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ms Rotterdam Cruise Review

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Holland America Line name on ROTTERDAM

ABOVE: Holland America Line was founded in 1873 as the Dutch-American Steamship Company.

Is Holland America Line right for you?

Child on sea lionsProspective cruise passengers often agonize over the question of whether they'll feel comfortable on a ship. Will they be looked at like adult chaperones at a high-school dance? Or will they think that they've been shanghaied into a nursing home? Will they feel like Grand Old Opry fans at a Metropolitan Opera benefit, or like Bentley owners who have stumbled into a Monster Truck and Demolition Derby?

Our advice: Don't worry. Holland America Line's ships are large enough, and their customer base is diverse enough, to make just about anyone who speaks English feel comfortable.

Passenger at Terrace GrillOn our voyage, the passenger spectrum ranged from infants through the elderly, with services to match the diverse customer demographics. (Club HAL's camp counselors kept children happy with games and other activities, while medical oxygen was available to the infirm or elderly through third-party providers.)

Still, if you're concerned about whether you'll fit into a HAL cruise (and whether a Holland America Line cruise will suit your tastes), a few observations may be helpful:

  • Holland America Lines cruises are more about ports than about partying. Passengers who need to get up at 8 a.m. for a shore excursion aren't likely to drink and dance till dawn (though we did meet several people on our cruise who closed the bar at 2 or 3 a.m.).

  • Shorter cruises attract younger passengers. Guests on cruises of several weeks or longer are likely to be retired; guests on shorter cruises are more likely to include younger couples and children.

  • Kids--and their parents--tend to cruise during school holidays. If you prefer an adults-only crowd, book a cruise outside the summer season.

Nationalities on board

Airline check-inHolland America Line is best known for serving an American and Canadian clientele, but a growing European interest in cruising has begun to attract more customers from the the UK, Ireland, and Continental Europe--especially on Mediterranean and Northern European itineraries.

As we mentioned earlier, about 95 percent of the passengers on our Rotterdam-to-Rotterdam "Scandinavian Impressions" voyage were Dutch. HAL is likely to attract an even larger European clientele as more of its ships operate in Europe and it begins a series of year-round cruises from the port of Rotterdam.

Cruise fares

CurrenciesComparing cruise costs can be tricky, especially when you factor in early-booking discounts, short-term promotions, and what is or isn't included in the fare. If you're a North American flying to Europe, for example, your transportation costs will be a significant part of you cruise expense,. In contrast, a Londoner traveling to a roundtrip cruise out of Greenwich (or an Amsterdam couple taking an hour's train ride to Rotterdam) will spend very little to reach the ship.

Rotterdam cruise arrivalWe aren't experts on cruise pricing, but it's safe to say that Holland America Line's fares are competitive with those of most midrange and premium cruise lines. A travel agent can help you decide whether a HAL cruise will fit your budget. You can also compare fares and deals by visiting Holland America Line's Web site (see next page) and the Web sites of other lines featured in our European Cruise Guide.

Budgeting for extras

  • Like most cruise lines, Holland America Line charges extra for items such as soft drinks and alcoholic beverages, tipping, shore excursions, spa treatments, and dining in specialty restaurants (in ms Rotterdam's case, the Pinnacle Grill). It's a good idea to budget several hundred dollars or euros per week for extras, especially if you order wine at dinner, are addicted to spas, or prefer shore excursions to DIY sightseeing.

  • On some cruise ships, passengers are constantly hustled to buy drinks, purchase overpriced bottled water before going ashore, participate in art auctions, use the casino, etc. We're happy to report that we didn't encounter any annoying hard sell during our "Scandinavian Impressions" cruise on ms Rotterdam.

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3rd inset photo copyright © Alexander Gatsenko.
4th inset photo copyright Peter Memmot.

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