Walnut Creek, CA
CruiseClout score: 20.0
ms Rotterdam: Signature elegance & exotic itineraries
ms Rotterdam reigns as queen of distant shores as the standard-bearer for Holland America Line. In 2015, the ship’s less conventional explorations include Mumbai, Oman and Sri Lanka — all places difficult to reach by land or air.
Who will like sailing on Rotterdam
The well-traveled and the adventuresome traveler will both appreciate the bonanza of rarely cruised ports on ms Rotterdam’s itineraries. Teens who enjoy expanding their world can fit in, but otherwise teens and younger children won’t find their bliss here. Itineraries are not well-suited to those with mobility limitations, although Rotterdam does have 25-plus wheelchair-accessible staterooms.
Where ms Rotterdam sails
Rotterdam visits the four corners of the world, including Hawaii, South Africa, New England and European ports as well as Baja, Alaska Canada and beyond. I sailed on Rotterdam from Singapore to Indonesia.
Early 2016 brings sailings of 7 to 33 days with ports of call in Europe, North Africa and the Far East including destinations like Singapore, Sri Lanka, Mumbai, Oman, Seville and Lisbon. Winter sailings in the Southern Caribbean range from 10 to 25 days and include ports of call in Guadeloupe, Grenada, St. Lucia, Barbados, and the Virgin Islands.
Longer sailings range from 21 to 48 days, with some itineraries including Transatlantic crossings.
Here's a rundown of the top dining options aboard Rotterdam:
- La Fontaine Dining Room features attentive service and an extensive wine list. Five-course menus include continental cuisine, vegetarian and low-carb options.
- Lido Restaurant offers a relaxed ambiance for all three meals and features a variety of fresh, cooked-to-order specialties.
- Pinnacle Grill: One of the most romantic restaurants at sea, the intimate, reservations-only Pinnacle Grill offers a sophisticated dining experience. Tables are decked out with elegant Bvlgari china, Riedel stemware and Frette linens. Wines rated "excellent" by Wine Spectator are served by the sommelier. The menu has star quality, but you know what? Just order the steak (Sterling Silver beef). Its delectable melti-ness is almost beyond compare. Additional costs apply.
- Taste of De Librije: Offered once per cruise, Pinnacle Grill transforms into "Taste of De Librije," featuring the cuisine of Culinary Council member and Michelin Star Chef Jonnie Boer. Named after Boer's restaurant in the Netherlands, the menu will showcase a selection of appetizers, soups, entrees and desserts from his land-based eatery. Cost: $29.
- Canaletto Restaurant: Named for a famous 18th-century Venetian artist, Canaletto is your destination on Rotterdam for intimate Italian cuisine, featuring $10 dinners. The evening begins with the chef's selection of antipasti with a taste of the delicious fare and personal, polished service to follow.
- On some longer cruises, Pinnacle Grill may convert to Le Cirque one night of the cruise (as in the famous NYC restaurant). Menu and recipes created by Le Cirque's chef; service ware uniforms, china and glassware are Le Cirque. Cost: $49
Top ship features
- Explorations Café: A bright, comfortable coffeehouse and Internet cafe where you can browse through an extensive library, surf the Internet and check email or simply read the paper. I bought a latté and retreated to computer by the window. Comfy chairs and extensive library inspire reading. The cafe was never crowded.
- Pinnacle Grill art collection: ms Rotterdam’s $2 million art and antiques collection reflects Holland America's 141 years of maritime history. There's an audio tour of the collection available in the library.
- Crow’s Nest: Great panoramic view for sailaways. Order the drink of the day — cocktail perfection — for $5.95 and sip while bidding farewell to a port you loved and will likely never see again.
- MIX area on deck 5 features three bars, Champagne, Martinis and Spirits & Ales. A daily pre-dinner tasting is paired with regional tastes for $4. Cellar Masters served top-tier wine with Dutch cheese one night, chocolate truffles and premium wine another.
- Showtime at Sea: Relaxing setting with comfortable seating and tables, a nightclub-like setting for watching shows.
- Fitness Center: Full panoply of equipment, and I saw few users. Yoga classes and morning water exercise in pool are popular.
- Wajang Culinary Arts Center: In this theater-like setting with seating for 249, culinary experts demonstrate crafts and tasty tidbits often based on regional cuisine.
- Digital Workshop by Windows: Daily computer classes ranging from learning a calendar app to designing travel photo books.
- Greenhouse Spa: A full-service spa, though salesy. Warn the technician not to lay on a sales pitch right after your massage has released your nervous tension.
Although Rotterdam’s focus is travel, Holland America Line is upgrading entertainment on all ships. A new troupe out of London, Rotterdam Singers and Dancers, belt out a fresh and charming show in the Showroom at Sea.
The ship’s bars keep passengers up late with talent of the popular pianist Stryker and an entertaining violinist. Both far exceed typically plebeian cruise ship talent.
All staterooms come equipped with sofas, hairdryers, individually controlled air conditioning, telephone with computerized wake-up service, a multi-channel music system and closed circuit TV. In each room the beds are convertible from one queen to two singles. Some options:
- Ocean view and inside cabins have seen better days. Size, however, is very good, up to 319 square feet. Good mattresses, flat screen TVs, towels and robes add livability. Many cabins have a couch; a bathtub with shower is standard. Storage in my room was so generous, an entire season’s worth of Project Runway outfits would have fit.
- Vista Suites are more appealing, sized at a relatively roomy 295 to 337 square feet, including veranda.
- Spa Suites nestle close to the spa. Lanai staterooms are another option — see the full range of accommodations.
- My advice? The Neptune Veranda Suite is the ticket, if you can afford it. Sizes of 568 to 644 square feet forestall squabbling on some of Rotterdam’s very long cruises (up to 99 days). Living area flows into bedroom — the veranda alone could host a cocktail party. The Neptune lounge outside cabin door serves breakfast and provides a private concierge.
YOLO (You only live once!)
- Choose the Neptune Suite for hot humid climates or a longer cruise Extra space feels homey; avoiding the busy breakfast crowd adds another comfort dimension.
- Do select more expensive shore excursions if they interest you. You’ve come a very long way; not to experience the destination in the best way is false economy.
- A rarity: Holland America has no corkage fee for wine purchased ashore. Have it served at lunch or dinner; the sommelier stores it until you want another glass.
- Drink of the day: $5.95 gets you a perfectly mixed cocktail; try a Lotus Blossom or Singapore Sling. Best spot is Crow’s Nest, where panoramic windows look out on sail-away as you say goodbye to a lovely port you may never see again. Sniff.
- Lunch: Do lunch for $10 in Pinnacle Grill. If you're up for it, the steak from eastern Washington state would cost $20 at the supermarket.
Both cruise pros and novices will find a wide range of activities on board, including a card room, tennis courts, swimming pools (natch), duty-free shops, and these places:
- Queen's Show Lounge features talented vocalists, dancers, illusionists, comedians and variety acts.
- Club HAL: dedicated youth facilities and activities for kids ages 3 - 12; activities are supervised and age appropriate.
- The Loft: designed exclusively for youths ages 13 - 17 to have fun, socialize and hang out with people their own age.
ms Rotterdam attracts a well-traveled set with a yen for exploration. It’s mostly a 50-plus crowd, and many Europeans sail Rotterdam for the far-flung travel.
Anne Chalfant sailed on ms Rotterdam as a guest of Holland America. See Cruiseable's Ethics & disclosure policy.
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Top highlights on this ship
- Pick from a varied and exotic list of itineraries.
- Convertible stateroom beds accommodate friends, families and lovers!
- Six staterooms are equipped to welcome the physically challenged.
- Once on a cruise, enjoy "Taste of De Librije" featuring the cuisine of Culinary Council member and Michelin Star Chef Jonnie Boer.
- Wide teak deck made for promenades