S.S. ROTTERDAM | Rotterdam

Another memorable culinary experience has come to pass in The Netherlands – one that sad to say didn’t start off on a good note.

After talking about it many times over the years, the chance to finally go to this cruise ship-turned-floating hotel-restaurant in Holland’s second largest city came up in today’s social call with a friend who lived there. I’d heard of and seen photos of this late-50s cruise liner online and was very interested to find out how it looked in person, as well as get the opportunity to dine on a cruise ship again since the time when we went to York. If we were as lucky as the last time the ambience and the food would be just as good, I thought.

With time to spare before the S.S Rotterdam’s Lido Grill opened, we wandered around the ship’s promenade deck and sat down for a quick coffee on the windy Lido Terrace. Without a doubt, the Love Boat it wasn’t – no Julie McCoy or Captain Stubing anywhere in sight – but apart from the strong gusts of wind and the noise from the wafting umbrellas, it felt like a perfect place to while the time away.

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When the moment came for lunch we went back to the restaurant, quickly sat down and chatted while we waited for our orders to get taken. And wait we did.

After over half an hour of waiting, with no one even trying to make eye contact with us, I gave up, got up and approached someone to ask if anyone could come to our table. After a minute or so someone deigned approach us to finally get our order and with my patience run out I told our server how we’d been waiting quite a while. He amazingly argued that we should have gotten his attention, to which I said we shouldn’t have to. After that he couldn’t offer anything other than sarcasm and arrogance which left me dumbfounded. No feigned apology, no pretended regret. Nothing. It was yet another example of the mediocre service and apathetic incompetence that prevails much too often in this corner of the world.

With the trauma of Ron Gastobar still fresh in my memory, my blood started to boil and this time I felt I wasn’t going to go away a paying customer without giving someone my two cents. Knowing that the wise thing to do was wait until I was calmer, I let the time pass for the food to arrive, made sure everyone was finished eating, and we had paid the bill before speaking to the manager.

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Thankfully, the manager was receptive to my complaint, which gave me hope that something would be done to elevate their service level somehow. With a sympathetic ear and a wry smile she apologized for the experience, offered to comp our drinks, and hoped that we would come back again in the future. It was good to be listened to and it left me feeling considerably better as we disembarked the ship.

As for the food, my Angus burger came out decently – the very least I thought considering how much it cost – and even though we weren’t going anywhere, the atmosphere did remind me of previous cruise ship experiences. I wouldn’t mind going back if we’re in Rotterdam again though given how long it took to get there this first time, I doubt the second would be anytime soon. Here’s wishing the next time in any case would be memorable in only the best possible way.

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