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Royal and Carnival cruisers booking Rotterdam for Spring Break? Advice please!


sailawaybellaluna
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Hello all!

 

I've actually never posted on the Holland America board, but cruisecritic has been invaluable for me in researching and deciding on previous cruises, so I thought I'd ask your advice!

 

My family loves to cruise. I've actually written several reviews here on Cruise Critic, and you can see, we pretty much have never had a "bad" cruise. We manage to enjoy ourselves wherever we sail! We're not terribly picky or critical. We figure, we've paid for the vacation, so we're going to enjoy ourselves!

 

That being said, we primarily cruise Royal Caribbean and Carnival. Mainly due to the price and port schedule, etc. We cruise with our two children (ages 8 and 2) and my parents. We don't really go to shows or the buffet. We enjoy eating in the proper dining room, exploring ports, ordering rooms service and just generally "chilling". We don't check our kids into the clubs; they typically enjoy hanging with us or the grandparents, and are quite well behaved in public venues. We're not really "party people" but enjoy having a good time, and sometimes hit the casino in the evening. That being said, we're considering cruising the Rotterdam in April.

 

I've only ever sailed Holland America once, 11 years ago. And, it was a 1-night repositioning cruise between Seattle and Vancouver. So, while I remember a beautiful ship and amazing service, I don't recall much else.

 

I'd just love to know if there are any considerations I should think about before paying for this cruise on the Rotterdam? It's on hold until Friday. From what I gather, the ship is:

 

*older (1996)

*much smaller than what we typically sail on

*attracts a more mature crowd, with less amenities on board for children

*has a passenger capacity that is far less than many of the Carnival/Royal Caribbean ships we've sailed

 

Are there any other issues or red flags we should consider? We are really drawn to the ports (Santo Tomas de Castillo, Guatemala, Roatan, Costa Maya and Key West). We love traveling to places a bit off the beaten path (we road tripped Transylvania for our summer vacation this year). :p While I realize these are busy ports, they are a bit unusual from the ports we typically sail to. My husband is from Guatemala, and I'd love for my parents to get just a glimpse of the country.

 

Also, I should add, the cruise is a steal! It's what we'd normally pay for a Carnival cruise over Spring break, although we'll only be in an oceanview cabin. We usually book a balcony, but the only quads available are the Neptune Suite, which is a bit $$$ for four passengers.

 

Anyhow, sorry for such a long post, but I'd appreciate any advice or insight from all of you well-seasoned HA cruisers!

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You sound very adaptable! You will find less nightlife than what you're used to, and things quiet down earlier.

 

If you like dinner in the MDR, you'll find the service is excellent, and the waiters are great with kids. An inside quad may be tight for eating, but HAL has good room service and mostly free. Last I knew, there was a charge for some special items, but no service charge.

 

Is the pool important? Rotterdam has only one real pool and then some sort of wading pool at the aft end.

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You sound very adaptable! You will find less nightlife than what you're used to, and things quiet down earlier.

 

If you like dinner in the MDR, you'll find the service is excellent, and the waiters are great with kids. An inside quad may be tight for eating, but HAL has good room service and mostly free. Last I knew, there was a charge for some special items, but no service charge.

 

Is the pool important? Rotterdam has only one real pool and then some sort of wading pool at the aft end.

 

Thanks for your insight! We've reserved an oceanview quad that is 192 sq. feet.

 

We are okay with things quieting down earlier, as our kids usually go to sleep at 7:30pm at home (usually 8:30pm while on vacation)! My mom usually offers to come and sit with the kids once or twice in the evening so my husband and I can go and explore the nightlife too! But I love reading, so being in the cabin with the kids at night is relaxing for me (as long as they're asleep)! :p

 

My 8-year old loves room service, so I'm happy to hear this! When we stay at a hotel, he's always bummed we don't let him order it. (But, I'm not paying $22 for oatmeal)! ;p

 

We LOVE eating in the MDR, so I'm happy to hear about the excellent service and waiters! We really enjoy eating out, so my kids manage themselves quite well in restaurants (thankfully). We joke that they're better behaved on vacation and in fancy restaurants than at home! Ha!

 

We're not really pool people. My son has started to enjoy the water slides on some of the newer Carnival ships, but it's not major for us. We live in Southern California, so pools and beaches are plenty. We're more interested in exploring a couple of new places and just hanging out together...But thank you for mentioning this!

 

I appreciate your insight!

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I think your family will enjoy the ship and especially the ports you've never been to. It'll be more laid back so if your entire family enjoys a quieter crazy ship experience, they'll all enjoy their cruise vacation.

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We are also sailing on the Rotterdam in March on the same itinerary and really looking forward to it.

 

As others have already mentioned, the crew on HAL is very helpful and friendly, plus they really do enjoy seeing kids it seems. They also go the extra mile with people who need assistance.

 

Room service on HAL is an area where HAL stands above most other lines. They offer hot items for breakfast (and you can write in items on your turn in breakfast door card and you will generally get it if it is on the main dining room menu). A little know secret is that you can order the dinner menu items from room service (check with room service for details on when to order) - this really comes in handy of someone does not feel up to going out.

 

HAL now has a very good lunch option by the pool (Dive In) with great hamburgers and Nathans hot dogs (and great fries) - the kids should like this. Some of the ships have a taco bar right by this for a few extra items.

 

Since HAL does not offer much for kids, I would have them check out Club HAL. I have heard great things about this kids only area, but never had the chance to use it.

 

Also, be sure to join the roll call for your sailing (on a section of Cruise Critic). Its a great way to learn specific things about your cruise itinerary and to get some good ideas.

 

Welcome to Holland America. I am sure you will like it.

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We are also sailing on the Rotterdam in March on the same itinerary and really looking forward to it.

 

As others have already mentioned, the crew on HAL is very helpful and friendly, plus they really do enjoy seeing kids it seems. They also go the extra mile with people who need assistance.

 

Room service on HAL is an area where HAL stands above most other lines. They offer hot items for breakfast (and you can write in items on your turn in breakfast door card and you will generally get it if it is on the main dining room menu). A little know secret is that you can order the dinner menu items from room service (check with room service for details on when to order) - this really comes in handy of someone does not feel up to going out.

 

HAL now has a very good lunch option by the pool (Dive In) with great hamburgers and Nathans hot dogs (and great fries) - the kids should like this. Some of the ships have a taco bar right by this for a few extra items.

 

Since HAL does not offer much for kids, I would have them check out Club HAL. I have heard great things about this kids only area, but never had the chance to use it.

 

Also, be sure to join the roll call for your sailing (on a section of Cruise Critic). Its a great way to learn specific things about your cruise itinerary and to get some good ideas.

 

Welcome to Holland America. I am sure you will like it.

 

You have me excited for the room service! Thank you for all of your input. Since you sail before us, I hope you can report back when you return, and let us know how it went!

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You have me excited for the room service! Thank you for all of your input. Since you sail before us, I hope you can report back when you return, and let us know how it went!

 

Here is the room service menu we had last March on Oosterdam.

 

Oosterdam does not have the Tamarind. Nor does Rotterdam. You can ignore that. We did the steaks from the PG and that was very good.

 

https://images.r.cruisecritic.com/news/2016/11/hal-room-service-menu.pdf

 

Here is the announcement of the new menu:

 

https://www.cruisecritic.com/news/news.cfm?ID=7322

 

FWIW, you can order any item on the MDR menu for room service at no extra charge.

 

Our Oosterdam cruise visited Santa Tomas. It's a very "industrial" port. We usually don't do excursions so we can't comment on those. You might wish to visit the HAL website to check on excursions.

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The standard breakfast room service menu card left on your bed each night has a very limited range of selections. We have found that we can write just about anything on the card and you will get it. I order oatmeal with brown sugar, eggs Benedict (Canadian bacon, not smoked salmon which will cost $$ extra) a plate of berries or fresh fruit, sliced bananas for my rice crispies, cream for my coffee, plate of sausage and bacon, etc. We have never had anything refused, when it was clearly written on the card. And we always tip the guy who brings the tray.

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We too are first time HAL cruisers. We did the Empress OTS last year and enjoyed the small boat classic cruise feel. That experience made us look at the Rotterdam in April. Very excited to take this trip. Also looking forward to the new ports as we usually go eastern and southern. I think you will be fine. My little one could care less about the bells and whistles. Give her some pool time and some kids club and she is just fine.

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While you mention that you do not usually use the special services for the kids, your 8 year old might enjoy Club Hal, especially if your 2 yr old is napping. We have taken our grandkids on two cruises. At ages 4, 6, and 8, they all loved it and wanted to be there most of the time. Last summer, they were 7, 9 and 11. This time the boys (7 and 9) thoroughly enjoyed it. Our granddaughter, 11, didn't enjoy it as much but I think it was due to the fact that there were only a couple of girls who would go. But, she did often go to the activities. She's a read-aholic, so it is possible that she spent a lot of the time reading!

 

The 2 year old is too young for the program. I was impressed with the program, especially for those days at sea.

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Here is the room service menu we had last March on Oosterdam.

 

Oosterdam does not have the Tamarind. Nor does Rotterdam. You can ignore that. We did the steaks from the PG and that was very good.

 

https://images.r.cruisecritic.com/news/2016/11/hal-room-service-menu.pdf

 

Here is the announcement of the new menu:

 

https://www.cruisecritic.com/news/news.cfm?ID=7322

 

FWIW, you can order any item on the MDR menu for room service at no extra charge.

 

Our Oosterdam cruise visited Santa Tomas. It's a very "industrial" port. We usually don't do excursions so we can't comment on those. You might wish to visit the HAL website to check on excursions.

 

Thanks so much for these! Gosh, that menu looks so much more expansive than what Carnival offers! Can't wait!

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The standard breakfast room service menu card left on your bed each night has a very limited range of selections. We have found that we can write just about anything on the card and you will get it. I order oatmeal with brown sugar, eggs Benedict (Canadian bacon, not smoked salmon which will cost $$ extra) a plate of berries or fresh fruit, sliced bananas for my rice crispies, cream for my coffee, plate of sausage and bacon, etc. We have never had anything refused, when it was clearly written on the card. And we always tip the guy who brings the tray.

 

Thanks for the tips! I only ever eat Eggs Benedict while cruising, so this is good to know!

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We too are first time HAL cruisers. We did the Empress OTS last year and enjoyed the small boat classic cruise feel. That experience made us look at the Rotterdam in April. Very excited to take this trip. Also looking forward to the new ports as we usually go eastern and southern. I think you will be fine. My little one could care less about the bells and whistles. Give her some pool time and some kids club and she is just fine.

 

We'll see you on board!

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While you mention that you do not usually use the special services for the kids, your 8 year old might enjoy Club Hal, especially if your 2 yr old is napping. We have taken our grandkids on two cruises. At ages 4, 6, and 8, they all loved it and wanted to be there most of the time. Last summer, they were 7, 9 and 11. This time the boys (7 and 9) thoroughly enjoyed it. Our granddaughter, 11, didn't enjoy it as much but I think it was due to the fact that there were only a couple of girls who would go. But, she did often go to the activities. She's a read-aholic, so it is possible that she spent a lot of the time reading!

 

The 2 year old is too young for the program. I was impressed with the program, especially for those days at sea.

 

I'm happy to hear your grandkids liked Club Hal! I'll look into it and see if my son would enjoy it. Thank you!

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I would recommend that you read the Rotterdam reviews in the Reviews section.

 

Also look below on this page at the post titled Rotterdam Refurbishments.

 

These may provide you with some insights that others have neglected to mention or have glossed over.

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I would recommend that you read the Rotterdam reviews in the Reviews section.

 

Also look below on this page at the post titled Rotterdam Refurbishments.

 

These may provide you with some insights that others have neglected to mention or have glossed over.

 

Thanks! I've started reading some of these this week when I can (not much time with prepping/hosting Thanksgiving). Seems like there have been some nightmare stories for sure!

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Thanks! I've started reading some of these this week when I can (not much time with prepping/hosting Thanksgiving). Seems like there have been some nightmare stories for sure!

 

I have 4 months before my cruise on her, so hopefully everything will be under control by then. This is why I avoid ships right after a dry dock (for at least a month). It seems that every construction project is never done on time - I used to be involved in building supermarkets and it was the same thing.

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I have 4 months before my cruise on her, so hopefully everything will be under control by then. This is why I avoid ships right after a dry dock (for at least a month). It seems that every construction project is never done on time - I used to be involved in building supermarkets and it was the same thing.

 

I am still in the supermarket game and this last one I worked on was by far the worse. I used all my pixie dust to get over the hump. Small world huh. Back on topic I am hoping the issues are flushed out by April. I read many mixed views on my last small/older boat. That trip ended up rating very high on our scale of satisfaction.

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We have done this itinerary twice. In 2015 on the Ryndam and again in 2017 on the Oosterdam. Had a great trip on both. Seems this time frame was before the rainy season, as per the locals, so tours were absolutely awesome. Way more vareity, interesting and involved than the usual Caribbean or Mexico tours can be.

 

We look forward to doing this cruise again.

 

Dan

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We have done this itinerary twice. In 2015 on the Ryndam and again in 2017 on the Oosterdam. Had a great trip on both. Seems this time frame was before the rainy season, as per the locals, so tours were absolutely awesome. Way more vareity, interesting and involved than the usual Caribbean or Mexico tours can be.

 

We look forward to doing this cruise again.

 

Dan

 

Could you please share what you did in Guatemala? Info on this port is very limited.

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Could you please share what you did in Guatemala? Info on this port is very limited.

 

In 2015 we had decided based upon info from a friend, and recommendations here in CC, that the Tikal ruins tour was a "Bucket List" item. So we took it. Not cheap but worth every penny spent. You need to Google Tikal to get an appreciation for it's size and what is there. You could literally spend a week exploring it. It was an adventure from the moment we left the ship to our return (the last ones to get on the ship). No other Mayan ruins we have ever visited came close in comparison. And we plan on doing that tour again.

 

In 2017 we took the ECO tour up the river to visit a school and colony. Great boat ride through the country. The village tour to a couple of hours and included a lunch, local food. Then the return stopped at another local town on the river for some visiting and shopping. All rustic and very little commercialization.

 

If you have any other questions, just ask.

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check out your ports at www.whatsinport.com .Here there are 1200 cruise ports .Many have videos .printable port maps & ideas of what to do .

 

Also ,check the cruise critic "ports section " for prior cruise critic members posts . Here you will also get great ideas for tours ,what to see & do

 

Lastly check your ports on tripadvisor.com .Here there are threads about what people do at your ports

 

You will have a great cruise

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I have 4 months before my cruise on her, so hopefully everything will be under control by then. This is why I avoid ships right after a dry dock (for at least a month). It seems that every construction project is never done on time - I used to be involved in building supermarkets and it was the same thing.

 

Yes, I agree with you. I sailed the Med on the Carnival Breeze and also the Carnival Vista right after they were built. And while brand new ships are amazing, there were a lot of issues that still hadn't been worked out!

 

I still believe a day at sea is better than a day on land, so I think we'll still have a good time. (Although, fingers crossed, our toilet isn't one of the many with issues flushing). ;p

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