Review: MS Noordam
Cruise - Ocean Cruise
A Great First Cruise with Holland America Line
54 people found this review helpful
In March this year we took our 9th cruise but it was our first on a Holland America Line ship. We were in a balcony stateroom on Deck 4 towards the stern and we thought this position was ideal, quite close to the staircase and lift lobby giving easy access to the Vista Dining Room below and the Lido cafe up on Floor 9.
The room was average size with a very comfortable bed and was kept clean and tidy by our excellent room stewards. The bathroom was slightly bigger than average as there was a small bath tub which was an added bonus. Storage space was ample. A glass door opened out onto a good sized balcony equipped with three wicker chairs and two tables/footstools.
We ate breakfast and lunch in the Lido Cafe, usually outside on the rear deck. We chose ‘As you Wish’ dining for our evening meals in the Vista Dining Room and ate once in the Pinnacle Grill. We found the food in all venues to be to a very high standard. The ‘As you Wish’ dining worked very well and we booked our table for each night, in the same area of the restaurant with the same waiters. Food was consistently good, our favourite being the Surf and Turf of lobster and filet mignon which melted in the mouth. The chilled soups were also fantastic. The Pinnacle Grill was excellent, food and service very good – not slow as some reviews state. The buffet in the Lido was always good. The fresh orange juice at breakfast time was lovely as were the muffins, the warm cinnamon pastries and freshly made eggs Benedict. Lunch was varied and tasty and we mostly had the delicious salads and the stir fries from the Asian counter. Ate from the pool grill once and especially enjoyed the sweet potato fries.
The ship was fairly traditional in decor with works of art spread throughout. The public spaces were comfortable and kept spotlessly clean at all times. Despite the ship being full, there was never a feeling of overcrowding. Our favourite bar in the evening was the Ocean Bar which had Happy Hour between 7 and 8pm where they offered one drink at full price plus another for $1. The cocktails were $6.95 with the second for $1 so were actually very good value. There was always a ‘daily special’ cocktail which was $5.95. We tried several and enjoyed them all! For obvious reasons this was the busiest bar.
The crew throughout the ship were all friendly and helpful. Could not fault service in any way.
We didn’t go to any shows so cannot comment on them. The musicians that played on deck were good, as was the string quartet in the Explorers Lounge in the evening.
We only visited the casino once to play the slot machines and came out $20 in profit but as this was a venue where smoking was allowed, chose not to spend any more time in here.
We knew we would not be using the internet very much so chose the ‘pay as you go’ option which was 75c per minute. Although it stated that you had to use the Wifi ‘hotspots’ around the ship, we found we were able to get a good signal in our cabin so were able to send our emails in the evening from the comfort of our room. Our total bill came to $50 for the 10 days.
Ports of Call
Aruba – Here we got a local bus to Arashi Beach for a couple of hours of R & R, then in the afternoon had a wander around the local area and saw the numerous iguanas around the sea front. We were not very keen on the amount of building taking place along the coastline with big new hotels so would probably not choose to stay here.
Curacao – In the morning we had a walk across the moving bridge into town and had a look round the ‘floating market’ and stopped for a beer in a seafront cafe. We thought the town was quite pretty with its different coloured buildings. We took an island tour in the afternoon which we picked up in the town. There was quite a wait while they gathered up enough people to fill the small bus but the tour was quite interesting – again, a bit disappointed with the number of new villas being built in the countryside. We stopped briefly at the curacao ‘factory’, had a couple of free tasters after negotiating our way through the scrum of people from the many cruise ship tour buses and didn’t think it was really worth the visit.
Bonaire – Had a lovely day here. Got a speedboat across to Klein Bonaire where we spent the morning snorkelling, getting back on ship in time for lunch. The island wasn’t too busy and the snorkelling was good. There was quite a bit of cloud about which was a good thing as there is no shelter to speak of. In the afternoon had a wander around the stalls near the port and bought a couple of presents to take home.
Samana, Dominican Republic – We had been dubious about disembarking here as there are lots of negative reviews about this port of call. We had planned to do a boat tour to Haitises National Park through the mangroves and then visiting a cave. However, when we arrived the weather was very unsettled with black clouds and frequent showers. We tendered into the dock and met up with our tour guide from Raymond & Gregory Tours who advised that the weather over the National Park would be bad all day (and looking at the colour of the sky, he was right!). He suggested an island tour across the other side where the weather was much better and we thought this was a good idea. Again, had a wait while he got enough passengers to fill the minibus but we enjoyed the tour so much, this was probably one of our favourite places. The drive through the local countryside was fascinating and rather reminded us of driving through Kenya. The scenery was lovely – very ‘jungly’ with plenty of palm trees and lovely sea views along the way. Our guide was very knowledgeable and took us to see a couple of beautiful beaches (where we could have spent time if we had wished), to a natural ‘swimming pool’ in the rocks and to a waterfall where little local boys were climbing up a tree and jumping into the pool below and finally visited a small chapel that had been transported from England in the 1700’s. We spent the afternoon onboard.
Grand Turk – Loved this place. We had decided not to do a tour here so cannot comment on the island. There is a fairly new complex built by Carnival right at the port where there is a long beach provided with hundreds of sun loungers and behind this, a shopping area including Margaritaville which had a lovely landscaped swimming pool area and a Flowrider machine. We chose to sit in the quieter part next to the rear pool area and there was hardly anyone here, so plenty of empty sun loungers in shade or sun. I imagine the beach was much busier. The Margaritas were delicious (but not cheap!). We stayed here until the ship left at 1.30.
Half Moon Cay – Tendering to the island was easy and quick. We got over there at about 9.30 and had our choice of sun loungers as many people seemed to arrive later in the morning. The beach and sea were beautiful. We had a walk around the nature trail and went up to see the Stingray encounter but did not go in as we had done this in Grand Cayman on a previous cruise. The barbeque lunch was very good – again, no queues. We chose the mahi mahi, chicken and salads which were delicious but there were also burgers etc. There were plenty of shelters with picnic tables so it was not difficult to find a quiet area to eat our lunch.
On sea days we usually found ourselves sunbeds either in the Lido pool area where there is a retractable roof, or on the aft deck near the other pool. This area was quite windy with no shade but very pleasant in the sunshine and the sunbeds were not crowded together as is so often found.
Disembarkation was straightforward, after a bit of a wait in our first queue of the cruise so we didn’t actually get off at our stated time of 8.15 but this did not matter as we were hiring a car for the day before our flight back to the UK in the evening.
To summarise, we really enjoyed our first experience of sailing with Holland America and would not hesitate to sail with them again.
54 people found this review helpful
This review is solely based on the opinion of a Silver Travel Advisor member and not of Silver Travel Advisor Ltd.
Silver Travel Advisor Recommended Partner: Holland America Line