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Holland America Rotterdam Review: HAL’s Newest Cruise Ship

It was time… Time to get back to cruising after a three-year break!

So we recently joined George’s brother and sister-in-law on Holland America Line’s new Rotterdam cruise ship for an 11-night Southern Caribbean cruise.

Here’s our Holland America Rotterdam review.

Now, if you think you know what cruising is like on Holland America, think again!

Because Holland America (or HAL for short) has jazzed up its approach to cruising – especially on its latest Pinnacle Class ships.

Cruise ship passengers take a tender from Holland America's Rotterdam to HAL's private Bahamian island, Half Moon Cay.
Guests on a tender from the Rotterdam to HAL’s private Bahamian island, Half Moon Cay

Holland America Rotterdam review

Much of what we cover in this Holland America Line review applies to all Holland America ships.

So if you’re looking for Holland America cruise reviews in general, our article will also help supply the information you want.

You can also head over to our post on HAL’s alcohol and beverage packages if you’re looking for specific information on this.

Anyway, before our Rotterdam cruise, we’d sailed on other Holland America ships in Alaska, Europe, Eastern Canada and the Western Caribbean.

In this review, we’ll also point out where the Rotterdam differs from other HAL ships.

Okay, let’s hop aboard the Rotterdam!

Scenic cruising past St. Lucia's Pitons on  the Rotterdam cruise ship
Scenic cruising past St. Lucia’s Pitons on our Southern Caribbean cruise on the Rotterdam

Holland America’s newest ship

Holland America Rotterdam Review
HAL’s Rotterdam anchored off Half Moon Cay, the cruise line’s private island in the Bahamas (Credit: HAL)

The ms Rotterdam is the newest in the Holland America Line fleet of 11 ships.

With a passenger capacity of 2,668, it was launched in late 2021 and christened by Princess Margriet of the Netherlands. (It’s the seventh ship to bear the Rotterdam name.)

It’s one of three virtually identical, Pinnacle Class ships. The Rotterdam‘s two sister ships are Nieuw Statendam (2018) and Konigsdam (2016).

The other Holland America cruise ships are smaller:

  • Nieuw Amsterdam (2010)
  • Eurodam (2008)
  • Noordam (2006)
  • Westerdam (2004)
  • Oosterdam (2003)
  • Zuiderdam (2002)
  • Zaandam (2000)
  • Volendam (1999)

Holland America entertainment

BBKing's Blues Club on the Nieuw Statendam cruise ship
HAL’s Pinnacle Class Ships have a great array of musical venues

Perhaps the biggest difference we noticed on the Holland America Rotterdam ship (and the Nieuw Statendam, which we cruised on in early 2020) relates to the onboard entertainment.

It was music to our ears. Literally!

The Pinnacle Class ships all have a fabulous Music Walk with live entertainment areas.

(There’s no Music Walk on HAL’s other ships.)

Cruise entertainment is usually scattered about in different bars and music venues (and on different decks) on most cruise ships.

But Holland America’s Music Walk is a coordinated experience centered on one deck, and the Pinnacle Class ships were built with this purpose in mind.

You can stroll along Deck 2 from stern to bow, and listen to all kinds of different live music in the course of an evening.

(Indeed, several music-themed cruises take over the Pinnacle Class ships each year – for country music, classic R&B, Irish hits, you name it!)

Lincoln Center Stage

First up on the Music Walk is the Lincoln Center Stage.

A quartet plays classical music in the Lincoln Center Stage on the Nieuw Statendam cruise ship.
A quartet plays classical music in the Lincoln Center Stage

HAL has partnered with NYC’s Lincoln Center for the Performing Arts to feature music virtuosos perform in a series of concerts.

From Beethoven to Brubeck, you can listen to chamber music from talented cellists, pianists, violists and violinists.

Most are from the United States, but some are from Hong Kong, Europe and other places around the world, with varying musical backgrounds, including Masters of Music degrees.

On our previous Nieuw Statendam cruise, a gifted classical quintet on the ship’s Lincoln Center Stage played Schumann pieces to heart-tugging effect – stopping casual passers-by in their tracks and luring them in to linger.

Rolling Stone Rock Room

A few more skips down the ship’s Music Walk and you come to the Rolling Stone Rock Room, lit up with electric lights.

Sign for the Rolling Stone Rock Room in Holland America's Music Walk
Come on in to the Rolling Stone Rock Room!

A live band here kicks out smash hits that get everyone rockin’ and rollin’ like it was the 70s again.

B.B. King’s Blues Club

The B.B. King’s Blues Club also got us into the groove with soulful and funky tunes from Memphis.

Billboard Onboard

Then there’s Billboard Onboard, where a live pianist plays chart-topping hits.

World Stage

Last but not least, there’s the main show lounge, called the World Stage.

Guests watch a BBC Earth in Concert production in the World Stage on a Holland America cruise ship.
Guests watch a BBC Earth in Concert production in the World Stage (Credit: HAL)

On our Rotterdam cruise, a Step One Dance Company of six elite dancers wowed us with their dance moves – which were paired with striking images blasted on a two-story wrap-around LED screen in the background.

Talk about an innovative marriage of contemporary choreography and technology!

We also took in a couple of BBC Earth in Concert shows, where a live orchestra plays as you watch lions hunt in Namibia and penguins dive from Antarctic ice shelfs. Pretty cool!

Ship art that sings

Piano art on Holland America Line Rotterdam ship
From contemporary hits to Beethoven, interesting music-themed art is found throughout Holland America’s newest ship

The music theme is continued in the Rotterdam’s contemporary art collection.

Indeed, the Rotterdam is one of the world’s biggest floating art galleries, with a collection of 2,645 pieces valued at more than $4.1 million USD in total.

In the three-deck-high central atrium, a spiral staircase winds around a soaring $62,000 stainless steel sculpture resembling a harp.

Another striking piece is an illuminated crystal treble clef called the “Key,” valued at $27,000.

Created by Dutch artist Hans van Bentem, this musical sculpture of a treble clef is found mid-ship on Deck 3

There’s also an eye-catching work of art titled “Billie Holiday,” created from three miles of thread.

The art is a big hit with guests.

We noticed several people on our Rotterdam cruise taking photos of the art pieces on their phones; one woman told us she was “in love withthe art.

Colorful sculpture on the Rotterdam ship
Not all of the art is music-themed; but it’s all eye-catching

Holland America Rotterdam cabins

Rotterdam also hits all the right notes when it comes to its staterooms.

There are four main categories:

  • Interior cabins
  • Ocean View staterooms (no balcony)
  • Verandah staterooms
  • Suites – Vista suites, Signature suites, Neptune suites and Pinnacle suites

Of the 1,340 accommodations, 912 have private balconies (164 suites and 748 Verandah staterooms).

Rotterdam Verandah staterooms

The most popular accommodations are the Verandah staterooms.

A Verandah stateroom (Credit: HAL)

Most are 228 square feet in size (including the private verandah or balcony).

Some have extra-deep balconies, making them 405 square feet in size (though the interior is the same size).

Be aware that if you’re standing by the railing on one of these extended balconies, people from above can look down and see you.

From our Deck 5 Verandah stateroom, we could see guests on the deck below on their oversized balconies, when they stood by the railing looking at the view.

But we could only see their toes when they were stretched out on their deck chairs under the overhang closer to their stateroom door.

The Verandah staterooms are well thought out.

Dressed in white duvets, the beds (two twins or a queen) face a large flat-screen TV opposite.

There’s plenty of cupboard and drawer space, with lots of wooden hangers. And we liked the wall hooks for hanging sunhats and purses.

Bathrooms have decent-sized glass showers, so you can lather up with the ship’s Elemis products without bumping into the sides. (And we made good use of the comfy white bathrobes.)

Vista Suite bathroom on HAL's Rotterdam ship
Our bathroom looked like this (Credit: HAL)

A swack of USB bedside and other plugs meant we could recharge our phones, iPad, laptop and cameras all at the same time – a thoughtful convenience that other Holland America Rotterdam cabin reviews also point out.

Outside on our balcony, two grey lounge chairs came with footstools so we could even recline and nap (sort of).

The one awkward feature was the heavy glass door between the cabin and balcony.

Rather than a sliding glass door, it’s a door you have to push to open.

It’s inconvenient if you want to keep it open for fresh air inside. To do this, we’d have to wedge a footstool between the door and cabin – making it hard to maneuver around when going back and forth between the balcony and room.

Holland America’s Rotterdam suites

Suites offer more space and luxury extras than the balcony cabins.

The 104 Vista Suites are between 260 and 356 square feet, and have a bedroom with separate seating area. The bedroom area is adjacent to the balcony window.

Verandah stateroom on Holland America Rotterdam cruise ship
The Vista Suites have a little more room than the standard Verandah staterooms (Credit: HAL)

Move up to a Signature Suite, and you get a king-size bed and a generous 400 square feet of space, bathroom with two vanity sinks, a whirlpool bath and a separate shower.

Then there are the Neptune Suites, which measure between 465 and 502 square feet. They have balconies twice as long as those in a typical Verandah stateroom.

Neptune Suite guests also get in-room coffee makers, complimentary laundry and dry cleaning services, dining privileges at Club Orange and priority embarkation and tendering.

The crème-de-la-crème are the Pinnacle Suites.

Living room of a Pinnacle Suite on the Rotterdam ship
Living room of a Pinnacle Suite (Credit: HAL)

They’re just under 1,300 square feet in size (including the verandah).

In addition to the ensuite bedroom, they feature a living room, guest toilet, dining room and pantry with a microwave and fridge. The bathroom has a large whirlpool bath as well as a shower.

Holland America Rotterdam deck plan

See here for the link to the deck plan for this Holland America ship.

Holland America Rotterdam restaurants

We were never really impressed with the dining on Holland America before we cruised on the Nieuw Statendam and Rotterdam.

So we were very pleasantly surprised to find that both of these ships served meals that tempted us at every turn.

Penang red curry at Tamarind, one of Holland America's specialty restaurant
Penang red curry at Tamarind, one of Holland America’s specialty restaurant (Credit: HAL)

Our Rotterdam traveling companions (who’ve cruised on NCL, Princess, Celebrity and other lines) also remarked many times how really good the food was – especially in the ship’s specialty restaurants.

We often judge a resto by something as simple as the bread. If it’s not yummy, we don’t expect much from the rest of the food.

On the Pinnacle Class ships, each of the four main specialty dining spots even boast their own unique and palate teasing bread!

At the French restaurant (Rudi’s Sel de Mer), for example, you find crusty baguettes garnished with sprigs of fresh rosemary.

Vegetarian spaghetti on Holland America Line
Even vegetable dishes like this vegetarian spaghetti are yummy! (Credit: HAL)

It could be that HAL has seriously upped its culinary game across all ships.

If you’ve sailed with HAL recently, let us know how you liked the Holland America food! (You can comment at the end of this post.)

Main dining room

The two-story main dining room is where you’ll eat most of your dinners on the Rotterdam.

It’s an elegant space to dine in – think white table cloths and blue-and-white Delft china.

Main Dining Room on the Holland America Line's Rotterdam ship
An attractive place to dine! (Credit: HAL)

For dinner, you can choose either fixed seating (at 6:00 pm or 8:00 pm) or open seating.

Fixed seating means you always dine at the particular fixed time and at the same table. And you’ll never have to wait for your table.

We had open seating, as we like the flexibility of choosing when to eat.

The downside to open seating is that there’s a bit of a wait between 7:00 and 7:30 pm, when most people want dinner.

Expect to wait a few minutes to put your name on the list.

Then you’re given a buzzer and can leave (perhaps to have a pre-dinner drink?) until you’re buzzed and your table is available for you.

The wait is longer during sea days.

Our first couple of nights, we cooled our heels for 30 minutes each time.

But as the cruise progressed – and people started spreading out into the specialty restaurants – the wait time became negligible.

What’s your fancy? Seafood or meat for dinner? (Credit: HAL)

As for the food?

Dishes are international, and the menu changes nightly. There are three courses, with meat, fish and vegetarian options.

Starters always include a soup (the French Onion soup is popular) and a salad.

Sample Appetizer menu on the Rotterdam cruise ship

You have a choice of some eight to nine entrée dishes.

Maybe you fancy the salmon with capers and dill, accompanied by honey-roasted carrots and brown rice?

The grilled lamb chops served during the Captain’s welcome dinner on the second night were a hit with us.

Sample dinner menu in the Main Dining Room on the Holland America Rotterdam

Pro cruise tip: Make reservations for specialty restaurants the first couple of days onboard to avoid waiting for a table in the main dining room.

Lido Market Buffet

Open for breakfast, lunch and dinner, this Lido buffet restaurant has something for everyone.

The Lido Market Buffet is the Rotterdam's casual dining venue.
The Lido Market Buffet is the Rotterdam’s casual dining venue

You can get everything from made-to-order eggs for breakfast to sandwiches, salads, Indian curries and warm bread pudding with vanilla sauce (a crowd favorite) for lunch.

At many stations, staff serve guests waiting in line for their sliced roast beef or whatever.

But at some stations, passengers may help themselves to fruit salad and other dishes using the big tongs provided.

On the Rotterdam, the Lido Market Buffet has outside seating around the aft pool.
The Lido Market Buffet has outside seating around the aft pool

It’s a large and busy venue.

So we tried not to spend too much time here.

For lunch, rather than looking for a table outside (and losing each other – which we did once!), we preferred grabbing a big bowl of healthy salad (served from behind the counter) and a sandwich and eating on our balcony in our room.

And for breakfast, we loved room service – the perfect segue to the next item in our Rotterdam cruise review!

Room service

One of the great pleasures of cruising is to order room service on a sea day – to enjoy on your balcony, as you listen to the waves and watch the endless blue of the ocean.

Thankfully, Holland America does this right – a tablecloth-covered tray, heavy faux cut-crystal glasses, big cloth napkins.

HAL offers complimentary room service 24 hours a day on all its ships.

For breakfast, your room steward will leave breakfast cards for you to hang outside your cabin door the night before.

We found we could pretty well order anything we wanted from room service anytime during the day – and they delivered.

Sometimes, we just wanted something simple, like fresh-cut strawberries and tea, or whole apples and a pitcher of iced water.

Nothing was ever too much trouble.

HAL cruise hack: The beverage and alcohol drinks packages don’t cover ordering bottles of water to your room. So if you don’t want to drink the water from your bathroom tap (which is potable, by the way), ask room service for a pitcher of iced water. There’s no charge for this.

Other complimentary Holland America dining options

For casual fare, you’ll also find these places to eat on the Rotterdam, where the food is included in your cruise fare:

  • New York Deli and Pizza – Fresh pizza, salad and made-to-order sandwiches
  • Dive In – Burgers, hot dogs, fries and the like
Casual pool deck eatery on the Rotterdam ship
You can usually always find something casual to eat on the pool deck

Holland America Rotterdam specialty dining

Yes, there are lots of complimentary dining options on the ship.

But there are also four specialty restaurants onboard you’ll want to try.

While you have to pay a surcharge to eat at these, you only have to check out reviews of Holland America Rotterdam dining to see it’s worth forking out extra for the specialty dining experiences.

For seafood with a French flair, reserve a table at Rudi's Sel de Mer on the Rotterdam cruise ship.
For seafood with a French flair, reserve a table at Rudi’s Sel de Mer (Credit: HAL)

The four specialty restaurants are:

  • Pinnacle Grill
  • Rudi’s Sel de Mer
  • Tamarind
  • Canaletto

The Pinnacle Grill steakhouse is Holland America’s flagship restaurant, and it’s found on all HAL ships.

The other three are found on all Pinnacle Class ships. Some other HAL ships also have a Tamarind, which serves Asian-influenced dishes.

We’re writing a whole post about the specialty restaurants on Holland America, so stay tuned for this.

In the meantime, we’ll let you in on our fave – Tamarind. Definitely do not miss out on a reservation at this resto!

Cafés and quiet lounges

Holland America Grand Dutch Café

Cappuccino? Mocha? Other specialty coffee? The Grand Dutch Café is your place.

It was our first stop each morning on the Rotterdam – and we often popped in here at other times too.

Cafe latte at the Grand Dutch Cafe on the Rotterdam cruise ship
We’d get our cappuccino and latte fix at the Grand Dutch Café

With comfy navy blue leather armchairs and wide bay windows that allow the light to shine through, it’s the perfect spot for a coffee and cake.

But inspired by the Holland America’s Dutch heritage, this upscale bar and café serves a lot more than this.

You can order Dutch specialties like pea soup and apple-and-bacon pancakes at the counter, and it will be brought to your table. If you miss breakfast, the café makes a great open-faced grilled cheese, egg and bacon sandwich.

You can also choose from among 16 Dutch and Belgian beers.

The Grand Dutch Café is only found on the Pinnacle Class ships.

Note: The food is complimentary but the beverages cost extra (unless you have a beverage package).

Explorations Café

The Explorations Café (Crow’s Nest) is another of our favorite Holland America cruise ship lounges.

It’s featured on all ships.

The Explorations Café on the Rotterdam
The Explorations Café on the Rotterdam (Credit: HAL)

On the Pinnacle Class ships, it’s located on the top deck at the bow. It serves espresso-based coffees, cocktails, pastries and other snacks. (There’s an extra charge for the specialty coffees and cocktails.)

Surrounded by floor-to-ceiling windows on three sides, it’s a great spot for relaxing while taking in the ocean views.

Read a book with your feet up on a window footstool, play a boardgame, put together a jigsaw puzzle, browse one of the international newspapers – this is an inviting quiet spot to do just this.

Pools

The main mid-ship pool on the Rotterdam
The main mid-ship pool on the Rotterdam

Sea days are perfect for relaxing on deck by the pool, right? We had three such days on our Rotterdam cruise.

There are two pools on the Rotterdam (also on Nieuw Statendam and Konigsdam).

The main pool is mid-ship, with a retractable glass roof. It’s surrounded by lounge chairs topped with thick cushions.

There’s also an upper deck overlooking the pool. Here, you can loll about like a Roman on cool cocoon-like couches and chairs, which are separated by breezy white curtains.

You have to be savvy to snag a lounger here though (easier come mid-afternoon). We were never lucky.

Pool with retractable roof on the Rotterdam cruise ship
If you can settle into one of these comfy white pool couches, you’re in luck!

Aft is another pool.

Not surprisingly, both pools are very popular places.

The Retreat

For a pocket of tranquility, The Retreat is a separate sanctuary with pool- and ocean-view cabanas, a separate hot tub and dedicated staff to serve you drinks.

There’s an additional cost. But if you like your space and serenity, you’ll probably want to hang out here on sea days, rather than by one of the general pools.

Book early. On our previous Nieuw Statendam cruise, we tried to reserve a cabana for our second sea day; sadly, they were all gone.

And then on our Rotterdam cruise, we completely forgot about The Retreat until it was too late! (We were quite happy kicking back on our cabin balcony.)

Spa

Holland America’s Greenhouse Spa & Salon is found on all HAL ships. Whether you want to get your hair or nails done or treat yourself to a massage, you can do so here.

Fitness center, sports deck and walking

The fitness center on the Rotterdam is impressive (and it's never too busy).
The fitness center on the Rotterdam is impressive (and it’s never too busy)

Fitness center

No excuses! You’re going to use the fitness center!

You’ll want to. On the Rotterdam (and Pinnacle Class ships), it’s flat-out fabulous.

Positioned at the front of the ship, it’s surrounded by forward-view windows, meaning you have ocean views while burning calories on the elliptical or treadmill.

The only problem? With so many state-of-the-art machines, it’s hard to figure out which ones to try!

We love fresh air (especially these days) – and so we were happy to see that the doors to the fitness center were always propped open on the Rotterdam.

The fitness center was still air-conditioned (so a comfortable temperature). But fresh air from the outside Lido deck could blow in and circulate.

Sports deck

You can even play pickleball!

All HAL ships now feature pickleball courts on the top sports deck.

Playing pickle ball at sea on a cruise ship
Playing pickle ball at sea (Credit: HAL)

Don’t know how to play the fastest growing sport in the United States? No worries.

Complimentary beginner lessons are offered by instructors on the ship.

Promenade walking deck

As for getting fresh air and exercise by walking, the Promenade Deck (Deck 3) is perfect. It’s an unobstructed walking deck – no trying to circumnavigate around sun loungers.

Three laps equal a mile.

It’s also covered and shaded, so even at noon in the Caribbean, we could comfortably walk around the deck when at sea, without getting sunburned.

Guest mix

Holland America Line appeals mainly to a mature crowd.

Most have cruised before – and many are repeat HAL guests who are members of Holland America’s Mariner Society (loyalty program).

Our most recent Rotterdam voyage skewed toward the older set (perhaps because it was a longer cruise).

But a HAL cruise isn’t just for your granny – though she’s very welcome!

Our previous one-week Caribbean cruise on the Nieuw Statendam attracted a wide range of guests, from young families (with well-behaved children) to globe-trotting silver-haired couples.

In fact, the three Pinnacle Class ships welcome families with 32 Family Oceanview cabins.

These cabins accommodate five people and are designed for families with kids. (They have a queen bed, additional sofa bed for two little ones and an upper bunk, plus two bathrooms.)

As well, HAL has a supervised youth activities program called Club HAL for kids and teens aged three to 17. It’s complimentary and offered on all its ships except Volendam and Zaandam.

Club HAL for teens on the Rotterdam
Club HAL for teens on the Rotterdam (Credit: HAL)

Still, you won’t find water slides or rock climbing walls like on some cruise line ships. Adults come first on Holland America (it’s not family-focused).

Nor are these party cruises.

If you like to dance in a disco with a DJ spinning hits until 2:00 am, Holland America wouldn’t be a good choice for you.

The live music and nightlife generally shut down between 11:00 pm and midnight – not a problem for us, as we’re not night owls and we had shore excursions most days that started at 8:30 or 9:00 am.

WiFi

You have a choice of three paid Internet packages for getting WiFi on the ship:

  • Basic – Which is good enough just for Facebook and Instagram
  • Surf – To get emails and browse the Internet
  • Premium – For downloading videos

But the type of WiFi Holland America has on its ships only works for cell phones and Apple laptops and iPads.

The Internet won’t work on your PC laptop unless you disable your Virus Protection Program like Norton. (Bad idea.)

It was somewhat annoying for us because we’d brought our laptops aboard (which are PC laptops: Dell brand) so we could keep up with work – and we couldn’t use them.

But if you just plan on using your phone (whether an iPhone or Android device), you’ll be fine.

HAL has gone high-tech.

HAL’s Navigator app, which you download onto your phone, contains all your booking information, shore excursions, dining reservations, etc.

You may need a little help with the app. The guest services team can set you up.

And gone are the days of paper tickets for shore excursions. The tour operators just need to scan your phone (or your keycard) to find your tickets.

What’s different post-pandemic

We’d read that to recoup some profits lost during the pandemic, cruises are getting creative with cost-cutting and up-charging where possible.

We noticed this on our Holland America cruise.

No more free lobster

Remember the time when lobster (free) was on the menu in the included main dining room for the Captain’s welcome and farewell dinners?

Now there’s an extra charge of $15 if you want lobster in the dining room.

And even though you’ve already paid a surcharge for the Pinnacle Grill specialty restaurant, you’ll have to shell out an extra $10 if you fancy adding a lobster tail to turn your steak dinner into “surf-and-turf.”

No more automatic evening turn-down service

After greeting us on embarkation day, our room steward advised us that most guests prefer their rooms to be cleaned only once a day in the morning.

However, if we wished, we could still ask for evening turn-down service and have towels refreshed.

Holland America itineraries

You’ll find Holland America cruises most parts of the globe, except Africa.

The smaller older ships tend to do the longer, destination-focused itineraries.

The newer ships with more amenities (like the Pinnacle Class ships) stick mainly to Europe, Alaska and the Caribbean.

As for the Rotterdam and Nieuw Statendam, after summering in Europe, the ships return to their Fort Lauderdale home port in November for a winter season of Caribbean cruises.

The star port-of-call on Holland America’s Caribbean cruises is Half Moon Cay – included on most itineraries.

Half Moon Cay is everyone's favorite port-of-call on HAL's Carribbean cruises
Half Moon Cay is everyone’s favorite port-of-call on HAL’s Carribbean cruises

Picture the dreamiest of tropical islands with powder white sand and limpid waters. Chances are it looks a lot like this, HAL’s private island in the Bahamas. 

You can pet stingrays, ride horses and pedal a bicycle around the small island.

But we were happiest just lazing about on the beach under the shade of waving palms.

Sailboats on the beach at Half Moon Cay
There’s lots to do on Half Moon Cay (Credit: HAL)

When your stomach starts growling, there’s a BBQ lunch to tuck into. Or you can plonk yourself down on wooden bar stools in the breezy Lobster Shack to chow down on fresh grilled lobster (extra charge).

Ahhh… Eat, swim, sleep, repeat. And evenings of first-rate entertainment to look forward to.

This is what a Holland America Caribbean cruise is all about!

Pro tip: On our 11-night Southern Caribbean itinerary, all of the ship’s shore excursions sold out. Book in advance if you’re interested in a Holland America shore excursion.

That’s a wrap for our Holland America review of the Rotterdam!

Holland America Line’s Rotterdam is a beautiful ship.

If you’re a music lover, in particular, you’ll enjoy all the different entertainment venues and options onboard.

It’s a classic “big” ship with lots of amenities and programs (including a casino and art auctions).

The Rotterdam is the largest HAL ship.
The Rotterdam is the largest HAL ship, but it’s waaay smaller than many mega-liners (Credit: HAL)

We have to qualify “big” though.

It’s big compared to the much smaller ships we’ve sailed on, like Windstar Cruises’ ships (148 to 342-passenger ships) and Seabourn (458- to 600-passenger ships).

But it will feel considerably smaller and more intimate than mega ships which carry more than twice as many passengers – like MSC Cruises’ Virtuosa (passenger capacity 6,334) and Royal Caribbean’s Wonder of the Seas (5,700+ passengers).

As other Holland America Line reviews also indicate, the Pinnacle Class ships, especially, are perfect for multi-generational families cruising together.

And for older seasoned travelers, HAL offers great value for money.

For more information, see Holland America’s website.

Craving more cruise information?

Windstar and Paul Gauguin: Discover the best cruises in French Polynesia! We compare Windstar Cruises with Paul Gauguin.

Cruise tipping: What’s the deal with gratuities on cruises? Find out the tipping policies for the popular cruise lines (including Holland America).

Viking Ocean Cruises: In our Viking Star review, we dish on why Viking Star was named the “world’s best ship” – and why Viking’s cruise experience is such a pleasure.

Our top travel tips and resources

Hotels: Booking.com is great for scoring a “wow” hotel – or at least a decent one. (We especially like their flexible cancellation policy!)

Vacation homes, condos and rentals: We prefer and use Vrbo (Vacation Rentals by Owner).

Tours: For the best local food, walking and other guided tours, plus skip-the-line tickets to attractions, check out Viator (a TripAdvisor company) and GetYourGuide.

Car rental: Renting a car is often one of the best ways to explore off the beaten path. Discover Cars searches car rental companies so you get the best rates.

Travel insurance: SafetyWing is designed for frequent travelers, long-term adventurers and digital nomads. It covers medical expenses, lost checked luggage, trip interruption and more.

Travel gear: See our travel shop to find the best luggage, accessories and other travel gear. (We suggest these comfy travel sandals for city walking, the beach and kicking about.)

Need more help planning your trip? Check out our travel tips and resources guide for airline booking tips, ways to save money, how to find great hotels and other crazy useful trip planning info.

Pssst! If you make a booking or purchase through our site, we may earn a small commission (at no cost to you). Thanks!


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Holland America Rotterdam review

Photo credits: All photos © Janice and George Mucalov, SandInMySuitcase, except where credited to HAL


We sailed on the Rotterdam (and Nieuw Statendam) as media guests on a complimentary basis. But as professional travel writers, we always maintain the right to freely express our views – you can trust that we share the good as well as the not-so-good!


About the authors

Luxury travel journalists and SATW, NATJA and TMAC “Best Travel Blog” award winners, Janice and George Mucalov are the publishers of Sand In My Suitcase. Between them, they’ve traveled to all 7 continents. See About.

Find destination guides, global food-and-wine stories, luxury hotel reviews, articles on cultural explorations and soft adventure trips, cruise reviews, insanely useful travel tips and more!

Cindi M.

Sunday 23rd of April 2023

Fantastic review, VERY helpful!

I have to book the Rotterdam or Nieuw Statendam this week, but there aren't many Rotterdam options left for my timeframe. Do you highly recommend getting on the Rotterdam if at all possible, or would I have a similar experience on Nieuw Statendam?

Thank you so much in advance :-)

Cindi

Janice and George

Sunday 23rd of April 2023

Glad you found our review helpful :-).

Both the Rotterdam and Nieuw Statendam are very similar. (And as you know, we've cruised on both.) The only difference is that the Rotterdam is newer. (But HAL maintains all its ships very well.) Oh, there's also a nice library on the Rotterdam.

Your cruise experience will be much the same, whether you choose the Nieuw Statendam or Rotterdam.

Pick the one that offers the itinerary, date and cabin you want - and enjoy your cruise!

Shelly Cheeseman

Wednesday 22nd of March 2023

Great review!

We were recently on the Rotterdam on a 10-day Southern Caribbean cruise and also Koningsdam in Alaska last fall. Koningsdam has the Music Walk too - almost identical to Rotterdam.

On both cruises we had evening turndown.

Our favorite secret was the Tamarind Bar. Amazing martinis at happy hour!

Thanks for the info as always.

Shelly

Janice and George

Wednesday 22nd of March 2023

Huh. Wonder if we were on the same Southern Caribbean cruise!

We missed the Tamarind Bar for happy hour martinis - thanks for the great tip :-).

And thanks for sharing...

Elaine W.

Saturday 18th of March 2023

At Christmas, I sailed on Nieuw Statendam and felt that the food and service in the dining room had gone down due to pushing people to book the specialty restaurants and pay higher prices. They put desserts on the same menu as everything else to make it look full!

Considering it was Christmas and one pays a premium at that time, they could have done better!

The food was certainly “passable,” but not as good as the dining room on the Princess cruise I had gone on in September.

I will be sailing again with HAL in September and hope things will have improved by then.

Janice and George

Saturday 18th of March 2023

Thanks for letting us know.

Crossing fingers for you that you find the food good on your September Holland America cruise :-).