This was our sixth cruise, third thirty day South Pacific cruise, and first time on HAL. We chose this cruise for the itenerary and for the fact that it returned to San Diego rather than terminating in Australia, thus avoiding the killer 18 hour return flight. I am 63 and my wife only claims old enough to know better.
Rotterdam is an older ship, but well maintained. The crew worked hard to maintain the cleanliness of the public areas. The public bathrooms rate special mention - they were immaculate.
The library / internet cafe was comfortable and inviting - although there was
always a rush for the window seats.
The Ocean Bar was excellent and the 4PM Happy Hour was very reasonable.
The Crow's Nest was a nice area, but the temperature control and sound system were poor.
The wading pool / lounge area in the Retreat didn't seem to be popular. I never saw more than two or three people using it. Watching movies at night on the big screen was not very satisfying. The Retreat bar was still open during the movies and the noise and light made viewing and hearing the movie difficult.
The gym was small, but OK. The sauna was superb and never crowded. The hot tubs could have been warmer, but in general were better than hot tubs on Princess Lines.
The passageways to the cabin areas were clean and well light with one exception. There was one spot on Deck four that had a definite diesel smell. There was always a fan blowing in that area.
We had an inside cabin on Deck 4 and found it comfortable, although the shower must have been designed for midgets ( just like all other cruise lines). The flat screen TV and DVD player was a definite plus. Having movies available every night made up for the rather mediocre entertainment. The lack of a refrigerator in the room was a minus, but our cabin attendant always kept the ice bucket full.
The bed was much more comfortable that those on Princess and the bathrobes were a nice touch. The couch was comfortable and well placed for either reading or watching TV.
We ate once in the Pinnacle Grill and twice in the Canaletto. The meal in the Pinnacle was as good as most steakhouses and the Canaletto was on the par of an Olive Garden. The wait staff was attentive and friendly. The atmosphere in Pinnacle was very nice and the Canaletto was OK (it would have been better if it was completely separated from the buffet dining area).
We only ate in the main dining room twice, as we don't like the long wait for service between courses. The food was good. We dined in La Fontaine on the last formal night and the dining room was only half full. I think people were tired of dressing up after seven formal nights.
Breakfast in the Lido buffet - some items (scrambled eggs) could have been cooked better,but the the waffle, omlette, and eggs to order stations were very good. The bacon was much better than the carbonized paper thin strips usually found on buffets. Fruit juice was pretty watery towards the end of the cruise. Pastry was OK. Coffee was drinkable (there is no such thing as bad coffee at 5AM).
Lunch in Lido - the paninni and sandwich station was the best part of lunch. The entrees were good and the variety was very good. Dessert was better at lunch than at dinner. The bread pudding, cobbler, cookies and ice cream were excellent.
Dinner at Lido - the carving station was much better than on some other cruises. Instead of the tired ham, turkey, and roast beef cycle, leg of lamb, prime rib, beef wellington, and others were added to keep the menu fresh. Steak, cordon bleu, Wienerschnitzel, shrimp, fried chicken, and various pastas added to the variety. Desserts were somewhat limited at night and were a mixed bag. Attempts at fancy French pastry didn't come off too well, but
other items such as the apple dumplings were superb.
The hamburgers at the Terrace Grill were very good and the pizza in the Retreat was also good.
The BBQ, luau, and Octoberfest meals served by the pool were good and the dessert extravaganza was excellent.
Meals aboard any ship are pretty much what you make of them. If you expect the Ritz at every meal, you will be disappointed on any ship. If you go with the flow, you will always find something appetizing.
Entertainment probably gets the lowest mark on this cruise. After the first show or two in the nightclub, it just didn't seem worth the effort to attend. The entertainers were definitely second rate. It was more satisfying to check out a movie at the front desk and watch it in the cabin than to fight the rush for good seats and sit amongst the constant coughing in the nightclub.
The one highpoint of the entertainment was something new to me - the Black and White Ball where all of the ships officers attended in dress uniforms and danced with the passengers. The little old ladies nearly trampled each other in the rush to dance with the officers.
The cruise director didn't seem to connect with the passengers on this cruise. Events such as bingo which are normally very crowed were thinly attended. Trivia was well attended, but the temperature and sound conditions made it somewhat uncomfortable.
The shore excursions were extremely over priced. They excursions were double the price of similar excursions on Princess lines from the year before.
The staff on this ship were more friendly and seemed to try harder to please passengers than on any other cruise I have been on. The front desk staff was friendly even in the face of unhappy, griping passengers (I personally would have punched out a couple of the passengers for thier poor attitude).
My wife was ill part of the cruise and had to use room service a lot. Room service was prompt, friendly, and excellent. Cudos to them.
Our cabin attendants were super as well. Agus and Bambang always had our room made up promptly and kept the bathroom well supplied. They were friendly and helpful at all times.
The waiter in the Ocean Bar remembered what we drank - quite an accomplishment for a bar serving hundreds of passengers.
Embakcation / Disembakcation
Embarkation was pretty standard - about a twenty or thirty minute wait in line to get processed and aboard. Luggage was delivered by 3:30 PM.
Disembarkation was a TOTAL DISASTER!!!!! While passengers were divided into groups with estimated departure times, whoever was in charge must not have been near the gangway.There were so many people jammed into the small area waiting to get off that you felt like a sardine. You couldn't even get out of the elevators and people were lined up the stairwells two or three decks high. If a fire had broken out or someone had fallen, there would have been no way to get assistance.
- I liked the fact that the ship wasn't constantly pimping art auctions,dance lessons, and the drink of the day.
- even though this was the one of the smallest ships I have sailed on, I never felt crowded (except at disembarkation).
- even though I am no spring chicken myself, I felt like I was going to be carded every time I ordered a drink. The average age on this cruise must have been close to 80 and as a result, the passengers seemed to be especially cranky.
Would I recommend this cruise to a friend?
If the friend was looking for a laid back restful cruise, YES. If he was looking for Las Vegas
at sea, NO.