The 1,848-passenger ms Noordam will soon be kicking off it’s inaugural Caribbean season sailing from New York City, with 13 Caribbean cruises from its new North American home port. Although I am not sailing on the Noordam’s inaugural cruise on February, I had the rare opportunity to stay on board overnight, last night. Holland America is no stranger to New York. They operated from Manhattan’s Pier 40 in the 60’s and 70’s and they were headquartered in New York from 1978 to 1983. The Noordam’s NYC round trip Caribbean cruises mark the line’s return to the Big Apple.
Although I sailed in December, 2005 on Norwegian Cruise Line’s Norwegian Dawn for an 11-day cruise to the sun, the Holland America Line’s Noordam cruise experience is different. Holland America Line’s average traveler tends to be more mature and well-traveled. While the Dawn appeals more to families and a slightly younger crowd for whom the traditional formality of a cruise experience would be too confining. Although Holland America embraces families, it’s not really a ship for party animals and young children. There are plenty of activities and things to do in the evening, but the Holland America crowd knows how to amuse themselves without annoying others. We checked out the evening revue show, but being New Yorkers the “salute to Broadway” song and dance numbers didn’t really amuse us, so instead, we just walked around this beautiful, new ship, feeling a bit like royalty. By the way, the bars are all well stocked with a variety of choices in every category and price point. When we asked for a pina colada the bartender mixed it up fresh, not extruded out from an icky, sticky, overly-sweet, frozen drink machine. It was delicious!
One thing I really like about the level of quality on Holland America are the little touches that travelers used to generic hotels on land may not notice, but discerning travelers, will. There are fresh flowers all over the place in beautiful arrangements, even in the buffet areas and in all of the cabins. I spied a young woman with a watering can actually watering lovely pots of out-of-season tulips, and there are orchids plants, everywhere. Cheerful, polite waiters offer pour your morning coffee in the buffet and carry your plate and help you to a seat. When we ordered pancakes this morning they were made to order and presented with a cover for our plate (so the food wouldn’t get cold). And the quality of the shops was much better than on most cruise ships, with jewelry that I’d love to have owned! Of course they were closed in port so all I could do was gaze the goodies through the locked windows. Maybe next time.
We dined in the special, extra tariff restaurant last night. My husband had a huge porterhouse and I had lamb chops. There were so many delicious things to choose. The creamed spinach was fantastic, and the triple-flavored creme for dessert was the best I’ve ever had, anywhere! The regular restaurant has two seatings and I’d make an educated guess that the food is very good there, as well.
There are many verandah cabins on the ship in various categories. I don’t think ours was one of the largest ones, and there was still plenty of room for a wicker-style deck chair and ottoman, an armchair and even a small table. I can image how wonderful it would be to wrap up in a deck robe and watch the world go by en route to the sun. I think the nicest part of any cruise, no matter where, is looking over the rail at the water rushing by the hull, watching for shooting stars at night, or, perhaps, just the lights of another cruise ship in the distance. The ms Noordam is the fourth and last in a series of 81,769-ton Vista class ships. 85% of its staterooms will have ocean views, with 67 % of all staterooms sporting verandahs. It has the line’s “Signature of Excellence” amenities, including plush Euro-top mattresses and flat panel TVs and dvd players in all cabins, and an at-sea version of the Greenhouse Spa and Salon. I also liked the high quality robes (which we weren’t invited to take, but actual passengers can purchase these for $49 and they will even monogram them! I think they’re a fantastic buy. Wish I had one). I also liked the swing-out makeup mirror, and generous closet space. As cruise ship bathrooms go, ours was relatively spacious. I particularly liked the high quality Elemis soaps and shampoo. Even better, the beds were incredibly comfortable, and we had the added benefit of sleeping in one that no one had ever used before, as we were voyage #1 even though we didn’t leave the dock.
In the middle of the night I thought we were actually moving, but I guess it was wishful thinking. When I awoke in the morning, the lights of the pier were shining in the window and I realized we were still in NYC. Then, after a quick breakfast in the lido buffet (our in-cabin breakfast arrived too late), a series of cheerful but insistent announcements informed us that we had to leave the ship at 8:00 so the next group of travel agents, media and so forth could come in and experience the ship for an overnight. I felt a pang of jealousy as I spied the newbies ready to board the ship as we were leaving, but how could I be greedy after experiencing this exceptional opportunity, first? And, I honestly felt like we’d been somewhere, even though it was just an overnight at the dock.
The next time I board the Noordam I hope it’s for an actual cruise. I have been on more than 50 of them. The minute my feet hit the gangway I relax…and make the ship my home until I have to actually go home for good. Cruise travel is a fantastic experience whether you are young, old, an experienced traveler, or a first-timer.
More About the Noordam and Holland America (from press materials I got on board):
New York Caribbean cruises feature a 10-day Eastern Caribbean itinerary that visits Grand Turk, Turk and Caicos; Tortola, British Virgin Islands; Philipsburg, St. Maarten; St. Thomas, U.S. Virgin Islands; and San Juan, Puerto Rico. Departures sail on February 22, March 15, April 5, October 25, November 15, and December 6 and 27, 2006. There is also an 11-day Southern Caribbean itinerary calls at Tortola, British Virgin Islands; St. Thomas, U.S. Virgin Islands; Roseau, Dominica; Bridgetown, Barbados; Philipsburg, St. Maarten; and San Juan, Puerto Rico. Sailings depart Mr. 4 and 25; Oct. 14; Nov. 4 and 25; and Dec. 16, 2006. In addition, two 16-day transatlantic cruises sail between New York and Rome, departing New York on April 5 for Rome and returning on September 28. Ports of call feature Bermuda; the Azores; Cadiz, Valencia and Barcelona, Spain; Monte Carlo, Monaco; and Livorno, Italy. Pricing for Holland America Lines new 2006 New York-based Caribbean cruises start at US$1,199 per person, double occupancy.