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Mike Davies

Age: 56

Occupation:Cruise Agency Owner

Number of Cruises: 136

Cruise Line: Holland America

Ship: Rotterdam

Sailing Date: October 12, 2002

Itinerary: New England

Sailing Date: October 12th, 2002

Once again Holland America Meets and Exceeds Expectations.

We spent 2 nights in New York and 2 nights in Montreal before this cruise. Taking Amtrak from New York to Montreal Amtrak offer a baggage check in service making things a lot easier. The trip takes 8 hours and follows the Hudson river for many hours. A very relaxing way to start a vacation.

Arriving in Montreal the Fairmont Queen Elizabeth Hotel is located directly above the rail station with direct access from the station. There are over 300 shops and 60 restaurants located under ground in a 5 block area around the station and hotel. We noticed that there were foods from Asia/India/France/Italy and many other ethnic selections. Most meals were priced from $5-$7. The only ones with lines were Burger King and Subway! The Canadian Dollar currently has a low value which offers great pricing for U.S visitors. After a city tour we found that we had missed an hourly shuttle to the Montreal Casino. One of the shuttle bus drivers for the tour company delivered us to the Casino free of charge. Montreal is a fascinating City

Rotterdam VI,
Although the ship has a capacity of 1,300 our sailing carried 1,000. Boarding took a total of 15 minutes. There was plenty of space on the ship. We noticed that we very rarely met any people in the elevators! Because of the time of year the sailing and the length of the cruise the passengers were in the senior range with many wheelchairs and walkers. There were a total of 6 children on the sailing. I spoke to the few couples under 60 on the ship about the experience. They all said they enjoyed Holland America for the excellent service/ food quality and ambiance. They were not concerned about the passenger ages.

The cleanliness of the ship down to the fresh flowers and cotton towels in the public bathrooms is the hallmark of Holland America's vessels . Attentive, white-gloved smiling service by the Indonesian and Filipino staffs who once each week provide their own talent show on stage in the showroom is something we have never experienced on other cruise lines.

Dining Options
The two-level La Fontaine Dining Room occupies the aft end of the ship, with magnificent views through the rear-facing floor-to-ceiling windows. Sweeping staircases make for dramatic entrances on formal nights. The room is accented in cool colors with a bold ceiling of Venetian glass. There are many tables for two, along with the typical larger tables, and there is ample spacing for both passengers and wait staff to move about.

The quality of the cuisine aboard Rotterdam was a pleasant surprise. Far from the stereotypical bland comfort food often attributed to Holland America, many recipes included contemporary cutting-edge fusions of disparate international cuisines, unusual saucings and even palate-roasting spicy options. Seafoods were standouts, and meats were invariably cooked to the exact requested degree of doneness. Each evening featured a plain offering from the grill as well as a vegetarian entree and a low-cal lighter menu.

The top of the ship's food service is the Odyssey Restaurant, a reservations-only Italian alternate eatery which serves an impressive menu of pastas and other Italian fare, which, though unchanging, is augmented nightly by specials. Ship's "informal" attire is required, and it is recommended that reservations be made no later than the first few days of the cruise, as the Odyssey tends to book up solid, especially during the regular seating times. The highlight of the meal was a desert sampler for those of us who want everything.

Breakfast or early morning coffee/juices and pastries can be delivered to your cabin.

The Lido Restaurant serves up buffet breakfasts and lunches. For breakfast the buffet offers an omelet station, one change we noticed was thet there are no trays of bacon and sausage anymore on the breakfast buffet. Now you are served. The buffet transforms at lunchtime to a mini-deli, serving up a variety of custom-made sandwiches, including panini, wraps and stuffed pitas. This station also offered Indian/Pasta and Chinese specialities. Stewards are available to help with trays, and espresso and cappuccino are available from a self-serve machine at no charge. Outside, near the pool, there is a hamburger/hot dog grill and self-serve taco bar. The Lido also serves a bistro dinner for those who do not wish to dress on non-casual nights.

We ordered from Room service and were pleasantly surprised by the speed of service and the quality of the food.

The Public Rooms
The three-deck atrium is central to life aboard Rotterdam. Like all recent Holland America newbuilds, Rotterdam's atrium houses a towering sculpture, in this case a whimsical clock tower, bedecked with sculptures of mermaids, dolphins and snakes, as well as fourteen different clocks telling time in various places around the world as well as representing the astrological and astronomical heavens. Our favorite place for port departures was the Crow's Nest at the top of the ship. Beautiful views, Live music and hors d'oerves.

Movie Theatre One tradition which has been retained is the Wajang Theater and its foyer. Guests can take in recently released movies here, while enjoying freshly popped corn. The foyer also features an espresso/cappuccino bar, which serves its beverages gratis, along with delicious freshly baked cookies.

Self-service laundries are available: $2 for wash, $1 for dryer and complimentary detergent.

Our outside cabin was located on the Dolphin deck with a picture window. Remote control television with CNN several movies each day and channels for Shore Excursions. Standard cabins, which measure a comfortable 185 (inside) to 196 (outside) square feet, feature a separate sitting/makeup area, with large mirror and leather couch. Storage space is exceptionally generous, with greater than average numbers of closets, drawers and shelves. Other amenities include a safe, hairdryer & toiletries. The rooms are well lit offering atop-the-headboard lighting that makes it comfortable to read in bed.

Suite passengers on Rotterdam give enthusiastic thumbs up to yet another innovation, the private Neptune Lounge on Navigation Deck (Deck 7), the level which houses all the suites. The concierge is present all day to serve suite passengers' requests, everything from maintenance and repair to booking shore excursions to facilitating transfers. Coffee, tea and juices are available during open hours, as are pastries in the morning, snacks at midday and hors d'oeuvre in the late afternoon.

Rotterdam's showroom is the two-story Queen's Lounge. Sightlines are good, with only a handful of pillars placed far back. As usual the production shows were O.K. and the mix of Comedian/Magician/Musician on the other nights were high class acts. Seating is comfortable with fixed banquettes in the balcony, and alternating rows of banquettes and chairs with tables on the main floor. The casino features the usual mix of blackjack, Caribbean Stud and Draw, roulette, dice and slots. A poker table is also available for games of seven card stud when interest warrants.

Spa & Exercising
Ocean Spa on the Lido Deck is a large room with space for aerobics, a multitude of exercise machines and free weights. A juice bar rounds out the room. The Lower Promenade Deck, Deck 3, is the walking deck where 3 1/2 laps equal one mile. Spa facilities offer ordinary beauty parlor services and massages. There are two pools (one with a retractable ceiling). Enrichment lectures, bingo and trivia games, horse racing, dance lessons, Ping-Pong, poker and table tennis tourneys are scheduled daily. An Internet Cafe, set between the Library and Card Room, offers 24-hour Internet access. Sports facilities include shuffleboard, putting, basketball and paddle tennis courts

Dress Codes
Typically there are formal nights on the second and second to last night of the cruise, with an additional formal night for each week over one week of cruise duration. Typical cruise dress rules apply, with more men than on many cruises opting for tuxedos. Women tend to get quite dressy, even on informal nights. On casual nights shirts with collars are required for the men; jeans, shorts or athletic shoes are verboten.

Holland America has a "tipping not required" policy, When guests ask the staff what they should give they are told "There is no requirement so there is no recommended amount. If you feel someone has offered outstanding service feel free to show your appreciation." Our cabin steward Nehru had been with Holland America since 1971 and did an excellent job. Many guests do tip.

Internet Access There is an Internet Cafe on board the rates are 75 cents or you can buy 100 minutes for $55

Ports & Shore Excursions
Holland America offered over 100 different shore excursion from $25 to $150 per person

Quebec City, Quebec
Holland America gives you two full days to explore this noble walled city with a French accent. Stroll Old Quebec's maze of cobbled streets, happening upon quaint sidewalk cafes, boutiques and antique shops; tour to Montmorency Falls, higher than Niagara.

Charlottetown, Prince Edward Island
A provincial capital with a distinctly English feel. We took a walking tour. Red double-decker buses motor along streets lined with gingerbread-trimmed Victorian houses; There is a wonderful high tech presentation showing how Charlottetown hosted the conference of confederation in 1864 which led to the Canadian confederation.

Sydney, Nova Scotia
So green and Gaelic is Cape Breton Island that Scotsman Alexander Graham Bell called it home for the last 37 years of his life. See why as you follow the scenic 184-mile-long Cabot Trail. Or tour to the Fortress of Louisbourg, meticulously restored to its 1744 mint condition. Many

Halifax, Nova Scotia
A real Scottish feel here with bagpipes welcoming the ship Ocean scenery at its best: granite boulders pounded by crashing surf, lighthouses standing sentinel on rocky ledges, a delectable lobster lunch caught fresh from the waters off Peggy's Cove. We took a walking tour including Halifax, the the Citadel, Maritime Museum and the waterfront.

Bar Harbor, Maine
Once the summer-society rival of Newport, today Bar Harbor is rich in the legacy of the 19th century millionaires, We took the Acadia National Park tour including Cadillac Mountain, most of the land was donated by the Rockefeller family.

Boston, Massachusetts
We took a tour including Boston, the Constitution and Salem which has the city emblem of a witch on a broomstick . Being there a couple of weeks before Halloween was strange. This was a 7.5 hour tour including lunch and was very enjoyable.

Newport, Rhode Island
We took a city tour and visited Marblehouse one the lavish excesses of Newport's "gilded age" Built at a cost of $20 million in 1898. one the summer cottages of the Vanderbilts, Astors and Morgans; There are now 5 of these amazing houses that have been preserved and are open for visitors.

Personal Opinion
This was a wonderful experience especially the fall colors. With only one sea day and many different very interesting ports. The weather was great with only one rainy day. Temperatures were in the 50-60 range with many days with the pool and Jacuzzi in use. The ports were much more than just shopping stops as on many Caribbean cruises. As always Holland America did an excellent job.

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