Some friends ask me to compare the different cruise lines I will attempt to do that as I review the Holland America's, Ryndam. I am 70 and have cruised about 20 times and have seen big changes over the years in "Cruising Services". The cruise lines used to cater to the customer but now they appeal to the masses. I see little difference from Holland America, Princess and Celebrity (I took a 15 day cruise last Oct on the Summit). You could throw a blanket over the three. Only small differences from cruise line to cruise line. I do feel there is a marked difference from NCL, RCL and Carnival Lines (not as good for the money). Cristal, Sterling are a couple of notches above all the rest (but so are their prices). This cruise was a Mexican Rivera cruise (April 12-22) that included "Copper Canyon" this being the real draw. The time of the year was perfect (temps and humidity were perfect, most kids are in school). The Ryndam hold 1258 passenger (a medium size ship, 55000 tons) (launched in 1994 and refurbished two years ago) and carries a crew of 600. I think that Celebrity is the most friendly cruise line. Then comes Holland America. Princess the most organized from start to end. Room stewards and table waiter by far are the most warm and loveable on all ships. Ship Captains are hard to talk about as they change ships ever couple of years and personalities vary . Ours was above average as to friendliness, and being around the ship to talk to, the crew responded very positive to him. The age of the HAL passengers are a little older, slower and undecided (On this cruise the age was late 70s to mid 80s) but with that comes some common ground. My wife found it irritating in the buffet lines and hallway (passageways). Princess and Celebrity are about the same (passengers of 50s & 60s years of age)
This Ship has had problems in the past. Last year the sewer (black water) flooded some staterooms for several days. That has been fixed. The first trip this year to the Mexican Rivera a good share of the passengers and crew were sick from viruses and the next trip was cut short due to sterilizing the ship from top to bottom for two days. The ships crew was sterilizing the ship every where you looked all the time (even at 3 am). Before meals I was given sanitizer maybe three times. Every place a person touches they have someone (crew) wiping the area down with disinfectant. Most crew wear surgery gloves. On the trip to Copper Canyon the ship sent a half dozen crew to wipe the buses and the train down (the train line sent an attendant to keep the rest rooms constantly clean. As a result there were only two passengers that got sick due to the virus the whole time on the cruise (That is unbelievable but true). For me that was a little over kill, but I didn't get sick and is what we expect. We (a group of 11) arrived at noon to board and after checking in at the dock we were told to go and eat on shore (the ship would give each cabin $ 10 of credit for our lunch) as they were trying to fix a propulsion problem.
We left the dock for Mexico near 10 PM. During the whole cruise a group of plumbers replaced the entire fresh water pipes of the ship. In our cabins one entire day we had no water. We took it in stride and had a good time. The ship is appointed in good taste. I think the cabins are a bit larger than the norm (182 sq ft) and I found plenty of room to store what I brought (I bring a lot). If you select an inside cabin you will need a night light and an LED clock. A helpful item to bring also is an electrical multi-plug or extension cord as there is only one pug in the cabin and one plug in the bathroom. The electrical system is 115 and 50 cycle (that is different than yours at home). Your battery chargers and the like may not work well. One of our group was unable to charge his cell phone. With all my gadgets all seem to work fine. My night light bulb burn out a couple of times though. All cabins have a new flat screen TV and a DVD. Bring a DVD movie you have been waiting to see and music you enjoy. The ship has movies to rent if you prefer. We had two days at sea (time for seeing a movie or listening to music) at the beginning and one day on the return trip home.
The "Check In" was very long, the wait was maybe 45 mins. to an hour, luggage handling was poor. There was a little tension due to the delay of boarding. The ship has computers for internet service only and their price for what is as bad a dial up. I saw several people using their laptops as the ship has WIFI also. The computer lab and library are connected and a nice place to spend time as it is quiet and next to the coffee shop (this is a specialty coffee shop and they charge extra for that). On Princess and Celebrity (they have a couple that are there to help you with picture altering, Adobe Photoshop Elements) the ships computer labs are just that "computers labs", which you can use to writing correspondents, alter pictures at no cost. None of the ships have a very fast internet. The elevators are very fast (maybe the fastest on any cruise ship) and will not move if they are over loaded. On the floor of the elevator a carpet matt with the day of the week in it. This was a nice touch as I forget what day it is, after a day or two. The floors (decks) have names as well as number and the elevators refer to the decks by name. Mine was "A" deck or deck "4". Can be confusing
Excursions: I think all ship lines make a nice bit of extra cash on selling excursions. We choose to get off the ship at each port and negotiate with the local van and cabs for the same (and they know what the ship are offering) excursion for about half the price. I speak Spanish but the ports we went to, one does not need to speak Spanish. You can use American dollars just be award of the exchange rate (11 to 1). A plus, to that, we were able to alter what we saw. Another plus was we didn't have to wait for that slow person that is always there to hold up the progress. We did book the Copper Canyon trip through the HAL. The train was a special for HAL. The cost, a little steep, $350 each passenger which included eats. That day was very long (up at 2:30am return to the ship was 11pm, 2 hours via a bus to the train, 5 hours on the train to the canyon each way. We were there at the canyon about 2 hours which includes lunch at the hotel. A nice touch the captain of our ship had all the officers, in their white uniforms, line up on the pier to greet us as we boarded the ship. This was at 11 pm. He also had the galley prepare dinner for us. I went straight to bed, no dinner. I took a coat but did not need one a sweater or sweatshirt would be fine (60- 70). The train provided box lunch / snack, once going and again on the return trip. There was lots of water (bottled) so you do not need to purchase water on the ship. There was lots of hop-la over the grandness of Copper Canyon it is not better or prettier than the Grand Canyon. The local train runs from Los Mochis to Chihuahua each day it carries an armed soldier ours did also. I understand there was once a problem with train hold ups. ?
Entertainment: Our production cast got on when we did in San Diego for their first run. They were very good. Three big show productions. The cruise director was nothing to write home about. I think Celebrity has the best bar and string entertainment. Princess is OK. The Princess ships have better pools side entertainment. Both HAL and Celebrity could offer more activities. After the evening show there was little to do. During the day they may offer an activity but that is about it. Princess has a lot more going on so if you are not interested in one thing they offer several others.
Movies: HAL has the best (most current) and Celebrity the worst. HAL has DVD in your rooms and you can rent movies from the library. Ryndam (all HAL) has popcorn for you to eat in the theater, which is a nice treat. The Dress: There was two formal nights, about ¾ wore tux. Semi formal nights were 3, suit or sport coat and tie. The rest were casual. Shorts NOT allowed in the dining room. Princess there were less maybe ½ wore tux. Just a note about the AC. The ship have places that are overly cool and other places warm the dinning room is the extreme. We were by the back windows a beautiful place (to view the sea) but was very warm.
Food: Princess has the best food and by far the best desserts (then Celebrity). On the Ryndam the menu has 4 or 5 entree, some nights there was no beef offerings, always fish, often lamb. Princess and Celebrity both have some entrees that are always available (steak, and salmon for example). I have a troubled stomach and plain beef sets well with me always. I discovered that I could ask to see the next night's menu from the head waiter of our section and then request a steak or salmon if the offering that were on the menu were what I thought too spicy. HAL has cut down on the portion size. I never was over full but there were times I could have eaten more. The presentation was very nice. I was not impressed with our waiter or his helper. He did his job well but was not someone you wanted to bring home. I think the buffet lines were laid out well. Half way down the line was a pasta section and a little further a sandwich section. The dessert (always ice cream) line was across the ship between the two buffet lines. By the pool there was a hamburger and taco grill (good stuff). Celebrity has more helpers to assist you and pour refill coffee / ice tea. On the Ryndam they close the buffet line from 3pm – 5pm and shuts down after dinner. Both Princess and Celebrity are always open. There is no midnight buffet on HAL ships. Celebrity buffet lines is more decorated also.
Disembarkation: The night before we were given colored luggage tags and we sat our luggage in the passageway. HAL allows you to stay in your staterooms until you disembark, NICE. Princess and Celebrity have you go to a public area after breakfast and wait till called to disembark. I put hugh colorful tassel on each of my bags (makes it easy to find). The Ryndam put all bags with the same color and number tags together and a shore assistant to help you find your bag. Princess and Celebrity put all the bags together and you find you’re the best way you can. The disembarkation went very easy. All 11 of us were ready to leave in less then 20 min and in our big van. Would I go on the MS Ryndam, yes. Would I return to see Copper Canyon , no. Was I glad I went, yes. I hope this has been helpful for you. Happy cruising and I wish you calm seas and pleasant breezes.