Cruise Review - Holland America Line's MS Noordam
Launched in 2006, the 1,924-passenger ms Noordam is the fourth, and final, ship in Holland America Line's Vista-class. Holland America traditionally appeals to senior cruisers, but with the introduction of the Vista-class vessels, they sought to appeal to "multi-generational family groups", and ms Noordam is perfectly suited to do just that.
Noordam was the first ship to incorporate all of the design changes from Holland America's "Signature of Excellence" initiative.
These changes included putting Euro-style mattresses and upgraded bedding in all cabins; having waffle-weave bathrobes in all cabin categories; installing massage-type showerheads in all bathrooms; flatscreen LCD TV's and DVD players in the cabins; expanding the kids and teen's facilities, and changing some of the public rooms into contemporary, multi-purpose meeting places. Noordam was also built with additional aft deck space for the Lido Deck, and 35 new staterooms.
These changes made ms Noordam more "family friendly" than other Holland America Line ships, and set a new standard for family cruising in the traditional cruise space.
The bulk of the guests on board ms Noordam are still loyal Holland America Line passengers, who tend to be over 60 years of age, sophisticated, well-educated and traditional. However, on shorter 7-night cruises, there is a larger influx of families, especially during school holiday periods.
During the day, casual attire is the norm, and in the evening resort casual is acceptable throughout the ship. On a 7-night cruise, you will have at least 2 formal nights, and 3 on a 10 or 14-night cruise. Holland America Line guests love to dress up on these traditional ships, so you will see a lot of tuxedo's and ball gowns on these nights. Shorts, tank tops and swimsuits are not allowed in the Vista Dining room at any time, and jeans are not allowed at dinner time.
The cruise line automatically adds a set amount for gratuities to your onboard account each day, which is then shared among the waiters, stewards and other service staff. This amount can be adjusted either way by visiting the front desk. Bar bills automatically have 15% added to them for gratuities.
A highlight of ms Noordam is the number of balcony cabins available, from Deluxe Verandah Outside cabins to Penthouse Verandah Suites.
Of the six passenger decks, only one has no balconies at all. The standard cabin size is adequate, but they are not the largest at sea as they used to be. The cabins have plenty of hanging space and shelving in the closet, but there is a lack of drawer space.
The Eurotop beds are extremely comfortable, and the cotton bedding is pretty and elegant. The balconies are much bigger than those on other shops, and they are furnished with chairs, and ottoman and a small table. Standard cabins have a bathtub/shower combination, with a small sink/vanity area.
Suite passengers get more perks, such as a butler, use of the Neptune Lounge, a private Concierge Club, and breakfast in the Pinnacle Grill. The two Penthouse Verandah suites have beautiful teak-lined balconies and private hot tubs.
Of the three restaurants on board, the Lido Cafe definitely gets the most use! Stretching from the aft elevators to beyond the midship mark, it is a large and elegant space.
The breakfast options are limited - you can have museli and fruit juice; croissants and coffee; a Danish and tea; a full breakfast with a made-to-order omelette, bacon and potatoes; a toasted bagel with smoked salmon; or Belgian-style waffles with fresh cream.
Lunch offers a range of buffet stations, such as Asian or Italian food, as well as items from the main restaurants, and at least one carved meat.
The evenings feature a casual dinner at candlelit tables, offering the same cuisine as the main dining room, albeit from a slightly more limited menu. The dress code is more casual than the main dining room, and you can choose to dine whenever you want.
There is a no-fee Italian restaurant in the corner of the Lido, called Canaletto, offering Italian-style antipasti, pasta and desserts. The Pinnacle Grill is the only alternative restaurant with a fee. This elegant restaurant features Pacific Northwest U.S. cuisine, highlighting Holland America Line's Seattle roots.
The main dining room is the two-level Vista Dining Room, which compared to the Lido Cafe, is very cosy. Here you can opt for pre-set dining times and seating, or choose the "As You Wish Dining" option for dinner.
The food is fantastic - the food is well prepared and fresh, and there are lots of options to choose from. There is a 22-dish vegetarian-only menu for lunch and dinner, and the kitchen can easily cater for other dietary needs with advance notice.
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A happy customer, Rona Flood, had plenty of positive feedback on her experience dining on board ms Noordam:
"My husband and I and four friends cruised on ms Noordam 18 -28 May 2012. It was our first cruise experience. I cannot speak highly enough of the cruise line and its staff. I am a Coeliac and I was very well looked after with my diet. We ate in the Vista dining room most evenings. The quality and presentation were five star. The staff could not have been more helpful. I thoroughly recommend anyone with a dietary issue, do not hesitate about cruising with Noordam as you will not receive better service anywhere. "
The highlight of the onboard entertainment are definitely the cooking demonstrations in the Culinary Arts Centre, as well as the Microsoft Digital Workshops, where you can learn to enhance photos, produce and publish videos to DVD, and create personal web pages and blogs.
The Vista Lounge is the main theatre, and it is very high-tech in comparison to other cruise ships, featuring a giant LCD backdrop. The shows themselves are average cruise fare, but the sophisticated design of the theatre allows for more style, such as pyrotechnics and animation.
There are always fabulous lounge performers and bands playing in lounges throughout the ship - take in a classical quartet in the Explorer's Lounge or light jazz in the Ocean Bar. Head to the Northern Nights Nightclub for dancing, karaoke and themed-parties, or try your luck at blackjack, poker, craps, roulette or the slot machines in the casino.
During the day, there are loads of participation activities organised by the staff, such as a hairy legs competition, and a ship-building contest. You can also find a masterpiece at the art auctions, and of course, there is daily bingo to keep you entertained.
The hub of this ship is undoubtedly the Explorations Cafe, offering a comfortable and relaxing, educational and inspiring public space, with a library, Internet centre, coffee bar, music venue and meeting place all rolled into one. The Queen's Lounge and the Culinary Arts Centre look like a set out of the Food Network, with cameras on the workspace and TV-type lighting, as well as giant LCD monitors for the crowd to see all of the action. Holland America Line will be hosting 60 "celebrity chefs" per year on all of their ships.
The meeting rooms across from the Explorations Cafe get used quite a bit - on Friday nights for Jewish Sabbath services; Muslim services; non-denominational services and Catholic mass on Sunday and Good Friday.
Spa & Fitness
The fitness room offers state-of-the-art machinery, including a treadmill, stair-step and weight machines. The Greenhouse Spa is large and well-equipped, with treatment rooms, a thermal suite, beauty salon, and thelassotherapy pool. You can find discounted treatments on shore days. There are pilates and yoga classes offered for a fee.
The central pool is surrounded by three large hot tubs, and can be used in all weather conditions. There are plenty of comfortable chaises around the pool, as well as chairs and tables. This pool is open to families and can get quite busy. On the other hand, the aft pool is quieter as it is an adult-only pool. On the Sports Deck you will find a volleyball and basketball court.
Noordam was designed to attract more families than the traditional Holland America Line ships, and with the improved teen and children's clubs, it certainly does just that. The Loft provides teens aged from 13 to 17 with a perfect parent-free zone, while Club Hal offers 3 to 12 year olds with age appropriate activities under the care of childcare professionals.
To find out more about ms Noordam, or to find the latest cruise deals on this ship, call your Cruiseabout consultant on 1300 769 228.