Length: 778 ft
The Line's "flag ship" in name only - small and quiet, no movie theater, limited dining optionsBest For People Who Want
A dignified cruise experience in elegant, flower-bedecked surroundings, fewer children than on other mass-market lines; the best dedicated crossword puzzle area at sea.Should Be Avoided By People Who Prefer
The diversity of newer Holland America ships like EurodamOnboard Experience
Designed for extended voyages, including an annual world cruise, Rotterdam VI, is a designated flagship for Holland America, an honor she shares with sister-ship Amsterdam. She offers the best of both contemporary and transatlantic liner-style cruising, tasteful elegance without pomposity. As flagship, she offers the most gracious and polished service of all the HAL ships, exemplary cuisine, and a gorgeous alternative restaurant.
Rotterdam is fully subscribed to Holland America's "Signature of Excellence" program, with enhancements to nearly every area of the ship. Staterooms now offer the best mattresses and duvets sold in Europe, flat screen TVs, and DVD players. There's early boarding and a choice of four dinner seatings. New service amenities include a new Culinary Arts Program with a demonstration kitchen for instructional cooking classes, expanded spa and fitness facilities, tableside waiter service at dinner in the Lido, new shore excursions and upgraded Club HAL Kids Centers. The Explorations Cafe is a combination reading and listening library, Internet center, and sidewalk cafe.
Returning passengers will see some of their favorite Holland America traditions remain - free appetizers at cocktail hour, abundant fresh flowers throughout the ship, and chilled beer glasses.Decor
Contemporary, with a tastefully understated yet elegant decor, this gorgeous ship features Holland America memorabilia throughout the ship in addition to a $2 million collection of European and Asian art. Some of the most striking pieces are the "Terra Cotta Warriors," life-size human and equine terra cotta figures, reproductions of the ancient statues unearthed in Xian, China. Adjacent to the Explorer's Lounge, an enormous mural depicts 17th century Venice while the main dining room features a huge circular panel resembling stained glass.Public Rooms
The layout of the Rotterdam is not much different from the rest of the Holland America fleet. The differences are mostly in the decor. With most inside public areas concentrated on two decks, few passengers have trouble finding their way around.
Boarding visitors are greeted by a reproduction of a 17th century Flemish clock at the foot of a three-deck high stairway. The main public areas feature mostly dark red and blue upholstery and leathers, damask fabrics, mahogany tones, and gold accents, the ship feels at times like an elegant old hotel. The gorgeous two-level Queen's Lounge, more a nightclub than a theater, presents Rotterdam's lavish floorshows. Head for the banquettes for the best sight lines. The Explorer's Lounge offers cognac, cigars, delectable chef-designed chocolates and a string quartet at night. The Ambassador Lounge (and Tropic Bar within it) would seem more intimate if there weren't so many passengers passing through it all the time. The Crow's Nest, atop the ship, is an observation lounge by day and a disco after dark. Fresh hot popcorn is always available in the Wajang Movie Theater, where a selection of near first-run movies will be presented throughout the cruise (be sure to check the entire schedule, your favorite feature may or may not play more than once). The beautiful wood-paneled library is almost as large as the casino. Three boutiques complete the public area. The popular Ocean Bar offers sea views.Cuisine
The main dining room, La Fontaine offers an attractive balance of contemporary cuisine and more traditional fare. While the menu always features something a bit bolder, such traditional favorites as grilled salmon and prime rib remain on offer, along with lighter and vegetarian cuisine.
The menu at The Pinnacle Grill at the Odyssey Restaurant is innovatively Italian, with a wine list offering several more excellent Italian choices than La Fontaine. The casual Lido will make you the best omelet you've ever tasted in the morning and occasionally offers Indonesian 'rice tables' or Indian curry stations at lunchtime.
Holland America's Lido buffets have always been among the best at sea, with a variety of salads, breads, hot entrees and sumptuous desserts.
Watch for specialty nights such as the "Chef's Dinner" for 12 people with wine-pairing - cost $89 per person.
Also the "Le Cirque" night in the Pinnacle Grill when they serve itrems from the menu of the iconic New York restaurantRestaurants
In the elegant two-level La Fontaine Dining Room, enormous glass windows overlook the stern, providing dramatic sea views. Most tables seat four, six, eight and ten. There are four dinner seatings at 5:45 p.m., 6:15 p.m., 8:00 p.m. and 8:30 p.m.
Evocative of a medieval Venetian palace, with candelabras, hand-painted murals, and romantic muted lighting, Rotterdam's 88-seat Odyssey was Holland America's original alternative restaurant. Now called The Pinnacle Grill at the Odyssey, it features Pacific Northwest cuisine and wines, and levies a $20 service charge.
Casual breakfast and luncheon buffet are served in the Lido restaurant, adjacent to the pool. A bright, cheerful place with separate salad, drink, deli, dessert, and stir-fry stations. You seldom have to wait, even during days at sea. Hamburgers and hotdogs are served poolside until 4:00 p.m.Service
Holland America's Indonesian and Filipino crew is warm and gracious, though not always as fluent in English as American and British passengers might prefer. Speak slowly and make sure they understand what you need, because they can be to polite to ask you to repeat yourself.Tipping
For years Holland America was known for its no-tipping policy, intended to make passengers believe that staff were doing it for love, rather than money. Now, gratuities of $10.00 per person (including children) are automatically added daily to the shipboard account for dining and stateroom service. Visit the front desk to adjust that amount. A 15 percent service is automatically added to bar bills.Entertainment
The Queen's Show Lounge's floorshows usually include an accomplished concert pianists of some renown, a comedian and one other act (magician, juggler, singer). Broadway style productions created by Anita Mann have gotten much better at Holland America the last few years, featuring enthusiastic choreography, singing and state-of-the-art special effects. The highlights of the shows on Holland America are usually the lavish costumes.Cabins
Abandoning the bland beigeness of the older Statendam-class ships, the cabin decors features a much livelier palette of colors, including corals, mangoes, blues, and white. Holland America built Rotterdam VI with yearly world cruises in mind, which mindset is reflected in the most spacious cabins in the mid-price range, regardless of category. Rotterdam has four categories of staterooms: inside (192 square feet), outside (201 square feet), mini suites (229 square feet with 59 sq.ft. private verandah), 36 suites (393 square feet with 189 sq.ft. private verandah) and four penthouse suites (937 sq.ft. with 189 sq.ft. private verandah). The 120 Verandah Suites (230 square feet, excluding verandah) offer particularly good value.
All cabins have two single or one queen-sized bed, abundant closet and drawer space, and safes. The remote-controlled color TV's show closed circuit movies as well as CNN International. There is a small dressing table, couch and armchair. The bathrooms have hair dryers and lovely toiletry; only outside cabins have both bathtubs and showers. Some cabins have connecting doors for families preferring two cabins.
Suites and minisuites come with many perks -- large balconies, marble bath with whirlpool, TV/VCR, terry cloth bathrobes, personalized, stationery, complimentary laundry, high tea served in suite, free videos, cocktail party with the captain, feather pillows and special disembarkation privileges. All suite guests may avail themselves of a concierge staff who remain stationed inside the concierge-class lounge on the same deck. This lounge features DVDs, books and tempting snacks available to suite passengers. The concierge will assist passengers in booking shore excursion reservations, alternative dining reservations and any other matters that would ordinarily involve standing in a slow-moving line.
There are four self-service launderettes (a wash and dry cost $2 including detergent) featuring ironing board/iron and folding tableFitness/Spa
There is a full-service Ocean Spa (run by Steiner's LTD) comprising a hair salon and massage and facial facilities. The bright Center features modern exercise machines, free weights, a sauna and steam room and a juice bar. classes ranging from yoga to aerobics are offered several times a day. Some of the classes carry a fee that tends to be rather expensive. There are two swimming pools, one with a retractable dome, and four Jacuzzis. The tennis courts double as volleyball courts. Joggers and speed walkers can do their morning constitutional on the terrific wraparound Promenade Deck, also lined with wooden deck chairs for a wonderful spot for reading, daydreaming, or even snoozing in the grand style of the cruisers of decades long past.Attire
Slightly dressier on formal nights than other Holland America ships, especially on extended voyages, many men wear tuxes though a dark suit is certainly acceptable; daytime attire is casual, but jeans and a tee-shirt will appear a little under-dressed.
Have just returned from 30 day S. Pacific cruise staying in a Lanai stateroom. Guests contemplating booking this type of cabin should be aware that the motors to raise and lower the tender boats are located directly above SOME of these rooms. On our cruise, tenders were used in 8 out of 12 stops. Imagine the noise at 7:00 am when boats were lowered. The other problem is that these tenders require ongoing maintenance. When that occurs, you are 'evicted' from your reserved lanai deckchair. Just a word of warning to check the tender (not lifeboat) boat locations prior to booking.
1. Emergency (and non-emergency) phone numbers did not work on or about 6 September 2007 and on or about 12 September, or were printed incorrectly in HAL literature and prevented us from reaching HAL in Seattle or the MS Rotterdam:
(a). When we needed help with American Airlines late arrival and British Airlines baggage transfers, which HAL literature prominently promised to provide in just such a case as we faced: American Airlines arriving in London 1.5 hours late that caused us to miss the booked (and only available) connection.
(b). When we tried to notify ship of above.
(c). When TravelGuard doctor tried to phone back 12 Sept. after Rotterdam's medical department declined to involve in a medical emergency. (TravelGuard has documented this to us in writing.)
2. When we reached an emergency number late that day (6 September):
(a). It proved to be an Answering Service.
(b). "HAL won't provide help with luggage."
(c). "HAL won't provide help with airline connections."
3. When we reached a live HAL representative (Dianne) on 7 Sept., she said "Computers were out system-wide yesterday."
(a). She at least notified Rotterdam about our having to meet them in Istanbul. Bythen, apparently, our original cabin, 3314, had been assigned to someone else because we were placed eventually in 3328.
(b). However, nobody on board Rotterdam knew of that alleged computer failure (which is now the world's #1 excuse for bad service)! In fact, the Rotterdam's reservation person reported having used that system on the day it was reported to us to be "out."
4. Without divine or HAL intervention, we could not reach Athens before the Rotterdam sailed.
5. Therefore, we missed 2 days of sailing, eating, sleeping, vacationing, etc.
6. 8 Sept. 2007: Rotterdam Guest Relations Supervisor (GRS) assured us we should go on the planned day trip for which we had prepaid to Istanbul on Day 3 and she'd stay on top of the luggage problem; also that we did not have to shop Istanbul for new clothes and other belongings; she guaranteed our luggage would be on board by the time we returned. Period. No chance of a slip-up, no need for us to switch to a "Plan B."
(a). Luggage was delivered to 4 other passengers;
(b). Our luggage was not delivered, and the GRS was unaware of that fact until we called her attention to it! i.e. She had not stayed on top of the problem as promised.
(c). When GRS delivered the above bad news, I broke down with uncontrollable crying so severe that GRS volunteered to come to our cabin to assist. Others among the senior passenger representatives also were aware of this.
7. I was without clothing for approximately one week;
(a). Rotterdam shops had almost nothing suitable; We found:
i. 1 pair of men's shorts;
ii. 1 ill-fitting dress;
iii. 2 T-shirts (with HAL logos!);
iv. 1 long skirt unsuited to the above and Judi's one jacket top that she'd carried aboard.
v. The above cost us $172.30.
(b). Rotterdam's rep suggested solution: Express Laundry (in by 9, back by 5) which would have left Judi naked most of the day, and in violation of deportment regulations!;
(c). The situation was, at best, Humiliating!
i. I danced barefooted since my only shoes -- sneakers -- were utterly unsuited to dancing;
ii. I faced attending high holiday Rosh Hashanah services without proper clothes.
iii. I missed the Captain's cocktails out of embarrassment (as per note to Captain Smit);
(d). Emotionally distressing!
i. I consumed my maximum doses of pain killer for my spine condition during this stressful period and beyond;
ii. Rotterdam staff witnessed me breaking down into uncontrollable crying (when they reported they had not dealt properly to insure that my luggage made the ship on the day they promised) tried to offer me some of their own wardrobe, but none were nearly the right size!
iii. When lost luggage at long last arrived 12 Sept., my extra supply of essential, prescribed pain killer medication was missing from it;
iv. The Rotterdam's medical department was unable or unwilling to assist with obtaining a new supply of her prescribed pain killer when we first asked them; later they relented (after the TravelGuard insurance doctors were unable to reach us because of HAL's bad electronic service or improperly printed numbers), but charged for their assistance ($25).
8. Franklynn was without vital items for 7 days and subjected to extreme stress.
(a). He and Judi were unable to cohabit due to the lost luggage;
(b). He could not recharge his cameras' or back-up storage system's batteries without the missing luggage;
(c). He could not wear his contact lenses;
(d). He was obliged to become fulltime care-giver, because of my fragile condition brought on by the lost luggage, instead of vacationer;
(e). He required medical attention upon return to the USA because of the stress;
9. We found HAL literature and web site distressingly misleading and unprofessional;
(a). We say this as professional writers with 50-year backgrounds (each):
i. Newspaper columnists in 50+ newspapers reaching 2-million+ readers from 1983 until 1995 (when we dropped it to focus on a newsletter that has paid for our "retirement");
ii. Authors of 22 trade and professional books;
iii. Designers and copyrighters of sales literature for Epic Systems (largest vendor of medical software), Deloitte Touche, Orion Systems.
iv. Freelancers of 1,000+ articles (often with photos) on science, business, consumer protection and travel that won 7 awards from American Business Press, National Press Club (2 consecutive years), Nat'l. Conf. of Christians and Jews, Best Home-Schooling Book of 2007, Oberhausen Grand Prix for documentary film on Vietnam War, etc.
(b). Example: At the web site where this trip was purchased, the "fine print disclaimer" is in 5 point type (at its largest), which is well below FTC guidelines; in fact, I discovered the disclaimer only yesterday while studying documents for possible use beyond our present claim.
10. We found Shore Excursions generally very disappointing and literature about them misleading.
(a). Example: Istanbul "HAL OK'd rug store" sold us a genuine Turkish carpet—later found to be probably made in China!
(b). Example: Pyramids trip of 3 hours on a bus with a guide who had degrees in everything (just ask her) told us less than we learned from another group's guide who did accompany his charges to the Pyramids, unlike our guide. She also spent 5 minutes hawking a gift shop where we'd stop. And the beggars of baksheesh, including uniformed police, were outrageously aggressive, the worst we'd encountered in any country. The camel drivers were not far behind. This should have been discussed in H.A.L. literature with advice (since our guide left us at once to wander on our own): don't make eye contact and don't speak and the hucksters may go away.
If you can't trust the people to whom you entrust your life when flying or sailing, who can you trust? One of our most-planned trips ever proved you can't trust anybody! For us, that now includes American Airlines, British Airways, their sometime baggage handler Havas, hoary Holland America Line and their fairly new owner Carnival Lines. Even the Wisconsin travel insurer fell apart when we needed them.
Savoring our new retirement, we immediately booked what sounded like a wham-bang cruise on Holland America Line's MS Rotterdam. We'd never felt the cruise muse, but this one went from Athens through the Bosporus and Dardanelles to Istanbul and Black Sea ports in Bulgaria, at Odessa and Sebastopol, past romantic-novel Russian dachas on Black Sea beaches and back out to Rhodes and the Pyramids of Egypt. Who could resist?
The cruise was to start in Athens, so we let American Airlines schedule our flight from Madison, Wisconsin, in plenty of time to catch the ship. They routed us to London's Heathrow airport, where (two hours later) their "One World" partner British Airways would take us to Athens. Rank innocents, we pre-booked and pre-paid for everything, from tripinsurance to Holland America's port-of-call sightseeing jaunts, so we wouldn't have a vacation worry. For the next few months, we sat back and anticipated the fun.
Departure date arrived, with blue skies forecast for during the whole flight. We checked through to Athens our two suitcases (small for Frank's clothes, large for Judi's and our non-carryon sundries) and the plane left on time. Our connection at O'Hare was ready to leave on time, but that's when Hell began its rise. American Airlines had boxed in our plane with two others. Our pilot couldn't pull away to take off until they did. It took half an hour to move them. Having lost our place in the O'Hare take-off queue, we now had to wait 45 minutes in line.
Ah, you say, pilots can pick up time over the Atlantic. Ours made up precisely 5 minutes.
Just before we landed, a steward announced, "Please remain seated unless you have a tight connection. Those with tight connections, please go to the Flight Transfer Desk." That meant us, since we now had 70 minutes to take-off for Athens. It must have also meant most others on the huge 777, because they all tried to shove their way out of the plane and to the designated desk. "We must make our flight to get on our cruise!" we implored the steward. "Don't worry, a flight leaves for Athens every hour," she assured us.
There's a reason London's Heathrow was voted the second worst airport in the world. Reaching the flight transfer desk took 10 minutes, shoving and being shoved all the way. There we learned (1) our next flight left from another terminal, reachable only by bus, (2) we'd have to go through Security again at the next terminal, and (3) nobody at AA or British Airways cared whether we missed our flight and therefore our cruise.
We got to the line for the bus and saw it was 3 buses long, they left every 5 minutes, and the ride was 10 minutes. In desperation, still hoping to make the plane, we played Ugly American and crashed the line. Miraculously, we arrived with a full 30 minutes before take-off.
Did you know that airlines, not governments, set up and bankroll the Security line configurations at major airports? To the left, at Terminal 1, was the 2-person line for first-class and business ticket-holders, guarded by a burly fellow who doesn't care how many flights you miss. To the right was the wheelchair line. Between was a huge snake of what seemed like 500 hyperanxious steerage passengers, kept in their place by a series of stanchions and straps. Seizing on a break in the strapping, we crashed that line too. We were through Security with 10 minutes to flight time. But we didn't know what gate the flight left from. We looked for a flight board -– and saw another Flight Connections desk, which was shared by BA and AA. We went to BA to find out and were told, "You missed your flight."
But what about the next one? Sorry, she said, none until the next day. "But our AA attendant said there's an Athens flight every hour."
Who do you trust?Okay, so we weren't fated to board our ship in Athens. We'd see the Bosporus and the Dardanelles on the ship's way back out of the Black Sea. "Reroute us to Istanbul, our next port of call."
Partner or not, British Airways couldn't change our ticket since AA had set it up. "You'll have to get in line at the AA desk next door." We stood in that line.
AA cheerfully agreed to reroute us to Istanbul. "But our luggage -- can we have it rerouted, too?" Sure, she said and scurried over to the BA desk. Lo and behold, five minutes after the BA desk told us our flight had already left, this woman worked a miracle. She said she'd retrieved both suitcases from the "already left" flight to Athens.
Who do you trust?
Thinking nothing else could go wrong, we cell-phoned "sorry, please cancel" to the Athens driver we'd reserved to take us to the ship. Then we reached out to Holland America Line, having carefully copied in all four phone numbers they'd provided online and in all their literature for passengers needing help with airline screw-ups, lost luggage, missed flights and other emergencies: an 800 number, a non-800, a "24-hour emergency line" and a direct number to phone the ship Rotterdam.
We phoned then. We phoned later. We phoned on arrival in Istanbul and several times more. We got no answer except once. That time, a baritone identified himself as a Seattle answering service and told us that Holland America doesn't help with luggage, schedules, late planes or any of those kinds of problems, period. "Go away," was the message we heard.
Who do you trust?
In Istanbul, despite our qualms, the little suitcase actually did arrive on our plane. Unsurprisingly, the large one did not. BA's lost-suitcase agency here, called Havas, was busy and seemed efficient. We filled out forms, showed luggage tags, and suggested that the bag had most likely flown to Athens. We were assured, repeatedly, that it would be rerouted and delivered right to our hotel next day, as soon as it arrived in Istanbul.
Athens to Istanbul takes the ship Rotterdam two days, so we had next day free. Our hotelier said they'd surely accept our new luggage, so we went sight-seeing. Back at the hotel, our suitcase hadn't arrived. We phoned Havas. "Sorry, it is coming on the midnight flight. We will deliver it to your hotel." No, we said, we'd be boarding the ship early the next morning -- though it wasn't leaving port until 6 PM. "Oh, then we'll deliver it to the ship." We took her name, phone extension, and everything else we could think to ask, so we could follow up.
We also tried Holland America's phones again -- and this time we did reach a live HAL representative -- in Seattle. "Where was everybody?" we asked. Sorry, she said, but their entire computer system (including the phones) had been down world-wide the previous day or so, otherwise we'd have received their help.
"Our computer was down." Heard that one before? Funny, but when we did finally climb on board the ship, the Chief of Reservations said that nobody there had any computer troubles in the past few days.
Who do you trust?
Next morning we boarded the Rotterdam, where HAL's official Passenger Services representative greeted us. We had prepaid for a 9-to-5 sightseeing trip in Istanbul -- should we go or wait for our luggage, we asked, anxious to make sure it arrived. Do go on the trip, she assured us, she'd make sure it arrived. We needn't phone Havas again or take the precaution of shopping in Istanbul for new duds. (Remember, all Judi's clothes were in that suitcase.) She took down all the details about the suitcase, and we felt a weight lifted.
Back on board at 5:30, we rushed to our stateroom so Judi could change from the ratty clothes and sneakers she'd flown in and worn three days. No dice -- no lost luggage greeted us. We phoned the passenger services desk. "What luggage?" they asked. We asked for the Passenger Services rep. Oops, (obviously having forgotten all about it), "Let me check." So much for her morning promises. She phoned back to report (as if to soothe!) that four other passengers' lost luggage had been delivered that day. "Wasn't yours?" Looking out our porthole, we saw water moving. The ship was leaving Istanbul! "What should we do?" we asked, Judi finally having broken down into sobs. She had three solutions:
One, she's spoken with Istanbul's Harbor Master and he'd get the suitcase from the airport, keep it until we came back out of the Black Sea, and bring it out to the Rotterdam himself when he came to guide us back through the Dardanelles five days later.
Two, meanwhile we could avail ourselves of the ship's costly Express Laundry service, in by 9 back by 5. Sure, we could just imagine Judi wandering the Rotterdam decks au natural while the one outfit she wore was washed.
And three, we could try the ship's two clothing shops up next to the casino, one for sportsware, the other for finery. She'd put through a $50 credit toward our purchase.
The finery shop's stock consisted of costume jewelry, formal wear, and furs. In the sports shop, we did find a $42 top that fit. (DAM Ships, it said across the pocket. We found the logo very fitting indeed!) We found a $48 pair of men's shorts, size 38, that were just a bit large. And we found a $68 skin-tight dress that ended above the knees. (Judi wore it once and ran for her jacket to cover up! She'll never again scoff at those sight-seeing matrons in teeny bopper dresses. Maybe their luggage got lost, too!)
Sorry, no underwear or shoes either place, not even sandals.
Five days later, that was us hanging over the Rotterdam's side watching for the Harbor Master. The suitcase arrived, along with 5 chocolates and a sorry note from HAL. Elated, Judi threatened to change clothes thrice a day to wear everything she'd packed.
One item was missing from the suitcase: Judi's reserve bottle of prescription painkillers. But she'd carried-on enough to get her through the cruise, so there was no real problem. We thought.
We phoned the on-board medical office and explained our predicament. Sorry, an assistant said, they had none of that medication on board. "Okay, just write us a prescription and I'm sure an Athens pharmacy will fill it." Sorry, they couldn't do that either.
We remembered that we had bought Traveler's Insurance from TravelGuard. It covered just such emergencies. We phoned them and their doctor promised to phone us back within the hour with the name of an English-speaking Athens physician who'd write us a prescription. We gave him the name of our ship, its direct phone number, our stateroom number, etc.
Who do you trust?
We waited two hours in the stateroom. No call. We checked our messages later. No call ever came from them. Happily, an Athens pharmacy refilled our prescription with no hassles. And TravelGuard refunded our entire premium when, after we were home, we phoned to complain, "Why didn't you phone us?"
They had tried, just not hard enough when the ship's number still didn't work (remember, the one we'd tried to phone two weeks before when their computer was allegedly out?).
Is trust obsolete?
Franklynn Peterson and Judi K-Turkel are Madison, WI authors and journalists who've traveled extensively to 49 states and two dozen foreign countries, written 22 books and won 7 journalism awards.