Travel Weekly's Sabina Rubbinaccio sailed a seven-day Caribbean
itinerary aboard Holland America Line's Noordam. Her report
ABOARD THE NOORDAM -- The Glenn Miller Orchestra struck up
"Pennsylvania 6-5000," and elegantly dressed couples took to the
floor to dance the jitterbug.
Earlier, Margaret O'Brien shared behind-the-scenes stories of
her performances in the films "Journey for Margaret" and "Little
Women" and what it was like working with Robert Young, Elizabeth
Taylor and June Allyson.
No, this sailing did not take place during the 1940s. It was a
film festival cruise, part of Holland America Line's new program of
theme sailings in the Caribbean.
The line is offering theme sailings through the fall, ranging
from a 1950s sock hop to Oktoberfest, wine-tasting, country music,
comedy and bingo.
The theme cruises are offered on selected seven-day sailings of
eastern and western itineraries aboard the Veendam, Westerdam,
Noordam and Nieuw Amsterdam.
On board the Noordam, guests reveled in listening to O'Brien
describe her childhood career at MGM studios.
Back then, it was more like being part of a family, O'Brien
said, in the days when actors were under contract to their studios
and were told the movies in which they were to appear.
As if O'Brien had not already thrilled her audience enough, she
lingered afterward to pose with any guests who wished to have a
photo taken with her.
I had thought Pennsylvania 6-5000 lived on only as the phone
number of New York's Hotel Pennsylvania (Glenn Miller's theme plays
on the voice mail) but was delighted to learn on board that the
Glenn Miller Orchestra still performs today.
It became a road band in 1956 under the direction of Ray
McKinley, at the same time Jimmy Stewart starred in "The Glenn
The orchestra travels most of the year across the U. S. and in
Canada under the direction of Larry O'Brien (who travelled with the
band during McKinley's tenure).
Inspired by the band, most of the Noordam's guests, in their
early 50s to late 70s, seemed to be reliving their youth.
It brought me back to my younger years when radio was quite the
thing, until television came on the scene, and my love for the
big-band sound has not waned.
We marveled at the orchestra, composed of men in their 20s and
They were not even born when this music was popular, and yet
their renditions of "Little Brown Jug" and "In the Mood"
transported me to the days when the gals would ask the guys to join
them for a fox trot.
The musicians then brought us up to the more recent pass with
Broadway showstoppers from "My Fair Lady," "Grease" and "Phantom of
The theme provided an interesting contrast to our daily port
Our first port of call was George Town, Grand Cayman, where we
set out on a shore excursion.
It took us through the city of George Town and past Seven Mile
I had not been relishing the part of the tour that would take us
to the Turtle Farm but was surprised to find it fascinating to see
these creatures through their various stages of growth.
Our next stop on the island was Hell, an area with intriguing
dark-rock formations, which apparently inspired its name.
A popular stop in this village is the post office, from which
cards can be mailed with that distinctive postmark. (I suppose I
was not the first tourist here to send my family a card saying
"I've been to hell and back," but I could not resist.)
In a glass-bottom boat here, I was enchanted by the
kaleidoscopic colors of the sea.
As we reached a coral reef, our guide gave us the history of
some shipwrecks, and we saw the electric colors of many varieties
of tropical fish, sponge and coral.
In Santo Tomas de Castilla, Guatemala, we embarked on smaller
vessels and traveled the scenic waters of the Rio Dulce, which
winds through the rain forest.
On reaching Quirigua National Park, we set out on a walking tour
of the Mayan city, where the ruins date to A.D. 780.
I still can remember the rich flavors of our lunch here, which
included a local version of black bean soup and barbecued chicken
with fresh local fruits and vegetables.
When we reached Playa del Carmen, in Mexico, after climbing
among the ruins, we were ready to enjoy the white-sand beach and
swim in the beautiful Caribbean. Somehow we also summoned the
energy to do some shopping for souvenirs.
Several fellow passengers spoke of the elements of cruising with
Holland America that keep them coming back to sail again with the
They noted its high standards in food and service and the
friendly staff, many of whom are Indonesian and Filipino.
Passengers noted that the line is affordable and includes a
no-tipping policy but is, at the same time, elegant.
The 1,214-passenger Noordam, which has its home port in Tampa,
Fla., features sophisticated decor without sacrificing comfort.
Holland America's tradition of installing sculptures and
paintings throughout the vessel makes a walk from a cabin to the
dining room seem like a trip to an art gallery.
The Amsterdam Dining Room has floor-to-ceiling windows that
provide wonderful views of the sea during meals.
Tables are appointed with fresh flowers and Rosenthal china.
The Lido Restaurant overlooks the pool and offers full
breakfasts as well as luncheon buffets.
The Lido Terrace enables guests to experience a barbecue in the
middle of the ocean, with the aromas from the grill mingling with
fresh sea air and the strains of a steel band beneath all that blue
The Crow's Nest is the place to enjoy a cocktail, and visitors
to the Explorer's Lounge can opt for after-dinner coffee and
In the afternoons, the lounge serves what it calls a royal Dutch
Other on-board diversions include pool games, dance classes,
movies in the Princess Theatre, bridge, horse racing, gambling in
the Mint casino and bingo.
The navigation deck offers exercise equipment, saunas and
A beauty salon and a barbershop are located on the promenade
deck, near the ship's boutique.
Four cabins were rebuilt in 1989 specifically for disabled
The Noordam also has programs available to the younger set.
The Big Dipper game room for children is staffed with
Parents can bring their children there before heading off to
Baby-sitting for late-evening events is limited in availability
and should be confirmed before departure, according to the