Friday, November 5th – Our First Day Aboard Holland America Rotterdam 

The most important event happened during the night. The iPhone dinged and we got our negative COVID test results!

We transferred to the ship late morning completing the health documentation in addition to check in. A lot has changed since before the pandemic. Check in was done days before online, so taking our photos and scanning the barcode on our boarding pass was all that was needed. Put another way, check in was a breeze.

As we boarded the ship we entered a wide semicircle of crew and officers who cheered, waved flags and shouted “Welcome Back!”  Burdened with luggage I couldn’t take a photo, so I needed to circle back later.

Next we reached the elevator lobby. Jane was fascinated the carpet in the elevator read “Friday.”  It’s changed daily. On longer voyages you can lose track of days.

We reached our cabin, a standard balcony cabin on deck 6, Mozart deck. It’s well appointed and the highlight for me was the bathroom. It has a glass walled walk in shower!  No lightweight plastic curtain. Two people could shower together if they chose. Later I discovered through some miracle of technology, the bathroom mirror doesn’t fog up!

I discretely ducked out to order flowers at the Purser’s Desk, called Guest Services aboard Rotterdam. We do it every voyage, because it personalizes the cabin.

The lifeboat drill used to be a cruise ship standard activity. Not anymore. On Rotterdam you complete two steps:  the first is reporting to your muster station at the first opportunity, getting your ship ID card scanned. The second is watching the safety video on your cabin TV. Ingeniously, the TV will not show any other programming until you have watched the safety video!

Next, we headed up to Deck 9 to the Lido Market for lunch. The major change is all food is served by staff, so individuals aren’t touching anything. I think the term “market” is used because each station is specific to a certain type of food. There’s the Carvery, the bread station, the dessert station, etc. you could self serve coffee, but water and lemonade were provided by roving waitstaff.

A word about roving. Inside the ship, you are wearing your face mask unless you are eating or drinking. Open air is a different story.

Here’s another difference:  There are no paper maps!  12 decks and no map!  (There are mounted naps by the elevators.)

This is because they want you using the Navigator app which you download to your phone and iPad. That’s where you find your map!  Although there is a printed daily program in your cabin, the program is on the Navigator app too. Here’s the really cool part:  you look over the program, choose the events you are interested in and the app builds your itinerary!  A notice appears at the appointed time telling you where you should be!  Here’s the unintended consequence – lots of people staring at their phones!

It was still mid afternoon, so we went exploring and also booked some shore excursions. Once booked, these load onto your phone too, although it seems you need to sometimes sign out and back in to get it refreshed.

We turned up at 4:30 for the sail away party, but learned departure was delayed because the ship was awaiting additional provisions.

At 5:30 I went to the whisky tasting. For some reason, these sessions seem an overlooked opportunity. It was a tutored session with six people sitting at a semicircular bar learning about rye, bourbon and single malt scotch. At $24.00 it was good value.

Next we drifted over to team trivia in the next lounge. We didn’t win, but Jane can tell my addiction is restarting. It’s been about 21 months since my last shipboard trivia session.

We checked out the shops next. Here’s something ingenious Holland America has done:  You have the usual shops for jewelry, liquor and perfume. They also have shops selling previously owned luxury goods from Louis Vuitton, Chanel and Gucci. Everything is in perfect condition, beautifully displayed.

Now it’s 8:00 PM. Time for dinner. We entered the main dining room and were shown to our seats at a table for eight. The menu had about six selections in each major category on the left plus some specialty selections with surcharges on the right. Dinner was good and the service was excellent. A birthday was celebrated at the next table with lots of singing and cheering.

By now it was 10:00 PM. We headed back to our cabin to find the bed turned down and a rabbit made of towels guarding the bed.

For our first day aboard Rotterdam, we had a great time.

Photo credits to Bryce Sanders


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