We took the 14-day South Caribbean Cruise on Holland America Ryndam from January 5 to 19. This was our ninth cruise on Holland America, and, even though there seems to be disagreement about the quality of service and dining, we thoroughly enjoy the size of the ships, the friendliness and attention, and the wonderful cuisine and service. We have not found that anything is going downhill.
We spent Friday night in the Kansas City Airport Hilton. It is a great place to stay before a cruise. We flew nonstop from Kansas City to Tampa and took the hotel shuttle to the cruise hotel – the Sheraton Suites Tampa Airport Westshore. The hotel, itself, was fine, but very noisy. I think we heard every shower running through the pipes! We should have walked to dinner at Charley’s Steak House (right next door). I cannot recommend the dinner or breakfast in the hotel. Very slow service.
The next morning, we sat in the lobby waiting on the HAL busses. HAL was not very organized as nobody would tell us when to load. We finally went outside and saw a line forming, so we were able to get on the first bus to the terminal with a terrific bus driver. This was absolutely the smoothest embarkation process we have ever experienced. There was no waiting to get our key cards. Our cabin was ready, so we left our carry-on bags and went to the Main Dining Room for lunch, signed up for Internet minutes in the Exploration’s Café; signed up for the Navigator’s Wine Package; attended the muster drill; unpacked all of our luggage, and dressed for dinner.
We were late leaving Tampa as the ship waited on several passengers who had been delayed by all the bad weather in Northeast USA. Three passengers even boarded in Key West. After dinner, we listened to the Adagio Duo in the Explorer’s Lounge. There were two men who played the piano and violin.
Our day-to-day schedule was very routine. My husband and I do not do many excursions as the cruise ship is our destination. We cruise to enjoy the relaxation, cuisine, and entertainment. We like to read, attend the lectures and demonstrations, walk on the deck, go to wine tastings, play trivia, meet new people, dine, go to the shows, and watch the ocean.
A short review of the ship follows:
EMBARKATION: The best ever! Went very smoothly.
STATEROOM: We were in an inside stateroom on the Main Deck (5) in the middle of the ship - #585. We are seldom in the cabin, so an inside stateroom works great for us. There was plenty of closet and drawer space and two small cabinets, with locks, beside the bed. There was also a safe in the closet. The bathroom had just a shower and plenty of counter space. The bed was very comfortable with nice linens and the towels were nice and large. We did not experience any plumbing problems and the a/c worked perfectly. In fact, many people were complaining about how cold it was, but we love to sleep in a cool room.
We very seldom saw our cabin stewards, but we cannot say enough good things about them.
THE RYNDAM: We heard the Ryndam is going into dry dock in a few weeks. The interior of the ship looked good. They were constantly working on the fountain in the atrium area, and never did get it to work properly. I especially liked the carpet on the stairs, with the top and bottom steps carpeted in red and the other steps in blue. Of course, there was cleaning going on all the time. The only negative was the worn furniture in the Crow’s Nest, so I imagine it will be replaced in dry dock.
DINING: We were able to get early fixed seating (5:15 p.m.) on this cruise. Our table for four was by a window, so we had an excellent view of the ocean. Our outstanding dining room stewards were Widodo and Jajang and the wine steward was Angelo.
Every meal in the MDR was superb. We so enjoy trying different items and my husband always looks forward to the chilled soups. Contrary to many comments on Cruise Critic our service and food was beyond outstanding. The prime rib, beef tenderloin, and lobster were excellent.
A pleasant surprise was that on formal nights, there were at least 40% of the men in tuxedos. On smart casual evenings, most passengers were dressed nicely.
We ate two lunches in the Pinnacle Grill which were very slow. The food was wonderful and the service very good……..just slow.
We chose to eat breakfast in The Lido since we are early risers and the MDR did not open until 8:00 a.m. Personally, I do not care to ever eat in The Lido, but the food was good, and it was not very crowded at 6:30 a.m., so I could tolerate breakfasts there.
ENTERTAINMENT: As I stated before, the Adagio Duo was a pianist and a violinist. They did a very nice job, but never said a word and took very long breaks, so we ended up mainly in the Ocean Bar listening to the Neptunes and watching the dancers.
We also enjoyed several fantastic shows in the Showroom at Sea: Joe Yannetty, comedian; Den West, singer and multi-instrumentalist; Michelle Murlin, Broadway vocalist; Paul Pappas, extraordinary pianist; Jeff Burghart, an impressionist-comedian; Steve Stevens, comedian, instrumentalist, and vocalist; Dancing with the Stars; and the Ryndam singers and dancers. All the entertainment was outstanding except for the singers and dancers. The costumes and dancing were beautiful, but the singing (and sound system) was WAY TOO LOUD, and the strobe lighting hitting the audience was awful. We usually love these productions, but had to leave during two of the productions.
EXCURSIONS: We walked into town in most ports, but took no excursions. Other passengers reported the tours on the islands were very beautiful. The seas were too rough to tender into Grand Cayman, so I’m sure there were some disappointed passengers.
STAFF: The captain of the Ryndam was Captain Mark Rowden, who did an excellent job keeping us informed of the weather conditions, etc. He was also easy to understand and very personable.
Rick Barnes was the Cruise Director and he was a little overbearing, but we liked him better toward the end of the cruise. We played Team Trivia each day with him as the host, and he did an excellent job.
KC, the librarian was the best librarian we have ever had. She was always pleasant and helpful to everyone.
Culinary Arts Center Host, Jess, and Show Chef, Mauricio, were outstanding.
DISEMBARKATION: No disembarkation talk was given, which was rather nice. There was a delay in disembarking because of an immigration problem, but once it started, things went smoothly. We were only disappointed that Luggage Direct is not offered in Tampa, so we had to drag our suitcases to the airport.
No cruise is perfect, but this one was right up there. We had a wonderful cruise on the Ryndam and are looking forward to many more with Holland America.