This was our 8th cruise in 6 years. We cruise either HAL or Princess because we love their ships, itineraries, crews, and value. We chose this cruise because it visited 2 Eastern Caribbean ports we'd not seen before, San Juan and Grand Turk. We'd also not cruised the Noordam before, although it's identical to two other HAL ships we've had the pleasure of sailing.
Noordam is meticulously maintained. Everything was spotless and appeared to have been recently painted. There were maintenance techs working on various small projects every day. They were never in anyone's way and they worked hard not to inconvenience anyone or interfere with any activities or pedestrian flow. They were also friendly and courteous. Because it was so close to Christmas, the ship was decorated to the hilt. The decorations were obviously Christmas but there were no Santas or Christian-themed items; just trees and wreaths covered in beautiful ornaments, lighted swags, and an enormous village made of cookies and gumdrops.
As always, the food in the MDR was very good. Not "outstanding," but very good. We also ate in the Pinnacle Grille and enjoyed it immensely. I think that was the best NY Strip I've ever had! The Lido buffets were excellent. We especially enjoyed the cooked-to-order pasta, the hard ice cream, and the asian selections. HAL does the buffet much better than Princes, in our opinion, and it's also easier to navigate. We had only one minor complaint, and that was there were no waitstaffers serving water, tea, or coffee. Every time you needed a refill you had to go to a drink station to get it.
Our cabin number was 8087, a Signature Suite on the Navigation deck. We strongly recommend that location. It's between the mid-ship elevators and the rear stairways. That made it very convenient to get to everything except the Vista Lounge, yet we were under the Lido restaurant (which is carpeted) so it was still very quiet. The Lido deck is wider than the Nav deck, so we had a large overhang over our balcony, which gave us lots of welcome shade. We had two cabin stewards, Ichsan and Jeff. They were very attentive, polite, and unobtrusive. When we first checked in, we asked them for extra soap and towels, and those were delivered immediately. There was an umbrella in the closet if we needed one, a nice touch we hadn't expected. There were more than enough hangars, and we tend to overpack. The Signature Suites are considerably larger than standard verandah cabins. This was our first experience in one, and it won't be our last.