377 Holland America Noordam Cruise Reviews

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
Sail Date August 2013
Wanted to see the Med. The Captain, John Scott, was the friendliest and most personable one ever. The staff went out of their way to make us feel special. The ship was brand new, and everything was just pristine. We had a balcony for ... Read More
Wanted to see the Med. The Captain, John Scott, was the friendliest and most personable one ever. The staff went out of their way to make us feel special. The ship was brand new, and everything was just pristine. We had a balcony for the first time, and were kept up to date with the islands and shores we were passing. The entertainment was excellent, and the comedians were really really funny. My husband loved the Captain's coffee hour each day at sea, and got to know him very well. He shared funny stories about his history as a ship's captain, including some really good ones about herding sheep and a shop steward. I will not say more. The cooks let us show them how to make real Cajun gumbo, and meals were very good and I loved the Tuscany excursion to the Wine Country, made me want to move there. I did quite a lot of excursions, and I found you don't have to be on the really expensive ones to have a great excursion. Care has been taken by HAL to have the best excursions available. I recommend highly the back to back eastern and western Med cruises out of Rome. Read Less
Sail Date July 2013
My wife and twin 10 y/o girls had a great time on the Noordam. We started in Barcelona and ended in Rome. Our cabin was a Neptune Suite 7081 which we took as a last minute upgrade. Great room, great service and we enjoyed the services of ... Read More
My wife and twin 10 y/o girls had a great time on the Noordam. We started in Barcelona and ended in Rome. Our cabin was a Neptune Suite 7081 which we took as a last minute upgrade. Great room, great service and we enjoyed the services of the Neptune Lounge. We arrived in Barcelona and spent our first night at the Majestic Hotel which I would recommend for location and service. The next day we got on the ship late in the day and there was no line and no waiting for our bags which showed up in our room about 20 minutes after we did. The ship was staying in port over night. The next day we took a ship tour to Sitges beach about 45 minutes south of the city. Very nice day at the beach. Food - We had room service just about every morning for breakfast which showed up on time and only once did they forget an item. The food in the Lido was good and we I never had a problem with lines or finding a table. But we never had breakfast there and most of our lunches were off the ship. We did have dinner in the Lido one night. In the MDR I found the main dishes most very good and we had a different menu every night of the cruise. I thought the desserts were average at best. No problems with service. Shows - I went to 3-4 shows and thought they were all well done and short - 45 minutes which was perfect for me and the family after a busy day.We had 3 sea days, two planned and one when we could not get into Monaco because of weather. On those days I used they gym which has plenty of bikes, treadmills etc. The weight area is a little small and should be expanded. Also, I don't think they should charge $12 extra for a yoga or spin class. The kids pool was fine but there were some crazy kids pushing each other and running around and Holland America should have someone to police them besides me. My kids were getting knocked around and it made them leave the pool. My kids did love Club Hal and I have to give credit to the staff there b/c they have not always enjoyed Club Hal on other cruises. On the last day we choose to carry our own bags off the ship. They only give you a 15 minute window and the elevators did not go down to the floor we were to get off so everyone had to carry their bags down the last flight of steps. Otherwise, no problem getting off ship. We liked the ship and Holland America and this was a great cruise. Read Less
Sail Date July 2013
We were a group of 8 adults and none of us had sailed on Holland America before. We had one couple who had never gone on a cruise in our group. Our experience on HAL was excellent. Although the ship was continuing on a voyage that had ... Read More
We were a group of 8 adults and none of us had sailed on Holland America before. We had one couple who had never gone on a cruise in our group. Our experience on HAL was excellent. Although the ship was continuing on a voyage that had started in Egypt and had had problems with a gastro virus on board, when we boarded in Civitavecchia (Rome)the ship was immaculate and they followed every precaution regarding sanitization and food distribution until they were sure it was safe to return to normal protocol. The weather we had couldn't have been more perfect (no rain - 11 days!) and the itinerary was interesting, too. We were supposed to port in Tunisia, but that was changed to Sardinia and we didn't find out until we boarded. Our cabin was wonderful (VA8134). We were on the 8th level at the back of the ship. The views were stupendous, and, although I heard that the room could be noisy because the pool deck was above us, we were never bothered, even in the afternoon when there were lots of people up there. Our friends had the adjoining stateroom, so we had the steward open the connector on our verandahs so we could walk back and forth. It was a great experience. Our cabin service was top-notch, as were the services in all the food and dining areas. We ate at the Pinnacle Grill when they had Le Cirque night and the food and service were fantastic. We loved the staff celebrations of birthdays in the dining room! The menus were always varied and interesting and not one of our group had any complaints about the food at all. The entertainment onboard was surprisingly good, and the shows were terrific. We especially enjoyed the show put on by the Indonesian service staff, since we had become familiar with many of them, and it was exciting to see them perform rituals from their home country and share their heritage with us. The tour director was very engaging and personable, and the talks about the ports were informative and helpful. We chose to use private tour companies for our shore excursions and we were extremely happy and satisfied with all of them. I will try to review them separately on this site as well: Dark Rome Early Sistine Chapel Tour - we were in the Sistine Chapel with about only 15 other people! Rome Cabs (Roma Cabs)www.romecabs.com www.stefanorometours.com This company was EXCELLENT! We used them for airport/hotel and hotel/ship transfers as well as tours of Pisa/Florence and Amalfi/Ravello/Positano. The tours were geared to what we wanted to do, and we had our own, air-conditioned minivans. The drivers/guides were friendly, informative, and helpful, and they made our excursions exciting and meaningful. Dream Tours infos@dream-tours.com We used this company for Monaco/Monte Carlo/Nice/Eze/St. Paul de Vence (sp?) Another incredible, fact-filled, exciting tour. Definitely would use them again Smart Cruise Tours info@smartcruisetours.com Another exceptional company. We used them for tours in Marseille/Aix en Provence/Cassis and Palermo/Monreale/Mondello. Our tour guides were wonderful! We also booked the Uffizzi Gallery, Borghese Gallery, and Colosseum (with Hypogeum and upper tier) all online and had no problem accessing our tickets or getting into the venues. For Barcelona we used the hop-on hop-off bus and ended the day at Tablao Cordobes (www.tablaocordobes.com) for some tapas and sangria followed by an explosively exciting flamenco show! Getting on and off the ship was a breeze, and we used the ship's transfers to the airport at the end of the cruise with no problem. We had a fabulous time! A few negatives: We weren't happy with the excursion offerings on this cruise, with many of them being a bit on the expensive side and the rental of private vehicles through HAL was extremely prohibitive. We were sort of 'stuck' for our stop in Sardinia (Tunisia alternative) and spent the day on our own there. We also had a problem with our bathroom tub backing up, but HAL was quick to fix it (within two hours). Other cruises we've been on have always had 24-hour food service in the Lido. There were times when we returned from excursions that we would go up to the Lido deck only to find nothing available to eat or minimal offerings, at best, of what was left out by the pool. At night (after midnight) there was nothing available, not even cookies. We are used to sailing on Princess cruises, where food is always available on the Lido deck. That said, I would definitely sail on HAL again! Read Less
Sail Date June 2013
I had planned this cruise for many months and love the Holland America line. This was my second cruise (first was Niew Amsterdam Caribbean cruise) with this line, and I highly recommend. Their service and excellent cuisine is very good. ... Read More
I had planned this cruise for many months and love the Holland America line. This was my second cruise (first was Niew Amsterdam Caribbean cruise) with this line, and I highly recommend. Their service and excellent cuisine is very good. There were several special GOURMET barbeques on deck where the chefs created Mediterranean cuisine on the grill--it was exceptional! There are daily digital workshops given twice a day, tea service, etc--all at no additional cost. They had a "Dancing with the Stars" competition which was different. Daily movies, behind the scenes tours never left you with a lack of activities. I felt their tours, which I took 3, were well run and worth the price. I did go with a group on a private taxi in Monte Carlo which worked out great, if you meet some others on the cruise who want to go together for the day in a port. My room stewards were always cheerful and very helpful with any requests. There was always fresh fruit and ice each day, which they asked when I arrived if I would like. The wait staff in the dining and other food venues were always quick and efficient. There was a food 'scare' when we first came onto the ship and the other passengers who'd been on the ship (it was a 30 day start to finish cruise)all had to leave while the crew thoroughly cleaned the ship. I don't know how they were able to do it so quickly, but they did. The crew continued to clean into the night. Their health and safety standards are excellent. Read Less
Sail Date June 2013
The boarding of the ship in Istanbul went smoothly no long lines. Our cabin was ready as soon as we boarded we met our friendly cabin stewards and then headed to the Lido for lunch. On returning to our cabin after lunch to our surprise our ... Read More
The boarding of the ship in Istanbul went smoothly no long lines. Our cabin was ready as soon as we boarded we met our friendly cabin stewards and then headed to the Lido for lunch. On returning to our cabin after lunch to our surprise our luggage was already there so we unpacked an settled into ship board life. Our cabin was what we expected clean and comfortable. We had booked a VE gty and had an upgrade to VA (when we booked 9 months before we could not book any verandah category only gty on all levels) our cabin was on deck 8 towards the aft under the Sea View Deck. It was under the designated smoking area. This created a lot of chairs noise on our ceiling it was even louder if you were sitting out on the balcony. The noise could be from 5:30 am to anywhere after midnight. After not being able to get to sleep the first night my husband went down to find out what could be done as he could not put up with the situation for 32 more nights. The front office staff were excellent advised us that the cruise was fully booked but they will contact Seattle to see what could be done. 24hours later were advised we could have a cabin change at the end of the first. 11 day sector in Athens. The cabin was on the other side of the ship about 6 cabins further forward. We took the change of cabins it was still under Sea View Pool deck but it was much quieter we could sit out on the balcony without any noise as well. We were on a full day tour the day of change over we left our bags packed and clothes hanging in the wardrobe when we arrived back everything was moved across for us. We had breakfastat at the Lido, Main Dining room and Room Service. The Lido was good we loved the fresh orange juice. Our dining room experience was just ok we went a few times just to make sure we were not being biased. The service was not great my husband asked 4 times for a cup of tea. The orange juice was not fresh just a mix. Room service seemed a bit hit and miss a couple of things we ordered did not arrive one time, then another time it arrived at least 1/2 hour earlier than the requested time frame. Lunches were had in the Lido and a few burgers from the grill at all times found the food very good and the deserts just far to tempting. The selections of ice cream each day was wonderful. We had early assigned dinner had a great table for 6 looking out the aft window. The meals on the first 11days were just wonderful every night all at our table would say how good everything was. Unfortunately there was a notable difference in the quality, taste and tenderness in the meals for the rest of the cruise. This was a great disappointment to us. Some of the menus were repeated which we expected and were very happy about. I know food can be very subjective but I am comparing food choices from same menus over the 33 days. The entertainment was enjoyable the musical shows by the ship entertainers was excellent we particularly liked Droom. The guest entertainers were varied and tried to meet most people's needs. Some we thought we great some just ok but the ones we did not enjoy was probably due more to our own likes and dislikes than the quality of the performers. The captain and crew had to deal with a GI Virus for 15 of the 33 days we were aboard. The crew worked tirelessly sanitising everywhere for the cabin and cleaning crews it must have been exhausting. I can not praise everyone of the ships crew for the work they did during that time to try and get the Virus under control. Fortunately we did not get the bug. We took a 33 day Thermal Suite package but because of the GI Virus we could not use it for 15 days we were reimbursed pro rata days of non use. We really loved the Thermal Suite it was so relaxing after a long day in port. We had 2 port changes because of unrest. Port Said and Tunis we were pleased that HAL was thinking of passenger safety. We enjoyed every port we went to although we were shocked at how dirty and rubbish bound Egypt was. We did one ship tour in Egypt not brave enough to to a private tour. The tour we did was good. At all other ports did private tours with other CC members, shared taxis or used hop on hop off buses as well as using Rick Steve's Ports of call Mediterranean book. What we noticed was that the private tours were at least 1/2 the price of ships tours. We had a wonderful wonderful cruise and the small things that annoyed us will not stop us from cruising with Holland again What we will do different next booking is not take a cabin Gty we will only make a booking if we can pick a particular cabin. Read Less
Sail Date May 2013
For the last 7 years or so the trend has been for the cruise lines to position their ships around the world, and visiting more international ports than ever before. Which can only be great for the traveler. Part of that trend, especially ... Read More
For the last 7 years or so the trend has been for the cruise lines to position their ships around the world, and visiting more international ports than ever before. Which can only be great for the traveler. Part of that trend, especially in the last 2 or 3 years is to also create multiple itineraries as part of one big trip! I think Holland America is leading the way.THE ITINERARYThe embarkation was painless.I embarked on an 11-day "Ancient Mysteries" cruise on May 17th, 2013 out of Istanbul. That day there were also people who were beginning a 22 days or 33 days cruise! You could have booked each 11 day segment by itself. The itinerary took us from Istanbul, along the Dardanelles pasageway, to Mykonos, to Kusadasi, Turkey, to Rhodes, an overnight in Alexandria, Egypt, then to Iraklion, Crete and finally to Athens. After I booked this segment I wondered why I didnt book the 22 days as this would have pretty much covered for me all the places Ive ever needed to visit. Now I need to go back and spent more money for just a few more ports. I do not know people's tolerance to be at sea for 33 days, but that itinerary would have covered all the ports for you might otherwise need 4 mediterrenean cruises. The overnight in Alexandria, Egypt was in lieu of a stop at Port Said that was cancelled by the cruise line for safety reasons.There were really 3 days at sea, going and coming out of Egypt, and the cruising thru the Dardanelles. Another thing I noticed was that on this particular trip I never saw the ship go faster than 14 knots. So it was very leisurely!THE SHIPWhile we are in the era of the Mega Ship, not all of these ancent cities old ports can handle big ships. So most ships traveling the mediterrenean will be mid size ships (approx 2,000 passenger), usually built in the early 2000s. So be careful with your expectations.The Noordam is an elegant, quaint ship. Very European feel to it. Some of its rooms, like the Piano Bar and the Northern Lights (dancing club) are tucked away from the walking halls so you do not have to run into them if you dont want to. And while the Explorations Cafe is a little more open to the hallway, it is probably the most elegant room on the ship. It is the library/computer room with a coffee bar that we would like to have at home. It is only rivaled by the Crow's Nest on the aft portion of deck number 10. At the same time, some of the luxury restaurants do not have am exclusive area, but they are tucked away enough to make the privacy happen.For the working man the staterooms are average; the inside, the oceanview and balcony (veranda). Actually some of the inside rooms are larger than the other two mentioned. I was surprised to have a bathtub in my Veranda room, not that I was planning to take a bath, but for the first time I did not have to deal with water sipping out of my shower and onto the floor.The ship seemed to have plenty of lounging chairs at the main and aft pools and observation areas. The main pool might seem out of chairs at time, but that is just people leaving their towels after they leave the premises. I completely hated the idea of having to cross thru the SPA to go the Fitness Room . And the HydroPool cost makes it a non-issue. I would have paid 10 dollars to go in once, but not $149 for the 11 days. In this itinerary we never had to tender! What a plus of the mid-size ship! The Atrium, and therefore Front Office area was not as big as I have seen in other ships, but really, aside from that intial impression, how much time do you really spend in the area?FOODThe food and service in the dinning room was good. Nothing to complain about, nothing to write home about. Just what it should be. But definitely not a 9 rating. The food quality at the self serve Lido Restaurant was just like in any other ship; big ticket items like steaks, fish, chicken were good, while things like pancakes, omelets, pizza could be hit or miss. If anything I was surprised, and perturbed to find they would not have an item, say mashed potatoes, Corn Flakes or OJ, on one side, but yet you could walk around to the other side and find it. And their after hours snacks were the same and not that great. My friends did eat at Le Cirque at the Pinnacle Grill and thought it was excellent! The Cannaletto" restaurant was pretty much a made up section of the Lido and you could see the food being prepared and delivered, but other than that I have no idea of wheter it deserve paying the premium fee.Room service seemed to be a disappointmnet as I spoke with a few people who ordered food and never got it on time. I also left my room after waiting over 20 mins past the high range delivery time (50 minutes in total).THE STAFFIt seemed that the cruise staff was just 4 people; the cruise director and three others who were pretty busy taking care of other things on the ship (games, location expert, etc). They are really busy and you never see them out where you can 'mingle' with them. I could have easily stayed 33 days onboard with the cruise staff in my previous cruise.The Ships staff employed a policy where in the first 48 hours they would handle everything a passenger could touch in order to avoid any outbreaks once we were at sea. Two to three days before we stopped in Athens, it seemed an outbreak of GIS was prevalent, and the crew took immediate action to prevent the spreading of it. ** Editorial note** If you are reading this and are getting ready to go on a cruise, you are most likely to be the cause. Wash your hands everytime you leave your room, and use the sanitizing lotions available all over the ship, at all times. Sneeze onto the inside of your elbow, dont put your hands inside the covers of the food to show or touch what is it that you want, dont touch tongs all over and then lay then on top of the food you were picking up, touch elevator buttons with other than the tip of your fingers (fist, knuckles, elbows). Walking around the Lido Restaurant geting my food I saw behavior everyday that has no other repercussions but outbreaks of these diseases on enclosed quarters.Having said that, the Lido servers were excellent; better than at the main dining rooms. The room stewards, at least the ones I had, the best of any cruise line.THE ENTERTAINMENT While I have never sailed with Holland before, it seems that they are making some changes to the shows created by the line. On this Ship we were treated to the shows Classique, Aces High and Droom. And in ascendent order that is how I like them! DROOM was probably the best PRODUCTION I have seen on board any ship! The customes and stage arrangements are amazing! ON Aces High an interactive projection is happening for the audience to see as the entertainers do their thing on stage.Their partnering with Dancing with the Stars to run the Dancing with the Stars at Sea competition, might proof succesful! It involves the passengers by having available three dance lessons during the cruise days, and at the end it gives the audience something else other than another show. I was one of the particpants, and it gave me something to look forward (although very nervously) and it is one of the biggest memories I took with me. I am sure that then people that participated along with me feel the same.Yet, some of the entertaining was below average. A guitarist especialist was boring, maybe better suited for a smaller stage, the local Greek group that came to dance was good, but for how long can you do a local dance for, an entire hour? The magician was good, but, there is one in every cruise. He was actually better in the small setting teaching people magic tricks. And finally impersonators, especially those that can bring music and "nostalgia" to a stage will always catch people's attention.OTHERThe TV in the rooms had the best channels I have ever seen; CNN and ESPN! Woo hoo! Last year it took me three days to figure who had won a NBA finals game. And there were up todate movies. The abiltiy to rent CDs to watch in your room was awesome!THE PORTSISTANBUL -- Ok, it might seem remote, but it is as cosmopolitan as any city in the world! What a great city! And easy to "navigate"! And yes it is a Muslim city; lets respect each others differences and embrace our similarities! Most likely the majority of the restaurant servers and stateroom stewards are from Muslim countries, and yet, theyre the ones to give you a big smile everyday and treat you with respect! And in these countries where the economic system has not progressed as much as in other developed countries, someone will try to make a buck off of you; know that and deal with it from a business transaction point of view, not with a personal air of disdain for someone who has less. The Taxi might run you 50 Euros to the port from the airport.There is a train or tram just outside the port and for less than 4 Euros you can ride it into town ( a few stops away). After that you can walk to the main attractions. There is a HOP ON HOP OFF (HOHO) for approximately $25 worthly dollars. GO check out Istanbul! MYKONOS -- The ship provided a van from the port to town for $5.00. From there you can walk to town. You can do it from the ship, but there are no sidewalks on these very narrow, cliffy roads. We chose to rent an ATV for 15 Euros, and explored 3/4 of the Island. We were lucky to sail out late so that gave us the chance to return our ATV by four and walk around the town after it was not longer crowded. The town is maybe a tat bigger than Catalina Island, but get walking between any alleyway you can find to see its treasures!KUSSADASI -- Beautiful modern port, no offense to neighboring Izmir, and much closer to Ephesus and the Virgin Mary's last home. We found a taxi van outside the port which took us to both places for 12 Euros each. These taxi drivers have been doing this for years, so while obviously they will ask you for a higher price initially, they know their bread and butter lives with their responsibility. I have done this trip twice, the first time with the cruise tour and paid $89.00. So it is your choice. Still with either one, we had to stop by a carpet and leather factory, watch their demos and deal with the sales pitch. These are turks, the older sellers in history!RHODES -- No need to get a tour if you dont want to; Outside the port there is a HOHO that after 1230pm charges you 9 Euros instead of 12. The main gate to town is less than a mile from the ship, so you can walk around town all day long.ALEXANDRIA, EGYPT -- You would not know there is unrest in this country from stepping out of the ship onto this port. The Pyramids are 3 hours away, in a rather chaotic "highway". This is Egypt, it is, what it is. It is hot and sadly chaotic and dirty. The temperature reached 100 degrees in Cairo on May 24th, so be prepared. This temperature is way different from the one in port. The tours companies that you find in a place like Trip Advisor are reputable! They want your money, but also their reputation. Still they are way cheaper than the cruise tours. We used EMO Tours. Their guides are great at dealing with the pestering sellers. Dont commit to any transaction without their help. We heard of people being charge $10 USD for just a picture next to a Camel (which a nice Egyptian local will smiling bring to you, but wont let you go until you pay him), and up to $40 for a ride. With our guide's help we got a camel ride along the Pyramids, plenty of pictures and all for $10.00. We also went to a local Cairo Restaurant, and the food was EXCELLENT (and cheap)! We tend to think that it would be otherwise in these underdeveloped cities, but we dont think that these are people too with desire for good food. The best meals that I have had in the last two years have been in Turkey and this one in Egypt. I also talked to a few people that were brave enough to do the overnight, and they were very sattisfied.IRAKLION, CRETE -- Like in Rhodes the city center is within walking distance. The HOHO is right before you exit the port and is 20 Euros for the full day and 15 for half a day (till 1230pm). You can get off at the Knossos Palace (6 Euros), but acquaint yourself with its history first.ATHENS -- The HOHO is right at the exit of the port. Is about 17 Euros, and it will take you to all the places you need to see in Athens. You might want to wait until the afternoon to go up to the Acropolis, that way you let everyone on a cruiseship tour do their thing first. It gets crowded up there.The Marriot, Hitlon and Crowne Plaza are very good choice hotels. A taxi from the port to the Airport will run you close to 50 Euros with tip. Read Less
Sail Date May 2013
We received a brochure in the mail from Holland America offering us a 50% discount on a truly amazing 26 day itinerary cruising the Mediterranean. This was a dream itinerary including a large number of ports that were on our "bucket ... Read More
We received a brochure in the mail from Holland America offering us a 50% discount on a truly amazing 26 day itinerary cruising the Mediterranean. This was a dream itinerary including a large number of ports that were on our "bucket list". It was an offer we couldn't refuse! We booked through our local AAA travel agency. We arranged everything through Holland America, including the airfare and the pre-cruise hotel package in Rome. This was our first experience booking a "big cruise" so we thought we'd be safer to cover all of our bases including transfers to and from the airport/hotel/ship. Now, after having had the experience and talking with more experienced cruisers, we realize that we would have saved a LOT of money and had a much easier time making air changes if we had booked these things ourselves and not through HAL. When you book airfare through a cruiseline, it totally eliminates the possibility of upgrading your ticket from coach to first class because HAL uses a group booking code for your ticket and the airlines won't even put you on a list to PAY for a first class upgrade without cancelling your whole ticket and starting from scratch which is VERY expensive! So this is the only thing we would do differently the next time. The cruise itself was truly amazing! Our cabin, 6073, was one of their "signature suites" (one of the smaller suites) but it was in a great location and offered more than enough room for the 2 of us for an almost month long cruise. The bathroom had a double vanity, a full sized bathtub with jacuzzi style jet AND a separate shower stall. The queen sized bed was a little too firm for our liking, but was nice all the same. The cabin staff couldn't have been better. They attended to our every need at least twice a day and were on call anytime we needed them. There were a lot of "public spaces" on board the Noordam. They all felt cozy and personal. There was never a time that we felt crowded even though it was a sold out cruise. There were numerous dining choices. We had "as you like" dining where we made our own reservations every night to go along with our schedule each day. We did find a particular table with a particular waiter that we really loved and we were able to make a "standing reservation" for that table at a time that we preferred. Over the course of 26 days, there were only 1 or 2 entrees that were repeated which we found truly amazing. The specialty restaurants were out of this world. Canaletto, the Italian restaurant was truly good and very intimate. The Pinnacle Grill was an experience not to be missed. On certain nights, it had "an evening at Le Cirque" with an exceptional menu not found anywhere except the real Le Cirque. On "normal" nights, the food offered was truly that of a 5 star Steakhouse with service to match. The auxiliary services offered on this ship were exceptional as were the crew members who ran them...The Fine Art Dept (Park West Gallery), The Photo dept., The Greenhouse Spa and even the front desk offered service beyond compare. The crew members greeted you by name every time they saw you whether on or off the ship truly making us feel special. The entertainment on the ship was top notch with the BEST performances being by the Noordam Singers and Dancers...they presented several world premiers while we were onboard with the production Droom being the best show, by far, that we have ever seen on a cruise ship. These men and women were very obviously quite well trained in both dance and voice and all of the shows they did were so good that it was not unusual for us to go to more than one of the 3 nightly performances. We took only 1 shore excursion from Holland America and it was a good one to Murano and Burano Islands in Venice. We decided to take this excursion at the last minute when it was too late to arrange a private option. We took 11 other tours/shore excursions from private companies after researching the options on Cruise Critic and Trip Advisor. Every single one of those tours were quite wonderful and much more reasonably priced than those offered by the ship. This was our first cruise that we decided to try taking tours offered by someone other than the cruise line...we were always afraid that we would be "left behind" if the outside tour didn't get us back in time....a belief that is often encouraged by all cruise lines. This was absolutely NOT the case. Every private tour that we took made extreme efforts to get us back to the ship with plenty of time to spare. This survey only let us list the #8 as the most ports we visited. We actually visited many more than that. The ports there weren't room for in the survey below were: Argostoli (a nice town that we toured on our own. GREAT seafood restaurants by the sea wall), Katakolon Greece (where we took a private tour to Ancient Olympia...the museum and the archeological site...both were quite wonderful), Santorini Greece where we took a private tour with OceanWave Tours....a wonderful day on a beautiful island. We very seriously want to return here and spend a week or more exploring this fabulous island, Athens Greece where we spent 2 days, took 2 private tours with 2 different companies....there is a lot to see here!, Iraklion (Crete) Greece where we toured Knossos Palace on our own. There is a hop on/hop off bus you can take here, Port Said Egypt...we took a private tour here spending the night at the Mena House Hotel in Giza next to the Pyramids, toured Cairo then re-joined our ship the next day in Alexandria Egypt, Rhodes Greece where we walked around the old town on our own...this was one of the really pleasant surprises on our cruise....there was a lot to see here and we could have spent much more time than we had exploring, Kusadasi (Ephesus) Turkey where we took a private tour around the area...quite impressive especially the Terrace Houses in Ephesus....a site really worth paying the extra money to see!, Mykonos Greece...a nice little town that we just walked around for about an hour then went back to the ship, and finally, Istanbul Turkey where we took a private day long tour of the major sights of the city. It was a wonderful place and quite beautiful. The people were warm and welcoming here. All in all, this cruise was absolutely terrific! The service couldn't have been better....the price was amazing and the itinerary the best I've ever seen on one cruise....the disembarkation process was great in one way...this was the first time we'd ever been allowed to just wait in our cabin until our number was called....the bus to the airport was a little chaotic...there wasn't enough room under the bus for all of the luggage so some people's luggage was put in the aisle of the bus, blocking people in the seats next to the luggage....and the airport in Istanbul is a lesson in chaos. Delta airlines handling of disabled passengers was less than optimum....we ended up with a VERY uncomfortable 11 hour flight from Istanbul to NYC because they changed planes the night before the flight and did not provide us with seats equal to the ones we had arranged previously....they also did not provide wheelchair assistance down to the door of the plane as previously arranged and offered no help with our carry on luggage either. It was quite disappointing compared to our wonderful experience with United Airlines on the way over to Rome for the beginning of the cruise. But as they say, live and learn! After this cruise, Holland America has certainly become our cruise line of choice....and we plan to schedule many more in the future. Read Less
Sail Date April 2013
This was an excellent cruise for seeing the Eastern Med. We have now seen pretty well every place we ever wanted to visit there. We had two excellent hotels - the Tenuta Dell Argento during a two day stopover in Civitavecchia between ... Read More
This was an excellent cruise for seeing the Eastern Med. We have now seen pretty well every place we ever wanted to visit there. We had two excellent hotels - the Tenuta Dell Argento during a two day stopover in Civitavecchia between cruises, and the Esans Hotel in Istanbul at the end of the cruise. Both were selected based on TripAdvisor reviews. The Noordam had good cabins and facilities, although there were a few plumbing problems for the first day or two. The entertainment was mixed. Spectacular productions were being introduced, but some were more enjoyable than others despite outstanding talent, choreography, costumes and sets. I sometimes longed for more traditional or popular music. Some other acts were kind of lame, especially one poor comedian. There were the normal activities, including classes, demonstrations, exercise, etc. HAL shore excursions were so terribly expensive that we did not use them, but found alternatives. We used open dining and enjoyed meeting and conversing with other passengers - a good thing, as service in the dining room was very slow (and the coffee was terrible). The ports of call were what really made this cruise. We have seen the Acropolis, climbed to the tomb inside the Great Pyramid, had a nighttime gondola ride in Venice and seen all kinds of scenic and historic sites. It really was great. Read Less
Sail Date April 2013
From the steward who offered us a blanket while we were lounging in a deck chair to the Lido deck outside rear deck staff who treated us like royalty despite no gratuity earned on tea, coffee and water, we were spoiled from start to ... Read More
From the steward who offered us a blanket while we were lounging in a deck chair to the Lido deck outside rear deck staff who treated us like royalty despite no gratuity earned on tea, coffee and water, we were spoiled from start to finish. Efficient boarding and disembarking, perfect service in our room with fruit and ice fresh every day.The cleaning was excellent and the kitchens and service areas were spotless which gave us great comfort and we had a very healthy ship. Can't say enough about the Lido and dining room crew. Amazing folks. Special shout out to Ryan, JJ, Oscar and Ramil. We fell in love with the staff and the activities were varied and interesting. My only criticism of the activities is the extreme simplicity of the cooking demos. I would have paid a fee for some advanced hands on classes but ok anyways because even the simpler things were good and we can all use a few of those.Throughout the cruise we met great folks who, despite the billing of Holland America age ranges as older, cross cut all ages even though overall there was a tendency to an older crowd. Great sea days to totally relax and kick off all of the stress. Sorry we missed the Azores but really glad the Captain was more attuned to our safety that passenger complaints. Love this ship, I want to adopt a few of the staff. Kudos to the staff as they are the Holland America reputation. Read Less
Sail Date March 2013
Noordam 3/11/-3/22/13 11 days 6 ports and Half Moon Cay After 24 total cruises, this was our first on HAL. Majority of previous cruises were on NCL Overall rating: Excellent Embarkation: Arrived at 11 am at Port Everglades, ... Read More
Noordam 3/11/-3/22/13 11 days 6 ports and Half Moon Cay After 24 total cruises, this was our first on HAL. Majority of previous cruises were on NCL Overall rating: Excellent Embarkation: Arrived at 11 am at Port Everglades, on board at 12 noon. Bags in room at 1:00 pm Cabin # 8122: Excellent room and located near elevators. Room steward "HAN" was excellent. Very attentive, towel animals every day, cheerful and omnipresent Food: Excellent selections and taste. We were on "anytime" dining but had a standing reservation for table #308 for 5:30 pm each evening. Some nights we arrived late due to daily activities and were seated elsewhere in the Vista MDR. We never waited more than a few minutes for a table. The Maitre 'D memorized every one's name after the first day. Entertainment: Very good to excellent. Standard musical, comedian, magician, acrobatic and audience participation shows. Chris Watkins and Rondell Sheridan were stand-outs. Special attraction was the "Dancing with the Stars" dance show on last night. This included a musical presentation by the dance troupe and competition starring passengers dancing with members of the troupe for points. Winner will go on to compete in a future theme cruise with professionals from the TV show of the same name. (I participated but did not win) Lounges and bars: Found the Ocean Bar and Queen's Lounge to be very good. Both had "HALcats" bands (there were 2 of them on-board) Lead singers were Ben and Lynn for their respective groups. Good dance music every night. Special notice to Serena, musical director. The Piano Bar with Diana was well attended. Classes and activities: Excellent line-up of classes and activities. Much better than our previous cruises on other lines. Also, most were free. Culinary Arts demos were great. Computer courses in dedicated computer lab were excellent, informative and well attended. TECHspert Jessica was excellent. Movies were shown daily. Very nice touch with recent block-busters. Pools and public spaces: Never lacked enough lounges/chairs at the pool. Nice taco bar located by the main pool. Ice water and lemonade available here all day. Adult pool located on aft deck. Very nice. Staff: Great bunch of people. No complaints ever. We hope to see some of them on future cruises The ship: exceeded our expectations. It had more than we had hoped for and was a beautiful, tastefully appointed ship Fellow shipmates: As we had been told, this was an older demographic. The pace of the group was a bit slower but every one was very nice. We met some incredibly nice new friends during the week and were sad to leave at the end of the cruise. We talked to many who had done back-to-back cruises from the previous cruise and others who were staying on for the repositioning to Europe. BOTTOM LINE: Wish we could have stayed on board. Read Less
Sail Date March 2013
This was our first TA and, hopefully, not our last! We sailed 16 days Ft. Lauderdale to Rome. EMBARKATION: Smooth and easy from the port. Arrived at 11 AM and there were no lines to get checked in. Waited until noon before we were all ... Read More
This was our first TA and, hopefully, not our last! We sailed 16 days Ft. Lauderdale to Rome. EMBARKATION: Smooth and easy from the port. Arrived at 11 AM and there were no lines to get checked in. Waited until noon before we were all let aboard by group numbers. Went to our room and dropped off our carry ons, called for reservations in the Canaletto and went to the MDR for lunch. Did tour of the ship. DH signed up for the spa package, which he used everyday. CABIN: We were in 7089 verendah . It was an upsell from a category G partially obstructed and were happy with the room. It was the cabin just behind the first verendah suites, just off the aft stairway. It was convenient to the MDR and the lido. The only negative was it was across from the maintainence closet and the closet where the ice maker was. There was noise from the steward getting the ice as early as 6 AM. Funny tho...I didn't notice it until the first port day, then I heard it every morning thereafter. I should have said something, but I usually went back to sleep and DH never heard it. FOOD: We did the anytime dining, ate around 6:30 and never had a wait longer than 4-5 minutes. We always ate with others and met some fascinating people that made the experience very enjoyable. The food in the MDR was excellent, as usual. I was less impressed with the dinner food in the Lido. Besides the frustration of finding a table and never being able to get food and be on the same course as DH, it seemed that the food was just luke warm and, of course, the presentation was lacking. I didn't remember not having all the same choices and the MDR, but it seemed like there was a lot less and the dessert choices were few. Breakfast and lunch were great and there was never a lack of choices. We did prefer breakfast in the MDR. It is nice to be waited on and eat at the same time, like I mentioned before. We got the 11+ Navigator wine package. It was 5 bottles, plus a Chef Rudi cabernet delivered to the room the first day, plus Pinnacle for two, two wine tastings and a gift of HA pewter wine charms. The bottle we had in the Pinnacle we did not finish and it could not be found the next night. The replaced it with a full bottle. We ate at the Canaletto once. We were not impressed. I think food is better in the Lido...see above for my thoughts on that. We won't go back. Ate at the Pinnacle once and that was so worth it! Food was excellent and the service was spot on. We both had lobster and the creme brule and were stuffed. THE CROSSING: Rolling seas started on the third day with 12-16 foot swells. The wind was behind us, so the ship just gently rocked side to side. DH has severe motion sickness problems, but did not have any difficulty at this point. There was a storm north of the ship and the captain kept us informed of the direction he was going in order to avoid rougher seas. The swells stayed with us, gradually increasing in height, but the ship handled it extremely well. We eventually had to head to our first port, Ponta Delgata but we had to bypass it due to the rough seas. That meant 9 straight days at sea before we got to the next port. We were disappointed, but one cannot control nature and the captain was not about to put us all in jeopardy just to get to the port. We continued to rock and roll and we were assured once we got into the Mediterranean Sea, it would be calmer...WRONG! Early evening before the last sea day we hit a major storm with 60 mile an hour winds and swells I am gauging to have been 20-25 feet(we weren't told how high they were). Doors to the outside were closed and we were told to keep the doors to the outside in our rooms closed. Plus it rained like crazy. The ship took on the up and down and rocking motion and that is when DH turned that peculiar shade of yellow/green. We slapped the patch on and he slept until it took effect...about 5 hours...and then was fine. The sea sick bags were by the elevators. I think alot of people just stayed in their cabins as the ship was pretty deserted. Next morning on disembarkation I saw a few elderly people with bruises on their faces. I would guess they fell trying to get about as you really had to hold on to something in order to walk. Not good for people with balance problems. ENTERTAINMENT: We went to most shows and really enjoyed them. We thought the quality was very good for the most part. PORTS: Lisbon: Took a half day tour to Obidos, then walked the city on our own. Rain showers on and off. Found a bistro with free wifi and spend the rest of the afternoon and early evening drinking good beer. Bought a bottle of wine to bring back on the ship. We left port at 11 AM next day, so just hung around the port in the morning. Cadiz: Got tickets on the hop on bus to the old town. The minute we stepped off the bus, it started to rain and it poured for hours. We got soaked to the bone trying to get back to the bus. Of course, the rain stopped the minute we got to the bus stop by the port. Malaga: Did the hop on bus again around town and found the cathedral, then walked and ate lunch at a cafe. It started to rain, so we made our way back to the ship. Cartagena: Nice sunny day. Walked into town, first chance to shop for goodies to bring back. Ate lunch at outside cafe. All around nice day. DISEMBARKATION: We had color for later disembarkation as we were staying in Rome for one night before taking off the next day. It went very smoothly, no problems. Would we do a TA again? You bet! You roll the dice with the weather, especially in the spring. We talked to people who had done this exact cruise before and said the seas were like glass. Nine sea days in a row were a little too many. Six would have been perfect. When we discussed HA with people who had sailed othere lines, the preferred HA to a person. Count me in with those people! Read Less
Sail Date March 2013
Background -- We are 4 Canadians in their mid 50's. We are not committed to any one cruise line. We pick each cruise based on itinerary, price and then preferably a ship that is not too old. Pre-cruise -- We had stayed at the ... Read More
Background -- We are 4 Canadians in their mid 50's. We are not committed to any one cruise line. We pick each cruise based on itinerary, price and then preferably a ship that is not too old. Pre-cruise -- We had stayed at the Hampton Inn for the last 2 cruises but prices had gone up enough to warrant looking into a new hotel. We decided to try the Sleep Inn Dania on 5th & Sheridan and were quite comfortable there. They include breakfast (eggs, sausage, waffles, etc). Admittedly, it is not near the port but they do have a free shuttle from the airport (as long as you don't arrive at midnight) and a shuttle to the port for $10. The hotel was clean and that's all we really require. There is a Publix (with 2 wine aisles) across the street as well as a few small restaurants. If you are in reasonable walking condition, you can walk to the beach (about ½ hr taking it slow and stopping for pictures). From there you can pick up a water taxi and tour around. We were very happy that we flew in 2 days early rather than the day before as our friends got caught in a re-routing nightmare and arrived in Fort Lauderdale only hours before the cruise sailed. Embarkation -- Easy, kudos to the very friendly staff at the check in counter. We only have 5 cruises under our belt but I think this is the first cruise that we didn't have anyone meeting us at the end of the gangway to welcome us to the ship (except for someone from the spa giving out phamplets). This is just an observation, certainly did not affect our cruise. Cabin -- We were on the 4th floor (4032) and had a metal verandah opposed to the glass ones. This means that when you are sitting down, you can't see the water. While we appreciated the extra footage and it certainly was private, I think we will return to the glass fronts should we book another verandah. Our cabin was clean; beds were comfortable; and we found our stateroom attendants unobtrusive while keeping the room spotless and we always had ice if we required it. I enjoyed having the luxury of a bathtub although the drain didn't seem to be able to hold any water for long. The showers had good water pressure. We did notice the lack of carts and dirty dish trays in the hallways -- a nice touch. A thank you here to cruise critic member "Gma Pajama" and the staff of the Noordam for organizing a well attended meet and greet with delicious goodies in the Crows Nest.Dining -- MDR - We had requested a table for 8 and were sat with 4 other Canadians. We spent many enjoyable dinners and after dinner drinks with them. Although I had read some questionable reviews about the food in the dining room, we had no complaints with the food or service. I tried the steak once from the everyday menu and found it very tender and quite enough for two! Again, thanks to Deddy and Adi for their attentive service and for the plates of chocolate we were treated to a few times. Lido Buffet - The Lido had a good variety of choices and again, no complaints. We did not try any of the specialty restaurants as we were happy with the Main Dining Room and the Lido. The Lido staff was very helpful and attentive, probably the best we've seen on any ship. Entertainment -- We enjoyed most shows but thought that the pianist "Brett Cave" was the best. (Ever!) The solo guitarist David that played in the Crow's Nest in the evenings was enjoyable as well. We were not wild about the Noordam Dancers shows. I guess we were comparing it to the Cirque type entertainment on the Celebrity Equinox last year and it just didn't measure up in our humble opinion. Activities -- While we saw many things we would have enjoyed doing, this was a pretty laid back cruise for us and we spent a lot of time relaxing on deck, on the verandah, in the bars, and just wandering around.Ports -- Grand Turk: cancelled due to high winds -- this was not a disappointment to us as we had done this port before and we do love our "sea" days. Half Moon Cay -- Water was stunning, beach was the most perfect powdery sand. Buffet was decent. We were so happy that we were able to get off here. Samana -- We had a zip lining tour planned here. Unfortunately, since we arrived early, they sent off a group that had gotten off the ship early and we didn't have a group large enough to take. Book a tour here if you plan to get off the ship. Curacao -- What a beautiful port! The colors of the buildings were beautiful and we enjoyed strolling around the port. We also took a tour with Irie Tours which was interesting with a brief stop at a beach. Thanks to the Irie Tours office which allowed us to access their internet for free while waiting for the bus to depart. Bonaire -- By far, this was our favorite port. We did the snorkeling tour with Woodwind in the morning and wandered around the port in the afternoon. The Woodwind staff was very patient with this beginner who is very leary around ocean waves. The reef is truly magical here and we saw thousands of fish. This is the least commercialized port and we enjoyed talking with the local vendors selling their own products rather than the usual mass marketed "treasures" with the islands name stamped on it. Aruba -- A very commercialized island but still enjoyable. We picked up a 2 hour bus tour here at the last minute ( a large air conditioned bus; not our favorite tour -- too many people -- less personal). At the end we had a quick lunch at Iguana Joes and walked up and down the strip, checking out the stores. Disembarkment -- Easy, easy, easy. Cabs were plentiful. I only wish ships offered the quick luggage service for Canadian bound flights but I'm sure that is a customs prerequisite, not HAL's. Con's -- smoking in the casino which kept us out of it, a consistently draining bathtub, a slight sewer odor for a few days in our corridor and worst of all - they made us leave the ship after only 10 days of pampering! Pro's -- GREAT service and great ports. Special thanks to DJ Jazzy who kept the Northern Lights Lounge open late for 4 Canadians who wanted to dance one night. The Noordam is a very pretty ship. Would we sail HAL again? Yes - if the itinerary and price are right. We've never had a "bad" cruise and only wish we weren't so landlocked so we could enjoy more of them. Happy Sailing. Read Less
Sail Date February 2013
My husband and I have cruised 5 times, all with Holland America, 4 times in the Caribbean. This was our first time on the Noordam. We like HAL's mid size ships and have never been disappointed with their service. We arrived in ... Read More
My husband and I have cruised 5 times, all with Holland America, 4 times in the Caribbean. This was our first time on the Noordam. We like HAL's mid size ships and have never been disappointed with their service. We arrived in Fort Lauderdale without incident the day before our cruise, happy to have just missed the big snowstorm that caused so much havoc for travellers. We stayed at The Renaissance Cruise Port Hotel. Our room was ready for us. It was spotless and the bed was very comfortable. Although expensive, it is in an ideal location, being not far from the airport and extremely close to the cruise port terminal. There is a Walgreens across the street and many restaurants within a short walking distance. We were also able to walk to the water taxi stop. We did not eat in the hotel, choosing instead Panera Bread which was located in a small plaza nearby. It was open for breakfast, lunch and dinner. We also took advantage of the free WiFi there as we did not want to pay extra for it at the hotel. Once on board the Noordam, we were quickly impressed with the cleanliness and excellent service. The crew are very hard working, friendly and helpful. The ship has many very nice areas. My favourites were the atrium and the Explorations Cafe where the library and Internet computer terminals are located. Our cabin was a partially obstructed ocean view which was fine for us. It was kept spotless by our cabin stewards and we had no problems. We ate every night in the main dining room at a table for 8. There were always plenty of options on the menu and the service was always good. Food presentation was excellent. The cold soups are to be recommended and also the Caesar salad. Twice I chose the salmon fillet from the available every day menu and it was excellent. Breakfast and lunch we ate at the Lido buffet where the choices were plentiful, food was always good and the staff were always smiling and helpful.Loved the Dutch raisin buns at breakfast and the rotisserie chicken at lunch. We also enjoyed ice cream every afternoon and the fresh baked cookies that seemed to be always available. Entertainment - We went to most of the shows in the evening. The Noordam singers and dancers were good, but we've seen better shows on other cruises. Twice we chose to watch a movie instead of the show - we saw Salmon Fishing in the Yemen and Lincoln. We also attended some of the game shows and listened to the entertainers in different lounges. There was a steel drum player in the afternoons by the Seaview pool- it was very nice to relax in the sun and listen to him. On Valentine's day there was a party in the Lido pool area. There were Valentine themed ice sculptures and heart shaped red balloons. The ship's band( the Halcats) played and there was dancing. I must mention the dessert extravaganza that is on the last formal night of the cruise. It is amazing to see the chefs' creations made out of chocolate, pastries and bread dough. Activities on board ship are too numerous to mention and we couldn't possibly participate in all of them. This is a feature of cruising that we like - you can be doing something every minute or you can just relax. We enjoyed all the ports on this cruise. Half Moon Cay is truly a beautiful beach - we have been there 3 times and love it. The ship was unable to dock as scheduled at Grand Turk Island due to high winds,but it was not too disappointing as we were spending a sea day on a lovely ship. My husband and I did not go ashore at Samana, Dominican Republic, as the tender boat ride was 20 minutes and it was drizzling. Spent another relaxing day on board ship. Curacao is an interesting port. We had been there a few years ago but enjoyed seeing the colourful Dutch Colonial buildings again. We walked across the pontoon bridge and ended up at an outdoor cafe for lunch. Since our ship was docked until 11:30p.m. we went ashore again after dark in order to look at the Noordam with all the lights on - so pretty. Bonaire was a delightful surprise. The weather was perfect.We spent the morning walking around the city of Kralendijk taking photos. In the afternoon took an island tour with Bonaire Vista Tours. We had booked this online prior to the cruise. Our guide was wonderful - he took us to many interesting and lovely spots and he was very knowledgeable about his island. Bonaire is very charming, unspoiled by commercialism. Aruba was the last port of call. We had also been there a few years ago, but I had forgotten how nice it is. We walked into Oranjestad to shop, take photos and visit the iguanas in an area near the Renaissance Hotel. Sadly,disembarkation came too soon. However it went very smoothly and right on schedule. This was a very relaxing, enjoyable cruise. Can't wait for the next one, whenever and wherever it may be. Read Less
Sail Date February 2013
Review of Noordam cruise Feb 8, 2013 Overall 5 stars Cabin 5 stars MDR 2 stars Entertainment 5 stars to Brett Cave, singer pianist and Rich Purpura, comedian and "mind reader" Embark/disembark - best ever. Quick, courteous, ... Read More
Review of Noordam cruise Feb 8, 2013 Overall 5 stars Cabin 5 stars MDR 2 stars Entertainment 5 stars to Brett Cave, singer pianist and Rich Purpura, comedian and "mind reader" Embark/disembark - best ever. Quick, courteous, efficient and very nice for someone with limited mobility. Pre-Flight hotel: Sleep Inn BWI - very hard to find. Taxi from airport upon return, $23 with tip - better than trying to get hotwl van. No Breakfast, although it was advertised that there would be continental breakfast. Sheraton Ft L Beach. Not worth the money. $150 through Priceline. Next time will choose cheaper hotel closer to port with breakfast. Meals overpriced. Taxis in FT L plentiful, ditto BWI AirTran - check other prices. Too many add-ons, esp $25 per bag for luggage. We did like direct flights from BWI Cruise Critic roll call - very helpful. 5 star party aboard ship. Sunset cruise in Curacao set up by Kampusa very nice. One of the nicest roll calls I've ever had! Superior verandah cabin excellent! Lots of room, great balcony. Would do it again if we could afford to. Stewards very good, not perfect, but obliging. MDR - ok for breakfast and lunch. One dinner - not very good and much too long. MDR understaffed. Lido fine, but pick your times. Chairs in both Lido and MDR very comfortable. Condition of ship very clean, though a little shabbiness, especially in the Crow's Nest was observed. Not a problem for me - I like comfort and cleanliness over glitz any day! Tendering a bad choice for someone with mobility issues. HMC over crowded, could not get clamshell, not enough chairs for two ships in port. BBQ crowded and lackluster. Glad shore excursion on Samana was cancelled for lack of interest - tenders were bouncing around terribly - did not go ashore. The Pinnacle menu is excellent. Good choices, great service! Would go again at least twice. Ate in Pinnacle three times for dinner, once for lunch, and once for Le Cirque. Le Cirque food was bland - not as good as regular Pinnacle menu. Would not book Le Cirque again. Canaletto - service excellent, ambience very quiet. Ate there twice, once would have been more than enough. Lido evening buffet has excellent Italian choices. Disappointed in Canaletto menu - no veal or chicken marsala. An up charge for meatballs and spaghetti is not worth it. Drinks - most are way too big and watered down. Could not find a decent gin martini- but Manhattans straight up were great. Library excellent! Lots of computer terminals - no problem checking in with airline. FLL airport. Could not check bags until 3 hours before flight. Good reason for using ship's luggage direct and/or Ft Lauderdale tours. Overall staff and crew were 5 stars. Daily Mass with priest aboard....wonderful. Bottle of liquor in stateroom - reasonably priced. Laundry efficient and not unreasonably priced. Would take fewer clothes next time and not do formal. Yes, I know that sounds like heresy, but we really do not enjoy the longish dinners in the MDR anyway and would be perfectly happy on formal night to eat in the Lido - or on our balcony. Having three banks of elevators, forward, aft and midship was very convenient and most times we did not have to wait long. I loved the decor! Elegant without glitz! This voyage on this ship contrasts very favorably with our previous voyage on Celebrity's Silhouette. Even though we are Celebrity Captain's Club elite, and the perks are much better than HAL, we would not book a Celebrity cruise again on an "S" class ship, and we would definitely book on HAL again! I hope soon! Read Less
Sail Date February 2013
Pre-cruise:We flew in 2 days before the cruise. Instead of a hotel stay, we went the couch surfing route and stayed at a new friend's home. Embarkation was impressively smooth, well-organized, and easy. Finding our way around was ... Read More
Pre-cruise:We flew in 2 days before the cruise. Instead of a hotel stay, we went the couch surfing route and stayed at a new friend's home. Embarkation was impressively smooth, well-organized, and easy. Finding our way around was made easier because of having been on Noordam's sister ship, the Westerdam. We went to the Mariners' Lunch, settled into our cabin, then enjoyed an informal Sailaway party with some of our fellow Cruise Critic members. Cabin: We thoroughly enjoyed our verandah for 5142. It was somehow smaller than I remembered but it was in fact very comfortable with more than enough room. Our room stewards, Danang and Gede, were great. They were unfailingly cheerful and efficient. entertainment: We enjoyed most of the shows we attended. The only exception was a so-called comedian my husband and I walked out on. The best show was Brett Cave, an entertainer of the best kind. Team Trivia with some of our fellow Cruise Critic members was a huge amount of fun. My team even won a couple of times. The library was excellent. Internet speed was not bad this cruise. We tried the casino but did not stay long because of the smoke, Dining: we had 1st seating, at what turned out to be a table for 8, though had requested a table for 6. Perhaps if had to do with booking fairly late. Thanks to pleasant table companions and wonderful Febi and Daniel, we enjoyed each meal in the MDR, except for the time we celebrated my birthday in the Pinnacle Grill. Virtually all the food was very good. Ports: We really enjoyed each of the ports. Each had something to recommend it. We also enjoyed finding geocaches at each port, which added another dimension, We took ship shore excursions in the Dominican Republic, and on Aruba. We also did our own thing and did one private tour, on Bonaire. The Port review section does not include Samana in the Dominican Republic, so I will describe it here. We would recommend the Cultural Highlights of Samana tour.. The best parts were the small but quality whale museum, and the Taino Park. The hour-long tour at the recreated Indian village uses personal ipods and quality headphones. As soon as we got back from that tour, we hired a local taxi using a motorcycle pulling an open cart to take us to the bridge to Cayo Vigio. The taxi driver walked with us to and from the island, which s a beautiful walk, and then took us to La Churcha. It was an easy walk back to the pier. We were disappointed, of course, that it was not safe to dock at Grand Turk The Noordam is a wonderful. Ship, and this is a great itinerary. Would we recommend it? Oh,yes! Post cruise: disembarkation was a breeze, very well organized. We couch surfed for 2 days, and this time enjoyed the exhilaration of air boat rides in the Everglades. Read Less
Sail Date February 2013
Background Information: This cruise was planned about a year in advance. I chose HAL since it was a long time I cruised with them. Hotel Information: I made reservations at the Hyatt Convention Center 17th St. When I got there I was ... Read More
Background Information: This cruise was planned about a year in advance. I chose HAL since it was a long time I cruised with them. Hotel Information: I made reservations at the Hyatt Convention Center 17th St. When I got there I was happy about the location as it was near an area I was familiar with, near the cruiseport, malls and restaurants. In short a nice location for someone with feet as transportation. Ship Information: Activities: There were plenty of activities. Often I would have liked to participate in several events. Cabin: I had cabin 6104, located between amidships and aft, 10 cabins away from the center elevators and 5 from the aft elevators. This was handy because the aft elevators took me to dinner in the Vista Dining Room on Deck 3 & to breakfast in the Lido Restaurant on Deck 9. My room stewards were Gede & Bagus, they told me they were responsible for 29 cabins. Captain: John Scott kept us well informed daily of the ships navigation and our daily progress as well as weather information. Children's Clubs: N/A Cruise Director: Shane Michaels was good but I've had better. Dining: Service & food were outstanding. ...The Pinnacle Grill was well worth the visit but I only ate there once a free gift from HAL thanking me for choosing the .....21 day cruise. ...Le Cirque at the Pinnacle Grill: To me it wasn't worth the price as I was used to hospital food. ...Mexican Food: This is near the Terrace Grill; I did not taste the food but they have quite a variety. ...Terrace Grill: This is on Lido 9 amidships & specializes in cheeseburgers, hotdogs, hamburgers, French fries etc. ...Canaletto Restaurant: Serves Italian food; I did not eat there & passengers were upset because there was a $10 charge .....& it used to be free. ...Coffee: Various people complained that the coffee was very strong. Embarkation: This went rather smoothly as we embarked on a Friday & the port was not crowded. Disembarkation: This was rather swift. I signed up for luggage direct which means you put your luggage out Sunday night & don't see it again until Monday at your home airport. I was off the ship & on the transportation to the airport in less than ½ hour. With luggage direct we were one of the first to leave the ship but we waited close to an hour (it seemed like that) on the ...bus. Entertainment: The Noordam seemed to excel here & most of the evening's entertainment received a standing ovation. Popcorn: This was available at all movies & was free naturally. Port & Shore Excursions: At Half Moon Cay I rented a clamshell, in Aruba I took a bus tour of the island, & in the other ports I just left the ship & did a bit of sightseeing. Sanitation: There were plenty of Purell hand sanitizers throughout the ship & all food handlers wore gloves. I did not notice anyone coughing and there appeared to be little chance of the Norovirus that causes cruise ships to delay boarding. Sanitation aboard the Noordam was even cleaner than some hospitals. The first 48 hours, you are served by the stewards in the Lido Restaurant. There was an attendant throughout the voyage serving cold drinks in the morning for the entire cruise. Service: This was outstanding service but HAL seems to be known for service. Tours: In most of the islands, taxi tours are available at the pier. If you want to go to a beach, take a taxi & request that you be picked up at a certain time. Wi-Fi: This was available at some ports with either Wi-Fi or internet service or both. Summary: I enjoyed my 10 days aboard the Noordam & look forward to my next voyage with HAL. Travel to Port of Embarkation: When I travel to Fort Lauderdale I usually stay at the Holiday Inn Cruiseport. This time I went to Priceline & stayed at the Hyatt Cruiseport of 17th St. a nice hotel but they did charge for shuttle to the cruiseport. ITINERARY Fri Jan 18 FLL 7/4 -- pc (Casual): We arrived at 7am but I was on the next cruise also so this was turn around for me (btb). We met in the Vista Lounge at 10am & followed the leader who took us off the ship, through customs (a formality) then back on the ship again. Customs (so I was told) likes a zero count of the ship (believe that & I have a bridge to sell you). Tonight's entertainment was Let us Entertain You with the Noordam singers and dancers. Sat Jan 19 Half Moon Cay Bahamas tender 8/4 -- pc (Formal): After lunch I went to the movie "The Bourne Legacy" in the Queens Lounge then the Cooking Show "That Souper" in the Culinary Arts Center. Tonight's entertainment was "Ballroom Blitz" with the Noordam Singers and Dancers. Sun Jan 20 Grand Turk, Turks and Caicos docked 12-6 - pc (Casual): I went ashore hoping to find Wi-Fi then returned to the ship, had lunch & saw the movie "The Dark Knight Rises" in the Queens Lounge. Tonight's entertainment "Fireworks On Four Strings" with Chris Watkins http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=1NJSi-pNbr4 and he was great. The audience gave him a standing ovation. Mon Jan 21 Samana, Dominican Republic tender 10/5 -- pc (Casual): This was an island I would like to have spent more time in as the scenery was just beautiful but we were told the area is very rustic, rural, a developing nation, & some areas may be poverty stricken. I went ashore, walked past booths selling souvenirs then returned to the ship & after lunch saw Snow White and the Huntsman. Tonight's entertainment was Chris Blackmore http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=0wrx1oorXbw comedian & magician. Tue Jan 22 at sea pc (Formal): I went to "Transferring Photos" in the Digital Workshop followed by "Introductory Photo Editing". After lunch there was a "Future Cruise Presentation" in the Vista Lounge, "Custodians of the Seas" in the Hudson Room, & "Indonesian Tea" in the dining room. The Vista Dining Room had Surf and Turf with Filet Mignon and Prawns tonight. This evening's entertainment was singer Jordan Bennett http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=I0ktRrIeslo but I left after 15 minutes because there was a group of instrumentalists called the Mountain Laurel Autoharp Gathering http://www.mlag.org/ , so I sat in on the session held in the Hudson Room. Wed Jan 23 Kralendijk (Bonaire) Antilles - docked 8/5 pc (Casual): I went ashore for a few hours then saw the movie "This Means War" which turned out to be funnier than expected. Tonight's Showtime was "If Walls Could Rock" with the Noordam singers and dancers, but I left early to hear the autoharp jam session in the Hudson room. Thu Jan 24 Willemstad (Curaccao) Antilles docked 7/11 -- pc (Casual): Went to lunch & met a couple who said that there is Wi-Fi on the island but as far as they are concerned, any business can wait until they get home. I walked to town passing a few Wi-Fi spots, roamed around taking in a few sights I had missed on previous cruises then returned to the ship for lunch. Today's movie was Trouble with the Curve" with Clint Eastwood & Showtime tonight at 10:30 was comedian Kevin Jordan http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=i1n8_8MeCBw ; one would think at that hour it would be Adult Content but such was not the case. Between supper & Showtime I sat in the autoharp jam session in the Hudson Room. Fri Jan 25 Oranjestad, Aruba docked 7-5 -- pc (Casual): For once during this cruise I had breakfast at 6:30am & managed to stay awake. I went to town hoping to find Wi-Fi in the Renaissance Mall & according to people I talked to Wi-Fi was there but I couldn't get it, so I returned to the ship & had lunch. In the afternoon I took a tour of the island sponsored by HAL. Tonight's entertainment was pianist and singer Vladimir Zaitsev http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ZaVNUf457o0 but I went to see the bluegrass jam session instead. Sat Jan 26 at sea -- pc (Formal): I had a rather large breakfast so had a sandwich for lunch leaving room for the escargot & lobster we might be having tonight. As there was nothing in the Caribbean Sidewalk Sale, I ended up reading my Nook. At dinner Edgar & Pauline told us of their tour of the ship ($150 each) with Captain Scott. It was very interesting, & although they did get about $50 for more in free merchandise, at the time I thought it was not worth it; looking back I now realize that maybe it would have been worth it. Tonight's entertainment was "That's Vegas" with the Noordam singers and dancers but I sat in the autoharp jam session. Sun Jan 27 at sea -- pc (Casual): I woke at 5am & again at 7am going to the Lido for breakfast then back to my cabin to pack. Tonight's entertainment was Kevin Jordan & Chris Watkins. I went to the bluegrass show until 10pm then saw tonight's entertainment but returned to my cabin for last minute packing. As I was participating in luggage direct, I left my checked baggage outside my cabin tonight for pickup at Logan airport tomorrow. This service cost $20 & transportation from pier to airport was another $20; to me the expense was well worth the price. Mon Jan 28 FLL -- pc: We arrived in Ft Lauderdale at 7am; I was one of the first to leave the ship at 7:30 but waited on the bus for what felt like an hour. LOG: The cruise log showed the number of guests to be 1859 for this voyage. According to my stewards the ship's capacity was 1922 -- 2306. The Officers were: Captain John Scott, Hotel Manager Mark Pells, Cruise Director Shane Michaels as well as the entire ship's complement. 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Sail Date January 2013
We left Montreal 3 days prior to our cruise in order to spend time in FLL . Westjet was wonderful to us We will definitely choose them again 2 carry ons is a real plus plus crew and staff were very nice both in Montreal and Fort ... Read More
We left Montreal 3 days prior to our cruise in order to spend time in FLL . Westjet was wonderful to us We will definitely choose them again 2 carry ons is a real plus plus crew and staff were very nice both in Montreal and Fort Lauderdale GOOD JOB WESTJET WE stayed at the HYATT place near the port . Happy to say they cleaned it up very nicely ..no more mildew smell plus nice breakfaST AND BIG ROOMS We will use this hotel again Shopped and visited for 3 days...PERFECT WEnt to port with hotel shuttle ...very easy Our cabin was well located aft near elevators .I found storage space for 21 days limited but we managed .Loved our balcony and spent many hours on it reading and watching the waves until second leg ..... Our itinerary was the best .Nothing beats the ABC islands ...wonderful for shopping snorkeling and enjoying the heat Loved Barbados and Martinique on first leg THe service on Noordam was excellent and food was really good except Pinmnacl grill ..I think the chef really missed that one ..food was downright horrid ...very bitter I thought the dining room was much better WE had anytime dining and table 133 every night and shared with different people which wasvery enjoyable WE will choose anytime again They took great care of my food allergies Thank you ASHfor being a great waiter with a smile !!! My only beef about this trip is the smoking policy allowing CIGARS on balconies our cigar smoker spoiled our second leg He smoked nonstop and the stench filled the air and our cabin. I hope HAL will change their policy soon and join other companies in banning smoking indooers and on balconies .The Casino was horrid because it does not have proper ventilation .One night after some time there I ended up coughing all night back in my cabin. Needless to say I did not return People played pennies in front of me to keep on smoking ....I was told Casino could not ask them to leave even if they played 1 penny .They also never had a smokefree night I was told they were in the process of changing the policy THe demographics of HAL are quite different in winter and summer In winter many older people in wheelchairs,scooters and walkers and many not beach people In summer many families I loved scenic cruising in St Lucia and Martinique very enjoyable Production shows lacked pizzaz and decor but other musical performers were fine Adagio Strings was always enjoyable Loved the aft pool but steel drums nonstop was a bit much I would have prefereed a little more quiet .Library was great with many books Our cabin steward was very nice ..I loved our towel animals ...too cute for words Will return to Hal if they change their smoking policy ...I am told soon Loved the Southern Caribbean ...always a great choice For snorkeling nothing beats Bonaire and Dominica /s Champagne reef For those 2 stops our cruise was the best Kudos to ASSIA at pursers office for being so nice as always Loved our cruise now back in the cold and snow I miss it already Until next time ..... Read Less
Sail Date January 2013
Background Information: This cruise was planned about a year in advance. I chose HAL since it was a long time I cruised with them. Hotel Information: I made reservations at the Hyatt Convention Center 17th St. When I got there I was ... Read More
Background Information: This cruise was planned about a year in advance. I chose HAL since it was a long time I cruised with them. Hotel Information: I made reservations at the Hyatt Convention Center 17th St. When I got there I was happy about the location as it was near an area I was familiar with, near the cruiseport, malls and restaurants. In short a nice location for someone with feet as transportation. Ship Information: Activities: There were plenty of activities. Often I would have liked to participate in several events. Cabin: I had cabin 6104, located between amidships and aft, 10 cabins away from the center elevators and 5 from the aft elevators. This was handy because the aft elevators took me to dinner in the Vista Dining Room on Deck 3 & to breakfast in the Lido Restaurant on Deck 9. My room stewards were Gede & Bagus, they told me they were responsible for 29 cabins. Captain: John Scott kept us well informed daily of the ships navigation and our daily progress as well as weather information. Children's Clubs: N/A Cruise Director: Shane Michaels was good but I've had better. Dining: Service & food were outstanding. ...The Pinnacle Grill was well worth the visit but I only ate there once as it was free as was thanking me for choosing the .....21 day cruise. ...Le Cirque at the Pinnacle Grill: Not worth the price as I was used to hospital food. ...Mexican Food: This is near the Terrace Grill; I did not taste the food but they have quite a variety. ...Terrace Grill: This is on Lido 9 amidships & specializes in cheeseburgers, hotdogs, hamburgers, French fries & etc. ...Canaletto Restaurant: Serves Italian food; I did not eat there & passengers were upset as they charged $10 & it used to ......be free. ...Coffee: Various people complained that the coffee was very strong. Embarkation: This went rather smoothly as we embarked on a Monday and there were only 3 ships in port. I left on the 12 noon shuttle to the cruise port and was finished unpacking in my stateroom by 2pm. Disembarkation: This was rather swift. I signed up for luggage direct which means you put your luggage out Sunday night & don't see it again until Monday at your home airport. I was off the ship & on the transportation to the airport in less than '½ hour. With luggage direct we were one of the first to leave the ship but we waited about an hour (it seemed like that) on the ...bus. Entertainment: The Noordam seemed to excel here & most of the evening's entertainment received a standing ovation. Popcorn: This was available at all movies & was free naturally. Port & Shore Excursions: On both days at Half Moon Cay I rented a clamshell, in Philipsburg (St. Maarten) I went to the beach, in Aruba I took a ...tour of the island. Sanitation: There were plenty of Purell hand sanitizers throughout the ship & all food handlers wore gloves. I did not notice anyone coughing and there appeared to be little chance of the Norovirus that causes cruise ships to delay boarding. Sanitation aboard the Noordam was even cleaner than some hospitals. The first 48 hours, you are served by the stewards in the Lido Restaurant. There was an attendant throughout the voyage serving cold drinks in the morning for the entire cruise. Service: This was outstanding service but HAL seems to be known for service. Tours: In most of the islands, taxi tours are available at the pier. If you want to go to a beach, take a taxi & request that you be picked up at a certain time. Wi-Fi: This was available at some ports with either Wi-Fi or internet service or both. Summary: I enjoyed my 21 days aboard the Noordam & look forward to my next voyage with HAL. Travel to Port of Embarkation: When I travel to Fort Lauderdale I usually stay at the Holiday Inn Cruiseport. This time I went to Priceline & stayed at the Hyatt Cruiseport of 17th St. a nice hotel but they did charge for shuttle to the cruiseport. ITINERARY Sat Jan 5 Fort Lauderdale - pc: I left Boston on Jet Blue flight 965 arriving in FLL about 11am. I could not check in so went to the Harbor Cafe, which has a sanitary problem & probably could be shut down, for some steak and eggs which tasted good as I did not have breakfast then to Publix Supermarket for some shopping. Supper consisted of a tuna fish salad as I had a rather large lunch; lunch to me is usually only a sandwich. The 42" TV at the hotel was quite a difference from the 13" I have a home. Sun Jan 6 Fort Lauderdale - pc: I set the radio alarm for 5:45am & went to the free hotel breakfast, had lunch at Joe's Cafe then went next door to Publix Market & walked the isles enjoying their free air-conditioning. Mon Jan 07 Fort Lauderdale -- pc (Casual): After checking out of the hotel, I took the 12 noon shuttle to the cruise port & was in my cabin by 2pm with packing finished as I took my luggage with me. But it should be remembered that this was a Monday and there were only 3 ships in port. I did not see anyone at the 2:30pm Informal M&G and only 2 showed up at the Informal M&G after the muster (we had 2 M&G's). The Muster was interesting for we were told that it would last 30 minutes but 15 of those 30 was making sure all cabins were accounted for. Oh, & people taking the second cruise must also attend the muster & life jackets at the muster were not required. Back in cabin there was a note thanking me for taking the 21 day cruise & inviting me to eat at the Pinnacle Grill free, which I did along with my nook (e-reader). I had a nice time reading & eating, mostly reading for that type of ambiance I am not used too. I did not go to tonight's entertainment of Let Us Entertain You with the Noordam Singers and Dancers http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=z6tSaoGqm6A . Tue Jan 08 at sea - party cloudy, humid (Formal): At the M&G today the Food Director said that the islands we will be visiting are more tropical in nature. He also said that if we have a grievance HAL would rather hear it when it occurs rather than at the end of the voyage. After the M&G, lunch then to the spa to use the thermal hydropool then to my cabin where I read my e-reader on the verandah. At supper at table 54 we had Ziggy & his wife Kay, John & his wife Betty, Kim & her sister Noralee & their mother Nina. Tonight's entertainment was Ballroom Blitz with the Noordam Singers and Dancers. I purchased a bathing suit at the gift shop which turned out to be a fine purchase. Wed Jan 09 at sea - cloudy all day (Casual): It seems the sea gets rougher the more south we go; I had a rather large breakfast at 7am for a change. I purchased some sandals at the gift shop only to return them at the end of the cruise, returned to my cabin to put them away then went to the cabin crawl organized by "14 days and counting"; we visited 6 cabins. I had lunch in the Lido Restaurant & met some people from the cabin crawl who reminded me about the luncheon for Mariner's. So for supper I was not very hungry although I managed to eat all 3 courses. Tonight's entertainment was Julie Barr http://delafont.com/comedians/Julie-Barr.htm. Thu Jan 10 Philipsburg (St Maarten AN) - docked 8am/3pm - cloudy with rain showers (Casual); My bus tour today was "The French Riviera Beach Rendezvous" where you are taken to Orient Beach for about 3 '½ hours, lounge chairs, lunch and 2 drinks are included all for $60 adult. We left about 9:15am, returned about 2:15 pm. The weather at the beach was windy & mostly cloudy. It rained as we were driving there by bus but the tour director guaranteed the rain would let up by the time we reached the beach & she was correct. Tonight's entertainment was pianist, singer, comedienne Siobhan Phillips http://www.costelloentertainments.co.uk/3771/1652/objects/artists/siobhan-phillips.aspx from England. No doubt she is talented but I didn't understand the English accent. Fri Jan 11 Castries, St. Lucia - docked 8/3 -- pc (Casual): Went ashore to the shops, forgot to bring any money (out of habit). I did not see anything I liked & even if I did there was no room in my luggage. Wi-Fi was available but went back on board, had lunch, then went to a Windows 8 seminar. At 10pm tonight was Late Night R-Rated Adult Comedy with Julie Barr. Most agreed that it was really not R-Rated but Julie again put on a star performance. Jan 11 Scenic Cruising Soufriere Bay Jan 11 Soufriere St Lucia 5-6 Sat Jan 12 Bridgetown, Barbados - docked 8/5 -- pc (Formal): I went on a chocolate factory tour organized by a Cruise Critic member. We took a taxi to the factory even though it was just several blocks from the ship as there was one elderly person who could not walk the distance. It was a good tour and lasted about 3 hours. Tonight's entertainment was Simply Broadway featuring the Noordam Singers; I didn't care for it but the audience appreciated it. Sun Jan 13 Fort-De-France, Martinique -- docked 8/5 -- pc (Casual): Today everything was closed as it was Sunday. I got off the ship because one steward said that Wi-Fi might be available but the Wi-Fi at the pier was not working. I mailed a post card but decided that all future postcards will be in the form of emails. As the distance from Martinique to Roseau was 47 miles the Captain said he will be doing only 8 knots per hour. Tonight's entertainment was Comedian & other Dangerous Stuff of Benji Hill http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=E5J9T5KdRu8 .The audience gave him a standing ovation. Jan 13 Daylight passing Mount Pelee Mon Jan 14 Roseau, Dominica tender 7/3 -- pc (Casual): I went ashore expecting to find Wi-Fi but could only find a place located on the 2nd floor & I have a phobia for heights. A person later told me that there was Wi-Fi at a hotel but I was back on the ship & Wi-Fi then was really an issue. At 3pm I went to the Filipino Crew Show http://www.flickr.com/photos/36498457@N00/2451355193/in/photostream/ which was interesting. Tonight's entertainment was Piano Entertainer Elliot Finkel http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ln2oyjAJybo; the audience gave him a standing ovation. Tue Jan 15 St Thomas USVI docked 8/5 -- pc (Casual): I got off the ship expecting to find Wi-Fi but didn't. Saw an armadillo sunning himself on a rock. I went into the movie Robot & Frank then Introduction to the Cloud in the Digital Workshop. Tonight's entertainment was comedian and impressionist Jeff Burghart http://www.jeffburghart.com/ ; the audience liked him. Wed Jan 16 at sea -- pc (Formal): I went to the Caribbean Side Walk Sale on Lido 9 Pool Area but didn't see anything then the Cooking Show "A Taste Of The Caribbean", next "Custodians of the Sea" followed by Driving the Hotel with Captain John Scott. Tonight's entertainment was "That's Vegas" with the Noordam Singers and Dancers. Thu Jan 17 Half Moon Cay Bahamas tender 8/4 -- pc (Casual): I rented a clamshell staying there from 9-12 upon which I returned to the ship, had lunch, saw the movie Women in Black followed by the cooking show "A Taste Of Excellence". This evening's entertainment was Elliott Finkel & Jeff Burghart. Jeff was first followed by Elliott sort of like comparing a Ford to a Peugot. Fri Jan 18 FLL 7/4 -- pc: We arrived at 7am. LOG: The cruise log showed the number of guests to be 1857 for this voyage. The Officers were: Captain John Scott, Hotel Manager Mark Pells, Cruise Director Shane Michaels as well as the entire ship's complement. Read Less
Sail Date January 2013
Our first cruise took some careful planning using the internet ( no thanks to Imagine Cruising who were hopeless ) we siled from Port Everglade in Fort Lauderdale on the Noordam. Boarding was easy and luggage arrived at our cabin very ... Read More
Our first cruise took some careful planning using the internet ( no thanks to Imagine Cruising who were hopeless ) we siled from Port Everglade in Fort Lauderdale on the Noordam. Boarding was easy and luggage arrived at our cabin very quickly. Our cabin stewards Heru 1 and Heru 2 were truely excellent . Cabin 6171 had reasonable amount of space but shower only no bath . It was comfortable with a nice balcony to sit out on and enjoy a glass of vino. Food & sevice in the pinacle grill is splendid, staff including the guys from Turkey are first class. We ate here 4 nights and enjoyed the menu selections. Vista Dining room any time dining saw us eat at table for two, or with a group on some evenings , again good service and very polite staff .Lido we ate in this resturant mainly light breakfast and light lunch, excellent selection of food, clean , good service. Pools of the two we preffered the aft pool, also the jacussi . Live music at times and bar service was really on the ball especially Boosy and Len . These guys also worked in the Ocean bar in the venings and are a credit to HAL as they were great. Lots of shore trips, by golf cart, taxis and bus also a submarine trip which was a blast , you really should try this. Weather perfect and you get to meet a lot of very nice people . We can recomend the Noordam, as its first priority is to look after the passengers, from Captain Scott and throughout the crew who make this ship function brilliantly. We now plan a longer cruise next year perhaps Far East/Australia with HAL. Read Less
Sail Date January 2013
My husband and I are in our early 40's and have taken 11 cruises. We took this exact cruise in March 2012 and loved it so much we booked it again in December. We arrived in Ft. Lauderdale the day before the cruise and stayed at the ... Read More
My husband and I are in our early 40's and have taken 11 cruises. We took this exact cruise in March 2012 and loved it so much we booked it again in December. We arrived in Ft. Lauderdale the day before the cruise and stayed at the Comfort Inn airport and cruise. This hotel provided free transportation from the airport and to the pier. This is the only positive thing about this hotel. I wouldn't recommend it. We arrived at the pier around 1030. Our check in took 15 mins but were weren't allowed to actually board the ship until 1130. There was adequate sitting room while we were waiting to board the ship but the waiting area was a bit warm. We booked a balcony room (VH) but were upgraded to a VA room on the 8th floor. The room was well maintained with the exception of the leaky water valve on the deck that caused a steady water trail. The room had adequate storage space and modern decor. Our cabin steward's were great. They were friendly, prompt, and did a great job of maintaining our room. The food was good. The variety seemed a little less than we cruised in December. The fruit in the Lido was not very good. It was over ripe. The desserts were lacking as on all the ships we have cruised on. The staff in the Lido was friendly and helpful if we needed anything. The Lido was never overly crowded. The dining room staff was all friendly but there were areas of the dining room where service was very slow. Disembarkment was easy as we booked a shore excursion before our plane left. We would recommend this ship, cruise line and the ports. The activities on the ship were lacking which made the days at sea long. The entertainment was good. The Vegas style shows were good and the comedian was the best we have ever seen. The Pinnacle grill was fabulous. The food was exceptional with good variety. The staff was very attentive and accurate. This was well worth the extra fee. All the staff on the ship were friendly and helpful. The remembered us by name. Read Less
Sail Date December 2012
Noordam 21 day Christmas, New Years Caribbean cruise Getting to the ship We flew from San Francisco to Ft Lauderdale on JetBlue nonstop overnight getting into Ft Lauderdale at around 7:30am the day before the cruise. We like the ... Read More
Noordam 21 day Christmas, New Years Caribbean cruise Getting to the ship We flew from San Francisco to Ft Lauderdale on JetBlue nonstop overnight getting into Ft Lauderdale at around 7:30am the day before the cruise. We like the overnight flight because it allows for a full day of hanging out on the beach and getting a good night's sleep the day before the cruise. We usually stay at the Extended Stay hotel on the 17th st. Causeway because they have four things we like, 1. they have free airport pickup, 2. they have a free shuttle to the ships the hotel is 1 block for the port, 3. they have a kitchen in the room, and 4. it's close enough to the beach that we can easily walk there. There are also plenty of stores and restaurants nearby. The Noordam The ship is in great shape! Most everything was clean and shiny. I had an obstructed ocean view cabin on deck 4. The great thing about these cabins on deck 4 is the window is floor to ceiling so you get lots of light and this particular cabin has the backend of a smaller lifeboat in front of the window of which I could see over the top and the back so my view was good, I could see lots of the water as well as any land we were going by. On deck 1 the ocean view cabin are not obstructed and the window is the usual square window which was about a quarter the size of ours. I usually always get an obstructed ocean view cabin in between lifeboats and the view is always good and the price was right, in fact the price was great since this was both a Christmas day and new year's day cruise and it was the regular price. I compared it to the Emerald Princess 20 day cruise that had similar ports and dates and it was $1,000.00 more per person! All the cruise lines usually jack up the price during the holidays so I was surprised to see this one at the regular price! My cabin was always clean and well maintained, one thing that seemed a bit strange was that the room steward wasn't filling up the soap dispenser in the shower. I ended up calling the front desk twice to get some more soap. When I saw him he said he was having a hard time getting soap as they were low on it. If that's the real reason then management isn't doing their job! The other thing that was a bit out of the ordinary was that we had come back from an excursion at 2:30pm and our room hadn't been made up. One thing different about HA and Princess is that HA doesn't have any big carts in the hallways, the room attendants work in pairs and carry around small handheld containers with supplies rather than a whole cart that blocks half of the isle on Princess ships. Throughout the entire ship in all of the passenger hallways there are black and white photos of various HA ships from past to present, along with pictures of the insides of ships, some ports and shipyards, along with lots of paintings of Venice. It was always a pleasure to walk down any of the corridors and view the pictures, I frequently went of different decks to get to my cabin so I could look at all of the photos. You get a great feeling for what HA is all about. The public rooms are great; We saw all of the shows in the main theater and never had a problem finding a great seat. The ship is set up to feel more like a small ship. Compared to either the Coral or the Island Princess which are similar in size the Noordams public rooms are smaller as is the atrium. The promenade deck is nice and wide similar to that of the Queen Mary 2. The Food Since I have food allergies I ate both breakfast and lunch at the Lido buffet every day. For breakfast I usually have fruit and hot cereal of which there is always an abundant supply of. The fruit was always fresh, ripe and delicious. For lunch I made a huge salad of which there was a great salad bar always full of a variety of veggies to choose from. The hot food was plentiful and good. The food in the buffet is as good as Princess. The Lido buffet area gets very crowded at breakfast and lunch time and a line forms that moves quite slowly. Part of the slow line problem is they need to put another staff member on the line to help everyone get their food faster and they need to expand the hot food area, there is a lot of wasted space on the counter. (Princess has remodeled their buffet and they have taken the toast, bread and dessert area and put it in the eating area making it much easier and quicker getting your food). The isle space is too small to handle all the people so there is a lot of bumping going on. I'd like to talk to the designer and find out how they came up with this floor plan. The other problem was the service in the buffet indoor and outdoor seating. The main thing I noticed is the lack of staff. Princess has quite a bit more staff keeping the tables clean at all times and they always make sure I have some lemonade. I usually ate both breakfast and lunch out on the back deck and had to find my own silverware numerous times while staff members were standing around talking to themselves or trying to sell me a "bar" drink. I took a cruise on the Eurodam 3 years ago and found the same problem on that ship as well. I had read about this on cruise critic for the Eurodam 3 years ago and it's still happening on the Noordam as well. I asked one of the "bar" waiters for some lemonade and they said I had to get it myself, on Princess they always got me some lemonade no matter who I asked. It also took a while to clear the tables They are very good about asking you if you want some drinks from the bar, that was never a problem. I think with a bit more training the staff would be able to provide the "Signature of Excellence" service HA boasts about. I would think the management would want the whole ship to shine brightly. For dinner we always ate in the main dining room at the earlier seating. The Rembrandt dining room is nicely done although the isles are a bit cramped. All the dinners were great every night. I order a special salad, sauteed vegetables and a yam for each night, while choosing between the various fish, lamb steak and chicken items. For dessert I either had a bowl of berries, or they made me an Apple Tart Tatin. One of the great things about cruising is that you can get almost anything you want when it comes to food, if you ask they will make it for you. The service in the dining room varied, we started downstairs and found the service was hit or miss. Downstairs is the "as you wish dinning" area. On the third day we went upstairs to the traditional seating and had great service from day one, a much better experience. Downstairs the first waiter we had was very slow in getting the food to the table. The second waiter was better although the times varied as to how long it took to get our food. The waiter said the kitchen was slow at times and that was the reason for the delay. Upstairs was always a pleasure, our head waiter was exceptional at getting us everything we wanted and on time. The terrace grill is great with a nice selection of hamburgers, turkey burgers, lamb burgers, and salmon burgers along with hot dogs and fries. The problem with the Terrace Grill is that the opening to it is too small and they put a huge display of the food in the middle of it so it's hard to see and talk to the servers and cooks making the food. I especially enjoy the lamb burgers and had one every day without the bun. What I noticed was the staff needs some more English lessons and the display needs to removed. Almost no one ever looked at the displays to make their choices, they looked at the sign board or knew what they wanted before making their order. The staff behind the counter would consistently get the order wrong or have to ask again and again what everyone wanted, some passengers were very frustrated with this back and forth confusion. The solution is to get rid of the displays and have the staff take some more English lessons, all very doable at little or no cost to HAL and with a big benefit. I was there every day at lunchtime for 21 days and I saw the same thing going on every day. Entertainment The HAL dancers did a good job with their shows and the, singers, pianists, comedians and magicians were all fabulous! We saw all of the shows. The theater is great from just about any seat. The other entertainment throughout the ship was great as well. Spa and Gym We used the gym about 15 times - We lift weights and there were no real problems waiting for the machines or the dumbells. The equipment was enough for us to do maintenance workouts. We was there at 3-5pm and there was never any waiting for equipment. Everything was clean and worked! The spa area is mostly a "pay for it" item. If you want to use a locker they are in the pay zone and the "complimentary" sauna is tiny! In the mornings we walked the Promenade deck for an hour everyday and never use the elevators. We only gained 1 pounds on this entire trip. Excursions I booked all my tours through HA before getting on the ship for peace of mind regarding schedules and getting back to the ship on time. If it's a HA tour, they'll wait for you if it's late getting back to the ship. We were usually always right on schedule, arriving spot on time at every port. We took snorkel trips at most of the islands and they were always fun. All in all the process was organized and smooth. All the tours were right on time and everyone was very helpful in making sure we all had a great time. The Captain was great at giving a 12:55pm update on our progress. He also informed us as to our course when heading out of each port. The weather was good for most of the trip, calm and warm, mostly sunny, with some rain in Bonaire.. On deck 9 you can get out on the front of the ship and see everything up close and personal, it's a great place for viewing coming into ports as well as leaving. Disembarkation On the mornings of disembarkation I usually get up eat breakfast and find a nice lounge chair either on top deck if it's nice or down on the promenade deck and wait there for my color code to be called thus avoiding the congestion at get off time. HA has a color system of which you get a tag for you bag and when your color and number is called you are able to disembark, ours was brown number 1. The disembarkation was smooth and peaceful with little crowding, we found our bags in the terminal and off we went!. I would hope the management at HA does some more training with their staff to bring the level of service up to "Signature Class". The ship is great and with a little shining up it will be a winner. Read Less
Sail Date December 2012
This is our first cruise with Holland America, although we have cruised with different cruise lines. We booked this cruise for the itinerary and the super low price. . We drove to Fort Lauderdale,stayed at the Comfort ... Read More
This is our first cruise with Holland America, although we have cruised with different cruise lines. We booked this cruise for the itinerary and the super low price. . We drove to Fort Lauderdale,stayed at the Comfort Inn,Hollywood,the price of one night's stay,included the 10 day parking, drop off and pick up with their shuttle at the cruise port, excellent service, excellent price. We arrived at the cruise port, embarking took no time, we were on the ship and immediately in our room, loved that, no dragging around carry ons, etc. Impressed with this. We liked the size of the ship -- not overly crowded, easy to get around- and although we like kids, nice to see that there were hardly any on the cruise. We have been on ships that parents allow kids to run wild. Not a lot of announcements, or waiters pushing drinks, we liked that. I had read that the Hal cruises were mostly elderly guests, well, there was a cross section of ages, elderly, middle age, and varying ages of younger people, nice mix. I had also read reviews, saying that many of the passengers, were elderly people in wheel chairs,using scooters, canes,walkers...yes, there were plenty, but we only wish both sets of our parents were still alive, that they could be with us, enjoying a cruise using their walkers,if they had to, to see them enjoying life and not in a nursing home. We arrived at the cruise port, embarking took no time, we were on the ship and immediately in our room, loved that, no dragging around carry ons, etc. Impressed with this. We had a veranda stateroom on the Rotterdam deck. Lots of storage, bed and pillows super comfortable, loved the Elemis products provided -- I wish I had bought the conditioner when it was on sale at the spa. Our stewards were super nice guys, great service, lots of ice, we brought one bottle of wine with use and they kept us supplied with ice. We always put the card in the door to haver tohe room make up when we went out in the morning. There are DVD's you can order from a huge selection, if you wish to watch a movie in your stateroom. Food is subjective -- We enjoyed our meals. Waiters were all really nice, and dinner usually took about 1-1/2 hours. The only meal we didn't enjoy was the last evening, the Master Chefs, just wasn't anything on the menu either of us really wanted to order. We aren't food critics, hey,we are on vacation I don't have to cook, clean up, wash dishes. I am not complaining. We ate breakfast every morning in the main dining room, I have no problem eating in the Lido buffet but trying to get coffee,juice, your food, table,etc is a pain, unless you are in port and have to be off the ship early, then that is fine with me. We ate dinner in the Vista Dining Room, almost every night, we had Open Seating and we never waited for a table. We went to 2 formal nights -- men you have to have a jacket on -- we seen one night a passenger was given a jacket to wear. On casual evenings, men, you have to wear long pants. We loved the Explorations Cafe. Lots of books to take out to read, magazines to read while you are there, chess games, checkers, etc. We took advantage of the Tech classes, went to a Windows 8 seminar, very informative. Lots of cooking classes, cake decorating, etc...tons of things to do. We went to a couple of movies in the Queens Lounge. We really liked the Crow's Nest for relaxing. Internet -- the only big complaint I have. I signed up for 100 minutes for $55.00 plus the activations fee, fine, I know it is satellite and super super slow, but we needed to trying check emails and let family member know things were fine. Last day on the ship I had 20 minutes left, used it checking emails, etc, it seemed it was a big longer and hey I didn't have my stop watch with me. To make a long story short, when I got our on board account, we were charged an extra $14.30 for internet. We found out what happens that, when the 100 minutes was used, the system does not sign out, or advise you that you need to purchase more internet time, it will automatically start billing you for the extra minutes. Did not like this, so much like negative billing. It is not the $14.30 that we were charged it is the principal of the matter. I deduct major points for this. Maybe I missed reading the fine print when I initially set up for the internet and next I will be super clear what is involved. Buyer beware. But when we were in Bonaire, there is an internet cafe that had 1 hour internet for $7.00 and in Aruba we found an internet cafe that had 1 hour for $4.00....had I done research before we left I would have gone the internet cafe route and never purchased internet time on the ship. Nightly Shows- There were 2 shows Tony Pace and Rondell Sherridan, both excellent, the rest were most the Noordam Singers and Dancers, after you seen one of their shows, that was enough. They really need better shows at night. Ports- Half Moon Cay -- loved it -- we rented a clam shell, good choice as there wasn't much shade and sun was hot. We went back to the ship early, so we asked some people if they wanted to use the clam shell,as we were leaving and it was paid for, for the day, they were sitting in the hot sun. We enjoyed the bbq lunch, loved the roosters running around. Grand Turk -- We took a private tour which we found on the dock, Hartley Forbes -- mini van, AC, $30.00 each, drove us all around, seen the lighthouse, herds of horses running wild, donkeys...Then we spent the rest of the day at the beach at Margaritaville, lots of loungers, warm water, sandy beach...loved it.. Samana-DR After a few tenders went ashore, the Captain had to cancel the tendering, as the seas were super rough. We had only planned to go into Samana and walk around. We have been to the DR before and not our favourite place. Bonaire -- again, got a private tour with Farid, from Ayubi's Tours and Taxi, the singing driver, great tour $25.00 each lots of fun and very informative. Curacaos -- we decided to just take a walk around, loved the Poontoon Bridge, the floating market, we did some shopping. We were in port until 11pm and after dinner we took a walk down around Fort Fi . Aruba- We took a private tour again, with Fofoti Tours, AC bus, 2 hour tour of Aruba, then the driver dropped us off at Palm Beach for 2 hours and came back and picked us up, all for $20.00 each. Debarking- We opted to take our own luggage off the ship, we were off in no time, through Customs, and the minute we stepped out of the Cruise Port, our shuttle was right there and we were back picking up our car in less than a half hour. We would cruise again with Holland America, if we got another good deal. We would give this cruise a 9 out of 10. Read Less
Sail Date December 2012
We just got off the Noordam on Friday, December 7. Wish we were still on it since as I am writing this it is only 8 degrees here! On the trip was myself (64) DW (65)and DD (34). We also traveled with our friends who we have known for ... Read More
We just got off the Noordam on Friday, December 7. Wish we were still on it since as I am writing this it is only 8 degrees here! On the trip was myself (64) DW (65)and DD (34). We also traveled with our friends who we have known for over 40 years and have cruised many times with. We had a very scary start to our vacation. On Saturday morning as I was getting things together I noticed we were missing one passport, my DW's! We pulled the house apart looking for it, I knew we had it because I used it when we did the pre-registration but it was nowhere to be found. I called HAL and they told me since it was a close looped cruise (leaving and returning to the same port) we could use a birth certificate and picture ID as long as the names matched -- that's a problem, we weren't married when she was born! Now I had to locate our marriage certificate too. Finally located all the info we needed and had a nice stiff drink! We left on Sunday morning for Fort Lauderdale. Had a good trip, picked up our car and we were off to Weston. We always stay in Weston, it is a nice relaxing area with great shops and great restaurants. That night we ate in one of our favorites Tarantella. Great little Italian restaurant. After dinner we went to Publix to pick up a few last minute things and then back to the Residence Inn to relax and watch some football. Next morning we got up and ate breakfast -- it was part of the hotel services -- put the tags on the luggage and then took off for the port. Dropped my DW and DD off at the port while I returned the car to Hertz. Got back to the port and went to check in. WOW in our 41 cruises this was the fastest check in we have ever had. We started check in at around 11:30 and was on the ship by 11:45. We had them bring us to our room to drop off our carry-ons. The room was great. It was 6004, a handicapped room on the upper veranda. Of other handicapped rooms we have had, this was one of the best as far as being able to get around with the wheelchair, walker, etc. There was a pole in the middle of the room that we had to keep on maneuvering around but that was ok, we got used to it after a while. Otherwise we could not have asked for more. Our friends were in 6003 which was just like ours except on the other side of the ship. They too thought it was a great room since he uses a power wheelchair which is larger than the normal wheelchair. We then went to the Lido to get the first of many meals. Of course we were in stage orange so everything had to be served to you. Not a problem, we had been on HAL many times before so were used to the procedure. Some people were upset, personally I would rather be safe than sorry. We found a place on the back deck, ate lunch and waited for our friends to arrive. They were driving down from Orlando. While we were sitting in the Lido I saw a couple that looked very familiar. I went over to them and sure enough they were a couple that we had met on two other cruises, Tom and Alice. Strange we never talk inbetween but this is the 3rd cruise in 4 years that we have been on together. We always say we are going to exchange emails and forget. Tom and Alice if you read this send me an email and I will send you the group picture. Our friends arrived, ate and then it was time for the muster drill. Different from the last time we had one, they now call names and wait for answers. I remember back a few years ago this is how they did it and I don't see anything wrong with it. The drill is important and people need to know what to do. We don't need another disaster. After the drill we headed up to the Lido for Sail Away. Before we left the Lido I asked one of the waiters for 6 cans of soda to bring to the room since I had bought 2 soda cards. Before we left I had asked on the boards if the Noordam was service cans or fountain drinks and Candy who was on the Noordam the week before we left graciously answered it was cans. We don't drink fountain drinks and plus we had a couple of bottles of liquor purchased from HAL delivered to our rooms. We were then informed you could only get fountain drinks! We were the first cruise on the Noordam to change over -- are we lucky or what! Went down to the front desk and told them we had no use for these cards. They were very nice and gave us credit for them. I know why they changed to fountain drinks, they make more money which I don't have a problem with. What I do have a problem with is they just changed things without any notice. They could say as of such in such date we will no longer accept the soda card for canned drinks. We would have picked up soda for the room at Publix when we stopped the night before. As it was, we made due until we got to our first Island. It got quite windy after we left port and that seemed to be the theme of the cruise. We had a balcony room but were only able to use it a couple of times in the evenings when we like to sit out and enjoy the sea because of the wind -- this was not a breeze, it was wind. Oh well could have been worse, it could have been raining! We had reservations at the Pinnacle for 8:00 that evening. We met our friends for cocktails at 7:00 at the Pinnacle bar. We usually eat in the Pinnacle the first night and the last night and then usually one night in between. As usual it was wonderful, the service, the food, the drinks, everything. One shock I did have is that they no longer have the French Onion soup on the menu. I always loved their onion soup and was so looking forward to it. Tried one of their other soups, but did not care for it. I had shrimp cocktail, the veal chop which was out of this world, creamed spinach, baked potato, and volcano for dessert. Almost had to roll me out I was so full! The rest of the party had Filets or fish. Everyone was very pleased with their meals. We did not finish dinner until 10:15 but by no means felt the service was slow. We were just enjoying ourselves. We left there and off to the casino. We don't do shows, after 41 cruises they are all about the same to us. Well the casino was only about half full. Had some luck, not much but at least I didn't lose. Around midnight we headed for bed. Couldn't sleep so DD and I headed for the night club. Empty except for 2 other people. Ended up in the sports bar. The next morning we met our friends in the Lido for breakfast at 9:00. We got this server who was just wonderful, Johann. We had him every morning, he even saved a table for us since he knew we would be there at 9:00. He brought us everything we could want and took the best care of us. We tipped him at the end of the cruise which is the first time we have ever tipped anyone in the Lido. If you are on the ship, look for him, he is one of the nicest, happiest people you will ever meet. The next couple of days we were at sea so it was nice and relaxing. I had gone to the restaurant and made reservations for us. Since we had 2 people in wheelchairs we wanted a table close to the door. We ended up at table 141 at 8:00 for all the nights except for the nights we were in the Pinnacle and one night we ate in the Lido. The dining room was never more than half full every night. In fact our waiter only had our table of 5. I don't think the ship was full as nothing really seemed crowded. You could always find a lounger by the pool in the sun no matter what time you went out. The food in the dining room was good, not great but good. The outstanding meal I had was the rack of lamb which they had twice. The second time I asked for a double portion of the lamb, it was really delicious. A couple of notes about the dining room menu. Shrimp cocktail and cheese cake are no longer on the "always available" menu. Big letdown for the my DD as she loves the cheesecake. The sirloin strip steak on the always available was just OK. Really kind of tough. Their fish selection is really limited, once again a downer for my DD as she usually has fish almost every night. Service was good, can't complain, however nothing above normal, not your usual interaction that you have with the waiter. I think there was a language barrier here. On Thursday we arrived in St. Maarten. Beautiful weather. After we arrived, Allure of the Seas pulled in next to us. That is one big ship, too big for me. I don't think I would enjoy sailing with 6,000 of my closest friends! I did talk to some that were on there and they said the service was good and there was rarely any lines. We left St Maarten at 3:00. Really hated that we left so early. They started putting up the Christmas decorations! We are so happy. We thought since we were going a week earlier than usual we would miss them. The next day we were in St Lucia. We really love that Island, it is so pretty. Our DD did the zip lining through the rain forest. I was supposed to go with her but changed my mind the day before. She was very disappointed when she came back. She has done this many time and we did it together in Costa Rica, and she really felt this was a rip off for what they charged. They also never mentioned the major hike up and down to get to the zip lining. The distance between the posts were short and you could not get any speed. They also took you in groups of 6 and everyone had to complete each section together. Different from others where once you reached the platform you could go on. I told her to talk to the excursion desk but she didn't. After hearing this I was glad I cancelled. Once again we left here at 3:00 and cruised past the Pitons. The Captain opened the front of the ship so people could get a great view. They also had a narrator on board. (now if they only served Panama rolls it would have been perfect!) As we anchored in Soufriere to pick up passengers who were on tours, we saw some small boats coming toward the ship. Figured they were locals coming out to say hello as they do in many of these islands. Well they got right next to the ship and then started yelling "will dive for the American dollar". This really evoked mixed emotions. We felt bad that these young people felt they had to risk their lives for a dollar. On the other hand they were within feet of the ship and they all had cans of gas in their converted row boats, a real danger to the ship. The cruise director came on and asked people not to throw anything over board as the divers could get sucked into the engines and get hurt or killed. After that some of them got kind of nasty. I sat there wondering where was the shore police? We never did see one and they were there until we sailed away. That experience tainted our love of this Island. We ate in the Dining room this night and then off to the casino again. Met some other people who were on a cruise with us last year who are from Canada. Can't believe we are meeting so many people from previous cruises. The next day we were in Barbados, another beautiful country. There was a notice on our Explorer that Camouflage clothes and smoking in public were against the law. This must be new as we have been there before and never heard of this. We went off on our own. Wanted to do the caves but waited too long and it was sold out. Had a good time and left here at 5:00. Ate in the Lido because Nebraska was playing in the Big 10 championship game. Went to the sports bar, they were showing the Florida game. Should have taken that as a sign. Seems Nebraska left all their players at home! Wisconsin pounced us. Oh well maybe next year. The next morning we were in Martinique and I guess the question I would have is why? It was Sunday and everything is closed there on Sunday except for this small store by the port. But wait we were there from 8:00 to 5:00 -- once again I ask why? We could have spent more time in the other ports or had a sea day. At 5:00 we set sail for Mount Pelee. Once again the captain opened up the front deck and had a narrator. By the time we got to Mount Pelee it was dark. Hummmm think we could have left earlier and seen it in the light? It was not a totally lost day, we ate in the Pinnacle that night and had their Steak Dianne. All I can say is it was some of the best I have ever had. Once again the service was fantastic. The next morning we were at Dominica. We were there from 7:00 to 3:00. Once again I would ask why? There is really nothing here except for a little straw market by the port. Could have combined Dominica and Martinique into one day and still had time left over and made the extra day a sea day. The following day we were in St. Thomas. We docked at Crown Center along with Oasis of the Seas. Got kind of crowded there once they got there. Crown Center is very nice. Clean and new. The only thing I was disappointed with was there was no internet hot spot even though they have signs for one. I spent a lot of my time on the phone. We have a house for sale and we had gotten an offer on it while we were sailing so spent a lot of the day with offer/counter offer activity. Good news is the house is now sold! If I knew all I had to do was go to St Thomas to sell the house I would have gone there months ago! Ate in the dining room and then to the casino and sports bar. Still keeping ahead of my DW's losses but she is catching up. All the Christmas decorations are up and they are beautiful. The ship is so festive. The following day was a sea day. We love sea days, they are so relaxing. We almost did not take this cruise because it was so port intensive, but we had done the others that have a lot of sea days and didn't want to do a B2B since we lose a day in Florida but still wanted a minimum of a 10 day cruise. Oh no our last day on the ship! We were at Half Moon Cay. Water was kind of rough but the tenders were running. Some people could not understand why it was taking so long even though it was explained that safety was the first priority. Get with it people it is not all about you. After we left the island we ran into a storm with high winds. Our Veranda furniture had slid to the rail and when you looked out the sliding glass door all you saw was water. Our friends on the other side looked out and all they saw was sky! The Captain came on and said we may have notice we were listing on the port side. He was going to fill the ballisters on the starboard side and that would straighten the ship our but would take approximately 30 minutes. It worked! It was a little scary there for a while. The next morning we were in Fort Lauderdale and on our way home. Hated to leave the ship and the crew, they are so wonderful. One good thing about this cruise is it came home on a Friday which gave us the weekend to recover before we had to go back to work. A couple of observations: - It was really annoying to be sitting out on deck and being constantly and I mean like every couple of minutes if you wanted a drink. It reminded me of being on Carnival which is one of the reasons we don't go on them. Are the waiters now on commission? - Drinks -- Drinks are now $8.00 including service charge. I don't mind paying that for a good drink. The problem was we had a very hard time getting a good drink. They were either made wrong or tasted terrible. I finally had to resort to my Absolute Gimlet. I have always enjoyed the special drinks on HAL but not on this ship. We tried all the bars, no two drinks tasted the same. - We got friendly with many of the staff on board and a number of them said that they don't like the automatic tipping as they think it has really affected the service level. They say the employees don't care as much since they will get their share anyway. These comments came from employees that had a number of contracts under their belt and was unsolicited, although I couldn't agree more. - We really like HAL and not sure we can get the kind of service we get on them anyplace else (Princess would be our second choice) however each time we go on them we notice that they are becoming "Carnivalized" more and more. Hope you enjoyed this review, if you have any questions let me know. Read Less
Sail Date December 2012
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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