We arrived privately at the embarkation point having spent some 5 days visiting Los Angeles (Omni Hotel) and 4 days San Diego (Manchester Hyatt.) In short, Los Angeles is a little sad, San Diego is great. We used Luxbus to travel between the cities and they were efficient and effective.
Embarkation was as efficient as we have know on our previous HAL cruises but could be speeded with more personnel. Our luggage arrived quite quickly. Our stateroom (Nav.Deck S category) was as we expected and Restaurant (Fixed Upper Level) dining was as good if not better than previous cruises.
As to the Cruise, yes, things went wrong, many of which were beyond the control of the Ship's personnel but, they certainly made up for it in every way they could. We have made a number of HAL cruises (now 4 star Mariners) and it is always a built-in thing to compare ships, crews, hotel staff, etc. Not in every way were all the team on the Rotterdam the best but, they gave it their all and we couldn't ask for more than that.
We particularly felt that Cruise Director Steve James was outstanding in his humour, perseverance and general all-round like-ability. Well done Steve and all your team, the best we have experienced on any ship and we know how difficult it was for you at times. We have to make the point that many of the activities on board are designed for passengers to have fun and are not to be taken seriously - future passengers please note that there are no world championships or Olympics - it's about having fun. If you don't want to have fun, do something else, there are plenty of other things to do on board.
Some of the theatre/showroom acts were not necessarily to our tastes - parochial is a term that comes to mind in terms of some of the acts - but when you have stars such as Annie Francis, Michael Hilbig (Hilby), Comedian John Evans and the like, how can you not enjoy them? The show format with only two dancers and more singers was a great improvement and the lead singers were excellent. The on-board information lectures were informative and generally entertaining.
As to the many and various ports and tours available, well let's just say we wouldn't want to return to some places and at some of the others the tours were not value for money. Best experiences were Pearl Harbour, Fanning Island and the jeep safaris, particularly the one in the rain on Bora Bora where we (privately) ended at Bloody Mary's. All these were on the first 30 days.
Tours taken - more stars the better (but this is just our opinion) -
No Stars = waste of money,
* = go if you must,
* * = O.K.,
* * * = enjoyable,
* * * * = excellent,
* * * * * = lifetime experience
Place Tour Organised by Our Rating
Hilo, Hawaii Waterfalls Spectacular HAL No stars
Lahaina, Hawaii Road to Hana HAL *
Honolulu, Hawaii Pearl Harbour and Mighty Mo HAL * * * *
Nawiliwili Kauai Grand Canyon of Pacific HAL * *
Fanning Island, Kiribati Local Guide (Naan) * * * * *
Raratonga, Cook Islands Island Tour Private (Big Bus) * * *
Raiatea, Fr. Polynesia Jeep Safari Expedition HAL * * *
Bora Bora, Fr. Polynesia Off Beaten Track 4-Wheel Drive HAL * * * * (rain)
Papeete, Fr. Polynesia Off Beaten Track 4-Wheel Drive HAL * * *
Island Tour by bus Loc. Tourist Centre * * *
Moorea Fr. Polynesia Capture Moorea by Photo Safari HAL * * * *
Rangiroa Fr. Polynesia Glass Bottom Boat HAL * Not value for $
Pearl Farm HAL * *
Nuku Hiva, Fr. Polynesia Taipivai Scenic Drive HAL * * *
San Diego, Ca. Shopping & Coronado Is. Self Organised * * * *
Cabo San Lucas, Mexico Boat & Scenic Drive HAL Boat ****Drive- 0
Puerto Vallarta, Mexico Two if by Sea HAL * *
Puerto Quetzal, Guatemala Antigua on Your Own HAL * * *
Corinto, Nicaragua Colonial Leon & Mud Pots HAL *
Fuerte Amador, Panama Authentic Embera Indian Village HAL * * * *
Eco Cruise & Gatun Locks HAL Cruise * . Locks ****
Salaverry (Trujillo) Peru Historic Trujillo & Paso Horses HAL * (not at all what is shown on cruise videos)
Callao - Lima, Peru Miraflores Sterns Free Bus **
Private Taxi - Changing of Guard Self Organised Official Taxi **** Changing of the Guard *
Guayaquil, Ecuador Free Bus to Market Self Organised **
Manta, Ecuador Fine Panama Hats HAL * * *
Puerto Caldera, Costa Rica Forest/SkyWalk/Pura Vida HAL * (Pura Vida for sale)
Puerto Chiapas, Mexico Local dockside market and dancers **
Huatulco, Mexico Strolling Self Organised * nothing to see
Acapulco, Mexico Private tour Divers & sightseeing Self Organised **
Zihuatanejo, Mexico Strolling Self Organised **
Manzanillo, Mexico Strolling Self Organised *
Would we do this cruise again? Yes to the Rotterdam. Yes to the Islands, Definitely not the Inca Empires.
A Big Thank You to the crew, the artistes and the team led by Steve. Particular mention to the Hal Cats led by David - they really should have one evening of their own show. Sadly there is one slight critisism and that was the Classical Quartet. Although they improved as the cruise went on they should have a well-prepared programme that they have practised and not have such long pauses between the pieces of music. To Hans Dernison, well done to you and all your Hotel Staff and to Captains Robert-Jan Kan and Sybe de Boer and all your Officers and crew, we look forward to sailing with you again. As a final point, hopefully on future cruises when tendering is necessary, passengers will step on the yellow line and not try to be Olga Korbut's.