I booked this 10 day cruise with the intention of having a relaxing time and some rejuvination. It fulfilled those plans in every way. Let me start by saying there seem to be a fair number of people with unreasonable expectations as to what a cruise line is able to provide. I think that if you look for something to criticize you will find it anywhere. I believe the Noordam crew, from top to bottom are outstanding and the same can be said of this magnificent classy ship. The check in was over in 30 minutes from the kerb, despite what appeared as long lines outside the terminal, a great welcome by the check in staff and the bag was at my cabin before I was. My balcony cabin was comfortable, elegant and with plenty of useful storage space. The beds on HAL are the best in the business and the pillows are good too.
A good lunch in the Lido with plenty of seating space and some time exploring the ship prior to the efficiently handled safety briefing. I chose the open seating dining and was flexible with whatever size table was available. During the 10 night cruise I never waited more than a couple of minutes for a table, either at lunch or dinnertime and was given a warm welcome each time. The food was of good quality, the right temperature and delivered by a professional wait staff. I know folks were complaining about the time it took to deliver the food on occasion but I take the view that I didnt have anywhere else to be with any urgency which gives you a much more relaxing meal.
We stopped at Half Moon Cay in front of the Nieuw Amsterdam but were unable to tender due choppy seas. My 2nd time unlucky at this port so I will have to go back. So a day at sea with an earlier than planned arrival in Grand Turk which I consider a great cruiseline stop with a good beach, plenty of loungers right in front of the pier and a great view of the ship. I wish the locals tried a bit harder to be friendly though, I get the feeling some of them take this great influx of business from ships as an inconvenience, and this in the cruise terminal. Dinner at the Pinnacle Grill was superb and the Noordam has one of the best Maitre d,e and premium restaurant staff I have ever experienced, on or off the sea. I ended up going back 3 times during the cruise, its worth every penny of the 25$ supplement.
Canaletto is an Italian restaurant that is free and requires reservations but the same can be said there. The following morning arrical in Samana, Dominican Republic where the ship anchors in a spectacular inlet and then uses tenders for a relatively long journey to the docking point. Mixed reviews about this port of call with the locals pushing very hard to make money from ship passengers but it is a very beautiful place thats well worth the visit.
Another sea day of relaxation plus the free computer/camera/video talks onboard which I enjoyed, time on the top deck enjoying the sun and a good book and more great food. Some of the evening shows were to my taste while others were not but all were well presented. An hours entertainement every evening is another activity to keep you busy.
Bonaire has a small shopping district within 5 minutes walk from the pier and I spent time in a seafront bar with some friends from the ship and we then did the 50 or so miles to Curacao overnight, arriving early morning. Curacao is beautiful and the ship stays in port until 11pm so you can enjoy it at night.
I took an island tour and back to the ship at 10pm for the overnight to Aruba. Enjoyed Aruba too and its great to see other ships, we parked in front of Cunards Queen Victoria and a Princess ship. Another island tour on what is much friendlier island and then the 3 night cruise back to Fort Lauderdale with 2 full days at sea. Others have spoken about the captains decision to turn the ship around and investigate a couple of Cuban fishing skits that had become separated from their mother ship in the dark. It fair to say that decision possibly saved 4 lives and it concluded a thoroughly positive experience on my part with Holland America. Disembarkation was smooth and quick and I had arranged transportation back to MIA aiport with the cruiseline. I cannot fault HAL and shall be back.