Live music is the main event on HAL's new Rotterdam

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The interior of B.B. King's Blues Club on Holland American Line's Rotterdam doubles as the location for the Lincoln Center Stage, featuring classical music.
The interior of B.B. King's Blues Club on Holland American Line's Rotterdam doubles as the location for the Lincoln Center Stage, featuring classical music. Photo Credit: TW photo by Andrea Zelinski

The lights were low deep down on Deck 2 of Holland America Line's newest Rotterdam, despite the sun's reluctance to set. I walked away from dinner in the Dining Room at the aft and wandered to the Rolling Stone Rock Room.

I ordered a drink and got comfortable. First up from the live band was Fleetwood Mac's "Dreams." Then the Eagles' "Take it Easy." By the time they got to "I'm a Believer" by The Monkees, the band rocked so hard that one woman's cosmopolitan was vibrating in its martini glass.

A cover band at the Rolling Stone Rock Room is lit up by colorful lights during a performance.
A cover band at the Rolling Stone Rock Room is lit up by colorful lights during a performance. Photo Credit: TW photo by Andrea Zelinski

The long wraparound couch vibrated under me with the bass. Purple, pink and yellow floor lights flashed electric hues to the stage, which reflected off the black leather dress of the lead singer and the bassist's sequined blazer.

People sang along, the woman with the cosmo danced in her half-moon chair in the front row and a guy to my right tapped both his feet and played the drums on his right thigh.

Nearby on the same deck, B.B. King's Blues Club was standing room only with the band putting on the kind of high-energy performance I'd expect to find on Memphis' Beale Street as guests swung each other around the dance floor. Another short distance away at the Billboard Onboard bar area, two pianos were silent after hours of moving people to sway in their seats as dueling pianists tickled the keys to the hits.

This collection of musical venues and other entertainment spaces is what makes the Rotterdam a prime location for theme and charter cruises, said Rob Coleman, senior director of charter and incentive sales for HAL, while onboard the ship in late May.

On a ship with three musical venues and other areas that can be repurposed into dedicated event space, the line is leaning into opportunities for cruises focused on music and dance. 

"It's not just scheduled shows. It really gives people the chance to stroll and partake in different experiences during the course of an evening," he said. 

Music is the theme throughout the Rotterdam.
Music is the theme throughout the Rotterdam. Photo Credit: TW photo by Andrea Zelinski

Music-themed cruises that will take over a HAL ship in the coming year include sounds of the '50s and '60s, R&B, soul, Irish, Christian and country music, Coleman said.

I can see why. The heart of this 2,668-passenger ship is on the Music Walk, home to four genres of music, including blues, rock, billboard and chamber music. B.B. King's shares space with the Lincoln Center Stage, which offers classical music performances, both classic and contemporary.

It's easy to imagine a chartered blues cruise or other music-themed voyage taking over this ship and treating guests to a variety of performers and musical styles in one journey. I imagine the possibility of a dance cruise with venues for two-stepping or a waltz, followed by swing and salsa. 

Each space has a unique vibe, from the dark hues and comfy chairs in B.B. King's to the electric lights in the Rolling Stone Rock Room that mentally transported me off the ship and into an intimate concert with a front-row seat.

The Lido Pool on the Rotterdam has a retractable roof allowing for events to span three floors when opened.
The Lido Pool on the Rotterdam has a retractable roof allowing for events to span three floors when opened. Photo Credit: TW photo by Andrea Zelinski

The Rotterdam, delivered one year ago and named in May, is the third ship in HAL's Pinnacle Class. While the line's previous ships have been retrofitted to add musical offerings, the Rotterdam embodies the evolution of the brand by being built with the Music Walk in mind, said Coleman.

The Rotterdam is also a highly convertible ship, making it attractive for charters and other themed voyages. Take the Lido Pool area in the center of the ship. By day, people swim in the pool, soak in one of three hot tubs or lounge on one of two decks. But by night, the retractable roof can turn the area into a three-deck event space for people to mingle on the highest deck while connected to activities below, including live music. 

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