The sun was just beginning to set as Holland America Line’s (HAL) Noordam sailed under Sydney Harbour Bridge and past the Sydney Opera House near its departure point in Sydney, Australia. With this iconic view taking center stage, even the most seasoned cruisers were excited for what lay ahead.
Dedicating time to both New Zealand’s North and South islands, Noordam’s New Zealand Discovery itinerary provides an intensive overview of the place that Kiwis call home. My spring 2018 sailing was 16 days long, but future sailings will be 14 days and include seven ports of call in addition to cruising Milford Sound and Fiordland National Park.
Stops ranged from the charming, French-inspired seaside tender port of Akaroa (Christchurch), to Port Chalmers — the world’s only mainland nesting spot of albatross — and bustling Auckland. Excursion options, known as Explorations Central (EXC) tours, were varied and ranged from wine tasting in the coastal city of Napier on the North Island to climbing into a 4x4 vehicle in Wellington and bouncing along the beach to a New Zealand fur seal colony.
Throughout the cruise, many excursions also highlighted the history and culture of the Maori, New Zealand’s indigenous people.
Maori cultural ambassadors traveled onboard Noordam for a number of days at the beginning and end of the sailing. Young, enthusiastic and often dressed in authentic attire, they attracted attention everywhere they went.
Interactive programming included learning how to pronounce Maori words and phrases and attempting the loud and intimidating haka (traditional war cry). One might assume that teaching predominantly retired-age cruisers a new dance — consisting of swift, specific movements made in unison with unrecognizable phrases — would be a tedious task. But the ambassadors tackled the challenge with laughter and smiles, and by the end of the performance everyone in the room was on their feet.
Noordam is an easy ship to get to know. It’s regal and stately, but its decor is humble. Artwork pays tribute to HAL’s seafaring heritage as a shipping and passenger line.
Quieter than the Vista Dining Room, Canaletto serves shared-plate Italian dinners. Meanwhile, Pinnacle Grill steakhouse offers lunch and dinner, and pop-up seafood brasserie Rudi’s Sel de Mer is available on select evenings.
Lincoln Center Stage, a partnership with New York City’s Lincoln Center for the Performing Arts, was recently added to Noordam’s lineup of onboard entertainment. In addition to live chamber music performances, there’s the All-Star Band in the B.B. King’s Blues Club, nightly lounge-style shows or live music by pianist Anna McBryan, who splits her time between performing and teaching middle school English in Canada.
Lively cooking demonstrations are held every sea day by a HAL chef who is specially trained by culinary experts from the popular public television show “America’s Test Kitchen.” Along with cooking science and foolproof tips, the chef shares favorite cooking gadgets and recipes cruisers can easily replicate at home and that will remind them of their sailing long after vacation is over.
With a nice balance of time at sea for guests to catch their breath, HAL’s New Zealand Discovery itinerary highlights breathtaking scenery while offering a historical glimpse at New Zealand’s way of life. Conveniently sailing roundtrip from Sydney, the itinerary also allows for time to explore parts of Australia, either before or after sailing.
Holland America Line