We were on the South American cruise from San Diego to Lima.
Some elements of the cruise were excellent or very good: food and service in the main dining room; the well-stocked library; wifi service (albeit more expensive than on other cruise ships); technical support for wifi; the computer instructor and lab.
Shipboard activities were few and mediocre. The cruise director was a pompous and humorless jerk, who reminded many of us of a funeral director more than the hail-fellow-well-met jolly cruise directors on every other one of our twenty cruises. The cabin (lower promenade deck) was small, lacked a refrigerator, and the only plugs were on the tiny makeup table. While our cabin was okay, the cabin of our dinner tablemates had so many leaks, which soaked the carpets and were not repaired in many attempts, that they had to accept a downgrade to a cabin which was at least dry.
Shore excursions were mediocre and expensive. For example, the extension to Cusco and Macchu Pichu was quoted at $4,000. A travel agent arranged an identical trip for us for $1,500.
What made the Rotterdam seem so poorly run were the bumbling tender operations. The ship normally carries four tenders. On this trip, one had been left behind for repairs, allegedly after the crew had dropped it on the deck. One of the remaining three was out of action, as one of its engines was constantly on the fritz. In our whopping six hours in Cabo San Lucas, that is not a problem, as the Rotterdam uses the tenders of Cabo Tenders company. But the Rotterdam, unlike the many other cruise ships calling at Cabo, rigs it tender platform with horizontal fenders and does not secure tenders to the tender platform in a way that prevents tenders from crashing into the platform. The Captain made an announcement apologizing for tender problems, blaming Cabo Tenders by name for problems many passengers like myself who are skilled in small boat handling blame instead on the procedures and crew of the Rotterdam.
In Fuerte Amador, Panama, the Rotterdam used its two remaining tenders and screwed up badly. One was dedicated to hauling produce, and a long line (many waited an hour and a half) of passengers watched as a local man unloaded boxes of produce from his truck in the parking lot onto a handtruck, wheeling it down to the waiting tender. Meanwhile, the 1,600 passengers had a single tender to ferry them to the ship (crew were kept aboard). When loading and unloading passengers from the tenders, the tender was improperly secured to the tender platform, swinging wildly several feet from and slamming hard into the platform. (The aft line was a ¾” nylon line, with at least three feet of slack, clearly insufficient for a 32 to 38 ton loaded tender. The line alternately drooped in the water and was stretched near the breaking point as the tender was swinging wildly in the large surge. Had it parted, the line could have killed passengers or crew).
The bad and mediocre parts of our voyage on the Rotterdam far outweighed the good ones. We will therefore avoid Holland America in the future.