3 Holland America Noordam Spring Break Cruise Reviews

Embarkation at around 11:30 was somewhat long, but discovered that there was an accident on the escalator up to the boarding level and also the HAL check-in card machines were operating slowly. This may have caused the back-up we ... Read More
Embarkation at around 11:30 was somewhat long, but discovered that there was an accident on the escalator up to the boarding level and also the HAL check-in card machines were operating slowly. This may have caused the back-up we experienced. Our 2 previous HAL cruises were on the Zaandam and the Maasdam a number of years ago, and we were anxious to experience HAL again. THE SHIP: First impression inside was a bit underwhelming and claustrophobic. This is a lovely ship, no doubt, but VERY understated. THere's definitely no "Wow" when you first board, like I remembered with the 2 previous HAL ships. We found the atrium areas to be very small and pretty much unused. I also thought the Lido buffet area was poorly laid out, as people walked through it constantly to get from the aft pool area to the mid pool. The space between serving areas and tables is small as it is, and the extra people walking through who weren't even eating made it all the more congested. Not much they can do now, but feel the design just isn't quite "right." Cabin: We had a VE balcony on deck 5, a triple as we had our grandson. It also seemed smaller than our previous cabins, and those were an OV and an inside. However, the storage space was super, more than adequate for the 3 of us, and we loved that there was space to store luggage under the bed. Once again, though, the layout of the room seemed off. When the sofa was extended into a bed, no one could access the balcony. Our room steward was exceptional, so he had our beds ready EARLY in the evenings (meaning we couldn't sit on the balcony after that without doing acrobatics), but he also made up our room as soon as we left for breakfast. The bathroom had lots of areas for storing all of our toiletries and we really appreciated the size of the shower/tub. Much bigger than most other lines. However, The lighting around the closet area in the entryway is very poor and you can't see inside, so I would recommend you bring a small flashlight to remedy this problem. The beds are WONDERFUL and the linens are so soft you'll want to run out and buy new ones for your home. Dining: We had open seating and we loved it! We usually went to the MDR between 6:30 and 7:15 and we NEVER had to wait for a table. Sometimes we were at a table for 6 or 8 and sometimes we had our own table - we weren't picky and said we'd take anything and we were very impressed with this option. The servers treated us the same as if we ate at their table every night. I'd definitely choose this from now on. The food was exceptional! We loved the creative menus, and appreciated that many of the dishes had a caribbean touch. We had lobster twice and king crablegs once, so HAL was more than generous!!! The beef (filets, prime rib) was always so tender it could be cut with a fork and everything was well-seasoned. The BEST food we've had on any cruise. And most importantly, everything was always served hot. You don't know how important this is until you've sailed on a ship (Navigator of the Seas) where most entrees and soups were barely warm. Kudos to the kitchen and wait staff! Entertainment: We thought the Noordam singers and dancers were some of the most talented we've seen on any ship, although their material sometimes wasn't on a par with them. The Las Vegas show was really good, especially the Sting number - very creative! We only saw the comedians on the last night revue so we can't really critique, although they seemed very funny in their short skits. The house band musicians were terrific, but the poor girl singer with the Halcats was just pitiful. Unfortunately, this was the late-night entertainment in the Crow's Nest and it kept us away from that venue. Gary T'To did happy hour in the Crow's Nest and he was fabulous - they should have him there all night!!! The piano bar was OK, the Ocean Bar band was really not very good. Movies were very recent but shown at odd times. We would really have liked to have one in the afternoon of a sea day, but it didn't happen. I suppose this is because the movies share the venue with the Culinary Arts Center. And I must mention the cruise director, Mike Connachan - he's just super! Teen program: The Loft became our grandson's favorite part of the ship and they had an extensive daily program for the teens. We were truly impressed with this. He made friends from across the world and had a blast. Ports: We stopped at St. Maarten, St. Lucia, Barbados, Martinique, St. Thomas and Half Moon Cay. We booked independent tours (Serenity in St. Lucia, Heatwave in Barbados and Sunny Liston in St. Thomas) and did the others on our own. Loved them all. This is a wonderful itinerary. Overall: We had a fabulous cruise! The staff and crew are without a doubt the best on the seas, and really spoil you for any other cruise line. The food was fabulous, the ship was meticulously clean. We loved the Happy Hours in the Crow's Nest and the Ocean Bar, the promenade deck, the scenic cruising along Martinique and St. Lucia, the many Culinary Arts Center demonstrations, the lack of harassing servers trying to sell us the "drink of the day", the incredible crew, the large library, well I'm sure I'm leaving many things out. But sum it up by saying we loved it and can't wait to go again! The big ships may be glitzier and have more to do, but no cruise line will treat you better than HAL. Want to feel like royalty? Sail HAL. Read Less
Sail Date April 2010
This was a very enjoyable cruise and much to our surprise and delight we came back with a definite feeling that HAL would be a contender for our future cruise dollars. That is until on our return we saw a magazine article about HAL and how ... Read More
This was a very enjoyable cruise and much to our surprise and delight we came back with a definite feeling that HAL would be a contender for our future cruise dollars. That is until on our return we saw a magazine article about HAL and how they treated a customer when something went terribly wrong. We only encountered minor problems mostly through poor communication. We had problems with the HAL website when checking in and their response was totally lacking and unhelpful. Also when making a reservation (prior to sailing) at the Pinnacle Grill they charged us upfront and the reservation wasn't even guaranteed! At embarkation too, it would have been nice to know that we could have boarded earlier on in the day. On the cruise it was in the way that they dealt with customer communication for room service and the open dining room reservation system that caused us concern. It has always been our experience that how a company deals with things that go wrong is the best measure of that company and HAL falls short in that regard. With the problems that we had with customer communication we would not want to go with HAL in the future. The ship had no wow factor it just had the feeling of a comfortable old ship! The captain and officers should get a lot of kudos because the customer contact staff on the Noordam were without exception the happiest/most helpful/hard working crew we have encountered to date. EMBARKATION: We walked into the embarkation hall at around 2PM to find a vast array of agents waiting to help us with not another passenger in sight!! (It turned out that embarkation actually started at 11AM not the 1PM as we had been told). We were on the ship in minutes and our cabin was ready and the stewards (two of them) waiting to greet us. DISEMBARKATION: The disembarkation process was also very easy - the lack of continuous announcements starting in the early hours of the morning was especially appreciated. However, one thing that did not work for us was the breakfast that we had ordered from room service. Every day we ordered breakfast in our cabin and every day it was delivered within the requested time frame except for the last morning - the appointed time frame expired at 9AM and we called room service who said they would chase it for us - it never arrived and room service never called back. Our appointed time to disembark was 9:45 and from about 8:30 on our cabin steward was getting steadily more strident in his demands that we leave our cabin by 9AM. We explained that we were waiting for breakfast and that our disembarkation time was 9:45 but that did not assuage his demands. Nobody told us that we could not wait in our cabin until disembarkation - so we did! DINING: We tried the Italian, Vista, Pinnacle Grill restaurants and the Lido buffet and found the food quality to be very good. The Italian restaurant keeps the same menu throughout the trip so it gets a little difficult to go more than a couple of times! However, the restaurant is much smaller than any of the others and it was a lot more comfortable eating here. The Pinnacle Grill is a nice place to eat with quite a large choice on the menu. Although it was impossible for us to sit at any of the tables by the window on a table for 2 the restaurant does have a nice selection of tables for 2! We ate at the Pinnacle Grill on 2 occasions and we would have eaten there again but we could not obtain a reservation at our desired time - the strange thing was that every time we passed by the restaurant at, or near, our desired time it was half empty!? In the Lido buffet the choices were good but there were no trays provided so you had to arrange to eat only one course at a time and get the drinks on a separate trip too! HAL really needs to work on their communication with the customer! One irritant in this regard was that we did not know that for the open seating at the Vista restaurant that we could/should have made a reservation. We happened to pass the dining reservation desk (by pure chance!) and then when we enquired we were informed that we could make reservations for up to 4 days ahead, however there were no reservations available at all for the next 4 nights - great huh!!! We were finally able to get a dining reservation for the first night (Friday) at 5:15pm (not a good time for us) and in the Italian restaurant for the Saturday and Sunday nights. We then asked the telephone concierge to make reservations for us for the rest of the cruise and she did a good job. Unfortunately, while she reserved the time and table that we requested for each night, we were never able to get the table and were always given a table in the noisiest part of the restaurant. We eventually got so annoyed with this that we told the assistant dining room manager exactly what we thought of their reservation system, from that point on we got the reserved table!!? The Vista reservation system and the communication of how to use the system definitely needs work - it's a shambles! The coffee in all restaurants was really, really bad!!! The mark-up on wine was somewhat excessive - we have got used to exorbitant mark-ups but a wine we can buy locally at $10 cost us $60 on the ship! PUBLIC AREAS: The public areas seem really small in comparison to other boats we have been on - in particular the shopping area is really small and thus the area allocated to pharmaceuticals is tiny (almost non-existent!) - a problem if someone needs some over the counter supplies. CABIN: The cabin was well designed with plenty of storage space and the cabin was very quiet during the cruise. The cabin did however have one major design flaw and that is that the air conditioning vent outlet is right above the heads of the passengers when in bed - not a good idea! The balcony was very nice with chairs and a table provided. SPA: The spa was used multiple times. The whirlpool was really nice and for a daily charge it was worth it! The changing rooms were nice and a locker was provided with a robe and slippers to use inside it. The massage therapist was wonderful, and yes, it was expensive but worth every minute of the expense! As the cruise progresses the spa facility offers more packages at a reduced rate - it certainly pays to wait towards the end if you don't mind limited time choices. PORTS OF CALL / SHORE EXCURSIONS: The first port was Half Moon Cay -- we had booked a shore excursion snorkel trip for 1pm -- which required that a tender be taken to the shore. Upon arriving at the pier we were informed that the trip had been canceled. Why oh why could HAL not have told us prior to going to all the trouble of getting ready and tendering to shore??!! The second port of call was Grand Turk. We just wandered around the port area here. The third port of call was Samana, Dominican Republic. HAL shore excursion department had left a letter in our cabin about how the roads were very rough and undeveloped and that if we had any questions to contact them. This was a really good example of how to communicate with customers!!! We were able to cancel our excursions without any problem. The fourth port of call was Willemstad, Curacao. We just wandered around the port area and the downtown area. The weather was hot and humid. The fifth port of call was Kralenijk, in Bonaire. We took two shore excursions here. The first one was around the island and it was very interesting to see the island but there was really only desert to see. The second one was a snorkel trip and that was really fantastic the water here is so clear that you can see the fish even when the ship is docked in the harbor. The last port of call was Oranjestad, Aruba. We wandered around the port and town area. The weather was hot and humid. Read Less
Sail Date March 2010
We were on the March 25 Spring Break cruise. We're a family of four, with two boys 11 and 9, and were excited to find an itinerary that fit us so well. We've sailed on NCL and Carnival in the past and have usually had to hunt out ... Read More
We were on the March 25 Spring Break cruise. We're a family of four, with two boys 11 and 9, and were excited to find an itinerary that fit us so well. We've sailed on NCL and Carnival in the past and have usually had to hunt out a quiet place on the ships to avoid the constant "fun," so HAL looked to be the right fit for us. A TA tried to talk me out of sailing with HAL due to the usual "walker and scooter" line, but it only served to whet my appetite for a nice, quiet ride. We planned on (and did!) have active and exhausting days on shore, so relaxing ship days were perfect. We boarded at around 11:30am in Fort Lauderdale, and since we were in an SA category cabin, we dropped our bags off at the Neptune lounge before exploring the ship. We hit the Lido right away and found the sandwiches to be pretty good (although the kids concluded they weren't as good as Panera's). I was looking forward to the bread pudding but found myself confronted by a bowl of Vanilla Icing Soup with a Raisin Bread Crouton. Well, now I knew to ask for less icing next time! So now I might as well talk about the FOOD: Reviewing the food is so subjective, but what the heck! Overall, I have to say we were satisfied with the food but only at the Pinnacle, which we ate at 8 times during the cruise (6 dinner, 2 lunch). After our first two nights in the Main Dining Room, we were not looking forward to anymore (although I did have excellent lamb chops). Too bland and overcooked for our tastes in general and the service, while friendly, was rushed and impersonal. The soups especially were uninspired. Most everyone else we talked to during the cruise loved the food in the Main Dining Room, so what do we know? And also, being a desert person I was disappointed (but my waistline was grateful) that there was not one desert I tried, with the exception of a few at the Pinnacle, that I would care to try again (and most I thought were pretty terrible). I gained no weight on this cruise, so maybe this is something I should look for on future cruises? On our third night we had pre booked the Pinnacle, and it literally turned the mood of our cruise around. First, the service was near-perfect. We consistently finished up in about and hour and a half or a little longer, while noticing that the other tables with no children were taking at least two and a half hours for their service. That, to me, says it all. My guess is that the many people complaining about three hour meals (which is typically how long I would expect to spend at a nice dinner with my wife) could have mentioned to their waiter that they were in a hurry and would have been taken care of. The food was very good - not always outstanding - but definitely good enough that we again looked forward to dinner each evening. The lobster mac and cheese was rated as "the best thing ever" by my 9 year old (and I enjoyed his leftovers!). Between the four of us we worked through just about everything on the menu, and while we enjoyed every entrEe except the veal chop (a little tough and bland compared to the other offerings), the appetizers were less compelling. The kids loved the crab cakes (hey, they're fried), but my wife and I decided the French Onion Soup of all things was the most memorable appetizer. At lunch the Scallop Crème Brulee was so good I requested it one night for dinner (after asking ahead of time). On our last day we were invited to a Suite Lunch at the Pinnacle and they had a short menu which was terrificg, including the best veal tenderloin I've ever had, and an unbelievable berry and cream desert. While we're not big breakfast people, we did eat once each in the Pinnacle, Lido, and Main Dining room. While the main dining groom was very nice, if you are staying in a suite I would not pass up the chance to eat in the Pinnacle for breakfast. We wanted to try room service once for dinner, and while it was fun to eat on the verandah, the food was again not to our taste and we wound up going to the Lido! And that bread pudding? Well, I kept trying and the forth time I was finally able to communicate that I wanted the crusty part with just a few drops of icing. I did get the crusty part and after pouring out the excess icing (do the servers get paid by how much they put on?) I found that - it wasn't all that bad ? I can definitely see why many people love it though - - - suuuugar! Overall, we were happy with the food choices. Those little chocolate squares in the Neptune Lounge quenched my sugar fix in the absence of delicious deserts during the day. I think we would be happier should we sail HAL again on a ship with two specialty restaurants like the Eurodam. Either way we would simply book every night at the specialty restaurant(s) and gladly consider the premium as part of the overall price of the cruise. CABIN: Our Deluxe Verandah Suite was more than spacious enough for our family of four. The pull out sofa was big, it seemed a little bigger than a double but maybe not. I slept fine on it with one of my sons when he got a little seasick the first night, and I had plenty of room. I can see two adults doing just fine on it. The beds were very comfortable but very firm (no complaints, just an observation). I prefer the plush, squishy mattresses on Carnival. The service was impeccable and was the equal of staying at a Ritz, I would say. The storage space in the room was way more that we needed, and we packed heavily, with 12+ bags. NEPTUNE LOUNGE: We were directly across the lounge in 7055, so our kids loved popping over and getting snacks thoughout the day. I just read another reviewer of our March 25th cruise complaining that "unsupervised children" were eating all the snacks and didn't leave any for them. Guilty as charged! My well behaved children did eat the snacks they were entitled to, and unsupervised no less! Fortunately, the staff in the Neptune were unfailing in their commitment to make all the guests feel comfortable, not just the grumpy ones! Other than the chocolate squares, I found myself stopping in just about every time I passed by to get ice water, something I really came to appreciate! The TV was always on in the Neptune and for this reason I didn't find it to be very appealing as a "hang out." If not for the kids, I would not consider it important to book a room close to the lounge, although there was certainly no drawback to having a room across the hall. There was absolutely no noise from inside our cabin unless you were standing right next to the door. POOL: This was the highlight of the ship for me. My wife and I spent most of our time onboard by the Lido pool (I was to be found in the hot tubs). While there were some kids there, usually around 10 or so, they were always very well behaved. The hot tubs were always available, as were deck chairs. The glass roof allows movement between sun and shade "As You Wish." :-) and the quiet music and atmosphere suited me to a tee. The aft pool was more crowded, not as well laid out, and too hot for me. CLUB HAL: You'd think I could say something about club HAL but I can't. My kids wanted to do their own thing. I was thankful my oldest is only 11 and too young for the teen group after peeking in on them in the Loft. But then again I just hate the idea of him becoming a teen period! The captain made an announcement about damage to the ship by teens one morning that got a lot of people upset, even though most of them (like us) probably had no idea what happened. Lots of tut-tuting followed but other than that I saw no evidence of anything amiss. All in all the ship was just what we were looking for. A nice "simple" and luxurious ship which always made us feel welcome, even if the food didn't always live up to the standards set by the service. We would gladly sail HAL again, but maybe we'll try the Eurodam or Neiw Amsterdam next time so we can enjoy the Tamarind as well as the Pinnacle. Read Less
Sail Date March 2010
Noordam Ratings
Category Editor Member
Cabins 4.0 4.3
Dining 4.0 4.0
Entertainment 4.0 3.5
Public Rooms 4.0 4.4
Fitness Recreation 3.0 3.8
Family 2.0 3.8
Shore Excursion 3.0 3.6
Enrichment 4.0 3.6
Service 4.0 4.3
Value For Money 3.0 3.9
Rates 4.0 4.3

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