This is my review of the Holland America MS Noordam cruise from Auckland New Zealand to Sydney Australia departing on November 8, 2016.
My review is intended to be honest and give some advice to future cruise passengers, I will try and keep realistic in my comments.
Firstly if you Google details about the Noordam like we did there are internet posts saying the Noordam was refitted in 2015, this is not true the refit was postponed until 2018 so Noordam is showing it’s age in relation to 2016 styles, fashion and technology. We bought this cruise for two reasons, first it is a bucket list worthy cruise if we had a bucket list. My Wife and I have never been to Australia and New Zealand and it’s about time we did, secondly this was a Holland America Top 10 offer, the price was a steal for a 14 day cruise in a Verandah state room, we paid Canadian $1600 each, just too good to pass up. A tip here Verandah state rooms on Noordam do not get the little extra touches that they do on a Vista class Holland America ship, so no slippers, flowers, binoculars and bigger balcony (six feet).
The price of our Verandah stateroom was a guarantee room from the top 10 sale, so we were pleasantly surprised to be allocated a cabin in the midships on deck 5, the balconies on deck 5 are shorter around four feet deep but with a glass railing instead of the solid metal we had technically bought, still adequate but a little snug.
Our stateroom was tired, I was disappointed to see the opening door to the balcony had been scratched extensively into “artwork”, the scratches were into the window film they use. That’s the worst, everything else was OK, no thread bare furniture just old tired like an older style Days Inn Motel on a popular Interstate.
The room Stewards make it great, they try incredibly hard to give you a special vacation, I had pre ordered a bottle of Scotch so everyday day and evening my ice bucket was full of fresh ice without asking. Everything was cleaned as well as could be expected, we tried to help our Stewards by putting the room service card in the door as we left and if we saw them saying good morning and that we were out to breakfast, so we always came back to a freshly made up room.
This is our third cruise this year with Holland America, we have been on the Veendam, Volendam and now the Noordam, when lining up at the port if you are a one or two star mariner, make sure you ask for mariner preference for boarding. If you expect to attend the Mariners lunch you need to be lining up at 11.00 to 11.30 am on the dockside.
Sailing out of Auckland, New Zealand was great the city skyline is nice to see, there were local beer and wine from New Zealand available to buy on the rear deck and the weather was great, a good start to the cruise.
My suitcase was held up for a long time as I had a bottle of wine in it, you are meant to have the wine you carry on in your carry on luggage. Another learning point, each cruise this year we have been on has had a different set of rules for boarding.
The items we purchased before boarding the ship were in our room when we arrived, some scotch and beer. We found out as were cruising around New Zealand and Australia that liquor is heavily taxed in the local stores so buying the liquor from Holland America before hand turned out to be the cheapest option.
We found the Lido restaurant to be overcrowded and the wait staff to be indifferent to us, we did notice if you were Asian or had pretty young women in your party then the service to those clients was excellent. The Lido was good for quick casual food service and they had 90% of the items in the main restaurant. What we really enjoyed this trip and had not used before was the Dive In fast food counter at the pool area, the burgers and fries were the best and the choices very good, we had them for lunches and were never disappointed and the service from ordering was quick, they use a beeper pager to let you know when your order is ready.
We mostly booked day trips privately as we found the HAL prices at the top end and the day trip itineraries short in comparison. For instance at Picton the HAL wine tour went to two maybe three wineries and was priced in U.S. dollars, whereas our private tour went in a 12 seater mini bus to 5 smaller wineries that were not busy and had a wine tour host extremely knowledgeable about the area and wineries and priced in NZ$ so we won on the exchange rate also. We found this tour through the Cruise Critic Role Call for our cruise in their forums from other passengers.
The entertainment on the ship was good, we went to the evening show mostly to the Noordam dancers and put on a very good show with singing and dancing and it lasted just long enough, a nice finish to the day after dinner. We never made it to the BB King show as it was too late. We don’t expect a Vegas quality show on a cruise ship.
Most of the presentations for the ports of call we went to made by David the Port guide did an excellent presentation in the show lounge and primer for what we could see ashore and refreshingly he was not trying to sell us tours but just educated us about the town or area we would visit. He used a lot of his own photographs to show us major landmarks.
I didn’t go to the Windows 10 seminars but did pass by the room before and during the classes and they were standing room only and very popular, we saw people lining up at least thirty minutes before the room opened to get a seat with a computer. I use Mac computers so had no interest in the Windows 10 or surface products and software.
We did buy some coffee at the Explorers cafe mostly Latte or Cappuccino and got a few cakes from there, the coffee was good and not that expensive compared to buying ashore in both New Zealand and Australia.
Cruising through the sounds, the crew opened the forward deck area that is normally off limits to passengers, so we could get a unobstructed forward view, they also on this day laid on the Dutch pea soup which was thick and hot on a very chilly overcast day on this forward open air deck.
If you buy the Navigators wine package and see that they have a Sauvignon Blanc as a choice for white wine and bearing in mind that we are cruising in New Zealand where the best SB comes from and the name of this wine is a New Zealand award wining winery, you are not getting this wine instead you get a Californian Sauvignon Blanc of the same name! That was our only big argument of the trip and a disappointment but the Cellar Manager did substitute another New Zealand SB for us in the end for which we were grateful. This is what we did find on the Noordam that the staff were prepared to try and make things right if they could.
The main dining room experience for us was faultless, our theory especially on a ship with 1900 passengers is to go for the first sitting when the crew are still fresh and keen, our ticket was for open dining and we went at 5.30 pm and requested a table for two, we got one just where we wanted, the waiter and his assistant were extremely attentive also our wine waiter fussed over us each night. So after the first night on the way out of the dining room we always stop by the Maitre D who records your attendance at the front of the restaurant and ask very nicely if we could have the same table, same time the next night they nearly always agree and then that becomes our table for the cruise at dinner time and the servers get to know us well and things go extremely smoothly.
Room service, every morning we had either breakfast or coffee juice and pastries delivered around 6.30 to 7.00 am. We would have breakfast if we would be arriving in port for the morning or going on a shore excursion and a full fry up breakfast is the same in your room as the main dining room. A tip if you like coffee - the menu has a tick for coffee if you tick it you get a smaller carafe, so tick the box and write next to it “large carafe please”, then the coffee you get is twice as big, if just one of you takes cream, order two creams as the cream container is quite small. I used to joke to my wife when we were ordering breakfast on the room service menu at night to hang outside our room, “have you ordered the large Giraffe”.
We highly recommend a balcony on this cruise as there is a lot to see from your room, especially as we were entering some ports very early, nothing like standing on your balcony in your dressing gown drinking hot coffee watching the arrival. We also stayed on our balcony for the third sound we cruised in, Milford and didn’t have to fight for space to photograph from.
The increase in some prices isn’t very nice especially on an older ship, happy hour now is $2.00 for the second drink instead of $1.00, the beer, wine and liquor prices went up in July this year. All speciality restaurants went up in price, but we still went to Le Cirque at the Pinnacle Grill and to be honest it was worth the price.
So for the price we paid the cruise was well worth it, we met some great fellow passengers had fun and saw a destination we might never had got to, was it perfect , no but close to it. The ship needs a refit it is outdated the stateroom TV’s are antiques, the picture and sound bad but it was value for the money we paid. The staff worked hard for all passengers and made your requests possible if they could.
A shout out to our stateroom stewards Han and Yogi, our main dining room steward Arnest C. and assistant steward Temy, Cellar Manager Miguel and our wine waiter Eric.
At the last Gala dinner we did get surf and turf (lobster), I asked Arnest if my wife could keep a copy of the menu and he said yes but took it away and later returned it with a very nice personal message to us, that typified the level of service we received.
I could complain at the Tasman sea for being rough as we crossed from New Zealand to Tasmania or for being disembarked in Sydney at an out of the way port but it was no big deal really.
Great tour well worth seeing, we were lucky and had a warm sunny day, at Hobbiton it is very well organized.View All 53 Hobbiton Movie Set Reviews