We boarded the Holland America cruise ship Rotterdam in the UK for a 55-day voyage to Indonesia, via Portugal, Morocco, Spain, Malta, Greece, Egypt ,Oman, UAE, India, Burma, Thailand, Indonesia finally getting off in Singapore. We passed through the Suez Canal at night due to the dredging of the Canal during the day. We were escorted by an armed military patrol through the pirate infested sea of the Gulf of Aden.
We were once on the Rotterdam sailing through three continents, South America, Africa and Europe. Tri Wiyono the dining room manager remembered us from our trip and we were quite happy to see him again.
He had been at sea for 48 years on board at least 15 HAL vessels including the old Rotterdam. He was on 11 world cruises and 5 continents. His wife, son and daughter live in Jakarta.
The ship is 59,000 tons, has 600 crew members, and a 1404 passenger capacity. She is a healthy ship due to the cooperation of the passengers and the ships’ personnel. Despite the length of the voyage not a single case of Norovirus infection occurred.
The passengers on board in England were 330 British, 245 Americans, 199 Canadians, 193 Dutch, 40 Australians and at least 34 Germans. Most were senior citizens, seasoned travelers and repeaters.
The main dining room located on two decks seats 678 persons. The lower for open and the upper for fixed seating.
Much to the delight of the guests the wait staff is encouraged by Tri and Budi his assistant manager to interact with the passengers. The staff who come mainly from Indonesia learn the names of their guests and food preferences. They do an excellent job.
The ship’s galley is manned by pastry makers, cooks, and bakers, from the Philippines. They also handle the beverage section, security and the front office.
Beef rib eye steak, escargot, pheasant, Peking duck, Indonesian and Filipino food were on the menu. Salmon and shrimp cocktail were always on hand. The Lido a buffet cafeteria for casual dining offers made to order stir fry oriental dishes and quite popular judging from the long lines.
Pizza hot dog, hamburger, Mexican and Indian food are available at the pool area. Ice cream and desserts are available daily.
The ship’s library has at least 2000 volumes with English and foreign titles. It is opened daily until 10 PM by Leticia from Romania, the full time librarian. Internet costs 75 cents per minute printing not included. Because it relied on satellite, the reception at sea is usually erratic at best. Travelers with laptops,iPad and kindles make a beeline for free Wi-Fi when in port.
Father Lou a retired Catholic priest from Grand Rapids, Michigan conducts mass daily. He also participated in interfaith services on Sundays. He is easily approachable and knows most of the passengers by name. The ship provides church supplies.
Our room had a good view of the ocean, at least 180 square feet with ample closet space. A small flat screen TV provide us with ship’s location and time. Rashid and Puto our room stewards from Indonesia were quick and responsive. They had our cabin ready by the time we return from breakfast. The public areas were squeaky clean, the glass and brass of the Rotterdam glisten.
Most of the required visas were obtainable from the ship except for India. India compels contact only through private parties designated by them, a great inconvenience for travelers by a country trying to promote tourism. The agents charge high prices for their services.
Oman reminded us of Istanbul, Turkey. The shops were similar to the grand bazaar, prices were reasonable, and easily accessible from the port area on free shuttle buses.
Burma, now known as Myanmar have an abundance of Hindu temples. They are enormous and magnificent. Sarongs are and bare feet are required to enter. We reached Phuket, Thailand after a day at sea. We took advantage of the Thai silk that were reasonably priced.
We finally reached Indonesia our first time and eagerly toured Jakarta, Java, Lombok , Sulawasi, and Bali.
We rented a car with a driver who spoke fluent English. He took us where artisans practiced their skills of wood, stone carving, painting, batik making, gold and silver-smiting and a major Hindu temple. We had lunch at a restaurant in the middle of green rice fields. They served us an Indonesian lunch on a banana leaf covered tray with rice, crab, shrimp and other seafood. The bill came to $25 for 4 people, soft drinks included.
We spent the rest of the day in a batik factory learning the intricacies of its manufacture. The ship presented a professional troupe of Balinese dancers accompanied by their native orchestra on the queen show lounge stage.
Bali is the primary destination of tourists because of its beautiful surroundings and the ease of getting there. There are direct flights from Australia and China. The cruise port in Dempasar, Bali has free Wi-Fi that is accessible from the ship. Another cruise center is being planned to provide a port for more cruise ships.
The Rotterdam invited families and relatives of the staff to visit the ship while in Indonesia. We were greatly impressed by this beautiful gesture of Holland America Line. We consider meeting the families of the staff a great privilege.
Spacious, good view of the ocean, neat, close to dining room & library
We took a taxi to Fatima with an English speaking driver. We stayed there the whole day and toured areas not covered by ship excursion. The taxi a Mercedes suv charged us very reasonably. My wife and I were the only passengers.