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Linda Faseason

Age: Baby Boomer

Occupation:Travel Writer

Number of Cruises: 20+

Cruise Line: Holland America

Ship: Noordam

Sailing Date: March 15th, 2006

Itinerary: Eastern Caribbean


The Noordam is a brand new ship sailing from NYC that sets a standard of what is now available onboard. It is part of a cruise line that is consistently voted best overall cruise value.

I was invited aboard to preview Holland America’s Noordam while it was docked in Boston prior to its maiden voyage on February 22. The 1918 passenger Noordam represents North, the fourth point of the compass of Vista class ships that include the Zuiderdam, Oosterdam, and Westerdam. It is the first of these ships to feature the Signature of Excellence enhancements, which Holland America describes as “spacious, elegant ships and accommodations; sophisticated five-star dining; gracious, unobtrusive service; extensive enrichment programs and activities, and compelling worldwide itineraries”.

The Noordam evolved by incorporating guest feedback, innovative artistry, upscale amenities, and the latest technology into its traditional niche. She sparkles with style from the contemporary and dramatic to Holland America’s customary time-honored elegance, with ever-present artistic reminders of its Dutch heritage.

What’s especially exciting for those of us in the Northeast is that Holland America is now offering Caribbean cruising, going as far south as Barbados, round-trip from NYC. The Noordam alternates between a 10 day Eastern Caribbean and 11 day Southern Caribbean itinerary winter, spring, and fall. Bus transportation to the pier is available from several major cities.

Shore excursions are offered at a variety of activity levels--from leisurely bus tours to thrilling adventures. Want to snorkel, whale watch, learn to scuba dive, go tubing, sail by catamaran, or swim with dolphins? You can ride horses on the beach and into the ocean, go on a dune buggy safari in search of pink flamingos or humpback whales, dive to a shipwreck, or search for sea creatures in an Atlantis submarine. Explore the pathways of a tropical rain forest, kayak in a bioluminescent bay, have turtle encounter, take a Green Monkey tour, or just sit back and sample Mount Gay Rum at the distillery.

The Noordam also sails on the other side of the Atlantic—with ten-day cruises of the Eastern and Western Mediterranean, round-trip from Rome. These can be combined for twenty glorious days, spanning the region from Spain to Turkey. Experience the treasures of Rome and Florence, the glamour of Monte Carlo, the catacombs and cathedrals of Sicily, the excitement of Barcelona, the beauty of the Greek Islands, and ponder the Da Vinci Code at the historic sites of the Knights of St. John in Malta. You can walk in the footsteps of St. Paul in ancient Ephesus, Turkey, enter the medieval world inside the city walls of Dubrovnik, Croatia, and bargain in the souks of La Goulette, Tunisia.

In between, there are 16 day transatlantic voyages between NYC and Rome. Repositioning cruises offer great value and the extra sea days afford you the opportunity to relax and enjoy the features the ship—with the added benefit of avoiding jet-lag. In spring, you can visit the pink sandy beaches of Bermuda, search for whales and dolphin or drive to a volcano in the Azores, then sail on to the treasures of the Mediterranean—including Monte Carlo, Barcelona, Florence and Rome. In fall, the reverse itinerary is offered when the ship returns to New York.

A Noordam Stateroom

Holland America’s staterooms tend to be more spacious than other cruise lines. Eighty-five percent of the staterooms have ocean views, over two-thirds have private verandas, and there are more veranda suites than on any other Holland America ship.

All staterooms in this “Signature of Excellence” ship have new enhancements to make you feel even more pampered--- plush-top beds, flat-panel TVs and DVD players, luxurious terry robes and towels, spa-grade toiletries, and premium showerheads.

Vista Dining Room

The dual-level Vista dining room is stunning with great views of the sea, fresh floral arrangements, sparkling Rosenthal china and crisp linens. Musicians perform during the four assigned seating times of the five course dinner. Choices range from regional, continental, and traditional cuisine to vegetarian and low-carb.

The reservations-only extra-cost elegant Pinnacle Grill features exceptional Pacific Northwest cuisine, fine wines, and Sterling Silver beef. Tables are set with Bulgari china, Riedel stemware, and fine Frette linens. We would be hard pressed to find a single favorite here, but the Dungeness crab cakes, filet mignon, warm Grand Marnier Chocolate Volcano Cake were superb! Service is impeccable—attentive to your every need but not overbearing. This is the place to celebrate, share a romantic evening, or get better acquainted with new-found friends over a leisurely meal.

The Lido Restaurant

The Lido Restaurant is more casual, with food stations to keep lines to a minimum. Our luncheon included fresh fruits, salads, roast beef, Wiener Schnitzel, and some scrumptious Key Lime Pie. Among the other selections were such Asian specialties as sushi, a pasta and pizza area, and a deli with sandwiches. The ice cream bar offers an assortment of toppings, and there’s a showcase of tempting desserts, cut small enough to make it easy to sample more than one. Some nights, perhaps after a busy day in port, you may want a more casual meal, or to dine at a different time. At dinner, there is waiter service in the Lido, and if you are hungry after a night of dancing, there’s the late-night buffet.

Dessert Time in the Lido

The Terrace Grill is the place for a quick snack or burger by the pool.

Not to be missed is Holland America’s signature Royal Dutch High Tea, offered once each cruise, a demonstration of Old World elegance.

One of the Shows on the Noordam

There’s the full range of evening entertainment—the two-story Vista show lounge for major performances, a cabaret-style theater, piano bar with sing-alongs, sports bar with live telecasts, movie theater with recent releases and free popcorn, casino, golf simulator, and two night clubs, each with a DJ and dance floor—the glittering Northern Lights and Crow’s Nest, high atop the ship, surrounded by glass. Or you may simply enjoy a romantic moonlit stroll along the Promenade deck surrounded by gentle breezes and the fresh scent of the sea.

Club HAL Playroom

The ship is designed for multigenerational fun and varied interests. The expanded ClubHAL features three separate age-specific areas—children, tweens, and teens-- for children age 5 and up. The Loft—with music and videos, big screen TV, teen dances and pizza parties provides teens with their own zone.

The Greenhouse Spa and Salon

The luxurious Greenhouse Spa and Salon has been expanded for this ship.

Heated Ceramic Lounges

Corridors from the hydrotherapy pool lead to thermal suites, to heated ceramic loungers that overlook the sea, and to rooms for special treatments, like the couples massage, dry float, and steam and aromatics.

Staying fit is rewarded with a sweeping view of the ocean. The fully-equipped exercise facility also offers such classes as Pilates and the services of a personal trainer.

Talking Cooking with the Chef

We all scooped up our recipe cards after sampling Warm Shrimp Salad with White Beans and Arugula and some Slow-Roasted Salmon with Cabbage, Bacon, and Dill prepared by renowned Chef Michael Schlow of the award-winning Radius, Via Matta and Great Bay restaurants in Boston. You, too, can learn from the pros in the new Culinary Arts Center, a state-of-the art show kitchen with plasma video screens for close-ups. In partnership with Food and Wine Magazine, top food and wine experts offers cooking demonstrations, tasting events, and classes for up to 15 participants.

Explorations Café, described by Dan Grausz, HAL Senior Vice President, as a “luxury Barnes and Noble”, integrates an espresso and pastry bar, the largest library at sea, music listening stations with MP3 players and comfortable lounge chairs, and an Internet café, with a game room with jigsaw and crossword puzzles. Soon, you’ll be able to check out an iPod nano for a guided tour of the ship’s impressive art collection.

Accommodations are made for those with special physical or dietary needs. Call Holland America or your travel agent for details.

On a vacation like this, everything is in place for you to nourish your body, mind, and soul—in style. Holland America has created a fun and relaxing yet stimulating and enriching environment, with the ambience and amenities that put it a cut above the rest.

Holland America’s thirteen ships embark on 500 cruises, with 80 itineraries to 280 ports of call in 63 countries and all 7 continents, on voyages that range from 2 to 108 days. Condé Nast Traveler and Travel and Leisure readers rate it the highest rated premium cruise line in the world.

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