Meet Holland America’s Newest Ship, The MS Rotterdam

The Holland America Rotterdam, a Pinnacle Class ship by Holland America Line is HAL’s newest cruise ship and doesn’t disappoint! It’s almost universal that passengers really enjoy the new Rotterdam and it’s easy to understand why!

The ship, while relatively large holding over 2650 passengers, isn’t nearly the size of the modern “mega ships” found in other cruise company fleets. This makes the MS Rotterdam feel more intimate and overall feels like what you’d expect from a classic cruise experience. 

What we loved about the Rotterdam Cruise Ship

  • The food and restaurant selection is impressive for the ship’s size. 
  • The buffet space feels less “buffet” than it does a cafeteria line, meaning there are fewer self-service stations than on traditional ships. Being a germaphobe, this was soothing to my soul :). 
  • Efficient service at every bar. We rarely had to wait for service, despite the ship being at near capacity.
  • The staterooms are beautiful
  • The ship feels like a floating art gallery. If you love art, you could spend hours looking at the art in every vestibule. This is the first ship we’ve been on with this level of curated art. 
  • The ship feels more traditional yet modern. It gives a great sense of what cruising once was while keeping up with modern-day amenities, decor, and programs
  • The music is just fantastic. The cruise line has clearly put a lot of effort in finding amazing performers.
  • This is the first cruise in many years where the Cruise Director (A shout out to Karlijn!) was present, visible, and very active in lectures.

What we didn’t like about the MS Rotterdam

  • There’s not a lot to dislike about the Rotterdam, but what was disappointing was some of the excursion prices being simply outrageous.
  • Some of the communication was lacking.
  • There were several port changes, which is to be expected. However, on one occasion, the decision was made to dock far outside of the city (Copenhagen) rather than the passenger terminal closer to the city center. On top of that, Holland America decided it was ok to charge everyone $20 for a bus ride. It very much felt like a money grab. When people pay this amount for a cruise, they should have had courtesy shuttles arranged (in my opinion). 

Food on the Rotterdam – Our Experience

Overall, the food in every venue was quite good, and excelled in some restaurants such as Pinnacle Grill. Even the main dining room selection and quality were surprisingly good and never had a miss with any of the dining experiences.

Rudi's Sel de Mer Holland America menu
Specialty Dining – HAL Rotterdam

Restaurants on the Rotterdam Explained

Holland America has a great variety when it comes to dining options and specialty dining venues. There really is something for everyone. Unfortunately, most of the venues are specialty restaurants with an upcharge, however considering the value of each restaurant, it’s reasonably priced. 

Specialty Restaurants

Pinnacle Grill – The most popular restaurant on HAL ships is the go-to for steak lovers. The service is always consistently good and the food quality is top-notch! Reservations are recommended, but the restaurant accepts walk-ins if there is space. The charge for Pinnacle Grill is only $39 plus the 18% service charge making it a reasonable $46 per person. See the Pinnacle Grill Menu.

Tamarind – The Asian experience on board is a beautiful space with a good-sized menu to cover even picky eaters. The best part is the hidden bar in the corner of the restaurant. This little gem is a great space to hang out when all of the other bars seem busy, as many people don’t realize it even exists (and you don’t need to be dining in the restaurant to go to the bar).  Also within Tamarind is the a la carte Nami Sushi bar which is reasonably priced and a good place for a light meal. Die-hard sushi lovers will probably find it a bit too basic and some of the preparations were unusual, but it was still a good snack for a sushi lover.  Tamarind has a flat cover charge of $29 per person plus 18% gratuity  – See the Tamarind menu.

Rudi’s Sel de Mer – The French-inspired & seafood-forward restaurant was the only one we WERE going to skip but decided in order to be able to review the Rotterdam fully, we needed to try it out. It was a lovely dining experience but may not be a great choice for picky eaters. Definitely review the menu before committing to a booking. While the food was quite good, the service was unusual and the entire experience can be summed up as “strange”.  Enjoyable, however. See Rudi’s Sel de Mer menu

Canaletto – The Italian eatery on the ship is tucked away in the side parts of the buffet area, and didn’t “wow” with anything. On longer voyages, it’s definitely a good way to break up the monotony of other dining venues, but we’d give this a pass on shorter itineraries as it’s basic, albeit decent Italian food.  See the Canaletto menu

Club Orange Dining Room – The private dining room for passengers who’ve opted to upgrade to the Club Orange program is open during meal service and has an expanded menu. The best part about this venue is that it’s more subdued and private feeling, though the food is largely the same with a few more options depending on the meal. 

Included complimentary dining options

Grand Dutch Cafe – Quite possibly the best little spot on the ship! It’s truly Dutch (and I can say that after living in The Netherlands!). They have everything from traditional Dutch snacks like “bitterballen”.  If you don’t know what those are, we’ll explain separately. 

The Lido Market (Buffet) – As previously mentioned, the Lido is less of a traditional buffet and more of a cafeteria line where the majority of the items were prepared and served while in line. It most certainly feels more sanitary, but better than that is the fact it reduces food waste. I almost never witnessed piles of food being left behind on tables, which is typical to see on other cruise lines.  The food itself is varied enough and rotates throughout the voyage. Passengers who love the buffet experience on cruise ships won’t be disappointed! 

Dive In Burgers & Dogs – If you have a weak spot for burgers and hot dogs, you’re in luck!  Dive In makes some really great burgers and loaded hotdogs. It’s nice that this isn’t just a typical buffet, but the items are made to order so everything comes out hot and fresh. 

New York Deli and Pizza – Just as you’d expect, order a slice or a whole pie! The pizza was consistent, not the best pizza we’ve had at sea, but always decent. 

Bars & Lounges

As expected, there was no shortage of bars and lounges on the Rotterdam. But there seemed to be a shortage of comfortable places to relax with a drink in hand. So while the bars have seats, there were really only a couple of locations that felt like a real “lounge”.  

The best lounge area is “The Crow’s Nest” aka Explorations Central. This is at the top of the ship and in many other cruise ships, it would be referred to as the “observation lounge”.  The area is surrounded by glass with plenty of lounge seating, table service, and a full bar. At some points during the day, they even had small snacks. 

A favorite of ours is the bar inside the Tamarind restaurant. It’s usually not busy and it’s not known by many other guests, so getting a drink when other bars are busy is much easier! 

There are the expected Pool Bars which include the bar at the Lido Pool (Lido Bar), outdoor bars (Panorama Bar & Sea View Bar) as well as the Retreat which is a private space for paying guests only. Interestingly enough, these bars don’t have the same vibe and aren’t the same gathering spots you’d find on other cruise ships. While they provide good service and as-expected drinks, guests just don’t seem to congregate around these pool bars making them feel a little sterile. This could be by design or just circumstance, it’s hard to tell. 

Half Moon Bar  – Unique to the Holland America Rotterdam, this is a craft cocktail bar where the staff takes the making of unique, specialty drinks seriously! The only thing is the space is cramped and seems like an afterthought. Great service, unique drinks, and can get busy – so get a seat at the bar if you see one available. 

Other bars on the Rotterdam include:

The Ocean bar is effectively the “atrium bar” and has a nice lounge area. As with some of the other bars on the ship, the bar itself isn’t terribly inviting, but the lounge space is a nice place for a quiet drink during the day.

Grand Dutch Cafe – Which isn’t really a bar, but is where you would go for a selection of craft beers and some coffee-based drinks.

Entertainment on the Holland America Rotterdam

The Rotterdam is clearly focused on live music entertainment with the main promenade being referred to as “Music Walk” where the space is divided into several performance spaces such as Rolling Stone Rock Room, Billboard Onboard & BB King’s Blues Club (also called the Center Stage). These venues all blend together and various music performances are happening in the spaces throughout the evening. They’re planned well enough to where music doesn’t really overflow into other venues even though they’re all relatively open. This makes for a great vibe while wandering through the ship in the evenings.

The only real negative aspect of the music on the Rotterdam is there aren’t any lower key venues to listen to quieter music. Everything was really upbeat (good!) and loud (good for some, not for all) – but really entertaining! 

In addition to the wonderful music on board, the amazing “World Stage” is the performance and lecture space that when paired with the right event, is stunning. The tech that has been put into the theater is not only cutting edge but so well done you’d never know you were in a theater at sea. The world theater has rotating shows throughout the voyage and includes an amazing show called “Humanity” which is a journey of music and dance. 

The lectures that happen within the World Stage include the history of Holland America Line as well as interesting presentations about the ship and the focus on sustainability.

Holland America Rotterdam - World Stage
World Stage

Finally, there are the fun “game show” style events that include really creative concepts from Music Trivia to “Secret Identity”. It’s pretty entertaining and the staff do a great job engaging the passengers and making the most of the events. I’m not one to usually participate in these sorts of activities, but they were just too good to pass up.

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Quiet spaces on the ship

Even when the ship is at full capacity, there are places that are quiet. A great place to find some quiet is the Library on Deck 2. It’s a hidden spot that many people don’t realize exists. It’s a quiet space with a huge selection of reading material (complimentary) including a book exchange. Additionally, in the Crow’s Nest, there is a game room space that is usually very quiet and has an amazing selection of board and card games. 

For people who just want to read a book during the day, the entire Music Walk space has seating where you can be sure to find a quiet corner. 

In the evening, there are low-key activities such as movies played at the Lido Pool on an oversized screen. 

Fitness center, sports deck, and walking

The Fitness Center on the ship is quite extensive. After entering through the spa, a large, expansive room opens up with every possible workout machine and space for free weights. In addition to the workout space, there’s a spin room full of Precor spin bikes and a separate space for yoga & pilates classes.

The cost for fitness classes is nominal and includes:

  • Pilates – 45 minutes, $20
  • Yoga – 45 minutes, $20
  • Suspension Training – 45 minutes, $20
  • Training – 45 minutes, $20
  • Indoor cycling – 45 minutes, $20

For long walks at sea, the Rotterdam has a full walking & jogging track that loops around the sports court ( a great place to shoot some hoops)

HAL Rotterdam Gym & Fitness
HAL Rotterdam Gym & Fitness

The Greenhouse Spa & Salon + Thermal Suite

The Spa facilities (Greenhouse Spa & Salon) are relatively simple and don’t seem to be a focal point of the ship’s offerings. While there is everything you’d expect from a spa at sea, it’s just not large nor very welcoming. However, the thermal suite which is available for a separate fee, is a nice size and offers a bit of a retreat from the rest of the ship.

It’s worth noting though, that unlike some other cruise lines, getting a treatment does not get you access to the Thermal Suite. That is a bit mindboggling if you ask me.

Saunas on the Rotterdam are free!

The saunas located within the Greenhouse Spa are actually free to use for all passengers. Most people don’t realize the sauna exists, much less being complimentary! These are the only spa spaces that are gender-specific & clothing optional.

Thermal Suite Holland America Rotterdam
Relaxation Room Greenhouse Spa holland america

How much does the Thermal Suite Pass cost on the Rotterdam?

A day pass to the Greenhouse thermal suite is $49 per person. A full voyage pass is available and varies, but on a 7 day voyage we were able to get a pass for $149 per person. A great value if you enjoy these types of services.

The thermal suite includes a relaxation room with warming chairs, several steam rooms, an aqua therapy pool, a horizontal shower, and a sauna. The entire facility is mixed gender/co-ed.

The Cost of Spa Treatments for the Greenhouse Spa on HAL (Spa Menu)

We found some of the prices of the Spa on the Rotterdam were a bit excessive, but in line with other cruise lines lately. A basic massage was $179 for 50 minutes and $299 for 100 minutes.

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The Pools on the HAL Rotterdam

What makes the experience special for so many on a cruise are the pools, and this cruise ship doesn’t disappoint! In fact, the thought that has gone into the pool spaces is pretty amazing given the smaller size of this ship. 

HAL Rotterdam Pool
Lido Pool – Holland America Rotterdam

The primary pool (Lido) is the central pool with a retractable roof making this ship a perfect choice for all-weather cruising. On a Nordic itinerary during the summer, some locations were cold and would otherwise have made the main pool unusable, but because of the retracting roof, the pool was enjoyable for the entire cruise. 

At the rear of the ship is the small but lovely Sea View Pool & Bar. With two decks of sun chairs, there’s almost always a place to enjoy the outdoors by this pool.

Cabins on the MS Rotterdam

The cabins on the ship are modern and designed incredibly well when compared to similar size cruise ships. Rather than feeling like a traditional stateroom, the cabins feel more like a high-end hotel experience. As expected, there are all the stateroom classes you’d find on modern ships including Balcony / Verandah cabins, Ocean view cabins, inside cabins, and a variety of suites.

Holland America Rotterdam - Cabin interior
Verandah Cabin / Stateroom – Holland America Rotterdam

Balcony / Verandah Stateroom 

The most popular and sought-after cabins are the Verandah Staterooms. These cabins are spacious, well decorated, and offer amazing views over the ocean. We’ve done a complete overview of the balcony cabin on the Rotterdam with photos & 360 views.

Solo Cabins

Holland America has elevated the solo travel experience with the solo cabins on this cruise ship. Cruise lines that offer solo cabins usually only have interior space available for solo guests. HAL has elevated the solo travel experience by offering their solo cabins as ocean-view staterooms! They’re not large, but it’s nice to know the option of an ocean view exists when taking a cruise alone.

MS Rotterdam Solo Cabin
Solo Cabin

Spa Staterooms

Booking a Spa stateroom or suite on MS Rotterdam is a great option for those who are passionate about spa treatments and maintaining a healthy lifestyle. The convenience of being in close proximity to the spa is a definite advantage, and the added amenities in these rooms can enhance your overall experience.

The only real extra “spa” amenities in the room are yoga mats, a pedometer, as well as a countertop water feature.

The Spa Cabins Do Not Include Spa Access!

Unlike other cruise lines that offer spa rooms, the “Spa” cabins do not include any access to the thermal suites.

If you’re unsure about the value of booking a Spa stateroom or suite, especially if you anticipate spending most of your time elsewhere on the ship, it may not be worth paying the premium price. The cost difference between a spa stateroom and a standard room in the same category might not be significant, so evaluate whether the additional benefits justify an extra expense.

Cabins to Avoid on the Rotterdam

There are almost no bad cabins on this ship, however, there are a few that passengers consistently comment on for different reasons. First, the staterooms above and below some of the performance stages along the Music Walk can sometimes get noise in the evenings.

These cabin numbers are in the area of C1108-C1134 and C1029-C1103, deck 1 as well as VH4046-VH4092 and VH4045-VH4103 on Deck 4.

It’s also worth noting that the above cabins on Deck 4 may also have obstructed views (lifeboats).

Holland America Rotterdam Deck Plan

Explore the deck plans for the Holland America Rotterdam. See if your cabin is under or above loud spaces and get a feel for the ship before you embark on your cruise!

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Do you have a comment?

Did we miss something? Have you had a different experience? Did we get it wrong?

Our Final Thoughts

The Rotterdam is a stunning new addition to the Holland America fleet, and feels like you’re embarking on a high-end / luxury journey with the presence of amazing art, great food, and good entertainment.

Anyone who has been reluctant about the demographics of Holland America and their other ships should give the Rotterdam a try. The ship caters to all ages in an incredible way.

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