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Navy_Chief

Noordam review 12/6 to 12/16

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First, sorry for the delay in posting this. Work has a tendancy to pile up when you go away.

 

MS Noordam December 6th through December 16th

 

Hometown Motor coach: We were set up as part of our package with bus transportation from New London to New York. This was really a great deal that we had picked up as a promo after the fact and was well worth it. We arrived at the New London Amtrak station right about 08:15 to see my parents, my brother and sister in law just heading for the door to get out of the cold. Just as they got in, I saw the Academy Coach pull up, go figure. This was a good omen in my book, the bus had arrived 30 minutes early. Curious though, there were no other pax on board (more on that in a bit). Checking into and boarding the bus was a breeze and we pulled away right on time. First stop, New Haven where we picked up more pax. The bus was ¾ full now as we headed to New York and the Noordam, with a brief 20 minute rest stop in Milford along I95. I noticed another Academy bus; I didn’t think much of it as this company charters many busses. I decided to stretch my legs a bit and asked the driver why we saw no other passengers on the bus in New London. He said there were so many pax traveling from all the stops that they split the busses up. The bus next to us had the folks from Boston and Provenance on board.

 

The return was just as easy. We were called to disembark about 10:15. Our luggage was on the pier and ready to go. We got a porter to take our entire groups luggage to the bus. Passing though customs was a breeze, we turned in the card we had filled out and we were on our way. Once we reached the bus, we turned in our vouchers and were on our way by 11:00. We arrived back in New London by 2:30 PM, an hour and a half ahead of schedule.

 

Arrival and check-in: We arrived right around 12:30 as I suspected we would. We got off the bus and ensured our luggage came off the bus. We headed to the elevator which took us to Level 2. We were given a number (22) and were seated in the main hall to be called in. This wait was not that bad, about 10 or 15 minutes before we were called to pass through security. Once through security, we got to the check-in counter which wound around in the typical waiting line snake. It was about 10 or 15 more minutes until we had keys in hand and headed for the gangway. There was one couple behind us saying that Celebrity was easier to check into. Of course, it seemed to me that with all the busses pulling up as we arrived, this process went smooth enough (not more than 30 minutes).

 

On Board and to the stateroom: We got on board and headed to the stateroom. We were assigned a VB on the upper veranda deck starboard side near the aft elevators. My parents were assigned to port, same deck in a VB. These were the result of a GTY VF, we were most satisfied. We got to the stateroom which was very nice. Our first glitch I had noticed was that the Tux we pre-ordered was not in the stateroom. The second thing was we had ordered a “Let’s Celebrate” package for all three rooms (this package contains a picture frame, voucher for a picture of your choosing from the Photo Gallery, champagne of the domestic persuasion, a voucher for a cake, and fresh flowers). We seemed to be missing the flowers. Our first piece of luggage arrived shortly behind us and I asked our room steward where the tux and flowers were. He explained that the tuxes were a bit behind schedule but would arrive in the morning. That was fine considering our first formal was scheduled on the 8th. None the less, my wife wasn’t happy about the flowers not being in the stateroom, not so much for us, but for my parents and brother (this is their first cruise), they were too excited to really notice. Someone posted a review I read saying there was limited drawer space on the Noordam. I suppose you could look at it that way as all you see are the night stands however, look a bit closer. If you lift up the edging at the foot of the bed you will find two big drawers, full of extra linen, which could be quickly relocated to one of the large closets or taken away by the room steward. The bed is tall enough with ample space to stash a couple of large suitcases under (and then some). When the tux arrived, I tried it on and only required a minor alteration to the sleeve length which was taken care of by the ship’s Taylor (no cost of course). The flowers also arrived the next day. Let me say that these beds are out of this world. I can compare them to some of the Hilton Hotels I’ve been in on business trip, outstanding!

 

Sail Away: Before departure, we had talked about doing sail away from the Crow’s Nest on our Roll Call. Little did we know we had a group on board who sucked up that space for their own and that was that (could be why our CC meeting got bumped out of there for the afternoon of the 7th?). We did meet dorothyl (Carolynn and Carmine) outside the Crow’s Nest and chatted briefly. We decided to take in the NYC skyline from my parent’s veranda instead of on the crowded Lido. We were scheduled for Early Lower dining and we headed for the dining room at about 5:30 for the first night. We were not disappointed with the table assignment, it was exactly what I had asked for when booking, Table for six next to the windows (port side aft). The shades were still drawn but enough passengers asked to have them raised and they were raised to let us view NYC falling away behind us. I must say that there is a bit of noise from the screws turning back there but nothing we couldn’t live with. After dinner, we headed back to the stateroom to find our last piece of luggage and fresh fruit had arrived.

 

The Ship itself: Looking at this ship it’s no wonder I like HAL, wood and polished brass abounds on this ship. The Ship’s Atrium has a “Christmas Tree” hanging from the centerpiece and garland along all the railings. Christmas music (with a calypso kind of steel drum sound) is piped low through the ship’s PA system. The ship is nicely laid out and easy to get around on. Amazingly, the very first day is warm enough to be on the veranda without a jacket however, it is the ocean and, of course with that, comes the salt build up on the rails and such. I recommend that you use one of the towels to do a “Fresh Water Wipe Down” of the railings and table tops. This is probably done by your room steward but my wife won’t let him in the room until at least 11:00. One note of interest, we lost cabin power briefly around 11:00 for about 10 minutes. We didn’t lose speed so I’m sure this was an isolated incident and not ship wide (the passageway lights were still on as well.

 

We had our CC Meet n Greet, had most of us there. The Hotel Manager, Captain, and Cruise Director all attended. It was great to finally put a face to the name. The ship provided Coffee, Tea, Water and cookies. The Hotel Manager listened very closely to members of the group and took notes regarding suggestions by our group.

 

Showtime: We went to our first show, a Las Vegas review, put on by the Noordam Cast. Here is the breakdown from our first time cruisers (Parents and Brother/Sister n law):

 

  • Artistic presentation: 4
  • Choreography: 3
  • Technical Presentation: 4

Scale of 1 to 5.

 

Overall an enjoyable show and everyone had a good time. We also caught the comedy duo of Wilde & Haines. These guys kept us all rolling throughout their whole show. I’m not going to give anything else away about that, it wouldn’t be fair to the folks who haven’t caught their act; you won’t be disappointed! We saw the “adults only” comedy of Michael Ziegfeld, he rates a 2.5 on a 1 to 5 scale for a comedian (my opinion, there were plenty of folks that found him amusing, I’ve just seen better I guess). He does do ventriloquism and isn’t too bad at it, I’ll give him at 4 in that aspect. The crew also did the Philippine Crew Show; I thought they did a really good job putting it together despite all the hard work they do for us during the day and deserve a big hand from us. I recommend you see this show if you can and support their efforts to entertain us yet again from a different perspective.

 

Here is the run down of the entertainment:

 

Departure Day – Michael Ziegfeld (comedian) – did not attend.

Day 1 – Will Allenby (singer, baritone) – did not attend.

Day 2 – “That’s Vegas” by the Noordam cast (see above)

Day 3 – Wilde and Haines (Comedy Team) Very good

Day 4 – Michael Ziegfeld (comedian) – Adults show, Fair performance.

Day 5 – Noordam cast, Tommy Tune’s “Paparazzi” – same rating as before.

Day 6 – Salima Wazir, Musician – did not attend, heard it was a good show.

Day 7 – Mack & Jamie (Comedy Team) – Good

Day 8 – Noordam cast, “If walls could rock” Good

Day 9 – Farewell show, several of the previous performers.

 

Here is a rundown of what is currently available in the various lounges:

 

  • Jessie and the HAL Cats – mostly on the Lido Deck
  • Emily – Pianist in the Crow’s Nest
  • Porto Fino – can be found in the Ocean Bar
  • Champagne Strings can be found in the Explorer’s Lounge
  • Randall Powell can be found in the Piano Bar (I haven’t had a chance to chat with him on his schedule)
  • DJ Dustin is in the Northern Lights Disco.

We also took in round one of the “Noordam Superstars” (the ship’s version of “American Idol”). This was made up of different passengers singing karaoke and was entertaining with those who could sing and comical with those who could not sing that well; overall, we were entertained.

 

Port of Call:

 

Grand Turk: The weather was scattered and broken clouds as we entered the port this morning; winds were whipping up fairly strong. There isn’t very much to see here on this island so the plan was for us to take in the shops seeing the visit was short (07:30 to 13:30 on board). A note of interest, Grand Turk is in EST and therefore shore time is different than ship’s time (at least this is what was passed over the PA system after the ship had cleared customs). One of our CC group members, cottagequilter (Donna) had set up an arrangement for some of the CCrs to have a day at the Grand Turk Inn. I’ll ask her to amend this thread with a report of how that went. As far as the shops go, some prices were reasonable, others were not. Dan, the ships “Shopping Guru” gives talks about shops in the cruise guide but the shops are what they are here.

 

Roadtown BVI: Nice weather was the order of the day. The approach took us through several islands and was a great way to spend the morning on the veranda. We had decided to just do a little shopping and then relax on the ship (it was Sunday after all). My parents signed up for one of the shore excursions that took them around the island so they could see some of the history and lifestyle on the island. They reported that they had an enjoyable day riding around in the open “bus”. On our way back from shopping, we did enquire how much it costs from one of the port officials to take a tour and he said $20 each. My folks took the cultural tour with HAL and the cost was $54 each. They did get some free drink at Skyworld when they stopped for the view. Of course, there is no real reference to compare the difference between signing with HAL and just picking up a tour while ashore on your own. There are several little tents just outside the port gates that you can buy “souvenirs” at; make sure you haggle for the price of sun dresses or tee shirts and the like.

 

St. Maartin: This is a very nicely arranged port. We weren’t tied to any tours so we were in no hurry to get ashore. We waited until the crowd died down. There were 3 other ships pierside so the initial “Rush” ashore was reminiscent of a busy day in any big city with “Rush Hour” traffic; it made it interesting to see from our veranda (which was pierside to). Another note of interest, the Italian based cruise ship we saw in Roadtown was at anchor in the harbor. She was tendering passengers’ right to town and bypassed the pier stores all together. The initial push aside, we went ashore about 11:30 for shopping. I noticed the prices for booze at the pierside stores was lower in price than the stores in the center of town. This makes it nice to do you’re shopping in town and come back for the booze before you go back to the ship. Most of the stores are jewelry stores so if you’re into buying jewelry, this is the place for you. The other big thing is the electronics stores; there are lots of them as well. My brother and sister n law stopped by one jewelry store just to browse; one of the sales associates noticed a ring she was wearing and had some matching ear rings to go with it. He thought the ring she was wearing was genuine and worth $2000 (it, of course, was not, a QVC special worth about $35). So either he was just trying to get them to buy the overpriced ear rings by complementing her taste or just doesn’t know what he was doing; like a good cliff hanger, you decide. The also related another story to me about some woman who was trying to get them interested in a “Time Share”. She gave them some scratch cards and wanted them to see this place which was away from the pier somewhere. They blew her off and she was getting rude and upset; too bad. This may have been some sort of scam to lure them away from town or something. I was not with them so we don’t know for sure. My shopping was a little more subdued as I had specific stores and goods in mind. You will find all kinds of souvenirs here to load down your already overstuffed baggage (flyers beware; this could cost you all that savings in the long run at the baggage counter). The water taxi to town was easy to use; just $5 will get you a wrist band to be able to ride all day long. “Down Town” was dressed up in the Christmas Spirit and was very pleasant to shop at. All the shopping is within walking distance of the taxi landing and you can easily spend the better part of the day doing just that. I ran into another passenger who I had met earlier on (a retired marine) who said he took the beach bash tour the ship offered. He said it was a good time but started late in the day (1:45 PM).

 

St. Thomas: This port signaled our arrival back into US soil which means before anything else, it was Immigration Time! For those early risers, breakfast was served in the Lido at 06:30. At 07:15, the announcements came for people (in alphabetical order by the last name) to report to immigration (mind you, I can only report for the US citizens). The process was very smooth; people were directed to the Queens Lounge with passport and a white card given to each person within a stateroom (used by the crew to take muster of who showed up). Passengers entered through the Queens Lounge, passed to the left, handed in your white card, went into the Northern Lights disco, showed your passport to the INS agents, were given a Blue card stating you were cleared and went out. The whole process took less than 5 minutes (I saw the process take 45 minutes on Carnival); I applaud HAL for their efficiency, 5 Stars for immigration screening. We docked at Havensight; they have a very nice shopping area there but alas, mostly Jewelry stores, booze, cigarettes, and your usual variety of nic nacs. We shopped around a bit; my wife and mother purchased the usual (or unusual) stuff. I got a few shirts. Next we went up the Tram to the top of the hill for a view of the harbor; it was a great view from up there, we could see Carnival Liberty and Ryndam in Crown Bay. I spoke with a passenger off Liberty and asked if the shops were open yet in Crown Bay, she said they were not but was told that they would open in March.

 

San Juan: This is another port I’ve been to and not much that I would like to see. I would say that the forts are an interesting thing to see and within walking distance of the ship (about ½ mile or so I think; you can see it from the ship). This port call is so short.

 

General observations:

 

Food: Unless you’re spoiled with your own personal chef, the food on the ship is top shelf in my book; well prepared, presented and served just so. I overheard one couple complaining that Celebrity was better because the food was served hot. Personally, I don’t want to burn off the roof of my mouth nor do I want to blow on the food in an effort to cool it down nor watch the food for ten minutes for it to cool down. The food is served on warmed plates and can be eaten strait away without all those “hot potato” rituals.

 

Cabins: We are in a VB cabin, deck six, near the aft elevators. The room is great and our steward takes care of any requests no matter how trivial. These cabins are very spacious and having a veranda is really nice (we had ocean views before; now Niki will settle for nothing less than a veranda). There is no noise or anything from the elevators at all. This ship seems to be well insulated.

 

Drinks: Of course, the usual “free bees” abound (juice, water, coffee, tea, iced tea, milk, and of course, Hot Chocolate). If you want a bit more, you can save on fountain drinks by pre-purchasing soda cards. As far as mixed drinks, Rum & Coke will cost $6.04 after the gratuity is added in; a domestic beer will cost you $4.54 (after gratuity); wine varies depending on your taste.

 

Fellow passengers: Most are very friendly and will pass on a “hello”. There are the occasional “Sour Pusses” but what can you do. Either way, you feel like a movie star with the paparazzi following you around or cornering as you pass by and every crew member wants your autograph.

 

Evening Dress: Here is the evening dress called out in the daily programs throughout the cruise:

 

  • December 6: Casual
  • December 7: Informal
  • December 8: Formal
  • December 9: Casual
  • December 10: Casual
  • December 11: Informal (Formal optional)
  • December 12: Casual
  • December 13: Informal
  • December 14: Formal
  • December 15: Casual

Beverage Cards: I spoke with the Beverage Manager; he expects that Wine Cards will be in place after the next two cruises which mean the January cruises will have them. There will be two kinds of wine cards; one for house wines and one for premium wines. There is also a card coming out for Signature Cocktails as well. So that means the following will be available at some point in 2007:

 

  • Soda Cards (in place now)
  • Coffee Cards (in place now)
  • Wine Cards (expected January 07)
  • Signature Cocktail Cards (sometime 2007)

The negative part of the cruise: The Park West Art Group seems to think they own this ship. They had a group of “High Roller” art collectors on board who not only took over the Crow’s Nest 3 of 4 sea days but sail away as well. If that wasn’t enough, they completely took over the Ocean Bar as well as the 3rd deck Atrium the 3rd sea day; they seemed to have little concern for passengers’ safety as they cluttered up the main passageway leading aft from the Atrium. Now I’m a seasoned sailor who has little difficulty with “Sea Legs” but, many passengers who don’t maneuver very easily could have fallen into these “Artworks” that were stacked four deep against the walls of each side of the passageway making the passage an extra 3 feet more narrow. This was an obvious lack of Risk management on HAL’s part to allow this.

 

Noordam overall: Our overall experience was excellent; I recommend this ship for those who like things refined and not the all night party crowd. The crew puts 110% effort forth to please the passengers 110% of the time. Despite the auto tipping, we did show our appreciation to those crew members we directly interacted with.

 

Here are the links to the pictures I took: Noordam 06

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Thank you Navy Chief for a very informative and comprehensive report. Your report brings back our memories of our cruise on the Noordam last April. We enjoyed it so much that we are booked on the ship in February and looking forward to an enjoyable cruise.

 

Was interested in the Academy bus program. Unfortunately,we live in the Hartford area and that does not work out for us.

 

Have an enjoyable holiday.

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Thanks for the review. We just booked the 11 day (March 10) because HA is offereing pretty good pricing. Can you tell us about the dining times? Were they using "windows" or did they actually try to get everyone to show-up at the appropriate times? As to Park West, these art auctions have become such a big profit center for the cruise lines that its not surprising that they keep taking over lots of space. We are always amazed at how many cruisers will purchase art which is usually overpriced and generally not even anything special. I love when they get a few bidders to go real high, and than they award the art to each of them (limited edition litographs or seriographs where they have hundreds of copies). I guess if folks feel like they got a good deal all is OK, but I wonder how many truly know the real value of their purchases. We have found that the art auctions can sometimes be the best entertainment on the ships...especially when they have a good auctioneer.

 

Hank

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Thanks Navy Chief..The photo's are wonderful as was your entire review. We will be on the VB deck in April in the aft section as you were. How large is the veranda? Since we have been to all these islands many times, we spend most of the time on deck enjoying our veranda. Will the veranda accomodate a lounge chair if one or both of the small chairs were removed?

 

Thanks again.

 

Jim

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Thanks Navy Chief..The photo's are wonderful as was your entire review. We will be on the VB deck in April in the aft section as you were. How large is the veranda? Since we have been to all these islands many times, we spend most of the time on deck enjoying our veranda. Will the veranda accomodate a lounge chair if one or both of the small chairs were removed?

 

Thanks again.

 

Jim

 

Jim, the balconies for VB cabins are fairly spacious. They have two chairs, an automan, and a small round table. My wife enjoyed a day in the sun out there and was quite comfortable in the larger chair and automan. We both enjoyed sitting out there during the passage to Roadtown.

 

Hank,

 

Yes the dining windows were in place. Because our family group contained 6, it was easy to coordinate our dining times. We were early seating so our "Show Up" window was 5:30 to 6 PM. Late seating had a window of 8 to 9 PM. This can work even if your seated with other couples. It should be discussed the first night and should be no problem. Another alternative would be to organize the CCrs on the Roll Call to sit together. This can be arranged through one of the TAs by linking the bookings together for dining. This was something some of our group experimented with and it worked out very well for the 3 couples and one of the single members on our roll call.

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I really enjoyed your report and the pictures. Thank you for sharing your cruise with us.

 

Griswalds

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It is always interesting to read other people's reviews of the same cruise you were on because it is such a large ship, with diverse interests, things that bothered others didn't seem to affect us, and things others did not notice really got to us..... For example, we did not notice the art folks, we are definately not artsy people. But, we found it really annoying when they painted around an entire deck (observation) right next to the sunbathers during a sea day! The smell was overwhelming! It seemed to me they could have scheduled painting for a port day when no one was there....The entertainment was hit or miss, not really terrific overall. Our impression of the entertainment was similar to Navy Chief...

 

Departure Day – Michael Ziegfeld (comedian) – Fair, I've seen better

Day 1 – Will Allenby (singer, baritone) – not to our liking, walked out of show

Day 2 – “That’s Vegas” by the Noordam cast (good)

Day 3 – Wilde and Haines (Comedy Team) Very good-I agree the best show overall

Day 4 – Michael Ziegfeld (comedian) – Adults show, Fair performance.

Day 5 – Noordam cast, Tommy Tune’s “Paparazzi” – good, not terrific

Day 6 – Salima Wazir, Musician – FABULOUS! She was great and unusual!

Day 7 – Mack & Jamie (Comedy Team) – Okay

Day 8 – Noordam cast, “If walls could rock” Good

Day 9 – Farewell show, several of the previous performers Good

Mantinee on last sea day with Noordam singers-Don't miss this one~Just singing with the band GREAT!!!!!

 

Overall, a great cruise, but I learned that HAL is a more sedate cruise than RCI, with fewer planned activities during sea days. I would have liked more to do, but that's the classy HAL relaxation experience!

JMHO, Jan

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But, we found it really annoying when they painted around an entire deck (observation) right next to the sunbathers during a sea day! The smell was overwhelming! It seemed to me they could have scheduled painting for a port day when no one was there....

It won't happen. When groups set up their cruise activities, they almost never schedule anything for the hours that the ship is in port. After all, part of the attraction of a group cruise is the interaction with your group and the free time in the ports. Otherwise, there would be no need to book a`cruise... just hold a three or four day conference in a hotel somewhere.

 

I do agree with your implied premise, though, that groups should not intrude on the non-group passengers' enjoyment of their cruise.

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Chief,

 

Thanks for the great review and the pictures. It has wetted our appetite to try the Noordam. We will have to see what it is doing when it is in Seattle and Alaska.

 

:D

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Thank You Navy Chief.... for the review and the pictures ! Excellent on both count.

I am interested in the type of camera you use to get such great photos... care to share ?

Thanks

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It won't happen. When groups set up their cruise activities, they almost never schedule anything for the hours that the ship is in port. After all, part of the attraction of a group cruise is the interaction with your group and the free time in the ports. Otherwise, there would be no need to book a`cruise... just hold a three or four day conference in a hotel somewhere.

 

I do agree with your implied premise, though, that groups should not intrude on the non-group passengers' enjoyment of their cruise.

 

I think you misunderstood me~ They were not painting as an activity, the CREW was repainting the black stripe around the perimeter of the observation deck! I think they could have scheduled maintenance for a port day! Jan

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Thank You Navy Chief.... for the review and the pictures ! Excellent on both count.

I am interested in the type of camera you use to get such great photos... care to share ?

Thanks

 

Sure, it's a Sony MVC CD-350, 3.2 Megapixels, stores the images onto a mini DVD-RW. It holds about 81 images per disk or about 70 minutes of MPEG. I bought it back in 2004; I don't think they make them anymore :D

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Job well done, Chief! Really enjoyed reading your review and looking at the pics gives you the "total package" of your cruise aboard Noordam. I don't care for those art auctions either but someone "in the know" told me they're a great money maker for HAL, too bad, guess they're here to stay! Is Noordam's bar at the bottom of the atrium also called "the Olive Pit" a la Oosterdam's? Do their bartenders give the Martini mixing classes? (a favorite of my wife:eek: )

Thanks for the pics showing the pier at Sint Maarten (have not been there since the pier was built). Looks like the vessel approaching Sint Maarten in one of your pics is one of the German Aida's with the eyes and lips on the bow (could be a NCL also). Charlotte Amalie still looks like a store sale on the day after Thanksgiving with up to five large ships in port:eek: Grand Turk looks interesting. Thanks again for sharing! Go Navy!

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I never heard the Atrium Bar referred to as the "Olive Pit" John but that would be an appropriate name though considering that's where the Martini classes are held :D and yes the bartenders do give the classes. The ship that looks like it was approaching is in fact at anchorage because there was no more room at the pier and you have a good eye, it is an Aida, the same one I had not expected to see pierside in Roadtown, BVI either:)

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