The Noordam

One always meets new people when they travel; one of the true joys of travel. Very early in the continuum of  a relationship with new people comes the inevitable question;

“Where are you from?”

We often hesitate in answering that question, in part assessing if we really want to get into the whole explanation of how and why we have chosen to be “home free” and actually like it. When  we tell folks that we sold the big house, gave most of the stuff away, saved a few pieces and pretty much just travel their by far most common response is…”Oh do you have an RV”?

I guess the most correct answer is yes, a Holland American cruise ship.


OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAFact is, we really do not own any of these ships but we have been on enough of them that some of the staff recognize us day one with hugs and we get free laundry! That is a perk that goes a long way in helping Karen to decide what to pack.

We have done other cruise lines but Holland American is our RV of choice for traveling the high seas and living for weeks at a time. A tour of the last ship we traveled may just give insight into why we still like what we are doing.

We feel that Holland American  is designed around people like us. Born in the forties, raised in the sixties, who actually like to touch their partner occasionally while dancing to music with real words.

Let’s start with how our RV gets around. The picture below is an


an Azipod.

Now while many Kiwi’s may think an azipod is a bloke from the Australian outback with one foot in his mouth and the other on the ground; that may be true, but this is the device which guides and drives our boat.

The newest HA ships are equipped with two of these huge electric trolling motors capable of rotating 360 degrees. Take a look at the men walking underneath these units while in dry  dock to get a feel for the size.

While in operation, the unit is turned so the the blades are on the leading edge pulling the boat which is far more effective, The power for the motors comes from these diesel engines very similar to what you would find in a railroad locomotive.dscn2817  The Noordam has, I believe, four of these engine/generator units plus a turbine for power generation to propel the boat as well as to operate the hotel, which is what they call the living and eating portion of the ship.

dscn2815 We were not allowed into the engine room for safety and security reasons but the cameras in the control room clearly showed how spotlessly clean the crew keeps these engines.

The control room was probably a 1000 square feet with hundreds of meters and gauges, dozens of video monitors.dscn2804dscn2805 The chief engineer talked us through many of the controls; a fascinating tour.

In our travels there are two types of places we stay, cruise ships and vacation rentals. Both allow you to pack and unpack once per trip. In vacation rentals having a laundry is essential.  On a ship, laundry is crucial to cut down on how much luggage you carry. Lets take a quick tour of the laundry on the Noordam.dscn2854 Piles of bedding, towels, napkins and clothing are processed continually; three shifts every daydscn2855 There are banks of washers each with capacities far, far greater than a home unit. When you turn in laundry they attach a small strip somewhere inside the garment that has the cruise number and your cabin number. It all gets mixed together by color and fabric and comes back to you two days later delivered to your cabin. Amazing, but it works!

This next set of pictures is an ironing machine for flat material such as towels, napkins and sheets.dscn2857 A worker feeds in the item to be ironed…dscn2858 and it comes out the other side ironed and folded. dscn2863 Important to remember this is a workplace so you see safety signs, notices for meetings, job training and personnel matters. I thought this poster was very true.

Another department that astonished us was the tailor shop. The Noordam has three full time tailors who make the uniforms for every crew member. dscn2847dscn2849 When a new crew member reports for duty they go the the tailor shop, they are measured and a day later have their new uniform. Each assignment has a specific uniform and the tailors use a set of templates to cut the material.

When you think cruise ship ya think food…lots of it. The kitchen part of this tour was also fascinating.dscn2867 The kitchen operates 20 hours per day with a four hour clean-up each day. The bakery section starts first in the early hours using 450 lbs of flour each day to make the rolls, breads, buns and cakes that get consumed daily. With 2600 guests and close to 1000 crew there is a lot of food prep and cooking going on.dscn2866 dscn2884 We went through the kitchen about 3 in the afternoon and these  lobster tails were already moving down the chilling tables.

A lot of folks have asked how we stop from getting fat on cruise ships because there is a lot of food offered all the time at a lot of different venues. It is really fairly easy as there are so many choices, you just have to decide to eat what is good for you and in quantities that make sense.

Another thing that many people do not realize is that the kitchen will make almost anything the way you want it. If you need no salt, no gluten or no dairy, just tell the dining room stewards and the next meal is exactly what you need on your diet.

Behind the kitchen are the store rooms that supply all the materials, this was the liquor cabinet,dscn2870 When Holland America stocks the larders, they make sure they have enough beer for the Aussies and rum for the Caribbean. dscn2872 Hundreds of items that must be ordered, picked up at various ports and distributed to the various bars and dining areas. What most people on the cruise never see are the parallel corridors, stairs and elevators that allow the crew to move about the ship unseen by passengers. It is really like another universe.

dscn2842 This is the storage area underneath the main stage where performers can  grab the next costume and make the quick change often required. The actors and performers are hired by HA from New York talent agencies for a set of shows that run through their contracts. Other than safety drills and actual emergencies the artists do not have duties other than their performances. You can almost always find them in the gym keeping their bodies in shape. Many also volunteer in crowd control.

Racks of hats,dscn2845 Hair do’s of the partdscn2843 are all stocked and at the ready to change.

We took a bridge tour and had the usual picture with the Captain.dscn2830

But the person actually driving the boat this day was the cute little 23 year old on the left of the picture below:dscn2841 Interestingly, though she parks this ship at the dock, she has never driven a car. Does not have a drivers license. Who needs a car in Amsterdam where she lives.

and the Captain has an office,dscn2826 actually neater than any I had when working.

We have learned that the crew that works so hard for us on these ships are beautiful people from many countries that enjoy their life on these ships as a way to make a living for their families. They live for their contracts as well as they live for their time at home.

A ship at sea is a self contained city.  Many of the services that are taken for granted on land must be  provided while afloat. We even had a captain trained in emergency dental work.

Nothing brought this so close to home as when we were at sea between New Zealand and Australia and a cabin steward had appendicitis. There are two doctors on board plus nurses but this event required evacuation. Our first clue was a helicopter approaching our stern.dscn2538 We watched as the chopper moved to the bow of the ship where all rigging had been removed. We later learned that all forward facing window cabins and areas had been evacuated in case of issues with the the chopper hitting the ship. Safety always foremost!dscn2546 A stretcher and a very brave person was lowered down to the forward deck where the crew member was hoisted up to the the medivac helicopter.

This incident really brought home to us that all the folks on a ship at sea must be together. The captain had to make big decisions on this trip which caused us to miss certain stops on the itinerary which angered some passengers, but you have to know the captain MUST make these tough choices for us all. Passengers must also make the decision to sanitize hands as when entering eating areas.

The same is true I think for all of us on this world in our trip though the universe.