Number of Cruises: World Cruise (1/100)
Cruise Line: Holland America
Sailing Date: n/a
Itinerary: Ft Lauderdale to Los Angeles
Synopsis of Rotterdam Grand World Cruise January 6th 2000 to April 11th 2000, Fort Lauderdale to Los Angeles
The Rotterdam VI unlike the previous V is certainly not an attractive looking ship. From the pier it looks huge and ungainly, the dark blue hull does little to improve it.
The interior is rather different. The colors are muted and the artwork is quite varied depicting various cultures around the world.
There is a bar on the top deck called "The Crow’s Nest". It has fantastic views forward and to the sides. It is a large room that is divided into three sections with a bar in the center. There are three dance floors and a Filipino band. Hors d’oeuvres are served before dinner.
The Upper Promenade deck has five lounges all with some type of entertainment, bands and piano or Sports TV. There is also a fair sized casino with the usual gambling.
There are two swimming pools. One is on the Lido deck and has a sliding roof. The second pool is one deck down at the aft end and is not covered. There is a bar at both pools. The Lido restaurant is open for breakfast and lunch. It is buffet style. There would appear to be a refrigeration problem here as several times we got food that had spoiled. The selection is well varied. There is also a hot dog and hamburger bar and another bar that varies from Mexican to Chinese. One can eat in the dining area or out by the pool. One objection to this deck is that the ships loudspeaker is deafening and they cannot reduce the volume. The Captain gives his announcements and then the Cruise Director tells what is happening that day. It seems interminable. Many passengers seemed to find it annoying judging from the number who covered their ears.
Speaking of noise - the Rotterdam is a noisy ship. There is always something playing. Deck games with loud speakers. Loud bands on the Lido deck, bands in the dining room, player pianos. There are very few places where one can enjoy quiet except the library. The library is rather good. A nice selection of books, all types and they always bring aboard the local English language newspapers and news magazines that become available at each port.
The La Fontaine dining room is a two level and very beautiful room. The food is varied and several fish dishes are always available as well as a vegetarian entree. We did find the dishes to be overly "creative" and with too much spice for our taste. Of course many people like that. However they will cheerfully bring you any special orders you wish. Our friends Elmer and Lynn Cox from the Cruise News Group ordered Kosher chicken one night at the suggestion of their waiter. I laughed at this as I am Jewish and always thought Kosher foods terrible. It turned out to be the best dish of the trip., Light and moist. We ordered it several times.
A word of caution, if you get a dish that is undercooked don’t send it back. Order something else. If you send it back they will put the entire dish in the microwave and destroy it. The alternative dining room "The Odyssey" is good and provides a change of pace. It is larger than most alternative dining rooms. The passengers on the suite deck are served in their own dining room called the King’s room. Judging from the very good meal we had at the Captains dinner in the Queens Room for full cruise passengers it is a different kitchen. Interestingly the bread in the La Fontaine (main) dining room was poor. The bread in the Odyssey (alternative dining room) was quite good.
The Odyssey dining room was quite different than most ships in that they changed their menu styles every two weeks. On this long cruise, Italian, Dutch, Asian, Indian etc. The ship also had many theme nights with the food menu and the staffs dress reflecting the theme. For example the American theme had the staff dressed like Uncle Sam and of course roast turkey was on the menu.
For a relatively new ship there were quite a few things that went wrong. The most serious was a bearing in the propulsion system. This caused the ship to be late in arriving at two ports. Hong Kong unfortunately being one of them. Elevators were often out of service. The mens room on the Lido deck was closed for repairs for several weeks. Some cabins had problems with their air conditioning including one couple who room was soaked by condensation. They did however repair that one in 24 hours and gave them the use of another cabin in the interim. They also got a bottle of wine. There were others who had air conditioning problems that took much longer to resolve.
About the elevators there were three sets of four elevators spaced about one third of the way along the length of the ship. This gave very fast service.
Captain Dijik was very safety conscious. There were lifeboat drills every two weeks plus special drills for boarding passengers. He had numerous crew drills including a "Man overboard" drill complete with lowering lifeboats. This is very good as simulation is never like the real thing.
During the course of the trip we were showered with gifts such as books and trinkets. The best gift were two pairs of very fine binoculars. These were put to good use in the Antarctic region.
The amenities on the ship are very good. The cabins are adequate, as is the closet and drawer space. We found the verandah to be a wonderful plus. The beds are comfortable and the cabins are serviced twice a day. There seem to be enough crew people so that passengers were pampered by excellent service. Our cabin was a verandah cabin and had a refrigerator, TV and VCR. The ship ran both old and new movies as well as documentaries about the areas we were visiting. The refrigerator was stocked with items we did not want. I finally had them empty it out. The attendants who serviced the refrigerator would knock and immediately come in without waiting for an answer! We had twin beds that were put together to make a queen size. The beds and bedding were quite comfortable. We had a sofa, a chair and stool at the vanity table. The bathroom was quite nice with a tub/shower/whirlpool. It had a medicine cabinet which was very handy in some of the rough seas we encountered. Both 220 and 110 electricity with appropriate outlets was available. There was a vacuum cleaner type of hair dryer in the bathroom. The closet door had a full-length mirror. An item much appreciated by women and often neglected by ship designers.
There were four sets of washing machines and dryers on the ship. Dolphin and Main deck had four washers and dryers. Lower Promenade and Verandah had three. They charged $2.00 for the wash and $1.00 for the dryer. The laundry and dry cleaning service was one of the worst we have ever encountered. They washed an expensive jacket my wife had sent in for dry cleaning and ruined it. I had to send tuxedo shirts back twice because they were ironed so badly.
The usual English company operated the beauty salon with apprentice stylists. Next to the Salon was the gymnasium. It is one of the best I have seen on any ship. It was completely equipped with very good and complete range of exercise machines, free weights and benches. The only thing missing were slant boards. There were ten or twelve treadmills, Stairmasters and stationary bicycles. The large aerobic area was separated from the exercise area. Many ships spread this through the whole gym. It had a juice bar, ladies room and a mens room. Towels are furnished and the floor is carpeted with mats available. The treadmills and bicycles face out to a nice sea view. They also have TV usually with CNN.
The service staff was a mixture of Filipino and Indonesian young people. I cannot give them enough praise. They are helpful, cheerful and willing. A word here about the HAL "Tipping not required" policy. This is not a problem with your cabin steward and waiters as they can be tipped at regular intervals on a long trip like this. The problem is with the bar staff. We solved this by taking a good supply of one and two-dollar bills and tipping for the service received. It would really be more convenient if one could simply add the tip to the bill like a restaurant does. I detest the policy on most ships of automatically adding the tip to the bill. There is however something to be said for tipping in cash from the staff’s point of view. This way it is not reported to their governments. Considering the venal governments of their countries it gives them the opportunity to evade taxes like their ruling class.
The entertainment was the usual cruise mixture of shows and lecturers some good some very good and some very poor. The Antarctic portion of the trip was of course the highlight. The lecturers on this leg were outstanding.
The shore excursions were about what you would expect with over 700 people. For the most part they were handled well and efficiently. Some were pretty bad and others very good. The shore excursion lectures were generally accurate but a little on the rosy and optimistic side
The biggest problem and annoyance was the disembarking at the various ports. At some ports because the ship was big it had to dock quite distance from the center. An example was Viet Nam. The ship docked at Vung Tau which is a two and one half hour taxi ride from Saigon. Even the town of Vung Tau was an hour and one half hour taxi ride from the pier and there were no taxis. We took a tour to Vung Tau and it was not worth the bumpy ride in buses with only 10 inches of legroom.
The disembarkation process at port stops was very slow sometimes taking several hours. The reason was they had only one gangplank for over 1000 calendar impaired passengers. Many of them were quite handicapped and it delayed the entire process. When we had to make a tender landing this was multiplied by the problem of boarding the bobbing shore boat. I have vowed that I will never again take a large ship. I can only imagine what these new monster ships will be like.(shudder)
The stop at Nagasaki was quite irritating because of the history pamphlet put out by the ship. I quote "To most of the world Nagasaki is known as the place where the most despicable event in human history occurred. The Atomic Bomb fell on an unsuspecting population in the ancient community just after 11:00 AM on the morning of August 9th 1945." This was written by an American! His name is Jeff Rappaport in San Francisco. I feel this was quite inappropriate for Holland America to publicize this outrageous remark. There were a number of history errors made by the company that furnished these brochures. At the museum in Nagasaki there is no mention of December 7th 1941. There is the slogan, ‘August 9th 1945 a day we will never forget."
The disembarkation on Los Angeles was a mass of confusion. All those passengers with tons of luggage all wanting to catch their flights home. The ship’s staff did pitch in but they were overwhelmed by the crowds.
Something to keep in mind. The ship reports to US Customs everything you buy on board and also the value of all gifts given you. US Customs did however delete the gifts from the total declared. Customs and Immigration officers came on board at Honolulu and pre-cleared everyone prior to disembarkation in Los Angeles. This was a great help as it alleviated up the difficulties with the large crowds and baggage.
Did we enjoy the trip? Yes very much. Would I do it again? No. Would I take the Rotterdam VI again? No.