My first HAL cruise, but 20th overall cruise (I'm 32) My mom and aunt's 2nd with HAL (60's and 70's age ranges).
We stayed at Holland America's appointed hotel the night before our cruise, which sailed from Athens on Nov. 10-30 (Volos, Istanbul, Dikili, Kusadasi, Maramaris, Alanya, Antalya, Rhodes, Crete, Cyprus, Ashdod, Haifa...if you are looking for any reviews on the ports, let me know) Our HAL arranged transportation from the hotel to port was fine. Checking out of the hotel was awful. It was a Marriot or something like that. Needing a lot of work inside and not worth the money.We left our room an hour prior to the bus leaving and I waited in line that whole time, having to just leave the room keys at the desk due to our bus leaving. There was no line for checking out, with the two hotel workers trying to check-in a bus load of new customers. I recommend you book your own hotel well in advance, and not use HAL. Save yourself the trouble.
Check-in on the Rotterdam was no problem. Our obstructed view room was suitable for 3. The couch bed for the 3rd person, me, was awful to sleep on. Quite hard and a thin "mattress". But i can sleep anywhere and it worked for 20 nights.
Food: mediocre at best. They serve all of your food and drinks the fist 48 hours, which I have no problems with. I see how many people do not wash their hands and "finger lick" in buffet lines. However, there was not enough help in the buffet at any time of day for the free beverage area :coffee, water, tea, juice nor to dish up your food. When the 48 hour ban lifted, there still was not enough help at any point in the buffet lines. We did fill out a comment card about this very thing and nothing changed.
There were some stations with signs stating "Line starts here" but some did not and caused much confusion for none english speakers/readers and lines started from every direction. Not efficient at all and very frustrating when being budged in front of on a daily basis.
Food in the buffet vs main dinning room was not even luke warm, save some of the soups. How we wished for warm to hot food during the 20 days. Again put this on a comment card and no changes. The service in the main dinning room took an average of 2-3hours no matter if it was myself dinning alone or three of us or sharing a table of 8. It took forever for our orders to be taken (Anytime dinning....we were told it was no better in the traditional dinning) If you wanted an iced tea or milk, you were lucky if it ever arrived and you certainly would not get a refill. Once you were finished with your appetizer or salad, the main course was half and half on how quickly that arrived. Once the main course was done, it took 30-45 minutes for the dishes to be cleared. Then another 20 minutes at least for them to take your dessert order.
We began to joke that we really hoped there would be an apple dessert listed on the menu for that night. And there always was. it was never delicious.
PS. The buffet only serves lunch from 12-2 and dinner 6-8, so by the time you eat in the main dinning room, the buffet is closed.....and serves the same food as the main dinning room. I have never been on a cruise where the main dinning room is only half full, I now understand why after being on the Rotterdam.
I have also never been on a cruise where the arrival/departure times change as much as on HAL's Rotterdam. Many of the days there was no announcement or even a sign with the new time as you disembarked for the day. No announcements that the ship was clear for passengers to leave. I had to literally walk down to the only staircase on Dolphin deck forward, and see if the velvet rope was over the staircase or not, then walk back to let the others in my cabin know if we could exit or not. We were late for 2 of our booked excursions due to this ship. And I have never been late prior.
in Israel, they just decided to midway in the morning, stop anyone not on a HAL excursion from exiting. Of course we became packed like sardines very soon after, and after 45mins of waiting with the heat rising, no one from the Rotterdam had walked up one flight to stop anyone not on a HAL excursion from continuing downward. No one was at the elevators in the disembarkation deck (there is only one spot fwd starboard to disembark and embark on the ship) checking if passengers were with a HAL excursion or not. It was horrible.
Many fellow passengers said they were on this specific cruise b/c of the itinerary. It would take a lot for me to go on HAL again. One passenger stated he had just been on the Rotterdam a few months prior, and he could not believe how much the food quality and service had decreased in that time. Other HAL cruisers said the food and service has really gone down hill.
Only went to 2 shows at night. One show was a violin duo that was excellent and the other was a comedian from Poland via Israel via the US. Otherwise, entertainment was not worthwhile. Hardly anyone in the casino.
The ship's shops would have some "bazaars" in the evening, very often they were late in starting or cancelled due to all of the changes in port arrivals and departures. With no warning of course.