We took a two-week Southern Caribbean cruise from Tampa on the Holland America Noordam starting 3/18/01. The ship stopped at nine different ports. The scope was marvelous - from San Juan and St. Thomas to Isla de Margarita (Venezuela) and Aruba. This cruise was well worth the price and was, indeed, a marvelous vacation. There were, however, a few minor inconveniences. I believe the Noordam is the oldest ship presently in the line. There were cleanings and repairs from early in the morning to late in the evening. I walked on the Upper Promenade deck thirteen of the fifteen days we were aboard. The deck was soaking wet, from, cleaning on twelve of the days. I'm surprised there weren't broken hips among the aged passengers. During the first week, there were persistent rumors that the Noordam had been sold. A ship's officer finally told us that the rumors were not true. But I still believe her days are numbered because all of the major cruise lines are going to larger ships.The Noordam has quite a few public rooms. And needs them. She carries quite a crowd (approximately 1200 passengers) and they have to sit somewhere...and typical of most Holland America passengers, most Noordam crowds are heavy on spectators, light on participants. One tablemate described the crowd as "seriously old".We found the cruise director and staff to be very outgoing and capable. Dealing with the aged clientele is difficult. The two story Admiral's Lounge. Incorporates a backdrop of a mockup of the stern of a 17th century Dutch East India sailing ship. Well forward on Promenade Deck is the Card Room and the library, a room called the "Bookchest". Cards are played in the former (with occasional bridge lectures), books to look at in the latter. There is also a quiz of the day provided for trivia nuts. Questions range from easy to hard. We were on a two-week Caribbean cruise that stopped at nine ports. One of the ports - Isla Margarita, an island off the coast of Venezuela- seemed valueless. If it had been LaGuira, a number of better excursions would have been available. We were also tendered at St. Thomas which seems needless. The day we were there, the bay was choppy and at least one passenger suffered a dislocated shoulder boarding the tender from the shore. The thought occurs that money may be saved by tendering.On some days in port, the main dining room was closed for lunch. Lunch was available from the buffet upstairs at the Lido Restaurant. The "lavish" shows were hit and miss. The basic crew of dancers/singers were skilled and performed highly stylized, packaged, up-tempo musical extravaganzas featuring dozens of costume changes. One beat for every possible musical number gets a little boring. Other one or two person shows were old when vaudeville died. The Noordam may help you remember why it died. There was no lack of on-board activities - in port or at sea. Bingo, art auctions, ship's tours, exercise and sports, late night crew shows and themed buffets are all provided. The largest room in the ship, the Amsterdam Dining Room, seats 722 passengers at 147 tables per sitting. The Noordam's kitchens provide similar food to other cruise lines, or better. My wife knows it was not gourmet food. I think it was superb considering they are feeding about 500 people at one time. Most dining room personnel were competent; however, most of the Holland America crew were definitely non-English speaking. The waiters were concentrating so much on their prescribed activities that they were unable to hear or acknowledge the simplest requests. My wife and I assumed that that most of the wait staff was in training for other ships.It is always a wonder as to why people will pay money to go on a cruise, particularly a two-week cruise, and refuse to comply with the dress recommended.
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