We took the Ryndam on what as part of their repositioning from the US to Europe. Boarded in Barcelona and stopped in Valencia, Alicante, Motril (for Granada), Gibraltar, Cadiz, Lisbon (Portugal), A Coruna, Bilboa, Portland (England) and ended in Dover. HAL only has this cruise twice in 2014 and the second time was at the end of August. We decided August would be way too hot--so opted for mid/late April. Weather were generally in the 60's--most days it was great with one or two days being just a little cool. But, the ports were the best--this was exactly what we were looking for--an in-depth view of Spain. It was fun starting in Barcelona and then going virtually all the way around Spain in the ship.
To put our comments in perspective, the four of us have cruised extensively--primarily on Princess, but also on Carnival, Celebrity, Norwegian, and Royal Caribbean. (Also two of us have done a number of river cruises with Grand Circle.) We had all wanted to try HAL and this trip fit the bill. The Ryndam is an older ship (built in 1994) that carries about 1280 passengers. It's apparent that it is older when viewed from the outside--and the lack of very many balcony cabins (they are restricted to two levels). But, once you board the Ryndam it does not seen like an older ship at all. Our overall impression of the Ryndam is that it matches, and in many aspects exceeds, the quality of what we have experienced on other ships.
What we really liked about the Ryndam.
1. The ease of boarding and leaving the ship. We were on the ship within 10 minutes or so of arriving at the pier. And, when we disembarked we could stay in our cabins until time to disembark. The actual disembarking process was faster than anything we have experienced before.
2. Overall size of the ship. It felt just about right. The ship is big enough to have all the features most cruisers will want, but it never felt crowded.
3. Library--the most extensive we have experienced on any ship. Very good!
4. Shows and auditorium. Very nice. And the shows are as good or better than we have seen on other ships. Also, they had about five nights when they had entertainers other than they regular cast doing the show. The last show the regular cast did matched or exceeded anything we have seen on other ships. Also, one nice feature is that there were three shows most nights--at 7 pm, 8:30 pm and 10 pm.
5. Movies. Every day they showed current movies--generally 4 or 5 showings. The only "odd" thing was that on At Sea Days they only had movies at 6 pm and 9:30 pm. Seemed like they would make more effort to have at least as many—or more--showings on At Sea Days.
The venue for watching the movies is adequate—not enough slope so you had to be careful where you sat so someone was not directly in front of you. (And, while we did not use them, they had about 1,000 movies on DVD you could watch in your cabin.)
6. Lounges and bars. There were a number and generally had good entertainment in them at night. (We did not check out any of the late night activities!)
7. We eat at the Pinnacle Restaurant twice. (The fee is about $30). Had filet both times--some of the best filet we have had.
Other items about the ship.
The cabin (we had a balcony) was as good or better than what we have had on other ships. The overall space allotted to shops, bars, etc. seemed to be (relatively) more than on other ships we have been on. The food in the Lido Restaurant was good--not great. But, I would rate it as good as the best we have had in buffet restaurants on other ships. One thing we could not believe was that on the day we disembarked there were very few individuals in the Lido. Our experience in the past has been that the buffet restaurant on the day we are disembarking are always a mess--not on the Ryndam.
Another feature that we did not take advantage of was their Windows/camera classes. If I had needed to find out about Windows 8 I could have taken a number of classes about it on the ship.
We did not take any ship shore excursions. Arranged private (or small group) tours in Barcelona (before the cruise), Valencia, Motril (for Granada) and Gibraltar. The tapas tours in Barcelona and Valencia were highlights of our trip. (Both lasted about four hours.) Likewise, you have to tour the Rock at Gibraltar. (We had an extended tour--it lasted about 6 hours. Was well worth it--Gibraltar has so much history!)
Our experience was very favorable. The ship was at least as nice as any we have been on, and in many aspects the experience was more pleasant than we have experienced on other cruises. And the ports we called at were just what we wanted. In looking at HAL, they have some of the most interesting trips of any cruise line.
Based on this experience it's highly likely our next cruise will be on HAL.