Our family (a three year old, two parents and four grandparents) all generally enjoyed this cruise.
The ship is a very manageable size, which makes it very convenient for travelers. As others have noted, there are some maintenance issues with the Ryndam and hopefully these issues will be resolved during its dry dock in March. Travelers should bring layers in case the room is very cold, and be prepared for the possibility that the ac may not work in all cabins. My mother's cabin was very cold, and the problem was initially helped with duct tape, and fixed the next day. HAL kindly sent her a bottle of wine for the inconvenience.
Please utilize caution when turning on the water in the faucet or the shower, as the water can be quite hot if set to the maximum temperature. As long as the faucet is set to the middle temperature, you will be perfectly fine.
If you are bringing many cameras or electronic devices, you may also want to bring an adapter or splitter, since there is only one outlet in the cabin near the desk, and there currently are no outlets in the bathroom (although it is possible that this may change after the dry dock, so please ignore this if more recent reviews indicate a change).
The Ryndam is a favorite ship of people who prefer inside cabins or ocean view cabins since there are many interior rooms to choose from in excellent locations. People who prefer balconies should note that the balconies are only available on decks 9 and 10 (the suites are located on deck 10). Deck 10 is located directly below the Lido deck, and in the gym on the lido deck there is a note requesting that passengers please be careful with the weights since the gym is located directly above other passengers' cabins. I was concerned prior to sailing that my deck 9 cabin might be too loud since most of the deck 9 balconies face interior spaces and it is hard to tell in advance if they will be loud or quiet crew workspaces. We had some limited noise from the Lido deck announcements, but it wasn't too loud or distracting and there was no noise from the interior work spaces across the hall from our cabin.
In general, dining was good. The quality of the meat wasn't always as strong as I would hope for, but most of the food was very well seasoned and cooked so dining was generally enjoyable. We did experience some difficulty with the maitre d' at the open dining. Dinner service during our first night was very leisurely, and by the time we received our desserts the maitre d' came over to tell us that he needed the table for the next patrons and requested that we take our dessert to go. It would be much better if the maitre d' pushed the chefs and waiters to bring out food faster if they need to turn over the tables, as we didn't eat slowly - we were there for a long time since the food was served slowly. When my son ate all of my dinner or I didn't like my food on previous cruises I would just ask the waiter to please bring me a different entree. But since the maitre d' was trying to push us out of the restaurant, I didn't feel comfortable requesting more food, so I called room service to request for more food.
A very nice feature on HAL is that room service will bring you any item on the main dining room menu during the hours the main dining room is open for dinner. Room service is very helpful and polite, but please note that you need to make very specific requests for your room service - if you order a dinner entree and want bread, you need to specifically ask for the bread. If you want a spoon, or sugar or anything else with your meal, you need to specifically request it (otherwise they will bring you things like yogurt and cereal without spoons unless you ask for them). Please also note that HAL does not leave breakfast outside of your door. Room service will knock on the door to bring your breakfast inside, so if you choose to order room service for breakfast you need to request it at a time you are certain you will be awake.
We enjoyed an outstanding meal at the Pinnacle Grill, with excellent food and service as part of our Explore4 package. Please note that HAL reserves the right to assign you a dining time for the Pinnacle Grill if you are utilizing the Explore4 package.
We chose this cruise primarily for the ports, and we were quite happy with all of our excursions. Guatemala was really lovely, and we greatly enjoyed our tour with Go With Gus. We were able to visit a local school, have a very nice boat ride down the Rio Dulce, and visited the hot springs. If you visit the school, please contact Gus to find out what the children currently need if you would like to donate items to the school. We were told to bring composition notebooks for the children. In Roatan we had another enjoyable day with Bodden Adventures, and greatly enjoyed visiting the monkeys at the Bodden home. We also greatly enjoyed our eco walk at South Shore through the suspension bridges. The bridges are a bit challenging for a three year old (which we fully anticipated prior to booking) but overall quite manageable for a child. In Costa Maya, we greatly enjoyed our Native Choice Mayan Experience tour. We had an outstanding tour guide, and my son loved climbing on the Mayan ruins and making tortillas. It may be a bit challenging for families to reach the Native Choice office, as the port itself is a bit large (there is a free trolley down the boardwalk, but my son didn't want to wait) and it is a four block walk to the Native Choice offices after you clear the port (they suggest taking a cab if you have difficulties walking, but there were no cabs available when we reached the exit of the port).
Overall, we generally enjoyed this cruise and would choose to sail again with HAL if we found the right itinerary. We were more impressed with the quality of dining on Princess, and strongly prefer the mini suite rooms on Princess but we would be willing to sail again with HAL if we found the right cruise.
Special Notes for families:
I am concerned about the staffing levels in Club HAL. There were only 15 children aboard our ship, and therefore only 2 children's counselors were assigned to CLUB Hal. They were very nice girls, but I believe that it is too much to expect two counselors to handle all of the hours CLUB Hal is open. On port days, Club HAL is open from 8 am -4 pm, and again from 7 pm -10 pm, and possibly from 10 pm -midnight if teenagers are on board (which there weren't on our voyage). Our previous voyage on the Coral Princess had only 11 children, and Princess assigned 4 counselors to the ship, since 4 is their minimum staffing levels for their KidZone. Given how hard it is to take care of children, I'd feel better if the counselors didn't need to work all of the shifts, and I don't understand what happens if one of the two CLUB Hal counselors falls ill and cannot work.
My 3 year old son greatly enjoyed attending Club Hal, especially the cooking class. He stated that his pancakes didn't come out as well as the chef's pancakes. The toddlers generally did arts and crafts of the gluing things to paper plates variety. HAL does not provide parents of young children with phones or beepers or means of communication while the children are in Club Hal, but you can call Club Hal to check up on your child.
Parents should also note that there are very limited numbers of balcony cabins that can hold more than two people on the Ryndam, especially if you don't want a room directly under the Lido deck. Please also note that when I tried to confirm that my request for a crib had been received, I was informed by email that only children under two are given cribs and that I would not receive a crib for the sailing. As it turned out, there was in fact a crib in my room, but if your child is older than two please be prepared for the possibility that you may not be granted a crib, as per HAL's regulations (the age limit for cribs is listed on their website). Many parents have turned the couch in the room backwards facing the wall, and put sheets on the couch to make a small bed for toddlers.
Parents should also consider bringing their own sheets if their children are still napping. The pack n play sheets were not delivered until the evening, which was several hours after our son's nap (fortunately we had brought our own sheets so this wasn't a problem). If you run into your steward in the hallway before you enter the room, you might want to ask if your pack n play has arrived, and if it has been built. We neglected to ask since we assumed it was set up already, and our son's nap was delayed because the pack n play was not assembled and we had trouble building the pack n play ourselves. We were unable to reach anyone for help, as both the front desk and steward did not pick up their phones. So if you see the steward in the hallway or a nearby room and have a child who needs to nap, you might want to ask them directly for assistance, as embarkation day is very hectic for the ship's staff.
If possible, parents should try to book private tours, so they can modify the tours if children start to get fussy, and can return to the ship if necessary. We found it very helpful to bring a variety of healthy cereals with us on tours. Whenever our son got bored or frustrated, we would let him pick a new cereal and he was happy again.