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Cruise Ship Review
Holland America Line

Rotterdam VI

by Maryann Novajosky

Rotterdam VI Pre Inaugural Cruise December 1997

When you've seen as many new ships as I have in the past few years, it is easy to become a little jaded. Although all of the new ships I've seen in recent years have been beauties in their own right, the Rotterdam VI was the first ship in a long time to enthrall me. Her unique blend of "old world" class and elegance, combined with all the contemporary features we've come to expect from modern-day cruise ships, truly made me long to sign up for a longer cruise immediately. The extensive use of woods and deep, vibrant colors give the ship a traditional feel. It was not an easy task to leave her behind after two short days, knowing that I had barely touched the surface of the pleasures she would provide during a regular cruise.

This report will focus on the physical aspects of the Rotterdam VI, as a short preview cruise does not give one enough exposure to the "software" to make valid comments. Just prior to the travel agent preview sailings, the Rotterdam VI had completed her first voyage, a transatlantic sailing. She departed on December 15th for the start of her regular service, with a few sailings prior to her inaugural World Cruise, which begins on January 19, 1998.

Speaking of World Cruises.... The Rotterdam VI was designed for World Voyages, Grand Voyages, and European sailings, with the occasional sailing in our "backyard" (between the end of her European season and the start of her World Cruise). Her basic design is that of Holland America's Statendam-class vessels (the Statendam, Maasdam, Ryndam, and Veendam) so she will appear familiar in many ways to passengers who have sailed on any of those vessels.

However, she IS different as well. Size-wise, her tonnage has been increased to 62,000 GRT (compared to 55,451 GRT for the Statendam-class vessels). Her hull is also longer (781 feet vs. 719 feet) and wider (105.8 feet vs. 101 feet). Her width is as wide as it could possibly be and still enable the ship to transit the Panama Canal.

The lengthening and widening of the Rotterdam VI was necessary to accommodate her faster speed of 25 knots, a speed which will enable the ship to stay longer in her many and varied ports of call. The second night at sea we were running at top speed and there was no noticeable vibration at all. For a few minutes in the dining room that night, we had a bit of vibration which stopped almost immediately and was not felt again.

Because she has more power than her "cousins", her draft has also been increased and the thrusters are more powerful. This will allow the ship to dock in severe wind conditions without tugs. Bubbles are also injected into the thrusters to reduce noise making her a very quiet ship.

Ironically, because she was built to run so quietly, additional sound insulation in the passenger accommodations was necessary since there is no "engine drone" to drown out other sounds.

My cabin (Category D, Cabin 2653) was located in the aft-third of the ship, two decks up from the bottom passenger deck. Here, too, we experienced no vibration or engine noise. I can't remember a quieter running or smoother cruising experience than I had on the Rotterdam VI.

A few other design differences of note:

  • The Rotterdam VI has a three-deck high atrium just as the Statendam-class vessels do. However, it is oval in shape instead of rounded, giving it a more open appearance.

  • The Rotterdam VI has three staircases instead of two. With the central staircase, in addition to the atrium steps, passengers are never more than 130 feet from a staircase.

Passenger Accommodations:

Cabin categories and layout are identical to the Statendam class. The only essential difference is that there are far more suites on the Rotterdam VI.

Inside cabins measure 192 square feet. Outside cabins measure 196 square feet. Balcony cabins are 284 square feet, including 55 square feet of verandah space. Suites are 565 square feet, including 180 square feet of verandah space. The Penthouse Suites measure 1,126 square feet, including 180 square feet of verandah space.

The Rotterdam VI carries 1,312 passengers, double occupancy, or 1,702 passengers will all berths filled. Given her size, she has a very high passenger space ratio so there should be no feeling of crowding anywhere.

Artwork:

Holland America is known for its extensive -- and expensive -- artwork on all its ships. And the Rotterdam VI beats them all, with a collection valued at $11.5 million. An entire report could be dedicated just to the artwork alone. But I'll just touch on some of the most eyecatching and appealing (to me, at least).

Maritime artist, Captain Stephen Card, who has spent a total of 316 days aboard the Rotterdam V, was commissioned for a series of oil paintings of all the Rotterdam ships: I through VI. The Rotterdam I is depicted at sea. Rotterdam II is shown sailing into the Verrazano Narrows at the end of a voyage to New York in 1887. Rotterdam III is depicted under a full moon on the last night of a crossing from New York to Rotterdam in 1900. The fourth Rotterdam, built in 1908, is shown arriving in Cowes Roads during a voyage from Rotterdam to New York in 1934. In this painting, her hull isn't the usual deep livery, but a grayish white. The hull had been repainted in late 1933 for a series of West Indies cruises. The much-beloved Rotterdam V is depicted arriving at Pier 5, Holland America's Hoboken (NJ) Terminal in January 1961 (in the background, the old Westerdam is shown, outbound for European ports). Rotterdam VI is shown at anchor in Bali during a World Cruise (Bali, ironically, is NOT on the Rotterdam VI's first world cruise itinerary).


Two life-size California sea lions, sculpted in bronze, done by California artist Susanna Holt, grace the Lido Deck pool area. (A pup is supposedly located on a lower deck but I never did find it.) The sculpture is so lifelike that it really catches your eye when you enter this area.

The focalpoint of the three-deck high Atrium, is a clock -- a HUGE clock. The design was inspired by a 17th century Flemish clock. The original was only three-feet high. One side of the base features an astrological clock. The other side of the base features an astronomical clock depicting the position of the stars over the city of Rotterdam. There are 14 other clocks embedded within the sculpture, real clocks telling the time in 14 different world cities (though I did notice not all were accurate ). Topping the clock sculpture, is Hercules holding the world on his back. Although we all think it should be Atlas, the clock's designer (Dingemans) noted that in Greek mythology, Atlas apparently tricked Hercules into taking his place -- just for a few minutes. I'll take Dingemans word for it as mythology is not my area of expertise.

The ceiling of the La Fontaine Dining Room was created by a leading glass artist, Luciano Vistosi. It contains a series of 22 circular pieces of glass sculpture in various combinations of vibrant colors -- green and gold, blue and green, burgundy and pink. This is Vistosi's contemporary interpretation of some of the stained glass ceilings that used to be on some of the great ocean liners. These glass sculptures are surround by a multitude of tiny fiber optic lights. At night, when lit, the ceiling has a tremendous sense of depth, giving you the feeling that you are looking far up into the night sky.

There is much, much more. If you do cruise on the Rotterdam VI, be sure to take one of their self-guided art tours. It will be well worth your while to do so.

Deck-by-Deck "Tour" of the Rotterdam VI (working from aft to bow):

The three lowest passenger decks -- Dolphin Deck, Main Deck, and Lower Promenade Deck -- are dedicated to standard inside and outside passenger accommodations.

 

Promenade Deck:

One of the nice things about the Holland America ships is that they have retained the full teak promenade not usually found on new ships these days. It's a wide promenade (about 15 feet or so) and there are old-style wooden chaises along the deck. For those of us who like exposure to the sea, there is nothing like these promenades.

In the aft area of this deck, we find the lower level of the La Fontaine Dining Room. There are expansive views of the sea on three sides of both the lower and upper levels. Deep reds and burgundies give the room an elegant look, with two brass-railing staircases extending up to the second level.

Exiting the dining room and going forward, we pass the Video Arcade on the starboard side. You can't miss it as the music from the machines is on.

Past the Video Arcade, you angle left and walk past the Odyssey Restaurant, the first alternative dining restaurant onboard a HAL ship. This 88-seat restaurant will feature fine Italian dining in a setting reminiscent of an opulent Venetian villa. It is a very elegant and beautiful room and will provide a wonderful intimate dining experience.


Odyssey Restaurant

On the starboard side is the Wajang Theatre. Like the promenade decks, HAL is the only major line still building ships with theaters. Although in-room movies are still shown, it is nice to be able to go to a theater to watch a movie. And HAL serves freshly made popcorn, too! This room also does double-duty for onboard meetings, with tables that pull up from the arms.

Next to the theater is the 36-seat Java Cafe, which offers espresso drinks.

Just past the Java Cafe, you enter the second level of the Atrium. Here you'll find the Shore Excursion Desk and Front Office Desk. The carpeting in this area is a persimmon color, making it very bright and one of the few truly contemporary looking areas onboard.

Past the Atrium, on the port side, is the Photo Gallery, the typical design.

Far forward is the lower level of the Queen's Lounge, the main show lounge. Carpeting here is in shades of red, burgundy and orange, with burgundy seating. Good sight lines from all over, as far as I could tell. Seating is banquette or individual chairs. I do prefer the "theatre style" seating that is being used in most new ships these days. Guess I like the "organized" look.

Upper Promenade Deck:

Like the Promenade Deck, this deck is dedicated to public areas.

At the aft end, is the upper level of the La Fontaine Dining Room. As you exit the dining room, on either side there is a private dining area (the Queen's Room and the King's Room). These can be reserved for special groups and have seating for 36 passengers.

Exiting the dining room, on the port side, you'll find the Erasmus Library, the Puzzle Corner, and Hudson Room, and the Half Moon Room. The Hudson and Half Moon rooms can be combined and offer audiovisual facilities for meetings and private parties.

On the starboard side, you'll find the Explorer's Lounge and the Ambassador's Lounge. The latter is a combined dance room and piano bar with a movable wall to allow for different room configurations. In an alcove of the Ambassador's Lounge, there is a small bar (the Tropic Bar). Still not quite sure why it needed a different name.

Beyond this area, you find the Casino Bar and lounge, which also serves as a sports bar with a big screen television. The casino is located port side and appears a bit too small for the ship. But I guess I've gotten used to seeing humongous casinos for ships carrying 2,000 plus passengers. The casino certainly did not appear to be overly crowded while I was onboard.

Opposite the Casino is the first shopping area (another is located further forward on this deck, opposite the Ocean Bar).

On the starboard side, is the Ocean Bar, the traditional music/dance and "let's get together for cocktails" lounge located on every Holland America ship. This always seems to be my "hangout" (well, at least until the piano bar gets going....).

Far forward on this deck is the balcony level of the Queen's Lounge. Sight lines appeared to be good from all angles though I did hear mentioned elsewhere that the first row could not see the stage. Also, take note that there are no tables for drinks in the balcony level (although there are two banks of stool seating with a bar towards the rear of the room, one port and one starboard). The lower level is the place to be if you want to enjoy a libation during the show, as there are tables throughout that area.


Queen's Lounge

The third-deck level of the Atrium separates the gift shops from the Ocean Bar.

Verandah Deck:

Just as it's name implies, this deck is dedicated to verandah cabins, Categories A and B (standard balcony cabins).

Navigation Deck:

This deck houses all of the suites (36 of them) and the four Penthouse Suites. This deck is considered the "Concierge Deck" and houses the first-ever concierge lounge on a ship. This lounge (the Neptune Lounge) is located midships on this deck, and is accessed with a special key card available only to passengers booked in the suites and penthouse cabins. The staff in this lounge will offer personalized concierge services for all suite passengers.

Also located far aft on this deck is the second pool -- the "quiet" pool as I like to call it as it is located away from the more heavily-trafficked Lido Deck pool area. Plenty of lounges and a good place to curl up with a book and catch some rays in total peace.

Lido Deck:

Aft is the Lido Terrace, a small outdoor eating area just outside the Lido Restaurant. The Lido Restaurant is expansive in size (386 seats) with two buffet lines, one port and one starboard. One side of this restaurant is designated non-smoking; the other is designated smoking. Color scheme in this area is primarily teals, yellows, and oranges. It's a very bright and airy area with comfortable, uncrowded seating.

Moving midships, you exit the Lido Restaurant and move past the Lido Bar. This "street cafe" looking area is used at night for "cigars under the stars". The rubberized decking surrounding the wading pool, Lido pool and whirlpools appears as if it will be very safe, wet or dry. This pool can also be covered by a retractable glass magradome ceiling for those less-than-perfect weather days.

Forward on this deck is the Beauty Salon, Sauna and Massage Rooms, and Ocean Spa Gymnasium and aerobics area, as well as a juice bar. There is every type of "torture" equipment you might want in this very extensive workout area.

Sports Deck:

Aft on this topmost deck is the Skyroom, the children's playroom area. Given her itineraries, the Rotterdam VI will probably not have lots of children onboard most cruises so this room was designed to be a convertible space, usable for meetings or private parties.

Two practice tennis courts are located on this deck, one port, one starboard.

Far forward is the Crow's Nest, a multi-functional observation lounge and nightclub. It is designed in such a way as to have three distinct areas. Facing forward, on the port side is what I'll call the "conversation pit" area. Due to the design of the room, even when the disco music is going full blast, you can be seated in this area and carry on a pleasant conversation without shouting.

A full-seating bar separates this area from the dance floor/disco area. One thing that was particularly hazardous (and may change after more use) was the dance floor. It was extremely slippery to the point of being dangerous. When they played the Electric Slide, I did!!!

On the starboard side of the Crow's Nest is another "conversation pit" area, in much lighter tones than on the port side, which has a much more old world look about it. Again, due to the distinct spaces in this area, a private party could easily be held on either side without disruption of the other.

The room also doesn't fall short as an observation lounge, with great seats and ottomans and beautiful views outward. I'm sure this room will get a lot of use when the Rotterdam cruises the more scenic areas of the world.

Well, there you have it, a tour of the Rotterdam VI through my eyes. As I said in the introduction to this report, this ship drew me in like no other new ship has. I have no doubt that the Rotterdam VI will soon have as loyal a following as her predecessors have. She is modern -- yet classy and elegant.

May she have many years of smooth sailing and happy passengers.


Photographs by Andy Newman, Holland America Line

Maryann Novajosky is a CLIA Master Cruise Counselor, the Editor/Publisher of the Cruise.Vacation.Station bi-weekly newsletter, has been active for years on Prodigy's Afloat Message Board and is currently the Holland America Line Section Leader for the CompuServe Cruise Forum. She owns Free Spririt Cruises & Tours in Rahway, New Jersey, is a former NACOA board member and can be reached for questions or comment at: WTRW38A@prodigy.com.

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