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Sail Date: September 2007
In all my years of travel, this was as close to a perfect vacation as I've had. About 12 years ago, my sister and I had the Cruise-From-Hell (fortunately only 3 days of hell) on Royal Caribbean, so I was reluctant. My husband has ... Read More
In all my years of travel, this was as close to a perfect vacation as I've had. About 12 years ago, my sister and I had the Cruise-From-Hell (fortunately only 3 days of hell) on Royal Caribbean, so I was reluctant. My husband has back issues and is often a grumpy traveller. However, by mid-cruise, we were already planning on where to go next on the Noordam and/or HAL. We were looking for a quiet ship and HAL was a good match. I'm guessing the age distribution was 40's on up. Not a rowdy crowd. There were a few children but we didn't see them often. We specifically selected a September cruise hoping that most of the rugrats would be in school, and that seemed to work. We were amazed at how many REALLY elderly people were on board--a lot of people with canes and wheelchairs. Several who were blind. Even though we are mid-40s, we felt right at home. :} Even though there were nearly 2000 people on the ship, it never felt crowded (except the buffet) and we never had problems finding a place to sit or getting into the spa--or really, to do anything. It was all very very comfortable. Our room (7076) was gorgeous and spacious. We made good use of the balcony, especially when we were in Glacier Bay. While the railings on the public decks were crowded and it was hard to sometimes get an opening for a camera shot, we were able to enjoy lunch outside our room with an unimpaired view. My husband and I travel frequently for work so we didn't want a typical "hotel" room, and this felt much more like a small studio apartment. There was a dressing room area outside the bath (which had two sinks) an plenty of storage for his and hers. We selected the late dining option and had a table for two in the upper dining room. Again, this was a good match for us. Although we don't typically eat that late, it was nice not to feel the pressure of having to be somewhere earlier since we often were in town or napping or at the spa. We could dress in a leisurely way, usually went to the lounge and enjoyed a drink and appetizers and then made our way to dinner. Our table was near one of the server stations and we found it fascinating to watch them! Just amazing. We would have sworn that there was a dumbwaiter that brought up whatever they needed at the exact right moment, but there was none. There is no computer to record everyone's orders but it worked out perfectly and timely each time. I found plenty of options for dinner each night. My husband is a little pickier but when he couldn't decide, the waiter was able to combine the caesar salad and the grilled chicken (standard entrees) for the perfect meal. The variety and the quality of the food was outstanding. For the most part, we avoided the hustle and bustle of the buffet (with the exception of a couple of late breakfasts and a couple lunches). The variety and quality on the buffet were also excellent. I didn't feel that food was "recycled" the way it had been on Royal Caribbean (where if you saw an item one day, it showed up in a variation the next day). Also, the bread was outstanding! I started a buzz on the boards here before leaving by asking about the coffee. I have to say, it was very good. It varied a bit depending where you got it, but all was strong, rich and good flavor that was perfect for us. We were gifted with a coffee card and really enjoyed the options at the stand in the library. Prices were very decent--my favorite treat was a Caramello. For a grande it was about $2.50 without the card--so several dollars less (and better) than at a Starbucks. We purchased access to the spa and hydrotherapy areas and enjoyed those each day. My favorite room on the whole ship had these wonderful aqua tiled curved reclining benches that were heated. You could lay there, with soft music, gazing out at the scenery going by. It was heavenly! The ports were great. Since we were the second to last week of the season, there were great sales. The best values were at the Alaska Shirt Company in Juneau, right across from where the ship dock. Pretty much the first place you would even go into--so you tend to be skeptical. But actually, I wish we'd bought more there. EVERYTHING was 50% off. T-shirts for a couple bucks, lots of fleece, Ulu knives for $7, every touristy thing you could ever want. Our entire family is getting something from Alaska (we had to buy another suitcase when we got to Seattle--highly recommend the Marshalls just up from Pike Place for last minute needs like that). As you might expect, all of the stores that are promoted in the ship lit and at the ship presentations, pay for that privilege. Most of Sitka doesn't buy into that so you won't see a lot promoted there, but the shopping is still good. Shopping on the ship was also very good. Prices were generally comparable or lower than in port. Each day they featured a particular group of items (tshirts, fleece, amber, Russian stuff). Our only disappointment of the trip was that because of the fog and wind, our helicopter excursion to Mendenhall Glacier was cancelled. Our ship's account was credited with no problem. We didn't sign up for many excursions since we didn't want to have to BE places at certain times, but we heard rave reviews from everyone who did whale watches and we'll do that next time. From the ship we did see mountain goats, brown bears, whales, and a few seals but not very close. The water was a bit rougher than usual, I guess, so we did have quite a bit of sway a couple of nights. There were people (including crew) who got seasick. We took a dramamine each morning (non-drowsy formula) and were fine. The captain always provided a heads-up when things would be rough. We boarded the ship about 11:30 on Sunday. No problems. Getting off was also extremely easy. We weren't sure what all that would be like so we stayed overnight in Seattle on Sunday. However, we could easily have caught an afternoon flight out and we were so uninterested in doing anything more, that it was kind of a wasted day/night. (Seattle tip: if you like beer, try The Tap Room which has hundreds of beers on tap; also, the Palamino in City Centre was excellent for italian). While boarding, we purchased a soda card and a cocktail card. The cocktail card discounts the "fancy" drinks which run about $6.50 each. However, the "drink of the day" and well drinks are actually less than that anyway--so it wasn't necessarily an advantage to have the card (except as a matter of convenience--you didn't have to sign anything). The soda card is just for a glass of coke or whatever. It was convenient but we didn't fully use it. The coffee card was good for any size (so it's most economical to order the largest drink). All in all, we can't wait to cruise again and wish September weren't so far away. Right now we are looking at a cruise to Hawaii because there are 4 days at sea each way--and we enjoyed those days almost more than the days at port. It was a perfect and relaxing vacation. Read Less
Sail Date: September 2007
Embarkation - For years I have wanted to take an Alaska cruise and on September 9th I got my chance. I am fortunate enough to live in Seattle so the commute to the pier was very easy. I drove to a friend's house and he gave us a lift ... Read More
Embarkation - For years I have wanted to take an Alaska cruise and on September 9th I got my chance. I am fortunate enough to live in Seattle so the commute to the pier was very easy. I drove to a friend's house and he gave us a lift down to the pier. It was slightly more complicated because of the opening Seahawks game that day but we still made it there before noon. Process through the lines was very smooth but the drink card people should wait until all passengers are through security and paperwork necessary steps before starting to sell their punch cards. I'm not a big drinker but I did buy a soda card to split with my Mother. I think I would probably invest in a cocktail card the next time because some of the daily drinks did look interesting. Special thanks to the Laffen's from last Vegas for the invite to their sail away party. It was great to meet everyone and I have not forgotten about your picture and will email it to you sometime this weekend. I got a great picture of you two at Glacier Bay. Cabin- We booked this is as 3 day sale deal from an online agency so we knew that we were not headed for the finest room on board but we were eventually happy enough with it. Once the beds were separated it made for more space. This room didn't have a window and our only view of the outside came from the TV channel that had bridge and stern cam. We did a Mexico cruise with a veranda and really enjoyed that but rarely left it so I think this room did prompt me personally, to be out and enjoying some of the other parts of the ship. The bathroom was ample, the beds were great and the service was superb as always. Next time I would invest a bit more money for at least a window. I would bet however that our cruise fair combined was probably the price of one in a veranda room so I'm happy enough with how we ended up. I would also like to see them specify which rooms won't even have a sofa or a chair. It was a bit of a surprise not to find either. No big deal, we adjusted but a sofa or a chair is a nice thing. Food- This is my second Holland America cruise and I think the food is top notch. I don't often get the white glove service at home so I take advantage of the Vista Dining room for many more meals than simply dinner. We had originally hoped for a fixed early dining time and were given a flexible dining plan instead. My first reaction was disappointment but we turned out to enjoy sitting with different people every night. There were 3 bus loads of people from England, Scotland and Wales on board and my Mom (Scottish) enjoyed chatting with many of them. We were able to get a reservation very easily every day and never were turned down for the time we wanted. However I do think the time it takes to eat those meals is longer with this new system because the wait staff is no longer able to use their system for delivery as many parties come in at different times. They used to be able to bring courses for many tables all at once. Now it seems they have to bring different courses at different times. Kudos for them for adapting but I'm sure those kinks will get worked out down the road. The menu was very similar to what we had seen on the Oosterdam in March and it was just as well prepared. One tip I can offer is on the second formal night, when you order the surf and turf, ask for extra surf. They will bring you a plate with two lobster tails. I can't give them a perfect grade completely. We did have one negative experience at breakfast and I hesitate to mention it but to give a fair review I must include it. One morning in the Vista, we were seated at a four top table with a retired couple from California. I and the other gentleman ordered eggs Benedict and it came out cold. We mentioned this to the waiter and he took it away and he placed an order for a second try. However, a few moments later the same waiter came back to the table and said that he tested the temperature himself and disagreed with our assessment. He was very forceful and stern about it and I felt he was a bit out of line. On a ship with 800 crew that all smile and give top notch service 99% of the time I'm willing to look past it but I feel strongly he was out of line disagreeing with us on that. The second order of eggs came and it was still cold so I just gave up and ate in the Lido that morning. In 14 total days (two cruises) of cruising this was the only experience of sub-par service but I feel compelled to report it. Many dishes can stand being cold but Eggs Benedict is not one of them. One other tip- order cappuccino when in the Vista, it's free and they charge for it everywhere else on board. Entertainment- Made it to two shows and one of the game show nights. All were great but the Elton John guy was the best. I think every review agrees with that rating. I don't know if that guy is going to be so good that he will soon be off the cruise ship circuit. My Mom usually hates the show and she even enjoyed that one. Casino was great as well. I enjoy Texas hold'em and it was a real struggle to get a game going each night but we did a couple of times. Last day, we had a tournament and I was happy to take 1st place. I ended up 560.00 on the trip so that was a great casino experience. Ports- I have never seen anything as beautiful as Glacier Bay. Although there is no opportunity to get off there the captain does an amazing job of getting the ship so close to the glaciers, you feel as though you can touch them. I almost wish the boat could park there overnight to allow for some dawn and dusk photographs. If I do Alaska again I will look for ones that go there for a couple of days or do more of the scenic cruising. When we arrived at first the fog was very thick and my heart sank that I would have come all this way to photograph fog but it soon cleared and we had the best weather of several sailings, according to a couple of crew members I spoke with. Juneau- If you like shopping, this is the place. Alaska T-shirt Company was doing the best of all the shops. I'm not big on shopping so we took a public bus to the Glacier and got to see a bit of the not tourist run part of town. Tip- stick to the tourist part of town! Unless you are keen on Wal-Mart and broken down cars. I did buy a pass in the afternoon to go up the tram and felt it was worth it. I did find out that the one pass is good for up and down all day so I probably would have done that earlier, had I known. Amazing views and there were 5 ships in port that day. I also think next time I will save up some money and go for a glacier chopper ride. Everyone I spoke to said it was amazing. Sitka- One stop light, one 1000 sq ft church and a couple of tourist shops, not my favorite port but my Mother loved it. I didn't do any shore excursions as I found them much more affordable in Mexico but bumming around were worth while as well. I did find an interesting surf shop (surprising in Alaska) and took some good pictures of the ship from the tender ride in and out. The Noordam is a beautiful ship. Ketchikan- I enjoyed Ketchikan. My father had worked there for a couple of years in the 90s but I had never seen it. It had great many tourist shops and things to see. One local had a beautiful Alaskan Husky Dog with a color lined with 1 dollar bills. It reminded me of all the tip jars in Mexico. Everyone in Mexico had a tip jar. Creek street was pretty cool but the dead fish on the side of the river did put off a bit of a smell. Victoria- I used to live in Victoria for 5 years so we didn't get off there. I've seen it all there. Disembarkation - we had no flight so we got to enjoy one last meal in Lido, I don't get fresh waffles very often so I had one last go at the waffle bar. We were the last number called and it was sad to leave the great ship from a great week. Overall- Fantastic trip, I will try again for next year. Read Less
Sail Date: September 2007
cruised 16-23sept07. our first hal cruise. service best weve had food very good. negatives vista dining room shakes rattles and vibrates thought i was back on a aircraft carrier.so there we were wearing a suit at formal night(just to get ... Read More
cruised 16-23sept07. our first hal cruise. service best weve had food very good. negatives vista dining room shakes rattles and vibrates thought i was back on a aircraft carrier.so there we were wearing a suit at formal night(just to get the lobster and steak) with silverware falling off table glasses rattling. hot tubs on noordam tiny only have 4.showroom also shakes vibrates.the shows on the noordam most were good with the exception of the comedians only 2 not so good. one being adult comedian barr. yeah noordam pictures you to the max including blocking gangway in port stopping you to take picture. think port was Ketchikan with only a 6 hr port time.back to plusses really liked the way everything was on time no delays.we had a excursion booked by the ship in Ketchikan boat and floatplane, we got out about 1hr by boat too rough floatplane canceled got full refund next day. overall your better off doing your own things . we were at mendenhall glacier 4 plus hrs hiking east trail fantastic seen falls fairy close,who ever said you need i hr at glacier has lost it. we seen one lady arrive in highheel shoes and it was raining to see the glacier.we bought rt blue bus to get to the glacier on the way back we found out the blue bus had stopped running for the day at 2pm. after missing one white bus we were advised they would take us back, yeah we would go again on hal and noordam. Read Less
Sail Date: September 2007
We are in our early 40's and have been on 9 cruises on all different lines. This was our first trip to Alaska. Embarkation: What a breeze, very calm people, no rushing, pushing and crazy people. Nice touch of big cookies, water, and ... Read More
We are in our early 40's and have been on 9 cruises on all different lines. This was our first trip to Alaska. Embarkation: What a breeze, very calm people, no rushing, pushing and crazy people. Nice touch of big cookies, water, and lemonade while people waited to board the ship. Already got to know a few crew members while waiting. Convenient parking right outside the ship, but you better get there early to get a space otherwise you have to park across the street. Ship: Very nice and understated. Didn't think any of the public rooms were overall fancy like we've seen on other ships. The atrium was a disappointment and not all glamorous, big, open and beautiful as we've seen on other ships. However, there was a gorgeous light that hung down that changed colors and it was absolutely the highlight of the atrium. It was just stunning. The elevators were gorgeous on the outside doors and we loved the glass ones that went down each side of the ship where you could see the ocean. The casino was small and not very good at all. The Lido pool was very pretty and so was the aft pool. We didn't walk into 1 public room and just say wow on the ship like we have on other ships, but it still was a very nice ship. Staterooms: We normally always cruise with a balcony or mini-suite and this time we got a fully obstructed outside cabin on deck 4. We had a tender boat hanging right in our floor to ceiling window. The windows were one-way tinted so crew could not see in during the day. Crew were always on the tender during the day and at times we'd see 4-5 of them in there. That was a little distracting to us. We could, however, see a little bit of the water because the tenders had windows on them and we could see through, so even a completely obstructed cabin, really wasn't, so that was better than we thought. At night when the ship was going at full speed, we heard a horrible rattling noise all night long, which kept me awake. The lighting at the vanity was very poor. The beds were comfortable and nice, but we felt the bedding was softer and cozier on Princess and Carnival of all things. We would not choose this type of room in the future. Service: Outstanding service. Comparable to Celebrity. Crew got to know your names, they carried your trays, got your coffee. Very good. Room attendant very good. Dining room service, we had fixed late dining. Server was very nice, but very inconsistent in service with some dinners taking way, way over 2 hours. Had lunch in the Vista dining room and service was quick and perfect. So it depends on which server you get. Food: I expected better in food quality than we got. I expected to have the food quality be similar to Celebrity. It was not comparable at all in our opinion. Some of the items were very good, such as their prime rib. Deserts were not up to our standards - Celebrity excels in this category. Had a banana cream pie we were so excited for at lunch in the Vista dining room and it was not good at all. It had the consistency of oatmeal and tasted awful. The lady from England next to us said it should be fed to the whales and she wasn't too keen on it and we jut chuckled. Disappointed in formal steak and lobster dinner. Lobster so small and cold, filet the size of 2 silver dollars and flat as a pancake. Have had much better on other lines. Not saying that all the food was bad, because it definitely wasn't. It was hit and miss for us and not consistent at all. Another favorite was their thai appetizer, it was delicious. Did not enjoy the cold soups. French onion was decent and the wedding soup was decent. Enjoyed the Thai food on the Lido deck, pizza was decent - needed more cheese. Sauce had best flavor of any line. Salad bar in Lido was hit and miss each day, dressings missing, sometimes garbonzos sometimes not, croutons missing, etc. My husband, who loves food, said the best meal he had all week was the meatloaf sandwich in the dining room the last day at sea. That should tell you something. I disagreed with him a little, because I did think the prime rib was some of the best we've had. Also the pan seared lemon butter flounder was quite good too. Other than that, I couldn't really tell you another good meal I truly remembered as being outstanding. I was really looking forward to the Parmesan chicken that I heard so much about and in all honesty, it was gross. It was a fat chunk of chicken with no flavor. I make my chicken dijon 200% better than what they had. Another let down for me. We have cruised on almost every line so we have tasted a lot of different things to base our comparisons on. We are not loyal to one line over another, we cruise on them all and keep an open mind and give our honest opinions and comparisons. I can definitely see that some cheerleaders for some lines don't like that and can't respect other people's opinions, which is very shallow. We are open to all opinions and respect them all on any cruiseline, good or bad and don't hold it against anyone. We truly have enjoyed all the lines in one way or another. None are perfect, just all different. Entertainment: We usually go see at least one show on ships and we are used to seeing the same old stuff. This time we went to the Joel Mason show, a Tribute to Elton John, and he was absolutely hysterical and amazingly musically talented. We loved it and it was by far the best show we have ever seen at sea. We also attended his 2nd show on the last day at sea. I highly, highly recommend not missing this guy. He's too good for cruise ships in our opinion, but thank the Lord he is on cruise ships, because he helped make our cruise so great. Ports: What can I say? The Lord blessed us with such incredible weather throughout this cruise. Glacier Bay was an absolutely amazing day, one of the best days we have ever had on a cruise. Pure blue skies, warm weather, and clear as a bell once the morning fog wore off. All I can say is WOW. There just are no words to express God's beauty. We really enjoyed Juneau and had fun at the t-shirt shop, which was the best shopping of the cruise for us. 50% off everything, and there really were some good buys. We didn't do any excursions this time because we have another cruise planned so close to it, but if I did Alaska again, I definitely would do a whale watching one and a few more. In Sitka, again, we had another gorgeous sun-filled day. We walked around a little and actually met up with a waiter from a previous cruise ship that was in port. We had fun chatting with him for about an hour. We walked to the Sitka National Park and then to the Raptor Center. Both were great and the walk there was just gorgeous. Ketchikan was the only port that was cloudy, but we had no rain the entire cruise, which is completely amazing. There, we walked the town and watched the horses and Huskies and ate some halibut and chips on the pier. Victoria, we walked around, but we've been there so many times, it's just a bore to us. It is very pretty though. We also met some very, very nice and fun people on this cruise. A big hi to Liz, Sandy, and Nilda and my orange hat man and several others! Would we cruise Holland again? Absolutely, someday in the future. We love to cruise and love exploring the different ships, lines, and meeting such wonderful people all over the world. Read Less
Sail Date: September 2007
Overview: We questioned the inconsistent remarks on Cruise Critic before the cruise. Unfortunately we must confirm inconsistency of food and service. Not what we expect from a premium cruise line. This review covers only the ship, not the ... Read More
Overview: We questioned the inconsistent remarks on Cruise Critic before the cruise. Unfortunately we must confirm inconsistency of food and service. Not what we expect from a premium cruise line. This review covers only the ship, not the great excursions and fantastic scenery, nor the rainy weather in Sitka. We are a 60 year old couple with eleven previous cruises; first time on HAL and our second cruise to Alaska. Our Noordam experience, departing Seattle on Sept 2, was not as enjoyable as Celebrity, RCI nor Princess. Cabin/Hotel: We booked a balcony cabin, but later upgraded to a SY suite in response to HAL special offers. The upgrade included a night at Seattle's Fairmont Olympic and bus service. We were very pleased with the hotel, bus transportation and coordinating with HAL reps at the hotel. Well Done! The Noordam cabin was spacious with a large balcony, which we used frequently. We particularly liked the large bathroom with two sinks, separate shower and jacuzzi tub. The bedding and choice of pillows was a nice touch. The room steward, Romahn, was great. Ship: The Noordam is a new ship and maintenance and cleaning was on-going. The staff was generally very friendly. We thought the decor and art work was generally very nice, but the cabin doors look like cheap plywood and detract from the overall appearance. The public rooms were well kept, but the Lido and Showroom were usually overcrowded. The shopping area was well stocked and overpriced. Photographers were always present, but not overly assertive. Photo prices were much higher than other ships. Entertainment: We missed some of the shows due to poor food service, but the magician was excellent, the comedian was okay, but ruined the karaoke experience as a judge by trying to steal the limelight; plus she was often gross for a family oriented show. The string quartet was wonderful and played several venues throughout the ship. The HAL Kats band was versatile and generally provided good music. When the ship cruised Glacier Bay, the forward starboard door on deck four was opened so we could take photos on the bow. A nice touch. The sliding roof over the pool area was also nice during cold and rainy weather, but the roof mechanism significantly reduces the view and photo ops from the deck above.  Dining Experience: The Lido buffet provided a broad selection of good food. It was usually very crowded at meal times and we sometimes asked to join a couple sitting alone at a large table. The Dining Room food was unremarkable and the service ranged from poor to excellent. Ice cream was the only good dessert. No reservations are allowed between 5:30 and 7:45. Gratuities are predetermined based on the $10/day, so there is no incentive for wait staff to do a good job. One evening the DR Captain's explanation for poor service was everyone wants to eat at the same time. My complaint to the Hotel Mgr received no response. Room service was generally on time, but twice the order was incomplete. One afternoon we called for tray removal as we left the ship. Three hours later the tray was still in the hallway. I was on hold for 18 minutes trying to get someone to pick up the tray; frustrated, I finally hung up. My written complaint to the Hotel Mgr was also unanswered. Conclusion: The Noordam is a beautiful ship, but the dining service significantly detracts from the total experience. I doubt we will cruise with HAL again. Read Less
Sail Date: September 2007
Im starting with how the cruise was booked through holland america, when i booked my cruise in march of 2007 for a 9/16/2007 cruise to alaska out of seattle what a nightmare by the holland reservation staff and mgmt (wow) first as soon as ... Read More
Im starting with how the cruise was booked through holland america, when i booked my cruise in march of 2007 for a 9/16/2007 cruise to alaska out of seattle what a nightmare by the holland reservation staff and mgmt (wow) first as soon as i paid in full with my credit card it went down hill from there when i asked for late seating option i was told we don't have this option no more only as you wish dinning this is my 12th cruise and i cruised many lines, i asked to talk to a supervisor about this i was told NO WE don't HAVE ONE ON DUTY i called crop office in seattle and they had told me different that they do have traditional dinning times witch they took care of for me, also when my cruise docs arrived they were set on my front door steps package was open and they blew across the street( wow what service)im letting you know all of this so you can no how holland americas crop team works (no mercy when they get there full payment)$$$$$ Cruise seattle was great stayed at red lion on 5th ave this location was ideal walking distance to pikes market , wharf, shops, 1st starbucks, ect (great job red lion) checking in was a breeze room was ready and was also able to leave the ship after checking in and get water and other things in town. stayed in sa cat suite room 6111 good location starboard side very clean pressed and ready to go for my wife and myself, flat screen tv, dvd, huge bed with 6 count em pillows cabin boy was ok (budi) all of our needs were taken care of, overall ship is new all public areas were nice and bright, safe and clean lido deck with the buffet was laid out nicely, seemed liked 80% of the people ate there we had our meals in the vista dinning room (late 7:45)menu selection was great for all there meals each day (soups are great chef) shows and events were fine cruising glacier bay was eventful thanks captain saw lots of wildlife and calving of ice, Juneau was raining and our float plane excursion was cancelled credited to our account that day took mnt robert tram very windy overall nice place sitka was very fun sea otter/raptor center excursion was great lots of wildlife the boat picked us up at the ship so we didn't have to tender in to this port like the other passengers, Ketchikan three ships in port with one waiting very busy no excursions booked walked to totem museum and around town canada b.c. very nice took a pm tour to church winery and chocolate tasting getting off what a joke again holland america management team dropped the ball on this one overall this is a fun cruise and was a great time p.s.(holland america mgmt please take time to train your reservation staff and supervisors a little better remember your in the vacation business) Read Less
Sail Date: September 2007
This was my first cruise since 1983. The previous cruise was noisy, crowded, and on a different cruise line. My expectations were exceeded by the Noordam and HAL Indonesian crew. Embarkation was smooth - left the Sheraton downtown at ... Read More
This was my first cruise since 1983. The previous cruise was noisy, crowded, and on a different cruise line. My expectations were exceeded by the Noordam and HAL Indonesian crew. Embarkation was smooth - left the Sheraton downtown at 11:15am, and we were sitting down for lunch on the Lido deck at 12:10. The rooms were ready around 1:15. We had a SS level suite, which was roomy with plenty of storage and had 1 standup shower, a full tub/shower, and 2 sinks. The ship was decorated in a subdued manner with much artwork, but not gaudy in any way. The ship's store seemed to be busy the first few days, but as the crowds diminished, the prices went down. Although it cost extra for the Greenhouse spa, ($40/day or $150/wk), the hydropool and thermal suites were a great way to relax. The gym was adequate for cardio and had some weights. I was happy to see Purell hand disinfecting stations at all dining venues and on re-entry to the ship. For dining, we chose to have most meals in the Vista dining room. Our evening seating was at 7:45 at a nice window table. Our table attendant, Teguh, was outstanding and friendly. The master wine steward (somalie) for the ship(Ouvidiu (sp?) was great at finding the right wines and came by our table every night, even when we did not order a bottle of wine. The Vista dining room food was excellent and prepared to order. The Lido buffet was always a second choice for dining, but the food was decent and plentiful. I liked the way the Lido crew portioned out the food, rather than having a free-for-all at the buffet lines. The best meal we had was at the Pinnacle Grill and worth the extra $30. One of our shore excursions in Juneau was cancelled due to rain. The others were excellent and fun adventures. The only downside to the shore excursions was the inability to spend time walking around the ports, since our time was quite limited in each port. But the souvenir shops did not seem to vary much from one place to the next, so I did not feel like I was missing much because of the time element. The entertainment was ok, but I felt it was a bit dated and appealing only to a more "mature" audience. One comic, Julie Barr, was entertaining, but seemed to be more focused on talking to couples in the audience and their lengths of time together rather than telling jokes and engaging the entire audience. The disco did not seem to have much activity except around the bar... the DJ seemed to be focused on 70's & 80's disco rather than more modern dance music. Debarkation was surprisingly fast, around 10 minutes from leaving the stateroom to being on the bus for the airport. Read Less
Sail Date: September 2007
We decided to take both sets of parents on an Alaska cruise to thank them for all they have done for us over the years. This is a review of that cruise. We booked the Noordam 09/23/07 - 09/30/07 roundtrip out of Seattle. We booked ... Read More
We decided to take both sets of parents on an Alaska cruise to thank them for all they have done for us over the years. This is a review of that cruise. We booked the Noordam 09/23/07 - 09/30/07 roundtrip out of Seattle. We booked guarantee HH cabins which are obstructed outside. We got a great price & did not mind the obstructed view at all. My parents are somewhat disabled & I had to rent a scooter for her to get around the boat. I used Carevacations for this & they could not have been more helpful & accommodating with their service. My inlaws are quite active & had no trouble getting around. We arrived in Seattle 2 nites prior to embarkation. Took a bus tour & a food tour of the Pike's Place Market, which I highly, highly recommend. They take you around to all of the different vendors, tasting all the way. Great tour!!!! Embarkation - We arrived at the ship approximately 11:30am. Went right thru to sign in as my mother required a wheelchair to get onboard. Everyone along the way was sooo helpful & made what could have been a very stressful morning quite smooth. We were in the Lido by 12:30 having a lovely lunch. Cabins were ready around 1pm & there was a mad dash of everyone to see their cabin. We hung out by the Lido pool for another half hour to avoid the rush. Cabins - We were in an outside cabin obstructed view on the upper promenade deck. Our floor to ceiling window overlooked one of the tenders but you could see thru the boats windows. We were very impressed with the size & cleanliness of the cabin. Very well laid out with plenty of closet & drawer space to put everything - and a full size tub !!!!!! After relaxing a bit we went for a walk around the ship to explore. The Explorer's Cafe is a really comfy place to relax. read have some coffee or espresso & just plain be on vacation. Every area of the ship is beautiful & well thought out. The detail in each & every public area is impeccable & pleasing to the eye. The Lido area was crowded at peak times but not objectional at all. Dinner in the Vista was very nice. The waitstaff is remarkable. My father in law was amazed that on the first nite we were all greeted by name, without them even having met us. Everyone forgot that the maitre'd had asked for all of our cabin numbers at the door. Formal nite was nice but I would prefer it being optional to wear a tie & jacket. Since I am on vacation I would rather it just be casual all the time. If I wanted to wear a jacket I could. I know others disagree with that, but I don't feel I should have to sacrifice dining in the Vista just because I am not wearing a tie. The food on board was good but nothing really exceptional, UNTIL WE WENT TO THE PINNACLE !!!!!. The Pinnacle Grill was GREAT!!!! We went twice that week & had filet mignon both times. The service, food, everything was wonderful. It is well worth the extra $30.00 for such a superb experience. We did not do any excursions, except for the Mt. Roberts Tramway in Juneau. The ride to the top was quite exciting as it is soo steep & quite a long way down. We saw a bald eagle at the top & got some great pictures or the area, even though it was a light drizzle & a little cold up there. The weather - It rained 4 days out of 7, but it did not dampen anyone's spirits. My parents took in the scenery from the Crow's Nest & the Lido deck windows. They had a great time talking to everyone & making friends. Cruising Glacier Bay, the weather was foggy on the way in with a light drizzle. By the time we reached the first glacier the fog lifted & there was a tiny bit of sun peaking thru the clouds. We had Spa treatments that afternoon & watch all the glaciers go by from the spa relaxation area. LOVELY... Juneau - small - lots of jewelry stores - but great end of season sales... Sitka - Beautiful, sunny day (very rare in Sitka apparently). walked around town, shopped, took pics, etc. Nice nice day Ketchikan - Cute town very small. Saw some sea lions playing in the creek at Creek Street. Not such great end of season sales as Juneau. Victoria - we did not arrive until 7 pm & left at 11:30pm. I really wish we could have spent more time here. The city (what we saw of it) was beautiful, even in the dark. We pretty much had just enough time to walk around & look at what shops were open. Walked thru the Empress hotel which was spectacular. I think that a full day in Victoria is necessary to really appreciate it fully. Overview - We all had a really wonderful relaxing cruise vacation. The Noordam is one of the nicest well run ships I have ever been on. Food was good & we never went hungry. Pinnacle was GREAT!!! Staff was the best at sea that I have experienced. Cabins were perfect. Disembarkation went very smoothly. We were allowed to stay in stateroom until your number was called. very nice... My parents had no problems getting off the ship as they were met in the Explorer's Lounge to receive wheelchair transportation to the dockside & right to a waiting taxi. Disembarkation was very simple & we were on our way to SeaTac airport approx 15 mins after our number was called. We did book another cruise while onboard at a discounted $100.00 deposit price that we can use within the next 4 years. We would like to use it on a European cruise. We will definitely be cruising with Holland America again Read Less
Sail Date: September 2007
Although this was my very first cruise, my expectations were high and I was not disappointed. I flew into Seattle from Los Angeles the morning of the cruise and arrived without incident. The transfer from the airport was through Holland ... Read More
Although this was my very first cruise, my expectations were high and I was not disappointed. I flew into Seattle from Los Angeles the morning of the cruise and arrived without incident. The transfer from the airport was through Holland America and it went like clockwork. The registration process took approximately 20 minutes and was also seamless. Upon boarding, I wandered around the ship just exploring the layout and the beautiful artwork exhibited throughout. Rather than fighting the masses trying to feed in the Lido, I opted for a leisurely drink at the aft bar. The bar personnel were very personable and efficient from the beginning of the cruise until the very end. It was a little over an hour until the staterooms were ready and when I entered my SY cabin, it was wonderful and very spacious. I was traveling solo and it was a real luxury to have all that space to myself. My cabin steward, Rohman, came by and introduced himself and took excellent care of my cabin and me throughout the entire voyage. The verandah sported a round dining table and two chairs and there were two other faux wicker chairs with matching ottomans. Despite the occasional rain and chilly weather, it was wonderful to be able to relax in the piece and quiet of my verandah and enjoy the spectacular scenery. Very early the second morning while having my morning coffee and cigarette, a single orca leapt out of the ocean and made a spectacular splash. It was my only whale sighting and I will never forget it. I had room service breakfast 6 of the 7 mornings on board and everything arrived on time, hot and tasty. The one morning I had breakfast in the Vista was also excellent and the service impeccable. I had room service several more times throughout the cruise for lunch or dinner and never had bad service nor bad food. The room service stewards were friendly and timely in the delivery of each meal and in picking up the dishes after I called. The one meal that I had in the Pinnacle Grill was absolutely delicious and the service was 5 star. You certainly couldn't get that type of meal or service for $30 in any land restaurant. I didn't plan any land excursions so I have nothing to report on that subject. The day in Glacier Bay was slightly damp and a little overcast, but what scenery! Mother Nature is unparalleled in her creations. The stop in Juneau was also rainy and cold and not very exciting. It is wonderful to be able to walk off the ship into port, but the port itself is unimpressive. Sitka and Ketchikan were far more interesting and provided much more to do than shop (although shopping there is just as plentiful). I had a great lunch in Sitka and toured the historic Russian "Cathedral" which is loaded with breathtaking religious icons. I did not get off the ship in Victoria so I can't comment on that aspect of the cruise. We'd had rough seas and the weather was very cold, so I stayed aboard and enjoyed the ship a little more. The seas were quieter for our final night so I just relaxed and started packing. The entire cruise experience aboard the Noordam was wonderful and worth every penny. The ship is elegant and easy to navigate. The crew and other personnel were very personable and always willing to assist you with whatever request you had. Many of the other passengers were grumpy, especially during the rough seas we encountered, but the crew were always smiling. This cruise was all about the actual shipboard experience for me instead of the ports. I would recommend HAL to anyone looking for a civilized and relaxing cruise with excellent service on a beautiful vessel. The Alaskan scenery was just the cherry on top of the sundae. Read Less
Sail Date: September 2007
Tom and I just returned from Holland America cruise number 13, our 15th cruise, 4th time to Alaska and our 2nd time doing this itinerary on this same cruise on the Beautiful MS Noordam this year. With the Noordam being the newest Holland ... Read More
Tom and I just returned from Holland America cruise number 13, our 15th cruise, 4th time to Alaska and our 2nd time doing this itinerary on this same cruise on the Beautiful MS Noordam this year. With the Noordam being the newest Holland America Ship and she was spending the summer sailing in Alaska here on the West Coast we decided early last year that this would be the best chance to sail on her since her normal itinerary is Europe and Caribbean sailing out of New York City. So we booked a June 17th cruise which we so enjoyed, we actually enjoyed it so much and loved the crew that we decided to cancel a repositioning we had booked for October so we could return to the Noordam. On our prior June cruise we had flew into Seattle a day earlier but decided that we would risk it and fly in the day of our cruise. The 7 AM Alaska Air flight could not have been better, the flight itself took off 15 minutes early (this was a first for me) we arrived in Seattle at 9:10 which was 35 minutes early. The luggage arrived quickly, we grabbed a taxi and were at pier 30 by 10:20. The only thing that was a bit confusing was the luggage drop off. We had not encountered this prior because we had stay at the Fairmont with HAL transfers so our luggage was taken to the ship by HAL. This time we had to stand in line to take our own luggage into the terminal to the luggage screening area. Check In process was extremely easy with the new on-line check in process plus we had a Deluxe Verandah Suite. After checking in we did have to wait for about 35 minutes, like before this terminal does not appear to have a P.A. system so when they open the gates it is just a mad rush with everyone pushing their way to board the ship. Strangely there is no priority embarkation. Once on board we went directly to the Neptune to introduce ourselves but since our cabin 7059 was across the hall we quickly stepped in and placed our carry on luggage in the cabin. In the Neptune we met Janie and Cathi who were our Concierges who were friendly and very efficient. We then headed to the Lido for a great lunch. After lunch we did some walking around to some of the different bars to see if we could find any of our favorite Bar Staff. The first two we found was Bede and Romeo at the Lido Pool Bar. Bede was so excited she gave Tom and I big hugs and said "You told me you could not come back to the Noordam" We told her we came back because of her and she hugged us again. It was so touching, then all her fellow crew members were excited because a few others remembered us as well like Romeo. We then stopped by the Greenhouse Spa so I could make several spa appointments and then we headed to the Pinnacle to see if our other favorite Wine Steward Ronald was there. We last seen him there and fortunately that was where he was working for embarkation day. He too got very a big grin on his face and was very happy to see us. I cannot tell you how special this is, I think they are as happy to see us as we are to see them. After spending some time with Ronald and having a glass of champagne we headed up to our cabin to find that after only a few minute our luggage arrive shortly after 1. This was perfect timing and so we started to unpack. I guess because we have down this unpacking so frequently and know the HAL cabins we have learned to unpack very quickly so it gave us time to get into relax mode and so what Tom and I do a lot on a cruise.......Yes, we started in reading books that we brought with us. Soon it was time for the 3:15 Life Boat Drill and then the Sail Away Party that we hosted in our cabin for our Roll Call group. We had a great turn out and the Sail Away was great. The weather could not have been any better it was beautiful. We had requested our favorite aft table but there was a large group that took 6 tables at the aft so we were not able to be there. I certainly did not have a problem with that because our March cruise we were also a large group in the aft that took up several tables as well as I know we will be requesting the same for our upcoming Feb. cruise. They did place us at a table for 8 next to a starboard side window table # 17. Our dining companions were a group of 4 ladies that were all widowed and had planned this cruise together. When we cruised in June we had noticed a difference in what was offered on the menu in the Main Dining Room, not drastic but several differences from when we had been on the Oosterdam in March. Now since we were still doing the same itinerary and it was only 12 weeks later I expected the menus to be the same. They have changed yet again. The menu is now 2 pages and is placed in a new folder that is leather bound. The first page lists Starters first with 6 listed that were salads, soups and pasta dish. Then at the bottom of the 1st page is Entrees with 5 being listed of which one is a Salad. The 2nd page has Master Chef Rudi Sodamin's Recommendations. Then was listed a an Appetizer, a soup, an Entree from the Green House Spa Cuisine then an additional Entree. Next were listed the Available Daily items. Then the recommended Wine & Champagne for the evening with prices listed. Then of course there was a separate list for the Dessert Menu. Dinner was quite good and for the first time ever we had an Assistant Server that was far better than our actual Dining Room Steward. Our Assistant was Rudy who we remembered seeing in the Indonesian Crew show from June. He really was one of the highlights of going to the Dining Room. Of course we also had a great Wine Steward Arthur who kept our glasses full. Sunday had started out very early with getting up at 3:30 AM but we were amazingly not as tired as we thought so we decided to skip the show and go up to the Crow's Nest where our friend Bede was working for an evening drink before retiring for the evening. Monday brought us a relaxing sea day of which I spent several hours in the Spa. I started out with a 75 minute massage then spend several hours between the Thermal Suite and the Hydro Pool. Of course Monday is the first Formal night and the Captain's Toast. Dinner was very nice but shocking how many were not dressed up on Formal night in the Dining Room. Several came in wearing jeans and t-shirts. Also this was the first night that we noticed numerous tables that were totally empty for Early Dining. Yet half way between the dinner there would be some seated, most were not dressed formal. Going to the Captains Toast was shocking, last time we had to wait for a very long time for them to open the doors to the Vista Showroom. This time the wait was not quite so long and we sat down front. To my amazement I would venture to say that more than 50% of the room was in extremely casual clothes, now I am not putting down not dressing up but flip flops, cut off jeans and a t-shirt just looked out of place when the Captain is up on stage in his Dress Whites toasting to a great week with champagne. I will also note those that were not dressed formal were definitely not teenagers. Since we were already seated for the brief 8 minute long Captain's Toast we decided to stay for the show. It was actually very good, If Walls Could Talk performed by the Cast of the Noordam. Tuesday morning we woke up to FOG and lots of it. Looking down from our verandah we could not even see the water. Sadly we were entering the beginning of Glacier Bay National Park that is so very scenic and could not see a thing. We lounged the morning away by reading, we had made reservations for lunch in the Pinnacle for Noon which by that time the fog had started to clear and the green hills and mountains were vivid and the skies were very blue. We enjoyed a great lunch with very good service and by that time we were approaching John Hopkins Glacier. This was a first for us since we had never travel to Alaska after September 1st and this area is closed off till that time. This Glacier was massive and appeared much larger than Marjorie Glacier. The Bow was packed with many anxious to see some calving. Unfortunately it seemed this glacier was a bit quiet. There was some calving but not near as much as I have heard and seen in the past at Marjorie. We spent about 90 minutes total when we turned around and headed out to go up to Marjorie Glacier. We spent another hour up at Marjorie where there was a lot more calving and some large chunks but not near as active as it had been in June but active enough to thrill many of the passengers. One thing that I finally got to see for the first time in 4 cruises to Alaska..... BEAR and a Grisly. Now he was on shore and with the naked eye very hard to see but with my zoom lens on my camera I was able to capture a picture of him catching a fish. Speaking of finally seeing Bear, one animal we did not see this cruise was Bald Eagles. Usually we have seen many but this cruise they were no where around. Tuesday evening brought us the show we had been waiting for years to see, Joel Mason who impersonates Elton John. He was every bit as good as we expected his show to be and then some. We enjoyed it so much that after attending his early show we also attended 2nd show of the evening. Not only does he sing like Elton but his musical talent is great and his humor was hilarious. Wednesday we awoke in Juneau and the ship was cleared quite early. This was going to be a full day with lots of plans. The first was to meet up with our friend Julie who works on several of the HAL ships in the Shops. She met us at the pier and we walked around town for a bit stopping in the local Internet place to check emails. I had wanted to go to a Salmon bake but had not been that impressed with the Gold Rush Salmon Bake offered thru the ship. While it is nice the first time you go to Juneau I wanted to try something a bit better. I was recommended on the Alaska Board to try the Thane Ore House Salmon Bake. I had called them in advance to have them pick us up at the pier. When I made the reservations I told them that we had a 2 PM Whale Excursion so we would need to be back on time. The place opened at 11 AM but he said they mostly serve the Salmon Bake in the afternoon. He was able to pick us up right at 10:45 and took us out to this park like setting that was beautiful. We were the only ones there but the food was fantastic. They served fresh grilled King Salmon that was very good and fresh Battered Halibut that was the best I ever had. The sides were very tasty as well. When we finished we spent some time walking around outside and enjoying the beautiful day next to the waterway where the ships come into Juneau. We returned to Juneau and then were on our way to our Whale Excursion thru HAL with Allen Marine Tours. This was our 4th Whale excursion in Juneau and our 3rd with Allen. At that time we had no idea that this was going to be the best viewing of whales we had ever seen. It was not but a few minutes that we left the pier at Auke Bay that we started to see Hump Back Whales. We realized quickly that we had whales all over the place. Then the playing of the whales and breaching started. They were jumping out of the water all over the place. The excitement on the boat was thrilling and everyone was so nice allowing for everyone to see thru the windows for viewing. One of the great things with Allen Marine is their boats and the huge clear clean windows that are great for viewing and taking pictures. One does not even have to go outside to capture amazing photos. We had been so very fortunate because Auke Bay had been socked in with fog the whole day and it had just magically lifted when we took our tour. Despite having so much whale activity the tour did have to end so we headed back in after an amazing afternoon. Once back in Juneau we said our good byes to Julie but making plans to see her again in November when she thinks she can come back to Las Vegas. We then headed back on the ship to get dressed up for a great evening of dining in the Pinnacle which we so much enjoyed. The Noordam Pinnacle is definitely a good one with the steaks being perfect and the creme brulee' being the best ever. We ended the evening in our now usual manner of having a drink in the Crow's Nest being served by our good friends Bede and Romeo. Thursday brought us into Sitka, it was our 3rd time to Sitka and had planned it to be a relaxing day. We did take the tender into town in the morning so I could capture some pictures but I had yet another spa appointment at 11 AM so I headed back in while Tom stayed in town a bit longer. This day was spent doing a lot of relaxing and reading and treated much like a sea day. Friday was our last Alaska port and a short one at that in Ketchikan but was also a bit different for us. I had found out just a few days before leaving that some long time friends of ours was going to be on the NCL Pearl the same week and we were both in Ketchikan and Victoria together so we made plans to get together. We spend the morning walking around town and actually went up to the Cape Fox Lodge taking the funicular up the hill off Creek Street to the Lodge. We then took the trail down. In our previous trips to Ketchikan we would usually spend them in and out of the jewelry stores. This time we managed not to and I saved a few dollars. The time passed quickly and we had to say our goodbyes to our friends because All Aboard was at 12:30 but we would see them again the next evening in Victoria. Friday night was our last Formal night and we found again that the Dining Room was practically empty. We discovered that our week the demand for Dine As You Wish was extremely high so to accommodate this they had left several empty tables in the Upper level fixed area to place those in Dine As You Wish, which answered why we saw several come in halfway thru dinner. Saturday brings us to our last day which is always so sad and we kept asking ourselves where the week went. At 11:30 we attended the Mariners/Suite Luncheon. Interesting earlier in the week Janie our Concierge had called us to confirm that we would be attending and the number of days we had with HAL, when we received our invitation it actually listed a table number. When we arrived at the Vista Dining Room we found only a small number of people had table number they were assigned to. Each reserved table had an extra seat open for a HAL officer to sit with us. Our guest was the Future Cruise Consultant David Opperman. Everyone at our table were seasoned HAL cruisers with all of us having 90 some days and one lady receiving her 100 day medallion. I did notice that the other medallion holders were also seated together. This luncheon I think is very nice and just like the way the Mariner's Reception use to be they still recognize the different levels. Since we were to be in Victoria for the evening they had a special afternoon show in the Vista Lounge which was Joel Mason and Friends. Friends being the Cast of the Noordam. This show was so entertaining and filled with so many laughs. We arrived in Victoria early like always but since we needed to wait till our friends ship got in we enjoyed some time on the verandah taking pictures. We met them about 6:40 and grabbed a taxi and headed to Chandlers a British Pub style Sea Food and Steak House. We had a great evening and was a great place to meet with our friends. In closing I will state this was another wonderful week with Holland America and with their great crew. While it is sad to have to disembark from this great week I am thankful that we were given this relaxing week with amazing sights. In looking back thru my pictures I myself am in awe of the beauty of Alaska and the things we saw. Read Less
1 Helpful Vote
Sail Date: September 2007
SEATTLE - We arrived in Seattle a day early via Frontier Airlines. This was the first time we had flown this airline and it was on time and the employees were fun and friendly. My husband and I were also able to watch college football ... Read More
SEATTLE - We arrived in Seattle a day early via Frontier Airlines. This was the first time we had flown this airline and it was on time and the employees were fun and friendly. My husband and I were also able to watch college football games the entire time in flight. We stayed at the Sleep Inn SeaTac Hotel. There was a free shuttle from the airport (took about five minutes), and it was a very nice stay. There was an IHOP in the same parking lot, so we ate dinner here and breakfast again in the morning. We had a towncar pick is up at the hotel and drive us to the pier around 10:30 a.m. When we arrived at the pier, it was already quite busy. We dropped our luggage off at the x-ray screening machines and then got in the line for deluxe verandah suites. We were second in line, and just as we were finishing up, they opened the gate and people were filing toward the ship (stopping for a final I.D. check and also to have their pictures taken). There were cookies, fresh fruit, and beverages while waiting in line. This entire process took less than 20 minutes. Once on the ship, we were given the choice of either having lunch in the Lido or proceeding to the Neptune Lounge for snacks (since we were staying in a deluxe verandah suite). We opted for the Lido. It was very crowded here with very long lines. We would come to find this to be a trend in the days to come. DAY AT SEA - Being our first cruise, my husband and I were just trying to attend any and all activities that we found interesting (which included many activities). The seas got rough later that evening, and since it was formal night anyway, we opted to order room service. Room service arrived very quickly, the food was hot, and the order was correct. We LOVED room service. GLACIER BAY - The morning started off a big drizzly and cloudy, but weather conditions improved slightly throughout our adventure through this beautiful area. Being later in the Alaskan cruising season, we were able to get very close to the glaciers, even visiting Johns Hopkins Glacier and Marjorie Glacier. I did try the Dutch pea soup, but it was not for me. HAL had complimentary hot chocolate on the decks while cruising Glacier Bay, so we took full advantage of that. JUNEAU - We took the Mt. Roberts Tramway excursion. It was right next to the dock (which may not be true with all the ships). This provided a wonderful view of Juneau and we learned a lot of history of the Tinglit people (I apologize if I did not spell that correctly, but that's what I have written down). We did some shopping and overall enjoyed our time in Juneau. SITKA - We had a lot of sunshine in this port. We tendered, and since we did not have a shore excursion planned, we did not leave the Noordam until mid-morning. This city is full of Russian history, and my husband really enjoyed that aspect. We did some more shopping, did a lot of walking, and headed back to the ship. KETCHIKAN - Another day of sunshine, which is apparently quite rare in this port. We did the Duck Tour in Ketchikan. Our driver and tour guide were wonderful. There was more shopping to be done and a short walk up to Creek Street provided a spectacular view of salmon swimming upstream. Next time we visit this port, we will take part in the zipline excursion. VICTORIA - Since we had very rough seas the night before and day leading up to this port, we arrived late and our shore excursion was canceled. We walked around the pier a bit but retreated back to our room as we were tired and needed to pack our things. DISEMBARKATION - This went as smooth as could be. We asked for a later time, and this ended up being around 9:30. We got on the shuttle, got to the airport, and then had to wait until 3:30 for our flight back home - that was the worst part of the whole trip, go figure. LIKES: 1. We loved the crew on the Noordam, very pleasant, helpful, and professional. 2. Cleanliness of the ship. 3. Food - taste, selection, presentation. 4. The beds were incredibly comfortable! 5. The Neptune Lounge - the concierge, use of Internet (for a fee), television, and goodies served throughout the day. 6. Julie Barr, the comedian, and Joel Mason, Elton John impersonator. 7. The wonderful binoculars provided in our suite (my husband wanted to take these home, I'm happy to say that he did not). 8. The naturalist onboard....often informing us of whale sightings and where to see them for ourselves. 9. Onboard future cruise consultant. We took advantage of this and booked our next cruise, a return trip to Alaska on the Oosterdam in May 2008. Ironically, the gentleman we spoke with, David Opperman, had gone to high school with my father - what a small world! 10. As-you-wish dining. This worked very well for us. We had a standing reservation each night (except formal nights when we ordered room service) for the same table/same dining steward/same time every night. We basically felt as though it was traditional dining in a way. 11. Complimentary laundry service for suite guests. We took advantage of this every day. The laundry always came back perfectly folded and/or on hangers. I don't know how anyone can fold something so neatly! DISLIKES: 1. While we enjoyed many of the activities onboard, they were definitely geared toward an older demographic. Even when younger couples were the majority at "name that tune/TV show theme, etc." the host refused to provide anything more recent than the decade of the 1950s. Of course we were all stumped, and quite bored. Unless we all spent our evenings glued to Nick at Nite we would not have known 90 percent of the items we were being quizzed on. This coincides with not caring too much for the "DJ" fellow on this particular cruise. He was not very personable or open to anything. He stuck out like a sore thumb compared to the rest of the crew on the ship. 2. The overcrowded Lido. Even if you hoped to be smart and avoid popular dining times, it was nearly impossible to find a table, and the lines for each of the food stations took up to 10 minutes each. As you can see, we very much enjoyed this cruise, our first ever. Even though we're fairly young (at least we consider ourselves to be - in our early 30s), we enjoyed the people, pace, and atmosphere of this cruise overall. I guess it's obvious seeing that we are returning in the next year. We were spoiled with the deluxe verandah suite, but I figure that since we're at the stage in our lives that we have only an allotted amount of vacation time each per year, and we'd like the bulk of our savings to go toward retirement (when we can cruise a bit more often), we're okay with going "all out" on a once-a-year adventure since our vacation time is so limited. I would highly recommend Holland America, especially the Noordam. Read Less
Sail Date: August 2007
My husband (53) and I (46) just returned from our first cruise on the wonderful ms Noordam. I booked this cruise directly through Holland America in late January of this year. Then I transferred it to a local travel agent. I don't ... Read More
My husband (53) and I (46) just returned from our first cruise on the wonderful ms Noordam. I booked this cruise directly through Holland America in late January of this year. Then I transferred it to a local travel agent. I don't know if this was a benefit for any of us, but I thought as a newbie I could use the help of a TA if problems arose. I'm happy to report there were no problems. We chose the round trip Alaska cruise from Seattle and up the inside passage. We both work full time and this was actually our honeymoon, albeit 16 years late. So we left the children at home and set sail on our own, though my sister and her husband joined us. We flew in by Delta the night before embarkation. Our reservation was at the Clarion SeaTac Hotel. It looked very nice from the outside and the lobby, but the room was showing its age. There was also a strong floral perfume spray odor in the room. I booked this room month in advance for a very good price and would have been very unhappy if I had to buy the current price for it. There was no continental breakfast offered, but there was an in-house restaurant. 15% was deducted from the restaurant bill if you showed them the coupon received from check in. The four of us shared a ride from the Clarion to the pier with First Class Towncars Service. Due to the number of luggage pieces, we reserved a SUV for $65.00 plus tip. The SUV was very clean and the driver was great. We arrived at Pier 30 way too early, about 10ish. There were no porters to hand off our luggage to. So we had to wait in line for a bit, then directed to a new line to verify our on line check in and credit card information, picture taken and received our ship cards and then directed to chairs until boarding started. While we waited, water, lemonade and cookies were offered. Just about 11:30 the line was formed to board the ship and off we went. This is when we encountered the first of the picture taking. My goodness, there always seems to be a camera in your face. Our picture was taken at every dinner except one, every time we left the ship except when we tendered, during Glazier Bay viewing and during the life boat drill. It's doesn't go over well when you decline. At the ports, there were people stuffed in wildlife costumes to have your picture taken with. You were literally grabbed if you tried to walk past. We didn't purchase any of them because we thought the price was too high. After a wonderful lunch in the Vesta dining room and a short tour of the ship, we were informed that the staterooms were ready. We hurried to find our cabin, 5147. This cabin is on the Port side at the rear of the ship, right behind the last elevators. The elevators were never a problem and only once did we hear any major talking in the halls. That was still fairly early in evening and didn't last long. The cabin was great. We had the beds together for a queen; with a love seat and table and on the balcony there were 2 chairs, a table and an ottoman. It was very clean and the cabin steward kept it that way. Also, during the week we received notice that during our time in Juneau, the balcony railings were being varnished and during the Sitka stop, the carpet would be cleaned. Neither one of these activities interfered with our enjoyment of the cabin. I just can't say enough how great our steward, Yodi was. We rarely saw him, but he was always so friendly and helpful when we did. He did a great job and towels also; we had a crab, stingray, puppy dog and a monkey. We indulged in the Spa package for couples. For $150.00 per person, you have unlimited access to the hydro pool, ceramic lounge chairs, steam rooms and herbal showers (I think that's what they were). For an additional $100.00 you can add your partner to the pass. Or you can pay a $40.00 daily rate to use it. The use of these areas was wonderful. But between ships activates and shore excursions there just wasn't enough time to enjoy it. We don't think we got the value of what we paid for. In the future we decided to either forgo this or just share the $150.00 pass. We noticed that very rarely were we in the spa area at the same time. My husband enjoyed the use of the work out room/equipment. He was very good at using the equipment but still managed to gain 5 pounds over the week. We're not talking what I gained. I had a facial and shoulder/neck massage special during the glazier bay day. I thoroughly enjoyed the pampering and the technician never conducted a sales pitch during the treatment. She did ask me if it was ok to discuss the products she used with me before I left. I declined purchasing the products after hearing the sales pitch and she was fine with that. When we booked the cruise we chose the late dining option for a table for 4. Our dinner reservations were for 7:45 in the Vista Dinning room on the 3rd floor. The Variety was amazing. I tried things I thought I would never try before, like cold blue berry soup. It was fabulous. I can't remember all the dishes we had, and there were some I didn't like, but I'm not saying that was due to preparations, but my taste. I finally understand the heated debates about dressing casual in the formal dinning room. The decor, place settings and service is very beautiful and awe inspiring. I just could not believe the number of people who didn't respect the people who worked so hard putting it together. We actually saw people in jeans and shorts, but really the jogging suites were really pushing the limits. Our servers were wonderful and a joy to see each night. Room service was a hit and miss. My ham and chess omelet was the best I've ever tasted, but neither one of use cared for the scrambled eggs. Once they brought the tray w/coffee cups, but no coffee (lol). It was no big deal and quickly remedied. The service was also prompt and with a smile. Cookies and milk at the end of the day was great. The Lido deck was always good for lunch and snacking. The variety was overwhelming some times. Over eating was all too easy. The wait staff was always there to greet you, assist you with trays and drinks and just very friendly. My only real complaint with the food of HAL is the size of the glasses. I'm just not used to drinking ice tea or milk from a juice glass. I don't understand why 8 to 12 oz glasses are not available. I was a little concerned about being bored on ship. I had read a number of differing opinions ranging from HAL has done away with activities to every activity cost extra. I don't know if HAL has cut back, but we still found lots of things to do. There was a daily team trivia (we lost), 2 Name that Tune events (we lost), a version of the newlywed game (happy we weren't chosen to participate, hysterical to watch), art action with free champagne (won a free print), free alcohol sampling (quite good), late night comedy show (ok, but I did fall asleep during it) and other stuff I can't remember it all. There are some activities that had a participant fee: Bingo offered 3 times, only attended 2 of them. The first time was 4 games, w/3cards each game for $20.00. Biggest jackpot was black out fewer than 50 numbers for $450.00. After 50 numbers, the payout dropped to $278.00 (I think). The next one was for a free cruise, 1 game, 3 cards, and $20.00. I don't think the value was there for the money. We attended one cooking class for $29.95 per person. We each received an apron, paper hat, free 6month subscription to Wine & Food and recipe cards. We did enjoy it and might do another depending upon the menu. My husband attended a wine and cheese tasting event for $15.00 and really enjoyed himself. Neither one of us are wine drinkers so it was an opportunity to sample and learn about wines. My sister attended a beading class for $20.00 (she was the only one there). It was suppose to learn how to make a beaded necklace, but there were not enough supplies to do so. They refunded her money. I think there were a few others that we didn't attend. During the cruise most of the lounges offered some sort of entertainment. Our favorite place was the Ocean Bar. There was a piano player and singer who preformed very soft, mellow tunes. There was a small dance floor which a few people took advantage of. The bar staff were fantastic. They always made you feel very special, were very attentive to your needs and knew your name after the first day. We ended each day here. We only 2 advantage of 2 shore excursions and they were booked independently of the cruise line. In Juneau we spent a super morning with the Harv and Marv Whale watching tour. The operator picked us up at the dock, transported us to Auka Bay where we boarded a very small boat. The boat can hold 6 passengers (there were only 4 of us) and the captain. We saw numerous whales and other wild life. The captain was very familiar with there area as he was a native. After the tour, the operator dropped us off at Mendenhall Glazier for an additional charge. There we met up with some friends who gave us a driving tour of Juneau and Douglass. Then we went shopping in the downtown/port area. My husband and BIL booked a fly fishing tour with Denny's Guide Service in Sitka. Denny met them at the pier and transported them to a special place he has a permit for access too. They report having a wonderful time. My DH said they caught between 30 - 40 fish each. Before the end of the day, his arm was getting sore so, he asked Denny if he wanted to fish for a while. They also saw a black bear come down to have lunch. It was a very exciting day for them. While they were on their trip my sis and I toured Sitka by bus for $10.00 each (I think). The driver gave us her life history as well as her mothers. She just showed us where she would be stopping and picking up at various locations. We cut it short and got off at the downtown area. We walked the shops and didn't buy anything until the quilt store. All the stores reminded us of Juneau. Next time we will find an excursion to attend. None of us had any plans for Ketchikan. My Sis and BIL did another tour and wasn't real happy with the cost and a dissertation of the drivers family history (from Scotland and his girlfriends clan). DH and I walked around town but were overwhelmed with the number of jewelry stores. They were stacked on top of each other. We looked into taking a trolley ride but thought $35.00 a piece was a little pricey. We did find a really good buy on a jacket so it made it all worth it. Again, we didn't have any plans made for Victoria, Canada, but we all wanted to go ashore to get our passports stamped. After the all the hassle of getting them, we wanted a stamp. We took a bus ($6.00 each) into the city. We used an ATM for cash and when we exchanged it, lost money. Don't use an ATM machine if you can help it. The city was very pretty and picturesque, but the shops were basically the same as in the other 3 ports. My DH bought a t-shirt and my Sis bought a few little things. We chose express disembarkation. For a $15.00 fee a piece, HAL printed our airplane boarding passes and luggage tags and transported our luggage to the airport. This worked great. We packed up and put our tags on the luggage Saturday night, set them out in the hall and never saw them again till we picked them up at our destination. We also paid for the bus fare from the port to the airport ($21.00 a piece). We probably should have used the town car service again. They had quoted us a $20.00 flat fee. We stayed in our cabin until the bitter end, when we HAD to leave. When our number was called (on the TV, we never heard any announcements in our stateroom and only a few throughout the ship) we left the Noordam, boarded a bus and was delivered to the airport. It all went very smooth. I just can't say enough wonderful things about the ms Noordam and her staff. We had a really great time and would do it again in a heart beat. Alaska was a beautiful area to visit and we look forward to returning. I encourage everyone to try a Holland America cruise. You won't be disappointed. Read Less
Sail Date: August 2007
My husband and 2 sons (15 & 12), and my mother and sister, just returned from our cruise to Alaska aboard the Noordam. We flew from Newark, NJ to Seattle on the day before the sailing and stayed in the Sheraton Downtown. We arranged ... Read More
My husband and 2 sons (15 & 12), and my mother and sister, just returned from our cruise to Alaska aboard the Noordam. We flew from Newark, NJ to Seattle on the day before the sailing and stayed in the Sheraton Downtown. We arranged both the flight and the hotel ourselves and saved a fortune over the Holland America prices for arranging them. We took the Seattle Grayline bus from SeaTac to the hotel. The bus was $10.25/adult and $8.50/child. We bought the tickets in the airport terminal. It was very easy to find the ticket counter and the bus ran quite frequently, so we did not have to wait at all. We spent the day sightseeing in Seattle all on our own. Some of us went to Safeco Field for a tour, some to the Space Needle and then we all met at Pikes Place Market for dinner. The hotel arranged for a van to drive us to the pier on Sunday morning, and we arrived there around 10:45am. We did our check in and were done and waiting to board by 11:10am. At 11:30 boarding began and the HAL personnel handled it with ease. Like another CC review said, there are photographers everywhere. We do not like having our picture taken, and we just had to keep telling them no thanks, and they let us go by. We found all the food in all the venues satisfactory. It was not outstanding to our taste. There was a large variety of foods to choose from, but for my husband (who like ordinary food) he found it a bit fussy. He wanted more choices for chicken for dinner besides the overdone grilled breast that was available every night. He eats no seafood, lamb, or veal. So he was limited to a steak or pasta every night. The comic and the Elton John performer were wonderful. We were less than thrilled with the dancer/singers. We participated in the daily trivia, the name that tunes, the golf putting, the galley tour and the cooking demonstrations. We found that many of the popular activities all took place around the same time, and we couldn't do everything. Also, some things took place while we were at the late dinner seating. In Juneau, some of us did the Mendenhall Visitors Center and whale watching excursion, while others canoed in Mendenhall Lake. The visitor's center was very informative, but we would have liked more than an hour there. The 3 hours of whale watching was too long. We saw a few puffs of air and a splash and that was a sighting. We saw a partial tail, but missed anything more than that. We saw Stellar sea lions sunning on a buoy and though that was wonderful until we spotted a postcard showing the same thing. Now we wonder if the sea lions were real or stuffed because we didn't see them move. The tour guide and driver for the canoe excursion was incompetent. His descriptions of the scenery were unoriginal. He told nothing more than what could be read in any tourbook, and his driving was abominable. He took the speed bumps much to fast and my sister was hurt in the bounce in the back of the van. When he realized that she was hurt, he gave a fake name and hometown. He failed to remember that he had been flirting with her earlier and had told her his life story. My biggest complaint with HAL and the Noordam was the children's programs. My 12yo was in a group with 8-12 year olds. Anyone can tell you that there is a HUGE developmental gap between a child that has just turned 8 and one that is about to turn 13. He would not participate in the activities because the group only had younger kids in it. We were not the only ones to have this problem. We know this from all the 11-12yo boys that we talked to that were roaming the ship. Luckily, they all managed to find each other to hang out. We complained to the front desk and the cruise director and were told that there was no other way to do things. There were only 5 kids counselor on the boat. It was also HAL policy not to allow my 12yo to go with his brother into the 13-17 group even though he is closer to 13 than 12. Personally I think that there is also too large a developmental gap between 13 and 17 to have those children together. We were given no helpful response to this problem, we were only told to fill out and send a comment card to the corporate office. Our disembarkation went smoothly. We had an 11:55am flight and were off the ship by 8:30am. The luggage was easy to find and customs was quick. Our private van transportation was waiting. One tiny thing that irked me, was something that HAL prided themselves on. We were told that we could remain in our cabins while waiting for the announcement for our color to leave the ship. Before that, our steward had made up the room while we were at breakfast. We returned to find it all set for the incoming cruisers. My issue is that the room was cleaned and the sheets changed, and we were allowed to sit on the bed and use the bathroom. Sounds strange, but does that mean that the previous cruiser could have used our bathroom while waiting to disembark, then we got on a few hours later and the room was not cleaned in between. I am a bit of a clean freak, and I want to believe that no one has used my bathroom since the steward disinfected it. And no, I do not use public restrooms. Although, the cruise was basically ok, I don't think that we will be cruising with HAL anytime soon. They seem to be trying to attract families, but the activities are still geared towards an older crowd, and we need more kid friendly things. We have done and outgrown Disney, we just need to find an in-between. Read Less
Sail Date: August 2007
Hotel: Our family---me, 44, my husband 46 and our son 13---arrived in Seattle around 10:30 Pacific time, secured our luggage and took a shuttle bus to the Fairmont Olympic where HAL had reserved a room for us, gratis, because we had booked ... Read More
Hotel: Our family---me, 44, my husband 46 and our son 13---arrived in Seattle around 10:30 Pacific time, secured our luggage and took a shuttle bus to the Fairmont Olympic where HAL had reserved a room for us, gratis, because we had booked a suite on the Noordam and it was part of a promotion. We had confirmed our triple room that morning, just to be on the safe side. Unfortunately, when we arrived, the desk clerk told us there was just one room left, a double smoking suite. We are three people with allergies, so that sounded inappropriate to us. We checked it out and the Fairmont had not even bothered to provide a bed for our son. We told them the room was unacceptable and around 1 a.m.,they transferred us to the Seattle Marriott Waterfront which turned out to be a lovely hotel with a location convenient to Pike's Market and the Seattle Aquarium. The next day, we had time to tour these two attractions before boarding the Noordam and I wound up feeling pleased that we hadn't stayed at the Fairmont. Ultimately, our TA contacted HAL, told them about the Fairmont's mistake and we received a $100 shipboard credit and dinner at the Pinnacle Grill for 3 to make up for the trouble. Around 11 a.m., we took a van to the pier and boarded the Noordam with very little effort. The online check-in certainly made things easier and I would definitely recommend it. Stateroom: Our stateroom was 8070, an SS suite. This category is the least expensive suite, so it doesn't come with all the extra amenities that the suites on deck 7 do, but it fits two adults and a 13-year old, which was our main concern. Also, we prefer being on deck 8 because of its proximity to the Lido buffet and the pools. Our stateroom was immaculate and well-appointed. The bed was incredibly comfortable and the bathroom had both a whirlpool and a stall shower.The Elemis toiletries were lovely. The television was a good size and I think one is plenty. (Princess has two per mini-suite and I think that is a bit odd. It is distracting to hear another television in such close proximity.) The closet, drawer and shelf space was more than sufficient for the six suitcases of clothing we'd brought. In fact, we left some drawers and shelves empty. Unlimited laundry service is available for $45 a week and we took advantage of this. Our laundry looked beautiful. For another $30, you can have unlimited pressing which is helpful for dress clothes.For those folks who haven't sailed HAL before, your room also comes with bathrobes and deck blankets. The balcony has a table, two chairs, and two lounges, so it is a pretty good size. Our steward, Bambang, brought a wonderful selection of fresh fruit daily and kept the room looking impeccable. Bambang, was the kindest, gentlest and hardest working gentleman you can imagine. It was a pleasure to know him. Dining: We love the Lido Buffet because there is always a good selection of main courses. For lunch, there are plenty of lean meats, vegetables and salads, and nothing seems too salty. Our son adores the pasta bar, particularly the pasta bolognaise. At breakfast, the cooks and servers were quick to learn my preference for egg white omelets and grapefruit juice. Seeing Rudy, "the juicemaster's" smiling face every morning was a fun way to start the day. Staff would carry my tray for me and find me a table if the Lido was at all crowded. As for dinner, we had the early, upper dining seating. Our server was Rai and he was very attentive and helpful. If one of us thought about something, he was there with it practically as our request was being vocalized.The food was excellent and menus included steaks, duck, lamb and vegetarian and "spa" entrees. I particularly enjoyed the fish entrees and the pasta dishes. Since I am the only one in my family who drinks, it didn't make sense to order bottles of wine. Instead, I bought the wine card and found the wines, particularly the Pinot Grigio and the Merlot, very good. Paulyn, our wine server, gave helpful wine advice as well. Pinnacle Grill: The service here was, once again, excellent. My meal of cedar plank grilled halibut and Alaskan king crab legs was delicious. The chocolate volcano cake was also splendid. My son had a petit filet mignon which he enjoyed very much and three types of creme brulee for dessert. My husband's steak was too salty and he had to send it back. The wine "flights" were a terrific way to try a variety of wines without getting drunk. Cruising Glacier Bay: This was, in my opinion, the highlight of our voyage. Initially, we viewed the glaciers from the bow of the ship. It was a bright, sunny day and the visibility was excellent, but it was cold in the wind. My husband stuck it out so he could get all the photos he wanted, but my son and I retired to the Crow's Nest which had excellent view and hot cocoa. After that, we viewed Glacier Bay from our balcony ---we were on the port side---which offered excellent views of the glaciers and protection from the winds. We were having too good a time to go eat lunch, so we ordered room service and ate salmon, pasta primavera and steak while watching the glaciers calve. It will be a while before I have an afternoon that great again. Juneau: We booked a private whale watching tour with Harv and Marv. It was just under $500 for the three of us to have the whole boat to ourselves and boy was it worth it! The Harv and Marv van picked us up and took us to Auck Bay where we boarded their clean, spacious and relatively new boat. We saw whales, eagles, and sea lions. The best part was watching a mother whale and her two babies play with a sea lion. We took many photos of the wildlife and the beautiful scenery, Jay was a great guide and if I were to return to Juneau, I would definitely do this again. Sitka: We didn't see an excursion that appealed to us, so we just walked around Sitka. It is a pretty, sleepy Alaskan town with beautiful scenery and some interesting Russian influences. Ketchikan: We booked a private kayaking excursion with Southeast Kayaking. Our guide, Sonja, picked us up in a van and took us to their headquarters. We geared up with rain jackets, pants, life vests and skirts and embarked on a tour of Tongass rain forest. What a peaceful way to see wildlife this was! No previous kayaking experience was necessary, the equipment was top-notch, and it wasn't too physically challenging. At $89 per person, the Pennock Paddler tour is truly a great buy. Victoria BC: We didn't disembark in Victoria. Activities: We found there was plenty to do on the Noordam. First, we attended a Cruise Critic meet and greet and met a lot of people we would see throughout the week and with whom we formed our trivia teams. HAL provided hors d'oeuvres and champagne for the meet and greet. We loved Team Trivia and Music Trivia. We participated in golf contests, Bingo, the Walk for the Cure, karaoke...you name it. Cruise director Shane was a great host and DJ Tyler had a wry sense of humor and an excellent knowledge of music. The onboard naturalist, Dirk, gave some lectures on Alaska that were helpful before and while we were in Glacier Bay. The Explorations Cafe is the perfect place to check email, find books and magazines or surf the internet. We were there at least once every day. We also appreciated the condensed, shipboard New York Times we received every day. Spa and Gym: I had a deep tissue massage and my son had a massage and facial. We both enjoyed our treatments and then relaxed in the thermal spa. It is very pleasant and soothing to sore muscles, but not exactly a bargain at $20 per day with a treatment. I also had an excellent manicure and pedicure with Novlette. My husband and I did work out once in the gym, but the rest of the time we were having too much fun. I think the spa needs a little work in terms of efficiency because I waited over 20 minutes before both my massage therapist and manicurist were able to get to me. Entertainment: Both Julie Barr and Joel Mason were extremely entertaining. We have seen them before and really enjoyed their shows. Julie was very nice if you saw her around the ship. Her late night show is a little raunchy, but not gross by any means. Joel's Elton John homage was excellent. My son objected to the fat jokes in Joel's second performance. He said, "Julie's big, but she is not sumo fat." I have to agree that the self-denigrating aspect of her humor was the least appealing. We also liked "The Marriage Game" and "Battle of the Sexes." Noordam Superstar was OK, but there was much more enthusiasm for it when we last saw the same competition on the Westerdam. The singing and dancing shows like "Ballroom Blitz" left me a little underwhelmed, but they are not really my type of entertainment, so I am not sure I would like them on any ship. Teen Program: My son refused to participate, but it looked like they had some interesting activities. He is pretty shy. Overall: Overall, I think the Noordam's Alaskan Explorer itinerary provides a wonderful week of fun combined with exquisite scenery. Alaska is gorgeous country and the Noordam makes you feel as taken care and pampered of as is humanly possible. I would recommend this trip to anyone. Read Less
Sail Date: August 2007
I just got home from the 7 night Alaska cruise on the Noordam the week of September 26th. I flew up the day before from Santa Ana non stop on Alaska. I landed in Seattle and took the GrayLine bus to the Sheraton. Then the next day I took ... Read More
I just got home from the 7 night Alaska cruise on the Noordam the week of September 26th. I flew up the day before from Santa Ana non stop on Alaska. I landed in Seattle and took the GrayLine bus to the Sheraton. Then the next day I took some shuttle or other with our quilt group to the ship. Boarding was fast and easy. Coming home I used the transfer bus from HAL to SeaTac fine. I am 42 year old married mom of 2 small kids and am an experienced cruiser. We are platinum with Carnival and RCCL. This was my first cruise with Holland. I was the only person in my cabin and I was with a group of about 55 quilters. We have done Alaska 3 times on RCCL. First about my cabin: I was in 6007. Inside and forward. The cabin was larger than I expected. When you are facing the door the front of the ship is to your right. The handle is on the right and the door opens inward. Going counter clockwise: A fair sized oval table near the door. Handy for room service. Then a chair. Then the bathroom door. The handle was on the right I think and the door opened out. Then a sink, toilet and shower. Bigger then expected. Then 2 closets, a full length mirror. There is a safe in the closet that you type in your code. Then a drape you could change behind. Then the T.V. and mini bar. No drawer in the desk. Mirror above the desk. Cabinet on the left knee for the hairdryer. Lighted make up mirror (handy as a night light). Then the bed. 2 night stands and 2 reading lamps in the head board. The beds were together or they can be 2 doubles fine. The phone does not have voice mail. Double sheeted and comfy.The room was very quiet. No foot traffic or noise from the rest of the ship. I would stay in this cabin again. Very clean. For Alaska make sure you get an outside or balcony. Just inside the door was a little card that you put in your key slot for do not disturb. It did not have please make up room on the flip side. But my stateroom steward was usually there. Thanks Sigit! My favorite meal of the day is breakfast and the Noordam delivers. Made to order omelettes, waffles, etc. Brekie on Lido deck is 6AM to 10AM and they seem to shut it down on time. I only got waffles once. The waffles were great but the cook did not seem to know to flip the iron over. A very nice fancy iron. A special note is be sure to bring all toiletries with you. I was travelling light and the selection in the gift shop is very poor. The pursers desk fixed me up with a kit they give to people who had their luggage delayed. On Tuesday we went into Glacier Bay. We went to Marjorie Glacier. Not Hubbard glacier. We saw about 5 small calvings but we had very good weather. The ship is beautiful but a little funky. I heard a guy say the food is in the back and the entertainment is in the front. That is true. I had to look at the map of the ship by the elevators just about every day. Very twisty and easy to get a little bit lost. There are several things on deck 2 and 3 and they get a little bit confusing. I did not find the Ocean bar until the 4th day. My favorite area of the ship was Explorations cafe. It is a library/ internet area with a coffee stand. The books were unlocked quite a bit and the librarian was there most of the days. You can rent DVD's for the player in your room or bring them from home. I brought 3 but didn't really watch them. I was too busy! There was an Elton John impersonator that did a very good job. Also the cruise director was fine. The naturalist was great. There were quite a few of us in our group. 58 I think with some hubbies. They took good care of us in the Vista Dining Room even though we did not always sit at our proper tables. We had set set seating on deck 2. Special thanks to Daniel, Didit, Samuel and Alejandro on bar. The best part of the ship is the Crow's Nest bar and observation area. Delightful and full bar. If I had to choose between the Noordam and a Radiance class ship from RCCL I would choose the Radiance class ships. The true solarium on Radiance is just the best. Read Less
Sail Date: August 2007
This cruise was our 5th and we are loving it more every time we get out on the water! Our trip this time was a second trip to Alaska, (since we enjoyed it so much the first time!) and we choose Holland America since we have not sailed with ... Read More
This cruise was our 5th and we are loving it more every time we get out on the water! Our trip this time was a second trip to Alaska, (since we enjoyed it so much the first time!) and we choose Holland America since we have not sailed with this line before. Our previous cruise lines have been Crystal Harmony to Alaska, (the first is the best), Dawn Princess to Mexico twice, & Celebrity Constellation for fall colors out of New Jersey. We were thrilled with the trip! Hotel—We stayed at the Alexis Hotel in Seattle the night prior to embarkation. This is a small boutique hotel located downtown and a very nice alternative to the big hotels. The room was huge! We later found out that one part of the hotel previously were condo's. The hotel had exceptional service! We would stay there again. Dinner on Saturday night was a wonderful experience at the Waterfront Seafood Grill located on Pier 70. Be sure to make reservations early. Food was outstanding and service first class. It really set the mood for the rest of the trip. Embarkation—After a short ride to the pier, we arrived at 12:30 and were surprised that the lines were not longer. The entire process took about twenty minutes. It was ultra smooth. Upon entering the ship we were expertly directed to the Lido dining area for lunch. This was quite good with many made to order choices. The luggage arrived to the cabin at 1:30 pm and this gave us plenty of time to unpack and get organized. Our suite was very similar to one we had last year on Celebrity's Constellation, except the veranda was deeper with two wicker chairs, two ottomans, with a small table between. There was also a small round table with two chairs which was perfect for outdoor dining. Ship Information—The design of the interior of the ship is slightly different then we have experienced before. The "grand" foyer is there but much smaller in size. Many of the corridors have just one passage way for guests moving either forward or aft. The only time this seemed a problem was the deck area that had all the shops. Otherwise, the ship did not seem crowded to us at all. Even the elevators were a snap to show up. Service—We are big on service! And this ship did not disappoint us one bit. Our cabin steward was very polite and the cabin was cleaned twice each day. By accident we tried the free style dining on the second night out and found that we really liked it. We had wondered if not have the same wait staff would make a difference in the service, but it certainly did not. Everything worked so smoothly and everyone was very friendly and accommodating. Shore Excursions—We were very impressed with the quality of shore excursions. Sitka & Juneau were outstanding. The whale watching in Sitka was past our expectations. We were lucky enough to see humpback whales doing "bubble netting" which is how they feed. Wow, the pictures are keepers! Food—Overall the food was very good! The Lido cafe was the best of any ship; the dining room was equal to Celebrity in every way and room service was always prompt. Only one small complaint was the one night we dined at the speciality restaurant. My husband's rib eye steak was very tough! The staff was not wanting to change it out, so he just endured it. Entertainment—We did not see every show but we would say that the entertainment was only average at best. The broadway show we saw was just "more of the same" that we have seen on other ships. We are not hard of hearing, but the music was just to loud! Disembarkation—HAL has hit the mark in this area!! It was so smooth it stunned us! There were no lines, no fighting to get on the elevators, no looking for a place to sit. What made it so easy was that passengers were allowed to stay in their cabins until their disembarkation color/number was called. Since we had a late flight, we went to the Lido Cafe for breakfast and then back to the room. We were called at 10:30 am and off the ship we went. Shore side, the luggage was extremely well organized, & lots of help on where to go. Summary—Would we sail with HAL again??? And that would be a resounding "yes"! The captain runs a tight ship and it shows! We look forward to cruising with them again!! Read Less
Sail Date: August 2007
Pre-Cruise We usually book cruises a year in advance, but over July, we checked the HAL website, watching for any openings. It was a bit frustrating to see cabin categories open, close, open again, and close before we could even book ... Read More
Pre-Cruise We usually book cruises a year in advance, but over July, we checked the HAL website, watching for any openings. It was a bit frustrating to see cabin categories open, close, open again, and close before we could even book one. I will admit to checking almost hourly. Persistence paid off and I found a SS category cabin open up on the Noordam. We snatched up the cruise about 25 days in advance! On August 12, embarkation day, we flew to Seattle. Our taxi ride to the port was only around 10 minutes long since we breezed through the construction and traffic. Embarkation Check-in at the cruise terminal took about 5 minutes; it probably took longer to walk the long gangway to the ship! It was difficult to find a table in the Lido at lunch. I would suggest trying by the far side of the Lido pool. The dessert man was a mind reader; he knew that I wanted the chocolate cake. The bread pudding was at the end of the main buffet line, by the desserts. I crowned my bowl of that warm goodness with chocolate shavings from the ice cream topping station. Yum. Stateroom Our Superior Verandah Suite 8090 was nice, but I think that because it has a connecting door to the room next door, we were shorted a closet. It was difficult finding places to put three people's clothing at first. We asked our room steward for more hangers and the problem was solved. I loved having two sinks in the bathroom. There was also a shower-tub combination and another separate shower. Two chairs with footstools and a table with two chairs graced the spacious balcony. It was so nice to see a great view while inside and be able to simply step outside onto the verandah to snap a photo (maybe too many). Our cabin was on Navigation deck, beneath the Lido. In the morning, we could hear people running above us, but otherwise it was quiet. Glacier Bay As we entered Glacier Bay, I stood on the bow for whale watching. Some whales surfaced very close! It was funny to watch everyone rush from starboard to port and back and forth as whales were spotted all around. It was a perfect day and the spectacular views changed by the minute! The glaciers were beautiful, but we only saw some minor calving. No big chunks fell off like I'd wished for. We watched on the Promenade deck towards the aft where it was almost deserted and very quiet so we could hear the cracking sounds of the glacier. Pea soup was served there as well. All the passengers seemed to have the same vocabulary that day as I heard words like wow, beautiful, and gorgeous. One woman said to her husband, "I just want to tell you, this is one of the most amazing things I have ever seen!" Juneau We took the Best of Juneau shore excursion. First, the tour stopped at Mendenhall Glacier. We walked a trail by the creek to watch bright red salmon. Then, a mother black bear and her two cubs appeared! She caught a fish and they ate it in the bushes. One cub walked right below the bridge we were standing on, then went on the trail. We were so close! It was crowded with people, but fantastic! I spent the whole hour there and only took three photos of the glacier. Next, we went whale watching. The catamaran was very nice. Comfortable seats inside and viewing platforms on the top decks. We saw seals and humpback whales. The Captain took us close to an eagle perched on a tree and its nest nearby where two eaglets were sitting. The last stop on the excursion was the Salmon Bake. I am not a fish person, but I had to try the salmon and actually it was my favorite thing because it tasted like chicken. I also liked the cornbread. The other food was just okay. There was a trail along the creek and a waterfall at the end. We got back in town and did some shopping. I enjoyed The Alaska Shirt Store. Then, we went up the Mt. Roberts Tram to hike the trails where we where attacked by flies. The view was nice and you can see a captive bald eagle. When we were back by the ship a wild eagle was on top of an archway on a dock. We were able to get close to it. Sitka It was another sunny day, a bit hot! Some seals or otters surfaced during the long tender ride. We shopped and walked around. We went to a lookout point and took photos in an interesting cemetery set in the woods. Ketchikan It rained and the sun came out briefly. We walked around Creek Street and did some shopping. I liked Mai's Gifts where a sweet lady sold me a cheap, beautiful shell pendent necklace that she hand painted. We also went crazy buying cheap t-shirts in the other shops. There is a building directly across from the pier, offering Internet access. I asked for the price; it is $6 for a card that can be used in other ports such as Juneau (it was too late for me since we had already stopped there). Instead, I got a strong wireless signal back in our stateroom and bought one hour online for $5. After our short stop in Ketchikan, we sat at a lovely table next to the aft window in the dining room. We watched the Ryndam come in and practically push us out because we were late and she needed our spot. I had a difficult time getting ready for formal night because there were so many whales out! There were spouts everywhere I looked! I would turn to go back inside, only to see a whale's reflection in the verandah door. Then, a whale surfaced about 20 feet from the ship! It made the most glorious "snort" sound you have ever heard! That was five times better than the whale watching tour we took in Juneau! I went to an interesting question and answer session with the Captain; he said they put the stabilizers in whenever they see whales. Good thing. Victoria We took a shuttle bus (blue and silver bus, $6 roundtrip) from the cruise pier to downtown Victoria. The city had beautiful lights. Some stores were open there and one shop was open at the cruise terminal. It was really chilly at the pier, but warmer downtown. Seattle Disembarkation began at 7:45. We booked the best of Seattle tour and met in the Vista Lounge. Our group was yellow 2 and got off at 8:45. We didn't need to claim our luggage; it was brought to the airport for us (we never saw if until we were back home). Our bus driver was extremely energetic while we were all sleepy. First, the tour stopped at the Space Needle. It was rainy and cloudy, so we couldn't see very far. Then, we visited the Pike Market. I loved watching the fish throwing and looking at all the flowers and fruits. We bought a dozen mini assorted donuts. They were hot and the guy literally threw them into a bag. We got to the airport at 12:45 and our flight left after 2:00. The tour was much better than sitting at the airport all day! Dining We had traditional, fixed seating dinner at 7:45 on the lower level of the Vista Dining Room. At table 191, there was room for six people with three chairs and a couch. Our fantastic waiters were Utju and Andie. All of the upper level of the dining room was traditional seating, the inner ring near the stairs on the lower level was traditional, and the lower level outside ring by the windows was open sitting. Sometimes, the line looked long for open seating reservations, but I heard that it moved quickly. I noticed some people in the open seating section who sat at the same table every night; so don't be afraid to request a table that you like. Some of my favorite dishes I had in the dining room and Lido were Kansas City steak soup, turkey, ginger grilled chicken with peaches, hazelnut crusted brie, Swiss-Style Muesli, Belgian Waffles, bread pudding, Thai chicken salad, macaroni and cheese appetizer, and Beef Wellington. I thought the fruit on board was of very good. Try ordering the fruit platter as dessert or along with your dessert (it was beautiful!). Delicious French onion soup is offered in the dining room every night. I always brought my camera along to dinner, because the sunset happened while we were eating. All I had to do was walk upstairs to the outside Promenade and I could take pictures to my heart's content. If I was gone a long time, my food was kept warm for me until I returned from my photo shoot. At Your Service The crew was so friendly and willing to please. At some land restaurants, it feels like a bother to ask a staff member to bring you something, on the Noordam, it seemed like it made them happy to bring whatever I asked for. What follows are some instances of crew members who went above and beyond. On the elevator one day, a server from the Pinnacle Grill, who was on her way to the Neptune Lounge, came on with trays of pastries and chocolates. She let everyone in the elevator sample a chocolate. It's the little things like that that make you feel special. I need to mention how helpful the Internet Manager, Rodin was. My online Picasa account would not load my photos for some reason. He spent a long time trying to make it work, but couldn't. So, he shrunk the photos in his computer program for me so that I could attach them to my "live" Cruise Critic thread. He even gave me back the minutes that had been spent in vain. There was no reason why he needed to help that much; it was very nice. The Chocolate Extravaganza was alright. Most of the desserts were cakes or items that I normally had at afternoon tea anyway. I asked for a piece of the chocolate decoration from a cake instead. The chef gave me a huge chunk of it; awesome. No water was available by the pool setting, so I went to the Lido to get some. Our assistant dining room steward, Andie was working the extravaganza, and asked what I needed. He brought six waters over for the three of us. Also, we were looking forward to some chocolate covered strawberries from the chocolate fountain, but people kept cutting in the line, so we gave up. When Andie saw that we didn't have any on our plates, he went and got some for us. Talk about being at your service! Entertainment I thoroughly enjoyed all of the shows I attended; Elton John impersonator Joel Mason, Olympic Gymnast Lance Ringnald, Magician Jason Latimer and the production shows, "If These Walls Could Rock" and "That's Vegas". The movies in the theater seemed to be played on TV the next day. So if you miss it or can't stay to finish, you can catch it later. I was watching Shrek in the cabin when suddenly; I saw a huge splash from a whale! It was great. Some of the movies on board were: Spiderman 3, Shrek the Third, Blades of Glory, Disturbia, Next, Lucky You, and The Hoax. You can also rent movies from the library. There was an Indonesian tea ceremony, a towel animal folding demonstration, dancing lessons, and a galley tour. You can collect dam dollars for the sport activities and redeem them for prizes. A daily quiz and trivia games were offered; you can also get dam dollars this way for wining. Miscellaneous Most people were dressed up for formal night, but there were a few in hooded sweatshirts and even shorts (brrr!). I would suggest wearing layers in the ports. If you will be on tour on boat, wear a windbreaker and maybe take some gloves. For walking around, a zipped sweatshirt or jacket is nice. Clothing with lots of pockets is handy for carrying items like a camera or ID. I brought my laptop along and purchased an Internet plan. I typed my "live" Cruise Critic posts in Word and copied it to a CC reply, saving a lot of minutes. I liked taking my computer to the Explorations Cafe and sitting in a comfy chair. Other Internet hotspots were available throughout the ship. I was so glad I had my laptop to load photos on every once and awhile! It freed up my memory card and I ended up with over a thousand photos! There was a low turnout for the Mariner's Reception. Captain Hans Mateboer spoke briefly and no one received their medallions this cruise, so it was a short reception. The ship is gorgeous! Even the elevators are gorgeous! Some have art deco doors while others are glass. I loved the fresh flower arrangements. Every table in the Lido has an orchid. The glass staircase in the atrium is very cool, but it is a bit deceiving to walk it since you can see through. For safety reasons, they close it off when the ship is sailing. Artwork is everywhere. Be sure to look at the interesting chairs and sculptures by the glass elevators and the paintings on the stairwells. Conclusion We had spectacular weather and saw so much wildlife! The Noordam was beautiful and the service was fantastic. It was a truly memorable cruise, and I cannot wait for my next sailing with Holland America Line! Read Less
1 Helpful Vote
Sail Date: July 2007
The Noordam is a Crowded and Unattractive Vessel Introduction: My husband and I have cruised twice previously: once on Royal Caribbean and once on Carnival. I arranged this cruise on the Noordam for us and 10 other family members, all of ... Read More
The Noordam is a Crowded and Unattractive Vessel Introduction: My husband and I have cruised twice previously: once on Royal Caribbean and once on Carnival. I arranged this cruise on the Noordam for us and 10 other family members, all of whom were first-time cruisers. Although our family had a wonderful time together at meals and in the entertainment venues, my husband and I were extremely disappointed because of our expectations based on our previous experiences. The Holland America Noordam didn't even compare favorably to the Carnival Pride. The main problems: Overcrowding: The most popular venues on the Noordam were extremely crowded. Specifically: 1) The Lido restaurant had terribly long lines and way too many people milling about, especially at peak hours--you can forget about finding a table by a window at meal times. 2) The showroom was always packed prior to every show and we often ended up in the balcony even though we arrived 15 minutes early. 3) The blackjack tables were so crowded that I once stood for an hour before getting a seat. If you don't mind playing the sucker games (face-up with dealer taking all pushes or blackjack with all the queens removed), you may find a seat because most of the blackjack games in the casino have a gimmick that favors the house. 4) The top deck during scenic cruising of Glacier Bay was packed and there was no space along the rail. 5) The two hot tubs in the adults-only area are usually taken and they are so tiny that you better be good friends if there's more than two of you. 6) Get in line very early for the dessert buffet or the wait will be horrific. All of these venues were much more crowded than similar venues on our other two cruises. Ugly dEcor and furnishings: The Noordam is not an attractive vessel. The carpets, furnishings, art work, etc. are not appealing The doors to the cabins look like plywood. The carpeting in the hallways is an ugly blue pattern, which clashes with the red and orange circles in the area by the elevators. Bizarre-looking silver benches can be found in each landing by the elevators. Poor maintenance and supervision in the adults-only pool area: Even though several people complained, neither of the hot tubs worked properly throughout the cruise. The jets in one of them were inoperable and the jets in the other blew cold air. Also, the "adults only" policy in that area was not enforced and kids were all over. The pools and hot tubs close very early. Victoria, BC shouldn't really be counted as a port of call: The ship docks at 6 p.m. and sails at 11:15 p.m. When we booked the cruise, we didn't look closely enough at the schedule and many of us were planning to visit the Buchart Gardens in Victoria. We were shocked to learn that the ship wouldn't arrive in Victoria until 6:00 p.m. and everything worth seeing was about 30-45 minutes away from the dock. We decided to get to the dining room at 5:00 p.m. and be ready to disembark right at 6:00. Well, we weren't the only ones! The line to enter the dining room began forming much earlier and we had a long wait to be seated. We disembarked only to turn around and get back on the ship again after discovering how far the gardens and the Empress Hotel and downtown area were from the dock. During the entertainment that night, the cruise director asked how everyone had enjoyed the various ports. Only a few hands went up when he mentioned Victoria. Embarkation: This process was proceeding efficiently when someone apparently fell on a ramp leading to the boat and the doors from the terminal were shut for over 30 minutes. We were not advised of the reason for the problem until later. The Positives: 1) The entertainment was great, especially Joel Mason and the magician, but be sure to get to the Vista Lounge early to get a decent seat. 2) The beds were very comfortable and the rooms were more attractive than the common areas in the Noordam. 3) The hard-working staff were just as wonderful as on the other ships we have been on. 4) The park rangers who came on board at Glacier Bay are terrific. 5) The cruise director was quite a comedian. 6) We enjoyed the question-and-answer session with the captain. Conclusion: We expected a lot more from Holland America and chose the Noordam because it's a relatively new ship. We won't be sailing on HAL again. Carnival is just as good and Royal Caribbean is much better in many ways. Read Less
Sail Date: July 2007
This is not the Holland America of old, and that is not a good thing. We sailed on the old Noordam in 1999 to Alaska and 2000 to Europe. At that time, I felt that Holland America was a step above the other mainstream cruiselines. Their ... Read More
This is not the Holland America of old, and that is not a good thing. We sailed on the old Noordam in 1999 to Alaska and 2000 to Europe. At that time, I felt that Holland America was a step above the other mainstream cruiselines. Their food and service were superlative. That doesn't hold true anymore on the new Noordam. The food was such a disappointment. The flavors were bland, the selection was limited and not a single entree had the "wow" factor I had come to expect from Holland America. My children have multiple food allergies and I wrote a letter 2 months in advance to see how they could handle those allergies, expecting at least some accommodation. I finally received a call the day before the cruise telling me there was absolutely nothing they could do. When I got on board, I asked to speak to the dining room manager and was refused. I just needed to ask some simple questions about the oils they used and the use of preservative sprays and I could never get an answer. I will certainly try another cruise line the next time to see if they can better accommodate my kids' needs. The kids' club was adequate but they didn't have the security or contact features that we have come to appreciate from Disney and Carnival. The staff at the club was nice enough, but they didn't have the kids wear name tags, and I wondered how they kept track of names, and again, of my kids' food allergies. Also, we booked a separate, adjoining cabin for our kids, and it would be nice if they had kid sized bathrobes. The pool is another area of complaint. Part of the reason we booked this cruise was because it had a covered pool area. However, they kept opening the roof, even though it was in the 50's and raining. It was never once warm enough to get in the pool comfortably. All in all, a huge disappointment. If you are looking for fine dining, go elsewhere. We certainly will Read Less
Sail Date: July 2007
This was our (DH and I) first cruise, but it will certainly not be our last! Embarkation and disembarkation were a breeze. It probably took us 15 minutes to check-in and get to our stateroom. It probably took only another 15 minutes ... Read More
This was our (DH and I) first cruise, but it will certainly not be our last! Embarkation and disembarkation were a breeze. It probably took us 15 minutes to check-in and get to our stateroom. It probably took only another 15 minutes during disembarkation from leaving our stateroom to getting through customs, getting our luggage and getting into our taxi. We were at our early flight with lots of time to spare. Our taxi driver said they really have gotten streamlined recently. Food was okay, not great in my opinion (but I have pretty high standards). Considering the number of people they're cooking for, I was satisfied with the quality - and a few things were very good. Portion sizes were small, which I preferred so I had room for all the courses. The guys at our table were ordering double appetizers and double entrees, and the servers were happy to bring them. DH and I did not get a chance to try the Pinnacle Grill. Casual dining food was good, I just don't personally care for buffets. Coffee was also not very good in my opinion. I ordered the free cappuccino in the dining room whenever I was able. Entertainment was very good. Two nights of song/dance, one night of a classical pianist (which we skipped), and one night of a magician. There were often movies with free popcorn. We were on this cruise with a medical conference so we were in classes when we would have been able to enjoy the culinary center and/or other onboard activities, so I can't comment any more about those aspects of the cruise. Also, DH and I have no kids, so no review on Club HAL or the Loft. Our stateroom was very adequate, and larger than we had expected. It was a little cramped around the bathroom/closet area while getting ready in the morning or at night, but I can't imagine them being able to reasonably make it any bigger - and it was certainly manageable. There was more than enough space for unpacking in the bathroom and nightstands. There was limited drawer space, but ample closet space. We were very impressed with what was on TV - there were movies, sports, news and I think I saw some cartoons while I was channel surfing. We also brought some DVDs in a CD case for the in-room DVD player. Room service was very good, as well. Shore excursions were very good. We had an incident leaving Sitka. The anchor motor broke so we were delayed in leaving by about 30 minutes, and then dragged 36,000 pounds of anchor for about an additional 2 hours. This put us into Ketchikan late, missing our excursion. We were automatically reimbursed for the tour we had been scheduled for, and rebooked something else by ourselves. No problems. DH and I were most impressed with the exceptional service. The crew is wonderful!!!! I cannot say enough about them. Overall, with the exception of food (B-) I would give Holland America Lines an A. DH and I definitely look forward to cruising with them again. Read Less
Sail Date: July 2007
Background: My wife and I are both in our early 40s and we traveled with our 16 year old son. My parents (late 70s) were with us as well. We have been on 30 prior cruises on most of the major lines. This was our first trip to Alaska. ... Read More
Background: My wife and I are both in our early 40s and we traveled with our 16 year old son. My parents (late 70s) were with us as well. We have been on 30 prior cruises on most of the major lines. This was our first trip to Alaska. We traveled to Seattle two nights early to spend some time in the area. Seattle is a great city with plenty to do and excellent dining. We enjoyed great weather with temperatures in the low 80s. We stayed in the Homewood Suites-Downtown, which is really outside of the downtown area but still convenient. Since it's a suite hotel, we had plenty of room. The hotel was clean and well maintained. A breakfast buffet was included. I highly recommend both Etta's Seafood and Il Bistro (Italian) for dinners. We took a cab to the pier at about 11:00 am on the day of departure. We breezed through check-in and boarding started at about 11:30. We were eating lunch by 12:00. My parents flew in the night before and used HAL's transfers. They didn't arrive until after 1:00 pm and encountered long lines. They weren't happy. Ship: The Noordam is a very pretty ship with very nice public areas. We thought the theater had a better layout than the smaller HAL ships and the seating was much more comfortable. There is both an indoor and outdoor pool (and it was warm enough to use them several days); however, the indoor pool area was usually crowded with kids and offered very few lounge chairs. Several nights, the crew removed the chairs and began cleaning the floors several hours before the pool was to close. I found this to be very poor customer service. I submitted a complaint card but never received a reply. We had balcony cabins (cat. VF). These are much smaller than the balcony cabins on the smaller HAL ships. It was rather tight for three of us. My parents, who cruise frequently with HAL, noticed the same thing. The balcony was also smaller but had two chairs and a small table. This was very useful for viewing the scenery in Alaska. Dining: The dining on the Noordam was a disappointment. We have always enjoyed the food on HAL but the quality had taken a turn for the worse on this ship. We had "as you wish dining." In my opinion, this is a disaster. We chose this option so we could eat between the traditional early and late seating times and were told that reservations would be available. We weren't told that a reservation cannot be made for times between 5:30 pm and 7:45 pm, which of course is when we wanted to eat. We settled for 7:45 each night and were seated at nice tables by the back window. On many nights, those without reservations were forced to wait or given a beeper (aka Outback Steakhouse). It appeared very disorganized. I will never cruise with HAL in the future if I cannot get traditional dining. The quality of the food in the dining room was very uneven. Many entrees were bland and unseasoned, although some were very good. Desert soufflEs were excellent. Much to my surprise, the surf and turf on the last formal night was the worst meal I've ever had on a ship. The lobster tail was very small and the beef (supposedly tenderloin) was thin, tough, and overcooked. The seafood we had in port was far, far better than that on the ship, despite some special selections for the Alaska itinerary. The service was spotty. On two nights, I was served the wrong entrEe. I think service suffers as a result of the "as you wish" process as opposed to the staff. The waiters were the same friendly staff that we have encountered on other HAL ships. It appears that their numbers have been reduced, increasing their workload. We ate breakfast in the buffet each morning. It had the typical selections, which were fine. Service in the hot line was slow so lines formed. The fresh squeezed OJ, as always, was a highlight but it appears that they are discouraging its consumption as I saw buffet servers handing out a lot of concentrate. You had to bypass the server to get to the good stuff. The ice cream station, which was open most of the time, was also a highlight. Ports: The ports were the highlight of this trip. We started in Glacier Bay and were fortunate to have great weather. The scenery is indescribable. The onboard naturalist and rangers (who boarded in the am) provided interesting commentary. We got to the glaciers around lunch time and were treated to several rounds of "calving." We took the Orca Enterprises whale watching trip in Juneau. It turned out that the Noordam's naturalist also works for Orca as he was on the boat with us. We saw a number of whales and more great scenery. We ate at the Crab Shack behind the library (excellent King Crab, even out of season) and took the shuttle to Mendenhall Glacier in the afternoon. The shuttle was easy and there were no crowds. We took the Sea Otter Tour through HAL in Sitka. It was on a larger boat (about 100 persons). We saw a variety of wildlife and more whales. It was a nice trip but over priced ($150+). We took a city tour and had a salmon lunch in the afternoon. The local salmon is simply amazing. This tour and a shuttle to the restaurant were available at the tender dock. We had tried for the zip line tour in Ketchikan but it was sold out. We settled for a boat trip and a crab lunch (through the ship). It was expensive but the Dungeness crab was great. We were plenty full when we finished. Victoria was a rain out. We took the trip to the gardens. I'm sure they're beautiful, but it was humid, raining, and there were thousands of people (3 ships in). My son was the smart one.....he stayed on the ship. Disembarkation: We arrived in Seattle early and disembarkation started around 8:00 am. We had a noon flight so we took our time. Luggage and customs were no problem. HAL implies that cabs will be limited (so you will book their overpriced transfers). This was not the case as we were in a cab within a couple of minutes and on our way to the airport. We had time for lunch at the airport. I highly recommend Anthony's. It's located in the terminal after you go through security. The cappuccino was excellent...far better than typical airport food. It was a better meal than many I had on the ship. Overall, we had a very nice time, as we have on all of our prior cruises. As I noted, we were disappointed with several aspects of the Noordam (particularly the food) so I don't think we'll travel on her in the future. We'll certainly return to HAL's smaller ships. Alaska, however, is a great destination in the summer (beat the heat) and we'll certainly return. Read Less
Sail Date: July 2007
My husband,myself and our two teenage boys flew to Seattle the night before the cruise. The plane was late so we didn't get checked into the Clarion Hotel near the airport till almost midnight. The hotel was ok. It was nothing ... Read More
My husband,myself and our two teenage boys flew to Seattle the night before the cruise. The plane was late so we didn't get checked into the Clarion Hotel near the airport till almost midnight. The hotel was ok. It was nothing spectacular. They did have a restaurant on premises which made things easier. We met another couple who was heading for the Noordam also. It was fun talking to them. Seattle Express picked us up a little after 10AM and we got to the cruise terminal about 1045AM, There was very little lines and check in was a breeze. We did our immigration forms online which really speeded up the process. When we got to the terminal they took all of our checked bags in a very efficient manner. About 1130 we were allowed to board the ship. We went straight to the Lido deck to get some lunch. The ships public spaces were very nice. The atrium had a glass stairway that they always had blocked off. We were hoping to get some pictures on the stairway on formal nights but no such luck. The ship was in great shape with the exception of the midship elevators. It seem liked they worked only half the time. One of my favorite places on the ship was the Explorations Cafe. It was so homey. The chairs were very comfortable. The book selection was excellent and it was a good place to check emails. The Lido pool was very popular with the younger kids. They were all very well behaved. I think there were about 300 kids on the ship. The Lido cafe buffet lines did get crowded at times and sometimes it was difficult to get a window seat. The food on the ship was excellent. My husband had one main course that was bland but the rest of the food was full of vibrant taste. I even got to try beef wellington which was excellent. The room service menu was excellent. You could get a wide variety of foods brought to your stateroom 24 hours a day. The stateroom was an inside room so I was a little worried about space. In short, the room was wonderful. It was much better designed than the VD room on the Oosterdam in March. There was plenty of closet space and plenty of storage under the bed to put our suitcases. I found a spot for everything. The entry way into the room was very spacious. The upper berth was not over the masterbed so nobody bumped there heads in the middle of the night. The bed was very comfortable and I just loved the pillows. The kids thoroughly enjoyed the loft on this trip. It was a true hangout for the teens on the ship. The staff were usually available and there were activities and teen parties every night of the cruise. They had dances and games. The kids on the last night got T shirts and they signed them and exchanged email and myspace addresses. The kids got off the ship tired but they were very satisfied with their cruise. We saw the first show and the magician show in the middle of the week. The Noordam dancers were incredible and the singing was very good. The magician was good also. His biggest trick was his levitation of his partner. He also did some card tricks. My husband was a competitor on Noordam idol so we didn't get to see all of the evening entertainment. I wish we could have stayed longer in port in Ketchikan and Victoria. I really wanted to see more of Victoria. Butchart gardens on Saturday was extremely crowded and it was hard to enjoy the flowers because of it. The firework show was nice. All in all, it was too short of a port stop. Ketchikan was nice. We took a tour that we hooked up with onshore. It was excellent. We had an excellent guide and saw lots of bears and bald eagles. The salmon were really jumping. Sitka and Juneau were nice. We saw the Mendenhall glacier and did gold mining and the Salmon bake in Juneau. In glacier bay we got really close to the Marjorie glacier and saw some small calvings. It was breathtaking.We also had park rangers on the ship in Glacier bay and they were excellent. A naturalist onboard gave some excellent lectures on wildlife and glaciers All to soon the cruise came to an end. The service, the food, and the teen programs were excellent. Disembarkation was a breeze. We used Signature Express baggage service and that was excellent. Well worth the $15 dollars per person. All of our bags were waiting for us when we got home. I am ready to think about doing it again. Read Less
Sail Date: July 2007
Review of Noordam, July 1-8, 2008, Alaska's Inside Passage Background: This was my family's third cruise. We had previously sailed on Carnival's Fantasy to the Caribbean in March, 2006; on the Volendam to Alaska's ... Read More
Review of Noordam, July 1-8, 2008, Alaska's Inside Passage Background: This was my family's third cruise. We had previously sailed on Carnival's Fantasy to the Caribbean in March, 2006; on the Volendam to Alaska's Inside Passage in June, 2007; and now, the Noordam, July 1-8, 2008. My husband and I (early 50s) traveled with our teenage son and daughter and my sister-in-law (early 60s). Pre-Cruise We arrived in Seattle two days early to enjoy the sites. We stayed at the Comfort Suites on Roy Street. We had a two bedroom suite with kitchenette, perfect for the five of us. We were about two blocks from the Seattle Center an easy walk from our hotel! We enjoyed the Space Needle, the Science Fiction Museum, the Experience Music Project, Pioneer Square with the Underground Tour, Pike's Place Market, and the water front. We ate at Ivars, Elliotts, and Salty's on Alki Beach. Embarkation: We arrived at the pier about 1:00 PM. Had no problem checking our luggage and no waiting in line to check in. We boarded the ship about 1:30 and went directly to our cabins. Cabin: We were in side-by-side cabins in what my DH affectionately called "steerage", #1118 and #1120. We prefer the lower decks because my daughter has motion sickness problems. While we enjoyed being on the deck with the front desk and shore excursion offices - so easily accessible and only one floor from the dining room, we would never again book these particular cabins. We were directly below the kitchen and were awakened early (4:00ish) every morning with what sounded like carts/tables being dragged across the floor and one morning the smell of bacon was so strong that we could have been sleeping in the kitchen. Our cabins were lovely, spacious, and the beds were divine!! We only had a shower - I missed having a bathtub. Upon our arrival to our cabin our air conditioning was not working - in either cabin. We complained first to our room steward and finally to the front desk where we were assured that the "problem was being worked on". My DH begin staking out various places on the ship where we might "camp out" because the room was much too hot for sleeping. Fortunately, after about 4 hours we could feel cool air blowing into our cabin and by bedtime we were able to sleep comfortably. And we appreciated that the front desk checked back with us every day or so to make sure that the air conditioning was still functioning properly. Dining: Dinner: There was no "As You Wish" dining on our cruise in the Vista Dining Room - probably because of the large group (942 people) on our cruise (more about them later). Our food was consistently good and well presented. Some entrees were better than others, but overall we were satisfied with our selections. The portions were adequate - only once did my DH have to order a second entree because the serving was so small (the duck breast). And one other time, we were unhappy with the entree (the Wiener Schnitzel). It was dry and flavorless. But most entrees were quite good. Our steward, Rae, was wonderfully sweet - anticipating our every need. We had plenty of bread, water, ice tea, milk, etc. - never having to ask for refills. Problems: (1) We missed the string quartet playing during dinner, in fact we missed having any music at all and the dining room was loud. I don't know if this is a result of the design of the room, but the lack of music (which probably couldn't have been heard in the first place) and the loud voices destroyed much of the ambience of the dining experience. (2) The pace of our meal. Most evenings it took us 2 hours to be served and eat a four course meal. I don't think this was a problem with our steward but with the kitchen staff. We would frequently wait long periods between courses. Then we would usually have to hurry through our dessert in order to get to the entertainment in the Vista Lounge. (3) The variety (or lack thereof) of desserts. While I think the Vista Dining Room did an adequate job with desserts we were a little disappointed in the variety and creativity. Most of the desserts my family tasted were good but nothing memorable. Breakfast and Lunch: We ate in the Lido Restaurant, Vista Dining Room, and the Terrace Grill for Breakfast and Lunch depending upon our mood and the schedule for the day. Again the food and choices were very good and again the service in the Vista Dining Room was so very slow that by the end of the cruise we abandoned the idea of eating in the Vista Dining Room at all. There is just too much to do on an Alaskan cruise to spend two hours eating lunch! Entertainment: (1)The Vista Lounge singers and dancers were wonderful - the best of our three cruises. Sadly, this cruise was the last for the four singers - their contracts were up and were moving on to other exciting things. The shows were exceptionally good for a cruise line. The "That's Vegas" show on Monday night was very good except for an odd opening number and the most unusual rendition of Louis Armstrong's "What a Wonderful World" I have every heard. The dancers were very good and the again, the singers were excellent. (2) We also enjoyed the comedy of John Branyan the first night of the cruise and looked forward to seeing him again later. Unfortunately, he was not scheduled for another performance (again, probably because the 942 people reserved the Vista Lounge for their group) and we were quite disappointed. Go see John Branyan if he is ever performing in your area. He was very funny with a very clean performance - no sexual or off color jokes - my teenagers loved him, too. (3) On Thursday we enjoyed Howard Hill, a contemporary concert pianist, playing themes from television and movies (think a young Liberace without the candlesticks). He was a good talent and it might have been a very good performance, but I couldn't tell because the sound system was adjusted so poorly that the recorded background track, (which everyone on cruise ships use these days) overpowered the pianist and live performers. (4) Randy Keith was the "piano man" and every time we entered the piano bar he had a crowd around the piano singing. While he was very good and attracted a good crowd, we were a little disappointed that it was a loud, hard-driving type of performance, rather than the laid back, easy piano sounds we enjoyed last year on the Volendam with Barrie Blythe. Just a matter of personal taste. (5) We were not able to hear the Lakatos Strings in the Explorer's Lounge because they only performed during our two hour dinner time. (6) We enjoyed dancing to the Sean Bell Trio in the Ocean Bar, DJ Rich in Northern Lights, and with Meryll & The Hall Cats in the Crow's Nest. The Sean Bell Trio was not bad, rather young to be playing Standards, but their location was awful. They were stuck in a small corner, and the "dance floor" was really little more than a cleared out part of the walkway. Despite having all these different venues for dancing we didn't feel that the Noordam offered a good place for consistent ballroom dancing - most of the music seemed to be geared for a younger audience (who were not on this ship) maybe this music works for a Caribbean cruise where the passengers tend to be younger. Children/Teen Program: My teens had a good time with the 30+ teens that participated in the teen activities. There were three teen counselors/supervisors. They were all well behaved, no discipline problems that we were aware of. One problem with the Teen Program however. At midnight the counselors went to bed leaving the teenagers unsupervised in The Loft. Noordam should either have counselors on duty until the last teen leaves or they should close down The Loft at midnight. (This could turn into a bad situation!) Greenhouse Spa: While my DH and I enjoyed both the hydro pool and the thermal suites it was not worth the $250 to us. It was especially nice after a day of site seeing to come back and relax, and I'm glad we tried it, but I doubt that we will purchase the spa package again. A couple of times I took my shower at the spa but was disappointed in the service: could not find a washcloth and when I asked the girl at the desk she said none would be available until the next morning; shampoo was available in the shower but no conditioner or soap; water with lemon or lime was available in the hydro pool area but no clean cups/glasses. Shore Excursions: Juneau: We took a 1½ hour helicopter tour of the glaciers with Coastal Helicopters (booked ourselves - not through HAL). Driver/escort met us at the dock right on time. Luke was our very competent and informative pilot. What a beautiful view from the helicopter!! We landed on a glacier and walked around for about 25 minutes. In the afternoon we took the bus to Mendenhall Glacier and toured the area. Sitka: The tendering process was easy and well managed. We took a 4 hour tour with Davey Lubin on The Ester G (www.puffinsandwhales.com), a six passenger boat, to look for wildlife (booked ourselves - not through HAL). The boat ride was fabulous, saw all sorts of animals on land and sea and got a great tour of the area with Davey. FYI my DH, sister-in-law, and I did fine in the small boat on the open sea, but both of my teens had some sea-sickness problems. After a lunch of hamburgers in town we toured Sitka and did some souvenir shopping. Ketchikan: Since we had such a short time here we decided to forgo any scheduled shore excursions (we toured the Misty Fiords by float plane last summer), so we did a walking tour and shopped. Victoria: We took a two hour tour of the city (arranged through HAL). Wish we could have spent more time there. Disembarkation Because we had an early flight we chose to depart early carrying our luggage with us. This was so simple and so easy - it just meant that we were up early with an early breakfast. We had no problems exiting the ship and walked straight to our shuttle stop. Final Thoughts Approximately 45-50% of the passengers on the Noordam were with "Inspirational Cruises and Tours". In so many ways this affected our cruise: 1. They used the Vista Lounge for all their worship/seminars. Therefore, entertainment and informational sessions were cut for the rest of us; for example, unlike last summer's cruise on the Volendam, there were no Naturalist lectures. 2. With that many passengers on board with the same schedule, restaurants, bars, and decks were either packed or almost empty. The rest of us would have benefited from having their schedule so that we could have avoided being in the public places at the time their group meetings let out. Frankly, I think most of them went to bed after dinner (they were at main seating), because the Vista Lounge was never more than half full and the bars were deserted by 11:00 PM. (Actually, I have a feeling that the Noordam lost money on the sale of alcoholic drinks and in the casino this week, but they did run out of chocolate ice cream.) 3. One of the highlights of our cruise on the Volendam last summer was meeting and talking with people from around the globe. This year, most, if not all, of the "Inspirational Cruises and Tours" group were from the US and while they were all very nice it was not as much fun as dining with international passengers. The staff and crew were fabulous, wonderful. They always greeted me with a smile and a "hello" and did everything possible to help my family have a wonderful cruise. This was also the last cruise for our Cruise Director, Drew Murdock. He was returning home to eastern Canada after four months aboard the Noordam. Drew was terrific and we would love to see him on a future HAL cruise. Captain Hans Mateboer was our ship's captain. After advice from CC we did not attend the Captain's Champagne Toast, however, we did meet Captain Mateboer at the Saturday luncheon honoring Mariner and Suite guests. Captain Mateboer had a new and interesting problem that I'm sure he and HAL will be talking about for some time to come. When we tried to depart Sitka on Thursday our anchor would not come up. After trying for several hours to pull up the anchor, Captain Mateboer made the decision to sail on to Ketchikan (albeit slowly) while the maintenance engineers replaced the anchor motor. So we set sail (late) dragging 30 meters of anchor and chain (over 36,000 pounds!). Sometime around 10:00 PM the new motor was working, the anchor was pulled up, and Captain Mateboer order full steam ahead. We arrived in Ketchikan the next morning about one hour late so HAL gave us an extra hour in Ketchikan, causing Captain Mateboer to sail the Noordam as "fast as she has ever sailed!" to Victoria, where we arrived right on schedule. This was our second cruise on HAL. On the second day we received a Holland America canvas bag on our bed with a brief "thank you" for sailing with HAL. A couple of days later we each received a tile with another "thank you" note from HAL. And then the next day we received an invitation to attend a luncheon in honor of the Mariners and Suite guests on Saturday, hosted by the Captain, Hotel Manager, and Cruise Director in the Vista Dining Room. The luncheon was a nice thank-you and we appreciated being invited. This was the only meal in the Vista Dining Room where we were served in a timely manner - we were in and out in an hour and 15 minutes. In summary, we enjoyed our cruise on the Noordam - she is a beautiful ship. My favorite moments were walking the promenade deck; sitting in one of the teak chairs on the promenade deck, covered up with a blanket, watching the scenery and listening to the waves against the boat; hot chocolate (laced with Bailey's Irish Cream) on the Noordam's bow in Glacier Bay; dancing with my DH on the deserted dance floors! While the cruise was not perfect we will definitely choose to sail with HAL again. Read Less
Sail Date: June 2007
This cruise departs out of Seattle around 4 p.m. Sunday, travels out the Strait of Juan de Fuca, rounds up on the outside of Vancouver Island and heads north overnight getting you to Glacier Bay Alaska by mid morning. Then it meanders in a ... Read More
This cruise departs out of Seattle around 4 p.m. Sunday, travels out the Strait of Juan de Fuca, rounds up on the outside of Vancouver Island and heads north overnight getting you to Glacier Bay Alaska by mid morning. Then it meanders in a southerly direction to Juneau, Sitka and Ketchikan then heads back out to sea, back into the Strait to Victoria (arriving at night) and departs late in the evening for a slow put back to Seattle disembarking Sunday morning. I will start generally from the beginning experience and with the disembarkation. I did not arrive by plane so I have no real experience with it. I was, however, picked up after the cruise at the airport so I got to witness the next group of cruisers being herded around. It looked fairly organized (although I did see panicked cruisers from every line looking for assistance). The guys wrangling the luggage were frighteningly rough with the luggage throwing pieces and surely breaking whatever fragile items were stored within. Not a good way to start your cruise. Pack fragile goods on you. Some packing notes: If you drink wine, bring it. Wine is expensive on board and the selection is mediocre at best. The corkage fee is in the $20 region. All liquor purchased on board is charged a hefty surcharge. It is worth the trouble, plus you get to drink something delicious. Pack a few warm layers and do not forget your raincoat with a hood. Don't bring a crazy amount of warm things because the ship is warm. The dressy nights (2) are actually dressy. Men in nice suits and occasional tuxes. Women mostly in cocktail dresses, but a few women were in gowns. Honestly, they were a little out of place. Bring a cocktail dress. OK, embarkation: This was the first cruise for me so I haven't anything to compare it to, but I found it to be very orderly and stress free. We were dropped by family so we had to find the way there on our own. It was easy to find and well marked. Porters meet you at the car and will handle your luggage. There are two short lines. One for those who filled out their forms online and another for those who did not. We did it on line. We were asked a few questions, gave them our forms and filled out one. Our pics were taken, we were given our docs to get on board and then sent to a queue to get on board. Easy and friendly folks. A good way to start. The line moves haltingly from here because of the picture taking and selling of various packages for onboard. A lot of people looked annoyed. Your goods are then quickly x-rayed then you are on your way on board. Something to note here. Your checked luggage sits outside in the elements for a LONG time. If you packed your lovely silk dress on top and your luggage ends up on the top of the stack... and it is raining (it IS Seattle!) I was lamenting not carrying it all on or not having packed in a hard sided piece. Luckily, it only sprinkled rain. Our rooms were not ready yet so we went to the Lido Deck (you have no choice) where we slogged through the hawkers again making way to a table. Many ravenous folks were rushing around and knocking over the less hardy for their chance to get a premade sandwich. Be warned. It is less dangerous to life and limb (especially fingers and feet) to hike out to the aft outdoor deck. 1:30 or so they announce it is time to head to your room. Finding your cabin is easy and there are signs everywhere to aid the lost. Your checked luggage arrives sometime before the evening. Plenty of time to get unpacked and freshen for dinner. Night one is casual. Oh yeah, this is the time when you are wondering about laundry and pressing. It is really expensive and no self-laundering/pressing is available like on other ships. Consider either bringing clothes that pack well or bringing a steamer (no irons). I was in one of the less expensive rooms. It was an outside stateroom with obstruction. It had an unopenable window blocked by a lifeboat, but if you stood high or got on your bed, you could see the water and land. We were a party of two women (my mom) and we were very comfy. There was ample closet space with hangers and room below beds to store smaller bags. Larger ones fit nicely in the lockers. Three COULD fit in the room, but it would be tight. Make sure you are really accommodating and close if you decide on a trio. The odd man is on a pullout couch. The other two are on an extremely comfy bed (or two beds). They are long singles and they are the highlight of the room. They tie with the pillows. My mom could not stop talking about the pillows and wrote the name of them down so she could get them for home. Really. Our first night out was pretty rough and she spent the evening hugging them for comfort. Her new best friend I guess. Anyway, the lav was plenty roomy. There was a short tub/shower, kitty corner toilet and a sink. The cabin includes a vanity where hairdryers are furnished and used. There is also a lighted makeup mirror with magnifier. The negative is that the lighting at the vanity is smoked and dark. I would apply my makeup there and then walk to the bathroom to see I looked crazy with uneven makeup because I could not see what I was doing in the dim light. The stateroom also has a loveseat, table and a chair. None of which we sat on. We used the table for room service and plunking down our junk on. Sheets are changed one time during the trip and the blanket is covered with another sheet. The food and dining: Might as well get to that since lots of time is spent doing it or contemplating doing it. Are you sitting down? I LOST weight on the trip. I kid you not. I was not sick either. The food was just incredibly dull and uninspired even in the Pinnacles. Lots and lots of the same things every day. Lots of food rehashed (emphasis on the hash) day after day. Dining room food selections that I found myself saying (to myself) "well, if I have to select something (sigh), I guess I will have the pork chop." It would be slapped down in front of me in a very dismal way and I would pick through a pretty meager portion (they are ALL about portion control on this ship) trying to find the small nugget that was not overcooked or looked edible. Let me digress for a moment. Dining room info.: It was my mom's birthday. We were in open seating. I called when we got on board and asked if we might get a table near a window and maybe a table for two. We would take any time. NO. And we never ever could. And the man taking the reservations was RUDE. I am mad writing about it now. That and the men greeting diners at the front door were either strange and inappropriately familiar or rude and unaccommodating. I can only assume that we were not given a decent seat because our room was not an expensive one. We also tried arriving without reservation during the waning hours of dining to a emptying (about a quarter full) room and beg for a table either by ourselves or by a window and they told us it was not possible after asking our room number then there was no further conversation allowed. A ticket was printed and we were led to a center table with other bewildered diners. Everyone at the table commented on the empty window seats. No one was pleased. OK I feel better now. Sorry. Laughs~ The dining room food. I already mention... yuck. But to explain. They tout their culinary prowess on this ship. When they do people in the audience giggle (at the disembarkation lecture). It was good to know it was not just my mom and me (and our other lesser appreciated table mates). The only good thing I had in the dining room was a lamb shank. It was good. It was plunked atop a half cup of insipid mashed potatoes and sided with 2 small carrot balls the size of marbles. By the end of the cruise I dreamed of fresh veggies. Toward the end of the cruise I got a little gumption and if food arrived that looked simply too nasty or unsafe to eat I sent it back and asked for something else. Things served that were disappointing: . The last night my mom ordered scallops. They were rank, overcooked and one was a strange pink color. Chateaubriand asked for rare/ medium rare and arrived medium well with goo pastry. No taste to boot. Filet folks! That was the fancy night. Other things: Pasta (don't do it in the dining room), Salmon - they do not know what kind and won't go find out. Another diner had it, it looked overcooked and unappetizing. We were in the salmon capital of the world for chrissakes. The portions were usually smallish (except for pasta (but blech!) and lacked veggies. Mixed salads contained plenty of lettuce pieces that had gone bad and clinged secretly to other leafs. Watch for that. Caesars come pre tossed with oh so much dressing and iffy croutons. OK I do not want to discuss that anymore. I did like the chocolate cake. Of course it could have been pretty inferior and I would have loved it. I suggest they pour fudge over their entrees. The service. OK I will confess that in a former life I was a restaurant owner. I think that really great service can smooth over a rocky food experience. Bad food and robotic and startlingly abrupt service may account for my weight loss. I just found myself putting on a happy face, enjoyed talking to my fellow dining partners and tried to get it over with. Many servers have a real problem with English. That may account for the weirdness like "What do you want?" or not taking a beverage order or picking up a napkin from the floor and making a diner use it versus getting him a new one. Also, they do not take drink orders unless you ask and never before food ARRIVES. Sigh. Lido Dining. This is a quasi buffet area where you will eat breakfast and lunch and perhaps dinner. Mornings you can elect to freely select pastries and fruit. Other items (including hot) are doled out to you as you go through cafeteria style. Sausages were good and one day they had potato squares that were fried like McDonalds. They were also good. Everything else looked ick. I was amazed that people were eating the steam tabled pancakes and the limp and strange looking french toast. Grapefruit was grey. Raisin bread was pretty good, but don't ask that it be toasted for you. I elected to either have room service (which is good) pasties with juice and coffee or trundled up to the Lido for a bagel. I always scanned for the potato wedges. They never reappeared after morning one. They were replaced with gacky home fries. There was an asian style breakfast available with miso soup (and accoutrements) and plenty of congee which many a Southerner mistook as grits. Lunch on the Lido is a salad bar (see previous lettuce admonition) which included white tomatoes, purple coleslaw goo and potato salad, cukes and a rather rancid Greek mixed salad. Pass. My fellow cruisers, lunch bliss exists in the sandwich department. I had a croissant sandwich with turkey, bacon and cheese, lettuce and tomato and it was good. Other times when I longed for something else (like asian lamb stirfry) I wished I had stuck with the sandwich. Incidentally, they dole the hot food out to you and start out with a tablespoon of meat mix with a cup or so of rice (in asian) they will hand that to you. You will have to speak up if you require more than that.and they will make you say more after each spoonful. I always regretted asking for more. Outside on the Lido is a hamburger and hotdog line and a pretty good self-serve taco bar. Room service. This is the highlight of the onboard dining. The bread on the sandwiches may be stale and the croissants are cold, but the food quality is better and the service excels. Raves to the club sandwich and breakfast pastries. Also the chocolate cake is fresher delivered to the room than in either dining areas. Confirm orders and ask for extra creamer. Pinnacles. Your server will be able to communicate with you here. Service was vastly superior. They actually timed your meal, did not rush you, attended to your drinks and bread and served without intrusion. We also got close to a window. Oh glee! I again had a filet here (the entrEe choice was minimal). It was overcooked again. I could have gotten a porterhouse. I was afraid the NY side of the porterhouse would be rubber so I opted for the filet. The side I cannot recall. It must have been unremarkable. I do however remember that I ordered Tuna sashimi for an appetizer. Easily the highlight of the onboard food. My mom got it too and we lamented every night thereafter that we did not simply have 10 plates each of that. Paper thin pieces of heaven. Ship in general and its entertainment offerings: The ship is pretty and new. Smoking is allowed on deck, in rooms (I know ick) and in the casino and bars. Thankfully no smoking in halls or dining areas. I was with a smoker. Sigh. Cheap rooms lack ventilation for smoking. Also I thought it was strange that you cannot have an iron in your room, but you can smoke like a chimney in them. The library area is roomy and pleasing with lots of books (check out early for best selection - I saw one woman in the early moments of the cruise with a stack. She must be a veteran). They rent DVDs there too. You can buy your favorite coffee drink and sit in nicely appointed seating areas to play games and read books. I camped out here a lot working on crosswords. Here is where you can access the internet for a heft hefty hefty price. They also have wireless available. I skipped the net for a week. Live entertainment was not what I expected. The shows were strange and uninspired and the singers often off key. Instead, go for the karaoke competition where the true talent lies and laughs can be had. It is done in a series of competitions with the winner being crowned on the way to Victoria. There was a quasi-calypsoish band in the atrium area one day. Very loud, did lots of Caribbean and Jimmy Buffet songs done like elevator music. The woman singing should consider a career change. OK a moment to retract my claws! Many folks were abuzz about the bingo. I did not go, but the major boat's main constituency was of the more mature set so... you figure it out. The pools were all for adults and children. No separate pools. They were often empty even though our cruise was sunny. There were a few takers for the Jacuzzi and many felt at ease enough to take a pass through the casino and other areas in their robes. I thought that was amusing. It horrified my mom when a man sat next to her at roulette wearing his bathrobe. Casino: Poker is by video table and is only in tourney form. They play 60 and 120 buy in games. Humans run the roulette and blackjack. The house's take is massive. Slots and video gaming... look at the payout. I never got bored enough to toss my money away at slots. Also there is a woman on a wireless mic talking a lot of the time. She is loud and can induce a headache. She was touting some running lottery or guessing game. Take comfort that she will eventually tire and stop. Gym: Big and good equipment. Windows open to a beautiful view. You will want to spend time here. Lots of treadmills with one always available. Aerobic classes and pilates are available for a fee. I was on the lookout for the water aerobics class, but it never happened. There is a sauna, but I did not use it. I also did not use the spa. It looked nice (I examined it at about 4 in the morning night one when everyone was in their rooms vomiting - I do not get seasick). It also seemed expensive, but... you are on vacation. Cinema: Lots of currentish movies. I went a few times and enjoyed it. It was relatively empty. They should offer drinks with the popcorn. There is a concession stand, but it stood empty. Generally, the ship is clean and nicely done. There is one glass stair system, but it was blocked the entire cruise so it was look, don't touch. No grand stairs on this boat. I do not know what other boats looked like, but it does not seem as open as other boats look like on commercials. It WAS clean though and there were elevators open to the port and starboard water views. I nice touch. I spent a ton of time on deck. Decks are wide, scrubbed, equipped with lots of blankets and ample sturdy (yet lovely) teak loungers (you can purchase one). The only time you are allowed up on the very front part of the bow is at Glacier Bay. The rest of the time you go just inside. You can go all the way to the stern. A side note about cleanliness. There are many men devoted to polishing the public areas, but we found our bathroom handle and door to the cabin grimy and sticky. I cleaned it with an antibacterial wipe they offer in the public restroom. Every morning around 6 a.m. they walk a catwalk outside the bedroom window to clean the liferafts. Be sure to close your curtains before going to sleep. It is unpleasant to find them gawking in as you wake. General notes: You will have many many times where photogs will be scrambling to take your pic.. You will be given many opportunities to buy things like jewelry and other things you did not know you needed. You will pay for seminars that do not involve something being sold to you, the classes were unbelievable dull, but the lectures on wildlife were the ship's highlight as far as entertainment value goes. It was free. There is a TV in room where you can watch the view from the stern and one from the bow of the boat. I watched that a lot. There is also a channel with revolving screens providing ship info. Like very general track, ship's speed, time, air temp, sea conditions... I liked that. What would have made it even better would have been a sort of GPS display instead of they far off general map they use. I wanted to know what body of water I was in and what I was looking at land wise. Also there was very little offerings over the loud speaker about what we were looking at. Many folks were annoyed by that especially at Glacier Bay. Also, speaking of loudspeaker announcements, during the first night they did an evening crew safety drill. The man announcing it could not speak easily understood English and I could hear a commotion of folks in the hallway wondering if there was an emergency (they sounded alarm). The captain had to get on and tell people it was for the crew to go to muster stations and not for passengers. I won't get into what is to do at each port of call since I have seen other descriptions that would be far superior to mine. I will speak generally about them. I loved each stop, but then again our weather was absolute perfection. Getting on and off the boat was a cinch even the day we used tenders. They were tender towards those with disabilities. I thought that was nice to see. Some gangway security fellow was rude to my mom. I did not witness it, but she was fairly hot about it. Personally, outside big excursions, I would wait until I got to port to book it. If the weather is bad what is the point of shelling out tons of money to appreciate a view shrouded in clouds. The tour groups are plentiful at dock and the prices seem better with an addition of competition. Each town is enjoyable and the locals surprisingly accommodating considering the ships probably double town population and we wander around dazed and into traffic. There is always an exception to the kindness of locals. Best to brush it off and get over it. A small thing about one of the stops... Victoria at 6p.m.? Really? Why bother? The brochure sez no trip to Victoria is complete without a trip to Butchart Gardens... but it is night? Also the ship docks outside of Victoria and you have to hoof it a mile and a half or bus in. Stores are closed and areas of town can be dangerous and crowded with bums, beggars and drug addicts roaming in the shadows. A walk on the jetty and back to the boat is better. What else? Highlights: Glacier Bay. Amazing even without calving. Good binoculars are a must as is a good camera. I brought binocs with image stabilizer. Great for bear spotting. The wildlife lecture. The guy giving it was interesting and entertainment and lots of the pics he used were his own. He should have been providing running loud speaker commentary in Glacier Bay or at least doing a deck walk about answering questions on the fly. Disembarkation: You fill out a form prior to cruising with your departure particulars and are assigned a color/number ticket corresponding to travel urgency. You wait for that color number to be called and you proceed to gangway. Easy and orderly. I was last off since I was in no hurry. My room attendant was not pleased that we were last off and demanded we vacate the room. You can opt to have express checkout of sorts where you get off first and bags are transported to the airport for you and checked on to the flight. It is a pay service, but a nice touch I thought. Big bags are put out in the hall the night before for collection and await you in the port. I elected to carry mine down since I packed lightly. I was glad for it. There was a minor scrum to get aboard Grey Line busses to the airport and the ticket taker seemed confused when I gave her an online confirmation ticket versus one bought through the cruise line. I had to stand there and explain it. If it were raining I would not have been so patient. Grey Line driver was pleasant and entertaining. A nice way to end a cruise. Follow the admonition about breakable goods in the luggage on the outbound portion if going Grey Line. They are the same tossers used for the inbounders. OK That's all she wrote. Read Less
Sail Date: June 2007
My wife and I just celebrated our 38th wedding anniversary by taking our very first cruise...and it won't be our last one. We just returned from Alaska, and the trip was unbelievable. We flew from Dallas to Seattle, went out to ... Read More
My wife and I just celebrated our 38th wedding anniversary by taking our very first cruise...and it won't be our last one. We just returned from Alaska, and the trip was unbelievable. We flew from Dallas to Seattle, went out to dinner with some wonderful friends and spent the night at The Westin, which is a convenient $10 cab ride from the Seattle port. There the Holland America Line personnel guided us quickly and easily through the embarkation process, and from the time we walked across the gangway onto the ms Noordam, we received white glove treatment. They have approximately two employees for each guest, so the service is impeccable. By the second day, those employees that met us the first day...the waiters, cabin attendants, hostesses...knew our names and where we were from and by the third day they knew our likes and dislikes (every evening when Cathy and I went down to dinner, our waiter had our ice tea waiting...he even remembered that Cathy liked extra lemon in her tea). And I had always heard that cruise food was remarkable, but the Noordam's was unbelievable. Breakfasts included breads and pastries, fresh fruit, bacon and sausages, smoked salmon, egg dishes of every kind, pancakes, waffles and the best French toast I've ever had, just to name a few of the items offered. Lunch ranged from tacos, pizza, hot dogs and hamburgers by the pool to multi-course dinners in the main cafeteria on the Lido deck. For dinner...appetizers ranged from escargot to shrimp cocktail to numerous fruits, soups and salads; for the main course we had selections including prime rib, crab legs, lobster, ribeyes, rack of pork and lamb and just about every type of fish known to man, and the desserts were the most imaginative I've ever seen. My margaritas were expertly made, Cathy's favorite chocolate martini was perfect, and the wine list was quite diversified. Our cabin was of adequate size for the two of us, with plenty of hanging space and drawers. On the wall over the desk hung a flat screen TV combined with a DVD player, and we had two chairs with a table and foot stool on our small verandah. Every time we left our state room, our Indonesian attendant would come in to check our towels and clean and straighten the room, and upon our return each evening a charming hand-made "towel animal" would be waiting for us on our ultra-comfortable, Euro-styled bed. Two terry clothed robes would be waiting for us near our shower. Each day we also visited the exciting venues located throughout the ship, from the small but active casino to the Culinary Arts area (where top movies were shown each evening and cooking shows were popular during the day). The Vista Lounge was the home for nightly musicals, a comedy show rated for "mature audiences", a tremendous magician, and Vegas revues (the HAL cast was extremely talented). And although we had no children along on our trip, the teen-age areas of the ship appeared to be extremely popular. I used the Internet areas daily in the Explorations Cafe and Library, and the Crow's Nest lounge was a perfect place to view the seas while reading a great book. At night, the lounge was one of several that exhibited sophisticated lighting that highlighted the dance floor. But perhaps the most fun was provided by the various shore excursions the HAL line offered. Cathy and I visited Juneau, Sitka, and Ketchikan, Alaska where we toured the cities and took part in a jet-powered boat ride that promised the opportunity to see whales, bears, bald eagles and otters (and we saw them all). We also visited various glaciers (where we witnessed several in the calving process), and we finished our cruise with a short visit to Victoria, Canada, where Cathy was too tired to shop (I almost called the ship's doctor, since this was a condition she had never experienced in our 38 years of marriage). This worked out nicely though, since she had already purchased practically every type of clothing in every Alaskan village we visited, as well as two different bracelets and enough hand-carved sculptures to almost warrant the purchasing of an additional piece of luggage. I bought a baseball cap for $5. When we arrived back in Seattle seven days later, the staff of the Noordam made the disembarkation process extremely quick and easy. By 10:30 a.m. we were through customs and on our way to the airport, where several HAL employees met us and personally directed us to the Southwest Airline counter. As I mentioned, this was our first cruise, but won't be our last. It was a lot of fun, but it's sure good to be back home in Texas. Read Less
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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