All New Noordam

HAL’s new ship debuts in New York

By: M.T. Schwartzman

My very first cruise was aboard the old Noordam III in 1988. It was a 12-day cruise-tour of Alaska, and I was hooked. Nearly 20 years later, I’m still writing about the cruise industry, and there’s a new Noordam in town. Departing from New York City, the Noordam IV is sailing an inaugural season of Caribbean cruises.

Although she shares the same name as her predecessors, the 81,769-ton, 1,918-passenger Noordam incorporates features that were unheard of two decades ago. From hardware to software, Noordam represents the best that cruising has to offer.

New Nautical Design

The ship’s interior was designed by Frans Dingemans, the man responsible for the decor of every HAL ship since 1983. On the Noordam, Dingemans has blended the nautical with the new, continuing the line’s longstanding emphasis on maritime history and its own storied past. Various ship-themed works of art can be found hidden in the Noordam’s nooks and crannies, from the atrium’s Ocean Bar to the top-deck Crow’s Nest lounge. Perhaps most interesting, however, are two ship models made entirely of bone on display outside the Pinnacle Bar and Grill. These were salvaged and originally displayed on the Noordam III.

Alternative dining is one of the most significant changes in cruising in recent years. On the Noordam and other Vista Class ships, Holland America offers the Pinnacle Grill. Overlooking the atrium, the restaurant has a Pacific Northwest-theme and is known for premium cuts of beef, a tempting array of appetizers and decadent dessert selections. The Grill is just one of the many improvements incorporated into the line’s Signature of Excellence, a $225 million initiative that covers virtually every aspect of shipboard life.

The Noordam is the fourth and last of the line’s Vista ships (which also include the Zuiderdam, Oosterdam and Westerdam), and the first to emerge from the shipyard with its “Signature” amenities already in place. Those amenities include new Euro-Top beds and 250-thread-count sheets, as well as flat-screen TVs and DVD players in each stateroom. Passengers in suites also enjoy fully stocked minibars, personalized stationery and exclusive use of a concierge service in the Neptune Lounge.

Another pillar of the Signature of Excellence is an expanded Greenhouse Spa and Salon, offering new manicure, pedicure and relaxation areas; thermal suites with hydro-therapy pool, steam and aromatic room, heated ceramic lounges and in-suite showers. In conjunction with the spa upgrades, Noordam’s stateroom bathrooms are stocked with an array of Elemis products, which are also used in the spa.

Among the Noordam’s most noteworthy attributes, and a centerpiece of the Signature of Excellence, is the Culinary Arts Center presented by Food & Wine magazine. The Center consists of a demonstration kitchen surrounded by cabaret-style seating. On either side, flat-screen plasma TVs provide close-up views of chefs taking part in Food Network-style demonstrations. At show time, it’s one of the most popular places on the ship.

Besides the Culinary Arts Center, Signature elements on Noordam include the Explorations Cafe powered by The New York Times, a lounge with 16 computer stations, where guests can relax while sipping an espresso or cappuccino from the bar, just like an Internet cafe on land.

One Holland America hallmark that has been relegated to the background is the Explorer’s Lounge (not to be confused with the above mentioned Explorations Cafe). This traditional place for meeting and lounging is located just forward of the Vista Dining Room the ship’s main restaurant (serving dinner in four seatings, another Signature of Excellence improvement).

Now somewhat overshadowed by the Explorations Cafe and Queens Lounge, the Explorer’s Lounge will most likely be used by passengers like myself who have fond memories of enjoying after-dinner drinks in this quiet retreat.


Cruise Line: Holland America Line
Ship: Noordam
Gross Tonnage: 81,769 grt
Capacity: 1,918 double

Hits: The Explorations Cafe is one of the most inviting public rooms to be found aboard any cruise ship. The Culinary Arts Center is sure to please any fan of cable-TV-style cooking shows.

Misses: The undersized Atrium Bar seems like an afterthought.

Itinerary: The Noordam will reposition from New York on April 15 for a trans-Atlantic sailing to Europe, and then commences 10-day Mediterranean cruises from May through September, home ported in Rome. On Sept. 28, the ship returns to New York to resume Caribbean service through April 21, 2007. It then transits the Panama Canal en route to Seattle, where it takes up residence for a series of cruises to Alaska’s Inside Passage in summer 2007.

Rates: Prices for the Noordam’s New York-based Caribbean cruises start at $1,199 per person, double. Rates for 10-day Mediterranean sailings begin at $1,749. Sixteen-day trans-Atlantic crossings begin at $1,999.