The European adventure that began with Keukenhof and Bruges took us next by train to Rotterdam in the Netherlands to board our ship, the ms Rotterdam, for a 14-day cruise to Spain, Portugal, and Gibraltar.
My research of ground transportation in these three countries led me to the perfect itinerary on the Holland America Line. As I’ve said before, if you want an introduction to a broad area and to sample places within it, a cruise is more efficient and affordable than arranging your own transportation, lodging, and meals. Then when you find your favorite places within the itinerary, you can always return and immerse yourself for a longer period.
Setting sail is always exciting and this trip was no exception.
We enjoyed scenes of Rotterdam, a city totally rebuilt following WW2, from the ship but when we reached the North Sea, the captain announced we would turn back to deliver a passenger with a medical emergency. Then a short while later, he announced a helicopter would instead evacuate the passenger. This was the first of three medical evacuations that occurred on this cruise which caused a ship staff person to tell a friend of ours that she had worked on this ship for 10 years and had seen a total of three medical evacuations in all that time. Until now, when her experience doubled within two weeks.
Following the excitement, we settled in for two days at sea which allowed us plenty of time to explore the ms Rotterdam.
We usually cruise on Norwegian Cruise Line and this was just our second cruise on the Holland America Line. I choose cruises by a combination of itinerary and price and this one fit both criteria. Both NCL and HAL offer good service; clean, well-maintained ships; high-quality food; and good entertainment. HAL has a bit of an edge, however, with a sofa and bathtub in their standard ocean-view cabins and pay washers and dryers where passengers can do their own laundry. For a two-week cruise, that laundry option is especially important.
The ms Rotterdam, previously the Holland America Line’s flagship, is a beautiful, elegant ship with a capacity of 1400 passengers and 600 staff.
With several sea days on this itinerary, we were able to enjoy the hot tub on the ship. None of us swam in the pool but many of the intrepid Dutch passengers seemed to enjoy it.
A new offering in our cruise experience, the ms Rotterdam offered bridge lessons on our days at sea. We were “game” to try it and became regulars in class. Jeff, the instructor, was very helpful and soon became a friend and we enjoyed his company off the ship while on excursions as well.
We especially enjoyed the cooking demonstrations we attended with recipes provided for such dishes as Classic Spanish Paella, Saffron Shrimp and Stuffed Cherry Peppers, and Portuguese Mini Lemon-Orange Cakes.
I’ll devote an entire post later to the outstanding food we enjoyed onboard but meanwhile, here are a few scenes from the main dining room.
A favorite special touch aboard the ms Rotterdam was the rug in the elevator which was changed daily. The rug announced the day of the week to us, a helpful aid on a long cruise when you have no responsibilities but enjoyment.
After two days at sea, we felt very comfortable with our home away from home on the ms Rotterdam and ready for our first port of call, A Coruña, Spain. Come back next week to read about it.
Taken from events in April and May 2016.