3 Helpful Votes
Sail Date: June 2014
Holland America enabled us to enjoy a first class, once-in-a-lifetime adventure for my daughter (graduating High School) and the total cost was less than one might expect to spend for a week in Europe. The service was excellent throughout ... Read More
Holland America enabled us to enjoy a first class, once-in-a-lifetime adventure for my daughter (graduating High School) and the total cost was less than one might expect to spend for a week in Europe. The service was excellent throughout the ship with delicious food, tasteful decor, great entertainment and a fun teen club for my daughter (17). With so many exciting ports to explore (18 ports in 22 days!) my only complaint is the cost of the ship sponsored excursions. The cost was about triple or quadruple what you would pay if you arranged the tour yourself. We had a FANTASTIC onboard location expert, a Holland America employee. She gave us expert advice and thanks to her we visited unforgettable places that we certainly would have missed. We primarily took subways, buses &/or trains to go it alone and met up with other fellow travelers doing the same thing. In Tunisia we even took a local train to the Medina and that was an experience we'll never forget! We found the lowest cost for us to get to Europe was via Munich so we got to Venice via Deutschebahn train and it was a nice scenic trip (for the part we didn't sleep through!). Ordering the train ticket was fairly easy online--although the tickets were issued in German so we had to do a Google translate to be sure we understood what it said so we got to the correct platform to catch the train. In Livorno a goup of us caught an immaculately clean minivan taxi (with Wifi, too) directly as you exit the ship. It took us to Florence and then Pisa. At a cost of $80 per person this was a third of the cost of a Cruise Sponsored similar tour. Also the onboard Internet Speed was absurdly slow so I would recommend going online once in port versus facing this frustration. We booked this cruise last minute and were lucky to be offered an upgrade (for a small extra fee) to a balcony room. Watch your emails for special upgrade offers from Holland America! When we disembarked in Barcelona we took a Vueling (low cost) flight to Paris and stayed in an AirBnB studio flat in a nice area close to the Metro for a couple of days. We then took a high speed TGV train to Munich and stayed at a nice hotel near the main train station for a couple of nights before returning back to Tampa. On another Holland America carribbean cruise the average age of the passenger was about 80 years old (lots of walkers and motor scooters!) but on this one there was a younger crowd and many Aussies onboard. Read Less
Sail Date: June 2014
From Toni Vitanza -- who cruised on Noordam June 20 from Rome -- I am a flight attendant with 17 years of experience and I have frequent cruiser status with several cruise lines. This cruise was probably my seventh or eighth Med cruise. ... Read More
From Toni Vitanza -- who cruised on Noordam June 20 from Rome -- I am a flight attendant with 17 years of experience and I have frequent cruiser status with several cruise lines. This cruise was probably my seventh or eighth Med cruise. But this was our first time to cruise with HAL and I am afraid we have been spoiled. Since returning from our cruise, I have already told several passengers on board my flights about what a great experience we had with HAL. My husband Victor, in particular, is now a bona fide cruiser, and a bona fide HAL cruiser, like he never was before (and I also managed to get him hooked on the spa). My parents are smokers who still want to smoke on a balcony and their next cruise will be on HAL as long as you allow smoking on balconies. Sophie (in the ship's guest relations department) was INSTRUMENTAL in changing us from a balcony room with a completely obstructed view to one with a real view. A balcony was a splurge for us; we don't smoke but wanted it specifically for a relaxing view. She found us a new spot and even offered to send someone to help us move (although we refused the offer). She answered the phone often when I called with questions and was always affable, patient and competent. She is efficient, communicates clearly and professionally, looks so sharp in her uniform, and works HARD! Our stateroom attendants, Erwan and Ray, were so hardworking but also discreet. That is probably an overlooked quality in a stateroom attendant; after all, the work they do is rather intimate, isn't it? They never failed to greet us in the hallways with a smile and a question about our day. They were on the ball with ice and restocked our mini-bar promptly. We bought the spa "membership" (from Alexandra) almost immediately after boarding and it was some of the best money we ever spent. If Sophie chose our new room due to its nearness to the spa, that was a wonderful thing to do for us. All of the staff there was AMAZING. My husband won one service in a raffle and paid for a massage as well; I had a manicure repair from Jucille. All of them were skilled and professional. When our shower sprayer apparatus broke from the shower wall, the repairman was quick and competent and came ready with tools to repair it. We also had very prompt response when our remote control went on the blink! We were in the bar to watch the operation of pulling the tender boat up out of the water and back into its place on board. That was something to see and we were very impressed with the competence and skill of your crew. Brian, who served us in one of the bars (the one that offers a wine tasting in the evening along with a very special gourmet snack to eat with the wine) was very knowledgeable and a fabulous server. Artemio, in a different bar, (the one with a two-for-one happy hour special at 4 pm), was also wonderful to us. The band in the BB King Blues Club provided some of the best live entertainment my husband and I had enjoyed in a long time! Rochelle and Eric, our sommeliers, were both WONDERFUL to us and terrifically knowledgeable and passionate about wine, as is my Sicilian husband. Before I became a flight attendant I was a newspaper food and wine columnist so I like to think that while I might not be as knowledgeable as Eric or Rochelle, I am as passionate! Now...two issues before I tell you the BEST thing about the cruise. I would ask that you become MUCH more vigilant about keeping diapered babies/kids and kids obviously too young to be toilet-trained OUT of the pools and hot tubs. If a parent tells you that their kid IS toilet-trained, that isn't good enough when we are talking about a child under the age of 2 or who is clearly diapered. (And tearing off the diaper and putting the baby back in the pool isn't acceptable.) I encountered kids in the adults-only pool once. I reported this to staff. I don't know whether or how this was handled. But the fact is, these things shouldn't happen to begin with. I'm a parent, stepparent and stepgrandparent and anyone who knows me will tell you that I am crazy about babies and kids. But I also know where they belong and understand that these rules are about their health and safety and the health and safety of everyone else on board. The parents/kids should be stopped BEFORE they ever enter or AS they enter the pool and/or hot tub. Passengers shouldn't be required to report this for it to be addressed. Pool-area staff should be trained and EMPOWERED to monitor just who is in the pool/hot tub and to politely but effectively remove young ones who are where they don't belong. Frankly, I don't think the fact that kids are "well behaved" should exempt them from the rule; their presence still inhibits adult behavior and makes many of us feel responsible for their safety. When staffmembers see tiny kids in bathing suits, their antennae should go up. I have cruised with a friend who was immunocompromised due to cancer treatments, and I have cruised with a friend who holds a doctorate in microbiology. And you can't imagine the information they shared with me about what can happen when you allow these kids in the pools and hot tubs. I could go into it all here but I won't; suffice it to say that the CDC/VPS rules about this exist for very good reasons. And when one parent ventures in with a baby or small child who clearly can't possibly be toilet-trained, other parents assume the rules aren't being enforced and put their babies in too. Then it's not a pool; it's fecal soup, filled with nasty organisms -- including the live viruses the babies are given when they are vaccinated. On Sunday afternoon, during a sea day, I saw one mom allow her one-year-old son, clearly wearing some kind of bulky diaper, into not just the pool but also the hot tub, where no child that young should EVER be; it's bad for the baby and bad for others. I called the front desk and also reported this to the ladies in the spa but never saw anyone approach this mom. Next to the toilet in my stateroom there was a sign stating that if I disobeyed the rules about what should and shouldn't be flushed down the toilet, and stating that I would possibly be liable for the cost of repairs should I ignore the rule. When I boarded the ship, I had to sign a form stating that I didn't have symptoms of illness. The staff was very vigilant to prevent passengers from touching serving utensils in the buffet and hardly shy about suggesting we use hand sanitizer when entering the buffet. I believe even the captain (or cruise director) made reference to hand-washing in an announcement. I suspect the daily newspaper mentioned it as well. All these efforts are for nothing the second a diapered baby or non-trained toddler gets in the pool. I would suggest that the medical form we are asked to fill out before boarding include a statement telling/reminding parents that children who need diapers, who are wearing diapers of any kind or who are not thoroughly toilet-trained are not to be allowed into any pool or hot tub, including "family" pools and hot tubs. This is, after all, the rule. The form should also tell parents that they will possibly be liable for the costs of draining, cleaning and refilling the pool/hot tub should they ignore the rule -- just as the sign next to my toilet states. The signs next to the pool/hot tub should not merely state that diapered children and those not toilet-trained are forbidden; the signs should also state that parents will be liable for the costs of draining, cleaning and refilling should their children be found in the facility. That will put a stop to a lot of this. When I see health and safety rules (and this IS a health and safety rule) disregarded in "front of house," so to speak, I wonder what health and safety rules are ignored in places I can't see. The other problem was our excursion to Carthage. Our guide, Murat, was wonderful -- professional and knowledgeable and proud but also honest about his country. This was the highlight of the cruise for us and what we looked forward to the most. The excursion bus left RIGHT ON TIME, something I appreciate very much. We visited the Bardo museum and the ancient city of Carthage. Yet one woman was consistently late to the bus from our various stops; given the heat, this was inexcusable. After our lunch (at a lovely restaurant), she carried wine bottles from the tables onto the bus, where she drank from them. I don't know if this is legal, but it certainly isn't wise or mannerly. In the end, I came to think of her as the person in charge of our excursion. I don't know what to do about this sort of thing; I am merely reporting what bothered my husband and me and also clearly bothered others on board the excursion. The real problem with the excursion is that half or MORE of the day was spent in dark, stifling markets or shopping areas where we looked at store after store, stall after stall, of the same junk: Small carved camels (many made in China!), dishes that we were warned weren't suitable for serving food (they contained lead-based paint), cheap jewelry, keyrings, t-shirts, etc. One stall after another, the same old tacky junk! It really was shameful and not up to the standard that HAL seems intent on holding. It was just a waste of time and shameful to rush through the Bardo so we could look at cheap (again, Chinese) junk to buy. I also understand that different cultures operate in different ways. I carefully dressed for my visit to Tunis is long sleeves and a full, long skirt and behaved in as modest and sensitive a manner as I could. I behaved in a very modest and reserved way and kept with my husband at all times. Yet the same men approached me multiple times to hawk their wares; I had to tell them "No, thank you" over and over and over again. There's not a culture where this kind of hounding people is acceptable, and it's certainly not an effective sales tactic with most of the folks who cruise. This excursion could cost half as much and include nothing but the Bardo and Carthage, with perhaps lunch. Or it could remain at the same price but include more time at Bardo and/or Carthage, or include some other genuine cultural or historical site rather than opportunities to peruse a lot of tacky junk at not one but two separate sites. NOW, for what was the best thing about our cruise. I don't know how we got so lucky, but on the first night of the cruise we visited the main dining room (we avoid buffets and specialty restaurants) and were seated with waiter Rudy Canyadi (I HOPE I am spelling his name correctly) and Mr. Hakim, his assistant. (Both are from Indonesia and Mr. Hakim wears some fabulous hipster eyeglasses, if my spelling makes it difficult to identify them.) These two men were absolutely the highlight of our cruise and we simply cannot say enough about either of them. We ordered the same wine and water every night and while our sommeliers remembered the wine, Mr. Hakim always remembered the water. (By the way, are you discontinuing San Pellegrino water? It's our favorite and apparently we drank the last bottle on the ship! Since the ship visits Sicily, we think you should continue to carry a water from there!) While we met some wonderful fellow passengers aboard the ship, we would have rather had Mr. Canyadi and Mr. Hakim as dinner companions than anyone else. As far as Mr. Hakim goes, well, I wish he would come be a flight attendant at my airline because he would be SUCH fun to fly with. Mr. Canyadi -- well, that man knows FOOD. He pays attention to what his customers order, what they leave on their plates, what they finish, what dishes best complement each other and what his passengers order from night to night to night. His memory and sensitivity are like nothing else. These two men made my husband HAPPY and for that this loving wife will always be grateful. Read Less
Sail Date: May 2014
We spent a few nights in Rome before boarding, followed by staying overnight in the port at Hotel Traiano in Civitavecchia which worked out well as included a free shuttle transfer to the port. It was very easy to get to the port from Rome ... Read More
We spent a few nights in Rome before boarding, followed by staying overnight in the port at Hotel Traiano in Civitavecchia which worked out well as included a free shuttle transfer to the port. It was very easy to get to the port from Rome using train which cost only €5 each and the trains were very frequent. Easy even with luggage. Unfortunately there was no taxis at the port train station when we arrived so we had to walk quite a way to check into our hotel. We arrived at the embarkation area at around 1130 and were on board the ship by about 1215. Embarkation was relatively efficient. We were able to go straight to our cabin. We had an inside cabin. It was comparable to an inside cabin we had previously. There was plenty of space under the beds for storage. Lots of wardrobe space. The only thing I would comment was there was no drawers just shelves for storage. There was a good quality hair dryer provided along with elemis toiletries including shower cap, a bar of soap, shower gel, shampoo and conditioner. The whole cabin was incredibly clean. The cabin stewards were very impressive. Nightly towel animals were made. Dressing gowns were provided in the room. Beach towels for port usage were provided which were large and of a high quality. A Holland America tote bag was provided. Nightly chocolates were provided. Information on ports was provided in advance including maps and tips of what to do and see. Each day a daily activity leaflet was provided which was comprehensive. The ship operated a "no touch" environment for the first 48 hours where the staff passed everything to you in the Lido. We thought this was a good idea to stop the spread of infection. We thought the staff on board this ship were all very friendly and well trained and felt more at ease than on our previous cruise. In terms of restaurants we at in both the Vista dining room for dinner and the Lido for breakfast and lunch. We also used room service. The Lido was very good for breakfast. There was a lot of choices - a lot of American style breakfasts, along with Dutch and continental. The staff were friendly and after a few days remembered what you had previously ordered. For lunch there was an Asian section, Italian section, salads and hot section. Occasionally sushi was served which was average. My feedback on the salad would be that it was too heavily coated in dressing. There was also a Mexican food stand near the pool outside which served nice tacos and tortillas. There was also a burger bar which seemed popular. We had open dining yet usually made reservations. I would recommend doing this in the dining room itself on the previous evening (you could book up to two days in advance). We tried to ring a few times but found the process was always quite hard work. We always managed to get a table for two. In terms of food it was normally a 4 course meal with bread. Tap water was available for free. My view on the wine was it was quite expensive for the quality. We often took cocktails in from the bar as we found these nicer than the wine or other options available in the dining room. We both enjoyed the food but found it wasn't quite as nice as the previous cruise we had been on. Very big portions. As we sat in a different table each night we experience quite a few different waiters. We did find there was quite a difference between wherever we sat in terms of service which was unexpected. Room service was very good arriving within about 30-45 mins. The only feedback would be it always arrived on a gigantic tray which would have been ok in a suite room but was too large for our room it could barely fit through our door! In terms of facilities. We used the pools and jacuzzis quite regularly. Apart from one really hot day at sea they were relatively quiet. We found the back sea view pool was often quite dirty and left a feedback form at reception part way through the cruise asking them to clean the pool but not sure if they did. When going underwater you could see tea bags and receipts. Both pools were always heated and very warm. The jacuzzis were of a good quality. My partner used the gym and said it was of good quality. We plated table tennis. We made use of the library. We picked up a ship newspaper on occasion from reception which were available in different languages and for different countries. There was a film shown in the queens lounge on most days and you could borrow DVDs for free from reception. We attended two shows with the noordam dancers and singers and I was actually very impressed with the quality of the production. We attended a couple of quizzes. We also attended a what to do in port talk by location guide that was very good because it didn't sell shore excursions instead was focused on useful information for people that didn't necessarily want to go on organised tours. We used a few different bars, service was sometimes slow but they never tried to sell to you too much. There were numerous shops on board but we didn't buy anything. The ship had a lot of Americans, Canadians and Dutch people and smaller numbers of English, Spanish and Italian guests. We felt it was quite targeted towards the American guests more than other nationalities. We were unable to go to Tunisia which was due to visa problems. This was really annoying for us as one of the reasons we picked this itinerary. An alternative port was arranged of Olbia in Sardinia. We were unable to go to Corsicia due to bad seas. The med was definitely rougher than we expected and some people suffered with sea sickness. Overall we very much enjoyed our stay and for the price we paid at the last minute it was a real bargain. We would consider holland america again.   Read Less
Sail Date: May 2014
My husband and I (both in our 60's) sailed on the Noordam for an 11 night cruise. This was our first HAL cruise and we would definitely do it again (and again and again). We flew to Rome and embarked the same day; we flew out of ... Read More
My husband and I (both in our 60's) sailed on the Noordam for an 11 night cruise. This was our first HAL cruise and we would definitely do it again (and again and again). We flew to Rome and embarked the same day; we flew out of Venice the day the cruise ended. Next time we will plan better and allow a couple days at the start/end of the cruise to have a little more time to enjoy the beginning and ending ports. We did use HAL's cruise/air plan and have no complaints about that - the price was quite reasonable and the HAL staff was great in getting us from the airport to the ship and vice versa. Our cabin (8112) was located under the pool but we did not have any noise problems whatsoever. We did not have water pouring from the pool deck onto our balcony either. We found the cabin placement convenient (close to elevator, one deck below Lido deck). Our cabin was a decent size and having a balcony was great. Our cabin was a VF category but prior to our cruise the same cabin was a VA. Cabin stewards were attentive and we experienced none of the plumbing problems I have seen mentioned in other reviews, The food was good and plentiful. We opted for anytime dining and there was only 1 night where we waited longer that 10 minutes to be seated. The absolute best part of this cruise was the itinerary and was the reason we chose this cruise. We stopped at Messina, Malta, 2 ports in Greece, 3 ports in Croatia, Montenegro, and an overnight for the last day in Venice. The only port I found lacking was Messina; the rest were fantastic, Our weather was great and we did mostly everything on our own. The only HAL tour we took was the first day - a glimpse of Rome. The tour was worth it as it took us by most of the major sights in Rome. Only complaint is we wish we could have stopped at more than one place while in Rome. We loved the Croatia ports and of course we loved all the time we had in Venice. The only disappointment we had was with the info provided by the shore guide. She gave us some wrong information about a couple of the ports that ended up causing us to walk a LOT longer than we should have had to walk to get where we were going. We relied on public transportation in the ports and that was a whole lot cheaper than using the transportation arranged/recommended by HAL. We did not find the entertainment to be all that good except for the Blues Band. But, quite frankly it did not matter to us as our entertainment was visiting the ports and seeing all the wonderful sights each had to offer. We did sign up for the hydrotherapy pool but after using it once, we decided we would probably be forcing ourselves to use it for the remainder of the cruise just to get our money's worth. So, we asked if we could cancel and HAL allowed us to and charged just for the one use we had. We found the regular Jacuzzis to be just fine for what we wanted. Our experience was so good we want to do another cruise next year and I have already started looking. My husband is not enthusiastic about cruising so for him to want to do another one is a big compliment to HAL. Read Less
Sail Date: May 2014
For some background, we are a Canadian couple in our 50’s/60’s who have only previously cruised with Holland America. Our itinerary was the Western Mediterranean - May 18th – 29th. This was our first time on the Noordam. We flew ... Read More
For some background, we are a Canadian couple in our 50’s/60’s who have only previously cruised with Holland America. Our itinerary was the Western Mediterranean - May 18th – 29th. This was our first time on the Noordam. We flew business class from Toronto to Barcelona via Frankfurt and returned Rome, Frankfurt, Toronto. In Barcelona we stayed one night at the Hilton Diagonal Mar Hotel.We had an Executive Level room which provided access to a nice lounge with non- alcohol beverages as well as beer and wine in the evening after 6:30 pm, a good continental breakfast in the morning and a wonderful patio high above the city. The hotel is across from a large shopping centre that we enjoyed strolling through and is also a block from the beach. We took a taxi from the airport to the hotel for a cost of 35. Euro and a taxi from the hotel to the cruise port for a cost of 25. Euro. Our cabin was a Deluxe Veranda Suite very close to the Neptune Lounge. We arrived at the cruise port at 11:45 am. Embarkation was very prompt with suite guests having access immediately. Our suite was ready upon arrival. We were invited to the Neptune Lounge for sparkling wine and snacks and shortly thereafter our luggage arrived. We also had a complimentary bottle of sparkling wine in our suite. We did not attend the suite party the first night and we did not attend the Mariners luncheon near the end of the cruise. The suite was in good condition however the rooms are ready for some updating. While very clean and in good repair, the bathroom was showing its age. We have no complaints about the air conditioning or plumbing. Everything worked very well the entire cruise. Our room attendants were amazing and took very good care of us. As well, Celine, Homer and Kim in the Neptune Lounge were very accommodating and efficient and provided excellent service. The Neptune Lounge offered the usual cold drink self-serve dispensers, deluxe coffee machine, morning continental breakfast, lunch time sandwiches and desserts and late afternoon hors d'oeuvres. Everything was fresh and perfectly presented. The only thing we missed this time was a toaster on the side board. We felt that the ship was in excellent condition and very clean. Staff were continuously cleaning in all areas. We did not eat in the Lido this trip so cannot comment other than when we did pass through it looked very busy. We enjoyed breakfast either in the Pinnacle or in the Neptune Lounge. When on the ship, we had our lunches in the MDR or from the Dive In at the Lido Pool. We really enjoyed the hamburgers and french fries at the Dive In. I don’t usually eat this food at home but for some reason really enjoyed them on this cruise. We found the new menu with fresh meat to be excellent. Service was fast and the introduction of a pager system made it perfect. We could place our order, order a drink and within minutes the pager would alert us to pick up our freshly prepared order. We enjoyed dinner most nights at the MDR. We did however notice the reduction in staffing and its resulting impact on the wait staff that were run off their feet each evening. They did an incredible job however. We did feel that the taking of orders was rushed and there was little time for interaction. They work so hard to ensure that guests are well served. The food was okay – nothing spectacular. We certainly didn’t starve and always found something enjoyable to order. We had dinner one night in the Pinnacle and it was very good. Service was excellent and we found the food quality good. Caesar salad was made table side. Room service was utilized a few times for coffee before the Neptune Lounge opened and one night for dinner. We did not enjoy our room service dinner. Perhaps it was what we ordered. We had the Signature drink package as we booked our cruise during the Explore 4 program. Explore 4 included the Signature drink package (up to 15 drinks per day which included alcohol up to $7.00 per drink, specialty coffees, water, very limited wine selection and soda), $75.00 per person on board credit and an evening dinner at the Pinnacle. We enjoyed this package. While we didn’t come close to 15 drinks per day, we enjoyed the ease of using the card and not having to worry about receipts and charges to our on board account. I hope that Holland offers this again for future cruises. Since it was a very port intensive cruise (only two sea days), we were off ship all of the port days and therefore we did not participate in on board activities. However the daily program showed many offerings from trivia contests, bingo, casino tournaments, dance and cooking classes, Windows classes, digital photography etc. The cruise director was very engaging and did a good job. We booked several HAL shore excursions as well as two private drivers for Rome and the Amalfi coast. The HAL excursions were well done in our view although the Sardinia tour was our least favorite. We really enjoyed the port of Calvi, Corsica. A lovely location. We were extremely disappointed that our visit to Monte Carlo became a tender port and due to rough seas we were not able to tender in Monte Carlo but the Captain made quick arrangements to have us tender in Ville France and offered shore excursions. Ville France was lovely however we booked this itinerary specifically because the ship was to dock in Monte Carlo. We were not made aware of the change to a tender service until the evening before arriving in port. Had we known that this was going to be a tender port for this cruise we would not have booked this itinerary. I won’t go into our reason in this review. Also due to visa issues for some passengers on the ship, we could not visit Tunisia. Instead we made a trip to Sardinia which was not a favorite for us. Our private tours – Lovely Amalfi Coast Tours and our private driver in Rome were excellent. For entertainment pre dinner we visited the Ocean Bar and after dinner each evening we really enjoyed the BB King Lounge. My husband is a musician and really enjoyed the band each evening. We hope that Holland America continues on this track to offer this music alternative on future cruises. Disembarkation was very well organized. All in all we had a great cruise with no issues and our only disappointment was the Monte Carlo switch up. I will be writing Holland America about this issue. Otherwise it was excellent and we have no complaints.   Read Less
Sail Date: April 2014
50 year old couple cruising with 75 year old in-laws, Barcelona to Rome, outside cabin with balcony Overall, satisfactory for price Ship built in 2006, beginning to show noticeable but not severe wear (chairs, carpet, rust on balcony, ... Read More
50 year old couple cruising with 75 year old in-laws, Barcelona to Rome, outside cabin with balcony Overall, satisfactory for price Ship built in 2006, beginning to show noticeable but not severe wear (chairs, carpet, rust on balcony, bathroom fixtures cracked). Common areas shipboard very clean. Cabin steward tries very hard but one gets the idea that their supervision and training is not at an elite level, small but annoying details recur. some surfaces left dusty, some mold in bath, but ask for service and they are right there to respond cheerfully. Room was larger that expected with high quality furnishings for the price in the room, furnishings on the balcony nice but scanty. Hot water on this ship consistently lacking at high use times, shower at off times Staff almost always very friendly and eager. some laxity noted of the wait staff at the various bars esp at the fantail and especially in busing tables. Bartending mostly good but quality of the drinks inconsistent. Had only one experience with surly staff once at bar, otherwise seems that the level of service could be raised with closer, better trained and more experienced junior officers Entertainment brought in from outside was of the highest quality, far exceeding expectations. The house blues band was excellent, though it consistently overpowered its venue. House dancers and most of their shows were at about expected quality. other shipboard performers were good Port and excursion support from staff was also excellent. The woman in charge was excellent and worked like a dog. Don't use their tuxedo rental: wrong size, dirty coats. wrong # of shirts, just say no Quality and variety of food was very good, although there was a rare big miss or two. The premium dining rooms demonstrated excellent food and service, well worth the small extra price. embarking and disembarking was exceptionally easy and well organized. It is clear that the line has put much thought into health and safety and this was evident throughout the cruise. very reassuring For a cruise visiting world class wine destinations, the wine cellar featured overpriced and indifferent wines, relatively few of which were from the regions we visited. there was an annoying and also overpriced corkage fee for bringing wine on board from ports. The need for corkage is understandable, but the gross lack of any regional wines from Provence, Naples, Tunis, Catalonia, Campania detracted a bit from our enjoyment of the cruise. If you are gonna cruise to famous wine regions, you really should stock wines from there (or at least not charge for a bottle that someone brings on) The on-board marketing for add-ons (shops, salon, excursions, photos, art etc...) was relentless and breathtaking in scope, be prepared, I expected less based on the relative cost and quality of the cruise. It became distracting. Avoid the cruise related shore tours, outrageously overpriced and almost always ending in a stop at, you guessed it, a shop that wants your money. Private tours through cruise one etc, offered much much better value without wasting your time at the end. Heck, even a cab tour is better. Ports: Barcelona: get there early, give yourself an extra day, ship docs right at the base of the city, tour a Gaudi house, Holy Family Church, Barcelona Cathedral, walk les Rambles (a pedestrian mall) Take the gondola to the castle at the top of the city. The city was clean and busy and fun Marseille: ship docs at new port so you need a transfer to city. port sponsored bus cheap but lines long. negotiated cab fare not much more. Walk the old port, esp early in the morning when the fishermen are in. go up a side street for some Bouillabaisse, the trip to the Ise D'Ife (where the fictional Count of Monte Cristo was jailed) is not to be missed, neither is the view from the cathedral. Those who went on the various trips to Provence were uniform in their assessment of too much time and nothing special. spend your time in the city Monte Carlo: ship docs right at the base of the city, if you don't mind hills, you can walk, very pedestrian city, see the national cathedral where grace kelly was married and buried, touring the national palace was interesting and not too long, the Casino is worth a brief visit. Calvi: wonderful small beautiful. not much to do but very relaxing. ship anchors off shore so you have to take boats in. this was handled very professionally and very well. Just walk around the city for a couple of hours and enjoy Florence: we booked a private tour into pisa and florence. ship docs at port about 90 min away. again the verdict on the cruise line tours was lots of time, forced shopping, not much time at sites. a few hours in Florence wets the taste buds, you need a week there to even begin to see it. VERY crowded Tunis (really a bunch of cities altogether, like New York): took the cruiseline's tour of carthage due to (unfounded) security concerns. It was fine as far as it went but we found ourselves stuck for 90 min in a souk pestered by salesmen. Tunis is just now getting tourism back after the Arab spring and they seem desperate for our dollars. The port is outside the city so you will need a taxi ride to get there on your own. Parenthetically, the city smelled wonderful with all the flowers blooming, all in all much nicer than I expected. I suggest booking a private tour. Palermo: ship docks at base of city so you can walk in, The city is dirty, crowded and confusing but everyone was friendly. take a taxi up to Monte Pellegrino, takes a total of 90 min and the view is breathtaking. Naples: ship docs at commercial port so everything is a ride in. we booked a private tour of pompeii and Herculaneum. I suggest you do so as well. Unspeakably fascinating Rome: we stayed a few days there before coming home, use Private Tours of Rome. ask for Alessandra.   Read Less
Sail Date: March 2014
We live in Upstate N.Y so we left the day before and stayed at a great hotel my wife got on priceline called B Hotel.Their are good reviews about the hotel on Trip Advisor. We arrived at the port at about 11:00 and embarkment was very well ... Read More
We live in Upstate N.Y so we left the day before and stayed at a great hotel my wife got on priceline called B Hotel.Their are good reviews about the hotel on Trip Advisor. We arrived at the port at about 11:00 and embarkment was very well organized and quick. Dropped our stuff off and went to Lido for lunch by 12:00. This was only or 2nd Holland Cruise we have cruised 12 other times 6 Princess and 6 Royal Carib. I will keep this as brief as possible, but hopefully informative. Room: Very Nice and spacious with a decent bath with tub, It is a back balcony not any type of suite. Our room stewart coudn't do enough for you, excellent service. Lido: Good variety, great food have to say that I got the pasta with meat sauce often but tried a couple of other items and all were great. esp. the pizza. Dinner: Again good variety every night but if you didn't like what they had they have a good alternative menu, steak chicken etc. Great service, Greenhouse Spa: Great Thermal suite, well worth the money, stone beds were nice and very warm over looking the ocean, steam rooms wonderful and the Hydro pool was was perfect. Great relaxing time. Entertainment : It was better than what we had expected, shows were good B.B King show was great. It was a great cruise with an older crowd but that didn't seem to matter a bit. It is worth taking a look at. Met two other wonderful couples at dinner Fred and Ginny and Hugo and Jan. We had a fantastic time with good friends and lots of laughter, Thanks for being a part of our cruise. Read Less
Sail Date: March 2014
We are a retired couple in our 60’s who took this cruise to escape the wretched winter weather that we were experiencing in the Northeast USA. This was our sixth cruise with Holland and our second on the Noordam. This was one of ... Read More
We are a retired couple in our 60’s who took this cruise to escape the wretched winter weather that we were experiencing in the Northeast USA. This was our sixth cruise with Holland and our second on the Noordam. This was one of Holland’s Collectors Voyages, which is a fancy way of saying that it combined two cruises back-to-back: a 10-night Southern Caribbean cruise with an 11-night Eastern Caribbean cruise for a 21-night cruise that started and ended in Fort Lauderdale. Some observations: Itinerary: This cruise took us to Half Moon Cay (HAL’s private island in the Bahamas), the Turks and Caicos Islands, the Dominican Republic, Bonaire, Curacao, Aruba, Sint Maarten, St. Lucia, Barbados, Martinique, Dominica, and St. Thomas. Half Moon Cay has some of the most stunningly beautiful water we have seen, but the beach was awfully crowded. Those who did one of the excursions (such as snorkeling) probably had a more positive experience than we did. We took HAL tours at several of the islands and were generally pleased. “Cultural Highlights of Samana” in the Dominican Republic was wonderful – mainly because of a great guide on the bus and a visit to a museum of pre-Columbian culture that included dioramas that traced the heartbreaking history of these indigenous peoples whose lives and culture were destroyed by their European conquerors. “Barbados In-Focus: A Photographic Expedition “ and “Panoramic Martinique” were the most visually stunning. The former is conducted by Ronnie Carrington, who is a native of Barbados and a photographer. It was superb. Stateroom: We were in a Neptune Suite, which had lots of storage space, and a bathroom with a tub and separate shower and double sinks. The weather was sunny and warm nearly every day. As a result, we spent lots of time on our veranda, and even took some breakfasts and a lunch there. The staff were unfailingly friendly and eager to please. Kudos especially to Eric, Gabriel, and Charlene in the Neptune Lounge and to our room stewards, Eko and Wayan – they were all exceptionally friendly and helpful. Dining: We chose As You Like Dining, and that worked well for us. We took all of our dinners in the Main Dining Room (the Vista) except for one night when we dined at the Pinnacle. We discovered a table that we liked and met another couple at the table next to us whom we also liked. Since we ate at pretty much the same time each night, we were able to get that table throughout the cruise. Because we were doing two cruises back-to-back, our dining crew changed mid-cruise. But it didn’t seem to make any difference in the service, which was generally speedy and attentive. Deddy, Bagus, Soleh were fun to have as servers, and BJ and Ricardo, our wine stewards were wonderful, as well. They caught on to our routine and preferences very quickly. We also want to thank the Oka and Tri, the two Dining Room hosts: they managed to get us the table we wanted each night, and greeted us by name every time we came in. As for the food: this is probably the most subjective part of any cruise – as anyone who reads cruise reviews can readily see. What we liked was that the menus had a good mix of choices that ranged from comfort food to gourmet dishes prepared with culinary creativity and imagination. The food is not what a foodie would find in a 5-star restaurant in New York, but it did have flavors and presentations that most foodies would still find interesting. We especially liked the soups – the chilled fruit soups were terrific, and the hot soups benefitted from a full-bodied stock that tasted home-made. While their beef, chicken, pork, and veal dishes were good, many of their fish dishes were exceptional. Our dinner at the Pinnacle Grill (HAL’s specialty steakhouse restaurant – we had bone-in ribeye and a petite fillet mignon) was, as expected, extremely good. HAL has changed the Pinnacle menu, and it is an improvement over what was already a strong menu. HAL also changed the Canaletto menu. That’s their Italian specialty restaurant. We haven’t eaten there for the last few cruises, but the new menu really didn’t tempt us. Public Areas: The ship is kept immaculately clean. In fact, they seem to be constantly cleaning it. One feature I like is that everyone – even those crew members who clean the bannisters or wipe off the tables in the Explorations Café – always greeted us with a warm hello. The artwork throughout the ship is a delight. As we noted in a previous HAL review, you keep “discovering” things throughout the cruise. The library (aka “Explorations Café) was well-stocked, as usual. Entertainment: The HAL singers and dancers were better than they were on previous cruises. We were disappointed, however, in the Adagio Duo. They still perform in the Explorations Lounge, and there are still chocolates available (though not as good a selection as there used to be) for those who like listening to classical music as they sip a cognac or liqueur. But the group used to be the Adagio Strings, and part of the fun was seeing the personalities and the musical interactions among the four members of the quartet. Now, the quartet has been reduced to a duo (piano and violin), neither of whom seemed to make any effort to connect with the audience. What’s more, their repertoire was limited with works repeatedly played night after night. The last time we were on the Noordam (fall of 2012), they had a quartet from Moldova whose leader was so personable and such a skillful showman that audiences kept growing each night. They even put on special performances in the Queens Lounge. We missed them. Weather: The weather was warm and mostly sunny for the entire cruise, and the ocean was as smooth as we have ever seen it. We spent some time at the pool that was in the stern of the ship (adults only), and it was comfortable. We didn’t have a problem finding pool chairs. What a break from the foul weather we have been having this winter in the Northeast! Cost Cutting and Bean Counting: Other reviewers of HAL cruises have noted evidence of cost-cutting and penny-pinching, and we, too, saw some of that. The change from Adagio Strings to Adagio Duo is one example of that. But it was evident in other ways. For years, HAL has had a special promotion for folks who book their next cruise online. That still exists, but in the past it included a guarantee that if at any time before final payment the price of cruise went down, you’d be charged the lower price. Now, they no longer make that promise. The old policy made a strong statement about how much HAL valued its repeat customers; their current policy sounds like something concocted by a bean-counter. Similarly, on previous cruises each day’s bulletin (I think they call it “Today On Ship”) had a well-done piece on the port we were visiting that day that contained a lot of cultural and historical background, a decent map, and some useful advice. Now, the bulletin is still published daily, but they have left off the information about the ports. It is included, instead, in a booklet called “Explorer,” and while we don’t object to saving paper in this way, there is far less information about each port than we were used to. And what they do include provides precious little in the way of historical or cultural background. Finally, previous HAL cruises brought interesting speakers on board who lectured on the history and culture of the ports and peoples we were visiting. Since their passengers are mostly retired and well-educated, it is surprising that HAL included none of this on this cruise. That, too, was a disappointment. General Observations: That said, the pluses certainly outweighed the minuses. As other reviewers have noted, HAL is not the kind of cruise line where you go for wild parties and late night adventures (although we are in our 60’s, we still lowered the median age of the passengers). Rather, HAL is what one could call a “civilizing experience.” It will please you if you’re seeking good conversation with retired people who for the most part have lived interesting lives, don’t require entertainment that tries hard to be flashy, and want to experience the relaxation of being on a well-appointed ship with an attentive and cheerful crew. While Americans dominated the passenger list, we liked the fact that there was a significant number of passengers from foreign countries. Another virtue, at least for cruisers like us, is that the ship does not bombard you with constant announcements and sales pitches (the one exception to the sales pitches is the Spa, but that seems to be a problem that is common everywhere). We were sorry to see the cruise end. By the way, we took advantage of HAL’s “Luggage Direct” program. For $20 per person, your luggage is picked up at your stateroom, delivered directly to your airline, and you don’t see it again until you arrive at your destination airport. They print out the airline luggage tags and boarding passes for you, and it does make the trip home significantly easier. About the only drawback is that U.S. Customs insists that if you are participating in the program, you must leave the ship between 7:30 – 8:00 a.m. (They say that’s so that you are available in case your luggage is chosen for inspection.) But the early start also means that the lines at customs are very short. It worked perfectly for us: we left the suitcases outside our stateroom the night before, and we didn’t see them again until we landed at our home airport. One last note (a fervent wish, actually): while HAL bans smoking in the staterooms and in most public places, it is still allowed on verandas, the casino, and in a section of the aft deck where the adult pool is located. We wish that HAL would go with the times and start banning smoking from the verandas. Read Less
Sail Date: February 2014
Noordam, Holland American – 11 day Southern Caribbean – 2/17-2/28/2014 An easy 2 hour drive south from our RV park in Fort Pierce via the Florida Turnpike brought us to Park N Go – our usual cruise parking lot. We arrived about ... Read More
Noordam, Holland American – 11 day Southern Caribbean – 2/17-2/28/2014 An easy 2 hour drive south from our RV park in Fort Pierce via the Florida Turnpike brought us to Park N Go – our usual cruise parking lot. We arrived about 11am. The van was waiting. They loaded our luggage from our car into the van and the next time we saw it – it was in our room at 2pm.  We boarded quickly and were welcomed by steel-drum Caribbean music and free cocktails in the lounge. We had a nice lunch in the Lido, but missed the Mariner “Welcome Back” lunch in the Dining Room because we didn’t know about it. Our Balcony room was wonderful! Spacious enough with a small couch, a small club chair and a stool for the dressing table/desk. The bathtub/shower was excellent with plenty of hot water and a great shower head. The balcony had rattan chairs with cushions, a large footstool and a small table. Perfect! We had our beds separated into comfortable twins and the double sided, flowered bed throw was perfect for a nap or an extra cover at night. Our thermostat worked perfectly. There was plenty of closet space and hangers. The suitcases fit under the bed. Some of our Favorite Things: 1. Happy Hour has the second drink for only $1.00 and includes picture worthy/ wonderfully tasty appetizers! For instance: pot stickers, shrimp, phyllo surprises, tiny meatballs, etc. along with a beaker of nuts. Very classy! 2. Trivia – with Cruise Director Mario – in the Crow’s Nest. What fun!! 3. Windows 8 - (photos, etc. applies to Windows 7,.too) education seminar – excellent! 4. Fresh squeezed orange juice @ no charge! (take note Royal Caribbean) 5. Roni – who, with his big smile (and remembered everyone’s name!) gave out the after dinner mints and candied ginger. 6. The NY Times mini newspaper available every day to keep us up on the news. 7. The Explorer – it suggests for each Island: things to see; where to eat; books to read; music to listen to and a bit of the history. I wish I had this in advance, but better late than never – a gem!!! And a keeper! Dining: we had 5:45pm set time and were very pleased with our table, our waiters and our wine steward, Jay. The food was very good, with the prime rib and lobster tail being outstanding. We enjoyed lunch and breakfast in the Lido on “port” days. The outside Lido Bistro has an amazing variety of burgers including lamb burgers! There’s also a good Mexican selection including an excellent tamale. On Sea Days we went to the less crowded Vista Restaurant. We didn’t do any “specialty” dining. Tours: We took the St. Lucia tour in a small air-conditioned bus that held 40 people. Our guide and driver were excellent. The first stop was a historic house overlooking the harbor. DH tripped on the steps and I was holding his arm. He wasn’t hurt, but I tore my hamstring muscle. Oh, the pain! I finally got back onto the bus. An accident report was made out by the tour company. I was met with a wheelchair back at the dock. I saw the nurse and then the ship’s doctor. All was covered because the tour was through the cruise line. A good lesson. Book a tour through the ship! (Kudos to our cabin #5144 steward Willi, who fixed ice bags and towels for my leg each day – I’m so grateful.) Our other tours were cancelled with no problem. In fact, Customer Relations sent me Chocolate Covered Strawberries with a get-well note! Now that’s class. (PS that’s why when I got eaten up with bed bugs on Princess and they wouldn’t acknowledge it – I will NEVER sail with them again.) Entertainment: We enjoyed comedian Jim McDonald, violinist Analisa Ching, Matilta with excellent ventriloquist Patrick Murray and the Pilipino Crew Show. We did not enjoy the show Heat. Movies: watching a movie in the Queens Lounge is only ok if you sit in the front row. Otherwise, you have heads blocking your view. Not a good movie venue. They need a real theater. The Greenhouse Spa: we both had a one-time treatment here. I enjoyed my “scalp and shoulder” message with oil. DH had a message and reflexology foot treatment. On a personal note: if you are experiencing swollen feet and ankles – especially on a cruise – do NOT drink the ships desalinated water! It is loaded with salt. It doesn’t bother most people and tastes good. But for a few of us, it’s “balloon time”. Make sure your drink is not out of “tap” at the bar. Insist on a “can” –it makes a huge difference. Also the “fresh squeezed” orange juice is ok, as is the tomato juice. Maybe we can band together and be as effective as the “gluten free” folks and get bottled water for free!! In summary, it was the nicest cruise we’ve ever been on. We were entirely satisfied.   Read Less
Sail Date: January 2014
We are a couple in our late 30’s/early40’s who sail about once a year (and have sailed most lines) and travelled on this cruise with our 3 year old (her third HAL cruise – she hasn’t sailed any other line). We live in New Jersey ... Read More
We are a couple in our late 30’s/early40’s who sail about once a year (and have sailed most lines) and travelled on this cruise with our 3 year old (her third HAL cruise – she hasn’t sailed any other line). We live in New Jersey and sailed out of Fort Lauderdale. We had a rocky start to this cruise owing to our daughter being sick (that would be two car seats covered in vomit the first on her way home from school and the second on the way to the airport), arriving late to the airport (due to vomit) to realize we had left our passports at home. Luckily we were flying in the evening before embarkation and my husband was able to standby a later flight, go home wash the second car seat and get our passports. What is funny is that we didn’t even really forget the passports – we never even thought to take them in all our packing – just dumb I know. We had booked a flight the night prior to embarkation as insurance against the weather it also worked as insurance against stupidity. We stayed in the Holiday Inn Express Convention Center/Cruiseport – free transit from the airport to the hotel. When my daughter and I landed about 930pm it took quite a while for the transport to make it through the airport traffic, which was horrible. We arrived at the hotel about 1015 and received a nice goody bag of water, pretzels and cookies. When my husband arrived at 1am the driver had gone home for the night so the hotel told him to just take a cab and they paid the cabfare. Breakfast in the morning was quite a nice variety but very crowded. We ended up sharing a table with others who would also be on the Noordam though we never saw them again. After breakfast my daughter and I walked to the Total Wine and picked up our internet order –we returned one bottle as the neck was too tall to fit nicely in the box and picked up a replacement bottle that fit better so the box could be closed. We didn’t need to stop anywhere else as we couldn’t come up with anything we had forgotten. We checked out of the hotel a few minutes of 11 and asked for a cab, 10 minutes and $15 later we were at the ship. We handed over our suitcases and case of wine to the porter and walked into the hall. Our last cruise out of Fort Lauderdale embarkation was a long lined nightmare –it was the first cruise out for the season. This was the polar opposite. We waited in line about 3 minutes, went got our photo taken, got the armband for our daughter and were done. This was about 11:20. At about 11:45 they started to board. Embarkation took about 4 minutes waiting for the photographers, a quick no thank you and we were on the boat. We were in our room - 4119 obstructed ocean view by noon. I loved our obstructed view room – we have always sailed verandah before but they were sold out by the time we booked and we couldn’t afford a suite…We had the aft of a life boat and were the last obstructed view room in the line of lifeboats and with the floor to ceiling window half was unobstructed, also at the two tender ports “our” lifeboat was used to tender and we had a full unobstructed view. I would absolutely book this room in the future. The one downside to the oceanview room with three people is that the couch comes closer to the entrance than the bed (as opposed to the balcony room when it is the bed then the couch). When the couch is unfolded and made up into a bed there are about 3 inches of clearance between the foot of the couch and the desk making it nearly impossible to get into the room and to then get up and use the bathroom at night. Luckily our daughter is still small so after the first night we had them not unfold the couch and they just made up the couch as a bed. The Noordam is a beautiful ship – dark interiors and seemingly “fancy” – a bit dressier than the other ships we have been on. We walked to the Mariner luncheon and were seated by ourselves which was very nice. In fact this whole cruise we ate just the 2 or three of us and never shared a table – the availability of small tables was great and the longest we ever waited to be seated was about 3 minutes. The dining room staff were lovely but service in general was very slow. Some nights I just couldn’t face waiting that long for dinner so we ate in the Lido. The Lido staff on this ship (Indah, Aerin, Anit and mangers Anton and Erasmo) were outstanding and we specifically sat in certain people’s sections due to the lovely nature of our relationship. The food was the usual – plentiful, nicely served, but not outstanding. The desserts our first night were inedible and I remember the ice cream being different (creamier? more flavorful?) they also didn’t have as much variety of flavors as in the past. The egg salad on the sandwich bar tasted funny to me (maybe the dutch mayo?) The Terrace Grill taco bar became my lunchtime favorite as I could get the chicken fajitas and make a nice grilled chicken salad out of it. In the dining room they had dinner salads with a warm protein every night which were new and I ordered a lot and liked. Our one issue was we tend to eat on the later side (usually 830 or 9 at home till we get home from work and make dinner) and usually the lido stopped serving dinner by 830 and one had to wait until 1030 for late night snack. My husband stated he was tired of pizza (the pizza and pasta being always available). The entertainment staff on this cruise were lovely. The cruise director Mario is on his first contract as cruise director and is doing a nice job. The show host Jeremy was young and fun. We played pub quiz nightly with Jeremy in addition to the daily general trivia with Mario. There was also occasional food/chocolate trivia with Kiersten the culinary host. The evening shows were the HAL usual, we live just outside New York City and my husband works in entertainment so we are totally jaded, and find the HAL productions fairly awful. Comedian, and ventriloquist were fine but not great. Piano Bar Singer Olga was good and we had a lot of people sailing who were accomplished musicians and sang/played and it was quite nice (two sisters form Montana, one of the members of the Beatles group on board etc). BB King band was nice. The Adagio strings are just a piano and a violin now, they the Hal Cats and the guitarist were all also fine. Hannah the shopping guide let our daughter “win” color changing hair clips the first night which she has worn daily since. I always do the spa pass allowing me access to the thlassotherapy pool, the steam room and my absolutely favorite heated ceramic loungers. They stopped putting aromatherapy into the steam rooms after the first three days and frequently not all the steam rooms were working. The second day of the cruise it was extremely crowded but it thinned after that. My husband used the elliptical in the gym daily and had no complaints. I walk round and round the promenade deck. We both used a self bribery scheme where we didn’t get our wine for the day until we worked out. This was the first cruise we have been on where my daughter was old enough for Club Hal and luckily she loved it there! There were 17 kids of the right age and there were never more than 12 in Club Hal. Due to the paucity of kids they combined the 3-7 in the 8-11 room so 3-11 were all together. As 8 of the kids were all one sibling/cousin group this was very nice. The group spoke mixed languages and my daughter only speaks English but this did not seem to deter her at all. Club Hal was open 9am -1130am, 1pm – 4pm and 7-10pm sea days and early in the morning until 4pm port days then 7-10pm. My daughter went almost the whole time they were open sea days, every evening and twice from 230/3 until four on port days so pretty much she always wanted to be in what she called camp/school. Library was nice, plenty of new books for a 10 day cruise –obviously if one was on board for longer the selection could get thin but it was fine for me (and I’m an avid reader). I also borrowed the ipad nano for the art tour which I always like as I had forgotten to download it from home before I left. We didn’t use the ship’s Internet so I cannot comment on it. The explore four deal: We had 2 $50 drink cards waiting for us in our room when we arrived – and had fun using them so nice bonus but we definitely drank more cocktails than we otherwise would have. On the afternoon of embarkation a note arrived with our pinnacle grill night being the 3rd night on board at 8pm which was perfect for us. The Ports: I had chosen this cruise because I really wanted to go to the ABC islands and thought that getting 10 days off was a pipe dream (I usually cannot get more than a week) but it magically worked out and was great –I love the little bit longer cruise. We did not book any tours through HAL (price, and we hate being in a large group and herded to souvenir places). Half Moon Cay is beautiful, very fine sand and Club Hal can operate on the beach as it is owned by HAL. I dropped the kid off and then had time to walk to the end of the beach and back (about a 75min walk) before picking her up making me feel as though I had done my exercise for the day! Grand Turk –we never left the cruise port area – the pool is very nice, the beach a bit rocky and hard packed. Samana Dominican Republic –we booked a tour through Tour Samana with Terry and it was frankly awful. Probably one of the worst independent tours I’ve ever done – I’ll post a separate review on the ports page. One of my close friends who is from DR laughed hysterically as I told her the story and said we should have just walked to the beach in the middle of town and sat at one of the café’s on the beach – yes we should have! Bonaire – is absolutely lovely, nice laid back vibe, we did a tour with Bonaire Vista Tours which was the antithesis of our Samana tour. I would love to go back but there are no sandy beaches – is it all coral – great snorkeling and diving. Curacao – We had a tour booked with Irie tours but couldn’t find them - tuned out later we had been on the wrong side of the advertisement sign. We decided to just go walk and poke around and picked up a tour just after crossing the pontoon bridge called Casper tours that was the exact same tour (O.K. different beach) at $10pp less than the Irie tour! So worked out well. Aruba –Beautiful white sand beach. I walked the wrong way off the ship to our planned beach place (So much for the printed Google map – I swear we were going to be docked elsewhere…) and we ended up on Tamarind beach (about a mile and a half walk from the ship) at an all inclusive. They very nicely invited us to use their loungers and pool for free and when my husband tried to buy drinks from the bar he couldn’t as they were an all inclusive with no cash! We took a cab back to the ship. Two lovely sea days and we docked back in Fort Lauderdale. We did expedited disembarkation which started a bit later than expected but made the customs line bearable. We then took a cab (through a super disorganized taxi line system where two ships were sharing a line and the port sheriff were making it confusing having two lines instead of one) to the airport. We had booked a 1229 flight home in case the ship didn’t dock as it should. We were at the airport at 8am. We asked if we could standby on the 855am flight and United has a new system where they have figured out how to get even more money out of you and charge $75 to standby –it was free as recently as May – not sure when that changed. We paid the $225 (there are three of us) as we were there, there were seats on the plane and I was to supposed be at work by 5 which would have been very close on the originally scheduled flight. This cruise was great. My few quibbles – yes things were a bit worn on the ship, the couch in our room never folded back up right so it “popped” up, general trivia and name that tune were only a half an hour apart making it difficult to do both, and Lido dinner being over too early, are definitely small, first world problems. There was one serious problem while we sailed, a power outage the first night we were on board – I found out later it had been caused by changing the fuel filter in Fort Lauderdale causing a clog to get past the filter which automatically shut down the whole system. We were playing pub trivia and then in the main dining room and everything continued just fine. The captain spoke about three times during the incident (including telling us not to worry we were in deep water!) and I felt as though the crew handled the emergency very well. We initially came to HAL due to the wine policy (we enjoy bringing our own wine on board and consuming it on our balcony by ourselves - yes I know we didn’t have a balcony on this sailing). Since the policy is changing we are looking into other lines to try (We keep thinking we should do Disney as the kid would love it, I am also attracted to the pretty Cunard ships and we enjoyed Princess in the past and you can bring your own wine on them just paying the corkage upfront). Last year we sailed the Nieuw Amsterdam and found the crew really off putting (starting with a strongly worded not nice letter from the captain to all parents telling us to keep out children in line) and weren’t to enthusiastic to sail HAL again. But I really wanted to do this itinerary and it was the last chance to bring on our wine and luckily this cruise completely restored our love of HAL. The crew were so lovely all the time, chatty and engaging and just plain nice. We got a letter from the captain to parents on this cruise too, asking us to make sure our kids were washing their hands properly and not spreading bugs – in a pleasant tone and nicely put. The mood of the ship comes from the captain down and I think that was quite obvious in our two different experiences. So while we want to try other lines and are annoyed about the wine I expect we’ll be back on HAL at some point especially the Noordam.   Read Less
1 Helpful Vote
Sail Date: December 2013
My wife and I decided on a last minute cruise at Christmas time, and had a great deal on the December 23rd sailing of the msNoordam out of Ft. Lauderdale. We flew to FLL and spent the night at the Crowne Plaza, only one mile from both the ... Read More
My wife and I decided on a last minute cruise at Christmas time, and had a great deal on the December 23rd sailing of the msNoordam out of Ft. Lauderdale. We flew to FLL and spent the night at the Crowne Plaza, only one mile from both the airoprt and the port. We booked a guarantted cat VH stateroom and were upgraded to a cat VD stateroom (4053) and loved it. I had read some discouraging reviews about how the HAL had slipped in terms of service, but thankfully we did not find that the case at all. We had sailed on the msVeendam in 2003 and 2004 and this trip was every bit as good as our last expereiences, which we both rated 9 out of 10. The service, the food and the people we met during the cruise all made for wonderful memories that we will cherish for years to come. We visited the Bahamas (Half Moon Cay) and it was the most beautiful beach we have ever been to. We walked the beach, took a swim and enjoyed the fabulous barbeque; all of it at no cost. The next day we were at sea (Christmas day) and theere was plenty of holiday spirit throughout the ship. The next day we were in port at Falmouth, Jamaica and the market square was nice but we felt very uncomfortable outsidet the gated village area (the locals are way too aggressive and most everyone we spoke to found that to be the case). The rest of the cruise was spent visiting the Cayman Islands (Georgetown, Grand Cayman) and Key West, FL and we enjoyed our coach tours around the various points of interest. The entertainment on board was first class except for the lead singer of one of the bands, but the highlight was the BB King tribute band whom were terrific and that we saw their show on three different nights. I love sailing on HAL and believe they offer the best in class of any mid-sized cruise liner. 1915 passengers and a crew of 800 suits me and my wife just fine, and despite what you hear, there are folks of every age on board although it is an older versius younger crowd that you will likely find on board. Read Less
Sail Date: December 2013
Wailed for a 20th anniversary celebration and booked a corner suite. We booked for the scuba destinations and we weren't disappointed in that at all. The suite was nice and it had a very large balcony that we enjoyed often. I thought ... Read More
Wailed for a 20th anniversary celebration and booked a corner suite. We booked for the scuba destinations and we weren't disappointed in that at all. The suite was nice and it had a very large balcony that we enjoyed often. I thought the food was fine however I thought the Pinnacle Grill was not worth the time or money, We had subpar service and the food wasn't really incredible, just very average. The bar service was great; in fact the whole crew was very good. The Neptune lounge was worth hitting for snacks. Where I felt the cruise was disappointing was the vibe of the ship. The crowd was too ld for us. We heard a lot of complaining the first night in the dining room about politics and such so we never went back. We work very hard for all but 2 weeks a year and we really don't want to hear old rich people who are retired and on a cruise complain at all. The public areas were dead at night so no real action on the ship at all in the evenings after dinner. I can't blame this on Holland America but it's just not our thing. If their demographics change, we will give it another try. Until then we will look for a more spirited line. Read Less
Sail Date: December 2013
My girlfriend and I were looking for a week long cruise including New Year’s Eve and which had San Juan as a port of call. We found what we were looking for on the MS Noordam which is operated by Holland America Lines (HAL). I had never ... Read More
My girlfriend and I were looking for a week long cruise including New Year’s Eve and which had San Juan as a port of call. We found what we were looking for on the MS Noordam which is operated by Holland America Lines (HAL). I had never been on a weeklong cruise and had never sailed with HAL. Before the cruise I read the on line reviews which were mostly very complimentary. But this is what I have to say about our cruise on the HAL ship Noordam. Carmen and I were trying to identify something about the cruise which was lacking but it was hard to do so. The ship is modern and tastefully designed and decorated and in general is also kept very clean. We found every one of the ship’s staff all the way from the bus boys right up to the Captain to be on all occasions very friendly, helpful, and with very service oriented attitudes. Our stateroom maintenance gentlemen, Osmon and Hoho, were right on top of everything. The stateroom was serviced promptly and completely every day and usually when we were not there. Even though the ship was close to being fully booked the lines at the buffet were never excessively long. The breakfast and lunch food quality at the Lido deck buffet was very good but the dining room dinner food was exceptional. We also paid extra for two dinners in the Pinnacle Grille (Le Cirque) and Canaletto Restaurant and the food was of gourmet quality and certainly worth the money. The food in the Vista Dining Room was also fantastic. We were able to make dinner reservations or just show up and get a table for just the two of us in the Vista every night that we dined there. The onboard entertainment was also very enjoyable. There were some very talented entertainers on board but we especially enjoyed the BB King Tribute band that we enjoyed for five nights during the cruise. We also took advantage of the Greenhouse Spa and the exercise facilities multiple times during the week. What really impressed me was how the ship’s day to day activities occurred right as planned and on schedule. For example we would sail hundreds of nautical miles and then we would disembark within minutes of the planned time. The logistics of operating this ship appeared mind boggling to me but everything happened exactly as it was planned. One day our stateroom toilet quit flushing and it was repaired within two hours. One review complained about the lack of children and the very elderly on board. There were indeed few children on board but to me that was a plus. In addition there were many elderly people on board but there were also many young and middle aged people as well. In addition everybody seemed a little more upscale than some of the people that you might encounter on a cruise. The only criticism I can think of is that sometimes the hot breakfast buffet was not always that hot. But everything considered I have nothing but the highest marks for HAL and the MS Noordam crew. We met many people that have sailed with HAL several times and that in itself tells you something. Rather than take any chances I think the next cruise I take will be (if possible) with HAL. Read Less
1 Helpful Vote
Sail Date: December 2013
This was our 8th cruise in 6 years. We cruise either HAL or Princess because we love their ships, itineraries, crews, and value. We chose this cruise because it visited 2 Eastern Caribbean ports we'd not seen before, San Juan and ... Read More
This was our 8th cruise in 6 years. We cruise either HAL or Princess because we love their ships, itineraries, crews, and value. We chose this cruise because it visited 2 Eastern Caribbean ports we'd not seen before, San Juan and Grand Turk. We'd also not cruised the Noordam before, although it's identical to two other HAL ships we've had the pleasure of sailing. Noordam is meticulously maintained. Everything was spotless and appeared to have been recently painted. There were maintenance techs working on various small projects every day. They were never in anyone's way and they worked hard not to inconvenience anyone or interfere with any activities or pedestrian flow. They were also friendly and courteous. Because it was so close to Christmas, the ship was decorated to the hilt. The decorations were obviously Christmas but there were no Santas or Christian-themed items; just trees and wreaths covered in beautiful ornaments, lighted swags, and an enormous village made of cookies and gumdrops. As always, the food in the MDR was very good. Not "outstanding," but very good. We also ate in the Pinnacle Grille and enjoyed it immensely. I think that was the best NY Strip I've ever had! The Lido buffets were excellent. We especially enjoyed the cooked-to-order pasta, the hard ice cream, and the asian selections. HAL does the buffet much better than Princes, in our opinion, and it's also easier to navigate. We had only one minor complaint, and that was there were no waitstaffers serving water, tea, or coffee. Every time you needed a refill you had to go to a drink station to get it. While there were no notices advising us that there was evidence of any Norovirus onboard, for the first two days and evenings we weren't allowed to serve ourselves at the buffets and there were no salt & pepper shakers or utensils on the tables. We assume they were just playing it safe. On the 3rd day, everything returned to normal. To be honest, we didn't mind being served at all, and it likely saves money for HAL. Too often, passengers take way more food than they can eat when they serve themselves. We had been fortunate to get an upgrade opportunity, so we upgraded from the second-lowest verandah tier to a Signature Suite for just $150 pp. At that price, it's definitely worth it! The cabin is a third again as big as the standard verandah; the balcony is, too. And I loved having the double vanity sinks! My DH isn't the neatest guy in the world, so it was wonderful having my own clean sink and vanity area. Our cabin number was 8087 on the navigation deck. We strongly recommend that location. It's between the mid-ship elevators and the rear stairways. That made it very convenient to get to everything except the Vista Lounge, yet we were under the Lido restaurant (which is carpeted) so it was still very quiet. The Lido deck is wider than the Nav deck, so we had a large overhang over our balcony, which gave us lots of welcome shade. We had two cabin stewards, Ichsan and Jeff. They were very attentive, polite, and unobtrusive. When we first checked in, we asked them for extra soap and towels, and those were delivered immediately. There was an umbrella in the closet if we needed one, a nice touch we hadn't expected. There were more than enough hangars, and we tend to overpack. Entertainment was a little spotty, but we enjoyed what there was and the "Dancing with the Stars at Sea" is fun to watch. All in all, this cruise lived up to our expectations of HAL. It continues to be an excellent mainstream line. Read Less
Sail Date: December 2013
We cruise at least two to four times a year and escort groups. This sailing we chose for just my husband and myself as a Vacation to celebrate ring in the New year 2014. Our departure date was December 30, 2013 and we chose this cruise for ... Read More
We cruise at least two to four times a year and escort groups. This sailing we chose for just my husband and myself as a Vacation to celebrate ring in the New year 2014. Our departure date was December 30, 2013 and we chose this cruise for the date and the reasonable price and also the $50 per person drink cards and the complimentary gift to the Pinnacle restaurant; which made this a well priced Holiday sailing. We are in our mid 60's and very young at heart. We enjoy hiking, fitness activities, water sports and dancing to energetic music. We have sailed Holland America before on the Vista Class ships and love the Greenhouse Spa which we like the best of all Cruise line Spas. In reviewing this particular sailing on the Noordam, I will point out the things that were positive and special as well as the points that need improvement. And I will simply point out the experiences we had in order. Embarkation was excellent, and perhaps the best we have ever experienced in 40 years of cruising. We took the Cruise Connection bus transportation and upon arrival baggage handling was quick and efficient. After completing the health survey, I would say check in was not more than 10 minutes wait before boarding the ship. Our cabin was ready upon boarding, and luggage arrived before the muster drill. Our Cabin Steward David and his assistant Harry introduced themselves upon arrival and asked if we had any special requests. I enjoy having bottled water brought to the cabin daily which he did. After dropping off our carry on luggage we went directly to the spa to purchase the one week package for the thermal suites and hydrotherapy pool. The cost is $249.00 per couple for the week which is the price it always is. We enjoy this as our day time relaxation activity and know that the usage is limited for space, so we book it upon arrival on the ship. We also had a 10 minute neck and shoulder sample massage. We did not need a tour of the spa facilities since we have sailed Vista Class ships before. One disappointment is that two of the three steam rooms were not working for the entire trip and there was no compensation credit or apologies for the faulty equipment that we were unable to use. We planned to book treatments later, rather than the first day as they run specials in the daily news letters as the voyage progresses. Later in the week I had a massage and hair treatment from Ana who was very professional, pleasant and although her job was to offer the sale of products, she did so in an informative and low key way, and was not pushy. Our next stop was lunch on the Lido Deck. On the first day for lunch I don't expect much. The food was adequate but the service was poor from the beginning and did not improve until the last two days of the voyage. Food was served without trays on plates by the staff. There was no self serve due to health reasons, which seemed ok. But the problems were as follows: 1. If you asked for an extra slice of meat, or an extra scoop of pasta sauce, we were given an attitude. 2. Without trays it was impossible to carry a plate with a soup bowl or a drink so two trips needed to be made. We had to ask for silverware because none was available le to simply pick up and by the time a staff member came with silver ware or a soup spoon, the food was cold. No help existed in assisting with finding a table and many tables that were empty were not cleaned off. By the second day the food variety was worse and if you arrived after 1:00 pm for lunch the choices were cold pasta with an attitude if you wanted extra sauce, cold pizza or a few salads. There was one dish called tarragon chicken and another that said something else. I was unsure which dish was wish so I asked the server, but unfortunately he did not know either. Needless to say we ate lunch at some nice restaurants in Ports Of Call at our expense. With everything closed down by 1:30 pm and most shore excursions lasting after that, lunch onboard was very limited at best. Needless to say the Lido deck needs major improvements to keep up with cruise industry standards. There was a lot of chatter and complaining about this issue. We chose the anytime dining and liked the flexibility. The host that seated is in the Vista Dining room was always very friendly and knew our names every evening. We had the pleasure of sharing dining tables with others and met some great people. On a couple of evenings there was a bit of a wait but to be expected when we are in Port longer. The service was good to very good in the main dining room. Friendly and professional throughout. The main dining room food was also good. We are not real picky and always found something to enjoy. I do wish the lobster would have been regular grilled lobster tail because the thermador was not enjoyed by many that ordered it, so I passed and decided on another selection. The man named Roni that passed out mints outside the dining room was delightful. I have no idea how he remembers everyone's name but I was impressed. The extra touches do make a difference. The most enjoyable part of this cruise bar none was the B.B. King Blues Club Band. I love old Motown and old Disco and the lively and talented band made the entire cruise for me and made it one of the most enjoyable New Years Eve parties ever. 10 Stars for this band!!! Loved the New Years Eve Party and the count down. The cruise director was also delightful. The shows were good. The Hal Cats were good but average. Good for on deck music or in Half Moon Cay but not great for dancing. The violin and piano music on the way to the dining room was almost depressing. They reminded me of the violin players on the Titanic movie, but each to their own. The Comedian and also the Matilda show was hilarious and kept us laughing. The dancers and stage performance was good. Beautiful stage and choreography but the singing seemed piped in and lip synced which made it less that excellent. Bar service was poor for the most part. In the Vista Lounge and Queens lounge and even on New Years Eve, we had to go to the bar and ask for a drink or keep waving for a cocktail waiter. We are not big drinkers but honestly for those that are, this would have been a huge disappointment. They acted like asking for a drink was an inconvenience. The shore excursion desk was efficient and we took the Coast to Coast tour in Grand Turk which was Excellent. And we did the Rain Forest Drive and hike and that was also great. Beautiful views and friendly tour guides. We met up with friends and went to lunch in St Thomas. Half Moon Cay we rented a clam shell and the service was quick and efficient upon arrival. One thing I did like was that on this sailing the Christmas decorations were still up. It kept things festive throughout the entire Holiday. Some Lines take them down immediately after their Christmas sailings so this was a welcome surprise. The Pinnacle Grill experience was excellent food and service and top notch. Very pleased. Much more food portions than we could eat, and honestly not sure we would have paid a $30 per person surcharge had it not been included in the cost of the cruise as a special gift. We remember the days when food and service was excellent on the entire voyage in every dining room at no added charge. Debarkation was very slow due to problems with customs we were told. It was not a big deal to us since our transportation home was later. All in all it was not the best Cruise we have been on but not the worst either. Lido service definitely needs serious improvement, and if they charge to use the spa then all of the facilities should be functioning and usable. It was a great New Years party and great band, so I can say we would do it again.   Read Less
Sail Date: December 2013
Six of us had the pleasure of doing an eight day cruise to the Caribbean for New Year. Our main intent was just to be there for the New year's eve celebration and being on a cruise. At the last minute we were told by a friend that the ... Read More
Six of us had the pleasure of doing an eight day cruise to the Caribbean for New Year. Our main intent was just to be there for the New year's eve celebration and being on a cruise. At the last minute we were told by a friend that the passengers were going to be an older group and their review was not what we wanted to hear and was a bit discouraging. Quite the opposite. Embarkation process was excellent and so was the disembarkation process. The ship was beautifully decorated for the season. We had interior rooms and I could not believe how spacious. The service was wonderful and there was evidence of major efforts to maintain esthetics and prevent infection. The entertainment was tops, the Memphis band was really rocking. I believe the Cruise Director did a wonderful job of planning activities. All the entertainers were good and suitable for a mixed crowd not to mention the schedules. After many cruises this was one of the first that a choice as to what to eat at dinner was easy. Specialty restaurant was great and so was the service. In general The overall rating was excellent. I would recommend this ship and intend to do another cruise with Holland again   Read Less
Sail Date: November 2013
We’ve recently returned from a 10-night cruise on the Noordam and it was wonderful. We’re a multigenerational family of four - I’m in my 40s, my daughter is 6, and my parents are seniors. My daughter and I have cruised with HAL four ... Read More
We’ve recently returned from a 10-night cruise on the Noordam and it was wonderful. We’re a multigenerational family of four - I’m in my 40s, my daughter is 6, and my parents are seniors. My daughter and I have cruised with HAL four times in the last three years and each trip seems to get better. Embarkation was pretty good. While we had to wait for an hour in the cruise terminal, we were kept informed as to why (the ship had just entered US waters from a transatlantic crossing and US customs was doing a thorough job). When we boarded about 1pm, the cabins were all ready. The itinerary on this trip is great, and it’s actually the second time we’ve done this particular cruise. Our favourite port is Samana, which may come as a surprise to some who have read reviews of this Dominican Republic port. The key is to do your research, book an excursion, and go with an open mind. We booked a trip to ‘La Playita’ beach with Tours with Terry and it was the best day of the trip. The beach was incredible and not at all busy. The views are the same as at Playa Rincon, but it’s much easier to get to. A delicious lunch was included and our guide was very friendly and helpful. Half Moon Cay is wonderful. The beach is one of the best you’ll find anywhere and even with two ships there on the same day, there’s still so much room that it never feels crowded. The beach and pool at Grand Turk is very busy when there are two ships docked, so we opted for a catamaran & snorkel excursion booked through HAL. It was a nice half-day but definitely overpriced. The stop in Curacao is enjoyable as the ship doesn’t leave until late at night. You’ve got time to do an excursion, look around the port, come back for dinner, and then go back into town of an evening. We went on a beach excursion, which was great for snorkelling but because of the rocky bottom, not so great for those who wanted more of a beach break. Bonaire is a quaint stop and several years ago, we had taken the water taxi to no-name beach on Klein Bonaire. We booked the excursion again through HAL and on the pier, the group was informed that the water taxi wasn’t functioning. Instead, we were taken to a beach resort which offered amazing snorkelling but also a steep drop-off and a rocky bottom completely unsuitable for children. As my daughter and I had booked a beach break, the excursion substitution wasn’t a good fit for us. I expressed my concern back on the ship and was given a full refund. The tour excursion staff were both friendly & understanding and I appreciated the way they handled the situation. In Aruba, we took a taxi to Eagle Beach (cost - $14). The beach was fantastic and it was much cheaper than booking another excursion. We were able to rent chairs and an umbrella right in front of the Radisson Hotel. Having been on the Noordam before, we knew what to expect. As cruise ships go, it’s aging a bit but was in fairly good condition (although a troublesome sewage smell occasionally lingers in the corridors). The room stewards were both the hardest working and friendliest we’ve ever encountered. They knew our names from day one and our room was made up by 9:30am each day. Very prompt. The quality of service you’ll find on HAL is definitely what sets this cruise line apart from others. The crew, from the Philippines and Indonesia, is quite simply the best in the industry. They go above and beyond to make you happy. No-one ever walks by without saying hello and their friendliness is genuine. There may have been service cut-backs but it doesn’t show. Another reason why the crew is amazing is that they are so good with children. A waiter drew my daughter a very special picture one night in the dining room. Another server in the Lido was so kind to her each night, bringing her special desserts or taking her in hand to the ice cream bar to fix her something special. She got extra-special towel animals each night too. I see that I’ve used the word ‘special’ four times in this paragraph alone and that’s exactly how this crew made my daughter feel - special. I’ve not found this on other cruise lines with more international crews, and on Celebrity and Royal Caribbean, I would go as far as to say that they’ve been downright rude. Not on HAL. The food was quite good and some meals were better than others. We ate in the dining room several times and service was definitely quicker than on previous cruises. Our preference is the casual dining offered in the Lido Restaurant - it’s buffet style and you can get almost everything offered in the dining room, just at your own pace. Our only issue was the non-stop playing of the same opera CD night after night after night (and this hasn’t changed since our cruise last November). There’s only so many times you can hear “Time to say goodbye” each night without wanting to jump overboard... Most of the entertainment was great. There was a comedian, a ventriloquist, an amazing singer (Tricia Kelly), and a not-so-hot singer. Two of the ship’s own shows received standing ovations (deservedly) while one was dreadful. The sets and costumes were amazing, although the lead singers were not that strong. There was something for all ages and the quality of the entertainment was far superior to what we found on a much larger Celebrity Solstice-class ship in the spring. As I mentioned earlier, I was travelling with a 6 year old and some might wonder if this is a good option for kids. My opinion is - absolutely! We keep coming back to HAL in part because of Club HAL. There are good facilities for all ages and lots for kids to do. Activities on some cruises are better than others (I think it depends on the individual counsellors) but there’s a warmth and friendliness which is comforting. If you’re cruising during the school year, then don’t expect there to be a lot of children but that’s part of the appeal for us. The kids who are there receive very personal attention from the counsellors who get to know them quite well. On this cruise, there were on average about six kids at all times in Club HAL and my daughter enjoyed it so much that she was there morning, noon, and night. I would also note that we took a seven-day HAL cruise several years ago and there were about 400 children on board. It’s always going to be less on longer, non-holiday, cruises. The majority of fellow passengers are definitely older but there was also a good mix of families and younger couples. It doesn’t really matter to me who else is on board - I’m not there to make friends but to spend some quality time with my family. I also admire the many seniors on board - they haven’t let their mobility issues stop them from cruising. It’s easy to make fun but you know what? They’re young at heart and I hope I’m still taking cruises when I’m retired and no longer in top physical condition! If you’re looking for parties and loud music, hundreds of kids, or the latest nautical bells and whistles, then HAL probably isn’t for you. But if however you’re looking for a relaxing family vacation, with some trips to some wonderful ports and looked after by an amazing crew, then give HAL a try. Read Less
1 Helpful Vote
Sail Date: November 2013
We are a couple of seasoned seniors who have cruised on several different lines. We drive from our home and use the ParkNGo service for getting to the ship. This is our 4th on HAL and we like the "older" crowd. Service on the ... Read More
We are a couple of seasoned seniors who have cruised on several different lines. We drive from our home and use the ParkNGo service for getting to the ship. This is our 4th on HAL and we like the "older" crowd. Service on the Noordam is excellent. We had a rocky start due to the high wind and seas but it settled down the second day. Our cabin was 6074 with fantastic A/C and a wonderful veranda. We have traveled in this type of cabin before and like the space and large bathroom. After 2 days our cabin steward finally got the message, we want ice at 4PM for cocktails, from them on things were fantastic. The first night dining was horrible, the table mates were loud, opinionated, and I really had trouble believing their "stories". We were at the back of the ship by a window and the vibrations was too much. This is Main Seating at 8pm. The next day I called and asked to be moved closer to the front which was quickly done. From that point on we had great table mates and excellent service. I am sorry to say no escargot, don't know why. The only bad note was the wine steward, never came around, was rude to another couple at our table and just seemed not to care about selling wine. Of the 4 couples, 3 brought their own wine glasses into the dining room each night. The ports we visited were great except in Barbados it was a holiday so all shopping was closed as well as Martinique (we would not get off there anyway). Our Concorde tour in Barbados was fantastic for retired airlines folks. If you are ever there don't miss this tour even the ride to the airport was nice with the guide telling us about the history of the island and things we passed along the way. We did stop at a local bar for free rum punch, beer, sodas or water. It was open air and had a lovely view. The Trolly Train in Dominica was just what we wanted, to see the town not the country side. We did not see any of the shows, I enjoy the casino of which I "bought" another slot machine. The payoffs are very few but we are on a cruise and this is just for fun. The casino staff is great and make friends quickly, those tips help. I enjoyed the blackjack and roulette, 3 card poker did not pay off at all. Embarkation was a breeze, disembarkation was crowded. I can not stand in line and our porter talked to a HAL lady who let us go to the head of the line, sorry we butted ahead. If I had know this was the way it was going I would have gotten a wheel chair. We then sailed through custom, immigration, etc. out for a very long walk to get our van back to ParkNGo. It was a fantastic cruise with us enjoying the veranda more than usual and booking another cruise on board to take advantage of those perks.   Read Less
1 Helpful Vote
Sail Date: October 2013
Noordam – October 20/13 Mediterranean and Tran-Atlantic cruise We love cruising and we particularly love cruising on Holland America ships. We'd had a lovely long cruise in the spring and did not plan on this holiday but the magic ... Read More
Noordam – October 20/13 Mediterranean and Tran-Atlantic cruise We love cruising and we particularly love cruising on Holland America ships. We'd had a lovely long cruise in the spring and did not plan on this holiday but the magic word 'Sale' appeared and we could not resist. We have taken more than a dozen trans-Atlantic cruises in the past so there had to be new (to us) ports of call to tempt us. This cruise fitted that requirement. One of the biggest expenses for us in the airfare. I spend many hours researching flights on line and finally determined the most economical way for us to get from eastern Canada to Greece was to fly from Halifax on Icelandair to London, spend a night in London and then fly to Athens on BA the following day. Instead of paying out $3500 per person to Air Canada - it cost us $800 per person and we flew in a lot more comfort! We spent our London night in the Premier Inn on the Bath Road at Heathrow. We have stayed there many times and it is always a favourite of ours. Our second night was at the Savoy Hotel in Piraeus. The hotel itself was reasonably comfortable - nothing special. The food in the dining room was very good - huge (far more than one could eat) servings and very reasonable prices. On October 20th we boarded the Noordam. We have previously cruised on the Noordam and find it a nice mid-sized ship. We prefer the smaller ships however this size is still very nice - not one of those behemoths where you get lost, still a size to get to know and recognize staff during your vacation. Embarkation was smooth and we thoroughly enjoyed our Mariner luncheon before re-acquainting ourselves with the ship. HAL ships have wonderful libraries and our first stop was to pick out some books to enjoy. I mentioned 'sale' earlier. Usually we cruise in an inside stateroom as it is more economical and we are really only in our cabin to sleep and change clothing. This time, however, the price of a balcony was so good that we booked it. And then received an upgrade to an even nicer balcony. We were thoroughly spoiled!! Our cabin was large, very comfortable with a nice sitting area inside and another couple of chairs and tables on the balcony. Dave spent many happy hours reading on the balcony. And I thoroughly enjoy being able to step outside and get a breath of fresh sea air whenever I like. The cabin bathroom was a revelation - there was even a bathtub. After cruises where you felt like you should just soap the walls and then turn around in the shower - it was a treat to have so much room. We definitely loved our accommodations - lots of storage room for all our things and lots of comfort for us. This cruise was very port-intensive at the start so other than playing a lot of trivia, we did not get very involved in other ship activities until the sea-days part of the cruise. We opted for traditional dining and had a nice table for two and were thoroughly spoiled by our waiters and wine stewards (two lovely ladies). Meals are always excellent on HAL ships. We feel they have the best meals of any line. We adore spices and look forward to Asian lunches in the Lido, There is always so much variety that no matter how long the cruise - one always has lots of choices. Quite frankly - my idea of heaven would be about 6 months on a HAL ship - however I would doubtless need a whole new wardrobe as it is very difficult to exercise will power all the time. We especially appreciate the fact there there are a variety of safe sugar free desserts for my diabetic husband to enjoy. The Rijsttafel luncheon on longer cruises is a real treat for the both of us. I appreciate the fact that rather than hiding their recipes - HAL has available for sale several wonderful cookbooks with recipes that have become favourites. It is nice to make a particular dish when back home and bring back memories of enjoying it on a cruise. We had the ship as our "hotel' for the night before sailing away from Piraeus. I really enjoy this - usually we have sail away a few hours after boarding. Somehow this seemed so much more relaxed and it was a treat to watch the sail away from our balcony. The weather was perfect - sunny and comfortably warm. Ports of Call Our first port of call was Kusadasi. We had not been here before and most of the folks going on tours headed off to visit Ephesus. We have been to Ephesus twice and chose instead to wander about and explore the city on our own. We had a wonderful time exploring the market, bargaining for our purchases and enjoying the sights and sounds. We walked up to the Caravanserai. It is a beautiful stone building and is now a hotel with some shops around the interior square. One can just picture many years ago and travellers on camels arriving there – the camels sitting down in the square and their owners in the many rooms resting after their travels. So many wonderful streets to stroll and shops to explore and then a stop at a sidewalk cafe for Raki for two and turkish coffee for Dave. Our next port of call was Rhodes. It was lovely getting off the ship and walking around the harbour to enter one of the gates to this ancient walled city. We love history and have read a great deal about the history of the Crusades and Rhodes figured heavily in any mention of that era. We visited the Archaeological museum - as much for the wonderful art treasures on display there as for the building itself. This building was originally the hospital run by the Knights Hospitalers who cared for ill pilgrims and injured and ill knights. It is a marvelous place - bigger than modern day hospitals in small towns - spread out over a large area with a variety of levels. There are wonderful courtyards with flowers and herbs and fishponds to sooth the spirit as well as the physical ills. Next we headed up the Street of the Knights towards the palace - stopping on the way to visit an interesting (and free) costume museum. It was a little gem - do not miss it. The Palace was the Palace of the Grand Master of the Knights Hospitalers. After the Turkish empire attacked and battles the Knights - they earned such respect that they were allowed to leave Rhodes with all their weapons and they left and settled in Malta. There they became the Knights Templar and their focus was on amassing wealth instead of ministering to the ill. We found it very easy to explore Rhodes on foot and thoroughly enjoyed our time there. Our next stop was Haifa. We decided to take advantage of a ship tour and it was excellent. Our guide Sharon was wonderful. She had a degree in History and in English Literature and her knowledge of history really added to the enjoyment of the tour. First we were driven up Mount Carmel to the church of Stella Maris – the church of the Carmelite nuns. Next we visited the Bahai Gardens. They stretch down the mountainside with a beautiful golden shrine half way down and the gardens were absolutely beautiful. Then we were off to Akko which is the modern name of Acre – of fame in the Crusades. The Turks who over-ran the country and drove the Crusaders out of it – wanted no reminders and buried the fortress at Acre under tons of rubble. We visited the excavated buildings and went through one of the Knights escape tunnels from the fortress to the harbour. It was all fascinating. We visited a shop that made beautiful items in copper and silver. This was the 5th generation creating such beautiful items – the family originally from Iran. We brought some wonderful souvenirs back from that shop. We had a walk through a suq and then a lovely drive back to Haifa and the ship. It was an excellent tour and our guide Sharon was a fount of knowledge. We highly recommend that tour. Limasol in Cyprus was our next port of call. We did not book any tours and actually had a rest day as had done so much walking the day before in Haifa. This is not a port that offers a lot to do – it was a port that the ship visited after the Egypt ports were cancelled due to the political situation in Egypt. Our next port of call was Katakolon – which is actually called Katakolo by the local people. We had a most interesting visit there. There are three main streets and walking along the middle one we came to a lovely little Greek Orthodox church that had been destroyed in WWII and had been totally rebuilt by one man (who was there in the church at that time). It was a labour of love that has taken many years – and well worth a visit. We walked along towards a little park and there purchased tickets for €6 each for a ride on the train up in the hills. This was a 30 minute ride that took up up through a little village , to visit a winery, and then to stop at a big hotel that had access to a beach for swimming. If we ever go back there I will get that train first thing in the morning and enjoy some beach time as the train goes back and forth while ships are in port. One can get off at the winery (which we did – to sample and purchase some wine) and at the beach and get later trains back. This is a small town but we noticed lots of signs advertising Guest Houses and Hotels. A lot of tourists visit here because of the lovely climate and peace and quiet. Many visitors head off to Olympus and there are cars and scooters and mopeds and scooters to rent and a bus that goes there regularly. Messina was our next port of call and we were just there for a few hours in the afternoon. We wandered around the streets a bit but because we just arrived there at noon – it was much like a ghost town as everything was closed between noon and four. Sensible in the heat of summer but I would have thought having stores open for a ship load of tourists in the autumn might have benefited the economy a bit. We heard there was a tour bus – not a HOHO but it would have given a bit more insight into the town but could not find a location for it. Tourism does not appear to be a priority there. Naples was next and we had wonderful weather there for our tour of the city. Last time we were here Dave visited Pompeii and Herculaneum while our travelling companions had a tour of the Amalfi coast. This time we wanted to see more of the city so chose a HOHO bus and were delighted with our choice. There is so much to see in the city but be prepared to do is slowly as traffic in Naples is unbelievable. There are two HOHO routes – the red and the blue. We took the red line tour which is advertised as a one hour tour if you are staying on the bus rather than getting off at each stop. It took well over two hours because of the traffic. The tour was enlivened by good commentary, wonderful Neapolitan music and the frequent wailing of ambulances trying to get through traffic. I do not think anyone would ever die of old age in Naples – they would die of traffic – trying to get through the cars and buses to hospital. There are so many lovely churches and interesting museums in Naples – one really needs a week there and all we could spare on this visit was one day. Any before leaving the HOHO we asked about the wonderful music and the guide had CDs available for sale – a lovely souvenir of our day there. Citavecchia was our next port of call. We were in port from 7 in the morning until 4 in the afternoon. This was the end of the first cruise for many, with more people joining the ship for the Trans-Atlantic crossing. Had we been in port longer – we might have taken the train up to Rome for the day. Having been to Rome several times before (even spending a week before embarking on one cruise) we decided that there really would not be enough time to enjoy the city as the train there and back takes a good hour or more each way. We opted for a ship day. Alicante was our next port of call. The last time we visited Alicante there was a huge rainstorm and we did not get to see a lot. We skipped the busy shuttle and walked through the port to the stop for the HOHO bus. This time it was sunny with a marvellous 27 degrees and fortunately a nice breeze while the bus is moving. We were just in port until 2:30 in the afternoon so had to be very selective about what to do. We decided to enjoy the sights of the city but stay on the bus until we reached the castle of Santa Barbara. This was a fortress built by the Moors on the top of a hill. It was renamed after the Spanish drove the Moors out of Spain. It is a wonderful place to visit and the views from the castle over the city and the water are simply magnificent. Thank goodness for digital photography as I would have run out of old fashioned film if I had been using that kind of camera. We only got to scratch the surface – would need a lot more time than we had available to explore all of the castle. There are other lovely spots in the city to explore but time was so limited. We came back to the port stop and then decided to walk about for a half hour – enjoying the lovely streets with the patterned tiles that look like waves, and the many stalls and vendors of local products before we headed back. There is a beautiful old sailing ship in the harbour that has been turned into a restaurant , local markets to explore and a casino for the gamblers. This is a city I want to visit again as so much more to see and not enough time to see it all. Malaga was our next port of call. More sunshine and hot temperatures greeted us and we headed for the HOHO bus here. Because we had been on the HOHO in Naples – our tickets were discounted here! The trip here is an 80 minute route with about 15 different stops – a wonderful way to really get to see Malaga. So many people go from this port to visit Granada. Having visited Granada twice on previous cruises we wanted to see more of Malaga and this bus tour was definitely the way to explore it. There is everything from a Moorish castle to cathedrals, museums, lovely gardens, a roman amphitheatre – so much to see and enjoy. Malaga was the home town of Picasso – so the Picasso Museum is a must for fans of the artist. Cadiz was the last mainland port of call on this cruise. Some folks opted to visit Seville but we love Cadiz. It is one of the easiest cities to walk around as different walking routes are painted on the pavement. . We love strolling the streets – finding new and interesting spots on each visit. This trip we discovered the Church of San Francisco which looks tiny on the outside but is big and amazing inside. There was a lovely little restaurant on that same square where we had lunch. Shrimp tortillas are a speciality of Cadiz and they are delicious! Those along with potatas bravas and some local wine – heaven... We always head over to Cathedral Square and explore the little side streets and visit the market. After all our walking we decided to head up to the Cathedral stop and catch the HoHo back to the ship. The hop-on hop-off bus here is wonderful and despite having taken it on other visits here, we could not resist taking it again here. Two sea days after leaving Cadiz we stopped at our last port of call Ponta Delgada on the island of Sao Miguel in the Azores (or Acores as the locals call it). Ponta is a lovely place to visit and most people opted to go ashore – either to explore the city or take a tour. Because we had been there at least 10 times in the past we decided to take advantage of a quiet day on ship. Having covered the ports of call - which are secondary in my opinion - here is my view of the ship. The ship itself was immaculately clean and that was evidenced by the fact that there were no signs of illness on board other than colds. No gastric problems. That takes a lot of work to avoid on a ship as passengers are not always honest about health issues when boarding - bring Norvo type diseases on and spread them. Not this time though. No matter where one was on the ship - there was staff industriously cleaning and polishing. The entertainment on board ship was very good. The production shows were thoroughly enjoyable and we went to them despite having seen these new shows on the Ryndam in the spring. This ship is larger and has a larger cast so it gave these productions a different look. The guest entertainers were good - something for everyone there. Our favourite performers were Graffiti Classic – billed as 16 strings, 8 dancing feet and 4 voices. And they were a riot – great music and wonderful musical comedy. We actually enjoyed it so much we went to both the early and the late show and purchased their CDs. We enjoyed guest lecturers, and thoroughly enjoyed all our trivia matches hosted by Jeremy Hales of the cruise director staff. The music on ship was excellent, the HAL Cats, and the group in the Ocean Bar played wonderful music for ballroom dancing. There was a wide variety of music from guitar to piano bar to classical to dance groups. I enjoyed a few trips to the spa for the wonderful massages. It is the Holland America crew that make the cruise for us. The service is outstanding – far superior to any on shore. Our waiters and wine stewards quickly learn our likes and dislikes, our cabin stewards manage to restore order to chaos several times a day and everyone we meet on ship is pleasant and helpful. We thoroughly enjoyed the Rijsttafel luncheons, the afternoon teas and all of the lovely meals. We had fun at the Black and White Officers Ball, and all the crew was always adept at making us feel welcome and wanted in their home (as we are guests in the crew's home). Because we have sailed with HAL ships several times (we were awarded our bronze Mariner medals on this cruise) we often run into crew members that we have met on other sailings. Once again we renewed acquaintances as well as making new friends. The only downside of our whole cruise was the arrival in Fort Lauderdale. This was in no way the fault of the ship. We were delayed in leaving by almost an hour and as we moved off the ship found we were in long hot and uncomfortable lines because the authorities at Fort Lauderdale had insufficient staff to promptly process the passengers leaving the ship. They certainly would have been aware of the size of the ship and the number of passengers likely to be disembarking as well as any crew heading home on holiday. We were totally disgusted by the lack of preparation and organization by the emigration staff. We finally arrived at the airport an hour and a half later than the proper check-in time and were just lucky not to miss our flight. We thoroughly enjoyed this cruise, enjoyed the ports of call, loved the crew and the ship and just wish we could be back on the Noordam when it heads back to Europe in March. Read Less
Sail Date: October 2013
Just got back yesterday from my 26 day med/transatlantic cruise. Overall it was great cruise except for a few rough nights coming across the Atlantic. Was disappointed with the activities onboard during days at sea. Can see why some name ... Read More
Just got back yesterday from my 26 day med/transatlantic cruise. Overall it was great cruise except for a few rough nights coming across the Atlantic. Was disappointed with the activities onboard during days at sea. Can see why some name this ship the BoringDam. The food was just average. Did eat several times at the Pinnacle grill and it was well worth the extra money that it costs. Highly recommend it to future passengers. The ship was in excellent condition, the staff was friendly. The entertainment was below par and did improve once we departed for the transatlantic crossing. Embarkation and transfers from the Marriott Ledra, in Athens went well. The entire embarkation process went quickly and baggage was delivered to the room I think in record time. The itinerary and ports were interesting though I limited my excursion travels due to the costs involved. Even with the 10% discount that HAL offered the excursion prices were on the high side. Ephesus the first port of call was beautiful and was able to book my own tour off the ship at a much cheaper rate with another couple. In town Kusadasi, the atmosphere was lets rip off the tourists with all the counterfeit merchandise and overpriced carpets. Definitely need to know your prices before you go on rugs and leather products. The next stop was Haifa, Israel. A wonderful place to go, just wish HAL would overnight there as there is so much to see and so little time. Shore excursion prices were pricey. If you can plan well ahead, book your own tours. Going to the ports of Limassol Cyprus was a little disappointing as a port of call. Took the bus into town and walk around a bit. Good place to buy linens and buy a cold beer to drink. Nothing really stands out. On to Katakolon, Greece. What can I say, the ancient grounds of Olympia was a great tour. The town of Katakolon is a small quaint town with a little bit of shopping. Highly recommend going to the Greek Art Gallery there if you want a nice piece of art work. Virginia the owner is from the states and will make you a honest deal on a nice piece of art. Not a rip-off like Christos across the street, where I bought something and I am still waiting to see if it gets delivered. If you want cheap internet, go to the back street as there is a great place for internet at a cheap price as well as a nice little café. And the Gelato Yum! Messina, Italy was disappointing. Should have taken a tour to Toramina, but the tour price was too high. In Naples for the day took the hop-on hop-of bus. Great way to see Naples and feel safe in doing it. Recommend taking the both routes that are offered. If you want to do shopping take the red line and get off at stop 3. If you want excellent pizza, take the red line to stop 9 and try Lombardi, or onto stop 10 and go to Toraminos. Excellent Pizza. Once you eat pizza in Naples and you will not be able to stand the crap they serve here in the states. Also, don't forget to get the Gelato. The next stop I wish to mention in my review is the port for Rome. Have a hard time saying it as well as spelling it. Civitavecchia??? In lieu of going to Rome, I decided to explore this little city. I was surprise by it. If you decided to see the port, make sure you take in the open air market and explore some of the back streets. For internet service at very cheap price go to a little hole in the wall place called SeaMen. From the place where the port bus drops you off, you will see McDonalds then go to the right about 2 blocks and cut in towards town on the narrow street. SeaMens is on the right and is a grocery store up front but a has in internet service in the back along with a little café off to the side. Show them your ship card and then get on their computers. It was just a little over 1 euro for about 45 minutes. Beats the ships rates. Besides the internet, the wine and beer prices there are cheap. The crossing of the Atlantic was a long journey especially with the seas being choppy for many days and the port of calls Allicante, Malaga, and Cadiz were just ok to me. Recommend doing the hop-on- Hop-off buses. Nothing really stood out. Nothing like going like going to Barcelona or Lisbon. If I had to do it all over again, I would skip the transatlantic portion, especially in the fall. Read Less
Sail Date: October 2013
We began our cruise from Civitavecchia, Italy on October 31st, 2013. Yes, it was Halloween. We had enjoyed beautiful weather in Rome for five days prior to embarkation. The temperatures ranged between 23 and 26C every day with beautiful ... Read More
We began our cruise from Civitavecchia, Italy on October 31st, 2013. Yes, it was Halloween. We had enjoyed beautiful weather in Rome for five days prior to embarkation. The temperatures ranged between 23 and 26C every day with beautiful sunshine. We never experienced one drop of rain until our last port of call at the Azores. More about that later. We had arranged for a transfer with RomeCabs to pick us up at our apartment, the Crown Orsetto on the Piazza Navona. We then proceeded to the next pickup point where we had arranged for another couple from CruiceCritic to share the ride to the cruiseport. EMBARKATION: This was the easiest and most efficient embarkation we have ever experienced. It took only about 10 minutes to walk into the terminal where we filled out our health form, went straight to counter where they checked us in with our passports, took our picture and we were whistled over to the photographer and then out the door to the awaiting magnificent ship. We walked straight up the gangway where we were greeted with the smiling faces of the crew and one says, “Welcome home”! That was so exciting. So we presented our ship card to be scanned and there we were- onboard! No lineups, no congestion. Quick and easy. This was about 1:00 pm. We went up to the fifth level to our cabin which was ready for us. We immediately met our cabin steward. The cabin was clean and lovely with a verandah. It was nice to chat with our cabin steward who asked us if everything was OK or if we needed anything. That was a nice touch as we had not had that consideration on other cruises. He was in no hurry to leave and we chatted about the cruise and our cabin. I said we had no complaints and that everything seemed in order. There were two stewards but we didn’t meet his partner until the next day. They always had fresh ice in our bucket every day and kept the cabin clean. Sailaway was at 5:00 p.m. after muster drill at 4:00 which went very smoothly. Everyone seemed to take it quite seriously and no life jackets are worn any longer for the drill. That night being Halloween a few passengers dressed up with costumes. I also had dressed up a little. It was fun and people that night went to the Monster Ball in the Queen’s Lounge. I found the Noordam to be on par with Eurodam but in our opinion we liked the Eurodam a touch better. I missed the Tamarind restaurant and Silk Den. Most of the flower arrangements on the Noordam were very small and not impressive. I’m not sure if HAL has cut back on flowers on all their ships but this ship had the least we have seen on other HAL cruises. Thankfully they still had the lovely orchids in the Lido buffet dining area and in the public washrooms. CABIN: We were very happy with our verandah cabin on the 5th level. There was ample room and storage. We had a mini fridge which was stocked but of course we didn’t use these items as you are charged. The bathroom had a tub and shower which was very clean with toiletries. The beds are so comfortable. I love their bedding and their beds. The only think lacking was the sound on the TV. The speakers were shot. I put this in my survey for HAL. It’s time to upgrade their TV’s. We ordered room service for breakfast a few times and it was always right on time and food was hot. The trays were very nicely arranged with a small vase of flowers. Our cabin stewards were always friendly and did remember our names every time we saw them. DINING We opted for open dining on this cruise. We usually take the late seating but felt that it’s just too late for us as then we miss most of the shows because we are too tired. We enjoyed open seating. Sometimes we sat at a table of six or eight and sometimes we sat alone for privacy. The food was great. Service was excellent of course. The servers work so hard to bring you your food in a timely manner. The down side to open seating is that you don’t connect with any particular server. The only entre I found a bit lacking was the surf and turf. The meat was not up to par and a bit stringy or chewy. It wasn’t the best beef I’ve had in the past. Desserts were delicious. I especially love their Tiramisu. Yummmm. My husband always chose the chocolate brownie stack or something like that. PINNACLE GRILL - $25.00 each I can’t say enough about this place for fine dining experience. It was absolutely lovely and food was delicious!! Very rich though. Service is wonderful and the atmosphere as well. We made our reservations for our first formal night. We did this the afternoon we boarded the ship so we had a good selection of times. Our meal consisted of lobster bisque, ceaser salad prepared at our table, lobster tail, whipped potatoes, creamed spinach. SOOOO good. I had the Crème Brulee for dessert. Absolutely delicious. My DH had a magnificent shrimp cocktail. Salmon – a huge portion. We rolled out of there. MISCELLANEOUS We noted that there were no longer the days of the week floor mats in the elevators! I’m not sure if this has been discontinued on every ship or just this one. I don’t care but it was noteworthy. Note that age demographic was quite elderly. We are “baby boomers” and felt like the babies on the ship which was great mind you. But I felt like we were on a floating retirement home. There were scooters, walkers, wheelchairs, etc. I know that is great that they can travel at that age but I think we will be trying a different cruiseline next time. One man celebrated his 100th birthday onboard. We’re not ready for the retirement home yet….I think we saw a total of TWO young children the whole time on the ship. I felt sorry for them. Other people have stated on trip reviews that they were bored on a TA. How in the world can anyone be bored on a ship? There are tons of activities all day long to do. I wanted to be in four places at once. There are lots of activities every day onboard. I went to computer workshops quite often and these were always full to overflowing. Very informative. We played Team Trivia Challenge which was fun. The days were packed with things to do if you wished or you can lounge by the pools and hot tubs or on the promenade deck among many other things. There were seminars, casino, card games, bingo, dancing lessons, pools and hot tubs, movies, etc. There were less Happy Hours than we have experienced in the past. There was a Happy Hour at the Ocean Bar at 4:00 p.m. and at 10:00 p.m. in Crow’s Nest. We find that those times were not convenient. We did eventually enjoy Happy Hour in the Ocean Bar but never made it to the Crow’s Nest at that late time. We liked the drinks prepared onboard but 15% was added as a gratuity. Happy hour now consists of one drink at regular price and the second for a dollar plus gratuity. I found their mixed drinks to be consistently delicious. I especially love the Mojito and the gin martinis. There were no great sales for internet as the cruise progressed. There were some specials for the spa but still pricey. We enjoyed the Mexican buffet at the Lido poolside and the burgers. Quite often there would be live entertainment here – Greg, the guitar player. Very nice. REMEMBRANCE DAY and a MEMORIAL SERVICE Remembrance day/Veterans’ Day occurred while we were sailing and it was VERY nice that the Captain had a minute of silence at 11:00 a.m. followed by the reading of “ In Flanders Fields” over the P.A. That was very appreciated and a good thing to do. There was also a Memorial service held in the theatre the morning of Nov. 14th for the Filippino crew and staff due to the terrible storm disaster in the Philippines this week. The minister said a few comforting words and prayer as well as the Captain. It was very emotional and touching. Passengers were invited to watch from the balcony. There were a few guests near me who were crying. A fund was also set up so that you could donate to help the victims of the devastating typhoon. ENTERTAINMENT: We found the HAL singers and dancers to be amazing! The shows were great especially the new production called DROOM. WOW!! The costumes were beautiful. Craig and the HAL Cats were really good as well as Nicky and the HAL Cats. Glen – solo guitarist. Piano bar – Lee. Adagio – We were not impressed with them this time. Their sets were too short and they seemed rather lack lustre or unenthused. No personality. Every time we sat down to listen, they would leave within about five minutes for a break. We especially loved the award winning classic pianist, Tomono Kawamura. Her talent is unbelieveable!! Magnificent piano playing. We also really enjoyed the singer Toni Warne from England. Her singing is amazing. She sang a medley of Barbara Streisand songs as well as some songs sung by Celine Dion. She had a powerful voice not unlike Barbara Streisand! She was excellent. The ship was really rolling that night due to heavy swells on the ocean but she managed to keep her balance as best she could. WEATHER and PORTS OF CALL: The weather in the Mediterranean was absolutely beautiful from Rome right over to the Azores. Our first stop was at Alicante, Spain. We absolutely love Alicante and all the stops in Spain. We find the prices to be much better here than in Rome as well. We left the ship early in the morning to make our way to the castle Castel Santa Barbara since we had missed going up to this castle the last time we were here. So we knew where we were going and walked along the beach boardwalk to the walkway over the big street. We approached the doors that are made into the side of the cliff. A sign indicated that it didn’t open until 10:00 a.m. Be mindful of this. It was 9:00 a.m. when we arrived there so we had to go back up the street to find a restaurant for a coffee and maybe I could hook up to WiFi. We found a McDonald’s but the WiFi did NOT work. This was very frustrating. BUT they did serve BEER!! LOL. So my hubby came back with TWO cervezas. Hmmmm. Oh well, we are on vacation. We put in time and then went back to the castle entrance only to find a lineup!! Sigh. At 10:00 we were admitted where we paid the entrance fee. It was 2.50 euros each. We then proceeded down a long corridor into the mountain. OK….don’t feel claustrophobic…..where we made our way to elevators. The people were clumped up here waiting for the one elevator to take people up and down. OK…..don’t feel claustrophobic here…….gulp. Everthing is stainless steel and well lit. No, you are not in the dark. LOL. The lift is about 900 ft and took only about 30 seconds. Finally it was our turn and up we went. This place is AMAZING!! The views from up here are stunning!! The castle is stunning – you can explore the stonework and the original cavernous rooms, etc. Some of it has been turned into a museum with different artifacts on display. We wandered around and took lots of pics. There was a little outside food and drink place where we sat and had a couple of cold beers. There were a few vendors as well. We tried to visualize the way it would have been a thousand years ago. After awhile we headed back down and wandered into the old part of Alicante making our way to the lovely little traffic-free streets. So much to see and so little time. We sat on the steps at a small bar and enjoyed a beer with the locals. It was great. Nov. 3 – Malaga, Spain The weather couldn’t have been better. Warm and sunny. We were off the ship first thing in the morning. Wandered over to Roman ruins near the base of the castle where they have uncovered an ancient amphitheatre at its base. We went over to Cathedral de Malaga…WOW!! This cathedral is beautiful. It is massive with magnificent carvings in marble. The choir area is breathtaking with intricately carved solid wood. Words can’t do it justice. We participated in the Mass that morning. It was quite a moving experience. We really enjoy Malaga to wander the quaint streets lined with orange trees. The park area is beautiful too with walkways lined with palms and tropicals. Nov. 4 – Cadiz, Spain This dock is located right in town. At 10:00 am we were off the ship and wandering in a beautiful tropical tree garden. Some of the trees are magnificent and huge. They looked like Magnolia tree leaves but not sure if that is what they are. If so, when they bloom it would be awesome. We had no particular plans here for a tour as we just wanted to explore on our own. We followed the sea wall. Lovely walkway and stumbled upon the botanical gardens. There were tall fully sculpted cedar trees here that were the most gorgeous I have ever seen. They had to be at least 40 ft. tall but fully pruned and so thick with foliage you couldn’t push your finger through it. There were also fountains everywhere with flowering bougainvillea and Angel Trumpet trees. The pathways meander through the tall palms and gardens. So lovely. Parrots sing in the treetops. We walked out to the castle/fort on a causeway of stone over low tide. That was beautiful but alas the fort wasn’t open because it was a Monday. This walkway is very intriguing as all the stones below the causeway were exposed due to the low tide. Everything seemed original. We found our way to an open air market which is the oldest market in Spain! Mercado Central. We stopped and I had a Sangria. Lovely. There are many local vendors selling produce, meats, cheeses and OLIVES to name a few!! OK…..these are the BEST olives I have ever tasted in my life!! They are delicious. There were pails and large containers of different kinds that are marinated in different ways with garlic, etc. We bought a small container to take back to our cabin to eat with rolls and Spanish wine!! Ahhhhhh…..heavenly. The prices are good and no tax!! We enjoyed wandering the narrow streets and tasting the local flavours, enjoying the ambiance. We each bought giant cream puffs for one euro each!! Absolutely delicious. Back onboard by 3:45. Sailaway was about 5:00 pm. Now we were heading to the Azores. The sea is still very calm. We stayed on our verandah to watch the sunset and enjoyed our olives from Cadiz and rolls that Ken had gone to get at the Lido buffet along with our Spanish wine and cheeses. Yummy. HAL provided a BBQ at the Lido pool area with all Mediterranean dishes – olives, couscous, avocado and chicken, shish kabobs, steak, lamb, fried feta cheese, etc. It was very good. Live music. Two days at sea and arrive at the Azores. Nov. 7th – Ponta Delgada, Sao Miguel, Azores Raining and cloudy, cool. The first rain we have experienced on our trip. We had arranged a tour through the Cruise Critic people on the Roll Call. Three vans awaited us after disembarking. We were in one van of 7 with a guide. (Carlos from Adventure Tours). Our guide was awesome. He explained everything to us and was obviously very proud of his island. We had to decide if we wanted to go up into the mountains since it was very misty and foggy up there but we all decided that yes we should go anyway. This island is lovely and verdant!! Up in the mountains it was as lush as Hawaii with beautiful tall fern trees and palms and lush foliage. Some of the roadways are lined solid with wild hydrangea and azaleas. The blooms were past their prime at this time of year but the guide was telling us how gorgeous it is when they are in full bloom. One can only imagine. It would be breathtaking. Some flower heads were the size of basketballs. Our guide took us to a tiny little lake called Canary Lake in the hills and woods that is surrounded with azaleas. We walked down the path a bit so he could show us the magnificent moss that grows everywhere. We pushed against the moss wall beside the road and my hand sunk in about TWO FEET – solid moss!!! They obviously have a temperate and wet climate and it was still lightly raining. Unfortunately because of the mist we could not see and experience the magnificent views. Our guide felt so bad and was very apologetic but there was nothing to be done. That’s the weather. He was so disappointed that we were missing the fabulous views of the lakes in the volcanic craters. We drove through agricultural areas of dairy cows in the fields – very picturesque with green fields of all shades surrounded with ancient rock hedgerows covered in moss. It looked like something you would probably see in Ireland. There were little rainbows popping up from the rain and the sun that was finally starting to shine. So lovely. We went to the hot springs. This place is fantastic. We saw the most gorgeous fern trees! It was raining and misty but so worth the visit to see this beautiful spot. This area is a lush tropical rainforest. There were also hydrangea bushes around the parking lot that were taller than 6 feet with huge flower heads. I would love to come here when they are blooming and at their peak. The flowers are so thick that you can’t see the greenery during their peak time according to Carlos. We stopped at a quaint town called Ribeira Grande where Carlos took us to a small liquour store to sample different flavoured brandy. We bought Passion Fruit brandy liqueur. It is fabulous. It was 12 euros for a litre. In fact, as I write this, I’m having a drink of it right now. Heavy in the suitcase but worth it. Takes me back. Drove back to the town of Ponta Delgada but didn’t have time to walk around. Our guide took us to a supermarket where we could buy wine or whatever we needed. The prices seemed very low. We bought some of their local tea as this is the only area in Europe to grow tea. Carlos drove us around town pointing out different areas of interest. It seemed like a lovely quaint town with cobblestone streets and many stores. We then had to go back to the ship. We were very impressed with the Azores and would love to go back. Friday, Nov. 8th – At sea and beginning our TA. The next days we spent enjoying the activities of the ship – Team Trivia challenge, computer workshops, cooking demonstrations, flower arranging, spa treatments, etc. We averaged about 15 kts and about 400 n.m. per day. Ocean was relatively calm except for one thunderstorm the night of the dessert extravaganza. This storm was awesome with blinding lightning, rain and thunder. The captain changed our course a little to avoid the worst of it. I didn’t really notice the ship rolling more though so there must not have been strong winds. The ocean changed by the day – sometimes larger swells than other days and sometimes more choppy. The weather was mostly cloudy and rainy. As we travelled it became warmer and nicer. By Tuesday, Nov. 12th it was 75 F at 8:25 in the morning and the sun was shining. We have travelled 3748 n.m. from Azores at 15.6 kts. 5420 feet deep at this point in time. Nov. 12 the ship was really rocking due to high winds. We are nearing Florida and the ship was really rolling all night. We never did see any ocean life such as whales blowing or anything jumping other than a few flying fish. Nov. 15th – Ft. Lauderdale Received our accounts – gulp. Surprising how things add up. $11.00 pp per day for tips are added on as well. Arrived right on time. Docked at 6:00 a.m. We had been moving our clocks back an hour while crossing the ocean. That was neat to gain an hour almost every day or two. Our luggage had been taken away in the night as all big suitcases have to be put out in the hallway by 2:00 a.m. Disembarkation went fairly smoothly except for a backlog of people in the terminal at Immigration/Customs. We waited about ¾ of an hour in line in the terminal to get through. I had purchased the direct transfer by HAL to the airport. Big mistake !! $20.00 each and we waited and waited for the coach to fill with passengers. Come to find out we could have just jumped in a taxi for $16.00 total and been to the airport in 10 or 15 minutes!! Live and learn. Everything went smoothly at the airport. Flight on time to Detroit. Arrived in only 2 hours after lifting off in Ft. Lauderdale. We made amazing time. From Detroit we were picked up by my son-in-law and driven home to Ontario. Can hardly wait for our next cruise!! We were bumped up to Mariner 3 on this cruise.   Read Less
Sail Date: September 2013
The entire Noordam staff were graduates of smile school, and were very accommodating to any need that we expressed. - The Maitre 'd made a point of soliciting our comments about the Vista Dining Room ("tepid soup, slower service ... Read More
The entire Noordam staff were graduates of smile school, and were very accommodating to any need that we expressed. - The Maitre 'd made a point of soliciting our comments about the Vista Dining Room ("tepid soup, slower service between courses than expected"- which he remedied). Portions seemed smaller than I remember from previous cruises, so we often visited the Lido deck later to get a bite. - The Excursion Director, KK, provided an informative overview of the destinations and had scheduled hours at her Main Deck desk to respond to individual questions; she had unlimited patience in dealing with people who did absolutely nothing on their own to become informed (and who also wasted everyone else's time). We took one HAL excursion and explored other destinations on our own- I find that privately arranged tours are about half the charge of HAL's and you can alter them as you'd like. Hop On-Hop Off buses are also a fairly quick and inexpensive way to get the lay of the land. - The crew was especially attentive to passenger safety during tendering operations at ports where the ship couldn't dock. Our single significant disappointment was that complimentary wifi wasn't available- not in the cabins nor in a central location such as the library. Cruisers get pumped about their activities and increasingly want to share their excitement through email and facebook (generating some buzz for potential HAL cruisers?). While Motel 6 provides it free, HAL gouges passengers 75c a minute, or lesser amounts if you shell out for a package of minutes, starting at $55 for 100 minutes ($.55 a minute). If capacity was a significant factor, I'd suggest providing some basic minutes free and charging for usage over that amount. Read Less
2 Helpful Votes
Sail Date: August 2013
Overall, it was a very nice 11 night cruise from Istanbul to Athens. There were some disappointments due to changing ports of call from when we booked the cruise, but that was just due to political unrest vs. the cruise line. So HAL should ... Read More
Overall, it was a very nice 11 night cruise from Istanbul to Athens. There were some disappointments due to changing ports of call from when we booked the cruise, but that was just due to political unrest vs. the cruise line. So HAL should get some credit for ensuring guest safety comes first. Stateroom It was always clean, big enough for us and the balcony was nice. It was very similar to the room we had on the ms Zeiderdam. The one downside of our cabin, instead of looking down directly into the water, it overlooked the life boats. Not that it was bad, but I would recommend booking two room forward 5054 or lower to ensure you have a better view. Staff The staff was always friendly, always helpful and it was another great experience on HAL. I always think they try to make you feel at home when you are on the cruise and I have felt that way with all my HAL cruises. When I get back on-board, it feels like the crew is welcoming you home. Dining The food was excellent as always, but there were a few issues I had with the staff in the main dining room. They served us butter that had gone bad one night, and once we asked for new butter it was replaced quickly. Second, our water glasses were never refilled without us asking for a refill. A minor complaint maybe but HAL does claim 5 star service, but within the dining room, it was a negative in my mind. Ports We loved all the ports and the ports due to the political unrest were great. I am happy that HAL showed us places we wouldn't have normally gone. Read Less
Sail Date: August 2013
Just returned from an 11 night Ancient Mystery tour on MS Noordam (2nd time on board the same ship). Fabulous itinerary made even better by the changes, due to recent disruptions in Egypt, from Port Said & Alexandria to Ashdod & ... Read More
Just returned from an 11 night Ancient Mystery tour on MS Noordam (2nd time on board the same ship). Fabulous itinerary made even better by the changes, due to recent disruptions in Egypt, from Port Said & Alexandria to Ashdod & Haifa in Israel ' even more of a bonus that HAL gave us $100 pp. as compensation. Primarily we always chose a cruise based on itinerary / ports of call & Holland America Line excel in this area. The fact you can chose your length of stay i.e. 11 days, 22 days or even 33 days (for the lucky few), is also good as is the fact that the cruises don't loop ' you start in one port & end in another so can get further (although aware for some that embarking & disembarking in differing ports may be an issue). Secondly it comes down to cruise line ' chose a line as you would when choosing a resort & hotel ' they all differ greatly, even within a line it can depend on the individual ship, time of year travelling & even itinerary. Most cruise lines will be busy in school holiday & have kids on board ' some more than others. There are pros & cons with every cruise line. The MS Noordam is understated but elegant. She isn't the newest ship out there nowadays - 2006 - which is far from old but in ship terms she is showing some small signs of 'wear & tear'. However she is kept it pristine condition (unlike Thomson ships) & constantly cleaned. Compared to numbers of board there is more than enough public space for each individual & the ship never felt over crowded ' even on days at sea. There was never an issue with regard to sun loungers & getting seats at the shows (as I've experienced on other lines). Service is excellent particularly in the Vista dining room (Adhi our waiter went out of his way to create origami animals every evening for our son) & food is very good ' well presented & a good choice. Quality of ingredients is superior on HAL compared to other lines we've previously used, as are basics such as coffee in the main vista lounge & fruit juices (not so great in the Lido). Minimal public announcements - it was a relief not to have constant PA announcements telling us what was going on & flogging over-priced shore excursions, photos & DVD's as some lines do. The daily port of call / event guide was sufficient for this ' you just had to read it. Shows were enjoyable, again as per the whole ship, understated in style' a comedian, a magician & some 'Broadway' style shows performed by the Noordam singers & dancers which were all good '. If full on 'Vegas' style cheesy shows are your thing you possibly won't agree. Stateroom (we were in Veranda stateroom 5158) was good ' always kept immaculately clean & tidy by the stateroom attendant. Bed had good quality sheets & was so comfortable it was hard to get out in the morning! Room was quiete - no noise from any other part of the ship. No complaints about the stateroom ' not sure how it differs to other categories. Balcony bigger than that on other ships ' enough room for 3 to sit on it & watch the world go by. The ship is however reasonable quiet & restrained so if full on fun & partying & pool games are your thing this may not be the line / ship for you. There is enough to do if excursions are you main focus followed by good food & wine, a show & a drink in one of the many bars on board. There is a night club on board & Karaoke on some evenings but we never used these as we were travelling with a 12 year old. Our only disappointment with HAL was with regard to Turkish Visa's as we were disembarking in Istanbul ' we felt HAL used scare tactics & felt pressured into buying over-priced visas they persisted in arranging at $45 pp. for UK residents when it costs $15 pp. ('10) in port? We had looked into this prior to departure & weren't fooled by HAL but they still caused unnecessary stress & wasted too much of our time whilst we checked facts with home & online to make sure & by queuing on several occasions to sort with guest services. We bought ours Turkish Visa (only needed if disembarking here) for '10 in Kusadsi port & could have done the same before disembarking in Istanbul. I fail to see that HAL did not know this? It was even worse for fellow US passengers ' HAL were trying to charge $85 for something that cost $20 in port! It left a bit of a bitter taste after all the good things they'd strived to do.   Read Less
Sail Date: August 2013
My wife and I decided to celebrate our 25th anniversary on the Noordam last month. We had looked at the Holland America website and joined up with the HAL community forum, but were still not prepared for the high standard of service and ... Read More
My wife and I decided to celebrate our 25th anniversary on the Noordam last month. We had looked at the Holland America website and joined up with the HAL community forum, but were still not prepared for the high standard of service and luxury we were exposed to on the ship. Our stateroom was large enough despite being a standard one and the portholw was larger than we expected providing a good view whenever we needed one - not often as we hardly spent any time in our stateroom. The organisation of the excursions, onboard activities and shows was outstanding and we were made to feel like royalty. We did not use the gym or the spa and we didn't spend much time watching the many shows that were available - we were exhausted from the excursions, but those we did see were very well done and the variety was good. The few negatives: Lack of friendliness of a few of the older dining staff (in the minority) & the prices of the sodas and alcoholic drinks and of most of the goods for sale in the Signature shops which were over the top. Also, because the beverage staff earn 15% on each drink they sell, they only showed interest if you ordered sodas or alcohol regularly and ignored you if they got to know that you only ordered water on the pool decks.Nafplion and Antalya were added due to our not being able to get to Israel due to the Syrian crisis. Nafplion was really a stunning town and the Palamidi castle above it was well worth the 971 steps! We also visited ancient Corinth and the Corinth canal from there as part of an official excursion arranged by Holland America at the last minute. It was extremely enjoyable. Antalya is intersting, but we did not have enough time to explore what it offers. Read Less
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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