Review of Rotterdam, 14 day, Circle Caribbean cruise, March 11 - 25, 2018, in Lanai cabin 3376.
We are 4-star Mariners, so the boarding process in Tampa, which is usually pain-free, was a breeze. We arrived at the terminal at 10:30 am, checked our luggage, and got our key-cards. HAL will re-use your previous ID picture, if you have a current one and your appearance has not changed much. We pre-purchased the Signature Beverage Package (SBP) online, so in the top right corner of our key-cards was printed SBP. We had late (main) seating fixed dining, table for 2, #72, upper level of the MDR.
Our cabin was a Lanai type, which we never had before. Instead of a private balcony, you have a sliding glass door (and a fixed glass door) which opens onto the very wide Promenade deck. The glass doors have extremely thick glass, possibly 1/2". That makes the door very heavy to slide. The door is held shut and locked by a magnetic lock. Very secure, impossible to open without the pass-card. There is a small white button inside the door that you press to release the magnetic lock. You have only a few seconds to slide the door open or it will re-lock. On the outside, right under the little sign showing your cabin number, is a proximity sensor. HAL provides 2 proximity cards in your room that are not marked or labeled in any way. Hold that card over the proximity sensor and a little green light will come on indicating that the door is unlocked. You have the same few seconds to slide the door open or it will re-lock. Once unlocked, a sturdy pull on the handle will open the door. It will not close by itself. You must push it closed to lock it. If you run out for a quick look at something, make sure you take the little white prox card or you will be pounding on the door to get back in. The door glass has a reflective film, making it impossible to see in from outside, even at night. I switched on all of our cabin lights, went outside, and pressed my nose against the glass. I could make out the glow of the ceiling lights, and some vague reflections. So, there's no concerns about people passing by and looking in. However, you will still need to close the drapes for sleeping, because the promenade deck is well lighted and that may affect your ability to sleep. Walkers start doing their rounds on the Promenade deck as early as 5:00 am. Some are crew members. They go as late as midnight. Very few joggers, mostly fast walking.
There are 2 comfy lounge chairs outside the door. They are semi-permanently labeled "Reserved for Lanai Room". Still, even with the very obvious sign, some folks don't bother to read, or ignore it, feeling that they are somehow special, and signs don't pertain to them. One guy was relaxing in our chair during the sail-by of the Pitons in St. Lucia. We wanted to use the chairs. We politely asked him to move so we could use our chairs. He said, in perfect English, that he didn't understand the meaning of the sign on each chair that is was reserved. He did move. The chairs are made of wood, and the comfy cushions are removed each night around 7:30 and replaced each morning after the decks have been washed, usually around 7:00 am.
The cabin was sized OK for 2 adults. There was a pull-out bed in the 2-seater couch. But I would not recommend a third, adult-sized person in that cabin. When the bed is opened, there is very little room to move around the cabin. The TV was on a shelf over the desk with a DVD player under the shelf. The TV is around 18" wide, and difficult to see from the far side of the bed. These TV's are the old, analog type, not the new on-demand 50" ones that are in the suites and on all Vista class and newer ships. You have 2 remotes, one for the TV and one for the DVD player. The TV does have external inputs, but they are analog, composite, component and RGB with audio. Anyone thinking of plugging a laptop into these TV's must bring their own HDMI to composite (yellow, red, white RCA plugs) adapter. There is an extensive DVD lending library and there is a catalog of movies in your room. There is a single US-style 120 volt outlet at the desk, and also a European (round prong) 220 volt outlet. Most electronic devices (including CPAP machines) will work fine anywhere from 100 volts to 240 volts. I use a CPAP machine, and I also have my laptop on the desk. I use the 120 outlet for the laptop, and with a $3 European plug adapter (not a converter) and a short extension cord, I use the 220 volt outlet for my CPAP. There are 2 USB charging outlets at the desk.
The bathroom is typical, one sink, toilet, tub with shower. Only a glass shelf, no medicine cabinet. Closet space is adequate, with 3 closets. One of the 3 is less deep, and there are unmovable shelves in the closet that has the safe. Air conditioning was good, no problems. The thermostat numbers are in Celsius and adjusts in 1/2 degree increments. Easy to use, just remember that 28 C is 82 F, and 23 C is 73 F.
We had fixed dining, main seating (8:00 pm), upper level of the MDR. Table 72, a 2-top along the railing overlooking the lower level. The food was very good, many selections, prepared well and properly served. Wait staff, although overworked, were prompt and efficient. Our favorite beverages, and a basket of rolls were always waiting for us when we arrived. I can usually judge the quality and variety of the menu selections on a HAL ship by the number of times I fall back to the "HAL Signature Selections", meaning the onion soup and Caesar salad for starters and the NY strip, roast chicken, or salmon for mains. I did that only twice in the 14 days.
We ate at the Lido only for lunches. Generally, the lunch menus had lamb in the "carvery" too many times, but I don't like lamb, so that's a personal thing. We also really enjoyed the NY Pizza, out on the back of the Lido deck, across from the Seaview bar. They will make a personal sized pizza in any way you want, and no problems getting double-anything on your pizza. You get a pager to take back to your table while waiting for the pizza to be freshly made. Normal wait time is about 10-15 minutes. You also can request how you want the crust cooked. The Dive-In was great as usual. On this ship, the Dive-In is located at the forward end of the Lido pool area, close to the Spa.
We had 2 Pinnacle Grill lunches ($10 each) and one PG dinner ($35 each). Our Mariner discount cut 50% off of those prices. The PG was great, as usual. We did not use the Canaletto restaurant on this cruise.
We used the breakfast order card each morning. Yes, the selections have been reduced, but I have had absolutely no problem writing-in anything I wanted that was not on the card. Even Eggs Benedict as long as you want the version with Canadian bacon and not salmon. That will require an extra charge. I actually had more write-in items on the card than checked printed items. So feel free to write-in anything that is available at the Lido. We do tip the server who brings the breakfast tray each morning.
We did not attend any of the Main Stage shows. We loved the "Mix" piano bar entertainer, Don Alexander. He was talented, good voice, and very versatile. While playing the piano, he picks up his small, alto saxophone and plays it with his left hand and continues to play the piano with his right. He will also play a harmonica along with the piano, Billy Joel style. He has bass accompaniment with a series of pedals. He constantly takes requests, interacts with the audience, and knows music for all ages.
The trio (occasionally quartet) in the Ocean Bar was very good. Most movies that are shown in theater are on the cabin TV's the next day. The cabin TV's have CNBC, MSNBC, Fox News, and BBC for news, and 2 ESPN sports channels. They have 2 music channels, a location/weather channel, bow camera channel, America's Test Kitchen/Cooks Country channel that alternates with PBS documentaries, 3 movie channels that repeat every 2 hours, a port talk channel and a port shopping channel. There is a guide channel providing the lineup and channel numbers.
The Rotterdam has the older style, by-the-minute internet. We had an access point in the ceiling of the hallway, only a few cabins away from us, so we had a solid 5 bars of signal at the desk in our cabin. They offer different plans with varying minutes. 100 minutes was $55, 250 minutes was $100, 500 minutes was $175. 1000 minutes was $250. They also have a plan where you are billed 75 cents a minute. Considering that speeds to connect to anything is slow, the 75 cents per minute is not a good move, unless you need to connect only a couple of times on your cruise. The speed we had was sufficient for a VPN connection, and a few Skype audio calls. I didn't try any video calls. 250 minutes was perfect for our 14 days.
We only did one HAL tour, the Antigua Catamaran with Lobster Lunch, 6 hour tour for $139. We did that tour in 2016 on the Oosterdam, and liked it so much, we did it again. The rest of our tours were private or DIY.
We last sailed on the Rotterdam in 2005, so a lot has changed. But the ship appeard to be in good condition. There is still a library on deck 5, seemed to be well stocked.
We arrived in Tampa early. The ship was quickly cleared, and they started calling luggage tag colors at 7:30 am. Our time was scheduled for 8:45 to 9:45, and we were called at 8:10. A little trick that works great in Tampa. As soon as you enter the huge room with the luggage, grab a porter. He will take your bags, and escort you to the special "porters only" line. That gets you to the immigration officer in minutes. We were through immigration by 8:15 and waiting for our ride home at 8:20 am. Tip the porter $10 or $20, it's well worth it to not stand in the Disney-type lines, pushing all of your luggage as you snake through.
The first night onboard, just before going for dinner, we noticed a small puddle of water under the sink near the toilet. We thought we may have splashed some water out of the shower. We placed a towel on it and left to eat. When we came back to the cabin around 11 pm, the whole bathroom floor was flooded and the carpeting outside the bathroom was squishy wet. We called guest services and the cabin attendant came quickly and looked. He arranged to shut off water in the bathroom until this can be checked out. The next morning, a plumber came with representative from guest services. The plumber quickly fixed the leak (or so he thought), and they vacuumed out as much water as possible from the carpets. They placed a huge, noisy floor blower in the cabin, at the foot of the bed to dry the carpets. The fan was very loud and we couldn't use the TV or have a conversation without shouting. We left the cabin and only came back to use the bath and change clothes. We shut the blower down for sleeping. That lasted 2-1/2 days.
Just when they were about to remove the blower, we noticed water dribbling down the cabin wall at the foot of the bed. It was coming from the ceiling, dribbling through one of the hanging pictures, and then dripping on the carpet. That also was addressed quickly, but the blower was put back in to dry that carpet. Another day of noise.
When we docked in St. Lucia, we came back to our cabin around 10:00 am and we heard a horrible loud steel grinding noise outside our lanai doors. We went out onto the prominade deck and the noise sounded as loud as a jet taking off. Workers were cutting steel pieces of the lifeboat davits a deck above. They were using cutting torches, steel grinders, and hammers. The whole ceiling of the deck was reverberating with the noise. We went back into our cabin and the noise was deafening. We went up to the Lido deck for drinks and lunch and we could still hear it very loud. This work was happening on both sides of the ship. Guest services said it was work on the lifeboats. They wouldn't say it, but I'm guessing that this was supposed to happen in the November 2017 drydock and was never completed. There's no way they would routinely schedule such a horrible noise with passengers onboard. We couldn't hear our cabin TV, even with the volume full up. We had to shout to each other to hear. This was not routine ship maintenance. We called Guest services again at 4:00 pm, hoping the noise would stop before the sail around the Pitons of St. Lucia, because there would be narration. They promised it would stop and it did, around 4:30 pm. We had a day at sea next, and then Curacao. Sure enough, at 10:00 am after docking, they started up again with the grinding. It was so loud, that guests approaching the ship from their shore excursions could hear the grinding over 500 feet away. We complained again to Guest Services, and they sent a rep to our cabin. There was nothing they could do, they insisted the work must be completed.
On our sea day after Aruba, we saw another puddle in the bathroom. I called immediately and they sent more reps from Guest Services and a plumber. He spent an hour in our bath, and finally fixed the leak.
After the 3 leaks, and the horrible noise from the lifeboat work, and having to put up with the blower in the cabin, they offered us compensation in the form of cabin credit. We felt it was a reasonable amount. I cannot fault HAL for the speed in which they responded to the leak problems and the speed they fixed them. That was under control of the Hotel department. But the steel metal grinding noise was under control of Marine Operations, and Guest services could only pass along the complaints they were receiving from us and other guests. Note, when we docked in Tampa at the end of the cruise, the grinding started up again, both sides of the ship. We were sitting out on the street, waiting for our ride, 500 feet away from the ship, with the terminal between us and the ship and the grinding was still very loud.
On Saturday, March 24, right at 11:30 am, a woman carrying a home-made sign, marched through the Lido deck. One side of the sign was for the "March for our Lives". The other side of the sign said "Ban all Assault Weapons". She got as far as the Dive-In, and a couple of officers approached her and she stopped. Protesting on city streets is a right and I have no problem with it. If you are offended by the theme of the march, you can just ignore it or walk away. But doing it in a closed environment, on a cruise ship, with people paying thousands to get away from the world for a few days is not appropriate. Doesn't matter which side you support, a cruise ship at sea with a captive audience is not the proper place. I am happy that HAL's officers ended it quickly.
The 2 TV channels dedicated to shore excursions and shopping on shore were constantly out of date. After leaving Key West, they had a port lecture recorded that repeated 24 hours a day. It featured the next 4 ports, through St. Lucia. On our day in St. Lucia and the day at sea following, we were still being told of the wonderful things we could see and buy in the prior 4 ports that were long gone. A little thing, but it makes the EXC department look kind of silly, or lazy. They could have made a port lecture for each port, and run them all together in sequence, but delete each one as we left that port.
All in all, we had a great time, the Rotterdam is still a great ship, and they did address the problems we had quickly. The only beef I has was with marine operations trying to pull off maintenance that was so offensive with passengers onboard. Read Less