Noordam Cruise Review by kawagama
- Sail Date: May 2016
- Destination: Alaska
We chose Vancouver as our port because we are Canadian and it was easy to fly there direct. We also spent several days after the cruise visiting with family in the area. When we got to Canada Place we were happy to hand over our luggage to be stored until it could be loaded onto the ship. We were too early for embarkation at this time, so we wandered around the area and enjoyed the sunshine. Upon our return, we faced several hours of long line-ups. First through immigration, then through the check in with HAL, and then to register the two bottles of wine we were bringing with us. We later discovered that some people were given the opportunity to sit for part of this process, but we weren't. We were quite exhausted by the time we got on board the ship. Luckily our stateroom was ready for us.
The stateroom was great. We had a verandah, which we enjoyed despite some cigar smoke wafting down on to it. HAL really should not allow smoking on the verandahs. The bed was very comfortable and the storage was plentiful and efficient. We enjoyed our room very much. Our stewards were great too. Only complaint was the brown bananas that were deposited in our fruit basket one morning.
We did have a bit of an issue with a smoke smell in our cabin when we returned one evening after dinner. My husband dialed 911 and it took them about 5 minutes to respond, at which time they sent one of the girls from the front desk who knew nothing about what to look for. Once she called her supervisor she was able to tell us that several people had called about this issue and that it was being addressed. With reluctance we left for the evening show. When we returned everything was fine. Luckily this wasn't more of an issue as the response was rather slow for smoke smell!
We enjoyed the food on the ship. While some people have complained that the portions in the dining room were small, we both felt that there was adequate food. And it was possible to order several appetizers, desserts, or even main dishes. All was prepared well and we had no issues with the food. Even the Lido made decent food, although the lines were sometimes slow and often it was hard to find a place to sit at peak times.
We went to most of the evening entertainment shows and most were okay. A comedian was quite funny, and the rest was okay. My husband and I did not go to the Casino, the Spa, the Gym, or to any of the activities on the ship. Our purpose was to enjoy the scenery and relax. We did relax, and we did enjoy the scenery--when there was some. And this is our biggest disappointment with this round trip 7-day tour. With so much territory to cover it is inevitable that the ship has to travel at night. Because of this, we missed some of what would have been gorgeous scenery because we were asleep. Rejigging departure times and the amount of time spent in ports might solve this issue. I would rather sleep while the boat is in open waters than when it's going through narrower channels and straits. I was also disappointed that Tracy Arm was on our itinerary when we booked, on the promotional materials, and on the check in printout from HAL, but the captain simply sailed right by and gave no explanation why. He also chose to go on the Pacific open side past Sitka (in the night) when the sea was particularly rough instead of opting for a more protected inner channel. Not sure why. Anyone interested in Alaskan scenery should check the itineraries very carefully before choosing a cruise to ensure that they don't miss some of the actual inside passage.
We booked excursions independently because we were told it would be more economical. For Alaska, I don't think it made a big difference. We took a shuttle bus to the Mendenthall Glacier in Juneau. It was a beautiful day and it was lovely walking around the area. We opted for the Chilkoot Trail hike and float down the Taiya River with Skagway Float Tours. Brooke and Brian were great and it was a fun little excursion. In Ketchikan we booked a sea kayaking trip through Southeast Kayaking. We had a private tour as we were their only customers on that rainy afternoon. It was fun despite the rain and we were thrilled that a humpback blew and then sounded very close to our kayaks. Glacier Bay was awesome, but rainy and cold when we were there. We weren't aware until that day (THursday of our week) that channel 43 on the TV broadcast all ship announcements. We could've easily stayed in our cabin, heard all the commentary, and gone out for unobstructed viewing of the glaciers had we known in advance. Sigh.
Disembarkation was very smooth and took no time at all. HAL should consider some sort of embarkation process that is similar if possible.
We did enjoy our adventure, despite some of the disappointments. I would've liked to be able to bring my 2 bottles of wine to dinner without having to pay corkage. After the initial two, fine, but at least that much would've been nice. Most people we dined with opted to have only water and I think that was largely due to the high beverage prices. Less paper in our "mailbox" about sales on ship would've been nice too, considering the brochures go on about HAL's eco-consciousness. And of course the annoying smoking. It shouldn't be allowed on verandahs and Noordam should relocate the smoking room (Oak Room, I think?) as they have it venting onto the promenade deck in the one spot where there are several deck chairs because it is wide enough for people to lounge. Everytime we walked by there all we could smell was smoke. Ugh.
The early sailing was a bonus in the ports. We were the only ship in port all three times and that made visiting the towns very pleasant.
I would like to cruise to Alaska again, but if we can, we will look into a smaller boat that can actually really get into the inside passage and all its beautiful nooks and crannies.
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