Editor's Note: Rotterdam now features the B.B. King's Blues Club at the Queen's Lounge, which hosts music and entertainment straight from Beale Street in Memphis.
Rotterdam employ HAL's signature activities program, broken down into Explorations (presentations on destinations -- including culture, shopping, wildlife and history -- led by the Travel Guide), Culinary Arts (such as cooking demos, classes on entertaining and wine tastings, hosted by the Party Planner), Microsoft Digital Workshops (courses on photo editing, blogging and creating Web pages, hosted by the Techspert) and Mind-Body-Spirit (fitness classes, lectures on wellness and trivia, hosted by the Lifestylist). The program, which is aimed at the more mature traveler, has a terrific premise -- using the cruise to improve travelers' lives by giving them new skills in areas like technology, exercise and diet, rather than serving merely as a week of over-indulging in food and bingo. The computer classes get rave reviews from technology novices (classes are very basic), and one-on-one coaching is available during "Techspert Time." The Tai Chi sessions also get a great turnout each day. Other daytime activities include bingo and bridge play, as well as the ubiquitous Park West art auctions.
The Wajang Theater and Culinary Arts Center is a double-duty venue on Deck 4. It houses a show kitchen where culinary demonstrations and private cooking classes (for a fee) take place. Private cooking classes are taught by the Pinnacle Grill's chef, the ship's executive chef or a guest chef, and topics range from kids' cooking workshops to desserts (Grand Marnier Chocolate Volcano Cake, creme brulee trio). The space also serves as a movie theater, which offers three showings of a different film each day, complete with popcorn.
Rotterdam's Showroom at Sea is a new twist on both theater seating and the productions themselves. The theater now offers tiered seating with the front rows by the stage populated with cabaret-style chairs and small tables. The shows themselves have also changed. Gone are the Vegas-style, large-scale production shows that didn't work on the ship's small stage. They've been replaced by more intimate shows, featuring an onstage orchestra, minimalist sets and a cast of singers (all of whom have previously performed on Broadway) and dancers. The idea is to present higher-quality productions that don't need to rely on the wow factor of crazy sets, costumes and technological tricks.
Deck 5 is Rotterdam's entertainment hub. A live band plays old favorites and dance music in the Ocean Bar. The casino has slot machines, poker tables, a roulette table and blackjack tables. Smoking is allowed in the casino.
Directly opposite the casino, Mix is Rotterdam's new-in-2009 primary bar area. The three bars in Mix are the Spirits & Ales bar; the Martini Bar, with a piano for sing-alongs with the Piano Man in residence; and the Champagne Bar, more of an upscale kiosk. The updated look of Mix is very contemporary. Just down the hall, the Explorer's Lounge is both a daytime hangout and a nighttime spot with classical music and drinks service.
The Crow's Nest is the latest of the late-night venues, hosting interactive events like the Marriage Game, karaoke and Super Star Singing Competition, as well as D.J. music into the wee hours.