For us, this was a last moment decision to go on a cruise during a week that my wife found she could take off from work. We booked the very lowest category cabin (NN) on Holland America Line's ms Ryndam at a very good price considering it was New Year's week. We've had an inside cabin on an S class HAL ship before so knew what we might end up with but fully expected to be upsold if not upgraded. While we were fine with an inside, as it turned out, we were upsold to an A category cabin (055) for what we considered to be an acceptable price. We had an A category cabin on ms Veendam and were quite happy with it so we knew exactly what to expect on ms Ryndam. The master was Captain Werner Timmers, the Hotel Manager was Simon de Boer, Cruise Director was Eric Dowis. The Captain and Hotel Manager were leaving the ship as our cruise ended and I did not hear who was replacing them. We found them all to be delightful gentlemen.
The embarkation process at Tampa is fairly good, but there aren't many seats available for those who end up waiting to board, like ourselves. We drove from the Orlando area to Tampa and parked at the terminal's parking lot. This is co-located with the terminal and we found later that I could have thrown a rock and hit our truck from our cabin on the Ryndam. This was very convenient although more costly than some of the other options for parking in the area but it sure was nice walking from ship to truck in just a couple of minutes after the cruise. Parking is $15 daily and you pay as you enter which is nice when leaving as there is no bottleneck at pay booths to get out. We arrived at the terminal around 11:10am, parked and ran the security gauntlet and were checked in and waiting to board before 11:30am. We had boarding number 28 and when they started boarding just after 11:30am I thought we were going to have a long wait. Our number was called at 11:50am and we were dropping off our carry on luggage in our cabin just before noon.
Our cabin was in fine condition and was exactly as expected based on our experience on Veendam. Cabin 055 is a connecting cabin to 057 but we never heard a thing from that cabin. We met our steward, who seemed to work alone, upon dropping off our carry on luggage. He was a quietly competent young man whose name I never did quite get, although he remembered ours. While he wasn't terribly personable, he kept our room clean and fresh, servicing it whenever we were away. We had absolutely no complaints and the very few times we saw him he aways inquired about our happiness and whether we needed anything special. Our checked luggage arrived around 1pm and we were unpacked shortly thereafter.
We did experience a problem with the a/c that was promptly addressed. We noticed on about the third day that the fan was not moving any air at all out of the vent, even with the thermostat set at it's coldest position. As many know, this thermostat has no options beyond a dial that seemingly indicates cold and warm via blue and red colors around the dial's perimeter. There is no setting for the fan speed, but early on the fan moved air vigorously. I called the front desk and mentioned it and by later that day a technician came to the cabin, opened the access panel in the ceiling between the closet and bathroom, and turned something with a screwdriver several times. As he did this, the fan seemed to come up to speed again and he announced that it was now set to maximum and to give it an hour or so to affect the room's temperature. We had no further issues. While we never had any plumbing issues, nor heard of any, we did find that the pressure to the shower head in the bath was poor at best. It wasn't even strong enough to operate the various settings for massage and what-not. Sort of difficult to rinse shampoo that way, but not a big deal. I just disconnected the head from the hose when I wanted a strong jet of water to rinse myself.
Unlike many posters have complained, we had no issues with anytime dining in the MDR throughout the cruise. We were always at the same 2-top and went before 6pm. On the first night only the kitchen was slow, as evidenced by all the waiters and asst. waiters standing around "waiting" on the kitchen. Once the food started coming, everything else fell into place. We never waited for service and were done in a leisurely 1 hr 15-20 minutes each night. We don't like eating and running as some seem to. The tables next to us were also anytime dining and were always used by an extended family of 5 adults and 7 very well behaved children ranging in age from say, 2 yrs to 17 yrs old. Their service, by the same waiter (Hermawan) was as timely and good as ours was. I would recommend Hermawan highly. We did notice that there was a fairly long line at the "no reservations" podium when we left the dining room but no line at the podium for those who had made reservations. Darwin, our wine steward in the MDR, was ever-present and my wine glass never was empty. Wherever and whenever we were during the day, both Hermawan and Darwin would greet us and have a chat. On the Lido, Ban and a young man who we callrd "Eminem" because both his first and very long last name started with the letter M, would find us and perform their songs and generally cause delight among the adjacent tables. We just couldn't have been happier than when among our friends, the crew.
We ate in Canaletto one night and were pleased with the service and food there. Our waiter was Pepe, who did an excellent job of keeping us happy. We had an odd issue here though, as early on, the a/c vent kept dripping water into my wife's plate. We mentioned it to the manager who immediately wiped the vent with a squeegee, but the drip quickly returned. My wife simply moved her plate and seat to the side to solve the problem. We were disappointed the one night we ate in the Pinnacle Grill. The service there was good but the pace was very slow as there were only two waiters for the front half of the restaurant that had about 10 tables ranging from 8-tops to 2-tops. There were a couple of runners to retrieve the dishes from the kitchen but they always seemed busy running back and forth. With the level of service that is expected in the Pinnacle Grill it is just impossible for 2 waiters to keep up when the tables are full, so while the service itself was quite good, it wasn't as timely as it should have been given the level of attention the waiters provided each table.
We used room service for many of our breakfasts and were very pleased with both the timeliness and accuracy of our orders. Often, our meal was delivered at the very start of the 1/2 hour timeframe specified and was always exact. We quickly remembered that if we wanted the little extras like condiments, we had to specify those. My wife found the eggs, no matter what configuration she chose, to be greasy. She's pickier than I am about her eggs; I had no problem with mine. Lunch was often a quick bite from the Lido or the Terrace Grill and we had no complaints here. Overall, we found the food to better in presentation and taste than Princess but not quite up to Celebrity in presentation or variety.
I have to say that we are not picky about the things we look for. Given that the ship is used by roughly 1300 passengers weekly and is at sea nearly all of the time, I expect the ship to show this. This ship has the appearance of being very lovingly cared for. There was never a time when I was out and about the ship that someone wasn't polishing, painting, staining, vacuuming, scrubbing or wiping. I could not find rust in all the usual places, probably because of the recent drydock but also because of the ongoing maintenance. The pools were clean, the decking was clean, the carpets were fresh and unstained except for the delightful "day of the week" carpets in the elevators, which did appear a bit worn. All the elevators operated throughout the cruise. The fitness center was in nice shape (ha ha) and had only 1 piece of equipment down, the leg press, unfortunately as it's one of my favorites. The sauna in the men's locker room worked nicely and was unused each time I was there (perhaps because I was there?). We never noticed a public restroom out of business for repair and did not notice any odd odors emanating from gosh-knows-where. Overall I think the Ryndam is in excellent shape.
In order to find something to nag about, we finally did notice that the edges of the tables in the champagne bar of Mix were picked and tattered and snagged pant legs and dresses if you came too close to them. That was it. We were very pleased with Ryndam's condition.
We don't usually do the shows in the main showroom. I've yet to find a comfortable seat in any of these venues and just can't sit there for more than a few minutes at a time. We did spend most evenings in the Explorer's Lounge very much enjoying the Adagio duet of violinist and pianist. They were wonderful and packed the lounge each night for most of their performances. I mean, SRO. We always grabbed a seat early and chatted with others and watched the bartender make Spanish Coffees. We never saw the pianist in Mix, although he was listed as performing later in the evenings and didn't much enjoy the guitarist in the sports bar of Mix. The Ocean Bar was usually busy with dancers but we just couldn't listen to the singer of the Neptunes who seemed oblivious of his inability to carry a note. We did not venture up to the Crow's Nest even once in the evening although this was always on our list. We really enjoyed the ladies of Adagio to the extent of not needing anything else. I do wish they would bring back the foursome of Adagio though. Also, the steel drum "guy" at the Lido Pool did a nice job there daily. I put guy in quotes because that's all there was, no band, just a guy with 2 steel drums and a synthesizer.
We did have 1 incident of noteworthy review. My daughter, looking for Christmas gifts to give us, decided that buying us a couple of gifts on the cruise would be a nice way to help us enjoy ourselves. She bought 4 gifts in total, 2 which were to be delivered on embarkation and 2 on New Year's Day. 1 of the 2 embarkation day gifts was in our cabin when we first arrived. We assumed the 2nd gift would be delivered in its time and left it at that. However, that evening after dinner, still no 2nd gift, so we called the front desk and asked after it. The lady who answered said she would look into it and would let us know. We still have not heard back from her. The next day, someone from the front desk, a man, called the room and asked if everything was up to our expectations and if there was anything he could do. My wife asked again about the 2nd gift and the man basically ignored her, saying that we should let him know if there was anything he could do. Later that morning, I went to the front desk and described the above and asked who I needed to talk to about it. John, one of the Neptune Lounge concierges, took possession of the issue. Early in the afternoon, he called the room and asked if we'd received the gift, but we hadn't. Astonishingly, John happened to recognize the back of my head as we passed the Neptune Lounge on our way back to our room later in the day, apologized and explained that the gift had not gotten on the ship and that the cost of the gift was being credited to our OBA. I found it remarkable that he recognized me and was pleased that he, at least, had followed up on the matter. The gift was a "Satin Box of Chocolate Gelt" that cost my daughter $20, so while it wasn't a big deal and we understand there are mixups with things, this should have been handled better. A note the first day explaining the situation was all that was needed, but I have a feeling that if we hadn't started an investigation of the matter, we'd still be wondering what had happened to the gift.
We had a great time on this cruise and accomplished everything we set out to do for the week: nothing at all! None of the minor issues described above spoiled anything about our cruise. We loved the Ryndam as we have all the S class ships of Holland America. Ports of call were not even a consideration on this cruise for us, so I've not reviewed what we didn't do.