Reporter Theodore Scull and his wife, Suellyn, spent a week in
the Mediterranean aboard Premier Cruises' Rembrandt, formerly
operated as the Rotterdam. His report follows:
ABOARD THE REMBRANDT -- Rembrandt and the old Rotterdam fit
neatly into the same sentence because they are one and the same
ship, albeit under different owners.
Rembrandt in Barcelona, Spain, my eagle eyes were ready to seek out
what changes the new owners had wrought on a classic ship that I
had cruised on only last year, and several times before that,
dating back to a 1966 Atlantic crossing bound for graduate school
At the B-Deck gangway, a steward led us up to Main Deck Cabin
336, a roomy category C deluxe oceanview, and nothing had changed
Batik print curtains framed a pair of portholes, and the
colorful pattern matched the bedspreads. A triple set of four
drawers, combined with three cabinets and three closets required a
world cruise wardrobe to fill. The carpet was a bit worn and the
bathroom fixtures old, but we had a full tub bath and shower with
great water pressure.
Everyone who knew the old Rotterdam was concerned that the new
Safety of Life at Sea requirements that went into effect last
October would doom the ingenious double staircase that climbs
upwards from B-Deck to Boat Deck.
But Premier Cruises found a way to both preserve the design and
satisfy the law by enclosing the perimeters of the open foyers
using wood-grain bulkheads and fire doors that blended in with the
Exploring the public rooms and teak decks revealed a ship that
had been handed over by its previous owner, Holland America Line,
in good condition, with little refurbishing needed, at least for
the time being. We were pleased by what we saw.
The Rembrandt set sail from Barcelona with less than a full
passenger load, that contained an equal number of Americans and
British, the latter group embarking in Naples, Italy, plus some
Spaniards, Swedes and Norwegians. But English was the lingua franca
throughout the cruise.
The navigation officers were Greek, while the catering officers
were mostly from other European nations, and the dining staff was
international, including many Portuguese-speaking waiters, a
holdover from the ship's winter cruise program in Brazil.
The Rembrandt's two elegant dining rooms, La Fontaine and
Odyssey, are similar, two levels high and located on a traditional
lower deck. We enjoyed some very good meals at dinner there, such
as the beef Wellington and lamb entrees but found the veal a bit
chewy, and the fish dishes varied between gently prepared and
With most departures from the ports we visited at 7 p.m., the
first seating began was 6:45 and the second at 9:00, which is later
To maintain good audiences, the late seating's show was
scheduled prior to dinner. It was a wise decision as we seldom left
the restaurant before 11 p.m.
In the Lido Restaurant, a chef cooked omelets to order at
breakfast and a fresh pasta at lunch, and the buffet selections
changed daily and queues were kept to a minimum.
For entertainment at night, a North American song and dance
group performed the music of Broadway and of the 50s and 60s, and
the more exotic Brazilian troupe brought us South American and
African entertainment. Both were well received.
Two theme evenings and nightly dancing took place in the
Ritz-Carlton lounge with its sweeping staircase and handsome
lacquer floor-to-ceiling mural, one of the finest formal lounges
afloat. One afternoon, it was the venue for a formal tea with a
choice of a half dozen brews, crustless sandwiches, pastries and
biscuits. The Ambassador Lounge, an atmospheric hideaway with
recessed alcoves, offered music and cocktails before dinner.
The Sky Room was the intimate setting for pre-dinner caviar and
foie gras (moderate charge) and a late-night disco.
Overall, the atmosphere on the Rembrandt is more sophisticated
and refined than that aboard other Premier ships, and that is the
expressed intent for the company's new flagship.
The itinerary offered by the Rembrandt achieves a good sampling
of western Mediterranean ports, and excursions can be done on your
own or with a fairly priced tour.
During the Villefranche call, we took a half-day tour ($35) to
Nice and the medieval hill town of Eze, had free time to explore
and stayed ashore for a crepe lunch.
In Rome, we used the guided transfer ($39) and were dropped off
at the Vatican just as Pope Paul VI was beginning his Wednesday
morning audience in St. Peter's Square.
At Messina, Sicily, the tour ($35) to the mountainside resort of
Taormina was too rushed, and the all-day boat trip to Capri ($59
with a good lunch) found a very crowded island, but this was hardly
During the day excursion ($39 without lunch) from Palma de
Mallorca, Spain, we visited the former Baroque monastery at
hillside Valldemosa and the pretty harbor town of Porto Soller and
returned aboard a narrow-gauge electric mountain railway.
The day and a half at sea allowed us to sleep in, unwind, and
enjoy old-fashioned spaciousness along two wide promenade decks,
one open and one partly glass protected and both furnished with now
rare, wooden deck chairs.
Undoubtedly, the Rembrandt will be expensive to maintain, but to
my delight, I found it to be much the same classic liner that I
knew in the past.