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Review HAL Noordam Northbound to Alaska


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I have just completed this review which should be posted in the "Reviews" soon. But I'll also include it here as some people don't read the "Reviews" section. I'd be glad to answer any questions as well. It was a great cruise!


We booked this cruise for May 21 - 28 in order to take advantage of the drier weather (May is the least rainy month in these ports) and to avoid large numbers of children since school is still in session during the last week of May. We were successful on both accounts--we only had a bit of light rain in Ketchikan and I saw no more than 10 children on the ship. This was our 3rd HAL cruise and our 13th cruise overall.


Cabin--We had a balcony cabin on the port side. The only time we were able to comfortably sit on the balcony was on the day we departed Vancouver. Even with the warm blankets supplied in our cabins, it was just too cold and windy on the balcony. That was a real shame and I would probably think twice about paying for a balcony on an Alaska cruise. There are just so many other places on board you can watch the scenery. The room was spacious; the bed was comfortable; the steward was efficient.


Dining--On our last HAL cruise (the Baltics), we were disappointed in the food in the MDR. There weren't a lot of choices and the food was lackluster. I thought the food in the MDR was very good on the Noordam. I could always find something that appealed to me and it well prepared. My spouse raved about the prime rib, which was served twice on our 7-day cruise. We ate our breakfasts in the MDR as well and that was the only place where I had a poor meal. The Belgian waffle was hard and cold. The waiter seemed genuinely grieved when I said the food was cold and offered to bring me another, but I was done. I did fine with fruit and cereal instead of the cooked breakfasts. I absolutely loved the real ice cream bar in the Lido. It was a treat for me to have a scoop of ice cream slathered in syrup and Butterfinger bits for dessert each afternoon. And the Dive In burgers, hot dogs and fries were out-of-this-world.


We had Open Dining and it worked like a charm (unlike my experience with Anytime Dining on Carnival). We only waited for a table on the first night and that wait was only a few minutes. Our waiters varied from attentive, friendly and chatty to those that just did their job (but they did do their job well).


Embarkation--We embarked in Vancouver and waited until about 2pm to board. That was a PERFECT time since there was nobody else boarding. All of the HAL staff in the boarding area told us that we had chosen the best time to come as it was busy until 1pm and it would be busy again at 3pm as the late-comers arrived. We were through all of the lines and on the ship in about 30 minutes.


Enrichment Activities--I walked by the computer lab one day and it was full of people wanting to learn how to make movies. But what I was looking for were naturalists, historians, etc. who would give talks about Alaska and there were none. (We'd had a great expert on our HAL cruise of the Baltics.) HAL could really improve on this.


Entertainment--The performer in the Piano Bar, Jeremy Oren, was THE BEST PERFORMER I have ever seen on a cruise ship. We went to the Piano Bar for at least an hour every evening (and generally longer). His "Beatles and Brits" night was the greatest! We also made it to the B.B. King Blues Club a couple of nights and the performances there, as always, were excellent. Although HAL tends not to have a great variety of entertainment, what they do is very, very good.


Fitness and Recreation--I went to the fitness center everyday and there was always plenty of equipment available to use. (The first day at sea was busy in the gym, but never again after that.) I also appreciated the free stretching classes offered in the morning and early evening and went to those several times. There were a few machines which were out-of-order for the entire cruise, but since the gym was never full, it wasn't a problem. But HAL should take care of that.


A GOOD HINT: The morning that we were in Glacier Bay, we got up at 7:30 am for breakfast. We decided to eat from the Lido that day and managed to find a table next to a window portside in the area around the Lido pool (which is covered). We discovered that we could see everything so well from the large, clear picture window that there was no need to get bundled up to go outside. We sat comfortable in those chairs all morning and heard the commentary by the National Park Service ranger very well. My spouse got up and one point and went to the aft area on Deck 9 (Sea View Pool) and said that people were standing there 6-deep. So, if you want a warm, comfortable place to sit during the entire cruise through Glacier Bay--get a table next to the port windows. (You are closer to land on the port side.)


Overall, I thought this was an excellent cruise and we received value for money. I would sail HAL again.

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Thank you for your review.

Glad you enjoyed your Alaskan cruise.

One of our Alaskan cruises was is May and we had rain every day. Glad you didn't. We had friends that went the next year at the exact same time we had cruised and guess what -- like you -- they had beautiful weather.

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Your review covered so many practical points people really want to know. Thanks and glad you enjoyed your cruise.


Felt the same way about having an unused balcony on that trip, but did enjoy having the full window verandah door in our cabin that allowed us to sit inside and still enjoy the passing scenery. (Zuiderdam - Signature suite cabin - lots of nice windows)


Our favorite indoor viewing spot was poolside under the covered glass dome - funny to see all the chairs pointing outwards towards the windows on that cruise, instead of more typically inwards looking at the pool. Loved the warm greenhouse feeling of the Lido.

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Thanks for the tips and insights even if different ship.


QUOTE]I would probably think twice about paying for a balcony on an Alaska cruise.


Yes, we thought this to for exactly the same reasons. Many feel a "Balcony is a MUST for Alaska" and I just don't agree. Last time we spent very little time on it. We originally booked an inside on this coming cruise but with circumstances (ship switch and price lowering) we upgraded to a balcony but will likely spend more time on deck or in 10 Forward (Crows Nest).


Not sure where the concept of May being drier comes from or why the weather farther north would be so much different from Seattle. In Seattle May is a wet month with heavier showers than the rest of the year. Dry months are August and September. Here along the North Pacific coast it is counter intuitive to ever think of May as dry. :confused: But every year is different and any given week can be very different from the last or next.

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I'm not a meteorolgist (any kind of scientist), so I can't explain the difference in precipitation, but I did my research which confirmed what I had read in the guidebooks about the precipitation in Alaska. In fact, unlike Seattle, August and September are the "rainy months" of the cruise season in Southwest Alaska.

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