We chose this crew for the itinerary, and their "J" inside cabin rooms. Much about this cruise was amazing, but a few items need work.
ITINERARY - Can't complain here. The time in shore was adequate on all but Napier, and I prefer a cruise that has its concentration of days at sea at the end of the cruise, so I return to work rested.
SHIP - Our "J" category rooms were HUGE! This ship is scheduled for dry-dock in September, so I don't know if these rooms will remain as is. For this longer cruise length, we loved the extra room - without the extra price. In general, this ship needs an update, but obviously, Holland America already knows this. Although I found the decor dated, and a few spots were showing wear, the ship was spotless. I also think the arrangement of some of the public areas could be modernized - especially the gym and the buffet areas which would benefit from more square footage and more glass area. I would like to see the buffet area have glass along the entire front of the ship with doors directly leading to the deck, rather than locating service areas between the buffet & the lido deck.
GYM - This area needs serious work. To attract the younger, more fitness-crazed generations, HAL needs modern equipment, and contemporary classes. This was also one of the few areas where you were forced to pay extra for pretty much anything worthwhile. I think HAL should try to be the first ship at sea to offer Bodypump classes - that would be a huge hit! The gym needs to remain open until at least 10:00 - 11:00 would be better. They closed at 9:00 reportedly to preserve quiet for those sleeping on the floor below. However, HAL did not have this same concern for those of us on Deck 1 whose rooms were under the BB King Lounge, which played well after 10:00 (which did not keep me up, so I doubt use of the gym after 9:00 would keep floor 9 guests awake either). Equipment in the gym was OLD! They only had 2 rowing machines - one broke on day 2 and was never repaired. And, if ANY machine should face the sea, it should be the rowing machines, which they didn't.
FOOD - Amazing. Simply great. Service, quality, quantity, variety, everything was more than we could have asked for. My only complaint was the Russian Roulette for tables you played every morning in the buffet. Guests got visibly angry trying to find a table. Hopefully HAL will expand seating at their buffet when they refurbish the Noordam.
SERVICE - Amazing! From the room stewards, to the dining, to the wine stewards, to the bar attendants to the front desk - these employees exude joy and positive service. How HAL keeps employees customer focused and joyful, when they live and work in such close quarters for 8 months at a time, should be the subject of a TED talk. I really admire what they have achieved. We brought a group of 30 customers for a wine focused tour. We had 3, private, wine events during our days at sea. We were BLOWN AWAY by the elegance of the service, and the expertise of their Director of Wine. Far exceeded expectations.
ACTIVITIES - This needs work. Activities are uninspired. I have lots of suggestions for things HAL could offer that would modernize their cruises, without alienating their core customer base. Too long for this review. HAL: Contact me! I figure I can easily raise your per/person income by $100 by simply changing up your on-board offerings. Evening entertainment was sub-par with the exception of Daniel on the piano bar. My husband and I love to dance - especially swing. We never got the chance. The only faster paced music played in a venue with a dance floor, was the "Disco Bar" which got going at 10:30 pm. There was the BB King lounge, which offered our, slow blues music most nights. We are used to several lounges offering danceable music at times from early evening to midnight and beyond on other cruises we have taken. Really missed that.
Best inside cabins at sea. L shaped sofas. TONS of storage! Really nicely arranged bathroom. Love the medicine cabinet. 3 closets. Under bed drawers. Vanity with stool with storage. Well thought out - and handiest location on the ship.
Did a private tour of Hobbiton prior to boarding ship and another to Weiheke Island. Excellent.
Private tour of Rotorua which was good.
Segway tour of Wellington & Speights Brewery on our own. Wonderful, even though it was a little chilly. Happened to run into a Highland Marching Band competition, which was wonderful. And free!
Hawkes Bay Wineries - Excellent Wine!
Sailing with Wildlife was a 5. Farm Tour on Bank's Peninsula was a 2. The farm owner talked far too long about himself, and his family, and far too little about the running of a sheep farm. The talk took place in a barn that wreaked of sheep urine for over an hour. They really missed an opportunity to walk us around the property with its stunning views and explain about some of the historic buildings. Instead, just droned on and on and on about their great-great-great grand parents and how they were given and then lost land. Finally, we got out of the smelly barn and saw a great dog demonstration and then they served us english muffins with jam. Beware! The 85+ year old grandfather usually is the van driver. He was gone the day we took the trip, so we got a far younger driver. The road is treacherous, and I would worry about an 85 year old doing that trip.View All 7 Bank's Peninsula Reviews
Saw dolphins, seals, penguins and other wildlife. Was served coffee and cookies and they had wine for sale. Went out of their way to make sure we saw wildlife. Great cruise. 100 year old sailboat. Very cool!View All undefined undefined Reviews
Tasting set-up was great. Tour was too long. More historical - less process - and I care more about process.View All 16 Speights Brewery Reviews
BEST TOUR OF THE TRIP! I previously reported we did this in Wellington, which is wrong. We did this in Dunedin, and saw the bands in Dunedin. Wellington we just walked around this very walkable city. Segway operator was very good at teaching you how to ride, keeping you safe, and introducing the city. We covered so much more ground in a much more intimate manner than we could have in any other way. RECOMMEND!View All undefined undefined Reviews
Toured 5 wineries and 1 brewery. Awesome!! Highly recommend.View All 7 Tasmanian Wine Tasting Reviews
Great information from both the tour guide and the bus driver about Melbourne and Aussie culture.View All 22 City Tour Reviews
Fern Gully is magical! Open air train cars.View All 23 Puffing Billy Train Reviews
Great wine - and a REALLY great lunch stop. Very organized. A really interesting mix of wineries. Some large, and some really small.View All 6 Yarra Valley Reviews