Noordam Review December 12-22, 2007 This was our (Curt 52 and Linda 51) 22nd cruise and our first on HAL. We sure have found a new home. As I packed the night before our departure Northwest called and told me that there was good news! Our flight was re-instated and would leave as originally scheduled. I know, just like me you were wondering when did they cancel the flight? I was told that there was some difficulty with GRR and that they had worked out the bugs and everything was kosher. I went to bed only to be jarred awake at 11:30...another call from NW -- the flight was cancelled, but they had good news...they could book us on another flight that would get us to NY at 6:45 pm!!! I told them that there was no way we could take that flight because the ship left at 4 pm! The man said that there was really no other flight and that he would book us on the later flight. I told him "No, Thanks" Again, I thought, YIKES!!!! I need my Master Cruise Counselor!!! He then suggested that we arrive at GRR around 4 am and that maybe the booking agents there could come up with something. I hung up and at that point really thought that there was something God was trying to hit me over the head with when the phone rang again. It was NW...the same really nice man who began the conversation with "Is this my Meess Lenda"? He looked around and found us a flight that took us to MSP then to NY for a 12:45 pm arrival. Thank God for that nice little man who went out of his way to find a way to save our vacation. There was a little confusion with the small number of HAL passengers trying to catch the transfer to the port as surprisingly at 12:45 we were the last flight to get into the airport. Most of the passengers had come via bus and were being processed onto the ship at 10am! The trip from LGA to the port was great!!! What fun. It was a tour of NYC all of its own. We got to the ship verified our luggage, signed the "sick form" (and since we had printed out boarding pass at home), went to the desk, told them our name, they handed us our keys, took our picture for the boarding key and we were on the ship. 10 minutes tops!!!! We loved the ship. We had a nice room - a general inside. Not overly large and it could have used a few more places to put your clothing, but it worked well for us. Champagne from our Master Cruise Counselor was waiting on ice. Our cabin steward Ade introduced himself along with bringing us a gift card for the Pinnacle again from our great Master Cruise Counselor. We checked out the buffet and since it was a tad cold outside went back and unpacked...we got done just in time for dinner!! The hi-light of my trip was right before dinner as just at sunset we passed the Statue of Liberty. She was so beautiful. I was so excited. I have always wanted to meet her and just as I thought, she was just as beautiful as I imagined. I can just picture my grandparents seeing her for the first time as they arrived at Ellis Island. It was so exhilarating to later in the week walk around the same area they must have walked in 1899 when they got off the ship. The weather was rough the first night. I think I made it until 7:30 before drifting off!! By the next morning the ship was still rocking and it was quite windy, by noon the weather warmed up and we got out in the sun for a while. We had a wonderful table for 2 in the upper dining room. Our Waiters Mu and Rudy were the most exceptional waiters we have ever had in all of our 20+ cruises. We enjoyed them so very much. Eugene our wine (or in our case ice tea) steward and his wife Anya were so much fun. I can't tell you how much we looked forward to seeing them each day. The food was extraordinary. There was only one dish that we decided we would not order again on our next cruise but, even that was good. We thoroughly enjoyed each and every bite and sadly still had room for a trip to the ice cream bar about an hour later!!! We enjoyed the Lido buffet for most lunches. I think we ate at every station at least once. Curt really enjoyed the daily taco buffet. We did breakfast ½ and ½ Lido and dining room. And even after all of our cruises we still have not thought to order room service!!! The second day at sea was very nice. We hit the warm weather and the pool area was busy. There was never a rush for chairs though many were reserved. Early on the second day Curt went through a doorway that had a drop on the other side that we did not notice until he stepped down and twisted his ankle. Hence started another adventure in cruising. On the second night we decided to take advantage of our gift card and go to the Pinnacle Grill. We both splurged on the 22 ounce Porterhouse. Fantastic!!! I think that during the whole week we took more pictures of the food and the towel animals than anything else. It was a very tasty dinner and beautifully presented. The service was impeccable. Both Curt and I said at the conclusion of the dinner that it was the most visually beautiful meal we had ever had. I can't believe that we ate that whole thing. Before we got out of the Pinnacle we noticed Curt's ankle was swelled twice its size. By the time we arrived in Grand Turks Saturday morning he was miserable. We had put him up on ice and pain killers all night, but it only got worse. We had booked a snorkeling adventure and after much thought decided to chance it. He hobbled off the pier and on to the charter. He got some great snorkeling in. The weather was still rough and many members of our tour came back aboard with cuts after snorkeling over the coral. Then we were taken to a little island where he swam around with the stingray. I don't snorkel, so I got some fabulous pictures from the boat. We had a great time and the cool water kept the ankle at bay...until we had to walk back to the ship. The beach area off the ship looked quite nice with covered 2 chair cabanas. There was a tad of seaweed washed up, but it looked like a nice place to spend the day. You took a towel as you were getting off the ship if needed and returned it when you got back on. There were several shops to poke around in and a nice clean restroom. The next morning things only looked worse for the ankle. I knew we had to go to the doctor and finally I talked Curt into a check-up. This was our first time to have to ask for assistance on a cruise and I was so pleased with how we were treated. The nurse put Curt in a treatment room right away and after finding out that he had an accident on the ship -- she called the security department to take a statement. The doctor came right in and checked him and decided that it was a bad sprain. With the only treatment being 2 days in bed with a raised iced ankle, it was a slight downer as we had booked some pretty ambitious shore excursions. The doctor gave us great advice, wrapped the ankle and gave us lots of ice packs...and....a wheelchair that Curt was in for the rest of the cruise!!!!! The best part was that we could finally get around the ship ...and there was no bill ...and that after eating everything I could get my hands on I lost a pound pushing the chair around! (That evening there was a knock at the door and our steward had a footed silver platter filled with chocolate covered strawberries and filled chocolates with compliments of the captain along with wishes for a quick recovery.) A very nice touch. The nurse called during the week to check on Curt. The security department called and checked on him. The Purser's office called and checked. It was like being at home. Our phone was ringing all the time. I went down to the shore excursion desk and explained what had happened and they immediately canceled our tours...no problem. They also suggested a few that we could take with the wheelchair and booked one in Tortola for us as we were just about to arrive. They people at the excursion desk were so kind and helpful. I was a bit worried that we would have to pay for the tours that we had booked, but they were so nice to take care of everything. We took a great open air tour of Tortola with David, a most knowledgeable young man who was about to leave for college in Missouri. It was one of the best tours we have taken in our travels. We tooled around with the chair in both St. Maarten and at Crown Bay in St. Thomas. I did not care that much for Crown Bay as we have been spoiled with going to Havensite so often. I think that Crown Bay will be a nice place in a few years, but for now there is not much right at the port. We got into San Juan so early (7am) that there was nothing open until 11:00 and the ship left at 12:30. We took a walk around, but it was a total waste of a port. I am glad that we had been there and explored before because for those who could choose between the 3 shore excursions that were offered or go off on their own it must have been a dismal port. The two days home were uneventful...(Thank Goodness) the weather got rougher and rougher as we neared NY. They were good days to rest, but, sadly if you wanted to rest in the sun, it was over in San Juan. We were not impressed with the evening shows on the ship. I surprised when so many people walked out of the shows right in the middle. There was canned music as opposed to an orchestra playing. The entertainers truly made a mistake thinking that loud singing was the same as good singing and dancing. I wonder now if they cranked up the music to accommodate the older generation. All it really did was drive people out of the venue. We enjoyed the afternoon lectures. I am usually a Broadway babe as far as entertainment but I have to say that the speakers were quite interesting and well informed. There was lecturer, Chris something or other who really thought he was hot stuff. He was quite insulting to people who left his lectures early. He also made several off the cuff, unflattering comments in regard to how the passengers must treat their grandchildren. I observed that as the week went on, his attendance got smaller and smaller. I attempted to talk to him one day in the Asian buffet line and he was just as snotty in person as he was on stage. He had no people skills at all and I think that he was the most obnoxious cruise line employee I have ever met. The ship was easy to get around and very clean. The stewards and employees without exception ( I don't count Chris the lecturer) were smiling, helpful and most enjoyable. They made us feel so much a part of their family. Of all our cruises this one was the hardest to go home from. I think I started referring to the Noordam as the "Ship of the Damned" about the second night. There were numerous injuries on the ship. More wheel chairs than I could count. There were several people who had broken bones on the first two days and a lady who severed part of her thumb in her door on the first day. Several twisted ankles and shoulder injuries. It seems as thought those first two days of rough weather took their toll on many. We could always out run the wheelchairs but, those in the motorized carts were wicked! I did find out that you have to take the waterproof door-jams straight on with a running start to get through them and over the metal sealer on the ground. Otherwise you catapult the wheelchair passenger right out of the chair. On the second formal night a lady at a table near us choked. A voice on the overhead made an obvious distress call and very calmly a huge amount of uniformed crew members brought in equipment and went shoulder to shoulder around the table so that they could help her. They moved the passengers closest to the event to other tables and the weird part was that dinner just went on normally with the exception of the 20 or so crew who were making a wall around the medical staff. They took her out on a stretcher. Evidently she was feeling better near the end of the dinner because the son/husband wheeled her back into the dining room as we were leaving! After 9 days in a chair Curt was almost back to normal and could walk off the ship on his own. We did not gamble or take advantage of bingo or crafts. Every day there were numerous craft sessions you could pay to go to. We did enjoy the cooking shows. It was like being in an audience of one of the shows on the Food Channel. They also offered cooking classes that you could book as you would a shore excursion. If I had known at the beginning that we would be spending so much time on the ship, I sure would have signed up for them. I like going to the afternoon movies though I am not sure who was in charge of picking them out. They were not appropriate to the age group of people on the ship. This was another event where passengers just got up and left in the middle...or in the case of the movies, right at the first bloody murder/rape/disfigurement. The passengers were so pleasant to be with and talk with. Curt and I generally are more comfortable with older people so we were in hog heaven! I enjoyed conversation with so many of them - especially a large group of Russian ladies who had come to live in NY and seemed to take up residence in the hot tubs daily. They were so interesting and funny. They gave me some great tips and in-site about visiting Europe next summer. There were numerous people on the ship who were on the second of a three leg holiday cruise. They had gotten on the ship on December 1 and were not getting off until Jan 5th. We booked a ship tour of NY upon arrival. We were off the ship by 8:30. We had gone through immigration in St. Thomas, so it was just a matter of handing over the duty forms and walking off the ship gathering our luggage and getting on the bus. Our tour guide was very talkative and knowledgeable about the city. Since we were off the ship quite early and there were only 26 in our group, our normally scheduled 2 1/2 hour tour was extended to a 4 1/2 hour tour. Although we were on a large bus, the overall tour was great and gave us a taste of the big city. We were taken to Wall Street, Broadway, Soho, Greenwich, Village and past the big name shopping stores (Tiffany's was so beautiful) decorated for the holidays as well as homes (and death sites) of celebrities. People having their smiling family pictures taken on the site of John Lennon's murder and in front of Ground Zero really creeped me out. We went through the good, bad and interesting parts of NYC. We went past all the wonderful bridges that connect the boroughs. We went past Battery Park and saw the crowds of people waiting to visit the Statue of Liberty. Leo our tour guide kept up a constant chatter of information for the entire time. The most moving part of our tour was to the Winter Gardens over looking Ground Zero. There are not words for the feelings and experiences we had at this site. It was a site that I thought was terrible, beautiful and awe inspiring all at one time. When next I see you I am going to tell you an experience I had while overlooking the site that will most likely confirm your previous thoughts of the balance of my mental being! Don't forget to ask me about it. We also had lunch at Pier 17 and did some last minute shopping. It was a really interesting wharf, filled with all sorts of sidewalk vendors and tall ships. We were dropped right off at NW and had an uneventful trip home. Loved HAL. Can't wait to travel with them again!