We booked this cruise because we had fallen in love with the ship and the crew on our fall trans-Atlantic cruise on this ship. We wanted to come back to the Ryndam and whoever said 'you can't go back' was very wrong. This cruise was even better than the first time.
To start our holiday we flew with WestJet from Moncton to Tampa - a good flight. Comfortable seats and excellent in flight staff.
We were booked into the Riverwalk Sheraton and found the hotel comfortable and its restaurant to have good food as we ate there for the two days we stayed. We had a room with a balcony overlooking the river and spent time watching the activity on the river.
The downside of the hotel occurred after we had left on our cruise. We had been warned here on cruise critic about crooks who used equipment to scan charge cards and passports that have embedded technology. Before we left home we purchased covers to protect our charge cards and passports. When we arrived at the hotel to check-in (our room was already paid) we were asked for a charge card to cover incidentals - which is normal procedure. When my husband's card was scanned he was told 'it was not working'. He then pulled out a back up card which is never used but after he pulled it out he was told his original cards was now fine and working. This was the only time and place this backup card was brought out. Internet is never good in the middle of the Atlantic and we did not bother to try checking our bank information until about two weeks after sailing - because we were not using our cards. It was a shock to see that almost $1000 had been run up on my husband's back up charge card - after we had left the hotel and embarked on the ship! These charges were in Tampa and other locations in Florida. My husband immediately contacted his charge company and that card was cancelled and the charges reversed. I hope the businesses that lost money track down the thief or thieves and charge them.
We took a taxi to the ship around 11:00 a.m. and our luggage was promptly taken and we were only waiting a short time before having our photo taken and our cabin keycard issued. We went to our cabin - dropped off our carry on cases, put our money and passports in our safe and headed off to the Rotterdam dining room for the 'welcome back luncheon'. We went back to our cabin after lunch and the first of our suitcases was already there and by the time we had it unpacked, the other cases had arrived. Absolutely excellent service.
We were delighted to find we had the same Captain, Werner Timmers, and the same Hotel Director, Simon de Boer on this cruise. The captain has a great sense of humour and is very personable and visible to the passengers. Simon has become a friend of myself and my husband - who appreciate both his kindness and his teasing. He is the heart and soul of the ship.
We were delighted to find a lot of the crew we had met in the fall were still on board and very pleased that they remembered us too.
The Ryndam is a small ship (approximately 1200 passengers and 500 crew members). It is also an older ship that has recently had a refit and new carpets were visible in many locations. It is extremely well maintained. We found the ship very clean - and the first three days after each embarkation (we were on for 3 back to back cruises) the cleaning was constant and repeated over and over again to ensure that embarking passengers were not bringing illness aboard. There were middle of the night checks (while passengers were sleeping) by crew to test for any bacteria. These were the healthiest cruises we have ever been on as a result of the hard work of the crew.
I saw an earlier review that stated otherwise. As far as I am concerned (and others in our ship roll-call who saw the review agree)it was a pack of lies by someone hiding behind a handle who was not willing to sign their name to their review. I am more that willing to state my name and give an honest review of our cruises. When one is in a port of call - the ship is open to the elements - flies or birds can come on board temporarily on Lido deck - but these do not remain there. I never saw the Lido deck other than clean.
The food on the Ryndam is excellent whether one is in the Rotterdam dining room or the Lido cafeteria. There is terrific variety in the menus and in 34 days we were never bored with the food and could eat something different every dinner - never repeating ourselves unless we wanted to do so. The quality and freshness were excellent, we were especially delighted with the wide variety of sugar-free desserts available to my diabetic husband. We have never found this variety on any other ship or cruise line. We were amazed by the number of specialty regional meals, deck barbeques, chocolate evenings and other offerings in addition to all the regular dining choices. Even more impressive was the sizing of the meals and variety of healthy options so that one could enjoy all the wonderful meals without gaining a lot of weight.
The first two days after embarkations - the Lido was not self-serve - to prevent any health issues. It means more work for the crew but certainly paid off in having a healthy ship with healthy passengers and crew.
I owe a special thank you to Avinash - one of the excellent chefs on board - for sharing recipes of some of our favourite dishes.
WINE STEWARDS and BAR SERVICES
In the past we have opted for open dining. This time we switched to traditional dining simply because our favourite wine steward was working in the traditional part of the dining room. Roy Nunga is an absolute gem. We arrived for dinner and the first thing he said was 'I have some of that Moscata wine you liked, Stephanie'. This was 6 months after we had last seen him but he remembered us and what we enjoy drinking. My husband loves red wines and Roy suggested different ones that Dave might like and he never disappointed. In all honesty - I probably drank more wine in that 34 days than I drank in the last year - simply because Roy was so adept at finding wines I would enjoy. Roy and our waiters Rudy and Yohannes definitely added to our dining pleasure - anticipating our wishes and just being nice friendly people.
In the bars - we found the staff to be always friendly and helpful - even if just looking for a glass of ice water rather than a cocktail.
We picked cabin 359 again as we had that cabin on our fall trans-Atlantic cruise.
This cabin is on deck 6 and is an inside cabin. We joke that we have the largest balcony on board as we just leave our cabin - walk a few steps and are out on the deck to stroll around the ship or sit in one of the many lounge chairs to read. We also picked that cabin because it is just a short walk to the atrium. The Sjoelen (Dutch shuffleboard) games are there and we both became quite addicted to them on the previous cruise. Our cabin was comfortable (beds and pillows are excellent, there is more storage area than we could actually fill. We had three suitcases with us as well as carry-on luggage and there was still free space when everything was unpacked. Our cabin stewards Johar and Ronald for the first 16 days and Ronald and Wayan for the second 16 days did a marvellous job of keeping the cabin neat and tidy and still found time to refill fruit bowls and make towel animals every evening. We are big people and found we had sufficient room in our cabin to be comfortable - even with the addition of a fridge (for Dave's insulin) and a fan (I have temperature problems) for me. The laundromat is just down the hall and the location of our cabin is quiet - who could ask for more?
We were definitely spoiled for choice on ship. The Cruise Directors (Eric for the T/A and Kieron for the European cruises)were both excellent and their staff was very hard working. There were port lectures and other lectures of interest. There were cooking demonstrations and entertaining tips and hints. There were our much enjoyed trivia contests and there were loads of games and activities. I don't think we have ever been as active on any cruise in the past as we were on this cruise. We played Baggo, and Golf putting and entered Sjoelen tournaments. There were dozens of active choices available. I don't know when some of the entertainment staff (of Location staff as they are now calling it) ever get to sleep as there were things to do from early in the morning until evening.
The library on board is excellent and we read more than a dozen books while on this cruise. There are a variety of games available at the library - really something for everyone. As well one could borrow Ipods and do a self guided tour of the ship and its artwork - something we have done in the past. There were computer courses available as well as computers and internet time for the folks who like to keep in touch with home and friends while cruising.
There was a variety of music around the ship ranging from a fabulous violinist and piano duo who entertained in the Explorer lounge, a guitarist/singer who entertained in the Mix, a dance group who played in the Ocean bar for those of us who love traditional and ballroom dancing, a group in the Crow's Nest who played for the younger crowd, a pianist/singer who entertained in the evenings and of course DJ music in the Crow's nest too.
There were some wonderful guest entertainers in the showroom, ranging from magicians, jugglers, impressionists, musicians and singers. Some of our favourites were Stringfever - 4 English guitarists; Al Brown -singer/entertainer; Zambara (a local cultural show that came on at Palma de Mallorca);Shirley Domingues - a harpist; and Penny Mathisen a singer with a gorgeous voice.
The production entertainers - the singers and dancers of the Ryndam - were fantastic. There are all new production shows on board and they are not to be missed. They are some of the most unique and outstanding shows I have ever seen - as good as anything on Broadway or the West End. The four singers all have lovely voices on their own but also harmonize beautifully. The shows are all new - adding video to the productions and absolutely fantastic costumes. I have never seen as many costume changes as in these shows and all of them have played to enthusiastic audiences. In the past I used to get bored with some production shows but these are new and innovative and exciting - do not miss them !
A big thumbs up to the Ryndam orchestra too. They did a great job - working with so many different guest performers - with a wide variety of music and had a great sound.
I have read a negative review of the service on board and I am here to say - it is not true. We had fabulous service everywhere on ship.
Our cabin stewards were wonderful and very accommodating and our cabin was always in excellent condition.
Our dining room waiter Rudy and his assistant Yohannes were terrific. They made sure there was always brown bread or rolls on our table (white is not good for diabetics) and they were efficient, accurate and more importantly - were fun. Holland America staff is well trained - but they are also people and we enjoy talking, teasing and having fun with them.
We talk to everyone and we were treated like guests - not just customers - and there is a big difference in that. We felt welcomed, wanted and we were definitely pampered.
I've mentioned Roy, our wine steward, before. He added to our pleasure at dinner time with the wines and the conversation. My white wine was always chilled and waiting for me and Dave's red wines were ready for him and Roy had suggestions for the next bottles as these ones emptied. He never disappointed because he provided wines that we enjoyed, in a price range we could afford.
The 'Maitre d's' welcomed us and other waiters and staff that were looking after other tables always spoke to us as well. The gentleman with the ginger and mints as we left the dining room knew what we liked and it was ready for us when he saw us coming. There might be 1200 guests on the ship - but we were always made to feel special.
We ate breakfast and lunch in the Lido most of the time and the staff there was wonderful too. It is self serve but it was hard to do that there as someone would say - I'll get your tea or let me carry your plate for you. People were so helpful. We would have staff come to the table and say - can I get your coffee for you - and have to say No thanks - some one else is already doing that. We were well and truly spoiled.
The ladies and gentlemen in the serving lines got to know us and what we liked and I must admit I ate more turkey bacon than I would have at home as Trishna really spoiled me at breakfast.
Staff met us at entrances with sanitizing liquid - even though self serve machines were there - and we stayed healthy - as did the other guests on board. We saw other staff from housekeeping working hard keeping the ship clean and the public bathrooms spotless. I have never seen as much constant cleaning and polishing on a ship as on this ship - and it was beautiful.
The front desk was awesome. It was a delight to see staff I had met before on other cruises and I especially appreciated their patience with me as I must have de-magnetized my keycard about 8 times on this cruise. Between my magnetic bracelet and having the camera get close to my key card -- I must have been there at least once a week to get a replacement card. I owe a special thanks to Angelo who was there for the T/A part of our cruise. We started our cruise as two star mariners but would have enough to become 3 stars after the first week. Our agent had told us the star change would probably not happen until after the second cruise and the information on it said about 10 days after it ended -- but Angelo contacted the Mariner section of HAL and we were awarded our 3 stars after the first part of our cruises. Now we are working to get up to 4 stars. I really appreciated his efforts for us. As well, when we discovered the charges that had been run up on my husband's card - the staff at reception immediately called through to the charge company for him so he could get this situation corrected.
The photography department on ship was much appreciated. Because my husband and I have been on a lot of cruises in the last 7 and a half years -- we have dozens of photos. Both of us really do not want more until we slim down. No thank you was accepted politely without people pushing us to have photos. We have been on ships where staff was really pushy -- not here. They were very pleasant.
I only visited the Spa once. I had an excellent massage and later stopped by for a minute to purchase a spa product. Usually I visit more often but this trip we seemed to be always doing something and I was so totally relaxed on this cruise that I did not feel a need to de-stress in the spa.
Housekeeping was really efficient in more ways than one. One day I was doing laundry and one of the machines was not working. In less than a half hour -- people were checking on it and it was immediately repaired. I wish we had repair people like that at home -- where one can wait for a week for a service man to come and fix something. They really kept on top of things on the cruise -- any problem was quickly looked after.
PORTS OF CALL
I have said earlier that the ship was the destination and holiday for us -- the ports of call were just icing on the cake. We had 19 ports of call between Tampa and Dover. We visited some of them but not all of them as we had been to many of them quite a few times in the past. I will comment under that section about the ports we visited.
British immigration boarded the ship in A Coruna and processed all the passengers before we reached Dover. This was quick and efficient and better still -- saved long line ups and delays when we left the ship. Disembarkation was well organized. We opted to leave at the earliest possible time and said our good-byes and walked off to get our luggage and then board a bus. We had booked a tour with 'International Friends' which was a day long tour. We went first to Canterbury and spent several hours there and then continued on to lovely Leeds Castle for a three hour visit there. After that it was on to London where we were taken to our assorted hotels and to the airport for those flying home that evening. We were at our hotel by 6 in the evening and would highly recommend this tour as an excellent way to get from Dover to London.
This cruise was a holiday and a celebration for us. We had my birthday, Dave's birthday and our anniversary in a 9 day period in April. They were very special occasions -- because of Simon de Boer -- and gave us memories we will always treasure. We were certainly spoiled beyond anything we have experienced in the past and in all honesty, hated to leave the ship when we reached the end of our voyages. It was without doubt the best cruise we have ever experienced and I say that after nearly 400 nights on ships in the last 8 years. We have never had a bad cruise -- some better than others- but at the end of them we were ready to come back home. This time we would happily have stayed on for another 34 nights if it had been possible. I fully believe that the cruise was wonderful because of the Hotel Director Simon de Boer and his wonderful staff. Attitude comes down from the top. Simon's standards are passed down and the staff we met and the experiences we had on ship were all outstanding. We look forward to an opportunity to cruise with him again. The highest rating it is possible to award here is 5+ stars. If there was a higher rating -- I would be giving it.
Stephanie Chazalon ( Steph'n'Dave)