Length: 951 ft
One of the four "Vista-class" ships; movie theater, fine library, alternative dining, lovely staterooms.Best For People Who Want
A combination of elegant surroundings with refined music, cognac and cigars next to raucous Karaoke and piano sing-along bars. Recent release movies, large and comfortable cabins in all categories.Should Be Avoided By People Who Prefer
Mainstream resort cruise ships with Waterslides and rock climbingOnboard Experience
The Noordam is the last in the series of four Vista-class ships that began with Zuiderdam (the four sister ships; Zuiderdam, Oosterdam, Westerdam and Noordam represent the four points of the compass in Dutch). Noordam, however, is different from Zuiderdam in the number of decks adding additional cabins. One thing to watch out for is the upper promenade deck is now populated with cabins rather than public rooms, and if you get an oceanview cabin on that deck you may have people walking outside your window during all hours of the day & night, or your view will be fully obstructed by a lifeboat. There are verandah cabins on that deck with no structural problems.
With Noordam, Holland America attempts the difficult trick of melding traditional elegance with modern pizzazz, and mostly succeeds. Because the ship's designers have filled it with intimate public areas that feel like private clubs or lounges, it's easy to forget you're aboard an 82,000-ton middle-liner, unless, that is, you venture into the casino, larger than on other Holland America ships and now with an active Texas-Hold'em table resting in the Sports Bar; behold the influence of Holland America's parent company, Carnival Corporation.
If you want to read a book and enjoy the sunshine, there are a great number of comfortable spots both inside, or even better on the line's signature teak and cushioned deck loungers on its open promenade deck. Service staff is always warm and near at hand, but very discreet.
Noordam benefits from Holland America's "Signature of Excellence," a program of fleet-wide enhancements the company began in 2004. New features include tableside waiter service at dinner in the Lido, a new Culinary Arts Program with show kitchen for demonstrations and classes, expansion of spa and fitness facilities, upgraded Club HAL Kids' Centers, and new shore excursions. The Explorations Cafe is a combination library, Internet center, music listening area and sidewalk cafe. Staterooms now offer the best mattresses and duvets sold in Europe, and top level suites offer flat screen TVs and DVD players. There's early boarding and a choice of four dinner seatings.
The Explorations Cafe is a combination New York Times-powered library, Internet center, music listening area, and sidewalk cafe. Noordam has the best crossword puzzle area ever glimpsed at sea. While there is an Internet center with typical cruise prices available ($70 for 100 minutes) the throughput speed can be so dismally slow that audible moans of frustration may be heard. Its better to wait for a port day and follow a crewmember to a nearby Internet cafe.Decor
The central atrium, only three decks high, would look right at home in the lobby of a small chic hotel. The attractively laid out Vista Lounge, for the most elaborate nighttime shows, is big enough to accommodate everyone aboard over two performances with tiered seating both upstairs and down and universally excellent sight lines.
The large (at least for HAL!) casino is next door to a sports bar with big-screen televisions on which to watch the big game. The sport's bar is also where you will find the Texas Hold'em Poker games. The casino has many slots and a vatirty of games including Blackjack, Let it Ride, Craps, Roulette and Caribbean Stud Poker.
The large Ocean Bar, with sea views by day and romantic lighting at night, is the most popular spot for pre- and post-dinner cocktails, not least because of the complimentary d'oeuvres it offers before dinner. The Queen' Lounge doubles as the movie theater and karaoke bar, but the Piano Bar, enlarged from earlier Holland America ships to accommodate more guests, is rather more popular. The Crows Nest observation lounge, with its 320-degree view, is the perfect place from which to watch your departure from port.
Noordam separates smokers and nonsmokers as effectively as any ship at sea. In general, smoking areas are located "wherever there is an ashtray," which in most cases is in the corner of any given room. Smoking is not allowed in the Dining Room or Pinnacle Grill.
There's a variety of brightly lit shops onboard selling logo-wear, jewelry, knick-knacks and chocolate.Cuisine
The beautifully presented, banquet-quality, Continental cuisine in the Vista Dining Room has improved in recent years as a result of more contemporary menu selections such as seared tuna and grilled rack of lamb. Gone are the bland entrees of a few years ago. Service in the dining rooms has taken a noticable leap forward, now that the expansion of the cruise line is no longer tapping the best service people for the newest ships. On a recent cruise, the waiter was not only efficient, but engaging and warm, remembering our preferences and never missing a beat. In fact, when it was pointed out to him that his badge had the all too typical misspelling "Dinning Room Steward" he actually had it corrected by the end of the cruise.
The lunch buffet on Lido Deck, along with the separate food stations for Italian and Asian cuisine, offers abundant variety and easy access. Lines are rare except at peak times. The Deli custom sandwich bar serves its phenomenal grilled BLT on a baguette; don't even consider not trying it, while the Poolside Grill offers hamburgers and hotdogs all day with hand-stirred mayo, mustard and ketchup. There's also a taco bar immediately forward of the Grill. Unlike many mass-market cruise lines, a request for an ice tea from a bar waiter outside will not be answered with "you can get those yourself inside." They will actually bring to your table for you - no charge.
The alternative Pinnacle Grill specializes in dishes featuring ingredients from the Pacific Northwest, an homage to Seattle, the home city of Holland America Line. There is a $20 per person surcharge. The food is cooked in a separate area of the main galley, and served piping hot. The desserts alone are worth the price of admission, especially the tri-flavored creme brulé sampler or the "Grand Marnier Chocolate Volcano Cake."
Watch for specialty nights such as the "Chef's Dinner" for 12 people with wine-pairing - cost $89 per person.
Also the "Le Cirque" night in the Pinnacle Grill when they serve itrems from the menu of the iconic New York restaurantRestaurants
The two-level Vista Restaurant has spacious seating for two, four, six, eight and 10, and good soundproofing. The unusual central curved staircase between the two decks creates the feel of a much more intimate restaurant. The Murano glass ceiling is well worth looking up from your food to admire.
There are four assigned seatings -- 5:15, 6:15, 8 and 8:30 p.m. The idea was to improve service, but it may not have worked, as servers can seem harried, on the one hand, or bored, on the other. That said, a staff member will greet you every time you enter, be it for breakfast, lunch or dinner. From the Rosenthal china and Riedel glassware to linen tablecloths, dining is an elegant affair. Some evenings you will dine by candlelight, others to the accompaniment of a string quartet. The menu includes special "health-conscious," vegetarian, and low-salt items, as well as sugar-free desserts.
The Pinnacle Grill, Noordam's alternate dining venue, offers cuisine (and wine) of the Pacific Northwest in an irresistibly elegant atmosphere. Reservations can be hard to come by, but the restaurant is open for lunch on some sea days (for only $10 per person) with a different, but comparably wonderful, menu.
The buffet-style Lido Restaurant is an attractive alternative to the main dining room. Breakfast and lunch are served on a tray that a staff member will carry to your table for you. In the evening, the Lido offers waiter service. There is ample seating both indoors and out. In addition to the large main line of hot entrees, there are separate stations for omelets in the morning and for pasta, salad, desserts (including HAL's famous bread pudding) at lunch. There's even a deli/sandwich bar, and a very popular ice-cream bar, with cups, cones or sundaes at no charge. Daily afternoon tea is served and late-night (usually around 11:30 p.m.) snacks are also available in the Lido Restaurant.
Another alternative is room service, available 24 hours a day at no additional charge. Holland America has one of the widest-ranging room service menus at sea. In fact, it is possible to order dining room meals from the evening's menu to be served in your cabin, but only if you order during the first 1/2 hour the dining room is open (6:00 on most cruises, but this can vary, call room service to verify when it is available).Service
Noordam's gracious, ever-attentive staff are some of the best at sea in the premium class due to the line's most organized system of grooming crewmembers. With schools in Indonesia and the Philipines feeding the crew for the fleet, the average crewmember has been on board for five years and really knows his/her stuff. They take pride in their jobs and seem to enjoy the passengers' company as much as their counterparts'. You never see them congregating and ignoring their duties.Tipping
For years Holland America was known for its no-tipping policy, but today gratuities of $10.00 per person (including children) are automatically added daily to the shipboard account for dining and stateroom service. Visit the front desk to adjust that amount. There is also a 15 percent service charge automatically added to bar bills.Entertainment
/Activities: on Holland America used to be almost an embarrassment for such a quality line, but Noordam's serves notice that things have changed. Instead of the usual four singers and dancers in the production shows, the Noordam has more than a dozen, with much more elaborate sets and costumes designed by Bob Mackie. The ship's library is excellent (though book-borrowers, shockingly, are required to deposit $25 deposit on every book they borrow!). Daily activities include exercise and dance classes, bridge, bingo, Friends of Bill W meetings, guest lectures, and ice carving.
A highlight is the dessert buffet, presented late night sometime in the middle of each cruise. Picture taking is as good as the tempting delights, with the abundance of ice carvings, pastry statues, fruit carvings, and sugar and marzipan creations.
The new Culinary Arts Center, with overhead video monitors for those seated far from the action, is set up very much like a TV Food Channel set, and must be adjudged a marvelous addition. A number of demonstration classes are offered at no charge. Hands-on classes, limited to about a dozen students, charge modestly. As these classes are very popular, be sure to sign up early.
There is no dedicated onboard cinema, as on the S-class of Holland America ships, but the Ocean Bar is transformed into a movie theater at least twice daily and you can still find the free bags of popcorn, though they have gone from hot to lukewarm. The movie selection is surprisingly recent releases and refreshingly intelligent in content, favoring good plots over mindless action flicks.
An adjunct to the Internet center are the computer classes on a few basic topics mostly having to do with digital photography. There are two classes offered for free, with follow up classes for $20 per person for those who want to become advanced users.Cabins
Noordam's staterooms are larger than most mass-market cruise lines', with balcony cabins bigger still. Standard inside cabins are 182 sq. feet, outside staterooms 197 sq. feet, and standard balcony cabins 284 sq. ft. Balcony cabins have a spacious veranda with two chairs and a table. Be forewarned, though, that staterooms have few shelves and no drawers.
The verandahs on Holland America are quite adequate for two. The well-equipped staterooms offer wonderful new pillow-top beds, better pillows; fluffier towels; duvets and high-thread count sheets; a stocked mini-bar (with charges for all beverages consumed); hair-dryers; safes; functional storage space. Staterooms always feature fresh flowers; a filled ice bucket; and a bowl of fresh fruit that's replenished regularly.
Television service includes several stations, such as CNN, ESPN, television shows, shore excursion presentations, and shopping presentations. There's no self-service laundry, but several laundry packages are available, the $45 unlimited laundry package seems a good deal, though it doesn't include dry cleaning.
Suite passengers have access to the Neptune Lounge on Rotterdam Deck, a private room that serves various snacks (from light breakfast fare in the mornings to hors d'oeuvres at cocktail hour). The concierge therein can book dinner reservations and shore tours.
There's no self-service laundry on this ship, although several laundry packages are available through your room steward.Fitness/Spa
Noordam has one of the most spacious gyms on the high seas, with cardio equipment and weight machines arranged in tiers, and a large hot tub in the center. The Greenhouse Spa and Salon's reception area is situated in the midst of a hallway between the main pool and an elevator bank, making the fitness center purposely difficult to locate. Despite the name, it's still run Steiner's, which means that its treatments are somewhat pricey, though the staff is not quite so relentless about sales.
An nice alternative to a massage is a day pass to either the thelasotherapy pool with extremely strong water jets to soothe your muscles ($20/day), or you can go to the steam and aromatherapy center and relax on heated loungers and take steambaths infused with essentail oils. Day passes to this are also $20/day. Or you can buy a weekly pass to both for $250 unlimited.
The Noordam has two outdoor swimming pools, one with a Magrodome roof that can be closed in case of inclement weather. There are also several hot tubs available at no charge. The large gym has state-of-the-art strengthening and aerobic equipment, and there's a jogging track on one of the upper decks. There's a nominal charge for some of the exercise classes.Attire
On the two weekly formal nights, half the men opt for a dark suit rather than renting a tuxedo. Casual on these ships means comfortable, but T-shirts, jeans, swimsuits, tank tops and shorts are all forbidden in the dining rooms and public areas. It isn't allowed, but also not unusual for people to change back to casual after dinner on formal nights. As long as you stick to the deck areas or casino, no one will frown at you.
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
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 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.