My wife and I really enjoyed the 30-day South Pacific Cruise leaving San Diego January 4, 2012 and returning February 3. As you read this be sure to read the health concerns I raise down below.
We found the crew and staff excellent, the shore excursions expensive but worth the price and the itinerary excellent. Entertainment was uneven as on most ships except for outstanding Piano Bar performer Stryker who attracted Standing Room only for 30 days and was by far better than most Showroom acts. Lectures by Dan Ostler and his wife were absolutely superb and again filled the showroom every time. Without these lectures the large number of sea days would have been very boring. Hot food in the Lido is basically mainly cafeteria stuff. Clearly HAL is stressed trying to keep cruise prices low in this difficult economic era. The value for the price was excellent and cabins far larger than on most cruise ships.
This is an old tired ship overdue for an total overhaul. But it also has some real charm and wonderful features like the coffee bar and superb library. Movies shown in the theatre were mainly those still showing at theatres on shore--very good choices with a 1000 DVD library on board which was also excellent. Cabin stewards were great and room service was far better than food in the LIDO. It arrived hot and earlier than promised. Dining room food is good but service is remarkably slow.
That said, this ship has major public health problems which if you read the reviews have been commented on for several months by fellow critics. GI has been a problem on this ship since its transatlantic crossing this fall and continued on its South American and our South Pacific cruise.
Like earlier fall and winter cruise passengers, we endured Code Red for 8 days aboard the cruise with significant numbers of passengers developing GI illness. Fortunately we did not. We have cruised on several lines in the Caribbean and Europe and Mexico and never experienced this issue. Beyond that, virtually everyone aboard developed unpleasant significant respiratory illness. My wife and I both developed this and my wife required MD visit on the ship and followup when we returned home. Many people aboard required medical treatment especially with what became known as the Rotterdam cough.. The MD was superb. I have no idea what caused these two outbreaks of illness but HAL needs to address this.
The Rotterdam is not staffed appropriately for a Code Red situation. Someone with authority needs to be able to enforce use of hand cleansers before people eat in the Lido. Dining room staff can not be expected to do this. Unfortunately, many passengers refused to use the cleansers and this without doubt contributed to the public health issues aboard ship. On previous cruises we had never seen such poor basic manners such as a lack of hand washing. I can not explain this oddity other than apparently many people felt entitled. Frankly the crew put up with a lot of boorish, arrogant behavior on the part of passengers--something we had never witnessed before on any cruise ship.
Although we really enjoyed this cruise, the health problems on this ship are such that I will not cruise any HAL ship again even though this was our 3rd HAL cruise. Also I just read an AP story about similar outbreaks on two ships this weekend on two Princess ships--which are also owned by the same parent company as Holland. There are no reports of such illness on competitor's ships. That alone speaks volumes.