COVID Protocols on Our Holland America Rotterdam Cruise

How were the pandemic protocols on our November 5th Holland American Line Rotterdam cruise? Spoiler alert. They were fine. Here’s the lowdown.

  1. Before you board. We received advance notice from HAL everyone needs to have a negative result from the COVID PCR test before boarding the ship. That’s the more accurate one that delivers results in 24-48 hours. I was concerned about the timing, because HAL stipulated the test couldn’t be administered any earlier than the Wednesday before our Friday sailing. We went onto the CVS pharmacy website. It was easy to book a local test. We showed up at the drive through window on Wednesday and got the results on Thursday evening.
  2. Crew protocols. While staying at our hotel, we journalists had the opportunity to meet the president of HAL. He explained the line has a system of continuous testing in place. 50% of the crew is retested every week. The ship operates at a lessened capacity because they have certain cabins blocked out for isolation (if cases were found) and quarantine (new crew members arriving.)
  3. Checking in. The HAL check in procedure is streamlined because most data is collected online in advance. They did insist on seeing the proof of the negative COVID test before boarding.
  4. Expectations. It’s made clear all passengers are expected to wear masks constantly with three exceptions: In your stateroom, while dining (or drinking) and on open decks.
  5. Entering the cabin. Although we wore our own masks as we walked onto the ship, we found high quality cloth masks with the HAL logo waiting in our cabin. This became our preferred mask for the voyage.
  6. Oops! Suppose you left your cabin, stepped off the elevator and realized you forgot your mask? If you stop at any bar (there are plenty) they will hand you a fresh mask.
  7. Oops! This is an anecdotal story. Suppose you were “a little dense” and didn’t realize you were walking around without a mask? We heard a staff member would greet you with the words: “You have a beautiful smile.” You put two and two together, realizing you are mask less!
  8. Hand sanitizer stations. These are a familiar sight for anyone who has cruised before. They are still everywhere you can imagine.
  9. Here’s a curious feature: When you step off the elevator on the deck with the Lido Market, the first thing you see as you turn the corner are a pair of sinks, the type you might have in your own bathroom at home. A crew member gestures you in the direction of the sinks. You wash and dry before entering the buffet area.
  10. The Lido Market buffet. By now you realize the days of self service at the buffet are over. The food is on display behind glass, yet accessible to the crew staffing the stations. You are served by the crew. There are no rectangular plastic trays, either. Food is served on individual plates.

One final observation. Although there are places where passengers can be mask less, every crew member we encountered wore masks 100% of the time. Bottom line: I’m very comfortable with HAL’s COVID protocols.

Holland America Line – HAL (


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