We boarded the Ryndam in Dover :it had been very cold there. We had come down fro Scotland a few days before, as we hadn't been to Dover previously, staying at the Premier Inn. It was a very cold period, colder and wetter than usual, and this continued throughout our cruise.
Dover proved quite interesting : Angus liked Dover Castle, and I really liked the Roman Painted House Museum, we can recommend both if you are interested in Roman and earlier history. We took a day trip to Calais as foot passengers on the P&O ferry and cannot really recommend this : Calais was not very interesting, and it was a lot of hassle, going through customs and immigration, the bus that was supposed to meet the passengers in Calais left without us all, as the boat was slightly late, overall it was an expensive and rather dull day, except for lunch at Cafe de la Tour.
We took a taxi to the cruise terminal, it was also interesting, being the old train station for the boats, sadly no longer functional as such. As others have commented, there seemed to be a lot of chaos for the unfortunate car drivers queueing to get their parking permits. We had no such trouble, porters met our taxi, took our luggage and we quickly checked in and boarded.
We had booked a guarantee and were pleased with our upgrade to an outside on promenade deck, we were pleasantly surprised to find we have a bath, I gather they are standard on HAL. We hadn't cruised before with HAL, but had Mariner status due to other cruises with Cunard etc. Our last cruise was on the P&O Adonia in December to the Eastern Med, which we also really enjoyed, and so we were finding ourselves comparing the two ships and cruise lines quite a bit. I thought the HAL cabin just slightly more comfortable, given a very similar category, because of the bath. Otherwise, very similar.
We had several problems with the plumbing on the first day, which were very quickly resolved, and no problems with the cabin or cabin service thereafter.
We ate most of our meals in the MDR, DH liking a bit of napery, the food was always good, sometimes really good, and the service was always pleasant. Sometimes at dinner it was a little slow. I did the galley tour one day and was amazed at how they could produce all these meals from such a small space. We had a few lunches in the Lido, the food was good, and there was usually a reasonable selection. Tables were cleared very quickly, and while it could get very busy, we were always able to find a table.
I have to say, as did most of the other British passengers (I am sure the crew are getting tired of hearing this from British passengers), that P&O do a better afternoon tea. The only one I really liked on HAL was the Indonesian one, very nice spiced tea and banana snack. HAL appear to be incapable of making tea correctly : boiling water ! In the pot with tea leaves ! Unlike other passengers, I thought HAL's coffee was slightly better than cruise ship average, not good, just slightly better.
We had a meal in the Pinnacle, it was Le Cirque, it was ok but not quite haute : I had the chataubriand which was enormous but a bit lacking in flavour, the sorbet was disappointing and bland. We had to listen to another passenger rant at the top of her voice at the waitresses about the service, for a good long while, it was very unpleasant. Apparently, she was staying in the Penthouse and seemed to think the Pinnacle was some sort of low caff (diner to you Americans). She left her unruly children with her maid alone in the restaurant and another passenger had to speak to the boys to ask them to behave themselves, the Pinnacle also being a nursery as well as a caff.
We enjoyed the lounges and bars, very similar to P&O and other cruise lines. I did like the retractable roof, made a rather cold but sunny (sometimes) sea day pleasant.I did a tour of the spa, thinking to sign up for the thermal suite, but found it was rather small, and the steam room miniscule. Also expensive, they were charging $40 a day for it.
Some of the other amenities we did enjoy : port talks by Spencer Your Tour Guide were genuinely informative and accurate. Microsoft classes : we didn't attend, being retired IT but I did have a question that was nagging me, so took the opportunity to ask, and had a useful reply. Library : very good selection of guide books. Movies : these were in the Culinary Arts Theatre and so the sightlines were not ideal, so would suggest getting there early. The standard was good though, and they were shown on the TV later.
Ports : Kristiansand was wet and a bit dull : we did the petit train from the ship (10 euros) into the town, I went to the art museum, and interesting regional collection of dull Norwegian paintings from 19th century combined with more exciting recent art and craft showing a improvement perhaps of the curating of the museum, rather than that Norwegian art was dull in the 19th and is no longer dull ? Also, a very nice cafe attached to the museum. Some shopping, and back to the ship for lunch, nothing much else to do in K so we stayed on board. Stavanger was extremely wet : we took two interesting tours which were available on the quay just down from the ship, on an historic sightseeing boat and a vintage bus. We did see quite a bit of interest through the pouring rain. Ulvik was also very wet. But very scenic !