Rotterdam Cruise Review by MathLady123
- Sail Date: August 2016
- Destination: Canada & New England
- Cabin Type: Large Interior Stateroom
Getting On and Off the Ship: Both embarkation and disembarkation went smoothly. You will have to wait a while in Boston due to the lines. HAL used a color/number system for disembarkation which helped things go smoothly. As for ports of call, people rush to be the first off the ship! Give them 15 minutes and you will be fine. We tendered in one port, which while organized too much longer than anyone anticipated.
Life on Board: HAL has a reputation for attracting a more mature crowd, and we knew this going when we booked. Once on board we were shocked to see that "mature" meant people in their 80s and 90s instead of the 60s or 70s we expected (we are in our 50s and ended up being the youngest people on board). Not sure what HAL can do about this, but you should be well aware of it when you book because it does affect daily life onboard ship. We wanted to slow down and relax, not grind to a stand still! Seriously though, the people were nice enough but we missed having a peer group.
Food: The food quality and experiencein the main dining room was mediocre - bland and over-sauced, the maitre'd grouchy, We found that we preferred the Lido for all of our meals due to better variety and healthier choices combined with a great selection of desserts (it's all about balance). The salad and stir fry stations were offered at both lunch and dinner. The main dining room menu is posted around 10AM daily on Deck 5, and the Lido daily menu is posted by the doors going out to the outdoor pool area (Deck 8) and it's worth a look as many times several items found on the main dining room menu were served at the Lido as well. We also enjoyed in-room dining for breakfast a few mornings when we had an early excursion and it arrived on-time, hot and accurate. My husband, a self-proclaimed coffee snob, found the onboard brew to be just fine.
Cabin/Interior Spaces: We had an interior cabin on Deck 2 and found it to be a great place to stay. Lots of closet space and our stewards were wonderful. I am an early riser and my husband is an afternoon napper, and it was always possible to find a quiet place to read or just look out the window whenever I felt like it. The ship was very livable.
Entertainment/Activities: Happy hour from 4-5 each night, and the $3 Martini sampling at the bar were great bargains. The ship has a large library as well, which also includes computers and board games (and an extra fee coffee bar). We played team trivia a couple of times too. Barry from Boston at the piano was the best evening entertainment, and we enjoyed the magician one night as well. The other acts (HAL singer/dancers, clarinet player, comedian) were definitely geared towards the elderly, as were most of the day time activities. The historical talks by the port/excursion director were inaccurate and not well researched. We had a day at sea cruising the Saguenay fjords, but there was no talk about the geographical features of the area at all.
Ports/Excursions: The ports of call on this cruise were wonderful. Canada is beautiful, and the people were friendly too. We will definitely go back to many of the places we visited so that we can spend an extended time there. We explored Portland, St. John, Halifax, Quebec City, and Montreal on our own, and used HAL excursions for the other ports (Sydney, PEI, Gaspe and Saguenay). Two out of four excursions were very good (Sydney, Saguenay), the other two not so much due mainly to the quality of the tour guides used. Our favorite excursion was sea kayaking in Saguenay Fjords National Park.
Overall Impression: The service on HAL was superb, with an amazing staff who goes out of their way to create a great experience for their guests. We will gladly sail HAL again in 25 years when we fit their passenger profile. In the meantime, we will look for a cruise line that is a better fit for us.
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Port & Shore Excursion Reviews
BostonWe live here - it's a great city :) If you don't want to pay for a ship transfer, you can easily take the Silver Line bus from Logan to the peer, with a short walk to get into the terminal.View All 667 Boston Cruise Port Reviews
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Culinary TourThis excursion was supposed to take place in the afternoon, leaving at 12:45, and we had planned to explore Charlottetown in the morning first. Instead HAL split the group and moved us to an 8:30AM departure - not too happy about that at all. Our guide was so-so, and the visit to two lighthouses was fine except there was not a lot of time at each one. The winery was a nice visit to their shop - not much to see in terms of the vineyard itself. You do get to sample/taste, and we found the Maple dessert wine very good.View All 9 Culinary Tour Reviews
After the excursion we had lunch in town and explored some on our own. Excellent fish and chips at the Water Prince Corner Shop (it does get very busy), and Cows ice cream for dessert.
GaspeWe took the HAL excursion Perce on Your Own. This was the worst excursion of our trip. The guide on the bus was intelligible - he mumbled and could not figure out how to use a microphone. What little we would understand was not very interesting. It was a lovely drive to Perce, which is a seaside resort town with Perce Rock providing a lovely backdrop. The town itself has one main street to walk, with very little beach and a boardwalk which has taken a beating from winter storms. There was an observation tower. We chose to have a burger and fries for lunch at a Resto on the main drag, and the food was good. Lots of gift shops around - a nice place to browse.View All 38 Gaspe Cruise Port Reviews
There was not much to see in Gaspe itself where the ship docked, and no real transportation away from the dock available.
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HalifaxGreat city! We explored on our own. There is a really nice boardwalk along the waterfront with shops, etc. We hiked up to the Citadel in the morning to see the old fort, then meandered back down the hill, stopping for lunch along the way. In the afternoon we visited the Maritime Museum which was good and includes a tour of a harbor ship as well as photo ops with Theodore Tugboat in the harbor.View All 783 Halifax Cruise Port Reviews
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MontrealWe docked early Saturday morning, unfortunately not at the scheduled dock but much further out of the city. We had made arrangements to stay over Saturday night on our own, so we took cab (there was no public transport available) to our hotel to drop off our luggage. Saturday morning we visited the Botanical Gardens which were extensive and beautiful with a great cafe for lunch. You can take the metro there and they are next to the Olympic stadium. That afternoon/evening we walked down to the old part of the city for drinks/dinner (we were staying closer to downtown, near the art museum). The old town streets seemed more narrow than Quebec City - reminded me of New Orleans more than Europe. Sunday morning we got up early and made the hike up to Mont Royale - lots of stairs and a good workout, but worth it for the city view at the top.View All 83 Montreal Cruise Port Reviews
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Portland (Maine)Great walking city, with lots of shops/cafes near where the ship docks. We had been before and chose to explore on our own. You are also right next to the Casco Bay ferries if you want to take a ride out to one of the islands.View All 349 Portland (Maine) Cruise Port Reviews
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Quebec CityI love this city - it's like going to Europe without enduring the plane ride! We walked the city on our own, taking the funiclaire up to the upper city in the morning and then eventually walking back down the steps through the lower town on our way back to the ship. You can take the stairs and walk the city walls which was fun and gives you a glimpse of the modern city beyond them. We had lunch at an Irish pub with a great selection of craft beers. Paillard is a yummy bakery, but it is an absolute zoo in the morning teaming with parents and kids in strollers. Wait until the afternoon and go back to get a treat.View All 301 Quebec City Cruise Port Reviews
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Saint John (New Brunswick)Not much time in this port, and it was foggy. We explored on our own in the city as we know we will come back on our own later. The reversing rapids are interesting if you haven't been here before.View All 388 Saint John (New Brunswick) Cruise Port Reviews
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Sydney (Nova Scotia)We did the Baddeck on Your Own excursion, which is basically the same as the one which includes the Alexander Graham Bell museum except it's cheaper and you have a 5 minute walk to the museum from town. Our guide on the bus was very knowledgeable about the area, and the drive to Baddeck is quite scenic. The museum is excellent too. The town is small with a few cafes and gift shops.View All 176 Sydney (Nova Scotia) Cruise Port Reviews
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