It was great to get back to the Ryndam after a somewhat diappointing cruise on the Niew Amsterdam. The Ryndam reminded me why I like HAL so much - the service was simply outstanding. What a wonder group of people! The Niew AMsterdam is just too large to provide the individual touch that I experienced on the Ryndam. Food also was a bit iffy on the NA but was outstanding on the Ryndam.
I retired last summer and my yougner wife is still working. I've always wanted to try a longer cruise (seven days is our typical one) and a TransAtlantic, and my wife is interested in neither. It's hard to beat the price, even for a single, on a repositioning crusie. So off I went. After booking an inside on the lower prom deck, I was upgraded to an obstructed view outside on the same deck. Early cruises have all been in cabins with verandas so I thought I would miss it. but I still had quick access to the promanade deck. And, the weather generally was not conducive to being outside so the veranda wouldn't have gotten much use anyway.
I made my own air arrangements. After a $20, 20 minute cab ride I was checked in at 11:30. Boarding started at noon. I was in group 8 and in my cabin by 12:20pm. I was able to carry my bags so can't comment on luggage delivery times. Although I am a three star Mariner (four after this trip?) I went to Lido for lunch. There were no lines (as was the case the entire 15 days) and the food selection, quality, temperature, etc. was great.
I had requested fixed seating for dining at a large table. They had placed me with six other singles and that worked out just fine. We all "bonded" quickly and I enjoyed dinner for the duration of the cruise. There were daily singles get togethers scheduled that were reasonably well attended.
We sailed from Tampa to Bermuda arriving on day five. Weather had been warm and seas very calm. I thoroughly enjoyed a visit on my own to the excellent Bermuda History Museum in the Dockyards at King's Wharf.
Leaving Bermuda, the seas and wind picked up considerably and temperature dropped a bit each day. We had 20 foot seas and 30-40 knot winds. The ship was rocking and rolling, but not enough to curtail any activities as far as I could tell. The rolling did create a problem. My cabin (forward port side) was right under a space used for emergency exits from the showroom. There was a door at the top of the space going up to the outside that kept springing open. Then as the ship rolled the door would bang against the adjacent metal wall. This kept me up for two nights until they installed a rubber door stop and worked on the latch to keep the door closed. The front office staff handled this with great concern and care. They offered to move me to an mid-ship outside on a lower deck (declined - I liked where I was) and to my great surprise provided a $75 credit to my account on the last day of the cruise as compensation for the experience.
After Bermuda, there were seven full days at sea. Would I get bored? Absolutely not! There were two excellent lecture series: one by a meteorologist specializing in cyclones, tornados, waterspouts and hurricane; and, an astronomer with great lectures on the stars and planets. I also attended all the cooking demonstrations in the excellent Culinary Arts Center, Sydney, the onboard Party Planner, made these great fun and enlisted the Captain, Executive Chef, and Cruise Director to provide some variety along with the culinary chef, Andie. The movie selections were also great -- including "The Artist."
Music was also varied and outstanding: a string quartet made up of four young ladies from Romania; a jazz pianist/singer with a trio in the Ocean bar each night; a popular pianist/singer in Mix and a folk/country guitarist/singer early in the evening in Mix.
There were also various fun themed events. For example, we sailed directly over the Titanic's resting place exactly one week before the 100th anniversary of her sinking. The precise time overhead was 1 AM in the morning. Captain Timmers canvassed for volunteers to gather in the Crow's Nest starting at midnight to form a special "Iceberg Lookout Watch Team." And all in attendance received formal certificates marking the event. (This was all tongue in cheek -- the icebergs now are all well mapped and tracked!)
So the sea days were relaxing, but busy. I found myself unable to fit in all the events I wanted to attend. In fact I was usually exhausted and went to bed soon after dinner. So I did not attend any of the nightly entertainment events in the Showroom. I did hear lots of favorable comments about the shows.
During the crossing, I focused on food attending La Cirque Night in the Pinnacle Grill; the Cellar Master's six course meal with special wine pairings, also in the Pinnacle; and "Dine with Chef." Here the Executive Chef prepares a seven course meal in front of 12 guests seated around the counter in the Culinary Arts Center. Again, each course was paired with a special wine. After this dinner I got an email announcing the arrival of my second grandchild, an 8 lb 7 oz girl. She was born during the entree course and joins her three year old brother. Meals in the Main Dining Room were also excellent with varied menus, fast efficient service and cold items were cold, and hot items were hot. I lunched most days in the Lido. Again selection was very broad. Any occasional line cleared quickly. Food was hot (or cold if it was supposed to be) and there was never an issue with seating.
By the seventh day of the crossing, weather was in the forty's but winds had calmed somewhat as we reached our second port, St. Malo in Brittany, France. I had booked the ship sponsored tour to Mont St. Michele. This is truly a spectacular, unique place and was clearly the highlight of the cruise.
The next day we were in Cherbourg. The terminal here is the Art Deco building -- the last on visited by the Titanic. There is an outstanding maritime museum adjacent to the terminal. I visited this in the morning before leaving after lunch on the ship's tour to Utah Beach and St. Marie Eglise. Although the scenery could not match Mont St. Michele, the tour was quite good.
Then we were onto Zeebrugge, Belgium with options for several tours in Bruges and Brussels. Here I had booked a beer tasting tour through the ship. Unfortunately not enough people signed up and the tour was cancelled. This was probably for the best. As we arrived the temperature was forty degrees, the wind was 40 mph and it was raining. I did not have the right clothes to deal with this weather. So I cancelled plans to venture into Bruges on my own and spent a quiet day on the ship.
Arrival in Rotterdam was right on time. Disembarkation was well managed and uneventful.
I am a bit surprised about the comments saying the Ryndam is showing her age. If one looks hard, there a few spots where metal is marred or wood is worn. But I saw no worn carpeting and the ship was very clean and orderly. (In fact, the carpeting in the Caneletto was replaced one evening while we were at sea.) Again, after the abundance of brash plastic on the Niew Amsterdam it was nice to see the mellow wood finishes that dominate on the Ryndam.
My flight from Amsterdam was too early to try and leave the same day. A retired business colleague lives in the city and took me around the harbor and Rotterdam. It is a beautiful city and I was glad to finally see more of it than just a conference room on many earlier business visits there in the past. He dropped me at the Central Station in Rotterdam where I caught the high speed train directly to Schipol airport. After spending the night there at the Hilton I flew back to Washington, DC to visit a lovely new granddaughter.
My only negative was expensive, slow, spotty internet service. Although it gets better each time I cruise, it still has a long ways to go. I didn't realize how much I relied on access to the internet. Although I would love to do more long cruises, I probably won't until service improves and pricing is reasonable