A session on disembarkation turned out to be a begging bowl. We had already received more than enough. So why the meeting? It turned out to be how our tips/gratuities would be shared and a great deal of information/advice on how to complete a satisfaction survey which had been distributed the previous evening. We were told that HAL's HQ in Seattle would be reviewing the surveys, that the "Signature of Excellence" is what the Ryndam strives to achieve, that anything less than a score of 9 meant that the Ryndam had failed, that careers were dependent on our score ratings, etc, etc. This culminated in the crew filling the stage to sing about how much they loved us, after which they clapped their hands in appreciation of us all and when we left the theatre other crew members lined the corridor to clap their hands and voice their appreciation. It was very moving but as far as we were concerned, the staff deserved a 9 and in some instances, a 10. However, in other areas the Ryndam fell short of the much vaunted"Signature of Excellence".
We arrived at the cruise terminal after 1pm expecting to board without too much delay. The car parking operation and porters dealt with our car and luggage quickly and efficiently. However, we had to wait untill after 3 pm to board the Ryndam. When we did, we were directed to our stateroom where our luggage was waiting.
Our oceanview stateroom was on the main deck. It was roomy, with ample wardrobe space, and had a bath with an overhead shower in the bathroom. But, the decor was tired, the bath taps were rusty in places and there was no fridge/minibar, despite the fact that the stateroom fell into the mid-range price oceanview bracket. We were, however, able to rent a fridge for $2 a day to keep our water, etc, cold. Given that this is such a small price to pay, we thought it was very petty not to put a fridge/minibar in all the staterooms. There were no facilities for making tea or coffee in the stateroom. We would not have used them anyway but some might have rather than waiting for room service. Our stateroom did have a flat screen TV on which we had hoped to watch the Euros 2012 football tournament but due to difficulties with the ship's broadcasters' satellite, we hardly saw a football match or the BBC world news. You could, however, always get Fox news which, I assume, was good news for the many Americans on board and a Dutch TV channel for our Dutch captain. We heard from some passengers that the bath taps were hard to turn and that there was hardly any hot water. We had no hot water problems but I was forever asking my husband to turn the bathroom taps on and off as they were very stiff.
Cleanliness and bedding:
After arriving in our stateroom I had to ask for a hand towel to be replaced because it was dirty. This proved not to be an isolated incident and not confined to hand towels. And I once found strands of long hair in a hand towel. One day we received a note to say that all the stateroom carpets were to be cleaned whilst we were ashore. Not sure if they were because we still had some fluff on the carpet underneath the dressing room table that was there when we arrived.
The ship had plenty of hand hygiene dispensers, particularly outside the restaurants and eating areas but there appeared to be no staff stationed there to ask passengers to use them so most passengers did not.
One of our pillowcases had sports on it and was threadbare in places but my husband said we could put up with it which we did. By that time I did not want to inspect the rest of the bedding and just hoped it was okay. I had adopted the same attitude to the cultery until I noticed one lunch time that my knife and fork had congealed egg on them, most probably from the morning breakfast service.
Restaurants and food:
We ate mostly in the Rotterdam dining room. Overall very good but some food items which should have been hot were cold such as the beef wellington I had on one of the ship's formal nights. I had been looking forward to it because it is a dish I make at home on special occasions. I should have sent it back but my husband was busy tucking into his quail which he was enjoying and anyway I thought if I did, they might just put it into the microwave and, in doing so, over cook the beef fillet. At least I did not suffer the fate of a fellow passenger who had ordered a scandinavian breakfast one morning which arrived ice cold. I noticed that others have in the past complained about cold food on the Ryndam in their cruise reviews.
One of the worse meals we had was in the Italian restaurant Canaletto. We found it hard to book a table and thought we were lucky to be squeezed in the following evening, when we arrived the place was less than a third full and stayed that way. Service was poor - staff appeared to be bored with hardly anyone there to serve - and the food - suffice to say that we and others agreed that the best part of it was the mound of pink candy floss [cotton candy] which was served to each table after the dessert. Why serve it? Don't know but it was the only hit.
Biggest let down and rip-off was the Cellar Master's Dinner at the Pinnacle for which we paid an additional $69 each. The food for the most part was unremarkable. The wine and food parings unconvincing - more bistro than haute cruisine. I have since googled the wine choices and, as we suspected, the wines were from the cheaper end of the market and certainly tasted as much. As for the food, the only dish we liked was the forest mushroom soup with truffle and porcini foam. We would have also enjoyed the fillet of beef rossini, medallian of lamb and venison loin but in a seven course meal the last thing we needed was three large portions of meat, much larger than Europeans would expect. In sum, excess takes priority over finesse.
Very helpful and friendly except for the so called cellarmaster who was an overbearing, pompous, preening p**t. The reds served at the Cellar Master's Dinner were particularly diappointing because he had not left them to breathe sufficiently relying instead on a combination of decantering and placing a flame under each decanter to warm them up. He later explained (well, screeched at some length) to my husband and me that he did so to reduce the calories!! Bizarre explanation......Entertainment:
We were too late for the shows but did go up to the Crows' Nest a few times. Apart from the Motown night, there was hardly anyone on the dance floor and the so called Beatles night turned out to be Beatle songs sung by other bands. As others have said in past reviews, it was dead most nights.
What we found irritating was the background music, particularly in the Lido pool area which comprised solely of records by 1950s American crooners, presumably on the assumption that most of the passengers onboard would be Americans of a certain advanced age.
Ship's Tender Service:
The only tender service that the ship provided was to and from Visby. It was shambolic!! We all waited, as directed, in a very crowded Ocean Bar - standing for the most part, for more than an hour to get on and an hour in the hot sun for the return leg. We were all supposed to return to the ship by 2:30 pm but many people were still queuing up past 3 pm to get on a tender. The captain was present in the Ocean Bar but did not say anything. At no stage was an apology given much to the annoyance of passengers who had travelled on sister ships and/or other cruise companies.
In sum, we met many interesting people, visited spectacular ports but would not recommend the Ryndam and are doubtful about cruising again on HAL.