CruiseMates' Readers Cruise Reviews


Holland America Line Noordam by Diane C. Alaska July 8, 2007

We just got back from our cruise on the Noordam July 8th-15th, 2007. It was a very relaxed and wonderful cruise.

The only time I smelled cigarette smoke was walking by the Ocean Bar (and it was pungent) and going into the casino. The air was fairly good in the casino despite that, unless someone lit up right by you. I just try to hold my breath walking thru those areas and try not to go by there. My husband usually went to the casino without me after I went to bed. Smoking is the worst part of any cruise for me.

I loved the people on our cruise and the cruise personnel. They were wonderful. We had a Verandah and enjoyed it so much. Alaska is beautiful. One morning I woke up and opened my curtains to Juneau. Oh my gosh, it took my breath away. The green mountain with the little pictuesque town below. We took Captain Larry's Whale Quest, Orca's Enterprises, booked before the cruise (not a ship excursion). It was great. We saw lots of orcas, whales -- including a baby orca -- eagles and seals. One thing we never saw were bears. The people in Alaska are so friendly.

It rained on us in Sitka. We went into the Luthern church waiting for the Caholic church to open. Oh my gosh, they gave us a very informative personal tour. Just wonderful and much better than the cathedral that was drab inside and not as friendly, except this one lady who looked like pictures of Russians with her round face, scarf and big smile on her face. We asked some question and she was happy to answer for us. I needed some personal things and found the drug store that had exactly what I needed. The only thing I collect are the ink pens for souvernirs and there were none with Sitka on them -- just Alaska. At one store this lady gave me her business pen that had Sika on it. Not fancy, but it was free.

The worse part of this whole trip, which was wonderful, was Victoria, Canada. We took the Butchart Garden tours booked thru the ship. No fireworks, no enchanting lighted gardens cause we left before it got dark and before the fireworks. The parking lot was packed with busses (big busses like ours, which was a greyhound). We walked in with a crowd of people and we couldn't get away from that crowd of people thru all the paths and all the stores. It was just packed with people. Very warm and miserable despite walking off the boat with a cool breeze blowing. There were two other large cruise ships in port besides the Noordam. The only openness in the Garden was where a group was playing on a stage and people were sitting on a lawn viewing area. This had the most room, but who had time to sit down (with no blanket - no one ever said you might need a blanket to sit on). We had 2-1/2 hours to see the gardens and get our souvenirs. Another tourist trap. We got a bottle of Coke and a bottle of water for $6 (we were so thirsty after going down the paths). $42 for 3 shot glasses, 3 junky-looking ink pens, and 2 keychains with a little fuzzy teddy bear on them. Junk for $42. Eeeek.

It was curious how that tour was not included in the dvd that showed about the cruise. Showed a lot of excursions, but not that one. Wonder why? Could it be they didn't want to show how awful it is? We got the dvd free since we booked 12 people at one time. I could have done without Victoria cause it marred my good feeling about the cruise and wonderful Alaska. We could see Seattle's lights when we left Victoria, so why the rush to leave? Why couldn't they have stayed in port long enough for us to see the fireworks and the enchantment of the lighted garden after dark? We met in the Vista Lounge for all the excursions at 6 pm. We stayed in port till 11:59. But it wasn't enough time. Not sure I wanted to be in that crowd any longer, but they could have left the ship later and got us there and let us stay when it was dark. Basically stay away from this excursion if you want to keep your wonderful feelings about the cruise.

We embarked and disembarked very smoothly. No herding around in crowds. Thumbs up to Noordam and Holland America for the wonderful organization of those. The suitcases were grouped by the color you disembarked with. Yet on this Victoria excursion we were herded around. The paths were so crowded, just constantly bumping into people and losing my husband and getting apart from the rest of our group.

I have learned a really hard lesson here, and that is to not book excursions thru the ship. I will be leery of excursions booked thru the cruise line in the future. Study these boards and find out what is good and book on your own, or go out and explore on your own; anything but the ship's excursion. Beware of Butchart Garden also. It's a terrible experience!

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