Rotterdam Cruise Review by ccos
We decided to take advantage of a window of low fares for the Panama Canal cruise which left Ft. Lauderdale on Dec. 23, 08. Embarkation went smoothly;lunch was served on the Lido Deck. By 2:00 p.m. it was announced that the cabins were ready. Within an hour the luggage was delivered. Since we drove to Ft. Lauderdale from Atlanta, we remembered to bring extra hangers. We were surprised to find that they were not needed. The cabin was roomy and comfortable. We had booked obstructed view guarantee and were upgraded to a oceanview cabin. The Rotterdam is a comfortable ship with lots of space for quiet reading. Plentiful bars and every night a "happy hour" in two bars. Enjoyed the library where we checked out dvd's for free. There were a few days of internet specials - we took advantage of those days to go online to check emails. Crew were very friendly;ship was going on a "round the world" cruise upon our return. Most of the crew's contracts were up at the end of this cruise. Everyone on board was polite, friendly and professional - from the captain on down. Since we would be cruising over Christmas and New Years there were plenty of families on board including the ships officers' families. We appreciated and took advantage of the laundry service provided. The bag rate was reasonable. We were happy to discover that the ship offered any time dining which we prefer. The Maitre D seated us nightly with interesting people. Unlike assigned dining where you may be 'stuck' with tablemates you have nothing in common with. We prefer to have breakfast in the dining room. It's impossible to find seats on the Lido deck. We enjoyed a few lunches in the dining room as well. We are not fans of the Lido Buffet. The on board barbecue buffet did not look appetizing and we went back to the dining room that night too. The Chocolate Extravaganza was a nice touch. There were 3 formal nights - 3 too many for us. We prefer Country Club casual. With luggage weight limitations, it's difficult to bring formalwear. We have been on other cruise lines and compared the food to Princess. The Rotterdam offered a varied menu each night and considering how many people they cook for the food was very good. We had dinner two nights in the Pinnacle Grill where we thought the food was outstanding. Definitely worth the extra few dollars. One more thought: the dessert was not good! My husband had 'trifle' one night and everyone at the table had the same reaction. What is this - it looked like jello? There is definitely room for improvement with the desserts! I kept asking where the souffles were - they were served only one night. Entertainment: This area needs work! The comedians and singer that was brought on board was not even level C - more like "D" grade! The only entertainer that was really good was the banjo player-believe it or not he was really good. The staff dancers were fine (similar to Disneyland shows). The bar entertainers were very "karaoke" and not up to the entertainment we've enjoyed on the Princess cruise. I was very surprised about the poor entertainment. The cruise director was young and perhaps this is an area where HAL can save some money. It certainly showed. Also, we were in the Caribbean but no steel drum music. Yes, I know this isn't the party ship Carnival but come on. What's wrong with some reggae to get you in the spirit. There was never any live music by the pool, another cut back? I would have been happy with some reggae cd's as background music. Pool: Definitely not enough lounge chairs at either pool. There were children swimming in the Adults only pool and I only saw an officer request that the kids leave the pool one time. I guess parents can't read " Adults Only." The ship was decorated nicely for Christmas and New Years. Many guests even decorated their cabin doors...wish I had thought of that! Christmas morning it was announced that Santa Claus was arriving. The ship provided gifts for each child that attended Santa's entry. It was so cute to see the small children - that's what Christmas is all about! New Years Eve was festive and fun. Excursions: Unfortunately for us, this is the second time we have been rained out of the private beach. We were looking forward to enjoying a day on the beach. Since we've been to Aruba many times we just got off the boat and did some shopping. My husband took a snorkel tour in Bonaire which he enjoyed. I stayed onboard. In Curacao we went into town in the morning and found some great buys, beautiful jewelry and Royal Delft porcelain at better prices than when we were in Amsterdam last September. Note - if you see something you like, buy it. It may not be available on another island. We went on a beach excursion in the afternoon-big disappointment. The beach was rocky, and the bus ride was longer than the time spent on the beach. I don't understand why they didn't take us to a resort beach. I would have liked to see what Curacao's resorts are like - never saw a resort. Not sure I would go back to Curacao. The Panama Canal was a thrill. The ship had a guest lecturer give the history of the Canal-well worth it. We chose to take an excursion where once we got to Gatun Lake we got off the ship, took a bus to a small boat (approximately 200 people) and went through the remaining locks to the Pacific Ocean. We highly recommend taking this excursion. You see so much more on the smaller boat. Once we arrived at the Pacific side, we could see countless ships waiting to go through the canal. Panama City had a beautiful skyline. We boarded a bus to take us back to the ship in Cristobal. We actually had a police escort the last few miles to the ship to get us back in time. I was told the reason there are no excursions to Panama City is because of kidnapping. I'm not sure if this is true or not, just what someone told us. We chose to take the tram Rainforest excursion in Costa Rica. Again, I would have liked to see where the resorts were located. We drove through banana plantations and small village towns to get to the rainforest. Our guide was interesting and informative. All in all we had a wonderful cruise and very special Christmas and New Years. We've just booked a Princess cruise to Alaska in June. I'll be comparing HAL and Princess. There are some great deals out there for cruising - if you can take advantage of them, do so! It's a great way to travel! Thanks Rotterdam for a wonderful Holiday season 2008.
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