newsletter listing all of the things that were scheduled. I know smoking is an issue for many cruisers and although I am not a smoker, I do enjoy a Cigar from time to time and especially when i am on vacation. I must say that my wife and I enjoyed our daily post dinner visit to the Oak Room. In many reviews I have read about reserving of loungers, etc. I know this is frustrating for everyone, but I don't believe there is really much that can be done. I yet to not experience this while on vacation, whether it is an all inclusive or a cruise. As you have read, yes we really were on our Honeymoon on a HAL ship. We met several people on board who questioned us on why we would chose a ship with such an aged population. Well, for starters, yes, it is an more aged population on HAL, but that didn't bother us... we had the ship to ourselves after 10 p.m.. Secondly, I believe that this aged population is probably more demanding than their younger counterparts, therefore service needs to be exceptional. I would have to say that we were very impressed with all of the service staff... everywhere on the ship. Thirdly, we were not interested in cheesy games (Carnival) all day by the pool and enjoyed the relaxed atmosphere on the Noordam. However, we both were quite surprised at the number of elderly people with very limited mobility that go cruising. I don't understand why they would choose to do so, even more so taking excursions that require some mobility and/or getting off the ship when it is in port by tenders... All in all, we had a great experience with HAL and would love to cruise with them again. Read Less
Sail Date March 2010
Congratulations to the fabulous crew on the Noordam. No wonder you are voted the #1 ship in the Holland America Line. We enjoyed 20 of the best days in the Caribbean on this ship. We thought that we were going to feel that this was too ... Read More
Congratulations to the fabulous crew on the Noordam. No wonder you are voted the #1 ship in the Holland America Line. We enjoyed 20 of the best days in the Caribbean on this ship. We thought that we were going to feel that this was too long to be on board a ship and I must say, we were sad to leave. Embarkation/Cabin We embarked at 2 pm to waiting personnel. I will never again try to board earlier. Within 10 minutes we were in our room and our luggage arrived shortly afterwards. We had a VF cabin with a steel balcony and it provided us with an extra 2 feet of balcony space. There was plenty of storage under the bed including 2 drawers with additional storage in closets, night tables, overhead cupboards above the sofa bed, inside the cushioned stool not to mention the bathroom cabinets and under the sink. Dining We had late seating in the Vista Dining. The food was always delicious with plenty of choices. While the portions may be small for some people, our exceptional waiters Gede and Gede were always willing to provide us with extras. The Yum Yum men are very signature touches to the end of the meal upon leaving the Vista. In the Lido, breakfast and lunch offered an abundance of food choices and never did we wait for a dirty table to be cleared. The staff here was always willing to help carry your food to your table and get you drinks or hot beverages. The discontinuation of food trays was not a problem and many times we felt out numbered by the crew. Twice we ate in the Pinnacle and for $20, you couldn't go wrong. Jumbo shrimp cocktail, made at your table Caesar salad, larger than you can eat porterhouse steaks and flaming baked Alaska. All this delicious food set in a beautiful dining room. The pool side dessert extravaganza is not to be missed. Worth Noting While waiting to board tenders, sun shade was provided along with chairs, refreshing cool towels, water and lemonade. We felt like royalty while we watched passengers from other ships stand in the hot sun without even an offer of a drink. Captain Mateboer participated in a Question and Answer session. He is truly a funny, sincere person who made his presence throughout the ship. As Mariners, we were invited to a Mariners lunch and an Indonesian lunch put on by the crew. This is one of the ways that Holland America rewards their returning passengers and it is very much appreciated. Ambiance Yes it is true that there were a lot of seniors on this ship. After all, they do know a good thing when they see it. There were some people with mobility difficulties but kudos to them for getting out an enjoying life. The children and teen programs had lots of creative fun things to keep the younger ones busy and due to the small amount of children on board, they practically had individual attention. Cruise Director Mike kept us all entertained along with Kuba, Jim Curry (tribute to John Denver) and the hilarious Barnaby whose opening line was "I will give you a minute to absorb me". There were deserted lounges tucked around the ship where you could relax and enjoy the peace and quiet. Culinary Arts and digital workshop programs were offered for those looking to brush up on their skills. They have an amazing photographer onboard who captures all the fine details in a mesmerizing black and white portrait. Unfortunately many of the wonderful photos taken on formal nights and around the ship are shredded due to high pricing. Summary This is not an over-the-top, or in-your-face type of ship but a ship known for its elegance, relaxing atmosphere, excellent food and crew. All you have to bring is your appreciation and hopes for fine weather. We can't wait to sail on the Noordam again. Read Less
Sail Date March 2010
I'm going to make this quick and simple. We had almost decided to give up on cruising, as our last couple of cruises with NCL were very frustrating and dissappointing. Simply put, the frustrations and annoyances with NCL were NOT ... Read More
I'm going to make this quick and simple. We had almost decided to give up on cruising, as our last couple of cruises with NCL were very frustrating and dissappointing. Simply put, the frustrations and annoyances with NCL were NOT on Holland. On NCL, we had come to the conclusion that if you ever have a problem, they will pretty much do nothing about it, or tell you it isn't their problem, or say they can't fix the problem. On Holland, we had a few problems, but the crew was happy to fix them or come up with solutions that we wouldn't even expect. Our belief is, that you can't expect everything to go perfect or right all of the time, but a good company will try to fix things when they go wrong. Holland is beyond good, and is flat out exceptional, because they went beyond any reasonable expectation to help. If you like cruising, but are ready to give it up because the cruise line you are with is pissing you off....give Holland a try, you will be surprised how well a ship can be run. The only negative....anytime dining for a table of two is really only available for people who are waiting at 515pm to be seated. After that, forget about it. No big deal as we really liked the lido, same food with only a few exceptions, much faster, and a window seat everytime. Read Less
Sail Date February 2010
Wow, we were delighted to be on board such a lovely ship, especially after the hours spent on Cruise Critic debating which line would be best..... I think we picked the perfect ship. To those of you who complain about the "elderly ... Read More
Wow, we were delighted to be on board such a lovely ship, especially after the hours spent on Cruise Critic debating which line would be best..... I think we picked the perfect ship. To those of you who complain about the "elderly passengers" on Holland America, oh please, you're going to be there sooner than you think. Senior citizens certainly are better traveling companions than a drunk & rowdy bunch of 20 year olds on Carnival! We are active 60 year olds, & had active adventures, river tubing, sailing, & snorkeling; relaxing times by the pool & in the spa, and even quiet times, reading in the library. The ship is quite lovely, with classical art in the public rooms & a very tasteful decor throughout. Our cabin was spacious, spotless, & tended by the perfect steward. It had ample storage, a well put-together bathroom with great toiletries & fluffy towels, a bed that was much more comfortable than our one at home, and was very quiet. I only wish we had a balcony, maybe next time. The food was certainly tasty, we enjoyed Eggs Benedict & omelets for breakfast, and ample (maybe too) lunches. Our dinners were usually taken in the Lido Dining Room as we hate dressing up! The food there is the same as in the main dining room. The only meal that was not too good was a BBQ out on the deck, a somewhat poor selection & quality of dishes. Entertainment was not important to us, but we did catch a part of one show, and everyone seemed to enjoy it. Movies were offered, but they were not too interesting. The Library was lovely, full of books & magazines, comfy chairs, and a small coffee cafe. Computers were available for those who cannot live without them. The staff who oversaw these were somewhat condescending and abrupt to passengers who needed their help. In fact, that was very surprising, as the rest of the crew & staff were polite, happy, & friendly. The spa was an Arabian nights dream! An enormous whirlpool filled with bubbling hot mineral water, and the Thermal Suite was a wonderful tiled room overlooking the sea. It had tiled & heated lounge benches that one could lie on. Also available were steam & sauna rooms. I did not try a massage or other therapy as they were quite pricey. The ports were all interesting and well-chosen. One port we docked beside the Oasis of the Sea... a behemoth that is too large to even be called a ship, it made me glad I was on the Noordam! We really enjoyed our shore excursions, a good variety to suit all interests in each port, well-organized also. Embarking & disembarking were also well-organized. The Ft. Lauderdale airport was chaotic- 4 or 5 ships in at the same day, huge lines of people in such a small airport. The worst complaint I have is not the cruise itself, but the manner that you must get your boarding passes & information about the cruise. It is all done by computer, you must print your own passes & even luggage tags--- cheap on Holland America's part, & inconvienient for those who are not computer saavy. Read Less
Sail Date February 2010
First time cruiser on HAL to the Caribbean. Had an excellent time. Only downside was that we missed our stop in the Bahamas (Half Moon Cay) because of rough seas. HAL service was excellent. Our cabin stewart: JoJo was great. Every time we ... Read More
First time cruiser on HAL to the Caribbean. Had an excellent time. Only downside was that we missed our stop in the Bahamas (Half Moon Cay) because of rough seas. HAL service was excellent. Our cabin stewart: JoJo was great. Every time we came back to our room, even if we'd only been gone an hour - the bed was made up, our clothes were folded. Towels were refreshed! Food was good. The Italian restaurant was so-so. Good Anti-Pasto. The pay restaurant was worth it. Ate there twice. Had Tuna tartar, crab cakes, lobster. Would definitely spend the bucks to eat there. The meals were like eating in a fine dining room in Paris! The only down side was that the Maitre de was a real snob. He totally dissed us and tried to sit us by the door until we presented him our Expedia cards for the meal, then he was "oh let me get you a good table". We named him Toady. Recommend the Vista dining room, sit down, white linen, for all meals. Really worth it. Service is good - especially the breakfast "sexy buns". Room service was good, food was okay! Stay away from the Bacon on board, it's some really weird stuff. The Dessert Night was horrible -90% of the desserts were wasted. The forting between layers tasted like Crisco. Some of the food was so-so, but everything can't be perfect. Lots of deck BBQ'a, fish, ribs, chicken, tuna. The Lido deck - cafeteria type service was good. Ice-cream and cookies all day long. Our room was mid ship, recommend going to a lower deck so there is not as much rocking - but it was still ok. Checked out a deck 1 with a view - worth the few extra bucks. We got some strange bites - didn't itch, and they checked our cabin daily and found nothing. They gave us a free meal at the upscale "pay" dining room for our inconvenience. In the Vista, look for Tree - he dishes out the after dinner candies. I didn't bring enough warm clothes, sleeveless in the dining rooms got a bit chilly, so bring a sweater or a few long shirts. You don't need a rain coat, a sweatshirt will do. Had too many capris and not enough shorts. Definitely go to the Trivia game every day! The Casino was fun and full of old people. We did find a lot of people our ages (late 30's to late 40's) and found you could go all day without hearing English. Met people from Sweden, Denmark, Holland, France, Germany, Brazil, Russia. Port stops- my favorites were Barbados and snorkeling with the turtles and Martinique - very French. Make sure and have Euros for Martinique - either they don't take dollars or you pay much more (we paid $29 American for 4 diet cokes). Do the Island Tours - just don't do anything over 4 hours. We had an 8 hour tour on St.Lucia. Air conditioning broke down and we were miserable. After all if was 85 degrees and muggy. Read Less
Sail Date February 2010
We sailed on the Noordam on 1/14/2010 for 10 days...our only regret...wished we had booked for 10 more days! The overall service throughout the cruise was exceptional! Our cabin stewards, Apip and Ary were great...always a smile and a ... Read More
We sailed on the Noordam on 1/14/2010 for 10 days...our only regret...wished we had booked for 10 more days! The overall service throughout the cruise was exceptional! Our cabin stewards, Apip and Ary were great...always a smile and a hello. Our Main dining waiter, Rudy and his assistant, Pande were knowledgeable and Rudy had a great sense of humor. Most of our evening activities (you would understand if you saw our bill) were spent making new friends in the Ocean Bar and the Piano Bar. Joseph and Cesar made the Ocean Bar a "home away from home", by introducing us to other passengers and by keeping us entertained with their wit and get "mixing" talents! Lee, in the Piano Bar, made the bar ROCK! Kudos to Eric for a great pick of talent. Of all our cruises, the Piano Bar was the best by far. Thanks to Mark, the Hotel Manager, who attended our Meet & Greet. He gave an enthusiastic presentation. A very special thank you to Mark, who came to my husband's rescue (and probably saved our marriage), by finding a pair of shoes for my shoeless husband on disembarkation (since I happened to pack ALL of his shoes the night before! The Captain was very hospitable and should be proud of the job that his crew is doing. Only 1 suggestion: At Martinique, it was difficult for elderly/handicap passengers to walk the long distance from the ship to the taxi's, etc. It might be a good idea if golf carts (or something similar) were available for those passengers. Read Less
Sail Date January 2010
There wasn't any question, Holland was our first choice. We have cruised with other lines, such as Norwegian, and have raced down the gangplank without ever looking back. Holland America was, to our way of thinking, a guarantee for a ... Read More
There wasn't any question, Holland was our first choice. We have cruised with other lines, such as Norwegian, and have raced down the gangplank without ever looking back. Holland America was, to our way of thinking, a guarantee for a pampered and care-free cruise. We don't ask for too much but we do expect to be treated like welcome and respected guests. Lord knows, we pay enough for that courtesy. This was not the case aboard the Noordam. After a few days aboard, we began to call her, NO DAM, and we'll tell you why. Never, in our experience, has a Holland America crew been so content using the word NO, excepting at those times that you'd expect them to. Upon discussing our cruise options with a Holland salesperson, we requested a "bargain" priced balcony stateroom. We were advised that for a few hundred dollars more we'd stand a good chance for an upgrade. It sounded attractive so we allowed our reservation to remain open, without a guaranteed cabin. It was to be assigned upon boarding. After foolishly arriving at the port too early, we spent two hours in a gymnasium type setting awaiting embarkation. Hot chocolate was served liberally as we waited but coffee was out of the question. Finally we were ushered aboard. Please understand, Holland was not at fault for our foolish early arrival. We were then directed to our newly assigned cabin on the eighth, Navigation deck. Cabin 8013 was 13 cabins back from the bow of the ship. It was a bit bouncy up there and being right below the buffet lunchroom and pool we were serenaded with scraping chairs and tables, day and night. We have never regarded the height of the deck as a badge of honor but rather have always selected our cabin to be mid-ship. The walk is so much more convenient from a central location to, for example, the dining room which is all the way aft. Since we booked months in advance of the cruise, and had we taken the identical, lower priced stateroom, we'd have reserved a centrally located room, albeit on a lower deck. Again, our mistake, but this time with a nudge from Holland who was more than happy to charge more and then assign us to an unpopular cabin which resides directly below the buffet dining and pool area. We were serenaded by scraping chairs and tables, day and night. This was our anniversary cruise and the only reason that we were aboard that ship at that time was to celebrate our anniversary. To enjoy that special day we had booked a reservation in the specialty, cost extra, Pinnicle Grill. And again, we made the reservation to be on the day of our anniversary, booked months in advance of the cruise. Upon boarding, we were given confirmation of that reservation. Several days into the cruise, upon returning to the ship from an exhausting shore excursion, we found a note from the manager of the Pinnicle. He informed us that the reservation for our anniversary (which was the following evening) had been cancelled and we were being ordered to report to the Pinnicle Grill, two hours from the time that we had returned to the ship. Since there was no apology or compensation for this capricious change, we assumed that this meant that if we didn't report for dinner as directed, we'd forfeit the forty dollars that we'd spent for this special dinner. We went to ship's services where a very cordial representative showed concern. We appreciate the efforts he made to resurrect our reservation for the following evening, ON our anniversary. What we discovered, as we entered the Pinnicle and were greeted by the very disgruntled manager was, disheartening to say the least. We were seated in a quiet corner of the empty restaurant as the manager explained that they had cancelled 20 confirmed reservations so that instead of serving dinners (at $20 per head) Holland America had instead decided to clear the room in order to hold a wine-tasting event, or better put, an opportunity to sell overpriced bottles of wine. Some forty or more guests had been given an unexpected boot in order to make room for an income opportunity. As it turned out, there were only seven guests attracted to this event. We sat. like lepers, in our corner of the otherwise empty restaurant. We were the only guests served dinner that evening. And the flowers I had ordered to be placed on the table, as an anniversary gift for my wife, were delivered to our cabin because our reservation had been cancelled. Perhaps, under other circumstances there would have been some honor, being the only dinner guest, but in this case it was understandably embarrassing. We spent the rest of the cruise, looking over our shoulders, wondering what would they pull next? The pinnicle decision had been so blatant and yet so poorly conceived, we knew we were aboard the "ship of fools."  Earlier we mentioned the "NO DAM" experience. We had been provided with a gift, from the travel agency of two coupon booklets that provided for a total of 40 signature drinks to be enjoyed during the cruise. Unfortunately, Holland had sold these coupons without telling anyone what "Signature drinks" were. Even the ship's office could not provide a comprehensive explanation as to what "Signature drink" meant. Every time we'd order, even the simplest of drinks we were told NO, as this wasn't a Signature drink. When we'd ask what constituted a signature drink, different bartenders would give varying answers. We had to learn which bar to go to in order to get the drinks that we desired. Occasionally they'd bill our room an additional fifty cents if that bartender didn't subscribe to what the last barkeep had assured us of. So much for $100. worth of coupons. We are not big drinkers but enjoy a few cocktails while on vacation. These coupons were so frustrating, on a ten day cruise, we had only 10 cocktails, and gave the other coupon book to strangers. It was not the end of the world, but it was aggravating. Now at times, when you'd expect the crew to say no, they were much too shy. Blue jeans, in violation of the main dining dress code, children in the adult only pool, helter skelter colliding lines in the buffet, lounge chairs and tables that were reserved, sometimes all day, with a towel or newspaper placed upon them. In the buffet, both a crew member and I watched a woman take a tray to the food line. With so many plates, it made good sense to me. When I tried to secure one, the crew member then told me NO, I was not entitled to use a tray. When you'd expect crew-persons to intercede it was only then that they forgot the word no! Having said this, our cruise aboard the Oosterdam, one year ago was a pleasure and without any of these problems. We therefore must conclude that it wasn't Holland America that was so much at fault but rather a very poorly run Holland America ship. It is also safe to say that if it weren't for the Pinnicle debacle the smaller annoyances would not have been quite so noticeable. Incidentally, since they failed to tell us in the store, aboard the Noordam, the customs inspector had to inform us that we were not allowed to bring five cartons of cigarets back into the States. The custom official pointed out that, had we purchased the ciggs in the U.S. Virgin Islands, at the same price as the ship, five cartons would then have been permissible. It is a shame when profit outweighs service. Read Less
Sail Date January 2010
Traveling as a young couple in our late 20's with no children the Nooradam had an interesting mix of people onboard. In general we love the cruise, and enjoyed the attentive & friendly staff. Since it was a Holiday Christmas ... Read More
Traveling as a young couple in our late 20's with no children the Nooradam had an interesting mix of people onboard. In general we love the cruise, and enjoyed the attentive & friendly staff. Since it was a Holiday Christmas cruise every public space had a Christmas tree decorated, holiday cookies in the dinning rooms, carolers and even Santa came to visit for the kids! :) Population Mix for our trip: I have to say approximately 70% of the people were singles/couples between the ages of 55-85, Couples/Familys age 30-45 & children ages 7-16 were approx 20% and finally young couples like us were very rare. The only ones we saw/met were honeymooners. OnBoard & First Day: We flew the day of (it was smooth traveling but stressful & probably wont fly day of again) and arrived in FLL airport at about 12noon, we took a cab to the port (about 2 miles) which cost $18 total for both of us. We had no wait, and literally walked through each check-in area, which took about 10-15 min maybe at most? had our picture taken, ID card given, and headed straight to Lido Deck for some lunch. Ship was due to sail at 5pm (all aboard 4pm). We originally booked an inside room (I think N or M?) as "GUAR" (meaning no assigned room #) since it was cheaper. On our first day upon checkin, we got bumped-up to an obstructed view outside cabin GG... much larger & nicer than our original room. I was so Exciting! Located in the middle of the ship on deck 4 which worked out wonderfully. Even though it was obstructed by the lifeboats, it had floor to ceiling windows looking out over the lifeboat/water, the good part was it was the kind of lifeboat they used to transport passengers to and from Halfmoon Cay... so it had windows on it which you could then look through & see the water. Also on Grand Turk & HalfMoon Cay they were lowered and removed either for drills or transportation... so we had a full floor to ceiling view of the islands! I will always book middle of the ship from now on it was Great!! The only downside was, since we were upgraded, we didnt receive our luggage until about 3-4pm, also we got the other couples luggage but they came by to get it...since they figured it must have been sent to their old room # (now ours) oh and they got bumped-up to a balcony! Cabin: Larger than I expected, with 3 floor to ceiling closets, vanity/makeup area, hairdryer, fridge, robes, flat screen tv, dvd player, free roomservice, small table & couch. Everything an upscale hotel would have. Located deck 4 midship, it was just steps to the elevator. The room was quiet, but you could hear the faint sound of music... but i had no trouble & I'm a light sleeper. Daily Activities: They had 3-4 categories, Culinary arts focused (wine tasting, mixology, cooking sessions), Daily Events (Exercise, yoga, ping pong challenge, belly flop, and Trivia with prizes), Technology information sessions (how to send pictures, setup website, make videos), Spa related, or the Evening Show. Food: Lots of options, but we liked Lido deck with its typical buffet style dinning, although it was difficult to find seating, the waitstaff was lighting fast in turning the tables for the next person. The food was very good. Vista Dining room was more upscale typical fine dinning restaurant. We went to lunch at Lido and dinner at Vista every day and loved it. We opted out of the Pinnacle Grill due to the cost,and we wanted something more relaxed. Vista Dinning room also had afternoon tea around 3-4, which had the best desserts on the ship! Ports: Grand Turk, San Juan, St.Thomas, Half Moon Cay Grand Turk, was still destroyed from the Hurricane, so the only really nice area was the small shopping area & Margarita-ville directly off the ship. Also we choose Governors beach to swim & snorkle, the water is crystal clear even though It rained the day we were there. The people are very nice & I felt safe. I would not visit again only due to destruction & lack of things to do. San Juan, 4 cruise ships were in dock the same day. It was a beautiful sunny day, we took the free trolley around old San Juan and visited the old forts. Great Day! Although vendors product pushers were directly off the ship the Police were everywhere to keep things in order. I would visit again & maybe go further inland to rain forest or beaches (with a group of people) St.Thomas, Beautiful! we went shopping, and took a local tour around the island. The landscape is just breathtaking! Would come here every trip :) HalfMoon Cay, cute small island, their developing it nicely. Its strictly a beach day, so not much else to do besides swimming and watersports. They have a great Free BBQ. The water is a beautiful teal color but not clear enough to snorkel. Overall I loved the trip, will definitely cruise again... but I might choose another ship with a slightly younger crowed :) Read Less
Sail Date December 2009
Our cruise went to Half Moon Cay, Tortola BVI, Martinique, Barbados, St. Lucia, and St. Maarten. Overall, we both rated it excellent on the HAL feedback form. We've sailed on RCCL, Disney, and Princess before this. This was by far our ... Read More
Our cruise went to Half Moon Cay, Tortola BVI, Martinique, Barbados, St. Lucia, and St. Maarten. Overall, we both rated it excellent on the HAL feedback form. We've sailed on RCCL, Disney, and Princess before this. This was by far our favorite cruise line. EMBARKATION: We drove from Orlando, and reached the cruise terminal around 2 pm. There was a small line that took a long time to get through for some reason. We boarded around 3; our luggage was in our cabin by 3:30. STATEROOM: We were offered an upgrade from our VA to an SY for $400, which we declined. We now wish we had taken it for the extra space. We liked the cabin; it was 2 doors from the midship elevators. Our cabin steward and housekeeper, Danang and Alim, were absolutely fantastic, wonderful, friendly, genuinely happy people. We wanted for nothing. We learned that they work for 10 months straight, 7 days a week, 11 hours a day, and are given just a few hours off to go into a port now and then. Then, they have 3 solid paid months off. They pay the same internet rates we do, as well. If you tip them extra (beyond the gratuities HAL charges daily), they are required to place the tip in the general tip pool. SERVICE: The service was outstanding. Every single crew member with whom we interacted was professional, genuine, friendly, accommodating, and gracious (with the exception of the sour and rude female manager of the coffee bar in Explorations, whom we prefer to forget). This was one main difference between HAL and every other line. (Disney also has excellent service; we felt HAL's was a bit better, however.) We were curious about the Captain, as we never saw him. My husband appreciated Ferdinand, the Cellar Master, taking time to advise him on wine. SHIP INFO: Gorgeous. We appreciated the art, as most do, particularly the unusual nautical pieces. We liked the way the ship was decorated for the holidays. Not too glitzy, elegant, lovely. We used the hot tubs, and loved them. My husband used the gym daily and felt it needed more equipment. We did not visit the spa. Overall, the ship was easy to navigate. We adored the promenade deck, the teak deck chairs, and the outdoor elevators! There are many places for wide views of the sea, including almost all "indoor" areas of the ship. She was spotless and constantly being maintained that way. The only negatives we experienced about the ship were that we had Force 8 gale winds a couple of days and although the seas were slight, the ship really rocked. When we were heading to Barbados, the Captain slowed the ship way down and every 45 seconds or so it shook exactly like an earthquake, which we both found extremely unnerving, and we didn't sleep much at all that night. Someone told us it was probably because a large wave was hitting the stern and causing the ship to vibrate. You could feel it on every deck. ENTERTAINMENT and ACTIVITIES: We attended no shows. (We don't like to be in enclosed spaces when the ship rocks, and it tended to rock many nights.) We didn't end up finding any activities we wanted to do more than just staring at the ocean, talking with people, stuff like that. Oh, how we wish there were larger dance spaces and more variety of music. As others have said, we'd have liked to have heard Caribbean music. We did love the classical string quartet in the evenings. PORTS: We took no HAL shore excursions. We did research on the boards on each port, and designed our own itineraries. We rented cars in Barbados and Martinique, and I would never suggest anyone else do that! It took a long time to get anywhere in Martinique. We went north, made a loop, didn't stop at the gardens as we'd planned because there were tour buses there, went south to Diamant and the beach and met an interesting Martinique man originally from France. Everyone was very nice on Martinique; we just didn't plan well. On Barbados, we went down to Rockley beach-it was gorgeous, uncrowded, has a long boardwalk you can walk along. Then around noon we decided to head up to the north to see the Scottish district, and spent three hours hopelessly lost en route, finally gave up and went back to the ship. There are no signs on Barbados telling you what road you are on or where you might want to go. We are great navigators, and we failed miserably! We went to the Baths on our own with advice from the BVI board--docked in Tortola and took the ferry over. It was very easy. The Baths were incredible! A must see. We also went to the Butterfly Farm on St. Martin on our own in a cab, walked to Galion Beach (it's right there) and then Orient Beach, but got rained out and cabbed it to Marigot, which was SO beautiful!! We LOVED Marigot!! Had pastry and tea at Seraphina's. We then went to Philipsburg (port) and visited That Yoda Guy's museum. He's the one who made Yoda from Star Wars. He's also an incredible artist--absolutely beautiful prints, bookmarks, lovely things. Our cab driver was fantastic, showed us the house he was raised in, introduced us to his niece who was walking on the road, told us a lot about the island. As for Half Moon Cay, of course it was splendid. We were on a roll call for this cruise, and one member suggested we all get the Grand Cabana/Oasis on Half Moon Cay. We did that, and it was SO well worth it. It was the first day and highlight of our entire cruise! Our favorite island was St. Lucia. I just read an article in a travel magazine saying they have big plans to develop/overdevelop that island. I'm so glad we went now! We booked a private tour with Serenity Tours (who advertise on Cruise Critic) and it was outstanding in every way. We learned and saw so much, and our guides were just fantastic. FOOD: Fantastic! We were most surprised by this. Our previous food experiences on cruises was terrible. I lost many pounds on a prior cruise because, as a vegetarian, I found the vegetables soggy and inedible, and the eggs so salty and tough. I loved the fresh-baked bread, and the scent of it baking on the top deck! Bigelow teas--not so crazy about those, missed my African Nectar/Red Bush tea. Every meal was great, though. We ate at the Lido for every meal, noting the menu is almost identical to that in the Vista dining room. We had high tea on 3 days and loved it. The dessert extravaganza was something to see (and eat!). The food was really important to us--we are Northern Californians and used to eating organic food--and we were impressed. There seemed to be much less salt used, which made us happy. Erik, the sous chef in the Lido, made us an excellent curry one night. (He was wonderful, too.) PASSENGERS: We figured the average age on the cruise was 52. There were several little kids and several teenagers, all very well behaved. I saw no one with an oxygen tank. I saw one man with a walker. To read the boards, it can sound like everyone on HAL is frail and elderly. We did meet elderly people, but none of them were frail. They were all vibrant, fascinating, gracious, full-life people. The people on this cruise were just wonderful. We have brief conversations in/out of the elevators, people greet each other, most everyone seems really happy and enjoying the experience, and we made good friends. We had felt really isolated on each of our previous cruises, so were really happy with our fellow passengers on HAL. SUMMARY: Fantastic experience. Many of our fears (we'd only be sailing with people waiting to die of old age, the food would be bland, we'd be bored) were completely without foundation. Best: food, people, ports, service, ship (not necessarily in that order). Worst: weather--beyond HAL's control, and not so bad. Read Less
Sail Date December 2009
We ended up driving to the port and parked at Park N' Go, a very nice service, recommendable. Embarkation was very fast and painless in Ft. Lauderdale, enough said. The ship First, Holland America's Noordam is an absolutely ... Read More
We ended up driving to the port and parked at Park N' Go, a very nice service, recommendable. Embarkation was very fast and painless in Ft. Lauderdale, enough said. The ship First, Holland America's Noordam is an absolutely beautiful ship, a little nicer than the RCI Majesty and much nicer than our 3 NCL ships we've sailed on, which says a lot. The elevators all had a pretty steel embossed designs on the doors, the ships inside trim and colors all had a subdued elegance to them everywhere, we loved the glass outward facing elevators, and the beautiful glass atrium with Xmas decorations everywhere. Speaking of elevators, they're all FAST on the Noordam. It is easy to understand why some had sailed on this elegant ship many times. Public restrooms with rolled towels for drying your hands, sophisticated. We were always given a cool, damp towel when returning to the ship and offered a drink, double sophisticated. The dining rooms are also elegant, fine china, plus the Lido buffet area is comfortable and nicely arranged too with plenty of seating, take notice NCL, seats for everyone is a requirement. Nice outside deck chaise lounge chairs were in high demand everywhere. There are recliners and other comfy chairs in the Crows Nest forward on deck 10. I think that some of the people slept in those recliners and had to be pried out with crow bars when we docked back in Florida. The cabin Our inside room was smaller sized (154sq ft?), but it excelled in closet space, easily swallowing our "local resident, everything goes wardrobes", and luggage all fit nicely under the comfy beds. HAL robes were nice, DW loved it, I never used mine, but amazingly it actually did fit me. Some passengers decided they'd not wear clothes and just wear robes everywhere instead, very tacky people who all looked like they were a few bricks short of a full load. I found I don't really like the inside cabins because it is so dark, and we tended to lose track of sleeping time, making it harder to get up for wake-up calls in the dark. We were both really glad I got the 2 little 0.3W LED nightlights at Home Depot before we left, $6 well spent. I personally found myself wanting to look out the window MANY times, especially when I got up. The LCD TVs were great and I turned on the TV when we woke up, then changed to the webcam channel showing the forward view for my "morning look out the window", rear view webcam was never very good it seemed. At least the webcam channel always had some nice Sinatra or similar music. Kudos to the international ESPN channel for showing 3 NFL games on Sunday, Monday night, and Thursday's game on the ship's TV. We watched a lot of NFL games onboard, yeah baby. Maybe Captian Hans is a NFL fan and demanded it piped in. The food We both agreed that the food is also much better overall than NCL, perhaps even better than RCCL, however the Royal Majesty had a nice Asian station with Asian style breakfasts not found on any of our other cruise ships to date. HAL's attempt at an Asian station at the Lido earned a double thumbs down rating from us. The only saving grace was they at least had some hot Sambal sauce available there, which we used on other foods. We also requested the Sambal sauce at dinner on some evenings. Still, the best Asian food to date was at the now retired NCL Majesty's excellent stir fry noodle station, who'd a thunk it!! As mentioned, the Noordam excels for having tons of comfortable seating around the Lido buffet area, so there is no table hogging or over crowding like the darn NCL Garden Cafes, making eating there MUCH more enjoyable. I loved the regular eggs benedict and ate it every single morning, didn't try the other 8 variations. The 3 formal night's menus featured a half lobster and steak, king crab legs or prime rib, and a large lobster tail with a small fillet mignon for the final event. DW and I drooled like to Pavolvian mutts on those formal nights while getting dressed. HAL chefs were good at making really tasty, tender steaks. There only a few minor food criticisms I can make. On the day we boarded there had been a very late food inspection and it messed up all dining for the evening. We tried to eat in the Italian restaurant a couple times but couldn't get in, didn't try the surcharged Pinnacle. Also one lunch in the Lido had some sort of beef rolled around veggies that was leather tough but I gnawed through mine and ate the one DW rejected. I got 3 tiny silver dollar pork cutlets on the first evening and wanted to say "where's dinner?". Oh well, I survived. I am not a coffee drinker, but many said they loved the Dutch coffee on the Noordam, including DW. The cruise director said they serve an average of 12,000 meals per day for 1900 passengers and crew, hinting that some passengers are pigs and eat more than 3 meals per day, yup. Three was always plenty for us, walked after every meal as usual, and lost weight on the cruise as usual. We took a tour of the kitchen and found it was not as big as expected and I am amazed they can crank out that much food there. The Crew Most of the staff are Indonesian, and they worked very hard. Our two cabin stewards Tono and Made were the best to date. They always seemed to be nearby in the hallways, and loved to say hi. They were always "excellent" except one day when they responded "very good". I joked with them and said, "ah ha, you are not excellent today, you must be having a bad day!!!". They saved me when I went back to the room to get DW vitamins during dinner, only to realize I'd left my keys in my shorts in the room. No problem. Tono to the rescue!!! I gladly left these two guys an extra tip. Some of the waiters didn't seem friendly (except Heri, a tall young guy who we could only get one night). Or "normal" waiter Hendra was very good at his job, and offering recommendations, but not very talkative or friendly. Heidi from NCL is still the champion waiter, she could find time to have fun with passengers and still be an extremely good waiter. We really missed our little Heidi on this trip. We talked with Captain Hans, very nice guy, during his "autographing session". We asked about sea conditions in the Caribbean since it seemed rough going down, somewhat less coming back. He said was was rougher than normal down and about normal coming back. He said seas are flatter during the summer, but there is the hurricane risk. DW actually got seasick the second night, woke me to go fetch some meds, so off I went. The onboard clinic had closed and I was standing there looking dumb, half asleep, and trying to figure out plan B. Luckily a nice crew member dressed in a tuxedo recognized a husband in distress and got me a hand-full of the meds. Thankfully the meds killed the sea sickness immediately and DW was fine afterwards, plus happy with her stash of medication. I went to ask about the medication the next day and evidently she wasn't the only one sick, it was standing room only in the medical office. There were 2 exceptions to the good crew. One black eye crew rating I gave was to the cruise consultant Jayne. We went to her future cruise talk, but missed the first part of it, so I went to her desk in the evening to inquire about onboard deals and she said she was closing for the night, asked me to return later, fair enough. I went back several times and she was always busy. I scratched my head wondering what passengers could talk to about for an hour at a time, but I finally got to speak with her. I explained that this was my first HAL cruise and I wanted to know about the perks of either prebooking or depositing onboard. I explained that NCL always gives an immediate OBC with a future deposit and was excited to find out what HAL did because I loved the ship. She went off on me like I was a criminal, "that would be stupid for us to give you credit now because you'd just cancel the credit card payment for the next cruise, blah, blah, blah". Holy cow woman, all I wanted to know was what the onboard deal was since we got daily fliers mentioning it!! I told her I had no intention of cheating anyone, never did get a straight answer, gave up, and left. The other bad experience was in the dining room. We dined as walk-ins, without an assigned time, and for the most part it worked extremely well, even when requesting a table for 2. We didn't wait for more than 10 minutes any night. However one night they seated us upstairs in the "reserved" section upstairs at 6:30pm. We had not even finished our main course, but were asked what we wanted for desert, which was immediately brought, and for the grand finally Donny, the head Maitre D', kicked us out, "Sir we can not have any early diners remaining when the 8pm passengers are seated, you'll have to leave now", ok off to the Lido to finish desert and drinks. Amazingly, we heard about a guy SCREAMING at the host, demanding to be seated on the upper level. He can have it, no more upstairs dining for us. The ports We were going to just walk around the Half Moon Cay in the Bahamas, got to their incredible BBQ pavilion, and it started raining so we headed back for the ship. A smart move, it poured later. On Tortola we took a Speedy's ferry over to Virgin Gorda to see the Baths National Park, it was somewhat rough but DW survived. On the way down to the water we saw a woman from the ship heading out in distress with her husband. Her leg was all black (later talked to her onboard in a wheel chair and she was ok) and 100 ft farther down the trail met another woman with her head and face pretty bashed up. Others were helping her out, and she looked to be in shock. I'd bet she ended up in the hospital. They both said big waves had pounded them against the huge rocks at the Baths and I told DW we were NOT getting in the water to risk it. We saw the baths and still walked through some of the "caves", took some nice pictures, looked around, and left. We couldn't find out much about Martinique before the cruise except it is a French Island, so we took a tour from the ship, all in dollars instead of dealing with Euros. The gardens we visited were fantastic featuring about 10 tame hummingbirds buzzing around the feeders they'd hung, also some banaquits, and even a lizard with a sweet tooth. DW took some great pictures. They can keep the St. Pierre stop except the scenery was nice along the coast. We had a German guy as a guide and he made fun of how lazy the French are. He said since they are socialist, they still make money even if they don't work at all, however he joked that everyone has a new car, I believe it too from what I saw. He also said they go to work about 9am-11am stop for siesta for 2-4 hours then might work a little more and call it a day. Our listed lunch never materialized, we were starving when we got back on the ship, saved by the Lido buffet. I am almost embarrassed to say on Barbados and St. Lucia I booked some inexpensive excursions myself online, but they both turned out to be fantastic private tours. Many passengers complained bitterly about how much they hated the expensive ship tours at twice the cost of our excursions. In Barbados we went with Scenic Barbados Tours and got an older guy named Marson (pronounced Martian, as in Mars). We were only supposed to be taken to a wildlife park, garden, and a church, but ended up going to about 10 places because he wanted to take us to places he'd want to visit himself instead of just the tour. Barbados is one of the more "polished" islands, weather was absolutely perfect, so we have some nice pictures. As Marson stated, St. Lucia is actually a more naturally beautiful tropical island, but there is a lot more poverty there, and he was dead right. The ship crew was giving presents to 90 kids living in an orphanage the day we were in St. Lucia. DW loved the St. Lucia Serinity private tour with Super Dave because he had some local home made food for us to try in the car, local beer too for me to try. We also stopped for bananas, coconuts ect, and lunch at the Beacon restaurant for a local style buffet, very nice. Snacks were all similar to stuff that DW loved at home in Thailand, except the Piton beer, so she was a very happy camper. We both loved the local style chicken with hot sauce but they thought we were nuts with the amount of yummy hot sauce we use "be careful, its very hot".....can we have more? Banana ketchup? It was good. In St. Maarten we hopped on an all day water taxi to take us from the Noordam downtown. Philipsburg is a really, really nice place. We walked straight off the ferry a couple blocks and got on a local bus (van) with a Philipsburg-Marigot sign in the front window, and headed to Marigot!! We got to sit in the same traffic jams as the expensive tour busses for a lot less. We just kind of walked to get a feel for the French side and looked around, but it was fun. DW needed a restroom stop so we headed in the new mall in Marigot. The attendant had a sign that it cost $1 to use the bathroom, DW growled, paid and went in. She came out with a strange look on her face and asked for the camera, HUH? She said it was the nicest restroom she'd ever seen and wanted to photograph it. The things some tourists photograph!! The attendant got a good laugh at us. We walked the boardwalk twice looking for the SailorJack's infamous Mama Chang's Bamboo Bar never found it nor had locals never heard of it. We settled for two fruit smoothies at another establishment and moved on. The passengers Surprisingly there were more younger people onboard than the average HAL age 70 we'd read about, also about 45 kids from what we heard and they always seemed to be having fun with their supervisor. We are happy to report that passengers as a whole were mostly civilized on this ship, with a few glaring exceptions. We had the usual couples arguing bitterly, most with that strong NYC accent. I can never figure out why these people seem to like to fight like cats and dogs. One table had a woman, her husband, and another woman. The husband and other woman were embroiled in a 15 minute heated argument before they thankfully all left. The real stars were the couple who came down while we were waiting for dinner. Guys, when your wife falls on the floor, please have the coutesy to help her up instead of just kicking her shoes at her and telling her to get up. A double thumbs down to the pigs sitting next to us who demanded 2 big lobster tails with a steak, only finishing one lobster tail and sending the other to the garbage disposal. On a positive finish, we met a nice couple named Lucky and Jackie, found out they live a couple blocks from us. Now who couldn't like a nice old guy named Lucky!! Read Less
Sail Date December 2009
This was my 39th cruise and my ninth on Holland America. We were in a Category SA in cabin 7058 directly across from the Neptune Lounge on Port Side. Embarkation and disembarkation were both silky smooth. HAL has a new Disembarkation ... Read More
This was my 39th cruise and my ninth on Holland America. We were in a Category SA in cabin 7058 directly across from the Neptune Lounge on Port Side. Embarkation and disembarkation were both silky smooth. HAL has a new Disembarkation procedure where after you tell them what time you need to be off, they issue you a colored luggage tag and a Time Window. Only one announcement is made and then you just walk off within your time slot. It is a great way to leave the ship without all the infernal announcements. The ports of call were: St. Maarten, St. Lucia, Barbados, Martinique, St. Thomas and Half Moon Cay. I had been to all the ports except Martinique and they all were most pleasant. I was most surprised as to the friendliness of Martinique as the other French Islands I have been to, the natives have sometimes been hostile Francophiles. Everyone we met on Martinique were most gracious. My only comment is there is a lack of side walk cafes and bars in downtown Fort De France. There were two ships at Half Moon Cay (Westerdam) and although everything went smoothly enough the facilities were strained. If one didn't get there early, one didn't get a seat at a bar or on the beach. I had breakfast daily in the Pinnacle Grill and it was just wonderfully perfect. Food in the dining room was very good and service was good but has a little room for improvement with regards to efficiency. A couple of times dinner lasted well over two hours. Our cabin was perfect and our attendants were just right. The Neptune Lounge was a treat as always. We didn't go to many of the shows. It was too late for me after dinner and the ones I did see were boring. I did not use the Gym so I have no comment. So all in all I will declare this was the best cruise I have ever been on. I thought the crew was happy and thus our service was outstanding. The equipment was in wonderful shape and was very very clean. Captain John Scott was everywhere and I even saw him carrying a clipboard into a men's room one time to check on it. Peter Cunningham Fairhope, AL peterc6@bellsouth.net The Lido was typical cruise line buffet. It was good and the selection was good as well. The burgers prepared on the starboard side of the main pool area were outstanding. Read Less
Sail Date November 2009
This trip was a 10-day cruise aboard the Holland America Noordam, Nov 1 - 11, 2009...it was my 2nd time on this ship, 4th time with Holland America, and 25th cruise overall. This cruise was sailing the southern Caribbean, which is my ... Read More
This trip was a 10-day cruise aboard the Holland America Noordam, Nov 1 - 11, 2009...it was my 2nd time on this ship, 4th time with Holland America, and 25th cruise overall. This cruise was sailing the southern Caribbean, which is my favorite area due to the volcanic origins of the islands, and the dense rainforest and colonial history. Our ship called at St. Maarten in the Netherlands Antilles, St. Lucia, Barbados, Martinique, Tortola in the British Virgin Islands, and Half Moon Cay in the Bahamas. I have many photos of the ship and ports of call in my photo gallery; the link to the full gallery is at the end of the review. Nov 1 - We started with embarkation day, which was a wee bit unorthodox. Living close to the port, I have the advantage of being able to reschedule on short notice - due to Norovirus on the previous cruise, we were told we wouldn't be boarding until 2pm. So I planned to arrive at approximately 2:15pm. I was pleasantly surprised upon arrival to find I wasn't greeted by a line out the door, as they managed to start boarding a little before 2pm afterall. The walk into the terminal was a cinch, and over to the 4-star Mariner checkin desk (thanks to my cabinmate), which had no line at all, was perfect. We were onboard within 15 minutes of arrival. Unfortunately, on boarding we discovered we couldn't yet go to the rooms...so we spent some time hanging out in a lounge with our carryon baggage for an hour or two. I'm pretty easygoing though, so that doesn't really bother me much. We get to the rooms around 4pm, which means they had to bump the muster drill until 5pm. I was in an SS cabin on the Navigation deck starboard...#8055. The cabin was clean, neat, and in perfect order. I later heard from tablemates and others on the ship that their cabins weren't...this is unusual for HAL, but most agreed that it had to do with the norovirus cleanup combined with crew immigration processes at the crowded port since the ship had come from Europe. The muster still requires the full wear-your-lifevest routine that most of the other lines recently dropped...though I was very pleased to finally be facing EAST during the drill, rather than west into the hot setting sun. During the drill, we watched the other vessels pull away one after the other. There was plenty of time to stow the lifejackets and head upstairs for sailaway...because it didn't happen until 7:30pm! I watched and photographed a lovely sunset over Port Everglades, then we sailed out of Ft. Lauderdale at night, after dark, making sailaway photos more challenging and making Inletcam a bust (though the CC group still had the banners flying!). The rest of the evening was uneventful...we had chosen the late seating traditional (I just cannot get into the free-for-all dining options...I'm just a die-hard traditionalist, and I like the same table with the same tablemates at the same prescribed time every night!)...our Table 48 for six was a nice group and we all bonded well. Nov 2/3 - The first two days were at-sea. Nov 4 - Finds us in Philipsburg, St. Maarten. Always a lovely port, but one I've been to many times - I tend to just like to walk the town, shop around, grab a drink, and enjoy the beauty. The day was hot and sunny, and a wee bit crowded as we had a large Princess ship in port with us too. That night sailing out of St. Maarten, the amateur geologist side of me wanted to find out precisely when we'd be passing the island of Montserrat on the way south to St. Lucia...I knew our route would take us within about 30 miles, and that the volcano Soufriere had really been acting up lately - there was a good chance of a lava dome collapse and pyroclastic activity. A call to the bridge confirmed our passing between 9:30pm and 10pm...so after dinner, I skipped dessert and headed up to deck 10 at 9:45pm to see if I'd be lucky enough to see anything. As soon as I opened the door to the outer deck, I had grit in my eyes and mouth, and the decks were dirty and grey as it looked like we were moving through a fog. I quickly surmised we were passing through the ash cloud from the volcano, which upon focusing in the dark, I was able to make out a decent 15,000-20,000 eruption column of ash, most likely from a pyroclastic flow and partial dome collapse. This moment made my cruise...though most others on the ship I discussed it with merely remarked that their balconies were dirty the next morning, or they recalled getting stuff in their eyes that night! Volcanologists are a weird breed I guess. Nov. 5 - The next day we arrived in Castries, St. Lucia. It's a pretty harbor, but not necessarily the most attractive of cities (they had a devastating fire in the 1950s, and the rebuilt city is mostly aluminum and cement...not much of that old Caribbean charm). I was content to stroll the town, again having been there before...though some occasional light sprinkles kept me from taking many photos in the city as I kept my camera hidden. Back on board, we sailed the coast south down to Soufriere, so the tenders could pick up those on tours that dropped off there. Soufriere is such a gorgeous natural setting and more traditional Caribbean town that I really wish the ships would just call there for the day. Parked in front of the Pitons, the scenery is breathtaking. Another calm and lovely sailaway, and we made for the next stop... Nov 6 - We arrived in Bridgetown, Barbados. A lovely island indeed...flat and not as volcanic, but with a lovely colonial British charm...the port has been working to improve the scenery for guests, as it does sit a mile or two from the actual town. The port itself still looks quite industrial, but complimentary and very friendly bus drivers ferry you to the port shopping building, where you can walk the mile or so to town or get a cab or tour. I was very happy to see how they've beautified the walk to town - beautiful landscaping on shaded sidewalks following the beautiful coast...I happily elected to walk. Touring through town, some minor shopping, enjoying the colonial buildings, touring the beautiful Parliament building, the old boatyards from the British naval days, the pretty yacht basin...it was just a beautiful day of walking and photographing. That sailaway presented us with the prize-winning sunset from amongst a whole cruise of beautiful sunsets...one of those OMG Caribbean sunsets that just drop your jaw and leave you speechless: http://www.pbase.com/zackiedawg/image/119327584/original.jpg Nov 7 - found us in Fort de France, Martinique. This was the only island on the trip I'd not previously been to...and I must say, I loved it. The island is spectacularly scenic, lush and green, with dramatic soaring volcanic peaks everywhere, more reminiscent of Pacific islands like Kauai. The huge sprawling city of Fort de France is an eclectic mix of modern French, French colonial, and Caribbean. The walk down the long pier and into town had to be timed, as we were hit with morning rainshowers...they fortunately cleared for the late morning and early afternoon. I walked the pretty town, touring the cathedral, the fort, the Schoelcher Library, the freedom park, the Josephine statue, the barracks, the war memorials, the volcano memorial...just a great place to walk around and take it in. On sailaway, the geologist/volcanologist got another thrill, as we sailed north up the coast and passed St. Pierre, and the towering sprawling Mt. Pelee volcano. One of the deadliest volcanoes in history, Pelee destroyed the city of St. Pierre in 1902 killing 35,000. That evening, the captain put his foot down to the carpet, and we flew up to Tortola...most of the previous evenings involved such close sailing distances that we had dawdled at just a handful of knots to get there...but this time he needed to get moving! Nov 8 - Roadtown, Tortola. Rain. Lots of it. I walked around Roadtown, up the hill to the botanical garden, over to Pussers, and the fort...but photos were basically out of the question as it rained off and on every few minutes, the entire day. I don't mind walking in the rain, but I'm not going to use my camera in that weather...so photography in town was a bust. The town was very quiet, since it was a Sunday, but the stores I did go into were surprised and very happy to see someone from the ship - due to the rain or those who went on tours, they hadn't seen a soul the whole day! Sailaway was beautiful though because of the sun setting through the rainbands. Nov. 9 - Another at-sea day we we made for Half Moon Cay. The weather took a turn that night, with the seas really starting to bump up and the winds starting to blow. We had gale force 7 winds for most of the 2 days, off and on rain, and confused 8-foot seas with stacking long-period rollers and smaller chops and white caps everywhere. I am fortunate to have sea legs, but I did notice for the first time seeing sickness bags sitting in the elevator lobbies on the cabin decks...so I'm guessing some guests may have been a wee bit nauseated. Nov 10 - We thought there was a chance we'd not be able to tender due to the weather, and there was talk of what Plan B would be...but the winds were stacking behind the island leaving some protection for the tenders, and though they had to ride a bit bumpier than normal, we were able to tender over, and the skies let the sun come through and rain to clear (only the wind remained)...so we had a lovely day in HMC. A fine cruise back, and Nov 11 dawned to a smooth and easy disembarkation. We slept in until 8am, had coffee in the room, and though we had the ability to disembark any time with the 4-star mariner privilege, we were just being picked up by family and going 20 minutes north, so we were in no particular rush. We finally deboarded around 9:30am, our luggage was very easy to find since everyone at that time was in Blue section, while our luggage was nearly alone in the pink section which had long since been scrapped. Immigration/Customs was 30 seconds - looked at the passports and the claim form, and said OK...that was it. We were outside on the median waiting for our ride by 9:45, picked up and were at home having coffee and unpacking by 10:15am. Other factors from the cruise to add to the review: The shows were what I would call average...not bad, not particularly special...never what I would consider one of HAL's strongest suits. But those aren't all that important to me anyway. Food was fine all around for me personally - didn't hit the Pinnacle this time, though I have in the past and it has always lived up to expectations. Main dining room was consistently good for most every dish - in particular soups and sauces were very well prepared...though I generally avoided the Italian dishes as they don't really have much skill in that particular ethnicity! Lido was a fine spread as always - my lunches are so much simpler than many, as I just prefer a sandwich or salad - both the salad bar and sandwich bar were excellent and I used them most of the time, with an occasional burger thrown in from the grill. The first 6 days of the cruise, they had pulled out some stock of milk that was heat-treated to sit unrefrigerated on a shelf for 6 months...it was foul, fetid, offensive, and horrible, and should never be served again anywhere on earth. If you see those little juicebox-looking milks, stay FAR away! By day 7, they had somehow managed to stock up on regular, Velda Farms milk, and all was right with the world again. The library was great, internet service worked fine for me, all rooms, bars, and lounges were cleaned and stocked well, crew were friendly and attentive, room steward was excellent, dining staff was not the best (we were last to be served often, and they weren't very good at refilling drinks, replacing butter, or checking on needs...they smiled enough but were somewhat quiet - some at our table drew the line and made note to the DR manager on the 7th night...I'm a low confrontation person with pretty low needs/expectations, so I tend to let such things go with an internal memo and roll with it. Service picked up notably afterwards though...so it was a smart move to point it out! So that's my cruise wrap up! To browse my photo gallery, please click here where you'll find about 190 shots from all over the ship and islands: http://www.pbase.com/zackiedawg/noordam2009&page=all Read Less
Sail Date November 2009
I sailed on the Noordam from November 11-21st 2009, and I was very pleased with the ship. From the way the crew on board the Noordam treated us, to the service.It was fantastic and I loved the open seating. There dining was always ... Read More
I sailed on the Noordam from November 11-21st 2009, and I was very pleased with the ship. From the way the crew on board the Noordam treated us, to the service.It was fantastic and I loved the open seating. There dining was always fantastic I never had a complaint about it. They had great entertainment as well. They had the usual jugglers/comedians/Holland America dancers/ etc. Their cruise director had done a great job as well. He was probably the funniest cruise director I have ever had. The cabin stewards on the other hand were very kind, however they weren't very social with you as much as they are on other ships. I think they were given more rooms than usual because my room was never clean until about noon to 1:00. They cut back on the bowls of fruit in your room as well. It didn't bother me that much because the cruise was a lot slower in the since that everything was laid back and I never had anything planned to do on the ship. There wasn't an event happening every hour, you could just sit back and relax. I pretty much spent the days at sea sleeping on the promenade deck. Just listening to the ocean. The only thing that I really did not like about the ship was their program sheet. Every night you would receive one on your bed. It was nearly impossible to read. You could never figure out what was going on the next day. Then they would never give you much information on the next port you were going to. Overall though it was a pretty good cruise. Read Less
Sail Date November 2009
A few comments about a recent voyage on Holland America Noordam There is an old adage that says "a team is only as fast as its slowest player". This thought came to mind as we first stepped on board the beautiful Holland ... Read More
A few comments about a recent voyage on Holland America Noordam There is an old adage that says "a team is only as fast as its slowest player". This thought came to mind as we first stepped on board the beautiful Holland America Noordam in Fort Lauderdale for our 10 night Eastern Caribbean Cruise. It was a little confronting as we entered the lido deck to grab some lunch, as we waited for our cabin to become ready. We found that we had to navigate a virtual sea of slow moving people with a mix of Zimmer frames and mobility scooters. My wife and I are in our Mid Thirties, we know all the usual commentary about cruise ships being floating nursing homes, but this cruise was the oldest demographic we have experienced thus far in our cruising journey Before you Tar & Feather me. Let me qualify, that we found that this demographic mix would come to be one of the main reasons we enjoyed our cruise on the Noordam so much, but more about that later The Noordam is a beautiful ship; it has majestic lines that give it proud, classic ocean liner look. Its interior is tasteful and light, and full of hidden places where you can spend a quite moment Our cabin (a VA Balcony), was very pleasant, bed was comfy; the bathroom even had a small bath. We loved the balcony as its design protected it from the elements, allowing for a couple of great snoozes in the ocean breeze. Nothing like catching a few Zee's as the world sails by. The food was great, very high quality and on par with what we have experienced on Celebrity, the lido deck was always busy at lunch, but the food was always fresh and varied, the Asian station in particular was great Now the age thing........ Initially we were quite confronted by the general age difference, we're in our mid thirties and the average age on board had to be 70 - 75 years, but as the cruise went on it became clear that this was quite the advantage, for a number of reasons Because of the general age, the ship was incredibly quite, which made for a very relaxing cruise, no loud neighbours or hyped up kids running down the corridors late at night Superstar status; Being amongst the youngest on board, gave us a kind of superstar status, everyone wanted to talk with you and kept calling us Kids all the time. Great for the ego, in general everyone was just plan polite and friendly. Another plus of the general age group, was that that most facilities were under-used. The pool and sun deck was quite. In particular the gym was always quite, which made for a much easier work out. To give you an example; I'm of moderate fitness, I can pull off a singlet fairly well, nothing too buff, but their I am working out in the gym and I kept being mistaken for the personal trainer, simply because I was youngish. Great for the ego, not to mention my wife got a kick out of it One downside to the age factor was the entertainment. It was tailored to the older demographic and most bars finished quite early. We hadn't planned on having a party cruise, but our table mates who were in our age demographic (yes their were a few others) had other ideas. Luckily we found the piano bar. Our piano man, was a gent from the UK, Mark Waterman a very talented performer with a bitter and twisted sense of humour. Mark had only a few weeks left on his contract, so he enjoyed some lively banter with his patrons, particular around HAL's treatment of entertainers. Very funny to listen too The lesson for us regarding entertainment on HAL, is if your of a younger mind set, be prepared to make your own fun, we staged a small bath-robe party in the piano bar one night (the look on the other patrons faces was priceless, they weren't quite sure of what to make of these silly young people dressed in bath robes) and we also managed to start a conga line involving about 50 of so people that made its way through the casino and a couple of bars. Although the majority of players in the casino looked up from the tables in disgust, at least we had some fun and their lack of smiles made it that much more fun HAL isn't know for its party antics, so they don't employ the same security as say Carnival, so crazy antics seemed to go under the radar a while longer on HAL As for the Caribbean, The islands were beautiful, but very commercial. Curacao was our favourite, a very pretty time warp of Dutch and Caribbean culture. We had expected a bit more Jack Sparrow, but no the less the islands were nice. In general I would go to the Caribbean for a relaxing break, rather view it as a must see destination Overall the Noordam is a great ship, we found that the initial shock of being out of comfort zone regarding age became a real strength as we enjoyed the general quietness of cruise and depth of conversation with our fellow passengers that can only come from life experience But if your looking to party just be prepared to make your own fun and remember to take it all as it comes. Read Less
Sail Date November 2009
This was our second cruise on HAL. The moms liked our first cruise so much (Alaska Inside Passage) so much that I decided to try something a little more adventurous for our second cruise. So after 5 nights touring Rome on our own, we ... Read More
This was our second cruise on HAL. The moms liked our first cruise so much (Alaska Inside Passage) so much that I decided to try something a little more adventurous for our second cruise. So after 5 nights touring Rome on our own, we continued our adventure around the Western Med. I apologize for the lateness of this review; hopefully it will help anyone who is planning a similar itinerary for this coming October! Ship: Noordam was a lovely ship; gracious and genteel staff as always (a plus for me because anything that the moms, who are in their 80's, needed were quickly attended to by HAL's wonderful attendants. We had access to the Concierge Lounge -- another plus if you think you might need a bit of extra assistance. For us, booking the larger cabin was well worth the extra $. Cabin: The moms and I travel very well together so we all got along splendidly even though the idea of 3 women in one cabin might terrify some...! I slept on the sofa bed and found it very comfortable. The moms love HAL's great beds/linens. The only time the cabin was "tight" was when the sofa bed was open. I brought along a night-light in case anyone had to get up in the middle of the night, there would be no stubbed toes... When you book a Deluxe Verandah Suite, not only do you get the balcony (a great place to drink wine, play cards and watch the ever-changing scenery) but you also get both a shower and a tub. This was also a great safety feature for the moms -- showering on a slightly moving ship when you are any age, but especially when you are 80+, can be a neat trick. We had no mishaps and the moms felt perfectly steady the entire cruise. Ship Features: We had "late dining" so we didn't have to rush when getting back from a day in port. Worked out fine. Dinner companions were great; fun meeting people from all over. Food was consistently good; and typical of the professional and congenial HAL dining room staff -- ask them once for something and they have it waiting for you every night thereafter (Mom likes cranberry & tonic water with a lemon & lime; only had to ask for it the first night!) We usually ate breakfast in the Lido and had a light supper in the Lido one night when we'd had a late lunch in port and just weren't hungry enough to appreciate a dining room experience. Even though the offerings were mainly pasta and pizza that night, the cook happily fixed a sandwich for Mom just the way she liked it. We enjoyed cocktails (and BINGO!) in the Crow's Nest (ah, those recliners!), and also enjoyed the tour of the Noordam kitchen --I love watching how they create art from watermelon, pineapples, etc.! We had manicures, pedicures and hair appointments in the Greenhouse Spa one night before one of the "formal" dinners -- a little overpriced but a nice treat. Had our photos taken all over the ship at any time they were being taken -- and bought 'em all. Like I said, my goal was to create a memory for the moms that would last for the rest of their lives! Had lunch in the Pinnacle one day while we were "at sea." This was a lovely, relaxing experience -- so quiet and so special! Well worth the upcharge. Loved the coffee bar because no one makes coffee like a real Starbucks barrista and I would occasionally crave a Decaf Vanilla Latte...! The shows were fun; we did not see all of them but liked the singing/dancing "variety show" -- also took the tour backstage and met the kids who work so hard to entertain the guests. They were all great. Before you read my Port reviews, note that this Review format only allows me to review 6 ports but we actually stopped at 7 -- so i will tell you about our last port, Naples, here: Through my contact at Customized Italy (who helped me with the Rome part of our trip -- www.customizeditaly.com), I booked a car/driver who met us at the port and drove us to Sorrento for breakfast -- the best italian pastries and coffee ever, with a spectacular view of the sea -- and Vesuvius in the background! After touring the back roads and narrow streets of Sorrento, we boarded a hydrofoil for a quick trip to the Isle of Capri (the moms had always wanted to see Capri!) We were met in Capri by a taxi driver who was a friend of our limo driver/guide. He showed us all of Capri and Anacapri (while the moms channeled Jackie Kennedy...), including some amazing Roman ruins and gardens. And of course, the famous Faragolini rock formation. We ate lunch overlooking the harbor, and then caught the hydrofoil back to Naples. It was a long day and the moms were tired, but we had a great time! Read Less
Sail Date October 2009
Holland America Mediterranean Adventure - the Noordam September 6, 2009 to September 26, 2009 Room 5137 We have been touring the world on cruise ships for many years. This was our third Holland America cruise and just like the ... Read More
Holland America Mediterranean Adventure - the Noordam September 6, 2009 to September 26, 2009 Room 5137 We have been touring the world on cruise ships for many years. This was our third Holland America cruise and just like the others, it was great. The ship was in good shape, the food was great and the staff wonderful. I can't say the weather was great, but it was good. We made good use of our umbrellas. September was suppose to be a good month to cruise the Mediterranean ("Med"); generally it was warm, if not hot, but not really too hot. That was good. But it rained for the first time in many months in several locations. But, we were on vacation and we had umbrellas. So, we were happy. We arrived in Rome several days early. Romecabs (www.romecabs.com) picked us up at the airport and drove us to our hotel in Rome (45 Euros). They were waiting for us at the airport and were reasonably priced and very helpful. We used them again to take us to the airport from Civitavecchia (130 Euros). Again, they were there when they were supposed to be there. We took several tours in Rome; the Vatican and also the Coliseum areas. The tours were arranged through Viator and they delivered a good meaningful tour of both locations. We also used a hop on, hop off bus service to tour the city. This was not a good idea. We wasted a lot of time waiting of the bus. Rome has a good subway system and is very easy to walk around. We used Italian Services to drive us to Civitavecchia. We were scheduled to be picked up at 10:30 am; they came around noon - this is Italy. No problem; we got there before the ship departed. One negative comment on the ship; the included sauna area is a joke. It is located about 50 paces from the locker room, so the locker room wasn't used much. The sauna is the size of a personal sauna, it has room for maybe three people. It does include one shower (in very poor condition) and clean towels. It's the size of a large closet. Holland America needs to change ship designers or inspect the competition. For $20 a day, you can utilize a beautiful spa; not many people did! Now the ports: Dubrovnik, Croatia - This is the least expensive port you will visit; a beautiful port and walled city! Take the wall walk and eat the gelato. Corfu, Greece - We just talked around town. It was a beautiful day and a beautiful city. The city was very easy to walk around to locate a gelato, coffee and people watch. The Fort is a nice walk too. Katakolon -- This is the place to tour Olympia. The original Olympic grounds are impressive; but crowed. Olympia was the first of many ruins. Santorini, Greece - Santorini is story book like. The island is beautiful. We took a local bus to Oia. A wonderful place to take photographs, eat gelato and have an authentic Greek gyro. It rained in the afternoon. Ephesus, Turkey - We arranged a full day tour through Ephesus Tours (www.ephesustours.biz). Our tour guide, Banu Akin, was great. She took us to the Virgin Mary house and Ephesus. It included a nice lunch and a brief, low pressure tour of a carpet factory/showroom. This was a fun day. It rained on and off all day. Shopping near the dock was fun too. More ruins! Athens, Greece - More ruins ............. We took a tour through the ship. We were one of millions of people touring the Athens ruins. It was impressive and well done. Messina, Sicily - We took a ship based tour of Mount Etna. The bus took us up to the top of the mountain to a large observation area; the base of a ski area. This was the location of our first cannoli. The day was hazy, but no rain. Good tour, wonderful photo spot. Civitavecchia, Italy - This was the end of the cruise for about two thirds of the passengers. Over 600 of us continued on to the West. This port city of Rome is a nice place to just walk around. We walked down the main street and off to the side market areas. Finally, we found a nice place for a beer too. The weather was nice; just a little rain. Livorno, Italy - We took an all day tour to Tuscany. We spent a lot of time on the bus, but it was worth it! We spent some time in Siena and also, a near-by walled town. The high point was a wine tasting and lunch. Everyone was very happy after the wine tasting. It rained just a little in Siena. The Tuscany country side is beautiful. No ruins. Monte Carlo, Monaco - A beautiful place ... it rained hard almost all day. We toured the aquarium (nice place), the gardens, the Palace square area (nice place to shop for Ferrari and Grand Prix stuff) and the casino. Interesting place to people watch, car watch, sail boat watch, yacht watch .... Big $$$$$. The rain stopped 15 minutes prior to our return to the ship. Nice place to walk around. No ruins! Barcelona, Spain - We took a hop on, hop off bus. This method of touring the city worked out very nicely. We toured several free museums, ate gelato, drank beer ... life is good. Barcelona is a nice place to visit and walk around. No ruins. Palma de Mallorca - Again, we toured the area on foot. First, we took a city bus to a central square and slowly walked back to the ship. We toured a free museum, drank coffee and sangria in a small local square and just walked around and visited shops and took photos. It was wonderful .... It only rained a little. Beautiful churches are everywhere. Again, no ruins. Tunis, Tunisia - It rained, then it rained more ... and we saw ruins. The primary reason to be here is to inspect Carthage. It appears that Tunis was built over Carthage. Carthage was somewhat similar to Ephesus. A couple of thousand years ago this was a fantastic place to live ... if you were wealthy. Interesting place ... the tour we were on (I think you pretty much had to be on a tour) visited ancient cemeteries, Roman baths, a museum, a carpet showroom (not fun) and a few markets and ended up is a suburban area .... to kill time, I think? The bus was leaky, remember, it was raining, and the sound system on the bus was bad. Interesting place to visit, but it would have been better if it wasn't raining and we could understand the tour guide ... he needed a better microphone. Palermo, Sicily - It was suppose to rain, but it didn't. Our magic umbrellas worked. We took two city buses up to Monreale. This is a beautiful little city up in the mountains overlooking Palermo. It has a great church to tour, especially if you walk up to the top. The view is fantastic; great place for a picture. We tested our second cannoli here, with a beer. We then took the bus back down to the first bus stop and walked back to the ship after touring the opera house (5 Euro). Another great low key day; no rain and no ruins. Naples, Italy - In Naples we took a ship tour to the Pompeii ruins; more ruins but no rain. Life is good. The Pompeii area is very large and only 40 minutes or so from the ship by bus. We spent almost 2 hours on site; that is not enough. Pompeii again, is similar to Carthage and Ephesus; you had to be rich back then to enjoy life. The tour stopped at a jewelry showroom that specialized in cameos. Not fun ... nice but expensive! When we got back into Naples we walked to a pizza shop near the train station that "invented pizza." The place sits around 20 people and we were given a number 97. They were on 30 or so. We didn't wait. We had a pizza at a place across the street that also was very popular. Again, life is good. Civitavecchia, Italy - We disembarked at 7 am. Our Romecab was waiting for us and we headed for the airport. All is well. The cruise was great. We have no major complaints. We were gone most of the month of September 2009. The weather was maybe a little cooler because of the rain, but because of the magic umbrellas we carried, we lived with it. The Piano Bar on the ship was a blast. Eight of us Wisconsin residents got to know the piano player very well. We had a lot of fun. The entertainment on the ship was good. The Italian restaurant on the 9th floor is very good. You can also, order breakfast to your room in the morning (we did almost every morning and ate it on our balcony). If the order is hot, it probably will come early; expect it 15 minutes early. Overall, we had a great trip. We learned a lot about people and places thousands of years old. We met many very nice and friendly local people and ate a lot of food, on ship and off. We were on vacation. Life is good. Read Less
Sail Date September 2009
Booked and got a good price on balcony cabin with some perks added. Embarkation was fairly easy, you got a number and the process moved smoothly. Our cabin was towards the rear of the ship and a good size for a standard balcony cabin. The ... Read More
Booked and got a good price on balcony cabin with some perks added. Embarkation was fairly easy, you got a number and the process moved smoothly. Our cabin was towards the rear of the ship and a good size for a standard balcony cabin. The ship was pretty easy to get around in once you figures out all the nautical terms: fore, aft, port, etc. We enjoyed use of the pools and hot tubs, the gym and (on a short Port day) had the best massage and facial ever! Our stewards were attentive, quick to respond (especially when we locked ourselves out of the cabin on the balcony) and left delightful towel"animals" each night. Meals were good, the additional price meal at the Pinnacle Grill was well worth the very reasonable expense. Service everywhere was very good and we have no complaints about the ship, staff or service. Everything ran quite smoothly, something I have come to expect from Holland-American as this is the 3rd cruise on HAL. Ports of Call: Took only one HAL tour at Katakalon to Olympia. Excellent guide. Managed either by walking from the pier (Corfu) or taking public transportation (Dubrovnik and Piraeus/Athens) to get everywhere we wanted to go. In Santorini rented a car, smart move- got to the back beach and a fab winery as well as Oia with its whitewashed buildings with blue roofs. In Ephesus had arranged prior to sailing online thru Ertunga guides a tour with Emel (a professional guide , www.emel@ephesus.tt) who picked us up at the pier and took us thru Ephesus and other nearby sites. Very knowledgable, very personable. Our only disappointment was that in Sicily, Palermo was substituted for Messina and there was flooding in that area. Would have much rather gone to Messina! Read Less
Sail Date September 2009
Whilst we have cruised with other lines before, this was our first Holland America cruise as well as our first cruise on the Mediterranean/Aegean. I must say that the main difference that we found was that the Holland America line seems to ... Read More
Whilst we have cruised with other lines before, this was our first Holland America cruise as well as our first cruise on the Mediterranean/Aegean. I must say that the main difference that we found was that the Holland America line seems to have a real 'family' feel to it. By that I don't mean families travelling on the ship (although there were many!), but more like you were treated as part of one big family. They also recognise past passengers with pins and medals depending on the number of sea days you have had with them. From the moment we registered everything was so well organised. We were upgraded from a Superior Suite to a Deluxe Suite which provided us with a fabulous cabin as well as a number of privileges on board. We had a deluxe balcony suite which was simply fabulous. Extremely spacious with a huge balcony as well as a full size bathroom with double vanity and a separate bath tub with spa jets and a shower outlet as well as a shower cubicle. The added bonus of a powder/dressing room was also great. Location was quiet - our cabin was located mid-ship. And the bed was heavenly! The cruise itself was simply fantastic - this is undoubtedly due to the great staff on board who were only too happy to assist you with anything you wanted or needed. They were warm and friendly and very courteous. An added nice touch was that whenever you returned to the ship from an outing - there they were with cold towels and drinks - such a welcome sight particularly travelling around Europe in summer. We certainly enjoyed our 10 days on the ship and would not hesitate to travel with Holland America again and have no hesitation in recommending them to anyone wanting a great cruise. Our cruise had a mix of ages from toddlers to seniors and people of varying nationalities - which was great. Read Less
Sail Date August 2009
Tom and I booked the cruise fourteen months before departure on July 28th, 2009. We were celebrating a special anniversary and the cruise was to be the centerpiece of the longest holiday we have ever taken. A lot of times when you have ... Read More
Tom and I booked the cruise fourteen months before departure on July 28th, 2009. We were celebrating a special anniversary and the cruise was to be the centerpiece of the longest holiday we have ever taken. A lot of times when you have such a long time to look forward to something, the reality does not live up to the anticipation. Our cruise on board the Noordam was everything and more than we had hoped for. We flew into Rome on the 21st of July and rented a car for the week prior to the cruise. We got the car as soon as we landed and immeditely left for Venice. Because of accidents and road construction, the trip was MUCH longer than anticipated. I would take a train from the airport to Venice next time. We stayed at a small villa called Quatro Fontane on the Lido. It's a lovely place! Augusto, who is now 80 and still working there, remembered us from 10 years ago. We stayed in Venice for two nights and then toured Tuscany for a few days. Tuscany is like a Walt Disney production....there is a photo op at every turn. It was our first time there and we can't wait to go back. We spent Sunday afternoon and evening touring Rome. We stayed at the Inter -Continental hotel at the top of the Spanish Steps. The room was beautifully decorated and overlooked a lovely courtyard where meals were served. The Champagne breakfast was expensive but a special treat. Monday afternoon we left for the port. We planned to take the train after dropping off the rental car at the airport. Unless you are travelling with very little luggage , don't do it! It's a very long walk with lots of stairs. We ended up getting a car and driver. If we had known in advance how hard it was, we would have booked HAL's transport or a shuttle service. The night before the cruise, we stayed at the Hotel Triano which had received very good reviews. It was a bit of a disappointment. We found it to be a very basic 2 star hotel. We asked the people at the front desk to recommend a restaurant where we could have seafood and sit outside. Everyone staying at the hotel was directed to an Italian restaurant called "AQUA". It was fine....just not what we had asked for. I wish we had stayed in Rome for the additional night. It's only 1 1/2 hours to the port from Rome and the accomodation was SO much better! We got to the Noordam about 10:30. With perfect precision on HAL's part, we were on board in half an hour. We had an excellent lunch in the Vista Dining room thanks to a good tip from a former passenger. Virtually everyone ate at the Lido buffet restaurant when coming on board. We got the all clear to go to our cabins about 2:00 P.M. It was like Christmas when we opened the door to our room. Bottles of wine, Champagne, cards for the Pinnacle Dining Room and a HAL shirt for Tom were displayed on the bed and table. I had ordered these items before boarding on HAL's website.. What a wonderful way to start the cruise!! I wish now that I had ordered more because the wine was quite a savings compared to buying it on the ship. If the wine comes from HAL there isn't a corkage fee. The next day we went to a Cruise Critic "Meet and Greet" in the Crow's Nest. It was arranged by Swalm 22, a fellow Cruise Critic member. It was a great way to meet some very nice people. I think that Jan(Swalm 22) and his wife Jenny will be forever friends. They are from Holland and we spent a lot of fun time getting to know them. In advance of the cruise, we booked four nights at the Pinnacle Grill. We only went for two. We found the food in the Vista Dining room to be as good. The Pinnacle Dining Room gives you more ambiance which is part of the extra cost. The service is also very professional. Try to book in the back room of the Grill. It's more quiet and the atmosphere is so nice. We had a table for two on the rail in the Vista Dining Room. We loved it. It was fun to meet people from all over and talk to them over breakfast and lunch...then for dinner we could enjoy each other at our own private table. The food was spectacular. Every meal that was served to us could have been on a page in Food and Wine magazine. We took a tour of the kitchen and it was immaculate. Everything is prepared in small batches which is why the taste and presentation is so good. There are over 100 people working in the kitchen. It's amazing to think that all of them have to be graduates of a culinary arts school. I took a cooking class which was so much fun. Jerome, the head chef of the Pinnacle Grill conducted it. Afterwards we were served the meal we cooked in the Pinnicle Grill, complete with wine. I thought this experience was a great value. I'll defiantely do it again on the next cruise. Our favorite place to be at night was in the Piano Lounge. Jimmy Maddox was one of the highlights of our trip. He is so talented on the keyboard. One night he gave a Scott Joplin rendition that was better than anything we've ever heard. Jimmy knows how to engage the crowd so everyone has a great time. I was the "La La" girl a couple of nights. I must say that I'm glad that our six kids weren't there to see! Beyond Jimmy's talents he is a VERY nice person!!!! We spent a couple of late evenings in the Crow's Nest listening to Jenny and the HALcats. They were also talented and enjoyable to dance to. The Crow's Nest will definitely give you more of a "Night Club" kind of feel. We can't say enough about the staff. To a person, they were always smiling, polite and helpful. They all work so hard and are completely deserving of their tips and more. There are a couple of wonderful crew members that we are keeping in touch with. The nightly entertainment was OK. We didn't go to the Casino. Amanda the social director was a lot of fun and very friendly. We did a few trivia events with her and really enjoyed them. The cruise offered many exotic ports of call. Take advantage of Tom(in the Green shirt). He is an expert on every port. We spent a lot of time listening to him on the T.V. His knowledge really helped us to enjoy what we were seeing. We did three tours with HAL. All of them were very good and we were glad that we picked them to go on. Stopping at a different port almost every day was great. HOwever, it got a bit tiring trying to keep all the ports straight..."If it's Tues. we must be in....." The best compliment that we could pay to both HAL and the captain and crew of the Noordam is that we have already booked the same cruise with them for next year. Almost every Port of Call had two or three different excursions that we would have like to go on. Now we'll have that chance! As I said at the beginning of this review, Tom and I are now spoiled. I don't think we would even want to try another cruise line in the future. We could not recommend HAL or the Noordam more highly. Read Less
Sail Date July 2009
I will start this with a little information about my family, my husband and I are each 47 and we were traveling with our 17 year old son. We are avid cruisers and have done so at least twice a year for the past 20 years. We have traveled ... Read More
I will start this with a little information about my family, my husband and I are each 47 and we were traveling with our 17 year old son. We are avid cruisers and have done so at least twice a year for the past 20 years. We have traveled on most of the major lines, always in suites and find that there is nothing as wonderful as enjoying a glass of fine wine on our veranda at sunset. In the past we have always avoided Holland America because we had the mistaken impression it was a line that catered more to senior citizens. We do not have anything against elderly people, I plan to be taking world cruises in my 90's myself, however after our trip on the Celebrity Summit in February where the median age was 70 we were looking for a bit more of a mix in population. The Noordam fit the bill perfectly, yes there were several elderly people on board but they were as I hope to be, fun loving and active, there were families, (with the best behaved children I have ever seen on a ship- amazing manners!) singles, couples and even a bunch of political people (the national review was on board) I can't believe we waited so long to try HAL- we were cheating ourselves for years! We are from Massachusetts and flew from Hartford Ct to Philly and then straight in to Rome. It is the same flight we took last year when we did the western med. and still was impossible to sleep even though we were in Envoy. I don't know if it is the excitement or what but on the way out I can never get comfortable. One interesting thing was we had to fill out forms while on the plane saying that we did not have swine flu or swine flu symptoms to get into Italy- on the way home to the US there were no forms. We landed in Rome at 8:30am the next morning and were met by our driver from Rome Cabs. (Romecabs@yahoo.com) I can't say enough about this company-this is our second year using them and we will be again next summer- if you would like details of our private tours email me for more information at ydreamvacation@gmail.com. After our half day tour we checked into our hotel, the Visconti Palace. We have stayed there several times in the past and love it there. The rooms are very large by European standards and it is centrally located within walking distance to many attractions. After a nap (we learned last year that it doesn't really help if you stay up all day, take a nap if you are tired) we walked over to Piazza Navona and had dinner at our favorite restaurant Ponte E Parione (www.ponteeparione.com) the owner is such a funny guy and so friendly! I couldn't believe he remembered us from last year. The food is to die for and the price so reasonable you would not know you were in Rome. After we ate we looked at the artists for a while and headed back to the hotel, took baths and went to sleep for the big day tomorrow. Stefano had arranged to have a driver pick us up at 11:00 (we used Rome cabs for all our tours and transfers) this was perfect timing we had a leisurely breakfast (free I might add) at the hotel and then headed to port. The Citivechhia port is set up somewhat strange compared to American Ports. You turn in your luggage as usual and go get in line but there is a huge counter and people hold up a sign when they are ready to see you. There was no distinction between suites or non suite passengers (no priority boarding) but it went very quickly and within minutes we were on the ship. The Noordam is a beautiful vessel! I have never been a fan of huge mega ships and her size fit us just perfectly. Also I noticed that even though she is approximately the size of the Disney Magic it felt so much more spacious on her. I think part of that is because they don't waste space with things like a huge atrium etc. Don't get me wrong the atrium was lovely with the neatest light that rotated but it was understated and classy nothing like the "Vegas showroom" grand atriums you find on so many ships. I like it very much. Onward and upward to our room- we selected 6166 which is an SC suite specifically for the balcony and it did not disappoint! I have often stated that you could park a car on the balcony of some of our suites well on this corner wrap balcony not only could you park a car but you could easily park seven of those "smart cars" you see all over Rome. The furniture on the balcony was very nice, a resin rattan with cushions. There was a dining table with four chairs, two recliners, and two wing chairs with ottoman's and another small table. You could easily entertain 20 people out there without anyone bumping elbows. The aft portion of the veranda is partially covered and the side portion is fully covered. This was perfect for the Mediterranean in July as it was very hot! The cabin itself was a good size, there was a king size bed (true king not like the smaller ones on some other ships) that was made up of two beds pushed together, I could feel the ditch where they met but it was not terribly distracting. The bed itself was the most comfortable bed I have ever slept on outside of my home, including five star hotels. Very nice linens and our room steward was very accommodating bringing us lots of extra pillows both feather and non. There is an easy chair and coffee table as well as a couch. The couch turns into a single bed. This was a bit of an issue for my son as he is six feet tall and the bed was uncomfortably small for him. He certainly survived but we are booking an SA next time as then have the pull out bed instead of a flip over one. Storage was great in the cabin; we had more than enough for three people. A great idea is to use the vanity seat in the dressing room as a hamper as the top lifts off. We loved the complementary laundry and took full advantage of it. I was a bit disappointed that there were no discounts for suite passengers for internet like on other lines, seems to me if you are paying over a thousand dollars a day for a cabin they could throw you a bone with that but I more than got my monies worth with the laundry. Compared to what Princess offers their suite passengers perk wise Holland America lags behind (ie-Princess gives you leather key card holders, NICE tote bag, silver pen, internet, champagne, flowers, free mini bar set up etc.) but it is a trade off- HAL has that great Neptune Lounge. The Neptune Lounge is a great place to relax, they also have a laptop in there you can use if you did not bring your own. (You still need to sign up and pay for the plan) I was really surprised as to how attentive the concierges were. We did not make too much use of them as I am used to handling out own spa appointments etc but I heard people ask them for so many things and it was always "yes we can do that". If you need to change money you can do it in there, want a printout of your bill they will get it etc. All day long there are snacks in there starting with a continental breakfast, there is a cappuccino machine, juice water and ice tea are also available. For us because we were all the way aft a deck below (the lounge is midship on deck seven) we did not utilize it as often as others but it was nice to have. Twice during out cruise (ten day trip) there was an event, one was a lunch I think (we didn't go) and the other was a cocktail party which we went to, the officers attended both events. Another perk of being in a suite is you can have breakfast in the Pinnacle Grill. This was nice as there was no need to get up and down to get your food, it is very quiet in there and great views. The breakfast appeared to be the same as what is at the buffet which was fine with me. This brings me on to food- of course it is subjective, everyone is different but I have to say that the food on the Noordam was the best I have had on any ship. Juice was fresh squeezed at breakfast, the ice-cream was free (big points with my husband and he resents having to pay for ice-cream on other ships) the variety amazing and things changed daily. I loved the Panini station for lunch, they also had a pasta station, Asian, regular buffet, hamburgers and bratwurst grill, pizza, even a taco type bar. Dinner in the main dining room was very good as well; we always were able to find something we liked on the menu. We ate in the Pinnacle grill twice for dinner and I thought it was well worth the money. The French onion soup up there is to die for! When I told the chef how much we liked it he said for me to send up my waiter the next night from the main dining room and we could have a bowl in the regular restaurant. (They do have FO soup in the regular restaurant but it is nothing like the wonderful brew in the Pinnacle) I know some people resent having to pay but I did not mind at all- however the food in the main DR was good enough you certainly could eat there every night and not miss a thing. There is also a restaurant called Canaletto- we ate there one night and I was very disappointed. The service was wonderful but I just did not like the food. Your opinion could be much different; as I am Sicilian it is pretty hard to please me with Italian food unless it tastes truly authentic. Everything on the ship was in beautiful condition, we went to the art auction and purchased two items which I am anxiously awaiting to arrive here, there always seemed to be elevators available, the staff was always very polite and friendly I can't think of anything negative to say at all. Oh I even had to visit the doctor and he was very nice as well. The only thing I could possibly say is lacking would be entertainment wise. However we had done on another cruise line a 12 day western Mediterranean last year and found the same thing, after thinking about it my husband I agree that the lack of quality/variety of entertainment would be due to two things. First unlike a Caribbean cruise where you can fly in entertainers to the various ports it is not easy to pick up a new act say in Turkey. People don't just hop on a plane and fly all the way there for a few nights gig. Second being such a port intensive cruise with long days I think the cruise line knew most people were not all that interested in entertainment. We went to two shows, one was a comedian and the other an illusionist and I did not enjoy either one of them. Another night the "entertainment" was bingo but like I said it really did not effect my trip as we were tired from our day and enjoying our beautiful veranda, plus we needed to be up early for excursions each morning so in a sense I was glad that there was not something that I would have wanted to stay up late for- it is hard to climb the Acropolis if you are tired My husband and son really liked the gym, they had state of the art equipment and they never had to wait to use something. I spent a lot of time in the spa which was very nice, you do have to pay if you want to use the thermal suite (another thing that is free for suite guests on other lines) but the prices were in line with other cruise ship spas. (Expect to pay more than when you are on land) There were a lot of specials during the week and if you book on the first day three treatments you get ten percent off your first treatment, twenty percent off your second and thirty percent off your third so book the most expensive one for last. If you don't want to be annoyed listening to a sales pitch during your massage do what I do and write it directly on your consultation form. I write "I have all the products that I need, I am here for quiet and relaxation, please respect this or it will affect your tip" works like a charm! There were several cooking classes I would have liked to partake in as well as wine tasting but with such a port intensive cruise I just did not have time (had to fit the spa in somewhere) so I will be sure to check them out in the future. There are only two pools on board (excluding the indoor spa pool) but they didn't seem overcrowded. They have a huge chess set on deck that is fun to play as well as ping pong tables, I never made it up to the sports deck so I can't tell you what they have up there but I am pretty certain there is no mini golf on the ship. A neat thing we really appreciated was each morning we would get a newspaper, I don't mean the ship's daily paper that tells you about events but a mini copy of the New York Times, apparently they have papers for all different countries as you would see the Canadian Times in some mail slots, London Times, etc. Also my son would get his own teen events bulletin daily. He did not go to the club so I can't comment on how that was, he tired of kids clubs years ago. We never made it to the casino, it didn't seem like many people did when we walked by. The ports were great; we had private guides for each one that I can recommend. I am proud to say we made it home from Turkey without buying a rug The venders there are very aggressive; especially outside of Ephesus after politely saying no thank you a few times I found it more effective to just ignore them. I didn't like to be rude but I am not someone you can push into buying things. (By the way name your own price and stick with it, they will come down even if they seem insulted at first) After the cruise we did another tour with Stefano and spent two more nights at the Visconti Palace then flew back to the US. Before leaving the ship we did purchase future cruise credits which are a great deal and we will be back in Europe next summer on the Noordam again! Read Less
Sail Date July 2009
My husband and I decided close to the departure date to take this cruise. Usually we plan months in advance. We are both 62 and this was our 12th cruise with Holland America. We have cruised the eastern Mediterranean twice before. We ... Read More
My husband and I decided close to the departure date to take this cruise. Usually we plan months in advance. We are both 62 and this was our 12th cruise with Holland America. We have cruised the eastern Mediterranean twice before. We used frequent flier miles to fly from Ontario, Ca to Rome. Now the adventure begins! Our flight from Atlanta to Rome (FCO) got to the runway and promptly returned to the gate for mechanical problems and the flight was cancelled. We were rebooked for the next day. Sadly the Noordam sailed from Civitacecchia while we were in Atlanta. We arrived in Rome at 9 A.M. and as we taxied to the terminal it was announced that the luggage was not loaded on the plane. We quickly filled out baggage information and ran for the Leonardo Express train, which runs every ½ hour between FCO and the Rome Termini train station. We could only purchase a ticket for this part of our trip at the airport station. It cost 22 Euros for 2. I had read on Cruise Critic Boards about people taking the train to the embarkation port of Civitavecchia to save money. While it is possible, why put yourself through such torture on a vacation? Even with only our carryons it was a struggle. The train was crowded and a LONG underground walk to the main part of the Rome Termini. In the main Termini we purchased first class tickets from the kiosk (used American Express Card) on the noon Eurostar Train to Livorno, where we would board the Noordam. Eurostar trains are the fast trains...few stops. The cost was 99 Euros....$145 in our bill. There are electronic boards in the station listing track numbers, but ours wasn't posted. My husband read the printed timetable and found the track number. There were only a few other passengers in our car. The seats were very comfortable, and a vendor came through selling food. If you are thinking of doing the train, travel light, because it is a good haul up the train steps! I timed the ride to the first stop...Civitavecchia, and it took 40 minutes. Our total travel time to Livorno took 2 hours, 40 minutes. Stops were announced in Italian and English. It was a very pleasant ride. We took a cab to the ship and were taken on board by guest services. I had notified them that we would miss embarkation. The Noordam was in port until 8 P.M., and we were onboard at 3P.M. We made it!!! We were welcomed at the gangway with Mimosas and checked in at the Front Desk. There was a bottle of champagne from the Captain in our stateroom. Chocolates followed the next day. We cannot thank Guest Services enough for their kindness! They did complimentary laundry each day (we did have to purchase clothes.) Every day Guest Relations Supervisor Yvonne Buitendijk called with an update about our luggage. It finally arrived in Barcelona, 4 days into the cruise. We were lucky; some passengers never got theirs the entire cruise. It is amazing how you can get along with very little. In spite of missing HAL Livorno excursions (which were refunded onboard) we were determined to enjoy or cruise. The Noordam was beautiful, with a much younger, international crowd...lots of children, but never a problem. We were in VF5135, which had an interesting verandah configuration. We had plenty of storage and enjoyed the Elemis bath products. The room had a refrigerator and the beds were very comfortable. Stewards Manto and Ardi took good care of our room, always polite and unobtrusive. We enjoyed room service each day for breakfast, even on disembarkation day. It eliminated the hassle of going to the Lido. Our order was always hot, correct, and on time. We had open seating, but only went once. Dinner was very good. We ate in the Pinnacle Grill, and it was the best food and service of any of the other HALships. We tried the Italian Canaletto on a formal night, because it had a casual dress code. Food and service were superb. We took the rest of our meals at the Lido Buffet. They have done away with trays, but there were plenty of stewards to assist if necessary. We enjoyed the ever-popular bread pudding and ice cream. We were always able to find a table. Even though the ship was full, it never seemed crowded. We went to a few shows, but skipped the casino and bars....we took this cruise for the port intensive itinerary. We took all our excursions through HAL. No complaints. We saw what we were supposed to see and enjoyed amazingly knowledgeable archeological guides. We were docked in all ports. Ports: Monte Carlo. We went to Nice and Eze. Breathtaking views. Barcelona: Gaudi's Barcelona and Flamenco Show&Dinner well worth the money. Mallorca: Caves of Drach. Drive across the country. Cave was fascinating but very crowded. La Goulette, Tunisia: other reviewers did not like this port, but it was our favorite. We chose "The Best of Tunisia," and were not disappointed. We were there on a Sunday and there was no traffic. Tunis was very clean. The Bardo Museum was fantastic with its mosaics. Lunch was a buffet of delicious Tunisian dishes. Carthage was spectacular, with the turquoise Mediterranean in the background. Good shopping was to be found in picturesque Sidi Bou Said. It was a good hike up the hill. In Palermo, Sicily you are docked right across from the city. We went to Cefalu: A seaside town. A long drive and not much time as one would like in the picturesque town. Naples: Pompeii...truly amazing, made better by a great guide. Disembarkation: Silent disembarkation went well. We were off at 7:30 A.M. on the Glimpse of Rome and Airport transfer. It was just enough. We did have a ½ hour to visit beautiful, uncrowded St. Paul's Basilica. At the airport the guide kindly took us to the spot where we would get the shuttle to the Hilton Garden Inn. We stayed there overnight, and would highly recommend it for an airport hotel. Next morning the Hilton shuttle driver took us to our check in terminal for luggage at FCO Rome. After check in and security we boarded an airport bus to the Delta terminal. Be sure to allow yourself plenty of time for the check in and transfer. Our flight home was right on time, of course. In spite of a rocky start, we loved the Noordam and Mediterranean Enchantment Cruise! Read Less
Sail Date June 2009
We took the 10 day Mediterranean Enchantment Cruise which left on May 19, 2009 from Civitavecchia (Rome) Italy.  This was our first cruise and were a bit apprenhensive as we had never cruised before.  Needless to say it was wonderful, ... Read More
We took the 10 day Mediterranean Enchantment Cruise which left on May 19, 2009 from Civitavecchia (Rome) Italy.  This was our first cruise and were a bit apprenhensive as we had never cruised before.  Needless to say it was wonderful, the ship and staff were top notch.  Food was excellent and was very relaxing.  We will definitely cruise with Holland-America again.  The ports we went to were Livorno (Florence) - Italy, Monte Carlo - Monaco, Barcelona - Spain, Palma de Mallorca - Spain, LaGoulette (Tunis) - Tunisia,  Palermo, Sicily - Italy and Naples - Italy.  We enjoyed every stop except for Tunis, we should have listened to other comments on Cruise Critic about this stop as we felt we would have had a better time on the ship.  There was always something going on on the ship and if we wanted to relax we could go back to our stateroom and sit out on the Verandah if we didn't feel like participating.  Would recommend the Sorento and Pompei excursion when you go to Naples.  Monte Carlo is beautiful you don't really need to book an excursion here as you can walk everywhere.Entertainment at night was very good from the show with the Noordam singer and dancers, to the casino, to all the lounges with different musical styles.  We ended up in the Piano Bar every night with Lonnie who is the pianist/singer who is very talented and with Sid our waiter who remembered from the first night being there our names and room number.  Like I said the staff were awesome.We went with the open seating plan for dinner and recommend this very highly, as every night we were with different people and a couple of nights we sat with just the two of us.  There was never a line up and we went around 6:45 to 7:15 p.m.  The set seating was either 5:45 or 8:00 p.m. which was too early and too late for our liking so the open seating worked well for us.We had a Superior Verandah Room which was large and recommend this category of room as you have lots of room for your clothes, it had a desk, couch and another area where the mini-fridge and TV were.  The beds were very very comfortable, in fact when we got home we went and bought a new box spring & mattress because we slept so good on the one on the ship, we bought exactly the same kind.  They also give you 3 pillows so you can choose what you want: soft, medium or hard. Embarkment and Disembarkment went so smooth for the number of people arriving and departing, we never waited to get on or get off (what I like NO LINES).Agan, don't hesitate if you are thinking of booking with Holland America in fact we both wanted to stay and do another 10 days and do the Eastern side.  We are already thinking of booking the Alaska cruise for our vacation next year. Read Less
Sail Date May 2009
After flying from Vancouver, B.C. on April 1, we boarded HAL Noordam on April 3 in Fort Lauderdale.  We know that this would be a great cruise when the taxi dropped us and we saw the smiling faces of the crew who were waiting to assist ... Read More
After flying from Vancouver, B.C. on April 1, we boarded HAL Noordam on April 3 in Fort Lauderdale.  We know that this would be a great cruise when the taxi dropped us and we saw the smiling faces of the crew who were waiting to assist disabled passengers and we were right!  Embarkation took only minutes and then we started what would be 26 incredible days of pampering, wonderful food, interesting ports, and restful sea days.  We ate lunch in the Dining Room, entering with a bit of trepidation after reading complaints on the Boards about the food.  When the food arrived, my husband and I looked at each other and said "Yes!" because any previous problems had obviously been solved and this was true to our last breakfast in the D.R. 26 days later.5180 - I knew that this balcony stateroom was very far aft, but I accepted it as an upgrade.  I have been forward on a previous Transatlantic and loved it and was quite far aft for an Alaska cruise which was good.  We did notice the motion more and made good use of the meclazine from the Front Office.  We were never stopped from doing anything due to the slight seasickness but I would choose my cabin further forward in the future.There is only a shower here, but we preferred this as we never bath anyway and a shower is easier to negotiate.  The room was very quiet - at the end of a corridor, with only a stairway across the way (never used by anyone.). Food:Chef Rob and his staff served very good to excellent food throughout this cruise.  With the exception of 4 lunches in the Lido, and one breakfast there, we ate all meals in the Dining Room.  We did not have room service.  The steaks were tender, perfectly cooked and if a sauce was served with a steak, it was appropriate and tasty.  We ate a lot of seafood, with full-size Atlantic lobster tails served several times - what a difference in taste and texture compared to the smaller Cuban? ones usually served.  One lunch in the D.R., there was a seafood buffet and it was spectacular - and the staff handled it so well.  You entered the room, with the food set out near the entrance.  When you had chosen, you were shown to a table - all very civilized and the food was remarkable - as good as at any seafood brunch at a very good hotel.  Salmon in various guises - smoked in different ways, as tartare, and so on - was served often and always excellent.The best dishes, in my opinion, were the braised ones, such as the short ribs.  They were so flavourful and it was obvious that they were slow-cooked and wonderfully seasoned.  The soups were also excellent.  My husband loved the salads.  The prime rib was also above average and was served several times, much to my husband's delight.Desserts were good, but occasionally, were not exactly as described in the menu.  The ice cream was good, cakes were very good, and crumbles were excellent.My favourite food, however, was the raisin buns at breakfast.  All the breads are so tasty and fresh but nothing can equal those raisin buns.Room Service:What is there to say, but wonderful, impeccable, smiling, appropriate, in true HAL style.  When we arrived in our stateroom, Yuli introduced himself - I asked if it would be possible to have our room serviced if we left for breakfast by 8:30 each morning.  He did not miss coming then; in fact, he usually was nearby so we could chat for a bit.  Our room was so clean, and we never had to ask for fruit, shampoo, ice or towels - everything was taken care of.  And Yuli was the master of animal towels - we had some fun with the monkey when Yuli fashioned a necktie, cocktail glass and so on from the discarded art auction papers!Dining Room Service:We had requested a table for two as we were celebrating our 40th Wedding Anniversary.  We had late seating.  Our steward Endang and his assistant Bambang were excellent - both were real talkers, jokers, and both were willing to tell us about "home", their families, and loved hearing about Canada.  Service was well-paced and correctly done, from the napkins at the beginning to my husband's espresso at the end.  I was very sad to say good-bye after 26 dinners with them.  Assistant Dining Room Manager Bagus was also very much in evidence, checking every evening that all was well and that his staff were on top of the game.  Wine Steward Virgel was cute, funny, and always gave me dessert recommendations, which were fun to follow and discuss with him later. Sea Days We had 8 sea days after leaving Fort Lauderdale, and these really are my favourite part of the cruise - a time to relax on the balcony, sit around the pool and have a coffee and watch the children playing in the pool (there were 22 children on the TA), read a lot of books, watch movies, walk on the promenade deck, etc.  ProblemsThe only problem we had was when we wanted to book a meal at the Pinnacle.  We had scouted out a couple of tables we wanted, and we were booking well in advance.  The Maitre'D would not assign us a definite table and said we would have to take whatever was available! We couldn't believe his poor attitude, but then we shrugged it off, knowing we would have a great dinner at our special table with our special staff in the Dining room.The other comment I have is that when we changed Captains part way across the Atlantic, that the second Captain did not make very many announcements.  In our previous HAL cruises, and during the first part of this cruise, the Captain made announcements, usually around 1 p.m.  I looked forward to hearing them.SummationOverall, this, our fourth cruise, was the best one.  We met several fellow passengers, who seemed to agree with our assessment of the staff, the food, the cleanliness, the overall feel of the ship.  We will definitely be sailing HAL again, and soon! Read Less
Sail Date April 2009
Background Information We are a family of three (two adults and one 5 year old daughter). Last year, we took our first cruise on RCL's Adventure of the Seas. While we loved many aspects of this cruise, the food was so horrible that ... Read More
Background Information We are a family of three (two adults and one 5 year old daughter). Last year, we took our first cruise on RCL's Adventure of the Seas. While we loved many aspects of this cruise, the food was so horrible that I refused to cruise with them again. We decided to find another cruise line this year that offered a good children's program and hopefully) better food. Pre-Cruise We arrived a day early and stayed at the Westin Diplomat Country Club. I got a great deal on Hotwire for this hotel and would highly recommend it. It's a beautiful property with a great spa and pool area. Also, within walking distance is a huge shopping center with many restaurants and other services. Embarkation We arrived to the port about 1:30. I found the porters at dockside to be a little too forward. The porter actually held out his hand and ASKED for his tip and he still wasn't done unloading our luggage! Hello, we're from New Jersey we understand the whole tipping thing, but at least wait until you're done completing your service first! The embarkation was somewhat less smooth than our embarkation on the RCL line. It seemed more haphazard but maybe it's a difference in the ports. Our Cabin The cabin I chose for this cruise was an obstructed-view room. Last year, I wanted a balcony, but to be honest, they make me nervous (especially with a child), so this time I chose a room without a balcony. Our cabin was really nice and our view was fine. The bed was quite comfortable. I only saw two minor problems. First, they had too much stuff in the closets (e.g. life jackets, shelves, etc.) that took up space in all the closets. Therefore, my gowns had to be sort of folded at the bottom. Also, I think they could have offered more wall hooks to hang stuff up on. Service Overall the service was excellent. Our room stewards were fantastic. They also got our room fixed up at a good time and did a wonderful job. We had multiple problems with some of the bartenders (mostly in the pool area). Many of them had difficulty making certain cocktails and need extra training. For example, they put club soda in a margarita (huh?). When we would say something, they would suddenly act like they didn't understand English. This got frustrating after a while. We loved the Pinnacle Bar and felt that they did a great job. We also had a problem with the dining room service (Anytime Dining). Our first night, my husband and I (we fed our daughter earlier in the Lido) sat at a table of eight. I would not have minded, however, the woman who was seated next to me was sick and coughed and hacked all through dinner service. I thought she should have either eaten room service or waited for a table for two. The next day, I decided that I would rather eat at a table for two rather than take my chances with other sickly people, so I called reservations and got a reservation for two for 8:00. However, when we arrived, we were told that our reservations were not in the system and they had no tables for two available. I asked to see the manager and he tried to explain that we should have received a yellow card in our room and since we had no idea what he was talking about I "must not have called" and he couldn't do anything more for me. Way to totally tick me off. I told him he better find a way to fix this problem and not to call me a liar and he went off to see if he could find me a table. My husband and I decided in the meantime to eat in the Pinnacle Grill rather than fight with the dining room manager. The dining room manager finally came back and said he had found us a table, but we told him to keep it, as we were done with arguing. However, he did take the initiative in making sure that we had a table for two every evening reserved for us the rest of the cruise, so he redeemed himself! Dining The food in the main dining room was far, far better than what we had on RCL. We also ate at the Pinnacle Grill on four nights and it was really good. I had a very tender lobster tail and many great steaks at the Grill. My husband was a little disappointed at the tableside Caesar salad. He said that true tableside is when they mash the anchovies around the bowl, put in the raw egg, etc. They did not do this. They either brought out a completed salad or just put the salad in a bowl at your table if you asked for it tableside. Service in both dining rooms by the waiters was very good. They were all very friendly and never messed up our orders. I was a little disappointed in the Lido. Service there was iffy and it seemed like many of the drink servers avoided diners like the plague. I would have liked something other than iced tea or water with my lunch... Also, the coffee makers on one side of the Lido were out of service the entire cruise. There weren't many dinner choices for kids. We fed our daughter there at dinner time so that she could get back to the kid's program quickly. I thought that the food choices for breakfast and lunch were very good, though, and liked that they put warmers over your plate. Also, I thought the set-up was very good and the lines moved quickly. Kid's Program My daughter just absolutely LOVED the kid's club. They did a fabulous job! My daughter just couldn't wait to go every day and every night. The program had so many fun things planned and the coordinators were awesome. There were about ten kids in my daughter's age range on this cruise (4-6 year olds). HAL is doing a great job with this program. Entertainment I'm not the type who is into shows or disco's, so I can't comment on them. We went to the casino a bunch of times and had a really good time. I heard the disco was empty but all the shows looked like they were packed. The library was fantastic (and the librarians were so nice and helpful, too). I had no problem connecting to the internet and there were tons of books and movies to be had. It is also very tastefully decorated and quite a comfortable spot. The lido pool was really nice and the water was warm. I also like hanging out on the other decks. Loungers were very comfortable and there were usually plenty of towels. Some chair hogging went on but many times I think that people just forgot to take their towels and put them in the discarded towel area. People We met some really fantastic people on this cruise, especially at our Cruise Critic Meet and Greet party. HAL provided cocktails and a lot of people showed up. It was so much fun! I thought that demographically, many people were seniors, but there were also quite a few families onboard, too. Also, EVERYONE we met was very nice and friendly. Ship The Noordam is a beautiful ship. It is very elegant, clean and understated. The main rooms are very nice and the shops were very well-stocked. Captain Mateboer gave a really informative and fun talk. I highly recommend going to it if you have the time. Disembarkation Wow, this went really smoothly. They had a silent disembarkation and we stayed in our room until our time came up. We had paid extra to have our bags taken to the airport, but we still had to claim them in the warehouse area. There were plenty of baggage porters, though, and the process was very quick and easy. Would I cruise again on this line? YES, YES, YES! Why did I choose HAL over other lines? Well, Disney is TOO kid oriented and RCL's food was bland and inedible. Celebrity and Princess look like neat ships, but I thought that HAL's ships were the most elegant. I also loved the itinerary and that it was a ten day cruise instead of a seven day cruise. Read Less
Sail Date March 2009
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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