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Bobby Etchason

Age: 51

Occupation:Pharmacist

Number of Cruises: 5

Cruise Line: Holland America

Ship: Rotterdam

Sailing Date: 2003

Itinerary: Canada/New England


To celebrate our 30th wedding anniversary my wife, Becky, and I decided to treat ourselves to something special, so we booked the Canada/New England, Montreal to Boston cruise with Holland America on the Rotterdam. We arranged our own airfare into Montreal a day early but stayed at one of the recommended hotels by the Holland Line, the Delta Montreal. The accommodations were 4 star and the hotel was conveniently located downtown within walking distance ( 4-5 blocks) of many attractions. We took a Gray Line city tour and enjoyed it, but afterwards wished we had taken the double decker bus tour because it was such a beautiful day. If you like history and architecture you might consider either. We walked around the city and had a delightful snack and a glass of wine at one of the many sidewalk cafes and found the waiters very friendly. They spoke both French and English. The Underground City is touted as a major attraction but it is really nothing more than a huge shopping mall under the city. For us, if you’ve seen one shopping mall, you’ve seen them all.

Our cruise began on June 4th. We took a taxi from the hotel to the dock. It was a bit of a hassle since the driver spoke very little English. I would suggest that before you accept a taxi, you make sure you can communicate with the driver. We made it to the dock just fine and other than waiting in a line for about 45 minutes to check in, there were no problems. We found our stateroom on the Veranda Deck and did a bit of unpacking before the mandatory lifeboat drill. Here’s a tip: unless you want to stand in a huddled mass for about 30 minutes or more, don’t rush down to the lifeboat station. Hang back a few minutes, allow everyone to get there ahead of you, then you get to stand in the front of the crowd and only for a few minutes as they finish roll call.

The Rotterdam is a beautiful ship and is now considered medium sized by today’s standards, so it was easy to find our way around on the ship. After we familiarized ourselves with the ship’s layout, we found our table in the main dining room. It was a table by the windows at the aft of the ship with a lovely view, but was often very warm because of the sun and adjusting the curtains was a frequent hassle during our early seating. Most of the entire crew is Indonesian on the Rotterdam and are very attentive and friendly. However, our dining stewards were either shy or hadn’t quite mastered enough English to personalize their service. The meals more than made up for this deficit. Every meal was a delight, with a wide variety of entrees to choose from. I almost always chose seafood if it was offered and was never disappointed.

Other than the La Fontaine dining room, two other dining options are offered on the Rotterdam. Meals can be taken on the Lido Deck dining or for those who want a very special treat, reservations can be made at the Pinnacle Grill. The Pinnacle Grill is nothing less than an on board 5 star restaurant. The atmosphere is elegant, the service was superb and the food was divine. There is a $20 per person charge to dine there but trust me, if you enjoy fine dining, it was well worth the additional charge. If you eat there, be sure to ask for Ing. He was our waiter and greatly added to a truly wonderful dining experience.

The entertainment was varied in the Queens Lounge. The ship’s crew variety song and dance shows were very good as were most of the featured performers. The Wang theater offered a current selection of movies and the theater was usually full for each evening show. The lounge performers were good for the most part but there is something just not quite right when rock and roll is sang with an Indonesian accent. We found the piano bar more to our mood and taste.

The ports of call were the main reason we chose this cruise, wanting to see something different. The first port of call was Quebec City. We booked to excursions, one for each of the days in port. One excursion would have been enough. We took the St.Lawrence Grand Tour with Lunch. It was 7 & ½ hours, we had a wonderful tour guide, a native of Quebec named Marie. She made the 7+ hours fun and informative even though lunch was a bit bland. The second day we took the Secrets of Quebec tour, which showed much the same things as the previous tour and the guide was not as charming.

Charlottetown, P.E.I. was next and it was on a Sunday. Most of the shops were closed so check your itinerary before you decide what to do in this port. There was little to see or do here but it was beautiful day and we had a nice walk.

St.Pierre et Miquelon offered even less. Neither my wife or myself left the ship as it was very long walk into town or a tender ride. Those that did venture ashore had little to say about their visit.

St. Johns, Newfoundland had a great deal to offer, beautiful ocean vistas, historic sites and unfortunately for us lousy weather. We took the Old St. John’s & Cape Spear tour and basically looked at fog for 4 hours. The guide did his best to make the day interesting but the weather just plain sucked. Luck of the draw, I hope you have nice weather. We were told the day before people saw whales and icebergs. Oh well.

Halifax, Nova Scotia offered good shopping close to the ship and much better weather. We took the High Tides and Fine Wines tour. The tides were at the lowest point and the wine was less than fine. However it was a very lovely winery and the lunch was very good as was the tour guide. He shared lots of local history which we always find interesting.

Bar Harbor, Main, gee but it’s great to be back home. They should offer two days here and drop one of the other ports. Loads of shops and bars and local sights. We took the Arcadia National Park & Rustic Lobster Bake Tour. The lobster bake was great but nothing you couldn't find in town at a better price. The tour of Arcadia National Park was beautiful, but would have been a better experience with a rented car (by this time I had been on a bus too long). Again our guide was great and added a lot of local color commentary but I’ve been on my last bus tour.

All in all on a scale from 1 to 10, 10 being perfect, I rate this cruise an 8. The ship was great in every aspect but the ports of call were not as spectacular as I’d hoped for. If you have any questions my e-mail is betchason@yahoo.com .

Bob Etchason

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