Ship: Noordam (GRT 82,500, 1900 passengers/800’ish crew) (USD)
Itinerary: 12 nights, South Pacific (French Polynesia, Vanuatu, Fiji)
Stateroom: Signature Suite #5001
Month: March 2018
The makeup of passenger nationalities was interesting; naturally Australians dominated however Canadians/Americans ran a distant second whilst Dutch, English, New Zealanders, German, Serbian and South Americans also made up the manifest.
It was a great mix; average age group was approximately 50. That said, it appeared the younger travellers (all nationalities) were most often seen around the bar & pool areas; a sociologically higher group than what could be described as usual. There were a handful of children on board.
With so many public areas (bars, lounges, theatres, cafés etc) on board, space was never an issue. The ship always appeared to be free-flowing although I did hear a murmur than it was far from full.
Having come from work, we embarked late – around 3.00pm. We showed ID and headed up the escalators in the Overseas Passenger Terminal (Circular Quay) where around 20 of the 25 or so check-in desks were vacant.
Check-in staff were amazing, I’d guessed they were close to the end of a long shift.
We met Bronwyn (Senior Check-in Supervisor) who appeared to have had the system purring all day and before not too long, we were on our way to board.
Arrival photographers were packing down and we were greeted aboard by a number of smiling faces. The all familiar BEEP as our cards were scanned by security meant “We’re here!” You know what I mean J
It was delightfully easy. Everyone else had pretty much arrived; probably already eaten too. We headed straight to our stateroom to drop off our handhelds and permissible 2 x bottles of wine.
Mid-ship elevators were still working hard so knowing our stateroom was forward, we walked the corridors to the forward elevators where an open door was waiting.
Both forward and aft elevators proved to be the most efficient on board the cruise rather than the central ones.
Our stateroom was a Signature Suite. It was an accessible cabin which appeared to have a changed configuration.
The bathroom was set up as such. Instead of two wash basins, it only had one allowing more room in the full size shower. The bath was a standard size, no spa jets.
The stateroom was nicely prepared and appropriately appointed. The television however was small and aged. In fact the ship itself appeared a little tired however it is due for a nice refurb in 2019.
We had plenty of room to move around; great natural light and like I said a full walk-in shower – Heaven on a ship.
No sooner we’d dropped our belongings our steward appeared to welcome us aboard. He asked if everything was to our satisfaction and having sat on the double/queen bed, we asked if he was able to fit a (or another) topper as the crack down the middle was clearly noticeable. He had no problems with that and obliged immediately.
It was our 3rd cruise aboard Noordam but as you’d know, it’s always inviting to go for a walk once you’ve settled in.
We headed through the many lounges, passed by the shops and arrived (as most can identify with), the aft pool bar!
Sydney was steamy; a nice cold drink was more than welcome.
Ship’s muster was scheduled for 1650h. Muster is compulsory for all passengers (excepting those in transit ie. stayed on for B2B cruises) – cards were scanned.
Life jackets are not required at ship’s muster.
The exercise took the normal 30 minutes or so. Crew were tough in making sure passengers observed instructions, making sure too it wouldn’t take any more time than required.
The sometimes struggle to disperse after dismissal wasn’t evident. Passengers strolled away quietly and there were little or no bottle necks at the stairs or elevators.
We headed up to the Lido Restaurant and although a little early for evening dining time, one side of the ship’s servery was opening up.
The food looked like a feast! A magical array of selections superbly presented.
The evening was a typical baked dinner affair, roast everything! Salads were fresh and in abundance as were alternate healthy meal choices. NB: Passengers were not able to self-serve food unless it was a garnishing item. This did not slow the process down at all, in fact it was reassuring in that they were obviously doing all to reduce the risk of germs and norovirus.
Breakfast and lunch in the Lido was no different. A great selection to be had, everything you’d expect on a Premium cruise ship.
Dedicated Italian & Asian dishes during lunch time were very popular, particularly Asian. People queued relentlessly for Malay, Indian, Chinese & Indonesian curries and other delicacies. It was such a shame Asian food was only available in the Lido during lunch and not dinner. That said, the servery converted into a galley serving Canaletto (Italian) meals to a separated area of the restaurant at night. A must try for everyone aboard HAL.
The Lido crew were fantastic. Friendly to the end; couldn’t do enough for you.
PINNACLE GRILL (SEAFOOD, STEAK HOUSE)
Having checked out the choices in the Lido, we relinquished and decided to book the Pinnacle Grill for the first night. Good choice too, instead of the usual $35 sup cost, we only paid $25 each; a special only available on the first cruise night.
It was delicious. We both had the eye filet steak, cooked to perfection. I considered the Presidents Cut ($59 on top of the $25/person) but it was massive… too much for me!
The restaurant’s setting is romantic. Mood lighting, fresh flowers (which by the way also exists at very table in the Lido – Orchids!) and a lovely table setting.
‘Was a little disappointed in our waiter but had a hunch we’d met him on Noordam before. He wasn’t particularly attentive (and as we recollected – we could be wrong of course) but just put it down to a possible bad day for him somehow.
Despite that, I wouldn’t let it put you off trying Pinnacle Grill, even if only once. Overall it was a very nice experience.
MAIN DINING ROOM (MDR)
Night 2 we thought we should dine in the MDR and meet the people at our table. It was a table set for 8, for 7 guests (one spare seat that was never removed)
Our fellow diners were a cheerful British group, ardent cruisers too.
They’d eaten in the MDR the night before and suggested it was ‘OK’.
You should note, most items on the menu are also available the same night at the Lido but of course dining a la carte does have a social aspect about it and we sure had a lot of laughs around the table.
We ordered from the menu and in a matter of short time our appetisers arrived.
Regrettably, the scallop dish I’d seen in the Lido wasn’t quite the same making of that that was presented to me.
As a second course I ordered a soup, it was awesome but again not very warm.
Looking toward the galley from which our meals were carried, we couldn’t have been furthest away. Our table was literally 2nd to one further, probably half the reason our hot meals were cool.
Our main was also ‘iffy’ so one of the other guests raised it with the waiters (“That’s two nights now, our meals are cold and badly presented”). The waiter appeared confused but took the feedback on board. The restaurant manager dropped by and was also explained of the problem.
Night 3: totally different night! Our two waiters interacted with us very differently and showed personalities of a far more professional service. The food too was hotter, and better presented. From there on in, the atmosphere in the MDR was a by far better one.
Our drink waiter had noticed we’d bring a bottle of Italian wine from Canaletto and it wasn’t long until he asked us why. We told him we prefer Italian wine (especially the brand we were drinking) and that there wasn’t a suitable choice of Reds on the MDR wine menu.
He happily obliged and suggested he’ll have a bottle of our favourite wine waiting for us each night we plan to dine in the MDR. Without ado, the other guests asked him to bring them one each of the same wine, each night, as well J
All in all, the MDR became a nice experience. My honest opinion however is the menu could be a little more exciting.
CANALETTO – ITALIAN
At a $15/person surcharge it’s worth every cent. Best Noordam dining experience in my opinion.
It was also near cold, I ate it nonetheless.
…and I have to say, the flavours were still delicious.
No other complaint…
The Canaletto experience is outstanding and we actually began alternating between it and the MDR.
Food was authentic, service was excellent.
Dishes are walked a small number of steps between the galley and restaurant, they arrive hot and fresh.
Bright personalities, the crew smiled all the time – a credit to the restaurant manager and chefs.
Mexican – poolside was very popular from around 11am to 4pm as was the Terrace Grill for hamburgers, hot dogs and fries. Fresh and certainly fills the spot. A great excuse kicking the salads for a day and splurging J
Pizza was available in the Lido where the buffet is for a good part of the day & night, with freshly cooked pasta available made by the chef in front of you and you choose your own Ingredients. Pizza toppings included Margarita, loaded pepperoni and two vegetarian options. Both were superb but easy self-serve was more than tempting.
Ice cream parlours in the Lido also attracted the swarms; daily flavours included vanilla, strawberry and chocolate. A four surprise rotated daily. The pecan was excellent.
Ice tea, American lemonade, still water & ice were on tap all day every day.
Desserts in all restaurants were adequate ‘though they couldn’t seem to get the crème brulee right. No sugar/no added sugar and flourless desserts were well catered for. It was just a matter of ‘how much or how little should you eat?’
Expeditions Café was a great place to hang and enjoy your beverage. Cappuccino was a mere US$2.95 and was worth it. Pastries are free with the beverage of your choice.
Hygiene was an all-time priority aboard. Hand dispensers were statically placed around the ship and like I said, for the most food was plated by crew.
Public areas were continually cleaned and fumigated, no stone left unturned. Tables were always cleared immediately and wiped down; empty drink glasses also immediately collected by competent bar staff that were always keen to take you next order.
Our stateroom was cleaned adequately and always made fresh albeit to seemed to be at the end of the line sometimes waiting until well after lunch time for a make-up.
The ship shined.
The shops (duty free) were typical of what you’d expect on a cruise ship. Clothing apparel, jewellery, perfumes etc, cigarettes and alcohol.
Some would say same, same. Specials/Sales were the main attraction, set up either in the gallery area or poolside. Hats, handbags, woollen wraps, T shirts, shorts – selling out as Noordam prepares it’s relocation to Alaska.
Shop staff were polite and helpful.
Some had said the cruise lacked daily activities, one in particular, a duet type performance poolside. I can’t say for sure this didn’t occur but I’d have to agree I didn’t see this and agree something was lacking on sea days.
We had the usual computer/device workshops, Bingo, Trivia, Digital workshops, Matinee movies, spa seminars etc but just seemed a little bland. The Test kitchen however was excellent.
I attended the 2nd one having enjoyed the first, (was always a packed house), it was great to see how they test recipes and give tips as to how you can create these meals at home.
Noordam is renowned for her ability to put on a good show, and they did.
Cabaret, Broadway, comedy and the list goes on, all performed with outstanding results.
BB Kings, the ever popular on board Blues show is always a winner and this crew didn’t disappoint. The great thing about it too is that the performers aren’t shy in having a chat with you, pre or post show.
The piano bar featuring Anna was another good stop-by. All the songs from the 80’s and 90’s, along with a good number of more contemporary sets were enjoyed.
Ship security was discrete, but officers were often around. They’d do their usual patrols but never once stand around. They’re of course there at port disembarkation/embarkation; friendly and helpful.
Brought-on alcohol was earmarked and passengers were directed to a receiving desk where it was commandeered and then delivered to your stateroom on the last sea day along with any alcohol purchased on board.
The tenders still appeared new since replacement a year or two ago. They’re modern, more comfortable than some however practical in both the cases of an emergency and port ferries.
Tenders are not suitable for some physically challenged person and wheel chairs may not be brought aboard.
The tender processes we underwent in Lifou, Dravuni Island and Mare were smooth. On a ticket system, passengers were called to board in order. Tenders generally ran ahead of schedule and open tenders (no ticket required) were called around 11am each day.
Along with the tender ports above we visited Lautoka, Noumea & Vila. These are typical South Pacific ports and you can usually find something new to do in most.
If you’re a cruiser that’s done it all, consider La Meridian Hotel for a BBQ seafood luncheon and use the pool and beach facilities while you’re there. You catch the hop on-hop off bus there and back, very easy to get to.
In Vila we recommend a day (and lunch) at Erakor Island. Erakor is a 4.5* island resort well worth spending a day at. Get a taxi from the port (cost around $10/person) and have the driver come back at your nominated time to collect you. TIP: pay the fare after the return journey.
Noordam is one for the person who likes to relax and sea days allow just that.
If you really, really want peace and tranquillity, try the cabanas in the retreat (at a cost). Indulge and be pampered, read a book or just laze about.
As I’ve pointed out, crew were outstanding. Everyone went out their way to at least say hello. Others went beyond the call of duty; there wasn’t much they’d not do for you to ensure a happy cruise experience.
Overall, we rated our own experience
a great result for Holland America’s Noordam!
For more information about any of HAL’s ships, their itineraries and fares, please contact Cruisescene on 1800 678 555 or email firstname.lastname@example.org
Now we want to cruise this ship in Alaska!!!