I booked this cruise last August 2010. We have done 2 previous TransAtlantic cruises and loved them both. Originally I booked the NCL Sun and planned to add on one week in Ireland after departing in Copenhagen (however our son told us he was going to get married in Aug/11 so this changed our plans financially ). This T/A had wonderful ports including Ireland which seemed to be a good compromise for us.
Compromise may be the an underlying theme to this review. We seemed to give up some wonderful aspects of other cruise lines to gain some wonderful experiences on the HAL Rotterdam.
Room: We originally booked an Inside cabin then my T/a was able to get the Outside across the hall for the same price so we took that. Two weeks before we left for the trip we got an up sale call for the Lanai / or Verandah . We took a Lanai cabin and looked forward to being able to use the lounges and enjoy the expansive view from our room. The room stewards were very good and virtually ghosts which is a good thing. However they would get us anything we asked for (our robes were dirty when we embarked so they changed them no problem, brought wine glasses etc.).
Dining Room: We chose late set dinning and found that our dining experience on the Rotterdam was a highlight. Every meal in the dining room was good and I do not remember anyone at our table ever sending anything back. One night 3 at our table did a special "liver" order and they all enjoyed it!
Our table was at the back of the ship along the window, it was VERY hot back there. Seems to be a flaw in the design as the air conditioning is very weak in that spot. I would not recommend asking to dine in this area.
The Pinnacle grill was very good and I recommend going there. We also did the Master Cellars dinner which was expensive but a real experience for us. The Italian was nice but making reservations was more complicated than it should have been. You really need to book directly with the manager who I think was "Margaret".
Entertainment: The string quartet was very good. Although I still can not figure out why they stop playing at 10 minutes before the dining opens?
The main theater entertainment was very weak. We stood at the back bar table top area each night to check it out and only grabbed a seat for 2 performances.
The special guitar player was very good and the Staff show was good.
There was limited entertainment on the Lido.
We did take part in the 3pm group trivia which was fun.
Vow Renewal package: Wonderful experience! Flowers were delivered to our room the second night. The package also included dinner at the pinnacle (we used it towards the master cellars dinner) a nice photo album collection and a wonderful reception. We invited 4 guests to join us...thanks Bruce, Susan , Peter and Norma for sharing our evening. The Captain did a wonderful ceremony and he seemed to enjoy the evening. Only negative is that they don't give a time at the beginning of the cruise for this and when they did give a date they then changed it. This made it hard to book the Pinnacle or make other dining plans.
The Ship: Seemed in good shape, no problems that I was aware of. In high winds she seemed stable and responded well for the Captain.
The WEATHER: on the last 4 of the 8 sea days was TERRIBLE! Black skies, Black seas and very high winds. Could not enjoy the Lanai chairs or view at all.
Ports: We enjoyed all the ports, Dublin,Cobh, Liverpool (Wales), Dover, Cherbourg, Bruges and Fort Lauderdale. Our Captain decided not to venture to Ilfracombe because of high winds (tender port). Through Cruise critic I was able to find private tours in most ports and all of them were great value for the money.
Fellow Passengers: Given that it was 8 sea days across the ocean I thought that the passengers might be a tad younger for Hal and I was correct. There were few children or young adults and there were many couples in there 40-60's.
When booking this cruise I had high expectations. Holland America has a reputation for great service and food and on those criteria I think this cruise hit the mark. The compromises I think we made by choosing Hal was less quality and quantity of Entertainment. The "WOW" factor that I was expecting was not there in the little details.