This was our 33rd cruise and our fifth time on HAL. We chose this itinerary as a means to return to North America after a long adventure in Australia.
First the things we liked: The BB King All Star Band was terrific every time they performed, playing excellent cover versions of classic pop, soul and funk songs The BB King club was a great place to relax and dance. Overall the food was good enough. HAL has the same dishes on all of their ships, the variety is good and the quality is good enough. Generally the service all over the ship was quite good.
Unfortunately the ship itself was old and the interior design was dated, unpleasant and downright ugly. This was a shock to us as we have found other HAL ships to be attractive. But the Noordam was like a bad cheap hotel with almost no pleasing public spaces. The Noordam is in desperate need of a complete make-over.
There were many sea days and unfortunately the activities on board were very down market. There was only one lecturer who was mediocre, leaning on video content from other sources. Otherwise just silly games and activities aimed at upsales like gem displays and beverage tastings. So we were quite bored and had to lean on the hobbies we brought on board.
Shortly after leaving Sydney, the ship began to run out of all sorts of beverages, both alcoholic and non-alcoholic. At one point there was almost no beer available. Lots of passengers were commenting about it. I got fed up and wrote a letter to the Hotel Manager which resulted in a flurry of responses, including a face-to-face meeting with the Assistant Beverage Manager. He thanked me for my letter and explained that all of the items were indeed on board but the staff just failed to go get them from their sources. He promised that they would do better. But then the next morning when the room service waiter brought our breakfast juice and coffee, he apologized that the ship was out of orange juice. Of course there was plenty of OJ on board, just not in the room service kitchen. Crazy.
I was pleasantly surprised by the very low price of this cruise, but then found out the truth in the cliche "You get what you pay for." This was just a budget cruise with the quality that one usually finds with low-cost budget products. We will probably return to HAL, but probably not to the Noordam.
We liked having a Neptune Suite, but I don't recommend this specific cabin. It is handicapped-accessible and in order to leave room for a chair or scooter, a lot of open area was created. As a result there was no room for a full-sized couch. The large rear-facing verandah looked lovely but it was often unusable because the ship's dirty smoke stack rained down lots of filthy soot. There are regular often loud metallic bangs, day and night.