Did you notice the crowds in the Retreat? In the Mix bar? On the reserved lanai deck chairs? No, because there weren't any.
The retrofitting of Rotterdam has resulted in a distinct departure for HAL, from a company serving its niche clientele (middle to upper income, mainly elderly cruisers, seeking a comfortable, laid-back, somewhat sedate cruising experience)to one trying to be all things to all men.
The overamplified HAL-Cats and guitar player drove many customers away, seeking solace in quieter areas such as the Ocean Bar and the Explorer's Lounge. The irritating muzak piped to the Retreat all day did little to coax people into chairs curiously located in a paddling pool! The garish lighting, uncomfortable seating and lack of entertainment failed to attract anybody to the martini and champagne bars. The mostly reserved but largely unused deck chairs on the Lower Promenade deck prevented passengers from lower decks from enjoying the traditional view of the passing ocean, something that even we, who had a Verandah suite, usually cherish. Curious smells in many parts of the ship suggested that more attention should have been paid to maintenance rather than bizarre 'enhancements'.
Initial impressions can often colour one's overall judgement. Unfortunately the disaster that characterized the embarkation process at Ballantyne Pier in Vancouver was easily surpassed by the horrendously-handled disembarkation procedures, not once but twice, at San Diego. I have never seen anything closer to a full-scale riot in my many years of cruising. Part of the blame must surely be attributed to a Cruise Director who did little to endear herself to the passengers throughout the cruise.
Not everything was unsatisfactory. The itinerary was splendid, the services of cabin stewards, dining room stewards and bar stewards were exemplary. Food and service in the Lido was more than acceptable although some of the hot food was barely warm. The Ocean Bar trio were pleasant to listen to. Dinner and service in the Pinnacle Restaurant was fine.
My wife and I would love to do this itinerary again at some later date but we would have very serious reservations about sailing on the Rotterdam again.