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.
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
Fellow passengers please beware. I booked a 24 night cruise departing Venice on 18 July 2012. I booked directly with Holland America UK on 7 April. Shortly after booking I saw exactly the same cruise, in the same cabin hundreds of pounds cheaper with a travel agent. I emailed Holland America on 8 April asking why this way. I got no reply. I emailed them again on 12 April. Got no reply. Sent them a letter on 24 April. Got no reply. Wrote another letter on 17 May to Lynn Narraway, Head of their UK operation. Got no reply. I then posted some comments on facebook warning potential customers to think twice before booking with them. Then got an immediate reply on facebook asking for further details (probably from Americans who know how to do customer Service). I then got an email on 7 June from a UK Holland America representative saying it was not their policy to match the lower price I had seen. I then replied asking for an explanation as to why no one had bothered to reply to my earlier two emails and two letters. Thatwas on 7 June and guess what - no reply! I have paid thousands of pounds to Holland America and they couldn't give me the time of day. Their customer service is the WORST I have ever encountered. I really wish I had booked with another cruise line. I haven't taken the cruise yet and am very upset that they have been treated like this. Please beware when booking with this company, once they have your money, they are not interested.
This was the worst cruise I've been on by far. Ever since being acquired by Carnival, Holland-America line has been steadily declining. This was my second HAL cruise. 6 years ago, I cruised on the Veendam and had a wonderful experience. ALOT has changed since then.
When Carnival "updated" the ship in 2010, they removed most of the common areas from the 9th deck. The library and internet center were moved to the Crow's nest. The movie theatre was removed entirely and movie showings were in the Queen's Lounge, deck 2, which was very inadequate given the number of people on the ship. All of this was done in order to make room for more staterooms on the 9th deck. So instead of carrying 1500 passengers like the ship used to, it now carried close to 2000. The ship was very crowded.
The first night we went to dinner in the Vista dining room, we were made to wait 45 minutes before being seated. Once seated, I noticed at least half of the tables in the dining room were open, yet hundreds of people were still waiting to be seated. It became veryapparent that the ship was understaffed. Lines in the Lido restaurant were ridiculously long.
Service overall was terrible. There simply were not enough staff to take care of the number of passengers. It was very obvious to me that the staff were not happy, probably due to being overworked. When you called room service, it would take at least 45 minutes for someone to show up.
In typical Carnival tradition, I felt like HAL was nickel and diming us the entire cruise. You want popcorn with your in room movie, sure, it will be $5. They even started charging $20 per passenger for carrying your bags off the ship at the end of the cruise. Hotel service charges were tacked onto the bill for each person staying in a cabin (they used to charge one service charge per cabin, regardless of number of guests) Shore excursions were ridiculously overpriced. For example, 6 years ago, we went whale watching in Juneau for $40 per person. It now costs $140 per person to book on the ship. Need internet access? That will be 75 cents per minute plus a $3.95 activation fee. The majority of the ships activities each day were designed around the idea of selling your something(art, jewelry, etc.)
And then there were the little things we noticed. No more ice sculptures. No more fresh fruit in your stateroom basket. No more chocolate extravaganza. I guess those activities were affecting the bottom line.
The food was mediocre at best. The food in the lido was okay if you could tolerate the long lines. The main dining room food was very disappointed, with some nights verging on being edible. One night, I tried 10 different options from the menu in an attempt to find something decent. I gave up and ordered a hamburger from the stateroom. When the hamburger arrived, you could hardly recognize it as such. It was burnt beyond recognition.
We noticed that our time in port was much shorter as compared to six years ago. Then we discovered the cause. HAL has decreased energy consumption by 10 percent in the last 4 years. Now, they will tell you that it is all in the name of "going green" and being environmentally friendly, but in reality it is all about the money. By slowing the ships down, they save alot of money in fuel costs. Also, the shops onboard have to be closed while in port. If the shops are closed, they can't sell you something, and they would rather you spend your money on the ship rather than at the port. So spending more time at sea helps accomplish that goal.
This was our last Holland-America cruise. We will now be trying Celebrity or Reagent. It is sad that Carnival has ruined what was once possibly the finest cruise line around.
My wife and I booked a fabulous 10-day cruise with Holland America. We invited my college room mate and wife to join us and spent the better part of 2012 planning shore excursions via E-mail and destination research travel books. This was to be our retirement extravaganza with life long friends. On the week prior to departure my wife elected to schedule cortisone shot to ease the bursitus pain in her hips for the anticipated hiking/touring of all the wonderful ports of call. The application of the cortisone shots was painful but worthwhile for the anticpated pain-free hiking. Following the shots my wife had a horrendous adverse reaction--blood pressure elevated to 225/110 and she lost cognitive powers, was rushed to emergency room and spent two days in intensive care stablizing the death threat. We contacted Holland America, 7 days before departure date and advised of emergency cancellation. The next day Holland America contacted me in intensive care at the hospital and advised they would keep the total prepayment ($2700) and could offer no vouchers for future sailings---unlike the airlines and hotel components of the trip. The Medical Team at the hospital has offeredto submit a verification letter on our behalf to Holland America for support on a compensation voucher. We recieved a formal response to our appeal letter to customer service that reiterates the no resolution position phoned to us in the emergency room. We definitely do not feel like a valued customer and are appealing the voucher request deciision at our travel agent, Better Business Bureau, Senior Travel Organization and congressman's offices. This situation is grossly unfair and black eye for Holland America's willingness to sacracfice customer fiarness treatments for corporate profits. Bill & Sandi Mitchell--San Diego, Ca
This was our tenth Holland America Line (HAL) cruise out of the 23 cruises we have taken since 1995. Each of the HAL cruises has been on a different ship, except that we've been on two cruises on the Westerdam. Our cabin on the Maasdam was a verandah suite (Category B) on the Verandah Deck, the deck 9, mid-ship. We sailed on a 16-day eastern United States (US) and Canada cruise from Fort Lauderdale, Florida to three other ports in the US, and to eight Canadian ports ending at Montreal, Canada. We had done a similar cruise in 1997 on the Norwegian Dreamward from New York City to Montreal. Plus, on this cruise, there was three days at sea when going between the four US ports. Plus, we stayed one night before the cruise at the HAL approved Western Fort Lauderdale Hotel.
FLIGHTS - We selected Delta Airlines for our seven-hour flights from Los Angeles to Fort Lauderdale with a change of aircraft in Atlanta and a return nine-hour flight from Montreal to Los Angeles with a change aircraft again in Atlanta.
SHIP - The Maasdam is one of the midsized ships of HAL. It has 10 decks with two groups of four inside elevators, located near the bow and the stern of the ship. The ship has 972 cabins for 1,258 passengers and a very friendly crew of 580.
CABIN - Our cabin was smaller (8 x 26 feet) than on our previous 2004 Westerdam cabin when we sailed the western Mediterranean. Our cabin had a thermostat that didn't seem to work as the cabin was always cool, and a comfortable king-size bed with six pillows with room to place our suitcases under the bed. There were two nightstands, a safe, two bathrobes, one chair, one large desk with extra drawers, four closets, and a bathroom with a toilet, bath and shower, and single sink. The cabin had only a single 110-volt electrical outlet at the desk location. HAL previously provided a special luggage tags containing our cabin number and our luggage arrived in our cabins before we did on the first day aboard the ship.
VERANDAH - The verandah (6 x 8 feet) had one chair and one long chair for resting the entire body. Plus, the end of the cabin towards the verandah was two large glass windows and a large glass door, which was nice.
IN-CABIN TV AND SOUND SYSTEM - A color TV with about 18 channels including CNN and Fox news, several movie channels, and views of the ship's bow. But frequently the news and other live local channels were interrupted for a while whenever the ship was moving. There was a DVD player with a choice of DVDs available the ship's library for a slight fee. And none of the public announcements were heard in the cabin.
DINING ROOMS The main one is the Rotterdam (decks 7 and 8), and the others are the Pinnacle Grill (deck 8), and Lido (deck 11). In the Rotterdam dining room, at our assigned table for eight, the overall and service food was good. The Pinnacle Grill is only available by making a reservation. Service was very good and the food was much better than the main dinning room. There is a $20 per person surcharge. And we enjoyed the Lido for breakfast and lunch to avoid the large lines waiting to enter the Rotterdam; plus the Lido served breakfast earlier than the Rotterdam. In addition, there were three formal nights during the cruise.
BARS - There is about four or more bars and we always enjoy the Crow's Nest, especially when leaving a port before dinner, as the room overlooks the ship's bow and the direction in which the ship is sailing. There are several major problems with the popular Crow's Nest - very often you will find all of the chairs and tables being used by non-drinking passengers either reading books or even just sleeping; a question and answer game being played there at happy hour when your second drink only costs one dollar; and a large smoking area; again this completely fills up the bar. And one more minor problem, the ceiling lights are left on during the daylight hours and they are reflected on the windows, which appear in your photographs. HAL should correct these problems.
TIPS - There's an automatic assessment of $11 per day per guest and 15% is added to all drinks.
CHECK-IN - Initial check-in is slower than usual. However, each time you board the ship during the cruise, your cabin card is scanned and your photograph is displayed to the ship's security personnel. And when returning to the ship in Canada, you needed to carry a second form of ID with your photograph (like your driver's license). Also, every time you re-board the ship, all carry-on items (purses, bags, etc.) will be scanned.
TOURS - There are 14 ports and here is the most interesting thing in each port. Some of the interesting sites are: where the US Civil War began, a small island where ten or more different sea birds live, a goat cheese farm, a glass blowing company, fresh lobster fishing, historical Canadian sites, etc.
ON SHIP ILLNESS - It was reported that one or two passengers got sick aboard the ship and the ship really increased the keeping the ship clean and there was no other sickness aboard.
OVERALL OPINION - We were the first cruise of the year to these ports in the end of April and the beginning of May; thus we experienced cold weather and infrequent light rain showers on some days.
We just returned from an Eastern and Southern Caribbean cruise on Maasdam. My husband and I are both in our 60's. We are active and in good health. My parents who are in their 80's traveled with us.
We stayed at the Sleep Inn and Suites at Ft. Lauderdale airport the night before the cruise. It was fine, nothing fancy but clean and the staff was very helpful. Breakfast was included. We used their free shuttle from the airport and to the pier. We had dinner at Pancho's Backyard across the street. The food was very good. A grocery store is in the same shopping center and a Walgreens is next door. A Chinese and an Italian restaurant are within walking distance.
Embarkation and disembarkation went very smoothly and quickly. Many passengers stayed on the ship for the previous or following cruise so I don't think all 1250 passengers were checking in on the same day.
We had a Lanai room and we enjoyed being able to go out on the deck. I think the kitchen or storage is above the lanai rooms. It wasn't noisy, but every once in a while weheard some strange sounds. Storage in the room was fine. The bathroom had a tub, which meant the shower area was large which was nice, but it was really deep which made it hard to get in and out. The bed and bedding were very comfortable. We didn't see our stewards for the first few days of the cruise, but they did a good job and responded promptly to my request for an additional towel. We did have days where our room wasn't made up until after lunch even though we were out of the room all morning. I know that sounds petty, but it bothered us.
The ship is small. The main passenger areas are very compact. We decided that the small ship was not a good fit for us. It was really limited in a lot of ways: less going on, fewer music venues and less variety on the Lido buffet. They have tried to convert the Lido into islands, but it is still a long old style buffet with dividers inserted for the different types of food.
The food seemed bland and not very interesting. Service in the dining room was great. We had anytime dining and ended up requesting the same waiter for all of our meals. He was great! We were disappointed with anytime dining. We were not allowed to make a reservation between 6 and 7. If you wanted to eat then, you had to take your chances on a walk up and they indicated that the line could be really long. We didn't try it and settled for an early reservation. We did not try the Pinnacle.
The singers in the show room were great. They were much more experienced than the usual cruise ship singers. There were only two dancers who were also very good. We enjoyed the dancing lessons they gave. With the small ship and small cast they did not do the standard Broadway or movie music reviews, but the shows they did were very good. The HALCats orchestra and lead singer were very good. The jazz/dance band was good. We like to dance and we were able to every night. The pianist and string quartet were also good.
I don't think we will go on HAL again unless it is a really outstanding itinerary. It's not that anything was really bad; it just didn't seem to be as good as Royal Caribbean or Celebrity. The average age of the cruisers was older, too, 70 ish.
We really enjoyed all the ports that we visited. The islands each have very different cultures reminiscent of the European countries that settled each. It almost seemed like a quick trip to Europe in the architecture. HAL's shore excursions seem to be mostly half day bus tours. There were a few more active ones. As always some were good and others were mediocre.
We left from Fort Lauderdale. We visited Half Moon Cay which was fine for beach lovers. The snorkeling from shore in the beach area was terrible. We took the nature walk which was fun. The guide gave us lots of information on the Bahamas, plants, animals, and her home island of Eluthera. Our tour went to some ruins of old farms, another beach, and the sting ray area.
Our first tour was of St. John's from St. Thomas. The contrast between the two islands is amazing. St. Thomas is very commercial and St. John is relatively untouched since it is mostly National Park. We saw beautiful beaches and ruins of some old sugar plantations.
St. Bart's is a very expensive resort island. They do not allow big hotels, so everything is very high end. We walked around the historical sights in the town of Gustavia. The yachts in the harbor were amazing. The Wall House Museum gave a good history of the island. We had lunch at the Wall House Restaurant. The island is French, but most of the tourist trade speaks English. My attempts at French were pretty much a failure.
Martinique is also a French island and English is not widely spoken, even in the tourist shops in Fort de France. I was a little more successful with my French here. I even had a shop owner who complimented me on trying to speak French. We had a tour of the island including a church, a botanical garden, and St. Pierre which was destroyed when Mt. Pele erupted in 1902. The town has since rebuilt and has a nice little museum. The ruins of the theatre were interesting. The island is very lush and beautiful.
We next stopped in very British Barbados. We did a tour of the island with a photographer with an emphasis on natural rather than historical places. He was really interesting and provided lots of information about the island and its culture. Again, we saw lots of beautiful beaches and tropical foliage. The economy here seems to be thriving. After we returned to the ship we walked into Bridgetown for lunch and some exploring.
Grenada was a real contrast to Barbados. They have suffered a couple of hurricanes recently and have not recovered from the damage. Grenada is known for spices and most of the nutmeg trees were destroyed. The new ones are just now beginning to bear fruit. They also had a revolution (we saw where the US Marines landed) which really damaged their economy. We did a tour which was beautiful, but frustrating because everything was so crowded. We stopped at an old spice plantation, Grand Etang Reserve, Annandale Falls, and Fort Frederick. The island is hilly and green.
Bonaire was a lot of fun. The island is not highly developed. Kralendijk is very small and since we were there on Sunday mostly closed. We had a really good bus tour of the island. We saw flamingoes and some cultural and historical sites. After lunch we went to the Plaza Resort and I snorkeled from the shore. I am an inexperienced snorkeler and had a great time. I saw lots of fish since the reef is right next to the shore and in a marine park. Getting into the water was a little tough since it was so rocky, but the snorkeling was great. Bonaire is not a lush tropical island; it is hot and dry but very interesting.
Curacao and Aruba are both very similar to Bonaire but more developed. They are both big diving and snorkeling sites and very dry. On both islands we walked around the towns and did not do island tours. Willemstad, Curacao is very pretty. The island has a Dutch background as do Bonaire and Aruba. The buildings look like they are from a Dutch town and are painted beautiful colors. The floating market was really interesting. Vendors from South America bring produce on their boats and set up shop on the pier. We visited a good museum on slavery, Kura Hulanda.
Oranjestad, Aruba is not quite as picturesque as Willemstad, but still interesting. We visited the National Archaeological Museum of Aruba which was wonderful. It is very well laid out and informative and only a few blocks from the port. Fort Zoutman was open so we were able to see the inside. We ate lunch at a Cuban restaurant; Cuba's Cookin', which was great.
Have just returned from 30 day S. Pacific cruise staying in a Lanai stateroom. Guests contemplating booking this type of cabin should be aware that the motors to raise and lower the tender boats are located directly above SOME of these rooms. On our cruise, tenders were used in 8 out of 12 stops. Imagine the noise at 7:00 am when boats were lowered. The other problem is that these tenders require ongoing maintenance. When that occurs, you are 'evicted' from your reserved lanai deckchair. Just a word of warning to check the tender (not lifeboat) boat locations prior to booking.
We boarded the Noordam around noon on 23 Dec 11 and had a small wait until our room was ready. We had a superior veranda suite and was very pleased with the size of the room. We had so much room we didn't know what to do with it. In the bathroom we loved the double sinks, the separate shower as well as the jetted tub/shower combo. My boyfriend and I were able to get ready at the same time without getting in each other way. The closets were big enough to hide all our suite cases and clothes. The balcony was so big it accommodated four chairs, a table to eat on and a side table. Our room stewards Aep and Hans were the bomb. They were available for anything we needed (I don't know when they slept). I always looked forward to coming back to the room to see what towel animal was waiting for me.
The staff were very friendly and personable. You could engage in conversations with anyone in the staff and you feel like you have known them for years. We had open seating andhad great servers except when we ate at table 4. The server never introduced himself to us and he appeared as if he really didn't want to serve us. I try not to complain when servers act ignorant but show them how displeased I am by either not eating there again or showing it in their tip. All I ask from my server is to be polite. The food was excellent from the omelets in the morning, the burgers at at lunch, the variety of dishes at dinner to the cookies and ice cream at night.
Our first stop was half moon cay and it was wonderful. You had so much to choose from to do. (Pay the extra for the shell). We had to tender to get there and it was not so bad a ride (I am terrified of the small boats considering I can't swim).
That night was formal night and it was nice to see others dressed up. The crew did an international Christmas program and it was nice to see all the different nationalities singing songs from their native countries. It was wonderful.
Our second stop was Turks and Caicos but did not stop because the weather did not cooperate and the captain came on and explained.
The entertainment staff were nice and I enjoyed them. The Hal Cats were excellent. Drew, our entertainment coordinator, was entertaining. Keep up the good work Drew. Reggie, our DJ, had the music bumping. Great job.
We also stopped at Samana Dominican Republic(Tender), Bonaire and Aruba. I loved Curaco. We were there from 0700-2300hrs. The floating bridge was the gateway to the other side and there was shopping galore and when nightfall came, the entertainment started. I wished we could have stayed over night.
We spent four days at sea (25, 27, 31 Dec 11 and 01 Jan 12) and there was so much to do from just laying around catching some sun to different activities to choose from. We had two more formal nights (27 Dec and 31 Dec). In the evenings, you could listen to the violinist, go to the piano bar, go to the disco, the sports bar, the casino, the explorers cafe for espresso, a good book, magazine or games. On New Years Eve, you had different choices on where to go for the count down. I was a little disappointed that the only place to get your hat or tierra were in the main dining room and everyone did not get one. They should have had different sections where you could get it especially if you ate in your room or the lido. It was nice to see the staff who were not working dressed up in their uniforms bringing in the new year.
We did the luggage direct program and it was worth it. It only took us 20 minutes to get off the boat and we didn't see our luggage again until we landed. Sweet!!! I truly felt spoiled on this boat. I I think I have become an Holland American girl.