MS Rotterdam is one of the older ships in the Holland America Line (built in the 1990s), medium size by today's standards (1361 passengers), and of course HAL is the cruise line for people with white (or no!) hair. Nonetheless, it is an extremely pleasant vessel offering adequate amenities, good service, fine food, and an altogether delightful atmosphere. We would be happy to book her again.
The good news begins at departure, which is conveniently close to the Rotterdam Centraal train station, and takes place in a large, warehouse-like structure. One can sit down, book a FREE chair massage, and purchase a coffee while waiting. Baggage handling was prompt and efficient. We had a Verandah room, which means we had a private balcony -- just the thing for fjord-watching. The room was large by shipboard standards, more storage than we needed in fact.
The ship's decor is a bit Baroque for our tastes, but the ship carries it well. She shows her age in places, but everything worked, and the functional design shows how many years of experience lead to an environment whose elements integrate well together.
One very welcome amenity was the on-board laundromats. After tramping the cobblestones of historic cities in 30-degree heat, we needed to wash clothes -- badly! (My experience is that laundromats in European cities are rarely close to my hotel, and they usually cost an arm and a leg once you do find them.) HAL ships have American-style washing machines and dryers, both reasonably priced, as well as ironing boards and good-quality irons. Ours was just down the hallway. The laundry was done before we reached the Hoek van Holland!
On 24 August, Douglas Ward, cruise critic for The Telegram, published a review of the Rotterdam where he summarized the vessel as "extremely comfortable," but "marred by the poor quality of service and food." We disagree about the service. We were entirely satisfied with both the quantity and quality of the food as well as the service in both the cabins and the dining areas. We chose "As You Wish" or open seating for dinner, which meant we were placed at a table in the La Fontaine dining room with other English-speaking travelers, and we always had a wonderful meal and a great conversation. Twice we ate as a couple in the Pinnacle Grill (for $25 pp. surcharge), and had great meals and superb service. We did not try the Odyssey/Canaletto Italian premium restaurant -- as Ward apparently did -- but we would certainly recommend the Pinnacle. We usually lunched at the Lido buffet/cafeteria, where the food was also quite good. The South Asian dishes were very tasty indeed.
This itinerary involved two complete days of sailing between Rotterdam and Norway -- one northbound, one southbound -- which meant shipboard activities were important. Again, we found nothing to complain about. In fact we would single out "Techspert" Tony, Show Host Rena, and Glenn, the Cruise Director and Trivia-Master, for special praise.
A Dutch vessel based in a Dutch port meant that most of the passengers were -- not surprisingly -- Dutch. We found them to be delightful travel companions, friendly, informative, and altogether civilized. We will happily cruise with Nederlander anytime, anywhere. Go Orange!!