I will start with the title of this review. Embark, disembark all OK - most lines have this in the bag.
We chose this cruise on Noordam, because we love Vancouver, we wanted to go to Sydney and we love sea days.
This cruise bore not the remotest resemblance to our 2 x cruises on Volendam Dec.16 and April 18. Where has the elegance gone? The fresh flowers everywhere? The sophistication? Dancing? Cocktail bars?
It's just not possible to be entertained for 26 days, of which 16 were "at sea", with Billboard, BB Kings and Lincoln Centre. The bars are all empty by 2000 hrs, and they do not refill after dinner and shows - there is just nothing to do. There is a limit to how many times you may be introduced to the BB King Band in just one night let alone 26. They perform in 3 x segments every night, and this intro stuff happens in every segment, every night for 26 nights! Well, we lasted 2 x nights and just didn't go back there. The 2 x pianists in Billboard seemed more bored than we were. The performances in the Lincoln Centre are in a closed off room - very serious, stuffy, a room full of people, seated, facing the stage, concentrating on classical music. We love classical music, but you are allowed to talk and laugh aren't you? Not in the Lincoln Centre, I wore a bracelet that jingled and got some serious looks! Paleese, it's a cruise!
There is a bar on Deck 1 - next to Guest Relations - how peculiar! Only utilisation over 26 days was cocktail tasting at 1700 - no atmosphere, on a good evening you may hear someone balling out the staff, they are so close.
There is a place called Nightlights or some such, between Casino and Theatre side entrance - what happens there? Never saw a soul in there. It's all black!
There is a Grand Piano in Ocean Bar, on a dais! Never played - but no worries, the dance floor has been carpeted over.
There is a "library" of 30 cruises, most >15 days and we love sea days so it answered those calls but was still boring.
There were 2 x lecturers in the fields of Pacific peoples and The Stars - we went to a few, but again after 26 days the variety just was not there.
Enough, something positive.
Most of the crew are polite, caring and competent. We had several very sick pax taken to non scheduled or scheduled ports for medical evac. This was handled very well.
We enjoy any time dining, but on this ship it was assigned to deck 1 and the engine noise and vibration was horrendous. Not to mention the dim lighting - most had to remove the tea lights from the table lamp to read the menu. We transferred to Deck 2 and the same 2 x person table every night, a first for us. The best outcome for this switch was our dinner crew - have rarely laughed so much, nor experienced the expertise of Maitre'D Johannes, wine expert Eric,and the lovely Sumatomo and Ambrullah, attentive food waiters.
The food was mostly good - when it was good it was superlative, with stunning flavour and brilliant cooking skills. When it was not good, it was mostly inedible. The former was more prevalent than the latter, but it did puzzle us a little. We missed the contact with different dinner companions and conversation.
We dined at the buffet a few times, and found it very good, easy to find a table,
We did enjoy a couple of shows - the dance troupe were absolutely fabulous, very very talented, and the comedian was a clever chap with a very complex and funny routine involving (very willing) audience participation.
The Filipino and Indonesian Crew shows were fabulous - nothing amateur about these performances, so much effort from everyone, even after all their hard work round the ship.
I cannot comment on Excursions, Trivia, the Spa, the Pool Deck as we did not engage.
Last but not least, the cost of liquor on board is daylight robbery.
We loved old HAL, but not anymore. There were many very disappointed HAL devotees on board.
The cabin was great-new carpet, bedding, huge TV
Deny n Budi, our room stewards, had our whole section in hysterics all day every day. And they did a great job, we felt they made the cruise for us - lovely gentle men treating us like kings.
However, the cabin is very low on storage, in the bathroom and the main room. Luggage storage under the bed excellent, but no overhead cabinets so very difficult to store everyday electrics, computers, stuff in general. Balcony quite adequate.