On Location: First Look at Holland America Line's New Rotterdam

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Holland America atrium

10 November, 2021

"A stately lady with savory dining, incredible live music experiences and pampering service” is a good way to describe Holland America Line's new flagship, the 2,668-passenger Rotterdam.

That’s Travel Agent’s perspective while currently sailing right now on a five-night Bahamian voyage roundtrip from Port Everglades, FL. Third in the line’s Pinnacle Class series, the 984-foot-long Rotterdamwill operate six- to 11-day roundtrip Caribbean/Bahamian cruises from Port Everglades, FL,in 2021 and early 2022. From our three nights aboard thus far, here are a few insights about this lovely, 99,500-ton ship.

Upscale Grand Dining

To enjoy an elegant breakfast, leisurely lunch or unforgettable multi-course dinner, guests can head for the ship’s two-level Dining Room, a grand space on Decks 2 and 3, with a “see-and-be-seen” staircase. In some ways, this main dining room carries through the “feel” of grand dining on a classic ocean liner of the past, yet the restaurant also has decidedly modern elements, too, including lovely blue, gold and clear glass balls that create the chandeliers

To see the full menu, guests simply scan the code on a table placard into their smartphone. Or, if guests prefer to see an old-fashioned printed menu, that’s available too. With input from Master Chef Rudi Sodamin and the line’s Culinary Council members, the Dining Room offers diverse menus that rotate daily. Guests can order both traditional fare and regional dishes curated from the specific ship itinerary.

Starters one night during Travel Agent’s cruise included carpaccio of beef tenderloin; green chili and corn chowder; French onion soup; a classic Caesar salad; chopped farmer’s salad; and a savory Caribbean ceviche. Dinner entrees ranged from pasta caponata to diablo-style market fresh fish, from a roasted boneless chicken leg to rustic home-made lasagna. More choices? Guests could also order Chef Rudi’s braised oxtail with cauliflower puree; garlic-herb roasted chicken; grilled salmon with capers and dill; or two highly recommended choices ordered by those at our table.

One flavorful choice that simply melted in the mouth was the jerked pork tenderloin with peanuts, black beans, rice pilaf and collard greens.

Jerked Pork Tenderloin

Optional menu items, available for an added charge, are jumbo shrimp cocktail ($8.50); whole broiled lobster ($20); a five-ounce filet mignon and five-ounce lobster tail ($30); and 36-ounce Tomahawk bone-in, rib-eye steak.

One fun factoid? Daily, Rotterdam’s chief baker and team prepare more than 20 different types of breads.

For the Dining Room, Lido Market and the specialty restaurants combined that equates to approximately 140 loaves of bread, 120 loaves of French bread, 5,000 dinner rolls, 1,000 croissants and 1,000 Danish.

Feast for the Eyes

Not all “feasts” on Rotterdam involve food, though. One "feast for the eyes" is the ship's new $4.1 million art collection. This diverse collection comprises 2,546 pieces of artwork representing the creative genius of artists from 37 countries. Countries most prolifically represented for the artworks are the United States, United Kingdom, the Netherlands and Spain.

It's easy to observe when art strongly appeals to cruise ship guests. On Rotterdam, the guests talked about it repeatedly. Guests also were viewed taking photos of one work of art, but at the same time saying, "now I need to go and get a photo of that other art piece, too."

the aft stair

Rotterdam’s highest value art piece, at $620,000, is “Harps,” which spans three decks and is the ship’s largest sculpture. This impressive 7.5-ton stainless steel atrium sculpture is a popular selfie backdrop.

Rotterdam's entire art collection was curated by Oslo-based YSA Design and London-based ArtLink, who collaborated with famed interior design Adam Tihany.

One unique collection attribute is that every stairwell has art with a different theme. So, on the forward stairs, it’s architecture. On the midstairs, it's music. And on the aft stairs, it's critter focused—with zoological subjects.

the aft stair

Among Travel Agent's favorite pieces of art was “Otter,” created by Spanish artist Okuda San Miguel, well known for a distinctive style of colorful geometric patterns.

Melodic Music Walk

One of the prime brand attributes that’s moved Holland America from a traditional cruise line drawing a mostly mature clientele, to a more modern, upscale player now drawing a broader range of guests is the live-music-at-sea Music Walk.

Yes, Holland America still proudly celebrates its soon-to-be-achieved, 150 years as an ocean brand, but Music Walk adds a mid- to late-evening vibrancy that simply wasn't there in past decades.

On all Holland America ships, Music Walk offers “live” rotating performances. These include chamber music at Lincoln Center Stage; jazz, blues and soul music at B.B. King’s Blues Club; and a fun show with two piano players/singers delivering chart-topping hits with guests singing along and dancing at Billboard Onboard. In addition, Rolling Stone Rock Room, which delivers rock standards played “live” by top-notch musicians (vetted by the music magazine), is also present on the three Pinnacle-class ships—Koningsdam, Nieuw Statendam and Rotterdam.

The rock room performance Travel Agent attended on this cruise featured incredible musicians with a lead singer who fulfilled the role of a rock star—especially for his voice. Simply put, Rolling Stone Rock Room is really unlike anything out there within the cruise industry.

Music Walk

The more cerebral and relaxing Lincoln Center Stage performances feature chamber music performances on most evenings; plus, those who aren't night owls will appreciate the afternoon recitals during days at sea.

Well-Appointed Accommodations

Scanning the key card at one’s accommodations and stepping inside on Rotterdam is opening the door to a light, airy, elegant, yet comfortable, experience. Rotterdam offers a range of staterooms and suites, including family and single accommodations.

While the top suites were all fully occupied during our Rotterdam cruise, so it wasn't possible to showcase them here, Travel Agent can show readers our accommodations, Veranda Stateroom, No. 6090. Staying here is best described as "a soothing experience," given the stateroom amenities, soft bedding, a comfortable couch and light color scheme.

Offering at least 228 square feet of space (up to 405 square feet within this category), the Veranda stateroom has a queen-sized bed, convertible to two twins. Guests will likely have a comfortable night's sleep given Holland America’s signature Mariner’s Dream Bed and plush Euro-topped mattress. A printed placard inside the room upon the guest's arrival also allows them to choose such suite features as an "extra pillow," "separate beds" or "ice at turn-down," along with many other options. Nightstands along the sides of the bed each offer a power plug-in and USB port.

Opposite the bed is a large, wall-mounted flat-screen TV with a robust entertainment system, including many free movies. Beneath that TV is an elongated, open space for storing magazines or thin items like a folded, light tote bag, which is a gift for guests. Those thin items are then secured behind "two wire-like cables" strung across the space.

Adjacent to that TV area is a catty-cornered small surface that holds an ice bucket, bottle of water and drinking glasses. Below that surface is both a small triangular-like shelf and a two-door cupboard. Above is a glass-door cupboard with a selection of additional glassware.

the Veranda stateroom

The stateroom's storage space is also along this same wall and directly across from the bathroom. Guests can unpack, push their suitcase under the bed, and then fill two hanging closets, three drawers and a few small shelves with their clothes and other items.

Storage area cupboards hold a mini-fridge stocked with sodas and water; plus, there's a personal safe. The shelves also offer two incredibly soft robes, as well as two beach towels for guest use during the cruise.

The closet space also has a full-length mirror on the inside of one door, plus an umbrella, basket for putting in shoes to be shined, and a laundry bag with instructions ($20 to fill the bag during a five-day cruise, plus other unlimited laundry and unlimited pressing options).

the cabin

Across the cabin along the sliding glass doors (leading to the private veranda), the stateroom's living area consists of a small, comfortable sofa with pillows and a small solid table (see above).

On the opposite wall from the sofa is a traditionally styled desk with three drawers, one that holds a hair dryer for guest use. Above the desk on the wall are a large mirror as well as European and U.S. plugs, as well as one USB port (see below).

The living area

The living area's floor-to-ceiling sliding glass doors—with both sheer and light-blocking curtains—lead onto a fairly spacious (as standard balconies go) covered veranda with two chairs, each with its own stool, and one small table. 

small table

Back inside, the compact bathroom offers a singular sink, toilet and spacious walk-in shower with premium showerheads. Small cubby-hole glass shelves rise above the vanity, with glasses, and are good for storing personal items such as a hairbrush or toothpaste.

compact bathroom

Specialty Dining: Tamarind

Tamarind, one of several specialty restaurants on Rotterdam, impresses in many ways. First, it offers a robust choice of Asian dishes. Second, those offerings are consistently high quality in both presentation and taste. Third, the galley does a very good job at creating the exact levels of spiciness requested by individual guests. And fourth, the wait staff will assist guests in making appropriate menu choices given any shellfish, gluten or other allergies.

Tamarind restaurant

Appetizer choices on the menu include a satay sampler; shrimp tempura; ginger and scallion Alaskan crab legs; shitake and tofu spring rolls; Thai beef salad, “Jewels of the Sea” with shrimp wontons, baby bok choy and lemongrass sesame broth; vegetarian ramen noodle soup; and  Chinese five spice baby back ribs.

Very tasty also are two appetizers that Travel Agent chose—lobster and shrimp pot stickers and Tom Kha Kai soup.

shrimp tempura

Dinner menu entrees include cashew barramundi red Thai curry; Wasabi and soy crusted beef tenderloin; crispy duck with ginger chili glaze; Thai basil Szechuan shrimp; Mongolian barbecue lamb chops; dan dan noodles; or sweet-and-sour vegetable tempura. In addition, Tamarind offers a wok-seared lobster for a $10 supplement.

Our delectable choice, heavily spiced to perfection at our request, was the Panang red curry coconut chicken.

Thai curry

Sides include Asian eggplant, spicy coconut; steamed jasmine rice or brown rice; bok choy oyster sauce; sake-braised oyster and shitake mushrooms; and Dungeness crab fried rice. For dessert, guests could choose from mango posse, exotic fruits, yuzu cheesecake, passion fruit cloud or a selection of house-made sorbets—lemon-based, yuzu and lychee.

The cost for dining at Tamarind is $29 per person, plus an 18 percent service charge. Reservations are needed, given this specialty venue's popularity with guests.

On nice weather days, the adjacent outside deck area can also be used for Tamarind dining. The restaurant itself has a bar area with high bar stools and some small tables, a great spot to enjoy a pre-dinner drink.

In addition, within the restaurant is Nami Sushi, which showcases the innovative recipes of Master Sushi Chef Andy Matsuda.

Sailing From Port Everglades

Holland America Line has been homeporting at Port Everglades since the 1990s. One big plus for cruisers sailing on roundtrip from the port is its close proximity to Fort Lauderdale-Hollywood International Airport (FLL). Travel Agent's boarding at Port Everglades for the Rotterdam cruise was a breeze, with lots of people at the terminal to assist. It took us less than 15 minutes to get from curbside to the ship, where a line of cheering, welcoming crew members greeted us.

Look for that boarding process to be even further enhanced with some new steps coming soon. As for capacity, right now, Holland America is holding guest capacity to approximately 70 to 75 percent of normal occupancy. One reason is a pandemic-era safety approach, but another is to keep 15 cabins empty and available for isolation and 63 for quarantine (as crew members joining the ship go into quarantine).

Rotterdam’s itineraries this winter season will span eastern, western, southern and tropical Caribbeanregions. For those seeking longer voyages, Collectors’ Voyages combine back-to-back itineraries in different Caribbean regions.

In October, Nieuw Amsterdam became Holland America’s first ship since the industry's pause of operations in early 2020 to return to Bahamas/Caribbean cruising from Port Everglades. Rotterdamis now the second ship back sailing from that home port. This month, NieuwStatendam and Eurodam also will begin sailing from Port Everglades. Operationally, each ship visit directly contributes $364,000 to the South Florida economy in provisioning, port taxes and spending.

The source: https://www.travelagentcentral.com/

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