We decided to book this 38-night Holland America (HAL) cruise because it made multiple stops in Greenland and Iceland - two destinations on our bucket list. Other interesting new ports for us were Douglas (the Isle of Man,) Portree ( ... Read More
We decided to book this 38-night Holland America (HAL) cruise because it made multiple stops in Greenland and Iceland - two destinations on our bucket list. Other interesting new ports for us were Douglas (the Isle of Man,) Portree ( Isle of Skye) plus Rotterdam, The Netherlands and Liverpool, UK. Ports previously visited by us included ones in New England, Canada and Europe. Even more importantly, the Rotterdam's extended stop in Liverpool permitted my daughter & our grandsons to visit the ship for the day. Canadians & Americans made up the vast majority of the passengers. Most of the passengers were four and five star members in HALs loyalty program. Although there were a handful of youngsters on board, we rarely saw them.
We flew to the departure city of Boston, on August 1, 2017 a day early in order to do some pre-cruise sightseeing and meet a friend for dinner in the North End. The following day, we were picked up at the Langham Hotel and transported to the ship by coach. Unfortunately, the ship was undergoing a surprise Coast Guard Inspection so there was a delay in boarding. Later, we heard that the ship scored well. Our stateroom was ready on our arrival and our luggage arrived later in the afternoon. The safety drill was well-organized and proceeded smoothly.
We chose Open Seating Dining and arranged with our servers to keep our table for the entire cruise. We never needed, therefore, to wait on a line for seating. There was always a small vase of fresh flowers on our linen dressed table. Food in the Main Dining Room (MDR) was consistently good. My husband's Special Request Meals arrived in a timely fashion and fit his dietary restrictions. Only once was there a problem with his meal. His order of a steak cooked rare arrived well-done. The meat was quickly replaced with apologies from everyone.
Our servers Budi and Fitoni were excellent, as was Benny who departed the ship in the middle of the cruise. Doni, Assistant Dining Room manager and Ronald, the Dining Room Manager were friendly and very helpful, too. Jennalyn, our Wine Steward was prompt, helpful and always pleasant. We looked forward to seeing her smiling face in the Lido Market and other venues around the ship. She, too, is a big asset to the HAL. Executive Chef Peter stopped at our MDR table nightly to chat & often was visible in the Lido Market at lunchtime. He was so friendly and seemed to enjoy his job and meeting the guests.
New York Pizza made delicious pizzas with many choices as well as custom ordered pizzas, too. The Dive-In had excellent burgers cooked to order and delicious fries. Food in the Lido Market was quite varied and we always found food choices to please us. I especially enjoyed the complimentary ice cream choices and toppings. Besides Vanilla, Chocolate & Strawberry ice cream, there was also a Special Flavor of the Day - my favorite was Rum Raisin. In addition, there were many other dessert choices.
Rarely did we experience any trouble finding a table on either side of the buffets stations. The servers were quit helpful pouring guests' beverage selections, removing used plates, even offering to carry your food from the buffet to your table. Service was very friendly, too.
Our mid-ship stateroom #2621 was quite comfortable-A/C worked well. Water pressure in the shower was good and the hot water was steady. I wished that there was more storage room in the bathroom, though and a nigh light would have been welcomed. The absence of a fridge was our only issue. My husband had to visit the medical office frequently to retrieve his medications that needed refrigeration. There was a lot of sneezing, coughing and blowing of noses by passengers, but my husband and I stayed healthy throughout the cruise. Out stewards, Rezki & Gusti brought us an extra copy of When & Where each morning, two copies of the Times newspaper, extra ice deliveries and always accommodated our comings and goings when cleaning our room. They both did an exemplary job daily.
The evening entertainment in the Showroom was quite varied and I especially enjoyed the four production numbers of the HAL Singers & Dancers. The cast members were very friendly around the ship as were the various other performers. Two outstanding performances that were favorites with me as well as other passengers judging by the standing ovations that they received were the sensational Mersey boys and the very energetic and talented Flyrights.
My main reason for taking this particular cruise was the itinerary. Iceland was a big highlight. On one HAL excursion in Reykjavik, we drove up on a glacier in a 4X4 and later walked through an ice cave under the glacier. I loved the many stunning waterfalls and the Fjords. My highlight in Greenland was cruising Prince Christian Sound with its massive fjords, some still topped with a mantle of snow, many tall ribbon waterfalls and wide glaciers. Is was so much fun to cruise past huge icebergs and watch for whales and other wildlife. We cruised the sound twice, once the first leg of the cruise and later on the back end when we made it completely through the sound on a beautiful sunny day. Late one clear night for a brief period we saw the Northern Lights, later confirmed by the Captain and Cruise Director.
Trivia & Bingo were quite popular activities on board. I especially enjoyed the Art & Antiques Walking Tour with Barbara Haenni, Behind the Scenes Backstage Tour and the Galley Tour. Many of the activities on board were un-hosted; a few were extra charge such as the wine and beer tastings and the Mixology Classes. I saw several movies on board, The Last Word, The Founder, The Lovers and the Zookeeper's Wife, while munching on complimentary popcorn. My favorite talks were the ones on the Universe, Lighthouses and Greenland and It's People. Barbara Haenni was a great Location Guide and her port talks were timely and informative. Digital Workshop classes were quite helpful. Ask the Captain Sessions were interesting as well.
Of course not everything was perfect. Perhaps the biggest annoyance was having to get to the Showroom an hour early in order to get seats close to the center of the theater. Even the lectures were so crowded that some were repeated; other talks were broadcasted on TV.
There were some leaks around the ship, even in the Lido Market. One tender also leaked badly. These will need to be address when the ship soon goes in for refurbishment. Also, many times the information in the When & Where daily planner was incorrect. The audio on our stateroom TV when the Captain or the Cruise Director made announcements was so indistinct that we had to open our cabin to hear clearly. Since the Rotterdam is an older ship, the stateroom TVs are not interactive. You could not make dinner reservation, view menus, make /cancel a shore excursion or view your statement right from your stateroom. By the front desk, there was a machine to print out statements but several times it was down during the cruise. Although we booked this complete cruise as one cruise; some passengers only booked half. The ship turned around in Rotterdam. The HAL Singers & Dancers performances were repeated on the second half with many grumbles by full cruise passengers. Some dishes in the MDR were repeated but on a positive note, Surf (lobster) & Turf appeared twice at least on the menu. Although on a few nights quiet music was piped into the MDR, I wished that it happened every evening.
Overall though, the unique itinerary, the good quality food, attentive service and unique itinerary made this an extraordinary cruise. Now we know why some passengers have repeated this cruise four or five times. We hope to see them on our HAL Grand World Cruise next year. Read Less