Holland America MS Rotterdam
This past winter we decided to try Holland America’s ms Rotterdam. Cassandra and I spent 9 years between us working on ships. I worked as Cruise Staff for two Holland America ships in the late ‘90s but this was the first HA cruise as civilians for both of us. Newly renovated in 2009, the Rotterdam is the standard bearer for the HA fleet. The company originated in the Netherlands and most of the officers are Dutch.
We chose the Iberian Peninsula itinerary. Embarkation was from Civitavecchia (Rome’s port – 45 minutes by train) and hugged the coast of Spain before navigating the Strait of Gibraltar. After two stops in Portugal and a crossing of the Bay of Biscay, the ship disembarked in Harwich, England (90 minute bus ride from London). Our recommendation is to book a cabin that at least has a window (make sure you request unobstructed so you don’t have to stare out at a tender boat) and if possible spring for a balcony to enjoy the fresh air. Suites and mini suites are available that provide all the comforts of home and the best views.
Dinnertime was always a treat! There are six different dining areas onboard. Some are included while others require a surcharge. Most of our suppers were in the fabulous La Fontaine Dining Room featuring impeccable service and an extensive wine list. Five-course menus include continental cuisine, vegetarian and low-carb options. Our Maître d’ Tami greeted us each evening and helped us with our table. A good dinner table and conversation is paramount to the success of the cruise (Don’t be afraid to request a new table if you get stuck with a mismatch the first night – there is quite a mix of languages on international voyages.) Tami indulged us in the hospitality of his native Indonesia. During Birthday and Anniversary celebrations he would lead the staff in celebratory song and dance.
After dinner there was always entertainment. There was a “Dancing With the Stars at Sea” production that paired passengers up with the professionals onboard, a standup comedian and several talented singers. Our favorite show featured three Flamenco Dancers they brought in for the “Night from Spain.” During our sea days we spent a lot of time at the gym and then the Greenhouse Spa. Both overlooked the ocean and we enjoyed some leisurely reading from heated spa chairs in the aromatherapy room. The Lido deck had ping pong tables and a giant chess set and there was trivia, port lectures and wine tastings to pass the time. I even signed up for a comedy improv class!
The Holland America line tends to be a little older (average age was at least 60) and only about half of the passengers spoke fluent English, but expanding your comfort zone is part of the fun. The crew went out of their way to be friendly and our cabin steward would fold our towels into different animal shapes each night.
HA is owned by Carnival. Carnival is a younger ship and has better night life. Holland America has superior food, better cabins and a posher promenade (the Rotterdam features a $2 million art and antique collection). The HA line was definitely a change of pace for us, but we’re glad to have had the opportunity to explore the Rotterdam and meet their wonderful crew!
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