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On Saturday May 29th we caught on the 6:40am Amtrak Cascades Train south to Seattle, arriving at approximately 11:00am. It was a nice relaxing trip down and very convenient. Might I add, a nice stress free way to get to Seattle and back without breaking the bank or needing park a vehicle and spend a night in a hotel. This is a great option for Vancouverites to cruise from Seattle, and vice versa. From the Amtrak station in Seattle we were able to get a town car service to the Pier for $20 (not sure if that is a good price or not) and the driver gave us a brief tour of downtown. It was a smooth transition to the pier. After checking our bags, and doing our pre-boarding check-in, we made our way into the waiting area which was very busy (Golden Princess was next door). Though crowded, I found Pier 91 to be very well organized, with plenty of guidance and assistance if necessary, making it very easy to find your way around. Finally our boarding group was called and we went up to the lido for a quick snack. The lido was quite crowded and we found it very difficult to find a seat. The lines were longer than usual as they have the 48hr 'code yellow' (or whatever you call it) in effect and all food including beverages are being served. I also noticed a large number of people with 'guest' passes in the lido, which may explain some of the crowding. I knew from previous trips that the first day was usually much busier in the lido so we weren't at all concerned. After lunch, the cabins were ready so we headed down to check out our Ocean view (3388) on the Lower Promenade deck. This is the first time not having at least a verandah cabin so we were not quite sure what to expect. Our first impressions were that the cabin was a bit smaller than those we have been in before, but found it was very clean and well laid out. There was plenty of storage, both for empty suitcases (2 large and 1 small) and all of our clothing. The closet system was excellent, with shelves that could either lay flat for stacking or get folded up to allow for more hanging space. The bathroom was spacious and quite updated, with ample storage shelves for what we brought along. We chose this cabin for its proximity to walking area and the aft elevators so we could easily get to an outside area to take photos (as we have been used to having a verandah to step out on). Though we had been warned that this particular block of outside cabins were located under the main kitchen and could be a little loud at times we didn't experience any problems of this nature. There were times we could hear carts being rolled above us etc, but it was never loud enough to be bothersome or make it difficult to sleep, even for my girlfriend who is a very light sleeper. We were also told it could be an issue having the curtains open on the Lower Promenade with people walking by all day, but we didn't find this to be a problem and left both sets of curtains open during the day so we could enjoy the view. We did take a set of clothes pins to pin the curtains shut at night (as recommended by a fellow CC member) in order to keep out the light from the Lower Promenade walking area. As for problems, we didn't really have anything major. We had one issue with the toilet (it just wouldn't work) and it was fixed immediately. The only other issue was with our TV (poor reception on most channels), which did not get resolved even after speaking with the front desk a number of times. Overall, I would have to say the only real complaint about the cabin itself is the lack of a bar fridge, which was not really that big of a deal for a shorter cruise, but something we had made good use of on our longer cruise last fall. We were told later that you can rent a fridge for a couple dollars per day, which is a good option should you need one. The first sea day was a bit rocky as we headed between the top of Vancouver Island and the Queen Charlottes. It poured rain most of the day, so we got a good opportunity to relax and get to know our way around the ship. We had happy hour in the crows nest, then had dinner at the Canaletto (Penne Alla Vodka), which was delicious as always. We headed back to the crows nest a little later in the evening and sang/watched karaoke. We got some beautiful shots of the sunset (at almost 11pm)! The second day was nice, we were able to have a bit of a sleep in before our midday stop in Juneau. We woke to a beautiful sunny day with blue sky, which was a nice surprise after the previous couple days of rain. Believe it or not, we wandered around Juneau in shorts, T-shirts and sunglasses, YES it was that warm (75 degrees on one store sign). We did the usual and got some souvenirs. After dropping everything off on the ship, we grabbed all of our camera gear and took the MGT shuttle out to Mendenhall Glacier where we walked around for about 45min before meeting up with our group from Harv & Marv Outback Adventures. Eileen picked us up and took us down to Auke Bay where we headed out to hopefully find some whales. In fact we found some whales almost immediately, and saw many more at a distance. We also learned a lot from our guide, who was an expert in his field. It was a great tour and they all were so passionate about their work, made it a real treat, highly recommended!! Also, we lucked out with another beautiful sunset to photograph as we sailed down the channel out of Juneau. Day three was another fairly relaxed morning as we sailed toward Hubbard Glacier. Once again, it seemed the good weather may be following us, it was slightly overcast with just a bit of misty rain and blue sky on the horizon. It got a bit nicer as the day went on. I must say Hubbard Glacier was amazing!! It was extremely active and we got some fantastic shots of it calving. As a side note, I didn't realize until the farewell speech, but apparently that is the closest to the glacier a ship has been in 13 years (maybe they say that to every group to make us feel good, I don't know). We did get very close and the ice conditions were almost perfect. To finish off the night we had dinner at the Pinnacle Grill, which was top notch. It was a great day! Day four began with the ship anchored in Sitka Sound and a very organized tender process to get us into Sitka (more organized then our previous tender experience on the Eurodam, possibly due to the far fewer number of guests). We had enough time to wander around town and browse some shops before we met up with Captain Davey and the Esther G at the marina. Capt. Davey took us out to St. Lazaria Island where we had the pleasure of photographing puffins and some other sea birds. We also saw a whale and some seals, otters etc. Capt. Davey is a terrific guy and really made this a great experience for everyone on the tour. My girlfriend was feeling a little under the weather with the rough seas and he really went out of his way to make sure she was alright and that it was a pleasant tour for her also. I would highly recommend this tour to anyone stopping in Sitka! Later in the evening we attended the dessert extravaganza night, mostly to see the spectacular dessert creations. Day five was an early morning stop as we arrived at 7am to an overcast and drizzly Ketchikan. We initially thought this may spoil the tour we were going on, but decided it may just add to the experience. We had a quick breakfast and headed to meet our tour group on the pier. We were directed to the left of the ship, an easy 2min walk over to the Aleutian Ballad for the 'Deadliest Catch' tour. We had heard many great reviews and considered the tour last year, but decided against it after having blown our excursion budget (Helicopter Dog-sledding in Juneau). The Bering Sea Crab Fishing tour was one of the first excursions we looked at after booking this cruise, we booked it directly through HAL. I think it was great value and a very accessible tour for everyone. We had a few very elderly people onboard, as well as two gentlemen in wheelchairs who appeared to really enjoy the tour. The crew of the Aleutian Ballad were exceptional, helping them on and off the boat and up the ramps. They were all very friendly and the knowledge from their own personal experiences fishing was incredible. We were able to see many different types of crab and feeding the eagles was definitely a highlight!! Once again we were lucky and the rain held off long enough for us to have a wonderful tour. The rain started just as we got back to the dock. I found the short stop in Ketchikan was the perfect amount of time. Once again had an amazing sunset! Day six we had a much needed sleep in and woke to a beautiful sunny blue sky about 25miles or so off the west side of Vancouver Island. We spent most of the day relaxing and just enjoying the sun. Our approach to Victoria was a little delayed due to extremely high winds. Once we finally got secured at the pier, we headed off in a cab to the inner harbor ($8.50 CDN or USD). Being from Vancouver we had debated whether we would even get off the ship, but with such a beautiful day we decided to go for it. The scenery is amazing and with such nice weather the city was very busy. We spent a few hours walking around, being tourists in our own backyard and then took a cab back to the ship from in front of the Empress Hotel. I have to say it was a really beautiful way to end the trip with a short stop in Victoria. I was proud to see how many people from other places in the world really appreciated Victoria's beauty! Unfortunately, day seven meant the end of all this enjoyment, but a bright spot was we did have great weather to enjoy our day in Seattle. We disembarked the ship approx 9am and went directly by cab to the Amtrak Station to check our bags. We took Seattle's free public transit to Pike Place Market where we watched them throw a few fish and browsed all the little shops. We got some food at the market and walked down to the waterfront. We decided to take a boat tour of Elliot Bay with Argosy Tours (we didn't have time for the locks tour that we really wanted to do). This tour was great and allowed for some spectacular skyline shots of Seattle. Argosy offered a combo pack with a reduced rate for the aquarium, so we also went and explored that. I think that is one of the nicer aquariums I have visited and think it is well worth seeing if you have some time to spend in Seattle. Now onto a quick review of the overall experience. In short, this trip was amazing! We saw everything that we wanted to see, and we saw it in style. The Rotterdam is a beautiful ship and is in excellent condition. Our cabin was great, our room stewards were amazing and knew our names by the end of the first day!! Open dining really seems to work well for us giving flexibility to pick and choose dinner time and location depending on the day. As for entertainment, we only made it to one show, the comedian, and he was great. Unfortunately, I did see a few instances of passengers being very poor towards staff and basically having a fit over very small issues (like being out of a particular dish at the lido). Very uncalled for IMO. On the second formal night there was a bit of an issue with a gentleman dressed 'smart casual' trying to come for dinner in the MDR and making an issue that they wouldn't let him in. The staff offered him a jacket to wear which he refused and ultimately the dining room manager agreed to let him in anyways. I am not going to start a debate but IMO, I think they need to stick to the fact it is formal night, as everyone else makes a point of bringing suits and ties or the like, even though they may not like to pack it along. As for the passenger, I feel there are other options for dining that particular evening should they not wish to follow the 'dress code'. I must say, the service as a whole was superb. The only exception was the front office staff who could not take care of television reception issues. That for some reason didn't get taken care of even after several complaints. While disappointing that it was not fixed (we mostly use the map and bridge cam for forward viewing while in the cabin) it was not that big of a deal. I would have even been happy to hear a simple 'we cannot fix that at sea and will have to look into it later,' just so we weren't left in limbo. I have seen many debates about the changes to the Rotterdam after its refit, and I do have a few opinions based purely on this one trip (keep in mind this was Alaska). I think the retreat pool is a poor use of space, but may be good for warm weather cruising. I didn't see a single person use it the entire trip, even on the nice weather days. Aside from the hot tub, the Retreat remained empty, where as previous trips to Alaska on a ship (Ryndam) with an aft pool it was well used even in Glacier Bay. The retreat bar was nice and we did have happy hour at MIX one evening, that too was great. The Canaletto and Pinnacle were both very good. I noticed a great mix of ages on this cruise and a large number of younger children that all seemed to be having a great time. To sum it all up, we have already booked our FCC and can't wait to sail with HAL in the near future. Two thumbs up for the Rotterdam and her Crew!

We had a pretty 'DAM' good week on the Rotterdam!

Rotterdam Cruise Review by trophy_23

Trip Details
  • Sail Date: May 2010
  • Destination: Alaska
  • Cabin Type: Large Ocean-View Stateroom
On Saturday May 29th we caught on the 6:40am Amtrak Cascades Train south to Seattle, arriving at approximately 11:00am. It was a nice relaxing trip down and very convenient. Might I add, a nice stress free way to get to Seattle and back without breaking the bank or needing park a vehicle and spend a night in a hotel. This is a great option for Vancouverites to cruise from Seattle, and vice versa. From the Amtrak station in Seattle we were able to get a town car service to the Pier for $20 (not sure if that is a good price or not) and the driver gave us a brief tour of downtown. It was a smooth transition to the pier. After checking our bags, and doing our pre-boarding check-in, we made our way into the waiting area which was very busy (Golden Princess was next door). Though crowded, I found Pier 91 to be very well organized, with plenty of guidance and assistance if necessary, making it very easy to find your way around.
Finally our boarding group was called and we went up to the lido for a quick snack. The lido was quite crowded and we found it very difficult to find a seat. The lines were longer than usual as they have the 48hr 'code yellow' (or whatever you call it) in effect and all food including beverages are being served. I also noticed a large number of people with 'guest' passes in the lido, which may explain some of the crowding. I knew from previous trips that the first day was usually much busier in the lido so we weren't at all concerned. After lunch, the cabins were ready so we headed down to check out our Ocean view (3388) on the Lower Promenade deck. This is the first time not having at least a verandah cabin so we were not quite sure what to expect.
Our first impressions were that the cabin was a bit smaller than those we have been in before, but found it was very clean and well laid out. There was plenty of storage, both for empty suitcases (2 large and 1 small) and all of our clothing. The closet system was excellent, with shelves that could either lay flat for stacking or get folded up to allow for more hanging space. The bathroom was spacious and quite updated, with ample storage shelves for what we brought along. We chose this cabin for its proximity to walking area and the aft elevators so we could easily get to an outside area to take photos (as we have been used to having a verandah to step out on).
Though we had been warned that this particular block of outside cabins were located under the main kitchen and could be a little loud at times we didn't experience any problems of this nature. There were times we could hear carts being rolled above us etc, but it was never loud enough to be bothersome or make it difficult to sleep, even for my girlfriend who is a very light sleeper. We were also told it could be an issue having the curtains open on the Lower Promenade with people walking by all day, but we didn't find this to be a problem and left both sets of curtains open during the day so we could enjoy the view. We did take a set of clothes pins to pin the curtains shut at night (as recommended by a fellow CC member) in order to keep out the light from the Lower Promenade walking area. As for problems, we didn't really have anything major. We had one issue with the toilet (it just wouldn't work) and it was fixed immediately. The only other issue was with our TV (poor reception on most channels), which did not get resolved even after speaking with the front desk a number of times. Overall, I would have to say the only real complaint about the cabin itself is the lack of a bar fridge, which was not really that big of a deal for a shorter cruise, but something we had made good use of on our longer cruise last fall. We were told later that you can rent a fridge for a couple dollars per day, which is a good option should you need one.
The first sea day was a bit rocky as we headed between the top of Vancouver Island and the Queen Charlottes. It poured rain most of the day, so we got a good opportunity to relax and get to know our way around the ship. We had happy hour in the crows nest, then had dinner at the Canaletto (Penne Alla Vodka), which was delicious as always. We headed back to the crows nest a little later in the evening and sang/watched karaoke. We got some beautiful shots of the sunset (at almost 11pm)!
The second day was nice, we were able to have a bit of a sleep in before our midday stop in Juneau. We woke to a beautiful sunny day with blue sky, which was a nice surprise after the previous couple days of rain. Believe it or not, we wandered around Juneau in shorts, T-shirts and sunglasses, YES it was that warm (75 degrees on one store sign). We did the usual and got some souvenirs. After dropping everything off on the ship, we grabbed all of our camera gear and took the MGT shuttle out to Mendenhall Glacier where we walked around for about 45min before meeting up with our group from Harv & Marv Outback Adventures. Eileen picked us up and took us down to Auke Bay where we headed out to hopefully find some whales. In fact we found some whales almost immediately, and saw many more at a distance. We also learned a lot from our guide, who was an expert in his field. It was a great tour and they all were so passionate about their work, made it a real treat, highly recommended!! Also, we lucked out with another beautiful sunset to photograph as we sailed down the channel out of Juneau.
Day three was another fairly relaxed morning as we sailed toward Hubbard Glacier. Once again, it seemed the good weather may be following us, it was slightly overcast with just a bit of misty rain and blue sky on the horizon. It got a bit nicer as the day went on. I must say Hubbard Glacier was amazing!! It was extremely active and we got some fantastic shots of it calving. As a side note, I didn't realize until the farewell speech, but apparently that is the closest to the glacier a ship has been in 13 years (maybe they say that to every group to make us feel good, I don't know). We did get very close and the ice conditions were almost perfect. To finish off the night we had dinner at the Pinnacle Grill, which was top notch. It was a great day!
Day four began with the ship anchored in Sitka Sound and a very organized tender process to get us into Sitka (more organized then our previous tender experience on the Eurodam, possibly due to the far fewer number of guests). We had enough time to wander around town and browse some shops before we met up with Captain Davey and the Esther G at the marina. Capt. Davey took us out to St. Lazaria Island where we had the pleasure of photographing puffins and some other sea birds. We also saw a whale and some seals, otters etc. Capt. Davey is a terrific guy and really made this a great experience for everyone on the tour. My girlfriend was feeling a little under the weather with the rough seas and he really went out of his way to make sure she was alright and that it was a pleasant tour for her also. I would highly recommend this tour to anyone stopping in Sitka! Later in the evening we attended the dessert extravaganza night, mostly to see the spectacular dessert creations.
Day five was an early morning stop as we arrived at 7am to an overcast and drizzly Ketchikan. We initially thought this may spoil the tour we were going on, but decided it may just add to the experience. We had a quick breakfast and headed to meet our tour group on the pier. We were directed to the left of the ship, an easy 2min walk over to the Aleutian Ballad for the 'Deadliest Catch' tour. We had heard many great reviews and considered the tour last year, but decided against it after having blown our excursion budget (Helicopter Dog-sledding in Juneau). The Bering Sea Crab Fishing tour was one of the first excursions we looked at after booking this cruise, we booked it directly through HAL. I think it was great value and a very accessible tour for everyone. We had a few very elderly people onboard, as well as two gentlemen in wheelchairs who appeared to really enjoy the tour. The crew of the Aleutian Ballad were exceptional, helping them on and off the boat and up the ramps. They were all very friendly and the knowledge from their own personal experiences fishing was incredible. We were able to see many different types of crab and feeding the eagles was definitely a highlight!! Once again we were lucky and the rain held off long enough for us to have a wonderful tour. The rain started just as we got back to the dock. I found the short stop in Ketchikan was the perfect amount of time. Once again had an amazing sunset!
Day six we had a much needed sleep in and woke to a beautiful sunny blue sky about 25miles or so off the west side of Vancouver Island. We spent most of the day relaxing and just enjoying the sun. Our approach to Victoria was a little delayed due to extremely high winds. Once we finally got secured at the pier, we headed off in a cab to the inner harbor ($8.50 CDN or USD). Being from Vancouver we had debated whether we would even get off the ship, but with such a beautiful day we decided to go for it. The scenery is amazing and with such nice weather the city was very busy. We spent a few hours walking around, being tourists in our own backyard and then took a cab back to the ship from in front of the Empress Hotel. I have to say it was a really beautiful way to end the trip with a short stop in Victoria. I was proud to see how many people from other places in the world really appreciated Victoria's beauty!
Unfortunately, day seven meant the end of all this enjoyment, but a bright spot was we did have great weather to enjoy our day in Seattle. We disembarked the ship approx 9am and went directly by cab to the Amtrak Station to check our bags. We took Seattle's free public transit to Pike Place Market where we watched them throw a few fish and browsed all the little shops. We got some food at the market and walked down to the waterfront. We decided to take a boat tour of Elliot Bay with Argosy Tours (we didn't have time for the locks tour that we really wanted to do). This tour was great and allowed for some spectacular skyline shots of Seattle. Argosy offered a combo pack with a reduced rate for the aquarium, so we also went and explored that. I think that is one of the nicer aquariums I have visited and think it is well worth seeing if you have some time to spend in Seattle.
Now onto a quick review of the overall experience. In short, this trip was amazing! We saw everything that we wanted to see, and we saw it in style. The Rotterdam is a beautiful ship and is in excellent condition. Our cabin was great, our room stewards were amazing and knew our names by the end of the first day!! Open dining really seems to work well for us giving flexibility to pick and choose dinner time and location depending on the day. As for entertainment, we only made it to one show, the comedian, and he was great.
Unfortunately, I did see a few instances of passengers being very poor towards staff and basically having a fit over very small issues (like being out of a particular dish at the lido). Very uncalled for IMO. On the second formal night there was a bit of an issue with a gentleman dressed 'smart casual' trying to come for dinner in the MDR and making an issue that they wouldn't let him in. The staff offered him a jacket to wear which he refused and ultimately the dining room manager agreed to let him in anyways. I am not going to start a debate but IMO, I think they need to stick to the fact it is formal night, as everyone else makes a point of bringing suits and ties or the like, even though they may not like to pack it along. As for the passenger, I feel there are other options for dining that particular evening should they not wish to follow the 'dress code'. I must say, the service as a whole was superb. The only exception was the front office staff who could not take care of television reception issues. That for some reason didn't get taken care of even after several complaints. While disappointing that it was not fixed (we mostly use the map and bridge cam for forward viewing while in the cabin) it was not that big of a deal. I would have even been happy to hear a simple 'we cannot fix that at sea and will have to look into it later,' just so we weren't left in limbo.
I have seen many debates about the changes to the Rotterdam after its refit, and I do have a few opinions based purely on this one trip (keep in mind this was Alaska). I think the retreat pool is a poor use of space, but may be good for warm weather cruising. I didn't see a single person use it the entire trip, even on the nice weather days. Aside from the hot tub, the Retreat remained empty, where as previous trips to Alaska on a ship (Ryndam) with an aft pool it was well used even in Glacier Bay. The retreat bar was nice and we did have happy hour at MIX one evening, that too was great. The Canaletto and Pinnacle were both very good. I noticed a great mix of ages on this cruise and a large number of younger children that all seemed to be having a great time. To sum it all up, we have already booked our FCC and can't wait to sail with HAL in the near future. Two thumbs up for the Rotterdam and her Crew!
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Cabin Review

Large Ocean-View Stateroom
Cabin H 3388
Below main kitchen, not too loud even for a light sleeper, no bar fridge, lots of storage space, close to elevators and stairs, great location
Lower Promenade Deck Inside Cabins, Outside Cabins

Port & Shore Excursion Reviews

  • Juneau
    Juneau is a great port and well worth visiting. Town is right infront of the pier and a very easy walk. Once you get past all of the jewelery stores and explore the natural surroundings the true beauty of Juneau can be found. The tram is worth a visit and the view is spectacular if the weather is clear. Mendenhall Glacier is also a great spot and easily accessible by shuttle ($7 each way) from the pier. Heli Dogsledding is worth a try if it fits the budget. This year we did a private tour through Harv and Marv and it was fantastic.
    View All 1,547 Juneau Cruise Port Reviews
    View Cruise Critic's Juneau Cruise Port Review
  • Ketchikan
    Ketchikan is another very accessible port, and is also full of jewelery stores. Creek street is an easy walk and well worth a visit. We went out on the Aleutian Ballad, Bering Sea Crab Fishing Tour and it was very good value. It was a great tour even for people with mobility issues. There were a couple people in wheelchairs on our tour and the crew were very helpful with getting them on and off the boat.
    View All 1,784 Ketchikan Cruise Port Reviews
    View Cruise Critic's Ketchikan Cruise Port Review
  • Sitka
    Sitka is a tender port, so may be tough for people with mobility issues. It is a beautiful little town and allows visitors to explore more of Alaska's natural beauty without being overwhelmed by jewelery stores. We went on a tour with Capt. Davey (Esther G Sea Taxi) and had a great time. The Puffins were very cute!
    View All 336 Sitka Cruise Port Reviews
    View Cruise Critic's Sitka Cruise Port Review
  • Victoria
    A quick stop in Victoria to end our trip (6pm-Midnight) was a great way to wind down. The scenery is spectacular and people very friendly. A great place to photograph some old architecture and enjoy a walk along the waterfront.
    View All 1,308 Victoria Cruise Port Reviews
    View Cruise Critic's Victoria Cruise Port Review