This was our first Holland America cruise. We have sailed Celebrity, Princess, Royal Caribbean and Carnival. It was our tenth cruise. I am 54 and my husband is 56.
We arrived at the pier at 10:25. The Noordam had just arrived in New York at 10 AM because of slowing down due to a storm on Tuesday night. We were told we would not be able to board until 3:00. My husband and I and I both received a $15 OBC. There were shuttle buses to take us into the city if we wanted. It was raining so we decided not to go. The last of the passengers were off about 1:45 and then they started embarkation around 1:55. The process was so smooth once it started. We were on the ship and in our cabin at 2:15. We had a VA aft balcony cabin 8136. Our muster drill and sail away were rainy. We had AYW dining and ate at 7:00 the first night and went to the 9:00 show. After dinner we noticed that the ship was very rocky. This lasted almost all day Thursday. You could not walk up the halls without bumping back and forth into the walls. The waves were only 12.5 feet. It was the wind that made for rough sailing. Friday was much better. Saturday/Grand Turk. This was our third time there and I have to say the, nicest. The Noordam was the only ship in port which is usual for that stop. Our last visit was in August on the Crown Princess and Carnival Triumph was also there. Each ship holds approximately 3,000 passengers, I'm sure you can imagine what it was like. This time it was not as crowded as even our first visit. I guess alot of people may not get off the ship. The stores were not crowded so it was good! We even got a lounger this time. We took a walk on the beach while the crew did their water safety by the ship. Sunday/Tortola. We did not do anything there but get off the ship and walk. It was amazing to see roosters just walking in the street there. We're used to seeing cats, not roosters. It was cute. Here we saw one of the famous Caribbean donkeys with the flowers and sunglasses. We saw one of his relatives in St. Thomas. The temperature was a beautiful 84 degrees, and not humid. Monday/St. Maarten. We did the Explorer Sea and See which is a double decker catamaran ride and an island tour. We got the bus at the pier and a lovely woman from Holland was our tour guide. We drove to the boat and sailed around the island. We docked on the French side for 1hr 15min. of shopping. It was Easter Monday so many stores were closed. We enjoy just walking around anyway looking at the sites. We went back to the Explorer and gathered and then on to a bus for a one hour tour and back to the ship. The excursion was almost 4 hours. We were back around 12. I would recommend that if anyone is interested. I hear the America's Cup is a good excursion also. Tuesday/St. Thomas - we visited with friends that live on the island and visited the St. Thomas Synagogue. This day was cloudy and overcast. We had a little rain but it did not hinder any plans.
Wednesday/San Juan from 7-1. We got off the ship and walked. There was one other ship in port that day Silver Wind I think the name was. There were not many crowds there either. It was a nice time. The crew and staff were the friendliest we have encountered on our cruises. They really make you feel special and you can see that they like what they are doing. The Noordam singers and dancers were great. The stage was fantastic with steps moving, people coming up from the floor, etc.
The last day when we went to the disembarkation talk in the Vista, the crew all came out, including the singers and dancers. The room stewards carried towel animals, the laundry staff coat hangers, the kitchen staff carried spoons, etc. At the end they sang a song about love in different languages led by the Noordam singers. This is not to be missed. At the end of the song they "shot" streamers into the crowd. As the staff left the stage the cleaning crew immediately went to work picking up the streamers with brooms and dustpans. They are very serious about their jobs.
There were 294 kids under 18 on the ship. For the most part what I saw they were well behaved. One morning I was at the front desk and there was a gentleman asking to see the Hotel Manager. He was told he would be there at 9AM and he would call him in his cabin. When asked what the issue was he said "kids running wild." I went up the elevator with him and he told me the past three nights he encountered kids running all over the ship. At the movie the night before they were throwing popcorn and running in front of the screen. Coming home Thursday the seas were moderate with some rolling. The captain said it should get better in the late afternoon and we should have smooth sailing all the way to NY. We did. Friday it was sunny and about 67 degrees. We were able to sit by the aft pool.
The only thing we didn't like was the AYW Dining. We were on the waitlist we found out when I thought we were confirmed late seating. We're used to Princess with the Anytime Dining concept. If you like the waiter and table you can make a standing reservation for the table and time for the rest of the cruise. HAL has you call after 8 AM every morning for a reservation for that evening. We did end up with the same section and waiter three nights. The food was good so it wasn't the end of the world. At first we were going to dinner at 7PM. One day we couldn't make a reservation for that time so we did 8PM. That worked out better because we noticed the dining room was in sync with the Traditional Dining Room and everything flowed better. It probably had to do with the kitchen. It seemed at 7 we waited long for everything and at 8 there was more of a flow. We were able to see the Baked Alaska parade and the last night when the waiters sang. At 7 we would have missed that or would have been eating an appetizer when the parade came through for the early seating. If we knew that early on we would have made our reservations at the times of Traditional Dining. Maybe in the future they will begin to allow guests to make the reservation for the entire cruise if they so choose, instead of calling daily. . We had AYW dining. When we ate at 7:00, we went to the 9:00 show and when we ate at 8:00, we went to the 7:00 show. We always went to the Lido at 11:15 to "see" what they had. The ice cream station was good too. I liked the waffle cones. We usually stopped there about 4 each day.
We attended all the shows in the Vista Lounge. I like that the show times are around the dining times so if you have early seating, you go to the late show and if you late seating, the early show. The shows were great. The Noordam singers and dancers had one particular show which was about the best I have seen on a cruise, it was called "That's Vegas." The stage was fantastic with stairs moving, etc. We had a variety of entertainment. A comedian/ventriloquist, a writer comedian, an English singer who sang a wide range of music from opera to show tunes, a husband and wife team that performed illusions and acrobatic lifts and dance, and a pianist.
Adam Dyer was the Cruise Director. He was a nice gentleman. He has a great voice, like he should be on the radio. The Captain was very visible and friendly. The aft balcony was lovely and the room was great with lots of storage. I liked that there were closets with doors. Princess' closets were open. They are not very visually appealing. The couch had drawers in the front of it and the bed had 2 drawers under it/them. I can go on and on..... A few other thoughts: • Announcements were minimal. • The pool and balcony chairs and loungers were resin wicker. They were very nice. • The retractable roof on the pool is great for cool days. Robert the steel pan/drum player was at this pool. • The aft pool where "adults only" was enforced was very nice. The HAL Cats were at this pool among other venues during the evening. • I asked my room steward to empty out the refrigerator and he placed everything in the vanity seat. It had a removable top so you can store things in it. • Plenty of storage, more than our Princess balcony cabins. • Bathtub which makes for larger shower area if you need a larger area • Medicine cabinet. I like things out of view. This was the most functional cabin of all our cruises. • The crew kept the ship very clean. They were always cleaning, vacuuming, etc. • Again, I could not walk past a crew member without getting and giving a friendly greeting. That was the best!
We did the walk off disembarkation and were off the ship at 7:40. When you do this you have to carry your own luggage. We would travel HAL again in a heartbeat. The Noordam is a beautiful ship with a first class crew. It is unfortunate that HAL is leaving NY.