(1:55 p.m. AEST) – Holland America Line’s Noordam is scheduled for a refurbishment next year so we hopped onboard for a look at the ship ‘before’ the ‘after’. Here are a few things to like about Noordam this season and improvements you can look forward to next season.
The free Navigator app uses the ship's intranet for no extra charge. Instead of carrying around the daily program or lining up at Guest Services to ask questions, you can view the day’s onboard activities, your account, itinerary and any reservations -- on your phone or tablet. (Just remember to put it in Aeroplane mode to avoid data roaming charges piling up in the background.)
Another handy feature is the USB outlets in bedheads so you charge your devices overnight.
The Explorations Café has workstations to use the ship’s computers and get online (for a fee).
Microsoft Digital Workshops have also been introduced so you can learn about OneDrive, OneNote, Paint 3D or Windows 10, without asking your kids.
There is no way to watch movies on demand on your in-cabin TV. You have to choose from a DVD menu, go down to Deck 1 to pick it up from Guest Services, hope it hasn’t been borrowed, give them a list to improve your chances, finally get your fourth or fifth choice, then take it back to your room and pray it works, then return it because it’s not loading or freezes on the final scene.
As part of the $300 million upgrades, suite passengers will have a new interactive TV system with free movies on demand.
Most cruise ships these days are one of four designs: over-the-top luxurious; colourfully family-friendly; high-tech and whiz-bang; or sleek, white and minimalist. Noordam has held onto its traditional roots with spacious, comfortable spaces and a nautical look that feels like you’re actually on a ship.
Some may find the decor dated rather than classic, the dark interiors don’t suit a summer holiday down under, and several areas are showing wear and tear.
In May 2018 suites are set for new furniture, carpet, wall coverings, a coffee machine and other enhancements. We hear the empty, 80s-style nightclub will be ditched and, if it follows the example of Oosterdam’s refurbishment, will be modernised into a much cooler cocktail bar with mixology demos. But not many other changes in terms of furnishings and fixtures, as far as we know.
Holland America’s range of tours in New Zealand is excellent. It’s not all coaches and gentle walking: active travellers can get adventurous with daring opportunities such as white water rafting down the world’s highest commercial waterfall. Of course, Lord of the Rings fans are also in luck with trips to Hobbiton and other movie sets. For nature lovers, there’s no shortage of scenic drives, cruises, wildlife encounters including penguin spotting, and Rotorua’s thermal springs and geysers.
According to most passengers we spoke to, they didn’t book tours through the cruise line because prices were too high. Many people booked with other companies (Viator was the most common choice) or just walked around the ports, which was easy with all the free shuttles provided from terminals to town centres (except Dunedin).
Coincidentally, Holland America launched a Best Price Guarantee last week giving all passengers who pre-book its EXC Tours worldwide (excluding Asia) an onboard credit of 110 percent of the price difference if they find a cheaper deal. (Conditions apply.)
-- By Louise Goldsbury, Australia Editor