Maiden Voyage: February 22, 2006
Best Of Class: Noordam is a “perfect ship,” said a young Filipino steward as I boarded. Perhaps she’s “perfect” because Holland America Line had the experience of building three sister vessels that preceded Noordam: Zuiderdam, introduced in 2002, to Oosterdam (2003), to Westerdam (2004) and finally Noordam.
Noordam made her debut with all Signature of Excellence upgrades in place. The multi-million-dollar Signature of Excellence initiative dramatically changed the “hardware” and “software” components of the fleet, with enhancements ranging from improved bedding to new public areas.
My Stateroom: 6166, a spacious Deluxe Verandah Suite on the aft, port corner on Upper Verandah Deck. Features a large, wrap-around verandah, king-size bed with plush Euro-top mattress, high thread count Egyptian cotton bed linens and duvet, bathroom with dual sink vanity, full-size whirlpool bath and shower (plus an additional shower stall), thick and fluffy oversized towels, large sitting area, flat panel TV and DVD player, dressing room, sofa bed (sleeps two) and floor-to-ceiling windows. This category stateroom averages 510 square feet with verandah.
Other Reasons To Choose This Category Stateroom: Additional amenities and services are provided for guests who book either Deluxe Verandah Suite or Penthouse Verandah Suite. My favorite amenities include expedited embarkation and access to the Neptune Lounge, a living-room-like lounge where the best perk is the concierge, whose primary mission is to keep guests from having to stand in line for anything. Make all requests — dinner reservations at the Pinnacle Grill, spa reservations, shore excursions and anything else that would otherwise require your physical presence — through the concierge.
My Favorite Public Room: Explorations Cafe, an internet center/library/coffee shop. “People just tend to gravitate here,” says Krista Rickerts, manager of Explorations Cafe. During my two nights on board, I heard the cafe described as “an upscale Starbucks” and “a private room at the New York Public Library.” The area, forward on Promenade Deck, combines handsome wood desks and bookcases, leather sofas and chairs, thick rows of books and newspapers, and a Starbucks-like coffee and pastry counter. “Powered by The New York Times,” Explorations Cafe is WiFi-enabled for laptops and features computer terminals for browsing the web (surfing The New York Times web site is free, as is browsing Holland America Line’s site). For browsing other sites or for sending and receiving e-mail, rates range from 40 cents per minute to 75 cents per minute for internet access depending on the package. Explorations Cafe is open from 8 a.m. until 10:30 p.m.
Culinary Arts Center: Difficult to appreciate without seeing it, Noordam’s Culinary Arts Center is part professional TV studio (where celebrity chefs do their work in front of audiences) and part hands-on workshop. Think “Emeril Live,” the popular Food Network cooking show. The studio kitchen “features everything that I would have asked for had I been designing it myself,” a celebrity chef told me during my time on board. Operated in conjunction with Food & Wine magazine, the Culinary Arts Center will offer shows as well as free demos and hands-on hourlong workshops (there is a charge for the workshop).
My Favorite Restaurants: For breakfast and lunch, the Lido Restaurant is hard to beat with its multiple food stations and broad selection. For dinner, make your way to The Pinnacle Grill, featuring Pacific Northwest cuisines and select fine wines. Feast on U.S. Sterling Silver Beef and Northwest Seafood at the reservations-only restaurant. The setting is gorgeous. Beautiful Italian Frette linens, Bvlgari show plates crafted by Rosenthal, and Reidel stemware adorn the tabletops. The dining experience here is well worth the $30 per person cover charge.
On Noordam, The Pinnacle Grill was expanded, and the Pinnacle Bar relocated across the walkway. The bar resides in the location of the Windstar Cafe on other Vista-class vessels (the Windstar Cafe on Noordam was replaced by the coffee shop in Explorations Cafe).
My Favorite Menu Items: I’ve dined at the Pinnacle Grill probably a dozen times over the past four years, and the Filet Mignon, aged and seared at 1600F, ranks as the best I’ve ever had. For dessert, the Not-So-Classic Baked Alaska features not just ice cream but Ben & Jerry’s Cherry Garcia. Yum!
The Bottom Line: The last of Holland America Line’s four-ship, Vista-class series, Noordam ranks as the Filipino steward told us upon boarding: a “perfect ship” in the mid-size ship category.