This cruise was our fourth with Holland America and was a more relaxed experience than on other of their ships. This may well have been because the Rotterdam was well below capacity (900 instead of 1400) presumably because the itinerary ... Read More
This cruise was our fourth with Holland America and was a more relaxed experience than on other of their ships. This may well have been because the Rotterdam was well below capacity (900 instead of 1400) presumably because the itinerary was changed with three ports of call being changed/modified because of the ebola situation in west Africa (We still have never been officially notified by HAL of the change and only found out by noticing a credit card refund for pre-booked shore excursions in cancelled ports of call).
The change to the itinerary meant at one stage of the cruise there was a seven day stretch of sea days.
But, with smaller capacity, finding a table in the Lido buffet was never a problem. And that the waiting staff were not as pressured and rushed and were themselves more relaxed and able to spend time chatting with us as they served our meals. Certainly there was not the feel exhibited by the staff we experienced in other HAL ships of having to rate well to get another contract.
Beyond that the other aspects of the cruise bore the usual hallmarks (and comments and criticisms) of HAL experiences – overpriced shore excursions and internet service, overkill on flogging Signature shop and Greenhouse spa sales (they must destroy a forest per cruise in flyers advertising the latest daily 50% off deals). The shows and food varied in quality but generally were OK, the art auctions attracted very few bids and no real bargains anyhow, the casino catered for the rusted on gamblers, bingo, bridge, basic IT classes, wine tasting, cooking were available for those bored along with excursions which overall were varied and worthwhile while embarkation and disembarkation were painless . With the longer voyage and the time of year there were no children on board and the passengers were mostly in the older aged group.Thank God for Kindle and I pads because while the Explorations cafe is sumptuous the selection of reading material within it is not. One day HAL will realise that there are people from many and varied nationalities on board and that an available compilation of books on little known past insignificant US politicians, actors and sports people holds little interest or appeal for many on board and that history does extend beyond the borders of continental USA. One would think that a selection of books pertaining to the history and features of places the ship will visit would be a sensible part of planning but at present the collection looks more like a one made up of donated used out of date books found at some Lions charity book sale from some county in mid west USA.
Our Stateroom was 7045.Avoid this and other staterooms nearby on deck seven (Navigation deck) like the plague. It was directly under the smoking section on the lido deck immediately above. Every and any time a table or chair was moved it scraped and could be heard in our stateroom below. And being where it was this happened at all hours day and night. This was particularly annoying late evening when the smoking desperates were on deck and also in the morning, sixish when the crew were cleaning and rearranging. Then during the day whenever we went out onto our balcony the smoke wafted down from above driving us inside. Do not accept a stateroom assigned to you in this area if you value uninterrupted sleep and clean air!!!
Overall, it was a typical HAL no frills, comfortable, cruise which in this case visited some different places that appealed. It matched our expectations and again the friendliness and tolerance of the stateroom, servers, dining and beverage stewards in the face of some fairly rude and demanding travellers was outstanding.
This cruise offered unusual ports. I was on the last segment from Capetown South Africa to Southampton England. Our ports were: Capetown, Luderitz and Walvis Bay in Namibia, Luanda, Angola, two islands in Cape Verde, three islands in the ... Read More
This cruise offered unusual ports. I was on the last segment from Capetown South Africa to Southampton England. Our ports were: Capetown, Luderitz and Walvis Bay in Namibia, Luanda, Angola, two islands in Cape Verde, three islands in the Canaries, Agadir, Casablanca, and Tangier Morocco, Cadiz and Vigo, Spain and Lisbon, Portugal.
As usual the service on Holland America was excellent. There were only 900 passengers on this last leg of voyage which basically circumnavigated Africa for 88 days. With so few passengers, the crew was even more attentive than usual.
Many cancelled this leg of the voyage due to the Ebola virus. But, safety first, Holland America cancelled port calls in countries anywhere near the outbreak.
The weather was perfect throughout the cruise. During sea days we were kept busy with excellent lectures on topics concerning ocean travel, its luxuries and travails and on wild life. The usual crafts, dancing and bridge activities were popular. You could even attend computer classes.
The only portion of the voyage that did not measure up to Holland American standards were the shows put on by the HAL singers and dancers. Otherwise the entertainment was very good.
We're told Holland America will not be offering the circumnavigation of Africa cruise in 2015, but Princess has a comparable cruise on its website.
One of the plans you tend to make upon finishing your working years is what will you do to celebrate retiring. I had long ago decided to do a long and adventurous cruise to new places. I had my eye on the Grand Pacific cruise on Holland ... Read More
One of the plans you tend to make upon finishing your working years is what will you do to celebrate retiring. I had long ago decided to do a long and adventurous cruise to new places. I had my eye on the Grand Pacific cruise on Holland America's Amsterdam which left in Sept and was 70+ days around the Pacific. However, when I realized that HAL was doing a circumnavigation of Africa for the first time in 5 years with port calls at some places that were high on the bucket list, I decided to go with the Rotterdam instead. It was not listed as a "Grand Voyage" although the price was about the same as the Pacific cruise, but it was indeed grand!
Flying from Florida to London was not a pleasure, as opposed to leaving from Ft Lauderdale or even Seattle, but after having to change to a flight to Washington DC, then Amtrak to Philly, and then flight to London followed by "tube" to London Victoria Station, then coach to Southampton, I made it. The Rotterdam had left Rotterdam the day before with less than half the guests before embarking the rest of us. I boarded around noon and the bags were in the room before I was, a first for me. Lunch in the dining room a few minutes later and then back to 1852 (outside mid ship) to unpack in my new quarters where I quickly felt at home. Five separate closets with plenty of storage as the Rotterdam was built for long cruises. The Rotterdam was redone about 5 years ago with new bathrooms, comfortable beds, all the usual HAL goodies.
Room stewards couldn't do enough for me such as fresh fruit bowl and even some flowers. Cleaned every morning and turned down every night, and always asked me by my name if I was happy.
I prefer the dining room to the Lido when time permitted. The greeter, who also always used my name, made sure I had a table and server of choice. Most of the dining room staff were excellent. I was treated like royalty and often was served my usual choices without even asking! If I asked the server which entree was better tonight, he would tell me and ofcourse return to make sure. If you treat these folks nicely, you will be amazed how great service is. I do mostly seafood or vegetarian and with rare exceptions it was delicious and well presented. Breakfast in a quiet dining room with a sea view table and a good server, Rosenthal china, and great cooked to order food....life doesn't get much better for me.
The Rotterdam had about 1300 guests for the first 48 days, about 100 under "full capacity", with a lot of singles and no children. Well, one little girl who belonged to an officer. Never crowded, few ques, easy to find a seat for most everything, except some of the high quality lecturers. The lecturers were an important and quality part of this grand voyage.
Entertainment also good to excellent. The cast shows were great; thought they should have performed more often.
You could tell most of the staff were picked for this special voyage. Cruise director Michael and port lecturer KK were excellent. Many of the guests on this ship were frequent cruisers, some too frequent. By that, I mean, they were never satisfied with anything. To the staffs credit, they overlooked the TMC (Too Many Cruises) folks and still gave us great information and service. Keep smiling guys!
The Rotterdam goes into drydock spring of 2015 and it does need some attention. It did have some plumbing issues, but I was lucky to have no problems in my room the entire trip.
The dining room often had themed nights relating to the areas we were visiting. There were also special regional foods served around the pool area.
Entertainers from the various areas were also brought on to add to the grand style voyage.
We were the only ship in port with just a few exceptions. We only tendered in one port (Luderitz) and overnighted in 5 ports.
The Rotterdam was a great ship for this itinarary as it is one of the fastest cruise ships on the seas, better to out run pirates and storms. We did run without most exterior lighting in the pirate areas and often maintained 20 knots. An officer told me with all 5 engines going and a freshly painted hull, the Rotterdam can do 26 knots. That burns too much fuel. Also, this ship rides deeper in the water which gives it more stable ride. We did have to avoid a cyclone in the Indian Ocean. A lot of extra sea miles and $75,000 extra in fuel costs, but the Rotterdam did very well indeed.
I left on day 79 from Lisbon to fly home (flights were full from London so close to Christmas) only missing one port Vigo, Spain. After mostly great weather, it was getting cold and rainy as we returned to Europe and thus I didn't miss much.
I would urge those seeking a long voyage exploring unusual ports on a great mid size (60,000 tons/1400 guests) ship, to consider the Rotterdam on this itinarary. As Holland America builds new (bigger) ships, their older ships will be sold. Don't expect a 100,000 ton/2500 guests ship to do these great places and that will leave only the more expensive smaller cruise lines to do them. The smaller ships can't handle the rougher seas either.
To put things into perspective, we have cruised on over a dozen cruise lines for a total of about 800 days – almost 500 of which were logged on Holland America Line.
Most of our friends know that we enjoy longer cruises, but frankly, ... Read More
To put things into perspective, we have cruised on over a dozen cruise lines for a total of about 800 days – almost 500 of which were logged on Holland America Line.
Most of our friends know that we enjoy longer cruises, but frankly, this one was boring. While there are probably many reasons for this, I think the major one is the large number of sequential sea days (as the ship bypasses what might be interesting ports – such as in Vietnam, the Maldives, Madagascar and so on). While my watercolor painting is improving (I’m still having difficulty using the word “art”) and trivia and bridge are entertaining, I am still not old or sedentary enough to adopt sitting on cruise ships as a life style, so I will be paying more attention next time and avoid cruises which exhibit this property (especially when charged for at a premium as a “World Cruise”). I don’t think I am exaggerating when I say that the average age of the passengers on this cruise was about 77 and many had been on multiple World Cruises – and maybe that’s the reason HAL thought that more sea days was the sort of itinerary this constituency would tolerate.
Ah well, in for a penny, in for a pound, but at least forewarned is forearmed. While we will likely take long non-sequential cruises in the future (some of which may be world cruises – whether on HAL or one of their competitors), we will pay more attention to the itinerary and be more willing to link together a string of short cruises with an aggregate more interesting itinerary. With specific regards to Holland America, they seem to be penny pinching at every conceivable level and have changed the feel of this cruise, which sells at a premium, into one which has feelings of belt tightening. Despite our elite “loyalty program” status on this cruise line it is important to remain agnostic and our next scheduled cruise (is on one of their competitors – we’ll see (I have always felt that loyalty programs are to show how loyal the vendor is to the customer, rather than the other way around).
While the service is excellent, as is the food, the entertainment is mediocre and the itinerary was almost 2/3 sea days. In addition, because of a concern about stopping on the west coast of Africa, one of the segments we booked turned into a transatlantic sailing capped by a couple of stops in the Caribbean.
Until HAL makes an effort to address my desires and structures their World Cruises accordingly, they will have to do without my business on this type of cruise.
Last April we booked a charter repositioning cruise on the Westerdam which was sold by a German company through a South African travel agency. The cruise went from Cape Town to Rotterdam from 12-26 July, 2010. Unfortunately the German ... Read More
Last April we booked a charter repositioning cruise on the Westerdam which was sold by a German company through a South African travel agency. The cruise went from Cape Town to Rotterdam from 12-26 July, 2010. Unfortunately the German company ran into financial difficulties, we were told and, at the last minute, sold cabins in Germany for as low as 800Euros, which included transport to the airport in Germany, flight to Cape Town, 14 nights in an outside cabin, and transport by bus from Rotterdam to Germany! As a result what should have been a quiet repositioning cruise turned into an overcrowded cruise with most of the passengers being amongst the most unpleasant, rude, aggressive and arrogant that I have ever encountered. Out of over 1700 passengers, about 1400 were Germans and most of the activities were geared towards them. The 300 South Africans felt they were on board to subsidize them as they had paid very much more than what the Germans were bragging they had paid. This being said, we met very elegant, educated, pleasant Germans, but they were very much in the minority and looked as shell shocked as we were.
I will thus review the Westerdam in light of the above, as I don't think we had the regular experience.
The ship She is not the prettiest inside - whoever was in charge of the decor must have been on some very strong hallucinogen at the time. Horrific colour schemes in the public rooms with ghastly pseudo-Egyptian and other massive pieces of decorative furniture everywhere (and a Reinie Mackintosh style love seat thrown in for good measure). But she grows on you and by the end of the cruise you'll love her.
Cabin We booked a Deluxe Verandah Stateroom which was excellent. Pleasing colour scheme, well appointed, loads of storage, large, comfortable bed, mini bar, television, good lighting, etc. The cabin was very clean. We spent quite a lot of time in the cabin listening to our music on the computer and watching the ocean go by.
Cabin stewards Impeccable. Very friendly, pleasant stewards as well as efficient. We had breakfast at 8h00 every day and our cabin was cleaned when we returned. I surprised myself by looking forward to the towel creatures they made every night - I found them quite amusing.
Dining The first day at sea we went to the Lido Restaurant for lunch as we both like the concept of eating different cuisines at convenient times. However, on arrival we were met with a scene of complete chaos, with passengers fighting over food and nowhere to sit. I renamed the Lido Restaurant experience "Dining as a combat sport". We decided to retreat to the Dining Room - unfortunately, we were informed by the dining room man in dark blue uniform that the dining room closed at 13h00 for lunch and it was 13h02 so we could not be served. Fair enough. The next days we were on time and had lovely lunches with a nice chilled bottle of white wine.
From then on we took all our meals in the Vista Dining Room and enjoyed the food very much. There was great variety to please all palates. We had one meal at the Pinnacle Grill and the food was fine, but the atmosphere was cold and the service not up to standards. We found this restaurant not worth the supplement charged.
Dining Room staff The dining room assistant-manager lady was extremely welcoming and pleasant to all passengers. The waiters, though very much overworked were always smiling, friendly, polite and efficient. The wine waiters both at lunch and dinner were attentive and remembered our favourite wines.
Entertainment Was geared for the German contingent so we avoided it.
We did enjoy the Adagio Strings in the Explorers Lounge. We went there every night before dinner - quite a pleasant, soothing experience.
Pool Facilities Not tested. Never even contemplated trying to get a deck chair. We gave up on Deck 9 after the first day. We even had problems walking on the Promenade Deck as the passengers were moving the deck chairs to follow the sun - as a result there were sometimes 2-3 rows of deck chairs on the sunny side. I suppose we could have always walked back and forth on the shady side.
Cruise Staff/Daily activities Invisible. It may be explained by the charter but non-German passengers were neglected. For instance the daily programme every day showed at 11h00 and 15h00 "Bridge and Card Play in the Hudson Room". This room was freezing cold the whole two weeks despite complaints, was full of chairs stacked against a wall and had only three bridge tables. The first day we arrived a cruise staff member showed up with decks of cards, small white writing pads and pencils. That was the contribution of the cruise staff. Get together and play! No scoring sheets, no bidding boxes, nothing. When asked why there was no bridge organized, the young lady said it was only organized on 16 day cruises and ours was only fourteen days! Three of the activities cost $12 each. It was not all bleak, one day I could have learned how to make my own postcards and another how to set a table!!!!
The cruise director finally surfaced for the disembarkation talk. He made the usual tired jokes about inane questions asked by passengers (do you use salt water in the toilets? Etc. ) to generate laughter from the audience. I think making fun of passengers, however silly the question, shows a lack of respect and may be an indication of the disdain he feels for passengers. He certainly did not come through as affable or interested.
Library Good. However, magazines were dated May 2010 for a cruise in July. One magazine had a recipe in it I would have liked and I asked the young lady if I could have the magazine at the end of the cruise - no, she said, we will use it for the next cruise ... starting July 26!
Gymnasium Excellent facilities.
Summary In summary, despite the lack of help from the cruise staff, thanks to the professional, efficient and gracious service from the rest of the crew, we managed to carve out a pleasant cruise from what could have been the cruise from hell.
Thank you crew of the Westerdam. Read Less