We are retired 60 yr olds who felt like a pre-Christmas cruise would be a nice get-away from the hustle and bustle before the Holidays. We were right! We've been on over 15 cruises, but usually choose HAL. Normally we take one of the Vista Class ships, but liked the Ryndam's itinerary. It had been awhile since we'd been on a ship that small, so didn't know what to expect. We were pleasantly surprised!
We flew to Tampa 1 day early ( and leaving behind 8" of snow). There was no shuttle to our hotel, so we caught a taxi to the Downtown Marriot Courtyard for $25. It was a nice hotel with plenty of places to eat in the downtown area. They provided a free shuttle to locations within 3 miles, which included the pier. We chose to take a cab to the pier Sunday at 11:00 because we didn't want to make the stops at the other two ships while they dropped off passengers. The cab ride was quick and cost only $10.
At 11:15, we dropped our luggage off at the curb and proceeded directly up to the check-in. Since we were Neptune suite guests, we were immediately processed and given a seat . Just shortly after 11:30 we were allowed on board. Our cabin was ready and we went directly there. Before 2:00 our luggage was in our room and we were ready to cruise! After the 3:15 lifeboat drill, we went back to our cabin and met our cabin stewards who were there to take care of our every need. They didn't fail us the entire 2 weeks! Between Ari & Putu ( our stewards) and Vincent & Angelie ( the Navigator's lounge concierges ), anything we needed or wanted was quickly taken care of.
You could tell the Ryndam wasn't a new ship, but it was well taken care of. Our cabin was clean and everything in good working order. We didn't experience any problems aboard during our 2 weeks.
Breakfast and Lunch in the Lido seemed to always go smoothly. There didn't seem to be the kind of lines we sometimes encountered on the Vista size ships. The servers were, for the most part, very friendly. On occasion, we might encounter someone having a bad day. That's understandable when you're trying to keep 1300 people happy! There seemed to be a lot of staff in the Lido to get drinks or clear tables. There was always a good selection for lunch: American, Asian, Italian, salads, sandwiches, burgers, pizza, salad/taco bar, desserts, ice cream and the famous Bread Pudding!
We chose early assigned seating in the MDR. We hadn't tried early seating for many years and thought we'd try it. For our personal taste, we think we'll go back to late seating next cruise. Sometimes it seems a little rushed when you're getting ready for formal night after a nice day in port. Our requested table for 6 only ended up having 4. The 4 of us got along great and thoroughly enjoyed our meals. Our dinning room stewards were very efficient and took care of us quickly, but you can tell things have changed and they don't have any extra time. They have a lot of tables to take care of and no free time for you to get to know each other like in the "old days". The wine steward took care of us quickly every night since we had a wine package. Otherwise, I'm not sure how quickly we would have gotten drinks. At early seating we felt more rushed since they have to be ready for late seating by 8.
About the food.... We have nothing bad to say! The selection was very good for the 2 weeks. We felt the beef was tender and there was good selection of seafood. The creamed soups and chilled soups were as good, if not better, than ever! We felt the portion size was very good. Sometimes there was food left our plates if we were trying to taste something in each course!
We did eat all three meals (at different times) in the Pinnacle Grill. Breakfast is available there for suite guests starting at 8 . It was very good, but we were fine with eating omelets in the Lido most days. Lunch
was served there 1 day for the suite guests. It was very good and a lot of wine flowed. Since it was a sea day, it was a wonderful way to spend the time! Our evening meals there were perfect. The atmosphere was much nicer than the MDR. The wait staff and wine steward were all very friendly and efficient. We had the Steak Diane and the Filet Mignon...so juicy and big. The shrimp cocktail and lobster bisque were as good, or better, than any we'd ever had. The chocolate volcano dessert was SINFUL, but delicious! We'd recommend trying the Pinnacle at least once.....
We didn't take part in any of the organized activities, we made good use of our veranda! There seemed to be plenty to keep you busy on most days. The daily paper keeps you apprised of all activities. The gym seemed to by fine and not always packed. Mornings seemed the busiest, of course.
Neither of us used the spa , but they did seem to advertise some better than usual package deals. The shops on board were the usual ones with no real bargains or buys to be found. All the shop workers seemed very friendly, however, not very busy.
The Casino was like all cruise ship casinos...not paying well. We tried only slots and could hold our own for a while before we "fed the machines". It didn't seem overly smoky like some ships have.
The bars seemed fairly busy in the evenings, but not during the day.
We only attended a few shows. There always seemed to be plenty of seating in the upper show room. A husband and wife acrobat team was absolutely wonderful! It started out slow, but ended great. A comedian/juggler we'd seen before was still good. We attended the musical production of "Droom". We thoroughly enjoyed it and thought the butterfly costumes were the best costuming we'd ever seen on a cruise ship!
Capt. Rowden was a young pleasant captain. He kept us well informed with his daily reports. He did a good job letting us know why we were delayed on leaving or docking in certain ports. One delay was waiting on mushrooms to be delivered, which didn't make it until the next port. It's great to know they take our pleasure in good dinning very serious!
The ports were great stops with no complaints:
Key West / nice start. Docked at Navy Pier so we had to shuttle into town. It's a quick , free ride to Duval st.
San Juan / nice stop, lots of history, good pier
St. Thomas / always so scenic sailing in and out. Docked at Crown Bay, so took the $4 shuttle to downtown. Good shopping both in town and at pier.
Antiqua / Beautiful island but not much to see from pier. Best of Antigua tour gave us a good overview of the island and it's history. We got a lot of great photos! The "usual" shopping at the pier shops.
St. Lucia / Beautiful island but not much to see from pier. Usual shopping at pier shops. We took the 41/2hr history tour over to Soufiere. The island interior is pretty and hilly. The drive in volcano is interesting. It rained so we didn't get good photos of the Pitons from inland. We got better photos and views of the pitons our last trip when we took the ship from Castries to Soufriere.
Curacao / We love the scenic look of this town. The Mega pier is a easy walk into town across the floating bridge. There's a lot to see in town if you don't like to shop.
Aruba / We feel this island isn't as pretty but it has beautiful waters. Where the ship docks, it's an easy walk to all things shopping. If you've never been here, we'd certainly recommend an Island tour( it doesn't take long to see everything). The waters are great for swimming or snorkeling, too.
Grand Cayman / We were a little late getting in because the garbage dump was on fire and the Capt had to see if it was safe to anchor. There was only 1 other ship there, so it wasn't bad walking the streets. Plenty of shopping if you've missed it anywhere else. We like swimming with the stingrays when in Grand Cayman. The tender ride to and from the ship isn't too long.
Disembarkation went very quickly once the few foreigners that had to be tracked down for customs were persuaded to show up! They started disembarkation by 8:30. In Tampa we were told they don't have luggage direct, so we quickly found our luggage in the terminal and got in the quickest moving customs line We'd ever seen. We were getting our pre-arranged shuttle to the airport by 8:45. We had paid $25 at the hotel for the prepaid shuttle. We think it would have been as easy at about the same price to get a cab at the pier.
This ship is going into dry dock in the Spring so maybe they will work on the heating and cooling systems. Some people complained about this, but we had no problems whatever.
All things considered, we'd definitely recommend this cruise to anyone. It's truly an older crowd, like most HAL cruises, but it's a great cruise to relax on. There's nothing so nice as sitting on the veranda in 80 degree weather and watching the sea roll by, knowing it's freezing and snowy back home!