We have recently been sailing with Oceania and Seabourn but had wanted to go to Spain and Portugal and this HAL cruise on the Ryndam had a deal that was too good to pass up. In addition, the third person was free so we were able to bring our 10 year old grandson along at no charge with the exception of his airfare. We have sailed on three previous HAL cruises and were satisfied with all of them so we had good expectations for this cruise. We were very pleasantly surprised with the quality of the cruise and we were most impressed with the wonderful crew.
The ship is an older vessel, however, it was kept clean and although I noticed a few nicks here and there, it was fine. The food was very good although there could have been more choices. We are not big foodies so as long as the food is good, we are happy. The dining staff was outstanding and went out of their ways to be of service. We ate in the Pinnacle Grill one night compliments of AMEX Platinum and while it was very good, I wouldn't have paid the extra money for it when the food was just fine in the dining room. The afternoon tea was also very nice. While Oceania and Seabourn offer more extensive and special items in the dining room and the afternoon tea, the HAL items were just fine and I just figured that we got what we paid for and more. This cruise was about 1/4 the cost of a similar Oceania or Seabourn Cruise. The entertainment was also very good and we enjoyed it very much. The afternoon Trivia was fun and entertaining as well. There was a nice variety of activities available on the ship for those that wanted it. We used the gym when we could and it was well equipped and we didn't have any trouble getting on the equipment. My DH took the spinning class and was the only one in the class.
We were a little concerned about have a 10 year old on a cruise that was taking place during the school year but we didn't have a thing to worry about. I don't have enough positive words to express what a good job Club HAL does with the kids. He couldn't wait to go there every evening and the staff was absolutely outstanding. They had interesting and fun activities for the kids and made every child feel welcome. We also found that our fellow passengers were very nice to him and we never felt like he was bothering anyone.
We had originally booked an oceanview cabin (got a double upgrade by paying with Platinum AMEX). About a week before the cruise we were offered an upsell to a Verandah Spa Suite for $600. Again, I thought it was a good deal. The only thing I would like to say about the Spa Suite is don't pay any extra for the spa features because it is really the same as the other cabins except for two yoga mats, a small water fountain on the desk and a wooden floor mat in the bathroom. We were happy with the cabin but I wouldn't have paid any more for the spa items.
The only time I had an issue on this ship was with the excursion and destination managers. The destination manager was not very knowledgable about the ports and certainly wasn't very forthcoming with information. The maps supplied by the ship were pretty useless so I was glad I had my iPhone maps with me. We heard comments from other passengers that they felt the same way. The excursion manager was just plain rude. At one port she was the only HAL rep at the terminal so I asked her if the beach and town were within walking distance. She told me to ask the Terminal Information Person which was problematic since she didn't speak much English. When I asked the destination manager again, she said I should just take the shuttle or a taxi and pretty much blew me off. We decided to try to walk and it was an easy walk and we were able to find our way. It just left a bad taste in our mouths when everyone else on the cruise was so helpful. I met one woman who had booked a ship's excursion in Gibraltar which was a cable car trip to the top of the rock. Unfortunately, the day we went, it was too windy for the cable car so the ship's excursion was cancelled. When I told her that we had just taken a taxi to the top, she said that no one on the ship had told her that was an option so she didn't go. It seems to me that when the excursion was cancelled, they could have given people some other options.
Our grandson didn't want to leave the ship at the end of the cruise because he was having such a good time and I attribute a lot of that to the staff at Club HAL. I think the Ryndam is a great ship and that we got a great value. I wouldn't hesitate to sail with HAL in the future