Embarkation: The Noordam arrived late due to a storm at sea the day before. Therefore, we did not get to board as early as we would have liked. We were sent to Pier 88 and given a number and told to wait for our # to be called before we could go to Pier 92 to board. Here is my gripe - when we were finally called, after about an 1:20 of waiting, we found out that people that had been arriving hours after us were getting to board right away. They were not sent to Pier 88 like the rest of us. We did receive a $15/person cabin credit, but so did the people who didn't get stuck having to wait. This is my only complaint though...
Children's services and CLUB HAL: Our 10 year old loved club HAL and made lots of friends. She enjoyed the activities. Bare in mind, this was a holiday week, so there were lots of kids to make friends with. The staff at club HAL were young and energetic and got to know the kids well. The tweens did crafts, tie-dyed T-shirts, played games on deck, did scavenger hunts, played cards and Playstation. We also utilized in-cabin baby sitting on 7 nights for the baby. This cost $8.00 per hour and was WONDERFUL!! My husband and I got to a show, or the casino, or for a promenade each night for a couple of hours. The women from the front office who baby sat were fabulous. They missed their own children, so it felt good to give another mom some time with our precious children. I would sail HAL again with children in a heartbeat.
The Ship: Beautiful ship....absolutely spotless. Our last cruise was on carnival, which was not the cleanest. The Noordam was absolutely spotless at all times. The public restrooms were shining clean...so I stopped going back to the cabin when I needed "to go." Since we were traveling with a baby, I felt very good about how clean the ship was.
Our Stateroom: Our stateroom was a large window stateroom - a quad. We arranged to have a crib, and that was provided. I wouldn't say there was a great deal of storage space, but we got creative and were able to put everything away. We kept the stroller in the bathtub when nobody was bathing. The in-cabin refrigerator was great. We removed the honor bar items and placed our Sangria and baby items in it. We enjoyed the fresh fruit in our cabin - a really nice touch...
The food/dining: The food was very good. We especially enjoyed the Belgian waffles with strawberries and the omelet station. There was a nice selection of yogurt, juice, and cereals for the children. We also enjoyed the lunch offerings on the Lido. The Mai Fun at the Asian station was particularly good. We never found that we were waiting on long lines at the lido, no matter what time we went. The food in the dining room was excellent as was the food at the Pinnacle Grill (worth the extra $30 per person). Our 10 year old enjoyed the children's menu in the dining room and on some nights ate at the Kid's Corner on the Lido. We had AYWD and had no problem reserving the table we wanted to eat at each night. Only complaint with AYWD for us is that the highchair wasn't waiting at the table when we arrived. We did eat breakfast in the dining room once and found the service to be a bit slow. We did dine in our cabin for breakfast. This service was terrific -the coffee arrived hot and our food was just as we ordered. It was great to use this service on the early port days so we didn't have to waste time going up to the Lido for Breakfast. The Entertainment: The shows were ok-very good. There was good variety of entertainment. We just didn't think the HAL singers and dancers were as good as the ones on Carnival. The other Acts - Count Dimas (who played the piano) and the couple who did the magic and dancing were very good. The HAL CATS band weren't the greatest, pretty much like a wedding band, but we did dance. The quartet was wonderful. I LOVED the culinary demonstrations - this was like going to a Cooking show. Loved getting to sample what they cooked. Robert - the steel drum player was really good too. BTW, HAL has Daily Mass and offered 3 Easter Sunday services too.
The Ports: GRAND TURK - awesome and convenient beach. This was our favorite port...we enjoyed Margaritaville and snorkeling. It was amazing to swim next to the ship and they had great lounge chairs for free on the beach. TORTOLA - went to another beautiful beach (Cane Garden Bay). ST. MAARTEN - took the ship excursion to Orient Bay beach. This was a gorgeous beach and the lunch was very good. ST.THOMAS - we went to Coral World and Coki beach. Swam with the sea lions at Coral World (we booked this directly, not through the ship). SAN JUAN - we only had a few hours in San Juan, so we walked around up towards the forts. This was our 3rd time to San Juan, and we still enjoyed it - especially sailing out with the view of El Morro.
The Service: One word to describe - WOW! I have never experienced service with a smile as I did on this ship. The crew went far beyond expectation - carrying my tray for me in the self-service area - grabbing something for us for the baby - you name it, they did it with a heart warming smile. I cannot say enough great things about John our cabin Steward. Beautiful towel animals. Fresh fruit every day. He even let me use his scrub brush to clean the stroller after the baby got sea sick. I loved these people. The were genuine, warm and wonderfully professional. Kudos to the crew! Disembarkation: We had mid-disembarkation, which gave an estimated time of 9:45 AM. We actually got off the ship at about 10:25 AM, which wasn't too bad. We live in NY and had family pick us up.