Always wanted to go to French Polynesia without paying the huge hotel rates on the islands. A cruise seemed like the best way to do that. Holland America offered excellent value for a 30 day cruise to Hawaii and French Polynesia leaving and returning in San Diego. So our flight costs were also reasonable (as compared to flying back from the South Pacific).
Travel to Port of embarkation:
Travel to San Diego from Fort Lauderdale went relatively smoothly. The connection was very short. We had chosen to fly one day prior to embarkation and I strongly recommend it. Some people who flew the day of embarkation and just made their connection did not get their luggage until the 5th day of the cruise when we arrived at our first port.
Ship Info: The Rotterdam is a 60,000 ton ship with approx. 1300 guests capacity. We prefer ships that are this size or smaller. We feel the service is more personalized, and the ships tend to go into smaller, more interesting, less busy ports. The ship had been remodeled in the last three years; some of the bar areas had been modernized with the addition of a martini bar, more open spaces etc...
My husband and I are avid bridge players, and the Rotterdam did not disappoint. We participated in organized bridge every afternoon we were at sea.(Angela was an excellent, friendly and encouraging bridge director) Note that on this cruise there were several days at sea(17 in all!). The librarian also had a Book Club set up with regular meetings. The library on the Rotterdam is terrific. It is also widely used.
The ship offered computer classes with Ryan. He offered 5-6 classes a day including photo editing, how to purchase a computer etc... These classes were free of charge and were very informative. They were very well attended.
Service in all areas was terrific. We weren't sure if the service was going to be as good in the dining room as in the past as we chose the open seating dining plan. This meant we could go to the dining room at any time while it was opened and ask for a table. We were not disappointed. The service was excellent. My only negative comment was that there were insufficient numbers of table for 4 persons.
The cabin stewards were also very efficient and friendly. The towel animals created each night were charming. We'd leave the cabin for breakfast and come back and the room had already been done.
Special mention must be made of the front desk personnel. JoJo Flores, a front desk supervisor/guest relations manager was outstanding. She assisted several cruisecritic members in organizing greet and meets as well as arranging tender service for large groups that required to get off the ship all at once at a specific time.
Port and Shore excursions:
Lisa was excellent in telling us about the ports. We did not take any tours from the ship's excursion desk. We found the prices were high. We were able to find tours on our own or through cruise critic members at much more reasonable prices. Ricky's in Hilo, Maui Ocean Center in Lahaina, Hop on Hop off trolley tour in Honolulu, island bus tour in Rarotonga, raiatea tourisme tour with Christoffe, Patrick's snorkeling tour in Bora Bora, taxi island tour in Papeete, paradive snorkeling in Rangiora, Jocelyne's tour in Nuku Hiva.
The entertainment on the ship was good. Over the 30 nights there was quite a variety, from singers, magicians, ventriloquists, pianists, other instrumentalists and of course the revues. We noticed a change in the number and types of performers on the Rotterdam from previous cruises on Holland America. There were fewer members in the troupe; there were higher quality singers and fewer dancers. In addition to the showroom entertainment we went to the movie theater and saw some recently available movies (e.g. pray, eat, love). We also had on an outside deck on a large/huge screen videos of big star performances such as Cher, Paul McCartney, Andrew Lloyd Webber etc...offered in the evenings.
This was our 19th cruise on Holland America and we were not disappointed. We have travelled on several cruise lines and truly feel that cruise line offers some of the best values in the cruise market. We enjoyed the many ports in Hawaii and French Polynesia. It would be hard for us to say which was our favorite island...they were all beautiful.
We prefer the ships no larger than this one. The tend towards the huge ships scares us a little as they cannot go to the more interesting ports due to size. As long as ships such as the Rotterdam sail and offer the quality of food and the excellent service we experienced on our cruise we'll keep coming back.