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Overall Rating
Family Friendliness
Shore Excursions
Henry H

Age: 55


Number of Cruises: 1

Cruise Line: Holland America

Ship: Noordam

Sailing Date: 2011-09-15

Itinerary: Mediterranean Adventure

Having had just over a year contemplating what my wife and I experienced last year on our first (and possibly last) cruise, I would have to say that I would have never have booked a 20 day cruise, without first having experienced a much shorter cruise first, if I could do it over.

The food experience varied quite a bit.

The Lido deck dining was below par, with basically the same menu, day in, day out. It was bland fare, and they attempted to make the foods seem more exotic than they were in actuality. Sweet sauces abounded.

Breakfast buffet was the same every day, and the buffet opened too late if you were planning a shore excursion, so we ended up scrounging what we could, so that we would not be totally hungry during the day trips.

Lunches on the Lido deck were also the same. On arrival back from one morning trip, we arrived back at the ship to find the buffets closing down ( this was at about 13:00 hours, ship's time ). Many other morning tours arrived back at the same time. You can imagine that there was a small mutiny brewing, if they had not reopened the buffets.

Believe it or not, you could not get a pain old hamburger, or fish and chips during this cruise, except through room service.

If you do use room service, please be prepared for disappointment. Limited food selection; you wait a long time to get it; and when you do, at least for the hamburgers, anyway, they are cold on arrival, and not completely cooked through properly.

I will address it more fully later, but my wife and I, with at least a quarter of the crew and passengers, got sick midway through the voyage. I noticed that sick food preparers and handlers were still on duty, while hacking and sneezing into the food.

We did, however, enjoy the Vista dining experience in the evening. Staff were attentive, fun to talk to, and the food was good. The only negative thing I can say about this was that it was a 10-day meal rotation, with the second half of our twenty-day cruise being repeated.

The best of all the dining was the Pinnacle Grill, to which we signed up for, although it is $20/person extra. We went twice during our 20-day cruise, and really enjoyed the experience.< br />
We were not impressed with our stateroom at all.

Initially, prior to boarding the vessel, we were assigned a room on a lower deck. On boarding, we were told we were getting a better stateroom on the Navigator deck (specifically room 8088 ). The room was large enough for us, but the carpets, furniture, complimentary robes, deck chairs had obviously seen better days.

As my wife had worked in the service industry previously, she pointed out many deficiencies in the cleanliness of the room, many of which I recognized immediately as well. Dried/sticky food on the coffee table, spilled milk on the desk, heavy fingerprints from the previous occupants on the sliding verandah doors. No fruit in the basket, no flowers welcoming us to our room, just a bland motel room on the high seas. I didn't really care about the flowers/fruit, but that was how it was portrayed in the brochures and videos, so if I am paying for it, I expect to get it. Don't BS me.

Since our room was on the Navigator deck, we were just below the Lido deck, until about 03:00 hours in the morning, there was the "thump, thump, bang" of feet and carts. Needless to say, we were kept awake during this time. Next morning, I went to the front desk and complained about this.

They assured me that this could not have been the case, but would instruct staff to be quieter from now on. This of course did not happen, and we were subject to this the entire trip. My guess is that the previous occupants could not stand the room and had made more of a fuss than we did, so got a quieter room ( our initial room?) and we traded "up" to the noisy room. Pure speculation, of course.

Amazingly enough, we got a $600 refund from Holland America, as they considered "us to have been very patient with them" ( their words, not mine ), about this matter. So maybe we were in the right?

In regard to the room cleanliness, I sent off an email to my travel agent, in Calgary, Canada. The results were almost immediate. We had the room stewards, and even guest appearances from ship's officers, in the room inspecting ( officers ) and or cleaning (stewards) that evening. It appears that the squeaky does get the grease, sometimes, anyway.

As we had booked many of the shore excursions, necessitating getting up early, we did not stay up to watch the evening shows. We spent most of our evening hours on the verandah. The weather was beautiful and warm.

As other reviewers have mentioned, shore excursions from Holland America have a built in insurance that the ship will not sail until everyone is on board. If you go on your own, and you are late getting back to the ship, it will have sailed without you.

Be prepared for not just crowding, but "OVERCROWDING". While several tours are booked at each port, invariably one or two tours are the most popular, so EVERYONE books those ones.

Once at the location, the "OVERCROWDING" sets in, as the other 2-5 cruise ships will also be in port, disgorging their complement of sightseers, to the exact same sites. This does not even include the locals or travellers arriving by other transportation.

Additionally, be prepared to share illnesses. When on the air-conditioned buses, you will be exposed to everyone else's little bugs. Bring your own cold/flu medications (Nyquil, ibuprofen, cough lozenges, Imodium etc..........) because these will be hard to come by in Europe, unless of course you speak the language.

Also be prepared to expend anywhere from 2-6 Euros per 500ml bottle of water. The cruise line and tourist trade have really found a lucrative way of parting you from your cash for this indispensable item, especially in warm weather.

Upon reflection, it might have been better to select shore excursions that were not so popular. At least there would have been a little more breathing room.

Even though I probably would not take another cruise ( at least in Europe ), based on my previous comments, and other reasons, I have gained some valuable insight as to where I would like to focus my attention.

We thoroughly enjoyed Santorini and Korfu, and would like to visit them again, as a "destination" trip, rather than a cruise, and spend more time exploring in depth.

Also, our shore excursion to the Temple of Neptune outside of Athens was fantastic. Ours was the only bus there for around 2 hours.

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