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Holland America Noordam: A Thrilling Adventure To Alaska

When it comes to cruising, Holland America Line is a name that frequently comes up. With a fleet of 14 ships, it offers a variety of itineraries to destinations all over the world. In this article, I share my review of the Holland America Noordam, which I cruised to Alaska.

The Noordam is a mid-size ship that can accommodate up to 1,918 passengers. She was christened in 2006 by her Godmother, Marlee Matlin, and has since undergone several renovations to keep her up to date.

The Noordam offers Alaska itineraries in summer and repositions to Asia and Australia for the winter. Since she crosses the Pacific Ocean, guests can enjoy itineraries between Seattle, Washington, and Sydney, Australia.

Holland America Noordam in Ketchikan, Alaska

Holland America attracts an older crowd, and while it caters to children, there were only 34 on my sailing.

Overview Of Holland America Noordam

Embarking the Holland America Noordam in Vancouver, British Columbia, was quick—it took less than 30 minutes, even though three ships were in port. I was immediately impressed by the ship’s elegant and classic design.

The mid-sized ship is large enough to offer a variety of entertainment but small enough to allow for a more intimate and personalized cruising experience.

Our ship sailed full, but during the cruise, I was surprised that the venues, including the Lido Pool, seemed empty.

When planning a Last Frontier trip and comparing the best cruise companies for Alaska, Holland America is a top choice. They have cruised to the state longer than any other line.

Ship Specifications

The MS Noordam is part of Holland America Line’s Vista class of ships. Although she is over 15 years old, she underwent refurbishment in 2019.

The ship’s name, which signifies the Northern point of the compass in Dutch, is appropriately reflected in the nautical-themed decor throughout the ship.

Brass fish stools at the Lido Bar
Brass fish stools at the Lido Bar

The ship offers various dining options, including the elegant Pinnacle Grill, the casual Lido Market, and the Italian Canaletto Restaurant.

For entertainment, I enjoyed a variety of shows and performances at the World Stage. Since I was heading to the 49th state, it was also the venue for “Destination Alaska” talks.

The ship also has a variety of lounges and bars, including the Crow’s Nest, which offers panoramic views of the ocean.

For smokers, there are two areas where smoking is allowed: at the Sea View Bar area and in the Oak Room.

First Impressions

As I explored the Holland America Noordam, I was impressed by the ship’s well-designed deck plan. Thanks to the clear signage and its intuitive layout, navigating the ship was easy.

This ship has 11 passenger decks, with the Main Deck being the lowest and the Sports Deck being the highest. The staterooms are spread across seven decks, although the Observation Deck has fewer than decks below.

Noordam Atrium
Noordam Atrium

Although not a large vessel, the ship has various public spaces catering to different interests and moods. I liked the “day of the week” mats in the elevators.

One of our favorite spaces on the ship is the Crow’s Nest on the Observation Deck. This venue features an art studio and a large lounge offering panoramic views.

Another great spot on the ship is the Explorations Cafe, next to the library. This cozy space offers comfortable seating and a coffee bar.

Accommodations

I booked my cruise about four weeks before embarkation day when there were few available cabins. Since I was cruising solo, I opted for an interior stateroom, the only category available, paying for the solo supplement.

I had cruised on the Koningsdam about six months before this cruise. Although that vessel has single studio cabins, the Noordam only has double occupancy staterooms.

Our Noordam inside stateroom
Our Noordam inside stateroom

Before embarking on my Alaska adventure, my sister joined me since she had never been to Alaska. Our cabin was initially set up as one queen bed which we has separated into two twins.

Our inside room was small, with two single beds, a desk, and a table. There was lots of storage for hanging clothes but lacked drawers for folded items. The bedside tables had tiny drawers, but we found a large drawer at the foot of the bed, which came in handy.

There are two USBs on either side of the bed and another at the desk, plus plugs for laptops, cameras, and other electronics.

Our bathroom was typical for a cruise ship. It had small storage behind the mirror and a shelf below the sink. The shower had a curtain and came with shampoo, conditioner, and shower gel. I loved that Holland America provided bath sheets instead of small bath towels.

Stateroom Types

There are four main types of staterooms on the Noordam: Interior, Ocean View, Balcony, and Suite. While most guests prefer a balcony or higher for an Alaska cruise, having an inside room didn’t bother me since I’d been to the Last Frontier numerous times.

Noordam oceanview stateroom
Noordam oceanview stateroom

While Ocean View staterooms offer a window, I avoid them due to their location on the Main or Upper Promenade Decks below and above busy areas.

Suites are the most luxurious option, with extra amenities such as a whirlpool tub and a separate sitting area. They also benefit from priority embarkation and disembarkation and eat at Club Orange, a separate area in the dining room.

Suites And Amenities

If you’re looking for the ultimate luxury experience, we recommend booking one of the suites on the Noordam.

The ship has two Pinnacle Suites, offering a spacious living area, a separate bedroom with a king-size bed, a whirlpool tub, and a large balcony for glacier viewing. At over 1,300 sq. feet, they are more spacious than many apartments.

Pinnacle Suite private deck hot tub
Pinnacle Suite private deck hot tub

Suite guests can also access exclusive amenities such as a concierge lounge, priority boarding and disembarkation, and complimentary laundry and dry-cleaning services.

Entertainment And Activities

Regarding entertainment and activities, there is something for everyone. From theater shows and casino gaming to pools and recreation, there is no shortage of things to do on a sea day.

Since we cruised in Glacier Bay, a ranger boarded our ship and gave commentary throughout the trip. Ranger Michael was a wealth of information and gave a fantastic talk at the World Theater.

Shows, Games, And Music

The World Stage, at the ship’s bow, provided the theater shows and movies. However, other events such as game shows, trivia, and seminars were held in the Explorer’s Lounge, Billboard Onboard, and Exploration’s Café. The Crow’s Nest featured art classes, board games, and puzzles.

Crow's Nest
Crow’s Nest

For our Alaska itinerary, the World Stage featured many talks on Alaska. They included:

  • Destination Alaska
  • The Skagway story 2024
  • Alaska Up Close: Pacific Giants
  • Alaska Up Close: The Iditarod
  • A Spectacular Day in Glacier Bay
  • Stories of the Tlingit People
  • Alaska Up Close: Breaking the Ice Ceiling

The Step One Dance Company’s shows were the highlight of World Stage entertainment. While I had seen their shows on the Koningsdam, I enjoyed one repeat and one new presentation this time.

Their shows feature choreographed dances to music and visuals projected on the walls and floor. The productions are visually stunning and must-see.

Holland America is known for its music venues. Some ships have the Music Walk, which features three venues, while others have one or two.

Billboard Onboard
Billboard Onboard

The Noordam has two on the Lower Promenade Deck: The Rolling Stone Lounge and Billboard Onboard. We listened to the fantastic piano duo players Gabe and Megan in the Billboard Onboard.

Their music was the highlight of the cruise, and the venue was standing room only each night they played. On the last evening, I was amazed at how effortlessly their music flowed from one song to the next during “all requests.”

No matter what your music preference, there was something for all tastes. Here’s a sample of the entertainment:

  • Classic R&B
  • British Invasion
  • Back to the 80s
  • Days of Disco
  • 70s Sounds
  • Rock Classics

Casino And Gaming

Opposite the Billboard Onboard, the Noordam’s small casino has the usual slot machines and table games.

Board games and puzzles were available in the Crow’s Nest, and daily crossword puzzles and Sudoku sheets were available in the Explorations Café.

The Crow’s Nest also offers art classes, knitter’s meetups, and origami.

Pools And Recreation

Lido pool and hot tub
Lido pool and hot tub

The Noordam has two swimming pools on the Lido Deck. For my Alaska cruise, the central one, which is covered and heated, was the perfect spot during cool weather.

In warm weather destinations, the aft pool or Sea View Pool offers calming wake views. During our cruise, the aft pool hosted a Polar Bear Swim on a cool 10C day.

The ship has a well-equipped gym and a sports court for volleyball, basketball, and pickleball for those who want to continue their fitness routine.

Spa And Fitness Center

The spa and fitness center are located on the Lido Deck at the ship’s bow. During my voyage, guests could join a Sunrise Stretch in the gym or opt for the Walk a Mile on the Promenade Deck with the sports director.

Yoga classes and Tour de Cycle spinning classes incurred a USD 20 fee.

During the cruise, the 5k walk called “On Deck for a Cause” raised money for Alaska’s parks. I have done the 5k walk on the Promenade Deck on other vessels, and each time, the money raised goes to different causes.

The Greenhouse Spa offers all the usual treatments to relax, tone, and rejuvenate. Its thermal suite, with a large hydro-therapy pool, is particularly lovely.

The hydro-therapy pool in the thermal suite
The hydro-therapy pool in the thermal suite

While I’ve tried many thermal spas across different lines, I like that the heated loungers on Holland America ships overlook the ocean. For my 7-day itinerary, a pass was USD 198 for the whole cruise, and they weren’t selling day passes, which were usually USD 49 a day.

While I didn’t use the thermal suite on this trip due to a packed itinerary, I enjoyed it on the Koningsdam six months earlier. The highlight for me was the hydro-therapy pool, which provides a water massage after 20,000+ steps in port.

Kids Clubs

Although Holland America doesn’t generally attract many children, it still offers a kids club program. Located on the Observation Deck mid-ship, the children are divided into age groups.

The minimum age is three years, and it fits into the 3 to 6 group. The other groups are 7 to 12 and 13 and above. Each area has age-appropriate toys, games, and crafts.

Onboard Dining Options

Cruise ship food is important to me. I selected the Noordam for its excellent itinerary and great food, which Holland America is known for. Onboard, there are plenty of options, from casual dining to specialty restaurants.

Pinnacle Grill
Pinnacle Grill

The Noordam offers several dining venues, including the Main Dining Room, Pinnacle Grill, and Canaletto. Each restaurant offers a contrasting dining experience, and the food is consistently excellent.

Main Dining Room

The main dining venue offers traditional cruise dining with set seating times of 5:30 and 7:30 pm on deck three. Alternatively, guests can arrive between 5:15 and 9 pm to be seated at the first available table on deck two.

The menus featured a variety of appetizers, soups, salads, entrees, and desserts, all expertly prepared and served by attentive waitstaff. We had a Dutch night, and there were lots of seafood choices.

Our food was exceptionally good, and I liked that there were gluten-free, vegetarian, and seafood options. We were in Alaska, after all!

Seared Alaska Rockfish with mussels and clams
Seared Alaska Rockfish with mussels and clams

Specialty Restaurants

Being a mid-sized vessel, the Noordam only has a few specialty restaurants. The Pinnacle Grill, for example, serves delicious steaks and seafood in an elegant atmosphere. This steak house opens for lunch on sea days and has a scaled-down menu.

Alternatively, the Italian-inspired Canaletto offers a casual dining experience with small plates and family-style dishes.

Since we were cruising to Alaska, a unique “Alaskan Seafood Boil” was offered in the Lido Market for USD 35 one evening during our cruise. It consisted of clam chowder, crab, salmon, clams, mussels, and shrimp.

Casual Eateries

There are casual options for those who prefer a more laid-back dining experience. The Lido Market is a buffet venue offering breakfast, lunch, and dinner options, including made-to-order omelets, fresh salads, and international cuisine.

The Dive-In offers classic burgers and hot dogs. In contrast, the New York Deli & Pizza offers delicious sandwiches and pizza. I tried the Back Flip, a chicken burger with guacamole on a gluten-free bun. The bun was very soft, and the burger was delicious but messy to eat.

During our day in Glacier Bay, hot pea soup was served on the outer decks and was incredibly delicious.

Having Dutch hot pea soup in Glacier Bay
Having Dutch hot pea soup in Glacier Bay

Bars And Lounges

Ten bars and lounges are located on the Noordam, each with its own vibe. The Pinnacle Bar at the Atrium puts guests at the center of the action. One deck above, the Ocean Bar provides plenty of space to socialize and enjoy sea views.

The Sea View and Lido Bars on the open deck may be more fitting in warm destinations. Drink packages were available for purchase and were as follows for my cruise:

  • USD 8 per day for fountain soda.
  • USD 17.95 daily for the Quench Package includes mocktails, non-alcoholic drinks, specialty coffees, and 500 ml bottled water.
  • USD 54.95 a day (Signature Package) for alcoholic drinks, beer, and wine, up to USD 11.
  • USD 59.95 daily for the Elite Package.

Final Thoughts

While the ship may not have the newest and coolest decor, it caters to those seeking a traditional and intimate cruise experience. I like the size of this vessel for Alaska and appreciate Holland America’s prime docking locations.

If you’re in the early stages of Alaska cruise planning, prime docking spots are a big deal and require less walking.

For those new to Alaska, the cruise line has wildlife viewing on the Promenade Deck daily. It’s a chance to talk to the onboard naturalist who gives tips on spotting whales, bears, and other wildlife. Remember to pack binoculars!

The itinerary was fantastic, with one sea day and seven days on land in Alyeska, Anchorage, Denali, and Fairbanks.

Holland America Noordam docked in Alaska, College Fjord and enjoying hot pea soup in Glacier Bay