Year Started: 1873
Ships in Fleet: 15
Summary: A high quality upper mainstream cruise line with smaller ships and value prices. A cruise line for people who want to step up from mainstream at great value prices.
Regions:Alaska, Central America, Transpacific, West Coast, Erope
Good for: Teens. Seniors. Group.
Regions:Caribbean Eastern, Caribbean Western, Eastern Seaboard, Mediterranean Western
Good for: Teens. Seniors. Group.
Regions:Caribbean Eastern, Caribbean Southern, Eastern Seaboard, South America
Good for: Teens. Seniors. Group.
Regions:Caribbean Eastern, Caribbean Western, Mediterranean Western, Transatlantic
Good for: Seniors. Overall Service. Teens.
Regions:Caribbean Eastern, Caribbean Southern, Caribbean Western, Mediterranean Western
Good for: Value for Money. Teens. Seniors.
Regions:Alaska, Australia, Oceania, West Coast
Good for: Children`s Programs. Group. Families.
Regions:Africa, Caribbean Southern, Mediterranean Western, South America, Transatlantic
Good for: Group. Families. Luxury Travelers.
Regions:Inland Waterways, Mediterranean Western, Scandinavia, The Orient
Good for: Seniors. Group. Families.
Regions:Caribbean Southern, Caribbean Western, Mediterranean Western, Transatlantic
Good for: Overall Service. Value for Money. Seniors.
Regions:Alaska, Hawaii, Mexico, South America, West Coast
Good for: Seniors. Group. Families.
Regions:Caribbean Eastern, Eastern Seaboard, Hawaii, Mexico, South America
Good for: Seniors. Group. Families.
Regions:Alaska, Australia, Oceania, The Orient, West Coast
Good for: Seniors. Overall Service. Teens.
Regions:Alaska, Caribbean Eastern, Central America, Hawaii, West Coast
Good for: Overall Service. Children`s Programs. Seniors.
Regions:Alaska, Central America, Hawaii, Mexico, South America, West Coast
Good for: Overall Service. Value for Money. Foodies.
Regions:Alaska, Caribbean Eastern, Caribbean Southern, Caribbean Western, Central America, West Coast
Good for: Children`s Programs. Group. Families.
My family party of 11 spent thanksgiving on the Nieuw Amsterdam on a 7 night cruise. The food was substandard in all dining areas. There were insufficient staffing in the main dining rooms and the food was extremely slow in arriving at the table. I have cruised on three other lines and must say HAL is the poorest quality of all.
Below are copies of the note I sent to Holland Americal line and
their response on the 10-DAY SOUTHERN CARIBBEAN SEAFARER January
18th January 28th on Noordam:
> From: xxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxx
> Sent: Wednesday, January 30, 2013 10:16 AM
> To: Guest Relations (HAL)
> Cc: xxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxx
> Subject: 10-DAY SOUTHERN CARIBBEAN SEAFARER January 18th January 28th on Noordam
We were very disappointed with our most recent voyage on the Noordam. There were some very good points about the ship as well, but the overall impression I/we had with the Noordam and Holland America was negative.
I would like to start with the GOOD Ray and Vincent at the front desk/Purser's desk were excellent, providing as much assistance as possible with a smile. The Ship it self was clean and in good repair and well handled, both in our cabin and the public areas. The Spa/Gym staff were excellent, especially Saundra the leader of the morning Stretch and exercise class!! (and having these two sessions each morning from 7:00-7:30 and 7:30-8:00 as free classes was GREAT) The dinning room food was excellent as
However, our vacation was overshadowed by several events starting even before we boarded:
The first being our dinning room seating. When we booked initially, we were unable to get first seating (5:45) and were wait listed. Our travel agent suggested we try back on the day the final portion of the fare was due, which we did. We were able to obtain first seating (and it was reflected on the web site.) When we did the original submission of our documents to check in, 1st seating was displayed. About five days before sailing we went to print more luggage tags and noticed we had been re-assigned to open seating for dinner. We called Holland America Line and were told there was nothing they could do and we would have to call our travel agent, which we did. After spending close to an hour on the phone with our travel agent, we were able to again have 1st seating in the dinning room. (And again, we checked the next day to be sure it was on our reservation on the web site and it was.) When we came to board and were issued our ID cards, printed on the face of the card was open seating for dining. We immediately brought this to the attention of the agent that was checking us in. She, rather curtly said there was nothing she could do and we would have to handle it 'ship board' by talking with the dinning room manager. (In the past we have had to do this to get early seating and it always involves a "gratuity" of around $50.00 and since we worked at getting first seating before the cruise we had no intention giving anyone a gratuity for this again.) At my insistence, the manager on duty came over and I explained the problem. He also said there was nothing he could do and the only way to fix it was to do it on board.
I was surprised that a member of management was not empowered to resolve issues of this nature in a better way. He said my only alternative would be to call the 800 customer service number, which he provided. I did so ASAP right there and then (I think to the manager's surprise) I talked with a gentleman who claimed he was in the President's office. He also said that we should just go and talk with the dinning room manager. I again explained that fixing it with the dinning room manager would involve cash payments and about 1-2 hours of time. I pressed him with "if you are in the president's office, you mean you can't solve a simple customer's issue like dinning room seating?" he then put me on hold to "check something" and after a few minutes he came back and said that we should check with "Annie", the guest relation's manager on the ship and she would resolve our issue. I thanked him, boarded the ship, and went straight to the front desk/purser's office and asked for Annie. After a 10-15 minute wait, Annie came out and introduced herself. We explained our issue and she called the Dinning room, and after some discussion, we were granted 1st seating and had our ID cards re-issued, but not before Annie informed us that it was not the ship's fault that we did not have 1st seating. In all of this, we managed to miss the Mariner's Lunch in the dining room. We were the 7th, 8th and 9th people at a table for eight, so it was crowded, but our dinner companions were great and we all enjoyed each other's company each night at dinner (there were always empty tables in the dinning room and we heard from many others that they also wanted early seating and could not get it, but this has been an ongoing issue, since anytime dining was introduced and a different matter all together.) In all of this, the overall attitude that we encountered, both on the phone before the cruise, at check in and on board was:
It's not my fault
There is nothing I can do about it
It's not my issue
Where I was expecting the attitude of "How can I fix/resolve your problem." Which to me would be a signature of excellence.
The 1st night of the cruise, we received to notes about the deep sea fishing excursion we booked for a member of our group. One of the notes said the boat was out of commission and the other said here is your ticket for the excursion. Neither were date/time stamped so we did not know which to believe. We called and were not able to reach the excursion's desk (they were closed) We went down to the front desk to ask. They did not have a clue on which was correct, had no information other than the schedule for the next day with a mark next to the deep sea fishing and said there was no way to contact the excursion people to ask. (Where they were very nice and trying to be helpful, apparently they were not empowered to call/page/locate the excursion people to get an answer to our question) They suggested that we plan on the excursion, just in case it was "on", which we did and the it was (thank god we did plan) We also noticed that there were several people signed up for Deep Sea Fishing that did not show up at the boat, and we wondered if they had the same issues we did. Again we had the attitude of "there is nothing I can do/that I am allowed to do, to resolve the issue."
One night we ordered an in-room movie to be delivered. After the phone hold wait of 3-4 minutes they came on the line, took our order and said the movie would be there in 10-15 minutes, even though we offered to pick it up. After waiting over an hour for the movie, we called again (same 3-4 minute hold) they were surprised that we did not have the movie, then put us on hold trying to find out what happened, then we were told they thought the movie had been delivered asking us to be sure (we checked the outside bin, even though we were in the room the whole time, it was not there) then waited while they tried to figure out what happened. We never got the movie.
The times and locations of the ship board activities were poorly thought out nothing scheduled then several things scheduled at the same time. Locations and times of things like team trivia, and shipboard movies were greatly varied, even thought it was always well attended (when we could locate it) The quantity of the activities was very low. The late night Dessert event was held in the atrium, which was way too small. It was cramped, on three levels, and the A/C could not keep up we left quickly, without sampling much (We almost felt like the venue was chosen so people would leave quickly without partaking in the dessert buffet.
The movies around the pool on the Lido deck could not be heard/understood, ruining the movie. This is a BAD place to present movies and we declined to view any other movies on the pool deck. When we mentioned it to the Cruise Director, he said he knew and there was nothing that could be done. (Notice the theme of "not my fault, nothing I can do...")
The following items are just notes/comments about other things we think you should be aware of that normally we would not bother to write about, but since I am already writing, I am including them as well:
The Cruise Director, (Sean Michaels?) was the poorest dressed Cruise Director I can remember, who told very old, poor jokes to an audience that clearly, after the first couple of times he spoke, didn't what to hear them. I may be an old fogey, but on formal night, I would expect the Cruise Director to be turned out in a well fitting Tuxedo, complete with bow tie, cummerbund/vest studs and cuff links. This was not the case and it was noticed by many of the guests.
In the past, participation in trivia, game shows... yielded some nice mementos of the trip. This time, either they were not given or they were so poor as to be not wanted who really wants another pin... We can remember the days of the Dam Dollars and ending up with a "dam ships" sweat shirt, hat or t-shirt and we miss them.
Room service was prompt in the morning, delivering our wake up coffee. However, it took them forever to retrieve the tray (sometimes as late as 4:00 pm, even though we called early to to have them picked up) We honored the request not to put them in the hallways, but we were tempted to several times because of the delay in getting them.
Calling anyone on the ship's telephone resulted in always being put on hold for 1-5 minutes, regardless of who we were trying to reach.
The tenders on half moon cay were some of the worst boat handlers I have ever encountered. They struck both the dock and the ship very hard, jarring the passengers and alarming some of them. The weather was not particularly rough or windy, just poor drivers (When the Ship's tenders were used at Samana, they were smooth and gentle, in worse conditions...) Where this did not affect our enjoyment much, I thought I would note this for you, since they are outside contractors and you need to know the quality (or lack there of) of the contractors.
This was my 3rd cruise on a Holland America ship in the past five years and each one has been a step down in customer service from the one before. This is an alarming trend and feel that as a loyal customer, I need to make you aware of them. If this trend continues, Holland America will no longer be my cruise line of choice.
On 2/11/2013 11:50 AM, Guest Relations (HAL) wrote:
Thank you for your email to Holland America Line's Guest Relations Department.
We are committed to providing our guests with the highest level of service, and appreciate the effort it takes to write to us. Please be assured that we respond to all correspondence in the date order it is received. At times it can take several weeks to properly investigate and research some issues to provide a proper response. We appreciate this opportunity to review your correspondence and thank you for your patience.
You will be hearing from us soon.
If you find it necessary to contact us in the meantime, please refer to your booking number.
Office of the President
Holland America Line
TAKE CARE before reserving on Zuiderdam or any other Holland America Cruise ships. We traveled as a group of 6 (my family of four with teenage children and my parents). The Zuiderdam has poorly trained staff, extremely uneven quality of dining, and poor services (shore excursions and spa for instance).
Our problems started at arrival. Our family of four received a room which had not been cleaned. Dirty towels and partially eaten food were in the cupboards, food bits and a variety of sundries (including sweatbands) were on the floor, the bed whilst made had sheets that clearly had been used. We complained to the steward who cleaned the closets but did not vacuum and also did not change the sheets. We complained to the front office at dinner after which the sheets were changed. The room was not vacuumed until the second day.
Dinner service was uneven. In the 'set time' dining the tables are jammed full (3rd floor). The 'reserve as you go' dining room is far more spacious (but fewer tables). The 'buffet' on the Lido Deck is almost inedible and the strong smell of cooking food lingers throughout theLido area including the pool. As far as dinner service, the portions were very small (for example: a 'caprese' salad contained one-half of a cherry tomato and one piece of mozzarella; a strawberry desert contained two 1/4 strawberry portions). The quality of food varied from night to night with some dishes exceeding expectations but an equal number far below expectation.
We tried to use the spa services and made reservations. When we arrived for the services we waited (twice), in both instances there was a failure to communicate between the front desk and service deliverer (pedicurist). After 20 minutes wait both times we were offered only the opportunity to reschedule. No explanation was given. We went to the front desk to complain and try to understand but were told that the only responsible 'persons' were the spa management.
We bought the 'enhanced' spa package consisting of access to a warm whirpool and thermal suites. This was billed as an exclusive service that would not be crowded. We were unable to use the 'thermal suites' at most times due to the number of guests who had been sold the service. The whirlpool area had an all glass enclosure allowing light but the blinds were drawn making the space shadowy and dark, not at all pleasant to use.
We booked a shore excursion to St. John's for snorkeling. The shore excursion was canceled due to 'beach inundation' at the last minute (approx. 11:00) before departure with no alternatives given (or available). We checked on surfforecaster.com and called friends who we were to meet on St. John's and both sources indicated that the snorkeling beach was not inundated (some swell but passable conditions). When we confronted the Front Office, the assistant refused to inform a manager of our complaint because "the manager on duty cannot help you and they don't want us to repeat our story". He offered instead that we could 'make an appointment' with someone else and write our complaint.
This last problem sums up our experience. The Zuiderdam has unresponsive staff who are not trained to address complaints or react. It provides uneven service levels that can impact vacation and the whole atmosphere seems that one should have limited expectations.
My parents who have been on over 50 cruises over the past twenty years felt that the Zuiderdam quality of food and service was the lowest they had ever seen. Their comment, "Holland America had a reputation of being a well-oiled machine and this is a complete surprise," sums up our family experience.
If you consider the Zuiderdam look elsewhere. There must be another boat and another line that will care more about your experience.
My wife, Susan, and I have been on 8 HAL ships, and we chose the Eurodam because of the destinations. The ship is the newest in the fleet, and holds approximately 2100 passengers. Getting on the ship was easy, as we had our paperwork in order. It only took 25 minutes. Getting off was easy as well, as we had early walk off, since we were driving to Sarasota and not taking a flight back home.
The ship is typical HAL, which is modern, great interiors, and our room was very comfortable. We had an outside veranda room, and there was alot of storage in the room.Some nice features about the room included a fridge, robes, and a flat screen and CD player. You have a list of many CD;s which you can order free of chanage. You have to go to the front desk to pick them up. Our room stewards were friendly and helpful, and we always had the room clean when we came back from breakfast. Room service was efficient, and we always got our food delivered on time. The coffee tasted great and was hot.
In terms ofeating, we ate most meals on the Lido deck. We did go to the Asian fusion dinner, which was excellent. It was a few dollars extra, but well worth it. The Italian dinner on the Lido deck was also an additional fee, but worth the expense. We did eat in the main dining room only twice, and it was fine, We enjoyed the casual life styhle on the Lido deck, and the food was very good. The breakfast choices were great, and the waffles were hot. We did not dat at the Pinacle Grill since the night we wanted to eat it was sold out completely. My r e commendation is make your reservations early for any of the 3 speciality restaurants.
There were many activities on board, and we are trivia lovers, so we played several rounds on board. We did not go to the evening singing/dancing events, but chose to watch movies in our room, which was fun.I had 2 books on my Ipad that I wanted to read, and only got to finish one, but that's what a vacation's for I think,
The destinations were quite varied. Turks is the island for those who love water sports. Other then that, there's nothing else to do there. Period. No shopping per se, and it's a flat island. When our tax driver talked about potholes, I think he was being conservative. I think a tank could have fit on some of them. Downtown is not worth visiting, in my opinion, and the beach next to where the ship docked is the best place to go to just relax.
San Juan was quite nice. Be sure to be on deck with your camera when you enter the island, as El Moro castle is on your port (left)l side, and definately worth loopking at. We had 10 hours on the island, and walked to the fort, which is an uphill walk about 2 miles from where the ship docks. Shopping is OK there, and while there are outlet stores, please compare prices back home before you reach for your credit card.
St. Thomas was busyu with 6 ships in port. I know many of you have been there, and the prices are quite good, especially liquor. Buy your quota early as they'll deliver the order back on the ship in plenty of time. Jewelry is still very competitive, and if you see something you 'must have' buy it!
Our time on the private island was cut short by an hour due to Bahamas customs snafu. Our captain was obviously very mad, and through JC our host on board, we found out that he had contacted the HAL home office in Washington to get things cleared up. There was, ironically, another HAL ship at Long Beach Kay, and finally we go clearance to depart the ship. We chose to ride the skidoos which were alot of fun.
Overall, the week was great, and if you're in the mood to travel on a fun ship with an excellent staff, this is the right choice. Having been on several other ships, we enjoyed this one as much as others. Our only request is that for prizes, we really want them them to bring back the ship's letter on a mug. We have several mugs in our collection, and we have no"E" to show!
The Nieuw Amsterdam was a disappointment in some regards. First, the centrum lobby which is usually an amazing space, is here rather small and lame with an idiotic green glass staircase that invites a fall.
The Manhatten dining room lower level where the dine as you can passengers eat, is disconcertingly low-ceiling and of all things, bright, glaring red as is the upper dining room. It was often too hot in this room, a fact the waiters are aware of. The service for dine as you can passengers is spotty and often slow and made me wish that we had eaten at the regular times in the dining room above. However those times are problematic as you will discover. On nights that a party is being held up on the Lido deck, forget altogether about eating in the dining room as the menus then are second rate and the service poor.
The pool area is lovely with comfy, wide lounges, however not enought of them even in October. But what is annoying are the line of little rental tents blocking the sea windows where there are beds and tables, a space forpeople who want to think they are rich and famous.
The lido lounge is quite beautiful with orchids on every table, but the lines are long and getting a table a hassle especially as they have done away with trays so that you have to go back and line up for your beverages.
The showroom was glamorous with great seating and wonderful staging ability. However the entertainment was lackluster at best although the musicals were great and the dancers and singers talented.
Shore excurisions, transfers, and Internet were all seriously overpriced to the point where one feels ripped off and there was much grumbling about that. The photos as well now start at $20.
The spa too is expensive but if you wait a few days, they will offer a special on the use of the thermal assay pool for $15 daily instead of $40. The special massage deals shortchange you on time and then there is the five minute sell on about $700 worth of product they have used on you? The three best things a out this ship are the new Kitchen At Sea demos and tastings that are fun and free. Secondly the wonderful Explorations lounge which combines a great library with games tables, the Internet, a coffee bar, and a large area with comfy leather chairs with sea views and a bar adjacent. And thirdly the lovely Silk Room bar with exotic, enclosed tents with sofas and cushions and an overview of the deck below. No one was ever in there for some reason.
I have always enjoyed the little shops around the centrum lobby. On this ship there is one large shop, disappointing merchandise and downright irritating employees.
Our stateroom and balcony was faultless except for the fact that they put one comfy wicker chair on the balcony and one small uncomfortable chair...why? We had our steward change that.
We sailed round trip from Venice and the Venice ship transfer was an outrageous $79 each to the airport. There is a bus shuttle outside the ship for free, to the people mover, which is $1 euro, which takes you to the Piazza Roma, where a blue airport bus is waiting for $6 . Just as fast. Their fee is simply exorbitant.
All in all, taking in the above factors, I would choose another ship.
I missed the ability to have a cup of coffee or a meal outside overlooking the stern. In general I think the design of this ship is wanting although there were things I appreciated, and so would likely not sail her again.
Holland America Line Zaandam by edieg Alaska September 16, 2012
We booked the Alaska cruise through Olivia. That information is important, as it increases the cost of the cabin, and some of the other amenities. That is not a HAL controlled matter.
We found the food to be quite poor on this cruise. The hot food was rarely even warm and the cold food was usually unpleasantly tepid. The Pinnacle Grill was a disappointment with soggy mushrooms, bland creamed spinach, and burnt (one side) filet mignon. We ate in port restaurants as often as possible, and found some lovely places. Looking for that silver lining.
The real disappointment of this cruise was being assigned cabin 1964 and as we were told, with no option for change. It is such a miserable cabin, if someone were to be assigned this cabin, we'd recommend they cancel the cruise. Yes, it was that bad. The thrusters cause the cabin to vibrate so much that all items rattle. The engines are loud and will keep you awake unless you are used to sleeping in the middle of a high level of noise. The open aft caused thecabin to be very cold, the bathroom in particular. We kept the bathroom door propped open, but that didn't make it comfortable. We did ask for additional duvets and that helped us somewhat. It did lend an "air of authenticity" to the Alaska aspect.
This was our fifth cruise, our second with HAL. What's that old saying? First time shame on you, second time shame on me? I think the "third time you're out" will not be tried.
As for booking through Olivia, that was a disappointment as well. The staff were no help with the concerns about the cabin, and they conducted this cruise (unlike the other Olivia cruise we have been on) like a private party for Solos. All well and good, if you were solo. If you were not, you felt like an interloper.
We work very hard for our vacation dollars. We'll be much more particular in how we spend them in the immediate future.
The Oosterdam has been criticized as being a little "worn" but it was absolutely immaculate and well-cared for. We had the Superior Veranda stateroom and were able to sit comfortably on our own balcony while the magnificent Alaskan glaciers and mountains slid by. I've never experienced such breathtaking views, made all the better by not having to battle for position with 1900 other passengers. The veranda is well-worth the extra expense. The room itself was very large, extremely comfortable with enough storage for 3 adults. We both had our own closet plus two "vanities" with drawers. The bathroom had 2 sinks, a stall shower plus tub and shower. Lots of room, very comfortable.
Holland America doesn't miss a beat, from the second we disembarked from the plane in Seattle right to the moment we left for home 10 days later, there was a HollandAmerica rep taking care of details. As for the crew, you couldn't find a finer, happier, more attentive group of individuals. The dining room staff actually remembered our names when we passed in the halls. Room service is complementary so we could choose to dine in the restaurant, the buffetsor our room..and nothing was ever too much for the crew. They are an amazing group of kind, sweet, dedicated professionals. We'd do this again in a heartbeat!
Ship very old and worn. Poor service throughout, especially Lido restaurant. Very disappointing. Many crew members could not speak English and could not give directions on ship. Our room was left open by room steward. Food was of poor quality. Pinnacle Restaurant was good but was $50 extra dollars.
We had arranged our flights through Holland America, and everything went smoothly. We were met at the airport in Rome by the HAL representatives, who were very helpful in getting our luggage onto the truck to the port, and to our bus. It is about a 45 minute drive from the airport to Civitiveccia, where the ship is docked. Once at the pier, we quickly received our ship's card and were on board. Unlike many cruises, we were able to go to our cabin, even though it was before noon. After admiring our cabin and spacious balcony, we headed to the upper deck casual restaurant for lunch.
The Noordam, as sister ship to the Westerdam, on which we'd sailed a few years ago, was a little easier to navigate than a brand new ship, but we still were lost some of the time. One thing that we really enjoyed, which a lot of ships no longer have, is a wrap-around deck for walking. We only got to use that one the 2 at-sea days, but it is really nice. That deck also has deck chairs for lounging, which we did afew times.
We liked the "open seating" dining that we opted for. We had a table for 2 twice, and "sharing" tables the rest of the time & had great table mates. Fixed seating is nice, if the mix is good & most of the time, we've had good luck, but there have been some that haven't been so great. We ended up missing three of the shows in the main theater since we were having such great conversations. One other nice thing about open seating is that you don't feel like you have to leave the table so that the waiter can clean the table for the second seating.
Our favorite entertainment venue was the Adagio Strings, a classical quartet, two men & two women who were wonderful. They played in a fairly small lounge, but one night they were in a larger theater doing Vivaldi's 4 Seasons concerto and it was fantastic. They had a great comedian/magician who was amazing, and we also saw one of the singer/dancer shows.
Our first port was Dubrovnik, Croatia. We took a tour that included a performance by an ethnic singing/dancing group at an outdoor theater. They were great, but all I could think of was how hot they must be. It was very hot/humid in the outdoor theater & at least we were in the shade. They were in long pants or skirts and long sleeved blouses/shirts. From there, we walked through the city's "Old Town," with its fortified walls, churches, monasteries & shopping areas. People on the tour had an option to be dropped off there to shop, after visiting the beach area, but we opted to return to the ship...just too hot!! From the Old Town, we went to a seaside resort area and relaxed by the beach area in the shade. It was beautiful! That afternoon, we went to the pool and it was nice, though a little crowded. The Noordam did have an "adults only" pool at the aft end of the ship, which was nice.
On the 9th, we were in Corfu, Greece, and we took a tour of the "Palaces of Corfu," two residences with a lot of history. The places were beautiful and it was interesting to hear about the area.
The next day, we docked in Katakolon, Greece, where we took a bus tour out to the sie of the original Olympics and the Olympic village. It is fascinating to see all the excavations that have been discovered and restored. It was a huge area, and the guide was very good at explaining everything. I'm not a huge Olympics fan, but the history is fascinating.
Saturday's port was Santorini, Greece, the one that we'd been waiting for. We visited Oia, a town way up on a hilltop and looks like the setting for the movie, "Mamma Mia." the views were breathtaking! This is the place where the artwork/photos must be taken for travel brochures for the Greek Isles...beautiful whitewashed houses & churches, with ocean blue roofs. They also had a lot of nice shops.
We visited a winery on Santorini and sampled three wines, yes at 9 AM...and they were all delicious. Better than the wine was the fantastic view from their patio. The ship looked gorgeous in the harbor. That was the only port that we had to tender to shore.
On Sunday, we were in Kusadasi, Turkey, where we took a tour to Ephesus. The restored ruins there were even more amazing than the ones at Olympus. This was our only afternoon tour, leaving at 12:30 PM. I was concerned at first that the heat might be worse, but it was fine, and there was a lot of shade. It was nice to sleep later, since our other tours before & after were EARLY, assembling in the show lounge before 8 AM...no sleeping in for those!
Following the tour, we were taken to a shop for a "rug demonstration." It was fascinating to watch the worker weave a rug, and lovely to watch the workers lay out the gorgeous rugs of various sizes, but then they put on a pretty agressive sales pitch that wasn't at all enjoyable. We had thought some of the designs were lovely, and might have bought a smaller size rug, even just to display on a wall, but the overwhelming aggressiveness of the salesman was a huge turnoff, so we just left. We walked through the shopping bazaar outside of the port area and found that ALL the sales people in that town in Turkey were super aggressive. I might have looked at some of the cloth purses that looked nice, but I didn't want anyone hanging over me trying to make a sale. It was a relief to get back to the ship, but we did enjoy the trip to Ephesus.
The next day, we toured Corinth and it was kind of an anti-climax, since the excavated ruins there are nowhere as impressive as Ephesus and Olympus, but it was interesting and they had a very nice, informative museum.
Our last at sea day was spent mostly on our balcony in the afternoon after walking on deck in the morning. It was another day when we really appreciated being able to sleep in. We had taken advantage of an upgrade offer from HAL to go from a Verandah cabin, to a Superior Suite. It was great having a much larger cabin & especially the extra room on the balcony. We had wicker furniture with comfortable cushions, not just plastic chairs as we've had on other lines.
Our last port was Messina, Italy where we had booked a tour called "In the Steps of the Godfather." We had liked that one, not so much since it went to the villages where the movie(s) were filmed, but because the villages sounded interesting. They were, indeed, very interesting. Both were at the top of the mountainous island of Sicily, and on the trip up to the second village, we had a fantastic view of a beach resort.
We docked back at Civitiveccia on Thursday, and took a bus to Rome and our hotel, where we spent two additional nights before flying home.
I can definitely recommend both the Noordam, and this itinerary. We spoke with several people who were doing back to back cruises on the Noordam's other itinerary to the Western Mediterranean, making it a 20 night cruise. The Noordam staff was wonderful, no complaints at all.
We recently returned from a Cruise on RCI’s “Enchantment of the Seas” sailing out of Baltimore. This was a last minute thing for us but we wanted to get away for a week or so, we enjoy cruising and since Baltimore Cruise terminal is only about an hour from the house it seemed like a good choice. We have sailed about 9 times previously we knew what to expect and not expect from a cruise. I will go chronologically as to what we experienced and I will try to make valid comparisons as to what we experienced on this cruise compared with others we have been on. One thing I must say since our experience cruising spans a 16 year period the industry has changed (not for the good) over that period so my criticisms may be valid for other cruise lines as well in 2012 but I can only judge by my experiences.
The Baltimore Cruise terminal at its present location is very convenient and the parking is adequate and close to the terminal. We previously sailed from the Old Curtis Point location on Celebrity this much better.
Check In Thecheck in process was very chaotic they had about 20 check in clerks 15 of which were for non-preferred customers 10 for preferred (suites and loyalty club members). The ticket stated we were to check in at 1:00 PM and not to come before 12:00 (not true). There was one line that was wrapped around back and forth 6 times over a distance of about 200 feet and the line went beyond those rope barriers. The line moved well enough but it still took about an hour to get to the desk. Once at the desk it was straight forward and easy. On Cunard we received a colored ticket and were told to sit in a waiting area until our color was called you could sit and get snacks while you waited and not have to stand for an hour.
Greeting Once on board we were basically told go to the back elevator and find it for yourself. On other lines we have been escorted to our cabins by a uniformed steward.
Room The room, 3156, is and outside window cabin. We usually have a verandah or mini-suite but had an outside window on the SUN PRINCESS and were satisfied with it. This room however was the smallest by far of any cabin we have had. The set up with the window above the bed offered no view out the window unless you knelt on the bed and looked out. The steward must have been aware of this as he always closed the curtains when we were out. There were also no toiletries in the bathroom. There was good storage space, however.
They also had so called mini-bar items laid out at the usually extraordinary expense but NO REFRIGERATOR how you can sell cold drinks that aren't cold!! When I asked to have the items removed one Steward told me it was not allowed but our room steward just hid them away so we did not see them the rest of the trip.On the SUN PRINCESS we had a similar outside cabin that was at least 50 square feet bigger with a window that was so large it went from my ankles to above my head. The couch was next to the window and you could enjoy the views while sitting. It also had a refrigerator which was, emptied of the mini bar, at my request.
Dining (dinner) Recently we have started requesting early seating we were unable to get it and were not offered a chance to change once we were on board. The food in the main dinning room at dinner was very good I would give it 4 out of 5. The waiters were very good and properly attentive without being in the way. The food was served hot, of good quality and without any undue waiting. While ostensibly there was a dress code and the two formal nights were supposedly at least a jacket and tie. The dress code was totally ignored with equal disdain by both the staff and passengers. A table of about twelve people showed up on formal night with matching logo tee shirts and shorts alongside a table with guests in gowns and Tuxedos.The dinner experience was good and comparable to our other cruises.
Dining (Breakfast) Breakfast was open seating as usual with out being overly crowded. (I believe most people went to the buffet on the 9th deck). The selection was limited to eggs to order, pancakes and hot cereal. They have however, introduced a new "feature" they put all the cereal, fruit and pastries on a BUFFET IN THE MAIN DINNING ROOM! With some cajoling a waiter with trepidation would get you something off the buffet but it was obvious they did not like it. My point is if I wanted the "buffet experience" I would go up to the 9th deck and make believe it's Hoss's Steak house. They also tried to hawk "fresh Squeezed orange juice" for $2.25 a glass (tacky). The service at breakfast unlike the dinner service was lack luster at best... Food 3 out of 5 services 2.5. Perhaps the like of any tips may have induced this situation.Every other cruise I have been on had an attentive breakfast service with a greater selection of items and no "go and get it yourself" requirements.
Dining (lunch) Lunch was open seating and unfortunately very similar to breakfast with a Salad bar (feature) in the middle of the main dinning room with the same comments as above. The menu selection was very limited to one or two featured items and maybe a burger and vegetarian dish but was generally good. The major fault I had with the lunch was it was only available at sea the 4 port days it was closed. You were forced to go to the overcrowded buffet on the 9th deck. I would like to mention how small and overcrowded the 9th deck was (Windjammer Market). The ship was designed to have about 1800 passengers. They cut it in half and added space for about 600 additional passengers but did not increase the size of the public spaces to accommodate the increased load.I have never seen buffets in the main dinning room on other ships and the selection was considerably better than on the RCL ship. The Buffet restaurants on other cruise lines were not overly crowded and the staff on Holland America or Celebrity would even carry your trays and get you drinks if you liked.
Entertainment staff and Shows This was the high point of the cruise. A high energy cruise director and staff worked very hard to provide varying activities during the day. The shows were varied and the performers were excellent and diverse.
The entertainment was defiantly geared towards the 40's and younger crowd which was not a bad thing. The casino was good, although smoking was allowed it was restricted on formal nights and there were no smoking areas. The payouts were reasonable on the slots while still loosing giving a lot of play for your money.Here the Enchantment is in the top two or three cruises I have been on. Nothing more pathetic then some guy doing impressions of people who have been dead for 30 years or more. RCI did not have that I would give entertainment 4.5 out of 5.
Facilities In a word overcrowded. The aforementioned increase in size of the ship made for a very crowded pool and activities area. I try and swim every day and was able to only by going at 6:45 am and getting my laps in. After 9 and for the rest of the day till 7 or 8 in the evening the pools were literally standing room only folks simply talking to one another while standing elbow to elbow.
Shore Excursions Hugely overpriced they wanted 40 dollars for a shuttle bus from the pier to downtown Boston for two people. I took the "T" for $10 for two all day and it was only about a twenty minute walk to the Commons from the pier. Similar overpriced excursions in the other ports. We took one a glass bottom boat cruise with "cocktails" good enough but the cocktails were a plastic cupful of rum punch and twice as many people on board as there was room to see the glass bottom you had to take turns looking.I have never been on any excursion booked through any ship that has offered any value for the money. We have booked many before and I have always been underwhelmed by the trips.
Tipping The ship has an automatic tipping plan which we participated in. As usual drinks and services had tips automatically added at 18% however when you get the bill there is still a line to add a tip onto the bill when you get it when I asked if the tip was included the waiter said I could include an additional tip if I wanted. This reminds me of Europe were the bill is always "service compris" and they try and get the rube Americans to add it again. Also at the end of the trip even after we participated in the tipping program we received envelopes to give something extra. It should be either one way or the other not both.My most recent experience on Cunard while not overt was the same as far as the staff tipping. I thought I would give a little extra to my room steward and dinning room waiter thinking this special but everyone seemed to do the same.
Overall assessment I don't believe we will be sailing on Royal Caribbean again. The small cabin, self service food, generally poor staff are not what we have come to expect on our cruises. We like the convenience of sailing out of Baltimore and hope more Cruise lines will try the market. We may even try Celebrity again as we had a very good experience on that line even though it is a RCI subsidiary I believe the Royal Caribbean Brand is just too mass marketed.
Overall assessment 2.75 out of 5