Review: Holland America Rotterdam ship

Our first cruise with HAL on the Holland America Rotterdam ship in the Baltic Sea: how was our experience and the food? Would we book again?

Last year, our cruise travel agent sent us this gorgeous last minute promotion for a Holland America cruise.

A 14 day cruise in the Baltic Sea with the Holland America Rotterdam ship, starting and ending in Amsterdam.

Stops at Copenhagen, Warnemunde, Riga, Tallinn, Helsinki, Stockholm, Kiel, Arhus and back to Amsterdam.

We are used to cruising with Silversea and Regent, but what about HAL?

How are the cabins, the entertainment, service – but most of all: how is the food on board?

What did we think of our first Holland America Rotterdam cruise?

Let’s see!

We paid for our trip on board the Holland America Rotterdam ship and didn’t get or ask anything in return for this review.

Video

We made a video of our cruise on board the Holland America Rotterdam ship.

You can watch it here:

Transfers

Since we live in Antwerp and this cruise starts in Amsterdam, we don’t need to fly anywhere.

We booked a transfer with our travel agency that brings us right to the Amsterdam Cruise Terminal, a 2 hour drive from home.

As we arrive in the terminal, our luggage is tagged and sent off to the Holland America Rotterdam ship.

We take the escalator one floor up to start the boarding process.

Boarding

The check in hall has a waiting area with rows of chairs on one side, check in counters on the other side.

A staff member asks us to sit down and wait for our turn.

It is 1pm and pretty calm.

Not even 10 minutes later we make our way to the checkin queue. Let’s say about 30 to 40 people are in front of us, however it goes pretty fast because less than 10 minutes later it is our turn to check in.

The self check in screens are easy to use: scan your passport, a picture of your face is taken to add to your Holland America Rotterdam stateroom keycard.

And that’s it.

We make our way to the ship’s gangway on level 2 where our digital boarding passes on the Navigator app are scanned again.

Cabins are ready apparently, and a member of staff tells us that we can find our keycards in our room.

It takes a while to get the an elevator up to the right level since only 2 of the 4 elevators are operating (the others are used now by the crew to move the luggage to the cabins).

We get off on level 6 and head for our room.

We enter our cabin, find our roomkeys and take a quick look around.

Looks really OK to us at first sight!

A couple of minutes later our luggage arrives as well.

We shove them under the bed and so we can make a quick video and a couple of pictures for this blog post now that the room still looks nice and untouched.

As we walk out, we meet Ayu who introduces herself as our main cleaner and housekeeper here on the Holland America Rotterdam ship, together with her colleague Sarwo.

We decide to grab a bite to eat at the Dive In burger and hotdog place near the pool.

It is 2pm when we bite into our yummy burgers, kudos Holland America for a smooth boarding process!

Cabin

We are staying in cabin 6024, a classic veranda suite located on deck 6 on the port side of the Holland America Rotterdam ship.

Compared to other cruise ship cabins we have stayed in, this cabin is a little smaller.

There is no separate dressing room here.

In the hallway is a door leading to the bathroom, the other side of the hallway wall contains a built in wardrobe and cupboards. After that comes the bedroom and small lounge area with couch and desk, and a sliding door to the balcony with 2 deckchairs, footrests and a small table.

Bedroom and lounge

Did the smaller space bother us?

Not at all, it is still a very comfortable cabin for 2 people to stay and sleep in.

Decorated with grey, white and beige colors, soft yellow lights. Nice!

The bed turned out to be alright, the mattress was between soft and firm, comfortable pillows. Our double bed were 2 single mattresses pushed together and covered with a thick double mattress protector and a double fitting sheet.

The lounge area next to the bed is small but comfortable.

It contains a couch, table and desk with chair.

The balcony has 2 deckchairs, footrests and a small table.

We used it a couple of times to sit in the sun in the afternoon when it would be too windy to sit on the top decks. Or to watch the ship enter a port in the morning or leave in the afternoon.

Dressing and mini bar

The small hallway leading to the bedroom is lined with storage space and drawers to put your stuff in.

Left is a laundry list and bag, and an orange umbrella.

On the right another smaller wardrobe with clothes hangers, and shelves underneath.

In the cupboard next to it is a safe, the mini bar and 3 more drawers.

We thought that there was enough room for our clothes for our 14 day cruise.

The mini bar is stocked with plenty of drinks.

Also provided are 2 bottles of still water, an ice bucket and a bottle of red wine.

Drinking glasses and wine glasses are in the cupboard above.

These drinks (even the water) in your room are not free, even if you paid for a drink package. They are not included and will be charged to your room account if you drink them.

Which is a bit weird though.

We had the Signature drinks package, 15 drinks per person for drinks up to $11. But because the drinks in the room are not included, we would have to bring drinks from the bars on the ship to our room like bottled water. Ridiculous.

Bathroom

What to say about the bathroom?

It is bright white and very clean.

The shower was nice and spacious, great water pressure and temperature – just perfect.

The bath products are fragrant and good. You can find the shower gel, shampoo, hair conditioner, hand soap and body lotion in separate dispenser in the shower and near the sink.

Also provided are kleenex, 2 glasses and 2 shower caps, no other bathroom amenities. A hairdryer and makeup mirror can be found in one of the drawers of the desk in the lounge area.

The towels are large and soft and changed 2 times daily if you like.

As much as the shower is spacious, the space in front of the sink and toilet we thought was often a tad too small. We would often find ourselves hitting our elbows against the door, shower screen or tiled wall while drying off.

Other than that, good bathroom.

Electric sockets

We get this question a lot: do we need to bring an adapter?

On this Holland America Rotterdam ship on each side of the bed is a USB charging port, and a US type B outlet.

The desk outlets are 120 volts and 220 volts. They have US type B outlets with 120 volts, and 220 volts outlets with European round prongs. It also contains a USB charging port.

In the bathroom is a type C European 2 round prong socket, compatible with a US type A 2 pin plug.

Housekeeping

During our Holland America Rotterdam cruise housekeeping would stop by twice a day.

In the morning from 8am onwards, and a turndown service after 7pm.

Used towels would be changed twice a day as well, whether you put them on the floor or not.

Bed sheets were changed every other day.

Our housekeeper Ayu was very friendly and professional.

At one point our bathroom sink was clogged and we told her, she reported the issue and had a plumber sent to take care of it right away.

Room service

You can order a bite to eat 24/7.

The full room service menu is available on your TV.

You can order a selection of sandwiches, salads, sweet treats, burgers, hotdogs, and steaks. Some items come at an extra cost.

Complimentary in suite breakfast is also available from 6am until 11am.

Just fill in the request form, choose a time slot and put it outside your door before 2am.

Choices are pastries, yogurt, fruits, jam and butter, vegetable frittata, bagel and lox, juices and an American breakfast (eggs, bacon, hash brown, sausage).

As we hadn’t any early excursions planned, we always had plenty of time to eat at the restaurants.

Have It All package

This package was part of our promotion, and it includes shore excursions, beverages, specialty dining and Wi-Fi.

  • $200 per person shore excursion credit
  • Signature Beverage Package: 15 drinks up to $11 per person per day
  • complimentary dining for 2 at Pinnacle Grill and Tamarind
  • Wi-Fi Surf Package

Would we buy this package on our next cruise?

Yes, definitely.

If we are not mistaken, this package costs $55 per person per day.

We did use the excursion credit for hop on hop off tickets, enjoyed the included wifi connection (when it worked) and loved our dinners at both specialty restaurants.

The most important thing for us was the ease to order any drinks during the day without having to worry. A good cup of coffee after breakfast at a bar, a soft drink or beer during lunch. A cappuccino in the afternoon, a couple of glasses of wine during dinner and a few cocktails while watching a show afterwards.

Plenty of wines by the glass and cocktails that you could choose from.

Right before going to bed we would also order bottled water to take to the room, which also counts as an included drink in the package.

Reception

The reception area on the Holland America Rotterdam ship is located on deck 3.

The queues here would always be long.

Here you can link a credit card to your room key for extra expenses.

Even if you have an all inclusive package or are adament not to spend one penny more on board the Holland America Rotterdam ship, you will still be charged $16 per day per person for staff gratuities.

We had an issue after boarding: our ‘Have It All’ package was nowhere to be seen in the HAL onboard system, even though we had the invoice from tour travel agent to prove it.

Not sure who made the mistake, HAL or our travel agent?

Unfortunately the attitude of the receptionist was very cold and distant from the start, she looked even annoyed when we would go back the following days to see if the issue was resolved. Highly unprofessional!

We went back and forth between our travel agent and the reception.

After 4 days she admitted that ‘a mistake was made’ and she offered a free dinner in one of the specialty restaurant as a commercial gesture.

We didn’t need guest services for the rest or our trip since everything went smoothy.

Navigator app

The Navigator app on your smartphone is an easy tool when you are on board.

On it you can find lots of information about the Holland America Rotterdam ship, daily program, entertainment, opening hours of bars, restaurants, shops and such.

You can make restaurant reservations, book excursions.

You online statement is also available: it shows you what expenses you have made.

Restaurants

The Holland America Rotterdam has quite a few restaurants to choose from.

For some you need a dinner reservation and/or pay extra.

The dining fee for French restaurant Rudi’s is $49 pp, Italian restaurant Canaletto is $29 pp, Pinnacle Grill is $39 pp, Thai Tamarind is $39 pp, and sushi restaurant Nami is $39 pp.

A service charge of 18% is added on top of that.

Breakfast

For breakfast there is a choice between the à la carte breakfast at the Dining Room restaurant (open at 8am, last seating 9:30am), the buffet breakfast at the Lido Market restaurant (open at 7am, last seating 10:30am), the New York Deli & Pizza (open from 7:30 until 11am) or the Dutch Cafe.

The busy Lido Market buffet has it all: pastries, fruits, yogurt, cold cuts, smoked fish, breads, juices, smoothies, eggs made to order (even eggs Benedict), pancakes, waffles, crispy bacon, mushrooms, tomatoes, hash browns, sausages…

We would mainly go to the Dining Room for breakfast.

Their a la carte menu is delicious, and if you want to enjoy your breakfast in a more quieter area then this is where you want to go.

Here as well staff will bring you hot and cold beverages while you browse through the breakfast menu.

Eggs any style, with extras such as mushrooms, hash browns, superb crispy bacon, tomatoes, beans, sausages, etc. Pancakes, waffles, smoothies, granola, yogurt, porridge, pastries, bread basket, fruit platter…

The eggs we ordered were always perfect.

We especially loved the eggs Benedict, yum.

Also a great breakfast option is the bento or the Indian breakfast.

The New York Deli & Pizza is also a place on the Holland America Rotterdam ship where you can grab a bite to eat in the morning.

It is located on deck 10 overlooking the swimming pool.

A freshly made breakfast bagel with fried eggs, cheese and ham – or a smoked salmon bagel.

Other breakfast options here: a bagel with jam or peanut butter, cereal, or from the griddle: pancakes, scrambled or fried eggs sausages, bacon and hash browns.

A good place for a cup of coffee and a savory morning bite, we liked it!

Lunch

There are quiet a few options you can go to for lunch, depending on how hungry you are.

The Dutch Cafe, the Lido Market lunch buffet, the à la carte Dining Room, the Dive In Burgers & Dogs, The New York Pizza & Deli and the Pinnacle Grill.

The Lido Market buffet has it all: a large salad bar, cheeses, charcuterie, sushi, bread and sandwiches, a carving station, vegetable and potato side dishes, a pasta and Asian cooking station, tacos, curries and a large choice of sweet desserts, fruits, pies and tarts.

We would often go for a noodle stir fry, a yummy curry, pasta, charcuterie or smoked fish and bread, or a freshly made Caesar salad.

The meat at the carving station was more hit and miss: at times it was delicious (the pork belly was delicious), other times the meat would unfortunately be overcooked and very dry.

The buffet sitting area would often be very busy, we would take our plates to the back of the restaurant and sit outside in the adult pool eating area.

The a la carte lunch at the Dining Room is only open on sea days and has the same menu every time.

You can enjoy meat, fish, soups and salads.

And the daily lunch menu: starter, main and dessert.

It is open for lunch from 12pm, last seating at 1:30pm.

We went once and liked the calamari, fried chicken, cauliflower and club sandwich.

On sea days you can also enjoy complimentary high tea in the afternoon from 3pm until 4pm in the Dining Room.

A selection of savory sandwiches and sweet treat such as cupcakes and scones as well as tea is served.

Let’s talk burgers and dogs!

We absolutely loved the freshly made burgers at the Dive In near the pool.

Delicious juicy burgers, excellent fries as well.

The perfect lunch or late lunch or afternoon snack!

The hotdogs were delicious too, but the burgers were even better.

Another lunch option is the New York Deli & Pizza again.

Choose what you want: sandwiches, pizza, salads and fruits.

The sandwiches are freshly made on the spot: we loved the reuben and the club sandwich.

The best thing was the ‘make your own pizza’ where you choose what goes on top of your pizza: sauce, meats, vegetables and so on.

You can just pick up a slice of pizza that is in the window, however we thought that those pizzas were a little chewy. Assembling your own pizza is done from scratch, and was much better.

Excellent pizzas!

The self service lemonade, iced tea and ice water are complimentary.

The Dutch Cafe is also a place where you can grab a sweet or savory bite.

The food on the menu is Dutch: expect things like veal kroket, pea soup, matjes herring, bitterballen and cakes.

The food here was just OK, we thought.

The famous Dutch veal kroket was bland and served on a sweet brioche bun. The bitterballen were better. The pea soup was really nothing special. Half of the advertising drinks were not available.

This is the place we liked the least.

It is not cozy at all, located opposite the reception area lots of people walk through it. The tables would often be dirty and packed with previous customers empty plates and cups.

The Gelato bar near the swimming pool on deck 9 also offers ice creams ($3-$4,75) and milkshakes ($5,50-$6,50).

Dinner

We had the ‘Have it all’ package, meaning that we could go to the Thai restaurant and the steak restaurant once for dinner.

All the other evenings we went to the a la carte Dining Room for dinner.

You will be asked if you want to sit with other people or if you want a table just for you. A table for 2 wasn’t always immediately available especially when it gets busy during dinner. However we never had to wait more than 10 minutes to be seated.

Did we like it here?

Yes, dinners were really always excellent here.

You can choose between 6 starters, 6 mains and a couple of desserts.

The menu changes daily.

Memorable dishes were the gravlax, veal tataki, lamb chops, lamb shank, shrimp and grits, beef tenderloin, turkey and stuffing, the salmon, cod and plaice.

Excellent.

We had been spoiled by the qualitly of food on our previous Silversea cruises and were very curious to see how HAL would do food wise but we loved it here.

Desserts were good as well.

Classics such as tiramisu, ice cream and fruit crisps.

There is also a different cheese board each evening, but the cheeses were all very average.

What we didn’t appreciate in the Dining Room during dinner service was the slow drinks service.

We would order a glass of wine and it would often reach the table after we had finished our starters or mains. Therefore we started to order wine right away before ordering food, and immediately order a double glass of wine or 2 different wines at the same time.

The wines were good by the way, you can get quite a few wines per glass under $11. Our drinks were included in our package.

Dinner at the Lido Market is the same as on the à la carte menu of the dining room, but then buffet style. and you can always count on the salads, pasta station, Asian corner, carving station and so on.

The New York Pizza and Deli is also open for dinner, until midnight.

If you don’t feel like going out for dinner, you can always have dinner delivered to your room by using room service.

Specialty restaurants

Then there are the restaurants you have to pay extra for, and make reservations beforehand.

Canaletto ($29pp) is the Italian restaurant, located right next to the Lido Market buffet.

It serves classics such as antipasti, burrata, ossobuco, pesto pasta, pasta vongole, sea bass and tiramisu. Nothing that made us wildly excited, so we never went here.

The Pinnacle Grill ($39pp) is the steak and seafood restaurant.

Here we came twice, one dinner was included in our package and another night offered as a commercial gesture because there was a mistake made in our booking that took quite some time to get resolved by HAL.

What did we think of the Pinnacle Grill?

The ribeye and New York strip were excellent, cooked to perfection.

We ate here twice and absolutely loved it.

Again enough wines by the glass to choose from that are included in our drinks package.

On our second evening though our waiter was really pushy to have us order the tomahawk and extras such as lobster tails that were not included in our dinner.

That wasn’t nice at all.

The Tamarind ($39) serves Thai food.

Our dinner here was one of the highlights of our cruise.

First we have to say that the service here was great, very professional, attentive and with a smile.

The food was excellent and very generous.

We had a hard time choosing what to eat, everything on the menu looked great.

In the end we went for the beef salad, satay sampler, roasted duck and chili prawns.

The krupuk appetizer was yummy.

Everything was delicious, from start to finish.

Flavorful fresh ingredients, perfectly seasoned and cooked.

Absolutely perfect!

Also in the Tamarind restaurant is the Nami sushi bar.

It has a a la carte menu, no fixed charge here as you simply spay for the freshly made sushi and other dishes that you eat.

Rudi’s Sel de Mer ($49) is a French restaurant.

We went there once (another commercial gesture, this time dinner was paid by our travel agency for the booking issue) and we really enjoyed the food.

We ordered the crab bisque with brandy and cream, the smoked salmon with blinis, the sole meunière and the mediterranean style grilled fish of the day (which was grouper).

The sole was cleaned and filleted tableside, and it was lovely.

Perfect dinner, well executed, tasty ingredients, absolutely delicious.

Portions are copious!

We were stuffed, so no dessert for us.

Bars

The Holland America Rotterdam ship has several bars.

We liked the Explorations Cafe panorama bar and lounge a lot.

It is open from 6:30am until midnight.

It can get pretty busy on sea days when there are boardgame events or painting classes.

People would come here often to read or knit and enjoy a cup of coffee or a cocktail.

As of 5pm it is quieter, when people get ready for drinks and dinner.

We would often enjoy a glass of wine here around 6pm.

Shoutout to waiter René for being attentive and providing excellent service!

Shops

You can find several boutiques on the Holland America Rotterdam ship.

Clothes and accessories, jewellery and handbags.

Cigarettes, liquor, wines chocolate, crisps and other small snacks.

And toiletries and other essential items such as toothbrushes, toothpaste, feminine hygiene products and sun screen.

These shops are open when the ship is on the move, and usually until 11pm. The boutiques are also opened all day during our day at sea.

Any item you purchase is added to your guest account linked to your room key.

If you linked a credit card to your room key, your bill will automatically be settled the day before or on the morning of disembarking.

Swimming pools

The Holland America Rotterdam ship has 2 heated swimming pools, both on deck 9.

The larges one is in the middle of the ship, under a roof that can be opened and closed.

It also has 3 jacuzzis.

All around it are plenty of sun loungers. Rolled up fresh bath towels are placed on them in the morning by the staff for you to use.

On deck 10 overlooking the swimming pool are comfortable outdoor couches and more sunbeams.

On each side are tables where you can sit to enjoy your burger from the Dive In shack on the same level or a pizza from the NW deli one floor up.

People would often get food from the Lido Market buffet (also on the same level) and eat here as well.

The other heated swimming pool is located on the same level, at the back of the ship.

This is an adults only pool and area with pool bar, where smoking is allowed.

We would sit here often to eat lunch from the buffet next door where it is much calmer to sit.

Shore Excursions

The shore excursions desk is located at the entrance of the Explorer’s Cafe bar and lounge on desk 14.

As most of the cities were easy to visit on your own, we didn’t book any excursion with HAL.

Depending on where the ship would be docked, you would have to book a ticket for the shuttle bus in advance. You can do that via the HAL app, or the excursions desk.

In our opinion the excursions desk was closed way too much (a complaint we heard a lot of people make) and therefore lots of people would already be waiting in line before opening hours to be able to talk to someone. Opening 2 hours a day is not enough on a ship with that many customers.

The excursion staff wasn’t always informed or wouldn’t give any extra information about shuttle buses and the ticket cost.

We booked hop on hop off tickets for 2 people for 2 days in Stockholm through the excursion desk and were told by the hop on hop off staff that 1 ticket was valid for 2 days. So we bought 2 tickets that we didn’t need, something you would think the excursion staff would be aware of.

After waiting in line again at the desk, we complained and got our money back.

Self service laundrette

There is no self service laundry on board.

If you need your clothes washed and pressed, use the laundry bag that you can find in your cabin’s wardrobe.

Live Entertainment

Great entertainment on board the Holland America Rotterdam ship!

The BB King Blues Club band was amazing, excellent singers and top notch musicians playing classic rythm and blues songs. They would play 3 sets per night, 5 days a week.

Perfect place to sip an after dinner drink.

Highly recommendable!

Right next door to the BB King Blues Club are 2 other music venues.

The Billboard Onboard where 2 pianists play classic hits together.

And right opposite The Rolling Stone Rock Room.

That is where we would spend most of our evenings.

Again a splendid band playing classic cover hits from Johnny Cash, The Rolling Stones, The Beatles, Janis Joplin, Lynyrd Skynyrd, Jefferson Airplane and so on.

Another place to sip a drink before going to bed!

The World Stage is an absolutely state of the art theatre and is the heart of other entertainment during the day and in the evenings.

A dance group, British comedian Nick Page, artist Pianist with the Hair, a classic singer.

Enough to keep you busy.

Spa, sports and other entertainment

  • gym
  • library
  • board games room
  • casino
  • pickleball
  • table tennis
  • running track
  • music trivia
  • art auction
  • evening movie at the pool

Passengers

The average age of most of the passengers was between 55 and 75 years old.

Most of them were couples, a handful of families with adult kids and a few solo travelers.

With a few exceptions, most of the passengers on board were American and Dutch.

Dress code

During the day there is no dress code.

On most nights the dress code was casual: nothing fancy, even a t-shirt was perfectly fine.

We had 3 dressy evenings where gentlemen had to wear something with a collar to dine at the Dining Room: a shirt, even a polo shirt was alright. T-shirts not allowed.

People who dined at the specialty restaurants tended to dress a little fancier.

We did see people wear fancy dresses and suits or dinner jackets with or without tie but that certainly isn’t necessary.

WIFI

We had wifi included in our Have It All package.

The connection was at times very fast and at other times super weak.

It had its ups and downs during our 14 day cruise.

Norovirus

A week into our cruise, we received a leaflet in our cabin.

Lots of people were coming down with the norovirus, a very contagious virus that causes vomiting and diarrhea. Enough passengers called in sick to treat it as a serious outbreak.

Everyone on board was from then on asked to wash or disinfect hands before going for dinner. Hand railings, elevator buttons and pool showers were cleaned multiple times a day. No individual coffee pots on the breakfast table, no bread baskets during dinner.

The next day everyone was asked to leave their cabins by 9:30am so that the staff would be able to desinfect all rooms properly.

By then Luc started showing symptoms already, it took him 48 hours before he started feeling better again.

We were well informed about this health issue on board and would be reminded several times a day for the rest of our trip to wash hands and avoid touching railings and buttons.

Would we book again with HAL?

Yes we would.

The food on board was great.

Staff is very polite and friendly.

Overall this was a great experience and a lovely trip.

Would we recommend HAL and this Holland America Rotterdam cruise trip?

Yes, we would.

In fact we booked our next cruise with HAL already: a 29 day cruise on the New Statendam in the mediterranean in October.

Through our cruise travel agent, unfortunately not on board to get an extra discounts the Holland America Rotterdam ship because the future cruise office was always ‘closed until further notice’.

Pros

  • comfortable cabins
  • attentive staff
  • good housekeeping
  • delicious food
  • excellent drinks and wines

Cons

  • hit and miss wifi
  • misinformation and long queues at the excursions desk
  • unprofessional attitude and long queues at the reception
  • future cruise office was always closed

We paid for our trip on board the Holland America Rotterdam ship and didn’t get or ask anything in return for this review.

Subscribe
Notify of
guest
1 Comment
Inline Feedbacks
View all comments
Erwin Schermerhorn
Erwin Schermerhorn

Thank you for the detailed and helpful review.

0
Would love your thoughts, please comment.x