Background and embarkation
We chose this cruise as we had been to New Guinea only once and the ports appeared interesting. and it has been on our list for some time. The other reason for choosing this cruise being to experience the Noordam, we had previously cruised on her sister ship “Oosterdam”, a ship we were quite fond of, so we were eager to revisit this class of HAL ship again.
We stayed overnight in Sydney at Novotel Darling Harbour Square, we are Accor members and we received a great online deal from them, so we duly chose to stay there at an excellent tariff. We managed to score a newly renovated room with a view of the Chinese Gardens, quite a large room, with a comfortable bed and firm pillow, all the mod cons, friendly staff, we would stay again. Next morning, we were able to walk up to the Captain Cook wharf in Darling Harbour, buy tickets and we were ferried over to White Bay. HAL had hired a bus to drop people off and pick people up at the ferry wharf, very thoughtful indeed HAL. There were two ships at White Bay that day, HAL Noordam at the terminal, and P&O Explorer (previously Dawn Princess) tied up nearer the ferry wharf with a large marquee set up to disembark and embark passengers.
We are 3-star mariners with HAL, after the suite, 4- and 5-star mariners registered for embarkation we were next to provide all our details to terminal staff to embark. 15 minutes later we were on the ship and in our room. We had ordered some drinks for our consumption in the room, not all had arrived as ordered, after a call to room service, not even 10 minutes late the drinks arrived. My wife’s bag arrived in the interim, however, not mine. My wife unpacked and after an hour and a half later I heard someone drop something near our door, I quickly opened the door to see someone scurrying down the corridor after they had dropped my bag off with the top handle hanging off one end, and one wheel broken. I took some pictures for evidence, that were date stamped, and a few days later took the bag down to Guest Services. Young Jay took down all the details in an incident reports after I showed him the pictures and brought the bag down. He said they would fix it if possible, and bring the bag back to us in a few days. He did just that, the bag appeared to be fixed, however, I did warn him that if a wheels and handles are broken, 99% of the time they will break again. After we disembarked, we claimed our bags, and my bag had a wheel broken, it was reported to the terminal staff and a report was alleged to be sent to HAL for compensation, to date (7-1-2019) we have had no communication from HAL at all in relation to the broken bag!!
The ship is not new obviously, however, the ship has been kept in very good condition overall, the artefacts are excellent, the public areas are spacious overall, with many separate areas to be seated. It felt like an ocean liner, not a cruise ship, don’t alter it too much HAL, many people still like this type of ship as it stands/sails. Well done HAL, the public areas are clean and well maintained, the restaurants were in good condition, and the external condition of the ship and teak decks were good. Teak chairs on the promenade deck are still intact, another big tick for HAL. The library is huge, excellent choice of books, coffee shop seating is very limited, perhaps they can enlarge the seating area, and shrink the library by 10 square metres. Crows Nest at front of the ship on deck 10 is magic, don’t change it HAL, it is a fantastic area, with a breathtaking view.
The activities were various as they are on other lines, we attended several lectures about what had occurred in WW2 in New Guinea, they were very informative and interesting. We didn’t attend trivia this time, so not sure how good it was on this ship. However, there seemed to be a large varied of activities each day outlined on the daily program.
Main negative was the relatively ordinary service of our two cabin stewards. There were no cards with their names in the room, until the last 4 days, after we gave them 3 chances to redeem themselves. One of them introduced himself the next day, and said he had a partner helping him with cleaning and maintaining the room. This man appeared to be invisible until he introduced himself 3 days later. They made the bed every morning, and cleaned the bathroom, turned the bed down in the evening, and provide towel animals and 2 chocolates every night. We left notes on at least 4 occasions to vacuum the floor, provide soap, as we had 2 sinks, a bath and a shower, and replace moisturiser, baths salts, shower cap, and clean the bench tops in main cabin area. With 4 days to go to the end of the cruise we were over it, we complained to guest services, this was cruise number 44, and these men were seriously the worst ever, and we were in a suite, they are supposed to be the best staff who would have been promoted, well not these guys. There were several rooms vacant on this cruise that they did not have to service, we think they were very lazy indeed. Most people that were in their service area were interviewed it would appear by the assistant Head Housekeeper and his offsider. They spoke to us about the problems around midday. We informed them that our room would normally not have been serviced by then, although in the defence of the room stewards; they serviced our room the second and third days when we left the service our room card in the door key slot outside. We did that every day, in the morning and in the evening when we went to dinner. On more than one occasion we told them that we were leaving the room and could they service it while we were away, that didn’t occur on the majority of occasions, sometimes it wasn’t serviced until after 1 pm, and after 9 pm several times when we returned from dinner. Service improved last 3 days after we had complained, one of them apologised, however, only on one occasion did he call me by name, he did not call my wife by name at any stage, nor did the other steward call me by name of my wife, this was the first time in 44 cruises that this had occurred. It would appear from the slack and poor service most of the cruise that they did not respect us, as we always used their name each time, we spoke to them, however, that was not reciprocal from them, and it would appear they thought they would “get away with it’ not cleaning the room properly each time, or at all on some occasions. Lastly, our balcony was filthy dirty for the first 4 days, when we left notes on day 4 to vacuum, we also asked them to clean the balcony, they did on that occasion. However, they slacked off again one day later, so we left notes every day for jobs to be done, to leave a shower cap, moisturiser, whatever, actually they received 6,7, 8 chances, strike 9 you are out!!
Well on the band wagon and back to other staff, client services staff overall were good on this cruise, on Zaandam in late January, February 2018 in South America and Antarctica they were extremely rude and not accommodating with just about everything. That was sorted, when we received an apologetic email from the CEO’s executive assistant some weeks after we came home, we were impressed with that.
It was refreshing to see both female and male staff on the counter at guest services, Zaandam were all female and they weren’t being managed well, so rude to many of the passengers they thought they would not be challenged, well they were wrong.
Jay was a standout, he was extremely polite and very helpful and knowledgeable on every occasion, as was two other males who we spoke to, and two females. Only one downside, one female who we submitted a form with, it would appear did not submit the form for entry in the computer. We checked on the last night with a male staff member and he stated they had no record if it, then he entered the information manually. On the whole they actually solved problems, were not over assertive, or aggressive, as some others were on Zaandam, they do not try to dismiss your problem, and hope you go away!
Restaurant staff were really quite good, standout was Dani, one of the men at the door who allocated tables, every night he tried his best to meet our needs, well done Dani. We ate lunch in the restaurant on several occasions and had breakfast twice in the restaurant, it was easier to eat in the Lido, as we walk every morning, and restaurant opening times did not suit. We were very impressed with Luis, the Bar and Restaurant Manager, he spoke with us on two occasions, he is very professional and “hands on”, a breath of fresh air to HAL, we know he had extensive experience with several cruise lines in a similar role, this man innovative, opened the restaurant for lunch on a port day, loved it, he is visible in the restaurant on almost every night, be speaks to staff on the run discreetly, he is the best we have seen in the last 10 years on any cruise line, keep this man and ask him to train many like him, he is the best!
Farid, and many other waiters were good, and others were improving throughout the cruise thanks to Luis coaching and mentoring them.
Staff in Lido, both cooks, chefs, food servers and wait staff were nearly always very helpful, courteous, and went out of their way to assist people, serve drinks, coffee, and tea, well done people! Nica, was a standout for me, she went down to the galley to find breakfast cereal for us, as they had run out of the cereal we like with fibre, she was fantastic. Food in the Lido, was very good, huge improvement from MSC Divina, food was bland, cold, and very little variety. Not on HAL so much variety, so many stations where food is cooked fresh, Asian/Indian food in Lido is outstanding at lunch on most days. Officers seemed friendly, and noticeable around the ship. Engineering and maintenance staff appeared to be were always working hard to maintain the ship, well done!
Bar stewards in restaurant and Lido were overall really good, Liany, Jeycel, Kurt, who served us mainly, were really knowledgeable, friendly, and on the ball, well done people!
Overall, apart from a few the majority of HAL staff on Noordam are quite good. Just a suggestion to HAL, we have found room stewards from the Philippines to be the best, very friendly, courteous, respectful, very efficient and effective in their roles.
Port & shore excursions
We enjoyed the excursion in Airlie Beach to the Crocodile Safari, Proserpine River. Very informative, educational, adventurous, great BBQ lunch, we would recommend it.
We booked a balcony cabin originally, however the cruise was heavily discounted by HAL a few months prior to leaving, out travel agent asked HAL for an upgrade and we received an upgrade to a signature suite. Cabin was very large as was the balcony, overall it was in good condition. Large lounge, two large comfortable chairs, very small older TV, bed was very comfortable, pillows could have been firmer, however ok. Bathroom is little dated, however, was in good condition. Cabin had a bath and a shower, horrible shower curtain, please HAL invest in a safety glass shower door, similar to HAL Koningsdam, best shower and bathroom on the seas, to date! Balcony was very dirty, was cleaned after we complained on day 4 why had they not cleaned it, they put cushions out each day, surely, they noticed. Balcony when finally, cleaned and habitable, was really large, included a table and two chairs and two large cane chairs, large cane foot stools, and a small table for drinks.
Due largely to the new Bar and Restaurant Manager, Luis, the staff in the restaurant, in Lido, and bar staff were very good. Breakfast menu in the restaurant is comprehensive, very good, food quality is good, and meals are warm to hot. Lunch variety in the menus are limited, however, on the several occasions we went to lunch in the restaurant we found the food to be of good quality, and worth the decision to attend. Lunch on a port day was a great innovation, need to advertise it more, moist people didn’t notice it was open. HAL please open the restaurant at lunch longer than one-hour midday to 1 pm, most people eat between 12.30 pm and 2 pm, be a bit more flexible!
We attended the main restaurant for dinner every night. The variety and quality of the food was very good, I was very pleased to see surf and turf on the last formal night menu, thanks HAL don’t take it off the menu, it was a very tasty meal indeed! Best barramundi I have eaten on any ship, coated in crushed macadamia nuts, with excellent accompaniments, wow!
Lido food for breakfast is very good, smoked salmon is presented beautifully, and is delicious with freshly cooked eggs, or omelettes, grilled tomatoes, mushrooms, English bacon etc, well done HAL Noordam. Good variety of breakfast cereal, Aussie milk and yoghurts, fresh fruit, pancakes, it is fantastic, more seating on some days as peak time is sometimes a problem, anyway, not insurmountable. Lunch in Lido had freshly made Asian and Indian food, different menu each day, in our opinion, it is the best fresh served food on any ship anywhere in the world, it is delicious, hot and the food service is fast and vey efficient. Pasta station is also very good, mainly fresh food and tasty, pizza is tasty, however, could HAL have a special pizza every day, for variety and the taste buds please. Turkey, sandwiches, potato chips, salads, desserts, and beautiful ice cream every day is a delight, we loved Lido food. Dinner was not as good, variety not quite up to normal standards, we didn’t eat dinner thee, however we looked each night to see what was available. However, improve dinner variety and Lido will be best buffet at sea!
We like the Dive In burgers and chips, and the Mexican food, if kept away from the heat, and insects. The burgers were better on Zaandam, perhaps the cooks were better, our burgers were overcooked, otherwise tasted ok.
Most guest entertainers that we managed to see were good. The ship entertainment group had some very good singers amongst them, we watched one show, it was very entertaining. The BBC wildlife video accompanied by the orchestra and violins was magnificent. Lincoln stage was reported to be magic, we weren’t able to reach the performance on time as we had dinner, shame, we hear it was well worth it.
No problem, we waited for our allotted number and colour and disembarked, found our bags. My bag had a wheel broken, again, as I indicated earlier in this report, we reported it to terminal staff, incident report sent to HAL, HAL yet to respond.
Apart cabin staff issues that didn’t end well for them, we had a very enjoyable time. The ship was in reasonable condition, great artefacts and venues, many of the dining staff and the food quality in restaurant and Lido venues and the menus won the day overall for us. We will return to HAL again we booked a cruise in January on Noordam, so here we go again!
One major issue for HAL, Princess, Royal Caribbean, and Celebrity have service/gratuities included in their cruise costs, don’t add them on every day, they are in $US dollars and it takes the shine off everyone’s’ holiday experience. Alcoholic beverages are outrageously priced, all cruise lines buy these beverages at less than duty free prices. Sure, you need to make a profit, not a killing on beverages, provide reasonable prices onboard, and reduce the prices of all drinks please. Read Less