We opted to purchase the $39 per person transfers from the airport in Barcelona to the ship from Holland America upon booking the cruise. As soon as we exited the immigration area, we saw the friendly folks holding up signs for Holland America. This transfer process was fairly seamless, and we were transported from the airport to the pier for check in. For able bodied passengers who want to save between twenty five to forty dollars, and are not afraid of a little effort, I would highly recommend exchanging for Euros and taking a taxi from the airport to the pier directly.
The check in process at the pier took a couple of minutes. Our photos were taken, and we were given our ship identification card to be used as our room key, for making purchases on the Ryndam, and to present at the gangway when leaving and re-boarding the ship. We dropped our backpacks in the cabin and went to the Rotterdam Dining Room on deck 7 for the repeaters' lunch. I don't know whether it was the jet lag or just being tired, but the menu for the repeaters' lunch didn't do anything for us. We left the dining room and went to the Lido Restaurant on deck 11 for more of a variety. After lunch we went back to our cabin to unpack the suitcases, shower, and take a nap before the required lifeboat drill on deck 6. At 4pm, we went to our required lifeboat area. I can still hear the crew screaming out cabin numbers. After the lifeboat drill, we walked into the atrium on deck 6 and saw 4 bizarre game tables. Inquisitive me had to find out what this game was called. This game is Dutch Shuffleboard, also called Sjoelen. It is definitely different, and after playing it a couple of times, I can see why these games are not on all Holland America ships!
The Ryndam was built in 1994 and is one of Holland's 4 Statendam-class vessels. Art and artifacts from the 17th, 18th, and 19th centuries are tastefully placed throughout the ship. Our stateroom was very spacious, had plenty of closet space, a safe, bureau with sufficient drawers to handle the clothes I brought for at least 3 changes a day, queen bed with very comfortable mattress, powerful hair dryer, sofa, TV, DVD, desk and chair. The bathroom had enough shelves to handle all of our cosmetics and bathroom needs. Scented bars of soap and body lotion were provided by our cabin steward, and there was a wonderful massage type shower-head with dispensers of shampoo, conditioner, and liquid soap in the bathtub.
The ports on our cruise were Barcelona, Spain; Cadiz (Seville), Spain; Funchal (Madeira), Portugal; Santa Cruz (Tenerife), Spain; Las Palmas, Spain; Arrecife, Canary Islands; Agadir, Morocco; Barcelona, Spain; Malaga, Spain; Cadiz, Spain; Portimao, Portugal; Lisbon, Portugal; Funchal, (Madeira), Portugal; and ending up in Fort Lauderdale, Florida. Unfortunately for many on the ship, the seas were too rough to allow the tenders to transport the passengers from the ship to the dock in Agadir, Morocco and after a couple of hours waiting for the seas to calm down, Captain Timmers made the decision for the safety of the passengers to bypass Agadir and add on Gibraltar as another port. This was truly unfortunate, as Agadir was going to be the highlight of the cruise for many of the passengers.
The Rotterdam Dining Room on deck 8 has assigned seating for dinner and on deck 7 open-seating for breakfast, lunch, and anytime dining for dinner. The Lido Restaurant on deck 11 serves buffet breakfast, lunch, and dinner in a more casual atmosphere. We ate most of our breakfasts at the buffet style Lido Restaurant on the Lido Deck 11, enjoying the sunrise and sea views over a cup of coffee, fresh squeezed orange juice, and bagel and lox, or egg white omelet. There were separate areas for custom made omelets, fruit, English and Dutch breakfasts, and the more normal sausage, bacon, and eggs.
The first night of the cruise there was an International Night barbecue on the Lido deck. I tried a couple of tapas, but they were cold. We did a quick about face and went down to the Rotterdam Dining Room on deck 7 for a more enjoyable meal. The first couple of days of the cruise, the food was not served hot in the Lido Restaurant. The Terrace Grill by the pool on deck 11 offers burgers, polish sausages, bratwurst, hot dogs, pizza, tacos, salads, and more. The Pinnacle Grill and Canaletto Restaurant were other options that came with a cost. We had four unlimited lobster nights, Alaskan King Crab legs nicely opened so they were easy to eat on two nights, fillet Mignon, veal, fish, wonderful vegetables, and no sugar added desserts such as baked Alaska.
There is a nice, small casino on deck 8 that attracted a good crowd each night. The shops on this deck had nice merchandise from ship clothing to chocolate to liquor to diamond jewelry. There is a cozy and comfortable movie theater on deck 7 called the Wajang Theatre and Culinary Arts Center where we enjoyed a couple of Woody Allen movies plus The Girl With The Dragon Tattoo. The ballroom dancers (Noel and Victoria), 3 legged and other comedians, violinists, Romanian string quartet, singers and dancers, and the show put on by the Indonesian crew in the Vermeer Lounge on deck 7 and 8 were enjoyable. The wonderful entertainers in the bars and lounges throughout the ship were also first rate. The 270 degree panoramic view in the Crow's Nest made for a fabulous place to enjoy sailing away from a wonderful port as well as enjoy a drink and mellow entertainment. The Crow's Nest turned into a wonderful nightclub each evening. Holland America graciously provided a meet and greet get together in the Crow's Nest with refreshments for the passengers who had signed up with Cruise Critic.
On the Promenade deck there is a great library with good travel guides, Internet center, and coffee house environment in an area called Explorations Cafe. These travel books were a great source to research what to do in the ports of call before arrival. There are washing machines and dryers on most passenger decks. A nice size gym with good fitness equipment and Greenhouse Spa are on deck 11. We played tennis and basketball on the Sports Deck several hours over the 26 day cruise.
The Ryndam was scheduled for a quick week dry dock in Freeport, Bahamas immediately after this cruise. Holland America made a business decision to clean the oil tanks and do as much painting on the ship prior to arriving at the dry dock. Some passengers experienced major discomfort from breathing the oil and paint odor in their cabin and throughout the ship. Other passengers complained about the ongoing construction around the pool area on deck 11. Captain Timmers personally addressed and met with most passengers affected by these problems.
Every day, Captain Werner Timmers would give his voice from the bridge over the pa system and immediately after, the cruise director, Eric Dowis, would tell the passengers what was happening on the ship that day. Captain Timmers had a terrific sense of humor every day saying we were heading west, maybe east, or north, but he was confident in that we were heading in the right direction saying, that if you see the sunset from the Lido and the sun rise from the Crows Nest Lounge, he was fairly confident we were heading in the right direction. Captain Timmers shared his humor and hospitality with all those he encountered throughout the ship. After the 6th or 7th day of Captain Timmers saying we were heading west, or is it east, maybe north and finished his "Voice from the Bridge," Eric said the captain left his book, Navigating for Dummies near the pa system! If Carnival Cruise Line has the reputation as the FUN Ship, the crew of the Ryndam is the funniest ship on the sea.