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Holland America Transatlantic Cruise Review

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I recently returned from a Holland America Transatlantic Cruise. To celebrate the 150th anniversary of the birth of Holland America, Rotterdam sailed in the reverse direction back to its homeport of Rotterdam, the Netherlands.

Holland America Transatlantic Cruise Review: Celebrating the 150th Anniversary


Leaving from Fort Lauderdale made packing a bit more difficult because of its warmer weather, but using the layering concept made it possible to pack everything into one large suitcase. Holland America does have some dressy nights and an orange party, in recognition of the royalty of the Netherlands.

With so many days at sea, I did peruse all of the onboard offerings in advance to see which types of things I might take advantage of. I tentatively planned to get a thermal spa package and considered the premium beverage package, or even the Quench package.


Checking the shore excursion offerings, I booked one in each port in advance. I wanted to ensure that I would get my first choice as some of the options were new destinations for me. The highest priority for me was a visit to Keukenhof Gardens. I knew that tulips that would be close to peak bloom when I arrived and didn’t want to miss that show.

Other than choosing my shore excursions, I decided that I would mull over my other options and decide what to do once on the ship.

As is prudent, I flew to Fort Lauderdale the day before to relieve any of the stress of flying into port the same day. It was an easy decision for me because the earliest that I could even reach Fort Lauderdale was at almost 2:00 pm. Too dangerous considering the ship was due to depart at 4:00 pm.

Having previously cruised with Holland America, I already had the Navigator app on my phone. This made it easy to look for events when not nearby the printed daily program.

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The Itinerary

My sailing consisted of 16 days. Holland America Rotterdam departed from Fort Lauderdale and sailed three days to New York City, where the ship overnighted and embarked more passengers.

Departing New York City, Rotterdam sailed past the Statue of Liberty, always a highlight when sailing to and from NYC. More importantly, for those early immigrants arriving on Holland America ships, the sight of Lady Liberty signified new beginnings for many.


If you want to search for relatives who may have arrived via a Holland America ship, there is now a database for that. The Center for Family History and Rotterdam City Archives spent three years digitizing passenger logs from Holland America ships from 1900-1969.

After passing by this iconic landmark, we sailed under the Verrazzano-Narrows Bridge before heading to our next port of call-Plymouth in the United Kingdom. Thus began our transatlantic crossing with eight days at sea and three days in port at Plymouth, Dover and Rotterdam.

The Rotterdam

The boarding process was simple as was the completion of the muster drill. Staterooms were ready, so I went to my Verandah stateroom where I found my key cards waiting in the door slot for me. I watched the required video and went to find my muster station. I reported there and had my key card scanned.

After fulfilling my muster drill requirements, I headed up to the Crow’s Nest on Deck 12 and ordered a drink. I found a seat and gazed out at the sea.

The Crow’s Nest area has a bar, coffee bar and several displays of memorabilia. In the adjoining Explorations Central area, maps, displays and other destination information enlighten guests about the journey.

The shore excursions desk is also located in this area. It was so nice to get a seat up here as once the cruise progressed, more and more people discovered what a pleasant spot this was for viewing the sea.


Other Public Spaces

One of my favorite spots was Rolling Stone Rock Room. It’s not just a music venue, but the bar there featured something special just for this 150th Anniversary sailing. When was the last time that you got a glass of Heineken for 25 cents? How about a gin martini for 75 cents?

Like the Crow’s Nest in the early days of the cruise, Rolling Stone became more crowded as guests discovered the Throwback Happy Hour. Typically, the happy hour there offered 50% off standard drinks and this promotion still applied. But just for the 150th sailing, The Throwback menu offered red, white and sparkling wine along with several cocktails.

My usual choice was the 150th gin martini, but a gin and tonic featuring the special DeLijn gin was also a popular choice at 50 cents. I participated almost daily. That resulted in servers recognizing me when they were moved to other bars on the ship. It’s great that they remembered my name, but why did they remember me? I attribute it to their personal and professional service.

Music Abounds

While music alternates between Rolling Stone Rock Room and Billboard Onboard piano bar across the way on most evenings, there is also B.B. King’s Blues Club just down the hall. Although there was some classical music at the World Stage theater, I did miss the regular classical music performances at Lincoln Center.

In the future, roving ensembles will move around ships to perform the much-loved classical music that Holland America is known for.  If you are looking for large production shows, this is definitely not the cruise line for you.

It’s not just in the music venues that guests notice what a strong component of the ship that music is. Decks are named after composers. I stayed on Mozart Deck, but other decks had names like Gershwin and Schubert. Art with a musical theme abounds throughout Rotterdam as well.


Fun Diversions

Plenty of tempting classes and events took place during this transatlantic cruise. I took a guided painting class and came home with my masterpiece. The 2-hour class benefitted from our encouraging instructor, Maria, who assured us that all participants had what they needed to successfully complete the class. More importantly, she also made sure that all of her students had a good time.


In addition to painting, there were classes to learn calligraphy, make origami creations and even do adult coloring. There was no limit to creative options available on a daily basis. In fact, Holland America has hired arts and crafts specialists to spark the creativity of their guests.

Physical Options

The ship had a gym with a variety of classes planned, some for a fee and some complimentary. Each morning, there was an organized Tai Chi session. Stretching, yoga and cycling classes were also available.

Rotterdam has a promenade deck ideal for walking especially for those like me who abandoned the gym because of the uncomfortably warm temperature not conducive to exercise. In addition to the promenade deck, there is a jogging track on Deck 11.

Relaxation Options

One of my priorities on my Holland America transatlantic cruise included relaxation time. That word is not in my vocabulary. I really attempted to relax and my first commitment to that goal was to purchase a thermal suite pass. I opted for full cruise access into the thermal suite and upgraded a small bit so that my plan included a 75 minute hot stone massage. Talk about relaxing. But, in retrospect, I found myself stressing everyday to make use of this rather pricey option.

I did find the whirlpool relaxing and enjoyed the soothing view from the comfort of the heated thermal loungers.

Another option that I had planned on was reading a book or two. The library on Rotterdam is excellent with multiple copies of several books and even a book exchange. Maybe I will get there on my next sailing.


The Crow’s Nest began as a favorite relaxation spot for me, but as the cruise progressed, it was often crowded, so I didn’t visit there as frequently.

Other Activities

For those not inclined to do anything creative, there were art auctions, bingo, health improvement seminars, games, pickleball, and more.

On this anniversary cruise, guests were lucky to hear lectures by maritime historian Bill Miller. Not only has he published many books, he’s also eager to share the history of cruising and Holland America. His lectures were well-attended throughout the cruise.


Rotterdam offers several specialty restaurants.

Early on, I dined at Pinnacle Grill, the steak house. Ordering the bacon clothesline appetizer was first on my mind.

Two pop-up options appeared on the cruise and I took advantage of both. The first was a special dinner with a menu from a Taste of De Librije Pop-up. This Michelin-starred restaurant is owned by two members of the Holland America Culinary Council, Jonnie Boer and Therese Boer-Tausch. The menu offers several dishes from the De Librije restaurant. The small portions didn’t appeal to some of the diners at my table, but were just the right size for me. My favorite was the reconstructed apple pie dessert.

The second pop-up option was a Rijsttaffel that took place in the ever popular Tamarind. The menu, as expected, featured Indonesian specialties.

Other restaurant options include Dive-in for hamburgers, hotdogs and fries. For salads and sandwiches, NYC Deli is the place to go. At night when movies are offered on the pool deck, they offer snacks like nachos, wings, and popcorn.


With so many food options, there is just so much food that one can eat, but I found the Dutch High Tea perfect for a day when I came back from a shore excursion that returned too late to eat a big meal just a few hours before dinner.

Reaching Rotterdam

Under the skillful leadership of our Master, Captain Bas van Dreumel, we avoided bad weather and sailed with just the occasional active waves as we approached Rotterdam.

It was in this city that Holland America would really celebrate its 150th anniversary. Ceremonies, parties and other celebrations brought this historic cruise to an uplifting conclusion. Her Royal Highness Princess Margriet of the Netherlands joined other dignitaries at Hotel New York, home to Holland America Line’s original headquarters from 1901 to 1977. 

The party continued on Rotterdam with a special dinner, followed by a poolside party.  A light display of the nearby Erasmus Bridge played tribute to this special 150th Anniversary of Holland America Line.


Final Thoughts

Sailing across the Atlantic with eight consecutive days at sea exceeded my expectations. I never doubted that I would enjoy my cruise and never even considered that I would be bored or yearn for land. Many of my goals for the cruise never came to fruition, but that was part of my own doing. Sailing on Holland America Rotterdam gave me time to occasionally relax and free myself from a rigid schedule.

I originally thought that since there were few ports, I would not feel obligated to see and do everything onshore. Instead, I felt obligated to see and do as much as I could while at sea.

Next time that I do a transatlantic cruise, I really will try to relax and take it easy. Seriously, I promise. This has prepared me for whatever type of a crossing that life might offer me. Maybe I should be considering a world cruise.

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Have you taken a Holland America Transatlantic Cruise before? Do you enjoy these unique itineraries? Drop us an anchor below to share your experiences sailing with Holland America Line.

The post Holland America Transatlantic Cruise Review appeared first on EatSleepCruise.com.

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