A bellboy in a bright red uniform wearing a pillbox cap opened the door for me with a smile. The deck staff waved in greeting as they touched up the paint and swabbed the decks to keep the ship immaculate. I hadn’t set foot on Holland America Lines’ Noordam for a couple of years, but it was like I was being welcomed back home after a weekend away.
Others may have their cabins in the woods or luxury cars to hit the road in, but I prefer to let someone else do the maintenance and just arrive as though it were my personal yacht and enjoy myself while someone else tends to the cleaning, cooking and entertaining.
It looks as though it’s going to be a great 10 days on board, as we cruise from Rome to Dubrovnik, in Croatia, the Greek Isles and Athens and finally Sicily.
I’ve already made my reservations at a couple of the classiest alternative restaurants at sea and there are some new additions: The Pinnacle Grill will be trying something new on this cruise. On one evening, it will be transformed into Le Cirque, with a new menu inspired by Le Cirque restaurant. It could be the start of something new on Holland America ships. The Pinnacle, with its inviting clubby feel is presided over on this cruise by Sam, a Canadian from Vancouver, who started his career as a singer and dancer in production shows and now adds his showmanship and million dollar smile to make every guest feel welcomed.
The Canaletto Italian restaurant has become a must-do on Noordam. What began as an evening transformation of a few tables on the Lido deck has become an Italian-themed corner with its own decor. For the first night out, I opted for the Lido Cafe, with its buffet style dinner, which now features a grill with a chef who will cook steaks and seafood to order.
There are also improvements in the main Vista Dining Room, with its panoramic windows at the stern of the ship that give a dramatic view of the sea. There are still fixed dining times for those who prefer a table at a regular time with regular table mates; but now you can also choose open seating and dine at any time between 5:45 and 9:30.
Another change, for those who haven’t seen Noordam recently is the addition of a Culinary Arts Center that features cooking demonstrations of dishes of the region the ship is sailing in at the time. I’m hoping to be able to tie on an apron and give things a stir.
There’s much more to see on a day at sea tomorrow. But my first priority is to get a good night’s sleep, which is always easy with Holland America’s signature “Mariner’s Dream” beds with a mattress so comfortable that you’ll want to take it home.