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Holland America sails new ship to mark return to Florida since pandemic

The line, which has traditionally been popular with an older crowd, is starting to find popularity with younger generations.
Holland America's cruise ship, Rotterdam is the largest of the line's fleet.
Holland America's cruise ship, Rotterdam is the largest of the line's fleet.
Published Nov. 8, 2021|Updated Nov. 8, 2021

ORLANDO — It’s been nearly 20 months since Holland America sailed with passengers from a Florida port. To mark its return from the pandemic shutdown, the cruise line has brought its newest ship to Port Everglades.

The Rotterdam arrived and set out during the first week of November, marking a busy week at the port, which also saw the arrivals of new vessels from Celebrity Cruises and Princess Cruises. If the Rotterdam name sounds familiar, it’s because the line sold off an eponymous older ship in 2020. That smaller vessel, which came in at just under 62,000 gross tons, debuted in 1997 and was sold to the Fred Olsen Cruise Line last year during the COVID-19 shutdown, and now goes by the name Borealis.

The new version of Rotterdam, at just under 100,000 gross tons, is the largest of the Holland America fleet, but still only has a guest capacity of 2,668, based on double occupancy. It’s slightly larger than its two sister ships in the Pinnacle class, Koningsdam and Nieuw Statendam, which also called Port Everglades home when they debuted.

“If you were rolling around in the mud at Woodstock, you’re going to like what this ship has to offer,” said Holland America spokesperson Erik Elvejord during a recent tour.

Yet the line, which has traditionally been popular with an older sailing crowd, is starting to find popularity with younger generations as well.

The Rotterdam cruise ship waits berthed to assist the Zaandam cruise ship with supplies, personnel and COVID-19 testing devices, at 8 milles from Panama City, on March 27, 2020. If the name of the new Holland America ship sounds familiar, it’s because the line just sold off its older ship with the same name in 2020. That smaller vessel, which came in at just under 62,000 gross tons, debuted in 1997 was sold to the Fred Olsen Cruise Line last year during the COVID-19 shutdown, and now goes by the name Borealis.
The Rotterdam cruise ship waits berthed to assist the Zaandam cruise ship with supplies, personnel and COVID-19 testing devices, at 8 milles from Panama City, on March 27, 2020. If the name of the new Holland America ship sounds familiar, it’s because the line just sold off its older ship with the same name in 2020. That smaller vessel, which came in at just under 62,000 gross tons, debuted in 1997 was sold to the Fred Olsen Cruise Line last year during the COVID-19 shutdown, and now goes by the name Borealis. [ LUIS ACOSTA/AFP | TNS ]

Part of that is the line’s musical chops, with venues including the Rolling Stone Rock Room, classical music at the Lincoln Center Stage, B.B King’s Blues Club and the piano bar Billboard on Board.

Another highlight of the line that brings people to the table is its culinary offerings.

The includes specialty dining from whimsical chef Rudi Sodamin, known for his artistic plating of seafood in the shape of faces. Rudi’s Sel de Mer restaurant is a popular option of the line, and he recently brought the concept onboard sister line Carnival’s new ship, Mardi Gras.

The cruise line does embrace a touch of the Netherlands here and there in deference to its name, including the Grand Dutch Café.

It also has more than $1 million invested into ship artwork and sculptures adorning the public spaces.

For stage productions, the cruise ship does have the massive World Stage theater with a 270-degree screen surrounding the walls of the venue.

Holland America ms Rotterdam at Port Everglades, Florida, on Nov. 4, 2021.
Holland America ms Rotterdam at Port Everglades, Florida, on Nov. 4, 2021. [ RICHARD TRIBOU | Orlando Sentinel ]
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It’s a vast space for a ship that has a relatively small number of staterooms compared to similar cruise lines.

Rotterdam is the final ship in the Pinnacle class, with no announcement yet for further expansion to the fleet.

The line has been coming to Port Everglades for Caribbean offerings since the 1990s. The upcoming winter season will see the line offering 67 sailings aboard Rotterdam, Nieuw Amsterdam, Nieuw Statendam and Eurodam.

Rotterdam’s voyages include 10- and 11-night options in the fall before shifting to seven-night sailings in the spring.

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