HAL Rotterdam is a ship with the perfect size to do this itinerary. The bow was open at least three days (the two fjord scenic cruisings and while sailing out of Bergen) and I believe that the lookout balcony on deck 6 was always open (and always freezing windy). The sheltered aft sections on decks 2 and 3 are perfect for scenic cruising. Overall the condition of the ship was excellent (yes, you see some rust here and there but please give some slack to a 20 years old ship): I did not suffer nor hear complaints about AC, plumbing or service (party of 4 with two mid-ship insides on deck 3). Laundry rooms are still available on few decks (see posted photo below). Furniture, upholstery and carpets on public spaces were in very good condition (I assume that the majority were renovated in a recent dry dock).
Comparing with the sister ship Volendam, I missed the wraparound platform overlooking the aft pool (the Rotterdam has a metal canopy that partially covers the retreat bar and an unused giant screen that blocks the passage from one side of the ship to the other); I also thought that the sand-tone finishing of the promenade deck floor and chairs was less elegant than the shining caramel varnish used in the Volendam (maybe this change is only temporary). On the other hand, I really liked the huge clock tower in the atrium when compared to the colored glass structure in the Volendam. I also got the impression that the art pieces on the Rotterdam surpassed the ones on Volendam (for example the large painting along the Explorers Lounge wall was much better executed than the Volendam counterpart). The larger number of Lanai cabins (again, compared to Volendam) restricted the number of available deck chairs on the wraparound promenade; nonetheless I had no problem in finding a chair when needed (which was not often given the chill temperatures while sailing).
Overall, the demographic of this cruise seemed older than what I experienced in Alaska, but all passengers were very active and the wraparound promenade was well used by many power walkers. The MS Rotterdam sailings out of Rotterdam are traditionally a first choice for dutch guests (since Rotterdam is the home port and headquarters of the centenary Holland America Line); many of these guests come from local travel agencies in large organized groups; for this reason, almost 90% of passangers are dutch, the cruise director and cruise host were dutch, and all announcements are made in both english and dutch. The double language repetition of all announcements (and introductions to the shows and so on…) was not annoying for us; on the other hand I was disappointed that no dutch influences ocurred in the food (or maybe I was unaware).
The food was very good to excellent in all venues (I did not try the NY Pizza). The Lido is now under the new Market concept, which I think helps with the people flow. Finding a seat in the Lido was more difficult than in my previous HAL cruise, since the guests were lingering a bit longer than usual. Service in the MDR was excellent (we had As-You-Wish open dining, but managed to maintain the same table for most of the days). Service was fast, and plates were served hot, well presented and flavourful. However, I must admit that the food in the Cunard Queen Victoria MDR was slighly better prepared and presented with a wider selection of appealing appetisers and deserts than in Holland America. I could not find any food on the Lido at 1am (not even the platter of cookies that were always available in the Volendam).
If you have already enjoyed several Alaska cruises, you need to experience a norwegian cruise… For me (living in Europe) I was very glad to realize that a norwegian cruise easily holds its ground to an Alaska cruise and that I don’t need to cross the world and spend a fortune to repeat an exquisite scenic cruising.
This experience confirmed that HAL ships have a wonderful and relaxing atmosphere. Now I know for sure that I will not hesitate in booking a HAL cruise in the future.
Some photos of HAL Rotterdam…
Photos are copyright of Vasco Galhardo – Do not reproduce without written permission.