I just spent five nights aboard Holland America’s Rotterdam, the newest ship in the line, and wanted to share some takeaways from my cruise.
Rotterdam is not your grandmother’s cruise ship.
In fact, it could be. As Holland America’s director of public relations said, if your grandparents (or parents or you) went down to Woodstock at the time, it is their ship. If you love fine dining and international cuisine, this is your ship. If you want to savor craft cocktails (rather than drinking cheap beers to party) this is your cruise ship. If you want to see more live concerts, whether it’s classical string quartet or classic rock, this is your ship.
Holland America targets a middle-aged and older population, but the truth is travelers of all ages will appreciate its friendly service, not-so-run-of-the-mill atmosphere, modern cabins, and beautiful public spaces. Which brings me to my next pointâ¦.
Your traveling companions matter more than the ship.
While I enjoyed the ports and the shows on board, my favorite moments of this trip were laughing with friends over dinner and chatting until the early hours over a cocktail at a fun onboard bar. We had fun, regardless of the ages and interests of other passengers.
Of course, I might have wished for a bigger dancing crowd so that I could join them without feeling embarrassed. And maybe I would prefer a boat with a water play area if I had to travel with my kids. But at the end of the day, it doesn’t matter if you’re a typical cruiser or not, as long as you enjoy the offerings on board and have a great group to vacation with.
It did help, however, that Rotterdam had such fun meeting spaces. I loved the Grand Dutch Cafe, both for its comfortable seating area where I alternately worked on my laptop and chatted with acquaintances. The Half Moon Bar was a favorite spot where we occupied the bar stools until far too late. One day, I will come back with my husband and spend an afternoon reading together on one of the sofa beds overlooking the pool terrace; they are an inviting place, rain or shine, because the swimming pool has a covered roof.
Live entertainment can be incredible on a cruise.
Cruise ship shows and guest acts can be hit or miss. But when the shows are good, you remember why cruise ships provide entertainment in the first place. A dinner and a show make a night special, and the great music makes you want to dance or cry or smile from ear to ear.
The Lincoln Center Stage chamber music ensemble was so excellent that I was often tempted to skip my writing time or practice to sit and listen for half an hour. The BB King’s All-Star Band was a late night event, and each member of the eight-person group was an awesome musician. The “Origin Story” show on the world stage was a history lesson from Holland America, but its mix of recorded interviews, live storytelling, and video footage kept me glued to my seat. The guest doo wop quartet was a surprise hit, and the ship’s choir style boy group made me smile with their serious dance moves and tight harmonies.
I have attended many more cruise ship shows than I can count, but enjoyed almost every show I attended in Rotterdam and it made the trip more fun.
It is a relief to sail on a fully vaccinated cruise ship.
I’m vaccinated but still nervous about the combination of Covid and travel. On my previous Carnival cruise, I tried to keep my distance from unvaccinated children and avoided most of the inside meals during the day. But Holland America is sailing 100% vaccinated, and the Rotterdam cruise seemed like the safest public interaction I’ve had all year.
I always wore my mask around the ship and tried to find places out of the way or outside to eat. But compared to my previous cruise or my regular life, I found myself worrying less about taking off my mask in a bar or restaurant. Every guest and crew member on board was vaccinated and tested, so the likelihood of someone catching Covid while in transit to shipping was extremely low.
It was a treat to have more normal social interactions and a relief to spend a few days not caring too much about who I was in contact with.
Half Moon Cay is still my favorite private island.
Granted, I have never been to the perfect Royal Caribbean day in Cococay. But after spending two days on this cruise at Half Moon Cay, and one day there last month, I can say the island never disappoints.
On this trip I booked a tour and spent a good hour bombing the inner lagoon for an hour on a jet ski tour. On the second day a group of us rented a villa (a two story cabin) with a hot tub and private dining area, taking in the view from the balcony and playing in the waves on the included floating mats.
It was a great day, but I had equally great days spending no money just setting up a lounge chair and floating in the crystal clear waters. The beach is idyllic, with its soft white sand, and you don’t need amusement parks and overwater bungalows to have an amazing day in the sun.
Missed my live blog on the first Caribbean cruise in Rotterdam? You can always make up for it:
Rotterdam Live Blog 2021 – Day 1 – Boarding day
Rotterdam Live Blog 2021 – Day 2 – Bimini, Bahamas
Rotterdam Live Blog 2021 – Day 3 – Sea Day Entertainment
Rotterdam Live Blog 2021 – Day 4 – Jet Skis at Half Moon Cay
Rotterdam Live Blog 2021 – Day 5 – Villa Half Moon Cay