Sail Date: September 2013
As usual the service, was exemplary. We have sailed previously on Zaandam, Zuiderdam, and the maiden season of Niew Amsterdam. So, we felt right at home almost immediately when we boarded Noordam at Barcelona. The Collector Cruise was ... Read More
As usual the service, was exemplary. We have sailed previously on Zaandam, Zuiderdam, and the maiden season of Niew Amsterdam. So, we felt right at home almost immediately when we boarded Noordam at Barcelona. The Collector Cruise was also a new experience for us but the connection between the two cruises was handled seamlessly, with no interruption in our itinerary. We booked our own air, but used HAL's airport transfer service, which was hassle free and timely. We did notice the slower service in the Vista Dining room mentioned in another review, and the somewhat smaller portions. However, there was still more food in a meal than we could comfortably consume. We did our best. Also the Dessert Extravaganza was considerably less extensive than we recall from previous cruises, and there was limited table seating available for sitting and enjoying all those delicious concoctions. Also as mentioned in other reviews, the Holland America attention to client comfort and safety is still a priority. We experienced two days of Gale Force winds on our cruise which caused us to by pass stops at Katakolon and Santorini in Greece. We were surprised and pleased by the coordinated effort between the ship and Seattle HQ to orchestrate overnight a stop at Heraklion, Crete. Crete is the central site of the Minoan Civilization and the Archaeological Museum is an amazing must see. Our early morning (3:00 AM) airport transfer was all taken care of. All we had to do was show up at the boarding ramp at the appointed time. The continental breakfast provided was an unexpected treat though it would have been even better if there had been cream for the coffee on the tray. LOL Read Less
Sail Date: March 2013
(Please note I put this full review in the HAL boards with many photos.) Mom is a four star Mariner who had cruised for decades. She hadn't been for the last two years due to various health issues that make it difficult for her to ... Read More
(Please note I put this full review in the HAL boards with many photos.) Mom is a four star Mariner who had cruised for decades. She hadn't been for the last two years due to various health issues that make it difficult for her to travel alone. So I volunteered to go with her (twist my arm) , picked HAL because that was her favorite line, and chose the 10 day Southern Caribbean Seafarer because I was interested in the ports. Mom just wanted to see if she could still cruise and didn't mean to leave the ship. She wanted her own cabin (actually her own bathroom) and refused to put me in an inside cabin. I was able to find side-by-side veranda cabins behind the aft elevators. This was very convenient for dining but a bit of a walk for everything else. We flew down to FLL the afternoon before the cruise. Our flight was on time, we got a porter and our luggage at FLL, then called the Hampton Inn Cruiseport North for the shuttle. We had to wait half an hour for the next shuttle to come. The hotel was fine, a decent typical Hampton, and we booked the 10:15 am shuttle to the port for the next morning. I ran across the street to Winn Dixie for sun tan lotion and a couple of bottles of wine. We took the hotel shuttle to Lester's Diner for dinner. March 1: The next morning we were up early and caught the 10:15 shuttle. Luggage was taken away, and we waited on a bench outside for about 10 minutes. The doors opened about 10:50; Mom declined a wheelchair for inside the terminal so we checked in at the VIP counter then waited in the VIP lounge. This was just a separate room, nothing fancy, but they did offer water, lemonade, and cookies. At about 11:30 they brought over a wheelchair (Mom didn't want to walk up the ramp) and due to her 4 star status we actually were the first to board! I thought this was very cool. After dropping Mom at her cabin, making sure everything was OK for her, and throwing my suitcase into my cabin, I ran around the ship taking pictures of all the empty venues. We went to the Mariner's lunch and I had a nice chicken mango salad and a delicious chocolate mousse cake. Then we went to correct our table assignments - even though our bookings were linked, they assigned us to different tables (late seating). We then checked at the front desk for a few requests. I had read on CC that Mom could wait out the lifeboat drill at the bottom of the atrium but that was not the case; she had to attend. She was annoyed with me for making her go because she used to hide in the cabin but I told her they didn't allow that anymore. I went early and saved her a spot on the one bench in our muster area. After the drill we unpacked, then watched sailaway from our verandas. We were on the port side, deck 6, and the people on the deck above us were flying a huge Union Jack. So we were able to tell brother/husband/son where to look and everyone saw us on the webcam! We then went to the Seaview bar for margaritas and music. Mom went back to the cabin; I roamed the ship, had a snack at Lido, and set up internet so I could email my private excursions about the change in itinerary between Curacao and Bonaire. I paid by the minute onboard and was able to access free wifi on Grand Turk, Bonaire, and Curacao. Altogether I used 15 minutes of internet so with the activation fee spent $15.20; not too bad. The rest of my communication was an occasional text via cell phone, $.50 outgoing and $.20 incoming. We had a pleasant but slow dinner; I asked for a thick cut of prime rib and got a giant plateful. I wanted to see the opening show in the Vista Lounge but arrived as it was getting out. This was quite a problem for late seating - we were among the last tables to get out every night, and there were several shows that were timed so that late seating guests could not attend. I felt this was a very big problem; not that I would have gone to everything but that HAL did not care that a large share of their guests were prevented from attending entertainment due to the scheduling. Based on the Explorers, here are the shows that were impossible for late dinner seating guests to attend: Night 1: 9:30pm, Vista Lounge, "Let Us Entertain You" Night 2: 9:00-10:00pm Queen's Lounge "50's and 60's Rock 'n Roll Party" Night 3: 9:00pm Queen's Lounge Karaoke Night Night 4: 9:00pm Queen's Lounge "Call My Bluff" gameshow Night 5: 9:00pm Queen's Lounge "Battle of the Sexes" gameshow Night 6: 8:00pm Queen's Lounge Karaoke Fun Night 6: 9:30pm Lido Pool Party - we could attend, but all the tables and chairs were taken Night 8: 9:00pm Queen's Lounge "The Match Game" gameshow Night 8: 9:30pm Piano Bar "Pop Music Trivia" Night 9: 9:30pm Queen's Lounge "The Marriage Game" gameshow Night 10: 9:30pm Vista Lounge "Variety Show" Night 10: 8:00 pm Queen's Lounge "Majority Rules" gameshow March 2: Half Moon Cay. See port review for details; cool and overcast day. I went back to the ship at 12:30 and right into the hot tub. Had lunch and crafted wine charms, then went with Mom to her 4 star Mariner free wine tasting. It really was a sales pitch for the wine packages although we did taste four lower priced wines. Got dressed for formal night and had my photo done at all the locations, ate the "Captain Gala Dinner", and saw the show "Ballroom Blitz." (This show really made me appreciate the Royal Caribbean entertainment.) The HAL dancers and singers worked hard but were really only average; my comment was that they were at least as good as Bristol Palin. By this I meant that the routines were at the level of difficulty that made Bristol look good. I would have left but didn't want to disturb the people on either side. I brought my own bottle of wine to dinner, prepared to pay the corkage fee. However, it was a screw top and the waiter brought us wine glasses. I kept both my bottles in the cabin refrigerator and brought them separately to dinners, poured ourselves, and never got charged. I think the wine steward may have seen it but never said anything. March 3: Grand Turk. This morning was our Meet & Greet from the CC rollcall. It was a lovely layout in the Crow's Nest; they had endless mimosas, a chocolate fountain, pastries, and coffee. We met the rollcall, a very nice group of people. No free gifts from HAL; our RCI Meet & Mingles gave out ship stuff to the guests. I went ashore at Grand Turk only to learn that my snorkeling excursion (HAL Ultimate Snorkel) had been cancelled due to high winds. I was extremely disappointed and it was even too cool to swim at Margaritaville. I did pick up wifi for a few minutes before it dropped, went back to the ship for lunch, then back onshore to get a bit more wifi at Froot. I shopped for a few minutes then returned to the ship as it started to rain. Mom wanted to see the comic after dinner (Julie Barr); she was decent but had too much interaction with one drunk in the audience. March 4: Samana. I had room service breakfast which was delivered right on time as we approached Samana. After breakfast I walked three times around the promenade deck (one mile) and once around the Observation Deck. I tendered over to Samana; it took about 20 minutes. Then I walked along the waterfront to the end of the craft stands and back. I vaguely looked for a larimar ring but no one had the style, color, and size I wanted. This was actually the only island where I felt there were true hand made native crafts. Not necessarily great stuff, but at least some of it seemed authentic. There were plenty of people trying to offer taxi tours, kids were selling shells at $1, and the vendors kept calling out "Hola lady, for you I give great deal!" I just kept smiling, shaking my head, saying no, and walking on. It was less intrusive than I'd feared. Then back to the ship for (finally) some sunshine. Mom and I had been invited to the VIP Captain's "Cocktail or After Drinks" party at 7:30pm at the terrace off the Crow's Nest. Mom stayed inside and was served champagne and hors d'oevres. I went outside and got fresh made cosmopolitans and passed on meeting the captain and crew. (Our invitation advised us to "refrain from hand shaking at this event.") Then we were off to Pinnacle for our 50% off dinner (nice traveling with a four star). It was a delicious meal and excellent service. One caveat, however, was that Mom and I were seated at a secluded romantic booth far to one end of the restaurant. It would have been nice to be more in the middle of the restaurant since it wasn't very crowded. You can have as many appetizers, sides, and desserts as you want, plus one entree. They started with a bread basket, three kinds of whipped butter, and three kinds of salt. Mom had a great lobster bisque ("would you like brandy?" " Sure!") and we both had Caesar's Salad prepared tableside (actually just assembled tableside; I've had it made from scratch in my day and there's a big difference. But it tasted fine.) Mom had the Steak Diane and I had filet mignon with bernaise. Great cuts of beef. We got sides of onions, mushrooms, scalloped potato, and french fries. And sorry to admit that we got three desserts - the creme brulee (three great flavors), chocolate souffle (served in a junior size ramekin), and Baked Alaska flamed tableside with bing cherry sauce. I was a bit surprised to see soft instead of hard meringue, different from the Baked Alaska I've had in the past. March 5: At sea. Woken at 5:10 am by the captain announcing that we were turning NE towards Puerto Rico because an ill passenger required a helicopter evacuation. We were asked to not go on deck, and to not take flash pictures from the balcony because we would blind the helicopter pilots. The captain woke us again at 5:45 am (just as I was falling back to sleep) to announce the evacuation was over and successful. Otherwise a quiet sea day, which I started with a mile walk on the promenade deck. After breakfast I did the kitchen tour. I think it was basically set up for a photo op with the chef. I had done the kitchen tour on the Mariner of the Seas and saw a lot more. On the Noordam, I thought I was heading to a second part of the kitchen when I realized I was exiting through the Pinnacle. I spent most of the rest of the day sunbathing at the Sea View aft pool. Late in the afternoon I got the Ipod art tour from the librarian at the Explorations Cafe and followed along with the 36 minute tour, pausing to take pictures and move to different spots. It gave a lot of background information on much of the art in the forward part of the ship and the atrium, and is definitely worth doing. Among other things, I learned that the forward staircase had paintings of all four Noordams. Both Mom and a man at our dinner table made special trips to see those paintings. This was the second formal night. March 6: Bonaire See individual port review for details. The weather got sunnier as the day progressed so it got warm in town; the humidity (85%) was now higher than the temperature (79 degrees F). After dinner this evening was the Lido Pool party; Mom wanted to go and it only took me 10 minute to track down a chair for her. (Took another 20 minutes to find me one.) We came straight from dinner so couldn't eat; didn't look like much of a buffet and pretty simple ice sculptures. March 7: Curacao. First words out of Mom's mouth on the veranda: "I'm so disappointed." We were docked at the MegaPier instead of the one across from town so no great view. See port review for details. I went to "Caribbean Night" at the ship shops, "complimentary tastings of Rum and Tortuga Rum Cakes." This consisted of one woman behind the counter pouring thimble size helpings of one kind of rum, and 1/2 inch squares of a few flavors of cake. On RCI, they had a vodka tasting with three people pouring at least five kinds of vodka. Boo on HAL. March 8: Aruba See port review for details. I found Mom onboard and convinced her she could easily walk to and around those shops so finally got her off the ship. Not very far off the ship, but we both regarded it as an accomplishment. Then we had our own sailaway party on the verandas with a couple of cheese plates from room service. For a ship that prides itself on service, they were poor cheese choices and the bread basket was composed of Saltines, Melba Toast, and Rye Krisp. They should have been ashamed. The next day I assembled my own cheese selection from the lunch choices in the Lido, added some bagettes and bread sticks, and kept it in the fridge until late afternoon. So much better! March 9: At sea. A quiet day (and the second formal night); mainly lounged around the Sea View pool and ate too much ice cream and cookies. We did go to the Mariner's lunch and got our tiles. Mom was surprised that they didn't even offer our table coffee or tea with dessert. The last formal night. After dinner was the Dessert Extravaganza; some of the bread/pastry sculptures were looking a bit the worse for wear. I had a nice little crepe Suzette and tracked down a chocolate truffle hidden behind some marzipan. March 10: At sea. Mostly a repeat of the day before except for packing (suitcases had to be in the hall by 1:00 am). We also got preliminary copies of our bills to make sure everything was OK and I bought a couple of formal portraits. I thought the HAL packages were very rip-off. They printed "sheets" - for formal posed portraits, each sheet had one 8x10, one 5x7, and two wallet sizes - it cost $39.95. Each informal sheet (like pictures at embarkation, dinner table shots, and at the ports) was half the size and half the price. You could buy six formal sheets for $199 and six informal sheets for $99; each included the DVD of those prints. You could buy all pictures taken of you for $349 which included a DVD. I don't know if it's changed since 2009, but on RCI you could buy a variety of packages that included a mix of different sizes and both formal and informal. It was clear HAL was mainly pushing the expensive packages. At dinner, we were just being served our entrees when the "Baked Alaska parade" started. This consisted of a number of waiters and chefs marching around and two people carrying Baked Alaskas. Then the head chef made a short speech, they all sang a goodbye song, and marched off. March 11: Disembarkation. We had gotten Pink 1 tags for our luggage, which was supposed to be priority wheelchair assisted early disembarkation. We were told our time was 8:15 to 8:30, and that we should be in the Pinnacle bar 15 minutes early. So we arrived there well before 8:00 am and found half a dozen passengers waiting in wheelchairs in a line, and another couple of dozen passengers waiting for wheelchairs. I asked the man in charge what to do, and he said to have a seat for a while. How long is a while, I asked? Half an hour, he replied; he was having trouble getting customs to clear his staff to take the wheelchairs off the ship. We had a 10:55 am flight from FLL. Mom said she was prepared to walk off the ship rather than wait. We already knew from embarkation that they had different people to handle wheelchairs in the terminal. We kept getting conflicting information about whether we could walk off. First they allowed off the people carrying their own luggage, then they started the Luggage Direct crowd. At that point I basically bullied our way off the ship, although they claimed our luggage wouldn't be available. We walked off into the terminal and took the elevator down to luggage claim. I noticed a Pinnacle employee from the ship with an empty wheelchair and we started walking in his direction. A security guard saw us coming and insisted the ship guy put my mom in the chair. We went over to luggage where I did find our three suitcases. Then I looked for a porter; a port employee claimed they were unloading luggage but we espied one man with a cart and grabbed him. The wheelchair was handed off to a delightful older gentleman who worked for the terminal who took us on an end run around the lines and right to the head of customs, where we breezed through. Our little entourage headed out and down to the taxi line, where we were in a cab and arriving at the airport at 8:15. I consider this my great triumph in manipulation and believe if we'd followed all the contradictory instructions on the ship that we'd have missed our plane. We checked our luggage at the curb and Mom got a wheelchair almost immediately. Another skip to the head of security and we were at our gate with two hours to spare and I could stop worrying. General thoughts: Mom claimed this was her last HAL cruise although I suspect with time she'll change her mind. She thought the ship was too large and that venues used to be more open and accessible. She also thought everything was becoming separate cost centers rather than a cohesive experience. Her only complaint about the room was that she remembered long desks with drawers; I pointed out the four night table drawers and she was OK. She liked the coded room safes much better than the old card system. She slept very comfortably. She liked the pump bottles in the shower and enjoyed the veranda. She enjoyed the Pinnacle Grill which was her first specialty restaurant dining on a cruise. She found her favorite Clinique cream in the shops. I only had my RCI cruises to compare but thought that HAL came off poorer in entertainment and also the openness of some venues. For example, the piano bar was in a separate room next to the casino rather than somewhere you could easily drop by. The ship itself was attractive and the staff were very friendly and generally tried their best to be helpful. I caught each of the music groups at least once and they were all OK but nothing special. I most enjoyed the steel drum player at the SeaView pool. I much appreciated the cold water and towels when returning to the ship from ports. And the public restrooms were great. The dining room food varied from mediocre to excellent and you never knew what you would get so choices were a gamble. The menus were inaccurate at times and the waiters not that well informed. As an example, one appetizer was described as pineapple spears with coconut flakes. The pineapple was topped with peppercorns instead of coconut. Another time the chocolate dessert was supposed to have a dollop of whipped cream - no dollop. Herbs and spices were not always as described. Our servers were very nice but our service took much too long. This was even after they promised to put us first on the third night and I complained on the sixth night. It's a good thing we liked our tablemates! I had breakfast in the MDR once and it was good but extremely slow service. I also noticed both that day and at the Mariner's lunch that you heard and felt the engines much more on the lower level than on the upper level dining area. I would not have liked to experience that every night so was glad we dined upstairs. I liked most of the food I ate at the Lido for breakfast and lunch but didn't get many of the hot dishes. Nice sandwiches made to order, quite decent pizza, good omelets (although the line was too slow), good salads, dangerous ice cream and cookies (I only gained three pounds on the cruise and hold them mostly to blame. Well, that and the bread and butter). Terrible coffee, though. I had to wait a few times for pastries and cheeses to be replenished. I appreciated being able to carry food out of the Lido and back to the cabin or my chair by the pool, and the free 24/7 room service and being able to bring my own wine on. I was always able to find a chair at the Sea View pool (the Lido pool looked packed), and also eventually was able to always find a place at Lido restaurant, although sometimes that took a hunt. When I was alone, I brought a book to leave on the table while I was off getting more food, and draped my napkin over the back of the chair and never had trouble. The cabin was plenty big enough for me! The bed was very comfortable although the sheets were clearly low thread count; slightly rough to the touch. There was lots of storage; I used the space inside the round desk chair to store the larger bottles from the fridge. That made room in the fridge for my wine and some snacks from the Lido . The lighting at the desk was not very good for drying hair - one vertical light to one side facing me and the rest behind me - but the outlet in the bathroom couldn't run the hair dryer so I made the best of it. I figured out how to work the DVD player (they should have provided instructions though). We had the door opened between our verandas and it made a nice long "porch", as Mom said. We were very lucky that there were no smokers anywhere near us so we could enjoy sitting out on the verandas with no problems. But as a I noted at the start, what surprised me the most was how much I enjoyed the other passengers. Maybe it's because I'm getting older, but everyone I talked to was so friendly and nice. On RCI, people were pleasant but more focused on their own families and groups. But HAL passengers were happy to reach out - maybe HAL has more couples and singles traveling? Anyway, I suspect I'm not really meant to be a cruiser but if I went again, I'd look for a smaller ship that can go into smaller ports or maybe the river cruises; it's getting too chancy with the bigger ships these days what with weather and germs and breakdowns. Read Less
Sail Date: November 2012
This was our 17th cruise, 3rd on Holland America(HAL). We chose this cruise because it included 7 ports: St Martin, St Lucia, Barbados, Martinique, Dominica, St Thomas and Half Moon Cay. We've visited Dominica and Martinique only ... Read More
This was our 17th cruise, 3rd on Holland America(HAL). We chose this cruise because it included 7 ports: St Martin, St Lucia, Barbados, Martinique, Dominica, St Thomas and Half Moon Cay. We've visited Dominica and Martinique only once prior but the remainder several times. Our favorites remain St Lucia and Barbados. The people and country side are very different but they have the most to offer in scenery and hospitality. This reinforced our original impression of HAL that it caters to the very senior population. Actually our two previous cruises on HAL were much better. This cruise had a "very" senior population. It felt like a cruising nursing home with a myriad of walkers, canes, motorized chairs, and men in shorts with compression stockings. Embarkation seemed very slow in comparison to other cruises. We boarded early but had to wait in a large warehouse with about 700 other cruisers till our number was called. Lines moved slowly. As always, the rooms weren't ready so you are directed to the Lido for a late lunch where everyone is confused due to the wierd buffet design of HAL. All food is lined on two narrow traffic ways with two cross overs to each side. Can you imagine a bunch of seniors navigating this food arrangement, much less trying to make a decision on what to eat. If you want pasta and salad, you have to walk the length of the ship to obtain each. We mostly ate in the Vista Dining Room. We enjoy meeting other people and were seated with 3 other couples from Georgia, Canada and Florida. The selection was adequate but taste frequently marginal becoming boring as the cruise progressed. The wait staff was good while the matre'd was annoying. The highlite was eating at the Pinnacle Grill. Food was excellent but be prepared to eat at a very slow pace. The ship's decor can best be described as "heavy." My wife described it as somewhat Old World and somewhat modern. Rather eclectic. Large lamp shades, ornate furniture with the colors of rose, bold aquas and royal blue. We were surprised at the amount of excess smoking on this cruise. The smell of cigarette smoke was common in the room hallways, much of the 2nd Deck, Deck 9 and on our verandah at times. Again, we never experienced this on other cruises. To compound this, we frequently experienced fresh paint smells in the hallways. Many railings were being varnished. Most ship excursions are overpriced so we generally hire a local driver as we did in Barbados. Outstanding tour of the West Coast for $20. We did a ship tours in St Lucia and St Thomas. The best value was the World Heritage Tour in St Lucia due to a young tour guide named Mitch. We traveled from Castries to Soufrier where the ship came to pick us up next to the Pitons. In St Thomas we generally go to St Johns. This turned out to be a bummer. After arriving on St Johns by Boat, we boarded our safari truck only to go around the corner for a 35 minute rest room break. Who wants to waste 35 minutes on this beautiful island? Then the driver proceeded to tell us all about Cruz Bay for another 15 minutes all of which we heard on the ferry. Entertainment in the Vista Lounge was just average. Several comedians, a pianist and several ship sponsored variety shows which lacked spark. Exception was the combo called Halcats. The small combos in the various lounges were excellent such as the Neptunes in the Ocean Bar and the Adagio Strings. The bar tenders in the Ocean Bar were great. We met what will be life long friends from England at the Ocean Bar. Overall, the cruise just lacked enthusiasm. Maybe it was due to the population. HAL does seem to be doing some cost cutting and squeezing of the dollar which is showing in service. Very sad! It may take awhile before we again select HAL. Read Less
Sail Date: November 2012
Just back from a 10 day voyage aboard the ms Noordam. The ship went from Ft. Lauderdale and back. We had stops in Half Moon Cay, Grand Turk, Dominican Republic, and the ABC Islands with 3 sea days. Over all my husband and I were pleased ... Read More
Just back from a 10 day voyage aboard the ms Noordam. The ship went from Ft. Lauderdale and back. We had stops in Half Moon Cay, Grand Turk, Dominican Republic, and the ABC Islands with 3 sea days. Over all my husband and I were pleased with the ship. We think the Holland ships are classy. Not to start off with a negative....BUT, the one negative we found (and we knew this going in) was people smoking. Our next door neighbors were 4 ladies that at all hours of the night and day had someone smoking and coughing on their balcony. We went with a SA just so that we could have a large balcony. Well, in that regard, our money was waisted because all we could do was look out the window. Now, back to the ship. It was kept very clean, a little worn in spots, but clean. It is not a brand new ship, so we were not expecting everything to LOOK brand new. Our Captain was Robert Jan Kan, very nice guy, not a big talker but loves to be ahead of schedule and that's OK with us! We were only late leaving one port and that's because they had a tender problem, otherwise we left port early and arrived early. Food was good and plenty of it. We ate in the Vista dining room on Thanksgiving and was very surprised with our dinner (I heard talk of processed turkey) our turkey tasted like it was cooked at home and we had all the trimming to boot. We ate in the Pinnacle Grill for breakfast for 8 mornings and twice for dinner and once for lunch. Every meal was great, food and service!!! The staff could not have been nicer. Never did we pass someone in the hall without a friendly hello. Can't say much about the entertainment, did not go to any shows but did enjoy the music aboard. The Adagio Strings, Liz and the HAL cats, Bill Forrest at the piano and Guitarist Johnny Champagne. Overall, we enjoyed the cruise but will never go on HAL again as long as they allow balcony smoking. Read Less
Sail Date: October 2012
First i must say we have never cruised before and didn't really know what to expect. We choose the cruise primarily for the itinerary and style/size of ship. The pick-up at the airport was a little disorganised in that the ... Read More
First i must say we have never cruised before and didn't really know what to expect. We choose the cruise primarily for the itinerary and style/size of ship. The pick-up at the airport was a little disorganised in that the representatives walked very fast losing people along the way with no instructions given for where to pick-up the coach. The luggage was gathered together and left unattended in the terminal - worrying. However when we boarded the ship there were no delays and we were made to feel welcome - although a welcome drink would have been nice. The overall impression of the ship (approx. 2000 passengers)was stylishly classic and our cabin was fine with a good sized balcony. The food and drink - another priority for us - was generally very good with far too much available and there was lots of choice. The main Vista restaurant served very good four course meals in a semi-formal setting; we had opted for anytime dining which meant pot-luck with size of table and we met lots of nice new people. The Lido - the only other restaurant with no cover charge - was an informal buffet, again with lots of choice. The crew were generally friendly and helpful and cabin stewards were very good. Some of the waiters/servers were obviously lacking training and were not up to hospitality standards and a few in the Lido were very off-hand. We did not bother with any excursions- we prefer to do our own thing and the excursion prices were extortionate.The ship provided extremely good info/maps about each port.The drinks were not too expensive and we were allowed to bring wine on-board to consume in the cabin. The Pool areas were good with plenty of loungers available and all the bars were very attractive and relaxing. We only managed to get to one show as the times always seemed to clash with evening meal times for us - the 'Los Vegas' show was good if a little dated. So overall we enjoyed our cruise very much with a few minor irritations. If and when we cruise again we will definitely try a different cruise line - probably an all inclusive as the tips, drinks and service charges soon add up. Read Less
Sail Date: October 2012
Getting on board was easy as can be. We were really happy with that. No queues and in we went. Our room was in the open way between the stairs to Lido food and the lifts. I thought from a previous review this area was a balcony problem and ... Read More
Getting on board was easy as can be. We were really happy with that. No queues and in we went. Our room was in the open way between the stairs to Lido food and the lifts. I thought from a previous review this area was a balcony problem and also not sure I would be happy with the room being where it was. Turned out I had nothing to worry about. Room was great and the water being washed in the evenings over the side up top did come into our balcony every evening. But no complaints. It was a great spot to be in and considering my husband catching a flu bug only a few days out it turned out for the better. I didn't find the bed very comfortable at all but my husband thought it was just ok. The bed in Rome was hard as a board so I guess anything was better. There was a gastro thing going around the ship and I think they handled it just wonderfully. The crew had the added task of serving out the portions but gave me piece of mind. Our first night we tried eating in the Vista dining and it wasn't too good. I was seated in the back and right on top of the engine shafts?? So the food I ate turned in my stomach. Never was so glad to leave that table. We tried one more night and then with hubby sick we ended up eating quiet meals in a corner in the Lido. Kind of sad cause the food was kind of sad too. Very repetitive. Both sides of the Lido served food but not the same thing. So I never even knew there was an egg benedict area till the last day! I did however enjoy an italian night where the food was really enjoyable. There was seating outside but if you went all the way to the back your food was cold in a heartbeat. And if you were up close well then you had to eat cigarette smoke with your food. We did however have a couple meals towards the second cruise which was Pinnacle and then Le Cirque. They were of course just lovely. Our first night was on a formal night though. So we had to change it after we showed up not dressed for it. Quite disappointing. I can understand Vista dining formal but not Pinnacle as well. The steward who came to us was quite uppity and that didn't set to well. I suppose if I had one complaint it would be the smoking. Cigarettes and cigars everywhere. We couldn't even get away from it on our own balcony. Not one time could I sit outside and just enjoy the air without smoke. After being in Rome for a couple days before we boarded and sucking all the cigarette smoke there it was rather disappointing to have to constantly walk into it on the ship. The information you get each night about what goes on the next day in port was pretty good. However, it really could be just a tad more open about the difficulties of queues and maybe they could also remind people of how you queue. As in go to the end and not jump in. There was a never ending problem with this and it was everywhere! We didn't get to see Tunisia which was a huge disappointment for me. I was a bit over Italy and Greece and really wanted to touch down in North Africa. Because of the Utube video and violence that port was cancelled. However, Holland gave us a free cookbook for the change and the gastro with the super clean they needed to do. It was an awesome book and I thought that was pretty cool of them to do. we would also get bags to take on shore to put things in. Great quality and again so unexpected but wow...pretty cool. I learned a lot about Italy and Greece. The ancient and the old. And yes you must have comfortable walking shoes cause you do so much walking on constantly changing surfaces and very rarely are they foot friendly! I thought the shuttles were great as we did not book any excursions due to cost. We can always find our own way of seeing things and the hop on hop off buses are really pretty good. Sometimes it was even information overload and I'd have to pull out the earplugs. But we thought it was really an excellent way to see more of an area then you could possibly do walking it. As for the crew I found them tired. Surprised to learn they work 7 days a week explained that one. Should passengers be aware of that though...I don't think so. We had a great room steward though due to so few staff we didn't get to see him much. Would we sail with Hal again, I think so. We have a couple more cruises coming up and one is another different cruise line. All cruise lines have their good side and their not so good side. But then that does depend on what you are wanting or expecting I suppose. For me, quality of food and things to do on board and the shops I like. I am beginning to find that the programs offered on ships is pretty much the same which is a little bit sad. Also, if there are not enough restaurants to choose from even though you might have to pay extra that can be frustrating. What was available on the Noordam for shopping from the beginning was like all the larger sizes were gone. It was low on stock which was really disappointing. Or stock that didn't even pertain to our double cruise. Kind of weird but again I have seen on other ship lines too. She is a beautiful ship. We have done the Alaska cruise with HAL and it was great. Food was better. All in all...it was pretty good. Nothing is like home is it. But it was pretty good. We also used the laundry bags as they don't provide washers and dryers. Now it cost us $192 which yeah for 17 days is a lot. But let me tell you I used it EVERY day and was happy to pay for it I must admit. Having to wash clothes on a cruise is not to my liking. I don't want to cook, clean, laundry or anything like home. And our clothes returned quickly and nicely done I might add. My only negative for this cruise would be food quality in the buffet area and smoking. Other than that it was ok. It's a very physical cruise and strongly recommend if you are not young and fit...pick the spring or fall. But definitely not summer. Happy sailing...Carrie Read Less
Sail Date: September 2012
It may be somewhat of a shock for readers to read a less than perfect review of this ship following other glowing reports listed on this site so I will try to be totally honest and fair regarding our recent trip on the Noordam. Our ... Read More
It may be somewhat of a shock for readers to read a less than perfect review of this ship following other glowing reports listed on this site so I will try to be totally honest and fair regarding our recent trip on the Noordam. Our arrival at Leonardo Di Vinci airport was less than inspiring we dragged our cases out and had to follow someone in and out of the crowds in the terminal, dragging our cases a considerable distance over uneven and cobbled pavement to a rather large and scruffy lorry with two burly and menacing loader/drivers. after which we were led back to a rather busy and very dirty sweaty cafeteria and told to wait for the next shuttle bus (we chose to wait outside the terminal) arrival at the terminal was quick and efficient and we were on board within and estimated 20 minutes or less. The ship to be fair is fitted out to a Very High standard and oozes class at every turn and is maintained to a very high & comfortable standard both in furniture and cleanliness. The cabin we occupied was spacious and contained a small bath which was very pleasing, but one word of warning - if the description is that the view may be wholly or partially obscured by life boat - it pretty much means that you will get a fair amount of natural light but not much else, the only way my wife could look out was if she stood on the (very comfortable) bed and braced herself against my shoulders. The staff for the most part are attentive, friendly, and mostly helpful (unless you have only just missed the breakfast line deadline in the Lido). The only other issue we had in the Lido was the slowness at times of removal of dirty plates when supervisory staff were absent in addition to the usual less than good natured "Scrum" at busy times of the day. The problem we experienced after having traveled with many other cruise lines was the generally poor quality & level of entertainment on this particular cruise. With the exception of an opera singer on one night, and an excellent Guitarist another the entertainment was something that you would have expected to have experienced maybe 15 to 20 years ago on one of the cheaper middle range ships, on occasions it was very obvious that some of the performers where miming during the performance which could go someway to explain why this beautiful auditorium was at best only about a 3rd full every night for the duration of the cruise. The poor experience in the Theatre was compounded by the total absence of any atmosphere around the ship later in the evening that just cannot be explained by age and gender. Every other cruise I have been on without exception has had a lively and friendly atmosphere through to the early morning but the Noordam was like a ghost ship from 10.30pm onwards. We commented on this on a customer feedback form half way through the cruise and duly received a telephone call the following day from the Cruise Director Shane who, after we had expressed our concerns, more or less told us that we were entitled to our opinions and left us with a closing statement to "try and enjoy the rest of our cruise as much as you are able to"! The food generally was of a good quality with the exception of a few nights and the waiting staff were found to be quick and attentive in the main Vista Restaurant(even if the wine waiter was less than attentive to my wife's needs as she was unable to consume alcohol for the most part). We had one waiter that made the extra effort and entertained the table with card tricks and meal end towards the end of the cruise which was much appreciated and significantly more entertaining than most of the shows on offer. The trips where found to be expensive in the extreme and my advice would be to arrange your own(a number of people cancelled theirs after one and rather poor experience which cost them a handling charge of 10% on all the trips booked which rather added insult to injury). Our overall experience was not great - I enjoyed the comfort provided by the ship - met some great people and never (apart from the Lido at times) felt cramped but the ship just did not have anywhere near the level of atmosphere compared to previous many cruises taken with other much cheaper cruise lines. There is much more I could say but feel that enough is enough - needless to say that it is very unlikely that we will book with Holland America again based on our recent experience as we believe that we just didn't get the experience we were expecting or value for money. Read Less
Sail Date: July 2012
I left Montreal on air sardine can ..aka Air Transat on July 14 Our cruise was scheduled to leave Civitavecchia on the 17 of July first for Eastern Med then WEstern Med In total 20 days I booked my hotel the RAGANELLI on Via Aurelia on ... Read More
I left Montreal on air sardine can ..aka Air Transat on July 14 Our cruise was scheduled to leave Civitavecchia on the 17 of July first for Eastern Med then WEstern Med In total 20 days I booked my hotel the RAGANELLI on Via Aurelia on Hotels.com at a fairly reasonable price .Room was clean bathroom nice but this hotel is a bit far from Central Rome Since my focus was to be near the Vatican it worked out OK Francesca at the desk was most accommodating with wifi etc Breakfast was nice I enjoyed the Cappucinos and always got ice in my water bottle THe hotel directed me to local restaurants where the food was very good and relatively priced ONce my son arrived we headed out to visit the Vatican .It was a few bus rides away but doable WE then headed to visit Romes Synagogue and walk in Trastevere I forgot to mention I got to the hotel with Rome Cabs and they picked up my son that night and we shared a ride with Kim and family to port All with Rome Cabs WE had a situation whereby my small carry on suitcase was left behind at the hotel and only realized once we got to port Needless to say after EXTREME frantic moments my son went back with the driver to retrieve it.... contents intact THank you RAGANELLI HOTEL and SANDRO for noticing I left it behind and STEFANO of Rome cabs for quick solution to that problem YOU ARE THE BEST. I cannot praise ROME CABS enough who really stepped up I will return to ROME God willing and will use their courteous punctual service again GREAT JOB by Stefano and Patrizio and Sylvestre WE then headed to TRASTEVERE and found a little bar/restaurant where the lady spoke French .allowed us access to wifi and made us the best salads and gnocchi ever . Her husband was the cook WE were never rushed and had a nice time there Getting back to the hotel was complicated but after walking around A LOT did get back .It did take more than 1 hour The next day we headed to port and my mentioned problem But it was all resolved and I was able to breathe again HAL people did call the hotel to tell us my son had picked up the bag and was headed back Apparently I sounded hyisterical worrying about the bag and my son getting back MORAL OF THE STORY always count bags before you leave DO NOT TRUST drivers to do so Keep valuables with you ...NEVER rush to leave ...mistakes happen Also always go to port early we were so we were able to go back and forth to Rome in good time The whole anguishing rigamaroll took 2.5 hours and my son still came back on time Our first cabin was 8135 ...comfy enough under LIDO deck The scraping of deck chairs in middleof the night was DEFINTELY an issue . NOTE TO SELF NO MORE CABINS UNDER LIDO DECK!!!! The worst problem of this cabin was the rejected dirty water from LIDO deck thrown daily on my balcony I advised the front desk and they did clean it but the very same thing happened the next day and each subsequent day THank god my concerns were addressed properly For the second leg of the cruise I was switched cabins and upgraded THANK YOU HAL WE had an aft deluxe verandah suite with an enormous balcony .Very comfy cabin and wonderful balcony .Our concierges Joyce and Assina were the BEST ever THey settled issues quickly and with a smile Thank you girls!!! The crew on Lido deck under ERICS supervision were SUPER Every day I picked up my sliced papaya and was greeted by name and with smiles LOVED IT!!! Our first 10 days we had tablemates from Canada and Scotland all very nice SErvice in the dining room was pretty bad as too little waiters for all those tables We hardly went to shows because dinner took so long However the sunsets were gorgeous Food for the most part was good ..sometimes a little too salty but for the most part very adequate However sweets left a lot to be desired EXCEPT chocolate ones THey were unbelievable!!! I found the first Maitre D a little rude when he demanded My son get a jacket I explained I spoke to my HAL PVP and she said shirt and tie would be ok ...He wanted her name and told me she did not know what she was talking about and he had to have a jacket Well I wrote home and got my sister to bring his blazer on the second part of the cruise as she was joining us .He was not pleasant at all Our stops were many all diverse and interesting .Dubrovnik was lovely /We walked up and saw cliff divers,shopped went for a boat ride and had a lovely day THere is a local bus right outside the port that takes you in town for very little as compared to ship transfer Corfu was a beach day in DACIA where we had a nice lunch in a seaside cafe which we stayed in because all his lounge chairs were sold out My son and I enjoyed lunch there Nice Place Nice people Took a city bus to get too . Stepping in the Med was very nice Olympia Janet of our Roll cAll organized a tour Hot but interesting. Purchased Honey from a local producer WE tasted It was Yummy Shopped in Olympia Had lunch in a small cafe Behind the main street of KATAKOLON near port Souvlaki Salad and Gyros were excellent Kusadasi was ruins in Priene Dydima and Milotus with Ephesus Deluxe tours Enjoyed all in spite of heat But did not care for snake in Priene Loved lunch It was FABULOUS My son noticed no women anywhere I told him they were cooking the amazing food we had Turkish food was truly excellent WE purchased leather in the BAZAAR I felt at a good price from NARCIS I got a 3 quarter coat my son a jacket REpairs were done on the spot He gave us an amazing gift before we left!!!! Santorini we took a boat with our tablemates to OIA then bus to FIRA yhen other bus to black beach Appreciated dip in MED again Barely made it back to tender and cable car There were 6 ships in port ...a little crrrrrazy Athen was the hop on hop off bus I had planned to skip Athens but my son insisted I was pleasantly surprised by the city reduced pollution and the beautification since my last visit I guess the OLYMPICS had a very positive impact Nowhere were people agressive but they did share their tales of economic woes but their attitude was extremely accepting in spite of circumstances I really hope they can get out of their mess Messina was a visiting shopping day I would not waste too much time here except for the famous clock Back to Civitavecchia ...shopping not much here Beach was unappealing Livorno our driver sent by UMBERTO of Italy driver took us to Pisa Lucca and Florence ...CROWDS were enormous but we really enjoyed that day WE headed back early because it was so very hot Shopping in this area was good Barcelona was a gem waiting to be discovered . Our first day we went to SITGES beach LOvely day Next day was Hop on Hop off bus Boy did Barcelona change since I was last here beautiful city deserving of a few days visit Palma was shopping day in Corte Ingles and on Jaime 3 street GREAT BARGAINS Monaco was hop on hop off bus Very expensive Nothing to write home about Very crowded ...nice architecture but would not bother going back Tunis ...ship made us feel very nervous about going on our own or shopping there .WE had no problems I found people pleasant and did purchase a few trinkets but we did take the HAL our IT WAS HOT like an oven .I do not remember ever being this hot Poor people could not even drink because of RAMADAN ...I sweated bullets ...even the breeze was very hot Our guide insisted purchases be done at his friends shop ...I did not climb that hill so I avoided it all but my sister was caught and felt she had been cheated I bought a few things while waiting for them Truthfully none of the merchants were as agressive as HAL made them to be I speak FRENCH but I do not believe it made a difference I bargained with them as is part of the game I had no problems They encouraged us all to come back and enjoy their resorts I did buy their sweets and they were awesome . But be prepared for extreme heat Bring LOADS of water ...you will need it !!! Palermo we visited Monreale etc Next time we will head to the beach instead ...after so many churches ..enough is enough Enjoyed shopping in the local market LOved the PARAGAYOS ...looks like a squashed peach YUMMY Naples was all about the Amalfi coast with UMBERTO of Italy driver .Wonderful day Wonderful lunch at la TAGLIATA restaurant overlooking an amazing view Food was delicious Owners wonderful Freeflowing wine . WE sacrificed a visit to Herculaneum for lunch ....great decision Loved Sorrento Positano and the Amalfi coast .Thank you Umberto Everywhere we went it was very hot I bought a huge hat in SANTORINI because I needed to cover up Re Noordam ...ship unfortunately I believe is understaffed so nOT as clean as others WE had issues with our first balcony and even in the deluxe suite I never saw anyone cleaning or scrubbing ..and it showed ...pool had stuff floating in it ...I found all kinds of garbage on my balcony ...YUCK But they did move me so I hope it is all better now Best ever was the BBQ leaving Corfu The food the Views were spectacular I will remember this one forever IT was unique with Greek music and sunsets to boot All the grilled meats were out of this world BRAVO TO ERIC and His staff THe diasplay of fruits was yummy Cold watermelon after that glorious dinner was the right touch All ships should do this It was DEEEELICIOUS!!!! THats it LOved our 20 days Entertainment on board for us was not up to par but because qwe were so port intensive it did not matter Would I do this one again ...I think so But I would plan less ruins and more beach days ...also the price would have to be right HAL did step up after I reported the problem with our cabin and I appreciated the upgrade So Thank you ...nExt time try NOt to lose so many of my clothes in the laundry ...but that too was corrected All in all a great 20 days Be advised the AC on ship is full blast I came back with a miserable cold i'm still nursing so bring a sweater for the ship Casino and Hallways are very cold I loved the MED I loved the weather Europe is great THe Med is great I love cruising and this one was great too Michele Read Less
Sail Date: July 2012
We took a 20 day cruise (16 ports of call) with Holland America on July 16th 2012 and the first thing they do is loose are luggage. The one with $2,000.00 worth of RX's in it.! The Cabin boy put it in someone else's room and they ... Read More
We took a 20 day cruise (16 ports of call) with Holland America on July 16th 2012 and the first thing they do is loose are luggage. The one with $2,000.00 worth of RX's in it.! The Cabin boy put it in someone else's room and they had to do a search of the ship to find it, 8 hours later we received it thank god. the bag had are cabin number on two tags, one red and are name on three tags, but English is they second or third language after all! The entertainment was enjoyable but average, and because it was 20 days they repeated four shows. But sold the cruise as a 20 day cruise? What were they thinking! The food was good but not exceptionable. The first 10 day we had the best waiters, but the 2nd 10 days it was a different waiters and the service was nowhere close to the other waiter and was mostly one not two waiters. The staff is friendly. The ship is great. The verandah was ok but small as you hit the bed a lot moving around the room. The lighting in the room was poor at best. You open the closet door and it blocked all the light and the safe was in it. Bring a flashlight! HAL is one of the few lines that doesn't sell a "coke" card. You buy it in $25.00 sums? The bed was great and very comfortable. The verandah was small and of course on the wrong side of the ship, in most ports of call. (left) Your view was little or nothing, containers mostly! The tender in one port was the the last one and you had to walk foever to get to it. Overall the cruise was good but could of been a lot better. Read Less
Sail Date: June 2012
It was my first cruise and I really enjoyed it. getting on and off the boat was smooth and efficient. Food was excellent at the sit down restaurants. Lido was ok but queues were a problem on occassion. The queue for the fast food at the ... Read More
It was my first cruise and I really enjoyed it. getting on and off the boat was smooth and efficient. Food was excellent at the sit down restaurants. Lido was ok but queues were a problem on occassion. The queue for the fast food at the pool every day was off putting. Entertainment was fine, enjoyed the piano bar guy entertainment, great repetoire. There was almost every night a different entertainer, we did not go every night. Our cabin was an HH on the fourth deck and had an obstructed view, it was fine, lots of room under the bed for luggage, room service for breakfast excellent for those early starts, bed very comfortable, bath and shower fine, lots of room in closets for clothes. TV channels a bit limited but you are on a cruise. Attendants kept the cabin spotless. So glad we paid for 10 days of entrance to the spa with use of hydropool, sauna and hot rock recliner (great for the back). It cost on special $199 for a couple. The spa staff said that it was limited to 40 couples. With 1900 people on the ship I was glad on impluse we did it. It is an oasis of calm and under 18s not permitted. The pool was packed with teenagers and the other 1900 passengers it seemed some days. There is also no apparent supervision of the jacuzzi beside the pool. Did all the shore excursions ourselves except one which was in Tunisia. Glad we did them ourselves. 13 full buses of people and guides were in my view mediocre. For those of you doing the cruise, easy to get to Pisa from Livorno but it is hot. Bus to train station, train to Pisa, walk to tower a half hour, need to book online in advance to go up tower which we did, great views of Pisa. Monte Carlo we just got off the ship and wandered around easy to do. Barcelona we did the taxi to las Rambles for 10 euros for four people, then the hop on hop off bus for 24 euros each. Mallorca was taxi 12 euros to downtown and then a wander around, tapas and taxi back. Palermo we walked and took buses to see the catacombs, easy to do. Naples we went to Pompeii, No 1 tram to train station 5 euros for three people and then I think it was 18 euros return for three to Pompeii, which costs 11 euro entry and is opposite the station. If you have a lot of luggage arrange a transfer in Rome to the airport. Staff and service on ship were excellent. Would definitely do a cruise again, apologies for doing a review here but not willing to risk cruise critic again! One last thing although we did all the ports and excursions independently, it was very hot and tiring so be warned take lots of water, hat and put on sun tan lotion.   Read Less
Sail Date: June 2012
My mother and I took this cruise to see Europe, and take a trip together. She is 78, and I am 44, so I knew it was "now or never". I booked through the cruise line, early on, and kept tabs on the pricing, and as the cruise ... Read More
My mother and I took this cruise to see Europe, and take a trip together. She is 78, and I am 44, so I knew it was "now or never". I booked through the cruise line, early on, and kept tabs on the pricing, and as the cruise prices dropped, I would call and complain, and, in the end we were upgraded to a "superior verandah". People will tell you get the smallest, cheapest cabin, that is so untrue. We used the cruise line for air travel and transportation to and from the ship-for both arrival and departure for the end of our cruise. The ride from Rome to Citavecchia was 1 hour, but we had a comfortable ride. Embarkation was a little disorganized, and, of course, this is your first impression, so I hoped that this wasn't what was to come. After the embarkation debacle (long lines, impatient travelers), we easily got on board, and were DELIGHTED to find that our room was so beautiful and spacious! Our verandah was huge. The bathroom was large and spacious. I am so glad they upgraded our room, we wound up spending a lot of time there, sitting on the verandah, or watching tv, to relax before dinner or after and excursion. Long story short, the cruise line bends over backwards to ensure you have a wonderful experience. The room stewards were phenomenal-pleasant and efficient, and, yes, they learn your name from day 1. The dining staff was also just as good, pleasant and polite. I wish I could say the same for some of the passengers we encountered, but I suppose where ever you go, you will encounter rude people. We did 5 out of 7 excursions, which were superbly planned out to every detail, the lines to get off and on the busses could be long, but you have to expect that with such large groups. Holland America, in general is super organized, which is comforting. When we were at Athens, Greece, we decided to "go it ourselves" and we may have saved $25 or so, but in the end, we didn't see that much, so I think we would have been better off with a cruise excursion. People tell you to go it on your own, to save money, but I think the cruise line does a better job. It may seem expensive, but you get a tour guide and the comfort that you are in a group and the ship will not leave with out you in case the tour runs late. My only "issue" was with the food. I didn't think it was particularly good, just mediocre. Everything seemed to have rosemary in it- the pizza, the gravy, the chicken breast. I am not a huge fan of the spice. However, on the upside, I didn't overeat. In general, we had an amazing time on a beautiful ship. Met lots of wonderful people and saw unbelievable sights. Here is my tip to future travellers: take cold medicine. I took everything for stomach issues, but nothing for sinus or congestion. By the last 3 days of the cruise, I had a low grade cold, and would have loved some decongestant. In fact, half the cruise ship was coughing or complaining of sinus problems. Throw some cold medicine in your bag- you may be glad you did! Read Less
Sail Date: April 2012
Embarkation- We arrived in Civitavecchia (Rome) on the Navigator of the Seas, transatlantic from New Orleans. We took a bus to the entrance of the port and got on another bus going to the Noordam. We were the first to arrive at the ... Read More
Embarkation- We arrived in Civitavecchia (Rome) on the Navigator of the Seas, transatlantic from New Orleans. We took a bus to the entrance of the port and got on another bus going to the Noordam. We were the first to arrive at the check-in tent so we waited 45-60 minutes before boarding the ship. Everything was well organized and painless. Ship information- The ship had been in dry dock for two weeks in Palermo, Sicily and it should had been left in dry dock for another two weeks to complete the work. They were adding more cabins on the 10th deck, painting, sanding, welding during the day and during the night. One couldn't sit by the pool without being disturbed by the construction noise. They had also just installed new carpet which was pilling badly and never seemed to be vacuumed. There were always crumbs on the floor under the tables from the night before. Since we had just left the Navigator of the Seas, with beautiful and elegant decor, the Noordam seemed to be "cheaply made". Activities - There were plenty of activities to keep one busy, especially since this was a port intensive cruise. HA employees a person who gives a overview of each port, history of the area, and gives tips on getting around without a shore excursion. The information that he gave was so helpful and made each area more interesting. Entertainment - The entertainment was generally good with few exceptions, like the opera singer. The cruise director, a gentleman from Atlanta was a hoot!! This cruise director added so much entertainment himself and I would love to go on another cruise where he was assigned as the cruise director. Dining - The food and service were great, especially in the main or formal dining room. The Lido restaurant was crowded and difficult to maneuver around when it was crowded. A majority of the food was served from behind a food counter, so one had to stand in line to get the food. This method is safer from a food safety stand point, but frustrating when you only want one thing behind the counter. Stateroom - we had an ocean view cabin, category DD, which was good. The drawers under the bed stored linens for the sofa-bed so they couldn't be used for our clothes. The attendants kept the room clean and neat. Since the room was on the lower deck, it was a lot of stairs up to the lido for the buffet restaurant, pool or the gym. Embarkation - was easy and painless. We were flying out of Athens to Crete, so we took a taxi to the airport which was much cheaper than the cruise ship's transport to the airport. Read Less
2 Helpful Votes
Sail Date: March 2012
I have written several reviews for CC and I always begin by saying: "There is no such thing as a BAD CRUISE" ..... unless of course you were on the Titanic (or other recent fiascos at sea) The more we cruise, the more we ... Read More
I have written several reviews for CC and I always begin by saying: "There is no such thing as a BAD CRUISE" ..... unless of course you were on the Titanic (or other recent fiascos at sea) The more we cruise, the more we learn about ships, crews, cruise lines, itineraries, entertainment, cabins, etc.... so naturally we are more opinionated. If this were my first cruise... I would say WOW. This being my 12th cruise ... I will start by saying... ....I love HAL. Prior to the end of this cruise, we happily put down a deposit for a future cruise. Why? Mainly because HALs overall service meets or exceeds our expectations. If there is a problem, they bend over backwards to try and resolve it for you. The food is very good. There is no nonsense in the way of dining room antics, PA system announcements (that are unnecessary) the cruise director does his job ... and doesn't overstay his welcome. There are lots of interesting people on board and enrichment offerings that other cruise lines don't offer. I guess it's like trying to find the perfect person... you will never be 100% satisfied. Personally we would like it if there was just a little more liveliness on board in the later evening, but it's the passengers of each sailing that determine this. The longer the cruise, the older the passengers. Embarkation: HAL in Ft Lauderdale was swift and easy. We had all our check in documents complete ahead of time and the line moved quickly. (15 minutes at the most around 1:00 pm) The gentlemen who checked us in was friendly and charming and seemed to be working side by side with his other half. When he finished checking us in, he leaned over to share a kiss with the agent next to him who had also just finished checking her passengers in. It was adorable. We boarded before 2:00 pm and were able to go straight to our cabin (unlike many other cruise lines that require you to roam around the Lido deck with your carry on baggage until the cabins are ready). Cabin: This was our 2nd aft veranda cabin. Previously we were on deck 4. We love the aft cabin experience. Watching the seas off the back of the ship is wonderful. Going northbound you get a lot of sun out there (and a little bit of ash from the ships stacks!) What we did not factor in when we booked this cabin was that on the Navigation deck (8) under the Lido deck, there is a lot of noise in the mornings and the afternoons when the deck chairs are being brought out and rearranged. There was also a noise that we never identified. My husband is a very light sleeper and if he wakes up he is up for hours. There was some kind of noise that was an intermittent loud bang. We ruled out doors slamming, chairs being dropped, toilets flushing. It would happen all through the day and night but not at regular intervals. We reported it to the front desk and they bent over backwards trying to figure it out. Short of having a crew member camp out in our room, there was no way to tell what it was. For 4 days we kept trying to explain it and finally gave up. The front desk was very apologetic and sent us a bottle of wine as a gesture of goodwill. In the end we think it may have had something to do with the HVAC system relieving itself of some pressure or the Lido pool/spa filtration system. That was our only cabin complaint. On the good side .. Our bathroom was spacious enough for a bathtub which I used on several occasions . We did notice there was a little less counter space than we would have liked and we wished we had booked a cabin with a full sized eating table on the deck. Next time. Cabin Stewards: Weebee and Hadi from the Philippines were about as good as they come. They were always there when we needed them. They kept our rooms in tip top shape, kept our ice bucket full and their ability to communicate with us was a welcome treat. By day 2 they remembered our names, even if we saw them way down the hall or around the corner away from the cabin they associated us with. Amazing. It took us 4 days to remember their 2 names. Kudos. I will say that I think it's time for the Noordam to change out the carpeting. Cocktails: We preplanned this trip to enjoy cocktails in our cabin and ordered through HAL the gin and tonic package and a bottle of vodka. One bottle showed up, the other we had to call the front desk to remind them of our order, but it arrived shortly thereafter. Of course we did not finish either bottle, but it was nice to mix a cocktail each evening before going to the dining room and enjoy them on our balcony. We also pre ordered the Navigator wine package. 10 nights - 5 bottles of wine worked perfectly for us. We still took advantage of the lounges about the ship. On sail away day we had champagne at the Atrium Bar "hip hip hooray" before our life boat drill, we had a bucket of cold beer (5 for the price of 4) on the night of Lido Deck Party, Pina Coladas at the Crows Nest one afternoon, Kir Royal and Cognac another evening before my husband enjoyed a cigar in the Oak Room. I thought the drink prices on this cruise were fair. My only pet peeve about cocktails on ships these days (not exclusive to HAL) is that I detest drinking out of plastic glasses and stemware. I know it's a safety issue, but I heard quite a few coffee cups in the Lido dining room hit the floor and break .. so why use plastic for cocktails? For me, it deters me from wanting to buy one outside. I like to be treated like an adult. (note to self: next cruise I plan on asking my cabin steward to empty out the servi-bar completely so we can use it for keeping our own things chilled. (including suntan lotion!) Sail Away: We dropped our bags and went to the Lido for a late lunch. There were plenty of options for my husband. I was dieting and also found a wonderful salad bar. I only wish there were more fat free salad dressing options. As I mentioned above, we had champagne in the Atrium Bar "hip hip hooray" before the life boat drill. The drill was conducted on promenade deck and quite efficiently (especially following recent events on the seas) It would have gone very quickly if it hadn't been for 3 cabins who had to be paged repeatedly to show up. 48 hour rule: HAL now does a hands-off policy for the first 48 hours of a cruise. The buffet in the Lido is not self serve until after 48 hours have passed. Salt and pepper shakers are off the tables and you must use paper packets and they have staff to serve you from the buffet, coffee, water, iced tea machines. Frankly I would be thrilled if they kept this policy the entire cruise. (The things you see at a buffet line!!) I asked a crew member and he told me it takes 6 extra crew to serve the buffet rather than have it self serve. Small price to pay for keeping an outbreak of Norovirus. Pools: Much to my surprise the aft pool was fresh water. I never stepped into the main pool, but I am guessing it was also fresh water. By the end of 10 days it did look like it needed to be drained as it got a little murky. The aft hot tubs were about 100-101 degrees. One worked, the one on port side had no bubbles. These aft tubs and pool are supposed to be Adults Only. There were a few kids in the tub on the first couple of days. I hate to be the cranky lady who complains, but I really don't understand why parents can't respect this signage. We also mentioned this to the front desk and it seemed to stop occurring after a few days. There weren't that many children on this cruise, but I just don't like getting into a hot tub when kids are splashing around. It's a place for adults to congregate and enjoy adult conversation and adult beverages. My suggestion to HAL is to post better signage by the entrance to the hot tubs and enforce the rules. Towels: On the plus side ...... Ship towels were available at the pool, both main and aft, on the Promenade deck and on disembarking to shore. They were freely available. Not distributed with a sign out sheet. (again, I like being treated like an adult). On the minus side, when we anchored at Half Moon Cay and tendered in, they were completely out of towels. We assumed there would be towels on the beach and there were not. So we spent the day on the beach with no towels. Greenhouse Spa: We signed up for the week of Thermal Suites. I love this and it offers you a chance to use the Hydro Therapy Pool (aka the hot tub with no kids). I think it is over priced, but I am willing to spend the money. (perfect marketing strategy!!) We also had a couples massage on the second sea day. It was really nice, but when it was over they push you to buy another service and we were caught up in the moment and did. Later that week our sunburns prevented us from desiring another massage, so we cancelled and they were kind enough to do that without charge. We gave them 24 hrs... or close to it. I also had a Fire and Ice Pedicure. It was very nice and after a 10 day cruise and a week home, my nail polish still has not chipped! Dining: We had main seating 8:00 p.m. in the Vista Dining Room on the upper floor, table #56. For some reason I never learned the name of our head waiter. I recognized him, but his name did not stick. He was very nice and remembered after the first night that we enjoy an espresso and a cappuccino after dinner and we never had to ask again. The menu each night was different and varied and I liked that they had items each night that were available if you did not want to venture off the beaten path. I always enjoy trying all the exotic soups (hot and chilled) they are wonderful and the escargot and caviar and seared delicacies they offer. Sometimes we order two of something or have special requests and they are always pleased to indulge our gluttony. We dined in the Vista Dining Room 6 nights. The food ranged from very good to not so good. First night's prime rib was undercooked to order and very thin. Some of the seared items were room temperature and some chilled appetizers had been sitting out too long.Also the service was slow between the last appetizer and the entree and so slow a few nights that we missed the show if we stayed for dessert. Again, I would love it if HAL would offer some healthier choices. Wine Steward: Also I did not remember his name. He was efficient and never lost our wines even as we moved to different dining rooms throughout the cruise. We don't like our wines poured in the glass in large quantities. We like "an inch" of wine so that we can swirl and open up the flavors. It always takes 3-4 days for us to convince our wine stewards of this. I think they just want you to finish the bottle so you can feel like you need another. Pinnacle: $25 extra per person. We have done this before and enjoyed it. The decor and service exceeds that of the dining room, but the choices and quality of the food were not overly superior this time. I had Steak Diane and mushrooms, but when I asked for a lobster for us to split, the answer was no .. unless we wanted to pay extra for the entree. It wasn't much $10, but it seemed petty. We have eaten in other "specialty" restaurants and never heard of this. We rarely ask for 2 of anything, but from time to time you can't decide what to order or want to try something. It's standard operating procedure to order this way in the Vista dining room. The amount of waste that goes on in the Lido could save a small country. Le Cirque: $39 extra per person. We had pre reserved this before the cruise. It was paid for or else we would have cancelled it after the Pinnacle experience. Supposedly the dining room was to be "transformed into the legendary Le Cirque of New York" ... all we noticed was the change of the china and linens. The menu was about the same as the Pinnacle in choice and quality. Don't get me wrong.. it tasted pretty darn good, but in our opinion it definitely did not warrant $78 + gratuity. We can get that at home. We did meet a really nice couple both nights while dining and the service is much more attentive, but I think next time we might only try the Pinnacle. Canaletto: No extra charge, reservations only. On the Lido at the end of the Lido buffet. Linen covered tables and personal service. The food is prepared and set up behind one of the Lido buffet areas, but not available for self service. The food was fabulous, piping hot and the service was wonderful. I think the waiters there are hoping to work their way out of the Lido and into the main dining room, so they work extra hard to be friendly. We found this to be the same in the Lido all hours of the day. Very friendly wait and service staff. Breakfast: Room Service: We ordered room service 3 times and it always came right on time and exactly what we ordered. You can actually order a full breakfast. The coffee was not very good in our opinion, but we classify ourselves as coffee snobs. Lido: Lido had lots of choices, poached eggs for eggs Benedict, waffles, omelet chef, and standard scrambled eggs and meats, oatmeal, and even some ethnic choices from Asia. Vista Dining Room: Plenty of choices, but each day we were told the wait for an omelet would be 30-45 minutes. We could never figure that out. We usually had eggs Benedict or oatmeal, fresh fruit, etc. Coffee was slow and rarely refilled without seeking out a waiter and asking for it. Other foods: There was a pretty good sushi bar in the afternoon offering maki and noodles. The Lido BBQ Party was fun and we ate like we were planning for a famine that night. It was perfect weather and the smells got the best of me.... I blew my diet that night! Entertainment: We enjoyed the HAL singers and dancers on 2 nights, a magician/comedian another night, a fabulous violinist another night. We always found a seat in the show. We went to the late show and it was never full. We skipped a few nights and went to try other venues of entertainment. The Adagio Strings were a nice touch, but we did not enjoy the dance music of the HAL Cats or the folk music in the Crows Nest Lounge. The Northern Lights played the usual popular fare, but the crowds were nonexistent after 11:00 pm. The whole ship basically shuts down at 11:00 except for the Northern Lights Club and the casino. The Piano Bar was full each night. The piano man was quite talented as a pianist and a singer, but a little too full of himself and over-the-top for my taste. I don't recall hearing much of the pool band, we must have been on the other side of the ship while they were playing. Normally the main pool would have the noise and the music and the aft pool (adults only) would be more mellow and quiet. This cruise the music was in the aft pool. Activities: We watched a movie one night in the Culinary Arts Center with popcorn and we attended part of a demonstration on how to make creme br'lee ... very interesting. Public Rooms: The Explorers Lounge is wonderful. Huge library you can check books out, magazines, puzzles. Someday I will take a long enough cruise that I won't feel guilty for spending time down here out of the sun. Restrooms throughout the ship: Nicely appointed and always clean Casino: What can you say about a casino? You win some. You lose some. We did both and enjoyed our time spent there. Special shout out to Rey who was training to be a dealer but spent most of his time in the cashiers cage. Very personable and entertaining. We enjoyed having fun with you each night! Cruise Director: Shane. Great job. I love a cruise director who actually does their job without being annoying over the PA system. He had funny jokes to start his introductions out to other entertainers and had the perfect blend of information and not being overbearing. Kudos. Mariners Society: Very nice upgrade from the usual champagne toast and canape ... to a full on luncheon in the Vista Dining room. Excellent. Cocktails with the Captain: We aren't sure why we were invited, but we attended a really nice cocktail party toward the end of the cruise in the Crows Nest Lounge. We had actual one-on-one conversations with the Captain John Scott as well as his lovely wife and the 2nd in command, hotel manager and other officers. Shore Calls: Getting off and off the ship was very organized and easy in port. Even on the tender days the wait was short. Half Moon Cay: Wonderful day. Only wish they had not run out of towels before we left the ship. Medical Center: We did stop by here once because of a sting my husband got while snorkeling in Bonaire. It was irritating him and the nurse looked at it and advised us to return when the ships doctor was back at 5:00 pm, but we didn't return as the sting began to dissipate. Friendly, good service. Disembarkation: Easy. We had a shore excursion booked on the ship and then to the airport Thank you HAL for another memorable cruise. Time to start planning our next sailing Read Less
Sail Date: March 2012
Holland America was not nice to us as we asked for a GUAR which assigns staterooms just before sailing. We had another couple going with, and asked they be close. HAL put us on the starboard, 8th deck on the stern and our friends on the ... Read More
Holland America was not nice to us as we asked for a GUAR which assigns staterooms just before sailing. We had another couple going with, and asked they be close. HAL put us on the starboard, 8th deck on the stern and our friends on the port, 6th deck on the bow. If we tried, could not get further apart. We drove from Fort Myers, FL and left the car at Park & Fly just outside the dock area. Great place, took all the luggage from the car, put it in the bus and did the same thing at the other end. On return, we called for pickup and they were there in 10 minutes. Again did the luggage thing...WOW! Embarq was very good and had water & cookies for us. Got on at 12:30 and the room was ready. Off to lunch and tour the ship, our third time on this ship. It had not changed much. Met Cruise Critic friends at 4 P.M. with a Greet and Meet. Dinner at 6:15 with 7 of us and had no problem getting in. Tuesday the winds came up and the seas got rough. Fun watching the waves in the pool and only a few tried to get in. Bumpy all day and all night. Wednesday the sea calmed down a little and went to the Microsoft class, very good! Then a watch seminar in the afternoon - dumb! Show was great and the kids worked very hard. Thursday we had reservations with STMAARTENCRUISEEXCURSIONS.COM and had the Tiki Beach & Island Tour. Damion picked us at the ship, toured St maarten and got the "ferry" to Pinal Island, included 2 chair, umbrella, drink and the BAR_B_Q for lunch. Ferry back, some shopping and back on board. Friday we had reservations with www.stluciafrank.com for $75.00 each on an all day tour. We were picked up in Canaries and dropped off in Soufriere. The ship does not promote this practice and wants you to use their tours, but just check with the desk and let them know. No problem! The ship moves from one place to the other and we get picked up with the tenders. Frank is a clown and we saw the entire island, lunch had some "bite" but it was local food. Saw gardens, volcano, water fall, Pitons and lots more. Good value. Ship had a BAR-B-Q at night, but no place to set and eat. Show as a movie. Saturday had a trip from Johnson's Tours on line for Caves & Critters at $87.50 each. Pricey but we did get into the Harrison Caves (Don't miss it) then Barbados Wildlife Reserve. A few turtles and deer, no monkeys as advertised. Bus took us across the street to the Forrest and plenty of monkeys. Tour guide was good and stayed with an older couple with our group. Shopping was OK, but 5 ships in port. Sunday in Martinique which was closed. Stayed on board and saved money. Monday was Domica, shopped at the dock and found TOOOO many taxi drivers wanting your money. Hang a sign that says "NO" on you. Tuesday at St Thomas with Oasis of Sea (6000) passengers at the dock. $4.00 each way to get into town. Wednesday at sea and we all ate at Camaletto Itialian Restaurant on the 9th deck (FREE) and great service and selection. Thursday was Half Moon Bay and the rains came and it poured. Stayed on board, got another Microsoft class. Friday we disembarked in 30 minutes, got the bus back to our cars and was on I-595 in 15 minutes. Except for the screw up by HAL for staterooms, the cruise was very good. Read Less
2 Helpful Votes
Sail Date: March 2012
9 DAY SOUTHERN CARIBBEAN CRUISE ON HAL NOORDAM, March 26 thru April 4, 2012 - The ms Noordam is a lovely ship but the fact is that it caters to an older clientel. I'd estimate age 65+ with many cruisers in their late 70's and ... Read More
9 DAY SOUTHERN CARIBBEAN CRUISE ON HAL NOORDAM, March 26 thru April 4, 2012 - The ms Noordam is a lovely ship but the fact is that it caters to an older clientel. I'd estimate age 65+ with many cruisers in their late 70's and beyond. While watching the very entertaining "Marriage Game", one couple said they were married "67 years in July". You do the math. Please don't get me wrong -- I love elders and hope to be one some day BUT crusing with a large number of elders presents some challenges. Embarking, disembarking, tendering all takes additional time as quite a few patrons are using wheelchairs and walkers or just moving slowly. Excursions take a little additional time with them getting on and off buses and other transportation. The same goes for trying to get anywhere on the ship as the halls will bottleneck with large groups slowly making their way to the dining room, lounge, etc. If you wish to take in a movie, show, any sort of entertainment, plan on being there at least one-half hour before the event begins as the older-set likes to arrive very early to pick out their seats and get situated. With regard to entertainment, it seemed as though most of it was geared to the tastes of the older patrons. Opera and classical always playing in the Ledo Buffet. One entertainer performed songs mostly 30-40 years old, all at a slower tempo than I ever remembered hearing them. Plenty of opportunities for Ballroom Dancing and Bridge playing. And plan on most activities ending around 11:00 PM as the seniors are certainly in bed by that time and the ship pretty much closes down. There isn't much extended "night-life" on the Noordam. Know these things going in and you'll do fine. As I'm in my mid-50's, I decided to pretend that I was cruising with my mother. Once I adopted that mind-set, I was able to figure out how to handle situations and things went much smoother for me. In fact, the older cruisers were delightful to talk to and I truly enjoyed their company. On the up side . . . you could usually find room in the hot tubs and swimming pools and the ship was wonderfully quiet. The Noordam is a bit like a floating art-gallery and museum. I spent one of our at-sea days exploring the numerous exhibits of fine art, museum-quality antiques, and statuary. The ship is warmly appointed and has the feel of an old-world hotel. This was my third cruise and my first with HAL. I'm no expert but I do have some points for comparison with respect as to how the cruise and staff operated. I will say that I was mostly pleased but did find some room for improvement. The stateroom was the smallest I've ever been in and all prior cruises have been in similar balcony rooms. The narrow walking space between the end of the bed and the wall made it difficult to get around the bed in the dark and more than once there was tripping, kicking of the trash can, and general falling about in trying to get to the bathroom in the middle of the night because of it. The bathroom was generous and included a bathtub. Clothes hanging space was sufficient but there were few drawers and very little counter space. The couch was more like a love seat. A very small love seat. Our balcony was the largest of any I've experienced -- about the same width but several feet deeper in size. The stateroom had few electrical outlets and half of what was there were European. Bring your adaptor! Two persons in a room = two cell phones and two camera batteries that needed daily re-charging. Not to mention using electrical items such as the hair dryer. We constantly had to take turns charging items and sharing the outlets and spent a lot of time making sure that no one woke up the next morning with a dead camera battery. Our room steward was mostly invisible. As was our ice. One day I returned from our excursion to find that the room hadn't been touched. It was well after 2:00 PM and the steward asked if I'd had lunch yet in the hope that I'd go for lunch so he could do the room. So much for wanting lunch IN the room that day, I had no choice but to get my very tired self to the Ledo to eat. We ate the first dinner in the dining room and then did not return due to slow service, incorrect service, and improperly cooked dishes. There was an ongoing issue with the kitchen knowing what "medium rare" was. We chose to eat at the Ledo buffet where we could first see the food before requesting it. The Ledo buffet was more formal than buffet's I'd experienced before and it felt like a nice dining room instead of a cafeteria. Short of there never being any Ranch dressing, I was very pleased with the Ledo buffet dining. I was disappointed in the entertainment and only took in one show, a Las Vegas type review. While the performers seemed talented enough, the production was over-worked and disjointed. One of my favorite numbers was a wonderful percussion set that included tribal costumes and body paint. A portion of the stage then rose up from beneath the floor with a woman in a primitive print tribal dress and I thought we'd be hearing a rhythmic tribal-type song from her. She then broke into "What a Wonderful World". Certainly a nice enough song but totally disconnected from the tribal percussion, the body paint, and her costuming. Another set included ZZ Top's popular song "Legs". One would think that the dancers would show some . . . legs . . . during this set. The dancers came out in what appeared to be very hot [as in temperature] looking velour jumpsuits covering them from head to toe. The jumpsuits had seen better days and the dancer wearing the dark blue jumpsuit had two large white spots on her rear where the velour was worn away from her sitting down. I was in the back of the theater and it was still very obvious that many of the costumes were worn and needed attention. Regarding other entertainment, the comedian was very funny but the magician was unimpressive. My favorite place to "hang" was the piano bar. The pianist had a wide ranging set that included everything from Lady Gaga to Tom Jones to Broadway show tunes. The atmosphere in the piano bar was very friendly and the waiters there knew me by name within a few days. The piano bar, the sports bar, the casino and the nightclub are all situated near each other. The sports bar seemed mostly emply in spite of March Madness. The nightclub seemed mostly empty, as well. I went in for one evening of karoake that ended too soon as it was fun. The casino isn't my thing but there were plenty of empty machines sitting around every time I walked through it. Big Plus -- The Culinary Arts Center!! Loved it! Went in for one of their demonstrations and they included recipe cards for all that attended. I then signed up for a small group lesson and we spent several hours with one of the chefs making shrimp scampi with couscous, bruschetta and a salad of white beans, tuna, artichoke hearts and sweet peppers. Yes, there was an additional fee for this class but it was well worth it as we also got wine and a cooking apron to take home. Wine -- if you're into wine, you'll love this cruise as there were several wine tasting events. I don't drink wine [I love it but the nitrates don't love me] but I observed them setting up the events and they looked impressive. Movies -- Yes, the Queens Lounge -- which is also the Culinary Arts Center -- is turned into a movie theater daily and includes popcorn. The movies are current releases and I finally got to see J. Edgar. Technology -- There is a media center and they hold daily classes. My friend took a class on how to turn her pictures into a slide show with music and she made a wonderful video with her vacation pictures when she got home. There was also a class on how to use your digital camera where you bring your camera to the class and they will demonstrate its features. I thought this a wonderful opportunity for those who are unfamiliar with current technology. On another technology note, HAL itself is rather "low-tech" as you can't order excursions or check your onboard bill from your room TV as you can with other cruise lines. Dessert Night -- Oh, my! It was beautiful and encompassed three levels of the rarely used but lovely atrium. The desserts -- including many, many chocolate items -- were works of art. You have the opportunity to take pictures BUT please get there early should you wish to do so. I arrived at the appointed time to take photos but the atrium was already crowded with the older set. It takes them a bit longer to get each photo as it took extra time for them to focus their camera, get their telephoto just right, check with their companion to see if the photo was okay or if they needed to shoot again, etc. I finally gave up on photos and snagged one of the more impressive looking chocolate creations to sneak back to my room. Sad news . . . it looked better than it tasted. The Atrium -- it was three levels, stunningly beautiful, underused, and terrifying. Small as atrium's go, I never saw anyone simply sitting there. Honestly, the bar there was even empty. The bottom level is situated near the HAL desk and you would find people there checking on excurions and ship matters but never anyone just sitting back and enjoying the atrium. The atrium staircase scared me to death. It was glass! While beautiful to look at, it was hard to differentiate one step from the other and I feared that if I fell I would not only break my hip but would also slice myself into 1,000 pieces. I took many pictures of the steps but avoided using them like the plague. I can't imagine how my older shipmates felt when trying to navigate them. Room Service -- We always "ordered in" for breakfast via the card put on your doorknob at night. Be aware that morning room service is not only on time, but many times arrives early. We would check that we wanted it delivered between 6:30 -- 7:00 AM and there would be a knock-knock on the door at 6:15 AM. Not a bad thing but it did make for us scrambling around for our robes and falling over things to get to the door a few times. During the day and evening, room service was always prompt and arrived in the amount of time they said. Room Movies -- You can borrow DVD's from the HAL desk to view in your room. A list of the movies is provided in your room information. We enjoyed several movies during the down-time on our sea days. Combined with a room-service delivered tray of cheese and crackers and chocolate chip cookies with milk, it was a real treat! Pinnacle Restaurant -- Wonderful experience. The food and service was upscale and much better prepared than what we received in the dining room. I would certainly recommend it for a special evening. Excursions -- There is something for everyone in the excurion offerings, including "accessible" excursions for those who may have mobility issues. Each excursion that we took was as described, was well executed, and much enjoyed. HAL offers bottled water -- to be billed to your stateroom -- when you leave the ship to go on an excursion. Should the excursion include swimming, they also offer a complimentary towel to be returned. In short [too late now, I know . . . ], it was a wonderful cruise. There is room for improvement but there's always room for improvement with every cruise line. We had a great time and I would certainly consider crusing with HAL again. Read Less
Sail Date: February 2012
Another nice cruise with HAL aboard the NOORDAM on it's 10-day S.Carribean Seafarer Cruise. I don't rate many things a #5. This was close.. Being 50ish, we 2 couples were out to enjoy the sunshine and a few 'Island ... Read More
Another nice cruise with HAL aboard the NOORDAM on it's 10-day S.Carribean Seafarer Cruise. I don't rate many things a #5. This was close.. Being 50ish, we 2 couples were out to enjoy the sunshine and a few 'Island Experiences' of Snorkeling, SCUBA, and of course...laying around, shopping and having a coupla dozen cocktails. Curiously, we NEVER, ever once waited for a cold beer or cocktail aboard ship. Maybe $tipping$ a few bucks on Day#1 worked. We woulda liked live Beach-boy music Pool-side as on previous cruises, but no such thing; so we settled for 60's Muzak. But Caesar at the aft LidoBar and the server gals...you were great!! This was a timely 'Sunshine Cruise' for us. But I digress... Arriving 1 day ahead of time was a very good idea. We stayed at Hilton GardenInn, which provided FREE AirportPickup and then $8bucks/pp for a van to NOORDAM the next day. We were boarded NOORDAM later than planned due to a 'Super-Scrub Sanitizing' of the ship, so we left the Hilton at 2/pm instead of 11/am. I heard nary a complaint while we waited to board. Clean is GOOD!! Thanks, HAL. The NOORDAM appeared ship-shape. The new MANDATORY Life-boat drill is a good thing in my opinion, as I am a boat-owner myself. NOORDAM's fixtures and rigging and over-all condition was good, in my opinion. It's only 6 years old. Did the starboard shaft/screw have a little 'harmonic rumble'?? Yes,I guess it did. One of us 4 was banged up years ago and he thus used a wheelchair. HAL was most accomodating while boarding etc. and thru-out the entire cruise. The HAL passenger mix was..uh, 'reserved'; we were on the younger end of the demographics...and found that to be GREAT!! No damn belly-flop contests on THIS cruise or loud 2/am partyer's. We've been there..dun that ourselves..30yrs ago. Only a handful of kids and adults under 30 aboard ship. That's HAL. We used LIDO for breakfast frequently...and had lunch poolside often. Yes, we attended 2 formal nights. We always do Open-seating in the MainDining Rm. That worked just A-OK. Menu was good..desserts got an A+ by the gals. We didn't do the PinnacleGrill this time, but heard it was great, as we had found on previous cruises. Our eating tastes at home made HAL food and occasional Room-service seem wonderful. If certain clientelle find it lacking in recent years...so be it. We found it to be most adequate in all respects food-wise. Our 2 Suite/cabins were across the hall from each other. Suite#6175 overlooked the stern. Beautiful, sumptuous and Handicap-Accessible. Our 1 teeny complaint about the Cruise? The Suite's huge Veranda overlooking the stern was Hotter-n-The Hinges on the Gates of Hades. But, duh...we were near the Equator. We threw a bucket of water on the furniture and teak to 'Chill it a bit' on sea days. We aren't solitary types...so we laid around the aft pool on Deck#9 with a nice sea-breeze every day. No rain. Sweet. We did NOT take in many shows. Rather, we took in the PianoLounge with Michael; doing a good job of playing/singing everything from Sinatra to DrJohn. We fellas spent our non-shore days drinking beer 'round the Aft Pool. The gals yakked in the library and did Pool aerobics and got a few massages in the Spa when not ashore. Numerous gals crochetted afghans most days we noticed. The casino was busy til about 11:30/pm. Then turn out the lights. The artwork aboard the NOORDAM reflected an Art-Deco motif, with PeterMax,Andy Warhol and some funky sculptures making the ship feel fresh..not old. We liked the SIZE of the NOORDAM. The Prinsendam is smaller and just fine, but the Mega-cruisers are NOT our style; so NOORDAM's 2 swimming pools and 5 bars suited us to a tee. Before going on to the Island Shore days, I will add one final comment/suggestion: Get'Expedited Baggage' for the $18/bucks p/p so you can get the heck off first, but it's available only IF you fly home on 1 and only 1 Air Carrier. If money is no object, go Door-to-Door Luggage I suppose..for about $800 bucks. We did 'Expedited'...and never dealt with baggage til Minneapolis, MN. A clever HAL lure to get people off the ship at 7:30/am. I'm all for it. Read Less
1 Helpful Vote
Sail Date: December 2011
First, the good stuff. Check-in and boarding were great --fast, efficient. Our cabin was ready and our luggage came at a reasonable time. No problems. Food. Disappointing. We could see the effects of cost-cutting. We did not use the ... Read More
First, the good stuff. Check-in and boarding were great --fast, efficient. Our cabin was ready and our luggage came at a reasonable time. No problems. Food. Disappointing. We could see the effects of cost-cutting. We did not use the Pinnacle Grill so we can't rate that, although others told us it was excellent. We did have dinner at Canelleto's, the Italian optional dinner choice, which was outstanding in food and service. The problems were with the dining room and especially, the Lido buffet. We opted for open seating, so had different servers each time. Some were good, some not, but that is to be expected. The problem was the choices. There was rarely anything outstanding being served. I can't actually remember any of the meals. We did notice that the prime rib serving was rather thin and the steak sometimes "chewy." It was never served as ordered. We ordered rare and usually got medium. The Lido buffet at breakfast and lunch suffered from lack of supervision. The tables were not being bussed promptly, resulting in passengers having to clear and clean their own tables at times. The stewards in attendance stood around in groups or walked around aimlessly, perhaps picking up one plate here or there but not doing their jobs very well. We spoke to other passengers and they, too, were upset by the lack of service. The coffee cart was rarely seen, but the cart with water for sale made frequent appearances. The stewards rarely asked if they could be of help or offered assistance. After many days of this, we observed a woman with young children come to the breakfast buffet and stand around looking at empty tables and chairs, but covered with dirty dishes. She cleared the dishes on to another table, wet a napkin, wiped down a table and seated her children. We were upset and went to the Front Desk and filed a complaint, something we have never done before on any ship and wwere reluctant to do it. After we complained, service improved dramatically and apologies were issued.The breakfast buffet fruit was limited in choices. Bananas seemed to be in short supply; you had to ask for them and someone would go to storage and get you one. A few mornings, they had cut-up banana, but they ran out before the cruise end. Pineapple supply was also skimpy. There was no mango or papaya offered and we are in mango season in the tropics. Most of the fruit was cut up melons. Oatmeal was thin and watery, more like a soup. The egg service was good, if slow, with a lot of omelet choices. The breads were OK, but nothing special. Lunch was as unimaginative as dinner, except for the pizza, which was excellent and the Asian alternative, which was very good and appreciated. The grill outside offered hamburgers, cheeseburgers, chicken breast, veggie burger and turkey burgers to start with, but they ran out of everything but hamburgers before the cruise ended. They had make-you-own taco and nacho stand which was very good. On previous Holland America cruises, the ice cream was outstanding. On this cruise, not so much. The chocolate chip had about one chip per scoop, the rum raisin had little rum flavor and three raisins per scoop and the praline had one tiny bit per scoop. Holland America's famous chocolate extravaganza was missing, too, and missed by all. In it's place was a dessert buffet, featuring what we had had all cruise in smaller pieces and a chocolate fountain, like the one at Golden Corral restaurants.Other than the Lido, service was very good at bars and lounges and in our cabin. The ship was very clean and the crew friendly, except for the Cruise Director who seemed unwilling to engage with the passengers. Very strange for someone in his position. The DJ who did a lot of the Trivia program was much more engaging and friendly. The gym was adequate and uncrowded, very clean as expected. I enjoyed the Tai Chi classes run by Rynae --twice a day and, on Half Moon Cay, on the beach. They were an unexpected treat. There was a 5K breast cancer walk on the promenade for a $15 contribution, $3.75 of which went to your T Shirt and wristband. This is an excellent idea and should be featured for other cruises. Entertainment. Judy Barr, comic and Barnaby, juggler, were outstanding. The singers and dancers not so much. We've seen better on other lines. Someone doing the staging was apparently enamored of stage mechanics. Various portions of the stage were raised, lowered, turned, etc. for absolutely no reason and did nothing to enhance the show, especially the first one. That show was really below par and could be bettered at the average high school. The Explorations Cafe had an outstanding library and many computer terminals. Wonderful. All in all, we wish Holland America would charge a bit more and keep their former high standards. Read Less
Sail Date: December 2011
Embarkation went fairly well. But it would help if the "boarding pics" folks were moved to the side to let others through who were not interested in the picture taking. We were invited to a meet & greet which was very nice. ... Read More
Embarkation went fairly well. But it would help if the "boarding pics" folks were moved to the side to let others through who were not interested in the picture taking. We were invited to a meet & greet which was very nice. We also had a brunch with the Captain, again very nice. Our verandah was very nice, small but with enough storage for our belongings. Having a balcony can make all the difference, a little extra outside space. Food was wonderful, naturally. The Lido had a nice selection of everything. The only problem there was the fact that some people just pushed themselves in front of you, even if you were in the process of placing your order. I guess that is the way it is done in Europe. The MDR staff was wonderful, they knew what you preferred and were always a step ahead. Holland America should be extremely proud of their staff/crew. They deserve accolades and fair compensation. They were never standing around, always moving and doing what needed to be done. The enrichments were excellent, something for everyone. The lounges were terrific and plenty of them for a relaxing moment. It is apparent, though, that there is a cutback in amenities. I heard many people complaining at the front desk about this. But that is the economy today. Hopefully, it will change in the very near future. Disembarkation was not very well organized, but we did manage to get off the ship by 8:30 and got to our car--at Park & Go--by 8:45 and on the road by 9:00. Park & Go does a terrific job of handling the vast amount of folks flying and cruising. This is the way we will handle our parking in the future. All in all, it was a very nice trip with many nice ports. However, be aware that there will be many wheelchairs, walkers and canes aboard. Once you can navigate these, you will find this Holland America cruise very pleasant. Read Less
1 Helpful Vote
Sail Date: November 2011
We have traveled on HAL in the past to the Panama Canal and it was fabulous. I will just list the disappoints on Noordam; which we will not be traveling again on anytime soon. 1. I asked for an ashtray 4 times didn't get one so used ... Read More
We have traveled on HAL in the past to the Panama Canal and it was fabulous. I will just list the disappoints on Noordam; which we will not be traveling again on anytime soon. 1. I asked for an ashtray 4 times didn't get one so used a glass; then I finally got one. 2. No ice in the ice bucket the 1st night. 3. Both night stands had saltine crackers, Splenda and SweetnLow in them (UCK) 4. Pinacle Bar;ordered 2 drinks; wanted another 2 and too busy to get to us; we left. 5. Wine steward didn't take drink orders unless you were ordering wine and then he paid close attention to you. We did finally get a couple of drinks one night,he forgot to charge our card; we told him the next night and instead of apologizing he asked for our card; his mistake; should not have taken card (in my opinion). 6. Our safe failed 4 times; 1st and 2nd time reset, 3rd time new batteries and 4th reset. We have used the same code for 10 years; so I know it wasn't us. Frustrating when it's a formal night and you can't get to your belongings. 7. Toilet backed up @ 5:30 a.m., and was told the plumber would be out to fix @ 8:00 a.m., not good enough; finally someone came (probable around 6:00 a.m.) 8. We spoke with some other cruisers who were just as disappointed; mainly with the staff. Their attitudes and personalities were just not up to par. 9. The poolside bar in the back of ship was the worse. Smiles actually did appear on their faces on the last day of the cruise. Was hard to get service, it was like they were ignoring you; yet another disappointment. 10. I have to say the best crew member on the Noordam was Roman in the Sport's Bar; every night we showed up, he had our drinks, was kind, talked with us and it was just pleasant. That is how cruising should be. They may be overworked, but we are still the customers. 11. The tours were fantastic; I was a little upset when going to Grand Turk only to find out the Catamaran cruise was canceled; it was canceled because there were not enough people to go; and things like that happen. Read Less
Sail Date: September 2011
We greatly enjoyed this cruise; the food was good and everything was well organised. At no time did we feel that we were sharing the ship with 2,000 other passengers. Plenty of quiet places to sit and no shortage of sun-beds. Our cabin ... Read More
We greatly enjoyed this cruise; the food was good and everything was well organised. At no time did we feel that we were sharing the ship with 2,000 other passengers. Plenty of quiet places to sit and no shortage of sun-beds. Our cabin (sorry - stateroom) was a good size and the bed super-comfortable. There were queues in the self-service restaurant but this was a place best avoided anyway. The waiter-service restaurant was open for every meal, so why wait in a queue when someone with a smile will get it for you? When I say "A very American cruise" I mean it as a compliment as well as a slight criticism. Everything worked well thanks to good management. Patti, the Cruise Director, was indefatigable but also slightly wearing. I longed for a more laid back approach with fewer superlatives. I thought that the interior design of the ship was spectacular but, in places, garish and slightly tasteless. Nice paintings but plaster and polystyrene statues in niches? The standard of entertainment was mixed. The Song and Dance Troupe were very professional and the hydraulic platforms on the stage in the Vista Lounge (the theatre) were used to good effect. But why did this talented team only put on two full song and dance shows in ten days? The sound was far too loud during the Cuban pianist's act and he was truly awful anyway. The English comedian and the acrobatic duo were OK. The string trio could not play in tune. Holland America shore excursions are very expensive, so avoid the hard sell from Patti and avoid them. Other reviewers have described how alternatives may be found. And the $11 per passenger per day service charge is very steep by European standards. We did not see it mentioned in any pre-cruise literature and we were not told that there was any option but to pay it. Patti as much as admitted that the crew rely on this service charge to supplement their wages. This is an unsatisfactory situation. Drinks were very expensive and I was irked by the insistence that I have no alcohol in my stateroom except that provide in the mini bar by Holland America. On the last evening of the cruise, the waiters were required to dance around waving napkins before placing them in our laps. They also sang half-heartedly. I felt that this was demeaning for them and added nothing to the diners' enjoyment. Perhaps Holland America Line are not trying to cater for European travellers. There were very few of us on board. Our American, Australian and Canadian companions were great but, at times, a little noisy and exclusive. It is a cliche for the British to say that it was not possible to get a decent cup of tea, but it was true! Having re-read the above, I realise that it is quite critical. That is not the overall impression I want to give. Let me finish where I started - we greatly enjoyed the cruise. Read Less
Sail Date: July 2011
This was my first time cruising and I took my two daughters aged 15 and 11. We were not sure what to expect, but were hoping for a holiday to meet everyones requirements. The girls wanted action and an opportunity to meet new friends and I ... Read More
This was my first time cruising and I took my two daughters aged 15 and 11. We were not sure what to expect, but were hoping for a holiday to meet everyones requirements. The girls wanted action and an opportunity to meet new friends and I wanted a relaxing break from work! We departed from London Heathrow on a 6am flight with Alitalia and arrived shortly after 9 in Rome. HAL reps were at the airport to greet us and got us onto transfer buses. All fine so far. The transfer took a little over an hour and we were dock side just before noon. There is a large 'hanger' which serves as the embarkation port - you check in and have your photo taken and ID card is issued. We were on board in less than 20 minutes - a breeze given that we had entered all the pre embarkation info online. I was slightly disappointed that there was no welcome drink as we went aboard, but we went straight to our cabin which was ready. Our room steward came and introduced himself and suggested we went to the Lido for lunch. So a quick elevator ride to deck 9 for a 'light' lunch. We decided to have some lunch at this point. The lido was very busy, but it was kept clean and we found a table easily. the food was great and a very wide variety. We went out onto the Aft deck for a look around and then decided to sign the girls up for the 'kids' clubs. After all this and going down to decks 2 and 3 to look about it was time for the sail away party. I thought this would be a bit of a bigger event than it was and it ended up being a bit of a damp squib. Overall, there are many positives about this boat. It never seemed crowded (except on sea days when it was a bit crowded around the family pool), the food was great and there is an abundance of it. The service was on the whole very good. the ship is immaculately clean with staff cleaning all the time in the public areas and toilets especially were immaculate. Some passengers have commented that areas were messy and in my opinion that is only because some passengers treat the facilities and staff with contempt. Our dining steward was brilliant remembering our names and preferences from day one (well done Putu - we will miss you) Other plus points must go to the lovely staff who run and organise the kids activities. there could be a bit more variety, but on the whole its excellent. Both daughters loved attending so much that on more than one occasion they opted to stay on the ship rather than come ashore to sightsee - who said culture in the young was dead! As mentioned previously, the food was good and the service in the Vista Dining room was excellent. We went to the Pinnacle grill one night but it turned out to be a disaster. the food was awful (cold verging on inedible) but what made it even worse was the dreadful service. the Manageress ticked her staff off in front of us and shouted at the kitchen staff - not really a relaxing fine dining experience. Ok, so onto areas for improvement: - The evening entertainment is fine if all you require is a relaxing quiet time after dinner before you retire to your cabin. Don't expect bars full of life or broadway style shows. There is an exccellent string quartet who I listened to every night and a house band who are not bad, but the ship does get quiet at night. This would be the only reason that I would consider another cruise line in the future. - Some areas of the ship are starting to look a bit tired - some carpets are threadbare and need replacing. - HAL put up notices around the pool stating that you cannot hog sunloungers, but sadly this is done by loads of people who come and put towels and a book on a lounger and then disappear ashore or off elsewhere for hours at a time. HAL state they will remove items if you do this, but no one was policing the pool area. Its a shame as on many occasions I could not sit near the pool when my own daughter was using it although many of the loungers were 'empty' - excursions - are really overpriced. they did not seem well attended at all. Had they been slightly more reasonable then I am sure more would have purchased the trips. An example is the trip to Olympia. We caught a public bus from the harbour (10 euros for an adult and 5 for a child) and went independently. Entrance to the site and museum was 9 euros for me and the children were free. A comprehensive guidebook was 8 euros. So 37 euros compared to $80 each with HAL. - my only other small grip was the constant photo taking by HAL staff. Walk down the gangplank - photo; be ashore (donkey rise at Santorini) - photo. Endless at night and during dinner. Please HAL, people will ask if they want a formal photo, you don't need to keep stopping us. But all in all a lovely time and I am now officially a cruise convert and would definitely go again. As we speak I have the brochure in front of me for next year, but for a different line - name remains a secret but they are blue and yellow! Read Less
Sail Date: June 2011
Just returned from 10 great days aboard the Noordam. Previous swiss gentleman has detailed a lot of the good and bad things about the cruise,so I won't bore you with detail suffice to say the good wins over the bad for us.     ... Read More
Just returned from 10 great days aboard the Noordam. Previous swiss gentleman has detailed a lot of the good and bad things about the cruise,so I won't bore you with detail suffice to say the good wins over the bad for us.       The ship........Fantastic !! First time on a ship of this size,we were still losing our way on the last day. Facilities are great being something for everybody from movies to string quartet's. Always able to get a seat where we wanted and no problem with queues on the ship.Very slick embarkation/dis-embarkation operations including port visits. All in all 9 out of 10 for us.       Food.....Breakfast and lunch in the Lido and dinner in the Vista. We were determined not to eat too much so we tried to eat healthily at breakfast fruit,bran flakes and omelette's. Lunch much the same plenty salad and chicken wraps for us....then we caught site of the dessert cabinet.Need I say more.   Dinner was nice in the Vista.We were lucky enough to be seated at the rear of the ship on a few occasions and were able to watch the magnificent sunsets.   Ate at the Italian Canneletto restaurant one night,I enjoyed my fish but my wife was a tad disappointed in her Milanease steak,being a bit on the dry side.Our only gripe about food on the whole cruise.All in all 9 out of 10.Entertainment.....Plenty options for the evening but we were disappointed with the main show and felt that too much emphasis was made on 50's and early sixties music.Appreciate maybe the majority of passengers were of this period but there were still a lot of people on the cruise brought up with 70's and 80's music and we only got a short set on this one night.We even wandered into the nightclub on a couple of nights and noticed quite a few of our age group did the same.In fact we outnumbered the younger element by far but the DJ only played either 'thump thump' music or stuff I never heard off.   Missed a trick there HAL as most people stayed for a drink and left. Just think of all those 40 and 50 somethings just dying to get out there and strut their stuff!!.   Have to give 5 out of 10 for effort.   Ports/Excursions......Read the Swiss guy's comments before booking any shore trips.We concur with everything he says.It's as if HAL are trying to squeeze as much money out their customers as they can. Why pay $8 to take you less than half a mile into Corfu town.Use Ephesus shuttle from Kusadasi to Ephesus.$15 pp in an air cond coach with a guide and complimentary guide book paid on your return to the port.I won't embarrass HAL by quoting how much they wanted for the same trip.Port negatives....Too many cruise ships arriving in Santorini at the same time.   When we got off the ship there was a queue of 90 minutes for the cable car.Declined the offer of a donkey and set out to walk up the 600 steps up the cliff along with the donkeys. This is an experience you will never forget ,as the donkeys use the same path to go up and down.When they come down they are in a hurry and don't mind if they bang into you and push you over the wall!!.   After a while we realised they make a dash for the shady areas ,so keep out on the sunny side and you will be ok. You do need to be relatively fit and have water to do this by the way ,even at 8 in the morning. Athens was the same too many people on the Acropolis at the same time.I felt it was bordering on the dangerous to be honest ,just due to the sheer numbers of people accessing the site. What should have been a half hour journey took some of the tour coaches 2 hours.Again we used local transport to good effect.   HAL tours 5 out of 10 Read Less
2 Helpful Votes
Sail Date: June 2011
Please be aware we are novice cruisers and have little to compare this cruise with. This was a celebration of the end of chemotherapy for me and the end of high school for my son. Thanks to all you seasoned cruisers for all the advice I ... Read More
Please be aware we are novice cruisers and have little to compare this cruise with. This was a celebration of the end of chemotherapy for me and the end of high school for my son. Thanks to all you seasoned cruisers for all the advice I gleaned from the Cruise Critic site. I apologize up front for the length of this. We flew to Rome from the US. It was a harried flight due to weather in Chicago. Thank goodness we had built in an extra day in Rome or we would have missed the ship! Our airport transfer with Rome in Limo was rearranged easily thanks to Jany and we were picked up for an exciting ride through Rome traffic to our hotel next to the Pantheon. All sorts of protests going on so I was glad we had a driver getting us to Albergo del Senato. After a lovely breakfast all we had time for was a tour of the Pantheon and Santa Maria sopra Minerva. Rome in Limo was there for our transfer to Civitavecchia. We had a group of 6 from Cruise Critic so we spent the trip getting to know each other. The boarding process was a breeze. We arrived around 1pm and found no line for the suite boarding and we were personally escorted to our room. Oh my, the penthouse is beautiful! So much space, so many light switches, two huge TVs, two whirlpools, incredible veranda, champagne, beautiful fruit and flowers. The room was incredibly clean and remained that way thanks to Made and Gede. Our veranda was huge. The outdoor space is a must for me. I loved being outside during the sailaways. Just a note about the suite perks--they are so worth it. The Neptune lounge is a wonderful area for computer time and snacks. The coffee machine is to die for! The breakfast was perfect for those mornings we had to be underway early and the afternoon snacks were delicious. Doris and Reyan, our concierges, were perfect. They are so accessible, save you so much time, and are full of info on ports, tours, money, dining, etc. Breakfast in the Pinnacle Grill is relaxing and delicious. Jenny the Pinnacle manager is an angel. Laundry whenever you need it is a lifesaver. Priority tendering came in handy in Santorini. The copies of the main dining room menus delivered daily were wonderful and helped planning our dinner. The Noordam is a handsome ship. She is a classic beauty. She is well maintained, very clean, and filled with beautiful artwork and flowers. The staff is friendly, hardworking, and very accommodating. We loved the ship. The food: We ordered room service several times for breakfast and dinner. The breakfast was always correct and on time, but just OK. I loved that you could order dinner from the main dining room menu. We had dinner several nights out on the balcony while watching the sun go down behind the islands. Our favorite breakfast was in the Pinnacle with the great views and wonderful menu. Some nights we ate in the Vista Dining room. We opted for anytime dining and loved it. We ate with different people from all over the world---USA, Austrailia, New Zealand, Brazil, Great Britian. I recall waiting once or twice for a table but for only 5 to 10 mins. The food was good but not great. It was always presented nicely and hot. I just like my food a little more spicy—I know most people do not. The chilled soups were wonderful as well as the fruit crisps for dessert especially when you added ice cream. The Lido had a wonderful salad bar and again the ice cream was wonderful. The Asian station had wonderful sushi and the wasabi was the hot I needed. We really enjoyed the Pinnacle for dinner. The beef, especially the filet, was delicious with wonderful sauces and the crabcake appetizer is wonderful with lots of crabmeat. The servers in the Pinnacle were very attentive. We also liked Canalettos. Loved the Antipasta tray and the veal. Alcohol: They make a perfect vodka martini which is what I always ordered. I did try a Lemon Drop and Strawberry Daiquiri but always went back to the Martini. My son was miffed that they would let him gamble but not drink at age 18. Entertainment: We did not go to many shows but loved the juggler with the spoons and a violinist. I saw a couple of movies and my son loved the casino. Spa: The area is nice and my facial and massage were quite nice but a tad expensive. I wish they would not try to sell you products at the end. I will say they were not very pushy about it—Thanks. Wish I could have tried the heated loungers and whirlpool but you could not purchase for just one day. Meet and Greet: I had arranged the Meet and Greet and it was well attended by 30 or so people, Drew Smith the cruise director and Mark Pells the Hotel Manager gave a great rundown of the cruise and what to expect from the ports. They also thanked us for our participation in CC and wanted our input if something was not right on the ship. Several other managers also attended. We were even treated to Bloody Marys and Mimosas. It was wonderful getting to know the group by face instead of "call name" and identifying the people on our private excursions. Thanks for the GREAT set up Holland America!Ports: We took some HAL tours and some private. My advice is private as they are smaller and always get a private guide if that is an option. Livorno - I joined a group from CC for a day trip to Pisa and Florence with All Around Italy. Our guide was delightful, very knowledgeable, very informative. She was talking all the time explaining things while driving us through the countryside. We arrived at Pisa before the crowds—one perk of a small private tour--and had plenty of time to explore and photograph. Florence was packed with people and very long lines but the countryside was beautiful. We visited a very small winery which also produced meats, olive oil, and the most delicious honey. The day ended with a stop for delicious gelato.Monte Carlo - We opted to have a late breakfast in the Pinnacle Grill and enjoy the pool and our fabulous verandah.Barcelona - What a wonderful city. I am so glad we spent the night at this port. Upon arrival we headed up to Montserrat on a Holland America tour. It was OK. We did get to see the Virgin and learned a lot about the city on the way up to the mountain, but we had very little time at the church and we were with 40+ other people on a big bus. The next day we had arranged a private "Gaudi" tour with Spanish Trails. It was a wonderful day with an incredible tour, knowledgeable guide and driver, and not only did we see Gaudi buildings but also the Olympic city and other city sites. Gaudi was an outstanding artist and so far ahead of his time. Thank you Spanish Trails for the fabulous tour!Tunisia---We were concerned about this port with all the unrest in the area this year but Holland America docked and we had scheduled a HAL excursion to Carthage. It was perfect. Very informative guide who filled us in about the recent changes and what it meant for the people of Tunisia. The ruins at Carthage are small but well preserved and we were able to take all the pictures we wanted of anything in the area. Sidi Bou Said is a picturesque little town all white and blue, but I could not tolerate the shop owners aggressive behavior pulling you into their booths. I hate to bargain but if you love that sort of thing there were great deals to be had. Naples—Once again we joined a CC group and Fabrizio with AllAroundItaly for a wonderful tour of the Amalfi coast and Pompeii. Fabrizio was waiting at the dock even though we were one hour later than expected. He had to rearrange the trip a little as the ship docked an hour late. We headed out of Naples to the beautiful coast. We stopped several places to admire the view and take pics. We also had time to wander in Positano where Fabrizio directed us to a shop that made Lemoncello. Even though it was 10:30AM we tried some—it is very strong-- and loved it. Of course some came home with us. Next stop was Pompeii and a private guided tour---this is the way to go believe me. We saw so much in a very short time. The entire tour was excellent and Fabrizio was so cute. Our turn around day we spent on an Etruscan Tour I arranged with Rome in Italy. It was a relaxing tour outside of Rome with Mauro talking us through history as we went through the countryside. We picked up our private guide at the Etruscan burial site near Tarquinia. We arrived well ahead of any other tours and had this hilltop all to ourselves for a bit. Our guide was wonderful. She was talking as we proceeded from one tomb to another and teaching us about this civilization which existed in the area prior to the Romans. She also guided us through the highlights of the Etruscan Museum in Tarquinia so we could see the changes that took place in the area with Greek and then Roman invasions/trade. Our lunch stop was a delightful restaurant on the side of a hill in an extremely old and very small city of Ceri. Antipasta tray was devine and we learned they make all their own meats, wine, and olive oil. Pasta was incredible. It was so nice to just reboard the ship and not have to worry about the lifeboat drill. Our day a sea was a great one. I had arranged the Meet and Greet and it was well attended by 40 or so people, Drew Smith the cruise director and Mark Pells the Hotel Manager gave a great rundown of the cruise and what to expect from the ports. We were treated once again to Bloody Marys and Mimosas. Then I hit the spa again and boy is it busy on sea days. Dubrovnik: We shared a taxi 10 euros to the Pile Gate and exchanged some money to local currency so we could buy a ticket to walk the wall. It is beautiful up there. Then we enjoyed delicious calamari for lunch by the old port and walked back through town. I did not know that Croatia is where the necktie was invented. We bought a tie of course. Croatia is beautiful!Corfu: We went on a HAL excursion to a local house for lunch and a swim in the pool. It was a small group and the food was delicious. The house and grounds were spectacular as was the view of the bay and ship. Our first stop was at the Achillion Palace which was OK but very crowded. The view from the gardens was incredible. Katakalon: Our trip to Olympia with a group of 12 CCers was outstanding. We went with Athens-taxi.org and through them hired a private guide for the site as well as the museum. It was very crowded by the end of our time in Olympia but once again we beat the big buses there. The guide was excellent. She made the Olympics come alive! After the tour we headed back to port and had a fabulous lunch of calamari and greek salad right by the water. We even had time for shopping. Santorini: We were on the first tender ashore but the island was already packed with people. There were extra ships in port due to the strike in Athens. I was so glad we had a private tour arranged. The line for the cable car moved quickly and we (a group from CC) met Dimitris with Oceanwave Tours at the top. The island is lovely. Oia is a dream. I must go back there. We toured, lunched, took photos, and stared at the beautiful caldera most of the day. We spent the last hour shopping and went on back to the ship exhausted. That evening we ordered room service for dinner and watched the sunset and moonrise over Santorini. Incredible.Ephesus: This was one of the highlights of the trip. A group of 16 from CC booked a tour with ekol travel. It was the best. We packed in everything—Virgin Mary house, Ephesus, Terrace houses, fabulous lunch, and then a visit to a rug factory and leather store. We even had time for shopping at the end. Turkey is beautiful and our guide was outstanding. Athens: What a big busy city Athens is. Once again we arranged a private tour with a full day guide. We were at the Acropolis light years ahead of the bus tours and rearranged things when we were hot or the sites were crowded. The guide was perfect and gave more info than I can imagine. Do not miss the New Acropolis museum where you can walk around the statues and see through the floor at the excavations being done. Messina: We did a 1/2 day trip to Taormina for 7 fellow CCers. A lovely 1/2 day and the city is so quaint. We had a great cup of gelato for brunch! But the stores were all closed since it was Sunday and driver said we did not have time to go to Castelmola since on board time was 12:30. Our driver from Sicily Limousine Service was not very knowledgeable or excited about his job or country. We felt like he was just a driver and nothing else. Those who stayed in Messina were not excited about the town. Sorry about the length of this review. It was a fabulous trip. We have scheduled the Baltic for next summer so I guess we are hooked on HAL. Read Less
Sail Date: June 2011
This was our 10th cruise, but 1st on a HAL ship. My wife and me are both mid 40s and live in Bern, Switzerland. A lot of comments are very subjective and relate to our personal preferences, so please do not feel offended if you see things ... Read More
This was our 10th cruise, but 1st on a HAL ship. My wife and me are both mid 40s and live in Bern, Switzerland. A lot of comments are very subjective and relate to our personal preferences, so please do not feel offended if you see things completely different. We travelled to Rome FCO and took a hotel near Termini one night pre cruise. Leonardo express train easily takes you there for just 14 EUR. From Termini we took a train to Civitavecchia, walked about 10 minutes to the port entrance and took the free shuttle bus to the ship. If you are able to carry your luggage for 10 to 15 minutes at each end a quick, easy and cheap way to get there. Embarkation was the best we had so far in our 10 cruises. They are extremely well organised, took our papers, gave us our room cards and in less than 10 minutes we were on board. Deluxe Verandah Suite 8095 was the biggest and probably nicest cabin we had so far. We had some other junior suites and balcony cabins before, all of them were much smaller. The bath is also quite big, with two sinks, a bathtub and a separate shower. This looked handsome first, but as the shower is extremely small and has a curtain not reaching to the ground we preferred to shower in the bathtub later on. Our cabin stewards did a wonderful job, always there when we needed them and invisible at all other times. There was some noise from the Lido restaurant above us, but it did not disturb us much. The food on the Noordam was very tasty and did probably beat most if not all we had on the former cruises. Especially the desserts were extremely nice. Now comes the negative thing about dining. We are no big fans of eating in the main restaurant and did so only twice. Service was good there. We prefer using the buffets, and these are one of the weak things on the Noordam. First two days everything is being served, no self service at all. This is for health reasons, and I very well understand them doing this. But after this period still most of all buffet items are being served and put on your dish by a staff member. This works quite poor and inefficient and leads to long waiting times. The buffet staff also works in a not very time efficient way which increases the problems. They are nice and friendly, but if HAL would train them better things could go much smoother. Drink service is also kind of a problem, especially at dinner time. They have only two people serving the whole buffet restaurant which is simply not enough. One side of the Lido is blocked at dinner times for officers and staff, so paying passengers have trouble finding a good table, while the other side is empty at most times but cannot be used. Very annoying and not a good idea I think. The pizza and pasta buffet is the weakest point when it comes to taste and quality, none of the pizzas and pastas tasted even came close to anything good. But as mentioned, otherwise the food is really very good. We have been also to the Pinnacle grill, where you have to pay 20 USD extra. Food and service was very good, but the food was not so much different from what they serve anywhere else for free. The most negative aspect of the whole cruise is the entertainment on board. I have seen some reviews where guests mentioned that, but I never thought this would influence the whole cruise for us in a such negative way. It is probably because on our other cruises with other cruise lines entertainment always was simply there, we felt to have a choice and always found something we liked. Maybe not every day, but most of the time. Not so on the Noordam ! The whole entertainment seem to be made for a totally different target group than us. There are nearly every night the production shows with the ships singers and dancers, playing music from ancient times, boring b to c level musical songs and so forth. One evening they had a mediocre juggler, one evening another singer playing also songs for my dad or grandpa. That was it. No, they had a guitar girl playing old fashioned songs, a piano player playing the usual piano music, a string quartet playing classics. And a DJ playing some modern stuff, usually starting no earlier than 10 pm. No chance of any bar on board with nice modern music. No comedians. No artists. No nothing. Oh yes, you could play Bingo....which I even did one day out of poor desperation. I never expected how much missing entertainment can influence the total feeling of a cruise. Because most things were really very good, the food, the people, the cabin, the ports of call. But the entertainment will for sure stop us from going with HAL soon again. Maybe in 10 or 15 years, when we feel old enough for that ? And I by no means got the feeling that the guest structure is much different from Princess, RCI or Norwegian where we felt much more comfortable. Strange... A quick comment on the Internet on board. It is expensive as usual, 55 USD for 110 minutes if you book the first day on board. It is slow and a bit unreliable as well, sometimes counting connection minutes without really connecting, what is quite a shame at that price. But for some email and weather reports it is enough. Most ports of call have Internet cafes or free wifi in cafes and restaurants, there did most stuff which took a bit more time or bandwidth. Everything worked OK with an IPad from the cabin. We did not book a single excursion from the ship as we feel they are overpriced and most often too crowded compared to individual tours. In Dubrovnik we just walked off the ship and took a public bus (1a or 1b) right outside the port area, that cost just 10 Kuna, about a dollar and a half. You have to get Kuna, but there is an ATM and a currency exchange at the same place where you can buy bus tickets. Bus ends at the Pile city gate where you can enter the city. And enjoy the walk around the city walls (many steps!) for 70 Kuna. You can wait in line to pay with credit card or skip the line and pay cash in Kuna. The cable car for 80 Kuna is also very well worth the trip for the excellent view from high above the city. Had to pay for wifi here, but not very much. In Corfu we started with a small disaster. We had chosen to reserve a rental car from Budget. After a quite long walk to their office we met the most unfriendly people we have ever seen in such a business. They had no car for us, tried to force us to sign a rental contract first and then they would "try" to get a car for us. We refused and after they could not get any car after 30 minutes we left. So we walked into the city and visited the old fortress, some shops and restaurants and still had a nice day. There is a public bus going directly between the cruise port and the center for just 1.50 EUR, I think it was line 16. If you start from the cruise port it is easy to find, just outside in the big parking area. It is going to Spilia or something like that, this is the place in the center where you find it when you want to go back also. Tickets sold in the bus. Free wifi in many restaurants here as well. In Katakolon we had reserved a car with the local agency and everything worked perfect. There is also an Avis, both just a few steps from where the ships dock. Drove to Olympia and had a nice visit there, walked a bit up and down the port area of Katakolon as well with nice shops and restaurants, but quite small. Free wifi in most restaurants and bars if you are interested. Next day was Santorini, where we booked an individual tour with some other guests (Hi Bob!) Visited Oia and Thera, both very beautiful. Free wifi in not so many bars I guess but we found one. In Kusadasi we have booked an individual tour with Ephesus shuttle, just for the two of us with a private guide and driver for just 52.50 USD per person. I can just highly recommend them. Very friendly, very informative, in fact a bit too much for us, as our guide was an archaeologist (Shihan?) and gave us more background on Ephesus, the terrace houses and the Artemis temple then we could ever remember. But he did a brilliant job. Walked a bit around through the shops in the port afterwards and easily found free wifi spots. In Piraeus we had reserved a car with Budget again and saw how different things can work in the same company. Very friendly guy in the office, got the car smoothly with no problems at all. Although we had not found any info about how to get from the Piraeus cruise terminal to the Metro station it is quite easy. You do not have to walk there as most people and the cruise lines say. Just after leaving the port gate, at the same place where the hop off- hop on buses start, just cross the road and take bus 843, which takes you for 1.20 Eur to the Metro. Ticket must be bought at a kiosk before, but they are close to every bus stop. With our rental car we drove to Mycaene and had a very nice visit there. Beautiful landscape, interesting archaeological stuff. Roundtrip is 250 km, so it takes you at least 5 hours. On the way back we had a quick stop in Korinth. Back in Piraeus we tried to find wifi everywhere, with no success, no matter if paid or not. Only time on the whole trip. In the port area there seems to be a test run of wifi, had free access even from our balcony, but the connection was extremely slow and unreliable. Last stop was Messina. Had booked a private tour with Astone tours. Our guide was Marios brother Ignazio. This was a brilliant tour to Taormina and Castelmola and Ignazio was a perfect guide, he even brought sweets from a local pasticcheria for us. Highly recommended if you want a more familiar atmosphere than on a big ship tour. Disembarkation again was smooth and quick. Our group got called on time, we could leave immediately, got our luggage with no waiting time. We again took the train from Civitavecchia to Rome Termini, where we deposited our luggage, for 4 EUR per bag for 5 hours. Then took the Leonardo Express to FCO for our flight back. A quick resume: It was a nice cruise, especially because of a nice cabin, good food and nice ports of call. But we probably will not go with HAL again very soon due to their different understanding in dining (buffet) service and especially entertainment. Another quick negative notice: We got charged for a bottle of water from our mini bar, which we did not consume. That was on day 5 of the cruise. I visited the front desk every single day and although they always promised they were not able to remove the charge until the final statement. I really don't care about 4 USD but this is just poor service, HAL! Read Less
1 Helpful Vote
Sail Date: May 2011
We flew from Australia to Rome and had 3 days in Rome before catching the train to Civitavecchia. I had booked this online, it was cheap and easy and a definite alternative to a transfer or taxi. The walk from the station at Civitavecchia ... Read More
We flew from Australia to Rome and had 3 days in Rome before catching the train to Civitavecchia. I had booked this online, it was cheap and easy and a definite alternative to a transfer or taxi. The walk from the station at Civitavecchia to the port entrance is not at all difficult, takes about 15 minutes and if you have wheels on your lugguage is no effort at all. You can even stop for refreshments along the way. The boarding process was quick, easy and HAL staff managed it all with professionalism. Our cabin was as expected, everything we needed with our own verandah and plenty of room. I had read a tip of taking a length of rope to allow the door to the verandah to be kept open. We improved on the suggestion and can now recommend a length of bricklayer's string to complete the job! It's great if you want a bit of fresh air in the cabin. I won't bore you with every detail of every day but will list those things I believe can add some value to your planning process. * We bought the unlimited laundry option. It was $140 US and worth every cent. each day I would bag it up and it reappeared each afternoon or early the following day. A couple of polo shirt seemed a little smaller and I hand washed delicate items, but it was a great service. * We didn't do any HAL tours, thought they were over priced and did not want to be part of large numbers on tours. People who did use HAL seemed less than impressed on most occassions. * Dubrovnik - We shared a taxi 10 euros to the Pile Gate. You need to exchange some money to local currency, it's the same rate everywhere. Americans seemed surprised that Croatia had their own currency and even a little miffed that the operator of the Wall Walk wasn't keen on an AMEX card.......it's the old saying 'when in Rome"....the town is great, the food terrific (look further than the main street) and the wall walk and cable car worth the effort. From the wall walk you can see a couple of little bars on the outside of the wall...access is through small doorways off the streets inside the wall.......not too hard to find and a great way to finish the day. * Corfu - we shared the day with CC people who had booked a car with corfutaxitours.com. They seemed to have several cars, all mercedes and all with english speaking drivers. It was 180 euros for the 4 of us. The day was prefect and I highly recommend. Santorini - for those that are fit and agile, do the walk from Fira to Oia. Took us about 3 hours, not all easy and good shoes required, but wonderful views and through great village streets. Terrific restaurants in Oia at the end of the walk. Shared a taxi back for 15 euros. the donkeys are the quickest way up or down........I don't do lines for cable cars! * Ephesus - was one of the highlights!!!!! A fellow CC member had booked a bus and guide for 25 and it was $30pp. When arranging a tour make sure it includes the " Terrace Houses".....an absolute must! Athens - catch to train. it's about a 20 minute brisk walk right around to the far side of the port area, but the train was only 1.40 euros and drops you right in town. Walk up the hill to the Acropolis and do it all early before the crowds.the markets in the centre of Athens are great fro those who are 'foodies'. Messina - did a CC arranged 1/2 day trip to Taormina for 6 @ 42 euros pp. A lovely 1/2 day. Those who stayed in Messina did not tend to enjoy. Livorno - I had arranged a day trip into Tuscany for 8 @ 550 euros for the car. It was voted a huge success by everyone. I booked with tuscanytours.net ( Marco is the owner, Fabrizio was our driver). We did little villages, a private winery tour and wonderful lunch just for us (18 euros pp for perhaps the best meal of the holiday), wine tastings and enjoyed the most wonderful scenery. Highly recommend! Monte Carlo - it was a public holiday and we had planned to catch to local bus to nice. Only 1 euor pp and it takes you all along the coast. You catch #100 bus at the stop in front of the brasserie under the red awnings in Place D'Armes. (its on the HAL maps provided). * Barcelona - on/off bus not a bad option, but you can waste time if you don't have a plan. Best food in the evening is in Placa de Reale, great restaurants around the placa, wonderful atmosphere. * Palma - rather than stay in the town we caught a little 100 year old train to the north of the island and a little village called Soller. 17 euros pp. The views along the way were great and terrific coffee/food at Soller. You can also catch the tram from Soller down to the beach. * Palermo - taxi for 80 euros shared by us 4 of us to Monreale and The Catacombs. We enjoyed both. Naples - don't miss Pompeii . We had 8 of us on CC arranged trip for 60 euros pp to Pompeii and down Amalfi Coast as far as Positano. Great views. Now for the SHIP - the food was only average. The best spot to eat was in the dining room not the Lido. Don't bother with le Cirque or The Pinnacle, no additional value for the additional cost. You can bring on your own wine and pay $18 corkage which is far cheaper than drinking poor wine at high prices charged by HAL. We tried the piano bar and other venues with music but none of it really worked and I don't think we are really hard to please. Australians and New Zealanders need to get their heads around the $11 pp per day gratuities. We were appalled by people reducing the amount to NIL in some instances claiming " its not our custom"!!!!! get over it, it's part of the salary for the Indonesian & Filipino crew. We found the people and their cheap excuses an embarrassment! Anyway we had a great trip, I don't know if cruising is really us but it was a great way to get us from A to B in comfort and the crew etc could not be faulted. hope some of the tips help in your planning. Read Less
Noordam Ratings
Category Editor Member
Cabins 4.0 4.3
Dining 4.0 4.0
Entertainment 4.0 3.5
Public Rooms 4.0 4.4
Fitness Recreation 3.0 3.8
Family 2.0 3.8
Shore Excursion 3.0 3.6
Enrichment 4.0 3.6
Service 4.0 4.3
Value For Money 3.0 3.9
Rates 4.0 4.3

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