On November 23, 2019, the MS Noordam of Holland America Line departed Auckland harbour for a 14-day voyage around New Zealand and Australia. The 936 foot cruise liner carried just short of 2000 guests in style and comfort, offering patrons an experience nothing short of magical.
The cruise first stopped in sunny Tauranga, where passengers were treated to breathtaking views from the top of Mt Maunganui, and a sampling of the Bay of Plenty’s exquisite beaches. Following this was Napier, and the day after, windy Wellington – New Zealand’s capital city. Complimentary shuttles ferried us into the city’s bustling heart, where Te Papa museum, the New Zealand Parliament buildings, and town hall were only a short walk away.
Sailing across the cook strait, the Noordam docked in Picton. Here, travelers had the option to taste some of the finest sauvignon blanc in the world, embark on hikes through picturesque South Island scenery, or sample exquisite local seafood, before we retreated through the breathtaking Marlborough Sound to continue our journey. Further south, the ship sailed into Akaroa. Many passengers were greeted by local dolphins as they travelled to and from shore, and lounged in front of the picture-postcard view on offer. Finishing off the New Zealand portion of the cruise, the MS Noordam dropped into Port Chalmers for a day, before engaging in scenic cruising through Fiordland’s world-famous Dusky, Doubtful, and Milford Sounds.
Across the Tasman Sea, we visited three Australian cities. Hobart offered a taste of life in Tasmania, the city a quiet, old fashioned settlement nestled in the shadow of Mt Wellington. Melbourne followed, a bustling metropolis of contemporary art, boutique coffee shops, and a slew of rooftop bars on par with those found in New York, London, or Paris. Finally, the cruise landed in Sydney. Many passengers travelled straight to the airport, but those who ventured downtown found iconic views of Circular Quay, Darling Harbour, and the Sydney Opera house lined up along the waterfront; a dazzling foreground to Australia’s most populous city.
The grand vessel for our journey – the MS Noordam – proved a floating resort of seemingly endless attractions. During the day, passengers were invited to participate in live cooking shows, fitness classes, skincare and beauty demonstrations, Microsoft tutoring sessions, and team-based quizzes. The boat’s top decks housed a state-of-the-art gym and spa complex interspersed between three pools, countless sun loungers, and an observation deck offering panoramic views of the open ocean. At mealtimes, guests were offered a choice between restaurant style cuisine in the dining room, a buffet selection at the enormous Lido Market, or a gourmet burger at the Dive-In bar; and in the evenings, those with a taste for the arts were spoiled for choice, with pianists, singers, dancers, blues bands, and more performing on a nightly basis.
No matter how I chose to spend my time, the staff onboard were always eager to assist. From the housekeeping team that always greeted me with a friendly smile, to the knowledgeable and charismatic servers scattered throughout the ship, everyone was united in their effort to give passengers the best vacation of their lives. My journey on the MS Noordam was an experience like no other, and I can’t wait to sail with Holland America again.