Sail Date: October 2010
Nice cruise. The port is a bit of a distance from Rome but only about an hour from the airport. We checked into our room and the boarding process went very smoothly. By the time we had a bite of late lunch our bags were in our room. We ... Read More
Nice cruise. The port is a bit of a distance from Rome but only about an hour from the airport. We checked into our room and the boarding process went very smoothly. By the time we had a bite of late lunch our bags were in our room. We were in a balcony stateroom and were a bit disappointed that the side window had a bunch or cracks in it so the view was not real good. The door area and windows below the rail were also so dirty you did not have a view from the room through them. The cabin guys cleaned the door and a couple days later the rail windows were cleaned. I did writh HAL about it and the gave me 200 pp room credit on our next cruise. The staff and I mean staff,everyone from the painter to the cabin guys were the most friendly and hospitiable I have ever seen. I can not tell you how great they all were. Never a frown or a head down anyplace. The whole 10 days were nothing but smiles and hellos. Great Great staff. The ship is OK nothing special and the entertainment was very weak. No lets make that very very weak. If you going for the entertainment don't go on this one. Food was pretty decent and we ate at the Pinnicle which was very good. One night was a special dinner night they do once a cruise. The extra charge was 39 pp and while nice I would pass on this one also unless you like the fancy stuff and not much of it. One of the biggest problems with the itenerary is getting to the sights. Florence bus was over $100.00 each and several other ports were 5 to 6.00 per person per direction to get , in some cases a very short distance. Barcelona was 5.00 each way pp and the public bus was 3 euro round trip. Lots of passengers not happy with the charge. We teamed up with 2 other couples and did Pizza and Lucca by taxi Simon Magro Taxi No 4 +39.340.55.11.537 phone number. The van type taxi was 40 Euro each for about6 hours and was one of our best trips. This as far less than the ship tours and people that did the ship tour complained about the distance they had to walk to get to Pizza and into Lucca. The taxi went and parked almost right next to were we were going. Nice driver and great service with explinations along the way. We ended up doing either a buggy or taxi tour two more times and they were all great. Negotiate, negotiate, negotiate the buggy tour was 120 Euro and we ended up paying 50 with tip. Sorrento and Pompei was also another taxi tour. We actually waited outside ship and tried to get another couple to split the cost. When all seemed hopeless another couple from Austrailia joined us and we all had a great time. We did a couple inexpensive 49 to 54.00 Panoramic ship tours that were also quite nice for the price. We did Tunisia on a ship tour and the guide stopped at a coffee shop and for some shopping , I am sure he gets a cut as they were not on the itenerary but it was very nice and he was a great guide. If you can figure out public transportation it may also be a good way to go. Hop on Hop off busses are good if it is not to crowded. Read Less
Sail Date: April 2010
Returned from a 20 day Caribbean cruise. We have sailed numerous times on HAL and had done a previous repositioning cruise (Seattle to NYC) on Noordam in 2005. During that cruise everything up to HAL standards that we had become used to. ... Read More
Returned from a 20 day Caribbean cruise. We have sailed numerous times on HAL and had done a previous repositioning cruise (Seattle to NYC) on Noordam in 2005. During that cruise everything up to HAL standards that we had become used to. On this recent cruise there were a number of areas that had fallen off. Embarkation (Ft. Lauderdale)- We always book a Deluxe Verandah Suite however for this cruise there seemed to be a lack of coordination. There was nothing identified for Deluxe Verandah Suites (DVS)guests. When we were ushered into a general boarding line we told the attendant that we had a DVS. He was very cordial and apologized and took us up front to the window. The attendant at the desk asked "where is your priority badge". The gentleman who escorted us informed her that apparently they could not find any. Accommodations - A number of items that were supposed to in the suite were not there, among them no fresh fruit nor any laundry bags. We asked our stewards regarding missing items and they were provided. We noticed that there were no lounge chairs on the deck (for the stern cabins in DVS they were always 2 lounge chairs. When we asked or steward he said they had all been removed 2 cruises ago. Dining - We had Main Upper for dining. On all previous HAL cruises it appeared that they paid attention to where you were seated and who you were seated with. On this cruise it was just the opposite. We were seated immediately adjacent to the kitchen at a table for 8 that only had 1 other couple. Service was terrible. The waiter obviously had too many tables and we were the last on his priority. It took over 2 hours for diner, and we did not wait for desert. We asked the Concierge in the Neptune Lounge to change our table which was done immediately. The Maitre D was very gracious and placed us at a very nice table. During several portions of the cruise when it was apparent that a port schedule had to be made the ship traveled at over 20 knots. Anytime we exceeded 20 knots there were terrible vibrations in our suite. It appeared there was a problem with the azipod located on the starboard side. Overall the ship seemed "old" and in need of a fresh facelift, both in and out. We also have the fear that the "spirit" of corporate Carnival is showing more influence. Read Less
Sail Date: April 2010
Embarkation was delayed since we were told by Captain Scott that because we were not at the usual pier for boarding, embarkation was delayed. We were told that this happens many times with HAL and the Captain thinks that we are all first ... Read More
Embarkation was delayed since we were told by Captain Scott that because we were not at the usual pier for boarding, embarkation was delayed. We were told that this happens many times with HAL and the Captain thinks that we are all first time passengers with HAL. He should therefore change his excuse for ill performed embarkation and not blame it in the Port, but HAL instead Once on board, we proceeded to the Vista Dinning room for lunch. Service & Choice of food was excellent. The waiters could not do enough for you and were always concerned for your satisfaction. We booked the SA Category. Were were mid-ship. The cabin was spacious and very clean. Our balcony was very inviting with a table, 4 table chairs and 2 additional arm chairs. There was a dressing area before entering the Bathroom. The bathroom had a double sink, bathtub and separate shower. However to our surprise, the counter was not granite, but Formica. Suites of this category on other cruise lines offer two entrances to the bathroom- one for the dressing area and one for the bath area and the counters were granite. It seems that HAL has lower quality of furnishings and decor for their level of quality. Our dining experience was somewhat different and not pleasant the first couple of nights. Since we traveled with another couple, a table for 4 was requested in the second seating. To our surprise, we were seated in the rear of the dinning room set for 6. Our table faced the rear of the ship. Since it was dark outside, the curtains were not drawn as should have been, and my wife and I stared at a black window during the first night. Our friends were kind enough to switch seats the second night. However, during the first night, the Manager came to our table to see if everything was fine. We have told him that since the table was booked for 4, to kindly remove the additional place settings or please switch the table. He evidently ignored our request. The second night during his rounds, he skipped our table. Bar service was also difficult to have since the bar attendant never came to our table for service. Our complaint was made to the concierge. On the third evening, we received a temporary table on the first level of the Vista Dinning Room. Service was so efficient we requested this table for the remainder of the cruise. The Dinning Manager for this section, Mr. Sekon was very accommodating and granted our request. We thanked him for his efforts. We did notice that they lowered the amount of wait staff in dinning room which makes it difficult for the waiters who now also clear the tables Entertainment was dull. Very surprised that after dinner hours, there was no entertainment in Queens Lounge, Crown Nest etc. The ship was asleep at 9:15PM - The only place to go was either the Piano Bar or Casino. If we wanted to go to sleep after dinner, we could have stayed home This is the first cruise in which we were not able to see entertainment or enjoy a dance after dinner. Very disappointing. The DJ was so boring and he was the only staff member organizing a game at the pool that he actually put us to sleep. HAL must be cutting back and it shows Read Less
Sail Date: March 2010
We were on the March 25 Spring Break cruise. We're a family of four, with two boys 11 and 9, and were excited to find an itinerary that fit us so well. We've sailed on NCL and Carnival in the past and have usually had to hunt out ... Read More
We were on the March 25 Spring Break cruise. We're a family of four, with two boys 11 and 9, and were excited to find an itinerary that fit us so well. We've sailed on NCL and Carnival in the past and have usually had to hunt out a quiet place on the ships to avoid the constant "fun," so HAL looked to be the right fit for us. A TA tried to talk me out of sailing with HAL due to the usual "walker and scooter" line, but it only served to whet my appetite for a nice, quiet ride. We planned on (and did!) have active and exhausting days on shore, so relaxing ship days were perfect. We boarded at around 11:30am in Fort Lauderdale, and since we were in an SA category cabin, we dropped our bags off at the Neptune lounge before exploring the ship. We hit the Lido right away and found the sandwiches to be pretty good (although the kids concluded they weren't as good as Panera's). I was looking forward to the bread pudding but found myself confronted by a bowl of Vanilla Icing Soup with a Raisin Bread Crouton. Well, now I knew to ask for less icing next time! So now I might as well talk about the FOOD: Reviewing the food is so subjective, but what the heck! Overall, I have to say we were satisfied with the food but only at the Pinnacle, which we ate at 8 times during the cruise (6 dinner, 2 lunch). After our first two nights in the Main Dining Room, we were not looking forward to anymore (although I did have excellent lamb chops). Too bland and overcooked for our tastes in general and the service, while friendly, was rushed and impersonal. The soups especially were uninspired. Most everyone else we talked to during the cruise loved the food in the Main Dining Room, so what do we know? And also, being a desert person I was disappointed (but my waistline was grateful) that there was not one desert I tried, with the exception of a few at the Pinnacle, that I would care to try again (and most I thought were pretty terrible). I gained no weight on this cruise, so maybe this is something I should look for on future cruises? On our third night we had pre booked the Pinnacle, and it literally turned the mood of our cruise around. First, the service was near-perfect. We consistently finished up in about and hour and a half or a little longer, while noticing that the other tables with no children were taking at least two and a half hours for their service. That, to me, says it all. My guess is that the many people complaining about three hour meals (which is typically how long I would expect to spend at a nice dinner with my wife) could have mentioned to their waiter that they were in a hurry and would have been taken care of. The food was very good - not always outstanding - but definitely good enough that we again looked forward to dinner each evening. The lobster mac and cheese was rated as "the best thing ever" by my 9 year old (and I enjoyed his leftovers!). Between the four of us we worked through just about everything on the menu, and while we enjoyed every entrEe except the veal chop (a little tough and bland compared to the other offerings), the appetizers were less compelling. The kids loved the crab cakes (hey, they're fried), but my wife and I decided the French Onion Soup of all things was the most memorable appetizer. At lunch the Scallop Crème Brulee was so good I requested it one night for dinner (after asking ahead of time). On our last day we were invited to a Suite Lunch at the Pinnacle and they had a short menu which was terrificg, including the best veal tenderloin I've ever had, and an unbelievable berry and cream desert. While we're not big breakfast people, we did eat once each in the Pinnacle, Lido, and Main Dining room. While the main dining groom was very nice, if you are staying in a suite I would not pass up the chance to eat in the Pinnacle for breakfast. We wanted to try room service once for dinner, and while it was fun to eat on the verandah, the food was again not to our taste and we wound up going to the Lido! And that bread pudding? Well, I kept trying and the forth time I was finally able to communicate that I wanted the crusty part with just a few drops of icing. I did get the crusty part and after pouring out the excess icing (do the servers get paid by how much they put on?) I found that - it wasn't all that bad ? I can definitely see why many people love it though - - - suuuugar! Overall, we were happy with the food choices. Those little chocolate squares in the Neptune Lounge quenched my sugar fix in the absence of delicious deserts during the day. I think we would be happier should we sail HAL again on a ship with two specialty restaurants like the Eurodam. Either way we would simply book every night at the specialty restaurant(s) and gladly consider the premium as part of the overall price of the cruise. CABIN: Our Deluxe Verandah Suite was more than spacious enough for our family of four. The pull out sofa was big, it seemed a little bigger than a double but maybe not. I slept fine on it with one of my sons when he got a little seasick the first night, and I had plenty of room. I can see two adults doing just fine on it. The beds were very comfortable but very firm (no complaints, just an observation). I prefer the plush, squishy mattresses on Carnival. The service was impeccable and was the equal of staying at a Ritz, I would say. The storage space in the room was way more that we needed, and we packed heavily, with 12+ bags. NEPTUNE LOUNGE: We were directly across the lounge in 7055, so our kids loved popping over and getting snacks thoughout the day. I just read another reviewer of our March 25th cruise complaining that "unsupervised children" were eating all the snacks and didn't leave any for them. Guilty as charged! My well behaved children did eat the snacks they were entitled to, and unsupervised no less! Fortunately, the staff in the Neptune were unfailing in their commitment to make all the guests feel comfortable, not just the grumpy ones! Other than the chocolate squares, I found myself stopping in just about every time I passed by to get ice water, something I really came to appreciate! The TV was always on in the Neptune and for this reason I didn't find it to be very appealing as a "hang out." If not for the kids, I would not consider it important to book a room close to the lounge, although there was certainly no drawback to having a room across the hall. There was absolutely no noise from inside our cabin unless you were standing right next to the door. POOL: This was the highlight of the ship for me. My wife and I spent most of our time onboard by the Lido pool (I was to be found in the hot tubs). While there were some kids there, usually around 10 or so, they were always very well behaved. The hot tubs were always available, as were deck chairs. The glass roof allows movement between sun and shade "As You Wish." :-) and the quiet music and atmosphere suited me to a tee. The aft pool was more crowded, not as well laid out, and too hot for me. CLUB HAL: You'd think I could say something about club HAL but I can't. My kids wanted to do their own thing. I was thankful my oldest is only 11 and too young for the teen group after peeking in on them in the Loft. But then again I just hate the idea of him becoming a teen period! The captain made an announcement about damage to the ship by teens one morning that got a lot of people upset, even though most of them (like us) probably had no idea what happened. Lots of tut-tuting followed but other than that I saw no evidence of anything amiss. All in all the ship was just what we were looking for. A nice "simple" and luxurious ship which always made us feel welcome, even if the food didn't always live up to the standards set by the service. We would gladly sail HAL again, but maybe we'll try the Eurodam or Neiw Amsterdam next time so we can enjoy the Tamarind as well as the Pinnacle. Read Less
Sail Date: March 2010
This was a very enjoyable cruise and much to our surprise and delight we came back with a definite feeling that HAL would be a contender for our future cruise dollars. That is until on our return we saw a magazine article about HAL and how ... Read More
This was a very enjoyable cruise and much to our surprise and delight we came back with a definite feeling that HAL would be a contender for our future cruise dollars. That is until on our return we saw a magazine article about HAL and how they treated a customer when something went terribly wrong. We only encountered minor problems mostly through poor communication. We had problems with the HAL website when checking in and their response was totally lacking and unhelpful. Also when making a reservation (prior to sailing) at the Pinnacle Grill they charged us upfront and the reservation wasn't even guaranteed! At embarkation too, it would have been nice to know that we could have boarded earlier on in the day. On the cruise it was in the way that they dealt with customer communication for room service and the open dining room reservation system that caused us concern. It has always been our experience that how a company deals with things that go wrong is the best measure of that company and HAL falls short in that regard. With the problems that we had with customer communication we would not want to go with HAL in the future. The ship had no wow factor it just had the feeling of a comfortable old ship! The captain and officers should get a lot of kudos because the customer contact staff on the Noordam were without exception the happiest/most helpful/hard working crew we have encountered to date. EMBARKATION: We walked into the embarkation hall at around 2PM to find a vast array of agents waiting to help us with not another passenger in sight!! (It turned out that embarkation actually started at 11AM not the 1PM as we had been told). We were on the ship in minutes and our cabin was ready and the stewards (two of them) waiting to greet us. DISEMBARKATION: The disembarkation process was also very easy - the lack of continuous announcements starting in the early hours of the morning was especially appreciated. However, one thing that did not work for us was the breakfast that we had ordered from room service. Every day we ordered breakfast in our cabin and every day it was delivered within the requested time frame except for the last morning - the appointed time frame expired at 9AM and we called room service who said they would chase it for us - it never arrived and room service never called back. Our appointed time to disembark was 9:45 and from about 8:30 on our cabin steward was getting steadily more strident in his demands that we leave our cabin by 9AM. We explained that we were waiting for breakfast and that our disembarkation time was 9:45 but that did not assuage his demands. Nobody told us that we could not wait in our cabin until disembarkation - so we did! DINING: We tried the Italian, Vista, Pinnacle Grill restaurants and the Lido buffet and found the food quality to be very good. The Italian restaurant keeps the same menu throughout the trip so it gets a little difficult to go more than a couple of times! However, the restaurant is much smaller than any of the others and it was a lot more comfortable eating here. The Pinnacle Grill is a nice place to eat with quite a large choice on the menu. Although it was impossible for us to sit at any of the tables by the window on a table for 2 the restaurant does have a nice selection of tables for 2! We ate at the Pinnacle Grill on 2 occasions and we would have eaten there again but we could not obtain a reservation at our desired time - the strange thing was that every time we passed by the restaurant at, or near, our desired time it was half empty!? In the Lido buffet the choices were good but there were no trays provided so you had to arrange to eat only one course at a time and get the drinks on a separate trip too! HAL really needs to work on their communication with the customer! One irritant in this regard was that we did not know that for the open seating at the Vista restaurant that we could/should have made a reservation. We happened to pass the dining reservation desk (by pure chance!) and then when we enquired we were informed that we could make reservations for up to 4 days ahead, however there were no reservations available at all for the next 4 nights - great huh!!! We were finally able to get a dining reservation for the first night (Friday) at 5:15pm (not a good time for us) and in the Italian restaurant for the Saturday and Sunday nights. We then asked the telephone concierge to make reservations for us for the rest of the cruise and she did a good job. Unfortunately, while she reserved the time and table that we requested for each night, we were never able to get the table and were always given a table in the noisiest part of the restaurant. We eventually got so annoyed with this that we told the assistant dining room manager exactly what we thought of their reservation system, from that point on we got the reserved table!!? The Vista reservation system and the communication of how to use the system definitely needs work - it's a shambles! The coffee in all restaurants was really, really bad!!! The mark-up on wine was somewhat excessive - we have got used to exorbitant mark-ups but a wine we can buy locally at $10 cost us $60 on the ship! PUBLIC AREAS: The public areas seem really small in comparison to other boats we have been on - in particular the shopping area is really small and thus the area allocated to pharmaceuticals is tiny (almost non-existent!) - a problem if someone needs some over the counter supplies. CABIN: The cabin was well designed with plenty of storage space and the cabin was very quiet during the cruise. The cabin did however have one major design flaw and that is that the air conditioning vent outlet is right above the heads of the passengers when in bed - not a good idea! The balcony was very nice with chairs and a table provided. SPA: The spa was used multiple times. The whirlpool was really nice and for a daily charge it was worth it! The changing rooms were nice and a locker was provided with a robe and slippers to use inside it. The massage therapist was wonderful, and yes, it was expensive but worth every minute of the expense! As the cruise progresses the spa facility offers more packages at a reduced rate - it certainly pays to wait towards the end if you don't mind limited time choices. PORTS OF CALL / SHORE EXCURSIONS: The first port was Half Moon Cay -- we had booked a shore excursion snorkel trip for 1pm -- which required that a tender be taken to the shore. Upon arriving at the pier we were informed that the trip had been canceled. Why oh why could HAL not have told us prior to going to all the trouble of getting ready and tendering to shore??!! The second port of call was Grand Turk. We just wandered around the port area here. The third port of call was Samana, Dominican Republic. HAL shore excursion department had left a letter in our cabin about how the roads were very rough and undeveloped and that if we had any questions to contact them. This was a really good example of how to communicate with customers!!! We were able to cancel our excursions without any problem. The fourth port of call was Willemstad, Curacao. We just wandered around the port area and the downtown area. The weather was hot and humid. The fifth port of call was Kralenijk, in Bonaire. We took two shore excursions here. The first one was around the island and it was very interesting to see the island but there was really only desert to see. The second one was a snorkel trip and that was really fantastic the water here is so clear that you can see the fish even when the ship is docked in the harbor. The last port of call was Oranjestad, Aruba. We wandered around the port and town area. The weather was hot and humid. Read Less
Sail Date: March 2010
Let me begin by saying that my husband & I are seasoned cruisers. We have sailed everything from Carnival to Crystal & this was our 15th cruise. We cruised with 4 other couples. We are all seniors (50-70). We like HAL because it ... Read More
Let me begin by saying that my husband & I are seasoned cruisers. We have sailed everything from Carnival to Crystal & this was our 15th cruise. We cruised with 4 other couples. We are all seniors (50-70). We like HAL because it mainly caters to us and they are very sensitive to passengers who are physically challeneged. Embarkation was easy thanks to the Express Documentation we filled out on the internet. We simply printed out our Express tickets and showed our passports to HAL personnel and went up the gangplank. We immediately went to the Lido deck & ate some lunch. I went into shock as there were no food trays & everything was served in very modest portions to passengers by waitstaff. This resulted in long lines & having to run back and forth from the table to fetch drinks, sides and anything that necessitated more than 2 hands. We were dismayed & frustrated as when we finally sat down, our food had cooled considerably. Many passengers echoed the same sentiments & they opted to go to the dining room for breakfast, lunch & dinner instead. Our cabin steward, Ricard, and the rest of the waitstaff were Indonesian & they were terrific. Ricard was like a stealth cabinboy in that we never saw him but every request we made was fulfilled & our room was always clean. We enjoyed his towel creations at night. The staff worked very, very hard to please the passengers, and they were ALWAYS very polite and helpful. CASINO: I found the video poker machines to be very tight. They hardly gave back any winnings & never once did I hear a slot machine go off. I did okay on roulette and my husband won the Texas Hold'em tournament. Again the dealers were very nice and big HELLO to Ramona. ENTERTAIMENT: The two standouts were Kuba, a vibraphone maestro and Barnaby, a comedian who had everybody laughing so hard, our bellies ached. The others were rather run-of-the-mill and the Noordam singers were just average. SPA: The prices were astronomical but I had a gift certificate so I got a special. As the cruise progresses, they offer specials on various services so try not to book right away. Also for a price a GREEN HOUSE card can be purchased which gives access to a wonderful whirlpool, 2 steamrooms and heated chaise lounges that are fabulous. It's worthwhile and very zen-like. EXCURSIONS: I went on two excursions & they both proved to be very good. The first was in St. Lucia where we traveled by bus up a mountain to enjoy tea and snacks at an old mansion.The view was breathtaking as we sipped tea on a wide balcony & overlooked the bay. St. Lucia was surprisingly poor & our tourguide, Ramsey, was very informative on it's history. The second was a bicycle ride through Half Moon Cay. The tour was filled to capacity as we biked down roads to see a horse ranch,a stingray farm and some backwoods that are ordinarily never experienced. For those of you who are not athletic,the island is tiny & we rode for a very,very short time.Anyone can do this. One woman in our group was in her eighties & she did just fine.Again,we got a thorough lecture of the island's history. It was just right and my favorite excursion. DINING: I give the food a solid GOOD, but in the interest of cutting costs, we found the portions to be measly. Our waiter was very attentive & he worked very hard to please. The sommelier, Arnold, was the best. We ate at the Pinnacle Grill once & although the food was very good, I was surprised the waiters weren't more professional. One waiter dropped a tray of silverware behind me & I jumped 5 feet off my seat and then they messed up one order. A man in our party expressed his dissatisfaction with the modest portions, so we did not return. As I said before, the removal of foodtrays at the Lido in an attempt to prevent passengers from wasting food drew many critisms from people. For us, it was an unnecessary inconvenience. ACTIVITIES: There was always something to do on the ship & the social director, Mike, was very upbeat. They featured talent contests, newlywed games, trivia games, bingo, poolside games, art history lectures, etc. Also there were first-run movies on the cabin TV's which were good. I attended mass most mornings and Father Kazimir is an elderly priest with a great sense of humor. He was a pleasure to get to know. SUMMATION: I must concur with the others who have said that for the money, HAL is probably the best cruise on the high seas. There were many more canes, walkers and scooters than children on board so I wouldn't recommend it for families. Also, I must re-emphasize that there were lines for food,drinks,getting on & off the tenders, so pack your patience and bring a comfortable pair of shoes for all that walking you'll be doing between your table and the food buffets. I suggest that if HAL wants to cut costs, they should eliminate the little bathroom lotions/shampoos and instead reinstate smaller food trays in order to make mealtimes a more efficient, less stressful experience. Another idea would be to just offer them at lunchtime since that's when most people eat at the Lido anyway. Read Less
Sail Date: March 2010
We picked HAL for our vacation because we liked the ports of call and we have heard so many people raving about it. Itinerary and Ports were great, we enjoyed it greatly. HAL in general is just OK. That was our 8th cruise, first with HAL. ... Read More
We picked HAL for our vacation because we liked the ports of call and we have heard so many people raving about it. Itinerary and Ports were great, we enjoyed it greatly. HAL in general is just OK. That was our 8th cruise, first with HAL. Pre-cruise: we stayed at Cambria Suites. Very nice rooms, great service, well organized shuttle service, free shuttle to and from the port and free parking (with a package) for 14 days. Be aware: you will not be able to use your room key to reenter the building from the pool area after 10 pm. Bring your cel phone with you to call front desk to let you in, or walk around the building to re-enter the main entrance. They say it is for security reasons. Embarkation: perfect, fast, well organized.We were on board at 12pm and ate lunch at the main dining room to avoid the crowd in Lido. Our room was ready at 1:30. Rooms: great thing about their rooms - lots of storage space. However, VE category is not big enough for 3 people. When our daughter's sofa-bed was prepared for night time, we were not able to get to the balcony unless we climbed over her bed. Every morning my DH folded it so that we could walk in our cabin. If you travel with a child (or children) do NOT book this category room. Some people put 5+ for rooms. You be the judge: would you give 5 if on the first night of your cruise you picked up a pillow and discovered make up (specifically, foundation) from previous passengers!?! if your steward took glasses (i guess, to wash), and returned them only 3 days later? if you gave him a hair drier that did not work, and he never returned it? He changed the pillowcases and apologized, but trust was lost. Service: We are not used to hearing from Front Desk receptionists "i don't know" answers on our previous cruises. We encountered that problem here a lot. We received great support and assistance from Patricia - thank you for helping us organizing our group tour. Cooking class - was rescheduled from 1:30 to 12:00 and we found out about it just before the originally scheduled class when we stopped by in our cabin (we saw a message). We went to the Front Office - it was still 1:30 in their computer. They called Kelly, a person in charge, and refused to credit our account b/s "we were notified". We still don't know what our steward did with a notification letter (if it ever existed), but we had to wait for Kelly to finish her meeting (about 30 min), then she "OKed" to issue us credit but it did not appear on our statement, then we had to pay two more visits to the Front Desk to remove these charges for not attended classes, and again on disembarkation day. Finally, it was fixed, but that is not my idea of excellent service. Ship: Ms Noordam is elegant, beautiful and tastefully decorated. We enjoyed art found everywhere on the ship. Some reviews mentioned "bad kids destroying the ship" - we did not see any damage. We only learned about it from the Captain's announcement. There are always exceptions, but majority of children on board were very well behaved and respectful. We really enjoyed the pool area (family pool). It was peaceful and relaxing. Amazing thing: there were always lounge chairs available! and hardly anyone was smoking! Unfortunately, they decided to paint beams in pool area on our sea days. First day, we took it with understanding that they needed to maintain their ship and tried to ignore paint fumes. When they started doing it again on the second sea day, it became upsetting. We spoke with their officer's addressing this issue, and surprisingly, they agreed and stopped painting. Food: just average, often overcooked or undercooked (extremely raw eggs during breakfast were very common). I have special dietary needs and it was addressed with understanding; however, one night they gave my food (differently prepared to avoid food allergies) to another member of our table; and twice, they brought specially prepared bread at the same time as the main course. Our dinner would take up to 3 hours (thanks God we had great company most of our dinners!). Sometimes, coffee was brought 5-10 min after deserts have been served. In Bonaire, we had 45 min in between tours to come back to the ship for early lunch/snack. Beware: everything was closed b/n 11-11:30 - we were surprised. Very limited selection of fruits, and only available during specific hours, which we did not figure out. On the positive note: open dining was very well organized, we have never been in line for longer than 3 min, and we were always seated with our friends (table for 10-14)on a last minute notice. Club HAL - our daughter loved it, and spent every available time there (often cut shot but prolonged dinners). Entertainment: average, average production shows but we had a great magician on board, a great comedian, and a great violinist! Disembarkation: was smooth after we cleared our account. The highlight of this cruise was meeting a lot of people we got to know via roll call on Cruise Critic. We had great times together! I am not sure if we will ever cruise with HAL again. If our friend go - we might join them, otherwise we will probably choose a different cruise line. Comparing to our previous cruises - HAL is very overrated. Read Less
Sail Date: February 2010
We flew to Fort Lauderdale the day before the cruise and stayed at the Hilton Garden Inn, 180 SW 18th Avenue, Dania, FL under the "cruise package" rate. This was a very nice hotel and the cruise package worked well for us. We ... Read More
We flew to Fort Lauderdale the day before the cruise and stayed at the Hilton Garden Inn, 180 SW 18th Avenue, Dania, FL under the "cruise package" rate. This was a very nice hotel and the cruise package worked well for us. We would stay there again. In the morning was a very good breakfast and they shuttled us to the ship, all included in the package. We made our initial reservations for the cruise pretty late and all that was available to book was a Category N inside guarantee. I kept checking back to see if any other cabin categories had opened up with no luck. Finally, the morning of the cruise, while waiting for the hotel shuttle to the ship, I called HAL directly. 2 balconies had opened up, one we later learned due to a last-minute cancellation. We paid to upgrade to a balcony. The rate to upgrade was fair and was well-worth it over the course of the next 10 days. We both used our balcony alot. When we checked in at the ship a couple of hours later, there was a delay in embarkation, since we had upgraded so close to departure, apparently our paperwork had to be re-done by headquarters in Seattle, so we had to sit and wait for a long time before we could check-in and finally embark. We didn't mind because it was worth it to us to have a balcony and the staff at check-in were friendly. Since we were Mariners (sailed on HAL once before), upon embarkation, we were shown to the dining room for a "Welcome Back" Mariners luncheon. (Non-Mariners were shown to the Lido buffet for lunch.) After lunch, we went to our cabin and settled in. The cabin we had was fine. Noordam was an average ship. We have been on more beautiful ships, such as Celebrity Solstice, that was a lot nicer ship, and had curved cabins. The worst thing about Noordam was the Lido buffet. It was poorly designed and very spread out and congested at busy times. There were no obvious lines which resulted in people unknowlingly cutting in front of others. All the trays had been removed, resulting in multiple trips back and forth to the buffet. They also have taken out the self-serve stations, so you have to wait while they dish up the food for you. This takes alot longer. Many times the seating area was full and we had a hard time finding a place to sit. When we sailed HAL before (Oosterdam), staff carried trays back to the tables for you. They did not do this on Noordam. We missed it! I ended up getting so frustrated with the congested breakfast buffet and long lines in the morning that I started to order room service every morning, which worked out much better, except you couldn't order eggs benedict. Lido had 8 varieties of eggs benedict, cooked to order, if you wanted to wait long enough to get it, it was good. Overall, the ship was darker in colors and the carpet was worn in some areas. It seemed outdated, however, it was very clean, it was just a dark decor. I later learned Noordam is scheduled for a dry-dock for updates in a few months. She needs it! (book a sailing after dry-dock). The best parts about our cruise were the dining in the Vista Dining room, Canaletto, and Pinnacle Grill and the overall service onboard the ship. Dining and service are where HAL shines and she did on Noordam. Food in the Vista Dining room was good and the service was excellent. Food was best on formal nights and on the last night, when they had a special farewell party for us. We ate in Canaletto one night. The service and food were very good. Our best dining experiences were in the Pinnacle Grill where we had dinner twice. It was the most excellent food and service. Our dining experiences each time lasted 2 1/2 to 3 hours. It was well worth the extra cost. Another area of the cruise that was very pleasing for us was the activities onboard ship. Noordam had many parties, such as Sailaway party on deck, BBQ Bon Voyage dinner on deck, wine and cheese under the stars, pool party with food and music, dessert extravaganza (WOW). Every party was first class. Everything was decorated beautifully with plenty of delicious food. Well-done and impressive. We happened to be onboard during the Super Bowl. They had a great Super Bowl party!! We were also very impressed with the BBQ they had for us on Half Moon Cay, lots of variety and the food was very fresh and tasty. We tried to go to as many as the activities onboard the ship as we could and we loved them all. If you like exceptional dining and service on a mainstream line, HAL is a great choice. A couple of notes: --we signed up for the wine tasting for $15 per person. This was a joke and a waste of money. It was the worst wine-tasting we have ever been to. While there, they tried to get us to sign-up for another wine-tasting for $35 per person that was supposed to be more authentic. If you are going to do a wine-tasting, do the $35 per person one, not the other, cheaper one. --Afternoon Tea daily was excellent and well-worth it. Great opportunity to make camadrie with fellow passengers. Wait staff wore white gloves and it was well-done. --In Explorations Cafe,(Internet/Library room), there was a coffee bar with selections of small tea sandwiches and sweets. Even though it was not advertised, if you ordered a drink, the sandwiches/sweets were complimentary. Drinks, like a latte, were reasonably priced (around $2), and then he would give you a small plate of the sandwiches or sweets complimentary, if you asked for it. The service onboard Noordam was excellent. They had the Indonesian/Filipino crew, that is exclusive to HAL. Having sailed several other lines, I would say that it is worth it to sail HAL just to experience the crew. They are the best at sea! Quiet and reserved, they operate at a slower pace, which is perfect for the mostly Mariner clientele. Speaking of the clientele, they were primarily seniors. The ship was sold out, at around 2,000 passengers. There were 13 kids on board. Not too much fun for them. Don't miss the Filipino crew show. They are a proud people and they serve HAL excellently. One area of the sailing that was disappointing for us was the entertainment. We have experienced far better shows and entertainment on other lines. If you are looking for great entertainment, look for another line. For the price-point of what we paid, HAL offered a lot for the money and was a good value. it's not luxury. Having sailed Crystal twice, and even Celebriaty Solstice, it was not as nice of a cruise compared to those, but luxury costs alot more. For the price-point of this cruise, it was well-worth the money we spent. Beware of the onboard account, since they nickle and dime you for everything (unlike Crystal). Our onboard account for 10 days was $1200.00, including shore excursions. However, that was not including the paid upgrade for the balcony. Like I said, it was worth-it, just be prepared. Read Less
Sail Date: February 2010
Background. My wife and I both were 65 at the time of the cruise in February 2010. Previously we had been on cruises in 1993 on the M.V. Royal Majesty, 2007 on the Carnival Paradise, and 2008 on the Island Princess. The latter had been ... Read More
Background. My wife and I both were 65 at the time of the cruise in February 2010. Previously we had been on cruises in 1993 on the M.V. Royal Majesty, 2007 on the Carnival Paradise, and 2008 on the Island Princess. The latter had been our longest - seven days. This one on the Holland America Lines (HAL) Noordam comprised two back-to-back 10-day cruises. Embarkation. We flew into the Fort Lauderdale Airport and took the free Port Everglades shuttle because we did not have HAL transfers. Within 15 minutes the shuttle left us off at the front door of HAL's check-in pavilion. A steward immediately took our tagged bags and I immediately gave him five bucks for his prompt and considerate service. Since we arrived about 1:00 p.m., there was no line. We had done online check-in in advance and had our e-docs. All of the additional paperwork was ready for us at check-in. We were impressed with how organized and efficient check-in was. It took only about 15 minutes. One complaint we do have is with the turnaround day between cruises when the 300 "Collector Voyage Guests" were herded off the Noordam into the hot and stuffy check-in pavilion and run through a perfunctory repeat check-in. It took about an hour and seemed so unnecessary. Stateroom. Inside Stateroom #1053. We had never been in an inside stateroom before and wondered if it would be too confining for 20 days. It wasn't. But we were so glad we got a "large" (207 square foot) Inside Stateroom. We never felt cramped and, in fact, didn't even use all of the storage space. Twice we had guests - one couple from an Oceanview Stateroom and another from a Standard Inside Stateroom - and they were impressed with how much room we had - even more than the Oceanview Stateroom. It didn't bother us that we could not see the ocean through a window or have natural light coming in. At times we did wish for some fresh air, especially toward the end of the cruise. The king bed and pillows were comfortable. There was adequate lighting and fine amenities in the bathroom. The only thing that was a little inconvenient was that the hair dryer could be plugged in only at the desk in the room. I also was annoyed that that the only news channel was CNN International (which constantly repeats feature packages over and over and virtually no news) and ESPN International with endless European futbol (soccer) matches. Being in an inside stateroom, we especially liked the live TV cameras on the bow and stern of the Noordam. It was handy to have a small refrigerator and a safe. We wondered if the room would be noisy being on the Main Deck between the Vista Lounge and Atrium. But it was very quiet. Occasionally we heard creaks and bumps, but we rarely heard people in the hall and not even doors closing. As you can imagine, it also was nice and dark for sleeping. We were glad we brought a nightlight for the bathroom. Service. The staff was uniformly friendly and helpful, especially our room stewards, Apip and Ary. Almost always when we passed staff members they greeted us warmly. Even during As You Wish Dining (AYWD) in the Vista Dining Room (VDR) and in the Lido Restaurant the wait staff was friendly and helpful, although they were different each day. We did note that the time between courses in the VDR was long and meals took one and a half to two hours, making it difficult to get to the shows before the Vista Lounge filled up. This may be because the wait staff had too many tables to serve, at least, that's what HAL old timers told us and it seemed to be true. Venues. We liked the overall style of the Noordam's dEcor. It was muted, not garish like some other cruise lines I won't mention. The artwork displayed throughout the Noordam gave it a classy feel. We were surprised how small some public rooms were, especially the Vista Lounge and Queen's Lounge. We had to show up for performances at least a half hour ahead of time to be assured of a seat. In addition, seating in the Queen's Lounge was all on the same level and it was hard for my wife to see over the heads of people in front of her. A couple times we went to the Queen's Lounge and the only seats available were behind people, so we just left. We failed to take advantage of the Casino or the pricy Greenhouse Spa & Salon because it was, well, pricy. My wife did lift weights in the gym. She said it was virtually empty whenever she went. We both walked on the Promenade Deck but could not use it several days because it was closed. Food. We found the variety and quality of the food more than adequate - between good and very good - in the VDR and Lido Restaurant. Usually there were so many good choices on the menu it was hard to choose. At the same time, we would not describe the quality of the food as gourmet, not even in the Pinnacle Grill. Our favorite was the Italian specialty restaurant Canaletto. The antipasto was made at the table. The salad and seafood were fresh, and the pasta was al dente, as it should be, with credible sauce. BTW we purchased wine cards at $82.29 each for 20 glasses of not below average quality wine, which we used in all of the dining areas. We liked AYWD in the VDR because we had the opportunity to meet other people. We rarely saw any of them again, but we did hook up with two couples we liked. While the conversations were repetitive and superficial in general - Where are you from? How many cruises have you been on? How many grandchildren do you have? - we did meet some interesting people from other countries and even a mortician. We never had to wait at all even though we had no reservations because we always went to dinner between 5:30 and 6:00 p.m. When we left, usually between 7:00 and 7:30 p.m., the lines were long. We also liked to eat dinner in the Lido Restaurant when we wanted to eat more quickly, not be engaged in conversation, and not dress up on some formal nights. Educational enhancements. In general, we were disappointed with the educational enhancements. The vast majority of the presentations were veiled sales pitches by people like Travel Guide Susan and Port Shopping Ambassador Gail. Even presentations that were informative, such as the Fish Know-How Cooking Demonstration with Guest Chefs were filled with pitches for the their books and Web sites. The demonstrations were lightweight subjects such as napkin origami, scrapbooking, and endless trivia contests. In contrast, the Explorations Cafe had an extensive library and my wife read 7 (seven!) books during the cruise. I read only 2 books, but I'm a slower reader. Explorations Cafe also was a comfortable, quiet place to read and use our laptop. We failed to take advantage of the free Digital Workshop because we already know what was being taught. We did like two printed handouts available each day - a 4-page summary of news from the New York Times and Daily Sodukos. Internet. The Noordam has wireless Internet hotspots (wi-fi) throughout the ship. We got a fair signal in our stateroom. However, Internet fees on the Noordam were outrageous. After a $3.95 connection fee, it was 75 cents per minute, or $45 per hour! There were two less expensive packages: 100 minutes for $55 and 250 minutes for $100. Still, the latter comes out to $24 per hour. We discovered that we didn't need our daily doses of Internet, so we went to Internet Cafes at various ports. They charged between $6 and $10 per hour. That's still a lot, but not $24 per hour. By the way, when I scrolled down HAL's wi-fi home page, past the subscription form, I found four free Web sites. Three of them were HAL's Web sites, but the fourth was the New York Times. I did not see or hear anything about free access to the NYT so I doubt that many people knew about it. The site was very slow, which is a complaint I'd heard from other users. Shows. The HAL Singers and Dancers could really sing and dance. They were young, quite talented, and enthusiastic. The shows themselves primarily were music reviews that would appeal to the HAL demographic. We went to each HAL Singers and Dancers performance on the first cruise but did not go again when they were repeated on the second cruise. Alternating with the HAL Singers and Dancers were "seasoned" performers who ranged from awful (vocal pianist Brett Cave) to adequate (singer/impersonator Bryan G.) to excellent (tenor Aaron Shaw, comedian Lee Bayless, and singer Marlana Dunn). But the highlight for us were Adagio Strings, a string quartet that played classical music for about five hours each night in Explorer's Lounge. We kept going back to them because they were talented musicians with a wide repertoire. They even took requests. We enjoyed our cocktails while we relaxed. Excursions. We booked four HAL excursions and two independent excursions. The best were Serenity's Zipline Tour on St. Lucia and HAL's Samur Sail and Snorkeling on Bonaire. Both were well organized and exciting. We also liked the excursion run by Antours on Dominica, where my wife swam in the Emerald Pool then we both tubed down the Layou River. However, Mr. Nice was not at his fruit stand and we were offered nothing to eat or drink between the time we left the dock and finished tubing - about 5 hours later. We were glad we had taken water and a couple power bars with us. We stopped twice at Carnival Line's Half Moon Cay, where we walked the beach and my wife parasailed. The BBQ lunch provided by HAL on the island was average chicken and ribs. We were surprised that the Island Bar took only soda cards, not Signature Cocktail Cards. The only excursion that was disappointing was HAL's Los Haitises (hi tee sis) National Park in Samana. It took about 45 minutes to get to the park by boat and the motor was so loud we could not talk. We saw a frigate rookery and stopped at a cave for about 30 minutes, which was the most interesting part of the excursion. We did two other excursions on the spur of the moment that were very good - a car rental with cruise friends in Aruba and local bus tour in Curaçao. Other passengers. I guess the average of passengers was between 70 and 75, give or take a decade. However, we saw only a few wheelchairs, scooters, and walkers. At AYWD in the VDR we met some old people who were engaging and some who were boring. Some were exceedingly considerate and others were self-centered and obnoxious. That's par for the course, I guess. We did hook up with two lovely couples who were near our ages and at our activity levels. I kept having to remind myself that we did not have a lot of screaming kids running around or drunken obnoxious teenagers pushing ahead of us in lines. What about those lines? If we went to the Lido Restaurant at the height of breakfast or lunch, there would be lines. Not too long, but long enough. The key was to go earlier or later. Then no lines. Disembarkation. We bought the $19 pp Special Express Baggage Service (SEBS) that provided us with airline luggage tags and boarding passes. We put our luggage outside our stateroom door and did not see it again until Baggage Claim in our home city. After a quick breakfast, we walked off the ship and got into a taxi with no customs questions and no waiting. The taxi fare to the airport was $20 (including tip) and we were there by 8:00 a.m. Since we already had our boarding passes, we could go straight through security and to our gate. We think SEBS is one of HAL's services that's definitely worth it. Conclusion. Overall our experience on the Noordam was positive and we would sail on another Hal cruise. If fact, while onboard we signed up for two more of them, taking advantage of the $100 per person deposit offers. But most likely we won't be in inside staterooms and not going for 20 days. We found that's a wee bit long for us. Read Less
Sail Date: January 2010
Noordam is very nice classic ship and it's not the kind of ship i would choose for Med because most of it's restaurants are inward oriented . Two very small pools which are very busy most of the times .The sunbeds are very ... Read More
Noordam is very nice classic ship and it's not the kind of ship i would choose for Med because most of it's restaurants are inward oriented . Two very small pools which are very busy most of the times .The sunbeds are very close to each other and no small tables to put the drinks .The back pool on the ninth floor has no umbrellas so it was very difficult for those looking for shade to find. The main seating dining room some times was half fool and the people on the other restaurant were waiting for a long time to find a table The food was very good and the service also the prices are good. The hotel fee of 11 USD per person per day is very high. The barbecue night and the beach party should be planned on the day at sea and not in Barcelona. The stateroom was very good Read Less
Sail Date: January 2010
We just returned from our 10-day cruise on the Noordam. We have mixed feelings about our experience. We are a 56 and 60 year old couple, and took the cruise as our belated 25th wedding anniversary gift to ourselves. Boarding was slick ... Read More
We just returned from our 10-day cruise on the Noordam. We have mixed feelings about our experience. We are a 56 and 60 year old couple, and took the cruise as our belated 25th wedding anniversary gift to ourselves. Boarding was slick and relatively efficient...even though they said the terminal would not be open for embarkation prior to 11:00 AM, it was clear that many people arrived before that time...nonetheless, boarding did start relatively soon after that time, and as passengers arrived, they were put in a holding area (with refreshments from Holland America, a nice touch). Ports/Excursions: Grand Turk/Caicos - fabulous excursion on the Catamaran Sail and Snorkel - great boat and snorkeling for a long time. Then they took us to a beach (previously mentioned in excursion description) for a "beach party". We had a ball! One crew member was pouring rum shots directly into people's mouths, the crew was going back and forth to the boat for rum punch, etc. If you can imagine a bunch of 50+ year olds acting like kids (I know, some could think of that as gross or disgusting), but it was so funny that we splurged for the video of the snorkeling (done by scuba diver) and beach party. Was the most enjoyable of all the excursions. Half Moon Cay - had to skip due to gale force winds and concerns of the captain over passenger safety - unfortunate, but understandable and we fully supported the captain's decision. Samana, D.R. - before arrival, the ship's staff appeared to do everything to scare the passengers regarding the citizens of this country - "don't allow them to do anything for you, they only want money" - I do understand the need to provide "cultural" information, but I think they went too far and scared many of the older folks, a couple of whom told us they cancelled their tours. We had to be tendered in (as cruisers were being tendered, the ship's crew was also off-loading 17,000+ lbs of food and supplies for Haiti they had collected from other HA ships - so some delays occurred but no one was upset). We did a whale watching tour - fairly disappointing - too small of a boat (one level with no canopy, rock-hard fiberglass benches against ocean swells, never got closer than at least a quarter mile from a whale, all the boats raced toward the whales when one was seen, people on the outside of the benches got so much salt-spray they handed out rain slickers, and the bouncing could have caused physical problems for some). And then to top it off, the crew said they were taking us to a "beach" for some relaxation, a side-trip not mentioned in the description, and which led all the folks on the boat to demand immediate return to the ship - but we still sat in the boat at the beach pier for 20 minutes while one of the boat crew "told his boss of our decision." Clearly an attempt to milk passengers for food and trinket purchases on the beach. I heard that a number of people complained and the response was that many more people signed up for the tour than expected, resulting in more boat craft being needed...unmentioned stop at the beach was "being looked in to by the ship's staff..." the excursion was supposedly run by Gray Line Tours (the guide had that name on his shirt with the normal Gray Line logo), so we were a bit surprised by the disappointing nature of it. Bonaire, Curacao, and Aruba - all were very enjoyable, including excursions - pretty much what you would expect of islands for snorkeling and beaches. Great jewelry shopping, bought my wife a nice new ring/diamond in Aruba to replace her original wedding ring which had been damaged some months ago (I don't think she "accidentally" damaged it in preparation for the cruise!) Ship's Crew, Stateroom Steward and Service - Fabulous, very polite, attentive, prompt, seemed to anticipate what your needs were and provide them before you had to do so yourself. Ship's Food - Good to Excellent, sometimes inconsistent; Pinnacle Grill's lobster was excellent according to my wife, but my "Silver Medallion" beef NY strip steak was less tender than I'd expect for paying a $20.00 premium per person. Pinnacle Grill service and atmosphere were excellent. We only had four dinners in the main dining room - service inconsistent, sometimes waited very long between some courses...on the last night we were in the main dining room for the special "Chef's meal", my steak was overcooked the first time and when he replaced it, the second one was also overcooked, which I ate not wanting to wait to eat until after my wife was finished. As compared to our two previous Carnival cruises, there appeared to be some evidence of downgrading of the overall quality of the food. We have not recently done a Carnival cruise to know if that line has also done downgrading. One thing we did note on HA is that they provide you with the food portions when dealing with the entrees - we thought that is a great method, as we noticed far less food left over on plates than we had seen on Carnival cruises where many entree portions we up to the passenger to take on their own. Intangibles - The average age of the passengers was probably in the mid to upper 60's range, many folks had canes/walkers/scooters, appeared quite frail or somewhat immobile. Now I am not trying to bash oldsters...they've earned their cruises...and my brothers and I help care for my 84+ Mom and 86+ Aunt so I do understand their needs and their limitations. Having done some research on this ship, I did anticipate a somewhat older, more refined group from what you'd find on a Carnival ship - but some publications said HA was trying to attract a younger crowd and succeeding at that to some extent. My wife and I are not big partiers any more, but also are not ready for retirement homes. There appeared to be little energy on board, and the crew did not appear to try to inject any. We saw less than 10 children younger than 12 on board (2 were infants and one a toddler) had to be incredibly boring for the kids; I'd estimate maybe 10-15 couples under age 40. Entertainment venues were fairly quiet after 10PM...I understand HA is trying to attract a younger crowd but saw no evidence of success. Activities were pretty much confined to spa services (which seemed to not be taken advantage of too much, based on the number of attempts at trying to show reduced prices via "sales"), shopping talks, destination/excursion talks, bingo, stage shows (with one great entertainer, 2 somewhat good, and the rest fairly mundane), and a breast-cancer benefit walk on board. If you are looking for a more energetic crowd or pace, even if you yourself do not party very much, I would stick with the Carnival line. My wife and I, while probably not included in Carnival's target market, look to others to provide some energy to us and this ship's passengers were incapable of that. We probably will not be back on HA again any time soon. One last thing - I have never, ever, ever, run into a bunch of more rude passengers than on this cruise - even judging that against several Carnival cruises where kids were sometimes running rampant. I don't know if it was the age group (I hope not...), or that there were a couple charter-type groups, or what. But people just shoved in front of us virtually anywhere there was any kind of line, did not wait for elevators to empty before barging in, just hurriedly stepped in front of some frail folks who weren't moving fast enough, yelled to table servers to come clean their table, walked into you without excusing themselves, etc. We noticed the rudeness from the first evening, and at first thought it was just a couple people. But after the first night, we realized it was a trait of most of the group. My wife and I counted one time when someone said "Excuse Me", and it came from a young woman about 25 years old at disembarkation, who bumped into me with one of her bags. The staff did not deserve some of the comments passengers made to them...the staff was fabulous, smiling, and efficient, but in heavy dining times, sometimes could not keep up with the table turnover pace. Some others have commented on language problems on HA ships...we did not experience much difficulty of that sort. We felt that simple conversations with ship staff were fairly easy - some more so than others. Now, if you wanted to get into technical jargon, no that won't be easy on the ship. But every morning there was a smile, how are you, is your room OK today, are you happy with your meal, etc. And I sometimes wonder if the expectations of some of the passengers on this cruise line are a bit outdated...we are no longer in a purely northern European-based culture, and conversing might take some patience and effort as the words used in English are not always easily understood in other languages, and sometimes the staff had to pause to try to think of the right word to use. Disembarkation was organized as far as it was set up; however, at the disembarkation deck, they really needed more "traffic cops" so to speak, or at least someone with a loud voice announcing what "colors and numbers" could leave the ship. We arrived at precisely the time we were told to go to the gangway...and found a huge crowd of people backed up in every direction. Now I is expect that because some people don't read directions given to them the day before...but the only direction given to the crowd was a small poster on an easel near the gangway that had colored tags added as groups could leave...but you could not see the poster from anywhere but near the gangway...and so without an announcement, people in the back had no idea if it was their turn or not, leading to some maneuvering between people to get to the front, only to be turned back at the gangway. Read Less
Sail Date: December 2009
Noordam Cruise, December 1 - 21, 2009 1. General Comments: A pleasant cruise, but with issues. This was our longest cruise ever; it was also our sixth with HAL. While we were over 1,800 passengers on each cruise, over 300 took both ... Read More
Noordam Cruise, December 1 - 21, 2009 1. General Comments: A pleasant cruise, but with issues. This was our longest cruise ever; it was also our sixth with HAL. While we were over 1,800 passengers on each cruise, over 300 took both segments. This was certainly one way to taste various islands from the Bahamas to Curacao and Aruba. Passengers were of all ages; there were not many children as this was still before school break. We booked a cabin with verandah on the seventh deck, pretty far forward. We had a good view from our verandah of the personnel working in the bridge extension during arrivals and departures. The cruise had seven sea days which were very relaxing between all the stops. During the first week we were "entertained" watching the installation of Christmas decorations throughout the ship by personnel from a Dutch firm (Dianthus International) specializing in shipboard floral decorations. 2. Travel to Florida and Embarking: We made our own plane and hotel arrangements, arriving in Ft Lauderdale the day before embarking. We used the hotel shuttle to the pier the next morning. Having done check-in on-line at home got us through the check-in procedures very quickly. We were in our cabin by 1:30; luggage came around 3:00. The usual lunch was served in the Lido areas. One interesting item to note is if you order a drink while the ship is still in US waters: you may find Florida tax on your bill. This seemed to depend on the ship's computer system; on Day 1 we were not taxed, but on Day 10 we were. 3. The Noordam: This was our first time on this size HAL ship. Unfortunately, bigger is not better. Our cabin felt smaller than on the earlier ships. There were now no storage shelves or drawers in the desk/vanity. There were fewer shelves in the bathroom. While this may not have been a problem for a ten day cruise, it made for a bit of a bother for twenty days. Closet hanging space was fine. The cabin has a small safe and a small refrigerator. There is a TV that receives movies, CNN, ESPN, movies, shipboard information, and other channels. You get a daily planner in your cabin the night prior. You need to read it carefully as there are very few announcements on the PA system - a blessing from the constant chatter by cruise directors of earlier cruises. The "cruise NY Times" is delivered daily to your cabin. 4. Meals: First, the good comments: Buffet in the Lido is good and varied. Very popular (have to hunt for seats) for breakfast and lunch. We dined in the Pinnacle twice; excellent service, food, and wines. Well worth the extra charge. We also tried the Italian Canaletto Restaurant. There is no extra charge for this place; you do have to make reservations. Quite decent food and service. The plate of cotton candy between the main course and dessert is a hoot! Then we come to the Vista Dining Room. Food, wine, and service were great. Organization was a disaster. The third deck is reserved for the two seatings, 5:45 and 8:00 only. The second deck is for HAL's idea of open seating ("as you wish dining") from 5:15 to 9:00. The ship's letter states "Guests in open seating may make daily reservations any time between 5:15pm and 9:00pm." These reservations may work if you are a group of three or more. It did not work for a party of two who wanted a table for two. The only reservations accepted were 5:15 or 8:00. Period. Any other time, we had to walk in and be seated with others, or we could wait and be summoned by pager when a table for two was available. Waits lasted from 10 to 30 minutes. After more than a week of this lack of being able to make a reservation for the time or table we wanted, we were asked at dinner by an officer (one stripe) how things were. My wife gave the officer an earful of what she thought of "as you wish dining." The man was clearly taken aback and promised to fix matters. From the next day to the end of the cruise, we received a daily reservation for 7PM for always the same table for 2. I detail our story above to caution readers who want to have a pleasant dinner at a table for two at the time they wish. You may have to get feisty to get what you want...and to get what HAL claims is available. Continuing on the bigger is not better theme, the dining room is now rather noisy. There is no live music anymore; rarely can you hear the canned music. Also, there is no more parade of Baked Alaska with sparklers. I assume the place is now just too big to handle such niceties. And remember that if you go the "as you wish dining" route, you will most probably be at a different table each night, and you will have different wait staff each night. There are other food outlets around the ship as well as plenty of bars. You cannot go hungry or thirsty. Our favorite hangout was the Ocean Bar; the Neptune Trio was excellent and greatly appreciated by dancers. Probably due to the number of passengers, the former Captain's reception is now just a "drink with the Captain" before one of the evening shows. 5. Dressing for meals: For each ten-day segment it was two formal, one formal "optional," and the rest casual. Most people went with formal on the optional nights. A good number - perhaps half - of men at formal nights were in tuxedos or suits; some who did not want to dress up just did not appear for these meals. 6. Shore Excursions: A word of advice: make your shore excursion reservations on-line! Otherwise you will have to stand in line on board at the excursion counter. The on-line billing goes direct on your credit card and not on your shipboard account. If you know the ports of call and want to travel by yourself, then, of course, you don't need the ship's tour office. HAL's tour prices are not cheap; you are paying for the convenience of having the ship organize the tour rather than you doing it after you get ashore. Also, if you obtain your tour through the ship's staff, you have support when there is a problem. We did delay departure at one stop for 30 minutes until the last couple was delivered shipside. Since we visited some eleven islands, we did the range of shore trips: on our own, city and island tours, distillery and brewery tours, etc. There are plenty of choices. And if you really aren't interested in a particular place, remaining on ship is also a pleasant - and peaceful - option. 7. Shipboard entertainment: The ship has a daily schedule full of activities for all tastes: sports, lectures, bridge, bingo (for serious players!), etc, etc. Computer classes were very popular. We only saw a couple segments of the evening shows and they looked fine. However, you have to decide how to fit the show with your dining time. And this has to include getting to the theater early as many folks camp out there way ahead of show time. We were not that interested and gave the shows a miss. We did hear mutterings around on the lack of seats for people who arrived "on time." The casino was of good size. Duty-free liquor on board was reasonable; you order your liquor and it is delivered to your cabin the day before disembarking. If you are flying, though, how do you take it home? There will be plenty of opportunities for you to have your picture taken by the ship's photographers--pricey, but a good souvenir. There are various venues for night owls. The Explorations Cafe (library, coffee bar and internet connection center) was busy. 8. Tipping: Changed from previous cruises. You now are assessed a daily $11 per person "hotel charge." According to the HAL literature, this is not only for your cabin and dining room staffs, but also for the people "behind the scenes" such as the dishwashers and laundry personnel. Your liquor, wine, and soda bill has 15 percent added for those personnel. The workers seem to be OK with this system as we felt no pressure for anything extra. The pitches that were made were asking to be named for providing excellent service in the end of cruise survey. Apparently cabin stewards and wait staff get better assignments if they are named in these surveys. Note that there are no questions in the end of cruise survey on the topic of "as you wish dining." 9. Settling of Accounts: During your cruise, anything you purchase on board (drinks, souvenirs, tours, duty free items, photos, even bingo) is punched into a computer; you sign one copy of the ticket and you receive a copy. The morning before you disembark you receive a preliminary copy of your bill; the final copy arrives the next morning when you leave. 10. Disembarking: Your bags have to be out before 1AM, and breakfast is early. Your bags are color coded. You receive a letter with your bags' color codes informing you of your disembarking time slot, which starts around 7:30. Pay attention to this slot as there are no announcements on the PA system for groups to disembark. Strong recommendation: Use the HAL "Signature Express Baggage Service." It is not cheap ($17/person for transfer to airport; $19/person for the service; and whatever your airline charges for luggage). You receive special bar coded tags for your luggage. Put them on your bags, put the bags outside your cabin door, and you do not see the bags again until you land at your final airport. The catch? This is only for certain domestic airlines (and Air Canada), you have to travel all the way on the same airline, and this is only good within the US (and Canada). You also receive e-ticket boarding passes which also give you the luggage tag number. You arrive at the airport and can go straight to security and on to your gate Downside to this system: You have to get up way early. We were the first ones off the ship at 7:30, zipped through immigration, got on a bus around 7:45, and were at the Ft Lauderdale airport by 8:30. One other downside to this service is that your flight has to leave after 11:30. Ours left at 11:35, and the system worked. 11. Mariner Society Members: Members will have received information from HAL on the refurbishing of the society. No matter what is written in the booklet for the various classes, it appears that actual benefits/activities depend on the ship. On this cruise, we neither received nor heard anything on the first segment. On the second segment we received the new pins (kitschier than the previous ones) and were invited to a brunch for Society members. We did receive each a tile at the end of the brunch. Interestingly, it was a generic HAL tile, and not ship-specific. 12. Conclusion: This was not an HAL cruise of old. The current cruise market wants larger ships with the resulting decline in amenities, service, and ambiance. We will be back on HAL, but it will be with lowered expectations. Unfortunately, the "old days" are gone and unless one travels on the true luxury lines like Crystal (which we have done), we will have to adjust to these new, more impersonal conditions. If anyone has questions, send me an e-mail at Fred Groth San Antonio, TX Read Less
Sail Date: December 2009
Background Information: We have been on several cruises, with many different lines, and this was our first Holland America experience. We have 2 disabled guests, and 2 children in our group. Hotel Info: When leaving from Ft Lauderdale, ... Read More
Background Information: We have been on several cruises, with many different lines, and this was our first Holland America experience. We have 2 disabled guests, and 2 children in our group. Hotel Info: When leaving from Ft Lauderdale, we ALWAYS stay at The Hilton Garden Inn. It's just a couple minutes from the port, and they allow you to leave your car for the duration of your cruise. They also provide transportation to and from the ship. The rooms are great and the breakfast is amazing! Ship Info: We booked basic balcony rooms for myself and my parents (my sister and her family had one of the penthouse suites and it was amazing!). We also booked the first seating dinner, and studied all of over options before sailing. Activities: This is where it got kind of dicey for us. There were few activities geared towards young people or families. The major problem we had was when there were activities we were interested in, they were often taking place at the same time as something else we were interested in. So there would be times where we wanted to do something and missed it, and then the rest of the day nothing else was offered. Things were not spaced out very well. In addition the daily update of things to do was not listed in your normal chronological manner, it was more of a highlights format. It made it difficult to plan your day, as you would have to look through it several times to find out what was next. Service: Holland America is known for their world class service and they didn't fall short of expectations. Especially for the disabled guests, they went above and beyond to make your vacation as easy as anyone else's. We loved the towels and drinks offered at embarkation from ports of call! The crew was always smiling, and many of them learned your name. No one ever walked by you without greeting you. Port & Shore Excursions: We took a couple excursions, and didn't have any problems. The prices were pretty much in line with other cruise lines. I didn't like how we didn't have the ability to view excursions, and book them from our tv like many other lines too. In fact you weren't able to check your onboard account in your room either. To make up for that though, the had several self service screens throughout the ship that could book your excursion, print your tickets, and also check your account. Those were a nice touch. Stateroom: Our room was nice enough, and we liked being able to have the divider opened b/t our room and our parents room on the balconies. For my wife and I, and our baby the room became very cramped. We were unable to use the sitting area at all. It's one of the smallest rooms we've had in a long time. I'm not sure if that is representative of the rest of the ship or not. There was plenty of closet space, cabinets and storage under the bed, which helped! The bathroom was adequate as any ship. It often smelled though. Not a big deal..haha. The TV was small, and far away from the bed...but it got us through the downtimes. Being able to watch a dvd in your room was a welcome treat. Dining: The dining was good enough for me, but I'm not too picky. I will say they "ran out" of quite a few things during the trip, which was odd. The lines at the lido were often slow (not long) and it lacked variety for a 10 day cruise. Children's Clubs: We knew going in that my daughter (baby) was too young to take advantage of the kids clubs. However, we DID NOT appreciate a note on the first day saying your baby is not welcome in the ships pools. I understand why they said it, but it was lacking in tact, and certainly not a great way to start our cruise. My nephew was one of only a few kids on this cruise (10 y/o) and once we finally convinced him to go to the kids club...he loved it! Entertainment: The shows weren't bad..they were pretty much up to par. However there was a seating issue in the theater. It seemed like it wasn't big enough to hold everyone from the first seating. It was also lacking ample seating for disabled guests. There were quite a few wheelchairs and walkers on this cruise, and no where for them to go. We often waited for the second seating show b/c it wasn't as full. They featured a favorite comedian of mine, Fred Klett, and a fantastic performer who had appeared on "America's Got Talent." Those were both nice treats. The cruise director and his staff were very friendly and polite. Disembarkation: The disembarkation process was pretty smooth, and went well. If you have been on a cruise before, you won't need to go to the disembarkation talk. You'll know what to do. My only complaint was my transfer to the airport. They had me sit on that bus for about 45 minutes waiting for more people to come. No one ever did. In that time they could have made at least 3 trips to the airport and's across the street! Summary: When it comes to Holland America, its a mixed bag, like many lines. It depends on why you are going. If you are going to party, and get wild...this is not the line for you. If you are a more old fashioned cruiser, or someone who needs extra will love this line! If you care about service and tradition..Holland America has it. If you need to be entertained and stimulated all the'll want to look elsewhere. Holland America tends to have a better variety of destinations. Will I go back? Probably not anytime soon, as we are a young family. My parents would go back tomorrow if they could. I hope this helps. Read Less
1 Helpful Vote
Sail Date: November 2009
This was our 4th cruise with HAL and 2nd in Noordam and we did notice quite a lot of changes in the past year. Embarkation was excellent,well organised and speedy. We were 'upgraded' to a cabin unfortunately situated immediately ... Read More
This was our 4th cruise with HAL and 2nd in Noordam and we did notice quite a lot of changes in the past year. Embarkation was excellent,well organised and speedy. We were 'upgraded' to a cabin unfortunately situated immediately below the lido deck so from 5.30am we were awoken by chairs and tables being scraped over the floor above, this went on all day until after the midnight buffet(no good for late rising or early nights!) Cabin service was not good, often not made up until early afternoon and not as clean as on previous cruises. The Cruise Director Eric was very good and funnier than the show comedian! Activities were well organised and internet classes were excellent. The printed programme format has changed and is a little difficult to follow. The food on the Ship was excellent as usual and the staff in the Vista Dining Room were superb,service was fast and efficient and we were always greeted by name (even when we saw them ashore). We don't smoke and found smoking on the ship intrusive, walking through the Casino to the Show Lounge it reeked of smoke and unfortunately we had smokers in the next cabin so couldn't sit on our verandah. (Some Cruise lines are restricting smoking to the upper deck areas, wish HAL would do the same) Mostly it was a great cruise we made some good friends, the weather was beautiful and most of the ports visited were interesting and varied.THis is a VA category cabin, but it doesn't warrant this category as the noise from the Lido Deck outside seating area is VERY intrusive from 5.30am until well after the midnight buffet. Chairs and tables are scraped across the floor above and it sounds as if they are coming through the ceiling disturbing sleep late at night and first thing in the morning. Smoking in adjacent cabins was a BIG problem the corridor outside reeked and we couldn't sit on our verandah because of the smell. Read Less
Sail Date: December 2008
With great anticipation, my partner and I were waiting for this cruise. This was my 25 cruise, 8th with Holland America and my partner's 12th cruise overall, so we knew what to expect. Once the plane had touched down in Miami and ... Read More
With great anticipation, my partner and I were waiting for this cruise. This was my 25 cruise, 8th with Holland America and my partner's 12th cruise overall, so we knew what to expect. Once the plane had touched down in Miami and we had collected our luggage and been met by the Holland America meet and greet staff we knew we were in good hands. They were very organized, rounded everyone up and took us to our bus for the trip to Port Everglades. We didn't have a chatty driver this trip but he got us to our destination in good time. Embarkation was a breeze and we were in our cabin within half an hour of arriving. The main disappointment here was there was no boarding photo. Obviously they had packed up early. With this being a Christmas cruise it would have been nice to have a memento of the occasion. Rather than bring the subject up again, I will mention here that the ship's photographers on this cruise were the rudest and laziest that I had ever encountered. In particular the 2 male photographers. After exploring the ship and making it just in time to the embarkation buffet we had the usual lifeboat drill. No longer the exciting event that it used to be. I guess now will be a good time to break the cruise down into categories. Since I have reached dinner on the first night I'll start with dining. Dining for the most part on the Noordam was great. The food and service in the main dining room was good to very good. We had open seating and managed to get a table for 2 every night but one. The trick is to make your reservation promptly at 8am each morning. The service does seem better if you eat earlier than at 8pm for example. Then the dining stewards seem very rushed as their tables all seem to be at different points of a meal. The one exception to good service was the night we decided to eat in the Lido for dinner. It was very disorganized and slapdash. The system of half self serve and half table service just doesn't work. The best meal of the cruise was christmas eve and the most disappointing was christmas day. The christmas day menu was very ordinary and the dessert selection poor although the plum pudding was decent. Whereas the "international" christmas eve menu that included roast goose was excellent. Meals at the Lido for breakfast and lunch had a good variety and with little in the way of lineups or problems in finding seats. The dining room for lunch on the one occasion that we tried it was excellent, as was the dining room afternoon tea. The Cabin. Our cabin was located right at the front of the ship and was a verandah cabin. It was spacious enough for the two of us and had ample storage. The verandah had only a slight overhang so a good deal of sunlight was on the seating area and brightened the cabin. The DVD player that was a part of the cabin fixtures proved an excellent addition as it made up for the entertainment on board that was once again sadly lacking. A good selection of dvds were available in the library for $3. Shore Excursions. For this cruise the standard selection of Caribbean excursions were available. As we had been to many of these stops already we satisfied ourselves with sitting by the pool on a half deserted ship. It made for more space in the pool. We did however tale the Malibu Beach Break in Barbados which was very pleasant and a trip to Trunk Bay in St Johns. We also enjoyed our time in Half Moon Cay. Although the ship is here all day, get off early for the choice seating even if you have booked a clamshell to sit under. Overall this was an enjoyable cruise with only little things to bother us. Cabin service not as good as it used to be. Unenforced rules yet mentioned: children in adults pool, saving of deck chairs etc. Rude photoshop staff and still no real mint sauce carried in the dining room. Disembarkation was easy and quick with the only problems being at the FT Lauderdale airport. It seems this is the only airport that has problems when cruiseship passengers want to go home. We have departed from many others and this is definitely the worst. If you have a choice, fly home from Miami. We enjoyed our time on the Noordam and will travel with Holland America in the future. However our next cruise will be completely different as we will try an Atlantis charter cruise on the Mariner of the Seas. Read Less
Sail Date: November 2008
With rare exceptions if one reads the reviews, HA delivers a good value experience. Yes there are some cabin stewards and waiters better than others, but even the "bad" ones are good! I will not rehash all the positive ... Read More
With rare exceptions if one reads the reviews, HA delivers a good value experience. Yes there are some cabin stewards and waiters better than others, but even the "bad" ones are good! I will not rehash all the positive information that is contained in dozens of positive reviews as they are mostly spot on. We signed up for two, 10 days cruises to the Southern Caribbean. Unlike other "20 day" cruises, while the ports of call were different, the shows and menus were repeats. Maybe this was obvious to everyone but us. Unfortunately, the entertainment was so-so and the lecturer [Olga] was TERRIBLE! I wonder who interviewed her! I guess once you have heard Dr. Wolf one has high expectations. I could describe making oatmeal more exciting than any of her lectures. Maybe ourselves are to blame for this drop in quality of entertainment on HA. Many people, including Cruise Critics, we talked to "lied" on the final cruise survey! So as not to hurt anyones' feelings they admitted they gave everything high ratings which were contrary to our dinner conversations. For example, one only needed to count the several dozen people who attended Olga's presentations verses Dr. Wolf's standing room only and one had to arrive 1/2 hour before the start if one wanted a seat! Yes, there are some negatives at HA. The ripoff charges for the Internet which is SLOW! Fortunately at every port there are nearby Internet Cafes which charge $5 - $6 per hour. We are compiling a port list of location and charges. Yes, the photo prices are also a ripoff as are the bottle wine prices. At least these are discretionary items. I would be remiss if I did not mention what an outstanding job was done by our Cruise Director Drew Murdock. With the shear strength of his personality and wit, he made every event he hosted a "good time" Unfortunately he is leaving the ship in January for 6 months! One final comment about Half Moon Cay. We have been there 5 times and the problem seems to be the same; not enough beach chairs. This time it was worse as the Westerdam was there at the same time. Half the day was spent waiting for the staff to bring out the chairs which started 2 hours AFTER we landed. It seems that the staff would have known the day before that two ships would be there and the extra chairs could be put in lace the previous day! Read Less
Sail Date: November 2008
Embarkation was grouped in classes - those in Veranda suites and staterooms went first. Upon arriving, cruisers were greeted with smiles and a welcome, but no Caribbean music and exotic drinks were evident. A quiet arrival that allowed us ... Read More
Embarkation was grouped in classes - those in Veranda suites and staterooms went first. Upon arriving, cruisers were greeted with smiles and a welcome, but no Caribbean music and exotic drinks were evident. A quiet arrival that allowed us to tour the corners of the ship while we waited for our stateroom to be ready. It took a long time to get our luggage, each piece arriving separating. The entertainment was average to excellent. The worst was the comedian who tended to bash the elderly (it was his style, but I found it very insulting), and the best was a pianist and violinist. There performances kept me spellbound. The line up of dancers and singers did a fine job in their Broadway-like performances. Poolside there were limited events - mostly geared for the older crowd. No silly "best men's legs" competition on this ship! However, I think I might have rather enjoyed that. :) Dancing was had in a few couple lounges nightly - but take lessons before going on this cruise, as you won't see too many out on the dance floor that don't know all the moves. Seeing all the semi-professionals take to the floor kept my husband and I tabled watching them rather than joining in. The dining room was elegant in appearance, but I found the service very slow, and on several occasions mistakes in orders were made. The Lido Buffet selections for lunch varied, but there were specific items that are typically included that Noordam did not offer. The food stations where food was prepared by cooks (Breakfast and Lunch buffets)were always a tangle of people. There were no defined beginning and ending points to the lines, and therefore, I witnessed a certain amount of confusion, myself included! The Town and Countryside excursions we took on Aruba and Curacao were not well done. The tour never stopped to afford us to take some great pictures. The windows were smudgy, and so taking shots while in motion was not a good idea, either. However, the excursion on Dominica was excellent - where the tour guide gave us amble opportunities to take pictures at scenic points. That tour guide got a nice tip from us. HAL has changed its docking location in St. Thomas where we had to taxi in to the downtown district ($4 pp - $16 roundtrip per couple). There was meager shopping at the dock, but the famous shopping arena is downtown. While in port (every one), staff washed and painted the hull, keeping this ship looking gorgeous. And it is a beauty. Read Less
Sail Date: October 2008
My wife and I recently did the transatlantic crossing on the Noordam starting at Civitavecchia and ending at Ft. Lauderdale. As usual with all Holland American Cruises we have taken, embarkation was amazingly easy...On board in just ... Read More
My wife and I recently did the transatlantic crossing on the Noordam starting at Civitavecchia and ending at Ft. Lauderdale. As usual with all Holland American Cruises we have taken, embarkation was amazingly easy...On board in just minutes. This cruise was advertised as a "Big Band Cruise". Now by HAL standards, I'm a youngster at 55 and my wife and I were probably in the youngest 20% on the cruise. That said I like Big Band music. Give me all the Count Bassie, Kenton, Clark Terry charts you can throw at me...I love it. Unfortunately after we booked the cruise we learned that the band was Guy Lombardo and the Royal Canadians, with Al Pierson. Guy died in 1967. His was never a big band, but a ballroom dance band. When we got on board we found the average age of each band member was in the upper 10% on the cruise. Some ladies in their 70's complained that when they were growing up in the late 40s, they hated Guy Lombardo, because their parents like him. The band members were so old that they had trouble standing up for solos. They had no vocalist, but Pierson and a very old sax player occasionally tried to sing...badly. It hurt to listen to this little nine-piece band do Miller and Dorsey charts. They slowed down everything they played. Many of the French Canadians on board had never heard of Lombardo (I guess since he has been dead for 41 years) and would ask "who is Gee Lombardo." Because of this we began referring to the band as "Gee Lombard and the Dead Canadians." The rest of the music on board wasn't much better, with one big exception. Jimmy Maddox in the piano bar was great and routinely would have the place packed on most "at sea nights." This guy was very talented and had a winning personality. He was a lot of fun. HAL has one awful piano bar guy (JP) but as bad as JP is...Maddox is at the opposite end of the scale. He made 14 days a lot of fun. My one complaint with HAL is that a younger staff makes bad decisions concerning certain entertainment. For instance they forced Maddox to have an Elton John and a Jimmy Buffet night. The room would empty more and more after each Elton Jon song. The average age on this cruise had to be 67...meaning most were never big Elton John fans, let along Parrott Heads. Buffet is unknown outside of the US and passengers from Europe and the Aussies had never heard of him. All this reminds me of the time I was on an RCL transatlantic cruise and the older passengers, who were the majority on the cruise, were complaining about the music trivia contests (because they had never heard of any of the songs). The staff felt good when the announced they were having an Oldies music contest and the room was packed. However, for the 20-something staff ABBA was old...for the passengers it was still music 20-30 years ahead of what they knew. The wanted songs from Oklahoma. On this cruise HAL refused to change the plan in mid-stream so to speak. Instead of having Jimmy Buffet night, they needed"Music from the Movies (30s-to 60s) night. (Despite being middle aged and being a youngster...we found plenty of interesting people to spend time with.) Enough on the music. As usual the food was very good and much better than our most recent RCL cruise. The new open sitting that some guests could pick had a number of people complaining o f long waits and poor service. We went with the 8pm, late seating, as we always enjoyed sunsets from the Crows Nest lounge. HAL also made sure you never went to dinner on an empty stomach by passing out cold and hot appetizers in the top deck bar. Also the cocktails of day were large and reasonably priced. Plus you never had to go the appetizer hour hungry either as there was plenty of food at the daily 4pm teas. As a tribute to the age of passengers on this ship here is the description of one cocktail of the day..."Hand Shaken Mojito...A laxative and famous cocktail." No one was sure what else they were mixing in a mojito to make it a laxative. The Pinnacle Grill specialty restaurant was simply excellent and worth the $20 per person added charge. It is a steak place, so order a steak. We also give very high marks to the New England clam chowder...a little different but as good as any chowder I have ever had. Also do not miss the crème boule. the cafeteria style restaurant had what seemed like a simple job. He handed you your tray and dishes as you went down the line. However the guy was amazing...He remembered your name and also noted other passengers who you were sitting with on a regular basis. He'd either tell you where they were sitting or how long ago they had been at breakfast...all without you ever asking. He got an envelop at the end of the cruise. As good as the food service was the room service had slipped a notch since we were last on HAL. There were candy wrappers on the floor under a desk when we checked in. We left them there wanting to see how long it would be before they got picked up. After seven days we stopped the experiment picked them up. We heard other passengers also complain about room service from both customers in the high end suites and inside cabins. Entertainment was average or maybe a little below average. It was the usual stuff, singer, magician, pianist, yada-yada-yada. The cruise director however (Drew) had a very quick and usually sarcastic wit, which I enjoyed, but perhaps others did not. The one thing that amazed with an older passenger list was that they kept the disco open despite no one showing up. They would advertise two-for-one drinks in the disco and then get really upset with you if they caught you walking out with both drinks to go to another public room or event. Like other posts about this ship...the laundry service was not as prompt as it was during past cruises. I packed light knowing there would be a good laundry service on board, only to be surprised and regularly down to my last clothes, before a late shipment would arrive. The shore excursions...seemed to be typical of cruise lines...over priced and crowded. We found take taxi tours or city buses were the way to go with one rather unpleasant exception. For just 1 Euro you can get a round trip tour of Monaco on any of three city bus lines. My wife and I did exactly this. It was 10:30 on a Sunday morning. We were in different seats on the bus, when my wife took over her jacket plus the purse she had worn across her chest. She laid them on seat next to her on an only half filled bus. Five minutes later a conductor got on board to check for tickets when she discovered some had stolen her $350, two credit cards and her passport. The police at the main cop shop in Monte Carlo were very nice and eventually found us an Inspector-Lt. who spoke English. She completed a theft report and gave us a copy...which was very important. She also helped us cancel one of the credit cards. Here is a tip. US 800-numbers can not be reached from Europe. This made it a little tougher in getting the cards cancelled. The ship's front desk personal were also helpful and gave us directions to the US Consulate at our next stop and helped us cancel the credit card we could not cancel at the police us free phone calls. The day next we were in Barcelona and made a bee-line to the US Consulate, where we found the lobby filled with Americans who had their passports stolen over the weekend in Spain. We were the only victims of a crime in Monaco. This caused my wife to lament, "Who would have thought I'd be a crime victim on a Sunday morning in Monte Carlo?" It caused me to comment that we were planning to be pickpocket'ed in either Rome or Spain but not Monaco. The group waiting for passports covered a large demographic ranging from college students to older businessmen to tourists. While waiting to file the paperwork for an emergency passport, a magazine in the lobby had an article titled, "50 Ways to Have Your Purse Stolen in Barcelona." The staff was very efficient and a $100 emergency passport was issued in about 75 minutes. The other stops on the cruise in Spain at Cadiz and Cartagena were very nice. Of course, our passports were in the cabin safe, and I kept my hand on my wallet constantly. We walked both cities with ease. In Madeira, we did hire a taxi to give us a 3-hour tour of the island for 100-Euros. It was worth the money and was cheaper per person than the tours arranged by the ship. On the ship I signed up for the Internet service at $100 for 270 minutes. (It is list at 250 minutes, but they gave everyone bonus minutes.) The download by satellite was very slow (and has been very slow on every cruise I have been on). If you enjoy watching ugly Americans or Canadians watch passengers scream at the young lady who is the manager of the internet facilities over slow download times. It makes you proud to be a German or an Italian, but definitely not an American. I had to keep in touch via e-mail. However, our advice is too either find a public library or an Internet Cafe when on shore and send as many e-mails as you can prior to getting back on board the ship. I enjoy doing this as it always gives me a different look at a local port. Now I have taken several other HAL cruises that were over 2 weeks in duration. On our last one in 2005, we had three passengers die during the cruise. This is of course due to the age of some of the passengers. I was not aware of any deaths on this cruise...but a passenger was medivac'ed off the ship at a port in Spain and on our last night a Coast Guard helicopter flew out to the ship, while we where still 12 hours out of Ft. Lauderdale to medivac a passenger off the ship. A HAL employee once explained that she believed too many children want to send their elderly parents off on one last great adventure before putting them in a nursing home, when she told us that during non-summer cruises she believed they were averaging one-death a cruise. One last thing. HAL is one of the cruise lines that hit you up for tips in your bill. However, I have found that if you simply give a $1 bill or a Euro coin each time you are in a bar or large public-room for the server...good service suddenly becomes outstanding. The peanut bottle is never empty for long, the hot appetizers stop at your table first out of the kitchen. I find it is really appreciated when you are ordering something a glass of water, you give a small tip and suddenly you are getting other services you were not anticipating. Read Less
Sail Date: October 2008
This was our second Transatlantic and third cruise with HAL and I had forgotten all the little thing that make the differences. Fresh O.J. in the mornings, worldly foods, friendly English speaking staff and much more that I could go on ... Read More
This was our second Transatlantic and third cruise with HAL and I had forgotten all the little thing that make the differences. Fresh O.J. in the mornings, worldly foods, friendly English speaking staff and much more that I could go on and on about. The Noordam is not the biggest ship, but very comfortable and easy to get around. This was a "Big Band" cruise and the age's of the guests reflected that, The formal nights were enjoyed by all and brought out the Tux's and dinner gowns, very classy. We ate in the Vista dinning room for the most part and for us the AWS seating worked great. Some didn't like eating with different people, but Vinolady and I really enjoyed meeting new people and the stories that came along. We did eat at the Liddo in the mornings and a few Lunch's. Our biggest problem was once we had our food, finding each other and a seat. HAL also has fruit juices available at the dessert station all day long, nice for that afternoon cocktail hour. The entertainment was good, but nothing over the top, this could have been because on the Big Band theme. We are "high rollers" in the casino and played our $10.00 in the penny machine nightly, both of us came out ahead. It would have been nice to have had some snacks in the late evenings in the Casino, but the all night Pasta & pizza station more then made up for that. Our Cabin(5020) was a forward balcony and was comfortable. We had great weather and took advantage of as much outside time as we could. I liked having nice and comfortable balcony furniture vs. the white plastic on other lines. This was real special for Vinolady, as she got to see her first Whale in open waters. Always a treat for anyone. We never did get room service, but friends did and enjoyed it. The on board activities I thought were nice, I enjoyed the cooking and food demonstrations, very nice venue. Our Ports were very nice, I do wish we had more time in Rome, but another time. we didn't do any excursions except for a bike tour in Barcelona we used flat tire tours and had a blast a great way to get the feel of a city. in all the other ports we did our own touring, mostly walking and other then not speaking Spanish did great. We felt safe and comfortable all the time in every port. Summary If your looking for a "party all the time" cruise this was not it! If you wanted to kick back and enjoy some quite time this cruise would have worked for you. All and All a great cruise that will be remembered for some time. Somethings to keep in mind: HAL is old school classic cruising. Built in gratuities are so much easier then envelopes on your last night. HAL allows wine in your cabin. HAL food quality is a step above the other five lines we traveled on. Some great last minute deals on the internet. Enjoy! Marlin2 Read Less
Sail Date: October 2008
Yea!! Going on my second trans and going back to Barcelona and Madeira!! Receiving our luggage was not a problem, the crew delivered them in a timely matter. I went to the gym to learn how to work out since I had put on weight ... Read More
Yea!! Going on my second trans and going back to Barcelona and Madeira!! Receiving our luggage was not a problem, the crew delivered them in a timely matter. I went to the gym to learn how to work out since I had put on weight prior to the cruise and was going to add some more weight due to eating the delicious food. Anyway, I did not know how to work the machines and wanted some help and guidance since I have metal in one arm. I could have had the help but it would cost me (personal trainer). The DAYW concept is great! We met so many different passengers by not sitting at the same table at the same time. The service was quick at the beginning of the meal but I was not used to sitting for a good ten minutes afterwards with the dirty dishes still on the table. Twice, I was handed desert menus with the dishes still there and was asked to hand the other menu to the person sitting next to me. Overall, the Dine as You Wish experience was fantastic! The speakers were fun and informative; I would recommend them to be repeat guests. The cooking shows and guest interactions were exciting and informative/tasty. The evening shows were okay, nothing to brag about. The cruise was a Big Band one. So, if you were not over sixty-five or knew how to dance the songs from the big band era, you were stuck. Speaking of dancing, I went to one dance lesson and got frustrated. There were five (?) male dance instructors and no female instructors. Not one of the instructors took on the "role" of the woman, so I had no idea of my steps to learn. It was difficult to try to learn by watching in reverse. So much for the negative. The staff and crew were very helpful, friendly and efficient; each made me feel like I was the only passenger onboard. The ship was clean, and stayed that way. I never saw a wilted flower, trash on the floor or an overflowing trashcan. The food in the Lido and the dining room was the usual HAL standard-great!! The days at sea could be as lazy as you wanted or as busy as you wanted. If one was bored, it was their own fault. Overall, this cruise was a fantastic event. Thank you for a wonderful second transatlantic! Read Less
Sail Date: August 2008
I was on the Aug. 15 Roman Empire cruise on the Noordam. It doesn't seem as if I was on the same ship as the other recent reviews. We had a great experience. Check in was very easy. We were on the ship within 15 minutes of arrival at ... Read More
I was on the Aug. 15 Roman Empire cruise on the Noordam. It doesn't seem as if I was on the same ship as the other recent reviews. We had a great experience. Check in was very easy. We were on the ship within 15 minutes of arrival at the port. I was traveling with 18 others, and we had no problems. We had AYW dinning and had no problems. All 20 of us ate every night between 7 PM and 7:30 PM and never had a wait. The food was very good and there were many options. We had a SS Superior verandah suite. It is not really a suite, just a larger room. It was very nice. Big bathroom with a tub/shower and another separate shower. There were two sinks. Large by ship standards. I thought the ship accommodated the amount of people very well. There were always tables available in the Lido buffet restaurant, what ever time you arrived. We sat at the quiet pool at the back of the ship, and there were not always chairs available, but there usually were tables and chairs available. Entertainment was good, not great. There were shows at 8 PM and 10 PM. The Piano bar with Jimmy was always fun. We did private excursions which were great. There was never a problem getting on and off the ship. No lines like I have had on other cruise lines. We made reservations in advance at the Pinnacle Grill, so had no problems getting the date and time we wanted. It is worth it. I would have preferred not to have formal nights and certainly not three. I was told in advance that one was optional, but it was not. A jacket was required for men in the dinning room all three nights. There may be better options than HAL for children. There were not many children and most of them that were there were teenagers. The guests ages were predominately 50-75. Some in there 40's but not many. Not many honeymooners. Read Less
Sail Date: May 2008
My overall impression of the ship was that it was above average. The ship had some nice touches - there were atrium style elevators. Our opening day we were boarded and sent to the Lido to lunch as the rooms werent ready. No issue ... Read More
My overall impression of the ship was that it was above average. The ship had some nice touches - there were atrium style elevators. Our opening day we were boarded and sent to the Lido to lunch as the rooms werent ready. No issue but the Lido smelt of dishes (this was throught out the cruise and then noticed an opening door with this smell as you entered the area). The seperate pools in the back and mid ship were nice and there are 5 jacuzzis which was a good number. The pool was fresh water which I have never seen but liked. (Norwegian Jewel only has pools mid ship). The jaccuzis were fine but felt cramped with 3 people. Dinner quality was far better that lunch and lunch lines seemed always long. The timings were very weird on the ship, lunch was only served till 2 even if we were in port till 2, you couldnt get dinner in the lido after 8:30 (one nice touch is it was cooked to order) unless you were ok with pizza/pasta and the nightclub only started at 11:15 pm (by which time most people were asleep). The DJ was very nice but played a mix and I didnt see a reason not to start this earlier. The entertainment was poor. The Norwegian by comparison had far superior entertainment. I even prefered the many restaurants on that ship so we had a different experience each night. Bar service ranged from above average to poor and in general the staff didnt seem happy. They did things right for the most part but just felt a bit enacted. One issue that I didnt like was that the glasses towards the end of the ship werent cleaned properly - water stains. It made having a glass of water a very poor experience and this was the same at the bars but not in the dining room. Our cabin room was nice although having a verandah midhip didnt give us a cabin at the edge of the boat, there were life boats below us that we could see and the walking deck where we heard noise from. The bathroom was fine but completely prefab and had a tub (with a sign water is precious) so I didnt know why they added that in. Norwegians bath (same cabin type was really nice with a waterfall shower and mosaic tile floor). The beds on this ship were the nicest I had experienced on a boat though! Breakfast (and room service) were great and we had that in our balcony everyday. Our cabin attendant was also very good. If you're reletively young this is a nice ship but I think Norwegian is a better experience. Read Less
Sail Date: March 2008
We are a family of 4 from Ontario, with 2 boys ages 4 and 10. In tow we picked up my Inlaws from Quebec in our minivan and drove down I-87 the day before. Stayed in Nanuet-Hampton Inn-about 40 minutes from NY pier. Hotel is brand new, but ... Read More
We are a family of 4 from Ontario, with 2 boys ages 4 and 10. In tow we picked up my Inlaws from Quebec in our minivan and drove down I-87 the day before. Stayed in Nanuet-Hampton Inn-about 40 minutes from NY pier. Hotel is brand new, but a little tricky to get in from the busy road. Had 2 snorkel vest delivered there and was waiting for me on arrival. Left for the pier at 10am- crossed the GW bridge and was waiting to board by 11am. Painless embarkation, eating lunch in the lido by 12:30pm. Cabins ready by 1:30ish. We had a connecting OV on the main deck, which afforded lots of interaction between our boys with their grandparents. Chorie our room steward worked very hard to keep our beach gear/shoes all in order thru out our cruise. Very creative towel animals every night. Unlimited laundry $70/ 2 pick ups a day/last day San Juan. Dining: We had one breakfast and lunch in the dining room and found it too lengthy. Most of our other meals ended up in the LIDO. All the stations in the LIDO are very spread out, so if you wanted a little bit from each station expect to spend a long time in lines! Best Lido foods- eggs benedict, waffles with strawberry and blueberry sauce, fresh squeezed OJ, asian stir fry(need more noodle variety), fresh mango wedges, bread pudding, hot fudge sundae, grape juice. Not so good LIDO food- sushi(all vegetables and rice mashed up) Hard to find berries, tomatoes, limited salad dressings. All dinners were in the Vista Dining Room with AYWD. On our first night we were seated at table 189 for 6 at the bottom of the staircase with bench seating on one side. The boys were more patient sitting on the benches and we had a perfect view of the flower ceiling. Waiter: Saiful, Assistant:Dany, Wine Steward:Danny, was excellent. We always went for dinner around 6:15 and had the same table or next table over. The only reservation we made was for 2 formal nights to ensure we had the same great staff at 5:45pm. After the third night our waiter Saiful was always waiting for us with a smile at the entrance to welcome us to his table. Dany always brought our boys their favorite juice on arrival. I did notice about 1/3 of the down stairs seating had the same people dining at the same tables every night. Lineup for dining did not start until after 7:30pm. Food was very good 4 star quality. Best dishes: escargot, vegetable stacks, shrimp cocktail, prime rib, filet, pot roast(with pineapple yams!) veal. Crab legs and lobster tails just so so. Tofu yuck! Duck dried.Not enough cheese on the French onion soup. Boys always shared a cold fruit soup and fruit cocktail in a martini glass. Desserts were all yummy! Had cappuccino most nights but very strong. Dessert buffet a big waste of time and money. Most chocolate waxy and way too crowded and late at night for our kid's. Taco bar was great for cheese sauce, guacamole and chips; but hours were only limited to 3-6pm. Activities: We like to race around the ship participating in Dam Dollar events. The same group of 15 showed up and we got to know each other well. The two activity organizers knew us by first names and we never had to fight for a spot to participate. Kid's only got to mini putt and all other events were for 18 years plus. Children sat around cheering on their parents. It would have been better if they could had done more family activities. We ended up redeeming our dam dollars for 2 mugs, cap, T-shirt and towel. We had rough sea days going and returning so we only managed to swim 3 times in the LIDO pool due to busy port days. Not much benefit for a covered pool in the winter when seas are bad! Entertainment: We saw all the shows at 9pm and loved them all. Highlight: Emma Sinclair doing Mary Poppin songs. CC members meeting was a hoot! Got to meet about a handful of members and won 2 door prizes. Ports: Tortola-Brewers Bay- could not swim far out enough to see any fish. Almost deserted beach with about 4 other groups from our ship. Pelicans dive bombing down in the water for fish and chickens/chicks roaming around. Dominica-private tour with Reyno; driver-Ashford, guide-Suriyanna, Nice Farm, Emerald Pool, Champagne Reef, Scott's head lookout. Moss in the rain forest was soft like feathers, bubbles at the reef resembled diamonds in the sunlight. Barbados Glory tours: half day tour to Wildlife Center and Harrison Caves. Monkeys were friendly until someone starting feeding them bread at which they became very aggressive and chased me off the trail! Jamal our driver was entertaining and drop us off at the most beautiful beach Accra. St. Martin- we took a cab to Mullet Beach, had the best and inexpensive bbq ribs at Rosie's. Walked to Maho for the planes and bought inexpensive liquor at the local grocery store. Took the local bus back for $2 each and sat with locals all the way back. Grandpa and 8 year old son got to sit next to a couple of hotties in the back-grin. St Thomas-Godfrey tour, Tom(gentle) his brother picked us up for shopping(pirate shop-expensive/small), toured and went to Sapphire Beach. Best beach for snorkeling. The water was shallow, calm and we saw the most variety of fishes. 4 year old son kept chasing 2 small ducks back and forth across the beach the whole time. San Juan- Walked to San Cristolbal Fort, went to a bakery and son had a powdered sugar bun that was so fresh; regret not buying more for the ship. Club Hal: 4 year old loved it and skipped dessert every night to go. 10 year old really liked the video games(ps2 only) and music touch screen LCD. Boys did go to half the shows(dancing) and enjoyed the magician-Mysteriac the most. No children cooking classes, free arcade time only one afternoon, and free color you own T-shirt on the last night. Counselors were young and full of energy; one from Canada. Activities around the ship we enjoyed: Exploration Cafe, Chess Set, String Quartet, Crow's Nest loungers, trivia contest, group Pictionary, Galley Tour(crowded) Activities we missed: Cooking show and IPod Art tour not offered on last sea day! Disembarkation: ZOO! At 11:30am, an officer saw us still waiting in our room and asked for our color tag; within 2 minutes we were called and off hunting for our bags. Huge lines waiting for porters and elevators. Noordam staff forced everyone in one line while port staff were directing others to go to the front and drive car around. Everyone was trying to cram in the the 2 elevators to go down to the bus and up to parking lot. Between me and my husband we lugged 6 people's luggage on our own with no porters in sight. Luggage for boarding guests were piled mountains high clogging the entry way. We spent two nights after at the Sheraton Manhattan. Natural History museum was a highlight as well as FAO Swartz,ToysRUS and M&M store in Timesquare. Conclusion: Will only consider HAL for future cruises when travelling with seniors. Service was the best we ever had; but would be willing to give up some for more active activities on board. Things I will miss most: The wonderful smiling staff always willing to please. Read Less
1 Helpful Vote
Sail Date: March 2008
Background- My husband and I are in our late 50's -early 60's, both professionals from South NJ. Most recently we have been on 8 Princess cruises. Since we have cruised with Princess the most and most recently, they will be my ... Read More
Background- My husband and I are in our late 50's -early 60's, both professionals from South NJ. Most recently we have been on 8 Princess cruises. Since we have cruised with Princess the most and most recently, they will be my basis for comparison. Recently, we also traveled on 2 river cruises in Germany and France, which were a wonderful but very different cruise experience. Several years ago, we were on 3 Celebrity, 2 Royal Caribbean, 2 Renaissance and 1 Carnival. Of all these, our favorite was Renaissance- small size, no smoking and different itineraries. This was our first HAL cruise. We were aboard the March 19, 2008 sailing of the Noordam to the Eastern Caribbean. Embarkation was delayed over 3 hours because the Noordam had hit bad weather returning to NYC. Of course, it was no one's fault that the pier situation was a mess with passengers disembarking and new passengers arriving. My husband dropped me off at Pier 92 and parked our car and found me with the "carry-on" and we made the trip to Pier 88! We had to walk four blocks in the rain, lugging our carry-on bags with way too much packed in them including several bottles of wine. Since we were just driving from our home in NJ, we brought our laptop too, so we really had a lot to carry. It wasn't the greatest way to start a vacation. Parking for the 10 day cruise was $180 and they did accept credit cards. We were given a $15 per person credit, I guess because many people missed lunch, which was a nice thing for HAL to do. I think we were finally on the ship around 4:30 PM. We had arrived at 12:30 PM. Another difference is the lifeboat drill on HAL. It is outside on a deck right below your assigned lifeboat. It was cold and rainy and took a long time while they called everyone's cabin number. On Princess it is a very serious matter also, but it is conducted inside in a comfortable theatre and there is no roll call. Our Cabin was a VD category with a doublewide verandah. We were in cabin 4166. There were no lounge chairs there as expected and I asked our cabin steward if we could please have two loungers. He told us we would have to ask at the front desk, which I did. I got a call that afternoon telling me it was not possible to get the lounge chairs. The next day I saw a different person at the front desk and asked him for the lounge chairs but...this time I mentioned cruise critic. I said I had seen pictures on CC of this verandah with lounge chairs and was very disappointed! That afternoon the lounge chairs arrived. Cause and effect? I tend to think that "Cruise Critic" was the magic word. In my opinion our cabin did not have enough storage space and it was an awkward layout with doors blocking the bathroom. There were no drawers by the desk either to keep my make-up etc. Also, we could not use the refrigerator, as it was jammed with things to buy. This was another difference from Princess, which offers an empty refrigerator with a pitcher of cold water in it. I understand now that I should have asked our cabin steward to remove those refrigerator items and store them in my vanity chair but I did not know this at the time. Service was great especially the bar service. I think it was the best bar service on any ship we have been on. We really liked the hot and cold appetizers served in the Ocean Bar each night by Roel. Our bar waiter, Sid, was a great asset and knew our names and drinks almost immediately. He provided friendly conversation and added to our time there each evening. Our cabin steward was excellent. He was very unobtrusive. We rarely saw him but everything was done and the room was always made up quickly and efficiently. We liked our cute towel animals each night also. Almost the entire dining room staff were very friendly and provided excellent service also. One night we had very mediocre service but from then on requested a specific waiter, Saiful and his assistant, and were more than satisfied. The wine steward also did a good job although he seemed to have too many tables at times. We got extra special attention from Alan, an assistant dining room manager, who really tried hard to keep us happy. This seems to be HAL's trademark and they do live up to their reputation. Food, of course, is a very subjective matter. We do eat out very often and usually enjoy our meals. I don't think we are very hard to please. We were not very impressed with the food a few nights. One night the salmon was very dry and cold and the King Crab was terrible, very small pieces, and not hot enough. We think that Princess has much better salads and salad dressings. HAL had great soups, not salty and always hot but we always enjoyed Princess' soups too. Desserts on both lines were good, maybe with the better ice cream selection going to HAL, although their banana foster was inedible. Other nights the food was very good especially the osso bucco and traditional Dutch food night with a delicious dish Nasi Goreng (?). The lobster and filet mignon were good as was the prime rib. Everything was cooked as requested. Cappuccino is still included without added cost on HAL, which is not the case on Princess, which I find annoying! We did not really like AYWD, but this is all we could get as we only booked this cruise in December. There still seem to be many "kinks" to be worked out. When traveling with just my husband, we much prefer traditional second seating dining at a Table for Two. We enjoy meeting other people at lunch or breakfast but find we enjoy our private conversation at dinnertime. I made reservations every morning when I awoke. Most days we got our requested waiter, Saiful, and a Table for Two. If I called later, we had to sit with a larger group and this worked out just fine those few nights. The Lido buffet had a nice selection and many more daily choices than Princess but was set up poorly and took very long to get anything. I believe the Caribbean Princess has more passengers than the Noordam and yet the buffet never seemed as crowded. We like Princess' set- up and the fact that they are open 24 hours much better. The Lido was often closed when we wanted to get some snacks after a day at the beach. We usually ate lunch in the dining room because of this but some days this was not possible when we were in port. Room service for breakfast was wonderful. Eggs were hot, they even had egg beaters. We got everything we requested and even ordered things not on the breakfast menu- the Sunshine Parfait and salmon, bagel and cream cheese. We had breakfast in the dining room once or twice and it was very good with many more selections on a daily basis than Princess. Room service was slow in the afternoon but the cheese platters were nice with a glass of wine after being on the go all day. Room service breakfast, with all the selections, was even available the last day, which is not the case on Princess. Also, I find the breakfast selection from room service on Princess to be a real disappointment. It is a very limited continental type breakfast. Eating a full breakfast on my verandah is a real treat to me and HAL did an excellent job with this. Public areas were spacious and clean. The aft pool was very nice and never crowded. We had no trouble getting chairs unlike on Princess. They even passed out free lemonade! Aft had a sign that stated NO Children and it was either enforced or no one tried to bring children into this pool. This was Easter week so I know there were many more children aboard than a usual HAL sailing but we did not encounter any problems. One day I was asked by a few polite pre teens, where I was from, as they were doing a scavenger hunt. The Explorations Cafe was a fabulous location. There was music, newspapers, crossword puzzles, daily sudoku and a great selection of books and DVD's. On our last Princess cruise, the library was a joke. It is a very nice relaxing venue with comfortable leather chairs. This is an appreciated HAL feature. Entertainment was OK. We laughed at the comedian (Marty Brill) and liked the singer (Emma Sinclair). We went to the piano bar a few nights. Ian was at his best playing show tunes, in my opinion. Some nights while playing, he would not know the words to songs and faked them. We loved the piano bar on Princess, especially Bert Stratton on the Caribbean Princess, so were a bit disappointed in this venue. We also didn't like that we had to go to a show at 7 PM if we were eating dinner at 8:15. On Princess, we always had the late seating and then went to a show afterwards- 10:30 or so. We really prefer this especially on a relaxing cruise such as this, when we are not in a hurry to get to bed early. The best entertainment was the crew shows. Both the Filipino and Indonesian crew really seemed to enjoy their performance and sharing their culture with the passengers. Ports of Call were all enjoyed. We had been to all except Tortola before and enjoyed our trip to The Baths in Virgin Gorda. We went on a ship-sponsored tour here, as we were concerned that it was Easter Sunday. We usually do all our excursions on our own. . We enjoyed the pool at Grand Turk and went to Little Divi Beach in St. Maarten by taxi. In St. Thomas, we had planned on going to Emerald Beach but we just shopped a bit, as the day was overcast and rainy on and off. Another nice HAL touch was wet, cold towels, water and Purell hand sanitizer, before you got back on the ship after a day in port. I went to the Meet and Greet arranged by Bob (speakertosuits) and it was nice to meet many people but I suspect that the bad weather and rocking ship kept many away. The Crow's Nest was definitely not the place to be in weather such as we had. They had coffee and pastries out for us but no ship's officers attended. Disembarkation was a plus in that you could wait in your cabin until your color was called. This was so much better than waiting in a public crowded area as has happened to us before or even in assigned Elite Princess lounge. We opted to get off late in order to sleep in and have a leisurely breakfast in our cabin. This was probably a mistake because we had to wait much too long as the various colors backed up. By the time we disembarked passengers were arriving to embark. This was our decision and as I said, we wouldn't do it again. Also, there were no porters to be found which made the whole trip to our car quite difficult. Carrying two extra boxes of liquor from the Virgin Islands didn't help either! Miscellaneous- Here are just some random thoughts of comparisons between the two lines. Princess gives you a schedule of all weekly events so you can decide ahead of time just what show you want to see. There is also a list of what movies are showing for the week and what is on each channel each day. It helps to plan your day and week. If this was available on HAL, we didn't have a schedule or see any such thing. I thought the Daily programs were much more user friendly on HAL and easy to carry around as there was a perforation to separate the program. Princess' Daily Patters are much more difficult to read. There were many more convenient rest rooms to be found on HAL and they were never crowded. On many Princess ships it was a long way to a rest room from the dining room and they were always very crowded. Amazingly, we never had to wait for an elevator on the Noordam either. I think there must be more elevators on the Noordam, as it seemed we often waited much longer on Princess ships. Finally, we appreciated the fact that HAL also had a Catholic Mass available daily. This was not offered on Princess except on Easter Sunday. In conclusion, there was no feeling of "hawking" on HAL, which has become very annoying on Princess. No one asked us to buy a soda card, wine card, drink card, souvenir glass or to attend a wine tasting!! Even the photographers were not "pushy". Yet, Princess' soda card is a much better deal, the Internet is much cheaper (we get 250 minutes free as repeat cruisers) and we love having irons and washing machines available on each deck. Both lines have very few announcements and there are very few interruptions. I think repeat cruise benefits may be better on Princess. It is hard to say which line is better but we would definitely cruise both HAL and Princess again, there were enough positive things on each. I am looking forward to a cruise this summer on Celebrity's Constellation to be able to compare the three lines. Read Less
Sail Date: March 2008
Sailed on the noordam from new york in march, had a great time, age 40-70, very few children, friendly people. Must say nightlife on board stops at midnight, everybody goes to sleep. Very friendly personnel, mostly Philippine, spoke of ... Read More
Sailed on the noordam from new york in march, had a great time, age 40-70, very few children, friendly people. Must say nightlife on board stops at midnight, everybody goes to sleep. Very friendly personnel, mostly Philippine, spoke of the nora virus outbreak a few weeks earlier but problem was solved on this cruise. Found the ship very sensitive to movement on the ocean even with windforce 3-4. Did not experience so much movement with previous cruises with Norwegian cruiseline and royal caribbean. I even asked if the stabilizers were out of order. Food was very good, must say that in the Pinnacle Grill ($ 30 / person extra fee) food was no better, only quieter surroundings but not worth the extra money: buy some nice cocktails for that. Never sailed with Hal before, atmosphere was not too formal as I expected, did hear from more experienced HAL clients they didn't like the new carnival approach with open seating dining as this means waiting and thus less service, but one can switch to fixed seating if so desired. I think a lot will leave HAL and go for Cunard for more formal service and atmosphere. Overall had a good time, some nice ports, some old places with crappy villages I didn't like (tortola, dominica) greetings Johan0070 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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