This was our 13th trans-Atlantic cruise in the last 6 years - we are definitely a fan of them. This is the first time I have been ill on most of the cruise. I spent most of it in bed and only visited one of the ports of call for a couple of hours. This is a personal health issue - nothing to do with motion or anything else. The ship was a very healthy one - immaculately clean and there was full service for the first two days to prevent any illness being brought on board and spread by passengers.
Despite my illness - this was a wonderful cruise providing many happy memories.
Our Master of the ms Ryndam, Captain Werner Timmers, was very personable, had a great sense of humour, and gave a lot of information each time he was the 'voice from the bridge'.
Because I was not in 'top form' there were many things I missed doing on ship. Usually we would be off playing Triva, joining in some of the games and competitions, seeing all the shows and doing some dancing.
There were a huge number of activities on board the ship - guest lecturers, and many of the usual activities on ships. Holland America offers things that other cruise lines do not - for example - cooking classes and tours of the art on the ships.
Dave and I took advantage of the loan of ipods from the library and did the machine-guided tour of the ship and all of the art on it and it was a fascinating tour. We thoroughly enjoyed the treasures of the days of the Dutch East India company sailings.
The library is very extensive and was a real boon to me as I was able to enjoy a half dozen or more new books. Another item that enabled me to have a great cruise despite illness was the huge number of videos available on ship to play in the DVD players in our cabins.
I would go to meals- go back to bed and read or watch DVDs or rest. The food was fabulous. Without a doubt it was consistently the best food I have had on ship. There is good food on many ships but in order to have the best one has to go to the specialty (extra charge) restaurants on many ships. This was not the case on the Ryndam (or to be fair - on any Holland America ship) - the regular meals are excellent where-ever one dines on the ship. I have never had to go to a specialty restaurant on a HAL ship to get a good meal - all of the food venues have been excellent. Other than the Rotterdam Dining room for almost all of our dinners - we ate breakfasts and lunches in the Lido and it was all delicious. There were a lot of healthy options and vegetarian options and lots of lovely sugar-free desserts which really pleased my diabetic husband.
My husband managed to go to most of the shows in the evening. I made it to the Scottish comedian's show and thoroughly enjoyed it towards the end of the cruise when I started feeling a bit better. We also really enjoyed the crew show. There is a lot of talent among the crew and we really appreciated the fact that despite the long hours of hard work they do - they practice and put on a lovely program showcasing their culture. It was much appreciated.
Both Dave and I love ballroom dancing and had I been fit - would have danced every night as there was a wonderful trio in the Ocean Bar called The Neptunes. Dave and I managed to have a couple of foxtrots and rumbas on several occasions. I hope to have the opportunity to listen to and dance to this trio again on ship as they were excellent.
In the deck 6 atrium were 4 tables to play Sjoelen - Dutch Shuffleboard. We definitely got hooked on it - it is great fun. We have never seen it on any of the other HAL ships so it was brand new to us. The hotel director, Simon de Boer was out there playing it quite a few times and not only helped us with the game but when we expressed a desire to have that game at home - he had the construction plans for the game printed up and gave them to us.
Simon was the most accessible and hospitable hotel director we have ever had the pleasure to know. And when the hotel director is good - the staff is good too.
It was the staff that made the cruise so enjoyable for me. I am sure that most people who wound up spending most of the first 10 days of a 16 day cruise in bed would feel like they had wasted their money and not had a good holiday. I did not feel that way. Staff always made me feel very welcome - and they certainly looked after me well. It always amazes me that they remember our names (I have a terrible memory for names) and they are so pro-active in looking after us.
Our cabin stewards Arman and Johar did a wonderful job of looking after us. Because I was ill I am sure I created more work for them as they were constantly having to re-make the bed. My voice was really gone for about 5 days and they made sure there were always oranges in the cabin as I would have several of them each day.
One of the wine stewards in the Rotterdam dining room was a real life-saver. The first time Roy met us - I was just croaking. He said that in the Philippines a traditional remedy for a sore throat was to make ginger tea. I was quite willing to try anything as my throat was very painful. As there was no ginger in any of the dishes that evening it was impossible to obtain any but there was some candied ginger available and I took some back to make tea with it. The next day Roy came to our table at dinner with a big piece of ginger-root. From then on I either cut up a bit and took it up to the Lido to make ginger tea at breakfast or had a pot of hot water delivered to the cabin in the evenings along with honey. That ginger tea and honey helped my throat and I had my voice back to normal in about a week. I had tried traditional throat medication without success - that ginger tea made a terrific difference in my comfort and enjoyment.
Towards the end of the cruise I paid a visit to the spa and thoroughly enjoyed my top to toe pampering. And the chatting with Bianca, who was doing the pampering. I really enjoy chatting with crew on ship - especially whose who are on their first contracts and new to cruising. It brings back memories of our excitement on our first cruise.
Bagus in the Lido was a young man we met on our first day on ship. We could talk about the ports and give tips on the places to see if one only had a few hours off. He and Arie were among the first faces we would see each morning at breakfast and I miss those smiling, friendly faces now that we are back home.
We also met some great fellow-passengers - thanks to the roll call for our sailing here on Cruise Critic.
Here is a bit of information about our travels to and from the cruise.
Because our favourite trans-Atlantic flight airline just leaves from Halifax between May and early October - we decided to try a flight with Condor. Big mistake. The flight was a reasonable price and that is all one could say for it. It was late coming in to Halifax which meant our flight out was about 4 hours late leaving there. They put the temperature in the plane up because "some passengers get cold in the night" and the damn plane was about 24C or 75F. Why not just give blankets to any passengers that are chilly. Instead most of us sat there sweating. There was no overhead ventilation control so there was not a damn thing that could be done. Put people in too much heat - add in some who had colds or were coughing to start with and that is why I came down with a cold about 48 hours after arriving in Barcelona. The only thing I could say on the plus side was that Condor notified Lufthansa and we were switched to a later flight to Barcelona from Frankfurt. Instead of arriving in Barcelona at noon we got there at dinner time - thoroughly exhausted and disgusted. As far as we are concerned that is our first and last flight with Condor.
Dave and I stayed at the Hesperia Sant Joan Despi in Barcelona for 5 days before boarding the ship. It is on the outskirts of the city and takes about 20 minutes to get into the center but well worth it. It is an apartment-hotel and we had a sitting room and kitchenette as well as bedroom and well appointed bathroom. The hotel provides anything that might be wanted in dishes and cooking utensils if one wished to prepare their own meals. I was content just to fix tea in our suite and have the lovely buffet breakfast available in the hotel restaurant in the mornings. The price for the hotel was just slightly over $50 a night but it was lovely and clean, comfortable, air-conditioned and quiet. It is simply not in the center of town- hence is such a bargain. We stayed there on other trips to Barcelona and did not hesitate to not only stay there ourselves but also recommended it to others on the CC rollcall.
Another couple from BC in Canada took our advice and booked it and the four of us had a great time at the hotel and we introduced them to a great little restaurant a block from the hotel. We love the food there and went back three or four times to eat.
Thanks to our cruise critic rollcall - we shared a van with two other couples from Fort Lauderdale to the Miami airport (Thanks Oscar). This time our flight was with Air Canada. Once again- it was late leaving but it made up the time in the air. I was still feeling weak and shaky so asked if I could board early. The overbearing officious bureaucrat on the departure desk said I could go on but when she looked at our tickets she said I could not be in that seat as it was in the emergency exit row and moved me back further in the plane. When we got on the place - Dave spoke to the cabin crew and I was able to take my original seat - which was NOT in the emergency exit row. This woman came on the plane to see where I was seated - saw the cabin crew had put me back in my original seat and complained to them. She was told there was no reason I could not be there as it was not an emergency row and she said- "well it is up to you" and walked back off the plane without an apology. Great staff you have in Miami, Air Canada - NOT.
The staff on the plane was another story - they were wonderful - especially one lady named Laura. She was the one good thing about the flight! Otherwise Air Canada stinks - we had originally booked our flight to be back in Halifax at 4:30 in the afternoon. That way we just had a two hour drive after that to get to Moncton and would be home by 7pm at the latest. However - Air Canada cancelled our original flight - which changed our connecting flight and it was 11 PM by the time we retrieved our luggage in Halifax.
We started our drive home but were so exhausted (we had been awake and up on ship at 6) that by the time we got a half hour away to Truro - we had to find a hotel for the night. Care to pay for that, Air Canada? I doubt it!
If it were not for the flights to and from cruises - I would cruise a lot more. Cruising is pure pleasure. Airline travel is anything but pleasure - as the airlines last interest is passenger comfort or convenience and airport security is a constant hassle in some countries.
Despite that - we would not have missed the cruise for the world. It was wonderful.