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More or less live from the Noordam, 10/31/13 Journey to the New World


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More or less live from the Noordam. 10/31/2013 Journey to the new world.


Installment One: Getting to the Ship from Seattle


The Noordam sails October 31, 2013, starting out in Civitavecchia (which is close to Rome), with three stops in Spain, one stop in Portugal and then across the Atlantic to Fort Lauderdale.


Our personal journey began the 23rd of October with a flight to Dubai. Dubai? We have saved up a lot of airline miles and hotel points for our retirement and as we started looking for flights from Seattle to Italy, the best deal we could find was using Alaska Airlines miles, routing through Dubai. What the heck? Since we are retired we can do pretty much anything we want, so we booked through Dubai in business class on Emirates.


We flew to to Dubai, spent three wonderful days at the Sheraton Mall of the Emirates hotel using cash and points and very much enjoying the complimentary limo rides from our home to the airport, and then from the airport in Dubai to our hotel. We did the Hop On Hop Off tour and loved it. Hubby went skiing one morning. I am still recovering from a broken ankle so I had to shop instead.


After enjoying Dubai for a few days, the limo picked us up at our hotel and took us back to the airport for a flight to Milan. We had a wonderful time in Milan and serendipitously attended a very special Peruvian Mass in honor of our Lord of the Miracles at the Duomo. It was celebrated by a cardinal, no less, and was attended by over 40,000 people of Peruvian descent, and, of course, us. Very interesting experience.


We spent on night in Milan and then headed by train down to Florence where we stayed at the Westin Excelsior, also on cash and points. What a lovely hotel. We had a gorgeous suite overlooking the river and flat out loved it. Hubby hiked up the cupola of the Duomo as well as all 400+ stairs to the top of the Bell Tower. I am still trying to fully recover my ankle so I can start skiing when we get back home so I had to pass on the hikes. One night as we were walking to dinner we heard singing in a nearby church. When we checked it out, they were doing Benediction in Latin so we stayed. How often do you see that? Travel is so amazing.


Since we have already spent a fair amount of time in Rome, we decided to take the train from Florence to Livorno and then down the coast to Civitavecchia, and it was a truly charming ride. The train was wide open and we had lots of space and quiet comfort as we watched the water heading south. Nothing at all like the crazy, very over crowded, train ride we took from Rome to Civitavecchia before our last cruise that commenced here.


For one night only in Civitavecchia we stayed at the Roses Hotel Mediterraneo. After being spoiled rotten in fabulous suites in 5 star hotels, this is pretty Spartan, but it will make us much more appreciative of our verandah cabin when we board the Noordam tomorrow. The hotel is relatively inexpensive, clean enough, and they did give us 6 hours free internet. Breakfast is included, I wouldn’t recommend it for a longer stay, but the location is perfect. It is a short, easy, walk from the train station, even with cruise luggage, and another short, easy, walk to the port shuttle. It was also very close to the center of the city and lots of stores and restaurants.


We walked up to the Todis to get enough wine to last us until we get to Spain and met a lot of fellow cruisers who were doing the same thing. Most of them were not on Cruise Critic and were very surprised to learn that HAL has changed their wine policy effective January 31, 2014. We all agreed that after HAL institutes their new policy, Princess will be a lot better choice.


Can’t wait to head down to the ship from where I will post the next installment of this more or less live report. [/b][/b]

Edited by PunkiC
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Really looking forward to this. Your trip already sounds amazing. Isn't retirement great? Have fun.


We were in Seattle in August 2012 before our Amsterdam Alaska cruise and we loved the city as well as the rest of the state we visited.

Edited by superoma
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More or less live from the Noordam. 10/31/2013 Journey to the new world.


... After enjoying Dubai for a few days, the limo picked us up at our hotel ...



I wonder what a limo does for fun in Dubai? :D ... Sorry, that line just struck me as funny, and I couldn't resist. :)


Seriously, though, what a unique way to start a cruise! We did a T-A from Civitavecchia several years ago, and enjoyed it a lot. I hope you have a great trip, and I look forward to reading your reports.




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You sound like me using FF miles ;) Sometimes you gotta be creative:D


I am very much looking forward to your reports.


Hope you are going to the meet and greet - if you are, please say hi to gigianne (Georgina & Gerry) for us. Wish we were on this one with all of you:)

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Day One, Embarkation and comparing HAL with Princess.

We left the hotel around 11:30 a.m. and walked down to the ship. It’s an easy walk, even using my cane. Although I can walk ok with my cane, I can’t stand for more than a couple of minutes, so I had to get a wheelchair for embarkation. We were able to embark immediately and our room was ready so that worked very smoothly. OBTW, we took a bunch of wine on board in clear sight and nobody said a word.

The Noordam public areas are beautifully appointed. Actually much more appealing visually than any of the Princess ships on which we have sailed. I compare to Princess because the vast majority of our cruises have been on Princess and this is our first serious HAL sailing.

We arrived at our cabin, which is a verandah on the port side to find that we had been surprised with two bottles of vodka (I don’t know how we will ever drink it all), a bottle of scotch, and a bottle of champagne. We don’t really much like champagne, but it was a nice thought.

HAL wins on most cabin issues as a verandah on HAL is equal to a mini-suite on Princess. The bathroom is much larger and has a tub, and we really like having a closed medicine cabinet for storage. I don’t like the fact that the waste container has a lid that has to be touched to open. I like the open waste can that only requires you to toss things into it without having to touch anything.

The storage area on HAL is much more cumbersome than the storage area on Princess. So Princess wins points on the closet storage and the drawers provided in the desk. We had to rethink our storage plan.

It is very nice to have a sitting area with a couch, but our balcony is smaller than those on Princess. Overall, except for the storage, we really do prefer the HAL accommodations.

We had a bit of lunch at the Lido buffet and, while it is very attractive, I was disappointed in the limited food selections and the service. On Princess, all of the buffet tables are preset with silverware and the staff serves the drinks. On HAL you have to get your own silverware and drinks which is a challenge when you are using a cane. We were also not able to put the food on our own plates so it was a difficult to get a salad exactly the way I wanted it. Hopefully that will change soon.

I got my salad, carried it to a table and then went back for silverware. As I got back to my table a waiter demanded that I move to another table. I told him “No” and went on to explain that it was too hard to move my stuff after I was already situated. He insisted two more times until it started to become hard for me to maintain my temper. What the heck was up with that? As soon as I was seated, my DH showed up with his food and sat down and then went to get our drinks. Princess wins hands down on food selection and service in the buffet.

We then did a bit of tour of the ship and had really fun tour and some demonstrations in the Spa. The staff members were very friendly and charming and tempted us by letting us try lots of delightful spa equipment. We entered the drawing and I won a free shave. J They said DH could use it. He has a beard but does enjoy a professional trim now and then. We plan to spend a lot of time in the gym as we both need to build our strength to go skiing at Whistler for Thanksgiving, if, of course, they have any snow.

As we continued our tour of the ship, we stopped at the front desk to get a wheelchair for me for the muster. Again, I can walk, and even dance (holding on to DH) but I can’t stand for more than a couple of minutes. I sat in a chair while DH waited in line but as I was walking over when he reached the front, I fell and banged my left knee. Fortunately, it is just a little sore but no serious damage occurred.

We went back to the cabin and when it was time for muster a wheelchair had magically appeared at our door so we went down to our station and went through the drill. I really prefer the muster drills on Princess which are held with everyone seated in public areas where we all actually try on our life vests, but I can see how the design of the Noordam would not allow for that type of drill.

After muster DH pushed me around the promenade so we could enjoy the views from around the ship and wait until the elevators had cleared out before we went back to our room. We rested in our room for a short time and then decided to go to early dinner (we chose anytime dining). Having arrived at almost 5:45, we were quickly seated with two other couples who were very nice and had dinner. We had taken one of our bottles of wine to the dining room and paid a corkage fee so we could drink it at the table.

Here again, I found HAL’s dinner menu much more limited than Princess and the service was not quite up to par. The dining staff on HAL just don’t make me feel special whereas on Princess, I always feel like, well, a princess. J

For instance, we have still not seen our steward. He/she has fulfilled the requests we submitted on the phone, but it I strange that we haven’t seen him/her. On Princess the steward always shows up shortly after we embark and introduces him/herself and gives us their pager number so we can reach them if we have any needs. So far, Princess wins on service.

After dinner we were really tired and decided to just go to bed and get a good night’s sleepy so we could make it to the early morning stretch class.

The end of day one on board.

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I am really enjoying your posts. I hope you have a wonderful cruise! We will sail on the Noordam in Seotember. Although i live on the East coast, i have family in Woodinville, Wa. We visited Whistler, and it was so beautiful and fun! We love it up there.

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We'll be on the Noordam for New Year's and so I'm enjoying "seeing" the ship through your eyes. Thank you for taking the time to post. I'm very sorry to hear about your fall and your rude experience in the Lido (I steer clear of the Lido - not my idea of vacation, and a poor start to yours!) Looking forward to reading your next post and hope your knee is okay.

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I'm enjoying your review as having just got off the Noordam earlier this month i'm missing the lovely friends I made amongst among the crew already. If you happen to be in the Crow's Nest could you say hi to Emerson from Maria and Jared (the magician).


Looking forward to cruising vicariously through you, and I agree the Lido has pretty limited choice although I found it improved after the first couple of days


have a great trip maria x

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Thanks for taking the time to do reports. Looking forward to more. But why did the waiter demand that you move?


I have no idea.


We went back for breakfast today and they were very nice and much more attentive. Go figure.

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That is very odd, Punki. It must vary ship to ship, crew person to crew person.


On our recent NA cruise, we had one guy in the Lido who wouldn't leave us alone...bringing coffee, bringing juice, bringing more juice, wanting to get me breakfast, too. It because so annoying that we soon changed to the other side of the Lido!

Having said that, it's been my experience they will always bring coffee if asked.

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I'm sailing on Noordam in January, so anxious to read all your observations. Turn around day, or day one on a ship can be very confusing and perhaps the steward thought you were a single at a larger table that would be needed for a larger party. Even so, very strange behavior.

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Day two, at Sea.

Little differences on HAL that we really like:

1. Our desk has two America plugs and two European plugs. Yeah! We have a three-way splitter, but I don’t think we are going to need it as we have lots of European adapters.

2. I love, love, love the lighted, magnifying make-up mirror.

3. I like the shower gel in the bath. I also use it to hand wash my lingerie which I do every morning either at home or while I am traveling. We specifically selected a POSH cabin so there would be sunshine all day long to dry my hand laundry.

4. I love the bath sheets and the robes are super cozy/comfy.

5. There were wine glasses in our room when we arrived. J

6. Mass on board. It is especially nice today which is a Holy Day of Obligtion. I guess this is a pretty big difference.

7. I really like the glass elevators.

We had coffee delivered at 6:00 am and started our day with some exercises. Sadly, the damage I added to my left knee in yesterday’s fall prevents me from doing push-ups (yes I do them on my knees) but I can still do planks and all of my stretches. DH took off to take a walk around the deck and hit the gym. We planned this as a weight-loss and fitness improvement cruise to help get us ready for skiing at the end of the month. My husband was not happy with me for putting myself into a situation where I fell and it really was my own fault. I tried to step over something that I should have walked around. L

Mass was very well attended, which is no surprise as it is a Holy Day of Obligation. We will be having dinner with the priest tonight. So far I like him very much. I am going to serve as lector tomorrow so I need to prepare my readings.

After Mass we had breakfast in the buffet with some folks we had met shopping for wine in Civitavecchia, and then went to the Cruise Critic Meet and Greet in the Crow’s Nest.

After breakfast we went to a dance lesson which was very disappointing. We are used to real dance lessons and these lessons are nothing but silly Dancing With the Stars routines. The routines were taught by dancers from the show and it was apparent that they aren’t ballroom dancers, but only know how to do choreographed routines. L

There were tons of people at the Meet and Greet, including a bunch of officers—even the captain, with whom we had a very pleasant chat. They had snacks and free champagne supplied by HAL. Very, very nice. I organized the gift exchange and a lot of people told me that they enjoyed it a great deal.

After the Meet and Greet we went back up to the Lido for a Caesar Salad and some more ice tea and enjoyed a long leisurely lunch and chatted with some new found friends.

Following our long lunch we did a bit more exploring and then decided it was time to head back to the cabin so I could study my reading for Mass the next day and then take a rejuvenating nap. I love, love, love ship naps. J DH watched tennis matches which is one of his favorite things to do.

After our siesta we headed down to dinner where we met Fr. Boyle. We ate at a large sharing table with Father and two other couples. The food really was delicious. I had the Dover sole and it was wonderful. They have French onion soup at dinner every evening, but it is never served quite hot enough. French onion soup really needs to be delivered to the table almost boiling.

We were able to manage few sets of dancing in the Ocean Bar. A long as we were doing dances where DH could serve as a substitute cane, I did OK. It will take a while to totally rebuild my strength, but I have no choice but to start from where I am.

After dancing for a while and getting to know few of the other dancers, we decided to call it a day. The end of a wonderful day at sea.

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Thank you for taking the time to post your thoughts; I am really enjoying reading them.


I heard on the news this week that the snow has started falling at Whistler so you should be good to go, as long as your knee holds up. I hope you can build up the strength because there is nothing like the quiet when skiing Whistler/Blackcomb!

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Day three, Alicante, Spain

Alicante is the first of three Spanish ports we will visit. Again we were very blessed with perfect weather and a truly glorious red sun rise.

Room service arrived with our morning coffee promptly at 6:00 a.m. We realize that we could have more food delivered, but don’t like eating before we exercise. DH attended a stretch class at 7:00 a.m. and an ab class at 7:39 while I stretched and did exercises in the room. We are doing a plank challenge to strengthen our cores for skiing, and I am doing push-ups, squats and lots of stretching.

We enjoyed breakfast overlooking the city in the Lido. I have had Eggs Florentine both mornings and they are truly delicious. Are they very fattening?

The port shuttle in Alicante is free and runs frequently. They also have free wifi in the port facility.

We took the free shuttle out of the port and then decided to spare my poor ankle and jump on a Hop On/Hop Off bus which was only $7.00 Euros for seniors. Our fist point of embarkation was the Castillo de Santa Barbara. The site, on top of the highest hill in the city, has been inhabited since the bronze age. That was pretty impressive. Within the castle complex there are elevators which take folks up to higher levels. We went up to the viewpoint from which we could see the entire city and the ship. It was beautiful.

This was a very short port, especially for us as we didn’t get off the ship until about 10:30 and had to reboard before 2:30. We had a couple of things that we wanted to buy, primarily stocking up on wine to cover us for the crossing. We found no one in Alicante who spoke English so I was forced to use my newly acquired Spanish and I was amazed as how well I was able to communicate. I have been studying Spanish for less than two months. J DH at least was very impressed.

We ended up in a fancy wine shop where the wine was much more expensive that the wine we bought in the Todis in Civitavecchia and nowhere near as good. Note to self, in the future, buy lots more Italian wine before boarding the ship. J

Upon returning to the ship, we met a young couple, also from Seattle, who are on an 8 month honeymoon. Lucky them. They said they sold everything they owned to cover the cost of their trip. Very adventuresome.

After a late lunch, we went back to our cabin to rest a bit, review my readings for Mass and dress for Mass and dinner. The microphones in the Vista Lounge where Mass was held were just excellent and the turnout was impressive, probably because a lot of the Sunday tours won’t return until after 5:00 p.m. which is when Sunday Mass begins tomorrow.

One of our former foreign exchange students lives in Malaga, so we will meet him at the dock and plan to be back in around 4:30 so we can attend Mass.

After Mass we went to dinner and were at a very lively and interesting table for 8—two American couples and two Canadian couples. We had a very nice time, followed by a couple of hours dancing in the Ocean Bar. The dance music on the ship is excellent. I just wish I were in better condition for dancing. I can now only do dances where DH is serving as my cane, and even then my ankle tires very quickly. Oh well, little by little I am healing.

Tomorrow we go to Malaga.

Edited by PunkiC
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Thank you 1 of 4 for the snow report. That's exciting and you made DH very happy. I have been doing 15 squats every time I use the bathroom in our cabin, so that should help me build up my strength.


We are really loving this cruise. If HAL hadn't come up with their silly new wine policy, I could see them becoming our favorite cruise line.

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Day Four, Malaga, Spain

Back in about 1997 we had a foreign exchange student from Malaga and today he met us at the dock and gave us a private tour of Malaga. It was a lovely way to see he city on a perfectly beautiful day. For those not so lucky as to have a private tour guide, the shuttle from the ship to town was 2 Euros each way. We also noticed a Hop On/Hop Off bus around town but I do not know how much it cost.

Our first stop in the morning was at the castle and museum. From the top of the highest hill in Malaga, the castle grounds provided a wonderful view of the city in all directions. The museum is small and only mildly interesting, but it is part of the tour of the castle.

We then walked all over Malaga which was full of people walking, and stopping at the many bars and restaurants along the way to talk and enjoy tapas and a glass of wine or beer on a lazy Sunday afternoon. We, of course, joined them and spent an hour or so at an outside bar at a walking intersection where we could catch up on old times and watch the world go by. Just absolutely lovely.

After lunch we walked over to the Cathedral which is well worth a visit. It has about 8 fabulous altars and is a wonderful piece of architecture.

All of the stores were closed with the exception of a few small tourist shops because it was Sunday. I did get a lovely scarf for 6 Euros. If it holds up, it will become one of my favorites as the colors are just stunning.

As long as we had the assistance of a local expert, we decided to pick up some more wine to add to our stash for our crossing. He picked some bottles that he said were very good in the 6-7 Euro range. We will see.

The day wore me out so we returned to the ship at about 3:30 p.m. for a rest before Mass. As it happened I was too tired to get up for Mass and took a nap and ended up eating in the Lido rather than the main dining room. I really wanted some pasta but they were out of fresh garlic (how can a pasta bar be out of garlic) so I just had a salad and the top off a piece of pizza. For better or worse, the pizza on HAL doesn’t hold a candle to Princess pizza. I guess that is a good thing as it keeps me from temptation. J

After dinner I had to go back to the cabin and sleep. This tourist business is exhausting.

For those of you (like me) who are somewhat addicted to the internet, there is wifi available in the port facility in Malaga for 2 Euros but it has a limited number of slots so you can’t always get on. Most of the bars and cafes in town had free wifi.

Speaking of which, I notice that our ship wifi showed a 90 minute session which is way longer than we would ever use. When I asked DH about it, he assured me that he had not been on longer than 30 minutes. He went down to check and it appeared that his logout had failed so they gave us back 60 minutes. That was very decent of them.

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Great reports - glad you are enjoying yourselves :D


Malaga is a great city. And many of the Spanish wines are very good. At 6-7 euros per bottle you should have some decent stuff. Hope you enjoy it:D

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Loving your reports!

It brings back so many wonderful memories of our day in Malaga recently. What a beautiful, walkable city! We, too, enjoyed having tapas and wine at an outdoor café and a fair amount of people watching! I found some lovely Spanish rose there. Also, some rioja that was quite good.

Following a very intensive 1st 7 days of our cruise, we so enjoyed taking it easy in Spain and going out on our own!

I've already booked the Noordam TA for next fall!

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