Holland America Rotterdam Activities

4.5 / 5.0
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Editor Rating
Peter Knego

Entertainment & Activities

Theater and Shows on Rotterdam

Rotterdam’s main theater is the 714-seat World Stage, a state of the art, 270-degree almost-theater-in-the-round, with hi definition LED screens that extend well into the room’s perimeter.

Shows included BBC Earth presentations backed with live classical music from the Lincoln Center Stage players and high decibel productions with pre-recorded contemporary music performed by a troupe of live dancers and, occasionally, live singers.   It was all technically dazzling but after a couple shows, the overall spectacle lost its wow factor by relying too much on digital effects, making one pine for the old fashioned, 3-dimensional stage sets and more organic song and dance stagings of yore.

Not to be missed by ship lovers and HAL fans is Origin Story, a fascinating and often heartwarming tribute to Holland America’s 150-year history hosted by the Cruise and Travel Director, which was shown on the first night, with an encore performance on the final day at sea.

Daily Things to Do on Rotterdam

Daytime activities run a gamut from classes in the Fitness Center (some free, others not), Pickleball and Basketball sessions on the Sports Court, Card Games, Quizzes and Trivia and various courses in the Greenhouse Spa that, let’s face it, usually end up pitching product or services.

There are also occasional performances by the excellent classical musicians in the Lincoln Center Stage.  This is all in addition to the available dining options, open deck areas, use of the Library and just stealing away in a quiet corner to regenerate or read.

The Navigator App is, of course, available to those who prefer to go paperless but the ship still offers printed programs, which are delivered to the cabin on the night prior, usually with a chocolate and, on select nights, an artfully crafted towel animal.

Nightlife on Rotterdam

Before the Music Walk venue was first introduced aboard Rotterdam’s Pinnacle Class sister ship, Koningsdam, in 2014, HAL ships were considered low key in the nightlife department.  Evenings used to be all about dinner, perhaps a quiz, a mainstage show and cabaret style performances in either the Piano Bar or Explorer’s Lounge.  After that, a lively few would cap things off in the nightclub.

Of course, the new Rotterdam’s evenings still include quizzes, dinner, cocktail music and the main show, but all of these activities now set the stage for the Music Walk, which has given HAL’s Baby Boomer and Gen X sets a chance to literally get down and boogie to their favorite music, be it Rock, Disco, R&B, Country, Jazz or Pop, performed live.

Located on Deck 2, directly aft of the World Stage, Music Walk is a cluster of venues curated in various partnerships HAL has with Billboard and Rolling Stone magazines, Blues legend B.B. King and the Lincoln Center.

Billboard on Board has back-to-back pianos and a pair of live singers who perform Billboard magazine pop and country chart hits from the 1950’s to present day.

Directly across from Billboard on Board is the Rolling Stone Rock Room, where a live band belts out favorite rock hits.

Just aft of this pair of rooms is the Lincoln Center Stage, where classical recitals (Mozart, Musica Latina, etc.) are performed, mostly in the afternoon or early evening.

Later, this space, which has a balcony level on Deck 3, becomes the B.B. King’s Blues Club, where Blues, Jazz, R&B and Disco rule the airwaves.  If you are lucky, on your cruise, B.B. King’s will feature singer Chantal Levine, whose voice and charisma easily made her the most popular performer on board, despite some very talented competition.   Without exception, each night, the Music Walk venues filled up in advance, with their standing room only crowds grooving well into the wee hours.  Far more so than the big shows, this was the epicenter of Rotterdam’s energy and excitement factor.

The Casino is located on Deck 3, directly aft of the World Stage.  A spiral staircase in its center connects it with the Music Walk on Deck 2.  The Casino has its own bar area on the starboard side and banks of slots (from penny to $5 machines and video poker) throughout.  There are various tables for Black Jack, Craps, Three Card Poker, Texas Hold ‘Em and Roulette games.  On our European-based cruise, smoking was permitted but on U.S.-based cruises, this is a non-smoking venue.

Rotterdam Ship Bars and Lounges

The bar and drink options on Rotterdam are numerous.  Holland America offers several drink packages that are priced on a duration of cruise, daily rate that is applied to all adults sharing a stateroom.

The Coca Cola Package includes unlimited fountain sodas at $8.00 per person, per day plus a 15 percent service charges for each purchase.

The Quench Package covers all non-alcoholic drinks like juices, energy drinks, bottled water, sodas and coffee and espresso drinks for $17.95 per person plus an 18 percent service charge per day for duration of cruise.

The Signature Beverage Package covers up to 15 beverages priced at $11 or less per day.  Sharing, of course, is not permitted and all guests ordering alcoholic beverages must be over 21.  Pricing is $54.95 per person, per day plus 18 percent service charge.  Does not include alcohol purchased in the signature shops, mini-bar, in-room dining or at Half Moon Cay.

The Elite Drink Package covers all drinks priced at $15 or under, including all covered in the Quench Package.  Pricing is $59.95 per person, per day plus 18% service charge.  Note for Signature and Elite purchases, if a drink costs more than the price limit, the full amount is charged without deducting the price limit allowed per drink.

Our Picks

Rotterdam’s bars each have their own distinct personality and, in many cases, themed bar menus.  Here are a few fun picks.

For Ship Lovers:  Exclusive to Rotterdam and soon to be installed on her sisters, the Half Moon Bar only has five bar stools but stretches aft into the adjoining passage, where window seating offers mesmerizing sea views.  Like the Grand Dutch Cafe, this is another great place for people watching as guests make their way to and from the Dining Room.  The menu here is themed around HAL’s 150-year history.  Since it is named for their most legendary ship, which was built in 1938 and is featured on the HAL logo, why not try the Nieuw Amsterdam, which is basically a Manhattan with its original Dutch name.

For Something Exotic: Head up to Tamarind on aft Deck 10 for stunning views over the stern in black lacquer surrounds that would be right at home on the Bund in Shanghai.  Drinks include the Wasabi (made with Momokawa Silver Sake, Iychee liqueur, lemon, agave syrup and orange juice) and The Far East Legacy (Absolut Mandarin, Asian Pear Sake, St. Germaine Liqueur, Cointreau and peach puree).

For The Soul Singer: Even between its vibrant music sets, B.B. Kings is an elegant space with a large central dance floor and stage, plus a balcony, to boot.  Groove under its spindly chandeliers to a festive Rhythm and Blues (Bulleit Bourbon, Monin Ginger syrup, honey syrup, fresh strawberries, lemon juice and house-made Angostura bitters)

For The Ultimate View: Arguably with the best views on the ship, with a handsome model of the S.S. Rotterdam of 1959 and paintings by maritime artist Stephen Card of past Rotterdams for bonus points, the Explorer’s Lounge can’t be beat.  Full length windows on three sides from the perspective of Deck 12 make anything here, from the simplest wine by the glass to a mixologist Dale de Groff created specialty, taste sublime.

For A Sip Overlooking the Pool:  By day or night, the Panorama Bar on starboard Deck 10 was the hangout for those who enjoyed the buzz of the Lido Pool directly below, a quick nosh at the New York Deli and Pizza next door and a view of the nightly Movie By The Pool.

Public Rooms

Pools and Hot Tubs on Rotterdam

Rotterdam has two main pools, the large family Lido Pool, which is under a sliding glass roof on midships Deck 9 and surrounded by deck chairs, cushioned seating and three whirlpools.  Throughout the day, this pool area tended to be highly trafficked, due to its proximity to the casual eateries, the Gym and Spa and the nightly Movies By The Pool screenings.  With the roof closed, it is basically weatherproof but can also get a bit muggy.

Farther aft on Deck 9, the adults-only SeaView Pool is flanked by two whirlpools.  It is open air and thus exposed to winds and rain in inclement weather.  It is also near the SeaView Bar, where smoking is permitted.

A large whirlpool is also in the center of the Retreat cabana complex on Deck 12, where guests can rent out a cabana for full day or duration of cruise basis.  Current rates for a cabana are $55 per day in port and $85 per day at sea with varying full cruise rates (depending on length of cruise).

In addition to the privacy of a cabana, the following amenities are available:  cushioned loungers and a table, bathrobes and slippers, warm and cold towels, handheld fans, Evian spray, chilled bottled water, fruit basket, healthy breakfast and lunch choices, ice cream, chocolate dipped strawberries, frozen grapes and a glass of sparkling wine each afternoon and discounts on Signature Services at the Greenhouse Spa and Salon on port days.

Sundecks on Rotterdam

Key sunning areas on Rotterdam begin at the very top of the ship on Deck 14, which is sheltered on three sides by tall glass panels.  Despite the protection, it is a bit remote and does get windy when the ship is at sea.

More practical and popular is the Sun Deck on aft Deck 11, which is served by the al fresco Sun Deck Bar and the SeaView pool area on aft Deck 9.  When the ship is full and the weather is good, all of these areas fill up quickly, so plan accordingly.

Services and Wi-Fi on Rotterdam

There are three Wi-Fi packages available on the Rotterdam.  The Social Voyage Package ($14.99 per day for duration of cruise) allows access to Facebook and other social media sites.  The Surf Package ($24.99 per day for duration of cruise) allows internet access and e-mails, web browsing, etc.  The Premium Package ($29.99 per day for duration of cruise) allows audio/video calls and streaming on one device.

On our Norway trips, probably due to the ship often being surrounded by fjords, even the Premium service was spotty and much slower than desired.  Thus, you should be cautious about relying on the provided internet for important Zoom meetings or urgent file transfers.

Spa & Fitness

Spa and Thermal Suite on Rotterdam

The Greenhouse Spa has a full menu of available treatments, from hair styling and manicures to massages and even teeth whitening.   There is also a beautiful thermal suite with heated loungers, numerous shower and steam options, a large hydro-therapy pool and relaxation area.

Access to the thermal suite can be purchased on a daily ($49) or per cruise basis and is not included with regular spa treatments or Spa Cabin bookings.

Fitness and Gym on Rotterdam

With its location on forward Deck 9 overlooking the bow, the Fitness Center offers some of the best views on the ship.  I often extended my elliptical regimen from 30 minutes to a full hour when time permitted, as I found it so much easier to have a vigorous workout while being distracted by the unfolding panoramas of the North Sea and Norwegian fjords.

In addition to ellipticals and treadmills, the Fitness Center has free weights and numerous weight machines.  Stretching areas were limited when classes (some complimentary, others for fee) were being offered in the neighboring cycling and TRX Suspension training rooms.

There is also a dedicated jogging track (twelve times around equals a mile) that encircles the sliding glass dome above the Lido Pool on Deck 11, followed by clusters of outdoor work out machines directly aft.

For Kids

Is Rotterdam Family Friendly?

In short, yes. Rotterdam has a well-equipped, dedicated youth center with two age-specific venues called Club HAL.  The Lido Pool area is for family use and most of the ship’s public areas and deck spaces, save for the Casino, are welcoming to guests of all ages.  There are also family staterooms designed to accommodate guests with kids.  However, unlike some ships, there are no waterparks, rollercoasters and other top deck distractions.

Kids Club on Rotterdam: Club HAL

Club HAL offers numerous programs and activities, from pirate treasure hunts to relay races, art classes, age appropriate movie screenings, Air Hockey, Foosball, Xbox and Wii tournaments and more for kids aged three to twelve.  In cabin television programming also includes the Cartoon Network.

Babies and Toddlers on Rotterdam

Infants 6 months and older are allowed. HAL no longer offers babysitting services.

Tweens and Teens on Rotterdam

Teens have a separate area in Club HAL called The Loft, which provides numerous activities, including teen yoga and hip hop classes, karaoke, trivia, video games and other themed events.

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