Thursday, January 23, 2014

Vacation Review Part 2: Holland America

When we went on our Carribean cruise this year we went with the Holland America Line, on the ship the MS Noordam.  I thought I would give you a general review while I'm trying to get the rest of the pictures off of Working Dad's camera.

Having sailed with HAL before, I was excited to go on this trip.  We actually cruised the exact same itinerary for our babymoon before EG was born, though on a very different ship.  They have a great kids club program, and though they cater to an older crowd, the ship isn't to large so that you get crazy lost.

The Ship:  The MS Noordam is not the nicest ship I've been on.  In fact, it's definitely beginning to show it's age.  The carpets were a bit worn, the seats a bit overused.  The 'grand' staircase didn't feel very grand at all.  Since we were there over the holidays the trees and gingerbread houses were nice, but that didn't necessarily make-up for the fact that the ship felt old...

Our Room:  We had a verandah room on the 6th floor, which in and of itself was nice.  The bathrooms on the ship all have bathtubs, which I really appreciated.  Though they take up more space than the shower bathrooms (obviously) having a little one with a bathtub was quite nice.  However, our bathtub wouldn't stop-up.  And there were a few cracks in the side that led to water draining out the sides a bit.  The pull out couch in our room was quite beaten, in fact you could see the springs from the inner mattress the whole time we were on board.  We had them remove some of the furniture to accommodate the crib (really a pack n play), and they were gracious enough to do that for us.  However, they would not remove furniture for Aunt K despite her requests.  They had connected staterooms on the 1st floor.  The doors on the floor didn't really close properly, and there was a dreadful high whistle that would penetrate the room and the hallway sometimes... yuck. 

The food:  While overall it was fine, it definitely seems to have taken a step backwards.  The two formal nights had filet and shrimp and lobster thermadore, rather than just lobster tails.  There were at least two nights where none of the food was particularly good.  We ate in the Lido buffet area for most of our lunches and getting a high chair (we needed two!) was almost impossible.  Not to mention finding seating for our group...  Additionally we had two guests who are allergic to milk.  Despite constant questioning, they eventually had severe asthma attacks due to the ships kitchen.  They mistakenly thought that they were lactose intolerant, rather than allergic to milk.  We ordered breakfast for room service every morning, and it was decent.  They finally got the message about sending in Hot milk for EG by about the third day...

The Kids:  We had 6 children on this trip. EG the youngest at 18months, then B at 21 months, J at 3 years, F at 5 years, R at 8 years, and H at 11 years.  All that could go to the HAL kids club absolutely LOVED it.  They had relevant activities (new year's eve resolutions, a talent show, etc.) They begged to go in the daytime, loved going during/after dinner at 7pm.  That was probably the best time, since we took the babies for a walk up to kids club, then the adults had dessert and coffee with only the littles to worry about.  However, despite it being stated on numerous websites they WOULD NOT allow our littlest ones to play in the kids club space at all.  They WOULD NOT loan out any toys to our kids under 3 years.  Thankfully we had kids over 3 who could borrow toys and they can share with the littles, but that was very disappointing.  However, we didn't have any trouble with our youngest, un-potty trained kids going in the pool.  I know, chastise me all you want about what would have happened if there had been an accident.  But there weren't any (though EG did jump in the water without someone there to catch her!).  Overall the staff was kind and pleasant to the kids, and they did a nice job of accommodation them.  In fact, many of the workers had children of their own they left behind, so our kids were just exciting to them.  They did have in-room babysitting, but we were never able to get someone when we asked for someone. They only do same sex babysitting, and having two girls meant it was a bit more difficult (since most cruise ship staff are men).

The entertainment:  We hated the piano man.  Which was so sad, because that was our favorite part of our last trips.  This guy had a kindle or a tablet that held the songs for him, and he often made the songs techno, etc.  Not a fan.  We did love the New Year's eve show (grandpa watched over EG sleeping).  Otherwise we didn't really watch any of it, since it was all to late for EG.  We spent our nights on the verandah while the kiddo slept.

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