We arrived in Rotterdam the night before the cruise. Our hotel the Rotterdam Hilton was extremely tired but within a quick taxi ride to the cruise terminal. We arrived at the terminal around 1 PM as specified by the cruise line directions. There were a large number of passengers who obviously had received the same directions. At first I thought this was going to be a bad beginning to our cruise. But lines moved smoothly and everything was extremely well organized. When we arrived in our cabin all luggages was accounted for and prearranged flowers and reservations were waiting.
The Rotterdam is the largest vessel we have ever cruised on and carries approximately 1400 passengers. The ship was built in 1997 but you wouldn't think it by looking at her. Everything is freshly painted and the interiors are new, inviting and very well maintained. We particularly enjoyed the large collection of art on board. Our state room was another change in selection from our previous cruises. Our cruise counselor suggested since it was late in the season and the Baltic region would be most likely cool that we forgo a veranda suite and choose a large window view cabin. She proved correct. Our cabin was comfortable and as well appointed as our experience on Sea Dream Yacht Club and slightly larger in size.
Since our cruise originated in the Netherlands we were pleased at the wide variety of fellow passengers we had the opportunity to meet during this cruise. About 40% of the ship's passengers were Dutch and most announcements were done in both English and Dutch, which gave things a little bit of a continental flair. The remaining 60% was a good mix of Americans, Canadians and Australians. We chose open seating so we had opportunity to meet a wide range of couples during the 12 days. We noticed that many of our fellow passengers seem to ignore formal nights. Since my wife and I carried a wide range of formalwear for this cruise we were disappointed in the lack of participation. This was not quite as apparent in the main dining room but certainly apparent in other areas of the ship. We will certainly pack differently the next time we travel on HAL.
The highlight of this cruise for us was St. Petersburg. We were not disappointed with choosing Alla Tours as an alternative to tours offered By Holland America Line. Our tour group was made up of 15 fellow passengers a driver and our tour guide. We had two mishaps during our stay in St. Petersburg. The first thing our Mercedes-Benz bus was hit in the side by an oncoming taxi. Since we only had two days in St. Petersburg I was concerned immediately about how many hours we might be delayed. Alla Tours responded so quickly we had a new bus in less than 30 minutes. The next mishap occurred in the afternoon when our Mercedes-Benz bus started smoking. Again Alla Tours quickly came up with plan two and did a quick swap and provided a replacement. So even though neither of these mishaps were their responsibility they responded quickly and still provided each participant with a discount for their inconvenience. On top of this our guide Marina was outstanding and we covered all the tour points we had planned on seeing while in St. Petersburg. We are impressed and grateful.
Our other port tours, HAL tours, were quite enjoyable (Lubeck and Tallin). They were not popular tours so the group size of 18 – 20 was just what we liked.
In our opinion the food on MS Rotterdam was as great. We enjoyed the main dining room using it for breakfast as well as dinner. The service was exceptionally good and the food presentation and taste outstanding. We also had two dinners at the Pinnacles Grill where we found the steaks and chops cooked to perfection. We found the Italian themed restaurant located next to the Lido to be satisfactory. The best part of that meal was the wine and an anti-pasta tray.
I couldn't say more about the high-quality of service we received. Each evening before dinner my wife and I would have a glass of wine or cocktail in the Explorers Lounge within days the attendant Mark knew us by name and anticipated our requests. The staff were always friendly and helpful.
We had a wonderful 12 days on the MS Rotterdam and could not more highly recommend this ship or itinerary. We will certainly cruise on HAL in the future.