This cruise was chosen by my husband who had never wanted to do a cruise! The choice for him was the fact that just about every day we were in a new port...in fact 15 different ports and 7 different countries. Our cruise started from Civitavecchia and since we were travelling from Australia we had a stopover for a couple of days in Kuala Lumpur at The Traders hotel....Fantastic...and then to Rome for 2 days, 1 night at the Hotel Regno...great location right near the Trevi Fountain and Pantheon but not 5 star...not bad either just not very luxurious. We were travelling with another couple and I had arranged for Rome cabs to do our transfers from Fuimicino to the city and from the city to the port etc...Rome cabs were fantastic and it was so nice to have clean cars and nice drivers...forget buses etc this is well worth the money and if you can share with others it becomes cheaper. We arrived at Civitavecchia without any hassles, although do look for the prostitutes on the way down the freeway as we all coped an eyeful of one lovely lady washing herself....interesting and highly amusing!! Embarkation was easy and quick, some paperwork to fill out and then to the counter for a quick photo, show and hand over your passport and then your identity/room card for your cruise is handed to you. We waited 10 minutes before our number to board was called and off we went. The Noordam is immaculate I cannot explain how clean and tidy the ship is and as I soon noted it was due to the amazing staff who seem to work 24 hours a day polishing, vacuming and dusting anything that doesn't move...so don't stand still too long!!!!We headed upstairs to the Lido for lunch...the food is fantastic and really there is choices for everyone...I can't understand when people find something to complain about as I feel some people just want a winge because they can. We had the call on the speakers to say our rooms were ready at 2pm....a quick rush downstairs to the 6th level...yep the room was perfect...we unpacked and just enjoyed knowing that for 20 days we did not have to pack again. The rooms are compact but perfectly organised, I never once felt boxed in and I loved being able to step on to the balcony every morning and watch as we docked in a new port....our friends chose a room with a window and were down on the first level...I did have a look and yes the room was almost identical in size except for the balcony...choices for some who don't wish to pay but want light choose that room...for me I love not having to get dressed to enjoy outside. Our first day was at sea....this was a test as we all were chomping at the bit to get out at a new port and explore luckily our meet and greet for our Cruise Critic group was arranged for 11am at the Crow's Nest...many thanks to Becky and Sara for arranging such a fun affair...we had Mimosa's and some of the crew spoke to us about the ports of call that we would be going to and what to look for...I am sorry I can't remember their names but it was highly entertaining and informative and it was great to meet all the people who had shared the excitement in the lead up to our cruise. After the M&G we set about exploring the ship there are lots of bars a casino, pools, nightclub, library, computer room, shops...which have some very good specials on some days...you get informed by a letter to your room, do go I found an amazing watch set reduced from $100 to $20...very nice...also there is the show room and piano bar...really lots of places to go but even so the Noordam is not a party ship...do not expect back to back entertainment unless you love a casino or bingo or random cooking or computer classes....there is a time between 7pm and 9pm were there is no entertainment...I should say nothing that would keep me awake...I think this is due to the fact that they must feel most people are at dinner...not a problem for us as we amused ourselves by doing bar crawls and just laughing about life...but for those who are unable to sometimes make up their own entertainment don't go on this cruise. Each night on the Noordam we attended at least one quiz or the piano bar...we also took advantage of the two for one happy hours in the Crow's Nest between 4 and 5 most days...yep we like a drink so I apologise to those people who don't drink reading this review. The Piano Bar is looked after by Buddy...he was a lot of fun and happy to take requests...although we are all sick to death of Piano Man!!!!'The quizzes are run either by DJ Dave who also does the nightclub or Glenn who is the Cruise Director...lots of fun and keeps the brain working. Other entertainment on the cruise that we saw were Natalie and the Hal Cats...watch for the amazing antics of the bongo player... and Zac who plays a lovely acoustic guitar...we also saw The Neptunes who had a fabulous lead singer...sorry I cannot remember her name but we only had time to see them once. There is also full production shows on every night...I am afraid I only watched 10 minutes of one so I am unable to make a comment...it was just not something we chose not to watch. There is also a string quartet but since I am not a huge fan of classical music I only saw them as I walked past where they were playing...some people seemed to be enjoying them so assume they are okay.
The first port of call was Dubrovnik Croatia, we chose to use the HAL shuttle to the town at $15 per person...we were quite happy to pay this but as we found out later another couple we know paid $1 for the local bus. This city is a walled city and the walk of the wall is a must...please do not do this unless you are fit or at least capable of taking large steps up to reach the top of the wall!! We also had a place we had read about that we really wanted to visit...so after the wall we went in search of D'Vinos a local wine bar...well worth looking for if you like wine...and if you want more info just contact me.
Next Port of call was Kerkira Greece...or Corfu town...we walked from the ship into town about 2km it is a flat even surface so not hard even if it was raining ...I loved this town it was everything that I liked, some time to look at the fortress and sometime at the shops and sometime eating...really just lovely and the people were very nice...it was also less crowded than Dubrovnik which seemed to have more tourists than locals. I will say for those that use the local toilets...always carry tissues or toilet paper and you are not supposed to flush the paper down the toilet...yukkkk!!! But as they have no suridge systems the toilet has to be put into bins...sorry to explain this but it can be a bit of a shock if you don't know.
Katakalon Greece was the next day, this port is used just to get to Olympia...I was not interested as I had seen enough photos and info to know I would be bored...so I opted to stay in town...our friends followed our lead and as the ship was larger than the town it took a total of 5 minutes to see the beach and the shops...as we walked we noticed that they had buses to Olympia for 10 Euros return...no guide but much cheaper than anything else...the men decided they would do this and us girls went back to the boat and collected our laptops and sat in the great little water front cafes looking at the ship and the sea drinking coffee and using their free internet....everyone was happy...although the men did say it wasn't that exciting at Olympia...each to their own so don't shoot the messenger!! I also talked to another couple back on board who paid $55 in a taxi to get to Olympia so that will give you an idea of costs...I think HALS is about $100...but don't quote me.
Santorini cannot be explained, every postcard you have ever seen is true...stunning...the Noordam allowed us to go out on to the bow to watch the sun rise over Santorini and we all made our way to take photos...it was such a nice way to start the day. Today we were to be tendered in and as we were in town from 9am until 7pm I had booked on line a day cruise around the island. I had booked the S/Y Eleftheria...if you want more info contact me...this was a day trip on a Greek boat...do it if you have time and I would recommend them so much as it only takes a maximum of 14 people but luckily on this day our group of six were the only people on board. To go back to the start we chose to go on the cable cars from the base of the cliff up to Santorini...another couple we were with chose donkeys...they said it was a bit scary but they enjoyed it...I am a coward so I was happy to go on the cable...it did not take long as there was no line....but we were the only cruise ship that day so it might make a difference if more people are around. Santorini has great shops too...look out for the cheap costume jewellery near the cable cars...very nice and made great gifts for my girlfriends when we got home.
Kusadasi Turkey was interesting, we had been hearing so much about Ephesus on the lead up to this port that I was worried that we had not booked a tour...it was a decision that happily worked in our favour...the port is located right at the markets and has a new shopping area that you walk through to exit the port...as we were leaving a taxi company said that they would take us to Ephesus for 25 Euros per person...we kept walking and as we got of the port we asked a taxi driver how much to Ephesus and we got 20 Euros per person return with him taking us to the top of the area and meeting us at the bottom one and a half hours later for the return trip where he would be paid...yep a bargain!!!! We didn't get a guide but there are headsets and guides around if you want them...our driver Ali gave us a book to use as a guide...this book was so good we bought one ourselves later...the taxis are immaculate and take at least 6 to 8 people use them and you will be happy it is a lot cheaper than the Hal tours again. Ali our driver also happily showed us a place to eat when we asked him...he was very nice and so was the resturaunt. I will tell you that the sellers in the markets are aggressive...I am a seasoned shopper and they drove me insane...it almost stopped me shopping...but not quite!!!
Piraeus was next, this is the port to Athens...once again I had booked a private tour...this time with Private Greece Tours...once again contact me for more info if wanted...thank heavens for small mercies as we had arranged to be collected at 8am...we were greeted by Spiros...there was so many cars and buses as I think there was at least four ships in port that day I do not know how we found each other but our name was held high and we found him quickly....Spiros was a large very proud Greek and as we squeezed in to our small Mercedes taxi he gave us a running itinerary on our day and the history of Athens...very interesting...as we arrived at the Acropolis he told us to run as quick as we could to the top and get our tickets for entry...this was the wisest words as we arrived with little or no crowds and enjoyed the Parthenon with no one around....we were to find out later other friends could not get in as the line to get in was 1km long...take my advice and get there as soon as you can...we also did the museum, the old and new Olympic sites and the changing of the guard...do this as it is fascinating to watch and very enjoyable...we had been expected to be dropped back at the port but as we had only chosen a half day tour I asked him to leave us at the Plaka and because we cut our tour short...his words not ours...he took us to the highest point in Athens to look over the city such fantastic views and a good way of seeing where you have been. Next the Plaka which is the oldest area of Athens and once again I had a mission....this time to visit the oldest distillery in Athens... Bretto's www.brettosplaka.com ...do this if you like wine or Ouzo...it is brilliant and worth looking for. The Plaka also has more ruins and great little eateries the food is delicious so have lunch there....we ate at YdRia www.ydria.gr it was a random choice but they gave us a free dessert and a delicious dessert wine to finish our meal....bargain!!! The reason I have so much info about them is I always keep a card of places I like.
The next day we were at sea and at last a chance to lie down in the sun and relax and of course enjoy music trivia by the pool. Tonight was also a formal night in the Main dining room so we all frocked up and went to enjoy dinner, we had chosen "As you wish dining" we had no problems ever getting a table and we never lined up...we like eating at different times so this type of dining suited our group perfectly. The food is delicious and beautifully presented the hardest thing is making a choice of what to eat and whether to have all four courses...if you do make sure you try the French onion soup....yum!!
Messina Italy was a short day 7am until 1pm, some people went to Mount Etna but we chose to walk in to town which is just across from the ship it is a little confusing to figure out how to get to the centre of town but just walk straight across the road and cut through the buildings and you will be there. We looked at the church tower which has an automated clock system and then we hopped on one of the tourist "trains" which is a little bus pulling carriages that looks like a train. This was fun and we got to see a little of everything and gave us the opportunity to walk back to things we wanted to see after we got off the ride. The town has some great little back streets if you just want to wander and it has some good gelati and coffee shops too.
Back to Civitavecchia for the 10 day turn around, on this day we said goodbye to some new friends we had made and watched as new cruisers started to come on board. We caught the shuttle in to town choosing to walk around Civitavecchia instead of going to Rome as we would be spending four days there at the end of our cruise. Civitavecchia is a really nice town it has plenty of shops and had the weather been better I would have used the beach...we also took advantage of the free Wifi at the coffee shops and enjoyed the local food again I don't feel that you have to go to Rome unless you haven't been there. I have plenty of info about what we did in Rome which I will put at the end of this review. Back on board for the sail away party on the back deck...Natalie and the Hal Cats played up a storm and combined with the fantastic cocktails and the flamboyant plastic cocktail cups that you get to keep and refill for cheaper all is good with the world.
Livorno was the next port of call and this time I had booked a Hal tour the price was $95 and was a tour to Lucca and then to Pisa. I awoke this morning to my husband having gastro....what a disaster and I called the doctor...the time was 7.30am I was informed that the medical centre opens at 8am but if it was an emergency they could contact the nurse...we decided to wait until 8am but as he was so unwell I asked for them to send the nurse to the room as he was unable to make it down to the A deck and the Medical Centre. I left him on his own and went on the tour...truthfully I did not want to be near him as I did not want to catch it...I had to go to the showroom where all the people on tours meet and wait for their tour to be called. I approached the tour director and explained that my husband was unwell and confined to bed and enquired as to whether or not we might be reimbursed for his ticket....the answer was yes if it was proved that he was indeed unwell...yep we did get reimbursed at the end of our trip. Anyway about the tour we waited until it was called then we all walked out to be given a coloured sticker and number which identified our group and bus we all piled on and off we went. The guide was a local girl and she spoke very good English she told us about where we were going and what we would see and then she handed out the whispers...these are the headsets that enable you to hear the tour guide as you follow her on your tour...we tested these and for those ones that didn't work they were replaced. Lucca is a walled city and I loved it, it was such a shame I could not share it with my husband but it was very pretty....lots of narrow corridors and no cars only bicycles...one of the older locals did get a bit peeved with us though as he was trying to negotiate the streets with his bicycle and all of us where in the way...I can't blame him really. The tour guide gave us a tour and we had the option of following her for a full tour or leaving her half way to wander on our own...I chose the latter. Remember that shops in Europe don't open until 10am at the earliest and then they shut at 2pm for a couple of hours reopening again at 4pm and staying open until 10pm. The reason I say this is I love to shop and as it was so early nothing was open!!!! I was saved though as a fantastic antique market started to set up...if I could have had a shipping container I could have spent a fortune...I think it was Saturday...I can't remember but if you get to go there you will love it...I did buy an amazing antique Venetian Mosaic 1920's brooch...stunning. We all piled back on to the bus for the next leg of the journey to Pisa...this place is a tourist mecca and as the tower is in a square and there are about 100 buses of tourists we had to park just out of the town. The guide informed us before we got off the bus not to buy from the hawkers at the bus stop these people sell copy bags etc as it is legal for them to sell them but if you buy from them the local police or Carbineri will arrest or fine you...I have heard of this before as one woman was caught in Rome and fined $1500 for buying a copy bag...more than the real one she could have bought!!! We walked about 600mtrs across some main roads and into a very crowded entrance area to Pisa...it is not a hard walk but don't do this tour if you struggle with walking as the roads are uneven. As we entered the walled area there it was the leaning tower and two other magnificent buildings I did not go inside any of the buildings but it was enough just to admire them and enjoy watching everyone trying to take the classic silly poses of holding the tower up. After listing to the guide I chose to wander some of the back streets...not much to see but had a great gelati...there is also lots of cheap shops facing the square with cheap scarves and bags...I nabbed a really nice Italian leather bag for 20 euros...and everyone likes it so I wish I had bought more. Once again we met everyone at a designated point...this time as the bus was located a distance away we would not leave that area until everyone was there...as usual some people are unable to tell the time and always run late....such is life but at least we finally got going. The tour was good and I felt happy with the money spent...I do not know if it would have been cheaper to do a private tour and the only thing I would have liked was to have longer in Lucca. Also a last minute note...it is very hard to find a toilet and the one in Lucca was shut for cleaning!!!!
My husband awoke the next day feeling great...thank heavens it was only a 24 hour gastro!!! So off to Monte Carlo we went...today was another tender day...there was another ship in port and it was no smaller than ours but I think it is on a pay the highest fee and get the port as half way through the day that ship went out so their cruisers had to be tendered out and another ship came in...not sure how it works? Anyway Monaco was very stunning and very rich, this is the first time I have ever seen a four door Porche!!! We all decided to start walking from the port and we managed to make our way up to the Museum it was early so it wasn't open yet so we decided to jump on the hop on hop off bus at 17 euros per person we thought this was a good deal...we did the whole circuit and got off at the Casino...once again we were early and you are unable to enter the Casino until 2pm they also charge you 10 Euro to get in and you must show your passport...this is to stop the Monagesques or locals from gambling...something they are not allowed to do in their own country. There are lots of photo opportunities and we had one of the most expensive coffees of our trip at the cafe located next to the Casino....but who cares it had great people watching and we are on holidays. Well we decided we better get back on the bus so we could get to the palace for the change of guard...if I remember this is at midday every day...well we went to wait for the bus that was supposed to come every 15 minutes...well half an hour later it turned up and people pushed ahead and we could not get on...I was furious...we waited another 10 minutes and this time we got aggressive...the Russians were the worst but we beat them!!!! We made it to the palace just in time...the trouble was that so did everyone else...it was manic...luckily I waited away from where the guards were at the palace end and watched as they came out of their building located opposite the palace so I got some good photos. The decision was made that we would not bother with the bus again and so we set off on foot...this was fine as we were really at the top of the hill and as we walked we managed to get some fantastic pictures...if you are fit enough I would encourage this as you get to see some wonderful sights and Monaco is very picturesque...on the way we found a public toilet we paid our 1 Euro donation and all was clean and good...better than some towns!! The port is filled with boats and we were also there for the lead up to the Monaco boat show which was to occur two days later so we all chose the cruiser we would leave on and dreamed of wealth we wished we had!!! Barcelona was a two day stop over, we arrived at about 2pm and left the next day at 11pm...luckily for me it was two days as yes my husband passed the gastro to me!!! Anyway the first day he swore all he did was catch the shuttle which is 3 Euros return into town and just walked down Las Ramblas which is the main street in Barcelona with our friends...he saved all the good stuff for the next day when I felt better. The next day I was fine so we went to go and catch the bus...the line was ridiculous so we piled in to a cab to head to La Sagarada Familia which is Gaudi's church....this is an absolute must do not miss this...I do not often get impressed but this place is incredible both inside and out...the line was long but we were inside in a very short time...we spent about two hours in there...just amazing!!! We then caught another cab up to Parc Rual which is Gaudi's park for the people...we walked around for another two hours...it was really enjoyable and relaxing...we then jumped in another cab and headed to the Triumph Arch...after that we walked from there back towards Las Ramblas...lunch was some tapas and sangria...the Spanish obviously do not know what small is when it comes to sangria or beer...beware that the drinks are enormous!!!! The cabs were actually quite cheap at about 10 euros per trip....the only time we felt ripped off was when we caught a cab from the port into town...a very short trip and 11 Euros!!!!
Palma de Mallorca was the next port of call we caught the shuttle into town...on the way there is lots of marinas and boats...more than Monaco!!! I would have liked to got off the shuttle and have a look but as it is quite a way into town it is not probably advisable walking unless you are very fit. We headed up to the cathedral to look inside once we got in to town...the cathedral is really interesting and this is where they bury their old kings....we then wandered around the old quarter by doing this we found the old Arab baths...no water....and also admired the general architecture of the town. After a bit of walking we decided we would find out the price of one of the horse and cart rides around the streets...we approached our driver who enthusiastically pulled out his calculator to negotiate price...$120 euros for 45 minutes....no way!!! We started to walk away...okay he says 80 Euros...no way...alright 60...no we say 40 he says 50 and we settle on 45 Euros for 30 minutes...a big laugh and I am sure we could have got it for less but who cares....so we climbed on board and off we went...it is truelly amazing how the horse and carriage can negotiate such narrow streets...some so narrow people had to climb into doorways...it was money well spent and we had a lot of fun. Palma de Mallorca is also well known for its pearls...they are cheap and well worth looking at and buying...I think like all jewellery that some is better than others but I am not concerned about making money on them I just wanted some to wear...yep I did get some. Next stop was Tunisia, the port is La Goulette. We had done a little research and had decided that we would catch the local train into Tunis and go to the Medina....well this was not going to happen!! The port is brand new and it looks like they are hoping to become a cruise destination with new shops and eateries located at the port...we went out to catch the train...no way were they going to let us do that...I could see it from where the ship was and it looked like locals could cut through a gate to get to it...but there was a guard and he would not let us go that way...we would have to walk 2 kms to get to the other side...the taxi drivers would not take us to the medina and leave us they insisted on a return trip...no negotiation!!!! This trip would cost 80 euros for the six of us...we had no choice!!! We had exchanged money inside the port and the exchange officer said we could exchange it back on return...the cab drivers take Euros only so go figure that one. Once at the Medina which is not that far the taxi driver who spoke little to no English said he would wait for us for two hours where he would return us safely to port...I felt a bit like a child and I started to feel like having a tantrum as I do not like them telling me what I should do on my holiday. Anyway we headed into the medina...I never once felt unsafe but I did have three big men around...my husband was offered to sell both myself and my girlfriend to a man who offered 100000 camels for us...but he didn't take up the offer....i liked the Medina and enjoyed wandering through all the tiny narrow walkways...I could imagine getting lost but somehow we managed to negotiate our way around and eventually find our way back to the taxi driver. Tunisia was probably the least enjoyable of all the ports as we all felt a bit too controlled by the locals...this is just our opinion.
Trapani Sicily was a fun day, the ship moored right next to the town and was taller than any buildings in the area...it literally stopped the town!!! We left the ship early and walked along the port towards the left following the sea...it is a very narrow town surrounded by sea and by walking around the outside and then through the middle we got a great feel for this lovely town...I wish it hadn't been windy as I would have enjoyed sometime at the beach. We eventually made our way back into the main town and started heading towards the ship it was here that we found the town had put on a meet and greet with local dancers, food and wine...it was by far the best welcome we had on our cruise so far and was enjoyed by all of us. I am not sure how often ships come into this port but I felt like we were a novelty as there was a traffic jam with cars and people coming to see this huge ship in port...even as we sailed away they lined the port to wave us goodbye...it was really enjoyable and I finally felt like this is what it would have been like in the old days of cruising.
Naples was our last port of call and also where I had booked another private tour....Rome in limo was our choice... www.romeinlimo.com these guys are great and I had booked a full day tour to Pompeii, Sorrento and Positano. Murco our driver collected us at 8am and drove us towards Pompeii...once again we arrived before all the buses and we were greeted by Charles who was our private tour guide for Pompeii...do this as it is just too hard to negotiate and understand Pompeii...we were actually the first in and even he said we were very lucky to enjoy Pompeii without the 50 million tourists that would follow us. After 2 hours we headed back to Murco and the trip to Sorrento...this is a really a nice drive and we stopped a couple of times on the way for photos of the beautiful scenery...45 minutes later we were at Sorrento...we had a lovely lunch here and wandered the streets and shops at our own lesuire...another two hours later we were on our way to Positano...I could live here this town is so pretty and I wish we had longer there...unfortunately we had to head back to the ship and our tour was over just as quickly as it started. We had spent a total of 8 hours touring but it went so quickly...I would really recommend this tour especially Pompeii.
Well our cruise was over...I could have stayed on the Noordam for another month it was so much fun and the ship is so wonderful...the staff are so good and I am already missing my turn down service every night...the great cocktails and the delicious food. The only thing I won't miss was the not so great internet...but hey we are at sea and sometimes I should get away from being in contact with the world...I even got so bad I didn't know what day it was and the only way I knew where we would be the next day was because of the great maps and information about the forthcoming port that was placed on your bed very night with two chocolates and of course your amazing animal made out of towels by your wonderful room stewards!!!
Thanks Noordam...we will be back!!!!
If anyone wants more info about what we did in Rome or any other port please contact me.
6121 is a great room....very quiet and located not far from the aft elevators...closet is fine plenty of room...and the balcony is big enough...there is no Wifi in this room.