Noordam - March 8 - 19 review
Embarkation: Everything went very smooth. We arrived at the pier earlier than we expected (about 10 a.m.) and dropped the luggage at the front of the terminal. The others went to get our "spot" while I parked the van. After the canine inspection I was into the lot. I took the escalator down to the terminal level and the others were waiting with a "Number 3" in hand. While we were waiting, Carol (cruzerwannabe) and Paul and Debbie (dhoney) and Larry showed up from their incoming flights. We boarded at about 11:30 and waited in the explorers lounge until we could get into our rooms. HAL had juice and cookies set up for us (a nice touch). We got into the rooms at about 2 p.m.
The ship: Our cabin VA 4174 was a nice size with a great aft balcony. Terry (iceguy) and Laurie and DEbbie (dhoney) and Larry were next to us on either side so we could open the partitions for a triple wide balcony. The only complaint that we had about the cabin was the closets. They were cramped and hard to get into. We realized later that this is a unique problem with the larger aft cabins. Carol (Cruzwerwannabe) and Paul had a cabin around the corner (4172) and it had plenty of closet room. Because of all the pre-hype about the magnificent beds I was expecting something fantastic, but found the best just to be the same as we had on Princess, no better no worse.
The ship is beautiful, but NOT my favorite ship. The bars are all located in hallways and are not nice little hideaway spots. The Queens lounge is too small for a "secondary showroom". Most of the other ships we have been on have a larger version of a second venue. The indoor pool always had a bit of a "stuffy" feeling to me so we spent a lot of time at the aft pool. However it was nice to be able to enjoy the indoor pool area on the rough ride home. Explorations was the best room on the ship. Even though I don't go on the internet on vacation (never will!) and I don't usually read books on the ship, it was still that comfy cozy spot that I look for on a ship.
The staff 10 out of 10 for everyone! The entire staff is amazing. They work so hard and have a smile on their faces (even in the face of extreme rudeness). You will not find a better group of people to serve you anywhere. The Ports
Tortola: Basically a waste of time because of the late arrival. We walked to Pusser's and had a "Pain Killer" (Thanks to JoiseyGoils!). I found the port kind of skuzzy! If we had time to take a tour I am sure there are beautiful places on the island.
Dominica: A great port! We took a tour with Reyno that we had done before. It was well worth the encore! We went to Mr. Nice, The Emerald Pool and Trafalgar Falls. Very Nice
Barbados: Never rent a car in Barbados! We did. WE spent the day (a fun one!) mostly lost. We went to Harrison Caves which was too busy when we got there. We would have had to wait about 2 hours to get in. Then we tried to go to the Atlantic coast but never quite made it. The roads have no markings and the towns have no markings! Argggggh! We finally arrived at a beach that was in site of the ship and had a nice swim. Like I said we had fun, but did not see much of significance!
St. Maarten: We took a ships tour. The explorer catamaran and Island drive. It was well conducted and lots of fun. The Catamaran had free drinks (not just rum punch) and our tour guide was very good. WE visited Simpson Lagoon, Margot, Orient Beach, and the sites along the way to each.
St. Thomas: WE went on our own to Sapphire Beach and then did some shopping on the return trip. A nice beach day, good snorkeling, and nice beach lunch.
San Juan: I took a self guided walking tour of San Juan, mostly to the El Morrow area. It was very nice and very hot! My wife did some shopping. Since we had to be on board at 12:30 there was not much time. I would like to see more of San Juan.
The dining room food was great. No complaints at all. Well presented, well prepared. I only had one meal I didn't like (The Maple encrusted Salmon - too salty!) All of the soups are fantastic. cold and hot! I Liked the lido for lunch and breakfast except for the rude people who continually butt in. It was nice to get thing made to order for you for breakfast and I really enjoyed the Asian station at lunch. Dinner in the Lido is another story however. We only tried it one day but it was horrible. You have to go down the buffet line and pick out your starters then go to a waiter and order your entree, give him your room number and go sit down and wait for it to be brought to you! My advice" on HAL go to the dining room for dinner! My advice to HAL- make dinner in the lido the same as lunch A BUFFET!
This is where HAL really failed us. We had Traditional dinner at 8 p.m. The Main shows are scheduled at 7 and 9. Our only choice would have been to get ready for dinner in time for the 7 p.m. show, This defeats the idea of late dinner. We wanted to be able to return from day trips and have some relaxation time before dinner. So we missed almost all of the main shows. We did see the shows scheduled late (The Philippine show at 10:15 and the Indonesian at 11:15) They were good! I found the rest of the scheduled events pretty sparse. THis is a very quiet ship with not much to do. I guess that is what HAL wants. Just my opinion, but the Hal Cats are pretty bad! I also thought the cruise director Adam, was pretty bland. You could have recorded his talk once and just listened to it back over and over. HOWEVER! we did make our own fun and we were cruising with great friends, so we made our own party! (,mostly on the aft balconies!
CC meet and Greet
Thanks to Carol and Pat for doing a great job in putting this together. WE had a great time in the explorers lounge on Sunday. It was great to meet some of you again and again on the ship and in port!
We did have a great time. Any cruise is a good cruise! We learned that we will not cruise from New York again because of the risk of high seas and the wasted days in colder weather. We also, sadly, will not cruise on HAL again, at least until I am 70 maybe. It was just too laid back and we much prefer Princess.