Overall, this cruise was very enjoyable, because of the ports of call and the never ending graciousness of the Indonesian staff. However, HAL management is doing a very good job of destroying a luxury brand by eliminating staff.
My first Ryndam cruise was 14 years ago when there were 1100 pax and 800 crew. With additions of cabins, there are now 1300 pax, but staff have been cut to 500. Where this is really noticeable is in the dining room, where waiters now have to take care of 32 - yes thirty-two diners, compared with 16 many years ago. Consequently the whole dining experience takes nearly 2 hours. On our cruise, the two maitre d's spent their entire time, evening after evening, placating irritable diners, and attendance dropped off, probably as people decided to slum it in the Lido to save time.
It makes no sense that the most visible aspect of the cruise experience, dining, should be trashed to save a few bucks. This cruise was for me, among the least More
expensive I have taken, yet there have been 14 years of inflation since my first cruise. Prices should have gone up, not down. I would rather pay more and have exceptional service.
In addition to lack of wait staff, "formal" night lost much of its magic when shabbily dressed individuals were allowed to dine in the main dining room with those of us who had taken the trouble to dress up. When the Lido exists as an alternative, free, dining option, ONLY formal should be allowed in the main dining room on formal night.
The other major issue which MUST be addressed by HAL management, as it might contribute to deaths of elderly passengers, was their total lack of preparedness for a surprise coastguard inspection at Tampa on Boarding day. No-one was allowed to board until 2pm, by which time, 800 people were in line, most from 11am (when priority boarding normal begins). HAL provided no information, no seats, and no liquid refreshment during this time, when all 800 were standing in a long line outside the port terminal, many in the sun without shade. With many passengers on walkers and clearly infirm, this was an absolute, inexcusable disgrace. Yes, the timing of the inspection was a surprise, but HAL knows that inspections and other unforeseen circumstances occur and should have contractors on standby at every port who can supply water and chairs when needed.
I seriously doubt if HAL management ever travel as "fare paying passengers", and the bean counters obviously don't understand the "value equation". With self service luggage tag printing on your home computer, instead of nice, ship's name plastic tags, (what a negative, cheap start to a cruise), the next cost cutting step will be self service in the main ding room!
Yet as I say, Cozumel, Roatan, Guatemala and Costa Maya are a nice group of ports. Why the company makes us depart at 3.30pm, eliminating the ability for full exploration, to sail at 10 kts to the next port, is beyond me. As one of the entertainers joked, "If I don't buy it on Monday, I won't buy it on Friday". A vast majority of the guests on this cruise did not ever leave the ship - so why make those who want to explore curtail their day ashore. Ah - silly me - the casino machines aren't allowed when the boat is tied up!
Finally, one area which has been restored to its former glory was the entertainment. There were 9 singers and dancers who were top notch - the latest show "Classique" is magnificent.
So, advice to HAL - raise prices by $100, bring back the waiters, allow an extra 2 hours in each port, and communicate with passengers when a problem occurs. Otherwise, your guests may as well choose one of the "lesser" lines. Less
Rented a car from the Avis hut downtown - note - the man takes a 2 hour lunch break so make sure you know when it is so you are not left holding the keys when the ship sails! Drove round the entire island. Takes an hour for the drive - so you can figure out how much time you have available for the two Mayan ruins, the two national parks, or the many beaches.
Traders in the town square have the best prices on souvenirs (negotiate).
Take a private tour with Bodden and see the real island. This is not a place to go for beaches, but for country collectors, it provides an interesting look into island life. Roatan is not yet totally "developed" but is getting there. For those who knew St Maarten 20 years ago compared with today, see Roatan now, before it is ruined with high rises.