This was our fourth HAL cruise and the itinerary was the major draw for this cruise. HAL is far and away our favorite line and on all previous cruises has surpassed expectations. Perhaps that is why this one was a little disapointing - our expectations may have been a little high.
First The Good:
Embarkation - Well run and very smooth
Disembarkation - Equally efficient and hassle free
Staff - Everyone of the ship's staff we encountered from the officers to the janitorial and maintenance crew were friendly, helpful and generally made you feel welcome and appreciated.
Cabin - Aft balcony, very spacious with lovely bath facilities
Shore Excursions - Generally well run but so very expensive that we did more on our own than through the ship. For example, the $500pp "Fire and Ice" excursion did not drop you off by helicopter at a waterfall as stated but rather involved a 45 minute ride in a crowded van over a rather bumpy road.
Entertainment - So-so with some good and some quite bad.
Dining Room - Food was not as good as on previous HAL cruises and service was well below par both in terms of remembering who ordered what and length of time to get served. Generally this is not an issue with us but when several tables around you are on the dessert course and we are still waiting for the salad it becomes one.
Rotterdam Redesign - The Retreat pool is sheer folly. I know HAL wanted to increase the number of cabins and install aft balconies (we had one of them) and this required doing away with the aft pool and installing this silly six inch deep wading pool, but the result is such that we will simply not sail on this ship or any other HAL ships that have this feature. First of all, having just the one remaining pool mid ships means that everyone who wishes to use a pool is crammed into the one remaining pool. On sea days if one is not entrenched pool side by 9:00 AM then one is simply out of luck for the day.
The wide screen tv/theater installed on the Lido deck aft as part of the "Retreat" idea is another one of those; "Did you really think this through" ideas. How many people are going to view this theater when dressed in dinner clothes? The answer - maybe five or six. The same number who actually lounged in the Retreat pool.
The Hal Cats - A really loud band with a complete lack of awareness for either their surroundings or the audience. For example, as we were pulling out of Moorea, one of the most beautiful places I've ever seen and the prototype for all one's visions of Polynesian Paradise, The Hal Cats on the Lido deck, launch into an ear splitting rendition of James Brown's "Papa's Got a Brand New Bag". Not exactly the music one would have envisioned for the setting.
Canaletto's - Food was so salty that several at our table sent it back - twice. I requested a specific bottle of wine and was told the ship was out of it. The steward suggested another more expensive one which I reluctantly agreed to. Imagine my surprise when two days later someone at our r
dining table requested the same wine I had requested and it was promptly delivered. Either the waiter in Canaletto's was too lazy to look for the wine I had asked for or was simply lying to me in order to sell a more expensive one.
Mechanical - Stuff happens. The A/C broke down for two days. A lifeboat/tender cable snapped plunging the boat three stories into the water below. Fortunately no one was on board the tender at the time. These issues did require us to dock in San Diego at 11:00 pm the night before our scheduled arrival.
Summary - We still love HAL and have another cruise booked with them for November. But the Rotterdam will not be a part of our cruising future