A few weeks ago we visited MS Rotterdam, the standard-bearer for Holland America Line’s fleet of ships, in Rotterdam.
Holland America Line originated as a Dutch shipping line until the company was purchased by Carnival Cruise Line in 1989. As part of the Carnival Corporation Holland America Line operates 14 cruise ships divided into five different classes of ships.
MS Prinsendam is Holland America Line’s oldest and most intimate ship. The Elegant Explorer, as the ship is nicknamed, was built in 1988 and entered HAL service in 2002. Prinsendam offers boutique style Grand Voyages for only 835 passengers.
The Statendam class ( S class) contains two smaller and older ships: MS Maasdam and MS Veendam.
The four ships in the Rotterdam or R class, MS Rotterdam, MS Volendam, MS Zaandam and MS Amsterdam were built in the late 1990’s as mid range cruise ships.
MS Zuiderdam, MS Oosterdam, MS Westerdam and MS Noorderdam, the four ships in the Vista class (V class), were named after the points of the compass in Dutch.
The two ships in the Signature class, MS Eurodam and MS Nieuw Amsterdam, are enhanced, larger Vista class ships. The have an extra passenger deck (11 vs. 10) and have a slightly larger passenger capacity of about 2100 guests ( vs. 1920 ).
Finally MS Koningsdam, launched in February this year, is Holland America Line’s newest and biggest cruise ship. Koningsdam is the first ship in the new Pinnacle class of ships for Holland America Line.
As soon as we approached the cruise terminal in Rotterdam we could see MS Rotterdam’s dark blue hull, which is so typical and characteristic for Holland America Line. Having waited a few minutes inside the Rotterdam Cruise Port we received our visitors badge and passed through security, ready to go and explore MS Rotterdam.
Featured inside the historic cruise terminal is a large picture showing the SS Rotterdam, the fifth ship in the Holland America Line history to bear this name. Currently the SS Rotterdam is permanently docked in the vicinity of the terminal and serves as a hotel and museum.
As soon as we arrived on the second floor of the terminal building we were greeted by a free cup of cappucino and a view of MS Rotterdam.
We entered the ship on deck two, the Main Deck, where we took the elevator up to deck nine to visit the Crow’s Nest.
Onboard Rotterdam traditional deck plans, instead of the new electronic way finders, are used to guide you through the ship. And as on every other ship the elevator tells you what day it is.
During the day the Crow’s Nest is the place to be if you want to relax while enjoying the stunning view over the bow of the ship. After sunset the Crow’s Nest turns into a disco where you can dance until the early hours of the morning, or enjoy the relaxing soul tunes in B. B. King’s Blues Club.
One deck below we had a look at the Lido pool, which is accidentally located on the Lido Deck. During warm weather the retractable roof is opened so you can enjoy the sunshine while relaxing by the pool or in the jacuzzi’s. Next to the pool are the Lido Bar and the Lido Market serving poolside drinks and food.
Central on deck 9 is Rotterdam’s buffet style restaurant, the Lido Restaurant, which is open for breakfast, lunch and dinner .
At the back of the ship is The Retreat, a private resort-style pool experience.
Going back inside we took the stairs down to visit some of the accomodations onboard MS Rotterdam.
Because it was a turnaround day for the ship we were able to go inside some of the staterooms. The turnaround day is the day where the old passengers get off the ship and the new passengers get on.
The inside cabins are mostly located on decks one, two and three. They all have two beds that can be converted into a queen size bed, a sofa and desk, and a bathroom with shower. The cabin size averages between 182–293 sq. ft. (17-27m²).
Oceanview staterooms can either come with a small porthole or a large window. The new Lanai staterooms on the Lower Promenade Deck (deck three) have sliding glass doors giving access to the onto the walk-around promenade. The two beds can be put together or kept separate, there is a seating area and workspace/desk, the batherooms in these cabins come with a shower or a bathtub. The smallest cabins measures approximately 140 sq. ft. (13m²) while the largest is 319 sq. ft. (30m²).
The Vista Suites, or balcony staterooms, have two beds that are convertible to a queen-size bed, a sitting area, a mini-bar, a bathroom with whirlpool bath & shower, floor-to-ceiling windows giving access to the private verandah. The Vista Suites, including verandah, are approximately 292 sq. ft. (27m²). They are located on decks six and seven, the Verandah and Navigation Deck.
The Navigation Deck, where the bridge is located, is the location for the (real) suites onboard MS Rotterdam.
The Neptune and Pinnacle Suites are the top accommodations onboard MS Rotterdam. The Neptune Suites have two lower beds that are convertible to a king-size bed, a dressing room, a bathroom with whirlpool bath & shower, a large sitting area with a sofa bed for two persons, a mini-bar and floor-to-ceiling windows giving access to the private verandah. These suites measure approximately 571–653 sq. ft. (53-60m²).
MS Rotterdam also has four Pinnacle Suites, These measure approximately 1,127 sq. ft. or 105m² (including verandah). The suites have a bedroom with a king-size bed, a dressing room, a bathroom with oversized whirlpool bath & shower, a living and dining room, a sofa bed for 2 persons, mini-bar, guest toilet and floor-to-ceiling windows with access to the private verandah.
Guests staying in a Neptune or Pinnacle Suite have exclusive access to the Neptune Lounge. The Neptune Lounge is a private place to relax, socialize with other suite guests and enjoy the personalized service of a concierge. It provides worktables, large screen televisions, a library and refreshments throughout the day.
Having seen some of the accomodations onboard MS Rotterdam we continued our visit with a look at the Showroom At Sea, the ship’s main theatre.
The theatre takes the look and feel of a classic nightclub, with cabaret-style chairs and small tables in the front, and mixes it with state-of-the-art theatre technology. It is the place where the ship’s main entertainment, ranging from singers and dancers to musicians and comedians, takes place.
Stepping out from the theatre we admired the massive artwork that decorates, or should I say dominates, the Atrium.
The Atrium Clock is a three stories high astrolabe designed by Gilbert Lebigre and Corinne Roger. Made of brass, resin and bronze it’s 14 clocks show the time in different locations around the world, astonomical instruments and playful sculptures complete this work of art.
Past the Atrium is a Winetasting Bar and Gourmet Shop followed by The Pinnacle Grill.
The restaurant is open for lunch and dinner and offers the best beef and seafood (for a fee) on the ship. Once every cruise, 18 guests can enjoy a 7 course meal, accompanied by select wines at a Master Chef’s Table.
We continued our visit to MS Rotterdam on the Upper Promenade Deck. Passing through the Casino and MIX.
MIX is the lively combination of three specialty venues:
– Champagne, for mid-day mimosas or anytime celebrations
– Martinis, for Grey Goose cocktails and martini flights
– Spirits & Ales for microbrews, single malts and sports updates
The Explorations Café is more than just a coffee shop serving cappuccinos. Here you will also find an extensive library, computer stations, travel related crossword puzzles, jigsaw puzzles, etc…
On board you can extend your knowledge of all things digital in the Digital Workshop. The Digital Workshop offers free lessons about digital photography, videos, scrapbooking, blogging and social networking.
Our last and final stop in this visit was the La Fontaine dining room.
The two-floor main dining room is open for breakfast, lunch and dinner. Holland America has “As You Wish Dining” which means you can choose to dine any time from 5:15 pm to 9 pm, or you can have a traditional dining time, either early seating at 5:45 pm or main seating at 8 pm.
We ended our visit to MS Rotterdam with a 3-course Lucheon offered by Holland America Line. For starter we chose a cream of broccoli and fruit salad with yoghurt and honey. For main course we tried a crispy country-style buttermilk chicken and a pan-seared salmon fillet. The chicken came served with red skin mashed patatoes and sautéed kale, the salmon fillet was drizzled with avocado-tomato aiolli and was accompanied by parsley potatoes and garden vegetables. The esterel cake with white chocolate and raspberry sauce followed by coffee and petit fours finished this delicious lunch.
Since we had not set foot onboard a Holland America Line ship before we had no idea what to expect from this visit. But as soon as we entered MS Rotterdam we were rather impressed by the general atmosphere onboard the ship. After touring MS Rotterdam it is clear that she may be of a certain age but she is one fine looking, classy lady. As Rotterdam lacks the thrill providing features other ships have, and from what we could see, the ship may not be the ideal choice for families with children, but she is definitely the right ship for the traveller who wants to discover the world while combining comfort and style with outstanding service.
Our first acquaintance with Holland America Line was a nice surprise which left us wanting more.