This was a first time cruise for my wife and I starting off from Ft. Lauderdale for a 10 day cruise. Stops included Half Moon Cay in the Bahamas, St. Thomas USVI, Dominica, Curacao, and Aruba.
Dominica was the port that we liked the most. We took the Rain Forest Tram tour, and it was a really fun time and the tour guides were very friendly and made sure everybody had a good time. All of the stops were great with clear blue waters. Snorkeling was very good at Half Moon Cay and Aruba.
When we first pulled up in the Ramada Inn bus, the lines for embarkation looked long and disorganized. But as soon as we were handed over to the staff of Holland America, things changed very quickly. There were many red jacketed people there to help and point us in the right direction. Within 20 minutes we were welcomed onboard the ship. The entertainment had already started with a band playing and a crew wanting to serve.
At 1:30 pm the announcement came that cabins were ready, so we made our way to our cabin on the Upper Promenade deck. The cabin was larger than expected with the balcony on this deck being about 2 feet wider than on the others to help cover the open deck below, but it is a great benefit for those on deck 4. The cabin was just as described, which is not always the case for rooms. The bed had a pillow top mattress and top quality bedding.
Dining on the Noordam has many options. We ate in the Lido dining room most of the time. The food is the exact same menu as in the Vista dining room, but you are able to see the dishes before ordering. We did dine in the Vista a couple of times, but preferred the Lido.
The staff were so friendly and helpful. The Pinnacle Grill was as nice as any five-star restaurant on land.
The entertainment was very good. The cast of the ms Noordam, which is a 14 member cast of singers and dancers, were really good. Many of the HAL ships do not get very good reviews, but that is not the case with this cast on the Noordam. With featured male and female singers, along with a male and female lead singer, dancers backed them up with 4 each of male and female dancers, they perform some very good shows. The guest performers were also of top quality. As for music, Caren and the HALcats were everywhere from poolside to lounges, and they sounded good no matter where they played. Dave the piano man put on a fun show every night. There was some type of music or show every night for everybody's taste, from a string quartet to piano players, to disco.
One of my favorite things to do each day was that the Exploration Café personnel would give a 30 minute talk about each stop, or a history of the area in general. Some of the talks included Rum Runners, The Real Pirates of the Caribbean, and Under the Keel. These were very informative and interesting even to those not that interested in history.
Holland America's silent disembarkation works very well. You are given a time slot and they leave it up to you to be there. No calling out of group numbers or colors every few minutes; just a smooth fast-moving line all the way to the airport bus.