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Traveltalk’s JON UNDERWOOD has just returned from two cruises aboard MS Noordam to New Zealand, Tasmania, South Australia and Victoria. Here, he reports on what you can expect from your experience with Holland America Line.


White Bay in Balmain may not be as glamorous as the OPT in Circular Quay but you can’t fault the boarding procedure. There were staff everywhere as we arrived to board MS Noordam and from the moment we climbed out of the taxi there was someone to show us where to go, what to do and how to do it.

It’s often said that the best part about cruising is that you only have to unpack once but I think not having to go through the rigmarole of airport procedures is right up there as well.


With so many new ships being launched these days anything pre-2010 is considered almost a classic.

Noordam began her adventures in 2006 and at 18 is quite the old lady of the sea. She holds just under 2,000 but apart from one day when all shore excursions were cancelled when we couldn’t get into Port Chalmers in Dunedin, the ship never felt crowded.

The décor could maybe do with a refresh as it’s a bit dated but other than that I found Noordam extremely comfortable with plenty of onboard activities to keep everyone amused and enough space for everyone to spread out.


We upgraded to a Neptune Suite and the extra cost was well worth it as it also gave us access to the Neptune Lounge, a quiet and cosy refuge from the rest of the ship where food and drink were served throughout the day.

Our room had a small dressing area just ahead of a spacious bathroom, a mini sitting area with comfortable lounge and chairs, and a luxurious king-size bed that afforded a deep and refreshing sleep.

We utilised the plentiful cupboard and draw spaces before despatching the suitcases safely under the bed. A complimentary bottle of sparkling wine helped us settle in along with comfy bathrobes and slippers.

With a table, chairs and deckchairs, the large balcony was a great spot to watch the ocean pass by or during our arrival into port. Other amenities included a mini-bar, large TV screen and a coffee machine.


Every evening a sheet would be delivered outlining the onboard activities for the day ahead. Imaginatively called ‘The Daily’, this vital document listed all the weird and wacky things you could get up to from 7am to 11pm.

Exercise features heavily with tai chi, walking and the current craze for pickleball all included. Art classes cover origami, water colours and even flower arranging, while there are ‘meet and greet’ opportunities for singles, young cruisers and LGBTQ+ travellers.

The World Stage hosted a variety of shows featuring artists such as comedian Jason Nash Ryder, and musicians Trevor Knight and Tomono Kawamura.


The second question most people ask after how comfortable is the ship is what’s the quality of the food like?

On Noordam there are several dining options from the quick buffet service of the Lido Market to the upscale ambience of the Pinnacle Grill. Canaletto offers another restaurant-style dining option.

Across the board the quality of the meals we enjoyed was impressive and every night brought a new and delicious discovery. I had roast beef one evening which was so tender I could have cut it with a feather and some of the desserts will linger long in the memory (and on the waistband!).


From the divine Kristine and Margie in the Neptune Lounge to the dynamic duo of Bagus and Ron in the cabin cleaning department, the crew aboard Noordam were unwaveringly friendly, helpful and enthusiastic. Special mentions also of the 400-watt smile of Elizabeth and the smooth efficiency of Raj in the Pinnacle Grill.

It’s no mean feat trying to keep a ship full of hungry passengers happy and the dining room staff worked like a well-oiled machine.

Even when a couple of passengers got a bit ‘stroppy’ the staff kept smiling and went out of their way to ease their pain. Shame ships no longer make recalcitrants walk the plank…   


One of the intriguing delights of a cruise is the vivid cross-section of people you encounter onboard.

We met one of the first ladies to coach rugby league in Sydney, a husband-and-wife team whose job was transporting dynamite across the United States and a gentleman called Jim from Washington who said he was in “electronics” but I think was actually a CIA agent.

And then there was Tom McDonald, who although he is fast approaching his 90th year is still sharp as a tack and full of absorbing stories.

As an eight-year-old young Tom was evacuated from Belfast during the Second World War and didn’t see his mother for a year. He later served in both the Australian and British navy and now drives a souped-up mobility scooter through the streets of Nowra.


For me, this is another vital part of a successful cruise experience and I’m pleased to report that Holland America provide plenty of variety on both their 10-day ‘New Zealand Discovery’ tour and the 11-day ‘South Australia Discovery’ trip.

On the former we discovered an enchanting garden called Waiongana in New Plymouth. It has been created by Diana and John who in 16 years have turned four hectares of bare paddocks into something quite remarkable.

We also did a few wineries (come on, it’s New Zealand!!) and can thoroughly recommend pretty much anything from Georges Road Wines in Waipara. Another wine-based tour presented itself in Adelaide with a trip to the McLaren Vale.

In Hobart we mixed the ‘wet’ and the ‘dry’ with a fabulous boat ride with Pennicott Wilderness Journeys that offered up sightings of seals, dolphins, albatross and even a stray penguin.

However, the highlight was the chance to tour Kangaroo Island for the day. It was so encouraging to see how the island has bounced back from the tragic bushfires of 2019/2020 (see Domestic Travel: Special Report).


I would recommend Noordam to anyone who is looking for a relaxing cruise experience, coupled with interesting and varied shore excursions.

It’s probably not ideal for those with kids or teenagers (there are no water slides, dodgem cars, etc etc) but more for cruise fans who want great service, delicious food and a holiday to remember.