You can plan on spending at least $1000.00 on board if you are fairly conservative. Pictures and a glass of wine or even a coke really add up quickly, not to mention sundries, etc. (Major tip) you can buy a "bucket of beer" for $17.00 or $19.00 depending on what you want to drink. While this is not a great deal, you do save money if you are a beer drinker. There are no drink cards to buy for beer; however, there is for wine which I will explain in a bit. You can tell the waiter to just bring you one beer at a time and he will. If you do not drink all five (the number in a bucket), they will put the remainder in an ice bucket that you can take to your room. The cabin stewards will make sure they keep the beer on ice for you.
For the wine drinkers, they do have a wine card you can purchase for either 10 or 20 glasses of wine, (house wine only). Since a glass of house wine is $4.25, this is well worth the cost if you are a wine drinker.
There is a minibar in the room and the prices are exactly the same as anywhere else on the ship. They even add the 15 percent service charge to the cost of the drink. Keep in mind that the only free drinks on board are water and iced tea. You cannot smuggle anything on board, because they x-ray everything you put on the ship. We found out that profitability of each cruise is greatly dependant on the beverage sales, so they watch it pretty closely.
There are no self service laundry facilities on the Noordam. The charges are a bit steep for the basic laundry that you will need done on a 10 day trip, unless you bring a lot of luggage. The summer humidity and heat will make you go through clothes rather quickly, ergo that clothes line I mentioned earlier. (Major tip) There is a laundry deal as well. You can have a bag of laundry cleaned for $20.00. If you carefully roll things up, you can stuff quite a bit in that laundry bag. It comes back to you neatly folded and on hangers. Remember that it takes a couple days to turn it around, so get it in early.
Food and Entertainment
Do not expect stellar or lavish spreads on the Noordam. The service is fabulous, but the food is just fair. The morning and lunch fare are pretty much the same every day. For dinner, there is some variety, but it is not special in any way. There are two other options for "better" food. One is the Pinnacle Grill, which will cost you an additional $20.00 per person. The other is the Conetello. This is an Italian restaurant tucked away in the corner of the Lido. The menu is the same every day, but it is a better quality of food. It is free, but you need to make reservations. (Major tip) The entrees in the Vista Dining room (the more or less formal place) are the same that are served in the Lido restaurant. You can eat in either place and get pretty much the same food. You can also scope out what they will be serving in the dining room by checking out the Lido and decide if you want to get dressed for dinner.
The nightlife on this ship is pretty much non-existent. The "disco" lounge was pretty much empty the entire cruise. It seemed that the center of activity was the casino. We are not gamblers, so I can't comment on how good it is. The one shining star on board was the piano bar. The guy there was very entertaining and really identified with the crowd. The waiters in that place were especially nice as well. It was a real "feel good" place. In fact, it became a regular hangout for many of the passengers. However, after several days the "shtick" became somewhat repetitive.
The Holland American Singers and Dancers left a lot to be desired. Went to a couple of their shows and found out they only knew one way to sing, and the song had to fit their "style" or it was wedged into their "style" This was especially true on the Vegas night show. On the positive side, the technical part of the show such as effects, lighting and sound were fantastic. There was also a really good talent named Count Dimas. He put quite a show and clearly stood out the best entertainer on the cruise. The various shipboard players were not bad, but not memorable. I kept feeling that this is where Holland America was cutting costs.
This is where Holland America and the Noordam shines. I can't imagine better service on any other cruise ship. No matter where you went or who you spoke with, you are greeted with smiles and people going out of their way to serve you. We were especially impressed with their ability to remember your names. We were often greeted by name. I must say that the $11.00 per person per day that was added to your bill was very reasonable for the level of service you received. In fact, we actually sought out a few standouts and gave them something extra.
Ports of call and Shore Excursions
I have to preface this by saying that I am not into structured, pointed or rushed activities. This was my opinion of the two excursions we took on this cruise. We took the Best of Ephesus and the Best of Athens, on the recommendation of the travel agent. All the others we did on our own and I must say I enjoyed the self paced touring much better. On the best of Athens for instance, we went to a museum and got to spend one hour there. Our guide spent 15 minutes in front of some gold trappings talking the history of the jewelry, while the rest of a very impressive museum was ignored. Please remember that this is the nature of the beast and not a criticism of the excursion. I would like to have more basic transportation plans and avoid the dinner/guided tour stuff. Really irritating was the Best of Ephesus tour where at the end the guide takes you to a Turkish rug place and the owner gives a brief talk on how rugs are made and then the salesmen descend on you to sell you a rug. We did not pay to be subjected to high pressure salesman and Holland America needs to clean up their act on these activities.
If you want an extremely clean, well maintained ship that will pamper you to death, then this is the ship for you. Don't expect spectacular food, nightlife, or shows and you will not go away disappointed, but you will go away very relaxed and rested.