Editor's Note: Rotterdam now features the B.B. King's Blues Club at the Queen's Lounge, which hosts music and entertainment straight from Beale Street in Memphis.
Rotterdam employ HAL's signature activities program, broken down into Explorations (presentations on destinations -- including culture, shopping, wildlife and history -- led by the Travel Guide), Culinary Arts (such as cooking demos, classes on entertaining and wine tastings, hosted by the Party Planner), Microsoft Digital Workshops (courses on photo editing, blogging and creating Web pages, hosted by the Techspert) and Mind-Body-Spirit (fitness classes, lectures on wellness and trivia, hosted by the Lifestylist). The program, which is aimed at the more mature traveler, has a terrific premise -- using the cruise to improve travelers' lives by giving them new skills in areas like technology, exercise and diet, rather than serving merely as a week of over-indulging in food and bingo. The computer classes get rave reviews from technology novices (classes are very basic), and one-on-one coaching is available during "Techspert Time." The Tai Chi sessions also get a great turnout each day. Other daytime activities include bingo and bridge play, as well as the ubiquitous Park West art auctions.
The Wajang Theater and Culinary Arts Center is a double-duty venue on Deck 4. It houses a show kitchen where culinary demonstrations and private cooking classes (for a fee) take place. Private cooking classes are taught by the Pinnacle Grill's chef, the ship's executive chef or a guest chef, and topics range from kids' cooking workshops to desserts (Grand Marnier Chocolate Volcano Cake, creme brulee trio). The space also serves as a movie theater, which offers three showings of a different film each day, complete with popcorn.
Rotterdam's Showroom at Sea is a new twist on both theater seating and the productions themselves. The theater now offers tiered seating with the front rows by the stage populated with cabaret-style chairs and small tables. The shows themselves have also changed. Gone are the Vegas-style, large-scale production shows that didn't work on the ship's small stage. They've been replaced by more intimate shows, featuring an onstage orchestra, minimalist sets and a cast of singers (all of whom have previously performed on Broadway) and dancers. The idea is to present higher-quality productions that don't need to rely on the wow factor of crazy sets, costumes and technological tricks.
Deck 5 is Rotterdam's entertainment hub. A live band plays old favorites and dance music in the Ocean Bar. The casino has slot machines, poker tables, a roulette table and blackjack tables. Smoking is allowed in the casino.
Directly opposite the casino, Mix is Rotterdam's new-in-2009 primary bar area. The three bars in Mix are the Spirits & Ales bar; the Martini Bar, with a piano for sing-alongs with the Piano Man in residence; and the Champagne Bar, more of an upscale kiosk. The updated look of Mix is very contemporary. Just down the hall, the Explorer's Lounge is both a daytime hangout and a nighttime spot with classical music and drinks service.
The Crow's Nest is the latest of the late-night venues, hosting interactive events like the Marriage Game, karaoke and Super Star Singing Competition, as well as D.J. music into the wee hours.
The Rotterdam seemingly has a favorite space for everyone and the ship rarely seems crowded. It starts with the bustling three-deck atrium, which certainly isn't as flashy as those on more recent ships. The hub is a wonderful clock tower, with finely crafted sculptures and 14 clocks telling the time around the world.
In addition to the fascinating Holland America memorabilia found throughout the ship, specially commissioned works of art also fill the Rotterdam, ranging from oil paintings to sculptures to textile designs and much more. Museum-quality antiques are also found in many public rooms.
The Deck 4 area houses the front desk and shore excursions desk. Directly opposite is the photo gallery and art gallery. The Hudson meeting room is on Deck 5.
The Deck 5 atrium has two shops, selling logowear, destination-related souvenirs and duty-free goods like liquor and perfume. Opposite Mix, an open-plan store sells jewelry (everything from costume pieces to Tanzanite), as well as purses, ties, pashminas and more expensive souvenirs. Next door, the Merabella Luxury Collection Shop sells very upscale, designer jewelry pieces.
On Deck 5, the Explorations Cafe is Rotterdam's library/coffee bar/Internet cafe. Wonderfully comfortable leather chairs and couches line the windows, with several tables and chairs for reading, puzzling, chatting over coffee and working on personal laptops. Computer terminals are available to guests, and the ship is also wired for Wi-Fi. Internet pricing is 75 cents per minute, or you can buy packages of 100 minutes for $55 or 250 minutes for $100. A $3.95 activation fee applies on the first login, and printing is available at 25 cents per print job.
At the coffee bar, hot coffee drinks range from $1.20 to $3.05 and iced drinks from $1.60 to $2.85. Alcoholic coffee beverages are also available for higher prices; pastries and finger sandwiches are available for free.
Several self-serve laundries are conveniently located on most decks with cabins.
Steiner's Greenhouse Spa on the Lido Deck looks out to sea with floor-to-ceiling windows. The bright space features modern exercise and weight machines, along with a juice bar. Fitness classes are offered several times a day, ranging from yoga to aerobics and more (some classes have charges and they seem a bit steep). The spa proper offers the typical Steiner services, including the beauty parlor, facials, massage, and more--the massage treatment rooms are on the smaller side.
The main pool mid-ship on the Lido Deck features two large whirlpool tubs and a retractable roof. On the aft end of the deck, through the Lido Restaurant, is the Retreat resort pool area, new to Rotterdam after its 2009 dry dock. It's a wonderful area for lying out while keeping cool, dining al fresco or simply taking in the scenery. Specially shaped lounge chairs that lift up on either end (so you can recline facing either direction without rotating the entire lounger) sit in a three-inch-deep pool of water. In the middle of this Retreat pool is a wading area with tiled benches and a hot tub. Surrounding the pool are regular plastic loungers, tables and chairs, a bar and Slice Pizza. A movie screen is hung above the pizzeria and bar. The Retreat is not an adults-only venue.
The Lower Promenade offers a popular walking deck (with great deck chairs), where 3 1/2 laps means a mile. Other sports facilities and activities include shuffleboard, putting, and a basketball, volleyball, and paddle tennis court.
Holland America's Club HAL is offered to children 5-12 and teens 13-17 aboard the Rotterdam. There's a full-time youth counselor, but the level of activities really depends on the itinerary and time of year (e.g., school breaks). However, potential passengers should be aware that the ship is not particularly family-intensive by any stretch of the imagination (though most children will surely enjoy themselves). Babysitters are typically easy to arrange.