Rotterdam - Northern Europe: Rotterdam Cruise Review by Queenvee
Overall Member Rating
Rotterdam - Northern Europe
Destination: Baltic Sea
Air Arrangements: Since this itinerary left from Copenhagen & returned to Rotterdam, I used HALs air arrangements. My flight to Copenhagen was on Iceland Air (from NY), so had one connection. The flight home was from Amsterdam and was direct on KLM. Interestingly, all flights were full and HAL had booked me middle seats, which I was unable to change. Not great. Many people on the cruise were extremely unhappy with their HAL air arrangements since they involved bizarre routings and multiple connections (3 or 4).
Embarkation/Disembarkation: Very efficient. In fact, my group was the second called to disembark the ship (at 7:35 am), the luggage was very organized and I was on the bus to the airport by 7:45 and the bus left at 8:00. Because it was rush More hour, the drive to Amsterdams Schipol Airport took 1.5 hours, but it was a nice drive through cattle and flower fields.
Cabin: I had booked an interior 1933 (category NN, the lowest level). Upon arrival, I noticed ladders, removed ceiling tiles and multiple workmen in the area adjacent to my cabin. Since the ship wasnt full, I asked the front desk if I could be moved to a different cabin within the same category. They changed me to 1805 which was great. Its a handicapped cabin, so the configuration is slightly different (the beds couldnt be moved together) & there was no sofa, but it was large and I had two portholes. I was quite happy with the new cabin.
Ship: I like the Rotterdam specifically because it is decorated in a more traditional style lots of dark woods in the public areas, with brass accents (versus neon & chrome like some other ships). In general, it was well maintained, although the upholstered chairs in the Ocean Bar were shabby & in need of re-upholstering (or a thorough cleaning). Crows Nest is a great spot to read. Best of all, the non-stop background music was turned OFF on the Lido aft decks on sea decks how refreshing to hear only the water and the wind!! This is a great idea and one that I wish all ships embraced!
Activities: I play the team trivia on all cruises, and there was a daily session (whether in port or at sea) at 3:30; 4 or 5 nights also offered an evening trivia; and there was one 10:30 am trivia. Won a variety of dam stuff, but its a great way to meet people. Several Name that Tune evenings in the piano bar. There were a few lectures and a multitude of sporting events (volleyball, putting, etc.) that I didnt participate in.
Ports/Excursions: Since was a Baltic cruise, we had ports 8 days. I never book cruise excursions since theyre costly and I like being in control of my own destiny. I research each port beforehand and come up with a list of 3 or 4 things to do. This way, I can move at my own speed, stop where I want to stop and eat/shop when I choose. The only port where I used ship excursions was St. Petersburg, due to the difficulty of getting an independent visa. Some people did 3 excursions a day (including an evening event) but I did two: Church of the Spilled Blood & Russian Museum and Murder on the Moika. The guides on both were great fluent in English and able to provide more than ample information. I wouldnt have gotten nearly as much out of these excursions if I had done them independently, so St. Petersburg is definitely a good place to utilize the ships tours. The port lecturer, Frank, was exceptional. Very informative, heavy on the background/culture /history/politics and light on the shopping (fine with me!)
Dining: I ate in the upper level of the dining room, which I like much better than the lower level (its a slightly earlier seating, 8:00 pm vs. 8:30 pm). Plus, its not as large so seems more like a restaurant than a banquet hall. I was impressed with the food in the dining room and thought it was much better than the QM2 (or other HAL ships). The menu had a nice variety and plenty of choices; food was well prepared, flavorful; portions were appropriate; well-presented (lots of artistic touches); and requests for special items were accommodated cheerfully. Breakfast in the buffet (Lido) was fine typical selection of rolls, pastries, cheese, eggs, waffles, cereals, fruit, etc. Lunch in the Lido was only so-so; menu was limited (as compared to the dinner menu); sandwich bar was very basic (and they kept running out of wraps and potato chips); salad bar was nice though. The grill (next to the pool) was OK, but the burgers werent charcoal grilled, so didnt really appeal to me. BUT, the taco bar was a favorite, along with the pizza. Three days, the taco bar was replaced with a curry bar, a Mongolian bar and an Indonesian risjafffetl bar all tasty and something out of the ordinary. In general, I dont go on cruises for gourmet food so Im not terribly critical; however, I thought the food on this ship was unusually good.
Entertainment: Maybe Im not a good judge, living near New York, but I thought the entertainment was poor. Theres just no other way to say it except that the 3 traditional shows (a la Vegas) were bad. Singers & dancers were enthusiastic but sub-standard (dancers didnt know the steps one or two were always a step or two behind the others); voices were shrill; the sets were nonexistent; costumes were lame; and the concepts were outdated&the Broadway show, the Vegas/Monaco show, etc. The magician, comedian and quick-change artists, its difficult to get acts that will appeal to diverse tastes, so I heard comments from many people that they walked out of these shows, but there were some who enjoyed them. The flutist, the pianist and the female vocalist seemed to appeal to the broadest spectrum.
Overall -- I enjoyed this cruise very much (which could be due partially to the great ports and great weather!) and am planning on sailing on the Rotterdam within a year. Its an attractive ship, well run, good food and a nice cross-section of passengers. Less