We chose this cruise for the itinerary. We had sailed HAL once previously for a Sea of Cortez cruise which we thoroughly enjoyed.
The entire cruise was a repositioning cruise from Vancouver, BC to Auckland, NZ however, because we are not yet retired and the entire itinerary would have stretched our time off too much, we decided to pick it up for the Honolulu to Sydney segment. So when we got onboard, there were already many passengers who had been on the ship either from Vancouver or San Diego. Other than feeling we had missed out on some of the entertainment which came before we boarded, it was a good decision.
We arrived at the port in Honolulu about 1:30 p.m. The ship was overnight here. About 800 passengers embarked along with us, but we were one of only about three other couples boarding when we did - so easy and quick! We got unpacked and went off to get reacquainted with Honolulu.
Next day rented a car and circled Oahu - great day! Made stops at all our favorite places.
Midnight on day 2, we set sail for Lahaina, Maui. It was a tender port and quite bumpy, in fact a fellow passenger fell between the tender and the ship, basically ruining her day while making her a minor celebrity. Won't attempt to place blame as we were not there when it happened. But we enjoyed Lahaina and then on to Hilo. Met up with good friends in Hilo and had a fun day. Then we were off for 5 days at sea on our way to Pago Pago, American Samoa. After Hawaii, the ports were all new to us and we had a great time visiting new places. We went to Vanuatu, Fiji, and New Caledonia. 10 ports of call in all including Hawaii and Sydney.
As for the ship, I had read that it was getting tired, which I somewhat agree with, some of the furnishings - mirrored table surfaces in particular - were worn, but overall, it was a clean, classy, beautiful ship with enough room for all the passengers. There were some special little cabanas on deck 10 which seemed to get very little use. Also the spa therapy pool was underused. Should be opened up to all passengers.
Of everything about our cruise, we most enjoyed the people - fellow passengers as well as staff. Service was superb and I'm always amazed when I read other reviews where people berate the staff in any way. Fellow passengers were open and friendly. We made many new friends.
The enrichment program on the Noordam was wonderful. It is something we look forward to on any cruise. Bud Murch did a lecture series on Astronomy while Brian Stoddard covered the sociology of the South seas. Very interesting. We mainly attended Bud Murch's lectures and were enlightened and educated as well as entertained. Well done!!! The Hawaiian Troupe was very fun and they provided music and Hula along with local crafts and ukulele lessons. Great! Other entertainment was good with musical shows, comedians (loved seeing Bud Anderson again), ventriloquist, pianist, harmonica aficionado and magic/comedy. Was disappointed not to find any live music out on deck. Fellow passengers loved Adagio, a violinist/pianist duo and the pianist in the piano bar.
We fell in love with Sydney. Can't say enough nice things about this place. People were especially friendly for a city of its size.
For my usual complaints, smoking on the balconies is still permitted, drinks and excursions are overpriced. We did not use the casino. We booked shore excursions from local vendors (which is why I did not rate shore excursions) as we arrived and were not disappointed. Would definitely sail on Noordam again.
We had booked an inside guarantee and were unhappy to receive a main deck assignment, but we are rarely in our cabin anyway, and as it turned out, the cabin was Huge - the largest we have ever had on any of our 16 cruises. On the first night at about 1:30 a.m., we were awakened by a terrible noise which sounded as if it were coming right through the wall of our cabin. We jumped out of bed and once we realized we were not at sea, calmed down quickly and tried to go back to sleep. We had an uneventful night two, but on night 3, the BIG noise returned, once again scaring us out of a deep sleep. Nothing on night 4, but then again same thing on night 5, so we finally decided it was not going to stop and decided to report it the Purser. To our delight, (they had no idea what it was and had a team of engineers looking into it before we even cleared our cabin) they moved us, not just to another inside cabin but to a very nice verandah on deck 4. No obstructed view - smaller than our inside, but lovely. We later learned that 2 other cabins had been relocated. So while the being awakened by a terrifying noise three nights out of 5 was not fun, HAL more than made up for our inconvenience and was very responsive. A special thanks to Michelle at the pursers desk and to our cabin stewards, Sigit and Budi who all gave us outstanding service.
In Honolulu, we rented a car and circled the island stopping at Haleiwa, the north shore, Laie, Kaneohe, etc. We also took the bus and got a great little tour from our well informed bus driver. Did some shopping and had a great time.
We are walkers and walked all over Lahaina. It is a very walkable city. Spent time on the beach.
Spent the time with old friends from Montana. Visited Richardson Ocean Park and then the Mauna Loa Mac nut farm. Had lunch at Ken's House of Pancakes. Yum!
Took city bus out to $2 beach. Tried to snorkel but the tide was going out. Still saw some wonderful fish and a huge moray eel.
Visited a local village, participated in welcoming and Kava ceremony,, waterfall, shopping and site seeing. FUN!
Beautiful island. We brought our snorkel gear and snorkeled and spent the day on the beach.
Hired a taxi who took us out to Hideaway beach. Saw the underwater post office, and good snorkeling. Shopped
Read about a snorkeling reserve - found our own way there. For $15 AUD, spent the whole day in this amazing reserve. Agreed it was among the top snorkeling places we/ve been to. Also hiked up to the church and saw a coconut crab...wierd for sure!
Did the Country Tour. Saw a lot of the island, visited the Kanak Cultural center. Had Gunter for our guide. He was funny and well informed. visited the miracle church.View All 50 City Tour Reviews
Loved Sydney. Stayed at Adina Apartments, Harbourside, Darling harbor and took the ferry all over the harbor, went all the way up the river to Parramatta, visited Manly and Shelley beach. Ferry system very convenient and with the Opal pass, you spend no more than $15 AUD/day or $60/week. Walked the neighborhoods in Manly. Walked the Barangaroo Reserve, The Rocks, China Town and the Friendship garden, Paddy's market and went with friends to the Blue Mountains at Katoomba.